“2020… for perfect vision… get it?”

I wasn’t joking last night when I made that little mention about being considered for the Mayor’s 2020 Task Force on the future of Ypsilaniti. I was being considered by City Council, and, from what I can tell, I’m now officially one of the eleven people onboard. At least that’s what the “Ann Arbor News” is reporting today… Here’s a clip from the article, which kind of puts the project into context:

Ypsilanti officials plan to tap the vision of residents whom they hope can find solutions to the city’s financial problems.

The City Council appointed an 11-member task force Tuesday to make long-range plans for the city that has been struggling to balance its budget for several years.

Mayor Paul Schreiber said the group, dubbed the 2020 Task Force, is an advisory body that will look for new ideas to attract businesses and residents to the city. The task force members represent all three city wards and includes persons of various backgrounds and interests, including recreation, business, grant writing and education, he said…

And, let’s not forget that representative from the “shit-stirring local blogger” community, Paul.

Anyway, the short story is that Paul asked me, I thought about for a while, and I eventually said yes. I still have my reservations. A lot of people that I discussed it with said that I’d just become frustrated. And, more than a few friends have suggested that being tied into the bureaucracy will make me even less effective than I already am. I was more concerned about the time involved. Having recently exchanged notes with Cameron Getto on the demands of the School Board (which he ultimately had to step down from), I wasn’t in any hurry to volunteer for something that could cut into the time I have with my family, or, for that matter, the time I use to work on things like the Shadow Art Fair, YpsiVotes events, or the soon-to-launch Michigan Victory Garden campaign.

So, like I said, I had my reservations. None of my concerns, however, had to do with how I might be perceived by the readers of this blog. (Sorry.) I knew that some people would give me shit for it, but I tried not to let that influence my decision. And, as it turns out, I was right. The news is only a few hours old now, and I’ve already received a few emails from folks, busting my balls. Some have wanted to point out that I’d just been asked because my presence would somehow legitimize the administration (as though my presence could make anything more legitimate). Others have suggested that I was just asked in order to keep me quiet. All possible, I suppose. I talked with a friend that works for another city, and his advice, however, was what I went with. He said, “If you’re at the table, you’ll have a voice in what’s happening.” Seems pretty obvious, right? So, I said I’d do it. Poke fun if you want. Call me the Mayor’s “bitch.” I really don’t care. Our city is in dire straights and we need everyone possible to contribute their ideas. This is just another way I might possibly be able to help. And, other than it taking up some of my time, I don’t see it changing anything here at MM.com. I’ll still be pushing my little projects forward, and I’ll still be stirring shit up when I think it’s productive to do so. Only now I’ll have a bit more access to what’s actually going on behind the scenes. Hopefully, it’ll be worth the headaches that will undoubtedly come along with the territory.

So, now, if you have any ideas as to how we can save this little city of ours, let me know. I’d be happy to take credit for your ideas… Brett has already asked me to pass along his idea that we turn Water Street into a “body farm”… In all seriousness, please feel free to drop me a line if you have any thoughts, and keep checking back here if you’re interested. I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot about the activities of the Task Force as things get underway… Wish me luck on the inside.

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  1. Cousins Vinyl
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Poke fun? I think it’s great…With you having a voice, it gives all us readers/commenters a chance to have a voice in a way too.

    For what it’s worth, I think Ypsi should put a big effort in the marketing of their school district. Tell us WHY it’s a solid system. Maybe work to create specialized programs in the district that differentiate from AA. If we want to attract young families that pay taxes, this is a major, major factor. It’s very similar to what’s going on in Detroit.

    Personally, my wife and I are expecting our first in October-we are homeowners in Ypsi and love it here and would love to stay….but-Ann Arbor is right there, and the school system is much better (or so we perceive), which makes it likely at this point that we will move there, based solely on that: to better our child’s future through his/her educational experience.

    If Ypsi can show me (and potentially many others) that the school system is just as good or nearly as good, or even good in a certain way, I might be persuaded to stay here. (And others might be persuaded to move here). And I very much want that – I am way too comfortable here on the quiet north east side, and really don’t want to move to congested AA. Especially with everything else Ypsi has to offer – which is already being marketed effectively.

    Congrats on being selected!

  2. Posted May 17, 2007 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Congrats! I’m delighted to see a blogger on the panel. And don’t worry, though it will take some time, I doubt it will take the 10-20 hours per week that school board stuff was starting to use up of my time.

    I am dying to know, however, and maybe you can help — what’s the story on it taking so long to put this together? This appeared to be a major primary campaign priority last summer, but now, given that the primary is now 9 months past, it certainly isn’t coming across as one. Any info?

  3. egpenet
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    As long as everyone’s hands are flat on top of the table at your meetings … even though the lights are off … it will become clear that the voices echoing from the spirit trumpet are truly Mary Starkweather and Lyman Norris.

    Do you best …. and tell all.

  4. schutzman
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    It is my sincerest hope that you will prove to be a capable Rasputin for ypsilanti’s Royal Court.

  5. Dirtgrain
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on your infiltration. Beware the creep of corruption.

    What’s up with the term, task force? I remember this cartoon, G-Force, that consisted of a crew of anime-style heroes who flew around in a sweet ship as they fought evil. Where else do we see the term, force? We have a police force, the Air Force, special forces, The Force in Star Wars. Do you get a uniform? Special powers?

    “Task force” might often be a glittering generality, meant to look good on paper, even if it amounts to nothing in practice. But not in this case. Any task force with Mark Maynard on it is one to be reckoned with.

  6. Dr. Cherry
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    This is sort of like dropping the transmission on your truck the city bus, taking it all apart, losing a lot of the pieces, and then inviting your neighbors over to help you put it back together.

    Bring your sense of humor Mark, you’re going to need it. I don’t think Ypsilanti can spend it’s way out of this pickle, but that won’t stop some from trying. I expect when things don’t work out they’ll need to blame someone.

  7. schutzman
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    “inviting your neighbors over to help you put it back together”

    and also not telling them what type of machine it is they’re trying to assemble, nor what purpose it serves.

    And don’t even offer them some free beers while they’re working on it.

    And if they do it wrong, Sue ’em.

  8. edweird
    Posted May 17, 2007 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    “None of my concerns, however, had to do with how I might be perceived by the readers of this blog. “

    As it should be. You got my respect, man. Just do your best and keep us up to date.

  9. UBU
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Mark, you are just what Ypsilanti deserves…

  10. Kate
    Posted May 18, 2007 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Mark, working on something from the inside will give you a whole new perspective on how things are done and why things take so long. This is a good perspective to have, even though it will sometimes frustrate you. Although I’ve never met you in person, my perception of you is someone who likes to move things along. Seems to me you’re the right person for this job.

    Cousins Vinyl: As the active and involved parent of a child in the Ypsilanti school district, I’d like to lay your fears to rest. While there have been some major bumps in the road, we now have a curriculum director who really knows his stuff and has been working to improve and enhance the curriculum. In the next school year, some changes are going to be in place in the elementary schools and that work will just continue to improve our schools. Watch for word on these developments shortly.

  11. mark
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Video of our first meeting is up on Steve Pierce’s site, in case anyone’s interested. (Thanks, Steve.)

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