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AnnArbor.com's News section covers government, crime, education, health and the environment across Washtenaw County.

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    The University of Michigan faces a major challenge in the coming months as it searches for a new president to replace Mary Sue Coleman, who will retire next year.


    University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman addresses the graduating class of 2013 in May.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Although the ultimate decision will rest with the Board of Regents, the exact form the search will take has yet to be announced. Focus groups are likely; an advisory committee, which was used when Coleman was hired in 2002, may be used again. Last month, the university's faculty members publicly (and understandably) stated they want a voice in the process.

    Whatever form the search takes, it's clear that certain qualities will be important to find in the person the university eventually hires. Among them:

    • An ability to envision the needs of the future. In many respects, an institution as large as U-M can't always move quickly, both physically and organizationally. Adjusting educational offerings to the dynamic demands of the modern job market, for example, must be foreseen and planned long before they can be implemented.

    • An innovative stance toward the evolution of higher education, particularly in regards to the continued growth of online education.

    • An awareness of the financial pressures the university has faced and will face—and at the same time, a real understanding of the financial pressures facing current and prospective students. This means fundraising skills, as well as dedication to limit increases in student costs.

    • A true appreciation of the important role the university plays in Michigan, the nation, and even the world. This includes a willingness to speak out and be a visible leader on higher-education issues.

    It sounds like a lot to ask, and it is. But it's heartening to recall that the last time the university faced this position, it did succeed in finding a candidate with most if not all of these qualities.

    That would be Coleman, of course. While we wouldn't call her a perfect president, she proved to be a solid choice and effective leader as U-M's 13th president. And now, as U-M looks to find her successor, she can serve as an excellent model for the ideal candidate.

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    Algal Scientific chief science officer Geoff Horst shows off his beta glucan rich algae at the company's lab in the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center.

    Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com

    Sometimes, a by-product of the scientific process can turn out to be more important — or more valuable — than the intended result.

    Algal Scientific began in 2008 as an attempt to harness the power of algae to clean wastewater. Geoff Horst, a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University at the time, teamed up with two University of Michigan business school master's students and one U-M Ph.D. student to enter the idea into the DTE Clean Energy Prize competition.

    The group won the competition — which included a $65,000 prize — and used the money to start Algal Scientific in the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center. They planned to sell the leftover algae from their cleaning process as biomass for fertilizer and make approximately $500 per ton.

    “It was a nice way to kill two birds with one stone,” Horst said.

    “We could help solve company’s wastewater problems and have some value to the biomass we were generating and do it all in a good, ‘green’ way.”

    Further testing on the species of algae they were using to clean up the water revealed it was worth more as a dietary supplement than a simple fertilizer. The algae were high in a sugar compound known as beta glucan that acts as an immune system booster.

    “About a year and a half ago we realized that this beta glucan that was in the algae we were already using was very valuable,” Horst, now the company’s chief science officer, said.

    “It is worth $20,000 to $30,000 per ton and at that price point were figured, ‘Wow, we can make a lot of money with this."

    Right now, the most popular source for beta glucan is certain types of yeast that develop the chain of sugar molecules in their cell walls. According to Algal Scientific literature, when animals are fed the substance as part of their diet, “the immune system response to stressful conditions and disease is more robust.”

    Some people believe there can be significant benefits to human consumption of beta glucan as well. The compound is available in a number of over-the-counter supplements — many of which claim to boost the immune system of users. Horst said further claims such as anti-viral properties have yet to be proven.

    “Some of the opportunities on the human-side are pretty sweet but we’re focusing on the animal-side right now because it’s pretty straightforward,” he said. “The human applications are more down the road.”


    Charlie Strauss prepares a sugar and water mixture to feed the algae at Algal Scientific's lab in the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center.

    Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com

    Once Algal developed a fermentation process to make the beta glucan-rich algae as quickly as possible, the company began to market the product to animal feed producers.

    “It turns out [they] really want it but it’s too expensive for them because of the yeast process,” Horst said.

    “That was the 'ah-ha' moment for us. If we can produce this for a fraction of the cost, this is a good place to be in.”

    The species of algae used by Algal Scientific is more than 50 percent beta glucan, while yeast has just 5 to 15 percent beta glucan content and requires an expensive process to extract the compound from the cell walls.

    “Our beta glucan is stored within the cell and the cell itself is very digestible, so we just feed the algae straight to the animal and it doesn’t need further processing. It’s a very elegant process,” Horst said.

    “It’s a unique species of algae, you probably wouldn’t encounter it in a local pond or lake, but it’s not genetically-modified. It’s a naturally occurring species, just not a very common one.”

    As with the wastewater treatment, Horst has an altruistic motive to Algal’s new focus in addition to the profits it might bring in.

    “My personal goal is that we eventually we could reduce the amount of antibiotics we use in animal production which is a huge societal problem right now in the United States,” he said.

    “The vast majority of the antibiotics in America go into animals and the majority of those are given to animals that aren’t even sick… It’s creating new antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria that can be very dangerous. It will take some time but it’s great to have an opportunity to do something about it.”

    As trials of their beta glucan product move forward, Horst and his co-founders Bobby Levine, Jeff Lebrun, John Rice are looking to find a new location to expand their production.

    “There’s not much more science we have to do to be profitable, now we’re really in the 'ramp-up, scale-up' mode,” Horst said.

    The company has grown to include nine full-time equivalent employees and has brought in approximately $1.5 million in outside funding, which includes $500,000 for winning the Accelerate Michigan innovation competition in 2012.

    The company’s CEO, Geoff’s father Paul Horst, will be looking to raise a multi-million dollar funding round later this year in order to facilitate the move. Geoff said the fermentation process of the algae should allow for the company to rapidly scale-up and be cash-flow positive by the end of 2014.

    “It’s a fairly efficient facility, and it will look a lot like a microbrewery,” he said.

    “We put in a tank and then as demand increases we just add in the next tank, and the next tank. So the facility will be able to experience a fair amount of growth simply by adding capacity as we get more customers.”

    Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at benfreed@annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2

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    Each June we set aside a day to honor the father figure in our lives. However you recognize dad today, take time to recall those memories you'll never forget.

    Last week, AnnArbor.com asked it our readers to take the time to share those memories, and we have featured them below.

    As a youngster, I played high school basketball over two hours away on the west side of the state. My dad never missed a game. It didn't matter if it was a regular season road game in South Haven on a Tuesday night, he'd still drive through six inches of falling and drifting snow to be there. Then of course, he'd drive back late that same night so he could get to work the following morning. His commitment meant more to me than he likely imagines. So for that, I guess he's pretty cool.
    John Van Dusen - Dexter

    It's difficult for me to pick one favorite thing since my dad is such a fun guy, but I would have to say a few of my favorite things to do with him would be decorating Christmas cookies while watching "Elf," making up nonsense songs and rhymes, and playing cards.
    Angela Burchard - Ann Arbor

    My dad worked as a bill collector for John Deere. In the summers he would take me with him. We would travel throughout the state and visit many unusual places such as homes down old logging roads, remote hillsides in the U.P., and tiny old forgotten towns. Each summer was an adventure that opened my eyes to experiencing people and ways of life that were different then our middle class suburban lifestyle.
    Chris Post - Ypsilanti

    My favorite activity with my dad is sailing on Lake Michigan. love the tranquility, the peace, and honestly just time together to talk or be quiet...together.
    Adriana Phelan - Ann Arbor

    I enjoyed just hanging out with my dad and talking to him. Dad was a WW2 veteran and I got a lot of insight from his perspective on the war in general, and particularly his description of the D-day invasion of Normandy. One of my best memories was the time we went to the theater to see "Where Eagles Dare", and I enjoy that movie to this day, not only for the movie itself but for the memories it recalls. I love you, dad. Rest well! sign me, an unapologetic daddy's girl.
    Madeleine Baier - Ypsilanti

    Growing up on a dairy farm outside Ann Arbor, Dad taught us by example about hard work while milking the cows twice a day (every day even when you are sick), growing crops of corn, wheat, and soybeans, and all the other endless chores required to run the place. However, Dad also showed us how to have fun when the work was done for the day, and to enjoy our family and friends. What wonderful memories I have of fishing in the pond, swimming at Whitmore Lake, fireworks and drive-in movies, local fairs, snowmobiling, etc. Plus don’t forget Dad’s important rule to always carry a deck of cards with you, since you might find 3 others to play Euchre with you! So in thinking about my life with my Dad, I realize how much I appreciate all he has done and really cherish the special times we still have together.
    Glenda Stegenga - Saline

    At the age of 4 I helped my dad put the rear-end in his 1970 Pontiac Grand Prix. Every summer since then, the very first weekend of August, we travel to Norwalk Ohio for the biggest all Pontiac swap meet, car show and racing event in the country. The times we spend around cars, working in the garage, watching racing, and just being "Best Buds" will always be my favorite. He got me a 1969 Grand Prix as my project car, and we are finally beginning to put it back together. Pontiac will always remind me of very fond memories of my dad. He is my best friend, mentor, coach, and most of all favorite guy in the world. This picture is us at the track, when I was about 6 or 7. I think he was pouring water on my head, Haha.
    Julia Herbst - Ypsilanti

    As a little girl, fishing was our daddy-daughter thing. We'd take the boat out to a raft in the middle of the lake and we'd spend hours out there together. I wouldn't speak in fear of scaring the fish, until one would bite the line and I'd squeal with excitement. We'd catch one -- him usually -- and I'd jump around the raft, screaming for him to cease its suffering and throw it back in the water. We have millions of memorable moments, but I'll never forget those trips with the best fishing partner in the world.
    Lizzy Alfs - Ann Arbor

    Have a favorite memory of time spent with your dad? Post it in the comments below or submit it using this form.

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    An Ypsilanti Township apartment building damaged in a Molotov cocktail attack nearly a year ago will soon be demolished.

    The eight-unit building at the Woodcreek Apartments on Forest Avenue has not been renovated or torn down because it was at the center of a dispute over the insurance settlement.

    The owner of the building, Ken Sharrock, received a $600,000 settlement from Hastings Mutual, but he and an insurance adjuster claimed they needed $150,000 more to bring the building into compliance with current fire codes.

    Township Building Director Ron Fulton disagreed that the building needed to meet new fire codes.

    To a degree, both parties agreed on what is damaged in the interior. Four of eight units needed to be stripped down to the studs. Six of eight trusses also were damaged. But Fulton''s assessment found no structural damage. He determined most of the damage is related to smoke and water.


    The Woodcreek Apartments building on Forest Avenue will soon be torn down.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    Sharrock and the insurance adjuster, Craig Trombley of American Adjusters, appealed Fulton’s decision to the Ypsilanti Township Construction Board of Appeals. The board ruled in the township’s favor.

    Trombley and Sharrock then asked the State of Michigan Bureau of Building Codes to hear their case.

    In the meantime, the township had filed a lawsuit with the Washtenaw County Circuit Court that asked a judge to order the building repaired or demolished because it sat vacant for so long.

    The State of Michigan Bureau of Building Codes declined to hear the case until the lawsuit was settled.

    Shortly after, the township received a demolition permit application from a demolition company on behalf of Sharrock. The permit was issued on June 6 and is good for 60 days.

    The estimate for the job is $25,000, according to township documents.

    Sharrock declined to comment until the court case is settled.

    Mike Radzik, director of the township’s office of community standards, said the township has never received any indication that Sharrock intended to rebuild.

    “In the absence of any firm plan to rebuild, the building needs to be demolished,” Radzik said, adding that the case would likely be closed after the building is torn down.

    Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the AnnArbor.com news desk at news@annarbor.com.

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    Eastern Michigan University

    A 74-year-old building at Eastern Michigan University is undergoing a $3.6 million renovation so it can house the school's new physician's assistant program, which will launch in spring 2014.

    The school's Board of Regents approved the new program in June 2012, citing a need in the area for such a program and that PA jobs are expected to grow 30 percent during the next decade. There are five PA training programs in the state and the closest to the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area are in Detroit.


    EMU's Rackham building was first constructed in 1939.

    EMU Photo

    Throughout the past year, program director Jay Peterson has developed the curriculum and hired staff, including three faculty members, an administrative assistant and a medical director. There are plans to hire two more faculty and another staffer.

    "We know this is a high-demand profession. We know there is a need with our large medical centers," Peterson said.

    To make way for the program, EMU is retrofitting Rackham Hall, originally built in 1939, in order to bring mechanical systems up to date and make the space more conducive to medical education. The renovation will include a suite of primary care medical office-style examination rooms, in which cameras will be available to evaluate students' performance.

    It also will include areas meant for group collaboration.

    The idea with the renovation, officials say, is to emphasize hands-on training in order to support the PA program's problem-based learning curriculum. EMU will partner with St. Joseph Mercy Hospital on clinical rotations for students and a human anatomy cadaver laboratory, which most-likely will be located at the hospital, Peterson said.

    The first class of PA students will matriculate in May 2014. It's expected to include about 20 students, who will earn their professional master's degree after two years of training. The 2014 class will include 30 students and every class to follow will include 40 students.

    According to Peterson, the program is likely to be competitive. Applications are due in September and the school already has received more than 200.

    Tuition for the program is expected to be on-par with EMU's other graduate offerings, which range from $6,042 to $6,878 a year.

    EMU is expecting to gain accreditation for the program in September.

    TMP Associates, an architectural firm in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. and Peter Basso Associates, an engineering firm in Troy, Mich. are designing the project.

    Construction bid documents will be issued the second week of July, with bids due the first week of August. The contract will be awarded the second week in August and construction will begin soon afterward. The project is set to finish in March.

    Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.

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    A snapshot of the scores on a 100-point scale for each element in the recent Ann Arbor citizen satisfaction survey. Council Member Sally Hart Petersen, D-2nd Ward, hired ForeSee, a customer experience analytics firm, to conduct the survey, which was mainly targeted toward Ward 2 residents. A total of 303 people responded — 74 percent from Ward 2.


    Ann Arbor City Council Member Sally Hart Petersen, D-2nd Ward, has released the results of a new citizen satisfaction survey and she says she's concerned about some of the low scores.

    The survey shows Ann Arbor residents want the city do a better job providing basic services such as paving streets in the summer and plowing streets in the winter.

    "The big takeaway for me was the emphasis on roads. It's really coming through loud and clear," Petersen said, referring to some of the answers to the open-ended survey questions.


    Ann Arbor City Council Member Sally Hart Petersen, right, speaks with Mayor John Hieftje before a council meeting earlier this year.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Petersen said she doesn't think the issues are limited to her ward, but she does notice them more where she lives.

    "The plowing in Ward 2 in the cul-de-sacs is really subpar, in my mind, and we need to make that a higher priority," she said.

    "For a city that is well-off in many ways … I think we can do a better job of plowing our roads in the winter and do a better job of keeping them in a state of repair year-round," she added.

    Mayor John Hieftje publicly addressed the issue of Ann Arbor's crumbling roads this past week in a speech to the local Rotary Club. He acknowledged the city fell behind on taking care of streets in recent years as the city was saving up money for the Stadium bridges project, but now the city is playing catchup. He said roughly 30 miles of city streets could be repaved this year.

    Petersen conducted the recent citizen satisfaction survey from in collaboration with ForeSee, a customer experience analytics firm headquartered in Ann Arbor.

    The survey invited citizens to rate the city based on their experiences, including perceptions of city services, communication, employees, infrastructure, public safety and taxes. The survey also asked citizens to rate their overall satisfaction, as well as their trust in city governance.

    While the survey was designed to garner feedback specifically from Ward 2 residents, it was open to all citizens of Ann Arbor. A total of 303 people took the survey — 74 percent from Ward 2.

    Petersen said she's concerned that overall citizen satisfaction scored low at 63 out of 100, but she said that's typical for government. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index benchmarks for 2012, the satisfaction score for the federal government was 68 out of 100.

    "It's not atypical for a government score to be in the 60s," Petersen said. "Still, I'd like to see that increase. We want people to participate or volunteer or recommend Ann Arbor as a place to live, and we want them to trust the government more. The trust score is low."

    Citizen perceptions of trust in their city government scored 43 out of 100, which Petersen said concerns her but remains in line with typical government scores.

    Perceptions of taxes scored 51 out of 100. Petersen said the score likely would go up if residents paid fewer taxes or perceived a higher level of service for what they paid. She said she sees the need to continue to advocate for better road maintenance, safer crosswalks and improved signage.

    Perceptions of public safety scored 75 out of 100, while the city's infrastructure scored 56 out of 100, and city services scored 81 out of 100.


    A deteriorated section of Fifth Street in the Old West Side as it looked on a recent afternoon. Driving on crumbling streets has become the norm for many Ann Arbor residents.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Perceptions of communication by the city scored 55 out of 100, while perceptions of city employees scored 69 out of 100.

    While it's clear the city needs to improve basic infrastructure, Petersen said, it also must continue to reinforce public safety. A decrease in perceptions of public safety, she said, likely would lead to a significant decrease in overall satisfaction and trust in the city government.

    From an administrative perspective, Petersen said, the case can be made for continued improvement in the awareness and content of information available on the city's website and outbound email communication systems. She said the city could earn significant gains in trust by improving communication.

    City Administrator Steve Powers said the feedback gained from Petersen's survey is timely since the City Council has approved a project to redo the city's website. He said the website will be easier to use and the quality of information will improve.

    Petersen said she's eager to re-launch the survey this fall to track changes. She said it's her hope the scores will improve as the city makes progress in each category.

    The rest of the survey results can be downloaded by clicking on the following links. Petersen explained that while the individual questions asked citizens to respond on a scale from 1 to 10, the overall results were reported out using a 100-point scale to make it easier to track changes.

    Petersen said one of the surprises of the survey for her was learning how much Ward 2 residents care about what's happening downtown in terms of economic development.

    "They care about not only downtown, but what's happening or going to happen on the Plymouth Road corridor as well," she said.

    Petersen added she's working on opening the lines of communication with the University of Michigan to foster more collaboration between the city and the university. She said she's hoping to see a "cultural shift" and she's had good talks with U-M Regent Mark Bernstein about that.

    Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.

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    Most of the Washtenaw County police agencies reported dramatic increases in drunken driving arrests in 2012 while others reported slight decreases, according to an MLive Media Group analysis.

    After mostly continuous decreases in drunken driving arrests from 2006 until 2011 — something police attributed to decreased staffing and more reactive policing — Saline, Pittsfield Township, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office all increased their arrest numbers last year. The biggest increase came from the sheriff’s office, which went from 100 arrests in 2011 to 169 in 2012.

    Spokesman Derrick Jackson said a more proactive approach to policing has helped increase the amount of arrests made by deputies.

    “OWI enforcement is really about proactive patrols,” Jackson said. “Sometimes, you'll see someone driving down the street swerving, but it’s usually about staffing levels and having the time to look for it. In a couple places, we were able to get some staffing levels (increased) to allow us to put deputies out there to be proactive.”

    AnnArbor.com looked back at the arrest totals for 2012 as a part of MLive Media Group’s updated Disappearing DUI series, which originally published last September. In that series, reporters from across the state found wide disparities in the number of DUI arrests made by police agencies around Michigan.

    Jackson added the sheriff’s office does many programs funded by grants that focus on drunken driving enforcement at select times of the year, such as Memorial Day, graduation season and Super Bowl weekend.


    Photo illustration by MLive Media Group

    He said these times of high enforcement send a message to the sheriff’s deputies.

    “We’ve really tried to make that a focus of the office and get deputies out there and do investigation,” he said. “We're saying, 'Yep, this is a focus of ours and we really want to crack down on OWIs.' ”

    In Washtenaw County, agencies such as the Pittsfield Township and Ann Arbor police departments saw their arrest numbers drop considerably from 2006 to 2011. However, both of those departments increased their drunken driving arrests by 31 in 2012.

    In Ann Arbor, that increase meant 132 drunken driving arrests were made in 2012. Deputy Chief Jim Baird said the department didn’t do anything special to increase arrests last year, but having some more officers on the road helped.

    “The more people who are out there, the more you’re going to run across those,” Baird said. “Most drunk drivers are contacted due to traffic offenses. The more officers, the more contacts they’re going to make, the more drunk drivers are going to be discovered.”

    Matt Harshberger, director of the Pittsfield Township Department of Public Safety, said there’s an annual ebb and flow with statistics, but township police have been doing more to target drunken drivers.

    “We’ve been doing more of the OHSP (Office of Highway Safety Planning) details and trying to facilitate getting them done in Pittsfield at our busiest intersections,” Harshberger said, “such as Hewitt and Carpenter (roads), which is the busiest intersection in the county.”

    Last year, Harshberger attributed some of the decrease in drunken driving arrests to officers not volunteering for drunken driving details. Pittsfield Township police participated in the details and forced officers to fill the spots that weren’t taken by volunteers. Harshberger said the department stopped forcing officers to do the details and took volunteers only, causing the personnel to decline.

    However, as the details have moved into Pittsfield Township and as time has gone on, more and more officers are volunteering.

    “That’s because we’re working them more in the township and the officers like working their own jurisdiction,” Harshberger said. “The officers are going to the neighborhoods and hearing about traffic issues and they take them seriously.”

    U-M police arrested 61 drunken drivers in 2012, up from 45 the previous year; Saline arrested 50, up from 39; and EMU arrested 18, up from 13.

    The decreases from county police agencies were mostly small. Milan made 16 arrests in 2012, down from 22 in 2011; Chelsea made 17 arrests, down from 18; Ypsilanti police made 34 in 2012, down from 45; and Northfield Township made 23, down from 39.

    Even though six county police agencies reported increased drunken driving arrests, Washtenaw County police agencies are still not highly ranked when it comes to drunken driving arrests per officer.

    According to the MLive analysis, the Saline Police Department has the most drunken driving arrests per officer in the county at 3.8. However, that leaves it at 115th out of 421 police agencies in the entire state of Michigan. The Saugatuk Douglas Police Department ranked first with 32.0. However, just one officer made all 32 of those arrests, statistics show.

    Pittsfield Township police had 3.4 arrests per officer (137th in Michigan), Northfield Township had 2.3 (225th), Milan made 1.8 (283th), Chelsea had 1.5 (305th), Ypsilanti had 1.3 (329th), U-M had 1.2 (335th), Ann Arbor had 1.2 (340th) and EMU made 0.6 (391st).

    Out of the 50 biggest police agencies in the state, U-M ranked 44th and Ann Arbor ranked 45th in arrests per officer. The sheriff’s office ranked 76th out of 83 sheriff’s offices in the state for arrests per deputy.

    Baird pointed toward the comparison between East Lansing and Ann Arbor made by MLive in the past as a reason why he wasn’t concerned about these sort of rankings. In 2011, East Lansing police arrested 620 arrests, which was more than six times more than Ann Arbor police. In 2012, East Lansing police made 386 drunken driving arrests, a considerable decrease but still about three times the amount made in Ann Arbor.

    Oftentimes, the priorities in some jurisdictions are vastly different than others, he said.

    “They’re two totally different towns, the police department makeup is totally different but the only theme is that they host Big Ten schools,” he said.

    View a PDF of the above graphic here.

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    Preservation Hall Jazz Band

    In Ben Jaffe’s view, it was a matter of self-preservation.

    The irony is multi-layered, considering the object of Jaffe’s efforts was the New Orleans landmark of traditional jazz, Preservation Hall. And in order to preserve it, Jaffe felt he had to inject the somewhat staid bastion of traditional, Crescent City jazz with a shot of modernity.

    And, as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band rolls into its second half-century of existence—including a June 19 performance at the Power Center as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival—Jaffe’s vision looks more and more like a stroke of genius.

    “I never wanted to do anything that was disrespectful to our musical tradition,” Jaffe said. “That’s always first and foremost, is what we are creating right now respectful of the tradition that we’ve inherited and the people whose shoes or whose shoulders we’re standing on?

    “That’s always front and foremost for me.”


    Preservation Hall Jazz Band

    • Who: Torch-bearers of the classic New Orleans musical tradition, presented by the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
    • What: Traditional jazz, with an eye on modern updates.
    • Where: Power Center, 121 Fletcher St.
    • When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 19.
    • How much: $30-$50. Tickets available by phone at 734-764-2538 or online at a2sf.org/tickets/buy-tickets/.
    Which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Jaffe is the son of Allan and Sandra Jaffe, who founded Preservation Hall in New Orleans’ French Quarter in 1961. The younger Jaffe grew up listening to the traditional jazz that was performed there nightly, while also developing a healthy love of modern music.

    So when he took over as Preservation Hall’s creative director (and resident tuba player), Jaffe sought to change things up.

    The result has been performances with the Black Keys, My Morning Jacket and Steve Earle, among others, including a performance with Stevie Wonder during the Message For Peace concert at the United Nations.

    Not quite the dusty—yet delightful—Dixieland one generally associates with Preservation Hall. But it’s no less a part of Preservation Hall’s legacy than a syncopated trombone solo.

    “It’s very important to me to keep our music relevant and not to make it a museum piece; that our music has to be not only respectful of the traditions but we never want to be beholden to the traditions that it strangles us as artists and as the inheritors of the tradition,” Jaffe said. “If Louis Armstrong hadn’t pushed music in a new direction, just think what we wouldn’t have today or if Jelly Roll Morton hadn’t pushed the boundaries of music or Sam Morgan or Papa Celestin or King Oliver.

    “All of the very early jazz musicians were criticized for what they were creating but just think how brave it was of them. Today, it seems very innocent but back then this was heresy.”

    And that’s not to say that Preservation Hall has gone completely modern. When the band comes to Ann Arbor its members will lean solidly on the traditional jazz that emerged from New Orleans around the turn of the last century.

    After all, he said, that’s the band’s repertory. It’s also its mission.

    “When you look at someone like Charlie Gabriel, our 80-year-old clarinet player, his family goes back in New Orleans music five generations to its earliest days of jazz in Storyville when his great-great-grandfather was playing across the street from Buddy Bolden,” he said. “To me that’s unbelievable, that there’s this unbroken tradition that we have in New Orleans, that we’re not recreating anything.

    “We are it. We are the natural torch bearers of this tradition.”

    And so, for better or worse—and despite some tentative steps into the modern world—Preservation Hall remains firmly rooted in a different time, when jazz was the world’s modern music.

    “For whatever reason, we have this death wish that we’re happy with where we are,” Jaffe said. “We’re able to at the end of the day go to bed feeling like we didn’t sell our soul to get to do what we do and it’s a blessing.

    “We’re the dinosaurs. We’re like the last men standing in a lot of ways. We’re an endangered species.”

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    The Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance will be hosting "Concert for a Cure," a benefit in memory of Mariel Almendras who died at 8 years old to ovarian cancer in 2011.

    The benefit will begin at 6 p.m. on June 23 at LIVE, 102 S. First St., and will feature United Kingdom band, Scars on 45.

    Thumbnail image for Mariel_001.JPG

    The Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance is holding a benefit concert in honor of Mariel Almendras who lost her life in 2011.

    Cathy Cieglo, Almendras's second grade teacher, took her to see Scars on 45 when they performed at Sonic Lunch in 2011. Afterward, Almendras met the band and Cieglo mentioned that Almendras had just returned from a round of chemotherapy in Texas.

    Cieglo said members of the band took an instant liking to Almendras.

    "They could tell she was a special kid," Cieglo said. "One of the musicians from Scars on 45 asked to be kept in touch about Mariel and when they came back the following year for their second Sonic Lunch I had hoped that Mariel would be well enough to go, but she wasn't."

    Almendras died on Thanksgiving Day, 2011. Cieglo stayed in touch with Alemdras's family and Pam Dahlmann, president and co-founder of MIOCA, who had met Almendras and her family during the 2011 'Turn the Towns Teal' event.

    In 2012, when Scars on 45 returned to Ann Arbor for their second year performing at Sonic Lunch, Dahlmann and Almendras's family introduced themselves to the band.

    "It was then that Scars on 45 told us they wanted to do a benefit concert in honor of Mariel," Dahlmann said. "That night the band's manger, Steve Nice, called to talk about the potential concert. He told me that his own mom died at the age of 56 from ovarian cancer."

    Having lost her own grandmother and mother to ovarian cancer, she said the silver lining of going through these losses has made it possible to come together and put on an event to do some good.

    "To me it's pretty amazing and sad at the same time that we have been brought together by ovarian cancer," Dahlmann said. "It's amazing that we're united. This is a support group that I did not have when my mom and I were going through this.

    "This has been everything my mom and I hoped to create — a support group for families, caretakers and the patient."

    After receiving the green light in April to go forward with the event, Dahlmann said the planning has been fast and furious.

    "The first step was to find a venue, which will be LIVE," Dahlmann said. "The space is being donated to us and we've been working on obtaining sponsorships. So far we have United Bank and Trust, but we're working on pulling together more."

    Dahlmann said as of last week more than 100 people had purchased tickets, and since then, there has been further promotion so Dahlmann expects that number to have gone up.

    "I hope people will come out and support the cause and raise awareness," Dahlmann said. "Honestly, I think it's Mariel, my mom and my grandmother that are helping us come together today."

    Tickets can be purchased online and are $20 for adults and $10 for children 15 years or younger, but can only be purchased at the door.

    Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at choedl@mlive.com.

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    The Ann Arbor Civic Band, founded in 1935 as an extension of the University of Michigan's School of Music, has announced its summer series of Wednesday evening concerts, happening at 8 p.m. at the West Park Band Shell, off Seventh Street north of Huron in Ann Arbor. Admission to these shows is free.


    The Ann Arbor Civic Band returns to West Park this Wednesday.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    Here's complete information about the program for upcoming concerts in the series.

    June 19: "It’s Summertime" Pack a picnic and join the Ann Arbor Civic Band as it kicks off the summer concert series.

    June 26: "Purely Michigan" The Civic Band features the music of Michigan composers and music dedicated to the Great Lakes State.

    July 3: "Tribute to the U.S.A." The band presents its annual Fourth of July celebration with patriotic selections.

    July 10: "Children’s Concert" This is one of the band’s most popular concerts for children young and the young at heart. Don’t forget to bring along your teddy bear for the teddy bear parade.

    July 17: "Sousa Style" The band presents a concert in the tradition of the Sousa Band featuring overtures, soloists and, of course, marches.

    July 24: "Music Legends" The last concert of the season features the music of music legends including the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Gershwin, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and others.

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

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    Two home invasions were reported Saturday, according to the Ypsilanti Police Department.

    The first incident reported was on the 700 block of Grassland Drive, in Ypsilanti, where the victim said her ex-boyfriend kicked-in the front door of her house and entered the home. The time of the event is unknown and the report did not detail what the ex-boyfriend did while inside.

    Police said the ex-boyfriend fled when the victims new boyfriend approached him. There were no injuries reported.

    The second incident was reported on the 300 block of Washtenaw Avenue, in Ypsilanti Township, where the suspect entered the apartment through an unlocked door. The time of the break-in is not known.

    The suspect proceeded to take a flat-screen TV, an Xbox video game system, Xbox games and a sound bar.

    The suspect has been identified and the property that had been sold to a pawn shop has been recovered, but the incident still is under investigation.

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    The University of Michigan Medical School has won a $1.1 million grant from the American Medical Association to accelerate its major curriculum revision, officials announced Friday.

    U-M is one of 11 schools across the country to win the grant from the AMA in a competitive application process. The five-year grant is intended to promote change in medical education.


    Dr. Raj Mangrulkar

    Courtesy U-M

    Faculty at U-M’s Medical School have been reviewing the curriculum in earnest for the past year, said Dr. Raj Mangrulkar, associate dean for Medical Student Education at U-M.

    Mangrulkar said the Medical School does an “outstanding job” now in producing doctors with extensive scientific knowledge and clinical skills — but society demands doctors that know how to work as a team and to lead change.

    “We don’t think we can change the health system — not just U-M, but the national health system — without changing our graduates,” Mangrulkar said.

    Part of the new team-based health care model the Medical School is pursing in its curriculum includes a concept called “M-Home.”

    A group of 12 to 15 students would be assigned to work together in a learning community for the four years of their training at the Medical School.

    Each M-Home unit would be linked with a set of faculty advisers and mentors that would follow the students through their career at U-M.

    The M-Home concept seeks to change the way students interact with faculty advisers now, Mangrulkar said, explaining that a student at U-M typically encounters many different advisers that can frequently change.

    For U-M Medical School students, their first two years are dedicated to classroom work and their final two years are in a clinical setting.

    Mangrulkar said the curriculum revision seeks to end that model and expose students to the clinical side of health care beginning in the first year.

    “We will be working deliberately with our hospital and clinical environment,” Mangrulkar said.

    The M-Home groups of students will regularly meet to collaborate in their learning process, Mangrulkar said — a dynamic that will be facilitated in the $55 million renovation of the Taubman Health Sciences Library.

    The $1.1 million grant from the AMA will be used by the Medical School to support faculty members working on the curriculum revision, to train faculty for their new teaching roles and to invest in new software, hardware and infrastructure to help students access research.

    The other recipients of the AMA grant are the following institutions:

    • Indiana University School of Medicine
    • Mayo Medical School
    • NYU School of Medicine
    • Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine
    • Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
    • The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University
    • The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
    • University of California - Davis School of Medicine
    • University of California - San Francisco School of Medicine
    • Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

    Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.

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    Gina Gionfriddo’s Off-Broadway hit (and Pulitzer Prize finalist) “Becky Shaw”—now playing at Performance Network—has dialogue that’s been compared to “Aaron Sorkin having coffee with David Mamet.”

    “It has this wicked, biting sense of humor,” said director Phil Powers. “This is not one for the kids. There’s grown-up language being spoken by grown-ups.”


    Maggie Meyer

    “And with (Mamet’s play) ‘Oleanna,’ … you read about people leaving the theater and arguing in the car afterward, saying, ‘He was wrong,’ ‘No, she was wrong,’” said Maggie Meyer, who plays the title character. “I think this is going to be one of those plays. … People are going to have strong opinions about these characters.”

    The play focuses on one highly dysfunctional family and a blind date gone wrong. The family consists of: Susan, whose husband, Richard, just died, revealing the harsh reality of the family’s finances; Max, the abrasive grown son adopted (at age 10) by Susan and Richard when his own mother died, and his alcoholic father proved incapable of caring for him; and Suzanna, the grown daughter whose relationship with Max is highly complicated.


    ”Becky Shaw”

    • Who: Performance Network Theatre Company.
    • What: Gina Gionfriddo’s Off-Broadway hit, and Pulitzer Prize finalist, tells the story of a blind date gone awry. Step siblings Suzanna and Max couldn’t be more different; and when shy Suzanna fixes up cocky Max with her husband’s sweet and sexy co-worker, Becky Shaw, this comedy of romantic errors ventures into the realm of a psychological thriller.
    • Where: 120 E. Huron St. in Ann Arbor.
    • When: Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m., June 20-July 28. (Preview performances June 20-27.)
    • How much: The first preview performance, on Thusday, June 20, is “pay what you can,” with a suggested donation of $15 (advance reservations are strongly recommended); additional preview performances (June 21-27) cost $22-$32, while shows during the regular run cost $27-$41. Senior and student discounts available. 734-663-0681 or www.performancenetwork.org.
    After Suzanna married Max’s polar opposite—sensitive, new-age Andrew—she sets Max up on a date with Andrew’s seemingly hapless co-worker, Becky Shaw. But there’s more to Becky than meets the eye, and while Andrew contends with his attraction to her, Max and Suzanna must face each other.

    “They’re all somewhat damaged characters,” said David Wolber, who plays Max. “A little more so than your average person.”

    “But at the same time, every single person is trying,” said Meyer. “Which is the only way you’d sit for two hours and watch these people.”

    Wolber’s been directing (among other tasks) for the past six years, so “Becky Shaw” will mark his return to acting. (“It’s a mix of complete terror and exhilaration,” said Wolber.)

    Fortunately, the character of Max provides plenty for Wolber to chew on.

    “He’s very successful, and that’s a fun thing to play,” said Wolber. “He’s often the smartest guy in the room; he’s often the most successful guy in room; he’s got a lot of money, so he’s made it financially; other people say - and I don’t know that he would completely disagree - that he’s not emotionally available for a lot of things. I just don’t think he sees that as a detriment.”

    And if the name Becky Shaw calls to mind Thackaray’s “Vanity Fair” character Becky Sharp, that’s no coincidence.

    “(The playwright) was doing some research, she writes in her notes, on women in literature from the 18th, 19th, and 20th century who were either destroyers, victims of destruction, or both, and she found out that a lot of these women were both,” said Powers.

    So even though Becky Sharp isn’t a direct model for Becky Shaw, “they’re both going after what they want kind of fearlessly, and with no shame,” said Meyer. “They don’t apologize for it. … And (Becky Shaw) is kind of childlike, in that children just get what they need in every moment that they’re in.”

    “Becky Shaw” will be the first professional production directed by Powers, but instead of feeling anxious, he’s having a ball.

    “I thought, ‘Gosh, here’s a group of people (in the play) who say the things I think,’” said Powers. “ … They just have a really abrasive way of showing their love.”

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

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    Michelle Chamuel on "The Voice"


    If you talk to people who knew vocalist Michelle Chamuel back in her Ann Arbor days, you’ll find out what America has recently been discovering. The popular contestant on the TV singing competition “The Voice” really is something special.

    Chamuel—a former University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance student—was the vocalist for the popular local bands My Dear Disco/Ella Riot from around 2008-2011. More recently she moved back to her native East Coast, and showed up as a “Voice” contestant this spring. She's one of three finalists as the show enters its final round tonight; the Blind Pig is hosting a free watch party.

    Few probably know Chamuel better than multi-instrumentalist Tyler Duncan, her bandmate in My Dear Disco and Ella Riot, as well as her collaborator in the duo s/he. In a phone interview (he’s on the road playing in Darren Criss’ touring band but still calls Ann Arbor home), Duncan said that what America is seeing is someone who is “genuine, honest and ethical in every way—musically and personally.

    “Knowing her as well as I do, I can say that is her, totally her,” he said. “She’s tapping into her really deep emotions when she’s performing that aren’t just for the camera, and she’s putting on performances that feel like much more than a competition or a talent show.

    “Michelle is cool because she is the most interesting of them all. She doesn’t sing exactly like anybody else or do a certain thing,” he added. “Michelle’s got her own style. We keep seeing something real and powerful … and it’s great for her. America has seen her and clearly her career is at a pretty exciting stage.”

    Jason Corey, associate professor and chair of performing arts technology at the U-M, said he had Chamuel in three of his classes and is not at all surprised by her recent success.

    “I’m delighted that she’s getting much wider recognition … she has a unique voice, I don’t think she sounds like anyone else. I think that’s a good thing. … I think she has a really good chance to win,” he said.


    "The Voice" watch party

    • Who: All are invited.
    • What: A Tyler Duncan DJ set, followed by the live broadcast of "The Voice," on which former Ann Arbor resident Michelle Chamuel is a finalist.
    • Where: Blind Pig, 208 S. First St.
    • When: 7 p.m. Monday, June 17. The broadcast starts at 8.
    • How much: Free. For details, see the Facebook event page.
    “She was a fantastic student and she always did great work,” Corey recalled. “I remember in particular one recording that she did with a person who ended up being one of her bandmates, Robert Lester. It was one of the best recordings I had ever heard and the performance was just amazing. It sounded professional in terms of performance, in terms of production and in terms of engineering.”

    Theo Katzman, who was in the earliest incarnation of My Dear Disco, before it went from a seven-piece to a five-piece band, agreed.

    “The secret to Michelle's success is that she has the rare ability to be emotionally completely honest, and she can channel that emotion and honesty through her voice,” he said.

    “She's a deeply moving performer, but unlike most performers, she's not putting on an act. What the audience is seeing is 100 percent real Michelle, and I think people are incredibly moved by the palpable sense of humanity and honesty that they experience when they watch her sing. Also, she's a monster vocalist with a unique sound, and that's rare in itself.

    “I have no idea what the future holds for her, particularly if she wins ‘The Voice,’ but if she doesn't, I imagine that several people in the industry will try to snatch her up with a label contract of some kind,” he added. “Either way, I've always known Michelle to be someone who follows her dreams, no matter what, and I'm sure she'll be fine. She's one of the greatest humans I know.”

    You won’t get any argument about any of that from Rick E. Morrone of Dearborn, a longtime fan who first heard Chamuel when he was a communications student at the U-M Dearborn and spun My Dear Disco tunes on a weekly campus radio show he hosted.

    “I’m totally, totally proud of her,” he said. “She’s not just a local star any more. She’s a national star, and she’s only going to be getting bigger and bigger, because (coach) Usher has taken a liking to her whether they win this thing or not.”

    Morrone recalls meeting Chamuel and the rest of My Dear Disco at a live show in Detroit. “I didn’t know what she looked like listening to her and I didn’t know what I expected her to look like … she was so tiny but she had this powerful voice that came out of her. I really took a liking to the whole group—all the members were so talented,” he said.

    “All the people at work know I knew her when, and have been watching the show … (Michelle) is, in their eyes, a clear winner. The others are good singers but they’re not unique, and that’s what ‘The Voice’ is all about - the voice. I’ve never heard a voice quite like Michelle’s.

    “She’s got a nice future ahead of her that’s for sure.”

    Finally, although he wasn’t available for official comment, another U-M pal, singer/actor Darren Criss of “Glee” fame, gave a shout out in support of Chamuel's talent via a Twitter post recently.

    “So glad @Usher's as into college pal @MichelleChamuel as I was in school. She was killin' it then, she's killin' it now. Good choice,” he wrote.

    "The Voice" airs at 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday on NBC.

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    Traffic lights hang over the intersection of Washtenaw Avenue and Platt Road. The crosswalk where the accident took place is visible in the background.

    Kyle Feldscher | AnnArbor.com

    They never saw each other.

    She was riding her bike across Washtenaw Avenue, crossing near Platt Road. He was driving to his father’s apartment after getting off work. And, without the benefit of a traffic light, she rode right into his path.

    On Aug. 13, two lives were irreparably changed. Now, more than 10 months later, a traffic light installed at the intersection of their tragic accident likely will keep similar incidents from happening.

    A then-25-year-old man, driving a Ford Explorer, was moving at the speed of traffic that day as he neared the intersection. According to the Ann Arbor police report, traffic was heavy in the right lane but moving in the man's lane. As he drove into the crosswalk, the driver said he caught a glimpse of a then-55-year-old woman on her bicycle and slammed the brakes, but it was too late.

    It was “like she appeared out of nowhere,” the man told police.

    AnnArbor.com revisited this accident as the Arbor Hills development nears completion. The 7.45-acre development will include 15 new businesses — and one important traffic light, including a crosswalk, at the intersection of Washtenaw Avenue and Platt Road, 230 feet west of the crosswalk’s current location.


    The Arbor Hills development and the new traffic lights at Washtenaw Avenue and Platt Road.

    Kyle Feldscher | AnnArbor.com

    The traffic light is built but is not yet operational. Mark Sweeney, manager of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Brighton post, said the light should be operational in two or three weeks.

    “The new signal at Washtenaw and Platt is approximately two to three weeks away from being placed in flash mode (flashing yellow for Washtenaw and red for Platt),” Sweeney said in an email Friday. “After that, the signal would remain in flash mode for about one week, at which time it would switch over to stop-and-go operation.”

    That is about 10 months after the driver hit the bicyclist as she crossed Washtenaw Avenue in the crosswalk on her bike.

    The bicyclist entered the roadway after being waved in by another woman, who was driving east in the right lane, according to the report. The woman in the right lane told police she saw the bicyclist waiting to cross and stopped, per the city of Ann Arbor’s pedestrian crosswalk ordinance. The woman stopped in the lane checked her driver’s side mirror and didn’t see any vehicles approaching.

    “She checked her left side mirror and thought that the traffic she saw in the left lane was far enough back where she thought the biker could have at least made it to the center lane,” Ann Arbor police Officer Steven Dye wrote in the police report, “so she waved to the biker for her to cross the road.”

    Other drivers slowed and stopped behind the woman in the right lane. The bicyclist got on her bike and started pedaling her way across Washtenaw. The woman stopped in the lane told police the bicyclist was looking straight ahead and didn’t check for traffic as she rode out into the street.

    It wasn’t until the bicyclist was in front of the woman’s vehicle that the woman saw the driver’s Explorer coming.

    The driver of the Explorer told police he had just left his job as a home health care provider and turned right from Manchester Road onto Washtenaw. He’d driven Washtenaw many times but didn’t know there was a crosswalk at Platt Road, he said.

    He didn’t notice anyone stopping and traffic was moving in his lane. He was alone in the vehicle. He wasn’t on a cellphone. And, he couldn’t see the bicyclist.

    “At the speed he was going, he couldn’t stop,” a witness told police.

    Police determined the Explorer was going at least 43 miles per hour, two miles per hour below the speed limit, when it struck the bicyclist. Witnesses told police the bicyclist flew about 20 feet before coming to rest on the pavement. The driver of the Explorer immediately stopped the vehicle and got out to render aid, and was extremely shaken up by the accident.

    “I would have swerved off the road if I would have had the time,” he told police just after the crash. “I can’t believe this happened, it’s just surreal.”

    According to the report, he began crying when he said, “I never want to hurt no one.”

    Huron Valley Ambulance responded to the scene and transported the bicyclist to University of Michigan Hospital, where she was treated for injuries that Ann Arbor police Sgt. Bill Clock called “catastrophic.” She survived the crash, but suffered a “massive” closed head injury and fractures to her pelvis, femur and ankle, according to the report.

    AnnArbor.com left messages with family members of both the driver of the Explorer and the bicyclist seeking comment for this story. AnnArbor.com is not naming these two people because they did not return those messages.

    Both the driver of the Explorer and the bicyclist were assigned hazardous actions by investigators. According to the report, the driver did not stop before entering the crosswalk and yielding the right of way to the bicyclist. However, investigators said the bicyclist should not have suddenly left the curb and gone into the path of a vehicle that was unable to stop.

    No criminal charges were brought against the driver of the Explorer. First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Konrad Siller wrote in a statement that there was not enough evidence to show the driver made a moving violation.

    “Witnesses reported that he was not driving erratically or in a dangerous manner and that he had no time to stop before the impact,” Siller wrote. “Also, there is no evidence (he) was under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or controlled substance. The available credible evidence indicated that (his) view of (the bicyclist) was blocked or obstructed by the vehicle adjacent to the curb.”

    The driver of the Explorer was cited for lack of automobile insurance, the only citation that came out of the accident.

    The man was not the only driver in the area unaware of a crosswalk at the intersection.

    Another witness who was three cars behind the vehicle that stopped for the bicyclist, told police he assumed the woman in the right lane stopped because of a traffic backup and not a crosswalk. The driver of the vehicle behind the Explorer told police she saw brake lights just before the collision, said she wasn’t familiar with that stretch of road but didn’t see a crosswalk.

    “(The driver behind the Explorer) said she did not think a crosswalk would even be on that part of the road,” Dye wrote in the report, adding the woman did not see the roadside signs or an overhead sign that marked the crosswalk.

    That problem will be solved once the traffic signal there becomes operational and city officials believe the signal will greatly improve pedestrian safety in the area.

    “Having a traffic-control intersection with a crosswalk, where red lights mean all vehicles must stop and they will, it’s clearly going to be a huge safety benefit for pedestrians and bicyclists,” said Eli Cooper, city of Ann Arbor transportation director.

    The crosswalk is in its current location because of the hill on Washtenaw Avenue west of Platt. The hill makes sightlines difficult for drivers coming up to the intersection, so the crosswalk was originally placed in the area where drivers would have the best chance of seeing a pedestrian.

    Sweeney said a sign will not be posted to notify drivers of the new traffic light.

    "When a new signal is placed within close proximity to other existing signals, which is the case along Washtenaw Avenue, a sign is not warranted," he said. "Nor is one warranted along Platt Road because Platt operates currently under stop control."

    Cooper said the light would neutralize the effect of the hill and will also allow more flexibility for motorists by allowing left turns from Platt Road onto Washtenaw, which are currently prohibited.

    “This is a significant improvement,” he said.

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    The Ann Arbor school board might have avoided eliminating high school bus services for next school year, but longtime board member Susan Baskett says the issue isn't over yet.

    Baskett, who recently was appointed to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's governing board, expects serious talks over the next year about the possibility of the school district cutting bus services and seeing where the AATA might be able to step in to fill the void.


    Ann Arbor school board member Susan Baskett at a forum last year. She now also serves on the governing board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    She also argues it wouldn't be the end of the world if some students had to walk to school and get a little more exercise.

    Baskett sat down with AnnArbor.com to talk about what she sees as the next steps for both the AATA and Ann Arbor Public Schools around transportation.

    AnnArbor.com: When it was decided by the school board to put transportation cuts on hold for this coming year, was it your thinking that the issue will come back around next budget cycle?

    Baskett: Oh yeah.

    AnnArbor.com: Is this next year then a planning year to figure out how the AATA could step up and fill the void if school bus services are eliminated?

    Baskett: Absolutely. I mean, one of the things we had talked about — and I was quoted on this before — was, 'OK, if we're going to cut transportation, let's just do it all at once.' Now, I wasn't saying this year. And it was basically a statement to give my colleagues a heads up what is possible.

    As I look at the resumes of the new superintendent candidates, that's one of the things I'm going to be looking for — collaboration across government.

    AnnArbor.com: There are some parents out there in the community who think it's crazy to even talk about cutting busing for students. You've said you would be willing to entirely eliminate transportation for all grades K-12. Why do you think that's a good idea?

    Baskett: Cost. I mean, that's it. Cost.

    Because remember we tried — or we did — the consolidation with WISD. The consolidation was to help our then school bus drivers — they knew our routes, they knew our children, we knew them. What happened when we consolidated with WISD? The majority of them did not get hired.

    I can always tell the start of the school year now, because I live in a neighborhood with a lot of children. I see the big yellow bus go up and down past my house five times with some guy with a piece of paper and he is obviously lost. It's a new bus driver who doesn't know where the heck he's supposed to pick up these kids, because the turnover at the WISD has just been ridiculous.

    So it's a managerial issue. We can't sustain the current model. We don't have the funds to even do something totally different like privatize completely. We've got to do something in collaboration that makes sense for the long haul. We don't want to be visiting transportation every single year.


    Will school buses in Ann Arbor become a thing of the past?

    AnnArbor.com: Are you aware of another community where the local municipal transit system has stepped up to do busing for students in the manner you're talking about?

    Baskett: No, but from what I've learned, the AATA, being a mass transit authority, they cannot get into the business of being a new school bus system. It has to be public transportation for all. But I have heard of stories of classmates getting on the bus in big cities in California, for example — 12-year-olds taking three buses to get to school. I have friends from New York where they would talk about a 45-minute subway ride to get to school, so it's not impossible.

    AnnArbor.com: Under what scenarios do you think the AATA could realistically help fill the void of lost school bus services? How would that look or work in practice?

    Baskett: We have worked with them this past year. We have at least two bus routes, maybe three, where AATA does fill the void of transportation. We have a relationship, for example, where the kids after seventh hour at Pioneer High — we gave them bus passes, which they can even use on the weekends. It doesn't have to be school-related. As I understand, the kids and the parents love it. It frees them up, assures them of being able to get on the bus, so I'd like to see more of that. The issue — the big concern — of course, is for those areas that are not on AATA bus routes.

    AnnArbor.com: So you're thinking more of that could work — where AATA routes and services are planned with students in mind as part of the overall picture?

    Baskett: Yeah.

    AnnArbor.com: I'm told legally the school district can't be involved in organizing alternative transportation for students. Is this something you'll be able to work on in your dual role?

    Baskett: Probably so, but I guess I need to understand more of the legal boundaries, because we have had a committee. Trustees Simone Lightfoot and Glenn Nelson have served on this transportation committee the last year with AATA, and that's how they come up to identifying the need, quantifying the need, and possible solutions.

    Moving forward, I'm hoping that Trustees Lightfoot and Nelson will be able to continue that relationship since they already know the cast of characters, and I can assist from an outside perspective as well. As I understand it, we can't help negotiate the fees or collect money for the entity, but I think it's OK to discuss the issues.


    A biker zips past an AATA bus on Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    AnnArbor.com: Are you getting any pushback?

    Baskett: When we did this last transportation thing with the schools and we were looking at how to partner with AATA, we got some crazy emails from concerned parents who were like, 'I don't want my child on an unsafe public transit.' And I'm like, I've never seen an issue.

    The buses are clean. They stick pretty much to their schedule. This fear of kids being lost on some public mass transit was just comical to me. So, from the AATA perspective, we have to make clear that we are one of the best in the nation. From the school board perspective, we have to make clear that AATA is a safe alternative. So there's some marketing to do on both sides.

    AnnArbor.com: Your appointment to the AATA board by Mayor John Hieftje and the Ann Arbor City Council comes at a very interesting time considering the talks around cutting transportation at the school district level. Is this just coincidence or is there more to the story?

    Baskett: It is coincidence. When I first got interested in anything mass transit, it was after attending one of the community meetings (for the AATA's countywide transit planning process) and looking at the transit master plan. I had applied to be on the multi-jurisdictional entity that went down in flames — the whole countywide thing. So I was looking to do it way before.

    AnnArbor.com: Why do you want to serve on the AATA board?

    Baskett: To bring to life this vision. I like that we're looking at making mass transit more than a need, but a choice. It's just a desire to be helpful.

    When you look at the transit master plan and you look at the need locally, I feel I have to do something to make it happen, because the need will always be there, whether it's for high school kids or the mom trying to get her kid to the pediatrician.

    AnnArbor.com: What's been your experience with riding AATA buses here in Ann Arbor? How often do you use the local transit service?

    Baskett: I have used it as a consumer, but currently the system is not set up for people like me. For example, last night after a long meeting, I would have liked to just get on a bus and go home and vegetate, but there are no buses at that particular hour.


    An AATA bus drives down Liberty Street in Ann Arbor last summer.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    I live on the southeast side of Ann Arbor. If I want to go to Meijer, I have to wait an hour, so it's not yet user-friendly for me. I want to make it more user-friendly.

    AnnArbor.com: Are you in favor of raising taxes to expand AATA services in the urban core, whether that just includes Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti or some larger urban core footprint?

    Baskett: One thing I've learned is you've got to have money. So if that's what it takes, yeah. As I understand, the fares don't sustain the system. It's with municipal support.

    AnnArbor.com: What do you make of the move to welcome Ypsilanti into the authority to create a new Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority?

    Baskett: At initial blush, it makes sense — they have a need, they're bringing in some money — but Ypsilanti already has this purchase-of-service agreement with AATA, so I'm trying to learn what is the advantage for AATA. I understand Ypsilanti's advantage.

    AnnArbor.com: So it sounds like you have some reservations? Is it just that you're trying to make sure you're looking out for Ann Arbor's interests?

    Baskett: Selfishly, I grew up in Ann Arbor, so Ann Arbor is all that for me. The control — it's my transit authority. I'm the Ann Arbor resident. Would I want an outside entity that brings a limited amount of funds and will be asking for more — do I want them necessarily co-opting expanded services that I would have in Ann Arbor? Then is that a precedence for others?

    Because I would hope AATA would expand the model and invite other people in. If Ann Arbor is to pay the bulk of the services, would I necessarily want to be obligated or potentially lose control to other parties at the table? I'm still feeling that one through.

    AnnArbor.com: What direction would you like to see the AATA go in the next 5 to 10 years? What projects or initiatives would you like to see come to fruition?

    Baskett: I'm very intrigued with the whole master plan. I would love it so mass transit — the AATA — is my transportation of choice, and if I choose to I can get to wherever I want to go without having to use my personal car at $4 a gallon for gas. I would like to see places like Roberto Clemente and Textile — those neighborhoods — have at least a bus stop as an option.

    We see students coming from neighborhoods that not only don't have bus stops, they don't have sidewalks, so they can't even walk safely. I want to be able to say that AATA can get you from wherever you are to wherever you want to go.

    AnnArbor.com: So you subscribe to the philosophy that public transit in Ann Arbor should be able to serve as a substitute for owning a car?

    Baskett: I do. Absolutely. It's getting more costly to own a car. I can't tell you how many of my friends' children who are 16 and 17 don't even think about getting a driver's license. That was a rite of passage for my generation. Young people now don't want to be bothered with it, and if we want to have our city grow, we've got to have that option for them.

    Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.

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    Cleanup of a makeshift dump filled concrete, construction material and a variety of junk in Ypsilanti Township has begun.

    Tom Perkins | AnnArbor.com file photo

    An Ypsilanti-based concrete company that dumped waste on another business’s private property in Ypsilanti Township is beginning a cleanup of the site.

    The illegal dump was discovered earlier this year just south of Congress Street and east of Hewitt Road in Ypsilanti Township.

    William Babut, an attorney for Hearns Concrete owner Shawn Bell, said his client was unaware that he was illegally dumping concrete, construction debris, broken down automobiles and other junk on the property.

    Bell inherited the company from his father, Jerry Hearns, and the property was already being utilized for dumping, Babut said.

    “I think that (Bell) was unaware of where the exact property lines were,” he said. “His father had some prior understanding that it was OK, so I don’t think Shawn did anything in bad faith.”

    Piles of concrete as deep as four feet were found in an approximately 1.5-acre clearing on 17-ares of heavily wooded lot owned by Lincorp Holdings, a multinational land holding company.

    Officials believe Hearns has been dumping concrete on the site for 10 years. Township attorneys are working to locate Lincorp, which has a last-known address in Toronto.

    An approximately 350-foot driveway leads to the clearing. Bell’s uncle owns a house that shares the driveway and abuts the Lincorp property.


    A driveway belonging to a relative of Hearns' owner leads back to the dump site in the middle of a heavily wooded area.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    The township filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order the property cleared of the debris, and officials say they are pleased that Bell is already removing junk from the site.

    “He is being very cooperative,” said township building director Ron Fulton. “We came to an agreement on what had to be moved, and he pledged to move forward as his time allowed. We’ll verify that he’s restoring it to original grade level.”

    The cleanup effort comes as Hearns' city of Ypsilanti property was listed on the Washtenaw County tax foreclosure auction list. Babut said Hearns is now operating out of the company's Sumpter Township location and no longer uses the Ypsilanti location.

    Fulton estimated the cost of bringing approximately 100 truckloads of concrete at 20 cubic yards per load and to a legal dump would be at least $80,000.

    But Babut said Bell plans to dump the concrete at Hearns’ Sumpter Township property at 47690 Willow Road, which would significantly lower the cost of a cleanup. Hearns also has its own equipment and trucks to complete the job.

    Babut said Bell plans to start removing the concrete and return the land to its original grade as soon as the site is dry enough.

    “We spent a lot of time last week with the attorneys and township officials. Ron Fulton spent a lot of time going over the whole site, and it was a very positive meeting. The township understands he’s going to need a little time to do this,” Babut said.

    Fulton said the current agreement gives Hearns 90 days, but the township is willing to extend the deadline if it looks like the cleanup effort is moving forward.

    "I’m pleased that they are taking seriously and cleaning it up,” Fulton said.

    Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the AnnArbor.com news desk at news@annarbor.com.

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    McKinley Inc. closed two major U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development financings last week worth more than $29 million for two local apartment complexes and company CEO Albert Berriz said an announcement will be made soon regarding a new affordable housing project in Washtenaw County.

    "We're going to announce the development of new construction of affordable housing in Washtenaw County," Berriz said, citing a need by the everyday workforce for this sort of housing. "People don't realize how far out some have to live to work great jobs in Ann Arbor. One of the things I think is important is not to just focus on the homeless, but you need workforce housing, too. That's where we focus our energy."


    McKinley Inc. has received more than $18 million in HUD loan financing for the Evergreen Apartments at 3089 Woodland Hills Dr.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    Although Berriz didn't state where the housing would be, in April, he told AnnArbor.com that McKinley wants to build affordable rental housing on a vacant 4.47-acre parcel on South State Street. McKinley purchased the property about five years ago. It has a 2013 assessed value of $481,900, city records show.

    Within its portfolio, McKinley has several affordable housing apartment complexes in the area and the company just received HUD financing for two of them. The Detroit office of Berkadia Commercial Mortgage helped closed the financing.

    McKinley received $18.08 million in HUD loan financing with a 3.5 percent rate for Evergreen Apartments, a 477-unit community in Pittsfield Township at 3089 Woodland Hills Dr.

    McKinley also received $11.2 million in HUD financing with a 3.5 percent rate for the Roundtree Apartments, a 228-unit community in Ypsilanti Township at 2835 Roundtree Boulevard.

    The 35-year, fixed-rate loans will be used to refinance existing debt on the properties.

    Berriz said McKinley has had a "very long-term relationship" with HUD.

    "We have many properties throughout the country financed by them," Berriz said. "It's a more than 25-year relationship with them. They're a big part of what we do at McKinley."

    McKinley and Berkadia have recently originated and together closed more than $200 million in HUD financings for various McKinley communities in various states including Illinois, Indiana, Florida and Michigan.

    Berriz said a lot of the affordable housing discussion in Washtenaw County centers around homelessness and not enough emphasis on housing for people within the workforce.

    Rent at the Evergreen Apartments ranges between $619 for a 1-bedroom apartment and $999 for a 3-bedroom apartment.

    Tenants living in the Roundtree Apartments pay between $669 and $879 for an apartment.

    McKinley was founded in 1968 and is headquartered in Ann Arbor. McKinley owns and manages more than 34,000 units and 21 million square feet of commercial space throughout 25 states.

    Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at katreasestafford@annarbor.com or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.

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    Lorrie Shaw | Contributor

    So many of us are familiar with dogs who display obsessive-compulsive behavior, and there has been little known about the etiology. Even more distressing, it's hard to help empower pets to curb the behaviors that characterize it.

    We've a little experience with Canine Compulsive Disorder, or CCD, in our household, and sadly, with the dog's increasing age, I'm seeing that the condition can increase in complexity.

    Early life stressors have been thought to be at the root: abuse, premature weaning, prolonged isolation and other stressful types of things.

    A recent study offers interesting insight into the mechanics of the disorder, and it shows that humans and canines have more in common than you might think. The findings might even help find better treatments for humans and dogs alike.

    The research, published in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, suggests a root cause that could help clarify a cause of the behavior.

    In looking at brain scans of 16 Doberman pinschers (the breed has a high incidence of CCD) studied, researchers found that the eight dogs who had CCD had higher total brain and gray matter volumes and other similarities that correspond with the severity of compulsive behavioral traits and consistent with humans who suffer OCD-like symptoms.

    CCD is characterized by behaviors such as tail and shadow chasing, spinning, excessive drinking of water, licking obsessively, snapping at flying insects (even when they are not present), continuous barking and pica.

    The findings are a joint effort between veterinarians at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and researchers at the McLean Imaging Center at McLean Hospital, in Belmont, Massachusetts.

    Niwako Ogata, BVSc, Ph.D., an assistant professor of animal behavior at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, led the Tufts/McLean research team.

    "Canines that misbehave are often labeled as 'bad dogs,' but it is important to detect and show the biological basis for certain behaviors," noted Ogata.

    "Evidence-based science is a much better approach to understanding a dog's behavior."

    Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, DACVB, professor of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University offered this:

    While the study sample was small and further research is needed, the results further validate that dogs with CCD can provide insight and understanding into anxiety disorders that affect people. Dogs exhibit the same behavioral characteristics, respond to the same medication, have a genetic basis to the disorder, and we now know have the same structural brain abnormalities as people with OCD.

    Click here to read a piece in the Whole Dog Journal on ideas to effectively address CCD, and food or thought on how to help prevent it.

    Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for AnnArbor.com. Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly and subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.

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    Ypsilanti police arrested a 28-year-old man for a “dine and dash” at a city restaurant late Sunday night.

    Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Ypsilanti_police_badge.jpg

    Police responded at 11 p.m. Sunday to a restaurant in the 700 block of West Cross Street for a report of defrauding an innkeeper. According to police, two men fled the restaurant without paying their bill.

    Upon arrival, police tracked down one of the men and placed him under arrest for defrauding an innkeeper. The second man remains at large.

    Multiple restaurants are listed in the 700 block of West Cross Street. It is Ypsilanti police policy to typically not release the names of businesses affected by a crime.

    No substantive description of the second suspect was released Monday morning.

    Anyone with information on this incident is encouraged to call the Ypsilanti police at 734-483-9510.

    View Larger Map

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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