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October 26, 2005 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-10-26

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, October 26, 2005

OPINION

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JASON Z. PESICK
Editor in Chief

SUHAEL MOMIN
SAM SINGER
Editorial Page Editors

ALISON GO
Managing Editor

EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890
420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
With all of the
crime in Los
Angeles they pick
on us?"
--Elmo impersonator Donn Harper,
who was arrested at gunpoint along
with his "coworkers" on Hollywood
Boulevard for "aggressive begging," as
reported yesterday by CNN.com.

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Cluing in City Council
EMILY BEAM .JlOOKlNt:, FOR AMERICA

hen it
comes to
tackling
all the popular stu-
dent issues of the day
- housing, parking,
the right to adorn our
porches with unat-
tractive upholstered
furniture - the Ann
Arbor City Council
should not be left to its own devices. There
are individual exceptions, but as a body, the
Council has demonstrated that without stu-
dent input, it will generally misconstrue and
ignore students' perspectives.
Take Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje's
proposed lease-signing ordinance. His ten-
tative plan, as of last month, would prevent
landlords from showing apartments and
houses less than one-quarter into the lease
term. Should the housing ordinance make
it to the City Council table, the debate will
certainly be interesting. It would seem that
by now, City Council would be at least
somewhat familiar with this plan - both
The Michigan Daily and The Ann Arbor
News covered the proposal, and Hieftje has
discussed it informally at Council meetings.
But as of two weeks ago, City Council mem-
ber Marcia Higgins (D-Ward 4) had only
heard of Hieftje's plan once - last July dur-
ing an interview with The Michigan Daily.
Council member Jean Carlberg (D-Ward
3) said she had only vaguely heard of the
proposal. "Frankly, I'm not clear on how it
would work or whom it would benefit," she
said. Carlberg understood why landlords
might resist such an ordinance, but didn't
know why students would want the city to
restrict lease signing. "I'm not sure what the
student side is," she said.

This is where the new joint student-
City Council committee could shine. At
its last meeting, City Council unanimously
approved the committee, composed of five
students and two Council members. By fill-
ing in the Council on Ann Arbor's unique
student housing market dynamics that pres-
sure students to sign leases 10 months in
advance, the committee can ensure that all
Council members understand what perpetu-
ates these annual mid-October housing rush-
es. Beyond lease dates, it must make sure
the Council debates ordinances that affect
students (like those North Burns Park and
Oxbridge residential parking permits) when
students are on campus, and it must help cur-
rent and future Michigan Student Assembly
generations work with, rather than against,
city government.
To its credit, City Council is hardly out to
get students. Members would be delighted just
to hear that students know their names. They
might even listen to student input. Blinded by
weak arguments about the fire hazard posed by
porch-dwelling couches, City Council seemed
ready to ban the offending furniture during the
summer of 2004. It took a lot of angry phone
calls and e-mails to make it clear that students
were rather attached to their couches and saw
through to homeowners' underlying aesthetic
motivations. But once students spoke up, City
Council effectively killed the ordinance. Even
couch-banning proponent Leigh Greden (D-
Ward 3) supported tabling the proposal - but
only after students rather adamantly clued him
in. He said that after receiving a phone call
from former MSA President Jason Mironov
last summer, it was "clear we had not had
enough input from students."
Both Council members and students read-
ily agree that communication between the
two bodies is lacking. But until this fall,

solutions have remained based on the sta-
tus quo assumption that everything can be
solved if Council members wait patiently
for students to start making phone calls
and attend a few Council meetings. Stu-
dents could show up to Council meetings,
but they'd quickly realize that making their
voices heard in City Council requires a
commitment of far more than a few hours
a month. Council members could meet
with students, but members and students'
schedules are tight, and turnouts to town-
hall style meetings tend to be disappointing.
These obstacles and the effective disenfran-
chisement of roughly 39,000 potential stu-
dent votes via gerrymandered wards suggest
that holding out for the student body to get
involved might take a while.
The committee will certainly address
the lack of communication between MSA
and City Council, but it will have to prove
whether it can also tackle the more trou-
bling disconnect between the entire student
body and the Council. In an ideal world
with consistent 90 percent voter turnout in
all elections, one stone could easily take out
both birds. But the student body's apathy
toward MSA is almost as problematic as its
indifference toward city government. These
five (hopefully) dedicated students and two
(hopefully) interested Council members
may be the start we need to get things mov-
ing. A few Council members maintain close
University ties, but for most, it's a stretch to
look at things from a student's point of view.
When all City Council hears from students
is resounding silence, they have to use their
own judgment. And for students, that can
be a scary thing.

Beam can be reached at
ebeam@umich.edu.

black@umich
DAVID BETTS JP:NTIFICATh)NS

There is a series
of shirts worn
by black stu-
dents on campus that
feature a silhouetted
black fist and a mes-
sage that includes
black@umich.edu;
I have two of them.
When I wear one of
my black@umich.edu
shirts around campus it's me claiming my
identity. When I began wearing one last year
I would get looks from all over the place, the
majority of the looks being from people of
other ethnicities not knowing what to make
of me wearing my shirt. The first incarnation
of the shirt also included the statement "don't
be alarmed" under the fist; I desperately want
people to heed that statement. I never want to
alienate all the people of other ethnicities I
come into contact with on a daily basis. For
me, the purpose of the shirt isn't to scare or
intimidate, rather to - stealing a line from the
movie "Bull Durham" - "announce my pres-
ence with authority."
I'm under the impression that the strange looks
I get when wearing my shirt are a result of the
clinched fist in the middle of the shirt. That fist
represents Black Power, it is the same fist Tom-
mie Smith and John Carlos threw in the air at the
1968 Summer Olympics. On a very personal level,
that fist is an affirmation of my own humanity. It
is a slap in the face to the neo-Nazis whose pres-

ence ignited the riots in Toledo a week and a half
ago. It is a symbol that can be confusing to those
whose only exposure to black people is from BET
and ESPN. It is a symbol that can be frightening
to those who have only a limited understanding
of the urban riots/rebellions that took place in the
1960s when the concept of Black Power was just
beginning to pick up steam.
There are those in the world that believe that
any assertion of power by blacks is inherently
and overtly anti-white - I believe that opinion
is flawed. When I engage in an act that can be
considered an assertion of power, it is with the
intent to ensure the playing field is truly level. To
be quite honest, I look forward to the day when
skin color is closer to the importance of hair
color. Getting past all the ridiculous baggage that
goes along with racial tension will allow society
to focus on things that truly matter. Society could
turn more energy toward education, urban design
issues, regional governmental cooperation, envi-
ronmental sustainability and economic growth.
I really would like to see Martin Luther King
Jr.'s ideas of freedom and equality come to frui-
tion. I just know that we will have to use some
of the philosophies from Malcolm X and Stokely
Carmichael to get there. Black people have not
yet fully answered the call from the latter half
of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement to be self-
evaluated and self-determined. When I wear my
black@umich.edu shirt, that is one aspect of me
doing my part to answer that call.
Throughout history many black people have
been compelled to hide their intelligence. This

dates back to the days when it was illegal for
blacks to be literate. Another historical note is
that before the Civil Rights Movement it was
fairly commonplace for very light-complexioned
blacks to try and pass as white. Although I am
nowhere near light enough to pass, the whole
concept befuddles me. I would never want to hide
my blackness; instead I choose to celebrate it. I
would never want to hide my intelligence; instead
I seek to deepen and develop it in almost all I do.
I consider myself an intelligent black man. That
designation is not yet normalized in society at
large, making it seem as though intelligent black
people are few and far between. When I wear
my black@umich.edu shirt I am announcing to
the world that I am an intelligent black man and
proud of that fact.
I wear my black@umich.edu shirt with
the hope that when my younger brother goes
to college he won't feel the constant need to
prove his competence. I wear it with the hope
that he'll have to answer a few less questions
about being on the basketball or football team
because that's the only reason people think a
large black man could be on a college campus.
I wear my shirt with the hope that my young
cousins can feel comfortable aspiring to be
an intellectual member of society as opposed
to solely aspiring to be NBA stars. I wear my
shirt because I am an intelligent black man and
I wouldn't have it any other way.

al

Betts can be reached at
djmbetts@umich.edu.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

The University responds to
The Coke Coalition
TO THE DAILY:
I am writing to clarify recent developments
regarding the University's business relation-
shin with The Coca-Cola Corporation.

commission of seven universities to resolve our
shared concerns, and the company has agreed
in principle to a third-party, independent inves-
tigation of the circumstances in Colombia and
India. It has not signed a formal agreement
pending negotiations over specific details.
However, it is the CFO's belief that Coca-Cola
has exhibited a good-faith effort to address the

these issues, we have the opportunity to exert
a positive influence on its business practices,
particularly in concert with other universities.
Already, we have seen some positive steps
emerge from this approach. If we cut the
contracts now, we will of necessity end our
influence. This is not consistent with our fun-
damental values.

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Reggie Brown, Amanda Burns,
John Davis, Whitney Dibo, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Eric Jackson,
A cl.....-a. 1.. - rn - n e XJWi Vrrial-. R Pralrr

I

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