The Ann Arbor City Council met virtually Monday evening to discuss access to housing for formerly incarcerated residents as well as release public information on Council Rules, a city recycling program and improved snow removal on sidewalks.
The council approved C-5, an ordinance that adds a chapter to Fair Chance Access to Housing to Title IX of the Code of Ann Arbor. Overwhelmingly supported by the councilmembers, the Fair Access to Housing ordinance prohibits landlords from discriminating against formerly incarcerated individuals in the tenant selection process.
“This is a really important step towards providing additional housing support and access for individuals who have really been facing a form of discrimination I think (that) for too long has floated under the radar,” Councilmember Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, said.
The ordinance was unanimously approved by the council in its first read Monday evening. The ordinance will be introduced at a future council meeting for a second vote, when it will be subject to a public hearing.
The council also introduced and unanimously passed DC-1, which concerns amendments made to council rules in previous meetings this year. Some of the previously voted upon rules include limiting the time councilmembers have to speak during a meeting to two minutes on each issue and aiming to adjourn meetings by 11 p.m.
DC-1 instructs the City Attorney to provide a public memo detailing the amendments’ potential conflicts with the First Amendment and permits councilmembers to revise the amendments if they pose further issues.
Efforts to limit negative interactions between councilmembers and improve meeting efficiency began on Feb. 1 when the council introduced a resolution to amend council rules. While the amendments were initially passed, some councilmembers expressed concern that they violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech, causing them to be discussed yet again at Monday’s meeting.
DC-1 was sponsored by Councilmember Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, and Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, who both supported a resolution at the Feb. 17 meeting to revisit the amended council rules and possibly overturn them, though a final decision has not yet been made. Ramlawi said these efforts target councilmembers who vote in the minority.
“I believe that the rules that were adopted that govern the behavior of elected officials in public venues has a chilling effect on the dissenting political minority and their rights to freedom of expression,” Ramlawi said.
During the public comment section of the meeting, Joe Spaulding said he did not believe the original amendments to the council rules threatened councilmembers’ rights to effectively voice their opinion during meetings.
“Viewpoint discrimination?” Spaulding said. “If you say things that test the line between free speech and actual defamation so badly, then the best thing that can be said about your words is that saying them isn’t technically illegal. You’re probably embarrassing yourself and those you represent.”
The council then discussed and approved the DC-4 resolution, which grants the local non-profit Recycle Ann Arbor a five-year contract to collect recycling from both single-family and multi-family residences in Ann Arbor. The resolution, which was unanimously approved, also permits the council to renew the agreement for one two-year period.
Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, co-sponsor of the resolution, said she believes the resolution falls in line with the city’s own climate goals. Mayor Christopher Taylor, who was recently appointed a special adviser to an international sustainability body, was the other co-sponsor.
“I’d just like to acknowledge all of the good work that’s done by Recycle Ann Arbor and how important it is that we recycle and divert waste from our landfill,” Griswold said.
The council also revisited another frequently discussed issue of snow removal on the city’s sidewalks. Sponsored by Councilmembers Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5, Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4, Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, Griswold and Taylor, resolution DC-5 calls for the city administrator to collect data on cost-effective snow removal options and conduct a feasibility study in relation to Ann Arbor’s A2Zero goals.
A similar resolution was introduced during the Feb. 1 City Council meeting after a resident expressed their concerns with sidewalk safety during the winter months. Eyer said the resolution goes hand-in-hand with the city’s values.
“Ensuring that we have a complete, well-functioning sidewalk system is an integral part of a city,” Eyer said. “It's an equity issue both in terms of economics and physical ability — it’s a climate action issue and it’s a health issue.”
Taylor said passing this resolution reaffirms the city’s commitment to its A2Zero initiative, since clearer sidewalks allow for citizens to use modes of transportation other than cars.
“We have, for a number of years now, taken steps to recognize our transportation network is multimodal and that it involves vehicles, of course, but that it also involves infrastructure for pedestrians and infrastructure for cyclists,” Taylor said. “This is an important step towards putting that value set into practice.”
Some councilmembers argued that municipal snow removal should not be one of the council’s top priorities. Ramlawi said he does not see the community demand for city-sponsored removal of snow on public sidewalks.
“We have a lot of challenges right now — this one doesn’t rise to the top,” Ramlawi said. “I want to know how much money and time we’re going to spend on this goose chase because, quite frankly, I’m not hearing many of my constituents asking for what this resolution is calling for.”
After a failed appeal to postpone the vote, the council approved the resolution 10-2, with Councilmembers Ramlawi and Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, voting against the resolution.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Joe Spaulding is an Ann Arbor resident.
Daily Staff Reporter Lily Gooding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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