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How to engineer a safer street

With all the recent rancor and politics surrounding pedestrian safety ordinances, here's an interesting break down of what makes a street safer for everyone involved.
"In the past decade or so, New York has seen a considerable decline in traffic fatalities (30 percent since 2001) and an even more dramatic decrease in the risk of serious injury among cyclists (72 percent since 2000). At the heart of these public safety achievements is better street design. City streets are far from perfect, but as officials have reduced space for cars, they've improved mobility for everyone."
Read the rest here.

An Ann Arbor writer sings the praises of the USPS

Though Congress seems to love to malign the U.S. Postal Service, polls show that Americans are actually pretty with this public service. And  we at Concentrate absolutely love getting mail. Real mail. From actual people. How quaint, huh?
"A couple weeks ago, many otherwise level-headed people got excited about Amazon’s absurd plan to deliver packages by drone. Once the hype subsided, though, the publicity stunt had the unusual effect of reminding people why the human postal carrier is so effective, trustworthy and safe. “Can you imagine how expensive delivery would be that way?” laughed Lucy, the counter attendant at my post office in Ann Arbor. “I’d like to see them try that. Some guy will build a huge net and steal all that stuff out of the sky. Then just watch how fast people come back to us.”
Read the rest here.

Public input wanted on Ann Arbor transit routes

Transportation planners are interested in hearing from Ann Arborites about several proposed high capacity public transit connectors. 

Read and listen about here.
There's a presentation about the six potential routes here.
You can weigh by attending their public information meetings. The schedule is here.

Carp for Council Goes Viral

With all the rancor and name-calling in politics sometimes a little levity is just what the doctor ordered. Running to represent Ann Arbor's 4th Ward on city council was "Twenty Pound Carp." From Huffington Post to NPR to blogs and local news casts, the fish made quite the media splash.

Did the good residents of the ward see fit to elect this candidate and  inject some aquatic perspective to local government? We write this before the final results are in. 
“With the destruction of Blimpy Burgers, I have proposed the immediate construction of a series of glacis and escarpments, ravelins and Parrott gun installations to encircle critical strategic points such as Dominick’s and the Fleetwood Diner,” the user wrote.
Twenty Pound Carp wrote that if elected, it would encourage the city to work with the federal government to build canals for its fellow aquatic creatures, creating “the Venice of Washtenaw County.”
Read the rest here.
"A 29 pound carp is campaigning as a write-in candidate for the City Council in Ann Arbor.  The fish tweets: "since I have no actual feet, I don't have to stand for anything."
Listen to more here.  Slide show here.

Ann Arbor wants your input on dog parks

Have a dog? Hate them? What do you think of the city's dog parks? Should there be more? Less? And what about cats? Well, the city doesn't seem to interested in our feline compatriots at this juncture but they are interested in your thoughts and opinions about the state of play for man's best friend.
Give your feedback here.

Ann Arbor's storm water policies praised as "climate-smart"

Stormwater utilities aren't exactly sexy topics for the average reader but in the grand scheme of life their policies have a huge impact on both the environment and our daily lives. Ann Arbor's approach to storm water issues are the subject of a green-minded blog and the verdict is pretty darn favorable.
"Climate change road trippers and recent University of Michigan grads Kirsten Howard and Allie Goldstein recently returned to Ann Arbor to learn more about the city’s  stormwater utility.
The agency manages the stormwater that accumulates and picks up pollutants after heavy rainfall.
Howard and Goldstein have been traveling and blogging about how U.S. cities are adjusting to climate change. Now they’ve found successful adaptation in their own college town, where the inspiration for their trip began."
Read the rest here

Could libraries serve as start-up incubators?

Sometimes moving forward means adopting the practices of the past, or going old school. Way way old school.
"This old idea of the public library as co-working space now offers a modern answer – one among many – for how these aging institutions could become more relevant two millennia after the original Alexandria library burned to the ground. Would-be entrepreneurs everywhere are looking for business know-how and physical space to incubate their start-ups. Libraries meanwhile may be associated today with an outmoded product in paper books. But they also happen to have just about everything a 21st century innovator could need: Internet access, work space, reference materials, professional guidance.
Why not, Lea suggests, put these two ideas together? Arizona State is planning in the next few months to roll out a network of co-working business incubators inside public libraries, starting with a pilot in the downtown Civic Center Library in Scottsdale. The university is calling the plan, ambitiously, the Alexandria Network."
Read the rest here.

Ann Arbor Muni Center gets LEED Gold

Say what you will about the new city hall's aesthetics, at least it's more sustainable than its predecessor.
"The municipal center project includes the new Justice Center, landscaped municipal plaza rain gardens, green roof promenade, and porous pavement in the parking lot. It obtained a total of 44 LEED points. Quinn Evans was the architectural firm for the Ann Arbor Municipal Center. The landscape architects were InSite Design Studio Inc. with Conservation Design Forum."
Read the rest here.

Washtenaw County government ranks 4th in digital innovation

Who says government can't keep up? When it comes to municipal innovation in the digital realm, Washtenaw County landed in the top ten among the U.S.'s second-largest counties.


"The Digital Counties Survey identifies the very best examples of how counties are aligning technology to support strategic priorities and create crucial operational and administrative efficiencies," said NACo Executive Director Larry E. Naake. "Especially important during these tough economic times, counties across the country are using innovative technologies to reduce county operations costs and enhance service delivery."

Read more here.

The Michigan Department Of Zingerman's?

"Bureaucrat" and "customer service" are two words that seem incompatible and contradictory. Nevertheless, Governor Rick Snyder thinks Lansing employees could learn a thing or two from Zingerman's "service culture" training. Does that mean license renewal will include a complimentary bagel with cream cheese? One can dream, right?


"The state of Michigan wants to raise its service game, and it is turning to entrepreneurial businesses for help. Zingerman's, an Ann Arbor–based deli and food company at which doing the right thing by customers is bred in the bone, has stepped up to train government employees in service culture. Michigan's new governor, Rick Snyder, posed the idea to Paul Saginaw, a co-founder of Zingerman's, when the two crossed paths at an awards dinner last winter. "I said, 'Are you serious?' " recalls Saginaw. "But I thought, Wouldn't it be great if the orientation of public servants was, My job is to be your resource. You are paying my salary. How do I help you get your business open?""

Read the rest of the story here. And a local follow up here.

City of Ann Arbor's IT head named a Premier 100 Leader

In its Class of 2011 Yearbook, the city of Ann Arbor's Director of IT, Dan Rainey, was listed as a ComputerWorld "Honoree" in its list of Premier 100 IT Leaders.


Coolest current project: "Getting iPads to work as Windows thin clients. We are using the Wyse PocketCloud remote desktop system."

Boldest IT prediction for the next 5 years: The cloud computing environment for government will be provided by state and large local governments, with agencies becoming expert providers of some services and consumers of others. Data centers will be on the way out for most local governments, and interagency collaboration will be the new way of doing business.

Read the rest of the story here.

Obama names Ann Arbor native Gene Sperling as director of National Economic Council

Ann Arbor natives are becoming a growing influence in the White House. Green Hills High School and University of Michigan grad Eugene Kang was named special assistant to President Obama. Ann Arbor resident and U-M professor Helen Levy was appointed to Obama's Council Of Economic Advisors, while A2 local and U-M prof Michael Barr was tapped to serve as the Department of the Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions.

Now Ann Arbor native Gene Sperling has been tapped by the president to head the National Economic Council.


President Obama is said to be ready to name Gene Sperling the director of the National Economic Council. Mr. Sperling, 52, who held the same job under President Bill Clinton, will succeed Lawrence Summers.

Here's a quick biography and reading list for those who want to get up to speed on Mr. Sperling:

A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., he went to college at the University of Minnesota and law school at Yale. He worked for Mario Cuomo, then the governor of New York, in the early 1990s, before joining Mr. Clinton's presidential campaign. Mr. Sperling worked for the Clinton administration from start to finish — 1993 to 2001. He's particularly proud of the work he and colleagues did to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which has become a big part of federal anti-poverty policy.

Read the rest of the story here.

Ann Arbor ranks no. 6 in top digital U.S. cities

Ann Arbor continues to build on its reputation as a technologically advanced city, this time taking the No. 6 spot as a top digital city in the U.S. That puts it in line with the likes of Pueblo, Colo.; High Point, N.C. and ahead of Berkeley, Calif.

Check out the rankings here.

State should dig into "Economic Gardening", U-M says

In what might be the academia version of Buy Local, a University of Michigan report says the state's government shouldn't be trying to lure other region's corporations. Instead, it should be practicing "economic gardening," or focusing on growing its own organic start-ups.


Economic gardening is a new economic development strategy used to grow local economies by cultivating existing businesses, rather than, or in addition to, hunting for new businesses to relocate from the outside. This report presents findings about economic gardening and related activities in communities across Michigan, as well as the opinions of Michigan's local government leaders about whether or not the strategy can succeed in their communities.

Read the entire report here and more here and here.

Michigan Attackers: Washington Post lauds U-M hacker team

Hackers haven't only become a good thing at the University of Michigan, their exploits are now fodder for a string of good headlines about Ann Arbor and how its techies are protecting democracy.


Last month, the District conducted an Internet voting experiment that resulted in a team from the University of Michigan infiltrating election computers so completely that they were able to modify every ballot cast and all election outcomes without ever leaving their offices. They also retrieved the username and password for every eligible overseas voter who had signed up to participate. The team even defended the system against attackers from China and Iran. More than any other event in recent years, this test illustrates the extreme national security danger of Internet voting.

Read the rest of the story here and more about U-M hackers at Yahoo's HackU competition here.
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