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June 20, 2005 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-06-20

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 20, 2005 - 5

VIEWPOINT The new news
A perfect storm brewing in city politics JEssE SINGALST THE I
BY ROB GOODSPEED address the city's housing crisis by mak feel terrible forn
BRnGootro ing more options available within the ctty Natalee Hollo-
or too long, the student and renter and bringing an open-minded approach to w way's parents. I t
community has played a peripheral density and development; and to expand really and truly do. I e
role inAnn Arbor politics. Accord- the political process to include those who feel bad for the rest P
ing to the 2000 census, 54 percent of Ann do not now participate, pointing out that ;> : of her family too, i
Arbor's housing units are occupied by Ann Arbor's large Asian-American com- and for her friends d
renters, yet they play virtually no role in munity is particularly disengaged. That's and classmates. I
local politics. Instead of treating this mas- an agenda I think both students and local ยง'; :f54 can't imagine what d
sive affront to democracy as a problem residents can get behind, and Eugene said it must be like to c
to combat, city leaders have been all too he's been getting a positive response in his lose a daughter or a good friend under t
content with a status quo that excludes extensive canvassing. Eugene will face a such murky circumstances. t
most of the city from meaningful politi- former Republican candidate for mayor But every time I see her face on CNN g
cal participation through ward-based ger- who has switched parties to run against I get angry. b
rymandering. him in a Democratic primary on August This is not news. In a country of 300V
Student and renter attempts at com- 2. Anyone registered to vote in Ward 2 million, the disappearance of a single
munity organizing have been stymied in should vote for Eugene in the primary and young woman does not merit such atten-\
recent years. Whether by student apathy, in the general election. (Ward 2 includes tion from the national media, no mat-n
the hostility of the city's political elites Mary Markley, Couzens, Alice Lloyd, ter how young, pretty and white she is. c
or a lack of serious and motivated candi- Stockwell, the Linden Street area and all And let's be clear here - "white" is ag
dates for Ann Arbor City Council, efforts the neighborhoods northeast of Washt- key term. From watching the 24-hour k
to involve a major part of the city in the enaw Avenue. To register to vote or check cable news networks, one would think
local public life have sputtered. However, your registration or polling location, call that kidnappers and murderers only tar- i
I believe a number of recent developments the city clerk at 734-994-2725). get those with a lack of pigment in their a
has shown that a group of students and Furthermore, the existingrcity politicians skin. It's a whole other column, but it
renters has coalesced that will seriously have done much to (inadvertently) fan stu- shouldn't be swept under the rug: Racen
contend for power in the city: Conditions dent organizing in the past few years. The is a factor here. t
are ripe for a perfect storm that could eminently reasonable and limited proposal So how does something with such a I
revolutionize Ann Arbor politics. introduced for accessory dwelling units decided lack of newsworthiness get so ti
First, through the activism of a small in the city was smacked down by the City much time on the air? The answer, as is t
group oflocal blogs, there has developed an Council in2002 (ironically, Eugene Kang's so often the case, is in the mirror, and it I
online community interested in engaging in primary rival was a vocal opponent of the conjures up a rather disturbing image.
local issues. These blogs have included my ADU proposal in 2002). A draconian tow- We have become self-obsessed to the e
site GoodspeedUpdate.com, ArborUpdate. ing ordinancetook many studentsunawares point of solipsism. Since we are the only (
com (which I founded last summer), Ann with large fines that were reduced after an country that exists and the only people i
Arbor is Overrated and others. ArborUp- uproar. Murmurs of a ban on couches on who exist, whatever most of us find a
date in particular has become a venue for porches last summer sparked vocal partici- immediately engaging must, therefore,
voices that otherwise lack a platform. pation in local politics by many who had be the, news. So when one of our icons v
Second, there's been an unprecedented not spoken up before. goes on trial or a when a white womanp
level of organizing in the student commu- No matter how perfectly aligned the gets kidnapped or killed, it becomes the n
nity at the neighborhood level. Students conditions, the storm won't strike without
Date Winling and Richard Murphy are unprecedented energy fueling it. If they1 1
working to found renter-oriented associa- set their minds to it, students have both
tions in their neighborhoods, and Winling the political base and intellectual resourc-
is making plans to start a citywide mem- esto be a potent political force that could M ARA GAY(C? v N S N;
bership organization for students and rent- fundamentally reshape the city's political
ers called the Ann Arbor Alliance. landscape. An atmosphere of complacen- f you think
Third, there has also been growing cy and pessimism about what is possible you're in col- 1

most important story imaginable.
The idea of marketability has escaped
he confines of sports and the arts and
ncroached on the domain of hard news.
Natalee Holloway is the news because she
s marketable. She meets certain criteria
hat I've already mentioned - young,
white and pretty - so, at some point, a
despicable little man or woman in a suit
aught wind of the story and declared
hat Natalee had that special "it" needed
o be an effective kidnap victim. "A white
irl, you say? A hot one? Missing? Possi-
ly because of one or more black people?
We'll need six cameras!"
CNN ran the story first. Or maybe it
was MSNBC. Or possibly Fox. It doesn't
matter anymore; it's like asking which
luster bomb was the first to hit the
round. All the others immediately fol-
owed suit because the cables news net-
works are run by cowardly, opportunistic
ndividuals who have long ago cashed in
ny sense of journalistic integrity.
How can I, a 21-year-old with no
media credentials, make such vitupera-
ive claims? Easy: I have a cable box.
see the sickening amount of atten-
ion paid to the Holloway case. I see
he psychiatrists and psychologists and
awyers who go on the cable news net-
works to make a living off human mis-
ry such as the Michael Jackson case.
I shudder to think what would happen
f I found myself between one of them
nd a camera.)
Welcome to the new news: truly, irre-
ocably and horrifically by and for the
people. Those who run the cable news
etworks have come to see us, their

viewers, for what we are: a giant bun-
dle of nerve endings seeking to stoke
itself on the reptilian components of
our brains. Lust, anger and tribalism
are the new units of currency for cable
news, because who can really expect a
21st-century American to sit through an
entire segment simply because it's infor-
mative or important?
Paris Hilton, unfortunately, is the
clearest microcosm of all this. Young,
pretty and a member of a famous fam-
ily, it was decided by one of her handlers
that it was time for her to be famous. So
now she's an actress, a singer and - this
is where I choke back the bile - an
author. Does she deserve to be any of
these things? Absolutely not. Would the
institutions of film, music and literature
be better off without her? Surely.
So it goes with the news: The idea of
"worth" is obsolete, replaced by what
can be sold in neatly'packaged units. In
the meantime, while we're so fixated on
things that have nothing to do with any-
thing, there is, believe it or not, a world
out there. There's a continent being torn
apart by AIDS, genocide and a num-
ber of civil wars (Africa). The world's
fastest growing religion is engaged in
an extremely complicated transitional
phase involving conflict between mod-
ernists,. Jihadists, nationalists and a
number of other subsets (Islam). Who
would have thought cable news would
be the last place to seek information on
such topics?
Singal can be reachedat
jsingal@umich.edu.

already arrived

It should come as no surprise that the
965 Secondary Education Act is sue-

interest in engaging students in City Coun-
cil politics by student groups like College
Democrats and Students for PIRGIM.
The debate over the Greenbelt engaged
students in unprecedented levels in local
politics, encouraged by a group of civic-
minded faculty including professors Matt
Lassiter and Greg Markus, who regularly
encourage their students to take what they
learn about progressive urban public poli-
cy out of the classroom
Recently, I have heard of perhaps the
most encouraging sign yet: a serious stu-
dent contender for City Council. Eugene
Kang is a lifetime Ann Arbor resident
who is running for City Council in Ward
2. Eugene told me recently his platform is
to find solutions to the city's budget crisis;

for the city hangs around city hall. Let's
imagine a city where tenants' rights are a
top priority; the planning commission and
council aggressively pursue an agenda of
dense, sustainable development; and new
and radical ideas to provide affordable
housing - such as subsidized housing
and rent control - are earnestly explored.
If they set their minds to it, students like
Dale Winling and Eugene Kang - and
their supporters - could begin to make
this vision a reality.
Rob Goodspeedgraduatedf-om the
University last cear and now lives in
Washington, D.C. He is afirmer mem-
ber of the city's cool cities taskforce
andformer Michigan Daily staffer.

lege because
you re smart, you
worked hard in high
school and you have
some extraordinary
ot unusual talent
like playing the tuba
upside-down with
your eyes closed, you need to get off it.
Because actually, as it turns out, it's far
more likely that you're just one of the
lucky ones.
Lucky because you didn't grow up
in a place where the military recruit-
ers really do offer the best opportuni-
ties; where the people you grew up with
choose to serve in Iraq because a life on
the streets or a career at Wal-Mart are
the only other options; a place where
joining the military is the only way to
get a college education.
It is no secret that the wars of the rich
are fought by the children of the poor.
So naturally the nation's very poorest
schools are those that military recruiters
are given the most access to. Under the
"No Child Left Behind Act" - President
Bush's grand plan to create accountabil-
ity in the country's schools that he him-
self underfunded - schools that receive
funding under the 1965 Secondary Edu-
cation Act are required to submit the
names, telephone numbers and addresses
of all its students to the military and must
allow recruiters on campus.

cifically targeted toward underprivileged
and largely minority school districts.
Enough with this talk of an impend-
ing draft. You can party this weekend
without fear that it may be your last
game of beer pong. There is already a
draft in this country, a back-door draft
that is easy to ignore. Until college
tuition costs are brought under control,
and educating all Americans becomes
a priority - regardless of how much
money or melanin they may have - the
underrepresented will always be over-
represented in the military.
The No Child Left Behind Act is just
another example of the way the Bush
administration is able to further disen-
franchise America's most vulnerable by
masking true intent with a progressive-
sounding title.
The military has also used marketing
techniques to sell its experience to lower-
income and minority areas. In Appala-
chia, one of the most impoverished areas
of the country, white youths are lured
into recruitment offices with NASCAR
campaigns. In inner cities across the
country, black and Hispanic youth are
enticed with Hummers bearing army
insignia and military-sponsored basket-
ball tournaments.
Those serving in our armed forces
deserve nothing but respect and support.
But high school graduates who enter
the military should do so because it is a

choice, not because it is the only choice;
not because it is the only alternative to a
life statistically destined to end in a series
of minimum-wage jobs or in prison.
Ann Arbor is an enticing, romantic
bubble of a town, a world away from the
joblessness and economic desperation
that plagues the state of Michigan. And
while it is true that making it to the Uni-
versity requires years of hard work, we
live in a society where hard work is not
enough, a nation where privilege remains
unseen, but very, very real. On my way
to Metro airport, I begin to wonder how
I got so lucky. I am able to travel halfway
across the country to attend one of the
best public universities in America. But
the stretch of road between the Univer-
sity and the airport is inhabited by a siz-
able population of kids who could never
dream of going to college at all.
Some liberal groups across the coun-
try have contended that, if a military
draft were to be instituted, the left wing
would be galvanized and conjure up
great marches and rallies, protesting the
injustice of conscription. But the draft is
already here, and it seems that the only
thing more ludicrous than the dispropor-
tionate recruitment of poor and minority
youth into the military is the silence of
those who know better, those Americans
like you and me.
Gay is a ssemcber of the Daily's edito-
rial board.'She can be reached at
mnaracl@sumich.edu.

LETTERS POLICY
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over others. Letters should include the writer's name, college and school year or
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may be arranged with an editor.
Letters should be sent over e-tnail to tothedaily@michigtsndtih.com or
mailed to the Daily at 420 Maynard St. Editors can be reached via e-mail at edit-
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