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A conversation about affordable housing in Ann Arbor

Both Mark Maynard and the Metro Times have decided to tackle the issue of affordable housing - or rather the growing lack of such - in Ann Arbor. As usual their thoughts are both insightful and empathetic.

Excerpt from Mark Maynard:

"I don’t have any problem with affordable housing. I think it’s a good thing. What I have a real problem with, however, is segregation. I have a problem with a system where it’s accepted that some towns are “too nice” for the poor. And I find it doubly infuriating when these nice, liberal communities, once they’ve forced their most vulnerable citizens beyond their borders, mount campaigns to stop attempts at regional cooperation, as we recently saw play out in the battle over the AATA’s expanded role in providing bus service within Washtenaw County. Many people in Ann Arbor cried out that they didn’t want their tax dollars going to fund the transportation of people in Ypsilanti, in spite of the fact that many of those people were probably Ann Arborites before they were forced out due to the cost of living. And the same goes for everything from our public schools to our police departments."

Excerpt from the Metro Times:

"It's a good post, one that inspired a lot of people to join in with comments of their own. The general tone is one of despair at what Ann Arbor has become, how it has fallen from its days as a scrappy campus town with a good mix of incomes. After reading them, we come away agreeing that without lots of different kinds of people of different classes with different perspectives, a city is a less interesting place. As for subsidies, one needn't not have a job to not receive subsidies. The fact is, everybody in the United States gets some sort of subsidy, not just the odd person who makes it their life's work to avoid earning a living."


Read Mark's observations and opinions here.

Read the Metro Times respone here.
 

Head of AATA Michael Ford tapped to head RTA

Inch by inch the Regional Transit Authority creeps into being, ever-so slowly moving toward the development of a regional public transportation system. Someday. Maybe. Hopefully. Yeah, we're cynical.

Excerpt:

"Ford faces many challenges in an area that has resisted regional transportation for decades. They include assembling a staff with a shoestring budget, helping to better coordinate services among the region’s transit providers and convincing voters in Macomb, Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties that a property tax hike is needed to fund RTA operations and the Bus Rapid Transit project up Woodward from Detroit to Pontiac."

Read the rest here

 

Affordable housing and eco redevelopment in Ann Arbor

A pair of Ann Arbor affordable housing projects are under the microscope as WEMU looks at where green redevelopment and housing for lower income residents dovetail.

Excerpt:

"To 'better serve both its residents and our communities' public housing in Ann Arbor will become “greener,” healthier, more comfortable and more energy efficient, thanks to a project under way that includes significant involvement from the Ecology Center.

Jason Bing, healthy buildings director at the Ecology Center, is working with the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and Norstar Development on two new affordable housing projects that are intended to be models of green and healthy residential construction. When complete, the housing units should lower utility costs, as well as provide homes that are more comfortable and healthier for their residents."

Read/listen to the rest here.
 

Candidates for local political offices weigh in on the arts

The Arts Alliance conducted a survey of candidates running for office in Washtenaw County regarding their views of arts and culture. The results of their questionnaire have been gathered in this pdf document.

Interesting to see how many voice strong support for public art and its community importance but only hand-full seem to actively support public funding of the arts. You may conclude from that what you may.

Read the candidate answers here.
 

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.

Excerpt:

"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?

Excerpt:

"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.
 
Excerpt:
 
"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.
 
Excerpt:
 
"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.
 
Excerpt:
 
"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.
 
Excerpt:
 
"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.
 
Excerpt:
 
"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.
 
Excerpt:
 
"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?
 
Excerpt:
 
"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.
 
 
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