Ann Arbor

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of foreclosure filings dropped significantly in cities across Michigan during the first six months of the year.   Daren Bloomquist, with Realty Trac, says this not necessarily good news.  

 “We’ve probably seen the peak of foreclosure activity in this cycle.  But it may take a while to really to clear the decks and get all the foreclosures that have built up over the last few years sold on to the market.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Ann Arbor’s police chief says there is one, possibly more sexual predators attacking women in his city.  Police are investigating a string of 6 sexual assaults that occurred in the past nine days near the University of Michigan campus. 

Police Chief Barnett Jones says young women in Ann Arbor should take precautions and should avoid walking alone at night.  

"It is very upsetting when I have to stand up here in front of you to tell people in my community that we have a predator….or predators out there…preying upon women in our community.”  

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair

I am Traci Currie, and I spent the first day of the 2011 Ann Arbor Street Art Fair talking to people who ventured out into the blazing sun to enjoy all sorts of art from all over the nation.

Most people mentioned the weather, while others talked about their love of art. Some talked about both.

Here are their comments along with some photos I took at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair:

- Traci Currie - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

After 40 years in the business, the national bookstore chain Borders has officially called it quits.

Photo by ifmuth / Flickr

An estimated 500,000 people are expected to make their way to Ann Arbor this week for the city’s annual Art Fairs, which is technically made up of four separate art fairs.

The fair, which runs Wednesday, July 20 - Saturday, July 23, will display works by more than 1,100 artists.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A quintet of musicians has been traveling across the state for the past 10 days. They don’t have a tour van or a u-haul stuffed with instruments. Instead, the guys are pedaling their bikes from Holland to Detroit…with their instruments in tow! They're also raising money for various charities along the way.

How much does it cost to educate a child in Michigan?

The answer to that question is causing controversy for Gov. Rick Snyder.

Greenhills School -- where Gov. Snyder's daughter attends -- in Ann Arbor released a video asking for donations. In the video, officials from Greenhills claim that $20,000 per year per student isn't enough to keep the school running.

Michigan public schools receive an average of $6,846 per year per student, and that number has dropped since Gov. Snyder took office.

From the Michigan Messenger:

As the debate over deep cuts to the state’s per pupil allowance in education funding continues, Greenhills School in Ann Arbor has released a fundraising video in which school officials say the $20,000 per year tuition per student is not enough to keep the school running.

The video features students and faculty from the school, where Gov. Rick Snyder sends his daughter, reading from a script and saying that money raised from an annual auction was necessary to keep the school going. One student, who is not identified, says, “Tuition alone does not cover the costs of a Greenhills education.”

The video asks viewers to consider a donation of “$10,000, $500 or $50″ to help the school defray the school’s operational costs.

At the same time that the school to which Snyder sends his own child can’t make ends meet with funding of $20,000 per pupil, the governor recently pushed through and signed legislation that cuts per pupil public school funding by $370 per student, bringing state funding to $6,846 per student. Some schools could qualify for an additional $100 per student if they adopt what Snyder and GOP lawmakers call “best practices.” Those practices include reducing employee costs by forcing an increase in insurance cost sharing and privatizing or consolidating some services.

According to an opinion piece from the Battle Creek Examiner, academic and athletic facilities at Greenhills include Smartboard technology in all classrooms, a state-of-the-art theater, an indoor batting cage, a climbing wall, and a weather station. The average class size is 15 students and the school scores 100 percent college entrance rate for graduates.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

The Ann Arbor school board passed its budget last night which eliminated teaching positions.

Kyle Feldscher from reports:

Trustees passed the $183 million budget by a 5-2 vote, filling a deficit that eventually grew to about $16 million. The budget originally included the elimination of high school transportation and 70 full-time teacher positions. The final budget passed Wednesday included high school transportation and eliminated 62.3 full-time teacher positions.

Feldscher reports that teacher layoffs are not expected:

The budget includes no layoffs of full-time teachers, with all of the position reductions coming through attrition and negotiations with the Ann Arbor Education Association.

My American Unhappiness, the second novel from Dean Bakapoulos, the author of Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, is about an unhappy (surprise!) man working in the humanities in Wisconsin who makes a series of terrible decisions for the ostensible purpose of getting married and keeping his family together.

While the main action of the novel takes place in Madison, WI, the protagonist, Zeke Pappas, has a number of connections to Michigan. His time at the University of Michigan features many references to university and Ann Arbor town life including [mild spoiler alert!] Alice Lloyd Hall, the Fleetwood Diner, and beloved professor Ralph Williams’s popular Shakespeare class. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Attorneys for Borders will be back in court this week  asking a judge to give the troubled Ann Arbor-based book store chain more time to exit bankruptcy protection.  When Borders filed for bankruptcy protection in February, the hope was the bookstore chain would be able to quickly turn itself around.   That apparently isn’t happening. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

""It must be something in the water." - Paul Tinkerhess.

Last Sunday, I walked around a neighborhood in Ann Arbor's west side and witnessed a new music phenomenon - the Water Hill Music Festival - where neighbors played music from their front porches, backyards, and garages.

The idea for the festival came from Paul Tinkerhess, a local business owner and musician.

Tinkerhess described the concept in Groundcover News:

"The concept is simple," Tinkerhess said. "On the afternoon of Sunday, May 1st, everyone in the neighborhood who either is a musician or wants to pretend to be a musician is encouraged to step out onto their front porch and play music. That's it. Or half of it. The other half is that we are inviting all the other neighbors, and the rest of the world, to wander through the neighborhood that afternoon and enjoy something like a music festival with a lot of stages."

The neighborhood in Ann Arbor's west side, dubbed "Water Hill" by Tinkerhess, if filled with musical talent.

I caught a small fraction of the festival, and made this video:

One festival attendee, Patti Smith, said the event was "Ann Arbor covered in awesome sauce."

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

An Ann Arbor neighborhood will host a one-of-a-kind "front porch" music festival this weekend.

On Sunday, May 1 from 2 p.m. - 6 p.m., musicians who live in the city's Water Hill district will sit out on their front porch or lawn, and put on a show. It's called the Water Hill Music Fest, and more than 50 house in the neighborhood will participate.

Economic development leaders in Ann Arbor are hoping Borders Books will find a new home for its headquarters in city where the company started. 

Four decades ago, Borders started as bookstore in Ann Arbor.  With the big box bookstore chain now in bankruptcy protection, Borders executives are planning to move out of their Ann Arbor headquarters. 

But where?   As part of the company’s bankruptcy plan, Borders is looking for less expensive office space to rent. 

(courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Library)

The Gerald R. Ford presidential museum and library would be among the first places people in Michigan would see affected by a possible federal government shutdown.  

On a normal Saturday in April, a few hundred people visit the Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids.   But, if Congress can’t reach a budget deal by midnight tonight, the Ford museum’s doors will stay locked over the weekend.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A report in the Wall Street Journal suggested Borders plans to move its headquarters from Ann Arbor. But company spokeswoman Mary Davis insists no final decision has been made.   

"We are looking at a number of options all around the greater metropolitan Detroit area including Ann Arbor. News reports are making it sound like the decision is final and we are moving out of Ann Arbor. That is not the case."   

The Wall Street Journal reported late last night that Borders will outline its future plans to a group of its creditors today. Part of those plans involves moving out of the company's Ann Arbor headquarters. The company has said the building no longer serves Borders needs. Borders issued a statement saying the company will look for a new facility in metro Detroit.  

Borders filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year. Since then, Borders moved to close more than 200 bookstores, including four in Michigan. Borders hopes to exit bankruptcy protection later this year, possibly in late summer or early fall.  

Borders, once a leader in the nation's book selling industry, has struggled in recent years as book buyers have moved online.

Lorna Is / Flickr

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Borders Group Inc. will move its headquarters from Ann Arbor to the Detroit metro area. The company is currently operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. From the Journal:

Borders Group Inc. plans to tell publishers and landlords Wednesday it has achieved major cost savings, including more than $30 million in rent reductions, and that it will move out of its Ann Arbor, Mich., headquarters for cheaper office space in the greater Detroit metro area.

Presenting its business plan to an unsecured creditors committee, predominantly made up of publishers and landlords, Borders also plans to say it has now closed about 50 superstores as part of efforts to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to people familiar with the matter. Altogether, Borders will close 226 by the end of next month, although a handful of additional stores could be closed, depending on negotiations with landlords, the people said.

News organizations around the state were quick to pick up the report:

Scio Residents for Safe Water

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is holding a public meeting tonight about changes to the 1,4-dioxane groundwater cleanup plan in Ann Arbor.

The meeting will be held at 7:00 p,m. at Abbot Elementary School, 2670 Sequoia Parkway, Ann Arbor.

From the MDEQ:

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A federal bankruptcy judge has decided to give Borders Group another 90 days to review leases for its bookstores.   The Ann Arbor-based bookstore change is working to emerge from bankruptcy later this year. Borders is already closing 200 bookstores across the country, including 4 stores in Michigan.   Borders is expected to announce plans to close additional stores and renegotiate leases on about 600 other outlets. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Update March 14th, 10:14 a.m.

Tony Dearing is's chief content officer. He posted a comment over the weekend on about the layoffs. Here's what he wrote:

While personnel issues are an internal matter and we don't discuss them publicly, I can confirm that we reorganized our newsroom this week to put our focus more squarely on local news coverage. As a new organization, we have tried a lot of things. Now that we are well into our second year, the community has told us very resoundingly that what it wants most from us is hard news coverage, particularly in the areas of government, education, police, courts, health, the environment, University of Michigan sports, and business. These areas of coverage account for all but a tiny percentage of our readership and revenue. Meanwhile, we also have put a lot of effort toward other things -- including lifestyle topics like Passions and Pursuits, The Deuce, Homes and some areas of Entertainment coverage -- that our community has shown much less interest in, and we are scaling back in those areas.

We have made tremendous progress since we launched, and we continue to be very happy with the growth we're seeing in audience and revenue. But from the beginning, we said that we would be shaped by what the community wants, and the community wants us to focus more sharply on local news reporting. We have repositioned ourselves to throw our energy and resources into our local news coverage and that is how we will operate moving forward as we continue to grow.

user jamiesrabbits / Flickr

On the public radio program Here & Now, host Robin Young was interviewing Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef and owner of the New York City restaurant “Prune.” She wrote a memoir called “Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef,” (which chef Anthony Bourdain called “simply the best memoir by a chef - ever.”).

During the interview Young asked Hamilton about her time in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Young says, "like a lot of Americans, you thought, 'Ann Arbor, Michigan… cheese cubes.'"

You can hear Young's comment in the audio here. It's at the 6 minute mark.

That comment sparked one listener to write in. Phillip wrote:

I do hope that someone from your Michigan network of stations will  contact the host of Here and Now about her  comment yesterday  regarding Ann Arbor; specifically, in an interview with the chef/ author of Prune, the host
remarked something to the effect that "When  most of us think of Ann Arbor, we think of cheese cubes..."  Give me a  break!

Well, we did share that comment with the producers at Here & Now and host Robin Young wrote back:

Dear Phillip

OY YI YI!!!!

The cheese cube kerfuffle!!

We're going to address on a letters segment on air, but I've been writing the (many!) people who've written.

Just to clarify.. what I said was, "YOU" (meaning the author) thought Michigan meant cheese cubes. This is what she writes in the book! Then I went on to say, but you found otherwise.

I buy from Zingermans!! I don't think Ann Arbor means cheese cubes!

SO sorry for leaving that impression,

Robin Young
Here and Now