Prelude to a monkeywrench

"I would like to introduce here an entirely new argument in what has now become a stylized debate: the wilderness should be preserved for political reasons. We may need it someday not only as a refuge from excessive industrialism but also as a refuge from authoritarian government, from political oppression. Grand Canyon, Big Bend, Yellowstone and the High Sierras may be required to function as bases for guerilla warfare against tyranny. What reason have we Americans to think that our own society will necessarily escape the world-wide drift toward the totalitarian organization of men and institutions?"

- Edward Abbey, "The Heat of Noon: Rock and Tree and Cloud", in Desert Solitaire (1968).

A glance at the future of Ann Arbor?

The LA Times (link from PLANetizen) has a story on public servants priced out of California towns by the cost of living:

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — Sid McCausland has just joined a small, sad fraternity, a brotherhood that is peculiarly Californian: elected officials who have been priced out of the cities they loved enough to serve.

In January, it was official. The average home price in this quaint agricultural town turned pricey Silicon Valley retreat had crested at more than $1 million for the first time.

A few weeks later, McCausland, 64, announced that he was retiring from his day job at the end of March and would have to resign from the City Council because he no longer could afford to live here.

If there's any wonder why people like Brandon and I get so unhappy about Ann Arbor's planning decisions, it's because of this. After what amounts to spending two years paying for the privilege of doing pro bono planning work (in the form of class projects and side projects) for the area, we're most likely going to be run out of town (oh, if only there were decent rails to be run out on!) for being too poor. Even if Cara (who will, in a year and a half, have a Masters in Social Psych, a teaching certificate good in NJ and MI, and a Masters in School Counseling) and I can find jobs in Ann Arbor, it's fairly likely that we'd have to live in the sprawlsville townships outside of the city.

This is why we've recently been looking eastward, towards Hamtramck or Dearborn or similar towns. Or even Royal Oak or Ferndale: if we're going to pay outlandish prices for housing, at least we can do it in a place that's close to other places. (It's also the case that we'll probably have shorter joint commutes from there to reasonable jobs than from Ann Arbor. (I find it entertaining to think that, someday, Washtenaw County exiles might help make Hamtramck a more thoroughly blogged city than Ann Arbor, key on the Goodspeed Corollary to the Florida Coolness Index).

It's possible that I'm being overly cynical; I have a cold, and I always get a little extra-cranky when I'm on pseudoephedrine. It could be that we'll find very nice jobs in Washtenaw, that some combination of housing bubble deflation and better planning decisions will make it possible for us to find reasonable housing, and that those better planning decisions will also make A2 more of a place that we want to live. (Dear Ann Arbor: Congratulations. Your attempts to promote your own coolness have come across as snooty, not cool, and have caused a musician/social worker with four degrees from four universities to want to move out and go to a "real" city. And she's not the only one you've pushed away with your self-important provinciality. Oops, sorry; the pseudoephedrine started talking again . . .)

An interesting piece of social work jargon

Apparently, among organizations and people who work with homeless people, "consumer" is a common term for the people being served. I found this out in the context of people in my Community Participation class discussing their term projects as "looking at ways to get consumers involved in their community."

This seems odd to me, and not just because I know plenty to whom "consumer" is a perjorative term. In general, it seems that a "consumer" is a fairly passive actor in a system. If you're trying to get people involved in their community and participating actively in the systems that affect them, shouldn't you be avoiding terminology that connotates receiving, using, uh, consuming services that others are providing? It seems like the question could be rephrased as, "How can consumers be turned into more than consumers?", in which case some critique of the current term ought to be included.

Yet another do-over

Having taken down the last iteration of this blog, I find myself wishing I still had a blog that wasn't ArborUpdate. That project has become strangely high-pressure now that it's experienced a modicum of success.

Since there's an unstable 0.9 release out of bBlog (currently in a developmental lull?), I decided to install fresh, and simultaneously hop URLs. http://blog.commonmonkeyflower.net/ should work nowwhen the dns catches up. (Happy, Michael?)

I also, as is probably evident, have pared the page down to a pretty minimalist state, and may keep it there for some time. I remember, back in the old days, when comments didn't exist, and Esther, canuck-Ben, Glenn, Elias, and I managed to have conversations that spanned across our various pages, rather than being relegated to a comment thread on somebody's page. Between that twinge of nostalgia, an unwillingness to deal with comment spam, and simply not having the interest in messing with a fancy template that would include all of that fancy comment stuff, bare sounds good to me.