Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Council moves forward on greenway, Friends decry "murder by task force"

16. August 2005 • Murph
Email this article

Ann Arbor City Council last night unanimously passed a resolution to create a “New Greenway Task Force” that would deliver recommendations for a greenway running south from the Huron River greenway along the Allen Creek valley. The Task Force members will be appointed by 6 September, with preliminary recommendations due by 1 November 2005 and final recommendations by 1 October 2006. The resolution calls for the Task Force to include in the greenway at least the portions of the city-owned properties at 415 W. Washington and 721 N. Main that are within the floodway, and asks for a recommendation on the eventual use of the lot at 1st and Washington. Additionally, the resolution directs the City Administrator to begin working with the Ann Arbor Railroad to determine the potential of using the railroad’s right-of-way for parts of the greenway. See the original text of the resolution (pdf) for more details; at least one amendment was made to add a requirement for public hearings before the 1 October final recommendations were presented.

The Ann Arbor News reports that the Friends of the Greenway are not happy. Bill Hanson, who has announced an interest in Kim Groome’s vacated Council seat, “told the council Monday’s actions were an attempt to fool people who want a greenway with ‘green-sounding’ language. He summarized the council’s task force resolution as, ‘We love greenways. Trust us.’” Sonia Schmerl, co-Chair of the Friends of the Greenway, called the resolution ”’murder by task force’ for a full-scale greenway.”



  1. Man, they’re just not happy with anything, are they? This already sounds like more greenway than I’d like, but I’ll get over it by not being a whiny bitch…
       —js    Aug. 16 '05 - 01:04PM    #
  2. ditto, boo hoo hoo
       —dsomers74    Aug. 16 '05 - 02:22PM    #
  3. It sounds to me like the Mayor and Council are starting to get more than a little annoyed with the Greenway folks. Heh.
       —JennyD    Aug. 16 '05 - 03:06PM    #
  4. Wow. The Council is bending over backwards to try and get a greenway going, and all the ‘Friends’ can do is complain about it! some gratitude. IMO any part of the floodway that becomes a greenway is a good thing. Will it be “full scale” ? probably not. But to take every city property between Main and the OWS and make them into a park for those exclusive residents is just ridiculous.

    I HATE the phrase “full scale greenway”. It leaves no space for compromise, and makes the ‘Friends’ more and more stubborn. If they were smart they would cooperate in order to get even a small greenway, because I can imagine the backlash against their unrealistic demands resulting in no greenway at all.
       —KGS    Aug. 17 '05 - 09:04AM    #
  5. We heard this carping earlier, when panels were convened that had less than 100% rabid-pro-greenway membership. The greenway advocates seem to believe that winner-take-all is the only way to operate within the civic process.

    But, with their tactics, this “Coalition of the Green-Willing” is not succeeding in convincing me that their ideas have any merit. I greatly prefer having people with a diverse group of opinions (or no previously established opinions) look at an issue, rather than stack the deck with a bunch of agenda-bound puppets.

    I find it hard to consider a greenway proposal seriously, because its advocates are behaving as badly as the national administration. They are trying to force their agenda because they are absolutely convinced of their own rightness.
       —archipunk    Aug. 17 '05 - 09:07AM    #
  6. Well, of course, their complaint is exactly that – that the deck is being stacked with a bunch of agenda-bound puppets. (Of course, said puppets have not been named yet, so a certainty that this is a bad thing means a certainty that a nine-member panel that includes, “a member of the Parks Advisory Commission, a member of the Planning Commission, one member of the Downtown Development Association, a member of the City Council and other city residents” is going to be stacked. And if something so still-undefined is already totally stacked, can’t you assume that anything would be stacked? Considering that the Task Force is being blasted so, even before existing, I’d hate to be one of the people on it. I imagine we’re going to see a few Friends-types appointed to it (“Okay, we know what you think, now help us do something about it,”) only, at this rate, to abdicate responsibility at the first sign of things going “badly” and use their appointment as a platform to attack the process from within, rather than making any attempt to construct something consensusable.

    You know, I haven’t heard any of them say anything good yet about Chris Easthope’s work to put together something that saved 1st/William from the evil, evil DDA. He managed to drag together a near consensus on the Council that, “No, you may not build a parking structure there,” and not a positive word has been said of that yet.
       —Murph.    Aug. 17 '05 - 09:23AM    #
  7. If the Council appoints task force members with a range of views on the scope of an ideal greenway, this process may actually be useful. The greenway is not a black-and-white issue as some activists claim.
       —Nick A    Aug. 17 '05 - 10:02AM    #
  8. They should appoint me to the Greenway committee. I’m a concerned citizen who will promise to work for nothing less that the bulldozing of all of downtown for a true full-scale greenway!
       —js    Aug. 17 '05 - 11:05AM    #
  9. Maybe they’re worried that not enough women in bad hats will be appointed to the task-force.
       —Brandon    Aug. 17 '05 - 11:42AM    #
  10. Brandon….I thougth I was the only one who noticed the hats?

    In the interest of not posting something mean-spirited on this topic, and seeing as how both js and brandon just posted…..(but this goes for the lot of you.)

    Don’t walk….run and pick up the 1st release from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

    You’ll thank me. Insound.com and amazon.com both stock it. Album of the year so far. If Kevin Shields, David Byrne and Jeff Magnum created a kid, he’d be fronting this band.

    JS, if you don’t like it, I’ll buy you two gin on the rocks and then promptly make fun of your lack of musical taste. :)

    ...allow me the single emoticon, please.
       —todd    Aug. 17 '05 - 12:49PM    #
  11. Todd – yes, but do Schoolkids in Exile or Wazoo stock it? (And, if not, they’ll order it, no?) You bad bad Amazon-recommending local businessman, you!
       —Murph.    Aug. 17 '05 - 01:14PM    #
  12. No, they don’t. It’s a self released CD that, to my knowledge, isn’t distributed in stores. I only listed amazon for the more paranoid who don’t trust small stores (my parents have had bad experiences with small stores before, so I guess that i was thinking of them when i posted).

    I use insound.com. Indie shop. Good people. I also use Underground Sound for new releases, and Encore for old releases.
       —todd    Aug. 17 '05 - 01:20PM    #
  13. What I can’t quite fathom is how the greenway idea, kicked around for years by members of the Allen Creek Watershed group (who had so little clout they couldn’t get the city to do any kind of hydro study on the creek), has suddenly gone from lunatic to sacrosanct. Is it just because Cowherd got behind it? Or is it because Joe O’Neal got interested in it? Or because the OWS residents got hopped up about First and William?

    Only in Ann Arbor can a project that has (a) no cost projections (b) no practical basis (has the railroad even been approached? how do you take property for this? what do you do with all the street crossings?) and© no solid rationale (we need parks to make downtown more attractive and liveable? is that why no one wants to build housing downtown?) get such traction.

    To paraphrase Bill Hanson, it must be because it has the word “green” in it.
       —Michael Betzold    Aug. 17 '05 - 02:13PM    #
  14. the rhetoric of Friends
    is working! all they
    really want is a little
    piece of green and the
    stupid hat lady wins!
       —LJB    Aug. 17 '05 - 10:04PM    #
  15. Todd, two things: First, on Friday, I’m gonna be at your place at 8pm, swappin’ mix discs. I can leave one for you if you’d like.
    Second, Schoolkids’ll order anything for ya. I’ve got a gift certificate for that place kickin’ around, and I’ll see if they’ll lemme use it for Clap Your Hands…
       —js    Aug. 18 '05 - 06:16AM    #
  16. Funny thing. The crazy hat lady was on WUOM this morning interviewing her father as part of the Story Corps project. He was reminiscing about his missed opportunity to intervene when some racist art museum administrators in Cleveland were complaining about darkies moving in and lowering property values. He was incensed because this discussion was being carried on in front of black cafeteria workers, but couldn’t bring himself to say anything, partially because they were the bosses and he was just a student intern or something, and partially because he was a Holocaust survivor and was afraid of making trouble. He still feels guilty about it. A little sappy, but not a bad story. The funny bit was that the only part of it that the Hat Lady seemed to have internalized was “property values”.
       —Parking Structure Dude! (Parking Structures, Dude)    Aug. 18 '05 - 09:14AM    #
  17. Todd – just giving you a hard time. And if it’s good enough for you to recommend to both js and the ‘rents, I’ll have to check it out too. (Maybe after js convinces Schoolkids to get a few copies?)

    Michael – as much as I disagree with most of the rhetoric and tactics of the Friends in content, it’s certainly done well.

    I think the “we’ve passed a millage to preserve land outside Ann Arbor – don’t we deserve the same inside Ann Arbor?” bit has legs, even though it (a) is completely counter to the spirit of the greenbelt millage as originally stated and (b) ignores the reality of parkland in Ann Arbor. I was walking around a (west side) neighborhood recently with a newcomer to Ann Arbor, who spontaneously observed, “This town certainly has a lot of parks, doesn’t it?”

    The “wouldn’t you like a pony?” style of petitioning has worked brilliantly in this case. By pitching a full-scale greenway to random Farmers’ Market shoppers or ToP attendees as a lush, open, natural space, a “refuge” from the city, and not discussing any of the concerns, obstacles, priorities, or opportunity costs involved with the particular vision, they’ve provided something that’s very hard to say “no” to, unless you’ve already invested some thought in the nuances of the situation.

    They’ve got good spokespeople. The ACWG folks have passion, Sonia and Margaret are sincere and friendly, Cowherd is brilliantly slick, and Joe O’Neal has all the commanding intensity (Christopher Walken-style) a movement could need. It’s an amazing combination, and, between the vision and the leadership, they’re wonderful at mobilizing the troops to flood the News with letters or show at Council meetings to stand on cue.

    (Though, unless they’ve knocked me off their e-mail list again, they’ve been pretty quiet for some weeks now. I suppose they’re at a point where asking a hundred people to show at Council meetings would just drain movement stamina and not achieve anything that could be done as effectively with a few choice quotes to Tom Gantert. I expect them not to turn out in force again until the 2nd Calthorpe workshop, the next time that a show of “community movement” is necessary.)
       —Murph.    Aug. 18 '05 - 09:23AM    #
  18. Not only do they have a well-organized group, but they are invited to all of the smaller vision meetings (like the Washtenaw Metro Alliance meeting this summer, PROS Plan visioning fairs) and the greenway idea gets pushed to the forefront by Parks and Rec. Commission members themselves. At a recent meeting, they stated that any task force can be initiated if PAC members so desire, and they jumped onto this right away. I saw the PAC chairman sitting with the greenway supporters and he was giving the same boo-hisses and frowns that they were at one of the first council meetings that got this thing rolling.
    Too bad I didn’t have the same supporters for off-leash areas…
    So, what we have now then is both a City Council appointed task force for a greenway and PAC attention on the matter. How could they complain?! (Rhetorical…)
       —Lizz    Aug. 18 '05 - 10:14AM    #