Tom Paxton singing "Yuppies in the Sky".
Condos for sale / condos to buy / Yuppies in the sky
Tom Paxton singing "Yuppies in the Sky".
Condos for sale / condos to buy / Yuppies in the sky
The Ann Arbor City Council holds meetings twice each month, which are streamed online through the city's CTN network. I tuned in last night on my laptop to listen and watch.
While I was listening, I had a few other windows open on my computer. First and foremost, I had a twitter stream that I was watching for the #a2council hash tag; that caught commentary from a few other people who were watching at home, plus some reporters in the audience. The running cmmentary made it easier to follow what was going on, and it served as a back channel to help make sense of the proceedings.
The council was working from an agenda that's in the Legistar system, and from time to time I'd go back to that to see what the text of an agenda item was, to look at supporting materials, and see the detail.
The Ann Arbor Chronicle does near-real-time news coverage as a Civic News Ticker, reporting out results from key votes and decisions during the meeting. This is brief coverage but important, and it sets the stage for their 10,000 word meeting reports that come out a week or so later.
Finally, I had a window open to Arborwiki, which has a local encyclopedia of information about what is going on in the city and the surrounding area. As council considered various options, I looked up what Arborwiki had to say about the current state of affairs, and updated it as best I could to reflect the meeting results and the news that was happening.
I'm sure that watching this multi-connected stream was different from the experience of being in the same room as council. You miss the non-verbal communications, the body language, the hallway conversations that take place during breaks, and all sorts of in-person nuance. But for what it was, I'm pretty happy with the experience. It felt like I was engaged with the meeting and could have a sense that I was part of the civic process.
In our fair city there are a number of people who keep track of what's going on at city council, and some of those folks use Twitter to follow along with that's going on in real time. This is helped by the live simulcast of Ann Arbor City Council meetings on CTN, the city's cable access television feed, as well as online.
There is a lot to follow here, with the ins and outs of multi-year development projects being discussed and proposed and a cast of regular characters giving public commentary. To help follow this, Twitter had adopted the #aacitycouncil hash tag to follow along. Last night, though, AnnArbor.com reporter Ryan Stanton had this great suggestion:
Tonight's Ann Arbor City Council meeting discussed at great length the expenditure of some sizable sum of money for art that would be installed in the secured lobby of the Justice Center part of City Hall, where would you have to go through a security check to visit it.
What I have noticed from visits to City Hall is that the art that's there is quite accessible is a tile mural that you can not only see without going through a checkpoint, but is even so ready to hand that you can touch it.
A proposal was put forth to not spend the money on art and to renovate some bathrooms in the building instead. This left a missed opportunity to instead ready-made art as part of that installation. (photo: wikimedia commons, from the original photo by Alfred Stieglitz).
David Bloom holds forth in song in Off I Go To The County Board, one of the few songs written about the process of covering public meetings.
Off I Go To The County Board,
inspired by Mary Morgan
Off I Go To The County Board,
To hear the rabble bray,
Of taxes met, infractions scored,
On this harumphing day.
Oh Washtenaw, brave Washtenaw,
Of eighty-three, the best.
The other counties hold in awe,
There's more verses (oh, so many more) - in fairness to the author, I commend you to view and listen to them directly.
The City of Ann Arbor has dozens of citizen boards and commissions, with members appointed by the mayor, that conduct some of the decision making parts of city government. Most of these boards toil in utter obscurity, with no one in attendance at meetings other than the minimum required board members and staff.
Despite (or perhaps because of) this obscurity, there are some interesting things to be discovered by reading board minutes and board packets from these groups. For instance:
The Local Development Finance Authority is the city body that allocates economic development funds from tax capture to development organizations, primarily Ann Arbor SPARK. As of the latest board packet, there is no treasurer to this organization, as none of the existing board members were willing to serve in that role. There is one open position on that board as of this writing.
The Sign Board of Appeals meets only when citizens or businesses have an appeal to decisions made under the city's Sign Ordinance. This body only has 4 members seated, with 3 vacancies. As a result, that board did not elect officers and did not approve the most recent minutes of a previous meeting. The Sign Ordinance is said to be up for review, according to the draft minutes that I looked at, but the Sign Board had not seen that draft.
The Zoning Board of Appeals meetings to hear appeals to the city's zoning laws. Here was the most unusual result that I had from a series of Freedom of Information Act requests: the draft minutes of the last meeting, in December, were not available when I asked for them, and the city turned down a FOIA request for those minutes. Under the Michigan Open Meetings Act, draft minutes are to be made available within 8 days of a public meeting being held. I appealed that decision - and it's appalling that I should have to go through the FOIA appeals process just to read meeting minutes - and was given the minutes the day after my appeal. This Ann Arbor Chronicle civic news ticker has the results of that meeting, which was controversial and resulted in the rejection of neighborhood appeals to the City Place development decision.
Is it unusual for a public body to turn down requests for meeting minutes? It's happened to me before, when I had to go through a protacted series of requests to get minutes from the Historic District Commission. The first time you do this, it's an exciting process of delving into the fine points of carefully worded language to appeal a city decision. The second time, it's just tedious and frustrating to have to go all the way to the city administrator just to get minutes to read. I suppose I'll keep earning my title of "municipal irritant" one way or another, even without attending the meetings.
For news coverage, see AnnArbor.com, the Ann Arbor Chronicle, and News of Ann Arbor (this is satire), not necessarily in that order. Additional reporting from the Heritage News's ChelseaDexter twitter feed, the Manchester Enterprise, and the Michigan Daily.
Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) was recalled by Gennesee County voters. Scott is the Republican chair of the House Education Committee and had been targeted by the Michigan Education Association. Story in the Michigan Messenger.
Ann Arbor School Board results are complete. With all 63 precincts counted, [Andy Thomas] and [Simone Lightfoot] are re-elected.
Ann Arbor School Board results to date show incumbents [Andy Thomas] and [Simone Lightfoot] with a comfortable 850+ vote lead over their challengers with only 9 of 63 precincts left to count.
Ann Arbor City Council results, with too few uncounted precincts to swing the election:
The Ann Arbor Chronicle. In the last paragraph, they note one of the persistent issues of estimating Ann Arbor voter turnout: "A certain number of registered voters no longer live in this area but are still in the books."
Ann Arbor street millage results at 9:30 p.m. have 28/43 precincts counted, with 6297-1791 in favor of a 2 mill street improvement millage.
Unofficial county results have 22/109 precincts counted at 9:02 p.m.
The Ann Arbor school board canvas report has 9/63 precincts counted.
The Ann Arbor Chronicle has absentee results from the Ann Arbor School Board race, as of 8:00 p.m. The field of 6 candidates will yield 2 winners. Leading the absentee results are [Simone Lightfoot] (799), [Andy Thomas] (699), and [Lawrence A. Murphy] (677).
The [Ann Arbor Chronicle's Civic News Ticker] is a good source for short city news. An [8:00 p.m. update] notes that Jane Lumm (I) is leading [Steve Rapundalo] (D) 461-268 in absentee ballots in the [Ann Arbor Second Ward].
No support for rich text editing in safari, but otherwise performant. Kind of nice.
I'll need to really learn markdown for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that it descends from setext.
A2B3 lunch is Thursday as always. Ann Arbor Parks did trick or treat today, Sunday, noon to 4pm on the Huron River.
Arborwiki makes a good companion as you go for errands around town. Ann Arbor City Council elections and a millage are coming up. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has characteristically thorough coverage of the League of Women Voters forums. Some project, not yet identified, has North Main torn up at Catherine. A second project has North Division down to a single lane. Expect delays.
No one was hurt in last week's fire on Harpst. I'm trying a neighborhood LinkedIn group to see what kind of density I need to get enough people to make a group worthwhile; it might make sense to grab people closest first and then out by distance.
Tigers lost in the ALCS, and I'm looking forward to spring training.
Power outages from the Saturday windstorms were worst in Warren.
Occupy Chicago has had a lot of protest, via the Chicago Tribune which was on the scene.
Occupy Wall Street took over Times Square.
I am tracking steps with a pedometer again, thanks to Paul Resnick and a research group at UMSI. Statler and Waldorf have taken over the Muppets twitter account. New movie due for Thanksgiving. Cue the Muppets.
The wind on Saturday made farmers market blustery. Squash of all sizes and varieties were there, and there's nothing like a big old Hubbard squash to keep the corner of a table down. A farmer was doing the frost dance but said they had none at the last full moon. Traditionally, it's said that the best way to open a Hubbard is to take an axe to it, or to throw it down into the cellar.
Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie, Einar Steffrud.
Pinboard now supports Gopher urls in bookmarks.
Michigan football lost to State. It was as good an excuse as any to call my aunt who went to East Lansing.
Wow, I have a lot of categories.
Posted at 11:53 PM in a2b3, Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor City Council, Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, Ann Arbor Farmers Market, Arborwiki, Categorization, Chicago, Detroit Tigers, Farmers Market, Fire, Gopher, Halloween, Huron River, Japan, Michigan Football, Mobile, Muppets, Neighborhoods, Obituaries, October, Pedometer, Power Outages, Salesforce, zzz Draft postings | Permalink | Comments (0)
The Michigan Open Meetings Act requires 18 hours advance notice of special meetings, and even less time (though I am not clear how much less time) for special meetings of committees. Thus, if you were not on a mailing list (with a relatively small number of people on the list), you did not receive notice directly of this meeting which is needed to resolve the City of Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority's mutual disagreements over the city budget.
I follow this primarily through the exhaustively detailed reporting of my current coworking group member Dave Askins at the Ann Arbor Chronicle, the timely reporting of my former coworker Ryan Stanton at AnnArbor.com, and the new news beat that my former coworker James Dickson is carving out at the Ann Arbor Journal, and the editorial direction that home town friend John Hilton directs at the monthly Ann Arbor Observer.
From time to time, the autonomous collective of Damn Arbor pitches in, with Ben Connor Barrie most likely to be the townie and grad student voice of civic news gathering. That weblog is in the tradition of previous efforts, notably Rob Goodspeed's Goodspeed Update, the autonomous collective and voice of Julie Weatherbee at Arbor Update, and a long-anonymous Julia Lipman at Ann Arbor is Overrated.
This is all shorthand to say that I hope you are going to this meeting, if you care about it, and that if you care enough about it to want to know that it exists without me telling you about it you have to ask to be informed in advance.
Here's an overly simplified description of the process by which you can learn about, and participate in, more public meetings on more topics of public interest than you could possibly attend in person - without ever relying on someone else's account of what transpired at that meeting.
Identify the public body which has oversight or jurisdiction over the issue in question. There may be multiples of these, at the local, county, state and federal levels, plus occasionally a treaty organization or two that gets involved.
Identify the governing board of the body, and the individual members of the board. Your direct questions about agenda items will go to them.
Identify the staff member who is board secretary. They are your best contact for details like board minutes and notices of upcoming meetings.
Ask the board secretary that you be notified of upcoming board events, per the Open Meetings Act. Put any future dates on your calendar. Note that meeting times can change on short notice.
Ask for copies of board packets for upcoming board events, per the Freedom of Information Act, and probably because it's as easy as cc'ing you on an existing email list.
Determine if there are audio and video recordings of board meetings, and if they are streamed live online. Ask for details about access.
Identify a member of the public whose affairs are affected by the public body who needs assistive technology to participate in meetings, and work on their behalf to gain access to meeting materials in machine-readable formats.
Read minutes of past meetings. If those minutes are not online, request of the board secretary that copies be put online. Note that in most cases draft copies of meeting minutes should be available before they are approved at the next meeting.
Read agendas of upcoming meetings. In some cases, detailed agendas will be available, complete with supporting records which are intended to to help the board members make decisions. Ask the board secretary for information about any details which are not obvious from the published agenda. Note that agendas can change on short notice.
Contact individual board members in private regarding items on current and future agendas. If you are brief, concise, and narrowly focused, you can provide them with assistance in their work in upcoming meetings.
Contact the board as a whole in public to make a public statement about a topic. Note that although I leave this at the very end, this is what most people think about when they go to public meetings - standing up, all shaky, in front of a microphone and giving their opinion. By the time you have gotten to the mike, it's always best that your message (however popular or unpopular) is at the very least not a surprise.