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Somerville appointed to 3rd Ward city council seat

Live blog from tonight’s meeting.

YPSILANTI, Mich. – Annie Somerville, a legislative aide and former campaign manager, was appointed to city council’s 3rd Ward seat on Tuesday, June 4 at city hall. The appointment comes a week after four candidates interviewed for the position.

Somerville, an Eastern Michigan University graduate, spoke on her experience living in the city and hopes to increase the number of jobs available for students.

“The world it changing,” Somerville said. “We’re using more technology and if we don’t get a head start . . . we’re not going to have a lot of opportunities for people to work in the actual city.”

She would encourage graduating students to explore the possibility of a business start up in Ypsilanti by providing grant opportunities and working with the county. There are multiple city properties that are available for rent or purchase.

Somerville encouraged students to focus on local issues and pay attention to city issues, regardless of their excitement.

“People get really pumped up about federal and state issues but city and county issues are equally as important,” Somerville said. “They all feed off one another.”

One of these issues is regarding the calming of traffic on Armstrong and Washington Street. Most residents and council members supported the action with only one resident speaking against it.

“If folks in the community think they are necessary, we should always consider them,” Somerville said. “I think that [city] council’s job is also to consider the children that are affected by it and don’t get the opportunity to petition and lobby city council.”

Many supporters turned out for Desiré Simmons, a former candidate for the appointment, during the interview process last week and some spoke against the councils decision.

“I know how many people came out to advocate for Desiré Simmons,” said Amber Fellows, a resident of Ypsilanti, during public comment. “You don’t respect the voices of your constituents.”

Somerville will hold the seat until Nov. 2020 when her term expires.

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Live Blog: June 4 city council meeting

Person robbed at corner of Emmet and Ballard

YPSILANTI, Mich. – Police are searching for a suspect after a man was robbed at the corner of Emmet and Ballard Street early Monday morning.

At 1:30 a.m., the suspect approached the man with a weapon, demanded money and fled on foot, according to a safety alert from the Eastern Michigan University Department of Public Safety.

The suspect is described as an African American male, approximately five foot, 10 inches tall, weighting 200 points and was last seen wearing a tan jacket, a dark hooded sweatshirt, and dark pants.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is advised to contact city police at 734-483-9510.

Candidates interview for 3rd Ward city council seat

YPSILANTI – Four candidates interviewed to fill the vacant 3rd Ward city council seat on Tuesday, May 28 at City Hall. They spoke before city council members and a room of concerned citizens.

Each candidate answered 12 questions to get a better understanding of the decision making process that doesn’t always show in job applications. Questions included “If you get a $1 million grant, what would you spend it on,” “Is it reasonable to use city government to limit legal activity based on legal or moral values” and “Explain the difference between diversity, equity and inclusion and how you see these interplay in Ypsilanti.”

The person appointed will serve until the term expires in Nov. 2020.

Candidate Desiré Simmons ran for the other 3rd Ward seat in 2018 against Anthony Morgan, current city council member, and had numerous supporters speak on her behalf during public comment.

“The amount of people who showed up today, to speak in support of me, I think comes because of the 2018 run,” said Simmons. “It’s really emotional to kind of hear the way people have experienced me, not only as a person, but a person to represent them.”

She said the city lacks opportunities for many citizens to stay, with many opting to move to the township because of availability and prices. Simmons also spoke on finding ways to offer home buying assistance to new residents.

Tyler Weston, a realtor for Real Estate One, spoke on the importance of listening and speaking with constituents while advocating for a clean, safe community.

“I see our issues every day,” said Weston. “They are very real to me.”

When asked what he would spend a $1 million grant on, he chose property maintenance.

“Making [Ypsilanti] a place where, when people enter, they feel like ‘this place really respects itself.'” Weston focused on the lights on Washington Street, park maintenance, improving the roads and introduction sign into the city.

Annie Somerville, a legislative aide and former campaign manager, spoke on the importance of keeping Eastern Michigan University students in Ypsilanti and providing job opportunities for those looking to live in the city.

“The way that college programs are changing, I think that every opportunity given in that realm, we need to be open to listening to,” Somerville said.

She also spoke on the importance of listening to constituents with this position being an appointment.

John McMillan, a 20-year resident of the 3rd ward and former sales-person, is focused on developing parking in the city to help increase tax revenue. This would help increase the number of businesses in Ypsilanti and bring the MDOT train stop plan to fruition.

“We have a lot of vacant buildings sitting, going nowhere, doing nothing,” McMillan said.

McMillan has been involved with the Ypsilanti Freighthouse for nine years, Huron River Valley Authority and in projects with Eastern Michigan University.

Each candidate brought a unique perspective to the position, leaving a difficult decision ahead of city council.

“The applications and interviews that I’ve seen have actually made this harder,” said Mayor Beth Bashert. “It’s an honor to live in a city that has talent and commitment as we’ve seen show up for this seat.”

The person chosen will follow Pete Murdock, a former mayor and city council member who died May 4.

The council will vote on the decision at the next city council meeting on Tuesday, June 4. You can listen to the full meeting below.

EMU Dining Services announces temporary closures to locations

EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY (EMU) – With the recent announcement that the hot water on campus would be interrupted, EMU Dining announced the following closures starting Thursday, May 9:

  • Starbucks
  • Hasty Rabbit
  • Chick-Fil-A

Smashburger will have limited menu items, with no eggs or chicken sandwiches.

There are “possible interruptions” to hot coffee at the lobby shops and the Pray-Harold and Halle Library Eagle Cafes.

Postponed services are expected to resume on Friday, May 17.

The EMU Physical Plant announced the replacement of essential components at the Energy Center would cause this interruption in a university communication on May 7.

Winter 2019 graduates celebrate commencement

EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY (EMU) – Graduates, parents and friends gathered at the Convocation Center to celebrate commencement on Sunday, April 28.

“Today’s ceremony is more than a celebration,” EMU President James Smith said in a speech to the graduates. Smith recognized outstanding students, including three family members who are all receiving there degrees.

More than 2,700 students walked between the two ceremonies. Students of the College of Arts and Science and the College of Education walked in the morning. Graduates of the College of Health and Human Services, the College of Business and the College of Technology celebrated in the afternoon. 115 students graduated with honors.

Dave Zilko, CEO of FUEL Leadership, delivered the keynote address to the graduates and was presented with an honorable Doctorate of Commerce, a new degree program approved by the board of regents on Tuesday.

“Doing what you have to do to live the life you imagined for yourself,“ Zilko said in his speech to the graduates. “And it’s not just on a professional basis.

Zilko labeled his journey as irrational persistence and encouraged graduates to live the life they imagined for themselves. He started $450,000 in debt and ended up selling his company to Campbell Soup for $231 million.

Incoming EMU student body president and vice-president discuss future ambitions

Collaboration between Austin Book, Melissa Moon, Jacob Russel and I.


DSC_3330_155 from Melissa Moon on Vimeo.

  • Ethan Smith and Hajer Abuzir won the 2019-20 student body election for president and vice president. They’re preparing to take on the positions and putting plans together to tackle key issues they focused on in the campaign.
  • Smith and Abuzir echoed their previous statement of increasing food security on campus and finding new ways to increase sustainability practices.
  • Smith explained what he’d be willing to sacrifice for privatizing housing and what the university needs to do differently this time around.

EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY (EMU) – President-elect Ethan Smith and Vice President-elect Hajer Abuzir are ready to get to work after a decisive election win last month.

“We want to make sure students basic needs are met,” Smith said. “That means they’re food secure, they have access to a healthy diet, they have stable and affordable housing.”

Privatization of Housing

EMU signed a 35-year contract with LAZ Parking in 2018 that has led to numerous complaints from student and staff, including a forum hosted by Student Government, that addressed issues they’ve had with parking services.

“When we enter into these long contracts, there’s a possibility for many things to go wrong,” Smith said. “Students weren’t consulted, the community wasn’t consulted. As a result, we got a deal that is not as good as it could possibly be.”

Smith finds the process of privatizing very disturbing but is open to discussing a deal as long as the deal follows four core commands.

“Getting a deal where the costs don’t go up more than they would have otherwise is the top priority,” Smith said.

Food Security

Food insecurity is an important issue that Smith and Abuzir plan to address head-on. Smith said, “There is an embarrassment where something so fundamental as food is so scarce on a college campus where students are expected to pay thousands of dollars in tuition.”

Abuzir spoke at great lengths about finding new ways to ensure that EMU students are food-secure. They’re pushing for more vegan, vegetarian and halal options. Abuzir said, “If that means growing it on campus ourselves, then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Abuzir continued, “If you look outside right now, you’ll see rocks everywhere. Rocks every corner. Why can’t we replace these with sustainable options? Why can’t we replace these with food options that can be easily grown on campus? If we can’t grow outside in the winter, why can’t we grow things indoors?”

Student Government is already in coordination with the Giving Garden and the Food Recovery Network. Giving Garden runs a community organic garden off-campus, while the Food Recovery Network focuses on sustainability and food security issues.

Homelessness

Homelessness is a hidden issue on EMU’s campus that the Smith-Abuzir team plan to address. Recently, the two spoke with a student that was homeless in 2016.

Abuzir said, “None of [his basic needs] were being met … He said that a huge issue he had on this campus was not being able to connect with people on campus. He would go to class. He would go to the gym. He would just go to his car and that would be the end of his day.”

This student is only one example of a homeless student. There are other students on campus today that harbor the same secret.

The closest thing on campus that we have to combat homelessness is Mentorship Access Guidance in College (MAGIC).

“That focuses very narrowly on students that are coming out of the foster care system, so I think that is an opportunity for more.”

Whether that opportunity involves expanding the MAGIC program or developing an additional program remains to be seen.

Diversity and Inclusion

We need to come up to a new system to respond to horrible things that happen on campus. In general, the responses from the university are not acceptable and . . . harm [students] more than help them.

Abuzir

Smith echoed Abuzir’s response, adding that although these acts of hate are most likely going to continue, the university should have processes in place to help prevent these acts.

Smith and Abuzir plan to start the campus-wide surveys on food security over the summer and prepare their staff for the fall.

Ypsilanti City Council approves plan to improve parks

The Ypsilanti City Council approved a resolution authorizing the park improvement cost schedule at their bi-weekly meeting on Tuesday, April 16.

The budget approved will provide numerous renovations to parks in Ypsilanti including Peninsular Park, Parkridge, Riverside Park and Candy Cane Park. Christopher Jacobs, director of the downtown development authority, presented the plan and took feedback from the council.

“This is some of the most gratifying works I’ve done for the city and I’d love to see it move forward,” Jacobs said.

The renovations will be paid for by a millage that went into effect in January for the use of promoting mental health and public safety. $125,000 of the $5 to $6 million the millage will produce will go towards park renovations. Mayor Beth Bashert agreed with the departments notion that improving parks will improve the mental health and safety of the Ypsilanti community.

Fixing playground equipment, hazard removal and replacing basketball nets are among the things most of this budget hopes to tackle. Mayor Pro-Tem Lois Richardson expressed community concern of getting restroom doors repaired at Riverside Park. She also expressed concern over $500 trashcans that were included in the budget.

According to Jacobs, these numbers can fluctuate but he wanted to account for heavy duty trashcans that wouldn’t be easily tampered with. The plans numbers are rough estimates and the focus of the plan is big picture, according to Mayor Beth Bashert.

Bashert suggested spending less on traditional trash cans and investing in rectangular lids to reduce the possibility of dumping. She also expressed the councils mission to invest in recycling services and install bins in parks.

Plan to improve Ypsilanti parks approved by city council

The Ypsilanti City Council approved a resolution authorizing the park improvement cost schedule at their bi-weekly meeting on Tuesday, April 16.

The budget approved will provide numerous renovations to parks in Ypsilanti including Peninsular Park, Parkridge, Riverside Park and Candy Cane Park. Christopher Jacobs, director of the downtown development authority, presented the plan and took feedback from the council.

“This is some of the most gratifying works I’ve done for the city and I’d love to see it move forward,” Jacobs said.

The renovations will be paid for by a millage that went into effect in January for the use of promoting mental health and public safety. $125,000 of the $5 to $6 million the millage will produce will go towards park renovations. Mayor Beth Bashert agreed with the departments notion that improving parks will improve the mental health and safety of the Ypsilanti community.

Fixing playground equipment, hazard removal and replacing basketball nets are among the things most of this budget hopes to tackle. Mayor Pro-Tem Lois Richardson expressed community concern of getting restroom doors repaired at Riverside Park. She also expressed concern over $500 trashcans that were included in the budget.

According to Jacobs, these numbers can fluctuate but he wanted to account for heavy duty trashcans that wouldn’t be easily tampered with. The plans numbers are rough estimates and the focus of the plan is big picture, according to Mayor Beth Bashert.

Bashert suggested spending less on traditional trash cans and investing in rectangular lids to reduce the possibility of dumping. She also expressed the councils mission to invest in recycling services and install bins in parks.

Pittsfield Township chief of police speaks on explosion at Ann Arbor Welding Supply

This story was updated as more information was learned. Last updated at 5:45 p.m. on Thursday, April 11.

Residents on Cloverlane Drive can return to their homes and encouraged to “shelter in place at their residences until further notice,” according to the Pittsfield Township Police and Fire Facebook page at 5:44 p.m.


PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP – Several propane tanks exploded at Ann Arbor Welding Supply at around 12:40 p.m. on Thursday, April 11. The incident was handled by Pittsfield Township Department of Public Safety.

“We had an explosion of several propane tanks that ignited the building on fire,” said Pittsfield Township Chief of Police Matt Harshberger. “It caused us to do about a mile radius evacuation.”

Police set up a barricade at Carpenter and Ellsworth Road as well as Carpenter and Michigan Avenue.

Fire crews were hesitant to approach the fire on arrival because of the exploded propane tanks.

“Because the tanks were bleeding off gas and because of the heat, we were unable to approach very quickly in order to put water on the fire,” said Harshberger.

At 3:30 p.m., the fire department approached to put water on the tanks to cool them down ahead of putting the fire out, according to Harshberger.

Harshberger said the department didn’t know what started the fire yet.

“We know that there were several explosions of propane tanks that caused the building to be ignited on fire,” Harshberger said. “But what caused those tanks to explode initially will be subject of the investigation.”

The investigation will take place as soon as the fire is put out.

No casualties have yet to be reported but this won’t be confirmed until after the investigation concludes.

Smith and Abuzir win EMU student body election

Ethan Smith and Hajer Abuzir won the student body election for president and vice president, according to unofficial results posted Thursday night.

“We ran because we believe that EVERY student should be taken care of on a human level first,” Smith said in a Facebook post. “Every student should have their basic needs met, and it’s time to put our money where our mouth is when it comes to supporting minoritized students.”

Smith and Abuzir won 69 percent of the vote with Balaal Hollings and Tyler Wright taking 29 percent. The remaining votes went for write-in candidates. A total of 1201 ballots were cast for the presidential candidates.

Kirk Suchowesky and Anna Newmyer suspended their campaign a week ahead of voting due to future health concerns of Suchowesky.

All 19 senators who ran were re-elected to the student senate, including Balaal Hollings, Tyler Wright, Kirk Suchowesky and Anna Newmyer, who also ran for student body president and vice-president.

Candidates for student body president speak on food insecurity

  • Ethan Smith and Hajer Abuzir are running to be the next student body president and vice-president of Eastern Michigan University. Smith was appointed as vice-president in October after former Vice-President Caity Steur resigned.
  • They are running against Balaal Hollings and Tyler Wright. Kirk Suchowesky and Anna Newmyer, dropped out of the race Saturday because of future health concerns.
  • Smith and Abuzir’s campaign has focused on housing insecurity, improving life for international students, diversifying food on campus to meet dietary and religious needs, finding new ways to create more sustainable practices on campus and funding more campus resources regarding diversity and inclusion.

YPSILANTI, Mich. – Ethan Smith was the first to announce his candidacy for student body president and hopes his voice will speak volumes to the administration.

“It’s not about just saying why we’re good,” Smith said in an interview with the Echo. “We have to support the students that are here, we have to meet their needs depending on who those students are.”

Smith, currently vice-president of the student body, is running with Hajer Abuzir, an honors program fellow.

If elected, Smith and Abuzir would urge the university to conduct a comprehensive food study that would find whether the students are getting enough food options to meet their nutrition or fit their religious diet.

“If the numbers come out and the students are angry about it, which they should be, they’ll be forced to take action,” Abuzir said.

Smith hopes that institutional reform to decrease student’s food insecurity would be an issue EMU can lead on.

“We say we’re a university of opportunity,” Smith said. “This is a way for us to show that.”

Smith and Abuzir hope to improve the communication between organizations that help aid international students on campus. By bringing them to one location, instead of being scattered across campus, they’d hope to unify them so they can share resources with one another.

Improving housing for international students and low-income students is another point their campaign has raised. They want to urge the university to provide the option for on-campus housing over breaks for students who wouldn’t have anywhere to go. They’re also calling for a campus-wide housing study and hold the university to Student Government’s four demands when it comes to privatizing housing.

Smith was appointed vice-president in early October after Caity Steur, former vice-president, resigned. He was a senator for the two years prior and has been involved in Model United Nations, Alternative Spring Break and the Vision Volunteer Center. He also served as president of the Economics Club.

“I really try to keep busy and engaged in the community, but Student Government has always been my thing,” Smith said.

Abuzir, Smith’s running mate, is a programming fellow at the honors college and has worked there for three years. Some events Abuzir is involved in planning include the Arab Heritage Festival, bi-weekly coffee hours, as well as numerous other events for the college. She also founded Eastern’s only running club. She doesn’t have experience with Student Government but hopes to bring a new perspective to the table.

Smith and Abuzir, both juniors, were the first to announce they’d be running for student body president and vice-president, filing their campaign packet and 300 required signatures.

Voting for student body president will take place March 27 – 28. Election results will be released Thursday at 7 p.m. on the Student Government Facebook page. You can vote online at my.emich.edu.

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