Vol. 1, No. 10 December 2001
Which Way Ann Arbor?
Editorial by David Duboff
The Ann Arbor City Council’s decision to grant the Pfizer Pharmaceutical Co. a tax abatement (based in part on the fear that the company would leave Ann Arbor otherwise) highlights the direction which city officials seem to want the city to take. Twenty years ago, a University of Michigan document envisioned Ann Arbor becoming a "World Class Center for High Technology and Robotics." That appears to be what’s happening.
We now have many high tech companies, located largely on the south side around Ellsworth and Varsity Drive. The employees of these companies, taken together with Pfizer (the largest private employer in the city), make up a large portion of the work force. They are well paid workers. The average salary at Pfizer is $84,000 per year. Meanwhile, U of M faculty and staff also make fairly high salaries. Plus there are a lot of business people, attorneys, doctors and others who are relatively well off. As a result, Ann Arbor has become a community made up, to a large extent, of affluent people.
For these and other reasons, Ann Arbor is becoming a less diverse community. Extremely high housing prices are making it harder and harder for working-class people, let alone poor people, to afford to live here. The cost of living in Ann Arbor as a whole, ranging from housing to food costs, to the cost of a cup of coffee, is steadily getting higher and higher. Several thousand people who work in Ann Arbor now live elsewhere because they don’t earn enough to be able to afford to live here.
To be a thriving, vital community Ann Arbor needs to have a population with a mixture of cultures and values. This won’t happen if everyone is upper-middle-class. We need a diversity of outlooks, philosophy and ideologies. We need to be a city which values people who do manual labor as much as people who do intellectual work. We need to stop the trend toward displacing poor people–not that these people should be poor, but that they deserve to be part of a community as much as anyone else.
We shouldn’t be encouraging businesses to provide incentives for their employees to become home owners when it only serves to drive the cost of housing even higher.
Let’s start reversing the trend and work towards making Ann Arbor a truly diverse community where people of all classes can afford to live.
Pfizer’s Pfuzzy "Pfacts"
by Jim Mogensen
This article attempts to clear up several confusing things you might have heard during the A2 debate about tax cuts for Pfizer Corp.
1. "The tax abatements will only apply to new business activity."
This is technically true but you need to know that the definition of "new" is not obvious. Pfizer has been aggressively building at its Ann Arbor site for the last several years but is now just finishing up with this phase of construction. When completed this will count as "new." Pfizer can meet the obligations spelled out in the "deal" just by putting equipment in these "new/old" buildings–something they supposedly had already planned to do without "incentives." The "deal" was sweetened by the purchase of prime commercial land from the university for possible future development.
2. "This is good because it brings university land onto the tax rolls."
University land is currently not taxable because this land is our land. It is sometimes hard to tell but the University of Michigan is a public university. We don’t tax it because we would be raising taxes to pay taxes on land that all of us own.
When this rule was put into effect, University assets were less complicated. Federal law now permits the "public/private" relationships that weren’t previously accepted because it was felt that corporate sponsorship would bias the objectivity of "academic" research. This is indeed still a problem but it is now allowed with the public character of the University protected. University assets are now handled as if they were corporate assets.
We sold the land to Pfizer for 27 million dollars. The regents recently announced that they were going to ask us for an additional 14.5 million dollars. It sounds like this land sale and the sale of Gordon Hall in Dexter is more about the need of the administrative bureaucrats to raise cash for their corporate agenda than using our public university assets wisely.
3. "Other communities have ‘free’ land."
In New London, Connecticut there is a huge controversy about eminent domain–where a government body takes people’s housing for community (or corporate) purposes. This happened to Poletown when GM wanted to build a big plant in Detroit.
Pfizer built a big office complex on a remediated Brownfield near the Thames riverfront in New London. This is an old industrial site where nothing grows anymore. The corporation gets tax breaks and help cleaning up the site.
Now they need services to cater to this new Pfizer development like a luxury hotel, a day care center, etc., using eminent domain to obtain and make available land for these projects.
It is unclear where the poor people who used to live in this area will get to live. This is called "urban removal."
4. "Pfizer is a good community member."
Pfizer does the usual corporate philanthropic shuffle–doing
good to do well. In its submission to the city telling us about its good works,
however, Pfizer gets a little over-enthusiastic. It includes as beneficiaries:
5. "Pfizer will attract people here."
The application by Pfizer notes that only 22.6% of the people that work at Pfizer live in the City of Ann Arbor. It notes, however, that the vast majority of the remainder live in the Ann Arbor PMSA (Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area). This might sound reasonable if you didn’t know that the Ann Arbor PMSA includes all of Washtenaw, Livingston and Lenawee Counties. Perhaps an unvast number of employees live in Birmingham, Royal Oak, or West Bloomfield?
So probably only 138 of the 600 employees that may come to work for Pfizer will help us (people who live in the City) subsidize the tax break. And since the average salary for a Pfizer employee is $84,000 this will result in a little less affordable housing for the rest of us.
In conclusion, the Open Meetings Act is supposed to allow us to participate in public decisions that occur at the public table. This tax break was conceived around the breakfast, lunch and dinner table where most good corporate deals occur.
So–the University got to raise some cash by selling our land, local Pfizer executives got to look good with their counterparts in New York City, and Governor Engler and the city got a relatively tiny bit of money to help cope with budget problems–from the largest pharmaceutical company in the world.
Since welfare as we had known it ended in August 1996 with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, many families and children have
Twenty five percent of the 415,000 jobs eliminated last month alone (October) were in the service sector, the kind of low-skilled jobs considered stepping stones out of poverty for welfare mothers. Less than half are eligible for unemployment compensation. And the five-year time limit, embodied in the so-called "reform" act leaves thousands of such families with no support network and nowhere to turn, at a time when the economy is in a recession.
In response to this crisis, over a thousand groups–grassroots groups, labor, civil rights and others–have initiated the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support. They are pushing to:
·end the time limits for families who are in compliance with welfare rules
·expand education and training
·create a decent public jobs program
·restore benefits to immigrants
·not put women in a position of having to endanger their children’s welfare with inadequate child care in order to maintain their income.
A bill has been introduced in the House by Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii which will include many of these proposals. A similar bill will be introduced shortly in the Senate sponsored by Paul Wellstone.
Our Representative, Lynn Rivers, has expressed regret many times for her vote in favor of the 1996 welfare "reform" legislation, and in fact campaigned for re-election that year in part so that she could return to Washington to "fix it."
Gains have been made by grassroots groups at local and state levels–living wage ordinances, healthcare for uninsured children, etc. Now we have a promising national effort.
Now is the time to fix it. Let’s get it done!
THE MICHIGAN LEAGUE FOR HUMAN SERVICES
The League’s Mission: "To ensure that the basic health and human service needs of the state’s low-income and other vulnerable residents are met through an effective and efficient public/private delivery system" was expressed once again at their Annual Meeting on November 7th, 2001 at Cobo Hall, Detroit.
A number of telling points were made by the various speakers:
· Joel Friedman said that the top 1% of the population, those who earn $380,000 and up, are the beneficiaries of the recent tax cuts.
· Jay Wortley reported that income inequality is the highest since WWII.
· Jared Bernstein said that the work of low-income families is not enough for their basic needs; average pay is $8,000/year, while a parent with two children requires, with child care costs, $32,000 a year. We need to think in terms of ensuring a "self-sufficiency budget."
· Marian Kramer sees the "Welfare to Work" program as "Slave Labor."
Reverend L. McDonald sees bussing people from Flint down to Livingston County to perform service work as "reminiscent of apartheid."
Learn more at www.miLHS.org, or 517-487-5436.
CITY COUNCIL UPDATE
by Jim Mogensen
There are a couple of things you should be looking out for when it comes to the Ann Arbor City Council.
1. There will be a public hearing on Housing, Community Development and Human Service Needs on 12/1701 at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber. There are several reasons to attend:
a. All the senior staff at Community Development are retiring so there is talk about reorganization and efficiency improvements (translation: budget cuts).
b. The need for housing and human services is going up not down. Council needs to hear that people care about this.
c. The red ribbon chart will probably be unveiled again. It’s a classic.
2. Bonds for this and Bonds for that: According to the Capital Improvements Plan for FY2003–2008, the total cost of all proposed capital projects is $497,008,000. The top ten projects constitute $318,291,000. New projects total $178,623,000. This six-year funding need is $297,373,000. This includes the sewer ugrades and a $23,450,000 renovation of our wastewater treatment plant. The eighteen projects from the FY2002-2007 Capital Improvement Plan that will be completed by June 30, 2002: $14,126.000.
Even with long-term bonding we’re in deep doo-doo. Ann Arbor reactionaries say that growth is good–it’s just very, very expensive. I hope that Pfizer is feeling philanthropic.
FAST IN SOLIDARITY
WITH STARVING AFGHANS
Gaia Kile, a member of the Ann Arbor Alliance for Global Justice, called a fast beginning on November 9th, to call attention to the millions of people in Afghanistan facing starvation this winter. Eleven people committed themselves to the fast and participated to some extent; Gaia was on a water fast for seven days.
The fast officially ended when the United Nations began to get food through to the people of Afghanistan, although some are continuing to fast in symbolic solidarity with those who are hungry.
by Jim Mogensen
Second Harvest, the nation’s largest organization of emergency food providers, has released a study from nearly 24,000 Second Harvest agencies for 2001. Key findings include:
·39% of the members of households served by Second Harvest are children under 18 years old.
·39% of households include at least one employed adult.
· 10% are homeless.
·45% of clients report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuel.
·36% had to chose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage bill.
·30% had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care.
·Only 33% of pantry programs and 55% of kitchens have any paid staff at all.
Good and Bad in Kalamazoo
In a victory for gay rights activists, a plan that would have blocked the city from passing laws protecting gays was rejected by 54 percent of voters with a tally of 5,411 yes to 6,085 no on November 6th.
In a defeat for advocates of the poor, only 4,570 voted for the living wage ordinance while 6,708 voted against. This should act as a warning for progressives–the defeat makes the expansion to a statewide vote on the living wage unlikely.
Golden Shovel Award
The Ann Arbor City Council presented a "Golden Trowel Award" to ERIM (Environmental Research Institute of Michigan), a defense contractor whose activities are secret, because they had created what they called a "Temporary Meadow Restoration Project" to help with water retention. Apparently the building that was supposed to be built on this artificial prairie has been delayed. Its sister meadow project on the lot next door was not so lucky and now has a large office building on it.
PROTEST AT FORT BENNING
by Jim Kalafus
[Editor’s note: The US Army’s Fort Benning in Columbus, GA houses the School of the Americas (SOA), now renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC), which has been accused of training Latin American military personnel in how to commit assassinations and torture.]
In the fearful, paranoid, doublethink days since September 11, we have been told incessantly that repression is security, hatred is patriotism, vengeance is justice, peace is a four-letter word, and, most of all, that dissent is treason. In spite of this hostility towards dissent over 9,000 people gathered again at Fort Benning to call for the closing of WHISC/SOA. This only happened after considerable difficulty in finding a place to rally after the city refused permission to meet in front of Fort Benning citing security considerations. At the last minute they permitted the rally to meet at Golden Park, a baseball stadium near downtown Columbus about six miles from the Fort Benning gate. After that legal battle was won by SOA Watch the city decided to try to ban the march to the gate with an injunction that would have jailed four of the core people of the movement to prevent the march from occurring. Late Friday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth denied a request by the City of Columbus that would have made illegal any street marches conducted in conjunction with this weekend’s annual SOA Vigil.
Judge Faircloth — who in May sentenced 26 SOA protesters, including Ann Arbor’s Rebecca Kanner and Joshua Reisler-Cohn, to federal prison sentences ranging from three months to one year with fines of between $500 and $3,000 — refused to grant the City’s request for a restraining order prohibiting any marching on that grounds that to do so would constitute "prior restraint" and violate the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Citing President Bush’s declaration that "the most American thing we can do after the September 11 terrorist attacks) is back things back to ‘normal’ as quickly as possible," Judge Faircloth stated that, for eleven years, "normal" in Columbus on the weekend before Thanksgiving was a march down Fort Benning Road from Victory Drive to the Main gate at Fort Benning by people protesting the School of the Americas. Saying that he agrees with President Bush, the Judge said, "Let’s get back to normal. Let ‘em march.". This is a major victory for nonviolent protest.
On Saturday over 6,000 rallied at Golden Park. Unlike last years miserable cold rain the weather cooperated with warm sunshine. First came the puppet dramatization of the reality of our foreign policy which included a huge dragon labeled ‘top down power system’, and then alternating speakers and musicians who informed us and moved us. As in past years the musically induced celebration demanded that we get up and dance.
Sunday was different in mood from Saturday, being very somber and quiet. A tall fence topped with barbed wire with military forces arrayed against us on the other side now blocked what had formally been an open road into the base. We gathered about 100 yards or so in front of the barrier to allow space for the funeral march. After a few brief remarks and the reaffirmation of our pledge of nonviolence for that action the procession began with Roy Bourgeois, founder and co-director, in the lead. The chanting of the names of our dead, followed by the Presente response from the crowd, brought tears to the eyes of many as we collectively mourned for the victims of US foreign policy in Latin America.
Those so moved approached the fence and placed on it crosses, flowers, signs, and other symbols beyond count. Those who did so had to cross that famous line.
There were also a number of affinity group actions including several die-ins, a cleansing of the flag, and an attempt to indict WHISC/SOA for harboring terrorists. 14 people went under the fence to deliver the indictment and were arrested by the military.
A global village was erected in front of the base and the Columbus police arrested 31 people there late Sunday night as they were outside of the base. Refusing to carry id or otherwise identify themselves, they fasted until released. With the help of the Just Cause Law Collective and hundreds of faxes asking for their release the judge let them out with time served and the unlawful assembly charge was dropped.
For further information about WHISC/SOA and more details and pictures from the events go to www.soaw.org.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
by Jim Mogensen
IMF/World Bank Protesters in Ottawa
Thousands of people from many different groups gathered to protest the fall IMF/World Bank meetings held from November 16 to 18 in Ottawa that had been rescheduled from the original plans to meet in Washington, DC at the end of September.
The protests were relatively peaceful but the police did use rubber bullets, blast dispersion devices and a firehose in response to some demonstrators attempting to breach the inner perimeter by displacing traffic barriers.
Close to 50 people were arrested, with reports of police dog attacks and illegal search and seizure. There is also concern that police are using facial recognition technology to keep track of protestors. Additionally, there is also a photo in which a member of the security force was seen with what is apparently a Heckler and Koch MPS machine gun that is capable of firing 800 rounds a minute.
Protesters of the SOA in Ft. Benning, Georgia sent greetings of solidarity to the protesters in Ottawa. They may divide but they won’t conquer!
Where in the World is Qatar?
The World Trade Organization (WTO) held its first meeting since the failed talks in Seattle in Doha, Qatar–an isolated desert country on a peninsula off the East coast of Saudi Arabia, ruled by a dictator. Because of limited hotel space fewer than 200 representatives of labor, environmental and other groups opposed to free trade were granted visas.
It turns out that this free trade stuff gets complicated pretty fast. For example, it turns out that the farm bill currently in Congress would violate the free trade prohibition against agricultural subsidies. Direct government payments to U.S. agriculture totaled $22.9 billion in 2000. In fact, nearly 40 percent of agriculture’s 2000 net cash income was derived from direct government subsidies. Those Republican farmers are not going to be happy!
The WTO propaganda says that all countries big and small have a place at the table. Just ask the small Ann Arbor City Council what it’s like to have your arm twisted at the negotiation table by a big company like Pfizer.
Save the Date
A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism), convened by the International Action Center, has called for mass demonstrations during the World Economic Forum to be held in New York City from January 31st to February 5th, 2002. The meeting will include political leaders and representatives from the world’s biggest transnational corporations, banks, and media conglomerates. A big demonstration in New York City is being planned for Saturday, February 2nd.
Trade Centering on Panic
(How the Administration Trades on Recentering the Public Mood)
The societal fallout from the September 11th attacks continues, in many varieties. Most obvious are the many extra U.S. flags displayed in prominent spots. More troubling are the "new" authoritarian measures now proposed by the Bush Administration. These measures include wiretaps begun without a court order (previously illegal), E-mail surveillance, and increased sharing of government agencies’ computer files. While these hastily enacted measures may greatly aid our new "homeland security" operatives, they will certainly be corrosive of our civil liberties in the longer term. Once our personal data becomes the property of outside agencies, there will be even fewer limits placed on its uses, either for good or ill. by Paul Lambert
The traditional "advise and consent" role of Congress is also greatly compromised by the dubious anthrax scare now afoot.
Suggested Text for
Ann Arbor City Council
Proclamation on War Alternatives
The City Council of Ann Arbor, recognizing the grave concern shared by almost all citizens in Ann Arbor, for our safety and security, and for effective and appropriate responses to the terrible events of September 11, 2001,
and also recognizing and having concern that the patriotism called forward as "we stand united" makes questioning of national policy and participation in policy deliberation more difficult, and particularly recognizing that the current focus on military means of political action leaves under-discussed alternatives to military policy, and the long term desire to build a culture of peace,
Therefore, we call on the citizens of Ann Arbor, and we pledge ourselves, to take some of our time in the next month to read, to listen, to talk with neighbors, to participate in educational programs, to consider how peace and justice and security might be better advanced, civil liberties and human rights protected and understanding among people extended.
Furthermore, we allocate $1000 from discretionary funds to help initiate a community forum, public hearing and town meeting on "alternatives to war policy." We call on citizen groups and other public agencies to cooperate in these programs to make them balanced and beneficial to all.
What the City
Can Do For The Country
Address to City Council, 19 November 2001
by Alan Haber
Dear Mayor, City Council, and people of our town,
When I spoke before the City Council on September 17 and again a few weeks later, I, as many people, was still absorbing the tragedy and loss and horror and rippling effects of what was done on September 11, after which it is said, "nothing is the same anymore."
I asked you to take a positive political leadership in opening to public discussion the question of what is and are the appropriate responses to the attacks of 9/11, and the existence of a "terrorist threat" and possible danger to other Americans and even ourselves. And specifically I appeal to you to take a lead and to help make legitimate public discussion of alternatives to the present government war-focused policy.
The impulse just to want to pray together, and console and be consoled in grief and reflection, is challenged, was challenged, by a looming war, now well underway. Of course, I want to say, "stop this war," stop the killing. Even more, I want you to promote education, to advance democratic participation and show leadership. I made before, and restate, several specific proposals for actions by the Ann Arbor City Council:
1. Make a "proclamation": Call for a month of education and discussion in the Ann Arbor community about "the war": the war on terrorism, the war in Afghanistan, the war on America, what is going on?, including making people more aware of international law and conventions related to war and criminal justice.
We, everyone in America, and in the world, have been enlisted in an open-ended struggle against an "enemy" as much the product of social, economic and political conditions as of conspiratorial organizations, cells and sects. We have been presented with a "with us or against us," "dead or alive" military model of how to deal with this enemy.
An informed citizenry is the foundation of a democratic republic, such as is our American ideal. In my opinion our citizenry here in Ann Arbor needs to be and desires to be more informed, and enabled to express itself. Our security and peace of mind is affected. I have gone door to door, I have talked to people in the street, in their homes and businesses: these wars touch us locally. People are uneasy, not satisfied.
2. Join in sponsoring a community forum, bringing experts, a public hearing, letting citizens speak, and a town meeting, to discuss and deliberate upon: ""alternatives to war policy."
Let and encourage the good and better ideas of the community to come forward: how to stop/mitigate terrorist violence, how to bring criminals to justice, how to spread democracy, how to get at root causes, how to "drain the swamp," etc.
There are many new and long-standing community groups that would join in sponsoring such an endeavor and would do the legwork to make it happen.
3. Write, invite and urge the public libraries to establish a shelf or shelves of books, pamphlets and web and internet information points on the Middle East, Terrorism, Afghanistan, oil, drugs, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, and past United States foreign policy relevant to the current "war against terrorism."
4. Ask the public schools to introduce into the school program a time to ask and discuss with young people what they think, what they imagine is peace and what they want to know more about, and about peacemaking.
5. Ask the community television network to broadcast the forum, and other events educating about the war in Afghanistan and terrorism.
6. Ask the Ann Arbor Art Commission and Commission on Art in Public Places to cooperate in sponsoring a project inviting "art for peace" and exhibiting a show of "visions of peace" expressed by people in Ann Arbor.
7. In your proclamation, encourage house meetings and for neighbors to talk together.
8. Let your own minds be open to alternatives to militarism, to active non-violence, to international legality, conventions, cooperation, courts and conscience. Associate Ann Arbor with the global efforts to develop a culture of peace.
Our own national government has precipitated, in response to terror, a terror of our own in already besieged and hungry Afghanistan, with hundreds or thousands of dead, we know now how many, and hundreds of thousands of new refugees, in the name of punishing and stopping a global terrorist organization and creating a new non-repressive government in Afghanistan.
Isn’t there a better way than terror-for-terror? Blood-for-blood? The churches, synagogues and mosques raise these questions sometimes. I believe all of us, almost all of us, harbors a place in our hearts that knows with sure knowledge that this response to the horror and terror of 9/11 is not good. Even though there appears "liberation," at the moment, the events continue to unfold. "Gains" have certainly been made, the yoke of an oppressor has been broken. The cost in blood and destruction, however, will not be quickly forgotten.
Imagine equivalent resources focused through diplomacy, international legality and other means; phenomenal transformations could be achieved if understanding, love, justice, caring and sharing were our "weapons" and a turning of heart our objective.
Help make a place in our community where our hearts can find one another and perhaps offer some useful counsel to our government. Let this month of reflection, attention, education, discussion, prayer begin now. When we gather together on Thanksgiving, put the war on the banquet table, it’s there already. Encourage us citizens of Ann Arbor to consider it along with our blessings, and what we can do for the beleaguered Afghanis as well.
In 1999, when I and others brought before you the question of nuclear weapons and their abolition, we requested a $1000 allocation from the city’s general fund to initiate an educational program in the community. On the basis of that program, which actually included 22 separate educational presentations, video showings, and separate venues, a resolution was drafted for your consideration.
You considered the draft resolution and with one dissent you affirmed the resolution, embracing a policy for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and communicating it to the government. The dissent said that this was not a local question, not persuaded that with the threat and possibilities of nuclear weapons we are all potential "downwinders."
I suggest a similar procedure on this occasion, that you allocate some seed money to help initiate an educational program, and then in democratic consultation with the community as in a public hearing and town meeting, you consider, amend and improve and adopt a resolution on the subject.
Since the time of the nuclear weapons abolition resolution, I and others working on this question have become more aware of the United States military program of weaponizing space and putting nuclear reactors in space to power space weapons. This, if I may say, outrageous excess of the military mind insures eventual worldwide poisonous irradiation as these plutonium reactors fall back to earth. The current government approach to solving security questions through the military means must be called to account, from below, from the communities of people who ultimately pay the human price of failed policy.
This is especially true of the policy to combat terrorism. Unless this policy is good and also successful, we here in Ann Arbor will feel the consequences, more than just losing our post office parking places.
I hope you will:
1. appropriate $1000 to support a community forum, public hearing and town meeting on "alternatives to war" as part of a community education and discussion program, such as I outlined above;
2. reaffirm your previous resolution calling for the abolition, more than merely reduction, of nuclear weapons and extend the scope of this resolution to include weapons and nuclear power in space; and
3. communicate these resolutions both to the national government and other communities in our Huron River and neighboring watersheds and to the local media.
I urge you to consider this in your present meeting, and to put it as well on the next council agenda. Thank you for your considered attention. There are many people in Ann Arbor and environs eager for leadership looking beyond war, for a culture of peace.
This is something you can do for your country.
Contact Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Signed Elements ©