The eyes of the nation are on Alabama… Here’s hoping they do the right thing.

A few days ago, when someone mentioned to me that Roy Moore had been successfully avoiding the press since news first broke about the child molestation allegations that had been leveled against him, I suggested that, if news agencies were really serious about getting his attention, they’d send younger reporters. Well, guess what? Moore finally gave an interview, and it was to a 12 year old girl.

The girl who conducted the interview was apparently brought to Moore by the America First Project, a pro-Trump super PAC that, one would assume, wanted to prove to the men an women of Alabama that, yes, their candidate could actually be in the presence of a child without either forcing her to touch his erect penis through is underwear, or shoving her head into his lap… I guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how effective this last minute effort was.

As of right now, it would appear as though the race is too close to call. Fox News, as you may have heard, is saying that Moore is trailing by ten points in their most recent poll, but I wound’t be surprised if they were lying in hopes of driving more conservatives to the polls, while making Democrats think that their votes aren’t needed. And they really are needed, as the only path to victory the Democrats appear to require a record turnout from Alabama’s black voters, which is probably why we’ve started seeing so much involvement from folks like Cory Booker, Charles Barkley and Keegan-Michael Key, trying to turn out the black vote.

I know I’ve said ti before, but we’ve got a hell of a lot riding on this race. A win by Jones tomorrow would bring the Republican advantage in the Senate down to just one vote, and make the possibility of retaking the chamber in 2018 a very real possibility… as we could conceivably hold every Democratic seat, and pick up those currently held by Dean Heller in Nevada, and Jeff Flake in Arizona… If we picked up those two seats, as well as this one that’s currently up for grabs in Alabama, that would give us a 51/49 advantage, meaning that, finally, we could, among other things, stop Trump from remaking the judiciary in his image by naming absolutely unqualified lunatics to lifetime appointments on the federal bench.

More immediately, however, this election could dictate the fate of the Republican tax bill currently making its way through the resolution process… The Republicans currently have 51 votes in the Senate for their tax plan, as Republican Bob Corker has said that he won’t support it. And, if Jones wins, that would bring the vote count to 50/50 in the Senate, in which case, of course, Vice President Pence would cast the deciding vote in favor of passing the bill. But, the Republicans couldn’t afford to lose even one more vote. And, with both Jeff Flake and Susan Collins now expressing second thoughts, that’s looking increasingly likely. Which is why, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, that the Republicans, after first stepping away from Moore, have rushed back to embrace him. They know that, if they lose in Alabama, this enormously unpopular tax giveaway to the rich of theirs could all fall apart.

Just to recap, tomorrow, the people of Alabama will be voting in a special election to send either Doug Jones or Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate. Doug Jones is a former U.S. attorney, who successfully prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan responsible for bombing an Alabama church in 1963, killing four young girls. Moore, on the other hand, in addition to probably being a pedophile who was, while in his 30s, banned from an Alabama mall for his aggressive pursuing children, has gone on record saying not only that “homosexual conduct should be illegal,” but that Muslim Americans shouldn’t be allowed to hold elected office. And, as if that weren’t enough, he’s also a birther, who was thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court not once, but twice, for his inability to respect our laws as written. He was so vile, in fact, that even Donald Trump endorsed his opponent, Luther Strange, in the Republican primary. But here we are, just a day before the election, with a number of prominent Republicans following Trump’s lead, and at least tacitly supporting Moore, perhaps thinking that, once he’s in office, they can replace him with someone a little less distasteful. Or, perhaps more likely, maybe they’re don’t care what kind of man he is, just so long as he votes their way on tax cuts for the wealthy.

For what it’s worth, there is reason to be hopeful in Alabama. While it’s certainly disheartening to see religious fundamentalists embrace a likely pedophile, thinking, I suppose, that he’d get them closer to biblical law than his opponent, things do seem to be changing. Granted some of that is happening just because Moore is such a reprehensible candidate, but it’s absolutely insane that a seat in Alabama, which I think Jeff Sessions last won just a few years ago with over 90% of the vote, is now actually in play. And, while several Republicans have gone back on their promises to oppose Moore, some haven’t. Alabama’s other Republican Senator, Richard Shelby, for instance, just went on TV yesterday morning and said that he would not be voting for Moore. Saying “Alabama deserves better,” Shelby essentially gave his fellow Alabamans permission to sit this election out, and that’s a truly incredible thing. More impactful for me, however, was this video taken tonight of an Alabama peanut farmer standing outside of a Moore rally, holding a photo of his gay daughter, who had taken her life at 23. To hear him talking about how he broke with Moore on the subject of homosexuality is powerful, powerful stuff, and it gives me at least a little hope for the future of our nation.

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Newt Gingrich and the war against Robert Mueller

I’ve only spoken with former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich once. It was late ’93 or early ’94. I was living in a suburb of Atlanta, and working at Kinko’s. I’d worked an early shift that day, and, driving back home to my apartment, I decided to stop at a little park along the way and take a walk through the woods. If memory serves, there was just one other car in the small parking lot when I pulled in. It was big and white, and had two “Newt” bumper stickers on it. It may have been a Cadillac, but I’m not sure. I parked, got out and started walking up the trail when Newt Gingrich, with his head down, walked past me with a brusk “hello.” He was followed a few steps behind by a woman who I now know to be Callista Bisek, the congressional staffer he’d eventually make the third Mrs. Gingrich. While I didn’t see any evidence of sexual activity, I definitely got the sense that I’d interrupted something. As Newt pushed past me, red-faced, making his way briskly toward the parking lot, I felt like a kid who had just almost caught his parents in the act of fucking. It made such an impression on me, in fact, that I not only wrote down what had happened upon getting back to my apartment, but I took Linette back to the spot later that week and reenacted it for her, so that she could appreciate how uncomfortable and strange the encounter was.

I wouldn’t know it until years later, as I wasn’t following Georgia politics terribly closely at the time, but Newt was married when this went down. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Gingrich had just started his affair with Bisek in ’93, so I suppose it’s possible that this might have even been one of their first romantic encounters that I’d almost stumbled into. [Their affair would go on for seven years, until 2000, when Gingrich would leave his second wife, Marianne, after she refused to accept the idea of an open marriage. Newt and Marianne had been married since 1981.]

At any rate, it’s crossed my mind from time to time over the years that this was probably my one real chance to have changed the course of history. Had I had a camera with me, and had I been just a little quieter as I made my way through the forest that day, who knows what might have been. [This was at a time when affairs could still end a promising political career, well before the Republican Party platform evolved to incorporate pussy grabbing and pedophilia.]

Might I have brought Newt down with a sex scandal, just as he was ascending to into the leadership of Republican Party with his Contract with America? And, if so, how might the Republican Party be different today? Would there be a Donald Trump without a Newt Gingrich, pushing ethical boundaries, and plumbing the depths of toxic rhetoric? [New to Congress in ’78, Gingrich famously said, “I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty.” And he did his best to change that, laying the groundwork for Trump in the process.]

But I wasn’t as quiet as I could have been, and I didn’t have a camera… and now we have Gingrich, who’s become even more unhinged over the past several years, doing the work of Donald Trump, going on television to call Bob Mueller “corrupt,” and suggesting that a deep state coup is underway.

For what it’s worth, Gingrich didn’t always think Mueller was corrupt. Not too long ago, in fact, the former Speaker of the House thought that Mueller’s reputation for “honesty and integrity” was “impeccable.” Of course, a lot has happened since then. Most notably, with several prominent members of the administration now under indictment, Mueller seems to be taking direct aim at Trump’s inner circle, interrogating his son, and digging into the financial dealings of the Trump organization, and, in so doing, crossing the “red line” that Trump had warned him not to cross.

Thankfully, up until this point, Mueller has handled the investigation beautifully, slowly encircling the administration in such a way that it’s doubtful that, should Trump decide to fire him, he’d avoid impeachment. But clearly members of the far right are preparing for that eventuality, laying the groundwork for Trump to fire Mueller… Jeanine Pirro just called for a purge of the FBI on Fox News, saying, “It’s time to take them out in cuffs.” And Fox host Sean Hannity yesterday called Mueller, “A disgrace to the American justice system.” Referring to Mueller as the “head of the snake,” Hannity said that his investigation has put the United States “on the brink of becoming a banana republic.” And it’s not just Fox News hosts that are going on the the offensive against Mueller, questioning his integrity, and essentially accusing him and his fellow investigators of being a lying, corrupt, Hillary-loving, America-hating traitors. Late last week, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, in a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee, began naming FBI agents assigned to the Mueller probe and saying that their “political views” should be looked into… I’ve certainly been wrong before, but I think we’re finally entering the endgame.

And, as the President’s surrogates test the waters for an aggressive assault of the intelligence community, Trump is doing his best to divert attention away from the investigation by fomenting terrorist attacks across the Middle East and here in the United States, by announcing that the U.S. Embassy will be moving to Jerusalem. Sure, very wealthy Trump supporters, like Sheldon Adelson, have wanted this for years, and Trump will surely need their support if it comes to all out war over his impeachment, but, really, why did this have to be done now? Given the state of the world, why did Trump have to go against the advice of his military advisors and make the announcement about Jerusalem now? I think it’s pretty lear that he wanted to push the Mueller investigation off the front pages. And that’s terrifying. [I suppose we should just be thankful that I didn’t choose his other option, which was war with North Korea.]

Here, by the way, is what Gingrich thought of Mueller before… back when he thought that the conservative former FBI agent might be persuaded to look the other way, and allow Trump to be Trump, nation be damned… and back before his wife Callista settled into her plum appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican.

As for where all of this leaves us, I’m not so sure. My sense, however, is that the pressure will keep building on both sides until Tuesday, when we see what happens in the Alabama Senate race, which I suspect will trigger the final act… More on that tomorrow.

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Val Lutton and the gilded boy

I was about a half hour into the 1942 horror classic Cat People last night, when I decided to take a break and do a little research into the film’s Russian-born producer, Val Lewton. Well, one thing led to another, and I fell asleep listening to episode number three of Karina Longworth’s brilliant podcast, You Must Remember This, which is all about Lewton’s struggle within the Hollywood studio system to create b-movies with meaning. [At the beginning of his career as a movie producer, RKO would essentially give Lewton a title that had tested well with focus groups, instructing him to deliver 70 minutes of film which they could then market under that name, and it was his job to come up with an idea, get a script written, secure the actors and crew, and get the whole thing shot, all within about four months’ time.] Anyway, it was through Longworth’s podcast that I learned about this scene in Lewton’s 1946 film Bedlam, which it probably one of the darkest things I’ve ever seen.

In the above scene, Master George Sims (played by Boris Karloff), entertains visitors at the mental asylum he operates by having his “loonies” put on a show for them. During the performance, a mentally ill young man covered head-to-toe in gold paint, is introduced to the party-goers as “The Golden Age of Reason,” and forced to read a speech written by Sims as he slowly suffocates to death from skin asphyxiation (like the character of Jill Masterson in Goldfinger). Lewton, as I’ve since read, based Sims’ character on John Monro, the infamous head physician at England’s Bethlem Royal Hospital, who, up until 1770, allowed paying visitors to observe, laugh at, and even prod the mentally ill patients in his care… The following clip comes from the genealogy site Finding My Past.

…The Mornos demonstrated a galling lack of shame regarding their practices, even inviting members of the public – for a fee – to explore the hospital during the evening and poke fun at the unfortunate inmates, who were often chained inside their tiny rooms. If the subject wasn’t being entertaining enough, observers prodded them with sticks until they were.

The admission price for this sport comprised a significant proportion of the hospital’s overall budget. Thrift was the watchword at Bethlem, and food or other donations were often sold, leaving patients starving. The hospital was also used as a means of corrupt social control, and for the right price people could have critics put away, or husbands could lock up their wives…

I’m not sure why I’m sharing this now. God knows there’s enough darkness in the world today. Sometimes, though, I just find myself on one of these tangents, and feel compelled to share. And I’m very much enjoying learning about Lewton, and how he fought the studio system to address things like mental health reform within the framework that was given him, which was that of b-movie horror.

What’s more, when you head down these rabbit holes, you never know what you’ll find… Right now, reading about Glen Vernon, the actor who played “the gilded boy,” I just discovered that he also appears, if only for a split second, in the RKO film It’s a Wonderful Life.

That’s Vernon’s photo in the picture frame above, being stared at by Mr. Gower, the pharmacist who, just moments later, would strike the young George Bailey, causing him to go deaf in one ear. [Gower, as you’ll recall, had just received news that his son Robert, the young man in the photo, had died of influenza.]

Sadly, I don’t have any deep insight on the plight of the gilded boy. I’m sure there’s much to be said, but, having watched this scene four or five times now, I’m just left with overwhelming sadness. And I’m at a total loss as to what to say, or how to tie it all back to the contemporary world… My apologies.

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Reflecting on the first five months of On The Ground Ypsi, and the future of this little city of ours

[Ypsi community activist and Southside resident Bryan Foley, seen here in a photo by Doug Coombe taken at Parkridge Community Center, will be on a December 15 panel hosted by On The Ground Ypsilanti about “Ypsi’s rich past, and visions for a vibrant future.”]

Earlier this year, the folks at Issues Media Group, having identified our city as a “news desert,” set out to find a way to bring journalism back to Ypsilanti, and fill the void that had been left by the rapidly constricting Ann Arbor News. And, about six months ago, having secured financial contributions from a handful of local organizations, they hired Brianna Kelly, a freelancer for the Detroit News and Crain’s Detroit Business, who had just moved back to Michigan from Chicago, where she’d worked for the Associated Press, to tackle the project. Kelly, along with Concentrate editor Patric Dunn, then opened a small newsroom at Landline Creative Labs, and launched the online publication On The Ground Ypsi, which, over the past five months, has covered everything from the experiences of local immigrants and the urban gardens of Ypsi’s Kingdom Builders, to Ypsi’s homegrown comic con, Hero Nation and the controversy over International Village.

On December 15, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, the On The Ground Ypsilanti team is going to be hosting an event at Ypsilanti’s Freighthouse, where, one imagines, they’ll be not only reflecting on what they’ve done thus far, but also engaging with members of the community on what they might do in the future, assuming they’re able to, once again, cobble together enough funding to keep the enterprise going. [The event is free and open to the public.]

At some point during the event, I’m going to be on a panel along with community activist Bryan Foley, Ypsi High art teacher Lynne Settles, and EMU’s Decky Alexander, where we’ll all be answering questions posed by former State Representative David Rutledge about both the current state of Ypsi, and where we see things heading… In preparation for the event, On The Ground’s Brianna Kelly reached out to each of us to ask what we thought the strengths of this community were, and what we think might be our greatest challenges and opportunities going forward. You can read all of our responses at the On The Ground Ypsi site, but here’s what I had to say… I think, had I had more time to consider the questions, I might have answered a bit differently, but this should at least give you a sense as to what to expect from me.

What have been some of Ypsi’s greatest strengths as a community?

“Ypsi has a few things going for it. It’s got a sense of place, which I think is more and more unique these days, given the great extent to which places, thanks to the growth of chain stores and restaurants, are beginning to feel the same. I think, when you’re in Ypsi, there’s still a sense that you’re somewhere special and different. It’s not like other small towns of its size where, in exchange for higher rents, they’ve sacrificed their identities. At least we haven’t really done so yet. And, more importantly, I’d say our people are clearly a strength. There’s a strong community here that’s willing to embrace good, new ideas. But, at the same time, there’s also a respect for our shared history, which is important. And I think people are generally kind. It’s a good place to do things. If you have a good idea, I’ve found Ypsi to be a pretty receptive place, and I think that’s a good thing.”

What are some of the biggest challenges you foresee Ypsi having to overcome in the future?

“I think how to grow responsibly, and with a sense of equity, is going to be probably the most difficult thing we face. I think growth is going to happen whether we like it or not. I think the housing market in Ann Arbor, as it continues to price people out, will continue to move people this way. I think we need to be aware of the things that I just mentioned – the sense of place and the community – and work to the best of our ability to protect them. We need to create opportunities for the people who live here. We need good jobs. And we need financial stability. But, at the same time, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice our identity or our people, and I think that’s going to be a difficult line to walk as we go forward. But, yeah, I think the battle to keep Ypsilanti open, diverse and interesting is going to dominate the next several years.”

What are your ultimate hopes for Ypsi’s future?

“I hope Ypsilanti continues to be the kind of place where I want to live and raise my family. I hope that it’s able to retain what I love about it, which is why we moved back here. At the same time, however, I think growth is inevitable, and I hope that we find a way to do it so that people aren’t left behind. I’d also like to see more community-wide conversations, in hopes that, collectively, we can come to some kind of consensus about what we want this community of ours to evolve into. And I hope we can evolve in a way that we all feel good about, without sacrificing too much of who we are in the process. I think it’s going to be difficult, though, and I don’t know how many communities have been able to navigate it well. I think clearly Ypsi’s going to grow. I know, from friends looking to buy houses here, that the market is changing rapidly. Prices keep going up and there aren’t really very many empty storefronts anymore. And it feels like we might be losing control over the direction in which things are headed. So my hope is that we can find a way to guide things in a direction that we can not only be happy about, but be proud of.”

[Be warned… If you follow the link above in search of the article about the event, there’s a chance that you will see a super goofy photo of me, which never should have seen the light of day. All I can say in my defense is that I was probably a little more casual about the photo shoot than I should have been, given that I’m friends with Doug Coombe, the photographer who took the photos. I can assure you, though, I will never curl up on a couch like a “sexy cat” again just because a photographer tells me to.]

OK, so here’s the reason I posted this… If you have the time and interest, I’d love to know your answers to these three questions in bold, as I think it would help me to know what others are thinking before I sit down to participate on this panel… Thanks… And do come out on the 15th. It would be good to see you in person.

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I got to take the train from Ypsi to Detroit a few days ago, and, if we play our cards right, we might all be able to do it someday soon

Last Friday, at about 1:30 PM, a train on Amtrak’s Wolverine line stopped on its way from Chicago to Detroit to pick up passengers in Ypsilanti. While it’s true that, back in late May of 2010, the President of Amtrak disembarked from a train in Depot Town and met with elected officials to discuss the future of regional rail, this, as I understand it, was the first time since 1984, when Ypsi lost its Amtrak stop, that a passenger train has actually stopped and picked up local folks in Depot Town… and, as I just happened to be one of the lucky ones who got to take the ride, I thought that I’d tell you about it.

Before we get into what it was like to ride from Ypsi to Detroit and back on the train, though, I think it would probably be good for me to preface this conversation by saying, “Don’t get your hopes up.” As longtime readers of this site know, we’ve been down this road before… Here, to give you some sense of what I’m talking about, is an excerpt from something I posted almost eight years ago, in January of 2010. The post was titled Update on the Ann Arbor – Detroit rail line.

…Remember the East – West commuter rail line that’s supposed to connect Ann Arbor and Detroit, with stops in Ypsi and Dearborn? Remember how the Governor said that it will happen before October 25, 2010, when her term comes to an end? Well, acording to a report issued today by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), they’re on schedule to see it happen…

Well, guess what? It didn’t happen by the end of Granholm’s tenure as governor. Efforts, however, did continue. And, in May of 2010, I posted here that we might see our first stop by 2012, which, as you know, also didn’t happen. Here’s a clip.

…(I)t looks as though even the scaled-back Ann Arbor-Detroit line isn’t likely to start rolling until 2012, at the earliest. Or, at least that’s Councilman Murdock’s assessment. And I know that I’ve said it before, but we really need to establish a grass roots lobbying effort to keep the pressure on our elected officials. There are tens of thousands of people that would benefit from a rail line connecting Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dearborn, and Detroit, and we should start organizing. This is too good of an idea to let die…

And, to our credit, the idea didn’t just die. In spite of opposition at the state level, where elected Republicans did what they could to kill anything related to mass transit, especially if it had anything to do with the Obama administration, local folks kept pushing. And, slowly, over time, things got done, albeit not fast enough as some of us would have liked. Amtrak was able to buy back the tracks from the freight companies that owned them, opening the door to increased passenger rail options. Federal funding helped improve both tracks and crossings. And Dearborn, after having built a new station, got their stop. And, here at home, volunteers worked to get our Freighthouse reopened, as discussions began about where we’d build our platform… For those of you who would like to dive deeper into the history, here are links to just a few of the many conversation we had bak in 2010 and 2011, when talk of the possibility of a local train stop first started to heat up.

High-speed bus system to link Ann Arbor and Detroit, as precursor to passenger rail

One step closer to the Ann Arbor – Detroit rail line

Ann Arbor – Detroit passenger rail… Can Dingell deliver?

Should there be a Depot Town stop on the Amtrak line to Chicago?

And these conversations have continued over the past half dozen years… Not too long ago, on episode 46 of the Saturday Six Pack, for instance, we discussed the release of the regional transit master plan authored by the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA), which, among other things, called for a Detroit-Ann Arbor rail line with a stop in Ypsilanti, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) between Ann Arbor and Ypsi.

This has, in short, been a long time coming. And we’ve still got quite a ways to go. According to the most optimistic projection I’ve heard, Ypsilanti, assuming we don’t hit any delays, won’t have an operational platform in Depot Town for about two years, as we still need to conduct an assessment of the platform site, finalize plans for construction, raise the necessary funds, and build the damn thing. The good news is, though, once the platform is built, the train will stop. At least that’s what Derrick James, Amtrak’s senior manager for government affairs, told me on the train, as we made our way toward Detroit. And that, I think, demonstrates that we’ve at least made some progress from the early 200s, when no one at Amtrak was talking about an Ypsi stop.

One more thing… When the train does finally stop in Ypsilanti, at least at first, it will just be the Wolverine line, meaning that it’ll be relatively useless for commuting into Detroit or Ann Arbor, going to see baseball games, etc. As of right now, according to a friend of mine who knows such things, the eastbound Wolverine line passes through Ypsilanti daily at approximately 1:15 PM, 6:30 PM, and 11:30 PM, on the way to Detroit. And, if you’re in Detroit, headed this way, trains depart at 6:30 AM, 11:20 AM, and 6:20 PM. [This past Friday, for instance, I caught the 1:15 train to Detroit, and got the 6:20 train back from Detroit.] So, you could go to Detroit for a while to check out a museum, have lunch, or maybe see an afternoon baseball game, but the schedule wouldn’t work for most jobs, and it wouldn’t allow for you to do anything in the evening, at least if you wanted to make it back to Ypsi afterward. That, however, is the ultimate goal… The ultimate goal is commuter rail, with multiple trains running back and forth over the course of each day, starting early in the morning, and running late into the night, connecting not only Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Ypsilanti and Detroit, but also Metro Airport, which would be incredibly cool.

Oh, and for commuter rail to work, not only would the trains have to run more often, but they’d also have to run on time, which, as of right now, isn’t always the case. For instance, the train taking us to Detroit this past Friday was about 20 minutes late, whereas the one bringing us back was about 30 minutes late. While this wasn’t a big deal for me, as I didn’t have anywhere I needed to be at a certain time, delays like this would doom a commuter service, or one that people were depending on to get them to the airport in time for a flight.

And, I should also add, in no scenarios that I’ve heard thus far would there be a “high-speed rail” stop in Ypsi, as we’re too close to the considerably larger stop in Ann Arbor. So you’re likely not going to be able to jump on a train in Depot Town and be in Chicago in two hours. You may, however, be able to get the commuter train to Ann Arbor at some point in the future, and then jump onto a high-speed train for Chicago.

So, now that I’ve tempered your optimism and enthusiasm a bit, let me tell you about last Friday’s trip to Detroit, which was absolutely incredible. Granted, the train was a bit late each way, as I mentioned above, but it was great to just sit and look out the window, not worrying at all about traffic, and then just stepping off the train on Woodward Avenue, in downtown Detroit. [I didn’t ride the QLINE, which runs up and down Woodward, but there’s a stop just across the street from the train station, on Baltimore Street.] While I didn’t time the trip out, my sense is that it was less than half an hour, from the time we walked on, to the time we got off, including the time we spent partied at the Dearborn station, as people got on and off. I did, however, time the trip back, and it took 37 minutes. [My sense, and I could be wrong, is that the train runs slower after dark due to visibility issues.] At any rate, it was faster than my car ride into Detroit the night before, and a lot less stressful. And, if we could make this a regular thing, I’d love it. I cannot express to you how right it felt to walk to Depot Town from my house, step onto a train, and be whisked downtown. It was really, truly incredible…

And, when we got back to Ypsi, and stepped off the train in front of Sidetrack – and I’m not exaggerating – there was electricity in the air. People were literally getting out of their cars, and coming out of restaurants, asking us what was going on. A young guy came up to me and asked me explain what was happening, and, after I told him, he said, “Who do I need to call to get this platform built?” People were seriously enthusiastic in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time.

Here, speaking of enthusiasm, is our State Rep Ronnie Peterson calling “all aboard” as the train rolled into Depot Town to pick us up.

If you can’t tell from the above video, almost everyone who took the trip was a politician. Joining State Rep Ronnie Peterson, were State Reps Yousef Rabhi, Adam Zemke, and Jewell Jones, who, I’m pretty sure, is the only one of the four to have been written up Teen Vogue. In addition to State Reps, we also had the Mayor of Dearborn, and a bunch of elected officials from the surrounding Townships, like Brenda Stumbo. And Ypsilanti was also well represented by City Council members Lois Richardson and Beth Bashert, Economic Development Director Beth Ernat, and Washtenaw County Commissioner Ricky Jefferson. [County Commissioner Andy LaBarre and Ypsi City Councilperson Pete Murdock were at the reception, before the train rolled into town, but weren’t able to take the trip with us.] And, in addition to all of the political folks, there were also local commuter rail advocates like my friends Bill Kinley and Linda French, as well as representatives from Eastern Michigan University, the AAATA, and Washtenaw Community College, and several business owners from the the Ypsi-Arbor Visitor and Convention Bureau board.

I don’t know who exactly was involved in putting the whole thing together, but my sense is that, in large part, we had Ronnie Peterson, Mary Kerr, the President of the Visitor and Convention Bureau, and Sean Duval, the President of Golden Limousine, to thank. [Kerr, among other things, organized a quick tour of Detroit for us, for which Duval provided the busses.] Peterson, however, was clearly the one running the show, publicly acknowledging everyone who had gathered for the event, and playfully reminding each one in turn that, when the time comes, they’d better be ready to invest in the Ypsilanti stop.

So, now what? Now that all of these elected officials and community leaders have spent an afternoon with representatives from Amtrak, traveling to Detroit and back, what’s the next step? How do we keep the momentum up, and ensure that we not only get a stop, but that we eventually get commuter rail in Ypsilanti? As much as I wanted this to happen before, I’m even more excited by the prospect now that I’ve experienced what it would be like firsthand. And I’m ready to fight to make it happen.

Posted in Ann Arbor, Rail, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

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