michigan

Look, ma, I'm famous!

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I've been invited to be Metromode's guest blogger, starting tomorrow and running for a week. I'm not sure I'm quite as awesome as, say, Conan Smith, but I'll do my best.

I'll also cross-post here, since Metromode doesn't allow comments.

Edit: Actually, looks like they do now allow commenting on guest blogs, starting with mine. What a trendsetter.

Post one: Ypsivangelizing

NPR forgets about zoning.

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Last night's installment of the Summer Documentary Series on Michigan Radio was on "The Sprawling of America", produced by the Great Lakes Radio Consortium's The Environment Report. I was glad to see them focus on the topic, until they unquestioningly repeated the fallacy that density - revitalizing city centers and urban neighborhoods - is a violation of property rights. The popular idea that sprawl is the product of a free market, "What People Want", is probably the single biggest mistake preventing us from either effectively addressing sprawl or effectively revitalizing our cities.

Hipster training continues

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Last night, at long last, I finally saw Great Lakes Myth Society at the Elbow Room, and they were every bit as amazing as Dale has assured me they would be. Fan for life: check. (Not that there was any doubt - a highly talented folk/rock group signing about Michigan? Yeah, sign me up.)

I was also pretty happy with one of their openers, Minor Planets, who present a pretty enjoyable power pop. They need to brush up on their showmanship to truly support a group like GLMS, though. I know the whole shoegazing thing is hip, and half the point of indie rock is that it's safe for geeky introverts (like myself) to get up on stage and play their piece without ever looking at the audience, but, really, kids: you're good at what you do - feel free to get a little more attitude about it.

Drowning the Great Lakes State in a bathtub

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Taking their cues from the New Orleans experience, certain portions of Michigan's government seem to think that we can cut or starve our way to health. (Ask a mental health professional for a name for this sort of thing.) Language denouncing "tax hikes" and fiscal recklessness abounds when these folks talk about our Governor. Fortunately, though, at least some people seem to have figured out that the facts don't support slashing our way to solvency. In the words of the Michigan Municipal League's Executive Director:

Despite the supposed tax "relief" of the last decade it is hard to find anyone who is not employed by the Mackinac Center that actually feels better off.

"Eminent domain in Detroit"

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For whatever reason, a lot of traffic to this site comes from searches for "eminent domain in detroit" or similar. ("Whatever reason" is probably my post in November arguing against Proposal 4 as poor lawmaking.)

Now, I am not a lawyer, nor have I ever been involved in a takings case in any capacity - I'm just someone who has taken the requisite one course in land-use law during grad school. But I can tell you what I know about where eminent domain came from and why Detroit is an important datapoint. (If I'm wrong, complain to my professor - he is a lawyer, after all.) If you need advice on a real-life example of eminent domain, consult a real-life lawyer.

And if you squint one eye...

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Last weekend, I had the always-somewhat-sad experience of wandering around downtown Ann Arbor on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and then coming back to Ypsilanti. Downtown Ypsi looks a little lonely after the throngs near the Diag. Sigh.

But then, yesterday evening, I had the opposite experience. Driving home from the Suburbs Alliance's Regional Redevelopment Summit, I decided to take Michigan Avenue rather than 94. Driving through Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Wayne, Inkster, Canton . . . and then, all of a sudden, you come up the hill over the Huron River bridge, and you're in a real downtown! Wowie!

The political bubble of the Ann Arbor News

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In an Ann Arbor News letter to the editor this past week, an Ann Arborite stated the following hope:

We need solution to health care woes

So, same-sex partners can no longer enjoy the benefits of their partner's employer health plans. Truly sad. However, I see the situation on another level. What of the growing numbers of the self-employed, the unemployed and the underemployed who are unable to enjoy the largess of a deep-pocketed employer? While many same-sex partners have been enjoying employer-provided health care, others have been left out in the cold, some for years. Now that same-sex couples have joined these ranks, perhaps it will become apparent to all of us that we as a society need a better solution to health care, one that does not depend upon how and where one is employed. (Emphasis added.)

Praying for structural change

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About 18 months back, Ann Arbor's Mayor Hieftje held a session of his public policy class entitled "Is Ann Arbor overrated?", with various blogger guest discussants. He commented that the cities of Michigan are lined up and running towards a cliff of fiscal crisis. Yes, all of them - Ann Arbor's more or less bringing up the rear, but it's running the same direction as all the rest. Some cities have already gone over - Flint, Highland Park, Hamtramck - and have survived the fall with various degrees of injury. Detroit's just a matter of time, and not much of it. But many people are hoping that Ypsilanti will serve as a bellwhether of Michigan's fiscal problems and a catalyst to change, as Ypsi is recognized across the state as being much more well-run than its predecessor's into crisis. When well-run cities start going over the brink, this theory states, people will finally realize that something's broken, and that it's not just Flint. I've since heard basically this same view echoed by a number of other regional and State leaders - when Ypsi goes, that's when our State can be expected to decide there might be a problem with our municipal structure. Thanks, guys. We love you too.

Michigan's local governments: a crucial part of our pre-industrial economic well-being!

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I remain convinced that the fragmented nature of Michigan's local governments is a handicap to our economic wellbeing, and that overhauling this artifact of a pre-industrial society is a necessary part of pulling us out of our current rut. The most important current function of our fragmented local governments is to decrease our social well-being and economic benefit. Since Google is currently the hip thing to discuss Michigan's economy around, I'll use that as an example - ArborUpdate's discussion of the A2 City Council's free parking offer provides a convenient case study.

Repair, don't replace: advantaging local labor over cheap energy and infinitely mobile capital

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Mark Maynard and MM.com reader Jim ask how we can convince our US Representative, the incoming Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, John Dingell to take global warming seriously. Mark says,

While I realize that, given his constituency, he may not be as gung-ho as I am to see fuel-efficiency standards substantially raised and a gas tax implemented (both which would seriously piss off his automotive industry base), I have to think that there may be some wiggle room with regard to what he can get away with. Given the growing awareness of both the true cost of our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and the environmental implications of burning fossil fuels, the cost of supporting such legislation, especially if done in concert with a multi-billion-dollar initiative to fund alternative energy research at the federal level, may not necessarily mean political suicide.

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