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August 08, 2011 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-08-08

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Monday, August8, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
LTe ficfgn 3al

Stale sustainability

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan sincey1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109




Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorialboard.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Bongs and thongs belong
City Council shouldn't act as cultural police
Ann Arbor City Council is yet again trying to dictate the
activities of downtown businesses. After closing The
Fifth Quarter and attempting to close Dream Nite Club,
City Council is taking an even more controlling stance by forcing
a soon to be opened store, Bongs and Thongs, to alter the mer-
chandise it plans on selling. In an attempt to make the store's
products more "community-friendly," City Council is citing an
obscure ordinance that limits the sale of sexual paraphernalia.
City Council should not micromanage store inventories, espe-
cially if they are following legitimate laws, and it shouldn't dig
up age-old ordinances to impede stores that carry merchan-
dise it doesn't like. This outdated law should be abandoned and
Bongs and Thongs should be able to open without any merchan-

"The Kids Are All Right" has
an underlying theme of organic,
local living that's overshadowed
by the lesbian
love angle.
Two sides of
the issue are
equally por-
trayed: thoset
who act sus-
tainably and
those that find NICK
a way to criti- BRINGARDNER
cize those who
do for their
pretentiousness. Annette Ben-
ning's character gets fed up with
the sustainability trend and goes
on this rant: "I just can't with the
hemp milk and the organic farm-
ing. If I bear one more person say
they love heirloom tomatoes, I'm
gonna kill myself. Do you know
that we're composting now? 'Oh no,
don't throw that in the trash. You
have to put that in the composting
bin where all the beautiful little
worms will turn it into organic
mulch and then we'll all feel good
about ourselves."' While watching
it I realized that Annette Benning
was right.
This "holier-than-thou" mental-
ity is a prevailing one in Ann Arbor.
Many of the fancy, Main Street res-
taurants have menus packed with
descriptions of every ingredient,
some even including the farm of
origin. A handful of those places
also boast a beer and spirits selec-
tion that consist entirely of locally
brewed or manufactured alcohol
and it's most certainly a point of
pride for those establishments.
But does that give them the right
to criticize other places that do
not follow the same policy? Does it
mean Michigan beers are somehow
better or that organic heirloom
tomatoes taste better? Not neces-
sarily. It's a matter of opinion.
"Organic" might carry different
connotations depending on where
you use the word. In Ann Arbor it
is praised, but elsewhere it may be
regarded as pompous, simply label-
ing something different * for the
sake of increasing the price. Keep
in mind that "organic" for food only
means a harsher set of FDA stan-
dards for production and distribu-
tion of the product and there still
is insufficient evidence to support
the claim that organic food is safer,
healthier or better tasting than
conventionally grown foods.
We're very satisfied whenever
we mention our responsible choic-
es, but sometimes that stinks of

arrogance. That also applies to the
general sustainability movement,
especially when it's billed as a hip,
life-changing decision. I'm not
arguing about the movement itself.
Taking steps toward saving the
Earth is absolutely the right choice.
However, since its nascence, the
sustain-ability initiative has been
a somewhat hideous creature, a
many-headed beast dividing Amer-
icans between partisan lines and
revealing our many faults - the
most salient being not everyone
can afford to be green. Sustain-
ability is often publicized as a rich
man's endeavor. Yes, we are still
years away from having responsible
technology that is accessible to the
entire public and not just a wealthy
minority. In places outside Ann
Save the
arrogance when
you eat organic.
Arbor, recyclingisn't always easy. A
wide variety of items, such as sty-
rofoam, are accepted here, but not
elsewhere. In cities where waste
management doesn't have adequate
resources, you have to make a con-
certed effort to dispose of recy-
clables. Similarly, local farmers'
markets might seem like the best
choice when it comes to purchas-
ing your-produce, but there aren't
farmers' markets everywhere. And
the difference in price that might
seem infinitesimal to us may be
enough, to outweigh the benefits of
the farm-to-dinner table option.
However, there are also plenty of
sustainable solutions as simple as
unplugging your electronics after
using them and taking the bus. You
don't have to go so far as to buy a
hybrid car, solar panels and a wind
turbine. Having those items doesn't
mean you're saving the planet that
much more than the other guy.
The problem is that local, organic
food and sustainability are far too
often promoted as an alternative
lifestyle when it should be integrat-
ed into normal lifestyle. But that
takes time, money and a collective,
inclusive effort. We should strive
to create change without an air of
Nick Bringardner can be
reached at njbring@umich.edu.



dise restrictions.
Bongs and Thongs is not engag-
ing in anything illegal. City Coun-
cil is condemning the store before
its doors have even opened, forc-
inga store to change its inventory.
Ann Arbor should allow stores to
exist, regardless of how outland-
ish or socially controversial their
products may be. If purchas-
ing thongs were illegal, or if the
store were causing crime rates to
increase, City Council might have
had a more legitimate case against
the store. In reality, however, the
city is blocking the new business
not because of serious legal issues,
but rather due to its easily offend-
ed sensibilities.
The law that the city is citing
was created in 1978 and limited
the sale of genital-like objects and
sexually stimulating products to
less than 20 percent of merchan-
dise. There are many old ordi-

nances that the city could invoke
to prevent all kinds' of different
activities, but do not because they
are largely vestigial or utterly
obsolete, such as anordinancethat
prevents bowling between 12:00
a.m. and 7:00 a.m. The law being
cited to dictate merchandise sales
at Bongs and Thongs is completely
arbitrary and doesn't reflect any
current state or federal law. The
City Council should not block the
opening of a store that does not
violate any legitimate statute.
Worse than the citation of out-
dated ordinances, though, is that
store owner Kilo Hassan is up
against the close-mindedness of
a city that usually has an open
mind. In this case, the law is sim-
ply being used as an excuse to get
rid of a store that sells cultural
oddities. While there maybe some
valid concerns about the opening

of a marijuana-friendly, sexuali-
ty-enhancing store in downtown
Ann Arbor, the real problem
seems to be that people are sim-
ply uncomfortable being around
such a store. The U.S. prides itself
on having free enterprise, and it is
Hassan's right to run a business,
provided the products sold are
legal. If this store is going to be
a bane to Ann Arbor, people can
avoid it and it will go out of busi-
ness. If it does well, then it proves
that the citizens of this town actu-
ally welcome a store that provides
recreation rather than preserv-
ing cultural taboos. City Council
should not act as cultural police
and should allow Bongs and
Thongs to stock its shelves the way
Hassan wants them to be filled. It
should be the job of the market,
not City Council, to determine if
Ann Arbor has too many dildos.

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