Vacuum cleaning

I dunno if it’s because we lost our daily newspaper a couple years ago or if it’s always been this way but our wondrous city council seems to operate in a vacuum. Because it seems that recently we were mere inches away from approving a landing pad for a Martian toaster aka “conference center” to be built right downtown on the old “library lot”. And nobody [me, anyway] knew it. The library lot is a city parking lot that is adjacent to the downtown branch of the district library. It was hands-down one of my favorite parking lots for the 30 years I’ve lived here and, as the sign indicates, I am not alone. Generations have parked there. And [almost] nobody stood up and said that this was a reeeally bad idea.

No more. As you may have read here before, a monstrosity of an underground parking garage is now being built where the library lot once was. I’m not even sure why a big parking structure is needed at that location but our illustrious city council got away with building that and then they apparently started salivating about what our beauteous city could build on top of it. To generate revenue, don’tcha know. The whole long complicated story about RFPs and letters of intent and developers and all that is too complicated for this baggy old *blonde* kayak woman to write coherently about in her baggy old blahg.

Newspaper or not, there were some folks around town who were watching this developing situation. And blogging about it. And, when it got to the point that our elected council members (you know, the folks we elected) seemed to be on the verge of actually approving one of their RFP responses, for the ugly hotel-conference center shown on the yard sign in the photooo, some of those folks twittered and formed facebook groups, etc. All of a sudden yard signs like this one I photographed at 0-skunk-30 a few days ago started to appear all over town. And… Then… Yesterday afternoon, reported that the city council placed a resolution on their next meeting’s agenda to reject a letter of intent with the developer of the so-called Martian toaster.

It’s not a done deal yet but it seems as though the council has heard from its constituents and is willing to abandon that egregiously ridiculous plan. I was thinking about getting my own yard sign but I am pretty confident that I won’t need one.

Okay. I know that our city council does have to concern itself with city development, et al. What I don’t understand is the scale of this project. This comes at a time when we have a huge deficit (like many cities in Michigan and elsewhere). Our mayor and council ended the annual leaf pickup last fall because “we can’t afford it”. Snowplowing was practically non-existent this winter. I can understand if my backwater street isn’t plowed immediately but the main streets were not plowed particularly well either. The most recent fire chief recently resigned, sending a letter to his boss saying that our fire department is dangerously understaffed. He is the second fire chief to do that in as many years. It goes on and on…

We elect our mayor and council members to manage our city so that the services we depend on are provided in a timely manner. We absolutely need public safety (police and fire) workers and garbage pickup. I know there are *many* other more complicated issues, and some of them involve downtown development. But I do *not* think that the city has any business using tax-payer dollars to run a conference center downtown or even float RFPs for such a thing. I am learning the slow, hard way that many people get elected to office so they can throw business in the direction of friends, relatives, and even random contractors who might be slipping money under the table. Not good. (Not trying to imply that our current council members are doing any of these things. I think they were just out of touch.)

I am not a very political aminal from the get-go but I am trying to pay more attention. When we have our next civic elections, I am going to be asking the candidates whether they are going to reinstate the leaf pickup. And what they think about downtown development in general. If they are for more big ugly air-sucking buildings [we already have some], I won’t vote for them. This city needs to be careful about balancing new development so that it doesn’t destroy the small businesses that make our city rock! If they want to reinstate the leaf pickup, I might (*might*) be interested.

We’ll see….

2 Responses to “Vacuum cleaning”

  1. Margaret Says:

    Activist Anne–I like the sound of that!! We all need to pay attention to what cities have planned. I live near to a hill where development was allowed to run rampant; it’s a nightmare to try to navigate that area. Thankfully, I live east of it and can generally avoid it.

  2. jane Says:

    I do not have a solution/idea of what to put on top of the new underground parking structure, but while we figure it out, I vote to have another ‘Little Park for a Little While’. we had that at the corner of Ann and Main St. years ago while something was being figured out.