Channel: MLive.com/ann-arbor
Mark channel Not-Safe-For-Work? cancel confirm NSFW Votes: (0 votes)
Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel.
Previous Article Next Article

After disinvitation, Alice Walker accepts a second speaking invitation from the University of Michigan


Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, has accepted an invitation to speak at the University of Michigan next fall.


AP Photo

She'll give the biannual Zora Neale Hurston Lecture for the department of Afroamerican and African studies at Hill Auditorium on Nov. 5, 2014.

The invitation isn't the first Walker received from the Ann Arbor school.

She was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Center for the Education for Women's 50th anniversary in early 2014, but CEW officials withdrew that invitation.

"We are pleased to confirm that Alice Walker has accepted our invitation to speak on the U-M campus," CEW director Gloria Thomas wrote in an email. "She is retuning [sic] at the invitation of the department of Afroamerican and African studies and the Center for the Education of Women."

On her blog, Walker said giving the lecture would be a "a lovely turn of events."

"I accept your invitation to visit with you in the coming year: I believe we have all learned something from our efforts to reach out to one another, and I believe also that - if solar flares or deeply unintelligent wars haven’t carried us off - it will be a good time," Walker wrote in a letter to the university that she posted on her blog.

In a memo posted on the CEW's website in August, Thomas said Walker wasn't the right fit for the celebratory nature of the anniversary event, although Walker posted on her blog that her agent was told Walker was uninvited due to a donor's objection of her outspoken criticism of Israel.

The incident gained national attention and sparked concern about academic freedom on U-M's campus.

A faculty governance committee drafted a resolution that voiced concern "about the potential damage done to the reputation" of the university by the disinvitation. U-M Provost Martha Pollack sent a notice to faculty affirming U-M's commitment to academic freedom and denying a donor urged the disinvitation. In the note on the center's website, Thomas apologized for the way the center handled the incident.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.

Saline City Council to vote on name for newly renovated alleyway


The Saline City Council will vote Monday night on the approval of ‘Leather Bucket Alley’ as the name for the newly renovated alleyway located behind Brecon Grille.


Chelsea Hoedl I AnnArbor.com

In August, Saline Main Street held a naming contest for the space, which will be used for outdoor restaurant seating and occasional community-sponsored events.

After the alley was refurbished, the public was asked to submit possible names and vote for their favorite suggestions. Names with the most votes were considered by a group of community leaders put together by Saline Main Street.

According to the Saline City Council’s agenda, ‘Leather Bucket Alley’, which was submitted by Fire Chief Craig Hoeft, was selected as the winner because of its reference to what the alley was used for in the 1800s.

The name will be displayed on the entrance arch, which was installed as a part of the Alley Project.

Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at choedl@mlive.com.

Saline stays atop Washtenaw County Power Rankings, everyone else shuffles



Saline High School junior Trent Theisen throws a pass to a receiver on Friday, Sept. 6.

Patrick Record | AnnArbor.com

It's early in the high school football season, so the Washtenaw County Power Rankings are going to shuffle more than Cupid.

Get it...Cupid Shuffle?

Ok, that was bad. These rankings are going to go up and down more than...wait, never mind. I know we're switching platforms here at AnnArbor.com, but the jokes that are about to follow that will get me fired no matter what URL I'm at.

Corny or inappropriate jokes aside, let's keep it simple and just say the rankings changed...a lot.

Only two teams stayed put: Saline, who also got a nod in the first Associated Press state rankings, and Manchester, which won big in its Cascades Conference win against Napoleon. The biggest drop was Chelsea, falling from the No. 2 spot all the way to No. 7 after its last-minute loss to Belleville.

Check out everyone else:

Washtenaw County Power Rankings:

Rank, School (Record), Latest result (previous rank)

  1. Saline (2-0) def. Ypsilanti Community, 37-29 (1)
  2. Lincoln (2-0) def. Huron, 46-14 (4)
  3. Skyline (2-0) def. Dexter, 28-3 (5)
  4. Pioneer (1-1) def. Dearborn Edsel Ford, 39-13 (6)
  5. Father Gabriel Richard (2-0) def. Whitmore Lake, 25-14 (3)
  6. Milan (2-0) def. Riverview, 48-28 (7)
  7. Chelsea (0-2) lost to Belleville, 17-14 (2)
  8. Ypsilanti Community (0-2) lost to Saline, 37-29 (9)
  9. Huron (1-1) lost to Lincoln, 46-14 (8)
  10. Manchester (1-1) def. Napoleon, 41-6 (10)
  11. Whitmore Lake (1-1) lost to Father Gabriel Richard (12)
  12. Dexter (0-2) lost to Skyline, 28-3 (11)

My Handyman to donate free labor to Scio Township Fire Department


Technicians from My Handyman of Ann Arbor, Saline and Chelsea will partner with My Handyman President Alex Roberts and 16 volunteers from the corporate office in Ann Arbor to donate free repair and maintenance services to the Scio Township Fire Department Tuesday.


Courtesy of the Scio Township Fire Department

The donated labor, totaling 168 hours, will be performed in honor of the National Day of Service and Remembrance, which was established in 2009 as a day to reflect and participate in service on the anniversary of 9/11.

Owner of My Handyman of Ann Arbor, Saline and Chelsea Greg Kemp, Roberts, volunteers from the corporate office and two technicians from the local branch will build storage shelves and cabinets, replace ceiling tiles, repaint walls, fix up the men’s bathroom and install a new flag out front.

“This year there was a focus system wide to select fire departments in our serves areas in remembrance of the impact they suffered during 9/11,” Kemp said. “These firefighters do a lot for the community so we started reaching out to local departments. Scio Township had some maintenance needs that we can provide.”

Work will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will continue until the project is complete, Kemp said.

My Handyman will donate approximately $2,000 worth of labor and suppliers in the area will donate between $2,000 and $3,000 in materials, Kemp said.

Sherwin-Williams donated paint, Rayhaven Group in Southfield donated partitions that will be installed in the locker room and Fergusons Plumbing Supply donated repair parts, according to Kemp. Additional materials will be donated by My Handyman of Ann Arbor, Saline and Chelsea and the My Handyman corporate office.

This is the fifth year that My Handyman has provided free labor in remembrance of 9/11. Local technicians have provided a combined 2,900 hours of labor over the past four years.

“It’s something that the My Handyman system does company wide,” Kemp said. “This is my first time participating since I bought the franchise in November 2012 and I’m excited to give back to the community, especially to give back to the firefighters who do so much for us and aren’t always recognized for it.”

Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at choedl@mlive.com.

Grove Road Gault Village Shopping Center access to close temporarily during paving



The Grove Road paving project is expected to be completed by Sept. 18.

Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

Grove Road access to the Gault Village Shopping Center in Ypsilanti Township will be temporarily closed for one week during the street's paving project, beginning Tuesday.

The City of Ypsilanti's Department of Public Service's Director Stan Kirton said businesses can be accessed by using Emerick Street and the Interstate 94 Service Drive entrances.

Northbound traffic on Grove Road will be maintained.

Kirton said the project is slated to be completed by Sept. 17 or the 18th.

"It's about right on schedule," Kirton said.

The construction project began Tuesday, July 9, and the Springport, Mich.-based Mead Brothers Excavating was awarded the rebuild project, which totaled around $614,000, Kirton said. The city is responsible for more than $150,000 of the cost and the federal government will pay for $460,000.

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

'America's Got Talent' contestant and Saline resident Sean Panikkar sizes up Tuesday's competition




U-M grad and Saline resident Sean Panikkar, a member of the male opera trio Forte, will perform again on "America's Got Talent" on Tuesday, September 10 at 9 p.m. on NBC.

Only 12 contestants remain in this season's competition, and viewers can vote – via phone, Twitter, or AGT's website – for their favorite performers following Tuesday night's episode. Finalists, who will compete on September 17 (which happens to be Panikkar's birthday), will be announced on Wednesday, September 11, during an episode scheduled to air at 9 p.m.

Though Panikkar spent much of Monday in AGT rehearsals at New York City's Radio City Music Hall, he emailed responses to a few quick questions from The Ann Arbor News.

Q. Did you and your Forte compatriots take it as a good sign that you were slotted last in your semifinal round 2 weeks ago? (It seemed like producers were building up to Forte's performance.) A. In watching the previous rounds of the shows, we had figured out which slots were more likely to advance than others. In the past rounds, the final slot was one of the "power" positions, so we were really happy with where we were. The positive is that we are the last act that people see before they can vote, but the down-side was that we had to sit and wait for the entire show before singing. Since we are being taped in the Snapple room, we can't warm up as we normally would, so we literally sit for hours and then walk onstage cold. That isn't the ideal situation for singers, but the adrenaline kicks in when you are in front of millions of people, and somehow it comes together. We don't know where we are slotted in the show tomorrow, but we feel like the position in the show is really secondary to how we sing.

Q. Do you get more performance time in the later rounds, or are you limited to 90 seconds throughout the competition? A. We always have 90 seconds, give or take a few seconds. It's one of the things that people at home don't always realize, but we are trying to pack in as much as we can in that short period of time. It really is hard to find songs that work in that format without losing the essence of the original.

Q. Which contestants have most impressed you during the course of the competition? Who do you see as your main competition? A. People assume that we are competitive with the other singers, but that really isn't the case. At this point, there are 12 acts left, and there is a reason that they have survived all of the cuts. The show started out with 75,000 auditionees, so at this level, everybody is extremely talented. We all have such varied talents and unique qualities that we really just admire and appreciate what everybody does rather than being competitive. We all get along, and we are sad to see people go home when they do, but this is a competition.

Q. Are you planning to perform/tour as Forte after this competition, regardless of the outcome? A. When the group initially formed, the hope was that this would last past the show. We are still hoping that Forte is viable post-"America's Got Talent," and it would be nice to get to the finals and continue getting the enormous exposure the show brings. In the finale, you perform three times, so it is much different than the earlier rounds. A lot of things can't be discussed, in terms of recording, until after the show is finished, so we won't know anything definitive until after the finale. We would love to record and tour if possible. There is an AGT tour scheduled, but we don't yet know who is being invited, or for which dates each act will be performing.

Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

Saline, Skyline and Gabriel Richard ranked in first Associated Press poll and more prep football notes



Skyline football is ranked in this week's poll.

Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

Of the three Wasthtenaw teams that appear in the first Michigan Associated Press prep football poll, one won a regional title last year, one nearly did, and the third went 2-7.

Saline, Father Gabriel Richard and Skyline all made the cut in the first poll of the season. The Hornets are ranked No. 7 in Division 1 while Skyline received five votes and finished two spots out. Gabriel Richard came in tied for seventh in Division 5 (see complete poll below.)

All three teams are in after starting the season 2-0. Saline and Gabriel Richard came into the season after strong seasons last year, while Skyline had gained notice for two strong wins to open the season.

Dexter player OK

There was a scary moment on Friday at Dexter’s Al Ritt Field, when a Dreadnaughts player had to be carried off the field in an ambulance.

Dexter athletic director Mike Bavineau said Monday morning that the player was cleared the same night and is doing well.

“I think it was more precautionary,” Bavineau said of the hospitalization.

FGR finds leaders


Father Gabriel Richard is 2-0 on the year.

Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

Father Gabriel Richard head coach Brian Lemons hasn’t been shy about the amount of youth on his team. With 22 players graduating from last year’s team, Lemons knew he would have to find some new leaders on the field for the Fighting Irish.

With two games finished and the Irish sitting at 2-0, Lemons said a lot of the credit has to go to the team’s captains, with two players especially standing out.

“I think we did a pretty good job of picking our captains,” Lemons said. “They’ve been really stepping forward and making sure things are done right. Nate Winnie has been solid back there and Matt Johnson. Those two guys have really been the driving force for us this season.”

Winnie’s presence made a huge impact during Saturday’s 25-14 win over Whitmore Lake as he recovered two fumbles on defense that led to Irish scores and recovered a fumble on offense.

‘We kept running’

Jari Brown sounded a bit like Forrest Gump while breaking down his first win as Pioneer’s head coach Friday, 39-13 over Dearborn Edsel Ford.

“We started running and things went well,” Brown said. “So we kept running.”

Brown’s first game at Pioneer started with a shutout loss and negative yards rushing. The second one was a marked turnaround.

Friday, Pioneer started with three straight carries from sophomore Tyson Montgomery. The fourth play of the game went to Malik Fuller for a touchdown.

From there, Pioneer kept going to the run, and finished with more than 200 yards on the ground. Montgomery led the way with 162 yards on 23 carries.

"I just have to keep giving credit to the offensive line,” Brown said. “The reason we had so much success was because they did so well on the line, enabling the offense, opening up holes and just keeping the defense at bay."

Another bad start

Chelsea is starting to make a habit out of these August and September woes.

The Bulldogs gave up an early 14-0 lead Friday and fell to Belleville, 17-14 to go to 0-2 on the year.

Last year, Chelsea started 0-3 before finishing the regular season with six straight wins to extend its playoff streak to 14 years.

Before 2012, Chelsea hadn’t been 0-2 since 2003. The last time the Bulldogs started consecutive seasons with two-or-more losses was in 1994-95.

And getting that first win of the season in Week 3 won’t be easy -- the Bulldogs host Saline.

“We’ve already seen a little bit of them on tape,” Saline coach Joe Palka said Friday. “I’m impressed with their quarterback, I’m impressed with their linebackers, they’ve got a tall, good receiver and I think they can do some things that will give us problems with athletes out in space.

Michigan Associated Press High School Football Poll

Division 1
School, Total, Points
1. Detroit Cass Tech (4) (2-0) 49
2. Detroit Catholic Central (1) (2-0) 43
3. Rockford (2-0) 39
4. Macomb Dakota (2-0) 32
5. Lake Orion (2-0) 31
6. Canton (2-0) 27
7. Saline (2-0) 12
8. Clarkston (1-1) 11
9. Howell (2-0) 7
10. Plymouth (2-0) 6
Others receiving votes: 11, Warren Mott (2-0) 5. 11, Ann Arbor Skyline (2-0) 5. 13, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (2-0) 3. 14, Holland West Ottawa (1-1) 2. 14, Utica Eisenhower (1-1) 2. 16, Hudsonville (2-0) 1.

Division 2
School Total Points
1. Birmingham Brother Rice (2) (2-0) 37
(tie) Muskegon (2) (2-0) 37
3. Lowell (2-0) 27
4. Midland (2-0) 19
5. Oak Park (2-0) 17
6. Walled Lake Western (2-0) 14
7. Temperance Bedford (2-0) 13
8. Wyandotte Roosevelt (2-0) 12
9. Detroit King (2-0) 8
10. Battle Creek Lakeview (2-0) 7
(tie) Lansing Everett (2-0) 7
(tie) Portage Central (2-0) 7
Others receiving votes: 13, Farmington Hills Harrison (2-0) 6. 14, Southfield (2-0) 5. 15, Caledonia (2-0) 3. 16, Portage Northern (2-0) 1.

Division 3
School Total Points
1. Grand Rapids Christian (1) (1-1) 43
2. DeWitt (2) (2-0) 42
3. Zeeland East (2) (2-0) 41
4. East Grand Rapids (2-0) 29
5. Stevensville Lakeshore (2-0) 24
6. Orchard Lake St. Mary (2-0) 23
7. Zeeland West (1-1) 17
8. Mason (2-0) 13
9. Tecumseh (2-0) 8
10. St. Joseph (2-0) 7
(tie) Mount Pleasant (1-1) 7
(tie) Linden (1-1) 7 Others receiving votes: 13, Marquette 5 (2-0). 14, Petoskey (2-0) 4. 15, Charlotte (2-0) 3. 16, Auburn Hills Avondale (1-1) 1. 16, Plainwell (2-0) 1.

Division 4
School Total Points
1. Saginaw Swan Valley (4) (2-0) 48
2. Grand Rapids South Christian (1) (1-1) 34
3. Grosse Ile (2-0) 29
4. Paw Paw (2-0) 28
5. Lansing Sexton (2-0) 26
6. Cadillac (2-0) 22
7. Dowagiac Union (2-0) 15
8. Comstock Park (2-0) 13
9. Detroit Country Day (0-2) 10
10. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (2-0) 9
Others receiving votes: 11, Belding (2-0) 8. 12, Adrian (1-1) 7. 12, Battle Creek Harper Creek (1-1) 7. 14, Battle Creek Pennfield (2-0) 6. 15, Allendale (2-0) 4. 15, Croswell-Lexington (1-1) 4. 17, Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1-1) 3. 18, Three Rivers (1-1) 1. 18, West Branch Ogemaw Heights (1-1) 1.

Division 5
School Total Points
1. Muskegon Oakridge (3) (2-0) 45
2. Portland (2) (2-0) 43
3. Menominee (2-0) 34
4. Essexville Garber (2-0) 24
5. Kingsford (2-0) 23
6. Marine City (2-0) 20
7. Grayling (2-0) 18
(tie) Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (2-0) 18
9. Olivet (2-0) 12
10. Reed City (2-0) 10
Others receiving votes: 11, Flint Powers (1-1) 8. 12, Freeland (2-0) 7. 13, Almont (2-0) 6. 14, Newaygo (2-0) 4. 15, Livonia Clarenceville (2-0) 3.

Division 6
School Total Points
1. Ithaca (4) (2-0) 49
2. Jackson Lumen Christi (1) (2-0) 38
(tie) Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (2-0) 38
4. Grass Lake (2-0) 23
5. Negaunee (2-0) 20
6. Elk Rapids (2-0) 15
(tie) Clinton (2-0) 15
8. Montrose (2-0) 14
9. Jonesville (2-0) 12
10. Constantine (1-1) 10
Others receiving votes: 11, Madison Heights Madison (2-0) 9. 11, Watervliet (2-0) 9. 13, Millington (1-1) 7. 14, Michigan Center (2-0) 6. 15, Shelby (2-0) 4. 16, Kalkaska (2-0) 3. 17, Quincy (2-0) 2. 18, Niles Brandywine (2-0) 1.

Division 7
School Total Points
1. Ishpeming (5) (2-0) 50
2. Detroit Loyola (2-0) 41
3. Pewamo-Westphalia (2-0) 35
4. Hudson (2-0) 32
5. Flint Beecher (2-0) 25
6. Saginaw Nouvel (1-1) 24
7. Schoolcraft (2-0) 17
8. Decatur (2-0) 16
9. Lake City (2-0) 11
10. Traverse City St. Francis (1-1) 9
Others receiving votes: 11, Whittemore-Prescott (2-0) 7. 12, Marlette (2-0) 4. 12, Springport (1-1) 4.

Division 8
School Total Points
1. Beal City (2) (2-0) 47
2. Harbor Beach (3) (2-0) 46
3. Mendon (2-0) 40
4. New Lothrop (2-0) 31
(tie)IronMountainNorthDickinson (2-0) 31
6. Climax-Scotts (2-0) 20
(tie) Crystal Falls Forest Park (2-0) 20
8. Vestaburg (2-0) 16
9. Ottawa Lake Whiteford (2-0) 13
10. St. Ignace LaSalle (1-1) 3
(tie) Fowler (1-1) 3
(tie) Muskegon Catholic Central (0-2) 3
Others receiving votes: 13, Hillman (1-1) 2.

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.

Ann Arbor DDA addressing 'increasingly tight availability of parking in the downtown'



The entrance to the new Library Lane underground parking garage off Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor. In the background, the new Blake Transit Center takes shape last month.

Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

A year after adding 700-plus parking spaces with the opening of a new underground garage, Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority leaders say parking demand is strong.

In fact, there's a wait list of more than 100 people seeking monthly permits for the subterranean garage off Fifth Avenue, said DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay.


Ann Arbor DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay and DDA Treasurer Roger Hewitt appear before the City Council Monday night.

Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

"It really is a mix — everything from the banks to the retail shops to the tech companies," she said of those on the wait list for permits. "We've got residents who are looking for them. The diversity of downtown, I think, is showing itself on this list."

The DDA could fulfill those requests for permits, Pollay said, but it purposefully is keeping a minimum of 150 spaces in the garage open for hourly use by library patrons.

The Ann Arbor City Council and the DDA held their annual joint work session Monday night to talk about downtown parking issues.

DDA officials reported there were 446,726 more hourly patrons in 2012-13 than in 2005-06 — up from 1.7 million to nearly 2.2 million.

But for the first time in several years, the number of hourly patrons actually dropped slightly this past year, according to information presented by DDA officials.

Roger Hewitt, the DDA's treasurer, noted the hourly patrons figure represents merely "tickets pulled," and not overall parking system use, which DDA officials believe is up by about 5 percent.

"Our conclusion is people who are coming in and pulling tickets are staying longer than they have in the past, so it's not a decline in the hours of use — just the number of tickets pulled," Hewitt said. "I suspect there are more people working downtown and parking hourly, and that's why you're getting longer stays. It has to do more with workers as opposed to visitors staying."

In an effort to better manage the demand for downtown parking, the DDA last year began experimenting with a new pricing model. It raised the monthly permit rate for the Maynard and Liberty Square parking garages, which are in high demand, to $155 a month, while pricing other garages at $145 a month. And it set the new Library Lane garage artificially low at $95 a month.

DDA officials said that's been effective in shifting demand and freeing up parking spaces that have allowed tech companies to grow along Liberty Street.

"If we're going to continue to have job growth in the tech sector downtown, we're going to have to address what is becoming an increasingly tight availability of parking in the downtown," Hewitt said. "That doesn't necessarily mean it has to be addressed with new structures, but we've got to figure out ways to get workers into the downtown."

The latest experiment in demand management comes as the DDA looks to increase the monthly permit price at the Forest Avenue parking garage to $155 — in line with Maynard and Liberty Square. The garage is seeing increasing demand thanks to new development in the South University area.


Mayor John Hieftje listens to a presentation from DDA officials during a special work session Monday night.

Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

The DDA has been working on a new pilot program for parking permit distribution in the South University area.

Under the current system, individuals — employees, residents and business owners — contact the DDA for permits. Under the pilot program, permits are allocated to building owners based on building square footage. DDA officials said it's an attempt to be a little more formulaic in determining how a limited number of permits get divvied up, and they're still collecting feedback.

"It's one of our first attempts at trying to deal with what is a very tight demand for parking in the campus area," Hewitt said.

Even as parking demand remains strong, DDA officials said, downtown transit use is increasing due to the DDA-funded go!pass, which downtown businesses provide to their employees.

In 2012-13, there were 618,041 trips taken using a go!pass and there were 443 participating go!pass organizations or businesses covering 4,182 downtown employees.

"It's a significant part of the entire transportation system of getting people into the downtown," Hewitt said.

DDA officials are expecting a new parking garage to open at First and Washington across from the Blind Pig in the next month or two, adding nearly 250 more parking spaces. After those spaces come online, the DDA will be manager of 8,249 public parking spaces downtown, including 5,326 spaces in eight parking garages, 1,100 spaces in 16 parking lots, and 1,823 on-street metered spaces.

Tom Crawford, the city's chief financial officer, said earlier this year the new First and Washington garage — built in conjunction with the new Ann Arbor City Apartments — is expected to provide 98 spaces solely for public use, while 73 others will be "flex spaces" for either public or private use based on certain hours of the day. Another 73 spaces are to be reserved for building tenants, he said, though they could be used by the public if they're not in use.

The DDA expects to bring in about $19.45 million in parking system revenues this year, including interest. And it's planning to spend nearly $20 million, dipping into reserve funds, according to parking fund figures DDA officials presented to council Monday night.


Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, raised questions about tax dollars subsidizing the downtown parking system Monday night.

Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

That includes $8.4 million for parking operations, $3.1 million for debt service, $915,000 for go!passes, the getDowntown program and other grants, $3.2 million in transfers to the city's general fund, and $4.4 million in transfers to parking structure maintenance.

With the construction of the Library Lane parking garage complete, Hewitt said this year and possibly next year the DDA will be putting more than it normally does into parking garage maintenance, including repairs like concrete replacement, deck coating and metal stair replacements.

"For a couple years, during the construction of the underground structure — the Library Lane structure — we cut back on our maintenance," he said. "And now we are catching back up and making sure those structures are exactly as they should be."

Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, noted the DDA still pays debt service for the parking system using tax-increment financing — or TIF — revenues. He questioned why that wasn't showing up in the figures DDA officials presented Monday night.

"You're not showing us the total debt service," he said, later adding: "I would like to know why the parking system isn't paying for itself. You're making TIF payments to the debt — that's all well and good — but we're not seeing those numbers here."

Mayor John Hieftje said Kunselman made a good point, and if TIF dollars are going to the parking system, council members should see that somewhere.

Council Member Sumi Kailasapathy, D-1st Ward, said it was "really difficult" for council to evaluate the parking numbers with only a "partial picture."


The number of tickets pulled by hourly patrons of downtown Ann Arbor's public parking system since 2005-06.

Ann Arbor DDA

DDA officials said that information could be easily provided.

Hewitt said there are no plans to increase hourly parking rates this year. The last increases in parking rates in Ann Arbor went into effect in January and September of 2012. That's when parking garage rates went up to $1.20 an hour and meter rates went up to $1.50 an hour.

Hewitt noted annual parking revenues increased about 12 percent from June 2012 to June 2013, while the average rate increase was in the 6-7 percent range.

"So we believe there has been about 5 percent growth in the overall system — certainly in the 4-5 percent range — based on the revenues coming in," he said.

Hewitt noted the DDA installed new automated equipment last year in both the Fourth and Washington garage and the Liberty Square garage to help make exiting faster. The new garage at First and Washington also is expected to have automated equipment.

The DDA also is talking about possibly adding more electric vehicle charging stations in addition to the 18 already installed last year. Hewitt said there's heavy demand for those spaces.

The DDA also is talking about another "bike house" after success installing a 37-space secure bike parking facility in the Maynard parking garage.

The Joint DDA-Council Committee, which is working on issues related to the DDA's downtown tax capture, plans to meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday on the second floor of city hall.

Ryan Stanton covers Ann Arbor city hall. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529 or follow him on Twitter.

Yankee Air Museum has 22 days left to raise $3.2M to save portion of former Willow Run bomber plant


Related story: New connected vehicle research center could propel region to national spotlight, SPARK CEO says

With 22 days left in its fundraising campaign, the Yankee Air Museum is about $3.2 million short of its $8 million goal to save a portion of the former Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti Township from demolition.

The museum’s fundraising efforts are unaffected by the announcement last week that Detroit-based Walbridge Development LLC plans to develop a connected vehicles research facility on the site.


Visitors check out a plane at the Yankee Air Museum during a Salute to Aviation marking the museum's grand reopening in 2010.

AnnArbor.com file photo

Yankee Air Museum wants to move its operations to a portion of the plant that manufactured B-24 "Liberator" bombers for World War II.

“We still need to have some major donors who can donate six and seven figures step forward to help us out, but we’re making very steady progress,” said Yankee Air Museum founder Dennis Norton.

“There are corporations who have stepped forward and said they’ll help us out with some (construction, contracting and utilities work), which simply lowers the amount of cash we have to raise,” he added.

If the Yankee Air Museum reaches its goal by Oct. 1, the museum would renovate about 175,000 square feet of the nearly 5 million-square-foot former Willow Run GM Powertrain plant, and relocate its existing museum operations from the east side of the Willow Run airport.

The museum would purchase a total of about 840,000 square feet of the site, or 19.3 acres, from owner RACER Trust. The museum’s plans include parking for about 700 vehicles, and a 1,000-person capacity conference hall.

Of the $8 million fundraising goal, RACER Trust knocked about $2 million off the top after it re-engineered its demolition plan to preserve electrical lines. Rewiring the electrical lines would have cost about $2 million, Norton said.

"(RACER) wants us to succeed in this thing also and they’ve given us a lot of help," he said.

Relocating to the former bomber plant would allow the museum to store all of its planes and other items under one roof. Currently, flyable planes and the museum are in separate facilities, and around 15 airplanes sit outside where they can’t be viewed during winter for lack of space in their 40,000-square-foot building.

Norton said he’s “relatively confident” the museum can reach its goal in the next 22 days.

“So many people locally have some type of historical tie to the plant,” Norton said. “We’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds of people who say, ‘My grandfather or grandmother worked there.’ The majority of donations are local, however, we have gotten a significant number of pledges or donations from outside the area.”


B-24 "Liberator" bombers roll out of the Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti Township in 1945. The bombers were produced there by Ford Motor company from roughly mid-1942 until mid-1945.

Taken by Ford Motor Company and property of Yankee Air Museum

RACER Trust plans to begin demolishing the former Willow Run plant in October. If the museum reaches its goal, that portion of the plant would be saved from demolition.

Once demolition is finished and site contamination is removed, Walbridge Development plans to purchase the property — with the exception of the museum portion — and develop a connected vehicles test track and R&D facility.

The process to redevelop the site for connected vehicles research could take years, and Walbridge would first need to enter into a development agreement with Ypsilanti Township.

“Partnering with the museum on one end of it and all the things we’re going to have, this seems to be a very good fit (for the site),” Norton said.

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.

Ann Arbor schools coping with standing-room-only classes, smaller staff



Students wait in the crowded cafeteria to pick up their schedules at Skyline High School on the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 3 in Ann Arbor.

Brianne Bowen | AnnArbor.com

It's standing room only in some Ann Arbor Public Schools classrooms after 36 teachers were cut for this school year.

Classes pushing 40 students have resulted in shared desks and standing room only for some subjects at Pioneer High School, said James Svensson, parent of a freshmen at the school.

“I’m afraid my daughter won’t get the quality education that she needs,” Svensson said.

AAPS officials have been hustling to adjust class sizes and sections following budget cuts in June.

Though district officials are continually monitoring class sizes, there will likely be classes that will have 35 students throughout the whole year, said spokeswoman Liz Margolis.

'Packing them in'

High school classes are seeing the biggest capacity strains.

Svensson, a clinical social worker at the University of Michigan, said his daughter came home from the first day of school "shocked" at how many students she was sharing class with.

In her accelerated geometry class, there are 38 students in her section, Svensson said. In another section, there are 41 students. History and German classes at Pioneer are also seeing class sizes larger than 38 students.

“There’s only so much time a teacher has,” Svensson said, stating he fears that the quality of education at AAPS will slip as a result of the staff cuts.

In general subjects like English, social studies and math, “…they’re packing (students) in,” said Linda Carter, president of the Ann Arbor Educational Association.

Large class sizes are the biggest concern for teachers, Carter said. She’s been touring AAPS buildings this week with her team.

“I understand where we are financially as a district … but you really want to have a manageable, smaller class size,” Carter said. “You don’t need 29 kids in the first grade. You want to be able to service and teach all the kids.”

Cuts to staff

The Board of Education approved cutting about 40 positions from the district’s staff in June. It accounted for 45 percent of the district’s overall $8.7 million cut to operations.

After 233 teachers were put on layoff notice over the summer, district officials scrambled to match open positions with their available staff. At least three of the teachers that received layoff notices resigned for other jobs, Carter said.

A total of 20 employees resigned over the summer and 35 employees retired.

In many instances, teachers retired and they weren’t replaced, Carter said.

However, the district wasn’t able to avoid its first-ever layoffs: Two employees—an equivalent of 1.2 full-time employees—were laid off.

“We have not been through this before,” Carter said. “This was new ground.”

One was a .2 FTE dance instructor at Community High School, and the other was a full-time business education teacher at Skyline High School, Carter said.

Adjusting class size

Any class size that’s larger than the maximum in teachers’ contracts are being evaluated, Margolis said.

“We are monitoring class size every single day across the district,” Margolis said.

In particular, district officials are monitoring two large classes at Community High School: Spanish II and Latin I. Additional sections may be added, Margolis said.

At high schools, enrollment figures continue to fluctuate as district staff drop students from the roster that haven’t shown up for the new school year. Margolis estimated that process should be complete by Sept. 11.

Teaching positions remain open within AAPS. At Pioneer High School, there are three substitute teachers in classrooms that the district is still working to hire full-time teachers for.

“You want to have the kind of positive public relations that comes from the Ann Arbor Public Schools district: ‘Come to Ann Arbor. We have smaller class sizes.’ …We can’t really say that right now,” Carter said.

The district needs more teaching assistants as well.

In kindergarten classrooms, if there are 23 students a teacher is assigned a part-time teacher assistant automatically.

If there are more than 28 students in first or second grade, a teacher has the option of accepting $300 per student per semester in their paycheck, or requesting a teaching assistant in the classroom. That threshold for grades 3 through 8 is 30 students in a classroom.

In the high school, if there are more than 32 students in a classroom a teacher has the option of getting $60 per student per semester in their paycheck or requesting help with grading.

“We wouldn’t keep the classes at 40 (students),” Margolis said, stating that a likely cap this year may be at 35 students for some high school classes.

Counselor positions that have been eliminated have resulted in two counselors traveling between buildings for the first time.

Staff are moving between Clague Middle School and Huron High School, as well as between Tappan Middle School and Skyline High School. Forsythe Middle School also experienced a reduction in counselor positions from 3 to 2.5, resulting in a counselor traveling between Forsythe and Slauson Middle School.

The absence of a full-time counselor for some of the grade levels is “huge,” Carter said.

Amy Biolchini is the K-12 education reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.

Lawyer for man accused of killing coworker argues he was acting in self-defense


The attorney defending Leonard Ware against a murder charge argued Tuesday his client was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed a coworker because he believed the man was armed.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Leonard_Ware2.jpg

Leonard Ware

That argument, presented in opening statements Tuesday, clashes with the prosecution’s contention that Ware shot and killed Bhagavan Allen and that he had planned to kill his 29-year-old coworker after a confrontation at work.

Ware, 35, is accused of shooting Allen on Oct. 3 as the two men went to settle an argument that started at Marsh Plating Co. on Grove Street in Ypsilanti. He faces charges of open murder, carrying a concealed weapon, being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

But Ware’s attorney said he had reason to believe Allen was armed and was going to harm him.

In his opening statement, Jeffrey Taylor said Ware knew Allen from their time in high school and knew him to have a violent and aggressive reputation. In the years since high school, Allen never changed, Taylor said. Ware reported hearing Allen talk about “what he did and what he would do” to people in the plant.

Taylor also alleged Allen had pointed a gun at another plant employee just a week before the argument with Ware.


Bhagavan Allen

From the Facebook profile of Bhagavan Allen

Ware was Allen’s superior at Marsh Plating and the two men argued during their shift about “production issues,” Taylor said.

“Although my client was trying to do his job on that day, Mr. Allen did not take kindly to being told how to do his job,” Taylor said.

In the ensuing argument, Allen struck Ware in the face so hard the blow knocked off his protective eyewear and caused his earplugs to fall out. Later in the day, Ware offered Allen a fist bump as a peace offering, and Allen declined to accept. The two men decided to settle their differences after their shifts were over.

“The evidence is going to show you he told my client ‘You better bring that thing,’” Taylor said.

Taylor contended that, after those words and with his prior knowledge of Allen’s reputation, Ware had reason to believe Allen was going to be armed with a gun when they met to fight after work.

“I would not invite anyone to bring a firearm to a fight … if I didn’t want them to believe I had one,” Taylor said.

He added that in Michigan, deadly force is allowed in self-defense, “even if they (the defendant) are mistaken about the amount of danger they are in.”

Prosecutors contend that Ware shot Allen after the two men argued at work and decided to settle their differences with a fight outside — a fight to which Allen came unarmed.

The only items Allen was carrying before he was shot were a half-smoked cigarette and a bottle of water, Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Paul Barnett said.

Barnett said Ware had gone back to his vehicle to get his .45-caliber pistol before the fight and the two men started “jawing” at each other as they walked down Grove toward South Street, Barnett said.

“The defendant comes to the fight with a handgun and Bhagavan Allen comes with a bottle of water,” Barnett said.

Barnett showed photos of Allen’s body taken during his autopsy, including the 10 gunshot wounds to the Superior Township-man’s body. Photos of blood pooled against the curb on Grove Street and the shell casings found on scene were also presented to the jury.

Two witnesses who testified at the preliminary examination in November, Todd Von Schulze and Michael Malone, were identified as the prosecution’s key witnesses by Barnett. Those two men are the two people who saw the shooting take place — Von Schulze from his home at Grove and South streets and Malone from his vehicle at a stop sign at Michigan Avenue and Grove Street.

Barnett told the jury the evidence all fits together to show that Ware — angered by the confrontation with Allen — went to his car, got his handgun and shot Allen, first as he raised his hands in the air and shouted “No! No1 No!” and then again as Allen was on the ground.

“It’s clear that the defendant, in a premeditated and deliberate manner, killed Mr. Bhagavan Allen,” Barnett said.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for The Ann Arbor News. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@mlive.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

Pete Schoch steps down as Father Gabriel Richard boys basketball coach


01082013_SPT_AAGRvPNDP_JT_0 (1).JPG

Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com file

Pete Schoch will not return as Father Gabriel Richard’s boys basketball coach in 2013-14, the school announced this week.

Schoch has accepted a job as an assistant coach with Pfeiffer University in North Carolina.

Schoch spent 13 years at the school, a span during which the Fighting Irish won eight district titles, one regional title and five Catholic League titles. FGR also reached the 2008 state semifinals.

“Coming to this decision was nothing short of agonizing for me as FGR and the FGR community has meant so much to me and my family in our daily lives,” Schoch wrote in a farewell letter to the Gabriel Richard community.

“I have this opportunity not because I am some great coach, but because I am a lucky and very blessed man, one that had the fortune to have great players and great kids, a wonderful supportive administration and an amazing community to support us. That is why I know the FGR tradition of excellence will certainly carry on long after I am gone.”

Gabriel Richard is now accepting application for the opening. The posting will be open until Friday, September 27, 2013. All applicants should send a letter of interest, resume and 3 references to Gabriel Richard athletic director Hally Yonko at hyonko@fgrhsaa.org

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.

Scio Township considering stricter fireworks rules after a loud summer



If the ordinance passes, Scio Township residents only be allowed to set off fireworks on federal holidays and the days immediately before and after.

Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com

Scio Township is considering taking advantage of state legislation passed this summer that allows local municipalities to more strictly limit use of consumer fireworks.

The township’s board of trustees will discuss a proposed ordinance at its work session Tuesday night that would prohibit the use of consumer fireworks in the township except on specific days surrounding national holidays.

Township Clerk Nancy Hedberg said the ordinance has come about as a result of a significant amount of complaints regarding fireworks in the township over the summer.

“There have been a lot of complaints about fireworks being set off both on days that they’re not supposed to be and after reasonable hours,” she said.

The new ordinance would restrict fireworks use to the day before, the day of, and the day after federal holidays. Federal holidays include traditional “fireworks holidays” in the summer such as July 4, Labor Day and Memorial Day as well as winter holidays such as New Year's Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“I do know that people complained, and that I experienced personally, that around July 4th — and it’s even hard to say around then because it seemed like they went on for weeks — people were routinely setting fireworks off after hours,” Hedberg said.

“One night one woke me up and I thought someone’s home had exploded,” she said. “It was that loud.”

On the allowed days, fireworks use would be prohibited between the hours of 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. under the new ordinance.

Leslie Dickenson, a summer associate with the law firm Foster Swift Collins & Smith noted in a memo that the ordinance only relates to consumer fireworks and excludes “low impact fireworks” such as handheld sparklers.

Violations of the ordinance will be punishable by a civil fine of up to $500 per offense, according to the draft ordinance available in the township meeting agenda.

Hedberg said the ordinance will be discussed at the meeting Tuesday night and likely voted on at the Board of Trustees next scheduled meeting on Sept. 24. The next federal holiday is Columbus day which will occur on Monday, Oct. 14.

Ben Freed covers business for The Ann Arbor News. Email him at benfreed@annarbor.com and follow him on twitter at @BFreedinA2

Chelsea receiver proves efficient quarterback, Week 2 players of the week and statistical leaders



Pioneer quarterback Brandon Bertoia, right, was the second most efficient quarterback with exactly 81 yards passing on Friday night with a 70 percent completion rate.

Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com file photo

Chelsea receiver Tim Mantel played quarterback for one play in the Bulldogs’ 17-14 loss to Belleville. He should either retire on top or consider switching positions, because the result was perfect. The senior wide receiver threw an 81-yard touchdown pass on his only attempt.



Griffin Wooley

162 - Tyson Montgomery, Pioneer (23 carries, 0 TDs)
154 - Trace Lindeman, Milan (13 carries, 2 TDs)
106 - Griffin Wooley, Saline (14 carries, 3 TDs)
114 - D.J. Newlin, Father Gabriel Richard (7 carries, 1 TD)
86 - Marquis Smith, Ypsilanti Community (17 carries, 2 TDs)

Gage Smith

154 - Gage Smith, Milan (6 receptions, 1 TD)
142 - Kornelius Saxton, Skyline (5 receptions, 1 TD)
135 - Daouda Sylla, Ypsilanti (7 receptions, 2 TDs)
129 - Duane Boyd, Huron (9 receptions, 1 TD)
81 - Kenny McDowell, Chelsea (1 reception, 1 TD)

Askaree Crawford

193 - Eugene Smith, Lincoln (11-of-22, 4 TDs, 1 INT)
187 - Askaree Crawford, Skyline (7-of-12, 2 TDs, 0 INTs)
173 - Mike Caldwell, Ypsilanti (7-of-12, 1 TD)
169 - Josh Jackson, Huron (12-of-19, 2 TDs, 1 INT)
167 - Robert Kanitz (9-of-16, 1 TD, 0 INTs)
*Dexter statistics not available.
Of course a position switch likely wouldn’t work out as well as that first attempt, as Mantel was assisted by some trickery. His touchdown pass came after he was given the ball on a reverse. Once he had the defense fooled, Mantel found a wide open Kenny McDowell for the score.

A full-time quarterback had nearly as efficient of a day and threw for the exact number of yards. Pioneer quarterback Brandon Bertoia completed 7-of-10 passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns in Pioneer’s 39-13 win over Dearborn Edsel Ford. The 70 percent completion rate was the highest among quarterbacks in the county with five or more attempts

Father Gabriel Richard running back D.J. Newlin was also a model of efficiency on the ground running seven times for 114 yards for a 16.3 yards per carry average, the highest of any Washtenaw County back with five or more carries. Saline’s Griffin Wooley's yards per carry average wasn’t quite as high (7.6), but that was partly because on three of his 14 carries Wooley ran out of field, with three touchdowns.

Offensive Player of the Week

Askaree Crawford, Skyline: The junior quarterback threw for a Washtenaw County-high 187 yards and two touchdowns in Skyline's 28-3 win over Dexter. Crawford also rushed for 52 yards.

Defensive Player of the Week

Dominic DiMelis, Skyline: The senior defensive lineman led Saline with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery in the Hornets' 37-29 win over Ypsilanti.

Special Teams Players of the Week

Austin Hoover and Gage Smith, Milan: The seniors teamed up to do Milan's kicking duties, converting 6-of-7 point after attempts. The only miss was from Hoover, who had just run for a 59-yard touchdown. Smith one-upped him by making the point-after attempt following his own 37-yard touchdown reception.

By the numbers

3: Washtenaw County teams in the Associated Press state rankings.

5: Backs to score rushing touchdowns for Manchester in the first half of the Flying Dutchmen’s 41-6 win over Napoleon.

6: Receivers who caught passes for Chelsea in its 17-14 loss to Belleville. The leader in yards (Kenny McDowell) was also the only receiver not to catch more than one pass.

13: Combined points allowed in first two games by Skyline football team, a Washtenaw County-low. Prior to 2013, Skyline had never given up less than 12 points in one game.

13: Combined points scored by Dexter in its first two games, a Washtenaw County-low.

22: Fourth quarter points scored by Ypsilanti against Saline on Friday. It was the most points scored in the fourth quarter of any game.

39: Increased amount of points scored by Pioneer in Week 2, the largest Week 1 to Week 2 swing in Washtenaw County.

Potent Quotable:

“The defense was trying to get stops, because last week we didn’t get the stops.”
-- Manchester coach Wes Gall on his team's 41-6 win over Napoleon.

Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.

Lincoln vs. Temperance Bedford is this week's AnnArbor.com Game of the Week



Lincoln High School quarterback Eugene Smith throws in a game against the Huron River Rats on Friday, Sept. 6.

Brianne Bowen | AnnArbor.com

Lincoln has the big poll win. Now, it moves on to the big game.

The Railsplitters’ home matchup against Temperance Bedford Friday won our Week 3 Game of the Week poll, drawing nearly 2,000 votes in a runaway win. It’s Lincoln’s second Game of the Week win in three weeks.

That means we’ll be back in Splitter Nation hosting a live chat, taking photos and writing multiple stories starting at kickoff, 7 p.m. Friday.

The game will feature a pair of teams coming in at 2-0. Lincoln topped Huron, 46-14 Friday, a week after beating Belleville 30-9.

Bedford, meanwhile, has a pair of 40-plus point wins already in the books: 47-0 opening weekend over Utica Ford and 56-25 over Toledo St. Francis.

Saline volleyball overcomes early injury, comes back to top Huron in four sets


When Kenny Seiler came out of a 13-year retirement to return to the Saline varsity volleyball sideline, it was nights like Tuesday he was looking forward to.

Saline dropped the first set and fell behind in the second before rallying for a 3-1 win over Huron, 18-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-12, in an early season matchup between two of the Southeastern Conference’s best teams.

“I knew what this team had, I watched them a lot last year,” Seiler said. “Even though I wasn’t coaching I was around the gym and I was them, I knew it was going to be exciting. It was an easy choice.”

On the fourth point of the first set, Hornets senior Jess Wolma, who Seiler calls the “heart and soul of this team”, came down awkwardly near the net and left with an ankle sprain. She didn’t return.

Huron took advantage, going on a 9-4 run after the injury. The River Rats never lost the lead, behind strong serving and multiple kills from senior Kristen Vyletel, who set the school’s career kills record Saturday.

“We executed perfectly,” Huron coach Toney Cummer said of the first set. “They were out of system most of the set, and we kept going.”

The River Rats went up 8-2 in the second set, before Saline came back to life. The Hornets went on a five-point run, took the lead at 14-13 and never trailed again the rest of the match.

The Hornets, ranked No. 6 in this week’s coaches poll, have already come back from deficits of 22-12 and 22-11 in tournament play in this young season. Compared to that, Tuesday’s comeback was a cinch.

“Being back six, especially early in the game, isn’t that big of a deal with these guys,” Seiler said. “They’re used to going on runs.”

Margo Main and Kara Rogers had nine kills apiece for Saline. Mallory Luke had 13 digs and Angela Szuminski had 12.

The strong early season was what Seiler envisioned when he took the job in July, following the sudden resignation of another new coach. He accepted the job just four days before the start of its team camp, but found a veteran group that had organized its own offseason conditioning and was ready for the new season.

Seiler had last coached the Hornets varsity team in 2000, and had been away from coaching with three young children at home.

But when Saline athletic director Rob White called to offer him the job, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

“I feel pretty blessed right now,” Seiler said.

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.

'America's Got Talent' recap: Forte wows crowd and judges with 'My Heart Will Go On'




U-M grad and Saline resident Sean Panikkar sang the Spanish version of “My Heart Will Go On” with the opera-singing trio Forte on Tuesday night’s episode of “America’s Got Talent,” but will Forte go on - to the finals?

Viewers will find out during AGT’s Wednesday night results show, scheduled to air on NBC at 9 p.m.; in the meantime, they may vote for Forte via Twitter (#voteAGT Forte), phone (1-866-602-4807), or AGT’s website. The 6 acts that make it through this week’s round move on to the AGT season finals next Tuesday, September 17 (which happens to be Panikkar’s birthday, as well as his young daughter’s).

Tuesday night’s AGT episode featured 12 acts: a tumbling troupe called Chicago Boyz; singer Branden James; dance/tumbling team Innovative Force; acrobatic duo Kristef Brothers; young dancers D’Angelo and Amanda; multimedia dance troupe Catapult Entertainment; Forte; comedian Taylor Williamson; magician Collins Key; dancer Kenichi Ebina; country singer Jimmy Rose; and singer Cami Bradley.

Before Forte’s performance, a video segment addressed the multicultural nature of the group - how the three men come from very different ethnic backgrounds, yet manage to, well, make beautiful music together.

“There’s a lot of racial conflicts in Sri Lanka, and I’m actually biracial between those two races,” Panikkar said during the segment. “The people in Sri Lanka are starting to rally around Forte.”

By the end of the performance, AGT judges Howie Mandel and Howard Stern were pantomiming the “I’m king of the world” moment from “Titanic,” the film that featured the song.

“How romantic was that?” Stern said. “ … You guys always pick the right song, you know how to harmonize, and you know when to harmonize. … Here’s the number 3 (to make it through to the finals). Third act of the night going through. Forte. Easy decision. If I was on the couch voting, that’s the way I’m doing it.”

“Forte, you are definitely going through,” said judge Mel B. “And if you don’t I’m going to be so angry. You guys, when you harmonize, I just want to melt.”

“It’s amazing that 3 amazingly talented men doing a song synonymous with a sinking ship has brought this evening to such heights,” said Mandel.

Finally, host Nick Cannon noted, “That might have been the longest standing ovation we’ve had.”

Tune in Wednesday at 9 p.m. night to see if Forte makes it to AGT’s season finals next week.

Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

Cross country runners exceed expectations, a program-first win and more notes



Costa Willets runs during a 2012 race.

Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file

The Saline and Pioneer boys cross country teams had remarkably similar Saturday performances. They were just in different locations.

Pioneer placed a pair of runners in the top three at the Brother Rice Invitational Saturday. Costa Willets came in second at 16 minutes, 25 seconds, while Lucas Arrivo was in third at 16:45.

“Some of the guys ran better than they ever have," Pioneer coach Don Sleeman said. "We responded extremely well in our first meet of the year we had enough guys rise to occasion.”

Saline, meanwhile, also placed two runners in the top three and took a large invitational win. For the Hornets, Kevin Hall placed first at 16:09 and Logan Wetzel finished third a second behind him as Saline won the Bath Invitational.

“I knew we would be in the top four, but winning it would be a reach for us,” Saline coach Carl Spina said. “Winning today shows the kids that it's worth it and all their hard work is paying off, and I hope for more happy surprises moving forward.”

Arbor Prep earns first win

Arbor Prep went winless in its first season last year.

That made last week feel even sweeter.

The Gators broke the streak last Wednesday with a 3-1 win over Romulus Summit Academy. It was the first win in the program’s history.

"It feels great," Arbor Prep coach Ryan Haines said. "It was a huge weight lifted off of not only my shoulders, but the kids shoulders as well."

Arbor Prep's Zhendyn Ruffin, Tunde Aduroja and Nate Shock each scored goals on the day. Goalie Nick Howes had nine saves.

Players of the Week

Kristen Vyletel, Huron volleyball: Vyletel recorded her 897th kil in a Huron uniform Saturday, breaking the previous school record of 886 held by Dana Filfiger. She finished the day with 37 total kills as the River Rats went 4-0 and won the gold division of the Jackson Lumen Christi Invitational.

Alec Lasinski, Skyline boys soccer: Lasinski, a junior forward, scored three of Skyline’s five goals Saturday, including the only tally in a 1-0 victory over Warren De La Salle in the championship game of the Michigan Showcase Tournament. The performance came after Lasinski scored a hat trick last Tuesday in an 8-0 win over Ypsilanti.

By the numbers

180 - Strokes for the Skyline girls golf team in its Monday loss to Saline, the team’s lowest total of the year and just nine strokes behind the Hornets.

4 - Shutouts in five games for the Saline boys soccer team, the most recent in a 3-0 Satuday win over Pioneer.

1 - Match lost by the Greenhills boys tennis team in a pair of wins over Grosse Pointe North and Traverse City St. Francis last week.

Potent quotable

“It feels really good to beat Columbia Central. We look up to Columbia as the best team in our conference. It is the biggest win in our three years of existence.”

-- Manchester soccer coach Mark Davis after his team’s 2-1 win Monday win over Brooklyn Columbia Central.

Chris Smither brings 'cosmic blues' sound to The Ark ahead of retrospective album release


When you’ve been making music for as long as Chris Smither has - he released his first album in 1971 -- it’s understandable that, when you hit a certain milestone, you want to do something special to mark the occasion.


Chris Smither

Devin Dobbins | courtesy photo

For Smither, that milestone will come next year, when he turns 70. So, to commemorate that marker, Smither will release a career retrospective, two-CD set in mid-2014. And it won’t just be an anthology of his original recordings. Smither has re-recorded about 40 of his songs for the project, some that go as far back as that first 1971 release.

“Of course, not all of them will be on the set, but since it’s two CDs, by the time we decide which ones will make the cut, I expect it will have 20 or 25 songs,” says Smither, who, over the years, has used funky, syncopated acoustic blues as his foundation, propelled by his nimble, percussive guitar picking. But he's also drawn on folk, rock, country and New Orleans music to create his distinctive style.

And his songs have frequently been referred to as “cosmic blues,” because he has often tackled heady, larger subjects. “As a writer, I tend not to get specific and personal - I’m more interested in the macrosphere, and our existence as a whole, not just my own existence,” affirms Smither, who comes to The Ark on Saturday. “I’m interested in exploring the meaning of life, the reason for our existence, mortality….”

That’s not to say he’s not also adept at writing about more carnal subjects. Indeed, he is best known for his seductive, sexually-direct (and at times bawdy) song, “Love You Like a Man,” which was covered by Bonnie Raitt on her second album, “Give It Up,” back in 1972, and has been a staple in her live shows ever since -- except she changed the title to “Love Me Like a Man.” It proved so popular that is has been covered by “about 14 or 15” other artists, estimates Smither, including Diana Krall, the Dixie Chicks and Christine Collister.


Chris Smither, w / Peter Mulvey

  • Who: Venerable, acclaimed singer-songwriter-guitarist best known for his song “Love You Like a Man,” which has been recorded by 14 or 15 artists, including Bonnie Raitt, who has been performing it in her live shows for 40 years.
  • What: Smither’s music is rooted in funky acoustic blues, but he also draws on folk, rock, country and New Orleans styles. His songs tend to tackle larger, universal topics like the meaning of life, mortality, etc., so his music has been referred to as “cosmic blues.”
  • Where: The Ark, 316 S. Main St.
  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday
  • Admission: $26. Tickets available from The Ark box office (with no service charge); Michigan Union Ticket Office, 530 S. State St.; or online at https://www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=8dfdbcd6d63ad4b5053db71b239a715c
Raitt’s version has appeared on three of her albums, including a live disc. So, Smither’s songwriting royalties from that song have provided him with a healthy income stream for 40 years. “Yeah, it’s been a nice source of revenue,” says Smither with a wry laugh, during a recent phone interview from his home in western Massachusetts.

But back to his career-retrospective set.

“Since I’m turning 70 next year, my manager and I started thinking that I’ve been doing this for so long that it would be good to release something that spanned my career, which culled songs from all the different eras,” says Smither. “Then I began thinking that I wrote a lot of these songs as a young man, and that that was a young man singing them on those early albums.

“I do the songs differently now - they’ve evolved. I sing them in a lower key than I used to, and I think I’m more convincing as a singer. When I listen back to some of the original recordings, I think, ‘Listen to how high I was singing,’ or, ‘I can’t believe I was playing that fast.’”

Smither’s fans have always been drawn to the rugged, weathered, lived-in quality of his voice. “But basically, in my own mind, I don’t think I really began to sing in a believable way until about 15 years ago,” he says. “I now sing with less caution, and more confidence - a willingness to just let it happen, as opposed to trying to force something.

“I never had any formal training as a singer, so I’ve discovered things over the years that maybe I could have learned earlier, like certain techniques for sustaining notes. And, as a musician, in general, I’ve learned more about controlling the tempos -- not letting the song move too fast.”

Given his large body of work, when it came to choosing which songs to include, Smither took a “committee” approach. “Me, my manager, and my producer (David Goodrich) each made a list of the ones we thought I should include,” says Smither. “Some we agreed on, and some we didn’t, and we finally whittled it down to those 40 or so. Some were easy, because they’re personal favorites of mine” -- like “Train Home," “No Love Today,” “Lola” and “I Am The Ride.”

In some cases, Smither had to re-learn the songs - either the lyrics or the chord patterns -- because over the years he had dropped many of them from his live repertoire to make room for newer songs. “So, some of these songs, when we release this, will be songs that people haven’t heard me do in many years.”

One song he wasn’t sure about including is “Devil Got Your Man.” “That’s the very first song I ever wrote, and Goody (producer Goodrich) insisted that we do it, and it sounds beautiful. It’s one of the best songs on the record.”

Smither’s last album, “Hundred Dollar Valentine,” released last year, was the first disc he’s ever released that consisted entirely of his own songs: He’s always loved finding songs written by other writers, giving them his own interpretations, and including a couple of them on each of his albums. Bob Dylan has been a particular favorite: Smither has recorded five or six Dylan tunes over the years.

“When we were making that last record, I was, as usual, looking for a couple of songs to cover, and Goody said, ‘Why don’t you cover yourself?’ That’s when we first began talking about how interesting it would be to interpret work from my youth, from the perspective of having been on the planet for this long.’

So, for “Valentine,” Smither re-recorded two of his older songs: “Every Mother’s Son” and “I Feel the Same” - the latter of which Raitt also covered.

“So, that planted the seed for this upcoming retrospective - it made us start thinking about doing a whole album’s worth of those -- which then led to us doing 40 and turning it into a two-CD set,” Smither says. With a laugh, he then adds, “Once we got started, I guess we just couldn’t stop.”

Kevin Ransom is a free-lance writer who covers music for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at KevinRansom10@aol.com.

Previous Article Next Article

Tell us why your team should be in our Week 4 Game of the Week poll



Saline High School sophomore Jeb Palka looks for a hole in Ypsilanti High School's defense on Friday, Sept. 6, in Saline.

Patrick Record | AnnArbor.com file

We’ve got a full 10 games on next week’s Washtenaw County high school football slate, but only one can be the Ann Arbor News/Mlive Game of the Week.

We’re hoping you can tell us what game that should be.

Starting now, we’re taking nominations for games to be included in our fourth Game of the Week poll, which opens Friday. Jump in the comments and make a case for your favorite team, and we’ll include the best in next week’s poll.

The week’s schedule includes the Southeastern Conference’s first in-division games of the season. That includes Saline at Pioneer -- two teams that played a one-point regular season game last year and later met for a district final, and Skyline hosting a playoff team in Monroe.

Outside of the SEC, Father Gabriel Richard will face off against a Detroit Loyola team that made the Division 7 state title game last year.

And since we’re transitioning into Mlive on Thursday, we’ll be looking for your comments over on Mlive’s High School Sports network, which will be the home for Ann Arbor News high school content.

Week 4 Schedule
Addison at Manchester
Adrian at Dexter
Huron at Temperance Bedford
Chelsea at Ypsilanti
Monroe at Skyline
New Boston Huron at Milan
Saline at Pioneer
Sand Creek at Whitmore Lake
Lincoln at Tecumseh
Detroit Loyola at Father Gabriel Richard (1 p.m. Saturday)