City Council votes reallocates unused funds for public art pieces

By Emma Kerr, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 3, 2014

After the Percent for Art program was dismantled, Ann Arbor City Council members voted Monday to return unused funds, up to about $840,000, to address basic infrastructure needs including sewers, streets and miscellaneous funds.

Supporters of the Percent for Art attended the meeting Monday night in defense of public art to express their doubts in city council members’ dedication to keeping Ann Arbor a creative, unique city.

This ordinance, however, will not affect major ongoing projects.

“This is not about whether or not we are going to have publicly funded art, this is about whether or not we are going to have sewage related art,” said Councilmember Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4).

Mayor John Hieftje and supporting council members hope to find a solution in the near future to transition from the Percent for Art program to one that reflects their continued dedication to public art.

Hieftje said he would like to see fewer restrictions and adequate staffing when it comes to public art — and that there is indeed some beauty in the Ann Arbor sewage system and related art.

Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) announced her intention to propose what she believes will be a more efficient method of purchasing and generating public art in Ann Arbor. Her ideas garnered the support of several council members who are unhappy with past attempts to allocate funds to public art.

Councilmember Margie Teall (D–Ward 4) was the only council member in opposition, and said she feels Ann Arbor is falling behind by not committing funds to public art.

In a separate issue, Councilmembers Eaton, Sumi Kailasapathy(D–Ward 1), Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) and Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) voted against a resolution that would have ensured the salary of the Public Art Administrator came from the Public Art Fund. It was implied he would go unpaid and therefore terminate his employment as a result.

Discussion of a potential smoking ordinance is postponed until March 3rd. Under the new law, citizens would be fined $50 for refusing to stop smoking or relocate if instructed to do so by law enforcement. The proposal encompasses areas 20 feet from city building doors, public parks and bus stops.

Finally, the ongoing question of whether or not the city should use its first right of refusal and purchase the Edwards Brothers property, preventing its sale to the University, remains unanswered after a closed-door discussion with the city attorney.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 17.