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

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    Dozens of kayaks, canoes, tubes and rafts could be seen floating down the Huron River from Argo to Gallup on a recent Sunday afternoon.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Ann Arbor officials say more and more people are flocking to the Huron River for recreation with the the popularity of the Argo Cascades taking off.

    Colin Smith, the city's parks and recreation manager, said the Argo Canoe Livery saw a roughly 50 percent increase in trips this July compared with last July.

    Argo_Cascades_rafters_080413_RJS.jpg

    A four-person raft makes its way down the end of the Argo Cascades on a recent Sunday afternoon. There were 135 rafts rented from the Argo Canoe Livery during July.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    "We've been incredibly busy," he said, noting revenue from the livery went up from about $83,000 to $124,000 from July 2012 to July 2013.

    Cheryl Saam, facility supervisor for the canoe liveries, said for the month of July there were 3,617 kayaks, 584 canoes and 135 rafts rented for the 3.7-mile Argo-to-Gallup river trip. There were another 946 kayaks and 170 canoes rented for the 5.7-mile Barton-to-Gallup river trip.

    The city also rented out 818 tubes for trips down the Argo Cascades in July, plus another 45 kayaks and 28 canoes for the 7.1-mile Delhi-to-Argo river trip.

    The city completed the Argo Cascades project on the Huron River in May 2012 with the $1.17 million reconstruction of the bypass channel around Argo Dam in the old millrace.

    The city removed a cumbersome portage and transformed the channel into a series of nine drops and pools for people in tubes, rafts, canoes and kayaks.

    Other new features in the area include a wider and paved Border-to-Border Trail section and pedestrian bridges. Smith said the city is seeing a lot of new activity in the area, including companies having team-building exercises out on the river.

    "All sorts of people are out on the river doing things we wouldn't have necessarily seen a number of years ago," he said. "North Face had kind of a company training out at Argo and they were using the standup paddle boards, so there's just a lot of different stuff you can do."

    For more information, visit the canoe liveries website.

    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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    kristin-key.jpg

    Kristin Key

    Comedian Kristin Key, a preacher’s daughter from a small town in west Texas, claims her childhood was much like the movie “Footloose” - she was raised in a no-drinking, no-dancing, no instrumental music environment. She seemed like any other well-behaved girl … until she opened her mouth.

    Key, who describes herself as “that girl who kind of looks like what would happen if Ellen (DeGeneres) had a baby with the mean lady from ‘Glee,’” brings her fast-paced act to the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase next weekend.

    She was studying to be a paramedic when she quit to pursue a career as a comedian. Her credits included performances on The Funnyfarm, Laff's Comedy Club, Jokers and the Capital City Comedy Club and The Improv. She was part of the reality television show “Last Comic Standing” (Season 4) as one of the contestants, but was eliminated on Episode 7.

    As part of her audition for “Last Comic,” she was asked to define what is funny.

    “Timing and perspective. Funny is fearlessness, intelligence, and nonsense all wrapped into one. Funny is anyone, anytime, anywhere, getting hit in the crotch with a ball,” she responded.

    Kristin Key performs at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 16-17, at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, 314 E. Liberty St. Tickets are $14-$12. Details at www.aacomedy.com or 734-996-9080.


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    A fundraiser took place Saturday at Colonial Lanes in Ann Arbor for St. Baldrick's.

    The organization raises money for childhood cancer research. For $20 tickets, attendees received two hours of bowling, pizza and soft drinks. The event also featured a silent auction. People also shaved their heads to show support to cancer patients and to raise more money.

    Courtney Sacco captured these photos.


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    The city of Ypsilanti has temporarily suspended the license of a Cross Street dispensary that was recently raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

    The Shop, at 513 W. Cross St, was raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency on July 30, though no charges have filed against its owners.

    City attorney John Barr said the suspension was a result of city inspectors finding roaches, rolling papers and loose marijuana in and around an ashtray during an inspection of the business after the raid.

    The_Shop.jpg

    The Shop dispensary on Cross Street in Ypsilanti.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    Per city ordinance, consumption of medical marijuana is not allowed on the premises at medical marijuana dispensaries or grow operations, which City Planner Teresa Gillotti said was to prevent a social element from developing at the businesses.

    Barr said he and City Manager Ralph Lange met with The Shop’s owners and their attorney on Aug. 8 and their attorney suggested the punishment.

    Although the city can revoke a license for violating the terms of a city ordinance, Barr said he and Lange found the punishment appropriate. He said it was the business's first offense and there was only strong circumstantial evidence that medical marijuana was being used at the site.

    “I wasn’t looking for a pound of flesh,” Barr said.

    The Shop must remain closed for the next 60 days.

    “They weren’t happy, I wasn’t totally happy with it, and that means it’s probably a good compromise,” Barr said.

    This is the first time the city has discovered a violation at one of its medical marijuana dispensaries.

    Representatives from The Shop couldn’t immediately be reached by AnnArbor.com.

    Neither the DEA nor the Ypsilanti Police Department have brought charges, and Barr said DEA officials told him their report will remain sealed for 55 days.

    If the The Shop’s owners are charged and convicted of an illegal activity, the city could hold another hearing and revoke their license permanently, Barr said.


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    Eastern Michigan University played host Saturday to a controversial debate over whether Islam is a religion of peace that featured an author whose anti-Islam writings have attracted the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil rights groups, the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday.

    Robert Spencer, director of the blog Jihad Watch, appeared at the daylong conference that drew more than 500 people. He debated Shadid Lewis, regional director of the Muslim Debate Initiative, who said he agreed to participate out of a need to respond to Spencer and other critics of Islam.

    Himself a Roman Catholic, Spencer is the author of 12 books — including two New York Times bestsellers — and has led seminars on Islam and jihad for the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the United States Central Command, among other governmental organizations.

    His work has drawn criticism as being Islamaphobic, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has named him to its "Anti-Muslim Inner Circle."

    The event was sponsored by Ann Arbor-based Catholic station Ave Maria Radio.

    Read the Freep story here.


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    The entire Michigan football team was available on Sunday at the annual Michigan football media day at the Junge Family Champions Center.

    Melanie Maxwell is a photographer for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at melaniemaxwell@annarbor.com.


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    Players and coaches from the 2013 Michigan football team took to Michigan Stadium Sunday afternoon, and thousands of fans came in for autographs and fun on the field.

    Courtney Sacco is a photographer for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at courtneysacco@annarbor.com.


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    One year old Rylynn Ewing of Tecumseh meets a group of Michigan cheerleaders during youth day at Michigan Stadium, Sunday, August, 11.

    Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

    The sun came out around 2 p.m. Sunday in Ann Arbor, making for some ideal late-summer football weather.

    And while there were plenty of places around town to toss a pigskin around, for Ann Arbor’s Derek Berry, none were better than the north end zone at Michigan Stadium.

    “It’s one thing to see it on TV, and to get an opportunity to come down here and actually step foot on the field," Berry said. "It’s exciting for the kids, they love it.”

    Berry came to the stadium with his wife, 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, three of the thousands on hand for the team's annual youth day.

    Those thousands got to meet players and coaches on the 2013 roster, take photos and have their favorite Michigan items autographed. Members of the dance and cheer teams and the band were also on hand to take photos, as was a maize and blue clad stormtrooper.

    Some of those fans will likely be back in less three weeks, when those players and coaches once again take to the field to kick off their season Aug. 31 at home against Central Michigan.

    “Just a chance to be on the field with the kids, but have some family time but be around a game day atmosphere,” Berry said.

    Quilts and casts

    081013_UM_Youth_Day_CS-2.jpeg

    Freshmen wide receiver Csont'e York and running back Wyatt Shallman sign autograph for fans during youth day at Michigan Stadium, Sunday, August, 11.

    Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

    While some fans came to play on the field, or in the giant inflatable bounce houses in the south end zone, most came for the hour-and-a-half autograph session held with nearly every player on the Michigan roster.

    And while most of those autograph-seekers brought posters and helmets, a few brought some more imaginative items looking for signatures.

    One of the more noticeable groups was a troop of girl scouts, each carrying a maize fabric number looking for an autograph. The idea came from a troop member, who had a number signed and made it into a quilt last year.

    She held that quilt during every Michigan football game of 2012, and every time she hugged it, the team scored a touchdown, she told her troop members later. Twenty five troop members came to Michigan Stadium Sunday to get the autographs needed to make their own good luck quilts.

    “It kind of caught wildfire,” said Dave Wilson, who was among the quilt group along with his daughter.

    Carrie Benore from Maybee, Mich., also got players’ attention with her unique item: a pink cast on her right arm.

    Benore broke her arm after a fall from a window, and is scheduled to have her cast taken off next week.

    But before it that happens, her oldest son suggested she make the trip to youth day to get as many Michigan football signatures on it as possible.

    So Benore spent Sunday plopping her right arm on tables in front of players, and making sure they signed anywhere except where her doctor will need to cut it off. And after the cast is removed, Benore plans on giving it as a gift to her father, who is a “huge Michigan fan.”

    And how did players react to having the cast placed in front of them?

    “They’re like ‘Oh, this is real now,’” Benore said.

    Big line for the big men

    Player popularity can be measured pretty accurately at youth day by the length of the autograph-seeker line in front of their position group. Last year it was no contest: quarterback Denard Robinson was the main attraction.

    This year, though, one of the longest lines was for the only offensive players who don’t handle the ball: the linemen.

    autograph-line-michigan-football.JPG

    The autograph line was longest for the offensive lineman at Michigan football youth day on Sunday.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    “Last year it was crazy anyway, it was all Denard and no one else,” Vince Watson of East Lansing said, after making his way through the offensive lineman autograph line with his family. “And now this year, this was the long line right here.”

    Most were in line to get an autograph and spend a moment with Wolverines All-American Taylor Lewan, who surprised many by returning for his senior season.

    Watson, who spent 45 minutes waiting in the line to get to Lewan, asked him to sign a photo of Lewan lifting up Robinson in celebration. He got Robinson’s signature a few months back at an autograph signing. Sunday, he completed the picture.

    And Lewan obliged with his engaging personality, accompanying most of his signatures with smiles and a kind word.

    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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    The 2012 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival

    Daniel J. Brenner | AnnArbor.com file photo

    While the 35th annual Ypsilanti Heritage Festival continues to broaden its appeal by gearing new programming toward a younger generation, organizers of the three-day festival in Ypsilanti's parks still haven’t forgotten the “heritage” portion of the weekend.

    That has YHF director Andy Clock predicting a more exciting festival this year, Aug. 16 through Aug 18.

    “All around I feel like if we get the good weather, we’re going to have one of the best festivals we’ve had,” he said. “We have a truly amazing group of volunteers giving hundreds of hours to plan and produce our event, and I think they have hit a home run. We've packed in more family activities, more entertainment, more food, more art and even more Michigan beer than ever before.”

    One of the new additions is bringing the DIYpsi (pronounced dip-see) Indie Art Show into the fold. The handmade arts and crafts show used to be a holiday season-only event but has grown in popularity and is now part of the YHF for a summer showcase of local artists' work.

    PREVIEW

    Ypsilanti Heritage Festival

    • Who: Everyone welcome.
    • What: Community event featuring live entertainment, food and drink, family activities and much more.
    • Where: Riverside Park in Ypsilanti and elsewhere.
    • When: Aug. 16-18. For full details, see the festival website.
    • How much: Free admission.
    Clock said he is also excited about the introduction of the Community Rebirth on Cross Street in Depot Town, which is acting independently of the Heritage Festival though with its support.

    That will include a wide range of local music, artists and a farmers market on Cross Street between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday.

    YHF programming has also expanded to include something for kids of all ages.

    All the children’s activities including BOYer the Magic Guy, Colors the Clown, the bounce houses, pony rides and more will return this year, but with the added bonus of it all being free. The craft tent will include activities by the Girl Scouts of America, FLY Art Center and the Ypsilant District Library among others throughout the weekend.

    “We were hearing from parents that once they got down to the park, they had to pay for the really big shiny stuff … and we want to be a free festival, and when we say free, we want it all to be free,” Clock said.

    The YHF also wanted to make the event more fun for teens. The Noise Permit! For Teens By Teens! is a teen zone that will cater to older kids on Saturday between noon and 6:30 p.m. at the Frog Island Park stage. The programming will include Drummunity, a drum circle, and performances by local teen music acts at the Noise Permit Show.

    08182012_ENT_Ypsilanti_Heri.JPG

    The 2012 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival parade.

    Daniel J. Brenner | AnnArbor.com file photo

    The Living History Encampment will feature powwow demonstrations, storytelling, dances and more from local Native American tribes.

    Chautauqua at the Riverside will offer a series of musical, art, history and other shows that all tell a story about Ypsilanti’s history. This year’s Chautauqua is extra special because it was completed by friends of organizer Tom Dodd after Dodd passed away earlier this year.

    Clock said the Michigan beers in the beer garden were a hit last year and this year’s selection of Michigan taps now includes the Saugatuck Brewing Company and Right Brain Brewery along with Wolverine State Brewing Company and Arbor Brewing Company. Miller Lite will also be served, and wine lovers can check out a Michigan wine list.

    The lineup for this year’s musical entertainment includes dozens of bands, though Clock said he was pleased to have landed a number of popular artists like Thornetta Davis, the Ben Miller Band, Dragon Wagon, Black Jake and the Carnies, Moor City Josh, Jill Jack, and Josh Davis.

    Clock said the YHF is expecting around 70,000 visitors throughout the weekend. The event struggled financially in recent years, though the Heritage Festival cut its losses from $26,000 in 2011 to $8,000 last year. Clock said he is pleased that the corporate sponsorship with lead sponsors like Cueter Chrysler has been successful, beer tent revenues are up and programming targeting teens and younger adults have made the festival more appealing to a broader portion of area residents.

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


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    The Saline football team was stopped by Cass Tech in the playoffs in 2012, and the Hornets aren't going to waste any time preparing for a possible rematch with the Technicians.

    Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Summer is almost over, which means…

    Hold on. Take a moment. I know that statement can be a little tough to take this time of year.

    Alright, you good? Fantastic.

    As I was saying, summer is almost over, which means that high school football is just around the corner. Actually, it’s pretty much already here because on Monday, high school football teams can officially begin practice across the state of Michigan.

    As high school teams kick off with the beginning of two-a-days, AnnArbor.com’s coverage will be in full swing as well. We’ll be out at Saline High School bright and early where Joe Palka and the Hornets aren’t letting a second go to waste with a 8 a.m. start time.

    Palka and the Hornets nearly upset Cass Tech on its way to a second straight Division I state championship last year and aren’t going to let a lack of sunlight get in the way of building on last year’s success.

    Also starting early will be the first-ever practice for Ypsilanti Community Schools. Though Ypsilanti and Willow Run only had three combined wins last season, since the two districts merged to form YCS, there’s been a lot of optimism about the combined rosters.

    uniformed-uniformity-willow-run-ypsilanti.jpg

    The teams formerly known as the Ypsilanti Phoenix and Willow Run Flyers will practice for the first time as the Ypsilanti Community Schools Grizzlies on Monday.

    “Everyone’s excited about the potential of combining the two sets of athletes and the numbers have been real high for summer workouts,” said YCS coach Rufus Pipkins, who was the coach at Willow Run for eight years before being hired for the YCS job.

    AnnArbor.com will be there for the Phoenix’s…er…Flyers’…er…Grizzlies’ first-ever practice.

    Huron and Pioneer both have afternoon starts and will both be under the direction of new coaches, Craig Jobe for Huron and Jari Brown for Pioneer. Whether they like it or not, both coaches so far have been known for the conditions under which they were hired - in the wake of the “Footbrawl” and the resignation of their predecessors - than their qualifications.

    Both are excited to get on the field and AnnArbor.com will be there when they finally do.

    “We're looking forward to getting on a field and finally getting to coach,” Brown said.

    There will be articles and photos posted at AnnArbor.com throughout the first day of practice, including the first Game of the Week poll. The theme will continue throughout the week as we get to practice for every single football team in Washtenaw County.

    In other words, stay tuned. Summer may be ending, but there’s plenty of football on the horizon.

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


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    Banners hang on light posts downtown Ann Arbor announcing the annual UA training event at Washtenaw Community College this week.

    Amy Biolchini | AnnArbor.com

    About 2,000 members of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting industry from across the globe will be arriving in Ann Arbor this week for an annual training event at Washtenaw Community College.

    Representatives from the U.S., Canada and Australia will be attending the week-long event, which began Sunday and runs through Friday. It’s the 60th annual training event for the organization, which has held it in Ann Arbor for more than 20 years.

    Ann Arbor Convention Center and Visitor Bureau officials estimate the event will bring about $5 million in to Ann Arbor’s economy and will account for about 11,000 hotel room stays.

    Associated festivities begin Monday with a 5K run and pub crawl in downtown Ann Arbor. Proceeds from the two events go towards the Semper Fi Fund.

    Wednesday is “Industry Day” at the WCC campus.

    A ceremony is planned from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at WCC’s Towsley Auditorium in the Morris Lawrence Building at 4800 E. Huron River Dr.

    Among the speakers are UA General President William Hite and WCC President Rose Bellanca.

    “We are delighted to recognize the 24th anniversary of the partnership between the United Association and Washtenaw Community College,” Bellanca said in a statement. “We remain committed to providing a state-of-the-art venue that allows UA members to enhance their skills and craftsmanship, which are vitally important to a growing and vibrant economy.”

    U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., will be in attendance as well, WCC officials confirmed Wednesday.

    Following the ceremony, WCC staff will be giving elected officials a tour of the UA training classes and WCC’s training facilities at its Great Lakes Regional Center.

    “The United Association Instructor Training Program focuses on training our instructors on becoming better educators,” said Chris Haslinger, director of training for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, in a statement. “Our collaboration with WCC is a true educational partnership that benefits everyone year-round. The program is designed to be forward thinking and the WCC facilities and faculty ensure that participants not only have the skills they need now and but are well prepared with skills for the workplace of the future.”

    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 CVS store on South State Street near University of Michigan's campus plans to add a MinuteClinic.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    CVS Pharmacy plans to open a walk-in medical clinic inside its store on South State Street near the University of Michigan campus.

    MinuteClinics — a division of the CVS Caremark Corporation — provide drop-in care for common illnesses and injuries, administer vaccinations, conduct physicals and monitor chronic conditions. The clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants, according to the MinuteClinic website.

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    CVS plans to open a walk-in medical clinic inside its store on South State Street.

    Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com

    CVS submitted a request to Ann Arbor’s Historic District Commission (HDC) to install a “MinuteClinic” sign on the exterior of its building at 209-211 S. State St. It would replace one of the “Photo” signs.

    “MinuteClinic provides easily accessible healthcare services to the residents of Ann Arbor,” the HDC application says. “The purpose of the MinuteClinic signage is to ensure the residents have knowledge that there is a quick response healthcare center right inside their local CVS.”

    The clinic was under construction Thursday on the second floor of the store in the pharmacy department.

    MinuteClinics are open seven days a week and offer treatment for “common family illnesses,” such as strep throat, bladder infections and pink eye. Practitioners also treat minor wounds, offer routine lab tests and provide wellness services, such as smoking cessation and TB testing. (Learn more about services)

    The clinics accept most insurance plans and posts service prices online for clients paying cash. Prices for initial treatment are listed as $79 to $89.

    The South State Street MinuteClinic location will be the first in Washtenaw County. According to the MinuteClinic website, there are 12 clinics in southeast Michigan and 680 locations across 25 states. By 2017, MinuteClinic wants to have 1,500 clinics inside CVS stores.

    The South State Street clinic is planning to open later this month, pending final approvals, according to MinuteClinic spokesman Brent Burkhardt.

    CVS opened its store near U-M’s campus in 2011, after completing an $8 million renovation of the historic building.

    Just down the street from the CVS, competing retail pharmacy giant Walgreen Co. signed a lease to open a store in the former Michigan Book & Supply building. Walgreens signs are posted in the windows of the building at 317 S. State St., and the store is expected to open in the first half of 2014.

    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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    A compilation of clippings from the Ann Arbor News dating from 1967 to 1970 covering a class action lawsuit brought against the Ann Arbor Public Schools that challenged fees charged to students for enrollment and textbooks.

    Amy Biolchini | AnnArbor.com

    A lawsuit filed Wednesday challenging the Ann Arbor Public School's new policy to charge students for a seventh class at Huron and Pioneer high schools isn't the first time the district has come under fire for student fees.

    A 1968 circuit court ruling on a class action lawsuit brought against Ann Arbor schools in 1966 found various fees the district was charging students for enrollment to be unconstitutional.

    An appeal by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit was decided by the Michigan Supreme Court in 1970 and served as the model for statewide policy that continues to be the guiding principle for school districts in regards to charging students fees for classes, materials and textbooks.

    AAPS maintains that advice from an independent legal firm received by the Board of Education had taken into account the 1968 and 1970 court rulings in its recommendation that the board was safe in approving charging students $100 per semester for a 7th class.

    Bond, et al vs. the Ann Arbor School District

    The original class action lawsuit was filed by Lillian Bond and Daniel Fusfeld — two parents of students in Ann Arbor schools — and challenged the district’s fee-charging policies for activities and textbooks as unconstitutional.

    Bonds claimed that two of her children were sent home because they didn’t pay the fees — which the school administration dismissed as not true during the trial.

    • Fees during the 1966-67 school year that the 1968 lawsuit challenged were:
    • Fees by grade for students: $1 for kindergarteners, $3 for grades one through six, $6 for grades seven through nine and $10 for grades 10 through 12
    • Materials fees for art, industrial art, home economics and sewing classes
    • Fees for pencils and textbooks
    • Fees for gym clothes and locker rental
    • Fees for the supervision of children who didn’t go home to lunch
    • $1 swimsuit rental fee for girls

    W. Scott Westerman Jr. served as the assistant superintendent for AAPS from 1963-67, when he was promoted to superintendent and served until 1971.

    The Ann Arbor schools’ fee policy was a historic one and was in place prior to 1963 when he was hired, Westerman said Friday. Westerman said the school district’s budget was not under stress under his term until about 1970, when a millage failed and the district had to give layoff notices to 300 employees - which they later recalled.

    Though he personally didn’t think the fees the district was charging were equitable, Westerman said the district didn’t move to eliminate them until they were challenged in the lawsuit.

    “I felt the concept of a free education was not being realized or implemented fully when I was charging these fees,” Westerman said.

    The Washtenaw County Circuit Court ruled that all of the fees were unconstitutional — but it upheld the district’s fees for textbooks. The case was appealed to the state’s high court, which ruled that all public schools must provide textbooks for students with no fee.

    080913_AAPS-1968-LAWSUIT.JPG

    A clipping from the Ann Arbor News in 1970 of families selling textbooks back to Ann Arbor Public Schools after a Michigan Supreme Court ruling mandated that public schools provide textbooks free of charge to students.

    Amy Biolchini | AnnArbor.com

    The decision prompted Ann Arbor Public Schools in 1970 to buy back textbooks from students at 50 percent of their original price to build its library.

    The Michigan Supreme Court’s order also forced the district to refund $140,862, plus interest, to parents of students that had paid fees in the 1966-67 and 1967-68 school years.

    In response to the high court’s decision, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Arthur E. Carpenter of Ann Arbor, told the Ann Arbor News he was “delighted.”

    “To us, free public education means without cost. It means that any qualified child can attend the public schools without a penny in his pocket and with his head held high,” Carpenter said in a July 1970 interview with the News.

    The state’s position on fee charging

    The Michigan assistant attorney general issued an interpretation of the Supreme Court’s 1970 decision on the case, which prompted the state’s Board of Education to draft a position statement on free textbooks, materials and the charging of fees in 1972. That document is still used by the state as a guideline today.

    The document states school districts may not make charges for any required or elective courses such as for:

    • General or registration fees
    • Course fees or materials ticket charges
    • Textbooks and school supplies

    However, school districts may charge students for class or organizational dues.

    The state Department of Education declined to comment on the lawsuit, but provided a 2011 memo from the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan.

    In the memo, Flanagan reminded public school officials of the state’s policies of charging students fees as many school districts under severe budget pressure sought revenue sources.

    The memo also included a reminder of the precedent set by the ruling in the 1970 class action case against AAPS:

    • School districts may not make charges for any required or elective course, such as for general or registration fees, course fees, and/or textbook and school supplies. School district may determine the reasonable quality and quantity of school supplies that will be provided. The district may also determine the length of time such materials are provided.
    • School districts may charge fees for extracurricular activities, but only on a “Pay to Participate” or “Pay to Play” basis. Fees that are portrayed as mandatory costs for families are not allowable. School districts also should make provisions so that students without financial means are not excluded, within reason.

    A review of the 1968 and 1970 rulings was taken into consideration by AAPS’ independent legal counsel, Collins & Blaha of Farmington Hills, in its recommendation to the board on the seventh class issue, said Liz Margolis, spokeswoman for AAPS.

    “The legal opinion was that it was a completely different situation,” Margolis said.

    Friday, Margolis maintained the school district’s stance that because the state’s per-pupil foundation allowance is to provide the mandated six credit hours to students, the district is not legally required to offer students the ability to receive seven credit hours in a school year.

    The Ann Arbor Board of Education approved the $100 per semester charge to students who choose to take a seventh class in the same lengthy June 12 meeting in which it approved its budget.

    The board cut $8.7 million out of its operations for the 2013-14 school year.

    During that budget meeting, Trustee Glenn Nelson said he fully expected the board to be sued for the decision, but believes it would stand the test of a lawsuit due to the board’s legal advice.

    Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Ann Arbor schools families against AAPS.

    The suit claims that students at Pioneer and Huron high schools need a seventh class hour in order to complete their graduation requirements if they choose to participate in music, art, foreign language and Advanced Placement classes, or alternate career programs.

    AAPS could set a dangerous precedent in Michigan if it begins to implement a tuition-based learning model in public schools with tightening budgets, the ACLU warned.

    The firm of Collins & Blaha will continue to represent AAPS through the lawsuit followed by the ACLU, Margolis said.

    The changing seventh class option

    About 16 percent of students at Huron, Pioneer and Community high schools enrolled in a seventh class in the 2012-13 school year, Margolis said.

    For Community High students, a seventh class is an option if they choose to dual-enroll in either Huron or Pioneer.

    Beginning this 2013-14 school year, students at all three of those schools will face the $100 per semester charge for a seventh class.

    It’s too soon to estimate how many students will seek the seventh class option this year, Margolis said. Class registration at the high schools begins Aug. 20-21.

    Margolis said AAPS will offer scholarships to students seeking a seventh class if they cannot afford the charge in the same manner that the district offers scholarships for its “Pay-to-Play” policy with sports.

    Though former AAPS Superintendent Westerman was not familiar with the district’s decision this spring to charge students $100 per semester for a seventh class, he offered the following comment:

    “Our financial circumstance is making schools less than they should be,” Westerman said.

    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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    There are now two unsolved homicides involving college students in Washtenaw County.

    Months before University of Michigan medical student Paul DeWolf was found dead from a single gunshot inside his room at a fraternity, Eastern Michigan University journalism student Julia Niswender was found drowned in a bathtub in an "unnatural position" at her Ypsilanti apartment, according to police.

    Police don't think the cases are at all connected, but investigations continue in both. Each have cash rewards for information leading to the arrest of a suspect. As Ann Arbor police track down leads in the DeWolf case, however, the Niswender case seems to be at a standstill.

    juliareward.jpg

    Courtesy photo

    "There are some things still at the lab, but no new leads in the case," Ypsilanti police Lt. Deric Gress wrote in a statement. "Detectives have exhausted most of the viable leads at this point."

    Ypsilanti police did not wish to comment further.

    The last major announcement in the Niswender case came in April, when police confirmed that when the 23-year-old woman was found Dec. 11 at her off-campus apartment in Peninsular Place, she was in the bathtub in an "unnatural position" and that the cause of death was asphyxiation from drowning.

    Family members have said that the apartment door was locked and that there were no signs of sexual assault or struggle, but that the apartment was in disarray and a few items were missing.

    The case was investigated as a homicide from the beginning.

    "This case has always been and will continue to be a homicide," Ypsilanti police Chief Amy Walker told AnnArbor.com in April. "... There won't be a stone unturned."

    Police interviewed more than 100 individuals from areas ranging from Ohio to the Upper Peninsula in the case with no luck in developing a suspect.

    A $10,000 reward continues to be offered by the Duvall Group Investigations PLLC for more information regarding Niswender's death. Individuals with information are being asked to contact the Michigan State Police at 1-800-SPEAK-UP or the Ypsilanti Police Department at 734-483-9510.

    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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    The 71-year-old Freedom Township woman seriously injured in a head-on collision that killed two people in Pittsfield Township last month has been upgraded to stable condition and is expected to survive.

    Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 072913_NEWS_Fatal_MRM_01.jpg

    The woman who was seriously injured in this crash last month is expected to survive, police said.

    In a statement released late Sunday night, Pittsfield Township police said Christine Ellen Stierle, the wife of Neil Stierle, was a passenger riding in the front seat of the eastbound 2005 Mercury Montego was struck head-on on the morning of July 29 on Michigan Avenue near Textile Road.

    Police said Christine Stierle was taken to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in critical condition that day. Two weeks later, she is still in the hospital but has been upgraded to stable condition.

    “Her condition has improved to stable condition and she is expected to recover,” police said in the statement.

    Neil Stierle, 81, was killed when a westbound 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt, driven by Benjamin Alden, crossed the centerline and struck the Montego head-on. Alden, a 28-year-old Saline man, also died at the scene of the crash.

    Police said Sunday that alcohol, drugs and telephone usage are not believed to be factors in the crash. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

    Officials have previously told AnnArbor.com that an exhaustive investigation into the crash is ongoing, including accident reconstruction and the results of tests done by the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s Office.

    Neil Stierle’s funeral was held on Saturday in Pittsfield Township.

    Anyone with information about this crash is encouraged to call the Pittsfield Township police at 734-822-4911.

    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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    Ann Arbor police are investigating two assaults reported during the weekend, both of which ended up with women being struck in the face during the altercations.

    Police responded at 2:47 a.m. Saturday in the 200 block of South State Street. A couple was walking down the street when a vehicle with three men inside pulled up along side them.

    According to police, some verbal sparring took place between the man on the sidewalk and the men in the car. The three men got out of the car and a physical altercation started. During the fight, the woman was punched on the left side of her face by one of the men.

    The men fled the scene before police arrived.

    Police responded to the second incident at 3:15 a.m. Sunday in the 600 block of Church Street. According to police, a couple was walking down the street when a woman approached them, and grabbed the man by his shirt.

    The man told the woman to let go, and when she did she slapped his girlfriend in the face. The woman knows the couple.

    Police continue to investigate these cases and did not release suspect descriptions Monday morning. Anyone with information on these incidents is encouraged to call the Ann Arbor police anonymous tip line at 734-794-6939 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).


    View 600 Church St in a larger map

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


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    Annie Capps, Whit Hill and Kitty Donohoe, an impressively talented trio of individual female singer/songwriters, team up for “Songwriters In the Round” on Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room’s intimate stage Friday night.

    All three are familiar to Ann Arbor music aficionados thanks to several years’ worth of local shows at various venues. Two of them—Capps and Donohoe—are also members of the local songwriting collective Yellow Room Gang.”

    kitty-donohoe.jpg

    Kitty Donohoe

    Based in Ann Arbor, Emmy recipient Donohoe’s music draws from her Irish heritage as well as her American roots. Already known for years for her songwriting, her visibility escalated when she wrote the haunting “There Are No Words” to honor those lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

    Besides her many Ark performances in the past, music fans may also know Capps from the “My Folky Valentine” shows she has organized at The Ark in recent years.

    Hill, a former Ann Arborite now pursuing her musical career in Nashville, has several CDs with her band, The Postcards, to her credit. She often performs at the Summer Festival’s Top of the Park and also organizes, and performs in, the annual Nash Bash event in the Kerrytown area.

    With talent like this, you know this is going to be a good show, and it’s a great opportunity to catch three amazing acts all on the same bill, for free.

    “Songwriters in the Round” is Friday, Aug. 16 at 8:30 p.m. at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom, 114 S. Main St. Admission is free. Details at www.crazywisdom.net or 734-665-2757.


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    The crowd at last year's NashBash.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Annual music and BBQ block party NashBash, is a good reminder that Summer still has plenty of fuel left. The late summertime concert brings a taste of Nashville to Ann Arbor's Kerrytown district.

    Musicians from Nashville and Michigan will perform, while Aut Bar cooks up BBQ, a vendors' row features the Ann Arbor Artisans Market and more, "Trunkers of Trunkapalooza" will sell flea market items and other finds, and people will drink and get merry.

    The 7th annual NashBash will happen Thursday, August 15, from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. Bands, eats and treats will be followed by an open-mic after party with the NashBash performers, at the Aut Bar in Braun Court.

    Former Ann Arborite turned Nashvillian Whit Hill invites the music headliner and performs with her band every year. The songwriter and dance instructor co-founded the event with Kerrytown District Association President Deanna Relyea, who runs the Kerrytown Concert House.

    This year's special guest headliner Wild Ponies will perform, from about 7:45 p.m. to 8:35 p.m., followed by Hill's band Whit Hill and the Postcards, from about 8:35 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

    PREVIEW

    NashBash 2013

    • Who: Musicians from Ann Arbor and Nashville, including transplant Whit Hill & the Postcards.
    • What: Annual festival of country music, barbecue, beer and more.
    • Where: Ann Arbor Farmers Market, 315 Detroit St.
    • When: 5-9:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15.
    • How much: Free admission.
    And the Kerrytown District Association has invited 6 acts to start the show. Starting at 5 p.m. to about 5:20 p.m., local songwriters Lisa Pappas and Michael Weiss will kick things off, and Ru Knoedler with Cosmic Flavor and Friends goes on from 5:20 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. Area songwriter Matt Boylan performs from 5:50 p.m. to 6:05 p.m., followed by Ann Arbor's alt country and roots band Hoodang, from 6:05 p.m. to 6:35 p.m.

    Next from about 6:35 p.m. to 7:10 p.m., The Hill Tillers are duo Bill Edwards, who splits his time between Ann Arbor and Nashville, and Detroit musician Sigrid Christiansen. Nashville band The hApHaZaRds (Pam Kennedy Boylan and Steve Mitchell) play from 7:10 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. And the Wild Ponies and Whit Hill and the Postcards will follow.

    Expect strong storytelling coming from this lineup, whether it comes in the form of a laid back ballad, an up-tempo alt country smasher, or some epic tale with traditional roots.

    Nashville's sound is diverse. Country, singer-songwriter, Americana, folk, rock, bluegrass, and other genres of music thrive there. And I have never met a musician who only draws inspiration from one type of music nor a fan at NashBash who only listens to one genre.

    Hill met the two musicians at the core of Wild Ponies, Doug and Telisha Williams, in a weekly meet-up group for songwriters in East Nashville. The married couple helps host, when they aren't touring extensively - they average more than 100 a year. The songwriter's group shares a lot of half-written songs and feedback with other.

    The contemporary Americana band has hints of country - Telisha's sweet voice twangs. However, theirs is really a mix of sounds that can capture the old timey feel of traditional music while leaving room for moments of alt rock or and other contemporary sounds.

    From a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the couple toured as an acoustic duo under their own names, Doug and Telisha Williams, before recently settling in Nashville and starting the band. They know how to tell legends rich in narrative detail, whether a story is inspired by true life or the imagination.

    "I'm incredibly impressed with Doug and Telisha. The things they are writing about are Americana stories that they've felt and lived, and they express them in really beautiful and unusual ways," Hill says. As much as their songwriting comes from personal experiences, often deeply emotional, "they can also go on wild flights of fancy and make up amazing characters and situations," she adds. "It's emotional, creative and slightly eccentric music, of which I'm a big fan."

    Wild Ponies streams many of their songs for free on their website, including 2 songs from their upcoming album, Things That Used to Shine. The official release date is September 10th.

    The Williams also do a radio show, "Whiskey Wednesdays," for East Nashville Radio that is online.

    After her band's recent performance at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival's Top of the Park, Hill is looking forward to the opportunity to visit home again. In fact, one of Hill's newest songs is all about Ann Arbor. She wrote it a few days before Top of the Park and looks forward to playing it again at NashBash.

    "I've wanted to write a song about the town that still feels like home even though I don't live there anymore," Hill says. "I really wanted to talk about the old places that are gone now - funky stores and places - and the funkiness that is still always there under the surface. All of the corporate places coming in will never completely tap that out. It celebrates things that are gone and things that are still there," Hill says.

    Somewhere in the midst of the live music, BBQ, buys and booze, you might start to push those back-to-school commercials to the back of your mind. NashBash is always a social, lively event that many people have told me they really enjoy and return to every year. It is outdoor music in Ann Arbor during the summertime plus booths and food - a festival packed into one evening.


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    Michigan is emerging as one of 10 battleground states for the success of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Detroit News reported.

    A major provision of the Affordable Care Act will take effect Oct. 1 nationwide: Health insurance exchanges will launch to consumers.

    081213_ACA.JPG

    President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Actin to law in the East Room of the White House in Washington in this file photo from March 23, 2010.

    The Associated Press

    The exchanges are online marketplaces where consumers can shop for insurance plans.

    As the Michigan Legislature wrestles over whether to expand Medicaid to about 500,000 people — a provision under the Affordable Care Act — national advocacy organizations against the federal health care law are sending workers to knock on doors of Michigan residents, according to the report.

    Should President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act fail to take hold in Michigan and several swing states, it would affirm the opposition's claims that health care provided by the government is unwanted, the Detroit News reported.

    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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    huron-football-generica-10122012.jpeg

    Huron will take on Windsor Massey to kick off the high school football season.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file

    Game of the Week is back, and the first poll is a party poll.

    Every Washtenaw County high school football team will be included in our AnnArbor.com/Mlive.com Game of the Week poll, which opens today as teams take to the field for the first day of practice.

    We’re looking for your vote as to the best game of Week 1. Whichever game gets the most votes will be the focus of our coverage for the week leading up to kickoff. We’ll preview the game, cover it from multiple angles, take a slew of photos and host our weekly live chat on site.

    In all, 11 football games will be played during the opening weekend, either on Thursday, Aug. 29 or Friday, Aug. 30. And any one of them could be our first Game of the Week for the 2013-14 school year.

    Highlights in week one include Manchester playing Clinton for the 113th time in one of the state’s oldest rivalries, Milan will take on the newly-merged Ypsilanti Community High School in the only game between Washtenaw County teams and Chelsea starting the season by hosting a Lansing Sexton team that has had six straight winning seasons.

    Two Canadian teams will also be invading Washtenaw County on the opening weekend, with Windsor Massey coming to play Huron Thursday and London A.B. Lucas playing at Saline Friday.

    Voting will stay open for more than two weeks until Tuesday, Aug. 27. But it’s never too early to get your vote in.

    We’ll be picking a Game of the Week every week throughout the season, and this year we’re adding a new twist. Instead of me simply picking what I think are the top five games of the week to include in the poll, we’re giving you a voice.

    A few days before our polls go up, we’ll solicit nominations for Game of the Week, starting in Week 2. That will be your chance to make your pitch in our comments section as to why your team’s game is worthy of inclusion in our poll. Creativity points will be awarded.

    It's never too early to nominate a game, so let us know in the comments section why a particular game deserves to be game of the week, and after casting a vote plead your game's case in the comments below.

    But for now, everyone’s involved as we celebrate the kickoff of football in 2013.


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