Earlier today, a reader of this site – a Michigan expatriate living in New York – left the following comment in response to my exit interview with Terri and Meghan Eagen-Torkko. As he’s only received one response thus far, I thought that I’d bump it up here to the front page.
And here’s the one response he’s received thus far. It comes from former Ypsi City Planner Richard Murphy.
Scott — your concerns are familiar to me, from the half dozen couples I’ve tried to recruit to Ypsi and “lost” to Ann Arbor in the past couple years. “Come to Ypsi!” “But, schools.” End of conversation.
Your set of concerns are valid, but some notes, particularly as somebody who will also have kiddos hitting kindergarten in 4 years:
* Your kid has well-engaged and highly educated parents, and does not suffer from poverty. She’ll do fine in any school district. Really.
* Ypsi schools seem to offer a lot of options–a lot of the schools are specialized in soemthign (the STEM elementary, the IB middle / high school, the Small Learning Communities schools.) I haven’t looked into most of ‘em; maybe current paretns can weigh in.
* “Good” school district is no guarantee it’s a fit for your kid; part of our homebuying consideration was that “buying up” to A2 would guarantee we could never afford an alternative.
* Never underestimate the power of highly motivated parents to do good for their kids (or wreak havoc on the classroom, depending on the persepctive) — I know of a bunch of under-1-year-olds whose parents we’ll be banding with as the time comes.
* We were a 1-car household in Ypsi for 6 years, and for most of that time only really needed the car because C’s job required on-site work. (2nd car acquisition was because both of us ended up with high-Michigan-travel jobs.) With your job setup, you could definitely get away with 1 car, or even the no-car option, using rental (or carshare – we have Hertz 24/7).
* Having a car is obviously more of an issue with kids, especially if you want to take your kid to a non-local school.
* Coworking — the half hour bus ride to Workantile is a little bit of a bummer. I do know a number of people in town interested in coworking, though, so I anticipate Ypsi will end with a site at some point.
So, yeah, none of these are “no problem!” answers. It’s just that, for any A2 house in your price range, a similar house in Ypsi will be about half the price. So there’s that. (And hopefully your math-fu is good enough to understand “tax rate” vs. “tax bill” and dismiss any arguments about taxes making up the difference.)
And, for what they’re worth, here are my somewhat jumbled thoughts… When Linette and I moved back to Michigan from Los Angeles, we chose Ypsi because we felt at home here, and thought that our contributions would be appreciated. I was relatively young, had what I thought were a few good ideas, and wanted to work toward building something positive. And I felt that I had a better chance of doing that here, than in Ann Arbor, where there was more of an established hierarchy. I also liked the heart of Ypsi. I’d spent time here when I was a student at the University of Michigan. I met my wife here. And I connected with the people – many of them who had moved here from my home state of Kentucky during World War II to work in the factories – who used to gather on weekends at the Freighthouse in Depot Town. Most of those folks are gone now, and the Freighthouse is closed for the foreseeable future, but, at the time, it really made an impression on me. It’s hard to articulate, but there was a beauty in the place, and the people. And, when it came time to put down roots, and move closer to our families, we instinctively knew that Ypsi was the place. When I’ve talked about that decision since, I’ve focused on the fact that I perceived Ann Arbor to be calcified and rigid, which is true. In truth, though, it was more that Ypsi had a heart. I liked the feeling of the city. I liked the potential. I liked the sense that everyone was working together toward a goal, even if we didn’t all agree what that goal should be. And I honestly thought that I could live a somewhat purposeful life here. (It also didn’t hurt that it was close enough to Ann Arbor that I could get a job that I liked, and occasionally eat Indian food and see a movie.) I’d never try to convince anyone to move here, as I don’t think that I could take the guilt if they were to take my advice, relocate here, and not like it, but I can tell you that it was the right decision for me and my family. And, judging from the people that I’ve met here since, we’re not alone. A lot of young, interesting families are beginning to see Ypsilanti as a viable alternative. As for schools, I’m not qualified to talk, as my daughter, at least for the time being, goes to school in Ann Arbor. I can tell you, however, that I’ve taken tours of both the Washtenaw International High School and the Washtenaw Middle Academy (the relatively new International Baccalaureate programs in the neighborhood), and I’m very excited about the prospect of her going there when she’s of age. Sure, there are things to be concerned about, but, as Murph said, options exist. And, as for co-working space, I suspect we’ll have a solution for you in the not too distant future… Oh, and if you haven’t already, read my Ypsi Immigration Interview series. You’ll find plenty of people who made the choice to move here, and they’re much more articulate on the subject than I am.