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

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    A Saline veteran's missing therapy dog was found about one mile from its home on Saturday, according to a report on WDIV-TV.

    Robert Anthony's Hungarian Vizsla named Sita had been missing since July 12.

    A neighbor found Sita on Saturday, according to the report. She had a broken leg, and is receiving treatment.

    Read the full story.


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    The West Park Band Shell has been a busy place this summer, playing host to several events, including concerts by the Ann Arbor Civic Band.

    The Civic Band’s last outdoor concert of the season, on Wednesday night, explores the music of the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, the Gershwins, Andrew Lloyd Weber and others.

    Bill Gourley conducts the 65-75 member non-profit ensemble, founded in 1935 as an extension of the University of Michigan's School of Music

    If you’re so inclined, it’s perfectly appropriate to bring a picnic supper and make an evening out of it. Bring a blanket and chair, and head on down.

    The Ann Arbor Civic Band will offer “Musical Legends” at West Park Band Shell, 215 Chapin St., at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 24. Admission is free. Anyone needing assistance to get to the band shell should park on Seventh Street (between Huron and Miller), and a cart will ferry you from the park entrance. Details: 734-994-2780.


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    caleb-wittig-city-golf.JPG

    Caleb Wittig's approach shot in the Ann Arbor City Golf Championship on Sunday, July 21. Wittig won the tournament.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Of the 212 strokes Caleb Wittig took throughout the three-day Ann Arbor City Golf Tournament, he can point out the exact one that turned the weekend from a solid one to championship-level.

    On Saturday, Wittig hit his tee shot on the par-five 11th hole at Leslie Park Golf Course into the trees off the left side of the fairway. He was two-over par at that point, after entering the round in fifth place overall -- firmly in the middle of the championship field pack.

    But the next shot is the one that he said, “turned it around.”

    “I hit a punch shot through a really narrow gap onto the green, and two-putted for birdie,” Wittig said. “After that, I don’t think I missed a putt the rest of the round.”

    The birdie was part of a round of 68, which included a six-under-par 30 on the back nine alone. That mark gave him a three-shot lead heading into Sunday, when he shot a 69 to increase his lead and win the tournament by seven shots.

    More Coverage: Complete Results

    “I was hitting the ball really well,” Wittig said. “I didn’t miss a green until hole 11. I was keeping it smart, hitting fairways and greens. Basically mistake-free until the end.”

    Justin Welton of Dundee won a playoff over Alex Wunderlich of Ann Arbor for runner-up honors. Both finished the tournament at 219, after Welton shot a tournament-low 67 Sunday to force a playoff.

    Wittig, a 2013 Saline High School graduate, is the defending Herb Fowler Memorial Junior Championship winner, giving him the rare honor of holding both the city’s junior and open titles simultaneously. This year’s junior tournament will be held July 31-Aug. 2 -- Wittig is too old to defend.

    Wittig’s city tournament title comes in just his third year playing in the event. His previous best finish was last in the championship flight.

    When the pairings for this year’s tournament came out, Wittig learned he’d be playing with Matt Paterini, the Saline native who’s won three of the last four tournaments.

    “I’ve played with him before and he’s a really nice guy,” Wittig said of playing with Paterini. “So I think that kind of takes off from the intimidation when you know that he’s a really nice guy, easy to talk to.”

    Wittig bested the defending champ both days, by three shots on day one and seven on day two to take the 36-hole lead. Paterini finished tied for sixth with a 224.

    Wittig was AnnArbor.com’s boys golf Player of the Year, after a senior season in which won won regional and Southeastern Conference titles. In about a month, he will enroll at Miami (Ohio), where he plans to try out for the golf team soon after.

    His high school career may have ended on a sour note, when he missed his goal of medalist honors at the state championships in June. But a month later, playing the best golf of his life and besting the top players in Ann Arbor helped make up for that.

    “This is really nice,” Wittig said. “This made my year.”

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kyleaustin@annarbor.com or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.


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    072812_ENT_SOUNDSSIGHTS_JMS.JPG

    Chelsea's Main Street during Sounds and Sights 2012

    Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Downtown Chelsea has been spending summer nights enjoying music, art, other entertainment happenings, and food. And the party is about to get much bigger.

    "Off the top of my head, I can't think of a bigger event in Chelsea than the Sounds & Sights Festival," says Bridget Favre, Marketing and Media Coordinator of Chelsea Area Festivals & Events.

    Chelsea's annual Sounds & Sights Festival will feature live music, other types of performances, an art market, family-friendly activities, food, and spirits, from July 25 to 27. Some activities happen during the daytime, and the "Social Tent," featuring a music main stage, opens at 6 p.m. with live music from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., behind the Common Grill each night.

    Sounds and Sights 1.jpg
    The 3-day festival draws about 15,000 people to downtown Chelsea.

    This year, new offerings and developments are happening—a new version of the Art Market, Friday and Saturday, and the addition of a community sidewalk chalk event on Saturday, featuring 7 professional chalk artists.

    The festival happens in the midst of Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights, a weekly evening of free music and other happenings, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., on 10 stages through downtown Chelsea. The Thursday evening events run through Aug. 15.

    A $5 admission charge at the main stage tent during the festival keeps Thursday nights free to the public. Chelsea has free parking.

    PREVIEW

    Chelsea Sounds & Sights Festival

    • Who: Chelsea community; everyone welcome.
    • What: Annual event featuring art, live music, food, and much more.
    • Where: Downtown Chelsea.
    • When: Thursday-Saturday, July 25-27.
    • How much: Festival admission is free. $5 admission to the main-stage tent. For more information, see the festival website.
    Thursday, July 25

    "Thursday is mostly focused on the music," Favre says.

    Like on other Thursday evenings in summer, Chelsea will host bands scattered across downtown. The addition of a main stage for the 3-day festival will bring even more music to town that particular Thursday evening.

    Opening night of the festival, the "Social Tent" main stage will feature "crowd favorites who have performed on Thursday nights over the years, but it is their first time playing the festival main stage," Favre says.

    From 7 p.m to 11 p.m, Thursday's main stage will feature area bands Bill Bynum & Co. and Dragon Wagon. And Bull Halsey, group that originated in Chelsea, features band member Garth Girard whose graphic design work was selected for the event poster.

    Elsewhere, Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights bands and performers will cover downtown at various locations, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Acts include Chelsea House Orchestra, Eli Adams, The Appleseed Collective, The Shelter Dogs, The Nomads, and Bulletproof Snow.

    3 Generations Entertainment will make balloon animals and other fun for the kids. Eric the Juggler will perform. And "pop & lock" act Poppet will bring a dance element on Thursday.

    At dusk, behind the Clocktower, SRSLY Cinema will continue their outdoor movie series on Thursday nights with Australian teen mermaid movie "Aquamarine." They host movies there each Thursday during Summer.

    Both Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29

    Over the weekend, the festival becomes more interdisciplinary. "Friday and Saturday will likely get larger crowds because of the variety," Favre says.

    Happening both days, from noon to 8 p.m., the Art Market is changing.

    Sounds and Sights art.jpg
    This year, it is organized by the Chelsea River Gallery with help from two professional artists. Helen Gotlib and Dylan Strzynski have been active in shaping the Do-It-Yourself art fair scene, which has gained momentum in Washtenaw Country. They helped start the Tiny Expo.

    Participating artists are "cool, hip and affordable," as promised by publicity materials

    "This year's Art Market is focused on high-quality craftsmanship that is within a reasonable price range," says Favre, who describes the general vibe as "indie art."

    "It will be a lot of smaller-sized art and crafts, which are easy for people to take away with them."

    Among the fine artists in the market, "a lot of them are doing functional art. There is a lot of jewelry, T-shirts that are custom-done, and there is even an artist who makes shoes," Favre says.

    "KidZone", sponsored by Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, returns Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., behind the Clock Tower.

    Favre is particularly looking forward to some of the offerings for kids, even though she is an adult. "Ann Arbor kids' group called The Kerfuffles is performing," she says. "We have a town favorite, Colors the Clown." She is especially excited about Wildlife Safari Company, "who will bring an array of animals from all over the world," Pure Imagination Magic Show, and Mad Science Detroit.

    Friday, July 26

    On Friday, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., the main stage tent will have a country music theme, featuring Annabelle Road and Whitey Morgan and the 78s.

    Chelsea Classic Cruisers host their annual "Sounds & Sights Car Show" at the festival, on Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m, on East Middle, East, and Harrison Streets.

    "They have over 300 cars that come into town from across the Midwest," Favre says.

    Saturday, July 27

    On Saturday, afternoon music, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m, includes performances by No Xcuses and Jake Prince Trio.

    And Dance music will be the theme in the evening, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., featuring Third Coast Kings and Fifty Amp Fuse.

    Brand new this year, you can enter a chalk art contest - $100 is "People's Choice" cash is up for grabs - from noon to 4 p.m. The public and 7 professional chalk artists will be drawing on East Middle Street, making it into a "Community Quilt."

    "The professional chalk artists," who will draw their own chalk art at the event, "will also introduce chalk art to the community and teach the crowd about it, showing off some of their techniques," Favre says.

    Another treat for kids, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., people will dress their pets in sports-themed costumes for a "Pet Parade."


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    tomato_tart_fireweed_sara.jpg

    An heirloom tomato tart, prepared by Sara Konigsberg of Ann Arbor's Fireweed Kitchen.

    Courtesy photo

    Lifelong Ann Arborite Sara Konigsberg took a leap of faith when she left her job with the University of Michigan health system to launch her new venture, Fireweed Kitchen.

    Six months after the move, Konigsberg said her prepared foods CSA (community-supported agriculture) is stable and ready to grow.

    “I feel like I’ve opened up a creative aspect of my life that was hiding,” she said. “It has been a great move.”

    sara_k_fireweed.jpg

    Fireweed Kitchen owner Sara Konigsberg, pictured in the Union Hall Kitchen with strawberries she picked at Rowe's Produce Farm in Belleville.

    Courtesy photo

    Each week, Fireweed Kitchen uses local, in-season produce to create a menu of main courses, soups, salads and baked goods. Members can sign up for eight-week terms, and a meal is delivered to their doorstep every Wednesday.

    “On Saturdays, I head down to the farmers market and try to find whatever looks the best to me that day,” Konigsberg explained. “I cook on Monday and Tuesday, and deliver the meals on Wednesday.”

    Konigsberg cooks in the Union Hall Kitchen in downtown Ann Arbor, shared with the vendors at Mark’s Carts. She said each Fireweed Kitchen meal — which costs $35 — is enough to serve two people with some leftovers.

    “My design, my hope, is that it’s a replacement for going and picking up Chinese food, or going to Plum Market and getting food out of the deli cases,” she said.

    “I really think people just appreciate not having to think about what’s going to be for dinner on Wednesday. It just shows up at your door and it’s ready to go,” she continued.

    Most of the food from Fireweed Kitchen is vegetarian, but some dishes will have meat or fish. Members can customize their meals to be strictly vegetarian.

    Konigsberg said she doesn’t necessarily cook “low-calorie” or “non-fat,” but she tries to make her meals as organic as possible with a heavy dose of fresh, local produce.

    blueberry_buckle.jpg

    Blueberry Buckle from Fireweed Kitchen, prepared using locally sourced blueberries.

    Courtesy photo

    A recent meal included a roasted asparagus sandwich using local asparagus, Zingerman’s sourdough bread, spicy mayonnaise, raisins, feta cheese and scallions.

    The menu from the week of July 10 included: spinach, mushroom and feta strudel; golden cheddar soup with summer squash; quinoa tabouleh; ginger scones with homemade strawberry jam; and dill beans.

    The menus also list where the ingredients are sourced.

    “This all really goes back to my grandmother; she lived until she was a month shy of her 96th birthday, and her philosophy was that you ate things when they were in season. That is potentially how our bodies are structured to eat,” Konigsberg said. “Certainly, I also think people really feel strongly that they need to support their neighbors and local people.”

    Fireweed Kitchen is delivering to 15 families, and Konigsberg said the goal is to grow her customer base. Once she gets established, she would consider delivering on a second day of the week.

    “It’s a little tricky because of my limited space in (the Union Hall) kitchen,” Konigsberg said. “I don’t want to grow too rapidly and squeeze myself out.”

    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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    081510_NEWS_Kitty_Palooza_M.JPG

    Josh Guerrlich, 9, leans on his mom Robin as dad John, all of Ann Arbor, pets a black and white tuxedo kitten during the 6th annual Kitty Palooza at the Humane Society of Huron Valley in 2010.

    Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com file photo

    Though state law keeps dog owners on a relatively short leash, most Michigan cat owners have few legal obligations that they are required to meet.

    Unlike dogs, cats don’t have to be vaccinated against rabies, licensed or restrained in Michigan - leaving counties and cities on their own to decide how cats and their owners should be treated under the law.

    “Humans let cats come and go; we don’t do that so much with our dogs,” said Linda Reider, director of statewide initiatives for the Michigan Humane Society. “Our culture is different with cats than with dogs.”

    Dogs have to adhere to tighter restrictions because of the Michigan Dog Law of 1919. Originally, the law’s intention was to reduce the risk of a dog biting a human and transmitting rabies, or from roaming and damaging livestock.

    “There was a problem more with loose dogs biting people and they wanted to make sure people were safe from a terrible disease,” Reider said.

    Dog licensing was developed as a way to track rabies vaccinations in dogs, which is required by state law. Washtenaw County officials have reported compliance with dog licensing is about 11 percent.

    Reider said cat licensing is difficult to enforce in municipalities that have passed such ordinances, as many cats wander from house to house and multiple people feed them, Reider said.

    “Many cat owners don’t want to license their cats - they don’t see the purpose of it,” Reider said. “At the Michigan Humane Society, our stance on owned cats is that the safest place for owned cats is to be is in the home or under direct supervision.”

    Ordinances that prohibit pet cats from roaming at large are typically complaint-inspired and complaint-enforced, Reider said.

    In Washtenaw County, several cities have taken their own steps to implement some restrictions on the pet cat population.

    Ann Arbor’s ordinance pertaining to cats require the animals to be vaccinated against rabies. Ypsilanti has a similar ordinance, in that dogs and cats must have rabies vaccines if they are in public places.

    The two cities are the only municipalities in the county to require pet owners to vaccinate their cats against rabies.

    In Michigan, there are more stray cats than there are dogs, Reider said.

    There is less of a dog rabies problem now than there was in 1919, Reider said. Bats are the most predominant carrier of rabies in Michigan.

    Cats typically come into contact with a bat more often than dogs do, leaving a population of vulnerable animals that may not be vaccinated against rabies because it’s not mandatory, Reider said.

    “It’s been estimated that there are as many free roaming cats as there are owned pet cats,” Reider said.

    However, neither of Ann Arbor nor Ypsilanti have ordinances that would make cats running at large illegal - whether they’re pet cats or cats without owners.

    The Humane Society of Huron Valley recommends to its adopting owners that they keep their cats indoors - but should an owner want an outside cat, HSHV advises fitting the cat with a breakaway collar with an identification tag and a microchip.

    “There’s a mentality that cat’s aren’t happy unless they’re outside and I don’t think that’s true,” said Deb Kern, marketing director for HSHV.

    Kern said the Ann Arbor area community needs to have a conversation about the need to identify pet cats so they’re not observed as strays.

    In Saline, Manchester and Milan, each of those cities has ordinances that make it illegal for a cat to run at large off an owner’s premises and not within reasonable control.

    Other Michigan cities have taken a stricter approach. In Battle Creek, all dogs and cats must be licensed and any animal - whether licensed or unlicensed - must be on a leash a maximum of eight feet long if traveling beyond the owner’s property.

    Frankenmuth also has a strict cat ordinance. Cats must be licensed as well. Should a cat roam at large, the owner would be charged a $25 fine for the first offense, $50 for a second offense and $250 for each offense after that.

    The number of pets Frankenmuth residents are allowed to have is limited to two dogs and two cats under the city’s ordinance.

    Kern said licensing cats would help shelters tremendously.

    “Cats are more free-roaming and people might wait a while for the cat to circle back,” Kern said.

    Under state law, if a cat does not have any identification and is put in to the care of an animal shelter, the shelter can post the cat for adoption after three days. Many more pet owners visit animal shelters to search for their lost dogs than their lost cats, Kern said.

    HSHV attempted to pursue cat licensing during a series of discussions they had with Washtenaw County officials in 2012 regarding animal control service levels, but there was no traction to pursue such an ordinance, said Tanya Hilgendorf, president and CEO of HSHV.

    Licenses could help track vaccines and could help match lost cats back to their owners quicker - thereby reducing shelter costs, Hilgendorf said. Licenses would also generate revenue from fees that could be used to fund animal control services.

    Outside of Michigan, some states that have attempted a proactive approach to implement laws concerning identification, vaccination and licensing of cats:

    • California’s include possession requirements for non-domestic cats, as well as vaccination and impound procedures for domestic cats. Legislative policy standards are also written for feral cats.
    • Maine’s include rabies vaccination requirements, stray cat procedures and animal trespass statues that exclude cats from its purview.
    • Rhode Island may have the most strict cat law of them all: Its laws create a “Cat Identification Program” and require cats to display some kind of identification - including a tag or tattoo - to reduce the feral/stray cat problem. Cats without identification are impounded for less time.
    • Virginia: A county, city or town can prohibit a person from owning a cat unless it is licensed.
    • Wisconsin: A county board of commissioners in a county with more than 500,000 people can enact a cat-licensing ordinance.

    Though the measure was defeated, a law introduced in Wisconsin in 2005 that would have allowed hunters to shoot any cat found roaming free that did not have a collar or other signs of domestic ownership.

    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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    Ann Arbor's University of Phoenix campus is in the process of shuttering and is not accepting new students, although the closing will likely take at least a year, according to a school official.

    The for-profit university announced last year that it intends to close its Ann Arbor location, although area residents can enroll in the for-profit online.

    MI-Ann-Arbor-Learning-Center.jpg

    University of Phoenix's Ann Arbor location is closing.

    University of Phoenix photo

    Enrollment at the school's local learning center at 315 E. Eisenhower Pkwy had been declining for years, while online enrollment was increasing, according to Alex Clark, a University of Phoenix spokesperson.

    "Our enrollment there is relatively small and keeps going down," Clark said.

    About 200 students are taking classes at the campus, which will remain open until the majority of their coursework is finished. Students also have the option of completing coursework online or at the school's downtown Detroit learning center.

    The Ann Arbor location won't be closed for at least a year, and Clark said it might be open even longer.

    About 12 employees work at the Eisenhower location. The location hasn't laid off any staff, but layoffs could occur when the campus shutters.

    Clark said Phoenix will try to shift some employees to nearby learning centers available. All classes at the Ann Arbor campus are taught by part-time adjuncts.

    The college leases its space off Eisenhower Parkway, in the Burlington Office Center, and is trying to negotiate an early exit with landlord Oxford Properties.

    It opened in the office center in July 2003, and by summer 2012 occupied about 9,000 square feet there.

    In October the University of Phoenix announced it was closing 115 campuses, including 8 locations in Michigan. In addition to Ann Arbor, satellite locations in East Lansing, Flint and Portage are being phased out. The closings are expected to save $300 million.

    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 judge in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan approved a plan on Monday that will allow Lansing-based Capitol Bancorp Ltd. to auction off a number of its banks, including Ann Arbor-based Michigan Commerce Bank.

    michigan_commerce_bank.jpg

    Michigan Commerce Bank is headquartered at the corner of South State Street and Eisenhower Parkway.

    Photo from loopnet.com

    Capitol Bancorp filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012 and originally planned to sell its entire network of banks worth about $2 billion as part of a “prepackaged” bankruptcy plan. According to a story from DowJones.com, that plan was abandoned after a major investor, ValStone Partners LLC, left the deal.

    As a holding company, Capitol Bancorp at one point operated more than 60 small community banks. When it filed for bankruptcy, the company had 13 affiliate banks in 10 states and had sold off 24 banks - worth more than $2.1 billion - in the previous few years.

    Michigan Commerce Bank is one of Capitol Bancorp’s largest remaining affiliate banks, with offices in Auburn Hills, Brighton, Detroit, Grand Haven, Holland, Kentwood, Macomb, Muskegon, Farmington Hills and Pontiac. In 2010, federal and state banking regulators ordered the bank to correct “unsound banking practices.”

    At the time, the requirements from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the state’s Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation included the creation of a plan to sell itself or merge into an institution not controlled by Capital Bancorp.

    According to iBanknet.com, Michigan Commerce Bank ended the first quarter of 2013 with more than $621 million in assets and just less than $600 million in liabilities, with a bank equity capitalization of $21.52 million.

    University Bank of Ann Arbor president and CEO Stephen Ranzini said that for banks to be in compliance with FDIC regulation, they have to carry approximately 10 percent of their assets in equity. This means that any bank that buys Michigan Commerce Bank would have to inject more than $40 million into the bank in addition to what it pays Capitol Bancorp in an auction.

    “This is what you would call a ‘fixer-upper,’” Ranzini said.

    At issue for Michigan Commerce Bank is its loan portfolio: 19.7 percent is restructured, foreclosed or past-due.

    "By comparison," Ranzini said, "(at) the average bank in Michigan that statistic is about 1.8 percent.”

    Only bank holding companies already approved by the FDIC will be able to take part in the auction. Ranzini said that there are a number of banks in Michigan large enough to purchase Michigan Commerce Bank, including Bank of Ann Arbor, Chemical Bank from Midland and First Merit Bank, which recently acquired Citizens Bank in Flint.

    “The number of banks still in trouble is very low, so there’s a scarcity value at this point for a bank like this that’s in a good market and is decent sized,” he said.

    “There’s more capital going around looking for deals like this than there are deals to be had, so they might get a good bid. This is really the last bank in Michigan that’s in a lot of trouble.”

    According to court documents, Judge Marci McIvor ruled that the holding company’s new plan is a “reasonable, sufficient adequate, and proper means to pursue the Sale(s) of the Banks and Other Purchased Assets.” Judge McIvor added that the “time is of the essence” in her approval of the model purchase agreements and bidding rules for the auctions.

    Some of the bank’s creditors filed a motion to block the new plan because it allows the holding company to “toggle” between liquidation and reorganization if an opportunity presents itself. McIvor denied that motion, a move that should let the process head toward an auction.

    Capitol Bancorp reported a net loss of about $1.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 in its most recently released earnings report.

    The bank also reported that its consolidated assets had shrunk by about 27 percent during 2012 from nearly $2.2 billion to $1.6 billion on December 31. The company’s assets are now worth about $1.3 billion, according to court documents.

    In its earnings report, Capitol Bancorp also revealed that it has “entered into definitive agreements to sell its interest in two affiliates located in the Great lakes region.” Capitol Bancorp has four affiliate banks in the region, Michigan Commerce Bank, Indiana Community Bank, Capitol National Bank and Bank of Maumee. It is unclear if Michigan Commerce Bank is one of the two that have definitive agreements to sell.

    According to the Dow Jones report, McIvor has scheduled a confirmation hearing on the plan to sell Michigan Commerce Bank and other affiliates at auction for October 9.

    Michigan Commerce Bank has a 0.41 percent market share in Michigan and a 3.8 percent share in the Ann Arbor metropolitan area where the bank is headquartered according to the FDIC.

    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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    SerialRapistWantedPoster.jpg

    Police released this wanted poster seeking a suspect in two sexual assaults in Ann Arbor in 2011.

    Two years after several sexual assaults in Ann Arbor put the community on alert, police say they're not sure a serial rapist was to blame.

    The assaults, which occurred in areas close to downtown and the University of Michigan campus in summer of 2011, prompted Crime Stoppers to offer a 1,000 reward for tips and created anxiety and frustration for police and residents alike.

    Police sifted through 600 tips as seven assaults were reported starting in July and ending in September. Different theories sprung up. Police eventually considered a serial suspect scenario.

    Now two years later, no arrests have been made and new tips aren’t coming in, but the cases still remain officially open, officials said. As for whether the attacks were related, that's an open question.

    “We are open to the possibility of them being related, but caution that the descriptions and methods of operation varied widely,” said Ann Arbor police Lt. Robert Pfannes. “Very diverse events were described by some in the media as being the work of a lone ‘serial’ suspect.’”

    For instance, descriptions of two suspects varied in race, a decade in age and a foot in height, Pfannes said. At the time, a poster was issued featuring a 35-year-old 5-foot 6-inch tall Hispanic man and an 18-year-old 6-foot 5-inch white man. The seven attacks ranged from groping incidents on street corners to a reported rape in a parking structure.

    Two years later, the sexual assaults from the summer of 2011 haven’t been forgotten, but they aren’t necessarily at the forefront of students’ thoughts on the U-M campus.

    “It’s not really brought up,” said Meghana Kulkarni, a U-M senior and co-coordinator at Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. “It didn’t really affect how I was living my life. I wasn’t living in fear.”

    Seven attacks

    Six of the attacks, including two rapes, were reported between July 15 and July 26, 2011. The seventh was reported Sept. 13, 2011.

    The first attack occurred about 10:10 p.m. July 15, according to previous AnnArbor.com reports.

    A then-21-year-old Ann Arbor woman was walking near Thompson and East Liberty streets when a man grabbed her around the neck. The woman resisted, broke free and was not injured, police said. In that case, the attacker was described as white, 29 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 165 pounds with a medium build.

    The second assault occurred around 11 p.m. on July 15 near Community High School. A then-19-year-old Ypsilanti woman told police she was walking in the 400 block of North Division Street near the school when a man grabbed her and tried to drag her to a secluded area before she broke free and fled.

    Then at 2 a.m. on July 16, a then-22-year-old Ann Arbor woman was reportedly grabbed and fondled in the 900 block of Greenwood Avenue. She was able to break free and flee.

    In the Division and Greenwood incidents, the suspect was described as a man in his late teens or early 20s, about 5 feet 6 or 5 feet 7 inches tall with an olive complexion and short black hair, or possibly a flat-top hair style.

    The next incident was reported two days later. A woman told police she was walking about 12:40 a.m. in the 700 block of South State Street when a man grabbed her, pulled her behind a wall and raped her.

    The fifth incident was reported July 21, but had occurred on July 18. A 26-year-old Ypsilanti woman told police that a man followed her into an elevator at the Liberty Square parking structure near East Liberty and Thompson streets between 10:30 and 11 p.m. July 18 and raped her.

    The suspect was described as white, 26 years old, 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 7 inches tall, with short, dark and straight hair, police said.

    The sixth assault was reported by a University of Michigan student who said she was grabbed from behind and fondled by a man as she was walking to her car the night of July 26 in a parking lot in the 700 block of South State Street.

    That attack occurred in the same block as the first of the two rapes on July 18. The attacker was described as tan, 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall, with no facial hair.

    At that time, police held a press conference saying they believed one or two suspects were responsible for the six attacks.

    A seventh sexual assault was reported Sept. 13, 2011. A 20-year-old woman told police she was sexually assaulted in the 400 block of South First Street.

    She said a man walked up behind her, grabbed her arm and then her waist and fondled her chest and groin areas before she broke free. The attacker was described as white or Hispanic with darker skin and a medium build and height.

    Then-Ann Arbor Police Chief Barnett Jones said the assault could be related to the previous six.

    Response

    The University of Michigan sent out crime alerts about the incidents at the time, which is how students like Kulkarni said they were made aware of them.

    “We’re actively conveyed to our university community about those incidents,” said U-M police spokeswoman Diane Brown. “We combined efforts and had a detective over with AAPD to follow up on them.”

    A special university webpage was also set up about the incidents.

    U-M police also had increased police presence in the areas near campus where assaults were reported, Brown said.

    “We took it very seriously,” she added. “This was one that was much more widespread, much more of a concern to people, much more of a public safety threat as viewed by police.”

    The incidents were reported between Kulkarni’s freshman and sophomore years.

    “It was the topic of conversation,” she said. “We took precautions. We would walk home in groups at night. Everyone was expressing some worry.”

    Even though there's been no arrest, police and the community seem to be moving on after two years without an incident has seemed to allow police. No tips concerning the assaults have come in to Ann Arbor or U-M police recently, officials said.

    Kulkarni is more interested now in educating students about how the majority of sexual assaults are not perpetuated by strangers.

    “Most sexual assault happen between intimate partners, not some scary guy jumping out of the bushes,” she said.

    The map below shows the approximate locations of the assaults:


    View 2011 sexual assaults in a larger map


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    Washtenaw County Administrator Verna McDaniel, center, and United Way Coordinator Rickey Banks, far right, stand with members of the Washtenaw County United Way Steering Committee in front of a bus filled with donated school supplies in 2012.

    Courtesy of Washtenaw County

    Washtenaw County employees will be hosting a sixth-annual school supply drive for area students.

    The "Stuff the Bus" event will collect supplies from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 5 to 9 in the parking lot of the Target at 3749 Carpenter Road in Pittsfield Township.

    All supplies collected that week will be placed in a full-sized school bus at the location.

    In 2012, the event collected $10,000 worth of school supplies for students in Washtenaw County.

    Suggested items for donation include:

    • Pencils
    • Backpacks
    • Three-ring binders
    • Composition books
    • Erasers
    • Colored pencils
    • Crayons
    • Pens
    • Mechanical pencils
    • Pencil sharpeners
    • Folders
    • Hi-lighters
    • Index cards
    • Calculators
    • Display boards
    • Protractors
    • Rulers

    Supplies collected go to students in public schools in the Washtenaw Intermediate School District.

    Schools in the district communicate to the coordinators of the Stuff the Bus event the number of children in need of supplies.

    The event kicks off the county employee's 2013 United Way Campaign.

    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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    An Ann Arbor teen was listening to a band play in the 300 block of East Liberty Street Sunday night when he was attacked by another man, police said.

    The 17-year-old was sitting down in the area around 8:25 p.m. when he was struck in the head with a blunt object, witnesses told police.

    The suspect, a 27-year-old Ann Arbor man, fled. The 17-year-old was taken to University of Michigan Hospital with head injuries, according to Ann Arbor police.

    "Apparently, the victim and suspect had an altercation earlier in the day over money and cigarettes," police said in a release.

    No further information was immediately available.


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    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Mike E. Winfield

    Comedian Mike E. Winfield—the charismatic host of Fuse TV's "Off Beat"—comes to town this weekend with a grin so so big he’s made it part of his act.

    “It’s hard to thug it out when you’ve got big-a-- teeth,” he quipped on a recent Showtime special. “People think I’m happy ‘cause I got big-a-- teeth. They’re like ‘Mike, you’re so positive about life. Is that the reason you’re always smiling.’ No, it’s because when I close my mouth, it’s uncomfortable.”

    The impressively Afro-ed Winfield appeared on NBC's "The Office" in 2011 for two episodes. His stand-up show touches on topics such as marriage with an older woman, drugs and the difficulties of life to which most everyone can relate.

    The winner of Gilda's LaughFest 2013, you may also have seen him on “Comics Without Borders,” “Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen,” or “Last Comic Standing.” One place you haven’t seen him, at least until now, is Ann Arbor. He makes his local debut at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase Friday and Saturday.

    Mike E. Winfield performs Friday and Saturday at 8 and 10:30 p.m. at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, 314 E. Liberty St. Tickets are $13-$15. Details at www.aacomedy.com or 734-996-9080.


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    An unknown amount of cigarettes was stolen early Sunday morning from an Ypsilanti Township gas station during a break-in.

    Deputies from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office were called to the Citgo gas station, 1521 Holmes Road, at 2:30 a.m. for an alarm going off, according to a news release.

    "The suspect used a large piece of concrete to break out the front glass door to gain entry," the release stated.

    A suspect has not been identified at this time. Police continue to investigate.


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    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    “An Hour in the Theater,” a show consisting of staged readings of three short original plays by Glen Modell, will take place Saturday at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s studio space on Ann Street. Total running time is—no surprise—expected to be one hour.

    The plays include "The Doctor's Office" (in which Death lurks in the corner, waiting for patients with no health insurance), "The Bucket Under the Sink" (which documents a marital dispute over faulty bathroom plumbing) and "As We Liked It" (which reveals, for the first time, who really wrote the plays of William Shakespeare).

    Modell has been active in the local theater community, but is not affiliated with A2CT for this show (he’s renting their space). He has worked with the local Redbud Productions and MorrisCo Art Theatre, as well as the Ann Arbor Storyteller’s Guild.

    "For the past 10 years, on and off, I have been involved in the world of Ann Arbor theater production, either running lights / sound or acting in small parts," Modell said. "However, I have been writing scripts for many years, and decided to try producing them. This is my first attempt to do that."

    Spirit Uncle Productions presents 'An Hour in the Theater' at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, 322 W. Ann St., Saturday, July 27 at 2 and 8 p.m. Admission is free (a $5 donation is requested). Details by calling 734-996-1887.


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    University of Michigan's student-built "Generation" took a test run through the Midwest this weekend in preparation for the 1,860-mile 2013 World Solar Car Challenge race in Australia this fall.

    Generation was built with lightweight carbon fiber and, including the driver, weighs in at between 500 and 600 pounds.

    The car took two years and $1 million to build. It was built by some 100 students who received support from sponsors. It runs on a Lithium Ion battery, charged by sunlight, and has silicon solar cells.

    The car left Ann Arbor Saturday and passed through Ohio and Indiana before traveling through Western Michigan. The car and its crew are expected to pass through Petoskey on Monday, Pinconning on Tuesday and return to Ann Arbor on Wednesday.

    The practice course is 1,100 miles. The car and a 21-student team will partake in the Australian race in October. The car can reach 105 miles per hour.

    On Monday the team had to make an unexpected stop to fix a few kinks. The UMSolarCarTeam tweeted "We're stopping in Grand Haven for some technical difficulties. This is why we practice!"

    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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    Talent migration in the startup community often drags the best and brightest from the Midwest out to the coasts where venture capital is more plentiful, but not this time.

    The University of Michigan has convinced at least one innovator the trend should move in the opposite direction, hiring California-based startup executive Tom Frank to lead its Center for Entrepreneurship.

    tom_frank_CFE.jpeg

    Tom Frank will take over as the new director of the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship July 22.

    Photo Courtesy Hollywood Radio & TV Society

    “Michigan is ready for prime time,” Frank said in a statement.

    “U-M’s entrepreneurship program is in such an explosive growth phase. The university is committed on a campuswide basis to making it the best program in the country, with an emphasis on creating new opportunities for students.”

    Frank has been involved in the entertainment and technology sectors in California for more than 25 years. He began his career at Procter & Gamble and served as the chief operating officer at online media distributer RealNetworks during the first Internet Boom in the 1990s.

    As the President, CEO or co-founder of six different startups between March 2002 and January 2013, Frank deepened his involvement in the digital media and entrepreneurial worlds. In a press release from the University of Michigan, Frank said the experience he has gained as an entrepreneur will positively translate to work in the academic sector.

    “The very nature of building companies and helping them identify a successful strategy to their own growth and success are the same principles that need to be applied to academic programs that prepare students to deal with these challenges when they leave school,” he said.

    Frank, who begins his work at the university on July 22, replaces Doug Neal, who had been director of the Center for Entrepreneurhsip since August 2009. Neal left the center in May and co-found Michigan eLab, a new Michigan-based venture capital firm.

    Thomas Zurbuchen, associate dean for entrepreneurial programs in the College of Engineering said Frank stood out among hundreds of candidates as someone with practical entrepreneurship experience and a passion for academics.

    Officially housed in the College of Engineering, the Center for Entrepreneurship operates offices in North and Central campus that offer resources for student entrepreneurs regardless of their major. The center also runs the TechArb student startup incubator that houses student startup companies and helps them mature and find early-stage funding sources.

    In addition to its work with students, the center is responsible for the Michigan I-Corp program. Using funding from the National Science Foundation, the Center for Entrepreneurship organizes intensive training for basic scientists to develop business plans and engage in customer discovery in order to commercialize their inventions.

    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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    A new poll conducted by researchers at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor shows that a majority of adults support smoking bans in cars when young children are present.

    Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com file photo

    A new poll conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital revealed strong support from adults for smoking bans to protect young children from secondhand smoke.

    The National Poll on Children’s Health found 82 percent of adults support it being illegal to smoke in cars when there are children under the age of 13 present. Seven states have such a smoking ban: Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Utah, Oregon and Illinois.

    “Smoke is a real health hazard for kids whose lungs are still developing, and especially for kids who have illnesses like asthma where the lungs are particularly fragile and flare up when exposed to secondhand smoke,” said Dr. Matthew M. Davis in a statement.

    Davis is the founding director of the poll, and was named as the Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Community Health this spring.

    072213_DR-MATT-DAVIS.jpg

    Dr. Matthew M. Davis

    Courtesy of UMHS

    About 75 percent of those surveyed said smoking bans are needed in homes where children are living with lung conditions like asthma.

    Davis is advocating for public health officials and legislators to now consider such bans on smoking in homes because of the high level of public support found in the survey.

    Bans on smoking in public places are in place in 40 of the 50 states.

    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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    Saline's Michael Hendrickson, pictured above, will play college baseball for the University of Michigan.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Michael Hendrickson wasted no time in choosing where he will play his college baseball. The Saline High School senior-to-be grew up a Michigan fan, so when a scholarship offer came to fruition over the weekend, his mind was made up.

    Hendrickson will be a Wolverine.

    The 6-4, 195-pound left-handed pitcher verbally committed to play at Michigan on Friday.

    “Growing up as a Michigan fan, it’s a great academic school and combined with the resources they have, there’s just everything I need to be successful,” Hendrickson said. “I’m really excited.”

    Hendrickson was 5-4 with a 1.38 ERA as a junior. He was 6-0 with a 1.74 ERA as a sophomore.

    Though the pressure of choosing a school is gone, Hendrickson said the pressure to perform is something that never leaves him.

    “I can just focus on grinding making the team better, winning a state championship and not have to worry about the future as much,” Hendrickson said. "But there's always that thought of trying to improve and get better for the next step."

    Hendrickson said he was also considering Duke, Wake Forest and UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham). Though playing for major baseball conferences down south was enticing, Hendrickson said he’s excited about playing in the Big Ten for second-year Michigan head coach Erik Bakich. Michigan was 29-27 (14-10 Big Ten) and finished tied for fifth in the conference in Bakich’s first year.

    “The Big Ten’s on the rise and it’s something I want to be a part of,” Hendrickson said.

    “I’m happy for him, happy for his family I know it’s a big relief for him,” said Saline coach Scott Theisen.

    Theisen said its great for the Saline program as a whole to have players making it to the Division I program just down the road.

    “It shows you can do these things coming out of Saline, you don’t have to be at Birmingham Brother Rice, winning state championships every year,” Theisen said. “It’s an inspiration to younger kids and it’s a great accomplishment for Michael.”

    Hendrickson said he will still play basketball as a senior. He averaged 10.6 points for the Hornets last year.

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


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    Police are investigating the theft of more than $2,000 worth of custom-made items from the University of Michigan Orthotics and Prosthetics Center.

    U-M police said a $109 pair of shoes, a $250 pair of shoe inserts and a $1,980 "ankle-foot orthosis" have been reported stolen over the past two months for a combined value of $2,339.

    One of the items was believed to have been taken from the center, located at 2850 South Industrial Highway, between June 8 and 27. The second item disappeared between June 14 and July 3, and the third item between June 25 and July 9, according to a U-M police crime summary.

    There were no signs of forced entry. Police do not have any suspects at this time, but continue to investigate.


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    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Police are investigating the theft of a wheelchair reported Sunday in Manchester.

    Deputies from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office were called to the 700 block of City Road in the Village of Manchester Sunday for the stolen wheelchair, according to a Nixle alert.

    The larceny is believed to have occurred Sunday between 11:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., according to police.

    The wheelchair is described as a bright yellow, electric Amigo three-wheeler with a basket.

    If you have any information regarding this incident please contact Deputy Carrier at (734) 994-2911 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SpeakUP.


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    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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