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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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City Council proposes new charter requirements

Allison Farrand/Daily
"Boycott Israel, Stop Bombing Gaza" protester Blaine Coleman alleges that the blood of Palestinian children is on the hands of the Ann Arbor City Council Monday. Buy this photo

By Emma Kerr, Daily News Editor
Published July 22, 2014

Amid a City Council meeting Monday heavily focused on the city's charter and infrastructure development, discussion was frequently interrupted as protesters chanted, “Boycott Israel, stop bombing Gaza.”

Protestor’s comments included descriptions of how their livelihoods relate to and have been affected by recent conflict and violence in Israel and Gaza.

“It is with our money, Mr. Mayor, that they blow up hospitals, that they kill innocent mothers and children,” Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the protesters, said. “We are here to tell you that we hold you responsible, and we are going to come many, many times.”

The group continued chanting despite Mayor John Hieftje’s attempts to quiet the crowds and bring order to the meeting.

“I hear you, that you are going to come many more times, but if your issue is that you want to interrupt local government, then you will need to give that some thought,” Hieftje told the group.

After protesters left, City Council members opened discussion of and eventually agreed to putting a new charter up for vote in the coming general election in response to recent confusion surrounding the candidacy of Bob Dascola.

Dascola’s residency was questioned by the city in federal court earlier this year over a 1970s charter provision that required candidates for office to both be registered to vote and show proof of residency in the city, which the court eventually found was unenforceable because the provision was voided by the courts in previous years. The decision largely left the city without legally established residency requirements for candidates.

The provision approved by City Council relaxes previously enforced rules to allow anyone to run for Council as long as they are registered to vote in their ward when they file for their candidacy. The second proposed amendment to the charter ensures the same policy also applies to city boards and commissions.

Though both Councilmembers Christopher Taylor (D-Ward 3) and Jane Lumm (I-Ward 2) asked that the issue be postponed due to the time-sensitive nature of the eligibility question to the coming election, City Councilmembers voted unanimously to let the voters decide on the proposed requirements in the November general election.

The council also addressed purchasing land to turn into public parks in the Burton Park and Glendale areas, as proposed by Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D-Ward 3). Some council members, as well as Mayor Hieftje, said they thought the Council should not be reaching out to developers, but rather letting the city’s Park Advisory Committee make recommendations to them.

“I find myself wondering, well, why are we not talking about the places that are out there and that no one is proposing development on that appear to be trying to stop a development that has been well into the approval process?” Sabra Briere (D-Ward 1) asked.

The resolution to inquire into the willingness of developers to sell to the city and the desirability of the land eventually passed 8-2, through Councilmembers also expressed concerns about the language of the resolution, the potential of wasting time on land that was not desirable to build a park on or not available for purchase from developers, and a reduction in tax revenue from the city buying more land.

“The city is already the largest property owner, almost double that of UM,” Sally Petersen (D-Ward 2) said. “We are always mad when the University takes land off the payroll, and we are doing the same.”

Council also approved traffic and parking changes for the University’s move in dates, which is set to change from previous years into a more condensed process between August 27 and 29.


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