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Rob Goodspeed
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6/30: dcist concert @black cat
7/2: live8 in philly
7/13: nat'l student conference
8/15+: student activist training in a2
10/23: detroit marathon

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Saturday, July 2nd, 2005

More Ann Arbor Missed Connections

I’m not convinced most of the “missed connections” on the Ann Arbor craigslist are actually real. But they sure make for fun reading. Check out this recent one:

You: pipe smoking boy in an “I rate A² too” t-shirt, reading an Urban Planning(?) text book in Liberty Plaza yesterday lunchtime. I think you were listening to an iPod.

Me: Gelato-eating girl in yellow hippie dress sitting opposite for a while, reading a Charles Baxter novel.

I said hi but I don’t think you heard me. Perhaps I’ll see you there again some day?

ps. I’m *really* interested in urban planning.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann Arbor by Rob at 12:34 pm

Monday, June 27th, 2005

BAM-N Activist Killed In Detroit

The Ann Arbor News reports that Joe Wagner, a 21-year-old Ann Arbor man who was an organizer for BAM-N in Detroit has been killed. The details surrounding the killing are unclear. (Via)

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPoliticsBAM-N by Rob at 4:28 pm

Planning the U-M Medical Campus

The University of Michigan recently unveiled a master plan for the University’s rapidly growing medical campus, which is explained in an article in today’s University Record. I am glad to see the university inching towards the realization that the medical campus that currently exists is a positively hostile place for pedestrians esthetically, visually, and literally. Walking around the medical campus today is a daunting experience for the pedestrian: there is no grid or explanations about how to find one’s way, and the buildings are designed with their internal functions in mind. In fact, it is almost entirely designed around the auto. What is needed is an element of urbanity in the medical campus that is currently lacking.

Too often the sort of campus planning conducted by the university is the sort that looks down from above and maps out parking and pedestrian flows, and where buildings can be build or expand in harmony with the existing structures. (This graphic is a detail from a larger image from the new Master Plan) Although this sort of planning is very important, it overlooks how important the experience of the campus is from the pedestrian level. Up to this point the U-M hospital complex has taken the form of what I think of as “postmodern urbanism” - that is, extremely high levels of density that nonetheless are unpleasant for pedestrians and confusing for visitors because they are designed for access from autos and designed to contain pedestrians inside the structure exclusively. The buildings do not interface with the street, frequently containing entrances only from parking structures or from special roundabouts designed for autos. All commercial activity is sequestered inside food courts difficult or impossible to access from the outside, despite the thousands of students living in hill dormitories.

Consciously constructing an environment of pedestrian urbanism would not only create a pleasant environment for the employees and patients of the hospital, but also cater to the needs of the tens of thousands of students who live in hill dorms and would patronize any potential common space or retail. (I find it ironic that Michigan’s hospital has a great cardiac unit, but it’s easier to drive around the medical campus than walk and the food court contains a Wendy’s.) How might the university provide for growth but also encourage such an environment? Build the large laboratories that are needed, but reserve some ground floor space next to the sidewalk for permeable functions - either a lobby adjacent the street, or small shops open to the street. At least one convenience store was destroyed to make way for parking, and I don’t imagine it would be too hard to find a vendor interested in occupying a small space, say, across the street from the massive Mary Markley dorm. In the long term, the rent from university-owned commercial space could bring the university revenue.

I am encouraged by the glimmer of awareness to these needs that can be found in the master plan - they’ve identified “Integration of physical facilities with the natural environment and community” as an important goal, and even have a slide listing “improved pedestrian amenities” (where this image was found) as part of a Powerpoint presentation about the plan. Whether or not they have the understanding of how to make this a reality - beyond sterile walking paths that go nowhere and nobody can find - remains to be seen - notice the streetscaping in the image is great, but the building is just a blank wall. The ultimate irony is that the university’s planning and architecture schools has some of the nation’s pre-eminent new urbanist planners and thinkers, who gave many suggestions similar to these when tasked by interim president B. Joseph White for creating a plan for North Campus. The university is slowly realizing - like most cities have - that chewing up their urban fabric to create unpleasant and banal suburban spaces in fact ruins what makes Ann Arbor so attractive to students, professors, and residents alike.

Related Posts:
> See my post on the University’s destruction of the Planada building to make way for medical campus parking, or my post on the Planada in Preservation Magazine.” Yes, they’re building a parking garage on that spot.
> See my post on broader University planning issues, in response to an op-ed in the Ann Arbor News
> See my first rant about the need for street-level commercial space on Medical Campus

Looking back, I am beginning to sound like a broken record on this stuff. I wrote this in November 2003:

The University must recognize their role in destroying street life. Parking garages, massive office and laboratory buildings all enforce a uniformity of use on the surrounding streets: meaning they will only be used at certain times of the day, and there will never be businesses, no matter how many pedestrians pass buy hungry for a cup of coffee or a bagel. There is no rational or economic reason why all new University buildings must be single-use, only a cultural one.

Maybe I’m slowly becoming the cranky old man I was once rumored to be …

Comments (2) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn ArborUrban Development by Rob at 12:48 pm

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

Vote For Eugene Kang August 2

Eugene Kang is a native Ann Arbor resident who is running for Ann Arbor’s City Council from Ward 2. He is a 21-year-old University of Michigan senior. If elected, he would be the first undergraduate on the City Council in many years. He is running against a former Republican mayoral candidate Stephen Rapundalo in an August 2 Democratic primary. Ward 2 includes Mary Markley, Couzens, Alice Lloyd, Stockwell, the Linden Street area and all the neighborhoods northeast of Washtenaw Avenue. To register to vote or check your registration or polling location, call the city clerk at 734-994-2725.

> Contact the Kang campaign at kangforcitycouncil (at) or (734) 972-7254.
> View his platform
> Read articles printed by the Ann Arbor News and the Michigan Daily about his candidacy
> Join the Kang for Council Facebook Group

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborElections by Rob at 10:29 pm

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Eugene Kang’s Platform for A2 Council

The Kang campaign just sent me a piece of literature they have been distributing in Ward 2 with a letter from Eugene and his platform for City Council. Here’s the text:


Dear Neighbor,

My name is Eugene Kang, and I am running for Ann Arbor City Council. I am proud to have lived in Ann Arbor for my entire life. And I am proud to have spent almost my entire life right here in Ward 2.

Many people have asked me why I want to run for office. The answer is simple: I want to give back to this wonderful community. I attended King Elementary School and Greenhills School for 6-12th grades. Next year I’ll be a Senior at the University of Michigan, majoring in English and Philosophy.

I am energetic, dedicated, and I know I have a lot to learn. I hope that I can serve a unique role as someone connected to both U of M students and to the greater Ann Arbor community. Because the City Council should be more responsive to your concerns, I have launched a precinct-by-precinct listening tour. Together, we can make Ann Arbor an even greater place to live.

As a lifelong resident of this community, I am aware of the challenges facing Ann Arbor. And, on the next page, I have identified key areas in which I plan to focus my attention. I look forward to listening to your concerns and working for you in the future.

Eugene Kang

And his platform:

Increasing Fiscal Responsibility
• Our city budget has been in deficit for the past five years and expenses are expected to exceed revenue for at least the next two years. We need to close this gap – but not on the backs of taxpayers who are already paying more than their fair share.
• The cost of living in Ann Arbor is already significantly higher than that of similar cities in the Midwest, and higher taxes will only make it more difficult for people, especially new homeowners, to remain in our City.
• I am committed to balancing Ann Arbor’s budget and look forward to meeting with you to discuss your priorities and listen to your ideas.

Making Ann Arbor More Affordable
• Making Ann Arbor a more affordable place to live is critical to the City’s future. We cannot allow our middle-class and economically disadvantaged citizens to be pushed out of our City because of sky-high housing prices.
• Ann Arbor spends $5.6 million dollars a year to discourage Ann Arbor residents from moving away. Unfortunately, we spend only 10% of that amount to encourage people to live in our City by making housing more affordable.
• To curtail urban sprawl and enable people who work in Ann Arbor to live here as well, we must provide incentives for residents to remain in the City.

A Practical Approach to Downtown Density
• Downtown density is inextricably connected to the issue of affordable housing. While I recognize that building taller structures downtown would create more space for residential and commercial enterprises, I am sympathetic to how these structures would change the downtown aesthetic.
• I support a pragmatic case-by-case approach that would carefully consider each proposal and weigh the benefits of density with the costs to aesthetics. It is Ann Arbor’s sense of community that makes it so special. We must not alter the City’s unique appeal as we work to make sure as many people as possible can afford to enjoy the Downtown area.

Listening to Every Voice
• The Arbor City Council is not representative of Ann Arbor’s population. University of Michigan students are Ann Arbor residents. Their views should be represented on the City Council. An accusation often leveled against my generation is that we are politically apathetic. My peers and I are working hard to change this perception.
• Young people do care about politics and I believe that the student body does care about the greater Ann Arbor community.

Contact us at kangforcitycouncil at or (734) 972-7254

> Download a PDF of the Flyer Here
> See my coverage of the Kang campaign
> See my viewpoint in the Daily: “A Perfect Storm Brewing in City Politics

Comments (3) • Posted to Ann ArborElections by Rob at 11:41 am

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

Kang Campaign

I just spoke to someone with Eugene Kang’s campaign. They sound like they’re building a sound infastructure, and promise a website is coming soon …

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 2:42 pm

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005

Inaugural A2 Craigslist Missed Connection

Is it serious? The first missed connection has been posted to the Ann Arbor craigslist: “To the cute waitress working the check out on saturday afternoon. I was the quiet bearded boy in a the yellow ‘734′ shirt who ordered a tempeh reuben and chai latte. We joked about my shirt and I think there was some chemistry?? Now I’ve posted this I’ll be too mortified ever to come in again, so please reply if interested.” Of course, there’s been A2 connections on the Detroit site for a while …

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann Arbor by Rob at 5:32 pm

I Weigh In On the DDA’s Plan for Downtown Ann Arbor

I haven’t been paying much attention, but after a little research: Sounds like a good idea to me.

Predictably, there’s a little controversy. Doug Cowherd, co-chairman of the local Sierra Club and czar of the local NIMBY “environmentalists” who lobby like hell for little parks in their back yards but could care less about planning for development from a regional perspective, has started a lobby to oppose the plan. Because I couldn’t resist, more info after the jump.


Comments (2) • Posted to Ann ArborUrban Development by Rob at 11:17 am

Monday, June 20th, 2005

Inviting BAM-N To Speak

According to an email I was forwarded, the featured speaker at a fundraiser in for MARAL Pro-Choice Michigan in Ann Arbor Thursday is non other than Miranda Massie.

Miranda was the lead attorney for one group of student intervenors (the law students - not the undergrad intervenors) in the Grutter v. Bollinger affirmative action case. She’s also the sister of Luke Massie, an organizer for the organization Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary (BAM-N). She’s also one of the core leaders of a Trotskyite sect called the Revolutionary Workers League which goes by the name BAM-N in public. RWL was founded by George Washington, an activist attorney who built up a practice with a small group (Scheff & Washington) in combination with his efforts to build a revolutionary Trotskyite organization.

This one is tough: Massie is no doubt an accomplished attorney and the law firm has certainly litigated a number of worthy cases. In general I have heard only good things about MARAL, and I trust they simply don’t know much about BAM-N, but I question their wisdom of inviting Massie to speak. Despite the slickness of their “Speakers’ Bureau” webpage, there’s a lot about BAM-N they wouldn’t like you to know. BAM-N’s recruitment tactics verge on cult-like (One former member was brought to Detroit to participate in hours-long Marxist study sessions), and their organizing tactics are always divisive, sometimes violent, and frequently downright nasty. In his role as organizer for the group, Luke Massie has physically intimidated friends of mine, engaged in yelling matches, and called one of my best friends (an ACLU member and committed progressive) a “white devil.” Nathan Newman, a well-known journalist and blogger and columnist for the Populist Progressive, has called BAM-N a “threat … to the affirmative action and civil rights movement” and said his research, “In twenty years of political organizing, I have never seen such violent and thuggish behavior, a step beyond the worst sectarian acts I had ever imagined.” The Michigan Daily has harshly criticized the organization in an editorial.

So, I guess I wouldn’t invite a member of the group to come to speak at my fundraiser. But that’s just me. Here’s the bio they circulated on their email:

About Miranda Massie
Miranda Massie is a civil rights attorney with Scheff & Washington in Detroit, and has been actively involved in organizing for women’s rights and civil rights throughout her education and career. Massie is currently representing a sixteen-year-old male from Macomb County charged
with a major felony for trying to assist his girlfriend in terminating her pregnancy. He is being tried for intentional conduct against a pregnant individual resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth, a 15-year felony. Massie argues that it was not assault because the girlfriend consented to the means of the termination, and that the young girl was simply exercising her right to an abortion.

Massie received a B.A magna cum laude from Cornell University, an M.A in History and American Studies from Yale University, and a J.D. cum laude from the New York University School of Law in 1996. One of her best known cases is Grutter v. Bollinger, for which she served as lead counsel to student defendants in the University of Michigan affirmative action case.
Massie is also currently a member of the legal team challenging Ward Connerly’s attempts to ban affirmative action in Michigan.

These days, BAM-N spends their time blowing hot air about MCRI. For organizing that’s not from a freaky fringe group on MCRI, check out Citizens for a United Michigan. For more info, see my somewhat outdated information page:, or if you’re new to all this check out my BAM-N Update post from January 2004.

Comments (3) • Posted to Ann ArborPoliticsBAM-N by Rob at 11:16 pm

More Kang Press

My friend George just posted something about Kang’s race in the 600-member Ann Arbor / Ypsi Live Journal Community

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 5:47 pm

A Perfect Storm Brewing in Ann Arbor?

Upon the request of summer Michigan Daily editorial page editor Donn Fresard, I adapted my recent blog post on the status of student power in Ann Arbor into a viewpoint for the Daily. In it, I point to the Ann Arbor blogosphere, new student and renter-oriented neighborhood organizations, and Eugene’s candidacy as three conditions which could allow for the fundamental shift in student politics I’ve been rooting for for years:

Student and renter attempts at community organizing have been stymied in recent years. Whether by student apathy, the hostility of the city’s political elites or a lack of serious and motivated candidates for Ann Arbor City Council, efforts to involve a major part of the city in the local public life have sputtered. However, I believe a number of recent developments has shown that a group of students and renters has coalesced that will seriously contend for power in the city: Conditions are ripe for a perfect storm that could revolutionize Ann Arbor politics. …

No matter how perfectly aligned the conditions, the storm won’t strike without unprecedented energy fueling it. If they set their minds to it, students have both the political base and intellectual resources to be a potent political force that could fundamentally reshape the city’s political landscape. An atmosphere of complacency and pessimism about what is possible for the city hangs around city hall. Let’s imagine a city where tenants’ rights are a top priority; the planning commission and council aggressively pursue an agenda of dense, sustainable development; and new and radical ideas to provide affordable housing — such as subsidized housing and rent control — are earnestly explored. If they set their minds to it, students like Dale Winling and Eugene Kang — and their supporters — could begin to make this vision a reality.

> My viewpoint in the Daily: “A perfect storm brewing in city politics

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 4:37 pm

Sunday, June 19th, 2005

Craigslist for Everybody!

My friend Ed Vielmetti tipped me off that Craigslist has expanded to a whole slew of new cities, including Ann Arbor and a bunch of others like Fresno, Wichita and even the entire state of West Virginia. Thoughts? I am still waiting for Portland, Maine.

Update: Maybe I missed it last night, but there’s now a Craigslist for Maine.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborTechnology by Rob at 11:41 pm

A2 News on Student for Council

I found this photo of Eugene Kang, a 21-year old U-M senior running for City Council, on his facebook profile.

Kang was profiled in this week’s Michigan Daily. Readers of my blog will find some of these themes very familiar:

“The only people who can live Ann Arbor are the extremely wealthy. Those in the middle who don’t make $150,000 per year won’t be able to live here,” he said.

Kang said that current residential areas in Ann Arbor that people enjoy would not exist if introduced to the city today.“A lot of the cooler places built down Main Street could not be built now because of city zoning,” Kang said.

Kang said he is also concerned about student participation in city politics. Alex Donn, one of Kang’s campaign advisers and a third-year Law School student, said that the political limitations placed on students have been a concern of his for quite some time. “Local voting regulations impinge on the rights for students to vote in Ann Arbor,” Donn said. “The same people who say students should pay attention are putting voting regulations on them.”

“The primary takes place when all the students are away.”
“It’s not like they all decided to take a three-day vacation and missed the primary. Students are here 75 percent of the year,” Donn said. Kang said that the five wards prevent students from collectively raising their concerns to the city and that the wards that divide up Ann Arbor were created to better represent diversity.“Unfortunately, that hasn’t been achieved,” Kang said.

The Ann Arbor News also had a recent story on Kang, reproduced below. (Via ArborUpdate)

University student plans run for council
U-M’s Eugene Kang wants 2nd Ward seat
Friday, June 17, 2005
News Staff Reporter

Eugene Kang, 21, said Thursday he has collected well more than the 100 petition signatures required to run for council in the 2nd Ward and will file with the City Clerk’s Office by Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline. His entry into the race would guarantee a second Democratic primary for a council seat this August, a rarity in recent council elections. A contested primary is also expected in the city’s 4th Ward.

“I don’t see this as my future but as a community service,” said Kang, a life-long resident of the 2nd Ward majoring in both English and philosophy en route to a career in law. “The City Council, in general, has the best ability to give back to the community and do positive things for the city, which is what I want to do.”

Former Republican mayoral candidate Stephen Rapundalo announced earlier he is running as a Democrat for the 2nd Ward seat. He filed his nominating petitions Wednesday, city officials said.

Second Ward Council Member Mike Reid, the council’s lone Republican, in April announced he will not seek a third term this fall.

Ann Arbor attorney Thomas Bourque has indicated he is circulating petitions to run as a Republican, but had not filed by Thursday, city officials said.

Kang, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Korea in 1969 and settled in Ann Arbor in 1973, said he believes now is the right time to make his first attempt for public office.

“As a student, my time is my own and I can dedicate as much of it to the city and researching issues as I can,” said Kang, who is entering his senior year at U-M.

He sheepishly admits to spending hours watching City Council meetings on television and reviewing agenda packets at the library, which have helped him develop a platform to address ongoing budget problems, affordable housing and improving political participation from all segments of the community.

He said his age should be viewed as an asset rather than a detriment because he can offer fresh ideas. Also, growing up in the 2nd Ward and attending

U-M gives Kang a unique perspective into issues that intertwine both the city’s and university’s interests, he said.

Five of the council’s 10 ward seats are up for election this year.

Art Aisner can be reached at aaisner at or (734) 994-6823.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 1:55 am

Friday, June 17th, 2005

Afternoon Links

Arborupdate: U-M Committee Recommends Coca-Cola Investigation

Also, PFAW: Save PBS Now! - (Send a letter to your congressperson)

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn Arbor by Rob at 6:19 pm

On the Status of Student Power in Ann Arbor

‘Perfect Storm’ Brewing in A2

The other day I sat down with Dale Winling to talk about a couple organizations he recently launched. Dale is a first year PhD candidate in Architectural History at the University of Michigan. He has undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from Western Michigan University and is from a town outside of Kalamazoo. I met with Dale to talk about two organizations he has founded in Ann Arbor: the New West Side Association is a neighborhood association targeting students in Ann Arbor’s west side, and the Ann Arbor Alliance, a membership organization open for members from anyone in Ann Arbor. The NWSA has a website and blog, and was written up in the Daily and on Arborupdate.

We talked about the role of students in Ann Arbor politics, which has been in recent years very small. This is something I have long bemoaned: in a city where over 1/3 of the population consists of students and renters, that community plays a minimal role in city politics. Furthermore, instead of treating this massive affront to democracy as a problem to combat, city leaders have been all too content to build a status quo which excludes most of the city from meaningful political participation. Although virtually all freshman live in the dorms, by their senior year almost every undergraduate at the University of Michigan will live off campus in a house, apartment, or fraternity or sorority.

However, I believe have been a number of recent developments indicate a group of student and renter citizens has coalesced which will seriously contend for power in the city. A perfect storm is brewing which could revolutionize Ann Arbor politics. The key components have fallen into place: an alternative media structure open to new voices (blogs, Arborupdate, student media), progressive public policy (the engagement of planning students), and viable political candidates. (Yes, the triad is similar to Wellstone’s formula for a “winning politics")

First, through the activism of a small group of blogs, there has developed an online community interested in engaging in local issues. This website has played a role in that, as well as Arborupdate (which I founded last summer), and Ann Arbor is Overrated, among others. Arborblogs, an effort to create a directory of Ann Arbor blogs has flourished under the able control of George Hotelling, and plays a role in connecting the Ann Arbor blogging community. Arborupdate in particular has become a venue where voices who otherwise not have a platform, like graduate student June Gin, can pose the question: “Will [Ann Arbor] continue to be a diverse, multi-cultural community where arts and ideas flourish? Or will it be transformed into a commodified playground for wealthy bored people? … Is urban apartheid part of our “Cool Cities” vision for Ann Arbor?” Second, there has also been interest building in the larger political community in engaging students in city council politics - College Democrats has discussed it at meetings and at least one student has run recently for City Council (Rick Lax). The issue of the greenbelt engaged students in unprecedented levels in local politics. Furthermore, the increase in knowledge and interest in community planning and design by undergraduates has been fueled in no small part by popular history professor of Matt Lassiter and the general coming into vogue of New Urbanism. This heightened level of activity has been a long time coming: My junior year as an undergraduate a friend organized a Student Neighborhood Action Project through the student government and a class to pick up garbage in the Student Ghetto (and hold a barbeque).

Furthermore, the existing city politicians have done much to fan student organizing in the past few years. The eminently reasonable and limited proposal introduced for Accessory Dwelling Units in the city was smacked down by the City Council in 2002, which subsequently fueled much organizing by Students for PIRGIM. City government was restructured to eliminate the planner and move more power to the council members and neighborhood associations. A draconian towing ordinance hit many students unawares with large fines that were reduced after an uproar. Murmurs of a couch ban last summer sparking unprecedented vocal participation in local politics many who had not spoken up before. (See my post on the role of blogs in the controversy)

Most recently, I have heard of perhaps the most encouraging sign yet: a serious student contender for city council. Eugene Kang is a lifetime Ann Arbor resident who will be running in a primary against a moderate democrat. And that brings me back around to Dale’s groups. We spoke how the two could be resources for tenants, advocates for progressive city planning based on the principals of New Urbanism, and a badly needed voice for the downtown renter community in Ann Arbor politics. I believe the combination of a large number of engaged undergraduates and professional planning students provide both the political base and intellectual resources to advance an agenda dedicated to affordability, sustainability, and inclusively. Ann Arbor doesn’t have particularly bad policies, however an atmosphere of complacency and pessimism about what is possible for the city hangs around the Guy Larcom building on 5th Ave. If they set their minds to it, students, renters, and their allies could be a potent political force who could fundamentally re-shape the city’s politics and also urban form. Imagine a city where tenants’ rights are a top priority, the planning commission and council aggressively pursues an agenda of dense, sustainable development, and new and radical ideas to provide affordable housing are earnestly explored. If they set their minds to it, students like Dale Winling, Eugene Kang, and June Gin – and their supporters – could begin to make this vision a reality.

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann ArborPoliticsBlogosphere by Rob at 10:55 am

Saturday, June 11th, 2005

Student Running for A2 City Council

Another student is running for Ann Arbor city council. Although I don’t know much about Kang, my friend Scott recently met him and seems to think he’d be a good candidate:

Kang definitely seems like he’s on the same page as I (and my cohorts) in terms of development, and how it relates to affordable housing, the environment, and the future of this small city. Given the relative homogeneity of the Council, I think Kang would be a great addition. He’s an Ann Arbor lifer (he grew up here, went to U of M, and intends to stay). He’s a student, who’s voices are woefully under-represented in city politics. Hopefully his campaign will also have the effect of mobilizing the significant, but politically uninvolved Korean-American community in Ann Arbor.

> SS Trudeau: Kang for Council

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann Arbor by Rob at 2:32 pm

Friday, June 10th, 2005

Google Looks for A2 Real Estate

Via Murph on Arborupdate, the Detroit News reports Google is looking for space in Ann Arbor. 200,000 square feet of space for 1,000 jobs - in a state that badly needs them.

Remember all the backlash in the last year against Richard Florida and his Cool Cities theory? According to the News: “Boston and Boulder, Colo., are other cities Google is considering for the project, which seeks to tap communities with a large population of recent college graduates from 22 to 30 years old. … ” Shocking, I know. Now, do you think that there will be more or less companies like Google in the future?

The article also has this tidbit:

Google is also looking for space to digitize thousands of bound materials within U-M’s library system, said John Wilkin, associate university librarian. “I wish we could accommodate them on campus, but we simply don’t have the room.”

Google personnel are working at U-M’s Buhr Remote Shelving Facility, but Wilkin didn’t have an exact employee total or the amount of space they were using.

The project began last July, with a goal of finishing in six years, but the work could be done in three years, Wilkin said.

Comments (2) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn ArborUrban DevelopmentTechnology by Rob at 11:08 am

Monday, June 6th, 2005

A2 ‘New West Side Association’ In the News

See the coverage on ArborUpdate of the group (which I posted about last week). The Daily story includes a mention of this website, and (a community website I founded):

After the proposed couch ban that the Old Forth Ward Association brought to the Ann Arbor city council last summer, many students began discussions on blogs and other websites to counter the idea that house fires are related to the couches many students and renters keep on their porches. Because homeowners in the ward have been organized, they have been able to promote their agenda in the community. But since students and renters have in the past been highly disorganized, they have normally only associated with one another through school programs, not through neighborhood associations — giving them limited capacity to voice their concerns for the neighborhood itself. …

The New West Side is also working toward legalization of accessory dwelling units, sometimes called “granny flats.” The association said these add-ons could be rented out, creating affordable means of living and a source of extra revenue for the homeowner. …

Students and renters are able to communicate using blogs created and utilized by many of the participants of the West Side, including and, as a tool to get informed about local issues and get their opinions heard by other students, renters and leaders of the community.

“These tools in no way replace seeing our neighbors on a regular basis. They serve to augment and improve these relationships,” Winling said.

West Side’s first call to action is its endorsement of a counter-proposal to a bill introduced by Rep. Chris Ward (R-Brighton) to the Michigan House that could potentially limit the ability of cities to have house inspections. Ward’s bill would change the Ann Arbor’s current inspection policy, which mandates inspections every two years, to a minimum of one inspection every five years and a maximum of one every three years.

“This merely loosens protection on the poor,” said Dan Faichney, LSA senior, and West Side member. Representatives from West Side said if Ward’s proposal passed, it could decrease the frequency of follow-up inspections to make sure houses are up to code, causing houses to remain dilapidated for much longer than they would under current limitations.

> See more on the couch ban and how the internet is changing Ann Arbor politics here

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann ArborBlogosphereUrban Development by Rob at 11:49 am

Thursday, June 2nd, 2005

AAPD Chief Criticized

Some Ann Arbor activists have set their sights on AAPD Chief Oates:

… Before coming to Ann Arbor in August 2001, Daniel Oates, an attorney, was the commander of the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Intelligence Division. In that position, Deputy Chief Oates, while not a named defendant, was an important figure in three First Amendment lawsuits litigated by the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Housing Works–an HIV-AIDS service provider and advocacy group that was critical of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s AIDS policies. Three separate opinions of federal District Judge Harold Baer, Jr. reveal that Oates and other officials repeatedly violated the First Amendment rights of Housing Works and its supporters under the rubric of security concerns. […]

Less than a month before 9/11, Oates took over as Chief of the Ann Arbor Police Department. In October 2001, Ann Arbor News interview, Oates mentioned an FBI “watch list which has hundreds of Arabic names."[8] The watch list was part of a federal dragnet that swept up more than 1,200 US citizens and non-citizens–mostly south Asians and Arabs. The only person caught in the sweep who was ever charged with involvement in the 9/11 attacks—Zacarias Moussaoui—was known to the FBI before the attacks. Thus, while the FBI’s broad-brush approach had questionable anti-terrorist value, it spread fear and distrust in immigrant communities and, arguably, gave tacit encouragement for scores of post-9/11 hate crimes. Yet, the Oates interview reveals no concern about ethnic profiling or lack of probable cause. Instead, Oates complained, “We need descriptions, ages, dates of birth, drivers’ license numbers, pictures . . . to capture these people."[9]

Repeatedly, and often in cooperation with local police, the FBI has egregiously and systematically violated the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans. According to former Deputy Chief Harold E. Olson, in the 1960s and 1970s, the AAPD, in cooperation with the FBI, “checked on possible subversives as a regular duty.” The AAPD also shared “political spying intelligence” with the infamous Chicago Police “Red Squad."[10]

The AAPD is a participant in the Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force, one of 66 of such groups around the country convened by the FBI to coordinate intelligence for anti-terror efforts. The Colorado ACLU discovered the Denver Task Force had been “gathering information and building files on the activities of peaceful protesters who have no connection to terrorism or any other criminal activity. I have not seen much information about the Detroit group, but in December 2004 the ACLU of Michigan filed a FOIA request for information on the FBI’s activities in the state:

There is reason to believe that surveillance of law-abiding groups is occurring in Michigan. First, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced in 2002 that law enforcement would be permitted to spy on political and religious groups even though there was no suspicion that they were violating the law. Second, there are documented examples of JTTFs in other parts of the country investigating environmental activists, anti-war protesters, and others who are clearly not terrorists nor involved in terrorist activities …

The Michigan FOIA was part of an ongoing national effort to see how much domestic surveillance the FBI has engaged in since 9/11.

>> See my post 2003 from the same group on the JTTF and AAPD’s role in the arrest of Rabih Haddad

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 9:09 pm

Wednesday, June 1st, 2005

Grace Lee Boggs to Speak in Ann Arbor Fri.

In Ann Arbor? Check out this fundraiser Friday:

you are invited:
come on out to a benefit dinner supporting

~ Friday, June 3, 7:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
at 205 Division, Apt. 2 (Corner of Ann and Division), Ann Arbor

featured guest speaker:

old timey music performers:

fine organic foods courtesy of:

all are welcome.
suggested donation: $6 - $60
all proceeds support the summer programming of Back Alley Bikes & Detroit

PLEASE RSVP IF YOU ARE ABLE TO ATTEND: email mmedow at or call

Want more info on the beneficiaries? check out this article.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 4:10 pm

Friday, May 27th, 2005

Counter the Old Fourth Ward

Ann Arbor folks: go join the New West Side Association! Check out their blog! It looks similar to an idea I had as an undergrad but never really got off the ground: a student neighborhood association.

Why? As I said in October “The Old Fourth Ward Association is a neighborhood association notorious in the city for doing everything they can to boost their property values by calling police for even small student parties, and agitating for restrictive, puritanical laws.” (See an example … ) AAIO should be all over this soon …

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann Arbor by Rob at 10:55 pm

Thursday, May 26th, 2005

University of Michigan / Ann Arbor Content (2000-2004)

For four years, this blog was focused on events in Ann Arbor and at the University of Michigan.

- What was the old blog?: To read my last post before re-launching the site with different focus (I moved to Washington, D.C.) view my last entry with that template. The Michigan Daily also printed a short profile of the website.

- BAM-N: I have a website with information about the organization the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action by Any Means Necessary: You can also peruse more recent content in my BAM-N category.

- Ann Arbor City Council Elections: In 2003, I sent a survey to all the city council candidates. View the results here: 2003 City Council Candidate Survey

- 9/11 Photo Gallery: I have posted a collection of photos of the 9/11 events in a gallery that gets my site lots of hits from the right wing website

- Borders Employee Strike: I closely followed the strike of employees of Borders’ Books Ann Arbor downtown location (the first store the company ever opened.) The employees eventually won a contract, but not without a strike. See my materials here: Borders Strike, or use the search box on the top right.

- History of Activism Class: I taught a class on the history of student activism at U-M. My class website has more information: “Student Activism and Social Change at the University of Michigan” The extensive coursepack I prepared for this course is in the Bentley library.

- Hash Bash: A true Ann Arbor tradition, and I collected some photos and other information on my Hash Bash page.

- Michigamua: I published quite a bit of data about Michigan’s racist secret society, and most is on this page. You can also click here for recent updates.

- Naked Mile: Another popular tradition, this one ended by administrators. I compiled my information on my Naked Mike page.

- Planada Building: The University tore down the historic Planada Apartment Complex to make room for … parking.

- MSA Elections: My blog was well known for its comprehensive student government election results.

- University Employee Pay: I obtained a spreadsheet of how much all the University employees were paid. Of course, it’s on the web: 2002 Data, 2003 Data, 2004 Data.

- U-M Employee Political Giving: Interested to see what candidates and parties your professors and administrators are giving money to come election time? Check out my U-M Political Giving page.

- ‘Inside the Daily’: I wrote for the news staff and the opinion staff for the Michigan Daily, and was fired two or three) times (depending on who you ask). I sum it all up in my “Inside the Daily” Series.

- Birthday Freebies: My post on free things you can get in A2 on your birthday is always popular.

What are you looking for? If you have interests similar to mine, or are looking for more data than I have on the web for any of these topics, you may be interested in viewing my papers at the Bentley Historical Collection. Leave a comment.

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn Arbor by Rob at 5:13 pm

Thursday, May 19th, 2005

Students Filibuster Frist in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor Filibuster The Fristabuster has come to Ann Arbor. Click on the image to see more photos, sent to me by participat Kristin Purdy, or see my story on Arbor Update.

Event organizer Kristin Purdy and myself will be on WCBN tonight at 6 p.m. - listen in online here!

Comments (3) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 4:07 pm

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

Filibuster Frist in Ann Arbor



*** JOIN US ***
+ Thursday, May 19
+ 9 AM to 9 PM
+ Steps of the Union

Save the Senate’s voice in judicial nominations
Bring signs, reading material, and your voice!

Please email Kristin at purdykri at for further questions. Also check out the Princeton Filibuster at:

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn ArborPolitics by Rob at 5:40 pm

Friday, May 13th, 2005

Project Democracy Training in Ann Arbor in August

$60 if you register before July 15 … apply online here.

Make Your Voice Heard
Learn how at
Project Democracy’s Summer Activist Training August 15- 19th, 2005

The Summer Activist training will provide a unique opportunity for students from around the country to come together and learn how to run on-campus grassroots campaigns and voter participation campaigns. Students will be taught by some of the foremost activists and trainers
in the country, and will learn everything from the basics of tabling to how to run a sophisticated media campaign through hands on sessions. Become a campus leader. Apply now!

EDUCATE- Our trainers will educate students on the best methods of campus engagement, including the most effective ways to teach your fellow students about important issues.

ADVOCATE- Learn how to make the student voice heard on campus and by elected officials from the local level to national.

MOBILIZE- Go back to campus with all the tools you need to run a successful campaign and get others involved.

LCVEF’s Project Democracy Summer Activist Training The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI August 15-19, 2005 Apply online at or email Seth Fiur at seth_fiur at

Cost: $75 includes housing, training, and some meals. Apply by July 15th to
receive early discount rate of $60.

Travel scholarships are available. Apply online.

Application Deadline: August 1, 2005

Project Democracy is a program of the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, a non-partisan nationwide effort to train and mobilize young Americans to make their voices heard in elections and with elected officials.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 4:58 pm

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005

Michigamua Members

from ‘04 and ‘05 classes …

Lisa Yang (lwy) - USAC pres
Dana Baki (dbaki) - MSA
Antonina Nina Catalfio (acatalfi) - UMDM
Jaya Soni - Head Multicultural Greek Council (See the Daily on controversy)
Neal Pancholi - IASA president, AIO president, 2006 SAAN cochair

In my opinion, no self-respecting progressive should even consider joining Michigamua. If there was a very elite troup that performed blackface minstrelsy for around 90 years, and around year 100 asked you to join - would you? Of course not. I challenge anyone: go to the Bentley Historical Library. All of the organization’s internal communications are written in stylized english. All of the classes have taken nick-names. Their longtime letterhead contains gross stereotypes. The historical record is unambiguous - the group has an offensive history and identity. The leader interested in service has many options other than Michigamua. Plus, if you join Michigamua, when you try to run for public office or ask anyone I know for a job I will be there, holding you accountable for your actions.

> See more members.
> See Michigamua documents
> See related blog entries

Comments (4) • Posted to Ann ArborMichigamua by Rob at 12:48 am

Monday, April 18th, 2005

Op-Ed on A2 Drug Busts

I received this from an acquaintance, I’ve heard a bit about it but not much.

Many of you have probably already see the news clips about the marijuana bust at the University of Michigan. Some have read articles from the AAnews, Michigandaily you name it. For those of you who haven’t i have provided some links below.

But what many of you may not have read about the same day as reports surfaced about students arrested on drug charges stemming from over 6 months previous to April 15th, is the Department of Justice’s Operation Falcon (
also go to cnn, msnbc, abc, or fox news and search Operation Falcon to read articles from April 15th.

The Ann Arbor news was quick to publish the names, charges (accurate or not), potency level of the marijuana found ("highly toxic” according to police chief Oates) but failed to report on the AAPD’s involvement in Operation Falcon - why the arrests of these students all took place simultaneously and without incident.

In addition, little to no coverage has been given about the rights of tenants and innocent college students who may be living in the same house/apartment building/rental units as those being investigated for marijuana charges. Due to reports by fellow students, who live in
some of the large community residents raided by the police, we know the news failed to report the lack of care given to upholding the terms for search/arrest warrants. The violation of innocent student’s right to privacy may have occurred.

I ask you all if there may be a collective response brought through editorials, research, reporting, civilian dissent and contacts at local news papers, that may help to ensure responsible media coverage - including a discussion of the facts presented, and reasons for the hype surrounding what should be seemingly routine drug arrests. Maybe this is a chance to also follow some of these students and study the effect of being a student at one of the countries top universities
(some of the accused may be middle-class to well off, some white and other minorities) - looking at the punishments given out in comparison with national statistics.

Below are the links for just two of the news articles.

WDIV report

Article from the Ann Arbor News

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 9:53 pm

Thursday, April 14th, 2005

Michigan Independent Launch Photos

Libby Benton has posted some photos from the Divided State screening and the Michigan Independent launch in Ann Arbor this week.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 1:54 pm

Monday, April 11th, 2005

obsolete campus society

This rock is at the base of the big flag pole on the Diag.

Comments (1) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn ArborMichigamuaPhotos by Rob at 8:41 pm

create or die quietly

Seen in Ann Arbor

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborStencil Art by Rob at 8:40 pm

so arty

A building on Maynard Street in Ann Arbor.

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann ArborPhotos by Rob at 8:37 pm

New Blog

My friend Scott has abandoned his Master of None blog and started up, where he has already drawn some attention for a Starbucks internet gag. Go check out his site!

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann ArborBlogosphereTechnology by Rob at 4:22 pm

Michigan Independent Launches

The first issue of the Michigan Independent hits the U-M campus tomorrow. The Independent is supported by the Center for American Progress’s Campus Progress program, and is a new progressive newspaper.

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn ArborPolitics by Rob at 4:16 pm

Saturday, April 9th, 2005 Named Runner-up Best Blog in Ann Arbor

Yes, you read right. Current Magazine has selected this website for 2nd place in the “Best Blog” category in their 2005 Best of Washtenaw County. Ann Arbor is Overrated won first - congratulations!

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborSite Announcements by Rob at 11:42 am

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Wellstone! Screening In Ann Arbor

Last fall I wrote about the release of a documentary about the life of Paul Wellstone. The film is going to be screened in Ann Arbor this week:

***Michigan Premiere of “Wellstone!” Documentary***

When: Thursday, March 31st, 7 pm - 8:30 pm.
Where: Rackham Amphitheater (4th floor), in the Rackham Graduate School Building, 915 E Washington, Ann Arbor.

Go to to view a trailer. “Wellstone!” is about a remarkable man, Paul Wellstone, who defied tradition, became a U.S. Senatorfrom Minnesota, and brought politics back to the people. The film is funny, stirring and full of surprises.

$5 suggested donation at the door. (all donations will go to Wellstone Action! A non-profit, non-partisan organization).

Sponsored by the Ford School Student Affairs Committee, and the Ford School of Public Policy.

Questions? E-mail angela at aboatman at

> Order a copy of the documentary

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 10:15 pm

Diag Dance Party Wednesday @ U of M

your presence is requested for a mid-day diag dance party hosted by yours truly,
dj max blixx.

come on out and get down to the best (only?) politically conscious disco-tech-house-boogie-funk in town. if you have class, skip it. put on your sneakers and prepare to dance. we are going to be setting up a sound system right on the diag from 12-1PM this wednesday, march 30. this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at best, and it’s something i’ve always wanted
to do.

don’t be late, it’s only an hour long. i hope to see you there-

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn Arbor by Rob at 1:14 am

stencil in ann arbor

I found this stencil in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborStencil Art by Rob at 12:05 am

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

Tom Hayden To Make Rare U-M Appearance Thurs.

This just in:

Tom Hayden will be speaking at the 40th Anniversary Teach-In this Thursday March24. The event goes from 6:30 to midnight in Angell Hall. There will be an open floor for students (and others) to talk at the posting wall followed by speeches in the Angell Auditoriums.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 8:39 pm

40th Anniversary Teach-Ins

The first teach-in on the Vietnam War was held in 1965 at the University of Michigan. Today, students and faculty have organized a 40th anniversary event on the “Evaluating the American Empire” with a variety of U-M professors including Ian Robinson, Charlie Bright, Ivette Perfecto, among others. They have set up a website here.

There is also a teach-in planned by United for Peace and Justice and the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, for George Washington University:

On the 40th Anniversary of
the first teach-in on the Vietnam War


Thursday, March 24, 7:00pm - 10:00pm
George Washington University
Jack Morton Auditorium, Media and Public Affairs Building
805 21st St., NW (Corner of 21st and H St. Map (PDF file)
Foggy Bottom/ GWU metro on Blue and Orange line

Free and open to the public!
Sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies with United for Peace and Justice,
Black Voices for Peace, Students Against the War in Iraq, Military Families Speak
Out, and Global Exchange

Opening Remarks on the legacy of the Vietnam teach-in movement by Professor Marcus Raskin, GWU and the Institute for Policy Studies. Panel Discussion with: Naomi Klein, award winning journalist and author of No Logo; Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies; Damu Smith, Black Voices for Peace; Anas Shallal, Iraqi Americans for Peaceful Alternatives; Celeste Zappala, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace and member of Military Families Speak Out, whose son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed in Baghdad in 2004.

Two years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the tragedy of war continues and the U.S. has no plan for bringing the troops home. The death toll soars on all sides, especially among civilians. The cost of the war mounts daily as vital social programs are being cut at home. But many questions remain: Did the January 2005 elections improve the situation in Iraq? Is the US troop presence in Iraq helping stabilize the country, or is it at the root of Iraq’s deadly violence? And what
are the true costs of the war at home – its impact on military families and returning veterans, its $200+ billion price tag, and the legacy of occupation on the people of Iraq?

Join us in Washington, DC, to consider these issues to mark the 40th anniversary of the first Vietnam War teach-in in 1965. Simultaneous teach-ins will be held in San Francisco and Ann Arbor to launch a United for Peace and Justice education campaign on how to end the war in Iraq.

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn ArborPoliticsWashington D.C. by Rob at 4:46 pm

Friday, March 11th, 2005

Ann Arbor On the Big Screen

Read Kevin Costner’s shirt. Taken from this New York Times article. Pointed out to me by friend and blog lurker Becky Parks.

Comments (0) • Posted to GeneralAnn Arbor by Rob at 3:44 pm

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

My Papers in the Bentley

Yesterday, I turned over many of my papers I accumulated during my four and a half years living in Ann Arbor to the Bentley Historical Collection at the University of Michigan.

While I have been told it will take some time before the papers are publicly available as they receive a large amount of donations I thought I would post a description of its contents.

The collection, which will be available under my name, will include the following things:

Why the Bentley? First, I wanted this information preserved in a public yet secure location. Most of its salient information is already replicated on this website, and although something of a conspiracy theorist I believed they would follow my wishes and make the information public. Second, as the University’s official archive their funding and future seems assured for the forseeable future. They recently expanded, and the University has a vested interest in the health and future of the archive.

Searching This WebsiteThere are three ways to find information on this website:
> First, you can conduct a simple google search by clicking here, or in google add the text “” to the end of your keywords. This method includes all the content I have posted and should be your first post.
> Second, to search in just the blog entries, use the small search box on the upper right. This does not include much of the older content like salaries or political giving.
> Third, browse by topic. On the bottom left there is a “categories” section. Most of the larger posts on the topics listed have been categorized - simply click on the subjects to browse the posts.
If you have any trouble finding anything, let me know: rob at

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn ArborBAM-NMichigamuaStudent GovernmentAffirmative ActionHistoryUrban Development by Rob at 5:18 pm

Friday, November 19th, 2004

U-M Student Government Election Results

If you’re in Ann Arbor, you might be interested in this: Fall 2004 MSA Election Results and LSA-SG Election Results.

> Past years’ election results

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn ArborStudent Government by Rob at 4:13 pm

Monday, November 15th, 2004

Group To Hold Second Screening of Prison Documentary

After an overflow crowd turned out for a November 8 screening of a documentary about the criminal justice system, the U-M chapter of Amnesty International has organized another free screening of the award-winning prison documentary “Juvies".

The group will show the documentary Juvies on Thursday, November 18 at 7 p.m. in the Vandenberg Room of the Michigan League.

I interviewed director Leslie Neale for this website before the first showing. During her visit to Ann Arbor earlier this month, Neale answered questions after the screening of her film and participated in a joint event with the Prison Creative Arts Project, a U-M program where students work with Michigan prisoners to create artwork.

On Nov. 8, the U-M Amnesty International group says “over 50″ people were turned away after the 210-seat screening room filled to capacity. The Michigan Daily covered the event with a lengthy story, which included this excerpt:

… “Every warden I have talked to has said juveniles are the most rehabilitatable group among violent criminals.” [Directory Leslie Neale] then made an analogy between sending adolescents to adult prison and “feeding coal to a furnace.”

She emphasized the financial implications of sending young people to prison as opposed to rehabilitating them and letting them return to society.

“It costs one million dollars to lock a kid up for life,” she said.

LSA student John Smith, said the film was illuminating. “It’s absolutely shocking what they did to those kids – the sentences are egregious,” he said. He blamed the phenomenon on overzealous politicians and a public that has been confused by an alarmist media.

At the film’s end, the pedestrians who said they were in favor of juvenile criminals standing trial as adults were told what [juvenile offender] Ta had done and asked what punishment he should received. The pedestrians, who seemed to agree on a sentence of several years, were in disbelief when informed that he had been given 35 years.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 10:02 pm

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

Ann Arbor Voters Legalize Medical Marijuana

With 31 out of 48 Ann Arbor City precincts reporting, Ann Arbor’s Proposal C is passing with 74.72% of the vote. Thus far there are 25,223 for and 8,535 votes against. Ann Arbor was one of a number of municipalities considering proposals to liberalize marijuana laws.

Also in Ann Arbor, mayor John Hieftje is winning his bid for re-election with over 68% of the vote. Larry Kestenbaum’s race for County Clerk and Register of Deeds is extremely close, with 27,513 votes recorded for him, and 25,569 for his opponent, incumbent Peggy Haines.

More Ann Arbor Election Results

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 2:12 am

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

B. Joseph White To Be President Of U. Illinois

Longtime University of Michigan professor and administrator B. Joseph White has accepted a position as President of the University of Illinois.

White served as interim president of the University of Michigan between the Bollinger and Coleman adminisrations, and was widely liked by students. He was thought to be a contentor for the position of University president, but the UM Board of Regents selected Coleman, then the president of the University of Iowa. He served as dean of the Business school from 1991 until 2001, overseeing a time of dramatic growth for the school.

> AP: “B. Joseph White Selected at 16th University of Illinois President”

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn Arbor by Rob at 10:47 pm

‘Be The Media’: Instructions for Michigan and Ohio Citizens

This is a message from the Michigan Independent Media Center:




Help Support Alternative Media on November 2 and Beyond

— website:
— breaking news: 1 877 825 9535
— for more info:

One of the reasons Bush was able to steal the election in 2000 is because everyone was waiting for the television to tell them the answer. This time we’re watching the elections without the corporate filter.

The Michigan Independent Media Center (IMC) is teaming up with WCBN-FM Ann Arbor to mobilize coverage of the November 2 elections and we need your help.

The MichiganIMC will be a grassroots, non-corporate voice documenting possible voter disfranchisement, fraud and intimidation that may occur on November 2 (N2), as well as popular responses to injustices at the polls and other election-related protest activity. MichiganIMC is aiming to facilitate coverage of news from Ohio and Michigan, as well as national news.

This message contains important information that you need in order to support efforts to build an alternative media voice during the presidential elections. Read below for the following information:

-MichiganIMC Breaking News Hotline
-webcast radio
-text message alerts
-web publishing
-financial support
-Call for audio submissions for webcast radio

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPoliticsBlogosphere by Rob at 10:54 am

Monday, November 1st, 2004

Michigan Election News

- Governor Granholm Opposes Proposal 2 A recent Freep editorial summarizes her views on the proposal. For more information, see the website of the proposal’s opponents:

- Ann Arbor Proposal C would legalize medical marijuana in Ann Arbor for more information see the website of U.M. NORML

- Student Voices In Action Endorses Regents Maynard and Taylor The activist student organization that sucessfully resisted critical cuts to student services last year has endorsed Regents Maynard and Taylor for re-election:


re-elect Olivia Maynard and S. Martin Taylor as our Regents

this Tuesday on your ballot, you will see the names of two U-M regents who are up for reelection. Student Voices in Action supports both Olivia Maynard and S. Martin Taylor as concerned University administrators who have been receptive to student concerns over this past year. The Regents can really have power- both good and bad- so it’s important that we make sure good ones stay in office!

Regent Maynard wrote the following in an email to the organization last week:

“I am by training a social worker. I support advocacy and SVA did a good job as advocates. In terms of sexual assault and violence issues its important that any unresolved issues keep being discussed until they are resolved. This regent is always open to student concerns and always wants to hear from you. It is also important to recognize that the regents’ role is policy making and not day to day involvement in administrative matters. However, knowing what are students issues (and other interested groups) helps us to be better policy makers.

- Flint Native Michael Moore has issued a message to his fans: One Day Left”

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPoliticsMichigan by Rob at 2:36 pm

Sunday, October 31st, 2004

Michigan Daily Won’t Cover County Elections

The Michigan Daily isn’t planning on assigning any reporters to cover county races for this November’s election. This via Larry Kestenbaum’s blog:

… Citing a lack of staff and column space, the Michigan Daily student newspaper will not cover any of the Washtenaw County races in Tuesday’s election.

Two editors I spoke with this afternoon acknowledged that U-M students play a big role in county politics, but politely declined to do anything to inform them.

Although I’m not sure what the newspaper has done in the past, I suspect they covered contested county races at least nominally - assigning a reporter to make some calls and include it in a story for Wednesday. Kestenbaum, who is running for county clerk, is known by many in Ann Arbor, is a University employee, prolific blogger, and administrator of a popular website. Among county races, his campaign at least deserves to be covered by the Daily.

Also, as noted by many Ann Arbor area bloggers (Including AAIO and Kestenbaum’s Polygon) the Ann Arbor News has endorsed President Bush, arguing “Bush offers the best chance to win in Iraq and to slow terrorism.”

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 9:50 pm

Monday, October 25th, 2004

Blogs and Politics

Last summer, I was one of a number of bloggers who vigorously opposed a proposed ban on couches on porches of homes in Ann Arbor:

> “City May Consider Ban on Porch Couches”
> Defending Porch Couches
> No Reason to Ban Porch Couches

In the end, I concluded:

In the end, this issue isn’t just about couches, its about a certain class of mostly wealthy property owners being overrepresented in city politics. This is the reason why Ann Arbor has rolled back its liberal pot laws by piling on court fees, has exorbitant fines for snow removal towing (they all have garages, after all!) and refused to accept an extremely limited ordinance which might allow a few graduate students and old people to live in “granny flats.” People who are willing to stand up for the interest of the city’s renters, students, the poor (that remain), and many other virtually unrepresented communities must involve themselves in city politics.

The Old Fourth Ward Association is a neighborhood association notorious in the city for doing everything they can to boost their property values by calling police for even small student parties, and agitating for restrictive, puritanical laws. Many people in the city opposed a proposal a couple years back which would have eased the housing crisis by allowing home owners to rent out parts of their homes as apartments. This is from a recent email to members, via Ann Arbor is Overrated:

[O]n the couch ordinance that was tabled in September, some council reps indicated that they had received more emails against than for the ordinance. To me, the suggestion that email campaigns can affect council decisions is troubling. Can a group of temporary residents with easy access to sophisticated technology now exert more influence on local decisions that the individual opinions of longer term Ann Arbor residents with less access to technology?…Certainly, email campaigns and blogs have certainly influenced national politics in this way. The question is whether local politics should be influenced in a similar way.

Our friend AAIO has her own take: “Whew, at least they haven’t found out about our orbital mind-control lasers yet.”

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann ArborPoliticsBlogosphere by Rob at 1:19 am

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

Planada Apartment Building Comments

Planada Building, 1920-2003
Photo taken summer 2002. The University of Michigan purchased and demolished this historic structure located on their Medical Campus in Fall of 2003. I argued it was part of a University-sponsored destruction of the medical campus where the fabric of Ann Arbor is being replaced with massive parking structures, generating a city unfriendly to pedestrians and visitors. Ironically, the University of Michigan College of Urban Planning is home to some of the nation’s foremost experts in urban design and New Urbanism. My friend Mike suggested at the time University administrators at least save the facade and use it in a new dorm or new buildings, which was not done.

Since the comments on this blog hosted by BackBlog will expire sometime next spring, I’m saving some of the more important ones for the historical record as a part of the main blog. These are from my Planada Building page:

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborHistoryUrban Development by Rob at 12:19 am

Wednesday, October 13th, 2004

Ann Arbor Voting Guide

UPDATE: To see other voting guides from Ann Arbor area bloggers, see this list posted by George on ArborBlogs

To see if you are successfully registered to vote in Michigan, to find out where to vote on November 2, or to view your ballot, go to

If Publius doesn’t have your name and you believe you have registered OR to request an absentee ballot, contact the Ann Arbor City Clerk’s Office.

My Voting Guide (This guide includes information for contested races only.)

John F. Kerry & John Edwards - Democrat

John D. Dingell - Democrat

Chris Kolb - Democrat

Marianne Yared McGuire - Democrat
Herbert S. Moyer - Democrat

I suggest voting for Democrats Olivia P. Maynard and S. Martin Taylor. Although Green Party candidate Nathaniel Dameren is appealing, if elected the Republican candidates would try to end affirmative action and likely have a negative impact on a host of issues I care about: the University’s labor relations, environmental and multicultural policies, etc.

I recommend voting for Democrats Joel I. Ferguson and Phil Thompson.

Tina Abbott - Democrat
Annetta Miller - Democrat

Brian L. Mackie - Democrat

Daniel Minzey - Democrat

University employee, blogger, and administrator of The Political Graveyard Lawrence Kestenbaum will be an excellent county clerk.

John Hieftje - Democrat

Depends on your ward. I’ll post something on this soon.

This case is extremely important: the Michigan Supreme Court is controlled by right-wing Republicans. One of the two Democrats, Marilyn Kelly, is running for re-election, and the other Democrat in the race is Deborah Thomas. There is no party affiliation for this race on the ballot - but it’s easy to remember who to vote for - they’re the only women in the race!

I don’t know enough about these candidates to give an endorsement, however the candidates running are:
Stephen J. Gill
Pamela J. Horiszny
Alfred E. Johnson
Roger W. Lane
Kenneth Lindow

This proposal would make it harder for new casinos and other gambling to happen in the state: it would require a statewide vote and also the local jurisdiction vote to approve gambling. I support this proposal - vote YES on 1.

This proposal would amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. It’s part of a nationwide campaign to prevent gays and lesbians from achieving equal rights. Vote NO on 2.
UPDATE: See the website of a group opposing this proposal at

This proposal is to renew a property tax used to fund parks and recreation. Yay parks and recreation! Vote YES on proposal A.

This proposal would restore a property tax to fund Washtenaw Community College. Since I believe public education is the cornerstone to a healthy and economically vibrant democracy, I suggest voting YES on Proposal B.

This proposal would allow for the use of marijuana as a medical treatment in the city of Ann Arbor. Vote YES.

More information on voting law in Michigan

Comments (5) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 11:12 am

Tuesday, October 12th, 2004

Ann Arbor Events

Things seem a little quiet around Ann Arbor these days?

DiagI just posted some Ann Arbor events on Noam Chomsky is coming, so is Seymour Hersh, Teach for America is showing a documentary about their origins, American Movement for Israel is hosting a presidential debate watching party at Hillel this week,’s fabulous “Paper Ballots, Rubber Bullets” film series continues this Wednesday with ‘What America Needs‘.

If that weren’t enough GEIU is recruiting students and faculty to get paid to study and work abroad, my friend Sam is compiling a zine targeting pro-Bush jews to convince them to vote for Kerry (swoll at for info), friend Ari Paul wrote a letter to the Daily, and Ypsiblogger Steve Cherry thinks the fire at Willow Run sounds suspicious.

Comments (0) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn Arbor by Rob at 1:31 am

Friday, October 8th, 2004

Seymour Hersh To Speak in Ann Arbor

Award winning author and investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh will speak in Ann Arbor at 4 p.m. on Oct. 26 in the League’s Mendelssohn Theatre. (See the event on

Seymour HerschIn 1969 Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the My Lai massacre in Vietnam where the U.S. military murdered a large group of innocent civilians. He has also written award-winning books about the Nixon and Kennedy administrations, Israel and U.S. foreign policy, and the Army’s investigation of My Lai.

Recently, he has written a series of groundbreaking investigative pieces on torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where he has concluded the torture is part of a secret program personally authorized by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He has also alleged in speaking engagements much more damning video and photographic evidence of abuse is being withheld by the U.S. government.

His visit is part of the New Yorker College Tour. He will speak Tuesday, October 26 at 4 p.m. in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater in the Michigan League in a discussion event with New Yorker editor David Remnick.

A full listing of other events during the New Yorker College Tour visit to Ann Arbor follow after the jump.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 2:54 pm

I will be in Ann Arbor this weekend - arriving tonight and leaving Monday afternoon. Cell: (202) 321-2743

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann Arbor by Rob at 12:50 am

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

Alleyway in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor Alleyway
Behind the Michigan Theater.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPhotos by Rob at 11:30 pm

Friday, September 24th, 2004

Michael Moore Update

Michael Moore speaking at Stockton College in Pomona, NJ

Filmmaker Michael Moore distributed today an email to his email list on “Mr. Bush and His 10 Ever-Changing Different Positions on Iraq” His message includes this quote from Bush from a debate in 2000:

I–I would take the use of force very seriously. I would be guarded in my approach. I don’t think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we’ve got to be very careful when we commit our troops. The vice president [Al Gore] and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation building. I–I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders. I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place. And so I take my–I take my–my responsibility seriously.” –October 3, 2000

Meanwhile, his popular website is becoming increasingly shrill as the election approaches. His “Slacker Uprising Tour,” which will visit 60 cities in 20 swing states before the November election comes to Ann Arbor next Wednesday, however tickets have already sold out.

The campus chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom are planning a protest, according to this internal email to members:

We want to “welcome” him with a contingent of YAFers on the front steps of Hill Auditorium.

We’ll be holding a strategizing/signmaking meeting Monday night at 9:30 pm in room 2105D of the Michigan Union. We need to show everyone Michael Moore’s true colors (which are green and white if the hat he wears is any indication) and that we are not fooled by his pseud-intellectualism.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborPolitics by Rob at 12:13 pm

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

Suppression of Student Voting In Ann Arbor

This website was cited in a recently-released report on barriers to student voting issued by the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund’s Project Democracy. The report, titled “Not Home, Not Welcome: Barriers To Student Voters” (PDF) concludes

“If students cannot register or vote the first time they attempt to exercise their fundamental right, they will be less likely to participate in democracy in the future. Increasing the number of young voters will lead to increased overall voter turnout in both the short and long term.

The report cites my 2003 City Council Election page for a section on gerrymandering of students in Santa Barbara and Ann Arbor.

UPDATE: The report was covered by the Washington Post today as well as many other media outlets. It was largely written by U-M student and member of Students for Pirgim Ellen Kolasky - good work, Ellen!

Comments (2) • Posted to University of MichiganAnn ArborPolitics by Rob at 3:47 pm

Monday, August 2nd, 2004

New Local Blog Launched

My friend Scott Trudeau has finally gotten around to starting a blog at To get an idea of what do expect, check out his FAQ.

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Monday, May 31st, 2004

Noodle Chain Coming to State Street

According to their website, and a short story in this month’s Ann Arbor Observer, the old location of Decker Drugs will soon be the site of a “Noodles & Company.” According to an official company press release, Noodles & Company, founded in 1995, is in a phase of “aggressive expansion,” currently operates 87 restaurants in nine states, and plans to have “approximately 200 locations” by 2006. What precisely will a “Noodles & Co” serve? Their website describes it as “a daily dining destination built upon a chef-driven menu inspired by spicy Asian food, American comfort food and time-tested European dishes,” assuring us their restaurants “creates a craveable experience that is broadly appealing across diverse markets, demographics and day parts.” Day parts? Craveable? File that one in the “new words” department, along with “actionable,” “suiciders,” and “warfighters”

The company is actually opening two locations soon: one in the Arborland mall, and the location on State Street which will be two stories, and according to the Observer, will be full historic renovation seeing to “preserve as many of the building’s historic features as possible.” In my mind, this is similar to a number of other locations in the area. Drake’s Sandwich shop on North University was replaced with a Brugger’s, who decorated their drab corporate interior with historic photos of the area; Potbelly’s which replaced the former store of a record store (albeit corporate, which went out of business) and book store (which relocated) in a two level renovated space which showcase’s the building’s “old” look, and now a specialty chain seeks to replace the location formerly occupied by a local, independent druggist.

> See related post: “The Gentrification of Ann Arbor”

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Monday, May 24th, 2004

Defending Porch Couches

I have received a reply to my op-ed about porch couches from a member of city council. The councilperson writes:


The proposal to ban couches on porches is based on national fire safety standards and tragedies that have occurred at other university towns either with fires on porches or with waterlogged furniture causing collapse of the structure. Couches outdoors also attract vagrants who may find them a nice place to sleep and smoke. These old pieces of upholstered furniture are unsightly and dangerous. It is a lot “cooler” to purchase inexpensive plastic furniture to use on porches.


Here’s my reply:

Dear X:

Thanks for your reply. However, I’m not convinced by the arguments you have made supporting a proposed ban.

First, you allege upholstered furniture on porches can become waterlogged and cause structural collapse. Having lived in two buildings with porches with upholstered furniture, I can attest that they didn’t become more than mildly damp, even in the most wet weather. Also, if they are damp, reason would seem to indicate they would not be much of a fire hazard - if you have ever tried to start a fire with damp firewood, you might be familiar with this phenomenon.

Furthermore, although I have heard of porches collapsing, I believe in general this happens because well-used wood has a usable age after which point it must be replaced. Many of the houses in Ann Arbor are well over fifty years old, and it should be expected that wooden porches constructed with untreated lumber, which may or may not have been properly maintained by the building owners, will occasionally fail. In general however, a structural engineer will tell you that material fails when it experiences a sudden stress - such as when too many people are on the porch, and not when it is passively bearing a load. If you are concerned about collapsing porches, I would suggest instructing the city to inspect the quality and integrity of the wood, not ban furniture you consider “unsightly.”

Second, I am baffled by your argument about “vagrants.” Yes, Ann Arbor has a homeless population, but I’m not sure why couches are any more attractive to these people than patio furniture. I suspect the homeless might be occasionally spotted on upholstered furniture because students are more likely to have couches, and students dominate the rental market in Ann Arbor. In short, “vagrants” as you term them will make use of the porch of any building that goes vacant for part of the year - no matter the quality, type, or price of the furniture on the porch. I say this because I have experienced it first hand as a resident of Arch Street - homeless people would occasionally relax on the porch of a house whose tenants were gone for the summer because they were friends with a student resident who was away. Banning couches would have no effect on this phenomenon, and I have found many lawn chairs much more comfortable for sleeping than a couch. You are correct - Ann Arbor has a population of homeless people. If the city would like to address the problem of homelessness,
it could expand the size of the homeless shelter, invest in other
housing and education programs.

Third, although you might find the furniture “unsightly,” in general I don’t think it’s a good idea to legislate aesthetic taste. Living in a large city means many people will dress, live, and act in ways you might consider ugly, offensive, and in poor taste. If you can prove that upholstered furniture is truly dangerous the law might make some sense, however I remain skeptical.


Robert Goodspeed

Related posts:
> “No Reason To Ban Porch Couches”
> “City May Consider Ban on Porch Couches”

I have two other related thoughts on the matter:

First, although I read the Ann Arbor News daily and am a member of a high-profile city task force, I heard very little about this proposed ordinance. Although it might not be on the city council agenda, many people (namely city council members and local landlords) are acting as if it is already the law. A fundamental principal of democracy is that the governed have the right to know about the creation of laws which will govern them. My inquiries have been replied with brusque, defensive replies. I don’t believe it’s overly nieve or idealistic to believe that before passing a law which will effect thousands of students, the city council should make some effort to seek the input of the students - and as far as I know, they have not done this.

Second, it’s fairly commonly known that city government leaders make an effort to pass ordinances which students might not be in favor of when most of the student population is either not in town, or not closely following current events. This is a fundamentally callow and undemocratic move for which they should be ashamed. Good government means involving your constituents in making decisions and setting priorities, not acting secretly when you believe few are looking.

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann ArborPoliticsUrban Development by Rob at 1:43 am Edit This

Thursday, April 15th, 2004

What’s going on?

It’s a busy time of year, to say the least.

Local and Campus News

- Stephanie Ridella, a 19-year old resident of South Quad from Troy, Michigan is missing. AANews: “Missing U-M student raises fears”

- The City of Ann Arbor has announced they’ll install a median and “eventually” a traffic light on Plymouth Road, near where two U-M students were killed trying to cross the street. My view: two deaths are two too many: install them ASAP. (AANews: “Plymouth Road Changes proposed”)

- Air quality in Washtenaw County is among the lowest in the nation, yet another reason why the region should vigorously move forward to increase funding for public transit, and freeze construction of sprawl and more roads.

- The Lecturers’ Employee Organization held a “work-in” yesterday in the lobby of the Fleming Administration building to keep pressure up on the University. Daily: “Lecturers urge ‘U’ to resume contract talks”

- A law signed by Governor Granholm today mean those found guilty of “minor in possession of alcohol” who violate their probation would face “up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine under the new law.” (Daily: “New Law Increases MIP penalties”)

- At Goodness Day today, a group from East Quad was handing out pirate flags. Although I’m not sure if it was the East Quad Governing Council or the “Independent Republic of the RC” (I’m not sure if they’re two different entities), but it brought to mind that group. Although pirate flags are neat, if it was the “republic” I hope they realize its not accurate to call yourself an independent republic if the RC is still run as a dictatorship - meaning its administration doesn’t involved the formalized input of students. (Certainly, it’s a benevolent one at that). Unless student input is formalized at the highest levels, I don’t think it could be considered a “republic".

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Monday, February 23rd, 2004

Ann Arbor Stencil Art

This month’s Current has an interesting article about the stencil art that can be seen around town, and the author even talks to some of the artists. One of my favorites: the “Just Do Something” stencil in the Law Quad, among other places.

“… Stencils are strongly associated with the punk rock community. The alternative images/ideas they present are protest in nature, and their placement tends to favor large, industrial cities.

Local stencil artist Wilbur describes his take on the punk community’s concepts of public art. “One of the main things for me is that art is something that anyone can do anywhere, and that goes hand in hand with the idea of public space.” …

Nisbett points out that respect is key. “People should be respectful and not do it on people’s houses or even businesses. The best place for it is public structures – railroad property, parking structures – places not owned by individuals who will suffer. Stenciling should be done when it will benefit ugly or boring places.”

Wilbur’s ultimate declaration is inspiring: “The powers that be are determined to make the world an ugly place because they don’t have to look at it on the ground-floor level – I say take it back and make it beautiful.” … “

> From Current: Off the Wall: Surveying the Streets for Beautification and Protest
> Also, see an online gallery of Ann Arbor art here (Click on the numbers for multiple pages)
> More info on stencil art at

Comments (1) • Posted to Ann ArborUrban DevelopmentArtStencil Art by Rob at 3:01 pm Edit This

Thursday, February 19th, 2004

The Daily printed a letter to the editor I sent in a couple days ago today, but edited it slightly (perhaps for space) and didn’t print the relevant affiliations I provided: a member of Ann Arbor’s Cool Cities Task Force and vice chair of the Urban Issues Collective, noting instead only that I was a former staff member. While I understand they think it important to note which letter authors are former staffers, I can’t help but think it has the effect - intended or otherwise - to cast me as only a former writer and nothing more. Here’s the letter as I sent it in:

“To the Editor:

I was disappointed to read the anti-pedestrian bias of University and city officials in yesterday’s Daily story “Jaywalking causes greater concern since student deaths.”

In a city where many residents choose not to drive or own a car, it is not only fundamentally unfair but degrading to expect pedestrians to scurry squirrel-like across heavily-trafficked streets to get to the Union, class, the supermarket, or to their church, temple, or mosque.

Autos and pedestrians should share the road, and city officials should install well-marked, raised, and lit crosswalks at places where many pedestrians cross the street: on South University, on Madison Street in front of South Quad, and on Plymouth Road, among others.

When there is a glut of automobile traffic, city officials seem to jump to rectify the situation. When there is a glut of pedestrian traffic, city officials frequently blame the pedestrians for not walking far out of their way to get to their destination, something rarely expected of automobile drivers.

Yes, Sgt. Logghe is correct: impatient pedestrians jaywalking are a problem. However, impatient motorists are a more serious problem, whether running red or yellow lights or, in an incident last week, pulling over to slap a fellow motorist who was driving “too slowly” on Liberty Street. City officials should understand they can minimize jaywalking by installing more crosswalks, and increasing the crossing time on “walk” lights.

The LSA freshman interviewed in the story seemed to hit the nail on the head, saying “The crosswalks just aren’t always the most convenient or efficient paths.” University and city officials should spend as much time worrying about whether pedestrians are adequately accommodated as they do worrying about accommodating cars.

Rob Goodspeed
Ann Arbor Cool Cities Task Force Member
Urban Issues Collective Vice-Chair
LSA Senior”

See the letter and as it was printed, below an unrelated clarifying letter from Prof. Matt Lassiter.

Ian Robinson also has a viewpoint about the Lecture Employees’ Organization (LEO) titled “Non-tenured faculty unite! LEO rising” LEO is planning to hold a rally today to coincide with today’s Regent’s meeting.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborUrban Development by Rob at 2:15 am Edit This

Tuesday, January 20th, 2004

Lower Town Project

It’s easy to get discouraged with national trends of auto-based suburban sprawl if even Ann Arbor is forgetting how to build pleasant urban spaces. Especially if, like me, you agree that certain diverse, mixed-use, mixed-age are most conducive to the type of urban communities attractive to the Creative Class. However, Ann Arbor residents can take heart at least a bit: there’s a large project scheduled to break ground sometime this spring and be open within two years that I think is a step in the right direction. Local developer Peter Allen’s $120 million Lower Town project includes seven buildings, ground-level retail space, an open square with performance stages (which will be free to rent), office space, and retail. All of this in 3 to 7 story buildings. Although I’ve heard about the difficulties, as hard as it may be to believe, but this thing has passed the city’s Planning Commission - all that remains is finding tenants and building.

The company describes the project this way: “Located in the heart of Ann Arbor, this innovative revival of a historic commercial center combines the best architecture and site planning to create a sustainable commercial and residential environment where people can live, work & play” Yes, this is a New Urbanism wet dream: it’s replacing a strip mall and parking lot, and exemplifies to me the type of development that leads to the type of city I’d like to live in. Sure, the project is not without it’s flaws (I prefer to see finer-grained development, but I think the only way to get brownfield redevelopment funding from the state for the entire site is if it is being developed by one corporation) and it includes the inevitable parking garage (tentatively slated at 640 spaces), but the parking garage is “wrapped” with a building filled with housing units and retail. This is something I have advocated ad nauseam: building mixed-use parking garages - there’s no need for them to destroy the vitality of our streets.

Where exactly is all this happening? Just about exactly 1 mile from State Street, and 1.5 miles (on streets) from Bursley Residence Hall. Here’s a mapquest map of the location of the project.

Sound interesting? Maybe you or someone you know can be part of it - I’ve been told they’re currently looking for tenants for the project interested in retail spaces ranging from 500 to 12,000 square feet.

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborUrban Development by Rob at 6:56 pm Edit This

Sunday, January 4th, 2004

Nathan Newman and Matthew Yglesias, two national bloggers, have both recently posted on the connection between allowing for urban density and controlling the cost of housing. I think Yglesias comes close to a usable approach to understanding gentrification:

“… As a neighborhood becomes a “hotter,” more desirable place to live, the logical market response is to demolish low-rise structures and replace them with apartment buildings that can accommodate more residents as well as retail outlets on the ground floor. Land prices rise enormously, but rents do not as we fit more stuff into the same quantity of land. Someone had the foresight years ago to invent steel for just this purpose. In practice, however, relatively well-heeled homeowners conspire with misguided anti-gentrification elements to impede real estate development, land prices rise by somewhat less than they would under the high-rise scenario, but housing becomes exorbitantly expensive, thus causing the waves of gentrification to emanate from the “hot” neighborhood pushing residents to-and-fro. …”

What seems missing, however, is a recognition that the oldest buildings will have the cheap rents, and the new buildings will be relatively expensive (since the developer must recoup the cost of construction). Thwarting gentrification involves not only allowing for reasonable density, but also ensuring a fine-grained mix of age and size buildings. It should be easy to build up, and difficult to combine lots for giant mega-projects.

What does this mean in Ann Arbor? Certainly, allowing for higher density downtown, something the city is beginning to do, however I wouldn’t go so far as to embracing “creative destruction” as completely as Newman. Despite raising the maximum height, both the Collegian and Corner House Lofts were somewhat controversial - ostensibly for aesthetic reasons - even though both are near giant ugly parking garages of similar height. The Corner House Lofts building was scaled back after an initial plan was rejected by the Planning Commission, and the Collegian was scaled back because the million-dollar condos didn’t sell.

Here’s an excerpt from my post on why the Corner House Lofts won’t cause gentrification (Although perhaps is a response to it), which seems particularly relevent since I read in this month’s Observer that rental vacancies downtown are running as high as 14 to 20% according to some estimates.

“Construction in general doesn’t cause gentrification, developers like Spoon Equities do. If the Daily is serious about cutting rents, they should be agitating about the Ann Arbor Tenant’s Union, which may not exist next year, thanks to the good work done by the current MSA executives.”

Comments (0) • Posted to Ann ArborUrban Development by Rob at 5:45 pm Edit This

Saturday, December 27th, 2003

6 Slightly Harder, More Expensive Things Ann Arbor Could do to Build a Better City

(See my post on “Five Easy Things”)

1) Plow (some) sidewalks
Under current Ann Arbor law, the property owner is responsible for clearing snow from the sidewalk on their property. While this might make sense for lightly-traveled residential neighborhoods, in a dense urban environment it makes just about as much sense as requiring property owners to clear the street in front of their property. Currently, after snow storms in Ann Arbor, until you reach campus, the sidewalks are a treacherous patchwork of snow, ice, and slush, since some property owners don’t clear it right away, and heavily trafficked areas can create shovel-proof ice. In my tiny Maine town of 6,000, the town government pays a local man to snowblow the sidewalk on Main street and an adjacent street - a length of about 2 miles. If my town can afford this, the 7th largest city in Michigan with a population over 100,000 could certainly afford to pay to have the busiest downtown streets professionally cleared, and sparingly salted and sanded to boot.

Why are our roads meticulously cleared, swept, salted in maintained, and the sidewalks are left to buckle, be flooded with huge puddles (one block from liberty near where I live there is one large enough to ice-skate on!). The minute people park their cars and try to walk somewhere they don’t stop paying taxes, and don’t suddenly less deserve a clean street. Indeed, if the city’s real estate speculators expect to sell million-dollar condos to aging and retired people, they should be particularly interested in helping them move about - handicapped-accessible curbs at intersections and nicely cleared sidewalks to boot. And if a few students (whose existence single-handily maintains the vitality and diversity in your local economy) incidentally benefit, so much the better.

This of course begs the question who to hire to do this job. I think the answer is simple: there is one group of people who have lots of experience clearing a vast network of footpaths of ice and snow: the University of Michigan. They already posses the equipement and expertise, and with some city money, I assume could fairly easily also clear at least State Street and South University.

2) Approve Accessory Apartments
As part of a holistic policy of liberalizing zoning laws, the city should adopt zoning that allows for the creation of accessory apartments or “granny flats” within existing homes and outbuildings in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes. These 1 or 2 person apartments would increase the population density of the city (increasing taxes!) without requiring new building. The city’s professional planning staff well knows that many residential neighborhoods have seen long-term decreases in population density as baby boomers have aged and the property values have increased. Allowing for small apartments would utilize these under-used buildings to provide housing in the city, and also perhaps have the incidental effect of increasing business for local merchants.

(perhaps the only requirements needed in a revised zoning code for “downtown": new buildings must be higher than a certain number of stories, and include a minimum of 10% floor space for residential OR commercial uses, and require retail on the ground floor - even a shallow storefront)

3) Build Mixed-use parking garages
If we continue to let the DDA to construct massive, ugly parking garages downtown, pretty soon downtown will be a bunch of blighted, deserted streets surrounding a corporately-owned Main/State/South University. Woops, we’re almost there! Parking garages my be something of a necessary evil, but they can include rentable retail and commercial space on the ground floor. This increases pedestrian traffic (increasing safety), increases small businesses (making profit for the owner of the parking garage and increasing Ann Arbor’s tax base), and make the city a nicer place to live (maybe even “cooler") To me, it’s a win, win, win situation. In fact, the city already has one successful garage of this type: the Liberty Station garage, next to the Michigan Theater building. You may not even know its there, since on Liberty Street it houses a bank.

4) Build Pleasant, Multi-Use Streets
The city could convert ugly, wide, high-volume streets like Huron or Pioneer into boulevards with express lanes, local lanes, medians, crosswalks, and street-side parking.

Combined with simple zoning laws requiring developers build to the property line, well-designed streets can boost property values, and prevent the necessity for “traffic calming” and reduce speeding, without putting in huge speed bumps or hiring more police. If the city doesn’t know what street I’d like to see, in my experience many in New York and Washington, D.C. fit the bill - buy me a plane ticket, and my friends and I would be happy to show you around.

5) Build a city-wide network of bike lanes
Yes, I know that technically Ann Arbor has bike lanes, but studying the map and talking with friends who bike I know the system could be much improved. The more interconnected the system, the better: perhaps paths along the Huron could be expanded and connected, allowing people to bike without interference with cars from North Campus to Kerrytown to shop at the farmer’s market.

Again, studies have shown that the more paths exist, the more people use them, and busy paths will result not only in health but also make areas of the city safer.

6) Re-draw the wards around coherent neighborhoods
I’ve ranted about this enough by now most visitors should know what I’m talking about. Put short: the wards in Ann Arbor are drawn as pie shapes centered on campus, with the intended or unintended effect of splitting the student population almost evenly between each ward. Why anyone would want to do this is beyond me, but the shape of the city’s wards should be re-designed in a democratic process involving the input of as many people as possible. Read more about this here.

To be fair, the ideas contained here and in my post about “5 easy things” aren’t new. I am simply presenting them for discussion and debate, and fully intend to work to make at least some of them a reality as a member of the city’s Cool Cities Task Force. I think that if presented clearly, there already exists a broad concensus on most of these issues: all that remains is to do them. To read more about this kind of stuff, see the “Cities, Suburbs, and Planning” section of my book list, particularly Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities, David Sucher’s City Comforts. Also, I have recently added some planning-related links on the left, in addition to the many local bloggers I have listed which frequently write about planning.

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Friday, December 26th, 2003

5 Easy, Inexpensive Things Ann Arbor Could Do to Build a Better City

This time, I’ll waive my consulting fees.

1) Build more crosswalks
Whether it’s building more of the raised crosswalks at busy intersections, or simply building crosswalks where they are needed, this is a relatively cheap measure which can slow down traffic, and show roads aren’t just for cars. Where are these things needed? Basically, anywhere you see people doging traffic to cross the street: in front of the Michigan Union, between South Quad and the Union, on Packard, in the student ghetto, and of course on Pioneer. When I lived in South Quad my sophomore year, I wrote a letter to the city asking them why there was not a crosswalk between Squad and the side entrance to the Union. The response said that crosswalks aren’t proven to increase safety, and that they have a policy of not building crosswalks near each other: there was a crosswalk at the end of the street. Anyone who has walked down Divison near Community High School knows the city breaks this rule, because there there are three crosswalks within a few hundred feet. Clearly, when you are 18 you deserve a crosswalk, but when you are 18 or 19 in college, you must dodge traffic. Why are crosswalks good? First, the channel pre-existing traffic to clearly marked areas. Second, they give the pedestrian legal rights - failing to yield to or hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a specific crime. Lastly, streets are the rightful property of all. In Ann Arbor, there are many tax-paying, law-abiding citizens who do not drive or drive rarely: the streets are as much their property as the car owners. The least the city can do is facilitate the easy movement of everyone.

2) Construct bulletin boards
Yes, why doesn’t the city construct bulletin boards around the utility poles that seem perpetually filled with flyers? They need not be very expensive or complex: a piece of painted plywood mounted with metal brackets, perhaps. This measure would make cleaning up old flyers easier, and might channel the activity a bit. Flyers are one of the most elementary ways that people develop community: you would think that a city like Ann Arbor, so concerned with its own “coolness” would jump at an opportunity build community.

3) Enhance Student-Police Relations
AAPD and the U-M student body currently exist in an atmosphere of mutual hostility. The city could alleviate some of this by using the neighborhood police station at the Maynard structure, keeping and expanding the beats of bicycle cops, and making enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance more lenient, and abolishing processing fees so that being caught with a joint is actually the small fine the law intends. As with many big problems, the solutions need not be large or expensive, but may take some creativity and require some political risk.

4) Build street lights
Many parts of the heavily used but poorly lit student ghetto sorely need additional lighting, in addition to parts of virtually every downtown residential district. In fact, many places “downtown” when one strays from one of the corporately-administered “Development District” the whole quality of the build infrastructure - street lamps, sidewalks, garbage cans, etc declines significantly. This need not be the case.

5) Build sidewalk “bulbs” at busy intersections
This idea I had found in my experience, but also in David Sucher’s book City Comforts, which I highly recommend. Basically, the idea is to enlarge the sidewalk near intersections, particularly where there is on-street parking. This narrows the road for bicyclists and pedestrians and has the added benefit of slowing traffic. Ann Arbor could investigate building these at certain intersections at Packard and Division, as examples. I think its done to a certain level on Main street, but why not elsewhere where there is busy traffic?

Coming tomorrow, “5 Slightly Harder Things Ann Arbor Could to to Build a Better City.” Until then, read about the Ann Arbor New’s wishlist.

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Monday, November 24th, 2003

Susan Wineberg pens a very interesting op-ed submission to the Ann Arbor News, blaming Ann Arbor’s affordable housing crisis on the University. While I’m not sure that the University is entirely to blame, I think her point is well taken: the University has indeed destroyed much more housing than it has replaced in the last 30 years. Her historical analysis is intriguing:

“… Consider this. When the university constructed the School of Business on Monroe St. in the late 1940s, it relocated many of the houses on that site to other parts of town. When it built the Food Services Building (later Neuroscience and just recently demolished for the Bio-Med Building going up right now) the houses on these lots were moved elsewhere. When they built the Law School and Martha Cook Dorm, houses on the site were moved to other locations. We know this from a house-moving permit book at the Bentley Library.

By the 1950s, however, the ethic of demolition had replaced that of recycling and it continues unabated to this day. In 1953 the Wines Field buildings and Geddes House were demolished and in 1959, 820 E. Washington was as well. In 1964, the Jefferson Apartments were demolished as were the Cutting Apartments on State Street. In the 1990s the university began tearing down historic houses on Wall Street to provide parking for the medical center. These houses were connected with some of the earliest settlers of Ann Arbor and deserved a better fate. In 1996, the University Terrace Apartments for married students were demolished.

The university has also been systematically buying and demolishing historic houses on South Division and intends to demolish the entire east side of Division, from Blimpie Burger (Krazy Jim’s) on Madison to East William Street. This is stated in the 1987 Update of the 1963 Campus Master Plan by Johnson, Johnson and Roy (which recently won an award from the Society for College and University Planning/American Institute of Architects) as a way “to complete the western edge of the campus by extending development to the major north and south arterial, Division Street, to provide a strong visual boundary and identity from the west. The Thompson Street parking deck will be expanded to the edge of Division and softened with landscape appropriate with the quality of the street.” This plan envisions Jefferson Street as a new entry into campus and involves the demolition of a lot of affordable and historic residential housing. … “

To me, this is what the issue comes down to: When you are a large and powerful institution with lots of money at your disposal, it is easy to destroy and built monster one-use buildings and projects. It’s extremely difficult to build complex, successful urban communities. In fact, I would argue the development of successful urban communities necessarily defies the logic of “planners” sitting in an office. Expanding the University is easy: expanding the University in a way that is successful for both the University community and city is difficult, and this is what the University should be preoccupied with - not merely where and what to build next, or where the “boundary” “should be". Here I will propose a few principals that the University and city should embrace:

1) Wherever possible, preserve historic buildings, fascades, and architectural elements. After all, it is this built history which makes all the parents croon about how “quaint” the city is, and drop lots of money in local businesses, which gives me a job and helps make Ann Arbor a pleasant place to pay $30,000 a year to live. It also helps makes us “cool,” or something like that - whatever makes Ann Arbor a place where young people will actually live, instead of running from this sprawl-obsessed state to a place with a touch of real urbanity.

2) Remain committed to a multi-use street. I’m not sure where we got the idea that a street is simply a strip of tar for cars. A street is a space for trucks, cars, bicycles, pedestrians, motorcycles, segways, etc, and should be designed with all of these uses in mind. The city should be place priority on building many more crosswalks, medians (to make crossing easier and slow traffic) and bike lanes (sorely needed, particularly “downtown” where the few that exist don’t really connect to anything or each other). Some of the most successful cities, (New York, Washington D.C., and Paris, in my experience) do this in a variety of ways - a wide street can have “express” lanes in the center, local lanes for slower traffic and delivery trucks, a median with benches, and even bike lanes. A bicycle and pedestrian has every much a “right” to be on the street as the auto, since all participate equally in the social and economic life of the city. However, I suspect many in the city harbor the prejudice that all students are somehow undesirable, and hence the city shouldn’t serve their needs - but nothing could be more wrong.

3) Both the University and the city should remember the essence of urbanism: fine-grained, multi-use development. This means the city should loosen or abolish large parts of the zoning codes for much of “downtown,” and encourage new developers to take into consideration the needs of the city. To be clear, I think this is something the city’s planning department understands, as the Lower Town project, Corner House Lofts and the Collegian will combine uses in excellent ways.

4) Related to the last principal, the University should seek to craft innovative, creative solutions to their growth needs, instead of just exercising their hegemony of power to impose their will unilaterally. The University must recognize their role in destroying street life. Parking garages, massive office and laboratory buildings all enforce a uniformity of use on the surrounding streets: meaning they will only be used at certain times of the day, and there will never be businesses, no matter how many pedestrians pass buy hungry for a cup of coffee or a bagel. There is no rational or economic reason why all new University buildings must be single-use, only a cultural one. In their obsession with constructing a “campus” with buildings in a green grid, they view using office space in University Towers and 611 Church (as examples) as temporary. Why not include ground-level retail space, or upper-classmen apartments into new buildings, like what many other colleges do? Also, while I certainly understand why campuses are nice, why not locate small offices and units of the University that don’t need to be on campus in smaller buildings in Ann Arbor? I see this being mutually beneficial: the pedestrian traffic on Ann Arbor streets would be an economic boon to downtown business, and the city could fully utilize some of its vacant lots and office space. Indeed, this is a pattern that I see occurring now, but generally because of a lack of on-campus space, not part of a general strategy. If the University wants to build their suburban paradise, they can do it on North Campus, but if its lifeless and sterile and nobody wants to go there, don’t be suprised. Ann Arbor is a city, and insisting otherwise is not only counterproductive and destructive, but downright banal.

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Sunday, October 19th, 2003

Yes folks, it’s a bourgeois contradiction: the rich Ann Arbor homeowners slugging it out with rich Ann Arbor developers over the mayor’s “Greenbelt” iniative, a modest and much-needed proposal not without some drawbacks. Meanwhile, the residents of the low-income housing units at the Y, the people who live in Ypsilanti and are forced to ride the bus downtown to work, and, to a certain extent, even the student population is left out of the discussion. I guess regional transportation and growth policies don’t affect any of them!

The Ann Arbor News’ coverage of what at least some people think about the mayor’s greenbelt proposal has been prolific in the past week, perhaps even obsessive. The News has dedicated a special section of their website to stories about the proposal, including some interesting maps of the potentially affected area.

In an attempt to be at least somewhat comprehensive, here’s a quick rundown of Ann Arbor news stories that have been printed since I last updated this website:

10.16 “Greenbelt details”
10.16 “Greenbelt faceoff; debate draws large crowd”

“This is a modest program,” [Mayor Hieftje] said. “It is a tool … to redirect development.” … Ann Arbor resident Scott Wojack, 34, said he opposed the proposal going into the debate and heard nothing to change his mind. Wojack said there are better ways to combat urban sprawl - better zoning restrictions and more development downtown, and that the quality of life argument defies logic.

(Too bad Wojack, a Republican who has run unsucessfully for a seat in the Michigan house, doesn’t seem to understand the nature of regional planning: the major is proposing a Greenbelt specifically because the city doesn’t have the power to zone land outside the city limits. Of course, one solution is to make it easier for cities to annex surrounding towns when they reach a specific density, but something tells me the Grosse Pointes wouldn’t be too happy about that.)

10.17 “Greenbelt foes make anonymous calls”

” The message starts, “Hi. I’m calling about the city’s $100 million tax proposal on the November ballot.” The voice then states the proposal was “rushed to the ballot by the city without a single public hearing or testimony.”

It then says there are several unanswered questions and asks that the resident vote it down.

“Whether it is legal or not is not the point,” said Mike Garfield, co-chairman of Friends of Ann Arbor Open Space, an organization in favor of the greenbelt millage. “They point is, they are afraid to say who they are. I think they don’t want Ann Arbor voters to know that the primary opponent to the parks and greenbelt millage are big out-of-town developers and their primary funding for this campaign is coming from outside of Ann Arbor.”

10.18 “Algea blooms into role as sprawl debate point”
10.18 “Unanswered questions” (About greenbelt proposal)
10.18 “Battle flares over details of greenbelt”
10.19 “Learn more about the greenbelt” (Details of three forums, located at three locations you have to drive to from “Downtown": Weber’s Inn, EMU, and WCC)
10.19 “Townships have stake”

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