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Will Council Have Courage To Debate The Real Issues

Will Council Have Courage To Debate The Real Issues image Will Council Have Courage To Debate The Real Issues image
Parent Issue
Day
25
Month
October
Year
1970
Copyright
Copyright Protected
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Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.
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This coming weekend the Ann Arbor City Council, the Planning Commission, the City Administrator, and the Planning Director will hold a "retreat" at Vivian Farms to "discuss general ' "issues concerning thécityjs_growth and developmèlrFTandto "share ideas 5M information." Since the public isjiot invited to_ particípale" in this brainstorming- session, the only way we can be represented is to collar one of our elected or appointed officials before he gets to the meeting, and inform him of points and areas we'd like considered. Herewith mine, an observer of the Ann Arbor scène from student to resident over 20 years. There have been many changes over that period, [some good, some not so good, and a few downright terrible. JNot really any different than most American cities this day and age, but maybe that's the worst possiblë thing you could say. Everyone likes to think of their own city as something special - something unique. Changes can occur, and are even expected, but that very own special flavor that gives a town a character all its own can only change very slowly if at all. I'm not at all sure if the changes of the past few years have fit that description, nor if we can prevent the changes, imminent on the horizon, which threaten to intensify the trend that has become apparent over that time. What is even worse, though, is that none of our governmental officials seem to be able to come to grips with the _p_roblems, nor even to be willing tö discuss them. Perhaps this "retreat" will do so, and it is for this reason I suggest the following items for contemplation. Dr. -Stanley Cain, director of the U-M. Institute for Environmentjd Quality, addressed the 72ndannual convention of the Michigan Municipal League recently on the subj e c t of "Meeting Local deeply believed in education, but with burgeoning city growth it is difficult tp build schools _icist_ enough. Today the people sëem to want clean air and water, but many citiës have grossly inadequate sewage-treatment plants. Time and time again referenda that would provide increased millage to pay the cost of meeting these needs fail_ta_-pass the test of popular vote. . . . "Tcome to the question: 'What would yqu think of a no-growth p'olicy ? " "A city would have to examine the question very carefully. What would budgets look like_ after five' or ten years of no-grö"wth, or at least with half or less the growth rate oí the past decade? Is the eommon pride in ■ a flourishing city ba sed on benefits realized, or on a myth outdated by the loss of frontier and other changes? Could the city meet stabilized demands for its normal and necessary services and have something 1 e f t over for amenities? Might a city become flourishing in other aspects than its problems? "What city has the courage to explore the question?" What city indeed? Is Ann Arbor one of them? Not only have people such as Paul Ehrlich, author of the "Population Bomb", but also almost every reputable ecologist novv concerned with environmental problems has told us that rapid growth of population must stop, or else we shall all perish as sure as the clock ticks away, as it does inexorably. But planners everywhere have uniformly refused to make any provisions for the lessening of growth, but have He alsó asked the question "Can America outgrow the growth myth - always bigger and better and measured by numbers?" But he also replied to a question that his research . project is not now studying the implications, either social or economie, of a no-gruwth policy. Ann Arbor is presently facing several very major planning decisions. Three annexations are on the ballot in the November election. A monstrously large regional shopping center isjjlanned within the city limits to the south, to a c c o mm o da t e Hudson's, Sears, and a number of other stores and shops. The FullerGeddes penetrator route is grinding to a decisión, as is the Packard-Beakes bypass. All of these have apparently been accepted by our city goyernment and our planners, and all of them together (or even a major portion of them) "would change drastically the quality of life in Ann Arbor. Do we wish them, or would we ' like to discuss the basic implications of them befofe we decide. Only in the annexatiöns do we have a vote. A very stimulating meeting was held mid-week, sponsored by Zero Population Growth, and featuring a discussion (debate?) between Dr. S p e n s e r Havlick, U-M Professor of Natural Resources and a member of the Doxiadis study team, and Michael Prochaska, head of the city Planning Department. Havlick outlined portions of the Doxiadis study of the Detroit urban area (which includes us), and stated that it is probably doomed to ning Commission are merely expeditersSE "policy established_elsewhere. They have no real power. Planning decisions are made in truth by the developers, the university, tñ"é city_admiriistrator, the heads of major departments (other than planning), and even by the State Highway Department". ' None of these "revelations" was really new to students of local government, but perhaps the fact that they were aired in a public forum, and not disputed, was. I wish that the other participants in the planned retreat had been there, as was Planning Director Prochaska. A very able and talented man, he seemed shaken by the questions of the audience, who not only called him to account for nis basic beliefs, but even challenged him to Lut his job on the line to force a re-examínation of those beliefs in open public forum. " This newly found environmental awareness of ours will, before it has run its course, either produce very basic changes in our existence, or it will see the destruction of the quality of life ás we now know it. We in Ann Arbor are but a very small part of the 'spaceship earth" which is Dur total environment. But it is a very important part of that environment, for it is where we live and work and Dlay, and where perhaps our ildren will also live and .vork and play. It is equally important that the basic question of what we shall be in the future and how we shall grow to that goal be discussed openly and extensively. And not just the question of "how," but also "if." Not just the mechanics, but the underlying philosophy, and the roads to the goal ahead. I do not know if the six hours allotted for the retreat will even allow for a I ning of the discussion. I I er doubt it. But as the saying I goes, the longest journey I starts with but a single step. OUTDOOR NEUS I mental Standards." PresumaI bly Ann Arbor was representI ed at that convention, and I some representative of the city heard his remarks, which included the following suggesI tion: "At the risk of going contrary to some of our deepseated beliefs, I would like to I suggest that municipalities I g i v e thought - critical Ithought - to_the_prevailing I concepts o f g'rowth. W e I accept growth in population I and economie activity as I natural and good. But city officials, know that rapid growth produces nearly insurmountaÊ[i_p_rqblems. F o r example, throughout our Inational history we have only acquiesced to the probability that more growth will occur. There seems to be no one with the courage to explore the other side of the question. Dr. Harían Hatcher, former U-M president and now president of the Great Lakes Megalopolis Research Project, was the dinner speaker last weekend at a meeting of the University Press Club. He warned that "the ecological balance of nature is jthjeatened and the" 'qualïiy of the environment for humans is being destroyed," that "man's activities are disturbing the biological and chemical cycles that perpetúate life on earth." ure, simply because there is no strong overall leadership in this área which could forcé a decisión on the many units o f government concerned yith implementation. Doxiadis plans best, he remarked, under a benevolent dictatorship. (Incidentally, he also left the audience with the impression that he had many basic disagreeraents with the Doxiadis study, especially as it related to growth.) Then the questions and comments on the state of planning in Ann Arbor surfaced, and the gist of several angry exchanges was the following: Both the Ann Arbor Planning Dept. and the The participaras in the retreat should begin to take those first steps, and they should further assure us that no action shall be taken on any major project which might affect our future unless and until we have some basic points of agreement as to where we are heading and why. The time for helter-skelter planning is past, and the time when decisions as to major changes in our environment by non-voting or non-elected quasi-planners is also past. It is up to the participants I in the planning retreat to come to grips with these 1 damental questions and 1 lems.