August 13, 2020

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


The rumors were confirmed this week, and the fall football season is cancelled. This will cost U-M and area businesses tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue, to say nothing of heartbroken fans and athletes whose futures are suddenly uncertain. U-M is facing a high profile sexual misconduct investigation of former Provost Martin Philbert. Washtenaw County more than doubled its record of absentee ballots cast in an election last week. Election officials are confident, but a higher than average number of ballots remain unaccounted for in the county and across the state. 

The Quilt Guild holds its annual sale to help survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and local tech company SpellBound wins a major grant to build a game that helps children recovering from cancer. 

Trilby MacDonald, editor

In the News

Just a week after releasing a revised football schedule, the Big Ten canceled all fall sports. Detroit Free Press sports reporter Chris Solari told Michigan Radio that delays in Covid-19 test results were among the concerns cited by student athletes. Athletic director Warde Manuel had previously predicted that could cost his department $120 million in revenue. With  an estimated $12 million spent locally before and after every home game, the financial shock to already-suffering businesses will be at least as devastating as the psychic shock to football fans.  

Former U-M provost Martin Philbert had a long history of sexual harassment and misconduct involving female students and staff, according to a July 31 report by a Washington D.C. law firm. By turns depressing, illuminating, and titillating, the report documents how Philbert escaped formal investigation for decades, in part because the victims feared career retaliation. On unpaid leave since the investigation began in January, Philbert relinquished his tenured faculty position at the end of June. U-M is also facing sexual misconduct scandals involving former physician Robert Anderson and former music professor David Daniels. 

One hundred thousand absentee ballots were cast in Washtenaw County in last week’s primary, more than double the record set in 2018. Eighty three percent were returned by election day. The average return rate is 90%.  Director of Elections Ed Golembiewski is “absolutely concerned about the slowness of the mail” but maintains that absentee voting is still the safest and best way to vote in November. He encourages Ann Arbor voters to vote early or use the ballot drop box at 301 E. Huron St. to ensure seamless delivery. Voters can track their ballots at

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson anticipates two to three times as many absentee ballots will be cast in November, but the relatively smooth primary makes it less likely that Republican legislators will approve a bill to allow election workers to begin counting ballots while voting is in progress. Bridge Magazine. With 440,000 absentee ballots still unaccounted for across the state, some Biden supporters are taking the advice of New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie to vote in person instead. 

Stephen Ross and Jeff Blau gave the U-M Ross School of Business a $6 million grant to launch an initiative to increase student diversity in real estate business and infrastructure investing. Ross is the founder and chairman of the real estate firm Related Companies, and Blau is the chief executive officer. Both men are U-M alumni. “I’ve been in real estate for more than 50 years and have a unique opportunity and obligation to foster more diversity in our industry,” Ross said. U-M News. 


Downtown and campus streets will remain closed on weekends through September 21, allowing restaurants and shops to expand their outdoor presence into the fall. The city council resolution maintains the current schedule, closing streets from Fridays at 2 p.m. through Sundays at 10 p.m. Businesses will also be able to extend into some street parking spaces through Oct. 31.

The Agave tequila bar and an adjoining catering space on N. Main St. have merged and reopened as Chapala Mexican Restaurant and Bar. 

Mini of Ann Arbor will halt new-car sales on August 25. They're advertising "clearance pricing" and "never before offered discounts" on remaining Minis, including as much as $7,000 on a few demo/executive cars. They'll continue to service Minis and sell used cars.

Satchel's BBQ closed its Liberty St. location. Business had been shaky before the pandemic, but the coronavirus was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” owner Hugh Morgan writes in a press release. “Satchel's had one strong location [on Washtenaw Ave. near Whole Foods, which continues] and probably should have been happy with that.”

Christina Clark founded SpellBound in 2015, an augmented reality startup that recently won a major grant from the NIH to create a captivating interactive game for children recovering from cancer surgery. Along the way, she discovered a wealth of women-centric funding and business development organizations that encouraged her to keep her company in Ann Arbor. The Observer’s Trilby MacDonald has our story
A young patient activates augmented reality characters with a smartphone. Courtesy of SpellBound. 


Friday: Enjoy gentle yoga and a leisurely hike at Independence Lake County Park (6 p.m.) or view the Michigan Art Gallery’s online exhibit of work by mid-century Ann Arbor painter Leon Makielski (opening at 6:30 p.m.).

Saturday: Watch livestream aerial and acrobatic performances by instructors and students at the A2 Aviary (8 p.m.). Help the Washtenaw Audubon Society monitor migration patterns of chimney swifts by counting the birds as they enter chimneys to roost (8 p.m.).

Sunday: Browse local handmade arts and crafts at the (re)opening day of the Artisan Market (11 a.m.–4 p.m.).

See the Observer’s online calendar for more information about local events.
Quilts donated by the GAAQG, on display in SafeHouse Center

Notable Nonprofit: Quilt Guild

By Maggie McMillin

The Greater Ann Arbor Quilt Guild continues its partnership with SafeHouse Center with an online quilt show. Member-made quilts are up for sale, and proceeds go to SafeHouse. Quilters are benefiting from the experience, too: “it’s wonderful and therapeutic for our members to focus their minds on helping the community.”

The Helpers

By Ella Bourland

Duo Security founder Dug Song, together with his wife Linh, gave over 500 small businesses in Washtenaw County short-term emergency relief grants of up to $5,000. Ann Arbor businesses include Lewan Boxing, The Discovery Center, Washtenaw Dairy, Oz’s Music Environment, and more. 

100,000 Masks Challenge. Fifty-seven area Rotary Clubs raised enough money to purchase 100,000 masks for frontline workers, school faculty and children, and under funded communities in the region. A portion of the masks are sourced from a women’s empowerment organization in India that hires young orphans at fair wages to make cloth masks and other PPE.  

Local Ashish Sarkar, Rotary Club District 6380 chair of the finance committee and former president of the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, is helping to distribute the masks. Sarkar is also involved in leveraging funds to help the Covid-19 response in Detroit through what he calls Reverse Global Grants. “Usually developed countries send money to developing countries. For the first time in my life, I have friends in other countries who pity the U.S.,” says Sarkar. “Indian Rotary Clubs read about the plight in Detroit and are eager to help.” Eight local Rotary Clubs and seven Indian Rotary Clubs pooled resources, gathering $40,000 for PPE and $40,000 to address food scarcity in Detroit.

For more news on local businesses and people that are helping the community, click here.


“I think your math is off,” former city councilmember Leigh Greden emailed after reading last week’s election results. “[U]sing your analysis of the so-called coalitions (which I respectfully reject!), the Mayor's ‘coalition’ will have a 7-4 majority, not a 6-5 majority.” We continue to disagree about the existence of coalitions, but Greden is right about the numbers; we appreciate the correction. 

The link to last week’s feature by Maggie McMillin about the Over the Edge fundraiser for Friends In Deed was broken. Learn more about this “urban rappelling” event - including opportunities to “Toss the Boss” and “Push the Pastor.”  

Last week’s events listing misspelled the name of the performance group for special needs young people at Oz’s Music. Here’s a 2018 WXYZ feature on the band Know Obstacles
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