A few months ago, when we were discussing plans in Ann Arbor to hire a small army of so-called “ambassadors” who would be charged with both warmly welcoming visitors and shooing so-called “street people” away from downtown, some of us questioned just how compassionate our neighbors to the west were. Well, apparently it’s no longer debatable. The Ann Arbor City Council voted unanimously last night to declare themselves a “Compassionate Community”. [Thanks to Alex Hamlin for bringing this to my attention by way of Facebook.]
The text of the resolution, which was proposed by Councilman Warpehoski, can be found online, if you’re interested… One thing you won’t find, if you read it, is a clause about how Ann Arborites, in evidence of their overflowing compassion, will work with those surrounding communities to which their poor have been driven. [Let’s not forget that, as more of the poor have been driven from Ann Arbor, ours has become the 8th most economically segregated region in the entire nation.] The following comes by way of the Ann Arbor News.
…In an attempt to make the proposed resolution more palatable, Warpehoski removed a clause that stated the city would be open to working with other regional units of government and nongovernmental groups toward the development and implementation of a program for action to pursue the charter’s goals…
For what it’s worth, I applaud Warpehoski for raising the topic and encouraging his fellow members of the Ann Arbor City Council to join the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities. From what little I know of him, he seems to be a really decent man who genuinely cares about Ann Arbor’s homeless population. And, while largely symbolic, I think this is a positive step in the right direction. Sadly, though, I can’t read something like this without noting the irony that these people would pronounce themselves compassionate, while, for the most part, ignoring the growing disparity which they’re largely responsible for.
If Ann Arbor truly wants to be a compassionate community, I’d suggest that they start by seriously considering the recommendations of the recent Affordable Housing Needs Assessment commissioned by Washtenaw County, which called on them to both aggressively construct low income housing, in order to decrease the pressure put on surrounding communities like Ypsilanti, and leverage the resources of their well-regarded school district, in order to decrease the growing inequality in our region. And, of course, it also might help if, at least in public, they quit suggesting that poverty is just an Ypsilanti problem.