Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ypsilanti in the News

Last semester I worked on a redevelopment project for the City of Ypsilanti. My team's project focused on providing a revitalization plan for the Cross Street Commercial District which borders Eastern Michigan University (If anyone is interested in reading it, let me know via email, and I'll send you a PDF copy). Many people in the area are down on Ypsilanti, as its' economy is in the dumps, taxes are high, and it has a very gritty feel. I personally really enjoyed working in Ypsilanti, especially with the local residents who remain strongly committee to their town, despite the less than stellar leadership from many in the local government and business organizations.

That leadership deficit might be changing. According to this article in Crain's Detroit Business news, it appears that some housing projects are in the works, and from what I know about these developers, they have a history of good work in my hometown of Grand Rapids. I'm also happy that it mentions some of the work done by our Urban Planning class last winter. I am hopeful about these housing developments, although these projects alone will not bring Ypsi from the brink. The redevelopment project along Water Street, as well restored intergovernmental revenue funds, will help to return Ypsi to fiscal well-being.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

1962 Revisited?

This past weekend I attended the first-ever Michigan Policy Summit, which was sponsored by a host of progressive organizations interested in creating a Democratic ideal machine. It was great to see a great number of people who are seriously interested in preserving our state's priorities and fiscal health in an age of economic change.

For those friends of mine who do not follow Democratic politics closely, this is an era of transition for the Democratic Party. As detailed by Matt Bai in The Argument, since the 2004 election, various groups of Democrats, sometimes known as the "netroots" have been working with other wings of the party to create an intellectual machine that can match the Republican friendly institutes such as Cato, Heritage, Hoover and the American Enterprise Institutes. In Michigan, momentum has been growing to create a progressive think tank similar to the libertarian Mackinaw Center for Public Policy and the Acton Institute. It is about time for the left to build this infrastructure within our state. Part of the Democratic timidness in this current budget battle in Lansing is due to a lack of fresh ideas that legislatures can push for.

Our state party has long lived in the shadow of "Soapy" Williams (in the photo above) Democratic Party, which thrived in the years of labor peace and prosperity that a manufacturing economy brought from 1945 to 1967. Over time the party has splintered along suburban-urban and regional lines, and the Republican Party has exploited this numerous times. A new Democratic Party is slowly emerging, and it may already be present in 2010, when 31 of 38 State Senators, 46 of 109 of State Representatives, and all the executive officials of the state (the Governor, Secretary of State, and the Attorney General) are forced to step down.

As Rick Perlstein notes in his perceptive The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo, majorities are built over decades, not within an election cycle. A wise Democratic strategy would address the decline of Michigan's suburbs, and work on providing serious land-use reform that would serve both our central cities and suburbs, much like the Michigan Suburbs Alliance is doing. Any Democrat would be wise to read Charles Ballard's Michigan's Economic Future, which addresses the structural problems facing Michigan's economy and budget. The solutions in this work, while jarring, are an effective mixture of cuts, government restructuring, and tax code reform that would help reform Michigan's sorry budget process. These two steps might help Michigan emerge from this period of economic stagnation and thoughtless Republican governance.

1962 represented the high water mark of the William's Democratic Party. Let's hope that the Michigan Democratic Party began walk forward to this moment again this past Saturday

Sunday, September 2, 2007

End of the Summer

Summer will end again tomorrow evening, and it certainly was an eventful season. From getting a new car, helping my sister move to Philadelphia last week, I did a lot more than I thought I would do, especially in terms of travel. There is a lot more that I could talk about, but I will mention a few highlights from the summer:

-Watching my wife finish her CPE work and talking ordination exams.

-Spending time with family at the cottage on Lake Michigan.

-Attending a number of weddings of dear friends.

-Working at the Institute for Social Research, where I had a wonderful group of co-workers and interesting projects to participate in.

-Taking a Econ class at a community college.

I am looking forward to another semester of school, but I still am getting the melancholy feeling that I used to get every Labor Day weekend when I was a kid. I never wanted summer to end, even when I was in high school. Oh well, it does end, and I'll have a few postings next week on my schedule for the fall semester.