Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fangirling Matt Siegfried

At 6 p.m. on Saturdays--a time once reserved for the dulcet tones of Garrison Keillor and his preoccupation with the mayonnaise-based cuisine of Minnesota Lutherans--BCB and I have started listening to the decidedly crankier rantings of local curmudgeon/King of Ypsi Mark Maynard. The signal for AM1700 isn't strong enough to get Saturday Six-Pack with Mark Maynard on our radio, less than a mile from the show's point of origin in downtown Ypsilanti, so we stream his show on a laptop, or, if we're in the car, on my smart phone. What can we say: if MM is talking, we gotta hear. We've been tickled, we've been entertained, we've basked in the warmth of our wacky community as showcased by this renaissance in radio. Mostly, we've been puzzled. It's all part of the Mark Maynard Experience.

Mark really outdid himself last Saturday when he brought on local historian/treasure Matt Siegfried. Matt has what seems to be an encyclopedic knowledge of local and Michigan history, with a focus on Native American and African-American perspectives. Here is Matt's website about Ypsi's historic African-American neighborhood. Here is Matt's blog post from yesterday about the history of the town's name (shout out to Ypsitucky). Here is a posting for his talk on the city's Native American roots at the Michigan Avenue library on February 26. Here and here and here are some times Mark interviewed him for his blog. Please enjoy these book recommendations he gave us on the air and over Facebook afterward:
  • Rites of Conquest: The History and Culture of Michigan's Native Americans by Charles E. Cleland
  • Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
  • Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate by Neil Baldwin
  • The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry Ford by Beth Tompkins Bates
  • Unconquered Souls: The History of the African American in Ypsilanti by Albert P. Marshall
Let's take a moment to reflect on how our world is a little richer, a little brighter, a little better for the work of Matt Siegfried.

You can listen to the whole second episode here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rebecca Scherm at Literati tonight

Rebecca Scherm is a Zell Writers' fellowship and Umich MFA alum who currently teaches writing at U of M. She has just released her first novel, Unbecoming, to rave reviews. Rebecca will be at Literati tonight at 7. Unbecoming sounds super good so tonight should be a great chance to see a young novelist on the rise.

Ypsi history on Saturday Six Pack, episode II

The second episode of Mark Maynard's Saturday Six Pack shattered all my expectations for both quality and weirdness. The definite highlight was Mark's chat with local historian, Matthew Siegfried. Matt is a wealth of information on the history of Ypsilanti's Affrican American community and local labor history.

The high watermark for weirdness in the show was set by a caller who had never met Mark in real life, but who claims to have interacted with him in his dreams. Wow. Check it out.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Buckle up for the Saturday Six Pack episode II

Gentle readers, are you excited for the Saturday Six Pack tomorrow? EJ and I listened last weekend and we definately agree with the critics who are calling the show "... equal parts, Craig Fahle Show, Wiretap, and Welcome to Night Vale." Maybe we'll even call in tomorrow. If you happened to miss the last episode, you can listen here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The DDA at a turning point?

There are a contingent of Ann Arborites (or at least commentors on MLive) who despise Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority and think it should be dissolved. A larger group of people think the DDA has grown too large and powerful and think it would benefit from more direct control either form the city council or through popular election of (some) board members. I don't have hard numbers on this, but my sense is that most Ann Arborites support the DDA, though they may not be particularly vocal about their support. This makes sense. Downtown Ann Arbor is nice and business seem to be thriving. The most visible DDA projects are parking, infrastructure and the go!pass.

If I were on the DDA, I would be very worried about the general discontent being expressed by folks about the proposed Downtown Ambassador Program. The fact that the most vocal opponents of the program are coming from people who have been supporters of the DDA would be very worrisome. Remember the Citizen's Filibusterer of April 15th 2013? That night, 45 people spoke at a public hearing about proposed revisions to the DDA Ordinance. The majority of people that night voiced support for the DDA.

If the proposed Downtown Ambassador Program comes to fruition, it will surpass parking, infrastructure and the go!pass as the most visible thing the DDA is doing. If this happens, I think the DDA will lose a lot of support from the people who make up its large, if somewhat apathetic, base. If the DDA decides to go forward with the Downtown Ambassador Program, I don't think it will be able to count on as many people coming to a city council meeting to voice their support for it.

So, given the staunch opposition to the Ambassador Program from folks who are traditional DDA supporters, why hasn't the DDA backed away from the proposal? A clue to that comes from a comment DDA board member and /aut/ bar owner, Keith Orr, left on MarkMaynard.Com's post about the Ambassador Program:

I am on the DDA and in your network… and a business owner… and I voted against it for a variety of reasons. The main two were (1) cost, and (2) the relationship to the mission was too tangential.

And seeing the mention of Al, I believe there were four of us who voted against…Al, Rishi, Sandi, and me. I believe a move to reconsider would be useless without heavy, broad-based lobbying. It would be most effective from stakeholders. Three of the four neighborhood associations all spoke strongly in favor. Get State Street (especially) to reconsider their endorsement and you might see a shift.

Where Keith says "neighborhood associations" I think he is referring to the Commercial Associations within the DDA boundary. These are the Kerrytown District Association, the Main Street Area Association, the State Street Association and the South University Area Association.

So the DDA is getting pressure for the Ambassador Program from three out of the four Commercial Associations within its boundary, especially the State Street Association. If you, gentle reader, are opposed to the proposed Ambassador Program then contact the DDA. Also, let your friends know that they should contact the DDA. If you own a business within the DDA boundary or any one of the Commercial Association boundaries (especially State Street) let these organizations know what you think.

Finally, if you support the Ambassador Program, I welcome your comments. I would really like to know how you think the Ambassador Program would help Ann Arbor's downtown.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Some thoughts on the DDA Ambassador Program and Homelessness

Today the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority's Operations Committee met to discuss a ~$900,000, 3 year contract with Kentucky based Block By Block to provide a Downtown Ambassador Program. According to folks who attended the DDA Operations Committee meeting today, the Ambassador Program would address issues like "panhandling, nuisances, cleanliness and wayfinding." The News' coverage of the Jan. 7, 2014 DDA meeting, Block by Block's proposal said they would "... charge $365,971 a year to provide 340 hours of weekly service, with ambassadors working in different shifts, sometimes walking, sometimes biking, sometimes riding a Segway." According to the proposal, Ambassadors would start at just $9.50 per hour and earn up to $10.50 per hour after the first year. A team leader would start at $12 per hour, and an operations manager would be salaried at $40,000 in the first year.

Doing a little math, we can see that $365,971 a year for 340 service hours per week comes down to a cost of $20.70 per hour of service from the Downtown Ambassador Program. This seems like a lot of money for mostly under paid employees. On top of that, the program seems to have no explicit goals other than improving "panhandling, nuisance issues, cleanliness and wayfinding." There has got to be a better way to deal with these issues than hiring an outside company, that doesn't pay its workers well to provide para-security services to Downtown Ann Arbor.

The issue of homelessness in Ann Arbor and specifically homeless camps came up at last nights's Ann Arbor city council meeting. While I know Ann Arbor and Salt Lake City are not perfectly analogous, I think it is worth noting that Salt Lake City adopted a program to provide some of its chronically homeless citizens with housing at a cost of approximately $11,000 per person per year. The city calculated that the Housing First program saved money through reduced costs on shelter, ER, ambulance and police services used by some chronically homeless. I know the causes of and solutions to homelessness are complicated. That said, it's worth noting that for the proposed amount Block by Block will charge per year to the DDA for its para-security force, approximately 30 homeless Ann Arborites could be housed.

I don't think the Ambassador Program is a good idea. If there is a great need to address issues like "panhandling, nuisances, cleanliness and wayfinding" in the downtown core, then we should come up with plans to address those issues and hopefully not contract that out to some outside company. Gentle readers, I'd be interested in knowing what your thoughts on the proposed Ambassador Program. I would especially welcome comments from folks who think the program is a good idea, or those who think there is a great need to address panhandling, nuisances, cleanliness and wayfinding in downtown. You can also share your thoughts on the program with the A2DDA here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Alison Bechdel at Penny Stamps this Thursday

Alison Bechdel, author, cartoonist, and genius, will be giving the Penny Stamps lecture this Thursday. It should be pretty awesome. The free event is at the Michigan Theater from 5:10 until 6:00.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Radio Free Ypsilanti

Move over Garrison Keillor, there's a hot new radio show competing for listeners Saturday Nights at 6:00 PM. Local sculptor and internet personality, MarkMaynard.Com is launching a call-in show called the Saturday Six Pack on AM 1700. You can listen on an old fashioned radio, or stream live on Is anybody planning on hosting a listening party?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Michiganders love Middle Eastern Food

Yelp and HuffPo. have assembled a map that shows the most popular types of restaurants in each state. Here in Michigan, we have 184% more Middle Eastern restaurants compared to the national average. The top 5 most distinctive cuisine types in Michigan restaurants in Michigan are as follows:

Middle Eastern -- 184 percent higher than national average.
Diners -- 47 percent higher than national average.
Hot dogs -- 43 percent higher than national average.
Pizza -- 43 percent higher than national average.
Soup -- 40 percent higher than national average.
I feel like our love for Middle Eastern food makes us look pretty respectful, especially compared to those buffet-loving Minnesotans and Iowans. When you dig deeper into our top 5 though, you can definitely see our love for coney dogs in the data.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Crowdfunding campaign for the Ypsilanti Freighthouse

Support the Ypsilanti Freighthouse from Visual Compass Web Design on Vimeo.

Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse, a local non-profit, has launched a crowd funding campaign to fund improvements for Ypsilanti's historic Freighthouse. If the campaign reaches its goal of $50,000 by March 1st, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will kick in a matching $50,000. Seems like a pretty good cause.

Via: u/jshwalker on r/ypsi