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.