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

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    demetrius-sims-action.jpg

    Demetrius Sims, above, is the AnnArbor.com 2013 Washtenaw County baseball Player of the Year.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Demetrius Sims
    demetrius-sims-mug.jpg

    Demetrius Sims

    School: Ann Arbor Huron
    Class: Senior

    Notable: Demetrius Sims played shortstop and hit from the leadoff spot for a Huron team that went 22-14 and won a Division 1 district championship. Sims had a batting average of .323 with 24 RBIs, 13 extra-base hits and 41 runs scored. Sims had a tremendous impact on his team’s success in the field, where he had a .969 fielding percentage. He only committed four errors on the entire season and had a perfect fielding percentage in the postseason for the River Rats. “Demetrius only had four errors on the entire season and he was getting to balls I’ll probably never see a high school kid ever get to again…His hands are unbelievably soft. You know if it’s hit anywhere near him he’s going to get it,” said Huron coach Terry Bigham. Sims had his worst year from the plate as a senior, but still finished his three-year varsity career with a .360 average. His .396 average as a junior set the single season record for Huron. Sims will play in the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Game at Comerica Park on July 1. He will continue his playing career at Division I Bethune-Cookman in Florida.

    Player of the Year schedule:

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


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    Crabs-by-Qi-Baishi .jpg

    "Crabs" by Qi Baishi

    The University of Michigan Museum of Art’s exhibit “Isamu Noguchi/Qi Baishi/Beijing 1930” is an impressive exercise in intergenerational, cross-cultural influence.

    Organized in partnership with New York City’s Noguchi Museum, the exhibit has been mounted in the UMMA’s spacious A. Alfred Taubman Gallery. consists of approximately 60 drawings (including ink paintings and calligraphic works), sculpture, artist’s tools, and other interpretive materials drawn from the UMMA, the Noguchi Museum, and other public and private art collections.

    Shedding “new light on the transformative relationship between American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-88) and Chinese ink painter Qi Baishi (1864-1957),” as the UMMA’s press release tells us, “Isamu Noguchi/Qi Baishi/Beijing 1930” (which will be on view in Long Island City and Seattle following its Ann Arbor premiere) handsomely drapes the UMMA’s second floor prime exhibition space with an assurance that’s as inspiring as it is magnificent.

    This is not only because the art on display is superior. Nor is the exhibit merely an example of an acolyte following the influence of his master — because the relationship between these two talents was all too brief. Rather, the exhibit’s strength resides in how much influence one superior talent can impart to another superior talent through what was an exceedingly short period of time.

    Qi Baishi (1864-1957) was one of China’s revered 20th century artists whose calligraphy, landscape, and animal paintings were crafted in an economic style with characteristic whimsy reflecting common Chinese cultural values. Originally self-taught due to his family’s impoverished circumstance, Qi eventually incorporated a reverence for fine brushwork and meticulous detail into a style of art that’s always been the highest tradition of Sino aesthetic.

    Isamu Noguchi (1904-88) had a six-decade career as a sculptor, landscape architect, stage designer for Martha Graham, and furniture designer; his influence is still felt keenly today. The son of Japanese poet Yone Noguchi and his American translator Leone Gilmour, Isamu Noguchi opted for a career in art that took him around the world with teachers that included Gutzon Borglum (creator of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial) and biomorphic abstractionist sculptor Constantin Brancusi.

    “Isamu Noguchi/Qi Baishi/Beijing 1930” heartily illustrates the six-month influence this Chinese master had on this young American, who rapidly absorbed the older man’s style and knowledge. The Noguchi drawings that came from this encounter were to be atypical of his future work, but Qi’s impact had a profound effect on his creativity.

    As exhibition organizer UMMA Associate Curator of Asian Art Natsu Oyobe tells us in her introduction, Noguchi’s work “has long been associated with Japan. Indeed his introduction to ancient sculpture and garden design traditions during a stay in Japan in 1931 is thought of as a turning point in his early career.

    “Less well known is the story of Noguchi’s six transformative months in Beijing (formerly known as Peking); from July 1930 to January 1931. There, Sotokichi Katsuizumi (1889-1985), a Japanese businessman and collector of Chinese painting, introduced him to Qi Baishi.

    “Noguchi spoke no Chinese and Qi no English, but they quickly formed a friendship and Noguchi began to study with the master ink painter. Under Qi’s influence, he took up brush, ink, and paper — the key tools of East Asian traditional painting and calligraphy — to create the series of more than one hundred works later called the ‘Peking Drawings.’

    “Seen together as a group and alongside examples of Qi’s paintings — as they are for the first time in this exhibition — these impressive works suggest the importance of China in Noguchi’s artistic formation, usually eclipsed by his relationship to Japan. Indeed the often overlooked ‘Peking Drawings’ acted as a laboratory in which he discovered a language of abstraction that informed his entire career.”

    Oyobe is certainly spot on with her observation that Qi had a major impact on Noguchi’s work. For what is on display with these “Peking Drawings” is more than proof enough — just as six months is a remarkably brief period of time for such a sustained impact.

    As Oyobe tells us, Qi’s traditionalist style of art was well established by the time he was introduced to Noguchi. Indeed, “Noguchi began his exploration of the ancient art of Chinese ink and brush painting by carefully observing Qi’s extraordinary technique, which allowed him to control the flow of ink to produce in a single stroke, dynamic lines of varying thickness and length and to create subtle shading. Noguchi then applied these lessons in his own drawings, freely experimenting with brushstrokes on large sheets of paper laid on a table or floor.”

    And as she later adds, Qi’s “highly abbreviated brushwork, rich ink effects, and unusual compositions lifted these subjects to the heights of literati art and made this highly refined and intellectualized tradition accessible to a larger audience. The unique vision Qi brought to his lively depictions of the natural world opened new horizons of expression for Chinese painting and had a major influence on future generations of painters.”

    Take one example of Qi’s painting in the exhibit, circa 1930’s album leaf, ink on paper “Crabs.” This masterly painting consists of a series of overlapping lines of varying thickness where Qi’s control of his brush commands a deft interpretation of two crustaceans dramatically facing off one another. Structuring his painting diagonally, Qi crafts a respectful anatomical rendering, but he simultaneously creates far more than a mere likeness. What he creates through his adroit line is a life rendering of these arthropods that we might anticipate at a privileged observational moment.

    On the other hand, Oyobe tells us that Noguchi was somewhat of a willful student through this six month period and his artistic independence is clearly at hand in the works he produced at this time. “Noguchi neither imitated Qi’s style nor adopted his wide-ranging subject matter. Instead, setting forth on his own path, he focused exclusively on the human body, using the traditional techniques of ink and brush painting to depict the live models his servant found in the streets of Beijing — men, women, children, and mothers with babies, usually nude, that Noguchi posed in every imaginable way.”

    noguchi_nude.jpg

    "Seated Female Nude" by Isamu Noguchi

    It’s this contrast through adaptation that’s at the heart of “Isamu Noguchi/Qi Baishi/Beijing 1930.” There’s a biomorphic trace of Brancusi in Noguchi’s painting, but this abstract quality has also been refined by Qi’s aesthetic and the result (as seen through Noguchi’s line) is uniquely distinctive.

    As can been seen through the many “Peking Drawings” on display, Noguchi’s line is sure even as it’s more immediately expressive and erotic than his teacher’s line. In fact, the most powerful element of Noguchi’s drawings is the certitude of his burgeoning talent. It might seem a wisdom beyond his years; although it’s also certain from the results that he’d already packed a lifetime of worldliness going into his third decade.

    We’re told by the exhibit’s gallery tags that Noguchi’s drawings during this period “acted as a laboratory in which he discovered a language of abstraction that informed his entire career.”

    And as Oyobe further adds, “Across these diverse works, Noguchi exploits the brush’s potential for creating lines that vary according to the slightest movement and pressure of the artist’s hands and body. In turn, these gently or dynamically undulating brushstrokes both convey the softness of the bodies themselves and highlight the emotional states depicted with great tenderness by the artist.”

    This is certainly the case as his sensitivity depicts the enduring bond of maternal love in the many paintings he makes of mother and child. Likewise, his nudes mirror his teacher’s ability to create an immediacy that’s elemental enough to depict a heightened sense of reality while also leave room for emotive exploration.

    “While drawing was never again central to Noguchi’s practice,” Oyobe says, “the discoveries that he made with ink and brush in Beijing would bear fruit in his three-dimensional works, whether in metal, stone, clay, earth, or wood. The sweeping brush lines of the “Peking Drawings” are found in his abstract figure sculptures from the mid-1930s and the broad brush strokes so suggestive of both movement and volume in the drawings would emerge as fully three-dimensional forms in his postwar sculpture and garden designs.”

    Such a powerful almost subliminal impact in so brief a period of time makes “Isamu Noguchi/Qi Baishi/Beijing 1930” among the rarest of great art displays. It’s as close to a case of aesthetic transference — as well as cultivation of first-rank genius — as we’re likely ever to see through the guise of simple geometry.

    “Isamu Noguchi/Qi Baishi/Beijing 1930” will continue through Sept. 1 at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, 525 S. State St. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 734-764-0395.


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    062613_Supreme-Court.jpg

    Gay rights advocate Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag in front of the Supreme Court Wednesday morning as he wait for the Supreme Court to issue its ruling on gay marriage.

    J. Scott Applewhite | AP Photo

      Now that the Supreme Court has spoken on gay marriage, last week declaring unconstitutional a provision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denies benefits to gay couples, Michigan has an opportunity to reconsider its own laws regarding same-sex unions.

      Before the ruling was handed down, Democrats, including local legislators Jeff Irwin and Adam Zemke of Ann Arbor, introduced a package of bills to allow same-sex marriage in Michigan. If passed, along with similar measures introduced in the Senate, the legislation would put the question of same-sex marriage where we think it belongs, before voters.

      It’s been more than nine years since Michigan residents last voted on this issue. In 2004, they voted overwhelmingly to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman and to ban other unions.

      A lot has changed since then. The tide of public opinion in the nation, as well as in Michigan, has clearly been moving toward acceptance of gay marriage. In May, a poll conducted by Glengariff Group Inc. found More than 56 percent of respondents in Michigan said they support same-sex marriage, up 12.5 percentage points from last year, while 54 percent said they favor replacing the state's constitutional ban with language allowing same-sex marriage.

      If legislators in both the House and Senate pass bills amending the state constitution by a two-thirds majority, voters will get another say on the matter.

      Other bills in the legislative package would recognize same-sex marriages that were licensed in other states, make other changes directly to Michigan's marriage laws regarding who is allowed to marry, and call on the U.S. Congress to repeal DOMA, which allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states.

      We urge lawmakers to let voters have their say on this important issue once again.


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    Friends who invest together stay together, right?

    If they’ve got a sense of humor, a stomach for uncertainty, and an ability to stay on-course, they do.

    Last week, the 15 members of the Women of Wealth Investment Club — a name more aspirational than actual — marked their quarter-century together with a whirlwind limousine tour of local powerhouses in their portfolio: Ford Motor Company world headquarters, Google and an original McDonald’s in Ann Arbor. The Motown-themed day included champagne in commemorative flutes, photos at Ford, a visit to the Motown Museum, dinner at The Whitney, and a sweep through the MGM Grand.

    WOWclub.jpg

    The Women of Wealth Investment Club stands outside Ford Motor Company during a Motown-themed limousine day tour of the local powerhouse stocks it holds in its portfolio.

    Courtesy photo

    ''Everything went without a hitch,'' says Patricia Chapman, a charter member of WOW. Members were somewhat flattered when a security guard at Ford tried to shoo them away because of concerns about ''sabotage.''

    The jaunt was not at all typical for this set, many of them retired school teachers and administrators who got together in 1988 at the height of the investment club-craze. They have weathered births, deaths, marriages and divorces together, along with the ups and downs of the stock market, which included the evisceration of their pensions and 401Ks in 2008 to a loss of $200,000 from their portfolio.

    “When we started the club, we had three things we were looking for. Number one, education about investing in the stock market; number two, the collegiality of the group; and three, making money,’’ says WOW club President Ginger Gajar, a 68-year-old retired Huron High School math teacher now in charge of tracking the individual and collective performance of their stocks. “I think we’ve been successful in all three.’’

    She says the club’s portfolio is valued at about a half-million dollars.

    The club has held out while other investment clubs have disbanded — even if members have talked about folding, she says.

    ‘’A lot of people who got together with the main goal of investing. When the market tanked and their portfolios went down, it was easy to say 'this isn't fun anymore,'" Gajar says. ‘’But friendship is a binding factor for the group.’’'

    Personal values serve as a guide for most of the club’s investment decisions, says Chapman, who retired 10 years ago as principal of Bach Elementary, and no decision is made without a vote. Some of the factors that influence whether to invest in a stock are if any women occupy high positions in the corporation and what the company produces. WOW has never invested in tobacco giant Phillip Morris, or Waste Management, because of its defense contracting work.

    But they have bought shares of McDonald’s, because of the Ronald McDonald House, and WOW owns shares in Exxon, mainly to keep an energy stock in the mix of investments.

    ‘’We’re not perfect,’’ says Chapman, 68.

    The group has been dedicated throughout the years: they’ve met monthly 10 months out of the 12 for 25 years. Each member tracks one or two stocks — WOW owns shares in a few dozen companies — reporting to the club how stock prices are expected to do, news about the company, and other relevant details. Each month, members make a minimum investment of $50. And each month, they get a report on how their portfolio is performing. Gajar is responsible for tracking how much each member has made on a stock, and when somebody leaves the club, sending her away with her profits.

    Technology has now played as an influence how the group operates as well. A club member who moved to New York City to teach at NYU attends meetings by Skype. The treasurer used to collect checks and deposit them in a brokerage account, but today, contributions are automatically deducted.

    While members have gotten much savvier about investing, group members say the challenges are what keeps discussions lively.

    Knowing when to sell is always fodder for conversation. Lululemon, the fitness-wear company, is a case in point: WOW owned shares in the company, which recently made headlines for its too-sheer yoga pants, a staple company product.

    The group held on to the stock and then the next month decided to sell it because its share price had dropped. After they made that move, the CEO quit and the stock price plummeted. Although that clearly was a good decision, Chapman says selling always is the challenging part of investing — it’s easy to leave too early or get out too late.

    Still, she says, ‘’I think we’re getting better about getting rid of things. We’ve become more inquisitive and more informed.’’

    Investment club members are less averse to taking risks, too. WOW recently invested in the carmaker Tesla Motors, partly on the strength of its Model S, which was named Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine. It also has invested in Zipcar, a company that rents cars by the hour or day.

    “We’re at the point now where we sometimes have trouble finding stocks we want to study because we’ve done so many. If we were a relatively new club, I don’t think we would have bought Tesla,’’ says Gajar. ‘’People are always on the lookout for something that’s new.’’

    Julie Edgar is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com.


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    Police expect fireworks-related noise complaints to make up the majority of the calls for service on and around July 4.

    Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Police in Ann Arbor expect most of their calls for service around Fourth of July to be related to fireworks in light of a new ordinance passed last week.

    The Ann Arbor City Council on June 17 passed an ordinance banning the use of fireworks between midnight and 8 a.m. on July 3, July 4 and July 5. Ann Arbor police Sgt. Mike Scherba said Thursday residents calling police generate most of the fireworks complaints.

    “I don’t think there’s any additional (police officers) working that night that I know of,” Scherba said. “But, a good amount of our calls for service will be fireworks related, just speaking on past experience.”

    Officials in Ypsilanti Township expressed support for a similar ordinance after receiving complaints from residents who were kept up during the July 4, 2012 festivities. That was the first July 4 in Michigan when aerial fireworks were legal in the state.

    State law allows local governments to ban fireworks use between midnight and 8 a.m. on the day before, the day of and the day after national holidays. The only day when fireworks can be set off after midnight is Jan. 1, when fireworks are allowed between midnight and 1 a.m.

    Local Fireworks Ordinances

    What are the laws where you live?

    • Ann Arbor: Fireworks are allowed to be used 8 a.m. to midnight on July 3, July 4 and July 5

    • Ypsilanti Township: An ordinance similar to Ann Arbor’s may take effect after July 4. It is illegal to use fireworks on any day other than the day before, day of or day after a national holiday. There is no banned time in Ypsilanti Township

    • Ypsilanti: Fireworks can be used at any time on July 3, July 4 and July 5

    The state law does not allow local governments to deviate from this time frame, despite calls from some residents who say midnight is too late at night. Scherba said fireworks set off on July 2 and July 6, at any time, are against the law.

    In Ann Arbor, lighting off a firework during the prohibited time period can lead to a $500 fine.

    In Ypsilanti Township, this will be the last year fireworks will be allowed between midnight and 8 a.m. Trustees approved a first reading of the ordinance on Monday, but a second reading is needed before the ordinance becomes official. That means the new time limits won’t take effect until after July 4.

    Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Geoffrey Fox said there won’t be more deputies on patrol than normal in Ypsilanti Township or the rest of the department's jurisdiction.

    Much like in Ann Arbor, deputies will usually be responding to complaints about fireworks noise.

    “We take them as they come, just like any other call,” he said.

    Fox said the sheriff’s office was busy with fireworks-related noise complaints in 2012, but no more than in previous years. A number of fires in Ypsilanti Township were ascribed to fireworks last summer.

    In September, Ypsilanti Township trustees banned the use of fireworks on days except for the day before, the day of and the day after national holidays. Trustees said this was a reaction to residents’ complaints about firework-related noise.

    In the city of Ypsilanti, the ordinance follows state law and does not have a time frame when fireworks are banned. A police official reached on Thursday said he was not aware of any extra patrols that will be put out on July 4.

    Scherba said it was important to remind revelers that lighting off fireworks on public property, school property or church property is forbidden without permission. Homemade fireworks also are prohibited, 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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    Something stinks in Ypsilanti.

    On June 17, Karla Yurgaites was watering plants outside her window at her College Heights home when she discovered a surprise.

    A roughly 10-week-old skunk was sitting down in her 18-inch deep window well. She jumped back as the young skunk began to lift its tail.

    College_Heights.jpg

    Ypsilanti's College Heights neighborhood.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    “I was just shocked when I found this little skunk stuck down there,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

    Believing that the animal might be stuck, she eventually crept back over and placed a board down to help it get out. But instead of climbing out, the skunk stayed in the well and was shaking and sneezing.

    “I thought ‘That doesn’t seem right,’ ” Yurgaites said. So she called the Humane Society of Huron Valley to report what was happening.

    A wildlife rescue officer came out, placed a blanket over the skunk, and used a specialized pole to trap it and place it in a cage.

    After the officer left Yurgaites’ home, he stopped at a neighbor's house, where he picked up two more skunks reported to be behaving strangely.

    The skunks are three of at least seven the HSHV has trapped in College Heights who are infected with distemper. The virus affects animals like skunks or squirrels, and it is fatal.

    Because there is no cure, all the skunks that have been caught have been euthanized. Matt Schaecher, the HSHV's director of animal cruelty investigations and rescue services, said there is no way to stop the virus from spreading, and the outbreak of distemper will likely wipe out the skunk population in the College Heights area this summer.

    “We generally find there’s one (animal) that catches it, and then it just starts wiping out a pocket of an area,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for us to get certain areas hit hard with distemper.”

    Schaecher stressed that the virus is not transmittable to humans, but it is highly transmittable among animals - including dogs and cats - through saliva, urine or feces. It also is likely that another animal could catch it from a skunk's spray. Areas with the virus can be contaminated for several months and the virus can handle cold weather, Schaecher said.

    The virus causes an animal to appear drunk. An infected skunk will lose its fear of humans, walk in circles, walk into trees and generally behave bizarrely.

    “They really look like they’re drunk,” Schaecher said.

    On the College Heights neighborhood Facebook page, neighbors reported skunks approaching their toddlers, being approached while gardening and seeing skunks walking around in circles.

    Schaecher said the best defense for pets is to have them vaccinated. He strongly recommended against trying to catch or trap a skunk, and said a bite is cause for concern over the possibility of rabies.

    “We do ask people that if they see a skunk not to try to catch it on their own,” he said. “If they get bit it poses a threat. If you’re bit you’re going to need the post rabies shot. What we would recommend is people contact the Humane Society immediately.”

    He added that none of the skunks caught so far have tested positive for rabies.

    Schaecher said there is no way of telling how many skunks live in the area, but College Heights is near wooded areas and skunks have a range of up to five miles from their dens. The neighborhood is bordered on the south by Washtenaw Avenue and Eastern Michigan University's property sits to the east and north.

    So far no other Ypsilanti neighborhoods have reported strange skunk behavior.

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


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    Safety_on_Seventh_062013_RJS_004.jpg

    A pedestrian tries to cross Seventh Street on a recent afternoon near Madison Street where there is no crosswalk or stop sign. Neighbors would like to see a stop sign and crosswalk to improve safety and get cars to slow down.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Since moving to Ann Arbor from his home state of Alabama four years ago, Chris Hewett says one thing has consistently disappointed him: the level of aggressive driving here.

    "I love Ann Arbor, but I've never seen the level of aggressive driving I've seen here anywhere else," he said. "You know, I can't turn in my driveway without someone having road rage and honking their horn and cussing at me. I mean, how dare I hold them up for three seconds, you know?"

    Safety_on_Seventh_062013_RJS_001.jpg

    Chris Hewett, who lives on Seventh Street and created the Safety on Seventh Facebook group, is leading a neighborhood lobbying effort to get city hall to do something about aggressive driving and speeding on his street.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Hewett, who lives with his wife on Seventh Street on Ann Arbor's Old West Side, believes the problem is particularly bad on his street.

    He's spent months gathering videos and photos to document the speeding and aggressive driving that happens on Seventh Street — a major north-south artery that cuts through a residential neighborhood. And in early April, he launched a Facebook page for a new group called SOS: Safety on Seventh, where all of that evidence and documentation has found a home.

    Several other neighbors have joined the cause, and they're now sending out an SOS to city hall, hoping city leaders will address their concerns.

    "Working with the city, we hope to initiate some speed-calming initiatives here on Seventh," said Hewett, who is particularly concerned about the stretch from Pauline to Liberty.

    "What I would really like to see would be reduced speed limits at 20-25 mph, maybe narrowed lanes, and of course pedestrian crossings to make it safe for kids to cross and things like that."

    Ann Arbor officials say they hear the group loud and clear and they're now looking to see what can be done, but options might be limited.

    'It's like a racetrack'

    Hewett can be seen many days standing out by the street with a radar gun, regularly clocking speeding motorists going 45-50 mph where the posted limit is 30 mph.

    "It's like a racetrack," he said during a recent afternoon rush hour.

    However, a recent traffic study done by the city showed about 9,000 cars per day traveling on Seventh Street at an average speed of 26-27 mph. Some neighbors argued that figure seems too low and doesn't reflect what they're witnessing during rush hour traffic.

    Pat Cawley, a city traffic engineer, said the counters were placed about 200 feet from the Madison Street intersection, and that might have had a minor effect on overall speeds. While the average speed was about 26-27 mph, the 85th percentile speed was around 35 mph, maximum speeds reached 54 mph, and several motorists were clocked going above 40 mph.

    "We will meet with the residents to discuss issues on the street shortly," he said. "We recognize they feel speeds are too fast and we will look at ways to calm speeds, but given it is a major roadway, we are limited in the tools that are available."

    SOS_061813.jpg

    Hewett has been using a radar gun to clock speeding motorists going 45-50 mph where the posted limit is 30 mph on Seventh Street and posting the pictures to Facebook to document the problem.

    Screenshot from Facebook

    Hewett's Facebook posts — often featuring photos of his radar readouts — have shown examples of excessive speeding, students having trouble crossing the street, at least one aggressive driver veering into oncoming traffic to get around another car, and damage to two street trees from a crash in November. He said a telephone pole also was struck and had to be replaced.

    City police said there were 13 vehicle accidents reported along the stretch of Seventh Street from Washington to Pauline from June 1, 2012, to June 1, 2013, though there were no reported accidents involving pedestrians.

    Hewett recalled one accident where a car crashed through someone's front porch. Just earlier this week, he said, another car ran a cyclist off the road, causing minor injuries.

    "We see so many close calls — something's going to happen at some point," he said. "We just want to try to avoid that if we can and make it a safer area."

    Eli Cooper, the city's transportation program manager, observed that Seventh Street is a major collector street that goes from the northern third of the city to the southern third of the city.

    "It's primarily a residential road, but it connects many pieces of the transportation network, and that's why drivers use it more than a local residential street," he said.

    "There's this tension between the motorists and their desire to travel safely and swiftly from place to place, and the residents who want to enjoy the serenity and tranquility of the neighborhood," he added. "We have to find appropriate treatments to find the best balance between the residents and the motorists, and this is going to be an interesting exploration."

    SOS_060613.jpg

    The city of Ann Arbor deployed one of the police department's speed radar signs along Seventh Street to collect speed data. This readout shows a motorist going 11 mph over the speed limit earlier this month.

    Courtesy photo

    City Council Members Mike Anglin and Chuck Warpehoski, who represent the 5th Ward and the Old West Side, have taken note of the citizen group's effort. Warpehoski even has advised the group how to go about collecting petition signatures to get council's attention.

    Anglin said the group's concerns are legitimate.

    "I understand there was one instance where they recorded 51 mph with a radar gun — that's excessive," he said. "If someone thinks they can do that in the neighborhood, we should be a little more forceful about stopping that, because we have many schools in the neighborhood and I think it has a direct effect on people's housing — their quality of life and the finances on their home.

    "If you live on a busy street, and we don't enforce the rules, then the price of that house will drop because no one will want to live there."

    Officer Jamie Adkins of the Ann Arbor Police Department said she's working with Police Chief John Seto on traffic issues on Seventh Street.

    Police officers were assigned to Seventh and Madison from April 26 through May 15. In total, assigned officers spent 440 minutes of dedicated speed enforcement in the area and wrote 22 hazardous violations and four non-hazardous violations, Adkins said.

    Hazardous violations include speeding, running a stop sign, prohibited turns and improper lane usage, while non-hazardous violations include no proof of insurance or no proof of registration.

    As a followup to the enforcement effort, one of the police department's speed radar signs is deployed along Seventh Street to collect further speed data.

    Seventh Street does not stop

    Members of the Safety on Seventh group are now going door-to-door through the neighborhood, circulating a petition calling on the city to implement traffic-calming measures. Hewett said neighbors have been eager to sign and they have about 160 signatures already.

    "Roughly 50 to 60 percent of the people who live here that we've surveyed have children, so that's one of the driving concerns," he said.

    Safety_on_Seventh_062013_RJS_002.jpg

    Motorists driving on Seventh Street do not have to stop at Madison Street right now, but there's support building for making it a three-way stop with a pedestrian crosswalk.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Matt Grocoff, another Seventh Street resident supporting the effort, said an overwhelming percentage of the neighborhood wants improved conditions on the street.

    One resident even dug up a 1971 report by the Old West Side Association that shows concerns about traffic and speeding on Seventh Street and other nearby streets have been around for decades.

    "One of the major threats to the coherence of the Old West Side is the automobile," the report states, recommending a speed limit reduction.

    With the speed limit set at 30 mph right now, Hewett said, many people take the liberty of driving 40-50 mph. By setting it at 20-25 mph, he said, maybe they'd drive closer to 30 mph.

    Anglin agreed.

    "I think we owe it to the citizens to drop the speeds and let people travel at about 30 mph — that's quite enough," he said.

    "It all goes back to enforcement, too, and the environment," Hewett added.

    "I know what we have working against us is that from Pauline to West Liberty, there's a 124-foot elevation drop, so even if you're just coasting down this hill, you're doing 45 mph.

    "If you're not actively braking, you're speeding on here, so it's something in the environment we've got to change. I'm looking forward to working with the city on coming up with ways to break that momentum, slow the speeds down, and make it safer."

    One of the videos Hewett posted on Facebook shows a running group having trouble crossing Seventh at Madison where there is no crosswalk. He called it "a dangerous situation" and said one of his group's goals is to get a stop sign and crosswalk put in there.

    Seventh Street stretches roughly three-quarters of a mile from Pauline to Liberty without a stop sign or a crosswalk in between.

    Anglin agreed it'd be fair to ask people to stop at Madison, and he doesn't think the people who live in the area would mind.

    Safety_on_Seventh_062013_RJS_003.jpg

    A bicyclist with child in tow waits to turn left off of Seventh Street during busy afternoon rush hour traffic.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    "Rather than traffic-calming using islands and things of that sort, I would like to see us just put occasional stop signs," he said. "And what we're asking for is a stop sign at Madison — so it'd be on Seventh at Madison — and you would travel about six-tenths of a mile from Pauline to the stop sign, and then you would travel like another quarter of a mile to Liberty."

    Cawley said the speed and volume measurements on Seventh Street this spring were done in part to assess the suitability of a three-way stop at Seventh and Madison. Following the criteria in the Michigan Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, Cawley said a three-way stop is not possible at Seventh and Madison.

    "The minimum volumes, crash frequency and equal volumes on each leg criteria are not met for the intersection," he said. "Additionally, the intersection does not warrant traffic signal control."

    He said stop signs are not effective at controlling speed and are strictly placed as traffic control devices to assign right of way at an intersection.

    Cooper also said the city wouldn't install a crosswalk just to have a traffic-calming effect — it would have to meet a need based on pedestrian behavior, where the pedestrian system has a logical connection between residences and the schools.

    "There are a number of opportunities that the attention being brought by the citizen group will enable us to focus more clearly using today's toolkit to design a system that works," he said.

    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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    The Rick Snyder v. Senate Republicans showdown over Medicaid expansion is overshadowing the fact that other big bills went unresolved before lawmakers adjourned for at least two months.

    At the top of the list is the years-long debate over how to raise taxes and fees to bring more roads and bridges up to par. But other bills in doubt include one to cap unlimited medical benefits for catastrophically injured motorists along with a measure letting Michigan run more poor-performing schools.

    The Medicaid debate could yet be resolved in July or August if senators decide to return for a vote. Here are five other key issues that could be debated later in 2013 before an election year that could doom prospects of enacting contentious legislation.

    senatesession.jpg

    Road funding will be a big concern in 2013 depending on whether legislators decide to make it a top priority or not.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Road funding:

    Issue: With people driving less and buying more fuel-efficient cars, the state's flat per-gallon fuel taxes aren't generating enough revenue to keep pace with construction costs. Snyder says without extra funding for routine maintenance, highways will deteriorate so much that it'll be much more costly to fix them later.

    Solution: State transportation officials are asking for an extra 35 cents a day from every vehicle in Michigan, or about $128 a year in taxes, license plate fees or both.

    Outlook: Dim. Politicians consider raising gasoline taxes to be a third rail for consumers. The recent price spike at the pump didn't help. Increasing the 6 percent sales tax would require two-thirds backing in the Republican-controlled Legislature just to make the ballot, and the ability of GOP and Democratic leaders to strike a deal — perhaps with more money for schools, too — is a major question mark.

    Auto insurance

    Issue: Michigan's the only state that requires unlimited medical benefits for catastrophic injuries and rehabilitation, which costs motorists $175 per car per year and rises to $186 starting Monday. Critics, including insurers, say it's an unsustainable system.

    Solution: Going forward, everyone would buy $1 million in coverage under a Snyder-backed plan. Current accident survivors would keep getting unlimited benefits. Newly injured exceeding $1 million in care could be covered by government-subsidized insurance or their private plan. Premiums would drop at least $125 per vehicle in year one.

    Outlook: Slim unless bill changes. While backers say 99.5 percent of people injured in car crashes need less than $1 million of care, those needing long-term attendant care have powerful stories. Talk of capping benefits is a non-starter even for some majority Republicans, but it's possible lawmakers could agree to stop medical providers from charging insurance companies more for auto-related injuries. A hurdle is the medical lobby.

    Common core

    Issue: In 2010, the state education board adopted Common Core State Standards, academic benchmarks in reading and math adopted by 45 states. Republicans recently blocked funding for the initiative — led by governors — in the budget year starting Oct. 1 after conservatives raised concerns it's an intrusion into local schools.

    Solution: Before the state can spend money again on Common Core, the Legislature must affirmatively authorize moving ahead.

    Outlook: Decent. A special House subcommittee plans to begin meeting in July to discuss the issue. House Speaker Jase Bolger wants to vote as early as September. Snyder and the business and education communities support the new standards, and teachers already have started aligning with them.

    State school district

    Issue: A law signed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm created a school reform office to supervise the lowest-performing 5 percent of public schools. Her successor, Snyder, created the Education Achievement Authority, a state-run school district in place in 15 Detroit schools included in that bottom 5 percent. Snyder argues the EAA is working and wants to expand it elsewhere.

    Solution: A bill narrowly approved by the House in March would codify the district into law and allow the EAA to take the reins at up to 50 schools.

    Outlook: Unclear. The Senate is skeptical with House changes that would let intermediate school districts step in to run schools instead. Democrats argue the legislation would usurp local control by implementing an experimental and unproven educational model that's been in place for one school year.

    Detroit rescue

    Issue: If Detroit falls into bankruptcy or depending on what emerges from the emergency manager's turnaround plan, legislators could be asked to send aid to the beleaguered city.

    Solution: Unclear at this point. The situation in Michigan's largest city is fluid, and the spokesman for emergency manager Kevyn Orr says there's no plan to ask for state aid.

    Outlook: Mixed. The state has spent millions of dollars to pay emergency managers and cover the costs of consultants and experts looking at the books of deficit-ridden cities and school districts. Orr says it's more likely he could ask lawmakers for legal or operational fixes but not a financial package.


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    The Capitol Steps

    For several years now, fans of political satire have been flush with options—from hilarious and sharp-tongued satirists like Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to Andy Borowitz, The Onion and more.

    But 30-some years ago, before any of those folks had appeared on the scene, there were the Capitol Steps, the political-satire group that was founded in 1981 and has continued to mock, skewer and generally make fun of politicians and political shenanigans.

    The Steps work in a different medium than those others, though: They use musical comedy to lampoon their targets. For more than three decades, they have been making their satirical points by writing and performing witty song parodies.

    When the Steps began, they consisted of seven Senate staffers who were just looking for a way to infuse the office Christmas party with some laughs. But they turned out to be so skilled that, before long, they quit their Senate-aide jobs and devoted themselves full time to writing and performing.

    And 15 years into their existence, they had to expand beyond ex-Senate staffers and hire professional singers and actors to perform in their many live shows and on their albums.

    On Thursday, the Steps continue an annual tradition that began in the early 1990s—playing the Ann Arbor Summer Festival on the 4th of July. Indeed, all of those Summer Fest shows except the first one (in 1991) have been on the 4th. They’ll do two shows at the Power Center that day.

    PREVIEW

    Capitol Steps

    • Who: Political satire troupe making its annual 4th of July appearance at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
    • What: Witty and sharply-funny song parodies that mock members of Congress, the president, political issues and other current events.
    • Where: Power Center, 121 Fletcher Street.
    • When: Thursday, July 4, 5 and 8 p.m.
    • How much: $50, $45, $40, $30. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Ticket Office at 734-764-2538 or 800-221-1229; in person at the Michigan League Ticket Office, 911 N. University Ave.; or online at tickets.a2sf.org/single/eventListing.aspx.
    The Steps released a new live album this year, “Fiscal Shades of Grey,” recorded in late 2012 and early 2013. But, as always, when they come to town, they’ll be armed with many new songs ripped from current headlines—all part of their job of keeping up to date with the bottomless well of political hijinks, wrongheaded policy positions and flat-out dishonesty on the part of office-holders and office-seekers.

    “Yeah, last year was an election year, so that’s always a busy time for us, because things happen so fast," says Elaina Newport, one of the Steps' three co-founders, who co-writes the song lyrics along with Mark Eaton. “But there's never a lull in this business—the politicians give us new material every day.”

    “Fiscal Shades” had many highlights. One was "Embattled Hymn of the Republicans,” set to the melody of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” That was about the Republicans waking up the day after the November election, “and looking at the demographics, and seeing how badly they had lost among Hispanics and black voters, and also thinking, ‘Oh, maybe we shouldn’t talk about rape so much,’” says Newport by phone from her office in Washington.

    Another crisp satirical song on the disc is “Justice Roberts,” set to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” about how fellow conservatives railed against Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts when he supposedly “betrayed” the ideology last year by voting to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” One amusing line was: “Donald Trump now says Roberts was also born in Kenya long ago.”

    Another was “Twinkie Twinkie”—set to the melody of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”—sung by an actor portraying New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, lamenting about the possible demise of the Twinkie snack cake. Many jokes have been told about Christie’s weight, but this one had that extra hook, because it was written and performed right after Hostess announced it was going to close if it did not find a buyer.

    One of the new songs is about the Republicans’ obsession with the Benghazi attacks.

    It’s set to Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” and one performer portrays Republican U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa - the Repubs’ chief hatchet man for that effort.

    In the song, the Issa “character” announces, as Issa did, that the Repubs’ efforts to trump up a Benghazi "scandal" are “not political.” Then, explains Newport, laughing again, “another singer asks the audience what they think about that claim, and then the audience gets to sing along with the song’s chorus: ‘Lie Lie Lie, Lie Lie Lie, Lie Lie Lie Lie….’”

    Another new one is “I’ll Be Watching You,” about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program. It’s sung to the tune of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”

    The Steps are equal-opportunity satirists who make it a point to lampoon both political parties equally. “Fiscal Shades” also had a song, “Al Gore-Zeera,” about Gore selling Current TV to Al Jazeeera America, and “Secret Service Man” (set to the tune of “Secret Agent Man”) about how some of the agents assigned to protect President Barack Obama had hired prostitutes in Columbia. And they got a lot of mileage out of the Bill Clinton - Monica Lewinsky affair in the ‘90s.

    “We do feel obliged to go where the political news takes us, but we also try to strike a balance between making fun of both Republicans and Democrats. Originally, that was because we were still staffers, and we didn’t want to get fired,” says the always-genial Newport, with a laugh. “Then we realized it would also give twice as many jokes, and also expand our audience.”

    But the Steps don’t just do political songs. One of their funniest, from 20-some years ago, was “Like a Suburban Drone,” a take-off on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” that mocked onetime youthful hippies for becoming conservative “suburban drones” in middle age. One recent song, “Rolling Kidney Stones,” was written to coincide with the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary in 2012, and it riffs about their age. Another new song is about Pope Francis, titled “Don’t Cry for Me, I’m From Argentina.”

    In terms of their own beliefs, the members of the Steps represent the entire political spectrum. Newport likes to describe herself as “an extreme moderate,” and believes that solutions to most political issues lie somewhere in the middle.

    “When I was a staffer, I worked for Sen. Charles Percy, who was a moderate Republican,” she notes, before quipping: “That’s a species that today, we can read about in history books, but you almost never see in the wild.”

    Kevin Ransom, a free-lance writer who covers music and comedy for AnnArbor.com, first interviewed the Capitol Steps’ Elaina Newport for The Ann Arbor News in 1991.


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    The joint Ypsilanti-Willow Run Board of Education listens as a community member speaks during a Feb. 25, 2013, meeting about the superintendent selection. The decision to contract for superintendent services through the WISD shocked an audience of nearly 180 people and raised many questions. All of the difficult decisions and work come to culmination Monday when the new Ypsilanti Community Schools district launches.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    The community of Ypsilanti will mark two birthdays this week.

    One for America and one for the Ypsilanti Community Schools district, which will launch Monday after nearly two years of planning and preparation.

    On Monday, the Ypsilanti Public Schools and Willow Run Community Schools districts — both with storied pasts — will cease to exist, making way for a new educational system that has promised Eastern Washtenaw County residents a clean slate and better outcomes for their children.

    The new district will begin by swearing the joint Ypsilanti-Willow Run school board members in as Board of Education members for the Ypsilanti Community Schools district.

    The first ever YCS school board meeting will take place at 8 a.m. at the former Ypsilanti Public Schools Administration Building, 1885 Packard Road. The board also will have the opportunity to select new officers, if it chooses.

    But before the board takes on a long list of housekeeping action items to officially launch the unified district, there will be a brief recognition of the work that has been done to bring the two districts and the Ypsilanti community to this point.

    State Reps. David Rutledge, D-Ypsilanti, and Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, are expected to attend and say a few words about the emerging new school system. Michigan Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, also will be there to present a scholarship to an Ypsilanti student. Additionally, a member of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District Board of Education will address the YCS board, said WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel, who also will take the reins as YCS superintendent.

    There still are skeptics and naysayers in the community who disapprove of the merger, as Menzel and other school leaders knew there would be. However, Menzel said he has faith that in time the new district will be able to earn the community's confidence.

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    Scott Menzel, WISD and YCS superintendent

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Many difficult decisions had to be made in developing YCS, in particular when it came to staffing, and there were many contentious moments. But when Menzel looks around at the alternatives in the state of Michigan that have unfolded in the past few weeks and months, he said he has no doubt that the people and the districts of Ypsilanti made the best possible decision, at the best possible time.

    When the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school boards voted in July 2012 to place a proposal to consolidate on the ballot, they feared a state-appointed emergency financial manager could be on the horizon for their districts.

    In the last two weeks, a bill that would allow deficit school districts with smaller student populations to be dissolved by the state — no emergency manager needed — was passed in the Senate.

    "When I look at that … there is no question that of all the alternatives, in my mind (the locally directed merger) was the greatest alternative and will result in ultimate success going forward," Menzel said.

    At Monday's meeting, the board will vote to hire back all of the teachers, counselors, principals, assistant principals, office professionals and support staff who were offered a position with the new district after undergoing a rigorous interview and selection process.

    The board also will vote on a number of contract agreements, including for food service and for the New Tech Network, the Michigan High School Athletic Association and the Air Force JROTC.

    Following the official hiring of staff, staff members will be legally allowed to unionize. There is an item on the agenda to recognize the Michigan Education Association as the bargaining agent for YCS teachers.

    Most importantly, the YCS Board of Education will vote to adopt a $49.31 million operating budget for the 2013-14 academic year, with projected revenues of $50.31 million. The $1 million surplus of revenue dollars over expenditures will be used to help pay off the combined $11.2 million deficit that YCS will assume from Ypsilanti and Willow Run.

    The 2013-14 budget that is expected to pass Monday will leave the district with a negative fund balance, or primary savings account, of about $10.2 million, which the district will pay back at a rate of $1 million per year, plus interest.

    The length of time and the interest rate the new district will have to adhere to is still being negotiated with state officials, Menzel said. YCS leaders proposed a 15-year period and officials with the State Treasury Department appear to be leaning toward 10 years, Menzel said. Either way, Menzel felt confident the new district could "reverse the trend of the last decade," he said.

    Menzel sees the birth of the new district as the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people "who were willing and open to addressing the economic challenges and achievement challenges of these schools head on."

    Menzel thanked and praised both districts' former boards and everyone from the community who participated in any of the committees, public forums and visioning sessions to help design the school system that "we all want for our kids."

    But while there will be some pomp and circumstance and a celebratory cake at Monday's 8 a.m. meeting, Menzel and other school leaders recognize the birth of the new district is not the end of difficult times. "It's really a transition point," Menzel said.

    "It's really exciting and it's a significant milestone along the road to where we want to be," he said, adding it will continue to take the full commitment of the families, the community partners, local nonprofits — "everyone coming together to improve the learning environment and … to improve student achievement."

    There are 64 days remaining until the new district welcomes students for the first day of school and there is still much to do, Menzel said. Most of the staff has been identified, but a few key positions remain, including a high school principal and a chief financial officer.

    The district also will post in July food service positions. The district decided to contract with Chartwells for management, but the district will continue to employ the workers, Menzel said.

    The instructional staff will start school the second week of August for about three weeks of intensive professional development before class begins. There will be culture and climate professional development, as well as restorative justice professional development and training for teachers and principals within their small learning communities at the middle and high schools.

    Most of the professional development was accounted for and will be paid for using a $6.5 million grant Ypsilanti and Willow Run received from the state of Michigan for consolidating services.

    The first day of school for students is Sept. 3.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.


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    With the rapid increase of jobs in the Ann Arbor area being filled by out of town commuters, the freeways leading into and out of Ann Arbor are being more congested at a rapidly increasing rate. I estimate that the 70,000 daily commuters into and out of Ann Arbor* might be increasing currently at as much as a 5% rate per year! This trend is expected to continue and will create real problems and material delays with a negative impact on economic development in the not too distant future.

    In the short run, consideration should be given to encouraging our major employers, all of which are government entities, to stagger their shifts, so there is not a large surge in commuters at a specific time each morning and evening.

    Amtrak_Depot_Street_100213_RJS_001.jpg

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    To deal with the rapid increase in commuters into and out of Ann Arbor, as an additional long term plan, we should give consideration to how we can afford to build necessary infrastructure to enable mass transit into and out of the downtown core. In the long run, the most efficient option is to run shuttle trains every five to 10 minutes from the freeway ring along the existing train lines to a new train station at the proposed Fuller Road site adjacent to the U-M Hospital Complex, which would also serve the 110 mph higher speed Amtrak trains fully funded and coming in 2015 or 2016. Feeding this train network would be "park and ride" facilities at US-23/M-14 where Pontiac Trail crosses the Ann Arbor Railroad and on the East side of town on the large parcel of vacant land just east of US-23 just south of the Huron River and just North of E. Huron River Drive along the Amtrak railroad line. In these locations, a "park and ride" lot with extensive parking and a train shuttle could be sited. If either site ever were available for sale, it should be acquired for this future use. I have no idea how this would be funded but if we have a "shovel ready" plan when the next recession hits, perhaps we can get lucky and secure federal funding.

    Unfortunately there are no adequate sites still available on the South side of town or the West side of town for similar "park and ride" facilities, due to past poor planning decisions which allowed all the available sites near railroads to be developed.

    Selling the air rights to build a tall building over the new train station’s parking structure would yield a very large amount of money (up to $20 million), create a large ratable asset to enhance city tax base (the ultimate project could easily be $100 million in value) and more than pay for the city’s share of a federal match to build the new train station. The closest property near a high speed rail train station is by far the most valuable. The current plan contemplates using 100% of that extremely valuable real estate only for - parking cars (ouch)!

    The $100 million tall building above the high speed rail station could have medical offices and residential condos. You could then add location focused retail on the ground floor (for example, convenience store and coffee shop). With the planned skywalk directly into the hospital from the train station, it would be a quick walk to the main hospital and this would become the premium space for medical office research space in the area because of its convenience for the docs (wasting time commuting between the hospital and their medical research office is very expensive to them since they can't bill sitting in a car). That means the building could charge premium rates per ft2 (which increases the value of the tall building). Locating the train station closer to the hospital complex would drive ridership on the train for the many people who visit their doctor for follow-up visits to the hospital because of its convenience (just park, ride the train and take an elevator up).

    I ran this idea by Al Berriz, the CEO of McKinley, the largest property management firm in the city. His thoughts: “I think it's a very credible concept. As to the economics and demand, it would be there for sure. You have premium medical office in conjunction with high end for rent and maybe some high end “For Sale” housing. If the parcel is given enough density, you may see retail as well. I think the math works. The demand is there. I am hopeful that we advance the dialogue as a community, both on the train station and this idea of a potential development site. We need the train mode in my view, it will add jobs.”

    (Stephen Lange Ranzini is president of University Bank and resident of downtown AnnArbor. He's also an occasional columnist on AnnArbor.com.)


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    With the Supreme Court of the United States issuing what many saw as a “non-decision” in the largest affirmative action case in nearly a decade, the future of racial considerations in higher education remains up in the air.

    The Supreme Court handed down its decision Monday in the Fisher v. The University of Texas case that dealt with the university’s racially conscious admissions policy.

    krislov.jpg

    Marvin Krislov was vice president and general counsel at the University of Michigan during the school's last major Supreme Court case regarding affirmative action.

    The court sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration and at the same time reaffirmed the ruling of the landmark 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, when the court held that the University of Michigan could use a racially conscious admissions policy as it had a compelling state interest in creating a diverse student body. That policy, however, could not use quotas, the court ruled.

    A statewide ballot initiative that passed in 2006 prevented the university from using affirmative action in its admission process, but that initiative was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in November. The Supreme Court announced in March that it will hear arguments on the case.

    U-M is waiting until the Supreme Court's ruling before bringing back affirmative action policies to its admissions system.

    Marvin Krislov was vice president and general counsel at U-M when the Grutter v. Bollinger case made its way to the Supreme Court in 2003. He left U-M in 2008 to become president of Oberlin College in Ohio.

    Following the Fisher decision, Krislov talked with AnnArbor.com about the cases and their implications for the higher education community.

    AnnArbor.com: Why was the Grutter v. Bollinger case important enough for Michigan to argue it to the Supreme Court?

    Marvin Krislov: Michigan’s position has always been that a diverse student body contributes to the education excellence for all students.

    At Michigan we took into account all kinds of diversity consideration, including geographic, socioeconomic, interest areas and athletics. Racial and ethnic diversity was one of many of those diversity factors.

    … What happened in our case in 2003 was the court confirmed that [the opinion given in Regents of California v.] Bakke was still the law of the land. The opinion in our case had a lot of important language saying that diversity was still relevant.

    Moreover, it acknowledged that the benefits to a diverse student body were not theoretical but real benefits that accrued.

    AnnArbor.com: You’re now the president of a private college, what does this ruling mean for your school and other private colleges and universities?

    Krislov: The Bakke decision and other court decisions have suggested that if you do get federal funds then you should follow the same rules. There is some debate, but the better interpretation is probably that these rulings do apply to private universities as well.

    … Oberlin, and other private schools such as Amherst and Columbia, where Lee Bollinger (who was president of U-M in 2003) is now the president, have filed amicus briefs with the court to show their interest in the case.

    AnnArbor.com: How closely will the higher education community continue to watch this case as it heads back to the lower court?

    Krislov: The higher education community will definitely continue to pay attention to this case. The major takeaway here is that the overwhelming majority of the court affirmed the Grutter [v. Bollinger] decision that student body diversity is a compelling state interest.

    What’s clear is that the [Supreme] Court wants to make sure that the programs are narrowly tailored and that other courts look at these programs with strict scrutiny. This ruling doesn’t really change the law, it just emphasizes that that’s the case.

    It’s also important that this was a decision by a very strong majority of the court. [Justice Elena] Kagan was recused, so six of the eight judges were very clear that Grutter and Bakke are still the law of the land. There had previously been some question in people’s mind whether that would be the case after this ruling.

    ... For Michigan, yesterday’s decision does not really affect too much what they’re doing right now. Michigan has to follow state law so what happens with the 2006 ballot initiative will be more important.

    AnnArbor.com: Is there general consensus in the higher education community that diversity programs are necessary?

    Krislov: There are certainly individual groups and faculty members that disagree as a matter of constitutional law.

    However, the decision does make clear that if there are workable alternatives they should be used and if a school doesn’t feel that they need to consider race and ethnicity in decisions then they are not forced to do so.

    When we talk about who this case affects, we’re talking about the very selective colleges, universities, and graduate schools. It’s actually not a huge percentage of the American higher education system that will be affected by this but it is many of the most competitive schools.

    … Many schools may choose not to use any [diversity programs] because they don’t feel that they need to or it is not a part of their school’s mission. Different places have different systems.

    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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    This story has been updated: Police: Pittsfield Township man drowned in Huron River

    Authorities were searching for what they called a possible drowning victim in an area of the Huron River near Ypsilanti on Sunday.

    The incident took place shortly before 4:52 a.m. at the railroad trestle east of Superior Road. The missing person was described only as being in his early 20s.

    "My initial description was that there were six young adults," Ypsilanti Fire Capt. Scott Maddison said. "They were on the railroad trestle over the Huron River there…. they all jumped into the water at the same time. They exited the water and they realized that there was one person still missing. They heard him call for help."

    Maddison said one of the members of the group reportedly worked as a lifeguard and entered the water to assist the swimmer.

    "We're speculating that he may have got disoriented," Maddison said of the missing man. "(The lifeguard) went out to assist him, he started panicking."

    The lifeguard was unable to retrieve the swimmer and, exhausted, had to swim back to the bridge and exit the water, Maddison said. The missing man's friends then dialed 911.

    The man had been in the water an estimated 20 minutes when firefighters called in members of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office dive team, Maddison said.

    A message was left with Sheriff's Office spokesman Derrick Jackson.

    Dive team members and the Superior Township Fire Department were still on the scene late Sunday morning.


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    A reproduction of The Wedding Dance by Peter Bruegel the Elder will be on display at Sweetwaters at 735 W. Cross St.

    Courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts

    Famous paintings will be popping up around Ypsilanti beginning in July. They're actually reproductions of masterpieces from the Detroit Institute of Arts, which will be sharing them with the city of Ypsilanti from July through September.

    The framed reproductions have been displayed in a number of Southeastern Michigan cities, including Ann Arbor, where there have been seven reproductions on display, but that ends Sunday.

    This is the fourth year of the project known as DIA Inside/Out, and it's sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Ypsilanti first displayed artwork from the DIA in 2010 at Riverside Park, and thanks to the positive response, the DIA wanted to share more of its art reproductions with the community.

    Tim Colbeck, executive director of Ypsilanti's Downtown Development Authority, said that getting people out and about in the city looking for the pieces of art will also bring more people into local businesses. He said that the art will add to the aesthetic of the city, and that it's something that people in the community appreciate.

    Residents of Ypsilanti will be able to enjoy what the DIA calls "community weekends" on July 27-28 when they can visit the museum for free to see the actual versions of the reproduced paintings and receive other discounts at the museum.

    Like Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti will play host to seven reproductions. You can see a map of their specific locations on the DIA's website.


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    A 21 year-old Pittsfield Township man is believed to have drowned after jumping off a railroad trestle into the Huron River near Ypsilanti with several friends early Sunday, police said.

    "It's a drowning at this point," Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office spokesman Derrick Jackson said. "The family has been notified. We are actively investigating as with any death investigation."

    Jackson did not release the man's name, citing a 24-hour grace period after notifying his family members.

    Police divers were still on the scene around noon Sunday searching for the man's body.

    The incident took place shortly before 4:52 a.m. at the railroad trestle east of Superior Road.

    "My initial description was that there were six young adults," Ypsilanti Fire Capt. Scott Maddison said. "They were on the railroad trestle over the Huron River there…. they all jumped into the water at the same time. They exited the water and they realized that there was one person still missing. They heard him call for help."

    Maddison said one of the members of the group reportedly worked as a lifeguard and entered the water to assist the swimmer.

    "We're speculating that he may have got disoriented," Maddison said. "(The lifeguard) went out to assist him, he started panicking."

    The lifeguard was unable to retrieve the swimmer and, exhausted, had to swim back to the bridge and exit the water, Maddison said. The missing man's friends then dialed 911.

    "At some point he yelled out for help," Jackson said. "His friends went out and tried to help him, but he went under."

    The man had been in the water an estimated 20 minutes when firefighters called in members of the Sheriff's dive team, Maddison said.


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    062713_World_of_beer_CS-2.JPG

    University of Michigan alumni Chad Wilson and Steve Rossi are opening World of Beer Monday at 1300 S. University on the first floor of the Landmark high-rise.

    Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

    A craft beer bar with more than 500 bottled beer varieties and 40 draft beers is set to open Monday near the University of Michigan's campus.

    U-M alumni Steve Rossi and Chad Wilson are opening World of Beer, a Florida-based bar franchise and live music venue, at 1300 S. University on the first floor of the Landmark high-rise. The grand opening will be from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. July 1.

    “We’re expecting a busy night,” Wilson said. “We’ll be packed.”

    The 3,200-square-foot space has a long bar, with 40 rotating beer taps and eight glass coolers stocked with bottled beer. One cooler is designated for 60 different Michigan craft beers.

    062713_World_of_beer_CS.JPG

    World of Beer has 40 rotating beer taps and eight glass coolers stocked with bottled beer. One cooler is designated for 60 different Michigan craft beers.

    Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

    “This is the first state where that’s been done,” Rossi said. “Michigan just has so many breweries.”

    World of Beer also offers a small selection of wine and craft liquors.

    The Ann Arbor bar has a stage for live music, where artists will perform Thursday through Saturday. There will be two bands performing on the night of the grand opening, along with a raffle giveaway that will benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Ann Arbor.

    Two garage-style doors open to a 40-seat outdoor patio along South University, and a small, outdoor bar faces an indoor television.

    “The patios are huge for World of Beer in Florida,” Wilson said. “We wanted to bring that cool, open-air bar of Florida to Michigan.”

    World of Beer does not have its own food menu, but customers can order from Mister Spots, Belly Deli, Sadako and Pizza House, and have it delivered directly to their seat for no extra fee. Eventually, World of Beer might offer a limited food menu, Wilson said.

    Rossi and Wilson purchased the franchise rights for World of Beer in the state of Michigan. They plan to open six locations in the next three years, with Ann Arbor leading the way.

    After the World of Beer’s grand opening on July 1, the bar will be open from 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.

    Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at lizzyalfs@annarbor.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.


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    The Sunday Detroit Free Press revisits the story of a 14 year-old Ypsilanti girl a decade after undergoing a controversial surgery to install a hearing implant to correct hearing loss that resulted from medical treatment to keep her alive after being born 14 weeks premature.

    Bryana Hargrow will be a freshman this fall at Skyline High School. She recently opted to have a second cochlear implant — electrodes implanted in the inner ear and connected to hardware around the back of the head and ear — after having her first implanted when she was just 19 months old.

    Hargrow was born weighing just 1 pound, 11 ounces and was given an antibiotic called gentamicin to ward off infections following steroid treatment. One possible side affect of the drug is permanent hearing loss. Doctors first noticed her difficulty with hearing at around 8 or 9 months of age.

    Some advocates for the deaf object to the implants, saying they imply there's something wrong with deaf people and are implanted in infants who can't yet make their own choices. Hargrow's mother, Carlotta Gore, said she always wanted her daughter to be independent.

    Read the Freep story here.


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    Busch’s Fresh Food Market is making progress on their renovation of a former Farmer Jack location in Canton and expects to open the store early next year, according to a report from the Canton Observer.

    canton_buschs_storefront.jpg

    The storefront of the former Farmer Jack's grocery store in Canton where Busch's will be opening their newest location.

    Kyle Mattson | AnnArbor.com

    Carol Vega, the company’s director of facilities, told the observer the store should open in February or March of 2014. Once open it will be the 16th Busch’s location, all of which are located in Southeast Michigan.

    According to a press release, when Busch’s bought the 54,000-square-foot space at 225 S. Canton Center Road, the store will employ approximately 100 full- and part-time workers when it is completed.

    According to the Observer report, Busch’s plans to extensively renovate the interior and exterior of its new store, including new outdoor areas for flowers, produce and a “park-like area.”


    View Washtenaw County Business News 2012 in a larger map

    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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    Note: The headline on this story has been changed to reflect the computers were desktop computers, not laptops.

    Police recovered eight out of the 10 computers stolen last month from the Parkridge Community Center in Ypsilanti, an official told AnnArbor.com Monday.

    Parkridge_Ypsilanti.jpg

    Parkridge Community Center

    Courtesy of the city of Ypsilanti

    Detective Sgt. Thomas Eberts said Monday police recovered five of the stolen computers from an Ypsilanti Township man and three from an Ypsilanti man. The Ypsilanti Township man is part of a fencing operation and charges are being sought for receiving and concealing stolen property, police said.

    A fence is a person who purposely buys stolen items and resells them.

    “We’re still working with him to possibly recover one more,” Eberts said.

    Police said last month that multiple people broke into the center through an open window and took 10 computers. The theft occurred between 8 p.m. May 31 and 6:30 a.m. June 1 at the community center, 591 Armstrong St.

    The estimated value of the stolen computers was $20,000. The computers had been acquired two months before the theft as a part of the Washtenaw Community College Community Enrichment program.

    Between 35 and 45 children used the computers that were in the community center’s lab. At the time of the theft, staff members told AnnArbor.com that the incident “broke our spirit.”

    The iMacs were insured and Parkridge was expected to get new computers from WCC after the theft, according to community center officials.

    Officials at the community center directed a request for comment to WCC officials Monday morning.

    Crime Stoppers offered up to $1,000 for information that led to the arrest of the suspects in the break-in. It was not clear whether police received information that led to the recovery of the computers.

    Eberts said the Ypsilanti Township man in possession of five of the stolen computers is a suspect in the reselling of the computers, not the break-in. Other people identified by police in the case are still under investigation, he said.

    Anyone with information on this case is encouraged to call the Ypsilanti police at 734-483-9510 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).

    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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    Eastern Michigan University will turn over the reins of the athletic department to a longtime Buckeye with Wolverine roots.

    Heather Lyke has been hired as Eastern Michigan University’s new athletic director and vice president, the university announced on Monday. Lyke has spent the past nine years as a senior associate athletic director at Ohio State University. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1992 and was a four-year letter-winner on the softball team under Carol Hutchins.

    EMU-AD-Heather-Lyke.jpg

    Heather Lyke

    “I’ve had the opportunity to talk with leaders in collegiate athletics from around the country during the search, including (Ohio State athletic director) Gene Smith,” Eastern Michigan University president Susan Martin said in a news release. “I also talked and met with many highly qualified AD candidates - including sitting ADs and associate ADs. Heather Lyke is the right person at the right time with the outstanding skills, talent, enthusiasm and experience to lead Eastern Michigan University Athletics to great success.”

    Lyke’s contract is for five years at an annual salary of $245,000 plus incentives based on championship and bowl appearances, academics, attendance, and more. Lyke replaces Derrick Gragg who spent seven years at the helm of Eastern Michigan’s athletic department before accepting the same position at Tulsa University in March. Gragg made $200,000 in his final year at EMU. Gragg’s last day was April 17. Melody Reifel Werner has been the interim athletic director since Gragg’s departure.

    “I am honored and excited to be named the Director of Athletics at Eastern Michigan University,” Lyke said in a release. “This is a tremendous opportunity to become a part of a dynamic leadership team. I am eager to serve and build great relationships with president Martin and the university leadership, the faculty, our student-athletes, coaches and staff, alumni and donors, and the greater Ypsilanti and Michigan community. Eastern Michigan has a rich history of athletic success and academic achievement. I look forward to being part of the continued success of Eastern Michigan University as we help shape the next generation of leaders and achieve even greater accomplishments.”

    Lyke has spent the past 17 years working in intercollegiate athletics, the past 15 of which have been at Ohio State and nine at her current position under the direct tutelage of Smith.

    In her current role at OSU, Lyke is a member of the athletic department’s executive team and is responsible for the assessment, design and development of the department’s strategic plan. She directly oversees 10 of OSU’s 36 athletic programs and manages and supervises 31 full-time coaches and staff. She also has oversight over all facets of the athletic councils involving budget oversight, revenue generation and facilities as well as the golf course operations.

    Ohio State had a total revenue of $142,043,057 versus expenses of $124,419,412, second highest in the nation according to USA Today and was one of few Division I programs operating in the black and receiving no subsidies. Eastern Michigan is at the opposite end of the spectrum with $29,062,905 in revenue versus $27,798,118 in expense, but with $24,298,925 in subsidies, according to USA Today.

    Lyke supervised the sport performance division of the department, which includes the strength and conditioning coaches, athletic training staff and sports medicine staff. On a national level, Lyke has been active within the NCAA and Big Ten committee structure as a member of the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Committee and Big Ten Sports Management Committee and previously served on the NCAA Softball Rules Committee and the NCAA Amateurism Committee.

    Lyke's previous roles at OSU include associate athletic director for sport administration (2002-2012) and associate athletic director for sport administration, compliance and camp operations (1998-2002). Prior to Ohio State, Lyke was at the University of Cincinnati for two years, serving as the assistant athletic director for compliance as well as the senior woman administrator. Lyke began her athletics administrative career at the NCAA national office as an intern in the enforcement and student-athlete reinstatement department. Lyke also has worked for the Big Ten Network as a color analyst for softball games.

    "Eastern Michigan University Athletics is defined by success on the field, in the classroom, and the overall well-being of our student athletes" said Francine Parker, chair of Eastern’s Board of Regents. "Heather Lyke's background and experience in athletics administration, as a compliance officer and as a student-athlete, ensures Eastern's focus on the entire student-athlete experience will remain a top priority."

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


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