Ann Arbor City Council

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Zoning laws.

Those two words alone might not grab your interest.

But watch residents pour into city commission and council chambers when there is some proposed change to the zoning laws in their neighborhood.

Maybe it's deciding whether to allow big-footprint houses and extra-large garages. Maybe it's deciding whether to permit residential and commercial buildings to coexist or how many stories a building may be.

But what one person thinks is a great idea, such as allowing more shops or restaurants into an area, might be a horrible idea to that homeowner who wants to come home to a peaceful street.

Grand Rapids recently implemented a new zoning policy that allows more mixed uses. Director of the Grand Rapids Planning Department, Suzanne Schultz, and University of Michigan Urban Planning Professor Dr. Jonathan Levine joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Just what do you want your city, your community, to look like? Crowded bustling streets? Quiet, residential homes only? Zoning laws determine these things, and although those two words don't sound altogether exciting, zoning laws are creating debate all over the state. We found out more on today's show.

Then, what was that noise outside today? Did you hear it? Sounded like thunder? Well, in this crazy Michigan weather, we're getting thundersnow. We found out about this winter novelty.

And, we spoke with the man who designed and painted the masks on the U.S. Olympic hockey teams. 

Also, we checked in with Daniel Howes on the UAW bid to unionize workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

And, head to Ford Field on Saturday if you want to be part of a world record. ComePlayDetroit is organizing the world's largest indoor yoga session at the home of the Detroit Lions.

First on the show, the state of Michigan is ending its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee the worst-performing schools in the state.

Michigan School Superintendent Mike Flangan sent a letter to the EAA saying the state will pull out of its exclusivity agreement with the Authority one year from now.

Martin Ackley is with the Michigan Department of Education. He says the state still intends to use the EAA to help turn around struggling schools.

“Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of a lack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most-struggling schools.”

So, what are the other options the state might use to help failing schools? And what's ahead for the controversial EAA?

Jake Neher, who covers Lansing for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today.

nick see / flickr

It may soon become more difficult to smoke outdoors in Ann Arbor.

A proposed city ordinance would prohibit smoking at bus stops and parks designated by the city administrator.

It would also prohibit smoking near the entrances, windows and ventilation systems of city-owned buildings, which is already banned by a Washtenaw County ordinance.

The ordinance, introduced by council member Chuck Warpehoski, D-5th Ward, is on the agenda for Monday night's city council meeting.

Natural Area Preservation staff

You read that right.

A twenty pound carp that was pulled out of a pond in Ann Arbor's West park last November is making a run for city council.

The carp was initially removed from the pond because it was destroying the ecosystem.

Ann Arbor Natural Area Preservation workers relocated it to the Huron River, where it is now running a write-in campaign for Ann Arbor City Council.

The carp has not yet responded to our interview requests, but it has engaged with other media outlets and even some current Ann Arbor City Council members on Twitter. (I suspect the carp has hired a social media director -- tweeting with fins seems difficult.)

The carp says the campaign is going well, and even has yard signs posted around town.

Adam Fagen / Flickr

The Ann Arbor City Council Thursday night approved a plan for a bike share program. It's a collaboration with the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and the Clean Energy Coalition.