June 24, 2021

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

This week

With most pandemic restrictions lifted, public life begins to resemble something approaching normal. Local government now faces a massive backlog, including the county's oldest open murder case which is finally going to trial.

Climate change is causing massive swings in Huron River water levels, with two to three feet less water this year than average. EMU faces shortfalls of its own, and is launching a severance incentive plan and increased financial aid to attract more students. 

The Ann Arbor Arts Center continues its efforts to bring art out of the studio and into the streets with the Alleyway Project. I've always treasured Ann Arbor's grimy alleyways as one of the city's last unpolished spaces. I hope artists' submissions see the charm in a bit of grit. 

Trilby MacDonald, editor 

Eleanor's Sweets and Sodas is a colorful candy shop in Saline, with more than fifty flavors of jelly beans, snow cones, and Italian sodas. See Marketplace Changes.

The News...Briefly

Michigan lifted mask requirements and gathering restrictions on Tuesday. Citing low case rates and a sixty percent vaccination rate, the state opened up a week earlier than planned.  Employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from Covid-19 exposure, unless they are in a healthcare or school setting. Michigan Radio

Yesterday morning, there were two confirmed Covid-19 cases, one hospitalization, and no deaths in the previous twenty-four hours. Last week’s positivity rate was 0.8 percent.

Beginning next week, the Washtenaw County Health Department will be holding walk-up vaccine clinics Tuesdays-Fridays at 555 Towner St. in Ypsilanti. An Arabic interpreter will be on site on Tuesdays and a Spanish interpreter will be on site Wednesdays and Thursdays. Interpreters for other languages will be available by phone at every clinic.  Click on Detroit

The county’s oldest unresolved murder case goes to trial this week after four years of delays. Xavier Payne is one of three people accused of killing nineteen-year-old Brandon Cross during a botched robbery at the Glencoe Hills apartment complex in April, 2017. The two co-defendants pleaded guilty to armed robbery and testified that Payne, who was sixteen at the time of the slaying, fired the fatal shot. Payne also faces charges that, while awaiting trial, he sought to have a codefendant’s parent killed by a fellow inmate. MLive

Michigan Medicine is in the black. The U-M healthcare network missed its fiscal 2020 target by $167 million after the pandemic’s first wave crowded out most other care, but for the year ending June 30, it’s projecting a $339.8 million margin on revenues of $5.2 billion.  Michigan Medicine

Dexter City Council continues to operate with one open seat. In March, council member Julie Knight resigned. Neither of mayor Shaun Keough’s nominations were approved by city council, which can either consider the three remaining applications, or call for new ones. “It’s not a volunteer position but it’s pretty close,” says interim city manager Justin Breyer, explaining that council has had vacancies three or four times in the past twenty years. “Folks’ lives change after they run.”

EMU launches “voluntary severance incentive plan,” works to boost enrollment. In a June 11 statement, president James Smith writes that the plan is needed “to more closely align faculty headcount with EMU’s current and projected enrollment.” According to a May article in, Eastern had “just over 16,000 students in the fall 2020 semester — a decline of about 5,000 from 2016.” To draw more, Smith announced a $3.5 million increase in financial aid support, and a “block” tuition plan that will allow students to enroll in twelve to sixteen credits per semester for a flat rate, encouraging them to graduate within four years. EMU Today

The U-M Museum of Natural History reopens, cautiously. For now, it’s open Fridays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.; reservations are required, as well as masks and social distancing for all visitors. Visitors will have the opportunity to see two new exhibits on indigenous baskets from the Great Lakes region. The planetarium remains closed for the time being. Side note: after thirty-two years, planetarium director Matt Linke is retiring. The new director will be announced next month. WEMU 

Water levels in the Huron River are two to three feet below average. Many areas of the river are difficult to navigate, including the pristine stretch managed for wildlife habitat between Island Lake State Recreation Area and Huron Meadows Recreation Area. Climate change is the cause, according to Daniel Brown, planner for the Huron River Watershed Council. “This unfortunately looks like something that we can expect more of, in terms of that high weather variability from year to year,” he says. “It makes it hard to plan for the future.”  WEMU

Only a handful of species of South Pacific tree snails survived an alien invasion. Thanks to the world’s smallest computer, scientists know why. A predatory snail introduced in the 1970s wiped out more than fifty native species in the Society Islands, but the pearly white-shelled Partula hyalina survived. U-M biologists and engineers glued the world’s smallest computer onto the snails’ shells, and discovered that the secret lies in P. hyalina’s high tolerance for sunlight. U-M News

Ann Arbor Art Center seeks to transform the city’s alleyways into creative spaces. The Art Center launches the Alleyway Project, to re-imagine five alleyways between W. Liberty and W. Washington. Artists, designers, architects, and engineers are invited to submit their designs and a project statement by July 11. The proposed designs must be dynamic, interactive, and able to withstand a year of public use.

Marketplace Changes

Huckleberry, ginger beer, kiwi, and spicy mango are just a few of the fifty plus flavors of Italian sodas, snowcones, and jellybeans at Eleanore's Sweets, Saline’s new candy shop. In addition to contemporary brands, you can find old school favorites like Bit-O-Honey and candy cigarettes, and rainbow lollipops as big as your head. Small clipboards and worksheets are available to help kids stay on budget, with prizes for correct math.

The White Pine Kitchen is a new virtual restaurant featuring international cuisine that delivers in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. A virtual restaurant might seem like a contradiction in terms, but this one delivers. Brian Santos and Forest Maddox quit corporate jobs in NYC and San Francisco to live their dream of creating meals that reflect the cuisine of a specific city or country, curated music playlists featuring regional artists, and historical context for the menu. 

The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited, has come to the Henry Ford Museum. The exhibit is chock full of puppets and artifacts from Henson's forty year career in puppetry. 

Play On

Jim Henson exhibition comes to the Ford Library. For forty years, Jim Henson and a talented team of designers, performers, and writers created a menagerie of madcap puppet characters for film and television. This ticketed exhibit includes artifacts, puppets, costumes, storyboards, behind the scenes footage, and interactive puppeteering experiences for children and playful adults. Through September 6.

Things to Do

By Ella Bourland

24 Thursday: Catch the Summer Festival’s outdoor screening of Jon M. Chu's 2018 rom-com Crazy Rich Asians, about a native New Yorker who discovers that her longtime boyfriend is actually the scion of an incredibly wealthy Singapore family. 10 p.m., Fuller Park. Free (donations accepted), but preregistration required at A2SF Live Here Now.

25 Friday: Check out the Encore Musical Theatre Company’s new digs in Dexter’s historic Copland building and hear local professionals perform songs from Sweeney Todd, Company, Assassins, Into the Woods, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George, and other Sondheim musicals. Cabaret-style seating; capacity limited. 7:30–9 p.m. (June 24–26), Encore, 7714 Ann Arbor St., Dexter. Tickets $35 ($3.70 online processing fees) in advance (recommended) at and at the door.

26 Saturday: Assemble take-home kites to fly and watch air-powered “Stomp Rockets” take off at Superior Township’s “Kite and Rocket Day.” Suitable for all ages. 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Fireman’s Park (corner of Harris Rd. & MacArthur Blvd.). Free. Superior Township Parks & Recreation Department

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