Ann Arbor

Sarah Kerson / Michigan Radio

Ask any kid about their favorite part of the school day and they’ll likely give you one response - recess.

But for kids with disabilities, going outside isn’t always easy.  Traditional playgrounds aren’t always safe for these kids.

Haisley Elementary in Ann Arbor just renovated its playground to specifically accommodate for students with disabilities.

The school has a large population of kids with disabilities. Most of these kids can’t talk. Many have a hard time sitting up right. Some are in wheelchairs. Some have Autism.

Driverless cars might just be a futurist's dream-no longer. The University of Michigan has announced its plans to bring a fleet of networked, driverless cars to Ann Arbor by the year 2021. We have the details on today's show.

And the temperatures are falling and parts of Michigan have snow on the ground. We asked if winter has already arrived.

Also, the Farm Bill passed last January took an important subsidy away from organic farmers. What does the loss of this subsidy mean to organic farmers in Michigan? And does a farm have to go through the trouble and expense of getting certified to be organic?

First on the show, it's been less than a week since voters in three very different Michigan cities all approved ballot initiatives allowing small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property.

And that has pro-marijuana advocates hoping those votes will boost pressure on state lawmakers to legalize or decriminalize pot.

Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing correspondent Jake Neher joined us today to give an overview of what efforts are underway.

Peter Blanchard / Flickr

Imagine driving through Ann Arbor, glancing over at the car next to you only to realize that the driver does not have his or her hands on the steering wheel, yet the car is moving along in traffic just fine.

That could happen in just a few short years.

The University of Michigan has announced plans to bring a fleet of networked, driverless cars to Ann Arbor by 2021.

Here to talk about what that would look like in the streets of Ann Arbor and what that might mean to drivers everywhere is the director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. Peter Sweatman joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

Shigeto/Facebook

Michigan has a history of some pretty sweet music. One surprising genre that is Pure Michigan is techno. The art form was invented by three young men from Belleville in the 1980s (specifically Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, and Juan Atkins, aka the Belleville 3, and you can listen to some classic Detroit techno here).

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Ann Arbor's historic Michigan Theater is going solar. Or at least its marquee is.

The Ann Arbor News reports that the solar energy installation marks the first renewable energy project by XSeed Energy. The U.S. Department of Energy's Solar America Cities program provided initial funding for XSeed.

The project is expected to generate enough electricity to power the marquee when light-emitting diode lamps are installed. The LEDs will replace incandescent bulbs and should use up to 95 percent less energy.

http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

As a plume of contaminated ground water keeps expanding in Ann Arbor, the city council wants the state to move faster to protect people from harmful exposure.

To be clear: Ann Arbor drinking water is safe.

But growing swaths of the city’s ground water is no longer a good idea to ingest (and again, the city is NOT getting their water from those areas,) thanks to chemical runoff from years ago.

That chemical compound is 1,4 dioxane and it seeped into ground water between the 1960's and 1980's when a manufacturer stored it in unlined lagoons.

Steven Vance / Flickr

Okay, so we couldn't find any write-up online for it, but back in the 1980's Ann Arbor was home to the "green bike" program - an informal program set-up to share bikes.

From what we've gathered, bicycles were painted green and sprinkled throughout the University of Michigan's campus. They were never locked, and if you needed a bike you just found a green one and went on your merry way.

The "green bikes" didn't last long, and it took awhile for another bike sharing program to come to Michigan.

Last night, Ann Arbor's City Council voted to create a more formal bike share program, following in the footsteps of other cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Miami Beach, San Francisco, D.C., and Detroit.

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.

Alana Holland, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Earlier this summer, some students at Ann Arbor high schools were told they would have to pay for their optional last class of the day.

Many students take music, art, drama, or additional academics during an optional seventh hour. Starting in the fall, the school district plans to charge students $100 for the seventh period class.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan is challenging that plan in court.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A lot of attention has been paid to Detroit’s mayoral primary on Tuesday. But that’s not the only election in which Michigan voters will be casting ballots this week.

Voters in more than 50 Michigan counties will be casting ballots on Tuesday.

There’s the usual mix of school and library millages.

There are also numerous local primary elections.

Voters in parts of Ann Arbor, Jackson, Grand Rapids, Lansing and other cities will be voting for local city council seats.

Want to know more about what the masses think of your region? A Google search could reveal predominant stereotypes of your area.

If you're not already familiar with it, Google’s autocomplete function makes search suggestions as you type in a search term.

Ann Arbor Skatepark / Facebook

After a long campaign to get it built, the Ann Arbor city council voted to approve a $1 million contract to build a skatepark at last night's meeting.

From the Ann Arbor Skatepark Facebook Page:

Passed unanimously. As soon as contracts are signed, & other details finalized, construction will begin. We skate before the snow flies.

And here's more from the Ann Arbor Chronicle

In the course of three studio albums, Michigan-bred soul singer Mayer Hawthorne has refined his gift for songs that emulate and update his home state's Motown sound.

Twitter

Saturday night, Michigan Radio and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival welcome Snap Judgment to the Power Center. Snap Judgment is one of the newer additions to the public radio lineup and its creator calls it storytelling with a beat.

“I’m a big, big public radio head from a long time ago,” said Glynn Washington, the creator, executive producer, and host of the show. “But sometimes public radio can get a little bit boring. And I was trying to come up with an idea to get rid of the boring stuff and leave everything that I loved. What we try to do at Snap is get rid of the exposition, drop people right into the heart of the story, and the way that we do that is through soundscaping.”

Many of Washington’s personal stories and experiences have made it onto the show, sometimes even stories his family members have never heard. His mother often appears as a character in his stories.

"Sometimes Mommy doesn’t appreciate it too much," he confessed. 

Washington explained that while it has been difficult to maintain such a level of transparency on the air, it has also been very rewarding.

“It’s been interesting getting used to sort of bleeding into the microphone every week, but I do find it very, very cathartic in the end. I find that storytelling is kind of the way that I process my own issues. And, you know, stories have a beginning, middle, and end, but life doesn’t really have an end, and so putting these stops on things is helpful for me at least.”

The show on Saturday will feature some of the world’s best storytellers, and they have all been asked to tell a tale that will move the audience. Accompanying the storytellers is a live band directed by Alex Mandel. Washington expects that everyone who attends will not be disappointed.

“It’s a duet between the storytellers and the musician that really creates a new art form, and I’m really excited for everyone to hear it. You’re going to be blown away.”

Recently, The Atlantic wrote an article about Washington hailing him as “NPR’s Great Black Hope.” Washington said that while he loved the article, he felt that it was an unfortunate headline.

“I see what they were doing. ‘Let’s get the most clicks we can for our headline, let’s put something provocative out there.’ And I understand because I do it myself all the time,” he said. “I think what they were trying to say was that what Snap Judgment is doing is reaching out to audiences that public radio has traditionally left behind. If I wanted to be provocative, I would have called it This New American Life, but Ira would really be upset if I did so.”

Glynn Washington and Snap Judgment will be here Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Power Center. Tickets are on sale now. 

-Michelle Nelson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Listen to the full interview above.

Flooding in Ann Arbor after last night's rain.
user gerbsumich / Twitter

Southeast Michigan was hit with torrential downpours last night and social media was abuzz with photos and videos.

In Ann Arbor, the city turned into a bit of a water park:

Other people water skiied behind cars.

Roads basically turned into rivers for a time:

Michelle Chamuel fan page / Facebook

Last week, Michelle Chamuel was one of five remaining contestants on NBC's The Voice

Now, she's in the top three.

Chamuel was in two Ann Arbor bands, My Dear Disco and Ella Riot. She also is a graduate of the University of Michigan. 

If she wins, she'll get a record deal with Universal Music Group and $100,000. 

Alana Holland, Michigan Radio Newsroom

At a meeting that lasted until almost 2 a.m., the Ann Arbor School Board voted to cut 27 full-time teachers from schools across the district. The school board also voted to eliminate three teachers from Ann Arbor's reading intervention program.

The board had to make some tough decisions for the 2013-14 school year, according to Board President Deb Mexicotte.

Ann Arbor Restaurant Week / Facebook

"One price dining, one week, several options."

It may not be the catchiest slogan, but Restaurant Week offers some enticing deals for foodies who frequent downtown Ann Arbor.

From June 9-14, participating restaurants offer lunch specials priced at two meals for $15, or $15 each, depending on the venue. Many lunches include the option of a soup or salad, as well as a main course. 

Dinner deals are $28 for a three-course menu. Similarly, some restaurants offer two dinners for $28.

Google

My kids love using Google Earth. With the push of a button they "fly" from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Newfoundland, the Panama Canal, the Great Barrier Reef, or some other place they're curious about.

Now Google has mined satellite images from the U.S. government that allow us to fly back in time.

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