the battle for the hearts and minds of ypsilanti

Former Ypsilantian Steve Cherry and I have been exchanging notes lately on this lovely little town of ours and why he won’t be moving back. With his permission, I’d like to share a clip from a letter he sent earlier this afternoon:

…The Ypsi Zoning Master Plan has more or less spelled out the way Ypsilanti will be in 10, 15, 20 years, and that’s 100% sub-urban franchise-ville.

It won’t be truly walkable because Ypsilanti won’t have the businesses to sustain homes. It will have ye olde doiley shop but nowhere to get a gallon of milk or a light bulb. See, it’s the Historic District and the Water Street demolition that make inexpensive retail space a thing of the past.

There won’t be any dollar stores (which replace big box stores in urban areas) for example. Only high-rent stores will be able to open, and they don’t sell groceries or light bulbs.

So, if we’re not talking about running for council and fixing the Zoning Master Plan, we’re just talking. I’m sick of talking, I want to do things.

It takes years to take over a city government and we weren’t getting anywhere in Ypsi, just a lot of cool people talking about how nice a coffee shop would be. Ugh.

So, what do you think? Is Steve right? Are we on a path that will lead us the hell that downtown Plymouth has become? (If you haven’t been there, it’s like being inside a fucking mall.) Are we pricing ourselves out of a truly sustainable community? And, if we are, can we still stop it?

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  1. trusty getto
    Posted May 28, 2006 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Excellent question, Mark.

    Frankly, even if we wanted to, there isn’t any way we could turn our community into a Plymouth, because we would never attract Plymouth-ites to Ypsi, which is fine with me.

    I don’t buy the position myself. Ypsi doesn’t have a demographic that attracts suburbanites, it won’t in the foreseeable future, and it doesn’t seem to want to try to attract such a demographic. Having lived in large and medium cities (Detroit, NYC, LA, Denver), as well as suburbs (Burbank, Livonia), it’s pretty clear that a ridiculously huge number of affluent suburban white people are frightened of poor people, gay people, artists, musicians and African Americans. They see purchasing a home as an investment, not as becoming an integral member of a community. In this way Ypsilantians are very different from Plymouth-ites.

    I think that Mr. Cherry (not to speak for him) may be basing his conclusion on an assumption that isn’t sound — that the Zoning Master Plan actually affects what goes on here. I don’t think it matters much how Council imagines zoning 20 years in the future. All zoning reflects is the current Council’s vision. It can be changed at any time by any future council, and when the vision changes, so will the zoning. Since there is a decided lack of vision on our current Council (which is shaping up to provide an interesting and hopefully entertaining election season), zoning over the long term will likely follow what people here are looking for, not the other way around.

    This isn’t to say it doesn’t matter at all. Great strides have been made via zoning (like in my neighborhood). However, as the community’s focus shifts to a new ideal, so will the zoning. And that can shift with the wind, and with each election.

    If Water Street ever gets off the ground, it won’t attract Plymouth-ites. It’ll attract a completely different set of people with completely different attitudes and ideals. What makes Ypsi unique is who inhabits Ypsi – and I don’t see that changing a whole lot over the next 20 years.

    Looking for evidence in support of my opinion? How many have left city gov’t and in particular planning in the last two years? Clearly, the tasks they’ve been given to move us “forward” toward the existing vision aren’t working.

    Just my $0.02.

    I myself am sticking around.

  2. mark
    Posted May 28, 2006 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I hear what you’re saying, Mr. Getto, and I agree with a good deal of it. That being said, however, I do think that Steve’s point about the cost of doing business has merit. It is difficult to start a business here due to the Histroic Commission, and, even if you could jump through all of their hurdles, then you’d still have to deal with the unjustified rents that landlords are asking for. The combination, as Steve points out, could keep away the businesses that we’d need to be truly sustainable.

    OK, now I’m just going to ramble for a bit…

    When Linette and I first thought of settling down here for good, after having left Ypsi twice (for Atlanta and LA), we inquired about a vacant building on Michigan Avenue. The idea was to live on one floor, have gallery space on one floor (and an arts studio) and to have the ground floor as retail (a combination of magazine shop, performance space and coffee shop). We called the owner, and I think that he was asking $180,000 for the building, or something like that. I haven’t checked recently, but I think now the building is on the market for close to $500k. That jump has taken place after just 5 years, and, I should add, without much having changed to have warranted it. What

  3. Dirtgrain
    Posted May 28, 2006 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Oh, yes, give us a Starbucks, and a Coldstone Creamery, and can we have some of those corporate restaurants (woohoo Noodles & Co., yippee Johnny’s Italian Restaurant, hooray for Max & Erma’s (by the way, to ampersands imply something?)), too? Yikes.

    Then again, look what happened to that condo/apartment thing they tried to grow over near Ford Lake.

    By the way, with the recent trouble in the real estate market, I’ve seen Ypsi house prices dropping big time.

    Perhaps Steve’s approach, focusing locally to effect change in our world, is not going to work. The corporate monster’s footsteps are falling all over the place, and too many locals can’t see what’s wrong with that. What else can we do, though?

    Maybe we should surrender and move to Cherry Hill. If you haven’t been there, go check it out. I think the Stepford wives might be living there.

  4. egpenet
    Posted May 28, 2006 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Let’s talk more about the HDC sometime.

    Anyhow, I’ve been here since the early 1980’s. Moved here from Ann Arbor at a time when my Ann Arbor attorney told me that he’d lost track of the number of attorney’s who’d moved into A2. “Not like it used to be.” At the same time, most of the local businesses had been pushed out of Main Street, State Street and the Liberty Street corridors. Mostly all franchises or local restaurant-conglomerates had moved in.

    I moved here when you could still go to the Freight House in cowboy boots and a white belly hat and fall in love with a Polish/German girl in tight white jeans.

    I worked on (photography, graphics, some copy) three campaigns here, Goodman, Murdock (both mayoral) and Maxine Virtue (Probate Judge).

    And I have waited … and waited … and waited for 20+ years for things to change. No change.

    No one I have met in the last 20+ years, either
    at the County, City or Commission levl … no one at the bus depot … and no one at the Sidetrack or the Food Co-Op … nobody’s life depends upon real change in Ypsilanti. Between a government job/pension, EMU tenure, a GM retirement check or a wad of Food Stamp Vouchers … status quo is the name of the game on both sides of Michigan Avenue.

    The current City “crisis” presents a tremendous opportunity to cut bait with the past.

    However, I have recently witnessed the absolute and miserable failure of the New Urbanists in Mississippi and Louisiana to get their heads and designs into what “the people” need. Affordable housing is NOT a $900/month rent or a $1200 house payment for someone who cleans toilets in the French Quarter. As Mark said, $500,000 is NOT a reasonable price for a rundown downtown building in Ypsilanti for a enterprising gallery start-up.

    If the Council and their Water Street vendor start doing middle class whites-only focus groups
    at the Marriott … it’ll be Katie-bar-the-door … here comes Northville! Or Canton! A French Claim Casino and dog track will not be far behind!

    The flip side of the current fiscal crisis in the City could be to deliberately slim this government down to bare bones Charter basics. Get the City OUT of the subsidies and other give-aways.

    Then, we can focus and PROMOTE what we DO have to offer, which appears to be attracting a lot of new young couples, singles, gays and minorities here … precisely what everyone bitches about: 1) Historic Preservation and down zoning which preserves our historic resources and our neighborhoods … and thank you Judge Shelton for helping support our efforts to save the Thompson Block, 2) an arts community, 3) a Funky nightlife scene, 4)an awakened Depot Town/Cross Street DDA, at least … WAKE UP! Downtown DDA! 4) and a growing “critical mass” of activist neighbors who are not waiting for an uninmaginative development staff or an A2-biased/Township financed Chamber to locate, urge and recruit new businesses for downtown. We’ll do it ourselves, because we live here and want several walkable places in our neighborhoods to buy real bread, fresh milk, flowers, greeting cards, postcards, and baby food WITHOUT having to drive a car to get it.

    Get back here Cheeks! Join the rabble! Re-engage!

  5. Dale
    Posted May 28, 2006 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the solution for Ypsi, like any other city in the US since 1965: immigrants. Want local businesses? Check. Want international cuisine and consumer products? Check. Want multiculturalism? Check.

  6. trusty getto
    Posted May 29, 2006 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I hear you, Mark. And I’ve been wrong before, ’bout lotsa things (more than I care to count or fess up to). The difficulty I’m having with the theory is that, having lived in Livonia (where people seem to think Plymouth is actually kind of quaint and trendy at the same time), I’m just not convinced that they (pardon the generalization) would ever think here is desirable, even if there were a fancy cigar shop, a Starbuck’s and a Macaroni Grill. If they’re scared to have black people shop in their Wal-Mart, I have a hard time seeing them selling their current real estate holdings there and buying a place here.

    Investment bankers can speculate all they want, and franchisers can put submarine shops in all over the place, but, hey, that doesn’t mean we’re going to buy the products. And the best evidence of this is that Quizno’s is apparently moving. Maybe there is a place for a Starbucks, but if so it would probably just be tapping an untapped market. I’m not seeing the clientele of Bombadill’s defecting anytime soon, or the core group of people who live and spend money here bolting anytime soon.

  7. Hillary
    Posted May 29, 2006 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Trusty: Master plans have a huge effect on cities, well after they are changed, because once a building is built, the city is stuck with it for the life of that building. We wanted to live in a city where I can get all of our goods and services without a car, and that will never happen in Ypsi as long as the Historical District prevents rehabilitation and the master plan prohibits corner stores and increased residential density.

    I (and presumably Steve) agree that people from the suburbs are not interested in Ypsilanti, and that is why Michigan Avenue has no businesses. Michigan Ave will stay empty as long as City Council continues to pine for businesses that will never locate in Ypsi while preventing anyone else from trying to open one.

  8. Hillary
    Posted May 29, 2006 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Mark: I buy our cleaning products, office supplies, toothpaste, yarn, canning jars and lids, kitchen utensils and other housewares, and hundreds of other things at dollar stores. Dollar stores are the modern equivalent of the old five-and-dime. They are locally owned, owner-operated, and maintain a number of historic buildings in Hamtramck. Without them, I would have to drive someplace to get the things I need.

    (BTW… there is a 2800 sq ft building on Caniff just west of Small’s w/ a storefront and 2 apartments listed at $164,900.)

  9. lynne
    Posted May 29, 2006 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit that this is a major reason I was distressed about changing zoning rules to discourage turning houses into multi-unit apartments. If anything we need more population density.

    I like living in Ypsilanti. My biggest complaint so far has been the lawn enforcement in that I think that the city could be a little more relaxed about it. I like that it is walkable enough for me because I drive a really old car and sometimes it breaks down. I can walk to a place that can fix my car. I can walk to a place where I can buy bread, milk, etc. I can walk to the dairy queen (a chain I know but sooo yummy). I can walk to get lotto tickets. In fact, if I had to I could easily go without a car and not too many communities are like that. So Ypsi right now is a pretty nice place to live for me.

    I hope it stays this way. I hope young people keep wanting to live here even though I am getting older and am less inclined to partake of the free music downtown on a friday night. I sometimes worry that we are heading in the direction of Ann Arbor. I have mixed feelings about some of the changes too. On the one hand, I would hate to see housing prices limit the diversity of this community because that is one of the things I like living here but on the other hand, since I own my house, if housing prices were to really jump I could cash out and move someplace else.

  10. muppster
    Posted May 29, 2006 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting discussion. I have lots of thoughts, but my exhaustion from three days of painting my house’s exterior (trying to do my bit for neighborhood revitalization in ypsi-land!) will prevent such a commentary… Wanted to let people know that I (like many others) am ready and trying to take downtown Ypsi-revitalization by the horns. Growing Hope is opening (as of June 6) a downtown Ypsi Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays from 3-7 pm in the Key Bank parking lot… MI Ave & Hamilton. We’re still looking for more vendors, so if you grow or make something and want to sell, let me know. The Ypsi Co-op will be there selling the River Street Bakery goods, and of course you will always be able to buy the rad Growing Hope t-shirts (printed locally by VG Kids), and we’ve got a handful of growers lined up, and potentially even some local, sustainable meat producers, and hopefully some crafters at some point. We would love other local entrpreneurs to come sell their wares (hot sauce, anyone?) as long as they’re properly licensed… Thanks to a grant through the Ypsi Health Coalition, we’ll have the ability to accept food stamps electronically, and process credit cards. The good ol’ Wed-Sat farmer’s market in Depot Town is also going, and will have the credit card/food stamp processing on Saturdays… So that’s my little plug to come on out– and tell us what else you’d like to see there, and tell everyone you know to help us get other folks there… You can see the application at Let’s get people downtown, make food accessible for people throughout Ypsi, and get this Ypsirevolution really moving! (Also, if anyone is interested, I have a great report/study about how low-income neighborhoods have used grocery stores with affordable healthy food as anchors for other economic development. I’ve had my eye on the old white department store across from the Elbow Room for quite some time– someone gave me the idea of it as sort of indoor marketplace, kind of like South Main market in A2? ) …

  11. Dr Cherry
    Posted May 30, 2006 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Looking back:

  12. Dr Cherry
    Posted May 30, 2006 at 8:22 am | Permalink


  13. ol' e cross
    Posted May 30, 2006 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Best way to keep Ypsi from becoming Plymouth is to do everything you can to undermine the credibility of the public schools.

    I gush to my non-Ypsi livin’ friends about being able to walk to work, food, and rivers. They nod along, then cast a pitied look at my two-year and say, “Yes, but what are you going to do about the schools”?

  14. UBU
    Posted May 30, 2006 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    What struck me about Mr. Cherry’s comments was the bit about “Ye Olde Doiley (sic) shop.” (First of all it’s doily — if you want to be faux “olde” about it you would say Doyley. It’s a guy’s name — but then again Mark could have transcribed it wrong.) But ANYWAY it shows a little disconnect from reality to think a small specialty shop could afford the big time rents a dollar store couldn’t. The enemy is NOT small business, even one you find as uncool as a “doiley shop,” but the big franchises and out of town restaurants that drive out the little guy. I’m always a little dubious about ideagogues who want to “take over” and “do things” and overthrow the doily shops — it makes me think of Robespierre and Pol Pot.

  15. be OH be
    Posted May 30, 2006 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    “Robespierre and Pol Pot”
    coming this fall on CBS.

  16. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted May 30, 2006 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Is this just a rumor, or is there really going to be a Ye Ole’ Brian Doyle Murray shop in Ypsilanti? Please tell me that it’s not just another internet hoax. My heart can’t take it.

  17. Dr Cherry
    Posted May 30, 2006 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    In my experince, I haven’t found personal attacks or even name-calling to be particularly useful in changing minds. It usually turns people off.

    Though, I will admit, it is an effective way to end meaningful discourse.

  18. mark
    Posted May 30, 2006 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know where to jump in here. There’s so much going on… First, I guess I should say that I don’t think that Steve (aka Pol Pot) is an enemy of local business, in any form. While I have never actually seen him buy a doily, my guess is that, if he were to need one, he’d buy it locally. With that said, I think that Ubu raises a good point. There is definitely, in this thread, and in others, a tendency to undervalue the locally owned shops that don’t serve the more pressing needs of human life. I

  19. mark
    Posted May 30, 2006 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Dale – You’re right about imigrants.

    Dirtgrain – You’re right about Cherry Hill.

    Hillary – You’re right about dollar stores.

    You’re all getting “A”s!

  20. Higgels
    Posted May 30, 2006 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Mark & everyone,
    This is a very interesting discussion, but some issues haven’t been mentioned. One is that any successful business in town is going to have a positive impact on the city’s income, and that’s a good thing. Even if it was a Macaroni Grill. I don’t think they’re coming to Ypsi, but one or two would not be death for what makes the town so wonderful to live it. Second, those cute little shops in Depotown – they draw customers, so more power to them. I rarely go in them, because they sell nothing I want, but they do contribute to the town’s posperity. Far better those cute shops than empty storefronts! And in what way are those shops in conflict with Dollar stores or other shops providing essential services? Retail is competative — I’d love to see more food and grochery stores all over town, and dinners too, but the problem there is zoning, and perhaps lack of would be owners of such shops, not the DepotTown shops.
    Third, someone wrote that we should cut city services to just what’s required by the Charter. What does that mean? End leaf collection? Recycling? Ypsi is also offering very few city services. What city service, specificially, could be cut that would do more good being cut than harm? Fire trucks?
    And I definately agree that Ypsi ain’t ever going to be like Plymouth (thank God), and yes, an influx of immigrants would be great. But what does Ypsi have to offer them?

  21. Hillary
    Posted May 31, 2006 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    Higgels: No one said the Despot Town Antique shops conflict with anything. It’s a red herring. The point was that we couldn’t justify spending $150,000 on a tiny house that wasn’t within walking distance of our basic needs. Lack of grocery stores and dollar stores and an abundance of antique shops are an indication that it is not possible to renovate a shop in Ypsi and make a decent living. Dollar store owners in Hamtramck are only in business because immigrants are willing to work 12 hour days, 365 days a year. Also, many of the local business owners either rent from a relative or own their building and live in the back.

    Around 50% of my neighbors were born in another country. They paid between $20,000 and $80,000 for their houses, and they complain constantly that $3000 per year is too much for city taxes and the schools aren’t good enough.

  22. Hillary
    Posted May 31, 2006 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    Mark: Thanks. For some reason, when people in Ypsilanti read the things Steve and I write, no one ever agrees with us. Over here, the Mayor read a discussion on our website and tried to appoint me to the DDA.

  23. DM
    Posted May 31, 2006 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Hey Mark-

    Although I am no longer a resident of SE Michigan, I do consider moving back on occassion. The idea of being able to purchase a building that I could use as a live/ work space in a walkable town is very appealing, and will not likely be a reality out here in Seattle without selling my soul to Chase Manhattan.

    The City of Seattle back in the 90’s put together Comprehensive Neighborhood Plans for each of the neighborhoods. It involved years of input from citizens with the intent of meeting residents needs while also meeting the state of Washington’s Growth Management Act requirements. The main intent is to keep the neighborhoods walkable while increasing density within established “Urban Villages”.

    I feel that it has been successful, but that success has increased the value of land in Seattle and has pushed out many older residents and businesses.

    My opinion about Ypsilanti zoning, for what it is worth, is that they should loosen up the zoning considerably and create a climate welcoming to small businesses. Ypsi would be a great place to set up live / work spaces. Rather than zoning and master plans, they could let the balance of business and residential develop organically and guide it with modest restrictions and reviews. Ypsi should be getting in as many small businesses as possible to avoid the situation they are in with Visteon. The cookie cutter solution of franchises and residents paying absurdly high taxes is much riskier in my opinion.

    My brother in law was telling me a story the other day, in the context of the laziness of my brother ( who lives on a $5,000 sailboat on Union Bay in Seattle, washes windows for a living, and spends most of his time hiking, camping and sailing. ) I think it relates to this topic because ( I think ) the zoning issue boils down to how we spend our time.

    The story:

    The businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while.

    The businessman then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The businessman then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time? The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, se

  24. be OH be
    Posted May 31, 2006 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    great story.
    I’m calling off the rest of the week.

  25. UBU
    Posted May 31, 2006 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    wait, I thought we’d found an effective way to end meaningful discourse…

  26. trusty getto
    Posted May 31, 2006 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Higgels: That’s part of my point, precisely. There are many untapped markets here. The core group of people who shop at the co-op, stop in at Bombadill’s and have a drink at the Elbow Room are going to stay the same, won’t be going away, and won’t change.

    Ol E. Cross: The schools are fantastic. You really ought to spend some time in one or more of them, and I think your impression would change. Our schools have been knocked by real estate agents, parents who would send their kids to private schools no matter where they live, and the Ann Arbor News for over a decade. Yet this year alone we’re sending kids to West Point, Oberlin, Pomona, Penn, U of M, and other prestigious colleges and universities. Those of us who are active in our schools know firsthand how great they are, how much they have to offer, and that they are getting better and better each year even with serious state funding issues.

    Did you know more than 20% of our kids come from other districts just for the programs we provide? That includes kids from Willow Run, Lincoln, Ann Arbor, Belleville, Westland and Van Buren, among others.

    Sorry for the shameless plug, but I think anyone who lives here is making a huge mistake by sending their kids elsewhere – and I would argue, doing so on the basis of an untruth rather than on firsthand knowledge.

  27. ingrid
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Hillary: I almost always agree with what you write about Ypsilanti, with the possible exception of your criticism of the Historic District Commission. I regret that our time in Ypsi did not overlap. Its certainly true that some of our city leaders have had a vision of a pristine suburb to the exclusion of small business, and we are paying for that misguided vision now.

    About the schools. Having one step-child in Ypsi schools and one child outside Ypsi schools, I will say this. A number of factors, including lack of state funding, federal unfunded mandates, racism, and prior (some current) twisted school administrators have lead Ypsi schools to its current state. We can say how great the schools are, just like we can pass out “I Love Ypsi” pins, but a positive attitude does not substitute for a critical analysis of what the schools are and are not delivering. I like the current superintendent, and there are some good teachers and programs, but what about the large number of high school students failing at least one subject? What about the proposed increased class sizes at Perry for next year? What about the proposed elimination of the alternative education program for next year? The whole community should be debating these issues.

  28. schutzman
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I’ll add my vote in the “Yes, Dr. Cherry is correct” column.

    The main point he raised, which really sums it all up, and which I don’t see anyone commenting on, is that “we’re not talking about running for council and fixing the Zoning Master Plan.”

    Although the papers keep making it seem like our local elections are ‘overloaded’ with candidates, I personally find the numbers rather uninspiring, and don’t see much changing in the near future. My conclusion is based on a lack of excitement about the old guard, and a lack of identification with most of the new candidates. I’ve also seen most media campaigns in the past few years amount to little more than a fly buzzing around city council’s collective head, and nothing is going to change in Ypsilanti without an actual takeover of the city government by a different segment of the population than is currently in power.

    At a deep level, I think most council members honestly like the idea of turning Ypsi into a plymouth-like, upper-middle-class, mostly lilywhite bedroom community of annarbour, and they’re going to keep making that a reality as long as they can.

  29. trusty getto
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Good points, Ingrid. I wish people would debate these issues. The better things get (and I agree there is still progress to be made), the less people choose to engage, which is reflected by an ever-ebbing attendance at BOE meetings. Perhaps our new Community Vision Committee will stimulate greater debate. I hope so.

    I hear chronic knocks of our schools mainly (not exclusively) from people whose children don’t attend our schools. I’m not suggesting that others don’t have any complaints, but for one reason or another, even in an atmosphere where complaints get productive responses, many choose not to voice them. I have definitely heard many more “bad” things about our schools from people who don’t attend them than from people who do. That suggests to me that there may not be a basis in reality for the complaints of those who go elsewhere.

    As to the cuts, there’s a long list of crappy choices that have to be made. We can keep alternative education or current class sizes at Perry and come up with the savings elsewhere, like by busting our transportation union, but people may be equally unhappy with the alternatives. We are currently trying to implement the non-implemented suggestions made by the Community Schools Committee of a year ago and expand upon some of the ideas they came up with.

    Cuts are a result of a state structural deficit, not anything our schools are doing or failing to do. Until the state gets is financial stability under control, we will continue to do our best to put our kids first.

    And saying our schools are great isn’t the same as wearing an I heart Ypsi pin. Our schools are great and they offer great programs, whether I say it or not. It’s an objective truth. Many of the problems our students suffer from have nothing to do with the quality of education or the programs we offer. A significant number of our failing kids come from home situations in which their parents don’t value learning, don’t value good physical and mental health, and don’t provide a supportive and nurturing environment. Even when we put forth our best efforts, kids with little support at home aren’t going to do as well as kids who do have that support, regardless of the quality of education provided. I think it’s a mistake to blame our schools for these problems.

    I hope others choose to join the debate.

  30. trusty getto
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Schutzman: I think you’re right about the “vision” of the current council (if you can call it that), but I like who I see running for Mayor (Pierce) and for Council in my ward (Robb). If they are elected, I’m convinced that we will see a much more responsible city gov’t with a lot more critical thinking going on. I also think they will be able to create an environment where our economy can make some forward progress without losing the soul of our city.

  31. schutzman
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    trusty, I’m not going to make any endorsement of anyone, just yet, but I will say that thus far I’m not impressed with the efforts of all the candidates to actually get their message out, and let voters know where they stand. For me, personally, this would mean at least having a decent informational website; but for most other citizens, this means employing public forums, getting in the newspaper, and making, for lack of a better term, an occasional stump speech.

    As it is, I think most people running, incumbent or not, are sitting on their hands hoping their friends and neighbors vote for them, and in a city where a couple hundred votes is usually all you need, this is, sadly, a fairly realistic approach to take.

  32. murph
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Getto –

    I disagree with your assessment of the zoning and Master Plan. You comment that the zoning reflects the whim of the current council, and that, absent vision on the part of the current council, the zoning will reflect what people want. I think that’s a perhaps dangerously faulty statement: without vision on the part of the council, the zoning won’t reflect _anything_ current – it will reflect the whim of some council 10 or 20 years ago.

    Likewise with the master plan. In order for the Zoning Ordinance to be valid, it must be supported by the Master Plan; a Master Plan that does not properly provide a vision does not allow the zoning to achieve that vision.

    as the community’s focus shifts to a new ideal, so will the zoning

    Changing the zoning takes vision and will and work, and I feel as though you’re shortcutting this process, or at least underestimating the importance of having a vision and will and work. A lack of vision isn’t a vote to let the community do what it wishes – it’s a vote to let the community continue to be hampered by the existing, outdated vision. You’re correct to say that vision is (or at least should be!) a moving target, but you seem to be thinking that movement is more automagic than it usually is.

  33. trusty getto
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Shutzman: Then we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think Pierce and Robb are reaching out. It’s too bad they haven’t connected with you, but you can always get in touch with them if you want to know what they’re all about. They’re easy to reach.

    Murph: I’m not saying I’m right, just offering my opinion, and I very well may be underestimating. I’m not an expert and don’t purport to be.

    I do think, though, dangerous as it may be, that a lack of action or interest by the public over time can reasonably be interpreted as a tacit endorsement. That said, I don’t see it occurring in Ypsi. I see activism on city issues as well as the will and people willing to do the hard work, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see changes in the master plan over the next few years, particularly if council seats start turning over more than we’ve seen in the recent past.

    I admit, I don’t have a crystal ball, though.

  34. ingrid
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Schutzman’s absolutely right that it takes only a few hundred people to sway things one way or another in Ypsi. A large group (and no its not the ones who go to coffee bars)of people in Ypsi are disenfranchised, and some politicians do count on that. I’ve heard it myself. Perhaps these are the same disenfranchised individuals who have been identified as not providing a home life appropriate enough to allow for their children to learn at school.

  35. trusty getto
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I doubt that substandard parenting skills are limited to the disenfranchised among us. It would certainly be an interesting academic exercise, though, to correlate whether the parents and guardians of the children who are not doing well in our schools vote with a high degree of frequency in local elections.

  36. ingrid
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I think it would be a more interesting exercise to determine whether the politicians who count on the disenfranchized not to vote are the same politicians who deem some kids unteachable because of their family situation.

  37. trusty getto
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I can see how you might think that would be interesting, but I’d respectfully suggest that all kids are reachable. The tough nut to crack is how to reach the harder to reach ones with the less than adequate money we get year after year.

  38. schutzman
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    I think that the politicians who count on the disenfranchised voters are certainly the ones who avoid advocating for the education of the children, simply because this in turn will create a future generation of more disenfranchised voters which they can then exploit all over again.

    Thus, after a few cycles of this, it’s inevitable that the marginalized citizens who don’t vote will be likely to have kids that aren’t doing well in school. Not, I should clarify, that this means a universal indication of their failure as parents, but rather that along a socio-econonomic-political faultline, those standing at the brink will tend to need to prioritize things, and may also see precisely how little value they themselves recieved from the educational system, and probably pass on that opinion to their children.

    To me, the issue becomes primarily financial. Parent A has no money and no education themselves, and no matter how much they’d like to, there’s little way for them to really support their child’s school. Parent B, on the other hand, could be a completely abusive bastard but if he’s got the cash, that tends to sweeten bitterness nicely; I don’t think that a lot of kids are (or are not) involved in extra-curricular activities, for example, simply because their parents do (or don’t) want them to have a good education. It’s more likely that their parents simply do or don’t have money to throw at the problem, be it for things like a computer, musical instrument, field trips, etc.

    What it really comes down to, and something I’d think that you would both agree with, is that our society should- as a group -be supporting the development of its individual members better than it has been. I’m going to avoid going off on a really long tangent, here, but some of this debate was going on as early as the 1830’s, when the first common schools were started, and educators recognized that children didn’t come from the same background, but could be ‘Equalized’ in a public school setting, so long as the community funds permitted, precisely because it kept them away from their parents for a few hours each day. This philosophy has had both positive and negative effects on the society, in my opinion.

    Finally, as for locals running for office, my point was that I, myself, get news from websites mainly, and that I find the online information about the candidates lacking, BUT that I also know that most people wouldn’t be using the internet in this manner, and I don’t know of a great deal of other things being done by the various office seekers. As for Robb and Pierce, specifically, I can’t really comment because, as I said earlier, I don’t want to offer any sort of personal endorsements, nor do I wish to give free campaign advice in any form.

    I’m actually trying to be somewhat charitable in the whole matter, as I know there’s still some time left before the campaign heats up, and thus I don’t want to be too harsh in my judgement before that time, especially as- and this is a matter everyone in Ypsi should carefully contemplate- all of the candidates aren’t even registered, yet. If I’m not mistaken, independents can wait ’til July to register, and write-ins can do so a week before the election. Considering that Ypsilanti has seen an endlessly bland reign of staunch Democrats in office, I’m personally much more interested in seeing who might come along later this summer.

  39. mark
    Posted June 1, 2006 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Two words, Brett.

    Cheap Labor

    It’s a “no brainer” for the wealthy

  40. schutzman
    Posted June 2, 2006 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    I agree, mark, it’s becoming a tedious waiting game.

    If you and other members of the middle class could please hurry up and either get very rich or very poor as quickly as possible, I’d really appreciate it.

  41. trusty getto
    Posted June 2, 2006 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Schutzman: Thank you for being charitable. You make some very apropos points.

    Did you know that in a recent MRA/EPIC poll:

    “Only about one-fourth of all parents (27%) say a good education is

  42. Melody
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting what one can find when she pokes around in the archive. Here’s an interesting early complaint that Ypsi was on a path that would have meant no dollar stores.

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