This wasn’t the Democratic response I’d been waiting for

    As of today, Rick Snyder has been our Governor for three months. To mark the occasion, the Michigan Democratic Party released the following video.

    While I appreciate that they’re trying to get the word out about the administration’s agenda, I had hoped for something a little more substantive. Maybe I’m naive, but I’d hoped that our Democratic leaders might come forward with something like…. ummmm…. a viable alternative to Snyder’s proposed budget. I know that fear motivates, and that the State Democratic party will likely get some traction with this piece, but where does it really get us in the end?

    I’m not suggesting that we don’t acknowledge the reality of the situation, which probably really does warrant a creepy, ominous soundtrack and some stark black and white imagery, but I don’t think that, in and of itself, is enough. What I’d love to see is some respected, adult-looking figure laying out what the Snyder plan means for Michigan, and then offering a viable alternative. And I think the people of Michigan would welcome it. I think the people of Michigan would like, for a change, to have something to rally around and be for, instead of just having one more thing to be against.

    If I were the chair of the Michigan Democratic party, I’d be talking about joining the rest of the civilized world and rewriting our regressive tax code so that a disproportionate amount of the burden doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the working poor. I’d also be talking about savings that could be had through prison reform, and the shoring up of loopholes in our corporate tax code. And, of course, I’d be talking about our investments in education and transportation infrastructure, and the dividends that they would pay in the future.

    But, instead, we’re spending our time promoting the Snyder boogeyman in hopes of driving increased donations to the Democratic party.

    And, as long as I’m handing out ideas to the Michigan Democratic Party, I think they should also be investing the time and resources necessary to identify young political talent, and develop it. The state of our Democratic party in Michigan is absolutely criminal. We should have a deep bench of people ready to take on this Republican Governor. Instead, we have to rely on Michael Moore to do the fighting for us. We need people of stature that are taken seriously, and that takes time – time that we don’t have.

    Sorry for venting, but I can’t believe that we still haven’t seen a comprehensive Democratic proposal to balance the budget. I guess we’re to busy making scary videos.

    Posted in Ideas, Michigan, Politics, Rants | Tagged , , , , , , | 32 Comments

    Can we create a 20′ x 4′ historic district to protect the Ypsi-Arbor sign?

    Well, it looks as though the auction for our beloved Ypsi-Arbor sign has now begun. The good news is, at least so far, no one has stepped forward to start the bidding…

    The minimum bid, as you can see in this screen capture, is $3,000.

    ypsiarborsignauction2

    The folks at AnnArbor.com, though, are reporting that there is some interest. According to a story published today, New Center Consulting, the group running the auction, is claiming that producers of the television show “American Pickers” have said that they would pay $3,000. And, they’re claiming that, “a national sign museum” has offered $3,500.

    As I’ve expressed on the site before, I’d like for the iconic landmark to stay right where it is. And I’m confident that we could raise on the order of $5,000 to make that happen. I think enough of us feel passionately about the sign, which has stood between our two communities since 1964, that the fundraising would be relatively easy. But buying the sign is just part of the equation. We’d also have to figure out a way to protect those few square feet that it now stands on. Would it be possible, I wonder, to have it designated a historic cultural artifact? Or, could we convince the Township to designate the State’s tiniest historic district?

    The Washtenaw Avenue corridor is the most traveled thoroughfare in our County, and this is easily the most distinctive feature on it. In a sea of fast food chains and endless strip malls, it stands out, exuding character, and, at least symbolically, bringing our two cities together. As cities nationwide are descending into a homogeneous mess of lowest common denominator crap, I think it’s imperative for us to stand up and protect the things that make our community unique, and give us a sense of history and place. I don’t know how we can stop this sign from being sold, as the the majestic wheels of Capitalism are already in motion, but, if we don’t at least try, I think we’re pretty fucking pathetic.

    This might seem like a silly thing to give a damn about, but I think we’ve got to draw the line somewhere. (I used to draw the line at our historic Peninsular Paper plant, which I thought would have made an incredible arts space, but it was torn down to make way for questionably constructed student apartments.)

    And I’m all for a demonstration at the base of the sign, if folks are up for it. (I’m picturing people chained to the sign, while puppet shows go on and bands play.) Either we find a way to stop this auction, or we raise enough money to buy it ourselves. There’s no other option.

    Posted in Ann Arbor, History, Ideas, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

      The Gold Show

      goldshowFriday night, when all the boys and girls in Ann Arbor are wandering around in circles, complementing one another on their groovy lanterns, the kids in Ypsi will be eating gold paint chips and making out to the pant-dropping melodies of Scotty Karate and the Ypsi Sisters at the Dreamland Theater. I’d like to tell you more. I really would. I even tried to conduct an interview with my friend Chris, who put the show together, but, as his responses to my questions would be incomprehensible to anyone not subjected to 24 straight hours of gold spray paint inhalation, I’ve decided not to make them public. Anyway, it should be a good time.

      Posted in Ann Arbor, Art and Culture, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

      Kansas City chosen over Ann Arbor for Google Fiber build-out

      broadbandtohomeGoogle announced today that Kansas City, Kansas beat out Ann Arbor and almost 1,100 other cities to become the home of their first high-speed broadband fiber-optic network. It would have been a huge boon to Michigan if Ann Arbor had been chosen, as this fiber build-out will no doubt attract numerous IT-related companies looking to leverage the speed and access, but, alas, it’s not to be. At least not yet. It does sound as though Google plans to move into other areas soon, though, assuming things go well in Kansas City. On this subject, Google founder Sergey Brin said today, “That’s why we’re rolling out to communities, starting with Kansas City, that are going to give one gigabit of access to every home.” So, Kansas City is just the start. And, who knows — maybe we can do it without Google, as Ann Arbor already, from what I understand, has a great deal of dark fiber in the ground, just waiting to be connected and lit up… More on Google’s plans for Kansas City can be found here.

      Posted in Ann Arbor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

      Sophie’s Choice… Ypsi style

      Last night, there was a special meeting of the Ypsi City Council. I wasn’t able to attend, but your fellow reader Glen S was. Here’s his report… which is actually about a lot more that whether or not our City Council chose to prioritize one of two potential construction projects.

      I attended last night’s special Ypsilanti City Council meeting where elected leaders were put in the unenviable position of having to choose between (sorry, “prioritize”) two Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant applications that could potentially provide seed money to kick-start two extremely worthwhile local projects:

      1.) A bridge under Michigan Ave. that would exemplify regional cooperation by providing a vital link in Washtenaw County’s Border-to-Border trail, or -

      2.) A rebuild/renovation of Rutherford Pool, which provides safe, affordable recreation opportunities to untold numbers of Ypsilanti children and families.

      Unlike in many such debates, it was actually kind of refreshing to see how speakers (neighbors, really, on both sides) were almost unfailingly polite and respectful — each taking great pains to recognize the worthiness of their opponents’ plans and position — while nevertheless making their individual cases for why one project or the other deserved to make the cut.

      Still, I ended up leaving the meeting feeling sad and angry… as if I had just watched friends and neighbors being forced into a bizarre standoff over the mere CHANCE of being awarded a grant (albeit one that amounts to a relatively small amount of money, in the scheme of things) — amid a sense of growing urgency driven by the sense that these kinds of grant opportunities may not be available in the future.

      If (as federal, state, and local budgets continue to shrink) neighbors are increasingly forced to fight over the “scraps” of what’s left — not only for amenities like recreations trails and pools, but core services like police and fire, then make no mistake — it will be because there is a DIRECT CONNECTION between the kinds of abuses described throughout yesterday’s thread and these threats to our community’s quality of life.

      Q: Why are Ypsilanti neighbors who support a public pool or a recreation trail being pitted against each other — while General Electric, one of the World’s largest and most profitable corporations, enjoys a NEGATIVE 60% tax rate?

      Q: Why is Ypsilanti being forced to consider trimming current and future wages and benefits for hard-working City employees — when not a single person responsible for the Wall Street “collapse” has ever been held accountable, and many of these same people continue to earn obscene salaries and bonuses?

      Q: Why is Ypsilanti facing an accelerating budget disaster and threats of an appointed Emergency Financial Manager with unlimited, unchecked powers — when Michigan Republicans are proposing an unncesary $1.6 billion corporate tax giveaway?

      Q: Why are we being threatened with cuts to education spending that are so drastic that continued existence of free, public education in Ypsilanti (and many other communities) is in doubt — while the U.S. is engaged in not two, but now three unnecessary wars?!

      My point is this: Why is it that America seems to place a higher value on some CEO’s lavish salary and “bonus,” or another unnecessary tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporations, or for that matter — on one more ($1 million) Tomahawk Cruise Missile lobbed into the Libyan desert — than the very real needs of communities like Ypsilanti, and the people who live in them?

      Better yet, why are none (or at least very few) of our so called “leaders,” doing anything about it?

      Our City Council, by the way, decided to assign priority to the Rutherford Pool rebuild, despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, the pedestrian bridge project had a much better chance of actually getting funded by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. At least, that’s what I’ve been told by folks knowledgable about the grant, and aware of the kinds of projects that have been funded in the past. And, then there’s the fact that the pedestrian bridge grant application appears to be much more complete than the one for the pool, as you can see for yourselves. Of course, it might not even matter. It’s quite possible that the folks assessing the grant applications won’t even take our City Council’s preference into consideration.

      Personally, as someone who uses the Rutherford pool each summer, I’d be more inclined to support their application, assuming all things were equal. But, when I look at the facts objectively, and consult with my friends that have interacted with the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, I’m left wondering why our city leaders would choose to support the one less likely to receive funding. The only thing I can think of is that they were under political pressure to do so. As people love the pool, which will surely be closed if the required rebuild can’t be done, I imagine they found it difficult to say no. Personally, I hope it works out for the best, and that the pool project secures the money. I worry, however, that’s not to be the case. I think it’s very possible, given this decision, that neither will be funded. Let’s all hope that doesn’t happen.

      As Glen points out, however, the real tragedy is that our community is being forced to make these decisions when, truthfully, both projects deserve funding.

      On the subject of the Rutherford Pool, I’d just like to add that it’s absolutely unconscionable that a community such as ours, where almost half of our kids live in poverty, and where temperatures commonly exceed 100-degrees in the summer, could find itself without a public pool. Our elected leaders in Lansing should be ashamed.

      Posted in Economics, Politics, Rants, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

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