Thursday, November 7, 2013

A plea for UM students to vote local

I, too, retained my home address in Redford Township throughout undergrad. It's useful, because your bills and tax refunds then go safely to your parents instead of that weird kid who subleased your room for the summer. Changing it requires effort and a trip to a poorly constructed Secretary of State site (and it you're from out of state, you're still searching hopelessly for the DMV). And if you're from almost any Detroit suburb or anywhere else non-urban, you probably maintain the old excuse: "They need me more over there!"

Nope! Sorry. I know there's something heroic about imagining yourself offsetting the closeminded old white people in your hometown, casting the vote that tips the district, the state, and indeed the country for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Way cooler than joining the hundred thousand other liberal sheep in Ann Arbor, in a county that hasn't gone red since 1984 (apparently Washtenawites had a thing for Reagan).

File:Official Portrait of President Reagan 1981.jpg
I'm Ronald Reagan, and I approved this blog post.

You have, on average, a one in 60 million chance of casting a decisive vote in a presidential race. (That said, I am TOTALLY PRO-VOTING for presidents and I think you all should do it.)

However, in Ann Arbor City Council candidates sometimes win by six votes. It doesn't seem like a stretch to say your vote matters more at the local level in the place you actually live than at the national level in the place you don't. And dammit, students, Ann Arbor certainly needs you right now.

The political establishment(s) of Ann Arbor don't(oesn't) want students to impact their races. We're young, we're outsiders, we're transient. They're scared we're going to vote in pro-development goons and then skedaddle, cackling as high-rises materialize in our wake. They're terrified that we'll spread our non-Ann Arborish lifestyles into their blissful haven, populating it with non-recycling, non-locavore frat guys.

And that's probably why, if you look at the map of Ann Arbor, you'll notice that the traditionally student neighborhoods seem suspiciously...divided. Over there where ward 1 and ward 5 meet, you need to put masking tape along the ground to keep it straight. As my good friend Joel Batterman mentioned, doing that to some populations would be illegal (he's in Detroit now though, so you know).

Ward Boundary Map

But of course, unless you're a weird urban planning lady like me, you don't have time to worry about potential conspiracies against your collective student-y political will. Cause you're doing shit like poking stem cells and building solar-powered cars and sometimes working ten or twenty hours to pay for this ridiculous place. I'm not saying UM students are the underclass or anything, but clearly the retiree segment of Ann Arbor wins on the free time front.

And you know very well that you're only going to be here for a few years, unless you're a weird faux-townie like me. Then you'll go off to Chicago or Seattle or New York, and the Ann Arbor zoning code will have zero impact on your life. So why do you care whether slightly curmudgeonly tea-partyish NIMBYers represents you (naming no names)?

Maybe there's no reason. But perhaps you can scrounge up a bit of empathy for those wide-eyed freshman coming after you, who also want affordable housing and walkable streets and ways to visit home without a car and an open, legitimately progressive community. Even if you don't give a damn about ownership and enfranchisement and all that jazz, vote to stick up for those pipsqueaks.

And don't worry, Hillary will be okay without you.

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