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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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City Council lessens burden on job applicants with felonies

By Matthew Jackonen, Daily Staff Reporter
Published May 5, 2014

Monday night, city council unanimously passed the first read of a resolution that would disallow any inquiry into an applicant’s felony history on city of Ann Arbor employment applications.

City staff would still be able to run background checks, but this resolution would limit such checks only to applicants who have already been considered in the first batch of applications for any position and have made the cut.

City Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said the resolution, which she is sponsoring, would allow those with a criminal past to get a fair shot at employment.

“This makes it possible to evaluate applicants with no unacknowledged bias toward the applicant because at some point in the past they had a felony conviction,” Briere said. “It’s possible to look at their work history, academic history, experience, knowledge and ability to the job and then consider them for employment.”

Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 4) also noted that the felony check box on an application is often a barrier for people who would like to contribute to society again.

“Having the box on an application is a barrier to a lot of people that have paid their debt to society and are trying to get their lives back in order,” Warpehoski said.

Warpehoski added that many applicants’ criminal convictions would not pose a threat in the workplace.

“If somebody has a DUI, you probably don’t want them driving a city vehicle,” Warpehoski said. “That’s a relevant issue, but not all are. This gives us a more narrow tool.”

Councilmember Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) said that convicts are often well-suited for certain jobs. He said employment can be an effective deterrent against creating second time offenders.

“It’s our policy not to bar convicts from employment with the city,” Eaton said. “We have to accept that some jobs can be performed by people convicted of a serious crime.”

Kunselman unveils plans to halt Uber operations

Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) unveiled a plan to propose a resolution — should it be necessary — to stop the operations of the popular new startup Uber.

Uber allows people to find drivers in their respective areas via a mobile application. Though Uber does require its drivers to get a background check according to state law, because drivers use their private cars and do not use taxis or limos registered by the state or city governments, opponents argue the application creates potential safety hazards.

Kunselman noted that a large part of his problem with Uber lies in its lack of attention to issues of public safety such as providing proof of insurance as a driver for hire.

“For the life of me, I do not understand how a for-profit business believes that public safety is in their interest when they’re just out to make a dollar,” he said.

Uber has received its share of criticism from many states and cities across the country for its lack of adherence to regulatory policy. In February, Detroit City Attorney Melvin Hollowell issued the business a cease and desist order. These orders request an entity discontinue a specified action to avoid legal action.

Kunselman said he will request the city attorney’s office levy a cease and desist order and would request the council’s action if their approval is required.

Resolution passed to decrease deer population

City council also unanimously passed a resolution to jumpstart efforts to limit the city’s deer population.

However, the resolution is only a first step and it is unclear how exactly the city will go about controlling the population.

Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) said many residents are expressing alarm at the growing deer population and the public safety problems they may cause such as crashes or Lyme disease from ticks.

“Concerns and frustrations being expressed are primarily related to the damage the deer are causing to our natural environment,” Lumm said. “But there are also concerns about public safety.”

Mayor John Hieftje jokingly alluded to the chicken ordinance passed by the city in 2008.

“It’s too bad it won’t be as simple as it was when we had the chicken ordinance,” Hieftje said. “We simply banned roosters. I don’t think the deer will listen.”


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