September 22, 2022

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

This week, the Gelman plume cleanup effort ran into a legal roadblock, U-M finalized a settlement with survivors of Robert Anderson, and an EMU basketball star was arrested. Ann Arbor is soliciting feedback on its planned unarmed response unit, and the city’s first director of organizational equity started work.

MDOT is fielding responses to proposed improvements of a dangerous M-14 interchange, consideration of a ban on red-light turns downtown was postponed by city council, and the city gave the go-ahead for a major grant proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Local officials learned that the state budget set aside $20 million for development at the polluted former DTE property on Broadway, a developer proposed an eight-story mixed-use project on State St., and a resurfacing project on Seventh St. next year may include new bike lanes.

— Dayton Hare, editor

MDOT is looking at potential fixes for the dangerous M-14 interchange at Barton Drive. Photo: John Hilton.

The News...Briefly

The county’s Covid-19 snapshot reports 1,472 cases in the two weeks ending yesterday, down from 1,739 last week and back to about where cases stood two weeks ago. There are 198.9 cases per 100,000 residents, down from 261.4 last week. The test positivity rate is down two points to 13.1 percent. The CDC community level will be updated at 8 p.m. tonight.

More than 1,000 survivors of Robert Anderson’s abuse have finalized a $490 million settlement with the U-M, the Michigan Daily reports, after 98 percent of the claimants approved a deal reached in January. Regents’ chair Paul Brown offered a “heartfelt apology” on behalf of the university, adding, “We hope this settlement helps the healing process for survivors.”

Michigan Medicine nurses reached a tentative agreement yesterday, the Detroit Free Press reports. The agreement comes on the heels of the union voting to authorize a work stoppage earlier this month. If it’s ratified, the nurses—who have been working without a contract since June—would see an end to mandatory overtime, competitive wages, and an improved mechanism for enforcing workload ratios.

The Gelman plume cleanup suffered a setback last week, MLive reports. The Michigan Court of Appeals vacated a local court’s order imposing additional requirements, ruling the city and other intervening parties shouldn’t have been permitted to participate informally. Public officials and environmental advocates expressed disappointment in the outcome, which amplified calls to designate the plume an EPA Superfund site.

The Peeping Tom charged earlier this month was arrested again this week, MLive reports. Erric Desean Morton was out on a $100,000 bond after he allegedly planted cameras in public restrooms around town. Police took him back into custody after he allegedly planted more. Now, bond is set at $800,000, and if released Morton will be confined to his home and placed on a GPS tether.

A proposed state constitutional amendment establishing a right to abortion will be on the ballot in November, the Detroit Free Press reports. Jan Schalin reports in the September Observer that Michigan has seen an influx of “abortion refugees” from nearby states that have banned the procedure since the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade in June. The ballot measure may determine whether Michigan women will face a similar fate.

Local Democrats think this may be the year they break the GOP's hold on the state senate, James Leonard reports in the September Observer. Republicans have controlled the senate since the Reagan era, but Dems Sue Shink and Jeff Irwin say the new, nonpartisan district boundaries have placed their party in its strongest position in a generation.

Ann Arbor’s first director of organizational equity started work Monday. Laura Orta, tasked with leading the city’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, has more than fifteen years of senior-level DEI experience, most recently as director of women's studies and diversity coordinator at CMU.

Someone slipped $20 million for an Ann Arbor riverside development into the state budget, MLive reports. The windfall for developer David Di Rita came as a surprise to local lawmakers, but the influx of cash means that work on the project at 841 Broadway could begin as soon as this fall. Jan Schlain’s 2019 Observer article has the backstory on Di Rita’s plan to redevelop one of the city’s most polluted sites.

A developer proposed an eight-story mixed-use project on the corner of State and Stimson, MLive reports. The development, currently billed as Southtown, would replace an entire block with 250 apartments and green space.

MDOT is looking at potential fixes to the dangerous M-14/Barton Dr. interchange. Options include closing the eastbound ramps entirely, extending the eastbound loop further north, and a “dog bone” design with roundabouts to connect both sides of the highway to Whitmore Lake Rd. Use the contact form at the bottom of the webpage to share your thoughts.

The city is moving toward a ban on red-light turns downtown, MLive reports, Meant to reduce pedestrian crashes, it would prohibit turns on red in the area bounded by First St., State St., Kingsley St., and Hoover Ave. Originally scheduled for action on Monday, it was delayed until Oct. 3 after councilmembers raised concerns that enforcement might disportionately affect wage workers hurrying to clock into work.

Ann Arbor wants $17 million from the federal government to improve street safety, MLive reports. Council this week approved a grant proposal for sidewalk improvements, protected bike lanes, pedestrian signals, and more as part of the city’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025. If it’s approved, the city’s share would be $5.5 million over a period of three years.

Seventh St. and Greenview Dr. south of Scio Church Rd. may trade some street parking for bike lanes, MLive reports. The water main and resurfacing project could also include curb bump outs for pedestrian crosswalks and stormwater management in the area near Lawton Elementary.

Ypsi’s leaders are staring down a hefty price tag to renovate the deteriorating Depot Town bridge, MLive reports. If nothing were to be done, the current bridge is expected to close in ten years, but the city can’t afford the best option–an all-new $19.5 million span. Instead, city staff are recommending a $6.24 million replacement of the existing bridge’s superstructure that should last about forty years.

EMU basketball star Emoni Bates was arrested on gun charges last weekend, the Free Press reports. Police discovered a firearm in the car Bates was driving after he was pulled over for failing to stop at an intersection. He is charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering the identification marks on a firearm, and has been suspended until the case is resolved.

The city’s annual National Community Survey results are in. 2,800 randomly selected residents gave their opinions on city services this summer: 93 percent consider Ann Arbor a good place to live, nine in ten were happy with the natural environment, and parks are well regarded. Sixty-three percent rated the value of services received for taxes paid good or excellent, up 9 points from the last survey in 2020.

Ann Arbor is soliciting feedback about its planned unarmed emergency response unit. The anonymous survey should take under ten minutes and is available until Nov. 4.

Lech Wałęsa called on the United States to resume the mantle of global leadership in a speech at Rackham last week, the Daily reports. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the former president of Poland, Solidarity union leader, and Nobel laureate urged America to accept its "God-given role: to lead the world.”

The Wolverines walloped UConn last weekend, 59-0, making use of seven different quarterbacks throughout the game. This Saturday they open the Big 10 season against Maryland at noon at the Big House. Parking by reservation for cars and, for the first time, RVs has been approved at Briarwood Mall during home games.

Veterans Memorial Indoor Ice Arena opened for the season last weekend. Public skate fees are $6 for adults, $5 for youth and seniors, and $3 to rent skates.

Sunday is the tenth annual Harvest Fest at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, ClickOnDetroit reports. Hosted by the U-M sustainable food program and campus farm, the event includes arts and crafts, lawn games, music, and food. For a look at Matthaei through the seasons, read Sarah Royalty Pinkelman’s feature in this year’s Observer City Guide.

U-M held onto its spot as the country’s No. 3 public university in U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings. Michigan tied with NYU, USC, and the University of Virginia for 25th place overall.

There were a few throughlines in the responses to our reader survey last week: People cared most about coverage of events, development, and marketplace changes, followed closely by business, government, and environment. Some readers want more arts coverage, restaurant reviews, and real estate news, among other things. If you didn’t yet have a chance to chime in, we’ve left the survey open so we can hear from you.

PizzaForno’s vending machine on South University is the city’s latest pizza innovation, but it’s certainly not the first. The area has a history of pioneering pizza development. Photo: J. Adrian Wylie

Marketplace Changes

How did Ann Arbor become a center for pizza innovation? Read Alexandra Vena’s account in the September Observer of the town’s entrepreneurial history, from Pizza From the Prop’s pioneering delivery service, to Domino’s rise to dominance, to the new PizzaForno pizza vending machine on South U.

The Main St. vegan restaurant Vedge Café has closed “due to some life circumstances and the rising cost of everything,” the owners wrote in a Facebook post last month. “It’s been such a pleasure serving the community for nearly six years.”

Chatime Michigan, the bubble tea shop on Maynard, also shut its doors. In a Facebook post, the franchise’s owners thanked their customers “for being with Chatime in all ups and downs.”

Michigan Dining chefs check out crops at the campus farmPhoto: E. Bronson/Michigan Photography

Question Corner

Q. Why does campus have a Diag? Was it planned from the start?

A.  The Diag came about slowly after a professor “embarked upon a personal mission to plant trees,” local historian Jim Tobin related in a 2008 article. Read more in the Observer’s September Question Corner. Next Wednesday, U-M’s library is hosting a free online event with Tobin on the history of the university and Ann Arbor.

Helpers

Avalon Housing celebrates its thirtieth anniversary with its annual Home for Good fundraiser tonight. Avalon is the county’s leading provider of affordable supportive housing, and partners with organizations like Food Gatherers to provide food pantries and other services for people experiencing homelessness.

Next week is the last chance for people struggling with water bills to apply to the county’s water assistance program. The temporary relief program provides up to $650 for income-eligible households to pay past-due water bills and/or reconnection fees.

Things to Do

By Jennifer Taylor

23 Friday: Hear Mary Gauthier at the Green Wood Coffee House Series. Often compared to Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, Gauthier specializes in vividly detailed, sharply observed songs about people on the edge–a niche that one critic calls “country noir.” She’s also known for the luminous purity of her singing. Opener: Critically-acclaimed Americana singer-songwriter Jaimee Harris. 8 p.m., FUMC Green Wood Church, 1001 Green Rd. at Glazier Way. Tickets $20 in advance online and at the door. 665–8558.

24 Saturday: Attend the Annual Webster Fall Festival, a popular country fair with hayrides, a petting zoo, and a sheep dog demonstration. Also, an auction (9:30 a.m.), pulled pork sandwiches & sides for sale (12–4 p.m.), an exhibition baseball game between the Dexter Union and the Chelsea Monitors using 1860s-era rules (1:30 p.m.), and more. Live music by old-time quartet the Pearl Street String Band (11 a.m.), Irish ensemble Fiddler Pie (1 p.m.), Celtic group Foxtree (2:30 p.m.), and bluegrass band The RFD Boys (4 p.m.). 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Webster Community Hall, 5484 Webster Church Rd. and Farrell Rd., Dexter. Free admission. 368–0887.

25 Sunday: Listen to “The Complete Organ Works of J.S. Bach,” part of U-M organ prof James Kibbie’s 18-week performance of Bach’s 281 surviving organ works. Today: “Pièce d’Orgue,” Trio in D Minor, Prelude and Fugue in C Major, “Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält,” the surviving fragments of Fantasia in C Major and Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor, chorales from the Neumeister Collection, and more. Program introduction: 3:40 p.m. 4 p.m., U-M Moore Bldg. Blanche Anderson Moore Hall, 1100 Baits. For livestream see smtd.umich.edu. Free. 615–3204.

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

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