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Government : In the News

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Local mayoral candidates in the spotlight

It's primary season which means that in a mostly democratic town those seeking office tend to be determined in the dog days of summer primaries when voter turnout is low. Here's hoping that Concentrate readers turn out in higher percentages than the populace at large.

Ann Arbor News / mlive has a round up of links on how the candidates voted on various hot button issues here.

The Ann Arbor Chronicle explores what kinds of personas the candidates have carved out for themselves here.

The Ypsilanti Courier reports on mayoral forum here.

Ann Arbor News endorses Amanda Edmonds for Ypsilanti mayor here.

Ann Arbor News endorses Christopher Taylor for Ann Arbor mayor here.

How to make mass transit financially sustainable

Though Concentrate would argue that the notion that mass transit need to "pay for itself" is a faulty one (after all, roads are hardly profit centers), this article makes soime really powerful observations.


"Just as the public sector pays the electric utility for street lights, it should pay the transit utility for services that the government insists on but that the transit provider cannot charge users enough for. The Paris transit system, RATP, charges local and national governments a "compensatory indemnity" for keeping fares below the break-even price. Governments recover this from an employment tax. Once profitable, the perception and mindset of the transit organization would change from a drain on society to an economic catalyst."

Read the rest here.

Mayor of Rome says bikes and public transit are the future

Wouldn't it be great if more Michigan mayors were this enlightened about the need for more public transit and bike focused infrastructure?


"It’s only been about a year since Marino’s ascent to office. (Random fact: He used to be a transplant surgeon in Pittsburgh before deciding to return to his native Italy to pursue politics.) In that short period, Marino has made some controversial transportation decisions: He rebooted the city’s bike-share initiative, which had been plagued by theft and vandalism. He wants to help commuters pay bus and subway fares with their smartphones. He decided to close the Via dei Fori Imperiali, a major thoroughfare with heavy traffic, to non-essential vehicles on weekdays, and created a pedestrian-only plaza on weekends. And he’s limiting traffic on Rome’s most noteworthy roundabout — the one at the Colosseum."

Read the rest here.

Ypsilanti Library gets graphic novel grant

You know grpahic novels (aka comic books) are finally being accepted as valid works of art when libraries get grants to start offering them.
"The Ypsilanti District Library announced Thursday that it was one of two libraries in the nation to receive a $7,000 grant to increase its selection of graphic novels on the shelves.
The district was awarded the Will Eisner Graphic Novel Award from Eisner’s family foundation."
Read the rest here.

State earmarks $6.6M to seed tech startups

The state plans to invest a whole lot of simoleans in up and coming tech firms, seeding Michigan's entrepreneurial ground with promising startups.
"As with the state’s first Pre-Seed Fund, which is fully invested and managed by Ann Arbor SPARK, the money for the fund announced today has been allocated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Paula Sorrell, the MEDC’s vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation, will take a seat on Invest Michigan’s board along with Martin Dober, a former MEDC exec and current vice president of business development at Invest Detroit; Mark Bennett, an attorney and serial entrepreneur; Marianne Fey, an advertising executive, entrepreneur, and angel investor; and David Gregorka, a partner with Baird Capital in Ann Arbor and advisor on technology transfer to state universities."
Read the rest here.

Proponents of AATA transit expansion dissect opposition

On May 6 voters in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township will decide whether to fund the AATA's plan to expand services. An opposition group has formed, making various claims about the millages failures and shortcomings. Blogger Mark Maynard brought together a trio of proponents to discuss their campaign.
"The small but loud opposition relies on this argument to fire people up. “We don’t benefit, so we’ll vote no.” They present it as black and white, and ignore the general benefits, which are numerous. They don’t acknowledge the fact that mass transit alleviates road congestion, improves safety, makes parking spaces easier to come by, etc. If they don’t have a bus stop right outside their house, and routes that take them directly from their first appointment of the day to their last, and back home again, they’re completely against it. They’re demanding something of a bus service that’s just not realistic. The truth is, our local transit service has been continually improving (AirRide service to Detroit Metro Airport, expanded NightRide service, increased frequency of service on routes 4 and 5, etc.), and there will be even more options for people if this millage is passed"
Read the rest here.

City and U-M finalize plans for bike sharing

Looks like bike-sharing, dubbed ArborBike is going to become a reality for Tree Town this May.
"Since August 2013, the Ann Arbor City Council has been working in tandem with the University and the Clean Energy Coalition, a local non-profit dedicated to the promotion of energy-independent communities, to ensure the program’s success.
This collaboration included attaining federal, city and University funds to subsidize the project. From November 2013 through January, the CEC garnered community involvement for the new program by hosting an online naming competition. Among the top contenders were A2Go, MiBike and ArBike, but ultimately, the service was christened ArborBike on Feb. 5."
Read the rest here.

Could young tech-savvy candidates mean better government?

A 23-year-old becomes village president of a New Jersey town and concludes that geeks make better political leaders.
"Running towns, Torpey reasons, should naturally appeal to problem-solving geeks more intrigued by how systems work than by ideology. “They won’t be political, because they’re not political people,” he says. “[They’re] smart people who care about helping the community, the world.” His new ambition is, he says, “to try to get a couple percent more” such candidates on ballots around the country."
Read the rest here.

Why STROADs are bad for our community

It's a business-lined street. It's a fast lane road. It's two good ideas combined into one terrible outcome. While Metro Detroit is filled with stroads, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti are far from immune. Ahem, wwe're looking at you Plymouth Rd, Washtenaw Ave and part of Stadium Avenue.
Learn what a stroad is by watching the video.
For more analysis click here.

How to engineer a safer street

With all the recent rancor and politics surrounding pedestrian safety ordinances, here's an interesting break down of what makes a street safer for everyone involved.
"In the past decade or so, New York has seen a considerable decline in traffic fatalities (30 percent since 2001) and an even more dramatic decrease in the risk of serious injury among cyclists (72 percent since 2000). At the heart of these public safety achievements is better street design. City streets are far from perfect, but as officials have reduced space for cars, they've improved mobility for everyone."
Read the rest here.

An Ann Arbor writer sings the praises of the USPS

Though Congress seems to love to malign the U.S. Postal Service, polls show that Americans are actually pretty with this public service. And  we at Concentrate absolutely love getting mail. Real mail. From actual people. How quaint, huh?
"A couple weeks ago, many otherwise level-headed people got excited about Amazon’s absurd plan to deliver packages by drone. Once the hype subsided, though, the publicity stunt had the unusual effect of reminding people why the human postal carrier is so effective, trustworthy and safe. “Can you imagine how expensive delivery would be that way?” laughed Lucy, the counter attendant at my post office in Ann Arbor. “I’d like to see them try that. Some guy will build a huge net and steal all that stuff out of the sky. Then just watch how fast people come back to us.”
Read the rest here.

Public input wanted on Ann Arbor transit routes

Transportation planners are interested in hearing from Ann Arborites about several proposed high capacity public transit connectors. 

Read and listen about here.
There's a presentation about the six potential routes here.
You can weigh by attending their public information meetings. The schedule is here.

Carp for Council Goes Viral

With all the rancor and name-calling in politics sometimes a little levity is just what the doctor ordered. Running to represent Ann Arbor's 4th Ward on city council was "Twenty Pound Carp." From Huffington Post to NPR to blogs and local news casts, the fish made quite the media splash.

Did the good residents of the ward see fit to elect this candidate and  inject some aquatic perspective to local government? We write this before the final results are in. 
“With the destruction of Blimpy Burgers, I have proposed the immediate construction of a series of glacis and escarpments, ravelins and Parrott gun installations to encircle critical strategic points such as Dominick’s and the Fleetwood Diner,” the user wrote.
Twenty Pound Carp wrote that if elected, it would encourage the city to work with the federal government to build canals for its fellow aquatic creatures, creating “the Venice of Washtenaw County.”
Read the rest here.
"A 29 pound carp is campaigning as a write-in candidate for the City Council in Ann Arbor.  The fish tweets: "since I have no actual feet, I don't have to stand for anything."
Listen to more here.  Slide show here.

Ann Arbor wants your input on dog parks

Have a dog? Hate them? What do you think of the city's dog parks? Should there be more? Less? And what about cats? Well, the city doesn't seem to interested in our feline compatriots at this juncture but they are interested in your thoughts and opinions about the state of play for man's best friend.
Give your feedback here.

Ann Arbor's storm water policies praised as "climate-smart"

Stormwater utilities aren't exactly sexy topics for the average reader but in the grand scheme of life their policies have a huge impact on both the environment and our daily lives. Ann Arbor's approach to storm water issues are the subject of a green-minded blog and the verdict is pretty darn favorable.
"Climate change road trippers and recent University of Michigan grads Kirsten Howard and Allie Goldstein recently returned to Ann Arbor to learn more about the city’s  stormwater utility.
The agency manages the stormwater that accumulates and picks up pollutants after heavy rainfall.
Howard and Goldstein have been traveling and blogging about how U.S. cities are adjusting to climate change. Now they’ve found successful adaptation in their own college town, where the inspiration for their trip began."
Read the rest here
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