Ann Arbor declares itself to be “Compassionate”

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.

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  1. Jean Henry
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    Ugh. Ann Arbor has become a bastion of self-congratulatory liberalism. All talk, no action. The pattern is now well established that Ann Arborites prefer to assert that they believe in any given liberal-identified cause, (sustainability, end to police brutality, educational equity, etc) than actually do anything about it. Now the city passes a resolution declaring itself to care without actually detailing any goals or action steps to back it up. Most telling is the excising of the portion expressing simply a willingness to work with surrounding communities. “We give a shit, but we won’t give you shit.” I also like Chuck Warpehoski. Maybe he believes joining the Coalition for Compassionate Cities will somehow force the hand of a complacent and self-satisfied city towards action on significant intractable issues. But this just looks like a play to the city’s collective ego. If I were a poor person struggling to get by in Ann Arbor, it would feel more like gas-lighting.

  2. Eel
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    The accompanying photo should have been of a man patting himself on the back.

  3. Demetrius
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    From the resolution:

    “There is some evidence that compassion also may have a positive impact on the subject as in seeing oneself as a caring person, or a negative impact as in distress from not being able to relieve another’s suffering, or not doing the best thing.”

    I think this is key.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Now, at least, we’ll have something to point to the next time they mount a campaign to limit bus service “as it only serves to bring the poor into their city.”

  5. TPM
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I’m glad Ypsilanti isn’t putting up any fake show of compassion. Here, the City Manager’s response to criticisms of police practices is apparently to dismiss them out of hand:

    “You would act like we’re gunning people down left and right and we’re not gunning down anyone.”

  6. Sean
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    George W. Bush also declared himself compassionate. It’s obviously a winner!

  7. Jason Kosnoski
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Your comment shows a stunning lack of compassion. But because I am from Ann Arbor, I only have compassion for you. In an act of compassion, I am going to petition my council members to proclaim you and your website compassionate, thus solving the problem of your lack of compassion.

  8. Jason Kosnoski
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    By the way, I have registered and have posted on it a total of THREE times over the past few years. But if you ever want to be a guest contributor, please feel free!

  9. josh
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    “Council Member Chuck Warpehoski, who brought the proposal to council, said supporting the goals of the Charter for Compassion is an affirmation of the city’s values. He said it doesn’t require any allocation of city resources at this time.”

  10. facebook stalker
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    From Ypsilanti real estate agent Tyler Weston:

    Alright I typically dont get all political and stuff but here we go for the second time today. I was recently reviewing an article on Mlive and found that it was shared about 1,500 times in just a few days.

    You would think, well this article must be about some awesome new development in the A2 area like a new Life is Good Store across the street from the current one, or something like that, but no.

    It was an article about a couple of Ypsi teens that were caught breaking and entering into A2 homes. The article highlighted that they were crying in front of the judge and telling him about the importance they have to their families in terms of being bread winners.

    The commenters on the article said some of the most hateful and horrible things about black people, Ypsilanti, and poor people that I have ever heard.

    I think that sharing the article again, or even clicking on it is perpetuating its status and can only bolster the article and bring it more attention. This is simply click bait in its purest form. But I think it really does say something about our community as a whole as to what we see as truth and the type of community we are.

    Ironically, the article that brought this up was one about Ann Arbor City council adopting a policy to be a “Caring Community” of sorts. One that cares about all its citizens regardless of class, race, or economics. Here was a tidbit from the article that I thought was interesting.

    “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.”

    So………….you want to make sure that your community is inclusive, exclusively? Like if you can make it inside the bubble that is A2 you are safe but caring about equity shouldn’t apply to I don’t know maybe the city next door to you?

    Here is another fun one; what constitutes neighbors because this policy they adopted applies to “our neighbors”. If one side of the street its A2 and the other side is Ypsi does that mean that we are not neighbors…..huh, I guess Im going to have to stop using that word thanks for stealing my words A2 Council

  11. Alex
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Thanks for writing the article Mark. It’s good to know that there were good intentions behind it but the sheer tone deafness of it struck me of the headline struck me. I hope Councilman Warpehoski has a plan we aren’t seeing yet to spur the Council into action.

  12. Carolyn McKeever
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    This doesn’t extend to the deer living in A2.

  13. kjc
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    The deer are confused.

  14. Posted September 10, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    The goal of the resolution was to affirm a value to help enable action toward that goal. It is aspirational. There are actions that are already taking place to address issues like affordable housing (the $450k we put into expanding affordable housing as Swift Lane, the efforts to put affordable housing on Platt Road, accessory dwelling units), and broader efforts in the future. Mayor Taylor and CM Briere have been on a leadership team organized by the county to work with folks like Mayor Edmonds to address these issues, and I’ve been in touch with our lawmakers in Lansing to expand out toolbox as things like Swift Lane and Platt Road do not reach the scale of the problem.

    ICPJ has also been bringing together a citizen task force to make concrete recommendations for improved police training and proceedures related to use of force and prevention of bias-based policing.

    The headlines make it sound like the goal of the resolution was to say “we’ve arrived.” My intent was to say “we’re committed to moving forward on the path of compassion.”

    And there is much work ahead of us on the path.

  15. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Those aspiring toward concrete compassionate policies will never be able to compete with all of your fully formed, immutable, BEAUTIFUL SOULS.

  16. josh
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I know you mean well Chuck, but $450k for affordable housing is chump change. The DDA is paying a developer $650k for streetscaping for a single luxury apartment building.

    Talk is cheap and abundant in A2.

  17. facebook stalker
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Someone on Facebook asked Chuck Warpehoski why the part about regional cooperation was removed and he responded.

    Question: Why was the clause about working with other units of government and groups removed?

    Answer: Some Council members were worried about the ambiguity of the “being open to…” language and wanted to be sure that it was not an open-ended commitment of resources. I get that. A principle of organizing is to make a specific ask, and that will be down the line (e.g. pass an Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance, put affordable housing on Platt Road, improve police anti-bias training).

  18. Mr. X
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s a whole new Ann Arbor. I was there today. You can feel the compassion in the air. In fact, I can still smell it on my clothes.

  19. kjc
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    From the article josh posted.

    “He [the developer] also has reduced the scope of the project. It was proposed earlier this year as a 78-foot-tall, seven-story, 33-unit apartment building.

    It’s now 18 feet shorter with seven fewer units. That includes elimination of two affordable housing units that were proposed before.

    Ketelaar found out from the city that premiums allowing him to build bigger for including affordable housing wouldn’t work on the project.”

    Guess when it comes to affordable housing you need a “specific ask”. Or it just falls out of the deal.

  20. josh
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    My previous comment was not intended to be a criticism of Chuck Warpehoski. I really do think Chuck believes what he says and that he intends to follow through. I don’t have much faith in the rest of them, and I’m not sure he knows what he’s up against.

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