Urban chickens, local trains, and young people on the DDA

I skipped last night’s Ypsi City Council meeting. I should have gone, but other things got in the way. From what I hear, it was dominated by talk of urban chickens, with significant numbers of both proponents and opponents coming out to let their opinions be known. In the end, it looks like the pro-chicken contingent won out. The vote was 4-3, with council members Lois Richardson (Ward 1), Michael Bodary (Ward 2), and Trudy Swanson (Ward 1) voting against the ordinance.

According to a friend in Ward 1, who I happen to trust quite a bit, both Richardson and Swanson gave signs prior to the vote that they would support the ordinance. Swanson, as I understand it, actually said that she would, while Richardson just indicated support generally. I’m curious as to what happened. Did they perhaps have a run-in with a disreputable chicken owner prior to the meeting, or maybe come across some bird flu related data while conducting their analysis that caused them to reconsider? Or – and I know this sounds outrageous – where they perhaps being less than truthful when they spoke with my friend? At any rate, the ordinance has passed.

Many thanks to the Council members who voted in favor of the legislation. It’s been a long time coming.

So, for a $10 licensing fee, those in single-family homes and duplexes in Ypsilanti, assuming the legislation moves forward, will be able to have up to four hens, given, of course, that they provide suitable backyard structures, give their word not to slaughter, etc.

I’d have to go back and check my notes, but I believe the recent legislation passed by Ann Arbor only allows homeowners to keep up to three hens. If this is the case, I suggest we start a “Move to Ypsi and Have that Extra Chicken – You Know You Deserve It” campaign. (It’s not as good as my idea to make Ypsi the chicken slaughter capital of Washtenaw County, but I think it has merit.)

Oh, and it looks like the Mayor’s slate of 12 candidates for our new DDA went through without much fuss or fanfare. Given councilman Brian Robb’s earlier comments about how very few people under 40 were nominated, I was expecting a bit of a fight, but apparently no one felt strongly enough about the issue to pursue it.

As you’ll recall, I suggested three candidates for this newly formed DDA, two of whom were 30-ish, which I now consider young. In addition to Rene Greff (Corner Brewery), I suggested James Marks (VG Kids) and Bee Mayhew (Beezy’s). Of the three, though, only Rene felt as though she had the bandwidth to take on the challenge. The sad reality, I’m afraid, is that young entrepreneurs in our community are often too busy building successful businesses to make time for such civic endeavors. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t really see a way around it…. So, I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t much fault Council for not putting up a fight for a slate including younger members…. Oh, and then there’s the fact that the last time the Mayor did appoint a young member to serve on a DDA, said member hardly ever showed up at meetings… It’s kind of a Catch 22 – we want young people and their energy, and we know that we need their input in order to be successful as a community, but any young person worth a damn, with energy and ambition, takes one look at our existing civic organizations – no offense intended – and runs like a stylish young vampire from a pile of critical, naysaying, grudge-holding old crucifixes. Sure, there are exceptions on both sides, but they’re relatively few and far between… At any rate, it’s not something we’re likely to work out today, but, if we’re ever going to fix the problems that plague Ypsi, we’re going to need to do it someday.

And, here, for those of you who are interested, are the 12 individuals nominated: John Coleman, Linda French, Sandee French, Robert M. Barnes, Scotty James, Jim Karnopp, Karen Maurer, Rene Greff, Peter Rinehart, Darryl Daniels, John Donegan and Dave Wheeler… Please join me in wishing them well.

Oh, and let’s leave on a high note, shall we?

I just received the following from a friend here in Ypsi.

I just met my new neighbor, who moved in from Tennessee to teach at U of M Dearborn. She is excited about the commuter train, and that is why they moved here to Ypsi. It’s working!

So, keep that in mind the next time you get discouraged. Each one of these little things that we do has very real consequences. Our good work matters. Community gardens matter. Public spaces matter. Good beer matters. Blogging matters. Bike clubs matter. All this stuff, when taken together, makes an impact… So, keep it up, Ypsi.

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  1. Paul Schreiber
    Posted July 8, 2009 at 10:47 pm | Permalink


    The mayor is interested in any suggestions for young or not-so-young persons to serve on city boards or commissions. He can be contacted at mayor@cityofypsilanti.com or 734-277-5446.

    Paul Schreiber

  2. Posted July 8, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to volunteer to serve on some boards. Does it matter that I don’t live in Ypsi proper?

  3. Andy
    Posted July 8, 2009 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Dang, Mark. You got me excited thinking you received news regarding the commuter train. Not much has been said since April except that:
    1. SEMCOG hired a firm to run a simulation to make sure running freight and current & additional trains could be done.
    2. A deal has been struck with Canadian National, the last and most resistant of the freight companies.
    3. SEMCOG is planning possible schedules. Recently, all of the 350-355 Amtrak trains have changed schedules mostly for the better. None of the evening trains run along the route until after 6 so the people going home from work shouldn’t be affected. The only thing is that the morning 351 train leaves Detroit at 6:48 and arrived in AA at 7:48. That would conflict if they wanted to get people to work in AA at 8 unless they made that train part of the commuter service. I just wish they would have a mid-day train. Right now, it’s looking to be 2 morning and 2 evening. I don’t know many EMU students who would wait around for a couple hours after classes. I guess we’ll see.
    Nice to hear someone is interested in the commuter service.

  4. Posted July 8, 2009 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    I think that James and Bee would be great. I’ve talked with both of them, though, and I don’t think that either is ready at this time, for the reasons I expressed in this post. They’re busy, as someone else mentioned in an earlier comment, actually doing stuff to make the community better. With that said, we do have to find a mechanism whereby to better engage the new people doing good work. We have some incredible people in this community, young and old alike, and we need to find a better way to 1) understand the resources that we have, and 2) utilize them effectively. Maybe that means temporary assignments to boards, or some other mechanism that doesn’t require such a daunting amount of time from our young entrepreneurs. I don’t know…. But I’ll give it some thought.

  5. Posted July 8, 2009 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    I occasionally hear weird things that give me hope, Andy…. Linette was at a local meeting of the Arts Alliance within the last year where she met a woman who said that she moved to Ypsi because of the Shadow Art Fair. I’m sure there are people moving here right now because of Beezy’s. I moved here, as I’ve mentioned before, largely because of the Freighthouse. You never know what’s going to resonate with people. Maybe it’s seeing the local community and how they interact through a blog like this one. Maybe it’s a local drink special at the Sidetrack. All we can do is keep trying good stuff. We need to keep innovating. If we stop, we’re dead…. And sorry to get your hopes up about the train, Andy.

  6. Posted July 9, 2009 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    re – the chickens, keep in mind that they’ve only passed “first reading”. An ordinance has to be read, discussed, and approved by Council *twice* in order to actually take effect. This allows Councilmembers time after the first reading and public hearing to follow up with their constituents, get answers to questions that came up, etc.

    I would guess the second reading will be scheduled for July 19, but I’m not certain.

  7. tim
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    For my business partner and I (both under 30) we’ve tried extremely hard to give the “youth” a voice. It wasn’t until very recently at the Washtenaw Economic Club, when Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager, Steve Hildebrand spoke and talked of the importance of the youth; being on the campaign team (your business) and for votes (your customers), that we finally started being taken seriously, well, more serious. With no exaggeration, there may have been 5 people out of a couple hundred under the age of 45 in attendance, oh and maybe another 5 that weren’t white…

    The funny thing about Ypsi is that everyone you talk to says they want to get the young people to the city and oh how great it would be…But then you look at the things being done to attract youth, it’s a bit contradictory. To get young people down here and to stay, we’re going to need more people like Bee, James, Andy Garris (Owner, Elbow Room), Rene, Shamar Herron (Spark East), Murph, Erik Dotzauer (yeah, I know…The Ypsitucky “scandal” ooooohh, but The-Jamboree will bring young people to Ypsi) and overall just more people who “get it”. Once things directly effect these young people, you’ll see more interaction from them. Or I should say, once these young people understand that “things” are directly effecting them, you’ll see more interaction from them.

    Everytime I hear or see the word youth, I think of Joe Pesci from My Cousin Vinny…yootes, yoooouuuthes.

  8. ZP
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    RE: Chickens

    It looked to me that both Richardson & Swanson didn’t oppose the ordinance on principle. They stated that they wanted to table the ordinance in its current form and revisit it once it contained more explicit regulation about coop placement & requirements for setback from property lines /houses etc.

    It also kind of looked like Bodary was into it but he went out of his way to state that he had to vote against in order to represent his constituents.

  9. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    The best way to give “youth” a voice in our city politics is by showing up! I have started making it a habit to go to city council meetings as much as possible so at least I know what is happening in city government, and I hear things I like and things I don’t. Most council meetings are poorly attended unless we have a major debate, (chickens, tuckyism) and even then most people leave after that one major issue. Stick around, see what else is being talked about, rub elbows with council. That leads to next step; talk to your city council person and see what they have to say, and let them know what you think. Check out your neighboorhood assosiation meeting, your council person is often there to discuss issues, and it’s a great way to meet your neighboors and discuss city issues. We can complain about who’s running things and how they’re doing it as much as we want. But unless you actualy show up and speak your mind, have open discussions and let council and the mayor know what you think, it’s just so much talk. I know most people think that a single voice isn’t heard. That’s not realy true. You just have to make a little more noise. And the more of us that make noise, the more it’s heard. Blogging is a great way to share ideas, but you’ve got to do the leg work and attend the meetings to put them in action.

    I’m going out on a limb here, but I think that we need to form a group to get more young people, including EMU students, involved in our community and politics. If we can educate more people on the issues, we can do more to move forward and bring change to Ypsilanti.

  10. watching laughing
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Why would the 3 mentioned people by Mark, be good for the DDA?

    Watching Laughing.

  11. Posted July 9, 2009 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    They all run successful Ypsilanti businesses. I suspect that, in and of itself, is enough to warrant inclusion. But, on top of that, I think they’re all three bright people with visions for the future. Each in their own way, they’re raising the bar, whether it be in food service or retail. I don’t think there’s any debating the fact that they each do what they do very well, and can articulate what it is that they’re doing. That’s not as common among Ypsi business owners as you might think.

  12. Brackinald Achery
    Posted July 9, 2009 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Has there ever been a generation of Americans that didn’t have to forcefully yank away the reigns of society from the stubborn clutches of their overbearing forebears? It’s kind of our culture’s screwed up little right of passage, isn’t it?

  13. ZP
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I think it is funny the all of us so called young people are like 30 or 40 something. Not exactly spring chickens.

    Also realize that the older generation were once the youngsters who wrested control from their forbearers not all that long ago.

    You young folks won’t stay young for long and you are bound to resent the next wave of ultra hipsters who think they know everything but don’t want to do any heavy lifting.

    My point? You’re part of the problem even if you’re part of the
    solution. Me too.

  14. Brackinald Achery
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Everybody sucks and is great. Hear hear.

  15. Steph
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    It’s not about age so much as mindset. There are people open to thinking about things in new ways, and we call them “young,” and there are people who think about things in old ways, and we call them “old.” It has little do with how many birthdays they’ve had, though.

  16. kjc
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    “Everybody sucks and is great. Hear hear.”

    haha. yes.

    I agree with Steph too.

  17. Billy LaLonde
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Mr. Bodary, I am one of your constituents. I’d love some chickens. By the way, when do I get to vote again?

  18. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Yes, most of the “young” people here are probably in their 30’s or 40’s. But my personal goal in the next year is to get more 18-30 year olds involved in local politics, and make them a part of the community. We need all the ideas we can get.

  19. publius
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Do people really think that if more people get involved in local politics, it will lead to less contention? Whenever people get together to make decisions for the group, there will be disagreements. If you want to call it rancor or controversy, you can do so. Or you could call it a healthy democratic process. What do you call the absence of disagreement and dissention? A dictatorship.

  20. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 10, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting that getting more young people involved in politics will lead to less contention. What it may lead to is new ideas, and the abillity to push those new ideas past those resistant to change. Who knows though, some 19 year old might have an idea so brilliant, everyone can get behind it. We need fresh ideas to keep moving forward.

One Trackback

  1. By The odds that Council will chicken out on July 21, 2009 at 7:33 am

    […] most of you probably already know, Ypsi City Council voted 4 to 3 earlier this month to allow the keeping of chickens in downtown Ypsil…. In order for the legislation to past, however, it has to clear one more hurdle. It has to be voted […]

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