Ypsitanti’s Freighthouse attracts negative national attention

OK, remember how, a few months ago, I told you that we were going to receive $500,000 through the federal stimulus program to restore our historic Freighthouse? Well, today it became news on Capital Hill, as Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) named the project among the 100 worst examples of waste in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act… Here’s a clip from the Detroit Free Press:

…Singled out for derision in the report’s introduction by Coburn, a Republican who voted against the $787-billion stimulus bill this year, was $500,000 for the renovation of a historic railroad freight house in Ypsilanti.

“Supporters of the project envision the new space being used for yoga classes or a coffee shop,” the report said. “This is not exactly what most taxpayers had in mind when they were sold the stimulus”…

As we all know, the Freighthouse project isn’t about getting a yoga studio at the taxpayers’ expense. It’s about restoring what had once been a vibrant local public space, and building the infrastructure necessary to ensure that local rail service, when reestablished, is successful. It had nothing at all to do with yoga, and I suspect that the Senator knows this full well.

The yoga quote, as is pointed out in the Free Press article, came from Friends of the Freighthouse co-chair Bonnie Penet, when describing the multitude of possible uses for the refurbished public space. She also mentioned that it would serve as an indoor farmers market, and full-time tourist information center, but, of course, neither of those would have grabbed headlines like, “Taxpayer Stimulus Money Channeled To Ann Arbor Area Yoga Facility,” which we all know is going to send Republicans across the nation into apoplectic shock… Let’s just hope that FOX News doesn’t hype it to the point where some paranoid gun enthusiast comes out to “take democracy into his own hands”. I’m sure somewhere on the internet there’s already rumor of Obama’s plans to force yoga and meditation on people, perhaps to distract them from all the Bible burning and whatnot.

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  1. Brackinald Achery
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    So where did we rank on the 100 list?

  2. Dirtgrain
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Why are Republicans so against business owners? Yoga industry in America now worth $5.7 billion (that’s $5.7 billion spent by Americans yearly on Yoga).

  3. Joanne
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    We need to contact Colburn and protest the inaccurate remarks.

  4. Joanne
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink


    Call and write to him. I called his office to complain. Not sure that they care to hear it and will pass it on. But do contact Dingell’s office.


  5. Posted June 17, 2009 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Fuck Rooster Cogburn…or whatever his name is. Saving the freighthouse is a great thing to do, and makes sense on many levels. Let all those blowhards huff & puff all they want, because they don’t control shit anymore. We are a brick house….owww…mighty-mighty…lettin’ it all hang out. Plus, we are in great shape from all the yoga and whatnot, so bring on the fight!

  6. Wayne
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    From Politico-

    The White House is pushing back on the report Sen. Tom Coburn released Monday that picked apart the Obama administration’s funding for stimulus projects.

    One administration official says Coburn quickly pulled three projects from his report yesterday after discovering that the projects weren’t even Recovery Act projects…

    Ed Deseve, senior adviser to the president for Recovery Act Implementation said Coburn’s report, “is filled with inaccuracies.”

    “If Sen. Coburn has found any problematic projects, we will address them immediately – but much of this seems to be little more than an objection to the Recovery Act itself, which Sen. Coburn opposed. As state officials in Sen. Coburn’s own home state have noted, ‘We have people working today who would not have jobs if the stimulus package hadn’t passed.’”


  7. Meta
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    We’re #17 in the Coburn report, but it’s not organized by egregiousness. It’s organized by region.


    And do write to Coburn and members of his home press in Oklahoma.

  8. Brackinald Achery
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I like the Freighthouse, I don’t like Coburn, but I fail to see how it’s the Fed’s job to take other people’s money and give it to us to fix the freighthouse. It just seems like greedy dishonest gain to me, like looting. Not to say his report was accurate or that he’s not a douchebag. I know it’s a duecedly unpopular view, but seriously, this money-grabbing free-for-all style of politics is going to be our doom, imho.

  9. Posted June 17, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I hate to tell you, but doom is already in your kitchen, Brackinald…and he’s having coffee with your mother. I’ll take the money for Ypsilanti. Better than giving it to yet another failing business or industry. Making my town a better place is a great investment for me. The government has been fucking people for years…at least this time, the people of Ypsilanti are getting a slow deep kiss first, even if Uncle Sam won’t be there in the morning.

  10. Kevin
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    “I like the Freighthouse, I don’t like Coburn, but I fail to see how it’s the Fed’s job to take other people’s money and give it to us to fix the freighthouse. It just seems like greedy dishonest gain to me, like looting.”

    Did anyone ask you if you thought it was a good idea to spend a trillion dollars in Iraq? Curiously, I never got that phone call. You win some, you lose some. This time you lose, and Ypsilanti might win. I’m sure we’ll get shafted soon enough, and then you can gloat.

  11. Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    The firm I work for is currently working with Bonnie, Ed, and the rest of the FOYF to come up with an architectural lighting design that is not only flattering to the old building and plaza, but is also flexible and functional for whatever activity may take place inside. That could be anything from yoga and the farmer’s market to concerts and wedding receptions. The lighting will also be easy to maintain and energy efficient. We are based in Ypsilanti, and do work all over the world, but are excited and proud to be working on this project in our own city. If it wasn’t for the stimulus money, we more than likely wouldn’t be working on this project that’s important for our community.

    Our firm has had a rough few months since many of jobs that we have been working on, or were lined up to do, slowed down or dried up all together. We have had difficulties including missing some pay periods. I’ll not lie and say that the Freighthouse is an especially big project for us or is a huge payday (in fact, we are donating 50% of our services for the project because we believe it’s important), but every little bit helps. So, my job will be partially funded by the stimulus money. But I guess it’s not worth it, eh, Dr. Coburn? Wasn’t one of the primary goals of the stimulus to retain and create new jobs? My job is being retained, as well as others around the area because of “frivolous” stimulus project such as the adaptive reuse of the Freighthouse. Republicans seem to love the trickledown effect, so let’s take a look at what my trickle is getting down to:

    Because I’m working on the stimulus funded Freighthouse, I’ll be able to buy my coffee and bagel at Beezy’s in the morning. I’ll have the money to have lunch at Dalat or the Wolverine. I can have coffee in the evening at Bombadill’s. I’ll spend an evening and some money at Powell’s Pub, where I go when I want to celebrate the fact that I got an education so that I wouldn’t be forced into a dead-end job and be a real drain on society, a Senator. If Mr. De Niro ever gets back to Mark, some of my money (mostly singles, I imagine) would go to Amber and Precious (won’t someone please think of the strippers?). And this fall, I may just spend some of my paycheck (again, which is paid in part because of the work I’m doing on the Freighthouse) buying a snow blower and salt from Congdon’s so I don’t run afoul of the city again for failing to clear my sidewalk!

    It’s easy to demonize projects that we don’t agree with and call them frivolous. Let’s keep in mind that one community’s “frivolous” is another community’s hub of activity and is a civic attribute.

  12. Oliva
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Senator Coburn’s DC number is steadily busy, but I left a message at his Tulsa office to tell him about what the Freighthouse is, has been, and can be, beyond merely a location of a future yoga class (which would sure be nice to have there too!!!). Voting place, civic hub, farmers’ market, place for father-daughter dances and other community events, historic site . . . with many other possibilities.

    Dr. Coburn’s office (Washington: 202-224-5754; Tulsa: 918-581-7651; Oklahoma City: 405-231-4941)

  13. Robert
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Maybe Senator Colburn would feel better if, instead of going to a known project, the money were to just “disappear” as it was being shipped in cash on pallets, as was happening while he and his friends in the Bush Administration were on their watch. Colburn didn’t seem to have any problem with that.

    Or maybe Halliburton could write the Freighthouse project in as part of one of their contracts. Then, instead of just a few hundred thousands, you could skim a few billion without Colburn or his friends ever asking any questions.

  14. Brackinald Achery
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone ask you if you thought it was a good idea to spend a trillion dollars in Iraq? Curiously, I never got that phone call. You win some, you lose some. This time you lose, and Ypsilanti might win. I’m sure we’ll get shafted soon enough, and then you can gloat.

    I don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate to me. I don’t think we should be spending any money in Iraq, either. This is not an either/or thing, it’s about spending more money than we have, and it not being the fed’s job anyway.

    Why not just give all of us a trillion federal dollars if that’s the road to prosperity? We can go to strip clubs all day long, get breakfast at Beezy’s, get a new tat at Liquid Swordz, then go right back into the Vu day in and day out forever and everything will be great.

  15. dp in exile
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Did you expect any less? Republicans are not very creative in their attacks anymore.

    I love the freight house too, but this as porky as pork spending gets.

    Granted, if it is going to be spent, then it might as well be spent on something we in this community love, but come on… this money should not be spent to begin with. The freight house will probably fall apart again before we finish paying off this loan from the Chinese & Saudi governments.

    Better long-term fixes are already on the table:
    – single-payer universal health care: cover everyone for less than we spend now “insuring” only 4/5 of the population
    – meaningful regulation of wall street: 1 federal regulator with universal jurisdiction, funded by taxes on trades, derivatives, and the various mechanisms of leverage being used in the market
    – let the bad apples go out of business
    – have a meaningful audit of the Pentagon’s budget that adheres to international accounting practices
    – have a meaningful audit of the Federal Reserve
    – eliminate most of the IRS with a 1 page progressive tax on personal income
    – eliminate the rest of the IRS with a national sales tax
    – decriminalize America’s war on drugs, instead tax, regulate and treat addicts as humans instead of prisoners
    – roll back the prison industrial complex
    – eliminate gross subsidies for multi-national agribusiness who grow gmo crops and invent franken-meats for mass production and focus agriculture policy on small and medium sized farms
    – tax gasoline to fund mass transit
    – tax carbon to increase solar innovation

    Our dilapidated freight house is a symptom of broken government in Michigan. It’s not a question of redistributed borrowed federal money.

    If we stay on this current path, Ypsilanti will be in receivership in the next 2-3 years. So will our school district. So will a lot of other towns in MI. Perhaps we can fix our own back yard before we go to the feds for borrowed money?

    The Michigan Constitution is up for renewal in 2010. We get to vote if we should have a ratifying convention where there would be an opportunity to fix municipal and school funding, stem cell research, gay marriage ban, term limits, and a whole host of other systemic problems.

    There is more in my brain on this subject, but I need to join a conference call…

  16. Brackinald Achery
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    …and we shouldn’t be giving it to failing business or industry, either.

  17. The Big Mac Attacker
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Yes Exile and Achery…those are all great ideas, and better uses of tax dollars. The government can and should do all of those things mentioned on your list. It sounds absolutely dreamy! Now…when you wake up from that dream, come on down to the Freighthouse for a cup of tea and some yoga. It will help you relax and forget about all of the things that will never change in real life.

  18. Kristin
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I think a lot of projects sound silly if you isolate them and examine them out of context. We had a project on the west coast that was in the news immediately after the projects were released to the public, and people made endless fun. It is a wetland restoration project, what’s so funny about that? Nothing. But if you say “They dedicated X amount of dollars to a duck pond” it’s fodder for ridicule. A lot of research sounds dumb when you don’t realize it’s part of a larger action. The fish sperm freezer, for instance.

  19. Brackinald Achery
    Posted June 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    You want “free” money that the feds took from someone else, you got it — but if sometime in the future you go down to Beezy’s for a $300 cup of coffee and the strippers at the Vu only accept $100 bills at the minimum, and you wonder why, the reason is that you were all so much more politically realistic than I am.

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