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Re: SG-W:/ AA Parks & Greenbelt proposal

> I am so delighted by Ann Arbor's proposal and the companion proposal in
> Ann Arbor Township.  After so amny years of dreadful political news that I
> dread looking at the newspaper, finally a creative, progressive proposal
> that addresses an issue I really care about.  I can't wait to get busy
> campaigning for this proposal (within the time constraints of my
> incredibly hectic life as classroom teacher and soccer dad).
> I've been waiting for years for A2 to take some leadership on an
> environmental issue.  We seem to have gone to sleep since the
> Environmental Bond that ensured the final implementation of curbside
> recycling 10 years ago.
> Bless John Hieftje and the others who have worked on this visionary
> proposal.  The Mayor has a lot of political capital in this town, and I am
> really glad to see that he has the guts to spend some of it to set an
> example for the whole midwest about a creative way to preserve open space
> and hold off some of the sprawl that has been engulfing, eroding, and
> erasing all the areas I love around my home town for decades.

Dan, I couldn't agree more.  If they understand the truth about the Parks
& Greenbelt Proposal, I think thousands of Ann Arbor voters will agree
too.  It's up to volunteers like us to make this happen, door to door,
person to person, over the next 42 days, if we want to win.  We can't hope
to match our opponent's money.  We can hope very much to have many times
their volunteer effectiveness. But hope won't make it so. [Warning -
campaign pitch ahead] If you want to get notices of campaign volunteer
opportunities send an email to Barb Fuller, our campaign manager, at

> I live in downtown Ann Arbor, which has seen some dense development
> recently (e.g., Ashley Mews).  I agree with Mike Sklar that Ann Arborites
> might be willing to endure more (well-planned) dense development in town
> (and of course in Ypsi--i.e. Water Street), if they felt sure that there
> would still be a farm or two in biking distance from town.  In the past,
> the choice has not been either/or.  The choice has been sprawl with dense
> infill, or sprawl with less infill.  We don't know what Ann Arborites will
> choose; we've never had a choice before.

Exactly.  Few who live here believe the claim that simply building more
densely in the City - with no real mechanism for *simultaneously*
preserving rural land - will somehow achieve the New Urbanist ideal of a
city that is city and a country that is country.

If sprawl is going to continue with no realistic plan beyond hope and
prayer to stop it, city residents will most likely defend to the end
whatever open space and low density they find around them.  This is the
first choice of few - certainly not most environmentalists.  But it's the
reluctant second choice of many if we're faced with the alternatives you
pose - sprawl with urban density, or sprawl with less urban density.

If (and only if) we can get something serious done about sprawl around
here, I think a lot of us urban residents will become more willing to
consider well-planned dense development.

> P.S.  I can't wait to remind the home builders of their campaign slogan 5
> years ago, when they defeated Proposal A (Washtenaw County Open Space &
> PDR millage) with the promise that there is a "better way".  We've had
> five years to see what the better way is--pave over the county, cut down
> the trees, and name the subdivision after themQ!...
> I've just returned from France, saw lots of farmland there, just outside
> towns and cities, that has been farmed for many centuries, apparently
> sustainably. No one lived in a McMansion or drove an SUV, yet the quality
> of life seemed very high.  I was inspired by the lovely cities and farms,
> what a wonderful surprise to come back and find this proposal on the
> table...

Nice comparison.  Through fortuitous accidents of history combined with
common sense, much of Europe came to a wonderful resolution to the problem
of sprawl well before the USA was a country.  We've got to do it the hard
way, in modern times with the sprawl-promoting machine in high gear.

But we have a chance to solve this problem in our community, now, if we
seize it.

Doug Cowherd
Chair, Sierra Club-Huron Valley Group

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