The Ann Arbor City Council met Monday night to discuss resolutions on collective bargaining in the police department and the healthy streets program in and outside of downtown Ann Arbor.
Resolution CA-26 introduced a collective bargaining agreement between the city of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Police Officers Association effective 2020 to 2022. This new resolution comes amid nationwide calls for police reform or abolishment. Notable aspects of the three-year agreement included collective bargaining on rates of pay, wages and hours of employment, but it was ultimately voted down because many councilmembers said the resolution was not a correct representation of police reform.
Lisa Jackson, chair of Ann Arbor Independent Community Police Oversight Commission, shared her views on the resolution.
“As we engage in a broader discourse about police reform, it’s clear that across the country and even here in Ann Arbor, good police officers are not enough,” Jackson said. “No reform is going to happen unless politicians, such as those of you on this council, are willing to fight for it by taking on police unions. Collective bargaining agreements, including the one on the table tonight, are often antiquated, and they can take provisions representative of cultural attitudes of policing from decades-long past.”
Jackson further emphasized the importance of the council representing the Ann Arbor community.
“We represent the Ann Arbor community, and they need to have confidence that there’s a trained body of individuals examining the contract,” Jackson said.
Many City Councilmembers including Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, agreed with Jackson’s statement and further emphasized the importance of police reform.
“I am hopeful that the moment that we are feeling right now is the beginning of a larger movement where we are redistributing some of that power, and I really look forward to us having a better system for oversight, a system where our police oversight commission has a seat at the table and has a louder voice in engaging in these contracts,” Nelson said.
Councilmember Zachary Ackerman, D-Ward 3, further addressed the risk of passing the CA-26 resolution.
“There’s risk associated with this,” Ackerman said. “There is no guarantee that of any negotiation that this is well worth the pursuit. The way we do with policing and public safety in the future looks different than the way we do it today.”
Before voting on the resolution councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, emphasized Jackson’s important position in speaking up about this resolution.
“She speaks for a commission as a whole,” Ramlawi said. “She speaks for the community as a whole, and I think when she speaks, she understands that, and I think when she speaks, we should understand that. It’s not just Dr. Jackson’s voice that I hear. I hear the voice of thousands when she speaks. Let’s not miss that point.”
Mayor Christopher Taylor also stated that he would be voting against the resolution.
Resolution CA-26 was then unanimously rejected by the council.
The council also discussed resolutions that introduced advancing healthy streets for social distancing outdoors. Resolution DC-3 was intended to advance healthy streets in downtown Ann Arbor and promote safe social distancing in public areas. Similar to DC-3, resolution DC-4 was to advance healthy streets outside of downtown Ann Arbor while also adding $15,000 for the fiscal year 2020 Major Street Fund Operations and Maintenance Budget.
The healthy streets program would allow more social distancing for residents by closing off certains roads in Ann Arbor to allow pedestrians to have more space between others. The program will include a pilot study to track and monitor the performance of the change by gathering observational data through traffic movement.
Councilmember Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2, voiced the concerns of a constituent about the healthy streets program violating residents’ privacy through data collection.
Amber Miller, capital projects manager at the Downtown Development Authority of Ann Arbor, joined the call to clarify the purpose of the data collection.
“We’re not proposing installing a surveillance system,” Miller said. “What our team is proposing is pretty standard data collection that allows us to monitor across multiple days and across multiple intersections, and it really is just to record traffic counts and movements.”
Miller reiterated the importance of the resolution.
“The impetus for this is to provide safe access and physical distancing to those closures and to the downtown area,” Miller said.
Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, and Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, expressed their opposition to this resolution.
“I was one of the co-sponsors of the original Safe Social Distancing Outdoors, and never in my wildest dreams did I expect a plan like this,” Griswold said. “This is just being used as an experiment to add some road diets in places where no one is asking for them for safe social distancing.”
Hayner disagreed with the resolution, saying the resolution will close off lanes of traffic.
“This isn’t the same as a temporary closure of a sidewalk to have somebody to walk on the street,” Hayner said. “This is closing lanes of traffic and long-standing lanes of traffic where people know that this is a road, and now, all of sudden … it’s a sidewalk. It’s a big difference. I don’t like any of this kind of temporary messing around with our street and lane configurations.”
However, Councilmember Chip Smith, D-Ward 5, and Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, emphasized their support for the resolution. Smith said this resolution will make residents safer and will not be in effect permanently.
“People want to feel safer when out walking and biking with their families,” Smith said. “I think this is, personally, a perfectly reasonable way to attack this. It’s not a permanent solution. I think we have to be bold and try things, and I think if we’re not willing to try things, we should just say that we’re fine with the status quo and we can’t improve.”
“All streets are for pedestrians and cyclists and motorists, and that’s why we have a complete street policy in our city,” Grand said. “I feel bad for all the effort that staff put into this if we’re not going to be good to our word that we were going to support what we heard from so many members from our community about what they wanted in our streets just because some people are scared of road diets.”
Ackerman also spoke to the importance of resolution DC-3 and the healthy streets program.
“We’re in the midst of a pandemic,” Ackerman said. “People need to wear masks and people need to stay away from each other, but people also need to go outside. People also need to be able to get downtown to small businesses. People need to enjoy and have access to our parks. This is a means by which we can accomplish that.”
Before voting, Taylor voiced his support for the resolution.
“We do need to affect social distancing in a way that we’ve not before,” Taylor said. “We need to affect transit in a way that supports social distance, and I believe what we have here is a step forward to the right direction.”
The resolution was passed after an hour of deliberation with a 6-5 vote.
Resolution DC-4 had similar arguments from the councilmembers on having healthy streets outside of downtown Ann Arbor.
Concerns brought up by Lumm and Ramlawi were specifically regarding streets with heavy traffic and the Broadway Bridge.
“We’ve heard from a lot of folks who enter town, downtown, from the northeast area, coming in off of Broadway Bridge, is a major artery,” Lumm said. “There’s a high-buying of traffic there. Like with DC-3, I have mixed feelings, similar pros and cons with the downtown version.”
Resolution DC-4 also was passed with a 6-5 vote.
Daily Staff Reporter Ann Yu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org