Get Involved: We're Here to Help!
Each week, CivCity's e-newsletter features a variety of ways to get more involved in local civic life. This is a compilation of those suggestions. Some of the info is time-sensitive so when applicable, we indicate deadlines. (Want to receive our newsletters? Click here to sign up!)
WEEK OF JULY 24, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Get your absentee ballot for the Aug. 8, 2017 election. (If you qualify, of course.) Click here to request an absentee ballot application. You have two more weeks to prep for your vote. It's a light ballot, and we give you resources at AnnArborVotes.org so there's no excuse not to vote. Seriously!
2. Learn about gerrymandering. Larry Kestenbaum, Washtenaw County's clerk and register of deeds, is giving a talk on Wednesday, July 26 about the history, consequences and potential future of drawing legislative districts to favor a particular political party. Click here for details.
3. Ride the bus! If you have an Ann Arbor library card, every Saturday this summer you can ride the bus for free. How cool is that? You can thank two taxpayer-funded entities for this freebie – the Ann Arbor District Library and The Ride. Click here for more info.
WEEK OF JULY 17, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Take the Washtenaw County Housing & Neighborhood Survey. Help assess our community's housing needs, as part of the county's Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing project. Click here to take the survey. The deadline to participate is Aug. 4, 2017.
2. It's Art Fairs Week – a perfect time to learn a bit about Ann Arbor's public art. Learn about works funded by the city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan by looking at their collections online!
3. Weigh in on the Hudson Mills Metropark master plan. If you own property in Washtenaw County, you pay taxes to support the 13 Huron-Clinton Metroparks. One of those – the Hudson Mills Metropark – is going through a planning process. Specifically, they're looking for feedback on whether to close the Hudson Mills Golf Course. Click here to learn more, or attend a public forum on Wednesday, July 19.
Suggested reading: This column by CivCity founder Mary Morgan:"Paying More for Humane Society Services: Washtenaw County OKs New Contract for Animal Control"
WEEK OF JULY 10, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Watch the League of Women Voters City Council candidate forums. The forums for Wards 1 & 3 took place on July 10, and are now available online. Click here for Ward 1 and here for Ward 3. Forums for Wards 4 & 5 are on Thursday, July 13. Watch Community Television Network (CTN) Channel 19 or online here, starting at 7 p.m.
2. Take a survey to help develop a long-range transportation plan for Southeast Michigan. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) is surveying residents about traffic safety, pavement conditions, travel preferences and other transportation issues. Click here to take the survey in English. It's also available in Spanish and Arabic.
3. Volunteer for a Washtenaw County advisory group. There are openings on the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Commission and Local Emergency Planning Committee. Click here to learn more. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, July 26.
Suggested reading: This column by Phil Power, founder and chairman of The Center for Michigan: "Gerrymandered political districts poison democracy."
WEEK OF JULY 3, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Weigh in directly on city council agenda items via eComment. Starting July 3, this new online Legistar feature lets you submit feedback on the city council agenda's action items. It's activated on the Friday prior to the council's Monday meetings.
3. Head downtown to watch the Ann Arbor July 4th parade! It starts at 10 a.m. and runs along State, Liberty, Main and William streets. Click here for details. CivCity will be there handing out pocket Constitutions and high-fiving democracy! Look for us at the corner of Main & Liberty.
Suggested reading: A column by Eitan D. Hersh, an associate professor of political science at Tufts University: "The Problem with Participatory Democracy Is the Participants."
WEEK OF JUNE 26, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Suggest questions for the League of Women Voters' candidate forums. What do you want to ask city council candidates? Email your queries by July 7 to email@example.com. The League's forums take place on July 10 and 13.
2. Prep for your firework fun! (Or brace for whatever your neighbors might do.) Click here to learn the regulations and have a safe holiday weekend.
3. Idle no more. The city's anti-idling law takes effect on Saturday, July 1. Click here to learn the new rules so you won't get fined.
4. Earn CivCity badges in the AADL's Summer Game! Get the Body Electorate badge by giving commentary at an upcoming public meeting.
WEEK OF JUNE 19, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Check out AnnArborVotes.org! We've updated CivCity's voter info site to help you prep for the Aug. 8 election. And if you're not yet registered, do it now before the July 10 deadline.
2. Be an Orange Cone expert. Bookmark these pages on the city's website and county road commission for info on road closings and detours. FYI: South Main is now closed to southbound traffic between Pauline and Scio Church. Also closing today is the intersection of Nixon, Green and Dhu Varren roads for construction of a new roundabout. Summertime!
3. Sit in a fire truck and eat hot dogs. The Ann Arbor police and fire departments are hosting an open house on Saturday, June 24 from 11 a.m. til 2 p.m. Click here for more info.
4. Earn CivCity badges in the AADL's Summer Game! Get the Down for the Council badge by attending city council meetings.
Suggested reading: "Ann Arbor’s 'Jewel in the Crown' – AADL Board Moves to Reimagine the Downtown Library" by Mary Morgan, CivCity executive director
WEEK OF JUNE 12, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Give feedback on police-community relations. Consultants for the city of Ann Arbor are holding a community forum on Tuesday, June 13 from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Bryant Community Center, 3 West Eden Court.
2. Check out the new epark Ann Arbor app. It lets you add more time for your spot remotely, be notified when your parking time is expiring, and get email receipts. The app is free. Click here for more info.
Suggested reading: A New York Times Q&A with Eric Liu about his latest book, "You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen."
Suggested viewing: NPR's Going There program "Civics 101 - What Does It Mean To Be A Good Citizen?"
WEEK OF JUNE 5, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Take a survey about Ann Arbor's water & sewer services. Click here to give feedback and let city staff know your priorities – and whether you'd be willing to pay higher rates. The deadline to respond is Friday, June 30.
2. Can you name the Ann Arbor City Council members and the wards that they represent? Take CivCity's quiz and find out!
3. Listen to NPR's 1A podcast on gerrymandering, then take the Gerrymandering Quiz. Can you tell the difference between a Congressional district and a Rorschach inkblot? Click here to listen and learn.
Suggested reading, from the Detroit Free Press: "Lt. Gov. Brian Calley jumps on part-time Legislature bandwagon."
WEEK OF MAY 22, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Test your knowledge about the library trustees! We're using Quizlet to design quizzes and games about local government. Click here to see if you can identify the seven elected library trustees and facts about each of them.
2. Learn where Michigan ranks among states with extreme partisan redistricting – it's not great, according to a new report by New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice.
3. Catch the Memorial Day Parade in Ann Arbor's Glacier Highlands neighborhood. The parade starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 29 and is followed by a memorial service, games and food!
Suggested reading, from MLive: "Ann Arbor students make convincing case for raising chickens at school."
WEEK OF MAY 15, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Get up to speed on city road closures. Check out the WAZE app and website that gives real-time traffic information. And sign up to get email alerts from the city of Ann Arbor about upcoming road closings related to construction and special events.
2. Attend (or watch online) a Washtenaw County board meeting. On Wednesday, May 17, our county commissioners will take a final vote on a new policy to support immigrants to this community, among other items. Let them know what you think by speaking at public commentary or contacting them directly before the meeting.
3. Get updated on countywide issues at a Community Town Hall on Tuesday, May 16. It starts at 5:30 at the county's Learning Resource Center, 4135 Washtenaw Ave. Click here for details.
4. Test your knowledge about county commissioners! We're using Quizlet to design quizzes and games about local government. Click here to see if you can identify the nine elected Washtenaw County commissioners.
5. Sign up to attend a state legislative forum on Monday, May 22. The event features state legislators who'll discuss affordable housing, transit, economic development, human services, racial equity and other issues affecting our community. Click here to RSVP.
Suggested reading: From the Houston Chronicle: "Teen's election to Pearland school board turns heads."
WEEK OF MAY 8, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Volunteer at a city park! As Memorial Day approaches, there are several chances to help spruce up parks & rec facilities on Saturday, May 13. Check the city of Ann Arbor's calendar for details.
2. Get an update about Ann Arbor's options to regulate medical marijuana. City council discussed it at their May 8 working session tonight. Click here to read the city attorney's report to council.
3. Read about the latest effort to legalize marijuana through a statewide ballot proposal in 2018. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has filed petition language and is expected to start collecting signatures soon. Ann Arbor resident and former state legislator Jeff Irwin is the group's political director.
WEEK OF MAY 1, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. VOTE on Tuesday, May 2! Polls are open from 7 a.m. til 8 p.m. Check out CivCity's AnnArborVotes.org for information about what's on the ballot.
2. Get an update on the 1,4-dioxane plume directly from state officials. A quarterly meeting between MDEQ staff and the local Coalition for Action on Remediation of Dioxane (CARD) is on Tuesday, May 2 from 1-3 p.m. at 705 N. Zeeb. The meeting is open to the public.
3. Take a tour of the Ann Arbor water treatment plant. (Seriously, it's pretty cool.) The city is hosting a public open house on Saturday, May 6 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The plant is located at 919 Sunset Road.
4. Weigh in on proposals to develop the county's Platt Road property. Washtenaw County commissioners will discuss options at their work session on Thursday, May 4. Click here to see the proposals. And check out a staff summary and recommendations here. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor, and includes one opportunity for public commentary.
WEEK OF APRIL 24, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Give feedback about police-community relations. The city of Ann Arbor is holding a community forum on Wednesday, April 26 – 6-8:30 p.m. at the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. It's one of several ways they're gathering input from residents, as part of a broader review recommended by the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission.
2. Attend a forum on redistricting reform. The Monday, April 24 event starts at 6 p.m. at the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave., and is hosted by State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (District 53). It features speakers from both sides of the political aisle.
3. Learn about the health and well-being of kids in Washtenaw County. New data from the 2017 Kids Count shows how we compare to other parts of Michigan.
4. Explore USAFacts.org, a new website that allows you to search for information from multiple federal, state and local databases.
Suggested reading: "What Happens When Women Legislate," a column by Brittany Bronson published in the New York Times.
WEEK OF APRIL 17, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
2. Weigh in on state legislation that would allow no-reason absentee voting. Michigan is in a minority of states that don't offer this voting option. Click here to find your State Senator. Click here to find your State Representative.
Suggested viewing: "Thank You, Scott!" – a Saturday Night Live sketch featuring comedian Louis C.K. that pokes a little fun at armchair social media "activism."
Suggested reading: "Despite Activism, Will We Be Lonely At The Polls on May 2?" A column by CivCity founder & executive director Mary Morgan.
WEEK OF APRIL 10, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Attend an Ann Arbor Public Schools community meeting to learn about the May 2 ballot proposal. The first one is Thursday, April 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine St.
2. Volunteer at the Saturday, April 15 Trash-a-Thon at Veterans Memorial Park. The event runs from 10-11:30 a.m. and the team that picks up the most trash will win fabulous prizes!
3. Play an online game to learn about how county government works. The game is part of curriculum developed by iCivics and the National Association of Counties, aimed at middle school and high school students.
4. Check out No Labels, a national nonpartisan group with local connections. Ann Arbor resident Griff McDonald is leading efforts in this area. If you're interested in getting involved, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. No Labels also has a University of Michigan student chapter.
Suggested reading: This Bridge Magazine article: "A conservative and two liberals swapped news feeds. It didn’t end well."
WEEK OF APRIL 3, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Adopt a city park. There are 159 parks in Ann Arbor, and some need a little extra TLC.
4. Take the U.S. Civics Practice Test. It's designed for people studying to become citizens, but is a great way to test anyone's knowledge of our federal government and history.
Suggested viewing: An interview with State Senator Rebekah Warren (District 18). She was interviewed by Jim Blow as part of his Conversations series on Community Television Network (CTN).
WEEK OF MARCH 27, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
2. Sign up for the free Washtenaw Citizens Police Academy. The deadline to register is April 28.
3. Learn about the ballot initiative by the Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. The group hopes to put a statewide proposal on the November 2018 ballot.
Suggested reading: This March 17 article in The Atlantic: "The University of Michigan’s Plan to Increase Diversity."
WEEK OF MARCH 20, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Attend a March 22 public forum on the proposed commuter rail known as WALLY. If the project moves forward, it would create a commuter train route between Howell and Ann Arbor.
2. Take a brief survey on pedestrian and bicycle safety issues in the Southeast Michigan region.
3. Learn how the city does tax assessments. This week is the chance for property owners to appeal their assessments, if they disagree with the outcome.
4. Find out about refugee resettlement in our community by attending a public forum on Thursday, March 23 sponsored by Jewish Family Services.
Suggested viewing: A Ward Talk interview with Ann Arbor mayor Christopher Taylor.
WEEK OF MARCH 13, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Attend (or watch) the Ann Arbor city council's special work session on Thursday, March 16 focused on a proposal to develop the downtown Library Lot. It starts at 7 p.m. in city hall's 2nd floor council chambers.
3. Get to know the University of Michigan Regents. Four of them have homes in the Ann Arbor area: Mark Bernstein, Andrea Fischer Newman, Ron Weiser and Kathy White. The board holds its monthly meeting on Thursday, March 16.
4. Take the "Do You Live in a Bubble?" quiz!
WEEK OF MARCH 6, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Weigh in on long-term transportation plans for Washtenaw County. Give feedback online or in person at a public forum on Thursday, March 9.
2. Sign up to get email alerts about actions in state legislative committees, to stay better informed about what's going on in Lansing.
3. Mark your calendar to attend an upcoming neighborhood watch forum with the Ann Arbor Police Department. The first one is on Thursday, March 16.
4. Suggested reading: Bridge Magazine's "Death to Government Mumbo Jumbo."
WEEK OF FEB. 27, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Sign up to get the Washtenaw Housing Alliance newsletter and attend the public debriefing on Tues., Feb. 28, 2017 to hear about the latest Point-In-Time Count, assessing the extent of homelessness in our community.
2. Get to know your Washtenaw County commissioners. They're holding a retreat on Thursday, March 2, 2017. And take a minute to learn about services that Michigan counties provide on the MI County Matters website.
3. Volunteer for the annual Frog & Toad Survey, administered by the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources.
4. Learn the latest push for a statewide ballot proposal in 2018 to create an independent redistricting commission. The effort is spearheaded by Count MI Vote, which will be holding town hall meetings starting in March 2017 and organizing volunteers to collect the required signatures.
5. Suggested reading: Report by Joel Appel-Kraut in the Ann Arbor Community High School publication, The Communicator: "Detained, but not Deported: A Family’s Final Chance to Remain Undivided."
WEEK OF FEB. 20, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Attend the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission's special meeting on Saturday, Feb. 25. Learn what that group does, and about public art in this city.
2. Meet with one of your elected representatives. Coffee hours are coming up in Ann Arbor for State Reps. Yousef Rabhi (10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Roos Roast, 1155 Rosewood) and Adam Zemke (10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Literati Coffee, 204 S. Fourth Ave.) as well as Ann Arbor city councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (9:30 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 27 at Avalon Cafe, 120 E. Liberty). Mark your calendar.
3. Ask your friends, family & co-workers: Are they registered to vote in the May 2, 2017 special election? Find out more at AnnArborVotes.org.
4. Friday, Feb. 24 is the last day to register for the free Ann Arbor Citizens Police, Fire & Courts Academy. It meets weekly from March 7 through May 9. Click here for more info.
5. Suggested reading: NPR's report with this provocative headline: "Did Betsy DeVos Make You Want To Run For School Board?"
WEEK OF FEB. 13, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Start prepping for the local May 2 election. So, er, what exactly is a sinking fund?
2. Take a look at who's serving on the Ann Arbor District Library board. One of them might be your neighbor! Their next meeting is on Monday, Feb. 20.
4. Play the Redistricting Game, created by the University of Southern California's Game Innovation Lab.
WEEK OF FEB. 6, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Learn about the tax that will be on the May 2, 2017 ballot to raise funds for Ann Arbor Public Schools. And click here to make sure you're registered to vote! The deadline to register is Monday, April 3.
2. Read through the Feb. 6 Ann Arbor City Council agenda then watch at least part of the meeting – maybe at a downtown viewing party!
3. Consider applying for one of the city's advisory boards. There are vacancies on the Recreation Advisory Commission, Cable Communications Commission, and Leslie Science & Nature Center Board, among others. Click here for more information, or fill out this form to apply.
4. Play one of the online games at iCivics, a nonprofit founded by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
5. Suggested reading #1: "Citizens can lead effort to fix district map" – column about Michigan redistricting efforts by Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor for the Detroit Free Press.
6. Suggested reading #2: "Central Student Government continues to seek Ann Arbor election reform" – a Michigan Daily article about UM student government efforts to push for nonpartisan elections in Ann Arbor.
WEEK OF JAN. 30, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Learn which House committees and subcommittees Ann Arbor's state representatives – Yousef Rabhi (District 53), Donna Lasinski (District 52) and Adam Zemke (District 55) – are serving on, and what leadership positions they hold.
2. Get updated on the Ann Arbor deer cull and find out which local parks are closed from Jan. 30 through Feb. 13, 2017.
3. Sign up to get news alerts from the city of Ann Arbor on a variety of topics, including road closures, parks & rec events, construction updates, legal notices & more.
4. Track how U.S. Senators – including Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters – are voting on each of President Donald Trump's Cabinet nominations at CabinetVotes.org.
5. Read the U.S. Constitution! It's not that long, and is a reminder of the fundamentals on which our democracy is based.
WEEK OF JAN. 23, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Sign up for the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative e-newsletter. You'll get updates on this nonpartisan effort to eliminate gerrymandering when drawing lines for legislative districts. Or check out a separate nonpartisan effort called Count MI Vote that recently launched – they're on Twitter at @CountMIVote.
2. Find out who represents you on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. On the nine-member elected board, three districts – 7, 8 & 9 – cover most of Ann Arbor.
3. Play the Ann Arbor Wards Challenge! This online game is so fun you won't even realize you're learning the structure of city government. Bwahahaha!
WEEK OF JAN. 16, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Sign up for the free Ann Arbor Citizens Police, Fire & Courts Academy. It meets weekly from March 7 through May 9. NOTE: The deadline to apply is Feb. 24, 2017.
2. Give feedback on proposals to develop the Platt Road site that's now owned by Washtenaw County. Click here to look at the proposals, then contact your county commissioner to weigh in before they vote – possibly as soon as February 2017.
3. Be a Citizen Pruner! Sign up with the city by January 17, 2017 for training on Saturday, Jan. 19. (If you've missed the deadline, get info on the next training date by contacting Tina Stephens at email@example.com or 734-794-6627 or Kerry Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-794-6430 x 43703.)
4. Attend a session of the Michigan High School Ethics Bowl, on Jan. 28-29, 2017 at the University of Michigan's Palmer Commons starting at 1 p.m. Watch local high school students discuss ethical conundrums, including some that focus on civic issues.
WEEK OF JAN. 9, 2017 (Click here for full newsletter)
1. Help out with the annual Washtenaw Homeless Count, happening on Thursday, Jan. 26. UPDATE: Due to overwhelming response, the Washtenaw Housing Alliance – which administers this count – no longer needs volunteers. A debriefing will take place on Feb. 28, 2017 from 9-11 a.m. at Washtenaw Community College's Morris Lawrence Building, 4800 Huron River Drive.
2. Learn about available health care via the Washtenaw Health Plan, a nonprofit partnership between Washtenaw County and the University of Michigan and St. Joseph Mercy health systems, along with other local healthcare providers. Their staff is working to make sure residents have health insurance by the Jan. 31, 2017 Marketplace sign-up deadline. (Help is available year-round for Medicaid and for special enrollments.)