August 20, 2020

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The week so far

SafeHouse Center announced that a woman was murdered by her former boyfriend, shortly after moving out of the domestic violence and sexual assault shelter with their baby. The assailant then killed himself.

Despite high numbers of infections early in the pandemic, Washtenaw County has flattened the curve. But as students return to local campuses, the county has restricted outdoor gatherings to 25 people. Ann Arbor Public Schools are reaching out to parents about fall online learning plans, and will be distributing a Chromebook to every student in the district. The city purchased Lurie Terrace, preserving affordable senior housing downtown. 

Trilby MacDonald, editor

In the News

A SafeHouse Center client was murdered last month. According to an August 13 statement released by the domestic violence and sexual assault shelter, Courtney Neely was shot and killed on July 15 by her former boyfriend, who then killed himself. Their infant daughter survived. The incident was not made public by the Ypsilanti Police Department. Neeley had resided with her baby in the SafeHouse Center shelter for two months before moving to an apartment with assistance from the organization. The murderer, Michael Taylor, had been arrested after assaulting Neely on April 15, but was released on a personal recognizance bond two days later. The baby is being raised by her mother’s sister, Danyale Neely, who has set up a Go Fund Me page for the child. MLive. 

To slow the spread of Covid-19, Washtenaw County restricts outdoor gathering in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti to 25 people or less. The order takes effect today and will continue indefinitely. Click On Detroit. 

Washtenaw County continues its downward trend in the number of Covid-19 cases, in contrast to the rapid climb across much of the state. The health department’s Susan Ringler-Cerniglia believes Southeast Michigan’s ordeal early in the pandemic may be a factor: “We are more likely to know someone who has gotten the virus and we are more cautious as a result.” Apart from a sharp spike in the number of cases after the 4th of July weekend, Ringler-Cerniglia is encouraged by the county’s declining numbers. But the politicization of the issue has made it more challenging for the County Health Department to keep the public informed. The Observer’s Trilby MacDonald has our story

The city is buying Lurie Terrace, preserving the city’s last great senior housing bargain.The 1960s-vintage high rise on W. Huron has 132 wedge-shaped apartments in two striking hexagonal towers, but its volunteer board was overtaxed even before a wrenching lawsuit. The sale, approved conditionally by city council on Monday, will bring it under the management of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, guaranteeing that the building will remain affordable in perpetuity.

Traffic shift: when construction wraps up next month, First St. will switch from one-way southbound to two-way. Next year, northbound Ashley will also revert to two-way traffic. The last vestige of a planned downtown bypass, the one-way streets speed traffic through the west side, but not by much: the city figures that rush-hour trips between Madison and Kingsley will take about a minute longer. Shorter trips should actually be quicker, and a protected bike lane on First will create a safe route to Central Campus via the existing lane on William--and eventually to the Border-to-Border Trail via the Treeline

To facilitate remote learning in the fall, the Ann Arbor Public Schools are giving out 13,000 Chromebooks, after already distributing thousands at the end of last year. Mlive.


The retail apocalypse takes another bite out of Briarwood with the closings of the Gap and Banana Republic. With the former Sears store still empty and JC Penney’s future uncertain, visions of redeveloping the 1970s showplace seem less hypothetical than they did just a year ago. Owner Simon Properties has taken ownership stakes in bankrupt tenants Aeropostale and Forever 21 to limit the number of closures--and is even talking to Amazon about renting space for warehouses.  

Cultivate Coffee and Taphouse to change ownership, business model. Ypsi resident Sara Demorest will take over from current owners Ryan and Bekah Wallace. The company will be pivoting from a nonprofit to a for profit business model, with a foundation attached that will underwrite the company’s community work.  Click On Detroit. 

Peak times at farmers markets.  Practically everything is in season! From peaches and corn to squashes and tomatoes, there is something for every palate. But be cautious during peak hours at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, when throngs of patrons make social distancing impossible. 

Artisan Market Reopens. With over 30 vendors new and old, the Sunday Artisan Market celebrated a successful opening day last weekend. The wide variety of handcrafted goods for sale makes it “a great place to browse and learn." The Observer's Maggie McMillin has our story. 
 Artisan Market seamstress Daren Otis. Photo: Maggie McMillin


Friday: Hear NEW Center CEO Yodit Mesfin Johnson discuss ways to act on the community’s growing understanding of racial inequality (noon). Build a fairy door in the woods at Independence Lake County Park (6 p.m.). Tune in to a virtual reading of playwright Michael Alan Herman's dark fairy tale Eldritch! by the Penny Seats Theatre Company (8 p.m.). 

Saturday: Listen to live music TBA and have a drink, if you’d like, at the 8 Ball Saloon’s outdoor patio (8–9 p.m. or later). 

Sunday: Attend a baseball match using 1860s-era rules with Dexter’s Union Base Ball Club (2 p.m.). Watch the exhilarating Detroit stride pianist Alvin Waddles (4:15 p.m.) livestream a show from Kerrytown Concert House. 

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

One Hundred Year Old Right

This past Tuesday, the 19th Amendment turned 100 years old marking the day when the right to vote could no longer be denied on account of sex. In 1920, locals involved in the Grange movement and other intersecting clubs celebrated this major victory in a decades-long struggle to expand access to the ballot box. The Observer’s Ella Bourland has our story.
Gathering of the Michigan Grange, supporters of women’s suffrage. Photo courtesy of the Washtenaw County Historical Society.

Play On

By Stephanie Sorter

U-M professor Debotri Dhar has spent years working on Love is Not a Word: The Culture and Politics of Desire. The essay collection has been published in India, but pandemic delays mean she’s yet to hold a copy. The Observer’s Stephanie Sorter has our story.

Photo courtesy of Debotri Dhar
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