It takes something pretty special to bring me out of unofficial blogging retirement. No, it’s not the election, even though I have plenty of thoughts on that. It’s something that I think could be in the long run much more important, and it’s happening right down the street from me.
Reconsider is the brain child of my good friend Angela Barbash. It’s a business and a non-profit based around a simple idea that no one else seems to have thought of. Please check out the video, and if you have any spare cash to donate so Angela and her crew can begin this very important work, please throw them a few dollars.
It’s hard to pin down exactly why I haven’t been posting much recently. I think I’ve become a little overwhelmed with our nation’s politics. It seems to have reached a level of absurdity that I can’t bring myself to write about. I can’t tell the difference between Republicans and Democrats, I don’t see much hope in any real change happening soon,and so I think for a while I’m giving up on writing about the American political landscape.
I am however still motivated by the current challenges that my community faces. One of those challenges I was interviewed about by the local newspaper AnnArbror.com. I talked to a reporter about the growing need for emergency food assistance, the budget cuts, and the lack or resources. I was happy with the way he wrote about the subject, and if you’re interested you can read the entire thing here.
And while I’m on the subject of food banks, Matt Ygelsias wrote and excellent article in Slate about how to best help your local food bank (hint: it’s not dropping an old can in a box once a year.)
I suppose this can be called a shift in focus. I hope to start writing again more frequently, and I’m sure I’ll touch on the broader themes and causes of the difficulties that people in South East Michigan face, but I don’t anticipate caring about the GOP debates anytime soon.
Hold on everybody, it’s getting colder and weirder every day.
A while back I mentioned that my friend Reagan got to aks Noam Chomsky a question about the concept of Corporate Personhood. After lots of discussion we have decided to start the first Michigan chapter of Move to Amend, which according to their website is…
A coalition supported by hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals dedicated to ending the illegitimate legal doctrines that prevent the American people from governing ourselves.
We will be organizing and pushing our representatives to amend the constitution to eliminate the laws that allow Corporations to have an unprecedented and undemocratic amount of power over our government.
For more information about why we are starting a Michigan chapter check out our interview with Ypsilantian Mark Maynard.
Hope to see you there.
So, if you don’t know, I work at an agency that helps people in a housing crisis, and often times people who are homeless. Today at a meeting we discussed a probable increase in the number of people coming through our doors due to a law that the state passed almost four years ago. Here’s the pertinent part.
The measure to limit Michigan welfare recipients to four years of cash assistance, with several exceptions, starting in October 2007. The measure also sets up penalties for recipients who dont comply with work or educational requirements. Recipients could apply for a fifth year of cash assistance if they havent been sanctioned and the job market is down.
So this October, month by month, people all across Michigan will be losing cash assistance that they have depended on for years. And unless all these people find jobs, which if you live in Michigan you know is not an easy thing to do no matter what your skill level, will probably end up in a housing crisis and many of them will probably end up homeless.
You put that together with a report that the Detroit Free Press just did on how you can’t live on minimum wage, and it looks more and more like Michigan is heading for a post-apocalyptic-Beyond Thunderdome kind of scenario.
I just hope that if we end up with a hero, we can find someone other than Mel Gibson.
I’m a little late to the game in writing about what the Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has done, but I still think it’s worth noting. First Snyder proposed a budget that makes huge cuts in the funding cities recieve from the state. Now, a bill is being passed that will give the Governor and his administration the power to declare that any city in Michigan is financial emergency.
Once he has declared emergency (that he is helping to create) he will appoint an Emergency Financial Manager for the city, and that person can do a whole host of things like break contracts that were bargained for by employees, absolve entire city services like water, fire, and security, and contract them out to private companies, and get this, they can dismiss elected officials with no plans for refilling those positions or no vote.
It seems pretty pointless to bargain or vote if later someone can just come in and null the entire thing if they feel like it.
Wisconsin got a lot of attention because Walker came out in the open and said that he was going to removed collective bargaining rights. Snyder is on the other hand giving himself the power to do it later, if necessary. Of course he is the one who decides if it’s necessary. It’s even more overreaching than the Wisconsin bill, but he makes the cities do his dirty work for him. It’s all incredibly sneaky.
Snyder ran on a platform of strong urban core cities and his first two moves in office have been to rip cities of their urban core.
I’ve been fairly absent recently. There are two main reasons for it. First, Liz and I share a computer, and her grad school work has been requiring it most of the time. The second reason, is that I’ve actually been, maybe for the first time in my life, pretty busy. I’ve been up to a lot, so I figured I may as well talk about it a bit.
I got a new job about two or three months ago. I now run the Emergency Food Distribution Program at the SOS Community Services Housing Crisis Center. Once a week, around 100 households in need come to the center to get food and other personal needs items as well as meet with a housing counselor to find out of the need other kinds of assistance or guidance. I’m responsible for organizing and executing the food distribution, managing the volunteers, tracking demographic data for our funders, placing orders, compiling reports, facilitating two other food programs that we house, and I’m working on implementing a transfer to a digital tracking system that will be the pilot for food programs in the county.
It’s certainly not a job with a lot of down time, but I’m really enjoying myself. My time is spent doing a lot of different things, so it doesn’t get old too fast. I love that SOS is right in Ypsilanti, and I can walk to work in about 15 minutes, but even more I really like what we do, and how we do it. It’s a very well run organization with responsive administration. We are able to get a lot done with very little, and I’m proud of the work we do.
I have also started serving on the Board of Directors of a really fantastic organization called Growing Hope, which is dedicated to helping people improve their lives through gardening and healthy food access. There are lots of ways this gets accomplished, including a the downtown farmers market, community and school gardens, education and training programs, and supplying low income families with raised beds and gardening education. I’m really happy to be involved, and I’m very excited for the opportunities we have to make a better Ypsilanti.
I think I do other stuff too, but Liz needs the computer back.
[I wrote the following article for the Let's Save Michigan website. Check it out here.]
Every winter, children all over get excited for the coming Holiday when Santa will come down the chimney delivering the gifts they have been hoping for. That is, if they have been good. For the bad kids, things get a little more interesting. According to many European mythologies, St. Nicholas has a side kick accompanying him on Christmas Eve to deal with the bad children. His name is Krampus, a demon-like figure who punishes the kids that have been more naughty than nice. This Christmas season, Ypsilanti celebrated Santa’s often forgotten evil partner with a costume ball, midnight parade, and drag show.
When the good people behind the Shadow Art Fair decided to do something different this year, they announced the Krampus Ball to be held at Ypsilanti’s own Corner Brewery, which would make two special “Naughty” and “Nice” brews for the event, involve a costume contest, photo booth, live DJ, and posters for sale. Then the Detroit Party Marching Band would lead a parade from the brewery through Depot Town to the new bar and music venue Woodruff’s, to join the monthly Elbow Deep drag show.
From the beginning of the ball there was an aura of excitement and general glee. The vast majority of attendees were in some sort of costume ranging from simple to elaborate and, as people entered the door, the smiles on their faces grew. Krampus wandered the brewery and dance floor armed with chains and something that looked like a cricket stick, punishing all those who seemed a bit too naughty. Corner Brewery’s “Nice” beer was an appropriately nice dark Belgian ale, and the “Naughty” was, well, not so nice. It tasted like feta cheese.
After a few ales, costume watching, and a lot of dancing, the marching band descended on the dance floor to step the party up a notch. I don’t know if you’ve ever participated in a midnight parade through your city, but if you like feeling euphoric, I highly recommend it. We marched through Depot Town which had already been busy that day hosting both Toys for Tats at the Depot Town Tattoo parlour, and D.I.Ypsi at Woodruff’s.
The band and the parade marched into Woodruff’s interrupting Elbow Deep and transforming it instantly into “Krampus Deep.” There, the dancing continued, until the bar closed down with an anthemic sing a long of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” lead by The Ladies from the House of Chanel.
For all the naughtiness, it was a magically nice night. One that we in Ypsilanti will not soon forget.
Well, we’ve got a lot work done and we have been in the new place for about a week now. I was going to post an entry with all the before and after pictures, but Liz beat me to it and did a better job than I would have.
So just look at her post.
If I’m a little absent right now it’s because I’ve had some big life developments recently. Specifically, I just bought a house in Ypsilanti. A fixer-uper to be exact. So of course, I’m not spending nearly enough time on the internet.
I’ll make it up someday I’m sure.