“What has happened to our fair Ann Arbor?”
The letters to the editor in today’s Michigan Daily are well worth your time to read. Here’s a quick synopsis:
> There is a letter I wrote opposing the LSA-SG ballot proposal: “As long as we profess democratic principals, electoral upsets will happen. The proper reaction of the other members of student government should be to educate and work with the newly elected candidates as much as possible, not to seek to insulate themselves further from the electorate.”
> There’s a letter by a variety of MSA members supporting the ballot initiative to fund work at Trotter house: “This is not a “stop-gap” measure. This ballot question is one step in a much larger process. If this ballot question does not pass, it will be detrimental to the development of the Trotter House. … We urge students to vote yes on this ballot question. Lets tell the administration that we value multiculturalism and the Trotter House.”
Finally, there’s what has to be one of my favorite letters of all time about the city. I’ll re-print it here in itsentiretyy:
“University needs to do more to help Ann Arbor
To the Daily:
Tuesday, to a full crowd on the opening night of the 42nd Ann Arbor Film Festival, Ann Arbor was introduced to Yoni Goldstein and Max Sussman’s documentary “Whatever You Destroy” (We Didn’t Start the Fire, 03/11/04). We relived last summer’s fiery death of the Ann Arbor Tech Center, the last oasis of affordable studio housing and an essential piece of the Ann Arbor artistic community. As the documentary faded to black, the waves of applause resonated out of the theater, through the lobby, and into the streets of the city, hollowly echoing an uncomfortable question – what has happened to our fair Ann Arbor?
The history of Ann Arbor’s cultural and artistic importance is staggering – Students for a Democratic Society, the ONCE music festivals, the Free John Sinclair Rallies, the Ann Arbor Film Festival itself. Yet monuments are fading, and the community that supported them is in strife as well. In the last year, in addition to the Technology Center, we have seen the loss of The Del Rio, the Ann Arbor Tenants Union, the Student Woodshop and Decker Drugs. Rent costs have forced Schoolkids Records literally underground and Fantasy Attic Costumes has, like the 555 Gallery of the Tech Center, fled the city. In their place we are seeing more and more of Starbucks, Sprint Cellular and luxury condominiums. Hash Bash and the annual summer Art Fair are now laughable. The town’s gentrification isn’t only a threat to low income artists; as student housing prices escalate, it’s a threat to community members, business owners and the student body.
Tonight, you could feel this in the theater. While the citizens are upset with the changing face of Ann Arbor, the film documented the city’s utter indifference to the shift. As we all know, the University is Ann Arbor. We are still made up of Anti-War Action!, affirmative action and the newly re-emerging SDS. But what are we doing for the town? Who is leading the fight for our right to afford to live in our own town? The students of the University are responsible for demanding an end to the exploitative deterioration of Ann Arbor. The death of the Tech Center signifies a crossroads. We can either demand that the University works to end the city’s homogenization, or smile as the condos set in to pick clean the bones of a once vibrant city.