The Ann Arbor City Council met at Larcom City Hall on Monday night to discuss curbside pickup at marijuana facilities, street parking regulations and pedestrian safety. The meeting took an unexpected turn when Council member Jeff Hayner brought up his use of offensive language last year.
Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, began the meeting by addressing the danger of Geddes Avenue. Griswold said there was a recent accident that occurred on Geddes Avenue, where a child was hit by a car. The child only suffered mild injuries, but another 5-year-old was killed in this same location in 2014. The city has not implemented any changes to the road as a result of the accidents.
“I had the TV on in the background today and I kept hearing a term that resonated with me: ‘systemic failure,’” Griswold said. “We have absolutely awesome employees, but we frequently have failures … Now we have two crashes of our children in the same location.”
Griswold said there is no traffic light at the intersection of Geddes Avenue and Onondaga Street, and that there is only a marked crosswalk on Onondaga Street. The closest marked pedestrian crosswalk is about 0.1 miles away. There have been multiple car accidents recorded on Geddes Avenue in the past decade, many of which have led to fatalities.
A $5.3 million project to ensure safer vehicular and pedestrian traffic movement on Geddes Avenue started in October 2009 and was completed in November 2010. However, this was the last time an effort to improve the road was made, and accidents continue to occur.
The council proceeded to discuss an amendment to the marijuana ordinance. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Agency issued an order to allow marijuana shops to provide curbside pickup, a decision made in light of the rapid spread of coronavirus at the time. However, according to the ordinance, marijuana facilities were expected to stop providing curbside pickup in Sept. 2022.
Councilmember Lisa Disch, D-Ward 1, proposed an amendment that would allow marijuana facilities to continue the service by removing the clause that prohibits curbside pickup after Sept. 2022.
“There has been no harm done by allowing for curbside pickup,” Disch said. “All this amendment does is remove the prohibition on curbside pickup.”
The amendment was passed unanimously by the council.
A resolution was passed to prohibit on-street parking on Barton Drive. The space will now be used for a new bike lane. This proposal sparked a debate on road safety, as many councilmembers argued that Barton Drive has had speeding issues in the past.
Barton Drive is also critically connected to a number of frequently used bike paths. Disch said the idea of adding a bike lane will discourage speeders, thus making the street a safer space.
Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, said he was against the proposition and doesn’t want to give people a false sense of security, since nothing has been done to address the pedestrian-motor interaction on Barton Drive.
“This (proposition) came to us in 2019, so this is coming back to us after several years and a town study being completed,” Ramlawi said. “These things are going to have some issues in the years to come when we start having financial issues big time … Some people really think that cars are going to go away if we just get rid of all the parking. I’m not drinking that Kool-Aid.”
Raymond Hess, Ann Arbor’s transportation manager, said the safety concerns depend on each area of the city. The reason for this, Hess explained, is due to what in transportation is called “friction,” which is anything located on the curb that will slow down traffic, including on-street parking or bike lanes.
“Speeding can be mitigated through different methods,” Hess said. “Parking can help reduce speeds, but bike lanes, especially if they include vertical elements, can also create safety benefits … I don’t think it’s necessarily a one-size-fits-all.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, brought up a year-old incident where he said the n-word in an interview with Samuel J. Robinson, a young Black reporter for MLive. Hayner defended his use of offensive language.
“I used a racial slur to educate a young reporter about Dick Gregory and Richard Pryor, Paul Mooney, Yoko Ono and James Baldwin and all these people he had never heard of who had plenty of good things to say about the power of language,” Hayner said.
Robinson tweeted that this was not how the conversation happened.
“I’m not sure 1) why he assumes I hadn’t heard of all these people. 2) why he’s even referencing them all? He only mentioned John Lennon and Yoko during our conversation in which he used and defended his use of offensive language,” the tweet reads.
Robinson and Hayner spoke in May 2021 for an article on Hayner’s frequent use of offensive language.
“I spoke to Ann Arbor City Council member Jeff Hayner this morning. During the interview he used a homophobic slur and the n-word and said he doesn’t like to use hyphenations or euphemisms because ‘that’s just making the listener say it in their head,’” Robinson tweeted last year.
Hayner has been rebuked for his use of inappropriate language in the past. A petition, called the Recall Hayner Campaign, was started in April 2021 to recall him from his position as a representative of Ward 1. It shut down in July 2021 due to a lack of signatures.
Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, was appalled by Hayner’s comment.
“Equally disturbing, is that CM Hayner’s allies continue to defend this abhorrent behavior,” Grand wrote in an email to The Michigan Daily. “CM Ramlawi went out of his way to defend CM Hayner’s remarks at the council table. CM (Elizabeth) Nelson, who once referred to this use of the n-word as ‘phonetic sounds without euphemism,’ again sat silent. When CM Hayner acted in an aggressive and bullying manner when confronting CM (Erica) Briggs after the meeting, neither of these council members took any steps to intervene. Our community deserves better. I’m hopeful that voters will help take Ann Arbor in a positive direction on August 2.”
Councilmember Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, took to Twitter shortly after the meeting was over.
“Let’s be clear: Black Americans never need to hear a middle-aged white man use harmful & unspeakable racial epithets — repeatedly — as a form of education,” the tweet reads.
Radina also noted an alleged interaction that was not recorded by the cameras in a tweet.
“When cameras stopped rolling, Hayner aggressively approached both of his female colleagues, telling @VoteGrand to “F*ck Off!” & angrily waving his finger in @EricaForA2’s face while threatening her,” the tweet reads.
Hayner told WEMU that Grand’s version of events were false. Five councilmembers have corroborated her story.
Daily Staff Contributor Azul Cibils Blaquier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.