GOOD MORNING ANN ARBOR and welcome to our first edition of A2 Outlook! We look forward to delivering the Ann Arbor news you need to know directly to your inbox every Monday morning.
We’re Dominick, Shannon and Sarah, reporters at The Michigan Daily, and we’re excited to engage with you! We aim to be essential to your understanding of City Council (no matter how long the meetings), education, local politics and townie drama. Get ready to dive deep into the ins and outs of Ann Arbor’s news and quirks to keep your A2 knowledge up to speed.
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GRADUATION SITUATION: Israel-Palestine tensions stepped into the local spotlight at Skyline High School’s commencement ceremony Monday as a graduate crossed the stage holding a “Free Palestine” flag. Ann Arbor Public Schools edited the gesture out of the graduation video generating questions and frustration from the community … TikTok comparison
Ceremony information sent to Skyline students did not state that such an action was against policy. AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Swift published a statement Friday, stating the school “chose to omit the display to focus on the one priority for the occasion.”
AAPS Board Member Jeff Gaynor posted his letter expressing concern to Superintendent Jeanice Swift. On Facebook, Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, called the decision “highly disappointing and discriminatory.”
The Rock, located on Washtenaw and Hill, has also become a canvas for Israel-Palestine expressions with messages from both sides appearing back and forth for weeks.
HEADS (OR TAILS) UP: Beginning July 1, street parking will increase by 10 cents per hour within the city limits. This change is part of a rate change plan approved in 2018. The additional 10 cent per hour fee will not apply to parking structures, which will maintain current rates.
The Ann Arbor City Council convened Monday night with a lengthy agenda, including adopting a resolution formally requesting CM Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, resign for posting a quote containing a homophobic slur on Facebook. Hayner was previously removed from his Council appointments at an April meeting.
WITH MUCH ADU, the Council loosened restrictions on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in an 8-3 vote, making more than 6,000 properties newly eligible. The change removes owner-occupancy and 5,000 square foot requirements, while allowing ADUs to be built in any residential area.
CM Ramlawi voted no and expressed concern that investors could buy homes, build ADUs and stimulate gentrification under the proposed change. CM Disch, D-Ward 1, countered Ramlawi, explaining that she felt investors wouldn’t be likely to pursue ADUs because of their cost and that lifting the owner occupancy requirement would provide flexibility to residents.
COMPLEX DECISION? A development plan for 454 apartments on Valhalla Drive was approved by the Council. The complex would have 15 affordable units and generate the most solar power of any development in Ann Arbor, according to the architects.
Councilmembers who voiced approval explained the development would generate tax revenue, increase density and provide proximity to schools for families. In April, the University of Michigan voiced concerns about its impact on the University’s adjacent golf course and vowed recourse if such impacts occurred.
An opposition group of community members sent out postcards about the development, stating concerns about density and traffic and comparing the design to Eastern European brutalist architecture … The postcard
A member of the opposition group, Jean Holland, told MLive the group will be suing the city, seeking an injunction against the project. Holland has run against state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, as a Republican in 2018 and 2020 … MLive’s profile of Holland
Additionally, the Council adopted a new transportation plan and allocated more than $600,000 of human services funding (see where it went). The Independent Community Police Oversight Commission also called on the Council to limit the police presence at the Ann Arbor Art Fairs this summer.
NOTABLE: “Oxford Companies … is pleased to report a growth of 20% in the size of its campus and multifamily housing portfolio since the beginning of 2020.” … Press release
SIT DOWN(TOWN): Handmade mystery benches have been popping up around town this week and have been spotted at a plethora of local establishments including Zingerman’s, Argus Farm Stop and the Bookhound Bookstore. Business owners seem to be perplexed but grateful for the additional “well-made” seating.
ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT: Skyline High School student Michael Zhou placed first in the Congressional Art Competition for Michigan’s 12th District. Zhou’s drawing, titled “Embrace,” will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol alongside winning pieces from all 435 Congressional districts.
We value your opinion! Each week we will pose a question and share reader responses in the following edition.
This week’s prompt: How do you feel about Ann Arbor Public Schools’ decision to edit out a Free Palestine flag, carried across the stage by a student, from Skyline High School’s graduation video?
Washtenaw County reported two new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours and 77 cases in the past two weeks. More than 66% of Washtenaw County residents aged 16 and over have received at least one vaccine dose.
Washtenaw County residents can now receive free at-home COVID-19 tests by mail or pickup … Learn more