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City Council's Iron-triangle To Choke Black Community

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City Council's Iron-Triangle To Choke Black Community 

Packard-Beakes Bypass Approved


On January 31st, the Ann Arbor city council approved the Packard-Beakes Bypass, a thoroughfare system which will a high-speed blacktop scar across the heart of Ann Arbor's black community. This road caters to the automobile, a soon-to-be extinct transportation system and is a boon only to the Ann Arbor business interests. Packard-Beakes was supported by A2 mayor Robert Harris who showed again his willingness to turn his back on the community who elected him and instead to serve the ruling interests of this city. It demonstrates the blatant disregard for community self-determination, especially in the community is black, poor, or young! Mayor Harris, the Tribal Council is hip to your ruse! All Power to the People! -Ann Arbor Tribal Council

The following is a report written by Matt Lampe for the Tribal Council about plans for changing some of the city that would have great affects on the A2 community as a whole. We hope people will get the information and help in the continuing struggle.

On Monday, January 31, the Ann Arbor City Council voted to go ahead with the Packard-Beakes Bypass, over the loud and strenuous objections of the Model Cities Program. To explain the importance of this issue, it is necessary to explain the history of the design, the impact on the Model Cities area, and an explanation of the political systems that were operational in reaching this decision.

The Packard-Beakes bypass was first conceived of in the Guide for Action, a 1962 plan drawn up by the businessman for the improvement of the Central Business District. Essentially the design focused on the Main Street area and did not concern itself at all with the impact on the neighborhood to the North, a predominatly poor area. That neighborhood, starting in the early sixties, vigorously protested the plan. When the Model Cities Program was formed in 1969, encompassing that neighborhood in the Model Cities area to try to socially rehabilítate the area, they took up the fight against the pressure of the businesses interests. The Model Cities led opposition got the road halted last spring. Constant pressure by the downtown businessmen led to a reconsideration of the issue. With the decaying of the downtown and the approval of Briarwood Shopping Center, the businessmen see this road as vital to the saving of the downtown.

The road design connects traffic from Asheley and First streets to Packard on the south and to the Broadway bridge on the north, providing a funneling of traffic across the north central residential area, loosely bounded by Division, Depot, Kingsley and Main Street. It chops that neighborhood into two triangles, each too small to be isolated by heavy traffic and still survive as residential neighborhoods. This to-be-chopped neighborhood is one of the key target areas for the Model Cities program to rehabil√≠tate the neighborhood for the poor, predominantly black people that live there. It should be pointed out that the Model Cities board is now two-thirds elected by the people of the Model Cities Area and the last one-third will be elected this August. Planned for this area are the redevelopment of a park, which will be isolated by this road in one of the triangles, which seriously hampers its use by neighborhood kids. Also planned is a community Multipurpose center which will be similarly solated. The dividing of the neighborhood into these two small triangles, each with three residential blocks may well point to the death of that area as a lowcost residential area. When that is almost the only neighborhood in which low income persons can live, it spells a message of this city's care for the poor.

In January, 1970, the Model Cities program proposed an alternative conceptual design to the Packard-Beaks bypass that consisted of two parts. The first part was a long-range solution to the 1990 traffic projections if the city does not plan to shift emphasis from the automobile, and a short range solution that accomplishes the near future goals of the Packard-Beaks bypass without imparing the future development of the North Central Area as a real model neighborhood. The only part of the Model Cities plan that was seriously looked at was the long range plan, which dealt with the heavy traffic in a much more complete way than does Packard- Beakes, which was deemed far too expensive. Then this summer, the Planning Department brought forward a suggestion that was similar to the Model Cities interim solution - it did not utilize Beakes, so that the two triangles were avoided, leaving a much more developable 6+ block area to develop into a model neighborhood.

The most relevant analysis of the conflict over the Packard-Beakes proposal is the analysis of the political systems in operation. Essentially there are three relevant groups, the downtown businessmen, the neighborhood residents, and the area property owners. It is important to notice the separation between the North Central Property owners and the residents - the property owners represent the group that is most likely to make money by the elimination of that area as residential, as their land value will increase. The thrust was CBD and property owners against other residents and Model Cities. The issue, when all the alignment details are taken out boil down to a few questions of great importance for members of the Ann Arbor community.

1 ) Do the residents of a neighborhood, especially one which is over 70% black, have the right to want to be able to protect their neighborhoods for redevelopment for themselves against the wishes to make it 5 minutes faster to get downtown?

2) Can a neighborhood group resist against plans to fragment it?

3) Is the City ready to submit to the traffic projections for the future, with its terribly destructive character, without taking moves to reduce traffic? (It has been shown that improving the road system in anticipation of heavier traffic actually brings about heavier traffic sooner.)

4) Is the City ready to recognize that the traffic problem is not the primary cause of the downtown problem, and that Packard-Beakes will not solve the decaying of the Downtown?

In reviewing the systems in operation here, it must be remembered that Packard-Beakes, once approved and bonded, was reversed in the Spring of 1970, and only after the approval of Briarwood in the Spring of 1971, did the pressure really begin again to again complete the road. Anyway, the council on Monday night voted with the CBD men and the property speculators against the Model Cities residents. The vote went along party lines with the Republicans voting for the road, the Democrats voting against it, with the exception of Mayor Harris, who voted for it. This vote should be critically analyzed. By the time it got to him it had already passed with the 6 Republicans voting for it. His vote could have meant two things - one that he favored that route, the original Packard that was used in the argument that should be looked at was the creation of an Ad Hoc committee to review the problem and produce a recommendation, with everyone involved - Model Cities, The Property Owners and the Businessmen. The ruse here is that the Council forced Model Cities to elect the board, providing true democratic community input into program, then stacked the sub-committee with an overwhelming number of special interest groups.

What is the impact of this decision on brothers and sisters outside of the Model Cities area? It shows that the business interests still rule over people here. It shows that we have to pay close attention to what is being planned for the whole city and to see what plans are destructive to building a community. And it shows that we have to make our voice heard, the people and neighborhoods must and do indeed count in our community.

At the next city council meeting our "progressive" Mayor did not breathe a word of reconsideration on Packard-Beakes- another example of a liberal turning his back on his supporters and finking out in a crisis.

The city council approved putting Packard-Beakes on the Ballot as a bond issue in the April election- IT MUST BE VOTED DOWN-REGISTER AND VOTE NO!