The Ann Arbor City Council met virtually Monday evening to discuss a resolution to acknowledge Ann Arbor resident Daniel Bicknell’s longstanding career in public service, the allocation of excise tax revenue from recreational marijuana and the implementation of a Transgender Day of Visibility.

The meeting began with a discussion of a resolution to commend Bicknell, the president of Global Environment Alliance LLC, for his acts of public service. Bicknell is credited for discovering the 1,4-dioxane pollution in the Third Sister Lake as a researcher at the University of Michigan in 1984. The pollution, which started from the company Gelman Sciences, eventually spread to a large plume in the underground water system in Ann Arbor. 

Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, spoke in favor of the resolution, saying the recognition was well-deserved. He added that Ann Arbor resident Roger Rayle should also be recognized for working alongside Bicknell.

“I think it’s great that the environmental commission has brought this forward to recognize Bicknell and the work he’s done over the years, decades really, on the Gelman plume issue specifically,” Hayner said.  “He’s freely shared his knowledge and experience with us over the years about this issue, and I think that’s terrific.” 

The resolution passed unanimously. 

In October 2019, City Council debated whether or not to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, which was passed 9-2 at that meeting. When City Council passed this ordinance, there were no plans made for the excise taxes that would be collected, Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, said. 

Councilmembers debated item DC-3 on the agenda, which aims to use revenue from the excise tax placed on recreational marijuana “in a way that intentionally reinvests in our community, acknowledges the past harm of criminalization, and supports populations disproportionately and negatively impacted by the ‘War on Drugs.’” 

Ann Arbor received 1% of the state’s revenue from the tax, totaling about $476,000 for Ann Arbor. Councilmembers are currently trying to figure out how exactly the revenue should be used in the community. 

In the original discussions in October 2019, councilmembers discussed how these excise taxes could be used for social justice, mental health and substance abuse issues, Ramlawi said. More specifically, Ramlawi suggested putting the money toward unarmed crisis response teams that could serve as an alternative to police in mental health crises. These teams gained increasing mainstream traction after a summer of protests for racial justice and against police brutality.

“It is my intent and my wishes to see this money go to programs that currently don’t exist and that this can be used in ways that are innovative and responsive to the issues we hear from our community based on the need for unarmed emergency response (teams),” Ramlawi said.

Ann Arbor resident Aria Schugat called into the meeting in support for DC-3 but expressed concern about the vagueness of where the money from the excise taxes will go. Schugat proposed that the excise taxes go towards supporting the housing association of Washtenaw County and the Delonis Center. 

“I believe that if we help our most vulnerable members and help lift them up, we can lift everyone else up with them,” Schugat said. 

Hayner said he spoke with members of the community and people in the cannabis industry to discuss how the money from the excise taxes should be used.

“Overwhelmingly to the last person, the comment was it must have a community use and do public good in areas that are underfunded and have great need in our community,” Hayner said. 

DC-3 was sponsored by over half of the members on the council. Councilmembers intend to incorporate this resolution into the 2022 budget, but have yet to decide exactly where the money will be allocated to. 

“Essentially what we’re asking this body to do is to agree in principle that this goes towards community uses and public good,” Hayner said.

The resolution passed unanimously.

The council also discussed a resolution to officially recognize a Transgender Day of Visibility. Councilmember Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, said there is a need for more education and awareness around the topic of transgender rights, especially since transgender people face higher rates of discrimination

Councilmember Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, voiced her support for the resolution and discussed the generational differences in understanding issues of transgender rights. Nelson said this resolution is important for her son’s generation and future generations, who will grow up understanding systemic discrimination against transgender people.

“This is really an opportunity for those of us who are old enough to remember the terrible way things used to be to make a real effort to move forward,” Nelson said. “And I’d like to say I’m really optimistic about the future based on the conversations I have with my own children.”

The resolution was approved unanimously. 

Daily Staff Reporters Shannon Stocking and Julia Forrest can be reached at sstockin@umich.edu and   juforres@umich.edu

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