Monday’s Ann Arbor City Council meeting largely concerned organizational matters for 2016, as the council amended and approved the 2016 council rules and council calendar.
The council also signed off on new committee assignments for the upcoming year, which included placements for the body’s two new members.
Recently elected Councilmember Zach Ackerman (D–Ward 3), an LSA senior, will be added to six committees. These include the Ann Arbor Summer Festival Liaison, the Audit Committee, the Board of Insurance Administration, Housing and Human Services Advisory Committee and the Park Advisory Commission.
Recently elected Councilmember Chip Smith (D–Ward 5) was appointed to five committees, including the Brownfield Plan Review Committee, Budget and Labor Committee, the Energy Commission, the Environmental Commission and the Liquor Control Commission.
The council also approved the Rules of Council for 2016 — a set of standard operating procedures for council-related business. Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said the Council Rules Committee brought forth three components: the set of rules, ethics standards and a code of conduct for interactions between city staff and council.
“One of the side effects of establishing the ethics policies is how we clarify our role in this organization,” Briere said. “That’s what we’ve all been talking about for a couple of years and it’s my hope that we have come up with three pieces of the puzzle that work for us all.”
The five new ethics standards included outlining appropriate communications between council members and city staff. The new standard states that council members may not directly give direction to city staff, but instead must speak to the city administrator, who will then delegate work to staff.
Briere said the ethics rule was added because city staff have been compromising their responsibilities by accepting the demands of council members.
“When we interrupted someone’s work day, we have literally interrupted someone’s work flow,” Briere said.
On Monday, the council also approved a resolution to oppose Michigan House Bill 4425, which aims to amend the Michigan Vehicle Code. Under the proposed amendment, a legal speed limit under the Michigan Vehicle Code would have to be set at the 85th percentile speed of free-flowing traffic. This estimate would be under ideal road and weather conditions, and rounded to the nearest multiple of five miles per hour. The bill, if approved by the Michigan House of Representatives, would remove the ability for local governments to determine some speed limits within the city.
“It’s very important for us to be able to maintain that local control,” Smith said. “This is one of those issues where I think this isn’t necessarily shouting into the wind, this is right now a bill that’s in house committee and we’d like it to die in house committee.”
In light of the recent cycling deaths in the city, the council unanimously approved a resolution to allocate $1,000 from the Alternative Transportation Education Budget to fund a Bike Light Giveaway Program. Councilmember Julie Grand (D–Ward 3) said community feedback on the proposal has been positive.
“It shouldn't take a tragedy to make us act, but sometimes it does,” she said. “One of the solutions that was brought to me was to make cyclists more visible. We know that the last couple accidents that the cyclists did not have lights on their bikes, so we want to do something about that.”
Grand said the resolution will allocate money to get the ball rolling in regard to cyclist safety in the city.
Smith, who was a co-sponsor of the resolution, encouraged the public to know that this is just the beginning of cyclist safety discussions for council.
“This is a Band-Aid, this is a short term fix,” he said. “These tragedies tell us that we have a need. We have a need for better cycling safety infrastructure. We can’t do that overnight.”
The meeting also brought in another round of anti-deer cull protestations. Approximately 20 protesters, clad in red shirts and carrying “Stop the Shoot” signs, arrived at the meeting to demonstrate against the forthcoming deer cull in Ann Arbor, which city officials hope will help curb the city’s deer population.
Though the cull was approved at the Nov. 7 council meeting, two public speakers took the podium anyway to urge council for a moratorium.
Anthropology Prof. Jennifer Robertson cited studies on deer fertility programs as viable alternatives to a cull, which she said she felt were more ethical.
“The cull has polarized Ann Arbor like never before,” Robertson said. “What is troubling to me on ethical grounds is the council’s support of gun violence. Non-lethal methods have not been introduced, rather killing was the first resort.”
Despite protestations and a recent petition circulating to recall Councilmember Kirk Westphal (D–Ward 2), the deer cull is set to happen this winter and will not be reopened for a vote by council as of now.
Grant Strobl, the newly elected government relations chair for the University’s Central Student Government, also attended the meeting to introduce himself to the council. He said he wanted to communicate to council that he will serve as a voice of the students.
“I am tasked with working with local, state and federal governments to provide input on policy and provide the student perspective,” he said.