On this past weekend’s edition of The Saturday Six Pack, during a discussion on the growing economic divide betweeen Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, Avalon Housing’s Michael Appel brought up the idea of merging the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti school districts. This, he said, echoing the findings of the County’s recently issued report on affordable housing and economic equity, would both help to stabilize Ypsilanti’s economy and go a long way toward reversing the negative trend we’re seeing with regard to social mobility among our poorest citizens. While I don’t recall whether or not Ann Arbor City Council’s Chuck Warpehoski, who was also on the show that evening, agreed with Appel on the idea of a merger, he was clearly sympathetic to the plight of Ypsi’s youth. And, last night, he took to Facebook not only to make his feelings known, but to pledge his financial supports. [Thanks, Chuck.] Here’s hoping that others follow his example.
Ann Arbor City Council’s Chuck Warpehoski, acknowledging the discrepancy between Ypsi and Ann Arbor schools, says he’ll begin donating to the Ypsi Community Schools Foundation
According to a report just issued by The Center for Public Integrity, Michigan not only receives a failing grade when it comes to accountability and transparency, but, according to the data, we’re less accountable and transparent than every other state in the entire union. Following is a clip from their report on Michigan, followed by The Center for Public Integrity’s detailed breakdown of Michigan’s performance across over a dozen different categories.
In November 2013, Michigan lawmakers revealed the lengths to which they’d go to maintain the state’s secret system of funding election campaign activities.
A Senate committee was meeting in the Capitol to discuss and approve a bill that would double the maximum amount that individuals could contribute to legislative, executive and judicial candidates. The senators were told that the higher limits were unnecessary because 99 percent of Michiganians never give the maximum amount.
Then something puzzling happened. In a rare move, the legislators called a recess midway through the session. A lobbyist in the audience who was friendly with the committee chairman, it was later learned, received an urgent phone call warning that Secretary of State Ruth Johnson had just announced new administrative rules requiring the disclosure of campaign donors in all circumstances.
When the committee reconvened, an amendment was hastily attached to the legislation, which would override Johnson’s decision and preserve Michigan’s “dark money” campaign practices. House and Senate approval of the bill soon followed, as did Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature.
“We don’t have full public disclosure and it’s not because good people failed to do the right thing, it’s because those bastards did the wrong thing. It was a hostile action,” said Rich Robinson, the state’s top campaign watchdog at the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “And the fruits of those actions were tens of millions of dollars of undisclosed campaign cash.”
The shadowy aspects of Michigan’s money-driven politics serve as a key reason why the state ranks last among the 50 states with a grade of F and a numerical score of 51 out of 100 from the State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven assessment of state government transparency and accountability by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. Michigan received an F in 10 of the 13 categories of government operations that were examined.
The first State Integrity report, released in 2012, gave Michigan a similar score – 58, an F, though the state ranked 44th that time. The two scores are not directly comparable, however, due to changes made to improve and update the project and its methodology…
And here’s how we ranked, category by category.
I can’t say that I’m surprised, seeing as how we live in a state where our elected officials knowingly give us lead-contaminated water to drink, but I’d like to think that perhaps, just maybe, we’ve come to a point where we finally stand up and fight back. How many of these studies do we need to see before we actually do something about it?
For what it’s worth, Ann Arbor’s State Rep, Jeff Irwin, took to social media to say the following after reading the report referenced above. “Together with my Democratic colleagues,” he said, “I’ve been pushing to increase transparency and improve our ethics laws. Now, a national report comes out showing that Michigan has the weakest ethics laws in the nation. We’ll continue to push for better financial and campaign finance disclosure. The public deserves to know who is behind the dark money dominating our campaigns. We’ll continue to push for rules to end ‘pay to play’ in state contracts by prohibiting campaign contributors from gaining large government contracts. And, we’ll continue to try slowing the revolving door between the legislature and the lobby corps.” Wonderful intentions, to be sure, but what can really be accomplished while the Republican majority is in place? As Irwin himself asks, “Will we find partners for this important work to improve Michigan’s ethics laws?” …The answer, as we all know, is “No.”
I know there’s a very good chance this won’t matter to one single person who reads this site on a regular basis, but it’s just come to my attention, by way of WFMU’s Brian Turner, that, this Thursday night, John Singer and Gregg Turkington will be reuniting as the Zip Code Rapists at a club in Brooklyn called Wild Kingdom.
As I said, I know it’s unlikely that any of you are big ZCR fans, but, on the off chance that one of you will be making the pilgrimage, let me know, and I’ll give you my phone number so that you can call me from the show and give me a live report, which I can then rebroadcast on this weekend’s edition of The Saturday Six Pack. I’ll even Paypal you a few bucks for beer.
New Harvard study shows Washtenaw County among worst places to grow up when it comes to social mobility
I don’t know that we need yet one more data point, as we all know things are not only bad, but getting worse for poor people in Washtenaw County, but there’s a new study on “equality of opportunity” out of Harvard that seems to indicate that Washtenaw County is one of the worst counties in the country when it comes to social mobility… In other words, kids who grow up in poverty here are, more likely than not, destined for a life of poverty, whereas, in other communities, they may actually still have a shot at reaching the middle class.
“Consider Washtenaw County, Michigan,” says the New York Times, which covered the report’s findings today. “It’s among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 201st out of 2,478 counties, better than only about 8 percent of counties…”
So, now we don’t just know that our area is the 8th most economically segregated in the country, and that our poor aren’t benefiting for Ann Arbor’s booming knowledge economy, but we also know that we’re doing very little to help young people here escape the grasp of poverty.
We can do better, Washtenaw County. This should not be happening in a community as wealthy, and resource-rich as ours.
On last night’s episode of the Saturday Six Pack, I talked with Ypsi Community Schools (YCS) art teacher Lynne Settles, an Ypsi High student by the name of Paris, Jackson-based artist Douglas Jones, and local historian Matt Siegfried about a new mural that, thanks to their tireless efforts, and the efforts of a good many YCS students, just went up at 432 Harriet Street, on the side of Currie’s barbershop. While audio of our interview probably won’t be up for a few more days, I wanted to share this photo of their mural, and remind everyone that there will be a formal unveiling this Wednesday, November 11, at 11:00 AM. If you have the time, please make it a point to stop by and talk with Lynne, Paris, Matt, Douglas, and the dozens of YCS students who volunteered their time and talent to help commemorate the life and accomplishments of HP Jacobs, a runaway slave from Alabama who made his way to Ypsilanti, became a janitor at what is now Eastern Michigan University, and then went on to found both a church and a school for black children here, before heading back south after the Civil War, where he served in the Mississippi State Senate, helped found what is now Jackson State University, and, at the age of 65, become a doctor.
Interestingly, this isn’t the only teen mural being unveiled in Ypsi this week. Just yesterday, the teen group affiliated with the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) formally unveiled their mural at 410 West Michigan Avenue, on the side of Dos Hermanos Market. [I’d invited representatives from this group to be on last night’s episode of the Saturday Six Pack as well, but, unfortunately, they couldn’t make it.] Here’s their mural, which, I was told by one of the organizers, contains various symbols intended to convey the “feelings, past experiences, and current struggles” of the young men and women from mixed immigration status families who designed and pained the piece. [The teens who created this mural were assisted by Costa Rican artist Alejandro Chinchilla.]
Public art that arises organically out of the local community is almost always a good thing. And that’s especially true when it’s our young people who are making it happen. In a world where people of all ages are increasingly isolated, and kids seem to feel less and less a part of the communities they inhabit, I think it’s incredible that we have these two groups of young people here in Ypsi who are willing not only to engage publicly, but to claim public space and make it known that they have both voices and talent. Our community is stronger because of their contributions… Here’s hoping that others follow their lead and make the decision not just to move passively through our city, but to actively contribute and help make it a better place.
[note: I don’t want to make more work for folks, but I’m thinking it would be really cool if there were QR codes on these murals so that people, if they wanted to, could bring audio tracks up on there phones and hear the voices of the young people involved talking about their work.]