**5/20 Update: Media coverage in the Michigan Daily.
See last section titled, Community Concerns.**
Grand Rapids is a 2 hour drive from Ann Arbor and yet, nine of our neighbors made the trip to be visible and support our continued efforts to have the approval of the bus yard at Green/Hubbard rescinded.
Thank you Bob and Donna Maxwell, Denise and Roger Moon, Peggy Hiss, Sarah Steingold and Hanna Raithel for supporting our speakers.
Thank you Kevin Bohnsack and Sandy Aldrich (see below for speeches) for proudly elevating our community voice. Our group received acknowledgement from the Regents for taking the time to attend and represent ourselves at the meeting. All our indicators are showing that we are “moving the ball” in the right direction and we are continuing to be heard. We are in field goal range.
University officials will be meeting with the leadership team and neighbor subject matter experts to review the air and noise pollution reports next week. We will continue to reiterate that a bus yard at this location defies common sense and will provide an update after the meeting.
What can you do in the meantime?
- Contact your UM gift officer and pause your donations or planned gifts.
- Reach out to your highly influential Ann Arbor contacts and make them aware of our fight for our neighborhood.
- Join us for the Memorial Day parade and show your colors by wearing a neA2cc button and orange bandana. We will have the items available for pick up on the day of the parade and next week. Details to come.
- Plan on attending the Update rally on June 1st at Baxter park. More details to come.
- June 16th Regents Meeting – this could be the meeting where this all comes to a head. We are lining up speakers and need a strong showing like the March meeting.
[full disclosure: I was able to get through about 75% of what I wanted to cover. I will be sending follow up emails to the Regents and President Schlissel with a copy of my speech to reiterate the points I was not able to get across]
Good afternoon President Schlissel, Regents and Executive staff. My name is Sandy Aldrich. I hold a BA and MBA from the University of Michigan and I also come from a proud extended family of eight Wolverines.
I am the co-president of the Northeast Ann Arbor Community Coalition also known as neA2cc. This coalition was quickly formed on February 28th after our initial meeting with the University Staff regarding the Transportation Operations and Maintenance Facility. We refer to this project as the Bus Yard and it has become a lightening rod for your North Campus neighbors.
Why does this bus yard issue mean so much to us? Let me tell you a bit about our northeast Ann Arbor neighborhoods. They are valued for being family friendly, quiet and green. They are culturally and socioeconomically diverse and have exceptional schools. Did you know that:
- Martin Luther King Elementary, a national blue ribbon school and one of our neighborhood elementary schools, has 30 languages represented among its families?
- That our neighborhood schools came together with resources to help our Green Baxter Court neighbors when a fire tore through their community?
- For over 50 years, our neighborhood has hosted the only Memorial Day Parade in Ann Arbor to honor those who serve and have served our country?
For these reasons and many others, this bus yard has activated these neighborhoods unlike any other issue in recent years. In our minds and many others, it defies common sense that the University would propose this industrial development among our neighborhoods.
I won’t go into the details of the discussions we had with the University staff but we walked away from one meeting with visions of an Uncle Ed’s Oil shop, Belle Tire garage, Shell Gas Station, an auto body shop, Industrial car wash and a bus yard combined in this industrial development, just 200 feet from a neighborhood child care center.
We have also walked away from meetings and conversations with University staff concerned about the many oversights related to this project as well as the feeling that we are being underestimated and undervalued as an important constituency of the University.
We respectfully ask the University staff to stop underestimating your North Campus neighbors. We are Doctors, Researchers, Cleaning people,Teachers, Attorneys, CEOs, Presidents, Bus drivers, Faculty, Post Docs, Stay at home parents, Entrepreneurs, Veterans and Active Service People among many other professions.
We are also your alumni, parents, grandparents, donors, patients, Wolverine football fans, future Wolverines and, in general, great advocates for the University.
Many of us are putting our University training to work and we are working to live up to being the leaders and the best. We are elevating our community voice to ensure that we have a seat at the table. The table at which a decision has been made that will have a profound impact on the quality of life for your Green Baxter Court Public Housing, Glacier Highlands, Vintage Valley, Green Brier and Northwood V neighbors.
We truly appreciate that President Schlissel has placed this project on HOLD. Today, we are standing here to continue to elevate our community voice to respectfully ask the Regents to rescind the approval of the Bus Yard at Green and Hubbard so that the University staff will focus their efforts on finding an alternative location for the bus yard.
We would also like to challenge the University staff to think about utilizing this land to accommodate mission-oriented development that reflects the unique characteristics of this site and its surroundings. Better uses that take into consideration the University’s internal and external stakeholders. To not take a short-sighted approach by using this piece of land for an industrial development. Instead, hear our community voice and take a holistic, forward thinking, creative approach and consider these uses:
- A childcare center. We understand from University staff and faculty parents that the UM Children’s centers are at capacity and have waitlists. It’s well known that on or near campus child care is extremely important for recruiting and retaining faculty and staff.
- A research or office building, even with the traffic that goes along with these.
- Graduate family housing. We have many international families as neighbors and would embrace additional neighbors.
- A meeting or conference center to take advantage of the easy access to US 23.
- Incubator spaces for University spin offs with close proximity to the new Google complex and North Campus.
- A facility to manage the newly announced Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment program with Toyota. Today, our neighbors make up a significant number of the vehicles included in the current Safety Pilot Model Deployment program.
Any of these uses have the potential to fit with the rhythm and character of our community.
Thank you for this opportunity. I, along with over 100 of our neighbors and supporters are planning to attend the June Regents meeting in Ann Arbor. We will work with the University staff to ensure that we are not underestimated and that we will be accommodated.
I’d like to leave you with one final thought. “When we fight against something, then we focus on the thing we hate. However, when we fight for something, then we focus on the thing we love.” We are fighting for our neighborhood AND our University. They are not mutually exclusive. Thank you and Go Blue!
[full disclosure: Kevin completely rocked it and got a shout out “Colonel” from Regent White.]
President Schlissel and Regents, my name is Kevin Bohnsack and I am here regarding the proposed Transportation and Operations Maintenance Facility. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. Thank you also for your service to the University and the great State of Michigan where we can gather together and express our viewpoints in a public forum. Regent White, Lt Col White, good to see you and thank you for your distinguished military service as well. With my own background as a physician in the Air Force and Vice President of the Glacier Highlands Neighborhood Association in Ann Arbor, I come before you today. I am also a full-time family doctor in Milan and hold a Master in Public Health degree from the University of Michigan. As the chief organizer of our neighborhood’s annual Memorial Day parade, I was asked by North East Ann Arbor Community Coalition leaders to personally invite you to this event and give you my perspective on leadership.
PARADE BACKGROUND AND INVITATION
Since the 1960’s, our community has observed Memorial Day in Ann Arbor. Veterans, kids with decorated bikes, Boy and Girl Scout troops, politicians, the drum and flag corps from Huron High School, the choir from Clague Middle School and even a raptor from Leslie Science Center all assemble to host a parade and ceremony in one of our city parks where we honor fallen servicemen and women from Michigan who have died over the past year. We read their names aloud followed by Amazing Grace from a bagpiper and the playing of taps. It is a time-honored tradition that pays tribute to the liberties, freedom and rights we all enjoy… and for whom some have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
RECENT VOTING EXPERIENCE
I exercised my right to vote a few weeks ago. After walking into the building, I asked the two women checking my ID as to whether they knew about the bus yard proposal. The first individual was from across town so she didn’t know much about it but the second person was aware of some of the details. She noted that President Schlissel had at least put the project on hold and issued a pause. After discussing more background, the other individual remarked: “The University does whatever they want. Good luck!” It was a very cynical view… but I don’t share her cynicism… or I would not be standing in front of you today.
FAILURE OF UNIVERSITY STAFF
Realize there is a source for her viewpoint based on previous interactions we have had with University officials in the Ann Arbor community. In the case of the bus yard, University staff failed to thoroughly vet the proposal prior to sending it to you as Regents for approval. My own expectation and experience as a commander and leader in the Michigan Air National Guard is that when any of my subordinates come to me with a proposal, I will trust they have considered multiple options, solicited input from stakeholders and thoroughly weighed the various tradeoffs. I am then able to verify they have properly staffed the recommendation prior to my approval. Unfortunately, we have seen very little accountability, flexibility or creativity from University officials in their own staffing of this proposal, even after we raised our voices and concerns back in February.
EXAMPLES OF FAILURES
Since that time, additional meetings with University staff have only been a forum for them to continue a pattern of retrospectively justifying their original decision. At the end of April, for example, the staff released a Project Update. They promoted a “sustainable design” for the development. That certainly has merit… but this site does not seem to match the “Sustainable Sites” criteria for LEED certification or quite possibly the Clean Water Act. We know this because the largest wetland, unofficially named the spring peeper pond, will be hemmed in on all sides by concrete with no significant buffer zone normally recommended for an environmentally friendly site. The other five recognized wetlands will be covered up with asphalt or severely degraded. The runoff calculation for storm water into the Huron River watershed is also suspect but that is a different discussion altogether. How do we know this? Our subject matter experts reviewed the proposal in the original format submitted to Michigan DEQ. The staff simply lacked attention to detail and didn’t follow the instructions from President Schlissel to truly put the project on hold. Ultimately, I think we can all agree the site selection process is broken.
CHARGE AS ELECTED OFFICIALS IN A DEMOCRATIC NATION
Fortunately, my faith in the democratic process is still intact. That cynical voting official may not agree with me but that is where I must stand. I did not go to war in several combat zones for the freedom of others to then accept that the electorate doesn’t have a voice here at home. As FDR once said: “Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.” I know that you believe in that same principle of doing what’s right or you would not be serving as Regents and be a voice for the people of Michigan.
Through all the noise, you know our neighbors and our coalition have a strong and united voice.
We will continue to honor fallen veterans every Memorial Day.
We will continue to beautify our parks every spring.
We will continue to hold summer potlucks and relish the diversity of our neighborhoods.
We will continue to preserve and enhance our outstanding quality of life in Ann Arbor.
I will leave you this afternoon with one question: If this industrial complex were proposed to abut your neighborhood and you were a local community leader, would you not be standing in the very place where I am standing now?
So know this… We will continue to oppose this poorly-vetted plan that has been proposed and continuously promoted by University staff. We humbly request that you hear our voices and rescind your vote.
Again, thank you for your time and service.