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

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    As my family and many others across Michigan file our taxes, we’re noticing something: Our taxes are going up. Gov. Rick Snyder and Republicans in Lansing are raising our taxes and taking money out of the pockets of struggling families.

    Meanwhile, wealthy CEO's and big corporations got a $1.8 billion tax break.

    This governor and Republicans in the Legislature must be held accountable when they take money away from hard-working families to pay for corporate subsidies.

    Phil Lebarre

    Ypsilanti


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    Survivors of the Holocaust in Ann Arbor will present a Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) memorial service on April 8 at the Jewish Community Center.

    their_last_embrace.jpg

    Digital artist Miriam Brysk uses images of real victims to create art on the Holocaust. Pictured is "Their Last Embrace."

    Courtesy of the artist

    The event will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor, 2935 Birch Hollow Drive.

    It will be the second community-wide Holocaust Remembrance Day event. The purpose is to remember the massacre of 6 million European Jews during the Holocaust as well as some 5 million non-Jews.

    Scott Spector, a professor of history, German and Judaic Studies, as well as the chair of Germanic Languages and Literature at the University of Michigan, will speak at the program. Survivors of the Holocaust will also share recollections of specific moments in their lives.

    According to Miriam Brysk, a digital artist who uses images of real victims to create Art on the Holocaust the local group of Holocaust survivors was organized a couple of years ago.

    "While Holocaust survivors have had associations in the Detroit area for many years with some participation from Ann Arbor residents, the local group deplored the lack of a meaningful commemoration of the Holocaust in Ann Arbor, unlike many smaller localities with fewer Jews," said Brysk. "We decided to mount our own and to lead it, making it community-wide without sectarianism."

    Last year a dozen survivors spoke and about 180 people attended the event, a third of whom Brysk estimates were not Jewish. She expects a larger turnout this year.

    "As survivors, we feel a moral obligation to remember those who perished, many in our own families," she said. "We were all children at that time, and our lives since have been plagued by the nightmares we experienced."

    Brysk says that most of the older survivors are no longer alive and the number of child survivors is dwindling.

    Brysk also will present two art programs in conjunction with Yom HaShoah, teaching the Holocaust through art, one at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Eastern Michigan University's Student Center Auditorium, and on at 3 p.m. on April 7 at the Jewish Community Center.

    "We hope that Yom Ha Shoah remembrance will continue in Ann Arbor long after we are gone," said Brysk.


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    The men accused of shooting at a vehicle with four small children in it on Feb. 16 will return to court for a preliminary exam Tuesday.

    Jason_Mayleben.jpg

    Jason Mayleben

    Courtesy of WCSO

    Michael Haywood, 24, and Jason Mayleben, 25, are both charged with two counts each of assault with intent to murder, assault with a dangerous weapon and one count each of carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and being a felon in the possession of a firearm.

    Court records show their preliminary exam is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the 14A-1 District Court in Pittsfield Township.

    Haywood and Mayleben are accused of following a 26-year-old Wayne man while driving on Feb. 16 in Ypsilanti Township. In the area of Parkwood Avenue and South Harris Road, the man stopped his vehicle and stopped to see why Haywood and Mayleben were following him.

    According to deputies, Haywood pulled out a gun and began shooting in the man’s direction after the two men yelled at each other for some time.

    Michael_Haywood.jpg

    Michael Haywood

    Courtesy of WCSO

    Two bullets hit the vehicle, according to deputies. Inside the vehicle was the Wayne man’s girlfriend and his four children. Haywood and Mayleben then fled the area, deputies said.

    Investigators said Mayleben and the Wayne man had a prior history, having fought a week before the incident.

    Mayleben, of Ann Arbor, was arraigned on charges on Feb. 19 and given a $25,000 bond, which he has since posted. Haywood, of Ypsilanti Township, was arrested in Ann Arbor on Feb. 27 and given a $20,000 bond. He too has posted bond and is no longer at the Washtenaw County Jail.

    No one was injured in the incident.

    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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    Cristy Cardinal and Melanie Hagan with two of their children.

    Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

    Cristy Cardinal, who lives in Superior Township with her family, had never heard of the White House Easter Egg Roll until she happened upon a public relations video featuring 9-year-old Robbie Novak, more commonly known as the YouTube sensation Kid President,

    "After watching it, there was a link to enter the [tickets] lottery," Cardinal said. "I thought, 'Wouldn’t that be fun?'"

    The White House Easter Egg Roll is a tradition dating back to 1878 when thousands of people gather on the south lawn of the White House to sing, dance, play games, tell stories and roll Easter eggs across the lawn.

    Cardinal entered her family into the ticket lottery and a few weeks later, she received an email from the White House inviting her, her partner and their two kids to the 135th Easter Egg Roll on April 1. But she and her partner, Melanie Hagan, were reluctant to celebrate because they couldn't afford a weekend trip to Washington D.C.

    So they reached out to their friends and family.

    "We did an online fundraiser and in 24 hours had raised $2,000 to pay for our trip," Cardinal said.

    That money was enough to cover all of their expenses and even helped compensate for the unpaid time off that Hagan had to request.

    "We’re overwhelmed with how loved we are," she said.

    Cardinal and Hagan left Friday with their three children, 6-year-old Charlotte, and 2-year-old twins Ruby and Milo.

    "My older daughter is turning cartwheels with excitement," Cardinal said. "She understands who Barack Obama is and is really excited to meet him. We might not get the chance, but we hope to."

    The twins aren't quite old enough to fully understand the trip's significance.

    "They’re excited to go to 'the big white house,'" she said. "That’s what they keep calling it."

    Cardinal said they'll be driving all day Friday and Saturday and they plan to go to the National Zoo on Sunday.

    On Monday, they'll go to the egg roll, where Cardinal said she and Hagan are especially excited about the high-profile chefs that will be catering the event.

    "I’m super excited about the chefs," she said. "We’re total food nerds in our house. We hope we get a chance to actually meet them and talk a little bit of food talk—what to do with all of those hard-boiled eggs maybe."

    Once the egg roll is over, Cardinal said her family has one last thing to do before heading home to Michigan.

    "While we are in that part of the world, we’re going to go to Maryland and getting married," she said. "The kids don’t know about that yet. We’re going to tell them closer to doing it."

    Cardinal said the family will return home on Tuesday.

    "We’re very, very grateful for the people who supported us and made it possible for us to do this," she said.


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    A 39-year-old South Lyon man was struck by a car earlier this afternoon. His condition at this time in not known.

    The accident occurred around 1 p.m. when a driver, also from South Lyon, was heading southbound on Pontiac Trail just south of 5 Mile Road in Salem Township.

    According to Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office spokesman Derrick Jackson, the 22-year-old driver's car drifted over to the shoulder of the road, and the bicyclist was struck by the car's mirror.

    He was transported by Huron Valley Ambulance to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.


    View Larger Map


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    Bicyclists, runners, walkers, and more are making the most of today's sunny conditions with temperatures peaking in the mid-50's.

    "It makes you think of spring," said Ann Arbor resident Donna Puehler.

    Though spring officially began on March 20, Ann Arbor residents are only now experiencing the weather that comes along with it. Saturday started a bit chilly in the morning with temperatures in the low-20's, but by late afternoon it had warmed up to mid-50's with partly sunny skies and a mild breeze.

    "I need the sun for my body," said Carol Brooks, who lives in Ann Arbor. "I've really been missing it. It puts smiles on people's faces."

    Jamie Brooks said the weather made it possible to enjoy pushing her baby's carriage through the streets of Ann Arbor.

    "We had a baby in November, and I was held hostage with the cold weather and flu," said Brooks with 4-month old Jessica. "I can finally get outside with her."

    Lucky for Brooks, she might be able to enjoy strolling through the streets on Sunday as well, with a forecast of sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-50's, despite rumors of rain and snow from earlier in the week.

    Chris Stilwell said he had cycled to the gym this morning. "It's a lot more comfortable in this weather to be out on a bicycle," he said. "I can concentrate on riding as opposed to fighting off cold and can enjoy the trek between point A and point B."

    Stilwell also said he's also planning to go fishing.

    Elaine Richards was sitting outside with her walking shoes in her hands examining her treads.

    "It's more enjoyable to walk in weather like this, but I walk year round," she said. "I'm training for the (Susan G. Komen) 3-day walk for cancer and have already walked seven miles today," she said, adding, "I need a new pair of walking shoes."

    For updated forecasts and conditions any time, check AnnArbor.com's weather page.


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    Former Roberto Clemente student Jaylevon Ginyard-Johnson, then 16, reads from a textbook during an African American studies summer school class.

    Photo by Melanie Maxwell for AnnArbor.com

    Editor's note: The following editorial is a letter addressed to the Ann Arbor Public School Board of Trustees from the staff of Roberto Clemente.

    We, the Roberto Clemente staff, are fully united in our disapproval of the proposed move of our program to Pioneer High School, contrary to the report presented to you by central administration on March 13.

    It is impossible to maintain the integrity of Roberto Clemente if it is to be housed in a comprehensive high school, as “a school within a school.” History, within Ann Arbor, has shown that “school within a school” models are not successful, such as Middle Years Alternative (MYA) and New School. Our identity will be stifled at Pioneer or any other comprehensive high school. Be not deceived, our students, parents, and staff will be treated like second-class citizens; the whispers already are being heard.

    Central administration is expecting us to go from 13 classrooms we now have in use (not counting our gymnasium, computer lab, media center and three separate office spaces) to six classrooms in a wing of Pioneer, again compromising the integrity of our program.

    We further want you to be aware the program review omitted our parents, staff, and students. How can one fairly assess our program by omitting those who have the most history and knowledge? This evaluation of Roberto Clemente has been a sham. The Clemente community stakeholders, parents, students, teachers, alumni and retirees have not had an integral part in the administration’s report.

    Last school year, several of our staff members implored you to give us time to collaborate with AAPS staff and other stakeholders if it was determined that our building would be closed.

    If you accept Ann Arbor Public School’s Superintendent Patricia Green’s proposal and move us to Pioneer, this is the scenario:

    1. The loss of a safe haven for our students who have not been successful in larger environments. They will be returning to the same negative environment they were escaping from. Some of our students are fearful of attending a large, comprehensive high school.
    2. The isolation of our students. The loss of the Clemente Family culture, climate, intimate classroom settings and small class sizes.
    3. The loss of our strong leadership and voice. Either immediately, or after one year, you will be expecting us to fall under the umbrella of a Pioneer principal. Our students will be confused about who has jurisdiction over them: the principal of Clemente or a Pioneer principal. We also will not be able to use the intercom for our principal to communicate with our staff and students, which is one of the effective strategies we are able to use in our location.
    4. The loss of our trimester schedule. We will be forced to change to a two-semester schedule resulting in less instruction time for our core classes and more difficulty for students to recover lost credits.
    5. The loss of flexibility to adjust our day. We have weekly rap sessions/mentor time, ACT prep activities, guest speakers, etc. Rap sessions often last longer than the allotted time, and we have the freedom to adjust the bell schedule for the rest of the classes that day. How will that effect electives our students may be taking?
    6. The loss of support for our students. Clemente staff will not be able to provide the same level of service and support for students integrated into Pioneer’s elective classes.
    7. The loss of pride our students exhibit for being a part of the Roberto Clemente family. Uniforms set the tone and expectations for our building. Uniforms diminish the economic and social barriers between students, increase school pride and sense of community, promote positive student behavior, and improve the overall learning environment. Statistics show student concentration improves, and there is an increase in attendance and graduation rates.
    The increased ability for our students to get into altercations with other students, leave campus without anyone noticing — for instance, hopping on the AATA, and skipping classes. At our present location, there is nowhere for students to go. There is no place to hide or the ability to skip classes.

    A potential loss of revenue from Ypsilanti Public Schools from our shared programming with their at-risk population (we receive $4,000 per student, per trimester — approximately $100,000 this school year). Furthermore, the Ypsilanti Board of Education and parents may not be willing to handle the burden of transporting students deeper into Ann Arbor. This income we generate from our partnership with Ypsilanti has never shown up in the reports presented to the Board of Education.

    Contrary to the report, the transition of our students to the secondary summer school at Pioneer was neither smooth nor successful. Clemente students struggled tremendously. Of the more than 800 students that attended Pioneer last summer, only 16 were Roberto students. Three did not finish summer school, another student completed summer school, but was so badly scarred by the experience she was unable to transition back into our environment and has left our program. Overall, 25 percent of our students were not successful. Our normal summer school enrollment is about 85 students.

    Roberto Clemente’s building, at 4377 Textile Road, was designed and constructed in 1994 with the input of our stakeholders - parents, teachers, and students. At one time we had as many as 135 students in our program, and we would be able to accommodate that many again provided we have the teaching staff. Throughout the years our staff has been downsized, as many as two a year. As a result, our student population has shrunk. As of two years ago, we lost the staffing to support an eighth-grade class.

    We, as part of the Clemente family, would like to know what the board members true intentions are for our building. The members of the board have not had any public discussions about the future of our site. The best thing for Clemente’s program would be to remain in our own self-contained building on Textile Road. Whose needs are more important than the most vulnerable population of our young people? How will our students ever have a chance to bridge the achievement gap under the status quo?

    It appears as though recommendations are few, but how about this? For a $200,000 proposed savings, eliminate the $54,000 annual pension payment for the superintendent, mandate a $50,0000 salary reduction, and acknowledge the $90,000 in revenue that Clemente brings to the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Problem averted.

    Kathleen Ardan on behalf of The Roberto Clemente Staff

    Kathleen Ardan has been at Roberto Clemente since 1982 as a paraprofessional. I am a resident of within the Ann Arbor Public School District and have had three children graduate from it - two from Community High and one from Huron (by way of Clemente).


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    Tom Hollander, owner of the Hollander's in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown, said he will be closing the Hollander's Kitchen Store at the end of May.

    112412_Small_Business_Satur-1.JPG

    Hollander's, located in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown, will be closing the Hollander's Kitchen Store on May 31.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    "The Kitchen Store has done well, but we've got our hands full," said Tom Hollander, who co-owns Hollander's with his wife Cindy Hollander. "It's been a great store, but when we took it on four years ago, we knew we needed to get someone to manage it, and it hasn't worked out. We've had to spend more time up there than we wanted."

    The Kitchen Store is on the second story inside the Kerrytown Shops while the rest of Hollander's — which specializes in decorative papers and hand bookbinding supplies— is located on the main level in Kerrytown with a space for its workshops in the basement. Hollander's paper store will continue to operate as usual.

    Tom and Cindy Hollander began their business in 1986 selling handcrafted boxes and desk accessories from their home. They opened the retail store in the Kerrytown Shops in 1991, and added the Kitchen Store in 2009.

    Tom Hollander said he is hopeful another kitchen store will take over the space because a lot of people like having a kitchen store in Kerrytown.

    "We'll miss it, but we're well-entrenched with the paper store and feel positive about everything else going on," said Tom Hollander.

    Beginning Monday, Hollander's Kitchen Store will begin a 25 percent-off sale of all its products and on May 1, will continue to mark-down all products by 40 percent or more until their final day in business on May 31.


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    Many Washtenaw County residents enjoyed the weather and Easter celebrations in a number of locations on Saturday. The morning began with an Easter Egg Hunt and Breakfast at Vineyard Church. Participants searched for plastic eggs while enjoying a meal. They also offered pony rides and childrens games.

    More than 1,000 people attended the Ann Arbor Jaycees Easter Egg Scramble in Buhr Park. Jaycees President Karen Haberland says they try to add new attractions every year.

    "There's no better way to have fun," she said. Haberland also says more than 500 families preregistered and about 400 signed up at the event. Scramble times were 11:30 a.m., noon, and 12:30 p.m. Other features included a petting zoo, face painting, balloon twisters, and more.

    Saline also held their 11th annual Saline Eggstravaganza. Families started an Easter egg hunt at Busch’s Fresh Food Market, followed a trail map to several businesses, and finished at Mickey's Dairy Twist. Participants received candy and treats from local merchants. An Easter Bunny also was circulating to greet families and take pictures.


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    mens-swimming-national-title.jpg

    Michigan celebrates winning the the NCAA men's college swimming and diving championships in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 30, 2013.

    Associated Press

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Your move Michigan men's basketball team. Your swimming and diving counterparts just raised the bar for performance of the weekend and bested Ohio State along the way.

    Michigan's Connor Jaeger won the 1,650-yard freestyle Saturday night to wrap up the Wolverines' first NCAA men's swimming and diving team title since 1995.

    It is the swimming and diving team's 12th national title all time, which is tops in the nation, the Wolverines were previously tied with Ohio State for first with 11.

    Though Michigan came into the weekend as the top-ranked team in the nation, head coach Mike Bottom said he didn't think the championship was possible.

    yaeger-national-title.jpg

    Michigan's Connor Jeager reacts after winning the 500-meter freestyle at the NCAA men's swimming and diving championships on Thursday, March 28 2013, in Indianapolis.

    Associated Press

    "We didn't have a real confidence that we would win this," Bottom said.

    Michigan led from start to finish of the three-day event held at the IU Natatorium in Indianapolis. Michigan's 1995 championship was won in the same venue.

    "By the second day I looked at our team and I said, 'All right we've gotten in the top three, now what do you want to do?" They looked at me like I was crazy. They looked at me and said, 'We came here to win.'"

    Jaeger finished in 14 minutes, 27.18 seconds, while the Wolverines' Sean Ryan finished fourth, Ryan Feeley sixth and Anders Nielsen ninth.

    "I was not thinking about a time, just racing and enjoying the race, too," Jaeger said. "The coaches have been great about not putting any pressure on us. The team understood that we're having a really special year and we're just letting our passion drive us."

    The Wolverines finished second in the final event, the 400 freestyle relay. Southern California won the relay in 2:48.33. The Wolverines celebrated the win with a traditional leap into the pool, including the fully clothed coaches, and by singing The Victors.

    Jaeger's win was his second national title of the weekend after he won the 500 freestyle championship on Thursday.

    "The first 100, I think I was sixth or something," Jaeger said on Thursday. "People like to go for it from the start and I just don't have speed like that. A little antsy in the beginning, you want to start pushing it, but I talked it over with my coach and I was just going to stay relaxed the first 100 and then work. So, that's what we did and it worked out.

    michigan-national-title-relay.jpg

    Michigan's, Front left, Sean Fletcher ,Zack Turk Bruno Ortiz, Migel Ortiz, react on the podium after winning the 200-yard medley relay at the NCAA college Men's swimming and diving championships Friday, March 29, 2013, in Indianapolis. Finishing with a time of 1minute 22:27 seconds.

    Associated Press

    "Just stoked (the last 25 yards). I took a breath and actually saw the team going nuts and that got me excited. I was falling apart, just trying to get to the wall. Just thinking about that."

    Michigan finished with 480 points. Two-time defending champion California was second at 406.5, and Arizona was third with 313.5.

    Michigan celebrated the victory as a team with a traditional leap into the pool, including the fully clothed coaches, and by singing the victors.

    Bottom, in his fifth year as head coach of the Wolverines, was named national coach of the year. This year's seniors were the first class recruited by Bottom at Michigan.

    "You do it one day at a time and one student-athlete at a time," Bottom said. "We started out with one recruiting class that we were scrambling on and these are the guys."

    Along with Jaeger's two national titles, Miguel Ortiz, Bruno Ortiz, Sean Fletcher and Zachary Turk won the 200-yard individual medley relay for Michigan. A total of 14 total Michigan swimmers earned 38 All-America honors between them. Michigan earned an additional 11 honorable mentions.


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    michigan-hockey-team-03212013.JPG

    The Michigan hockey team celebrates a goal at Joe Louis Arena during its semifinal game Saturday against Miami.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    The Michigan hockey team may not have qualified for the NCAA tournament this year for the first time in more than two decades. But it was unbeaten in nine straight games to make the CCHA tournament finals, and ended the season playing its best hockey of the year.

    That’s why, when coaches and players held their season-ending media conferences this week at Yost Ice Arena, the mood was bright.

    “I think it’ll help our team next year,” Wolverines coach Red Berenson said of his team's finish. “Every team is a different team. It will help our team a lot because they know what they’re capable of. They know the feelings, they know all the things they had to do well and better, and then they know the kind of results they can get.”

    The Wolverines lose just five seniors off of this team and junior defenseman Jon Merrill, who is expected sign a contract with the New Jersey Devils. Of the nine Wolverines that put up 20 points or more this season, seven are eligible to return.

    And perhaps the biggest returning piece is in goal, where after shaky goaltending for most of the season, Steve Racine cemented himself as the starter by backstopping Michigan through its win streak.

    “I would say there are fewer question marks going into next year than there were this year,” Berenson said.

    But one question mark will loom large in the coming days: will freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba return for his sophomore year?

    He said this week that he’s undecided about whether to sign with the Winnipeg Jets or return to Michigan next year. Trouba was voted the league’s best offensive defenseman after putting up 12 goals and 17 assists.

    Mac Bennett, who was paired with Trouba through most of the stretch run, said if Trouba returns the team would have the chance to do something “really special.”

    “He was probably the best player on our team this year,” Bennett said. “To have him back for another year would be unbelievable.”

    It he were to leave, Trouba would be the second Wolverines defenseman to leave early along with Merrill.

    But beyond that, all of Michigan’s defensemen are expected to return, and Berenson said he expects two incoming freshmen to be among the team’s top six on the back end next year.

    And that’s on top of forward J.T. Compher, the incoming freshman projected to be picked in the first round of this summer’s NHL draft. Berenson said Tuesday he expects Compher to come in and be one of the Wolverines’ top two centers.

    When the new Wolverines do convene, Bennett, a junior alternate captain this season, said building a more cohesive group will be key. Both Bennett and departing senior Lee Moffie said this year’s team didn’t come together off the ice until late in the season.

    “If you want to be a better team, the easy way to do that is to get everyone together, whether that’s having barbecues or doing whatever we do, just as long as everyone’s doing it together,” Bennett said.

    Michigan also moves to play in the first year of the Big Ten next season, along with Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Penn State. Michigan will play each team four times, two home and two away.

    “We’re going to be in a tough conference,” Berenson said. “Let’s face it, we were in a tough conference this year, we finished in seventh place. I don’t know if we’ll have the team to say we can go in there and say we expect to be in first place, ahead of Minnesota, but I wouldn’t be surprised.”

    Berenson also announced part of next year’s non-conference schedule, including games against Boston College, Boston University and Michigan Tech and trips to Nebraska and New Hampshire.

    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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    AnnArbor.com is accepting nominations for the 2013 Young Citizen of the Year Award through April 1.

    Thumbnail image for aaron_mukerjee.jpg

    Aaron Mukerjee won the Young Citizen of the Year Award in 2012.

    The award honors community service and leadership on the part of area high school students.

    Past award winners have, among other things, founded student advocacy groups, taught English to children in China and helped produce a teen talent showcase.

    "Each year, we at AnnArbor.com are humbled by the good work we see these students doing," said Laurel Champion, AnnArbor.com executive vice president. "We hope readers will take the time to tell us about students they see making a difference in their neighborhoods and in the broader community."

    The winner and nine finalists for this year’s award will be announced in June.

    The winner receives a $2,000 scholarship from AnnArbor.com. Finalists receive $1,000 scholarships from the Robert Bruce Dunlap Fund of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

    To nominate a student, fill out the form below:


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    Global pizza delivery chain Domino's Pizza is headquartered in Ann Arbor Township, where it employs between 550 and 600 people.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Is attracting a major corporate headquarters vital to Washtenaw County’s economic growth?

    That question, posed by University of Michigan economists last week, is something the county’s political and business leaders need to consider as the region emerges from the depths of the recession.

    Washtenaw County’s corporate headquarters sector — defined as the “management of companies and enterprises” — has declined 76 percent since 1999, according to a recent economic forecast conducted by U-M’s George Fulton and Donald Grimes.

    The industry employed 3,058 workers in Washtenaw County in 1999, and by 2012, the workforce fell to 742 people. The loss was fueled partly by Borders’ liquidation in 2011. The bookstore chain employed about 400 workers at its corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor.

    George_Fulton.JPG

    University of Michigan economist George Fulton delivered his annual Washtenaw County Economic Outlook report last week.

    Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com file photo

    From 2013 through 2015, the sector is expected to add 63 jobs. The forecast predicts the county, as a whole, will add 12,961 new jobs in the three-year period, replenishing all of the jobs lost during the recession as early as next month.

    “This (sector) did stick out in the report, of course, because of the loss we’ve taken in the past 10 or 15 years,” Fulton said in an interview. “It’s pretty significant on a percentage basis. It would be nice to kind of reverse that trend.”

    Defining the sector is difficult; the federal government divides employment into 171 industries, and the corporate headquarters industry likely only includes certain positions at local, national and international companies headquartered in Ann Arbor.

    Still, it poses an interesting question: should community leaders focus their attention on attracting more big companies here?

    Paul Krutko, chief executive officer of economic development group Ann Arbor SPARK, said it’s more important to help the region’s existing or startup companies thrive, rather than trying to relocate big companies here.

    “The notion that you would go to another community with a set of incentives and benefits to attract a large corporate headquarters to move to a community — I think that those days are long gone,” he said. “What is more productive is to work with your existing companies and growing new companies.”

    Washtenaw County has a thriving knowledge-based community, consisting of many small companies across various sectors. The forecast predicts the professional and business services sector, which includes most of the region’s technology and consulting firms, is expected to add 1,873 jobs through 2015.

    “We’re talking about a lot of small companies growing rapidly, rather than plunking down 3,000 workers in one shot,” Fulton said, referring to that sector’s growth.

    Fulton and Grimes said Washtenaw County is unique in that it doesn’t rely on a single major sector — like automotive manufacturing — to fuel the economy. Rather, its recovery is broad-based across many industries.

    But still, Fulton said, big companies are economic drivers.

    “I would not call it critical (to grow the headquarters sector), but I would call it highly desirable,” he said. “Washtenaw will chug along without it, but obviously, it’s highly desirable to get that type of operation and those types of employees.”

    Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle said the global pizza delivery chain employs between 550 and 600 people at its headquarters in Ann Arbor Township. The 53-year-old company recently reinforced its commitment to the area when it renewed its lease in the Domino's Farms Office Park for 10 years.

    Conway_Freight_road_photo.jpg

    Con-way Freight employs 401 people at its offices in the Ann Arbor area.

    Photo courtesy of Con-way Freight

    Con-way Freight — a company hit particularly hard by the recession — now employs 401 people at its offices on Old Earhart Road and is looking to hire. In the privately-owned category, Ann Arbor’s McKinley Inc. employs 1,600 people across the country, including 500 in Michigan, said CEO Albert Berriz.

    Doyle said his pizza company, which is growing rapidly overseas, remains committed to Washtenaw County for one main reason: the talent pool.

    “The reason you choose to headquarter a company somewhere is because you’re convinced that you’re going to be able to access the best talent for the needs of your company. Ann Arbor serves us incredibly well on that front,” he said.

    He estimated that a third of the employees at the Domino’s headquarters work in the company’s technology division, which is well staffed with U-M, Eastern Michigan University and Michigan State alumni.

    Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said the city has focused its efforts on boosting the area’s “quality of life” factor, which in turn attracts companies and convinces talented workers to live and work in the area.

    “Certainly, attracting a major headquarters is a topic that comes up, but I’m not sure we should be expending a lot of energy in that direction,” he said. “Improving quality of life is the best thing we can do for economic development.”

    He said the city doesn’t provide many tax abatements, but instead, focuses on growing the area’s existing companies. He said the $1 million in free parking incentives the city provided to Google was important in creating downtown’s “tech campus,” but it’s not something Ann Arbor relies on to promote business development.

    “I’d rather see the growth in a number of small companies. I don’t really want to do anything extra or spend resources to bring in a headquarters, particularly not downtown,” he said.

    Added Krutko: "We’d rather be able to support the growth or attraction of 10 companies to equal 3,000 jobs than a single company. If you have 10 companies and one goes out of business, you still have 90 percent of what you had before."

    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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    HealPay co-founder Erick Bzovi, co-founder and CTO Lancelot Carlson and front-end developer Hakki Tomanbay pose for a photograph in their downtown Ann Arbor office.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    HealPay, an Ann Arbor-based technology company, has grown since its May 2010 launch and co-founder Erick Bzovi said he hopes to continue the upward trajectory as he rolls out some new software.

    HealPay, 106 E. Liberty, Suite 302, has continued to expand the development and sales of its software for the debt collection industry and large companies with delinquent accounts. HealPay's Settlement app software allows people to pay off debts through collection agencies online.

    In 2011, the company had close to 500,000 debtors signed up through its software. It now has more than 750,000 active accounts and Bzovi expects that number to continue to grow.

    "We've definitely grown," Bzovi said. "I think we had a good year. It's been a consistent upward growth and it's been managed growth. Hopefully we can hire more people."

    HealPay also has secured more companies that use the settlement app, including the Ann Arbor Credit Bureau.

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    Ann Arbor Credit Bureau vice president Thomas Oldani said he tries to focus his collectors on their mission of helping people with debt resolve their obligations.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Bureau CEO Thomas Oldani said Bzovi approached him a while ago, but the initial app didn't work for his company because of some logistical issues.

    "Their product has changed a little bit and turned into a product gateway," Oldani said. "It didn’t take very long for us to see that what they created was more in tune with what we were looking for. Every time I talked to the larger players, there were siginificant startup costs and we just couldn’t see the return on the investment."

    AnnArbor.com reported in December that Association of Credit and Collection Professionals data show debt turned over to third party collection agencies was only collected at a rate of 17 cents on the dollar until the economic recession began in 2008.

    When the recession began, the collection rate dipped to under 10 cents for every dollar of debt passed onto the agencies.

    However, Oldani said when the app launched, he saw a "significant increase" in payments.

    "It continues to grow and we're really impressed by it," he said. "They gave us an online option that we didn’t previously have in place. When the economy turned south in 2008, one of our focuses was to do business with people that are in this state."

    Bzovi said the bureau was the company's first local client.

    "You need to start in your backyard," he said. "Ann Arbor created this center point for us to expand."

    Next, Bzovi said he plans to target local hospitals, medical billing sites and the west side of the state.

    Although the company has found success with its collection software, Bzovi said he and co-founder Lancelot Carlson, decided to create an app for a different industry.

    "We just signed up another collection attorney in Cincinnati and we're continuing to grow that outside of Michigan," Bzovi said. "The settlement app is still our flagship, but we didn’t want to just be collections. We've kind of opened ourselves up."

    Bzovi has launched another app, the Rent Roll , that allows landlords to collect rent online, which Bzovi said is something many don't offer.

    "We’ve actually been successful selling that," he said.

    Bzovi said he recently launched the app with a company that owns 300 property units in Sterling Heights. Bzovi said his real goal is to get into the Ann Arbor market.

    "What we see is there are so many businesses collecting checks and checks are dying," he said. "There's a huge movement to digitize money and until we can remove checks completely, they’re inefficient and with technology, it's quicker."

    The business has four full-time employees and as it continues to expand, Bzovi said he'll consider hiring more. With two universities in Washtenaw County, he said the talent opportunities abound and he believes Ann Arbor is a prime spot to attract tech talent.

    "There's more exploration and more creative thought here," Bzovi said. "It felt like a tech hub versus Detroit. The tech field is definitely here."

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


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    The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has set a new record with a more than 6.6 million rides clocked in calendar year 2012.

    According to new report by the American Public Transportation Association, that's an increase of 6.6 percent over 2011 and part of more than 10.5 billion total rides provided throughout the U.S. last year — the nation's second-highest annual ridership figure since 1957.

    AATA_Blake_100312_RJS_001.jpg

    Riders who helped contribute to the AATA's record ridership in 2012 board a bus at the downtown Blake Transit Center in October. The AATA is in the process of building a new downtown Ann Arbor transit center on the same site to accommodate growing ridership.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    "The increase in transit ridership was driven by high and volatile gas prices, changing demographics, and a recovering economy with more people returning to work," APTA President Michael Melaniphy said in a statement.

    Melaniphy said the 2012 numbers (154.4 million rides higher than 2011) show growing demand for public transit in all areas of the country — in small, medium and large communities.

    "Public transportation saves people money, and people save even more when gas prices spike," he said. "Also, since nearly 60 percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it makes sense that ridership increases in areas where the economy has improved and new jobs have been created."

    The AATA's record ridership includes both fixed-route bus service and demand response service, and garnered national attention in a recent CNN news report. The report highlighted big increases in Ann Arbor, Nashville, Los Angeles, Boston and New York.

    Al McWilliams, president of Quack!Media in downtown Ann Arbor, employs a team of young professionals, several of whom regularly use the AATA for travel within Ann Arbor. One of his employees commutes solely via bus from Ypsilanti.

    "Our parents moved to the 'burbs where we grew up riding around in cars. My generation is going the other way. It may be as simple as that," McWilliams told CNN.

    “I feel more free when I take the bus. I don't have to worry about a car, where it's parked, gas or maintenance. A bus is going to come by and take me where I want to go."

    AATA officials believe easy accessibility to local fixed-route bus service has contributed to the numbers, with 91 percent of Ann Arbor residents living within a quarter mile of a bus route based on 2010 census data. Other factors cited include AATA's overall on-time performance improvement (92 percent of trips were completed on time) and high interior/exterior cleanliness standards (96 percent of AATA's fleet met or exceeded customer satisfaction standards in surveys).

    Beyond that, AATA officials pointed to a growing economy and a trend that more and more young people are giving up owning vehicles. According to a 2011 University of Michigan study, more than half of all licensed drivers in the U.S. were under age 40 in 1983. That number has fallen to less than 40 percent, with only about 22 percent comprised of drivers under 30.

    APTA's Melaniphy said there is "a sea change going on" in the way people look at transportation, and Americans want choices.

    "They want to be able to choose the best travel option for their lifestyle," he said. "This is an exciting time for the public transportation industry as more and more Americans support it and want it."

    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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    Back in 2004, a package arrived at conductor Kenneth Kiesler’s studio at the University of Michigan School of Music. It contained three huge scores along with a note from the publisher: “Sent at the request of William Bolcom.”

    Thus began a musical odyssey that culminates Thursday evening at Hill Auditorium with a rare, first complete U.S. performance of Darius Milhaud’s “Oresteia of Aeschylus” trilogy. Naxos will record the approximately three hours of music live for release on CD.

    Milhaud’s three works, for chorus, orchestra, vocal soloists and speakers—he didn’t like to call them operas, but that’s more or less what they are—are based on Aeschylus’s “Oresteia” trilogy, as translated into French (from English, not Greek) by Milhaud’s contemporary, the literary titan and diplomat Paul Claudel.

    PREVIEW

    "The Oresteia of Aeschylus"

    • Who: Distinguished cast of vocal soloists; U-M Symphony Orchestra and Percussion Ensemble; U-M Choral Ensembles and the UMS Choral Union; Kenneth Kiesler, conductor.
    • What: Trio of Darius Milhaud works, performed together for the first time. In French with English supertitles.
    • Where: Hill Auditorium, 825 N. University Ave.
    • When: Thursday, April 4, 7:30 p.m.
    • How much: $10-$60. Tickets available via the UMS Michigan League Ticket Office, 734-764-2538, and online at ums.org.
    Written from 1913 through 1923, the three works recount the blood-revenge dramas of the House of Argos, from the murder of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra, his wife; through Orestes’ revenge-murder of Clytemnestra, his mother; to Orestes’ acquittal by the goddess Athena—who stops the cycle of violence by offering a new form of justice and turning the Furies (forces of evil) into the Eumenides (forces for good).

    The outsize events seem to require a cast of matching scope. Thursday’s participants, some 450 in all, include three choirs from the U-M; the UMS Choral Union; a cast of distinguished vocal soloists; the U-M Symphony Orchestra; and the U-M Percussion Ensemble, all conducted by the U-M’s Kiesler. The works are performed in French, unstaged, in concert form, with supertitles in English.

    The concert, in this 100th anniversary season of Hill Auditorium—the hall was completed in 1913, the year the first part of Milhaud’s trilogy appeared—commemorates 100 years of collaboration between the School of Music and the University Musical Society; it is a UMS co-production with the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

    The scores that arrived at Kiesler’s studio that fateful 2004 day did not land there by accident. Bolcom, Pulitzer Prize-Winning composer and Kiesler colleague, had studied with Milhaud and, keen on the score, had broached the idea of an “Oresteia” performance at U-M.

    Nor did the scores represent the full picture of what lay ahead. They were the three acts of only the last piece, “Les Eumenides,” a molehill (though an hour and 45 minute one) that only suggested the height of the musical mountain to be climbed. There were two more works to come, if Kiesler was tempted: “L’Agamemnon” and “Les Choephores” (“The Libation Bearers”), which would take the entire evening to a little shy of three hours worth of music.

    The average choral concert, noted Jerry Blackstone, who has prepared the UMS Choral Union, the U-M Orpheus Singers and Chamber Choir for the show (Eugene Rogers prepared the University Choir) contains about 80 minutes of music.

    This one, Blackstone said, has about 150 minutes of music. "Each of the three operas stands on its own, so we don’t need to do all three, but we are. It’s so much music to get all ready at the same time.”

    For a long time, Kiesler said in a recent phone conversation, he did nothing but stare at the pile of music. Or rather, look away.

    Ken-Kiesler.jpg

    Kenneth Kiesler

    “It was too daunting at first,” he said. “I didn’t even want to look at it.”

    It was not just the size of the work, but the harmonic language, he said. And then, years later, when he was able to listen to the piece—in a rare recording from Milhaud’s lifetime provided by Milhaud’s son, Daniel, he didn’t much care for it.

    “When I listened, I really didn’t like the piece,” he said. “’Les Eumenides’ I had to do in installments, I couldn’t make it though.”

    In a perverse way, the recordings, which were so badly balanced you could hardly hear the chorus or orchestra, reinforced Kiesler’s resolve to see the work performed and properly recorded. “All the color and tunes were lost from the orchestra,” he said. “What I’m attempting to do, is to bring out the texture of the piece, to create a foreground, middle ground and background so everything works together.

    “My other goal is for it to be completely understood as if it’s a play in which the acting singers have the motivations and the history. In the early recordings they sang rhythms and notes, with just a few days to put it together—kind of the way we treat new music these days.”

    This performance, by contrast, has been actively in the making for months now—just as was the case for Bolcom’s monumental “Songs of Innocence and of Experience,” which the School of Music masterminded into performance in 2004, under UMS auspices and also for a Naxos live recording. And if you count the time that Kiesler and others have spent correcting mistakes in the score and filling in missing choral parts, to say nothing of readying translations that really aid listeners’ comprehension, the preparation stretches back even further.

    Both Kiesler and Blackstone remark on the differences in style in the three pieces. Ten years makes a lot of difference: in the size of the orchestra; the use of spoken word; and harmonic complication. And, of course, as Kiesler said, “’Rite of Spring’ happened in 1913, and everything in the world changes.”

    The characters get complicated, too: Athena, for example, is sung by a trio of three women, creating a very magical effect, Kiesler said. It is difficult music to work on, and difficult music to assemble. There’s a cast of nine soloists, all but two from outside U-M; many choral parts are for women only or men only, crying out for separate rehearsals beyond those of the four choral groups involved.

    Blackstone, rehearsing three choirs for months now on little but Milhaud, said he sometimes feels like he’s trapped on “a Pandora radio station where all I hear is Milhaud. I would like a little break. But now, when we put it all together, I think it could be incredibly thrilling, but I just don’t yet have this whole perspective. It’s like a marathon, you don’t have perspective until you end it.”

    Echoes Kiesler: “Everybody will be very relieved, happy and exhilarated when it’s done. It’s very challenging”

    But, said the man who couldn’t get through “Les Eumenides” at one gulp when he first heard it: “The music is fantastic.”

    No one, he said, should be worried about the music’s polytonality, for example—any musical disorientation it causes “wears off quickly on the ears.” Yes, in “Les Eumenides,” there are, he said, “Layers of different meters, choirs and the orchestra playing in different keys, major and minor and three whole tones away. It’s beyond bitonal, it’s polytonal. It’s difficult for the soloists to find their notes.”

    But what one hears, he said, is wonderful color and jazzy chords rather than three different keys.

    And then, of course, there is the drama: a riveting, time-tested story.

    Writes Kiesler in program notes for the “Oresteia:”

    “Milhaud’s trilogy after Aeschylus has, for me, reopened and broadened the rich realm of Greek mythology. The themes of passion and jealousy, violence and revenge, prudence andpropriety still resound within us and in our world. Topics of sexual and gender parity, familyrelationships, balance of power, and influence in a world of haves and have-nots, not to mentionloyalty, steadfastness, allegiance, obedience to those in power, and the economic and socialstratification of society — all continue to vex us and show how deeply our human nature connectsus to our predecessors. They remind us how far — for all our progress — we still have to go.”


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    The Michigan men's basketball team celebrates its South Regional championship after a 79-59 win over Florida on Sunday, March 31.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Postgame coverage:

    WHO: No. 4 Michigan (29-7, 12-6 Big Ten) vs. No. 3 Florida (29-7, 14-4).

    LIVE COVERAGE: Join Michigan beat writers Nick Baumgardner and Kyle Meinke from our Live Chat on the Michigan Basketball homepage for their take of the action as it happens. You can also follow them on Twitter @nickbaumgardner and @kmeinke.

    WHERE: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas.

    WHEN: Sunday, 2:20 p.m.

    ODDS: Florida is favored by 3 points according to SportsBook.com.

    SERIES RECORD: Michigan is 1-1 all-time against Florida.

    LAST MEETING: Michigan lost, 79-63, at the Orange Bowl Classic on Dec. 27, 1998.

    BROADCAST INFORMATION: TV: CBS; Radio: Detroit: WWJ (950 AM), Ann Arbor: WWWW (102.9 FM).

    MICHIGAN: Roster | Schedule

    FLORIDA Roster | Schedule

    Coverage: When Michigan trailed Kansas by 10 with less than three minutes to go on Friday, there weren't many who would have picked the Wolverines for the Final Four. But after a late run, capped by some Trey Burke heroics, Michigan is one win away from its first berth since 1993. Standing in the way is Florida. Here's everything you need to know about the Wolverines' matchup with the Gators:

    florida-favorites.jpg
    Michigan a three-point underdog against Florida in the Elite Eight

    Michigan will be an underdog for a second straight game at Cowboys Stadium. The fourth-seeded Wolverines (29-7) opened as a three-point underdog against the third-seeded Gators (29-7), according to Pregame.com.

    florida-dunk.jpg
    Get to know: Florida, Michigan's tournament-savvy Elite Eight opponent

    The Florida Gators have become a juggernaut in recent years, winning back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007, and now are making their third consecutive Elite Eight appearance. They lost the first two. Will the third time be the charm, or will Michigan's charmed run continue on to the Final Four?

    horford-brother.jpg
    Michigan's Jon Horford offers insider take on Florida, where his brother starred

    Michigan forward Jon Horford knows a thing or two about the University of Florida. His brother, Al, starred for Donovan from 2004-07, winning a pair of national championships with the Gators. Horford chose the Wolverines over Gators and has a chance on Sunday to prove it was the right call.

    burke-smilephone.jpg
    Michigan's Trey Burke gets more than 200 phone messages after the 'biggest shot I've ever made

    Hours after sinking the biggest shot of this NCAA tournament, after celebrating with teammates and listening to countless questions from throngs of reporters, Trey Burke checked his phone. While sifting through more than 200 messages late Friday night, Burke saw countless congratulations and even a few premature condolences on a tough loss.

    burke-podiium.jpg
    Transcript of Michigan starters, John Beilein addressing media before Elite Eight game against Florida

    The Michigan basketball team had plenty to say on Saturday after defeating Kansas late on Friday night. John Beilein, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mitch McGary and many more gave their take on Kansas and Florida. Check out the entire transcript.

    mcgary-donovan-press.jpg
    Florida's Billy Donovan a big Mitch McGary fan, calls him a 'phenomenal teammate'

    Florida coach Billy Donovan knows a thing or two about Michigan big-man Mitch McGary, he recruited McGary to come to Florida. Though McGary ended up choosing the Wolverines, Donovan has remained a fan of McGary and the way he plays the game.


    Who ya got?


    Associated Press Side-by-Side comparisons:

    Florida | Michigan

    Record: 29-7 | 29-7. Advantage: None.
    Average Points: 71.8 | 75.4. Advantage: Michigan.
    Opponents' average points: 53.7 | 63.1. Advantage: Florida.
    Margin of victory: 18.1 | 12.3. Advantage: Florida.
    Field goal percentage: .480 | .486. Advantage: Michigan.
    Opp. FG Pct.: .379 | .423. Advantage: Florida.
    3-Point FG Pct.: .380 | .381. Advantage: Michigan.
    Opp. 3-Pt. FG Pct.: .303 | .325. Advantage: Florida.
    3-Pt. FG-Game: 8.3 | 7.5. Advantage: Florida.
    Opp. 3-Pt. FG-Game: 5.1 | 6.4. Advantage: Florida.
    FT Pct.: .678 | .705. Advantage: Michigan.
    Rebound Margin: 5.0 | 3.3. Advantage: Florida.
    Turnover Differential: 3.1 | 2.8. Advantage: Florida.
    Average Steals: 7.2 | 6.1. Advantage: Florida.
    Average Blocks: 3.3 | 2.7. Advantage: Florida.

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


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    A pedestrian makes a risky run through four lanes of fast-moving traffic to cross North Main Street north of Depot Street in Ann Arbor on Friday. North of Summit Street, there isn't a single crosswalk along the entire stretch of North Main for roughly three quarters of a mile before it turns into M-14. AnnArbor.com witnessed other people crossing the road in a similar manner.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    North Main Street is a major gateway to the city of Ann Arbor, but it's anything but a grand entrance, and city leaders are the first to admit that.

    The corridor is riddled with blight, lacks basic amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists, and fast-moving traffic can make getting from one side of the road to the other a formidable task.

    "It's got to be one of the top hazardous areas of Ann Arbor," said George Creswell, an employee at Main Street Motors at the corner of North Main and Depot Street.

    Creswell spoke with AnnArbor.com on Friday after making his way across Main Street without the aid of a crosswalk by doing what many people have to do — wait for a gap in traffic, and go for it.

    North_Main_study_area_2013.jpg

    A map of the area being studied by the city's citizen-led North Main-Huron River Corridor Vision Task Force.

    City of Ann Arbor

    "It just makes it difficult for the drivers as well as the pedestrians," Creswell said, adding he witnesses a lot of close calls along North Main.

    The city's citizen-led North Main-Huron River Corridor Vision Task Force has been meeting for months and is starting to form a conceptual plan for solving those sorts of problems, while at the same time improving access to nearby recreational amenities along the Huron River.

    Some of the ideas emerging: new crosswalks and traffic signals, a roundabout for traffic coming off the highway onto North Main, a park-and-ride lot off M-14 to take more cars off the road, bicycle lanes, new sidewalks on both sides of the road, improved lighting and signage, a pedestrian bridge over North Main, and a pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks north of Depot Street.

    North of Summit Street, there isn't a single crosswalk along the entire stretch of North Main for roughly three quarters of a mile before it turns into M-14, creating a divide between popular nature areas to the west and riverside recreation amenities to the east.

    Another barrier to those amenities is the railroad that runs along the south and west side of the river, with only one legal crossing at Lake Shore Drive — which also is at risk of closing.

    Task force members believe the corridor should reflect Ann Arbor's civic pride in everything from landscaping to road design, complete with wayfinding signs and nonmotorized paths.

    Rather than just an automobile-oriented thoroughfare cars race through to get in and out of town, there's a desire to make North Main a destination and give people a reason to slow down.

    "This is not a complete street by any means. This is a highway entrance ramp," said Doug Allen, a property manager for Peter Allen and Associates, which owns a number of properties along North Main, including the Riverfront Building at 1250 N. Main St.

    Allen spoke with AnnArbor.com outside the Riverfront Building on Friday. He said he's doing his part to beautify his own properties, including the recent installation of an "art fence" painted different colors with an image of a snake on one side. He also made a galvanized steel sign that lights up at night.

    "We've got five properties on North Main, and so we're just trying to do our little bit with our properties, and we totally would enjoy more help from the city in making this a safe, inviting entryway to Ann Arbor," he said. "I'm trying to do it with art, class, nice buildings and nice architecture lit at night."

    Doug_Allen_032913_RJS_001.jpg

    Doug Allen, a property manager for Peter Allen and Associates, which owns a number of properties along North Main, stands in front of the galvanized steel sign he recently made for the Riverfront Building at 1250 N. Main St. "We've got five properties on North Main, and so we're just trying to do our little bit with our properties, and we totally would enjoy more help from the city in making this a safe, inviting entryway to Ann Arbor," he said.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Allen attended the most recent meeting of the task force where draft reports from four subcommittees were shared. He said he likes a lot of what he hears so far.

    There has been mention of a potential tax-increment financing zone to fund some of the improvements along the corridor that the task force is talking about.

    One idea aimed at calming traffic on North Main is a new roundabout where M-14 and Huron River Drive become Main Street at the far north end of the corridor.

    "We think that might be a good idea," said City Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, the lone council member on the citizen task force.

    Another idea being discussed is a park-and-ride lot at M-14 and Barton Drive, where there's a highway on- and off-ramp near Bandemer Park. The idea is that buses could pick up commuters and head down Barton Drive toward Pontiac Trail and into town, taking traffic off North Main.

    "The goal here is to make bike lanes safe, to provide a better environment for bus service, and to encourage pedestrians to use the sidewalk, which they aren't right now," Briere said.

    Another idea mentioned at the last task force meeting is a user-activated HAWK signal where Lake Shore Drive meets North Main.

    That would allow pedestrians and bicyclists to safely cross North Main, including people going between Bluffs Park to the west and Bandemer Park and the Border-to-Border Trail to the east.

    "I love it," agreed David Santacroce, the task force's chairman.

    Briere's subcommittee believes the city should create well-defined pedestrian and bike paths through the Bluffs, leading to the proposed crosswalk at North Main at Lake Shore Drive. She said there might even be opportunities to work with the terrain to create vistas of the river.

    "You've got some great views through the trees," she said. "It would be possible to emphasize those views as part of how you anticipate the river."

    Lake_Shore_Drive_032913_RJS_001.jpg

    Task force members fear the Michigan Department of Transportation, which acquired the tracks from Norfolk Southern, could close this at-grade crossing at Lake Shore Drive off North Main when it implements high-speed rail. "The railroad is a big barrier getting people to the amenities," said David Santacroce, the task force's chairman. "That's an important access point."

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Briere said it remains a goal to make sure the at-grade railroad crossing into Bandemer Park at Lake Shore Drive remains open for the foreseeable future.

    Task force members fear the Michigan Department of Transportation, which acquired the tracks from Norfolk Southern, could close the crossing when it implements high-speed rail.

    "Everything we talked about doing is to funnel bikes and pedestrians somehow to the Lake Shore entrance to the park because we think Lake Shore should remain open," Briere said, suggesting the crossing could be improved with fencing and gates as the city looks for another solution.

    "One long-term solution is to build a pedestrian bridge over Main Street or over Depot and the railroad tracks," she said. "We also think it's possible to build a tunnel adjacent to Depot Street."

    Task force member Tamara Burns said her subcommittee, which focused on riverside amenities, likes the idea of trying to keep the Lake Shore Drive crossing open as long as possible, but she said it seems clear it's definitely going to close at some point.

    "And I don't have any problem with trying again, but I know they've been trying and trying to put gates there and have not been successful," she said.

    Burns said the city has wanted to install signals and gates for years, but that would make it an official public crossing.

    "If it is an official public crossing, it has to be closed/removed (or another crossing has to be closed) because there can be no net increase in crossings," her subcommittee report states. "This has still not been solved despite the city's efforts, and it remains a situation no one wants to touch."

    Border_to_Border_Trail_032913_RJS_001.jpg

    The task force is discussing widening the Border-to-Border Trail along the Huron River so there's less conflict between pedestrians and bicycles.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    As a short-term solution, the subcommittee recommends allowing access to the rowing center area in Bandemer Park via a new road parallel to the railroad tracks through the park.

    It also recommends additional bike racks at the rowing center, rental storage lockers for kayaks/canoes, and annual weed mitigation in the river channel just north of the rowing docks.

    Additionally, the report highlights a number of opportunities for improving the Border-to-Border Trail, including adding more trash and recycling receptacles, dog waste stations, a new drinking water station, improved lighting, and benches at scenic overlooks.

    Widening the Border-to-Border Trail along the river so there's less conflict between pedestrians and bicycles also is being discussed.

    Another task force subcommittee looked at opportunities for easing traffic congestion at Main and Depot at certain times of day.

    "We spent a little more time and effort on the getting-out-of-town part, because that seemed to be the bigger issue," said Darren McKinnon, a member of that subcommittee.

    Traffic on southbound Main Street backs up in the morning for those trying to turn left at Depot. And in the afternoon, westbound Depot backs up for those trying to turn right at Main.

    Task force members said the congestion is frustrating for motorists and creates dangerous situations for pedestrians wishing to pass through the intersection during peak times.

    McKinnon's subcommittee recommends installing pedestrian crosswalks across Depot at Fourth Avenue and across Main at Depot to improve safety.

    Other short-term solutions include adding a right-turn green arrow for westbound Depot traffic and converting the existing "left turn only" lane on Depot to allow right turns as well, essentially creating a double right-turn lane. Because North Main is a state highway route, the city would have to work with MDOT to implement those kinds of changes.

    Main_and_Depot_032913_RJS_001.jpg

    A truck turns left onto Depot Street from North Main on Friday afternoon. The task force is looking at opportunities for easing traffic congestion at Main and Depot during peak times.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Longer-term solutions include extending the left-turn lane on Main from Depot back to M-14. That would require widening the road and reconstructing the railroad overpass over Main.

    McKinnon said the city should consider taking advantage of the vast amount of city-owned property to the west of Main Street to widen the right-of-way.

    Task force members have talked about increasing the right-of-way about 15 feet to the west to put in a shared-use bicycle and pedestrian path on the west side of the road. That would require asking some private property owners for use of a portion of their land.

    McKinnon's subcommittee also looked at flooding issues, noting the block bordered by Depot/Main/Summit/Fourth is completely within the floodway.

    One idea is to have the city purchase those properties over time as they're put up for sale by their owners, and demolish the buildings to remove them from the floodway. Once clear, the extra space could be used to reconstruct the Depot/Main intersection.

    Briere's subcommittee recommends the Planning Commission complete a North Main Corridor Improvement Study prior to 2015, so the findings could be used by MDOT in planning improvements along North Main in conjunction with road construction that's scheduled for 2018. The plan could include added lighting and streetscape improvements for pedestrian and nonmotorized use.

    Task force members also are concerned about the condition of some properties along North Main, noting they don't exactly provide the most attractive entrance to the city.

    "We talked about what could be done to improve options in that area, whether it's looking at the zoning for new construction, whether it's encouraging the property owners to actually maintain a 360-degree awareness of their property and clean it up from the riverside as well as the Main Street side," Briere said. "We think all of those are really valuable options in there."

    North_Main_runner_032913_RJS_001.jpg

    A runner makes his way up the sidewalk on the east side of North Main on Friday. Installing a sidewalk on the west side of Main and improving the sidewalk on the east side of Main are considered major opportunities.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Installing a sidewalk on the west side of Main and improving the sidewalk on the east side of Main are considered major opportunities. Briere said there also should be a bike and pedestrian path that goes under the M-14 bridge, making it possible to move from Main to Bandemer to Barton, or from Main following Huron River Drive to the Kuebler Langford Nature Area to Barton.

    Briere said it could be possible for a path that moves from Main Street through the former Allied Building Products property at 1380 N. Main St. and underneath the bridge.

    "There should be a bike and pedestrian path adjacent to the M-14 on-ramp and under the M-14 bridge," she said. "And we think well-defined bike and pedestrian paths in Bluffs could lead from Sunset to Huronview for access to either Beechwood or Bird Hills also."

    Looking at the bigger picture, task force members see opportunities for new development and economic vitality along the corridor as it undergoes a transformation. And they believe the views of the riverside parks, which they hope to see improved, will be a major selling point.

    The task force is working to finalize a set of recommendations that will go to the City Council by July 31. There will be chances to provide input at community meetings on May 22 and June 12 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Community Center.

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


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    Today, on Easter, millions of eggs will be dyed with vibrant colors and eagerly sought after in hunts. While the eggs often look nice on the outside, their pretty shells hide the cruelty that went into producing them.

    Borden - Easter Eggs dyed with natural colors

    Plastic eggs are refillable and can be used year after year in place of real eggs.

    Corinna Borden | Contributor

    Each year, 280 million laying hens endure a nightmare that lasts for two years. At just a few days old, a large portion of each hen's beak is cut off with a burning-hot blade, and no painkillers are used. After enduring these mutilations, hens are shoved into tiny wire "battery" cages, which measure roughly 18-by-20 inches and hold five to 11 hens, each of whom has a wingspan of 32 inches. The birds are crammed so closely together that these normally clean animals are forced to urinate and defecate on one another.

    After two years in these conditions, the hens' bodies are exhausted, and their egg production drops. These "spent" hens are shipped to slaughterhouses, where roughly 29 percent of them will be suffering from broken bones resulting from neglect and rough treatment.

    What I'm describing is not an exception; it's standard industry procedure. Eggs labeled "free-range" or "cage-free," (not subject to independent third party certification or USDA standards) are often from chickens who endure just as much suffering and end up at the same slaughterhouses as their battery-caged counterparts.

    The best way to eliminate this cruelty is to stop purchasing eggs. There are many egg-free alternatives that don't harm animals, including using plastic eggs (which can be refilled year after year) at hunts and wooden eggs (available at any craft store) for decorating. It's easy to have a compassionate Easter free of animal suffering.

    Kate Brindle

    Ypsilanti


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    Two friends from Michigan's Thumb region are developing farm-management mobile application and Web software right here in Ann Arbor, backed by $1 million in venture capital and training at a vaunted Silicon Valley tech accelerator, the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday.

    FarmLogs announced it had reached the $1 million mark in venture capital funding in January. Co-founders Jesse Vollmar, 24, and Brad Koch, 23, both graduates of Unionville-Sebewaing Area High School and Saginaw Valley State University, are running the eight-person business from an office on Liberty Street.

    The idea for the business grew out of customized software the two built for a local farming client during college. After other farmers expressed interest, Vollmar and Koch realized they'd stumbled upon a potentially vast, untapped market.

    The two then made the decision to shut down their software business and apply for a spot in the prestigious Y Combinator, a boot camp-style tech accelerator in Mountain View, Calif. that gives entrepreneurs business training and access to high-profile mentors and investors.

    The two opted to launch FarmLogs in Ann Arbor because of its startup culture, access to talent and proximity to Midwestern farmers.

    For more, read the Free Press story.


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