4 - Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
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Ann Arbor,MI 48109
EDITOR IN CHIEF
RACHEL VAN GILDER
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
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.
Amending city trust
Ann Arbor City Council must be more transparent
D emocracy is contingent upon a government's ability to
acknowledge its citizens' voices. After controversy this
summer about the transparency of the Ann Arbor City
Council, the council will consider an amendment next month
to ban council members from using private e-mail accounts to
exchange information related to city business. The amendment
is a condition of the settlement of a lawsuit filed against the city
by three Ann Arbor businesses. The ban would help hold council-
members more accountable and would promote the transparency
that is inherently a part of a democratic government. City Council
should approve the amendment in order to restore the trust of Ann
Arbor citizens in their government.
The percentage of the public
that disapproves of the recent-
ly passed national health care
- According to a poll by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation published on Monday.
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Michael & Me
Last summer, e-mails from a Feb. 17,
2009 city council meeting were released
to the public, showing that City Coun-
cil members had been privately send-
ing e-mails to each other regarding a $50
million proposal to build an underground
parking structure on South Fifth Avenue -
the very topic being debated at the meeting
by the public. A group of businesses near
the proposed parking structure filed suit
against the city in August, accusing the
city of violating the Michigan Open Meet-
ings Act, which requires governments to
make all records of meetings available to
the public. As part of a settlement reached
on Mar. 22, City Council must consider a
proposed amendment to force members to
"use their city e-mail accounts when send-
ing e-mail communications about substan-
tive city business." The amendment isn't
mandatory - councilmembers still have
the option to vote it down.
But they shouldn't ignore the impor-
tance of the amendment. Backroom dis-
cussions during open debate reflect poorly
not only on the individuals involved, but
also on the entire City Council. City Coun-
cil decisions affect the daily lives of Ann
Arbor residents and University students.
Council members are elected to represent
and listen to the voices of the people of
Ann Arbor, but the controversial e-mails
show that certain councilmembers weren't
considering their constituencies during
important debate. Councilmembers should
care about city residents' opinions, but the
e-mails make it seem as though some are
more concerned with their own agenda.
City Council's acceptance of this proposal
would show that it is dedicated to being an
open governmental body.
The technical legality of the e-mails
remains in question, but they are symbolic
of a culture of exclusiveness in City Coun-
cil that is unacceptable in a democratic
body. To ensure that councilmembers are
being honest with the residents they rep-
resent, it's necessary to enact regulations
that would require council members to
keep all important discussion in the public
sphere. And though the wording associat-
ed with the proposed amendment is slight-
ly ambiguous, it would still be a valuable
endeavor to encourage council members to
be more open.
City Council has a responsibility to be
completely upfront with the citizens it
serves. The amendment would help guar-
antee that the public's views are taken into
account and allow residents to hold City
Council accountable for its actions. City
Council should adopt the amendment to
show Ann Arbor residents that it is dedi-
cated to an open, transparent democracy.
T wo weeks ago, controver-
sial documentary filmmaker
Michael Moore visited cam-
pus to talk with
Screen Arts and
dents about the
of his breakout
film, "Roger &
Me." Since I'm
my pipe dream of
being a Hollywood CHRIS
attended, hop- KOSLOWSKI
ing Moore would __
have some special
insight into the road from the streets
of Flint to the big time. After screen-
ing his documentary, which blasts
former General Motors CEO Roger
Smith for closing assembly plants
in Flint, Moore took center stage
in Angell Hall Auditorium A for a
question-and-answer session. As luck
would have it, the microphone was
passed to me, and I asked Moore if he
had any advice on breaking into the
His answer was simple: make
the best damn movie you can make,
and if it's good enough, it will get
noticed. Then, standing only 20 feet
away from me, Michael Moore looked
me in the eye and told me to disre-
gard critics, costs and the inevitable
catastrophes and follow my dream. I
have to admit, having one of the most
iconic Michigan natives in the film
industry wish me success meant a
lot. But, one obstacle will prevent my
conversation with Moore from being
one of those moments I tell my grand-
What could that possibly be? The
answer is simple. I hate his guts.
With his multiple documentaries,
books and public appearances, Moore
has attacked just about all of my
political beliefs - corporate autono-
my, gun ownership, privatized health
care and even capitalism itself. He's a
master of exploitation and deceit. He
had no qualms about re-arranging
history to better fit his narrative in
"Roger & Me," and his interview with
famous actor and former National
Rifle Association President Charlton
Heston in "Bowling for Columbine"
is a lesson in how to take advantage
of someone obviously suffering from
early symptoms of Alzheimer's dis-
I came into Moore's screening
with a genuinely open mind. I knew I
was the oddball in an audience of col-
lege film students that would eat up
everything he said. But I hoped that
meeting Moore in person would soft-
en my image of him. Surely, his movie
persona couldn't be an accurate rep-
resentation of the man. I thought I
would endure the inevitable bashing
of George W. Bush and congressional
Republicans and then learn some-
thing useful about film.
Honestly, Moore did seem like a
nicer guy in person than I thought he
would be, and I applaud him for tak-
ing time to speak to us. Listening to
him, I was getting ready to reverse
my opinion of him until one com-
ment confirmed everything about
who I had always assumed him to be.
A student asked Moore to talk about
what had made him optimistic for the
future and if there was any hope of an
American turnaround from our con-
tinuing economic woes. Moore blunt-
ly answered, "No." He explained that
he thought nothing could stop Amer-
ica's downfall, and that we were all
pretty much screwed.
I don't care if you're talking about
President Barack Obama or Ronald
Reagan - the sign of a good Ameri-
can leader is unshakable optimism.
One of the most basic American val-
ues is the belief that no matter how
bad things are today, people have
the power to make a better tomor-
row. Conservatives are tradition-
ally labeled as cold, dispassionate
and uncaring. Well, I can tell you
with tOO-percent certainty that if
Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah
Palin or Dick Cheney was speaking
to a group of college students, none
of them would ever say "give up,
because we're all screwed," no matter
how dire the political climb. In fact;
most famous liberals wouldn't either.
It's because they are American men
and women who understand the infi-
nite good this country and its people
are capable of doing.
Nodding stupidly as Michael
Moore told meto work hard and write
my way to success, I was struck with
an overwhelming feeling of conflict.
A man who'd once snuck in to watch
movies in the very same Angell Hall
auditorium seat I found myself in was
telling me that my wildest dreams
were possible. Yet, just minutes ear-
lier, he'd informed an audience full
of young people that America was
dying, and that they were powerless
to stop it. Considering Moore is just
as wealthy and influential as Roger
Smith, Charlton Heston and many
of the others he's lambasted through
the years, his hypocrisy was sadden-
ing but not unexpected. Sometimes, I
guess, appearances aren't deceiving.
- Chris Koslowski can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
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
I don't live in Smith's America
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After reading Brittany Smith's last column,
I find it not only shocking, but also quite sad-
dening that she is ashamed to be an American
(Reforming Patriotism, 03/26/2010). I am also
deeply disturbed that Smith defines being
American by everything this country has ever
supposedly done wrong in the world. To say
she has felt ashamed by her fellow Americans'
patriotism and that the waving of Old Glory is
"too bold a symbol of pride" is appalling. The
American flag has been proudly displayed by
countless citizens since the Revolutionary
War. I display it proudly every day outside my
I do believe she is correct in saying the flagsig-
nifies this country's superiority over the world.
But that's because this country is superior to the
rest of the world. For example, Smith attends the
University of Michigan, one of the top schools
in the world, and she writes for The Michigan
Daily, a 120-year-old publication. I'm sure she
lives comfortably somewhere on or near cam-
pus with electricity, heat and hot running water.
She can say or write nearly anything without
legal consequence and she can worship any god
her heart desires. If she lived in one of the third-
world countries that we supposedly oppress,
these luxuries would be severely limited. If she
lived in Iraq or Afghanistan as little as 10 years
ago, she wouldn't even be allowed to show her
face in public, let alone write a newspaper article
- especially one speaking out against national
pride. I think most citizens in Iraq and Afghani-
stan are thankful for their liberation. Just ask
I'm not saying the wars in those countries
have gone perfectly - but does any war? And
I'm not saying everything about America is
perfect - that certainly isn't the case. The
health care system is flawed, and so are the
welfare system, Social Security, the process
of naturalization and many other govern-
ment programs. Our government's ineptitude
was certainly apparent during the aftermath
of Hurricane Katrina - but that is not what
defines an American.
As a victim of Hurricane Katrina, I certainly
felt like a refugee in the days after the storm.
My family and I were homeless, had only
three sets of clothes and had no idea where
we were going to sleep each night. That cer-
tainly sounds like a refugee to me - perhaps
not to the extent that we hear about in Africa
or the Middle East, but a refugee nonetheless.
Does that mean the government treated us as
unequal? I don't think so. No one had ever had
to deal with something like that before, so no
one knew how to handle it. Could the govern-
ment have handled it better? Certainly, but
they didn't purposefully treat us as unequal.
My home was submerged in a mixture of
swamp water, oil and sewage for three weeks,
and when we returned to rebuild, we received
no aid. Did we ask for it? Of course. Did we
complain and whine when we didn't get it?
Maybe a little, but we moved on and did it our-
selves with only the help and support of lov-
ing family members in other states. After 16
long months of hard work and determination,
my family moved back into our home. I believe
that's what defines Americans: working hard
to achieve your goals and not giving up dur-
ing the lowest of the lows; and working hard to
better your country, yourself and those around
you. For that, I5am damn proud to be an Ameri-
can, and Smith should be too.
Christopher Johnson is an Engineering junior.
WILL BUTLER I
There will be blood
The minute the vote count hit 216 in the U.S. House of
Representatives in favor of the health care reform bill on
Mar. 21, Facebook statuses exploded across the nation.
While some applauded the historic moment and celebrat-
ed the passage of the biggest social legislation in decades,
it was much more amusingto read the ignorant lamenting
of those who believed we had entered an era of "socialist
America." As I scanned through dozens of posts, I found
many vowing voter revenge and metaphorical electoral
blood in November.
This isn't just limited to the crazies in the Tea Party or
the uninformed on Facebook. Elected GOP officials have
promised to campaign this fall on repealing the health
care reform bill. But not only will this promise prove to
be electorally and procedurally impossible, this cam-
paign strategy will also be costly. By campaigning on the
platform of repeal, Republicans will narrow themselves
even more toward their base and the fringe right, pushing
away moderates and independents.
There is no argument that the Republicans and other
right-wing groups won the battle of framing the bill and
thus it's perception by the public. It was completely on
Republicans' terms that this bill was presented to the
public. This manifested itself in the despicable actions of
Tea Partiers as they shouted racial slurs at African-Amer-
ican Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), called openly gay Rep.
Barney Frank (D-Mass.) a "faggot" and posted Rep. Tom
Perriello's (D-Va.) brother's home address on a blog and
told other Tea Partiers to "stop by." These antics didn't
cease once inside the House of Representatives either, as
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) was called a "baby killer" by
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) - taking a page right out
of Rep. Joe "You lie!" Wilson's playbook.
Republicans have perpetuated misinformation and an
atmosphere of mass hysterical Armageddon. This has led
to a lack of knowledge about the bill among the public.
Despite the fact that there isn't a public option, many
believe they are now under a single-payer system or a
government takeover of health care. Despite the fact that
there are no "death panels," many still believe they exist.
Despite the fact that the non-partisan Congressional Bud-
get Office estimates that the bill will reduce the deficit by
$143 billion during the first 10 years and then $1.2 trillion
during the second decade, many are still unconvinced by
these numbers. However, now that the bill has passed and
portions will begin to be implemented, this is no longer a
battle of framing or perception but a battle of actual mate-
rial benefits - benefits people don't want taken away.
Though public support for the health care bill as a
whole is divided, polls describing the individual provi-
sions of the bill show high public approval. According
to a CNN poll conducted in mid-February, 72 percent of
Americans agree with employer mandates for mid-sized
and large businesses, 62 percent approve of making it ille-
gal to drop insurance for those who are seriously ill and
58 percent agree with preventing insurance companies
from denying aid to those with pre-existing conditions.
This shows that though Americans have been duped by
the right-wing spin machine, they are largely in favor of
the bill's reforms. It will be incredibly difficult for Repub-
licans to campaign in the fall by telling young adults that
they will take away their ability to stay on their parents'
health insurance policies or by suggesting that those with
pre-existing conditions deserve to be denied coverage.
Once voters enjoy the benefits of the bill, they certainly
won't vote for them to be taken away.
There certainly will be blood in November, but it might
just be the Republicans' own. Of course, while midterm
elections are always more difficult for the president's
party, Republicans might want to reconsider their cam-
paign strategy. It is a bad political message to run on
repealing what's already done, with no declaration of
what your party plans to accomplish. And while everyone
enjoys watching the desperate acts of a party in a train
wreck, I'm not too sure that many people will enjoy vot-
ing for it.
Will Butler is an LSA freshman.
The Daily is looking for diverse, passionate, strong student
writers to join the Editorial Board. Editorial Board members
are responsible for discussing and writing the editorials that
appear on the left side of the opinion page.
E-MAIL RACHEL VAN GILDER AT RACHELVG@UMICH.EDU FOR MORE INFORMATION.