April 7, 2022

Can you guess what is pictured in the photo above? Click the image for the answer and more.

The political season is heating up along with the weather, and a reader offers new insight into our Covid risk level. Controversies over masking in schools continued, while at city hall, council voted to rezone 200 acres around Briarwood Mall and allocate federal funds to green energy, unarmed response, and affordable housing.

Around town, compost collection and hydrant flushing began, while far away in Boston, Michigan hockey faces off with Denver tonight in the Frozen Four.

Dayton Hare, Editor

A few weeks ago I mentioned the heron that had returned to Mary Beth Doyle Park. This week, an Observer employee managed to snap a photo of it.
Photo: Caron Valentine-Marsh.

The News...Briefly

Washtenaw County reported 203 confirmed cases of Covid-19, thirty-four probable cases, one hospitalization, and no deaths in the 24 hours ending yesterday at 10 a.m., more than double the case numbers a week ago. The test positivity rate is 6.2 percent, up again from last week. The county has started to issue second boosters to those eligible.

MI Safe Start continues to report the county’s Covid risk level as “high,” but reader Steve Stout - who holds U-M degrees in pharmacy and clinical research - points out a flaw in the site’s presentation. “The CDC updated their criteria for COVID-19 community levels in February and the MI Safe Start site reflects [the] CDC's old methodology, he emails. Under its updated criteria, the CDC’s risk level for Washtenaw County is “low.” (MI Safe Start is in the process of updating its site.)

The Ann Arbor Public Schools’ mask mandate remains controversial, Ridhima Kodali reports for the Observer. With new Covid cases continuing to rise it’s unlikely to be lifted soon – but recent school board meetings have seen anti-masking protests, and on Monday a small student walkout called for an end to the policy.

AAPS plans to staff every elementary school with counselors, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive). The move is aimed at improving student well-being and social emotional growth, and would place at least one full-time counselor or social worker at every campus by the fall.

Reinstating before- and after-school care programs is also a priority, MLive reports, and the district has redesigned positions in the hope of attracting more staff with increased hours and greater benefits.

The Ann Arbor Learning Center faces possible closure amid low enrollment and legal struggles, the Detroit Free Press reports. EMU pulled the school’s charter last fall, and now AALC is embroiled in a court battle with management company Global Educational Excellence that includes allegations of unpaid fees and counterclaims of inflated enrollment numbers.

After a couple of “topsy turvy elections” that saw control of city council swing between its “Striver” and “Preserver” factions, August’s Democratic primary contests are taking shape, James Leonard reports (priority access until April 22) in the Observer. In an update, mayor Christopher Taylor may face an opponent after all: former Ward 1 councilmember Anne Bannister pulled petitions at the end of March. She has until April 19 to gather the needed 250 signatures.

City council voted Monday to rezone over 200 acres near Briarwood Mall for high density, mixed-use redevelopment, MLive reports. The rezoning is the largest in city history, and proponents claim that it will allow for the construction of more affordable housing options.

Council also voted to rezone the Y lot for a pair of fourteen- to twenty-story towers, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive). City administrator Milton Dohoney promised council prior to the vote that any plan for the site brought before them would contain at least 100 units of affordable housing. That would fulfill a longstanding commitment to replace the 100-room hotel that the city bought and demolished after the YMCA moved to W. Washington. The new units would be at least one bedroom apartments, a big step up from the hotel’s single rooms.

Architectural elevation of the apartment towers approved for the Y lot. The Fourth-William parking structure is on the left, the Ann Arbor District Library on the right. Image: SmithGroup.

Nearly half of the city’s $24 million in ARPA funds will be used for renewable energy, unarmed responders, and affordable housing, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive). City council also voted Monday to allocate federal stimulus money to replacing a bridge at Gallup Park, removing galvanized water lines, safer streets, support for the arts, and a universal basic income pilot program.

Marijuana legalization has proven to be a windfall for the city’s coffers, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive). Washtenaw County and Ann Arbor will see $1.8 million and $1.4 million, respectively, in marijuana tax revenue this year, topping the statewide list of counties and cities benefiting financially from legalization.

Pittsfield Township is returning a $1 million grant for a non-motorized trail alongside State south of Ellsworth after engineers identified obstacles that threatened to delay the project and raise its cost, MLive reports. The township may apply for a new grant to build a trail further south on State.

Ann Arbor’s weekly curbside compost collection resumed Monday, as did the city’s annual fire hydrant flushing. Tap water in the areas near hydrants being flushed may occasionally turn reddish/orange from dislodged iron sediments: for a map of areas being flushed, check the city website.

The Detroit Observatory reopens tomorrow. During the day it will host a variety of virtual panels exploring the observatory’s history and impact on astronomy, and in the evening astrophysicist Brian Nord, PhD ’10 will be the keynote speaker before the building reopens to the public.

Michigan hockey faces off with Denver in the Frozen Four at 5 p.m today. After Covid shut the Wolverines out of tournament play last year, seven first-round NHL draft picks chose to return this season for one more chance–an emotional decision recounted on the front page of the New York Times on Wednesday. Despite the star-studded roster they stumbled several times during the regular season, and in Denver they face the tournament’s No. 1 seed. A victory would give the Wolverines a shot at their first NCAA title in the 21st century.

A DTE solar farm on Scio Church. City council voted this week to invest funds from the federal stimulus in renewable energy development. Photo: Bob & Jorja Feldman.

Marketplace Changes

Fowling Warehouse Ypsi Ann Arbor opened on Friday. The Hamtramck-founded company – whose name rhymes with “bowling”– takes over the former Ypsi-Arbor Lanes with a hybrid game where players attempt to knock over bowling pins with a football. Check their Facebook for news of a grand opening event next Thursday.

The Detroit Wing Company hosts its own grand opening this Saturday on Ann Arbor-Saline Rd at Oak Valley Dr. Boneless wings are 40 percent off all day.

The Denny’s on Washtenaw is gone for good, MLive reports (subscriber exclusive). The local franchise of the national diner chain shut its doors last Wednesday, leaving Belleville and Jackson as the closest Denny’s locations.


Jewish Family Services is preparing for the arrival of potential Ukrainian refugees, the Observer’s Eve Silberman reports. Housing will be the biggest challenge, because the war in Ukraine comes on the heels of the largest group of arrivals in the organization’s history, Afghans fleeing the conquest of Kabul. JFS and the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee of Michigan are co-hosting a benefit concert for refugees this Sunday.

Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

8 Friday: Looking for something to feel good about? Come out to UMMA’s monthly Feel Good Fridayevent celebrating art, music, and culture highlighted by an interactive workshop. Also, artist Masimba Hwati performs his sound sculpture Ngoromera and U-M students perform their original music inspired by art works. Refreshments. 7-10 p.m., UMMA, 525 S. State. Mask and proof of vaccination (or negative Covid test within 72 hours) required. Free. 764-0395.

9 Saturday: Go on a vicarious adventure at “The Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival,” short films about wilderness adventures featuring adrenaline-fueled footage from high peaks and swift rapids. 7 p.m. Mask and proof of vaccination (or negative Covid test within 72 hours) required for all patrons over the age of 12. $18 in advance ($14 students) or $20 at the door ($16 students). Michigan Theater.

10 Sunday: Cheer on your favorite vehicle at Phi Delta Theta/Ann Arbor Active Against ALS (A2A3)’s 10th Annual Boxcar Derby and Picnic, where teams of all ages compete in a derby race. BBQ picnic & refreshments available. Proceeds benefit ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research. 2-5 p.m., E. Keech (north entrance to U-M Stadium). Free for spectators (donations appreciated). $25 per team entry fee. Pre-registration required for racers.

See the Observer’s online calendar for many more local events.

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