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City Council debates alternatives for public art funding

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 20, 2012

After a millage to replace Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art plan was voted down by city voters, the Ann Arbor City Council is struggling to reach a consensus for the best way to fund public art projects in the city.

At the first meeting for newly elected City Councilmembers Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5), Sally Petersen (D–Ward 2), and Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1), Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) proposed an ordinance that would terminate the current public art funding plan, which requires that 1 percent of city funds spent on capital improvement projects used for public art. The ordinance was eventually tabled despite Lumm, Kail and Councilmember Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) voting in opposition to the tabling.

Lumm said funds used for public art would be better used for street repair, parks or other city expenses, adding that the art pieces funded through the percent plan “have had less than universal acceptance.”

Another argument made by Council was that while Ann Arbor residents rejected the millage for public art, their vote does not mean they necessarily support the Percent for Art plan.

Newcomer Kailasapathy felt no apprehension diving into the discussion, and said that the Council should have repealed Percent for Art before putting a new proposal to voters, ultimately suggesting that the Council suspend the percent plan until it can decide the best funding model.

A proposed ordinance that would temporarily suspend the Percent for Art plan until April authored by Councilmember Marcia Higgins (D–Ward 4) was added to the agenda midway through the meeting. Higgins said the suspension would give time for Council to decide how the city should handle the funding of public art.

Immediately following a meeting recess, however, it was decided to postpone the less than an hour-old ordinance for two weeks.

Early in the meeting, however, the Council spent considerable time discussing an ordinance that would change how the living wage ordinance affects city contractors.

The proposed ordinance would increase the minimum value of a contract between the city and a contractor that would cause the living wage law to come into effect from $10,000 to $25,000 per contract. It would have also allowed non-profit companies that work for the city to be exempt from the living wage law.

Ultimately, the ordinance was postponed as the Council voted to put the ordinance on a second read for a later meeting.

Council also unanimously approved an ordinance closing off streets for Festifools — an annual arts parade held in April — as well as an agreement with the University’s Board of Regents that will allow the University to lay wire below the Ronald McDonald house, an organization that houses families with relatives staying the University hospital.


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