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

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    Check out the scene at The Guild’s Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair along Ann Arbor's Main Street from Vellum Restaurant.

    Have photos you want to share from the Art Fair? Use the hashtag #a2artfair on Instagram and Twitter or upload it here.


    Stream videos at Ustream


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    School-Board-recall.jpg

    Six school board members are the target of recall language that was filed with the Washtenaw County Elections Commission Wednesday. Clockwise, the trustees named were: Irene Patalan, Simone Lightfoot, Andy Thomas, Christine Stead, Glenn Nelson and Susan Baskett.

    File photos

    Editor's note: This story was updated with comments from trustees Simone Lightfoot and Glenn Nelson.

    A group of outspoken parents is trying to remove six of Ann Arbor Public Schools' seven Board of Education members from office.

    Recall language for trustees Susan Baskett, Simone Lightfoot, Glenn Nelson, Irene Patalan, Christine Stead and Andy Thomas was submitted Wednesday to the Washtenaw County Elections Commission.

    Jody Huhn, a representative of the group Ann Arbor Public Schools Parents for Change, filed the petition language separately for each individual.

    Huhn, a parent at Thurston Elementary School, said the group could not submit recall language for board President Deb Mexicotte — "unfortunately" — until January, due to a change in a Michigan election law in 2012.

    The law states officers cannot be recalled during the first year or the last year of their terms, if their terms are more than two years in length.

    Mexicotte was re-elected in November to a four-year term. This is her fourth term on the school board. She was first elected in 2003.

    The petition language for all six board members named by Huhn cites the same four reasons for the recall:

    • Failure to demonstrate thoughtful consideration of constituent priorities.
    • Failure to demonstrate transparency in decision making.
    • Failure to demonstrate cohesive and singular direction as evidenced by consistent split voting.
    • Failure to provide sufficient backing and support for district superintendent position as evidenced by high turnover rate averaging 2.25 years per term.

    Huhn told AnnArbor.com the recall petitions were the result of the district losing yet another superintendent. Patricia Green resigned unexpectedly in April after about a year and a half with AAPS. She signed a five-year contract in July of 2011.

    "The group of us feel like maybe the problem is not with the superintendents we pick but with the board," she said. "The problem to us is obvious. ... No one can agree, no one can support each other or get along on the board. There are always split votes."

    Stead declined to comment on the recall effort at this time. Baskett, Patalan and Thomas could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

    Lightfoot said civic advocacy is her career and her life's work.

    "So I always applaud citizen engagement and participation in government. And if you're unhappy with something, I've supported your right to protest that and lament it to the world," she said. "I may be personally disheartened that someone is unsatisfied with the very important work that we're doing on the board ... and that they didn't reach out to us to seek clarity in some of their notions ... I do support civic advocacy. It's what I do."

    Lightfoot added that she stands behind her record as a school board trustee and believes it is "not in line with what is being alleged."

    "So I don't take it personally because I believe it is so opposite of my record as a trustee," she said. "There may be some more validity with some of the others ... but I stand by my record."

    She also said her address and cellphone number are public and she always welcomes speaking with members of the school community about any issues or concerns they may have.

    Nelson echoed Lightfoot's sentiments about recalls being a part of the policy process: "I have no objections to it being used."

    "It will be interesting to see how many people support it and who they are," Nelson said, adding he views it as "useful feedback" and an opportunity to better understand the values of the community and how he can better reflect them in his service.

    On the allegations, Nelson said the board reflects the diversity of Ann Arbor and the trustees are transparent about their differences. He said while there may be split votes, the final vote is the decision of the board and after the debate, all of the trustees are good about supporting the decisions that are made.

    Huhn and the AAPS Parents for Change group were active in trying to encourage the Board of Education to look for a local or internal candidate for Ann Arbor's next superintendent — who will be the fifth in the past decade. They also advocated for the board to give special consideration to Roberto Clemente Student Development Center Principal Ben Edmondson, who applied and was one of the six semifinalists, via a Change.org petition at the beginning of the superintendent search.

    However, despite the group's urging, the board again elected to name two out-of-state individuals as finalists for the superintendency, Huhn said.

    The board conducted final interviews with the two finalists — Brian Osborne of New Jersey and Jeanice Kerr Swift of Colorado — Tuesday and Wednesday and is expected to vote to offer the job to one of them on Friday.

    Huhn said the group's timing was intentional and was in direct response to "the fact that they didn't choose someone local and we have to start all over again with someone new ... who can't make an impact for six to nine months and has to get to know the district."

    "It's in direct response to the fact that they (the board) didn't even elect to move a third, local candidate forward in the process," Huhn said. "Even if they didn't pick Ben (Edmondson) ... they didn't listen to the community to strongly consider someone internal."

    Lightfoot and Baskett tried to add a third finalist to the pool but were out-voted last week. Baskett said at the time, trustees would have "hell to pay" with the community for not choosing a local face as a finalist.

    The Washtenaw County Elections Commission will meet 1 p.m. Aug. 1 to review the petition language in a clarity/factual review hearing. The hearing will take place at the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting room at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. It is open to the public.

    The individuals named in the petition can appear to defend their position, and Huhn can present her side to the commission as well.

    The commission will consider the language, and could vote Aug. 1 to accept or deny the petitions. The commission consists of Judge Donald Shelton, County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum and County Treasurer Catherine McClary.

    Should the commission approve the petition language, each individual named on the petition has a right to appeal the language to Circuit Court. The filer of the petitions also has the right to appeal, should the commission deny the petition language.

    If the commission approves the language on the petition, 14,733 signatures would have to be collected in an 180-day period to force a recall election.

    The number of signatures necessary is equal to 25 percent of the number of voters that cast a ballot for Michigan governor in 2010 that reside within AAPS district boundaries, as required by law.

    Huhn said the AAPS Parents for Change will start hitting the streets with the petitions as soon as the language is approved. She said she is cautiously optimistic and hopeful the group will be successful.

    "I do feel like there seems to be a lot of parent support (for what we're doing)," Huhn said. "Even if we don't collect all the signatures, we really just feel strongly that we have to send a message to the board: You're not listening. We're ready for a change."

    AAPS Parents for Change did submit a letter to the school board earlier this week with the same message.

    AnnArbor.com's Wastenaw County and health reporter Amy Biolchini contributed to this report.

    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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    According to a report in the Fiscal Times, Ann Arbor has the 11th highest rate of venture capital investment per capita in America, with firms investing $24.10 per 100,000 residents.

    EDF Ventures founder Mary Campbell.jpg

    Ann Arbor is home to a number of venture capital firms included EDF Ventures, founded by Mary Campbell.

    File photo | AnnArbor.com

    It remains clear that Northern California is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the country when it comes to venture capital investment in startup companies, but once you get out of Silicon Valley the playing field starts to even out across the country.

    The San Jose metropolitan area leads all cities with $216.90 invested per 100,000 residents and is joined at the top of the list by the San Francisco-Oakland region, which invests $159.10 per 100,000 people. After a steep drop-off, Boulder, Colo., comes in third followed by Boston and Santa Barbara.

    Ann Arbor’s position on the list shows an active yet nascent local startup scene. The city ranks fifth in the number of deals made, meaning that venture firms are making more small investments into early-stage Ann Arbor companies, rather than the big “blockbuster” investments found more often on the coasts.

    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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    University of Michigan purchased the former Pfizer complex, now the North Campus Research Complex, four years ago.

    Joseph Tobianski I AnnArbor.com file photo

    Four years after the University of Michigan purchased the 174-acre North Campus Research Complex for what college president Mary Sue Coleman called "pennies on the dollar," the school has populated it with 2,200 staff members and headquartered five large research programs there.

    The school purchased the 28-building, 2.2-million-square-foot former Pfizer complex in northeast Ann Arbor in 2009 for $108 million, and has since invested another $40 million in site improvements and $64 million in operational costs.

    NCRC director David Canter presented a four-year progress report for the complex to U-M's Board of Regents on Thursday afternoon during a public meeting held in NCRC's Building 18.

    At 2,200 employees, NCRC is now staffed at nearly the same levels the Pfizer campus was prior to closing. Canter said 65 percent of NCRC's physical space is operational and about 80 percent of that space is occupied.

    "It's only a steal if you do something with it, it's actually a burden if you don't," Canter said of NCRC, speaking of the low price U-M paid for the large complex four years ago.

    NCRC is populated by faculty, staff and students from more than 40 medical school units, 13 other U-M schools and colleges, 20 external companies, the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, and several research-support offices, including the Business Engagement Center.

    Five major research programs operating out of NCRC include:

    • The Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, which brings together hundreds of researchers studying health care delivery
    • The Biointerfaces initiative, which explores the interaction of physical and medical sciences
    • The Cardiovascular Research Center, home to basic and applied research on heart and blood vessel diseases
    • The Translational Oncology Program, focusing on detecting and treating cancer at the molecular level
    • The Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care, studying conditions that cause acute health crises

    More than 200 faculty researchers are headquartered at NCRC — 22 of which were recruited in part because of the collaborative offerings of NCRC, according to the university.

    Employees working there have access to the vast scientific infrastructure —labs, powerful microscopes, instruments that sequence DNA, large databases— but also facilities meant to improve the work environment at the complex, which is located outside of downtown Ann Arbor. Those include exercise facilities, child care and a cafeteria.

    Canter said the space needs newer technology to attract and retain faculty and an infusion of interactive space. Such improvements require funds, and U-M recently halted a $17.5 million renovation of a building at NCRC.

    Canter said employee satisfaction at the site is growing. In 2011, 65 percent of employees said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the NCRC space. In 2012 that number grew to 76 percent in a 2013 survey it grew to 83 percent, Canter said.

    Last year at this time NCRC was home to 1,420 employees. Its projected capacity is between 3,000 and 3,500 employees.

    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 30-year-old Ann Arbor man is being held in the Washtenaw County Jail on a $1.2 million bond after being charged in four brazen armed robberies in the city this year.

    ahmadabdullahalbasir.jpg

    Ahmad Abdullah-Albasir

    Courtesy of WCSO

    Ahmad Abdullah-Albasir faces four counts of armed robbery and was arraigned in front of Magistrate Thomas Truesdell Friday afternoon. Ann Arbor police Lt. Detective Robert Pfannes reported in a statement Abdullah-Albasir is responsible for four daylight robberies at GameStop, Biggby Coffee and two Subway locations in Ann Arbor.

    Pfannes reported that a substance believed to be heroin also was seized at the suspect’s home.

    The long investigation eventually paid off after Ann Arbor police Officer Michael Fechik recognized an unoccupied vehicle matching the suspect’s vehicle description on the midnight shift.

    “Detectives assigned to the cases were aware that the suspect descriptions and method of operation were similar and that the cases had significant potential to be related,” Pfannes said. “The cases were open and leads were exhausted or pending.”

    The first robbery in the string of incidents Abdullah-Albasir is suspected in was reported on April 30. According to police, a man walked into the GameStop, 3225 Washtenaw Ave., at 5:23 p.m. on April 30 and pulled out a knife. The suspect demanded cash before walking away from the business.

    Later that week, a man robbed the Biggby Coffee shop at 2550 W. Stadium Blvd, at 3:51 p.m. In that incident, the suspect went around the counter with a knife and demanded cash from a register. He was given an unknown amount of cash and walked away from the store.

    A little more than a month later, police believe the same suspect struck again. At 4:35 p.m. June 5, the man walked into the Subway at 885 W. Eisenhower Blvd. and showed a knife, according to police. He received an unknown amount of cash and then ran from the area.

    The final incident occurred on July 12. According to police, the man walked into the Subway at 2140 W. Stadium Blvd. between 6 and 6:19 p.m. July 12 and implied he had a handgun but kept his hand in his pocket. The victim in the incident reported seeing the barrel of a handgun. The suspect again fled on foot.

    Pfannes said a possible vehicle description was developed by detectives throughout the investigation and sent to patrol officers in agencies throughout Washtenaw County. Fechik recognized the vehicle while on patrol on the midnight shift and passed that information onto detectives.

    Detectives Bill Stanford, Chris Fitzpatrick, Kevin Warner and Robin Larson worked the lead and eventually served a search warrant at a home in the 700 block of North Maple Road on Thursday.

    Abdullah-Albasir was arrested and heroin was seized at the scene, Pfannes said. He was arraigned Friday at the Washtenaw County Jail by Truesdell and is being held on bond.

    Information on his preliminary hearing was not immediately available Friday.

    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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    071913_NEWS_SwiftOsborne.jpg

    The board will choose between Jeanice Kerr Swift of Colorado, left, and Brian Osborne of New Jersey for the district's next superintendent.

    AnnArbor.com file photos

    UPDATE: Ann Arbor school board votes to offer Brian Osborne superintendency

    Previous coverage:

    The Ann Arbor Board of Education meets at 5:30 p.m. Friday to select a new leader of the Ann Arbor Public Schools district, and AnnArbor.com is covering it live.

    The board spent nearly two full days with finalists Brian Osborne of New Jersey and and Jeanice Kerr Swift of Colorado, asking them questions, showing them around the schools and most notably, watching them interact with staff, parents and community members.

    Swift was in town Tuesday and Osborne Wednesday for their final board interviews to present their 90-day entry plans and to answer questions from a variety of community stakeholders.

    Selecting between the two candidates, both of whom have been praised by board members and the public, will not be easy work, said Board President Deb Mexicotte. She stressed in previous conversations it will come down to fit, as both are highly qualified.

    While choosing a new superintendent is the primary order of business at Friday's meeting, there are a few other items on the agenda: calling back at least 60 laid-off teachers and amending the employment contract for Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services David Comsa to allow him to serve as the district's interim superintendent, until the newly named superintendent can assume the role.

    The meeting will be underway shortly. Follow along as the discussion unfolds below.

    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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    Ninety-degree weather and high humidity persisted Friday on the third day of the Ann Arbor Art Fair and the fourth day of a heat wave that’s lingered in the area.

    Medics had transported four people from the Ann Arbor Art Fair to the hospital for treatment of heat-related illnesses as of 3 p.m. Friday. Huron Valley Ambulance crews did not respond to any reports of heat-related illness Friday outside of the art fair.

    071813_NEWS_GuildArtFair_MRM_10.jpg

    Ann Arbor Art Fair patrons have been sweating it out through the 2013 fair, as temperatures have been consistently in the 90-degree range for the first three days of the four-day event.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Fairgoers had similar issues with the heat during the first two days of the art fair.

    Huron Valley Ambulance crews transported three people to the hospital on both Wednesday and Thursday for heat-related illnesses from the fair.

    Health officials advise people spending time outside during the hot weather to stay hydrated, even when they don’t feel thirsty. Dehydration is the first step the progression to heat stroke.

    Officials have also cautioned people to take care to keep their pets cool and sufficiently watered during the heat as well. Animal cruelty officers with the Humane Society of Huron Valley have not received reports of animals left in vehicles during the hot weather for the past two weeks, said Deb Kern, marketing director for the organization.

    The hot weather this week prompted the National Weather Service to issue a heat advisory at noon Tuesday and to upgrade it to an excessive heat warning, which expires at 8 p.m. Friday.

    There’s a chance of severe thunderstorms Friday night for much of southeast Michigan, as a front is expected to move across the state to break the heat wave.

    Storms would be capable of producing torrential rain and one-inch-diameter hail, and would likely hit the Ann Arbor area after 9 p.m. according to the National Weather Service.

    The Ann Arbor Art Fair closes Friday at 9 p.m.

    Temperatures Saturday are expected to reach a high of 83 to 87 degrees.

    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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    The Mega Guide: Full coverage of the 2013 Ann Arbor Art Fair

    The Ann Arbor Art Fair continued to draw shoppers and lookers to the streets of downtown Ann Arbor on Friday. These photos come from the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, the oldest of the four fairs that now run concurrently. The event continues through Saturday; find full coverage here.


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    Detroit Bankruptcy_Bert.jpg

    The city of Detroit is seen in this July 16 aerial photo. On July 18, Detroit became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy when State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr asked a federal judge for municipal bankruptcy protection.

    AP Photo | Paul Sancya

    Publications across the country are reporting so much coverage and angles of the bankruptcy in Detroit it can be hard to keep up with. We've rounded up a few notable local and national headlines to help keep you up to date.


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    Pittsfield Township police are searching for Carl Donovon Thomas, a 22-year-old man who was last seen Thursday and was reported missing Friday.

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    Carl Donovon Thomas

    Courtesy of PTPD

    In a statement released Friday evening, police said Thomas was reported missing from Carpenter Road and Center Valley Drive in Pittsfield Township. He’s previously gone missing from Ann Arbor and was found in Gibraltar, Mich.

    Thomas is a black man, 6-feet tall, 180 pounds and was last seen wearing baggy black shorts, a gray shirt and a black shirt, black tennis shoes and a Detroit Tigers hat.

    Police said Thomas is believed to be in danger. He suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and is legally incapacitated.

    Anyone with knowledge of his whereabouts is encouraged to call the Pittsfield Township police at 734-822-4911 or the department’s tip line at 734-822-4958.

    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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    An AATA bus on Liberty Street on July 5 featuring an ad for Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. The AATA still refuses to allow "Boycott Israel" ads on its buses.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    The parties involved in a lawsuit over placing anti-Israel advertisements on Ann Arbor Transportation Authority buses have reached a settlement agreement.

    According to a court order dated July 17, the case will be dismissed with prejudice and without costs and fees. That means the case is officially closed now.

    Blaine_Coleman_rejected_ad.jpg

    Blaine Coleman's rejected ad.

    The American Civil Liberties Union sued the AATA on behalf of Ann Arbor resident and pro-Palestinian activist Blaine Coleman in November 2011 after the AATA refused to run Coleman's "Boycott Israel — Boycott Apartheid" advertisement on the sides of buses.

    The AATA claimed the ad violated its advertising policy, while Coleman claimed the policy was unconstitutional.

    A federal judge ruled in favor of the ACLU and Coleman in September 2012, agreeing the advertising policy was vague and unconstitutional.

    The AATA's board held a special meeting in November 2012 to revise the policy, removing a sentence that stated all advertising on buses must be in "good taste," among other changes. But even with those changes, AATA officials still said Coleman's ad wouldn't be allowed on buses.

    The legal battle continued and a federal judge ruled in June that the AATA had the grounds to not run the anti-Israel ad proposed by Coleman.

    U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith found the basis for Coleman's suit was moot and AATA's revised policy presented no ongoing constitutional violation.

    ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin said both sides decided a settlement was appropriate and they reached an agreement that worked for everyone.

    Kathleen Klaus, a Southfield-based attorney who represented the AATA, said the terms of the settlement are confidential, so she couldn't discuss them, but she can say they're happy the case is over and that the AATA did not have to run Coleman's ad.

    Korobkin said Coleman did not ask for any money from the AATA as part of the settlement, but the ACLU accepted payment from the AATA for some of its expenses and attorney fees. Korobkin said he couldn't say anything more than that under the terms of the agreement.

    Korobkin said the ACLU brought the case to support the principles of free speech. From the ACLU's standpoint, he said, the legal case never had anything to do with Israel.

    "We don't take a position on the merits of the speech when we're involved in a First Amendment case," he said. "The issue is not whether you agree with the speech or don't agree with the speech — the issue is whether the government's role is to make the decision to censor the speech."

    He said the ACLU takes issue when government favors some kinds of political speech over others, and that's what was happening before the lawsuit was filed.

    "The most significant aspect of this case was when the court ruled the AATA policy on advertising was unconstitutional," Korobkin said. "The AATA made some significant changes to that policy, and at this point, both sides have decided a settlement was the most appropriate way to go forward."

    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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    Golfers braved the high temperatures at Leslie Park Golf Course on Friday for Day 1 of the 2013 Ann Arbor men's amateur golf championships. Play will resume on Saturday and conclude on Sunday.

    Daniel Brenner is a photographer for AnnArbor.com.


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    Three women face criminal charges for breaking into an Ann Arbor woman’s home Sunday, including one who is accused of striking a woman in the thigh with a sledgehammer.

    Ann Arbor police responded at 4:35 p.m. Sunday to a home in the 700 block of North Maple Road for a report of a home invasion in progress. When officers arrived, they found two of the suspects outside the home while a third had fled the scene, according to records.

    According to records, the 30-year-old woman who lived at the home had gone to a family celebration at her sister’s home Saturday afternoon. She returned to her residence after the party ended and hung out with her boyfriend before the couple went to sleep.

    Her 27-year-old sister had gone out in downtown Ann Arbor with two of the suspects in the case, who were friends. As the night came to a close, allegations about infidelity began and arguments ensued.

    According to records, the 27-year-old woman went to her sister’s home with Charita Parker, one of the suspects. An argument about the infidelity began again at the home on Maple and Parker ended up throwing a bowl through the rear window of the 27-year-old woman’s van.

    The 30-year-old woman and her boyfriend woke up, and arguments ensued between the suspects, the victims and others who were at the home. According to the report, Parker was struck at some point during the argument and suffered facial injuries. Eventually, the fight broken up and the residence cleared.

    Records stated the 30-year-old woman who lived on North Maple Road began getting threatening calls Sunday from Demetria Gordon, a 33-year-old woman from Detroit, who was friends with the woman. The 30-year-old woman got another call just before 4:30 p.m., telling her she could expect “company” in a short time.

    The 30-year-old woman’s boyfriend then saw Parker and a man in a mask — who he believed had a gun in his waistband — through the window coming up the side of the residence. According to police, Gordon and Parker entered the home through unlocked windows, and Parker was brandishing a sledgehammer.

    The 30-year-old woman confronted Parker, who then hit the woman in the thigh with the sledgehammer. A struggle ensued and the woman took the sledgehammer away from Parker. The woman, her children and her boyfriend then went upstairs and hid in the bedroom while calling 911.

    Police responded to the scene and arrested Gordon and Dwana Smith, a 32-year-old Detroit woman, who were both still on scene. Parker was arrested later at her home and needed medical treatment for injuries to her face suffered in the fight the previous night.

    In interviews with police, the suspects said they had gone back to the home in order to get revenge for Parker being “jumped” the night before, according to police. The man in the mask never actually entered the home and was not charged with a crime.

    Parker, Gordon and Smith all face charges of first-degree home invasion and Parker faces an additional charge of assault with a dangerous weapon, records show. Parker, Gordon and Smith were all lodged at the Washtenaw County Jail on Wednesday but had bonded out by Thursday. The amount of their bond was not immediately available.

    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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    Previous coverage:

    The Ann Arbor Board of Education has voted unanimously to offer the position of superintendent to Brian Osborne of New Jersey.

    071713_superintendent_final-1.JPG

    Brian Osborne will be offered the Ann Arbor Public Schools superintendent job.

    File photo

    Osborne currently is the superintendent of South Orange and Maplewood School District. He he's been at the district for about 6 years.

    Osborne was selected over Jeanice Kerr Swift, the assistant superintendent of instruction, curriculum and student services for Colorado Springs School District No. 11.

    Both candidates were narrowed down from a group of six semifinalists and 61 initial applicants to make it to the final round of interviews. The candidates toured the district, interviewed with the board and had several opportunities to meet with and answer questions from district staff and community members Tuesday and Wednesday.

    Read the live blog from the meeting to see what board members said while making their selection:

    The meeting started at 5:30 p.m. at the Balas Administration Building.

    School board President Deb Mexicotte and a representative from Ray & Associates, the superintendent search firm the district hired, will call Osborne Friday night to formally offer him the position. Mexicotte said the board will expect an answer from him either tonight via phone or "within a day or two."

    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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    The Mega Guide: Full coverage of the 2013 Ann Arbor Art Fair

    Music is a big part of the Ann Arbor Art Fair. Here are some performers spotted by AnnArbor.com photographers over the past few days.

    Check out a video of Mr. B and Bob Seeley doubling up on the piano as they perform during the art fair on Friday evening.


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    The Mega Guide: Full coverage of the 2013 Ann Arbor Art Fair

    The Ann Arbor Art Fair offers countless fascinating sights—as well as sounds, tastes, smells and experiences.

    Here are a few suggestions for things you might want to check out Saturday—the final day of this year's fair—and add your own in a comment at the end of this post:

    • Birds with attitude

    sassyowl.png
    “Do you like my birds?” is something you’ll hear with regularity outside Richard Lorenz’s booth on Liberty Street.

    Why? Because owls, and other birds with attitude (with colorful, fanciful hats and perches), play a starring role in Lorenz's digital art, and make his tent a fun and colorful virtual aviary.

    But that wasn’t always the case. Yes, Lorenz has been painting birds for over 20 years, but his previous pieces were far more naturalistic and traditional. (“Lots of ducks,” he said.)

    “I woke up one morning about a year ago, and I thought, ‘I want to paint something fun, while still painting my birds,’” said Lorenz, who originally hails from New Orleans.

    U-Birdz is what Lorenz calls his new, more whimsical series, the works of which also feature messages like, “Eloise always said, ‘It’s better to show your true colors then to let them fade.’”

    “The series is about being the bird that you are,” said Lorenz. “ … It’s neat because I get to say profound things in a whimsical way.”

    Lorenz, a father of 5, hopes that kids are among those receiving the messages. “That’s the hardest thing to get them to understand,” said Lorenz. “ … Just be who you are.”

    To create his sassy birds, Lorenz first uses a Wacom tablet, “so the painting doesn’t exist until it’s printed on the canvas.”

    And though it’s Lorenz’s first year at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, he’s doing very well, sales-wise, and is awed by the scope of the event.

    “It’s a gem,” said Lorenz. “To see some of the best artists working now in one place - that’s something you shouldn’t take for granted.”

    steampunk-mp3.JPG
    • Wait - that’s your iPod dock? Huh?

    Deconstructed trumpets, integrated into recycled materials, that plug into your MP3 player?

    There’s not an app for that, but there’s this and other (often functional) steampunk art in Ed Kidera’s booth on Washington Street, near the Rackham Building.

    Based in Woodbine, Maryland, Kidera has been making the cylindrical, steel bells that line his tent for 22 years, but the steampunk stuff is newer—sort of.

    “Actually, there’s stuff I made 20 years ago that you’d now call steampunk,” said Kidera. “We just didn’t know to call it that back then.”

    Kidera’s current interest in steampunk was sparked by a friend asking for help making a “rocket pack.”

    “He told me about (steampunk), and I thought, ‘If he can make a rocket pack, I could make one, too,’” said Kidera. “And it was a lot of fun. I’ve always liked working with old stuff and making it transferable.”

    The main sources for his materials? Junkyards, flea markets, and eBay.

    “I have piles and piles of stuff,” said Kidera.

    I don’t doubt it.

    mcgee.JPG
    • A slanted view

    Looking at Melvin McGee’s paintings is like peeking directly into his wild, vivid imagination.

    One work, “My Teddy,” has a teddy bear lying in bed, holding onto a small man labeled, “Ted”; another has aliens performing surgery on Bigfoot to give him a heart; and yet another has a cartoonish version of the “American Gothic” couple standing in front of a knot of gray, interconnected highways.

    “I grew up admiring Gary Larson, Salvador Dali, and M.C. Escher,” said McGee, from Green Bay, Wisconsin. “And there’s a touch of Dr. Seuss in there, too. It’s kind of a combination of all of those.”

    What’s not to like about that?

    • Free tarot card and stone readings

    I don’t take occult things seriously, but I also almost never turn down a free (or at least inexpensive) palm reading or similar offering. For me, it’s just a silly, fun thing to do.

    And whether you’re like me, or you take more stock in such things, free stone readings and tarot card readings are happening in a tent in front of the Necto on Liberty Street. (Tips are welcome but not mandatory.)

    In case you were wondering, my cards on Friday indicated that I'm I’m fiercely strong and in control of my present. So there's that.

    bioart.JPG
    • The art of science

    Don’t think an image of mouse intestines, or a cerebellum, can be beautiful?

    Then you haven’t been to the Bioartography booth on East University, which features images captured by the University of Michigan’s medical research laboratories' microscopes and scanners.

    “Most of the images appear as we see them through the microscope,” said cellular and molecular biology grad student Meredith Collins.

    Florescent probes, used to make certain elements more easily visible, usually provide the vivid colors, “and we use laser microscopes, which excite the probes at different wavelengths,” said Collins.

    Money raised by the works help support U-M grad students traveling to conferences.

    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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    Ann Arbor superintendent finalist Brian Osborne, superintendent of South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey, answers questions during a Q&A at Skyline High School on Wednesday, July 17, 2013.

    Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

    Previous coverage:

    The Ann Arbor Board of Education voted unanimously Friday to enter into contract negotiations with the superintendent candidate it felt was the best match for Ann Arbor: Brian Osborne.

    School officials and a representative from consulting firm Ray & Associates called Osborne Friday to inform him of the board's 7-0 vote to offer him the position. He did not immediately state that he would accept the position, provided the parties can reach an agreement. However, he expressed he was looking forward to the negotiations, board President Deb Mexicotte said.

    Jeanice Kerr Swift, the assistant superintendent of instruction, curriculum and student services for Colorado Springs School District No. 11, was the other finalist the board interviewed and considered for the position.

    Board members also praised Swift as an extremely high-quality candidate and were appreciative of her time. Trustee Christine Stead said Swift was very warm and welcoming, enthusiastic and polished, and "did every aspect of the interview process very, very well."

    Swift told AnnArbor.com in a phone call Friday she was grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to meet with the Ann Arbor schools community and staff.

    "It was a wonderful experience to participate in the process and I of course wish the community of Ann Arbor, Dr. Osborne and the schools team all the very best as they start this next chapter," she said. "I know it will be a great chapter to continue to enhance the education of children and the excellence that the district is already known for."

    Osborne did not return multiple phone calls from reporters seeking comment Friday night.

    Trustees also voted Friday to give Mexicotte the authority to, along with AAPS' legal counsel, enter into contract negotiations with Osborne on behalf of the board.

    The contract will be brought back to the full board for approval following the negotiations, which will include items such as salary, benefits, longevity incentives and possibly some "relocation needs that are unique to a husband and father bringing his family across the country," Mexicotte said.

    "We have to be very sensitive to those (needs)."

    Mexicotte said this process will play out during the next few days to, perhaps, a couple of weeks. "But we are very hopeful that we are going to come to a really satisfactory contract ... and see Dr. Osborne in our community this fall."

    If Osborne turns down the position, although that is not what the board expects will happen, Mexicotte said trustees will reconvene and come back and discuss in open and public forum what to do next.

    Osborne blew trustees away this week with his background; breadth of knowledge; commitment to transparency; quick-study skills in learning so much, so quickly about the Ann Arbor Public Schools; his thorough and straightforward answers to questions; and his "tough truths," board members said Friday at their meeting. They also said the feedback from the community was overwhelmingly in his favor.

    Mexicotte called Osborne a realist and an optimist, and said she personally would use the same terms to describe the community of Ann Arbor — realistic and optimistic, she said.

    But what sealed the deal for Mexicotte was three things that reverberated throughout all of Osborne's rhetoric Wednesday when he was in town for his final interviews: innovation and excellence in teaching, equity in access to educational opportunities and improving outcomes for all students, and meeting financial challenges.

    light-foot-april-2013.JPG

    Trustee Simone Lightfoot

    Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com

    "These were the three things he highlighted in his 90-day plan and at every forum he spoke at," she said. "And I thought: 'These are the things I care about, that the community cares about.'

    "... He talked about how these are what the threads of his career have been, and how they dovetailed with what he sees Ann Arbor needing right now."

    Trustee Simone Lightfoot liked that Osborne was more willing to admit tough truths: "I thought his direct honesty was refreshing."

    However, Lightfoot was the only board member to express some resistance to hiring Osborne, despite thinking he was the best fit of the two finalists.

    She described her hesitancy as stemming from a feeling that he may not be "hungry" to be here in Ann Arbor.

    Lightfoot said Osborne's current school board, in the South Orange and Maplewood School District in New Jersey, voted this week to give him a raise that puts his salary for the 2013-14 academic year at $1,001 above what Ann Arbor schools set its salary range at for the position. So Lightfoot said she got the impression that things for him leaving South Orange-Maplewood are not as settled as trustees would like.

    According to Maplewood Patch.com, the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to award Osborne a "bonus" that increased his salary from $208,000 to $221,001. Patch reported that salary would drop to about $167,500 after Osborne's contract with the district expires in June 2014, due to the New Jersey governor's recently initiated cap for superintendent salaries.

    A June report from NJ.com says one quarter of New Jersey's superintendents planned to retire or seek employment elsewhere this summer. That figure is twice as high as last year's attrition rate, NJ.com reported.

    The AAPS board voted in April to set its superintendent salary range at $180,000 to $220,000. Now-retired Superintendent Patricia Green, whom Osborne will replace should he accept, earned $245,000 per year.

    Lightfoot said another aspect that concerned her is the possibility of Osborne not being able to start with AAPS on the first day of school due to a 90-day clause in his current contract with South Orange-Maplewood.

    The clause, Mexicotte said, calls for Osborne to give a 90-days notice prior to leaving. But Mexicotte said the board knew this was a possibility when it set out with its quick-timeframe search and talked about it again when discussing an interim superintendent.

    Trustee Andy Thomas, who was out of town for the meeting but participated via a telephone conference call, said Green also had a 90-day clause in her contract, but her former district worked with her to set a more reasonable end date. He said Green was still available to the district and "made good use of that time."

    Additionally, Osborne outlined in his 90-day entry plan — which he presented to the Ann Arbor community on Wednesday — a pre-entry plan he dubbed "S and S: Study and Skype." He said this would include Skype conversations with principals, board members, secondary student leaders and parent leaders, as well as studying and researching district policies, data, state laws and more.

    Another concern Lightfoot raised was about a comment Osborne made to another trustee on whether an adjunct professorship at the University of Michigan was something he could obtain while superintendent of the district and whether that was something that could potentially benefit the district.

    Stead said she is "not afraid of ambitious people" and doesn't share Lightfoot's concern about this.

    Lightfoot said in an interview following the meeting, she was satisfied with the board's decision to offer the position to Osborne, despite the concerns she raised. She said no one is perfect and added those concerns are "able to be overcome."

    "I'm good now because I was good with the candidate," she said after the meeting. "He had always made my top four from the very beginning of the process. My concern is I'm not sure we had the best pool to begin with."

    So because the board already might have to wait 90 days before Osborne can join AAPS, why not start another search and take our time? Lightfoot asked.

    To her, a better, more perfect fit for Ann Arbor would be someone who had "knowledge of what our issues here in Michigan are." Lightfoot said the candidate would not necessarily have to be local or just Michigan-based — they could have been from Ohio with some Michigan experience or worked in both Michigan and someplace else — "just some sort of understanding," she said.

    On the issue of Osborne obtaining an adjunct professorship, Lightfoot said she simply saw it as his interests possibly being elsewhere.

    "That's unique, and my thought was how does he not see the gravity of this in the community?" she said. "… He's a smart guy, a Harvard guy. I think he'll be OK, but that wasn't about our district to me, that was about him."

    Mexicotte says just the opposite it true.

    "Our superintendent would be part of a professional community of learners," she said in a post-meeting interview. "... This is exactly the kind of relationship in the education (world) ... that brings benefit to our standing not just in the community, but in the state and nationally.

    "It's the kind of thing that is often in superintendent contracts. And the kind of service and aspiration and inspiration we would expect from a community leader in a town like Ann Arbor."

    Osborne is very interested in working with stakeholder partners whenever he can to build relationships and create additional "synergy" around the district's educational leadership in the state, Mexicotte said. She added AAPS already has partnerships with the University of Michigan that could only grow and improve if Osborne were to take on an adjunct professorship there.

    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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    Kingsley_public_art_01.jpg

    The design for a new public art project at First and Kingsley in Ann Arbor.

    Design by Joshua Wiener

    The city of Ann Arbor has released the design for a new public art project being planned in conjunction with a rain garden at the corner of First and Kingsley streets.

    The proposal from Colorado-based artist Joshua Wiener shows steel outlines of large-mouth bass, as if they're swimming through the flood-prone area.

    "They will be placed in the landscaped rain garden to give an impression of motion through a river bed," said Aaron Seagraves, the city's public art administrator.

    Seagraves said the vegetation surrounding the sculptures will be designed to have distinct color separation, forming shapes of land that resemble a river's surface.

    Kingsley_public_art_2.jpg

    An overview of the entire site at First and Kingsley.

    Design by Joshua Wiener

    "The fish outlines will be raised and lowered at different heights from the ground surface — some sculptures appearing to be buried," he said.

    "They will also be placed in various positions to give the appearance of action. As one moves along the one-way street, the sculptures will take on an false perspective of motion — as if swimming."

    Seagraves said the fish and river are connected to the functional purpose of the rain garden and the public art depicts that connection.

    The city issued a request for proposals last November, asking artists to submit ideas for an artwork at the proposed rain garden site. A budget of $23,380 was established for the project.

    A selection panel, which included stakeholders from the neighborhood, reviewed more than 20 submissions and selected Wiener's proposal.

    The city expects to have a written artist statement and two material options from the artist — regarding the application to the surface of the artwork — within four weeks.

    The rain garden artwork is one of the last remaining projects being completed under the city's Percent For Art Program, which is being replaced with a new program.

    The City Council voted in June to end the controversial Percent For Art Program. Instead of automatically setting aside 1 percent of capital project dollars into a pooled public art fund — like the city had done since 2007 — city officials will decide on a case-by-case basis in the future whether certain projects might be enhanced by having art "baked in" from the start.

    The city is still planning to finish art projects for the Stadium bridges and Argo Cascades before transitioning to the new program. The city also recently installed a sculpture in the Justice Center.

    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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    Bridge inspections by the Michigan Department of Transportation along U.S. 23 will result in brief lane and ramp closures this weekend.

    One lane of northbound and southbound U.S. 23 just north of the Interstate 94 interchange will be closed from 6 to 8 a.m. Sunday.

    MLive_highway_photo_062013.jpg

    Several brief lane and ramp closures will affect drivers on U.S. 23 this weekend.

    MLive file photo

    Additionally, both of the entrance ramps to U.S. 23 from Plymouth Road will be closed from 8 to 10 a.m. Sunday.

    The entrance ramp to southbound U.S. 23 from westbound Plymouth Road will be closed, as will the entrance ramp to northbound U.S. 23 from eastbound Plymouth Road.

    Both of the Sunday bridge inspections precede a Wednesday single lane closure on northbound U.S. 23 from M-17 to Geddes Road.

    I-94 will be free of closures Saturday and Sunday, but MDOT's major reconstruction project of I-94 on the south side of Ann Arbor is next slated to continue the following weekend of July 26 to 29.

    The resurfacing project requires a full closure of both lanes of one direction of traffic at a time.

    From 10 p.m. July 26 to 5 a.m. July 29, eastbound I-94 will be completely closed to traffic from the M-14 split to the Carpenter Road overpass of U.S. 23. Drivers will be detoured along M-14 and U.S. 23. It will be the second full closure of eastbound I-94 this summer.


    View MDOT road work July 21 in a larger map

    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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    Fifty-three years ago, Ann Arbor's first-ever mid-July Art Fair attracted a reported 132 artists.

    This year, crowds are expected to reach half a million and an estimated 1,000 artists have set up camp in the city for four days. They're selling their art and competing in juried art competitions. Since 1960, the event has grown from one art fair to four and from spanning two blocks to spanning 30 blocks of downtown.

    Here's a look at the Ann Arbor Art Fair's first two decades. Please share your memories in the comments section below.

    artfair1960.jpg

    University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library

    The first Ann Arbor Street Art Fair took place in 1960 and is pictured in the image above. According to an Ann Arbor News article from that year, the fair spanned South University from East University to Forrest Avenue. It included 132 artists, The artists, according to an Ann Arbor District Library online gallery of Art Fair history, made $4,500 total.

    The idea for Art Fair was sparked by a local merchant, who thought an art sale would pair well with the town's Summer Bargain Days, during which businesses throughout the city had yard sales and clearences. By 1960 there were 32 annual summer bargain events, according to the News article. Even today, local retailers —including Bivouac, Downtown Home and Garden and Running Fit— run merchandise clearances during Art Fair. According to the AADL archive, the weather during the first Art Fair was sunny and in the 80s.

    1965 Art Fair.JPG

    Ann Arbor News

    This image is from the 1965 Art Fair. According to an University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library archive, more than 400 artists participated in the Art Fair a year later, in 1966. That year a jury process was instituted. By 1968, sales during the fair reached $150,000, according to Bentley records. By 1968 the State Street Art Fair joined the original Street Art Fair.

    artfair1975map.png

    A map of the 1975 Art Fair.

    Ann Arbor District Library

    This map is from the 1975 Art Fair. According to the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair's website, by 1970 crowds visiting the event had grown larger than 70,000. In 1970, the Summer Art Fair joined the Art Fairs ranks. By the end of the decade, the Street Art Fair hired a paid director. According to the AADL archive, by 1974 Art Fair organizers erected portable bathrooms and artist booths were equipped with credit card readers.

    artfair1980.jpg

    Ann Arbor Art Fair

    This image is from the State Street Art Fair in the early 1980s. In 1980 a bad storm struck Ann Arbor during what would have been Art Fair week, but the fair had been positioned a week earlier because the Republican National Convention took place in Detroit during Art Fair's usual mid-July time slot. Severe weather is no stranger to Art Fair. According to the AADL archives, an Ann Arbor News headlined, “Summer Storm Can’t Wash Out Art Fairs,” and in 1987, “Heat!” and the following year.

    According to the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair website, Art Fair organizers began selling T-shirts in the early 1980s. By then the event had spread to three separate fairs. In 2000, Art Fair Village was set up on Church Street, later becoming the South University Art Fair when the original Street Fair relocated to the Burton Carillon Tower area.

    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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