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March 22, 2010 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-03-22

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4A - Monday, March 22, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

C f C 1 1,6p 3a,1M1
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109


Keeping the war close to home




Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Back to the draing ar
City Council should repeal anti-graffiti ordinance
f you've been noticing less graffiti colorfully sprayed on Ann
Arbor buildings lately, it's because the Ann Arbor City Council
has taken it upon itself to force local business owners to clean
it up. City Council passed an ordinance last year in an effort to keep
Ann Arbor businesses clean of graffiti. Instead, it wrongly punish-
es property owners by making them pay for the removal someone
else's graffiti. The future of the city's anti-graffiti ordinance will
be uncertain as the city council reviews the policy in the coming
months. Because this ordinance unfairly punishes business owners
and could damage the city's urban character, City Council must take
the upcoming opportunity to repeal it.

This weekend, the seven-year
anniversary of the start of
the Iraq War passed with-
out fanfare. U.S.
involvement in
Afghanistan will
reach its ninth
birthday this
fall. The reces-
sion has causeda
the wars to fadea
from our national
But they're still PATRICK
out there. They O'MAHEN
have ramifica-
tions for millions
of people in Iraq
and Afghanistan, as well as for U.S.
troops - many of whom are ourclass-
As we go about our everyday busi-
ness here in Ann Arbor, it would do
us well to remember these stakes in
human life. I needed a stark reminder
of this and got one last November.
I was working in my office when a
knock on the door brought a distant
war to my doorstep.
I answered it, and found a tall,
well-built man standing there. He
had a military bearing and looked
vaguely familiar.
"Hi, I don't know if you remember
me, but ... " And then I remembered
him. His name was Oliver. He had
been in a section I taught on contem-
porary issues in American politics in
2007. He was in ROTC at the time and
brought serious gravity to the discus-
sions the class had on U.S. Iraqpolicy.
He had thought he would be going
to Iraq when he graduated. He'd
impressed me with his honesty and
intellectual rigor during discussion.
Recognizing that your life, your fel-
low soldiers' lives and the lives of the
civilians you interact with depend
on getting things right does tend to
influence one's thoughts. He gradu-
ated in 2009 and shipped off to Fort

Sill in Oklahoma to learn the fine art
of using 155 mm field howitzers.
Then, shifting foreign policy
emphasis sped up a withdrawal from
Iraq and increased troop levels in
Afghanistan. Care to guess where
Oliver is going later this spring?
"I spent all that time learning about
Iraq in college, and now I'm going to
Afghanistan," he chuckled dryly.
He came to ask for help. "I don't
know much about Afghanistan," he
said, adding that he was looking for
scholarly work on Central Asia so he
would be prepared for the culture
he was going to face on the ground
and more aware of Afghanistan's
history and politics. He told me that
his comrades at Fort Sill had a much
higher aptitude for the mathemati-
cal aspects of artillery than he did,
but he figured as a political science
graduate, he could provide the unit
with useful knowledge of the politi-
cal context.
I was flattered. A former student
respected me enough to return to me
and seek my counsel ina serious situ-
ation. The only problem was that I
didn't know anything about Afghani-
stan either. That's when the weight of
the world deposited itself squarely on
my shoulders.
Fortunately, being a graduate stu-
dent means that I know people who
have more information than me in
a variety of topics. One of my col-
leagues, Megan Reif, happens to
know a lot about democratization,
elections and violence in Central
Asia and has traveled extensively in
Afghanistan and Pakistan. I intro-
duced Oliver to her, and she gave him
some authors and her e-mail address.
I think (I hope) that it was useful.
But I still worry about Oliver.
I'm a politically active person. I'm
so interested in politics and public
policy that I study them for a living.
But there are only so many things I
can pay attention to. I study media

and public opinion. I'm an educator
and a union member, so I have a deep
interest in education and labor issues.
And, based on some of my own wor-
ries about insurance, the fact that my
mother and girlfriend work as a nurse
and doctor and having seen some of
my own students with serious chronic
health problems, I have spent a lot of
time reading about health care reform.
Remember the
stakes in Iraq and
In contrast, Afghanistan is far
away from me geographically, emo-
tionally and intellectually. Although
I study political science and know
plenty about elections and democra-
tization, I don't specialize in security
studies, civil wars or international
relations. Nor do I know much about
Central Asia, beyond the limited
amount of information I glean from
the news or in conversation with col-
leagues like Megan.
But with Oliver's visit last Novem-
ber, Afghanistan became just a little
bit more personal for me. That's prob-
ably a good thing. Wars have conse-
quences, so it's useful for all of us to
have some personal skin in the game
- whether in increased tax dollars,
ourselves or family and friends who
might be in harm's way - to focus our
thoughts on their importance.
Oliver, take care of your command,
help as many Afghanis as possible, do
the best job you can in a messy situ-
ation and please come home in one
-Patrick O'Mahen can be
reached at pomahen@umich.edu.

The anti-graffiti ordinance was passed
by City Council in January of 2009 and
went into effect in May. The ordinance
calls for Ann Arbor property owners to
remove graffiti from their facilities using
their own time and resources. After receiv-
ing notification from the city, business
owners are required to remove the graf-
fiti from their property within nine days.
Property owners who fail to comply with
the city's request in the designated time
are required to pay for the city to remove
the graffiti. A report on the effectiveness
of the ordinance will be available in the
coming months, at which point City Coun-
cil will review the policy to determine its
The anti-graffiti ordinance's enforce-
ment is irrational - it punishes property
owners for something they didn't do. Prop-
erty owners shouldn't be held accountable
for the fact that their property has been
tagged with graffiti. Yet, this ordinance
treats them like they were holding the can
of spray-paint. If the city considers graffiti
a form of vandalism, then this ordinance
punishes the victims of a crime. Property
owners shouldn't have to pay to remove
graffiti they didn't create.
In fact, City Council shouldn't force any-
one to get rid of graffiti if they don't want

to. Graffiti shouldn't have to be removed
just because the city has labeled it as
unsightly. For many, graffiti is a unique
form of urban art that adds to Ann Arbor's
modern character. Graffiti is part of the
urban landscape and residents shouldn't
have to remove it if they find the art attrac-
tive. This is exemplified in Graffiti Alley,
located on East Liberty Street next to The
Michigan Theater, which is an enormous
collection of graffiti artwork. Even Ann
Arbor councilmembers have recognized
Graffiti Alley as a landmark. But graffiti
can be art no matter where it's tagged, and
property owners shouldn't have to scrub it
away if they deem it art on the same level
as the graffiti in Graffiti Alley.
And this ordinance is unnecessary
because, contrary to the perception of
City Council, graffiti isn't an overwhelm-
ing concern in Ann Arbor. Occurrences of
graffiti in the city are limited and usually
confined to areas like Graffiti Alley. The
ordinance makes it seem like Ann Arbor
is coated in layers of spray-paint - but it's
The anti-graffiti ordinance wastes prop-
erty owners' time and money to solve a
problem that doesn't exist. Graffiti isn't a
mess - it's art. City Council should realize
this, and stop its antagonism of expression.

Nina Amilineni, Jordan Birnholtz, William Butler, Nicholas Clift, Michelle DeWitt, Brian Flaherty,
Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee, Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga, Alex Schiff, Asa Smith,
Brittany Smith, Robert Soave, Radhika Upadhyaya, Laura Veith
A break rom tradition

Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor.
Letters should be fewer than 300 words and must include the writer's full name
and University affiliation. All submissions become property of the Daily.
We do not print anonymous letters.
Send letters to tothedaily@umich.edu.

MSA reps are working for
Sat. night dining hall option
The two of us can't wait for Tuesday. Why,
one might ask? Is there a two-hour special of
"American Idol"? What is so significant about
Tuesday, Mar. 23?
Students have long been asking for Saturday
night dining. Thankfully, MSA is already work-
ing on this issue. We have made great strides
to set up a meeting about Saturday Night Din-
ing with Director of University Housing Linda
Newman and Residential Dining Services
Director Mike Lee this Tuesday, Mar. 23.
Over the course of the winter semester, we
have been working long and hard as MSA rep-
resentatives to draft a formal proposal advo-
cating for the implementation of Saturday
night dining. The proposal includes favorable
results from a survey conducted by Elias Samu-
els of the Housing Research Office last winter,
resolutions passed in support of Saturday night
dining by the Michigan Student Assembly and

the Residence Hall Association and detailed
research on Saturday night dining offerings
at comparable universities (Michigan State
University and Ohio State University have Sat-
urday night dining and the University of Mich-
igan does not).
With all the work we have put in, it's obvious
why we are disappointed that with an article in
the Daily last week that failed to reference our
ongoing efforts (MForward looks to revive push
for Sat, night dining, 03/18/2010). It's great that
MForward provided a free meal to students in
the residence halls on a single Saturday night.
However, ourwork will havea much more sub-
stantial and long-term impact.
While MForward hasn't even left the start
line on the issue of Saturday night dining, the
two of us are rounding the bend and sprinting
towards the finish line. Rather than discount-
ing our work and starting from scratch, we
invite MForward and anyone else interested to
support our efforts for Saturday night dining to
the meeting on Tuesday.
Nathan Hamilton and Shreya Singh
LSA representatives to MSA

Hardly a week goes by without
at least one person asking me
why I chose to leave sunny
Florida for gray,
cold and snowy
Michigan. I typi-
cally go through a
long list of reasons
- I hated the hot
weather, alliga- I
tors are scary, no 4
one has any ambi- . ;
tion, there are
giant pictures of ALEX
fetuses on the side SCEiFF
of the highway and
intolerant reli-
gious zealots hold
way too much influence in the state's
government and society at large. I
finally stumbled upon an article in
The Palm Beach Post to which I can
direct people when they ask me why
I came here. Summarizing my frus-
tration with Florida in one headline,
it is entitled, "Florida bill to reward
'family-friendly' films is derided as
1950s-style moral censorship."
According to Florida law, "family-
friendly" films are currently eligible
to receive a tax credit worth two
percent of their production costs.
The incentive program is designed
to bring filmmakers to the state and
create jobs all the while promoting
a "wholesome" society. Florida state
Rep. Stephen Precourt (R-Orlando)
- whose district includes Walt Dis-
ney World - is leading the push to
expand the credit to five percent
and exclude productions that exhibit
"nontraditional family values." Ques-
tioned about his motives, Precourt
said, "think of it as like Mayberry,"
referring to the fictional setting
"The Andy Griffith Show" in which
minorities were seen, not heard - if
they were even portrayed at all - and
all women embodied stereotypical
homemaker roles.
The broader point of the tax credit
is to portray "nontraditional" fam-
ily values - any family without one
mother and one father - as some

sort of immoral affront to society
that must be excluded from the ben-
efits that "traditional" families are
entitled to. This is, at its core, just
another attempt by the religious right
to engineer society according to its
own moral sentiments. To put this in
perspective, the movie "Confessions
of a Shopaholic" was deemed too vio-
lent for the "family-friendly" credit
because two women fought over a
pair of shoes.
Discrimination, as you all know,
isn't limited to the South. People who
don't uphold the "traditional val-
ues" are treated as less than human
by society's self-appointed morality
police, who hold a disproportionate
influence over government policy.
Last semester, I wrote a viewpoint
for the Daily as an open letter to the
president of the American Family
Association of Michigan, Gary Glenn.
(AFA has extreme views onfamily val-
ues, 10/27/2009) I responded to his
assertion that the Daily's editorial
staff was "so far left and so intracta-
bly intolerant of those with a diver-
sity of opinion on this issue that they
really do think anyone who dares
disagree with them... really are just
a bunch of hatemongers." This is an
organization that boycotted Disney
because it provided health care for
gay employees' partners and that
encourages members to shop only at
stores that say "Merry Christmas"
and not those that say "Happy Holi-
days." An organization "so intracta-
bly intolerant" exists in this state and
it, along with its "pro-family" allies,
have been influential in upholding
- and extending - the institutional
discrimination consistently faced by
members of the LGBT community
across the country.
Some of these groups' antics border
so closely to the insane that they even
appear comical at times. But discrimi-
nation must be eliminated - and there
is no shortage of it to be rooted out. The
most egregious example is the Mar-
riage Protection Amendment tacked
on to Michigan's constitution in 2004.

This barred same-sex couples from the
1,138 rights, privileges and benefits of
marriage, according to a 2004 report
by the U.S. Government Accountabil-
ity Office. The amendment has engen-
dered several problems stemmingfrom
the lack of legal structure that comes
with marriage. For example, when two
partners raisea child together, there is
no recourse for the non-biological par-
ent to assert custody even if he or she
played an equal role in the child's life
since his or her birth. This was exactly
what happened to Michigan's own
Renee Harmon, who must now go to
court to fight for the right to see the
children she had raised for a decade.
Tax policies
shouldn't aid
It doesn't stop there. Discrimina-
tionagainstgay peopleis soengrained
that they are prevented from openly
serving in the armed forces to pro-
tect a country that actively denies
them equal treatment. And yet, still
many serve, hiding their sexual ori-
entations from those around them to
protect those who call their lifestyle
immoral and wrong.
Tax policies shouldn't be used as
an arm of the "pro-family" movement
to indoctrinate children via films
and re-engineer our culture based
on its concept of "traditional" values.
Instead of accepting the treatment of
members of the LBGT community as
second-class citizens, it is imperative
that we shun arbitrary definitions of
"traditional" and "pro-family" values
and see them for what they are: dis-
crimination in disguise.
- Alex Schiff is an assistant
editorial page editor. He can be
reached at aschiff@umich.edu.


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for discussing and writing the editorials that appear on
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