Ann Arbor City Council met virtually Monday evening to discuss the community impacts of the ongoing events in Israel and Palestine, the Healthy Street Program and the final budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022. 

After several members of the public voiced their opinions regarding the violence abroad between Israel and Palestine, members of the Council shared their concerns as well. Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, touched on why he believes U.S. tax dollars should not be used to support the Israeli military. 

“What is occurring in Palestine and Gaza is nothing short of a war crime,” Ramlawi said. “Every meeting we talk about human rights, we talk about equity, we talk about inclusion and in fact tonight we are going to be adopting a holiday (Juneteenth) recognizing such a thing. What we have going on there is not a conflict. We have a nuclear power who has complete control over another population.”

Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, said she has also recently observed instances of antisemitism in the Ann Arbor community. 

“Those in our Jewish community have been subjected to persistent antisemitism,” Grand said. “It’s important to recognise that there is wide diversity of opinion both here and abroad. There are a lot more people who don’t want conflict … but it’s also important to call out hate in our local community when we see it.” 

Ann Arbor Mayor Chirstopher Taylor said spending a substantial amount of time discussing opinions on an international conflict is not the purpose of Council meetings and suggested that the council focus on the local issues related to their agenda.

“It’s my goal and my hope that we, as a council, can move forward and work on policy matters, and that we not spend a great deal of time having conversation about what each of us say in our various channels,” Taylor said.

Councilmembers discussed DS-1, the resolution to adopt the FY2022 city budget regarding related property tax and millage rates. Amendment 12, presented by Grand, was approved by the Council and will increase 2022 expenditures. 

Councilmember Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5, brought up Amendment 2, which increases funding for the Healthy Streets Program that focuses on allowing children to play in the streets. Briggs emphasized the program’s importance to the community as a whole.

“What we’ve seen from community surveys is that there’s support for this deployment,” Briggs said. “This program is important partly for pandemic reasons, but it’s also incredibly important for advancing our carbon neutrality and Vision Zero goals. If you look at last year’s preliminary data for 2020, although there are fewer cars on the road nationally, pedestrian fatality jumped about 20% in 2020 as compared to 2019.”

The final budget expenditure was approved for FY2022. Taylor concluded the budget discussion by thanking the Councilmembers for their hard work.

 “(The budget) addresses the basics … clean water, waste water, storm water, police, fire – and also provides for parks and additional benefits for our community,” Taylor said. “We are doing a lot of things in the city and … I’m proud of the work we do.” 

DC-5, the resolution to adopt the FY2022 City Council legislative agenda, was approved. An amendment to DC-5 proposed by Councilmember Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, was passed by the Council. The amendment advocates to change the Michigan Department of Corrections policy and state law to require the housing of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to be in accordance with their gender identity. It will also advocate for the policy to address transgender inmates based on the pronouns of their choice and to require to search inmates based on the search policies for their gender identity.

The Council unanimously approved DC-6, which will recognize Juneteenth as a City of Ann Arbor holiday. William Hampton, a representative from the Ann Arbor branch of the NAACP, called into the meeting to share his concern. 

“Right now MLK (Day) remains as the only holiday in America specifically set aside in honor of the accomplishments of African Americans,” Hampton said. “In my judgment, total freedom remains a work in progress, even today.”

Taylor shared a statement regarding the adoption of Juneteenth as a city holiday before the voting ensued, stating his approval for the resolution and showing solidarity with the Ann Arbor African American community. 

“The harm of slavery and white supremacy persists, it wears, stresses and harms our African American community members … every single day,” Taylor said. “This will be a day for us to come together, a day to recognize where we’ve been and how we got here, and to start to do better.” 

Ramlawi voiced his opinion that this is a small step towards what needs to be done in the Ann Arbor community.

“There are so many people in our community that don’t feel like an equal,” Ramlawi said. “I think … passing this is a step, but (in) no way (is the) mission accomplished.”

Daily Staff Reporters Nadir Al-Saidi and Caroline Wang can be reached at alsaidin@umich.edu and wangca@umich.edu.