August 19, 2021

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This week

The census results are in, and given the breakneck pace of development I'm surprised the county has only grown by eight percent. Growth lags in other parts of the state, and the governor announces funds to help businesses attract and retain talent.

One reason Ann Arbor remains a magnet is its buzzing downtown, much of which could have been destroyed by a bypass in the 1960s. Bustling with businesses and bedecked by colorful murals, Main Street has come through the pandemic in part thanks to weekend summer street closures allowing patrons to support restaurants in the open air and claim more of downtown as a public space. New proposals could make these changes permanent. 

Trilby MacDonald, editor 

Tomatoes grown in the MacDonald family's Project Grow plot at County Farm Park. Photo courtesy of Trilby MacDonald, August, 2021. 

The News...Briefly

On Wednesday morning, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported thirty-seven new confirmed cases of Covid-10, no hospitalizations, and no deaths in the past twenty-four hours. As cases continue to rise, Michigan Medicine barred visitors from its adult emergency room.

The high percentage of breakthrough cases continues, with four out of eleven people hospitalized for Covid in August having been fully vaccinated. The trend is state-wide, where roughly a quarter of the 8,100 recent cases are among the fully vaccinated. These figures come amidst a growing debate about mask mandates in public schools. MLive (subscriber exclusive)

Locally, “Most of the current vaccinated/hospitalized cases are immunocompromised or older with severe underlying conditions,” emails WCHD spokesperson Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, adding that while vaccines are still effective for this population they offer less protection against the Delta variant. 

A suspect was arraigned for a string of sexual assaults in July. Thirty-five year-old Pierre Antonio-Deshant Holloway is being held without bail at the Washtenaw County Jail. Anyone with additional information about the assaults is asked to contact Ann Arbor Police Det. John Gilbee at 734-796-6930, extension 49309, or the anonymous tip line 734-794-6939. Michigan Daily 

Mural sought for Ann Arbor’s water treatment plant. The mural will be placed inside a main starwell used by visitors, and must feature educational concepts tied to drinking water or the history of the century-old plant. Applications for the $17,000 commission will be accepted until October 31, with the winner chosen in May, 2022. MLive

Ann Arbor chief of police Michael Cox is in the running to be Detroit’s chief of police after James Craig retired to run for governor on the Republican ticket. Cox, who came to Ann Arbor from the Boston Police Department shortly before the pandemic, says he did not seek out the position. MLive

After a dip last year, the county has already surpassed 2019’s homicide count. Law-enforcement leaders point to more guns, more drinking, and pandemic jitters. The Observer’s James Leonard has our story. 

Washtenaw County grew eight percent from 2010-2020, but because Michigan only grew two percent, it will lose a congressional seat. The newly released census data also ignites Michigan’s redistricting process, which for the first time will be decided by an independent bipartisan commission.

Ann Arbor becomes the first Midwestern city to ban the sale of fur. The ordinance includes a one-year phase out and exemptions for used fur, fur worn by tribal communities, bovine pelts, and taxidermied animals. Supporters cited human health as well as animal welfare reasons for the ban: in October, 2020, mink on a Michigan fur farm became infected with the virus that causes Covid-19, and a Michigan taxidermist became infected with Covid-19 by a mink earlier this year. 

Ann Arbor voted to create a downtown “social district,” where bar and restaurant patrons may move freely on city sidewalks while consuming alcoholic beverages. Pending the development of a city park, the “Library Lot” can be used by food trucks and pop-up vendors. 

The Ride will restore full-service on August 29, with some changes. Adjustments to routes and services were made based on feedback during a public engagement process held in March and June. Face masks are still required on all city transportation.

Governor Whitmer announces $2.5 million to help businesses attract talent. Employer-led collaboratives in agriculture, construction, energy, healthcare, hospitality, information technology, manufacturing, mobility, and the trades can apply for up to $250,000 to entice talented employees with training programs and benefits like childcare. Proposals are accepted until September 21, 2021, with awards announced on November 17, 2021.

Who Needs Ya?

The Power of Life Foundation, in conjunction with local officials, nonprofits, and religious groups, will host a “Drive Thru Back to School Giveaway” with 1,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies, face masks, and hand sanitizers, as well as lunch and special treats from local vendors. The county health department will host a vaccination clinic nearby. Saturday, August 21, 11 a.m. at Fireman’s Park, 8795 MacArthur Blvd, Ypsilanti. 

Ann Arbor will extend downtown street closures through October, 2021. The creation of a "social district" includes the possibility of making summer street closures permanent. Photo courtesy of Main Street Area Association.

Marketplace Changes

Enjoying the freedom to drink, dine, and even dance in the streets for two summers has changed the way the city thinks about public space. Many in the community have voiced that that they don’t want to return downtown streets to traffic, noise, and pollution just yet. Instead, the city has extended downtown weekend street closures through October this year, and is also close to finalizing a downtown “Social District,” which would allow bar and restaurant patrons to move freely between downtown businesses while consuming alcohol. The Observer's Kathryn Pentiuk has our story. 

Things to Do

By Ella Bourland

19 Thursday: See Horizon Performing Arts’ “Remember The Magic: The Happiest Musical Revue on Earth” (Aug. 19–22). Connor Rhoades directs area performers in this all-Disney musical revue, including songs featured in movies, TV shows, and theme parks from 1929 to today. Masks required; limited seating. 7 p.m. (Thurs.-Sat.) & 2 p.m. (Sun.), Riverside Arts Center, 76 N. Huron St., Ypsilanti. Tickets $15 (students & seniors, $10; kids age 10 & under on Sun. only, $10) in advance (recommended) at and at the door.

20 Friday: Bring a camp chair or picnic blanket to sit on, and treats to snack on while you watch the Penny Seats Theatre Company’s outdoor production “Summer of Love” (Aug. 19–21). Lauren London directs Roger Bean's 2011 jukebox musical about a conservative runaway bride who ends up in San Francisco at the height of the 1960s counterculture. The score features pop music from the era, from Motown to folk-rock and rock 'n' roll. Concessions. 7 p.m., Burns Park Shelter Area, corner of Baldwin & Wells. Tickets $15 (seniors, $12; kids age 12 & under, $10) in advance at, and at the show. 926-5346.

21 Saturday: Watch local kids in Children’s Creative Center’s musical production of “CCC and the Chocolate Factory” (Aug. 18–22). Directed by Gayle Martin, Laurie Atwood, and Abby Vermeulen, it’s loosely based on Leslie Bricusse and Tim McDonald's 2004 stage show that combines elements of both Roald Dahl's classic novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its iconic 1971 film adaptation “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” The score includes such favorites as "Pure Imagination," "Oompa Loompa Melody," "Golden Ticket," "I Want It Now," "It's Time," and "Carry On." Proceeds benefit Friends of CCC, which assists homeless and disadvantaged families with childcare costs. 7 p.m. (Wed–Sat.) & 2 p.m. (Sun.), Children’s Creative Center, 1600 Pauline (at Kay Pkwy. east of Stadium). Tickets pay what you can in advance at or at the door. 

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

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