Poplin: Putting the place
in complacency

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August’s centerpiece story raises an issue: The tech industry is changing Ann Arbor. Are things changing too fast and does this new technocracy jibe with the community’s shared vision for the town?

This assumes, of course, that there is a shared vision. I propose that there isn’t.

Ann Arborites have become accustomed to seeing their hometown listed on national top 10 lists. This year it’s been named among the best cities to live in, towns most worthy of a day trip, best cities for women in the workforce, and happiest cities to work in. It’s possible that in the avalanche of accolades, we’ve all come to believe that Ann Arbor runs itself, that it would be impossible to screw up.

It wouldn’t. Take traffic: Too many local roads have been closed for construction for too long. Elected city leaders and handsomely compensated administrators’ hair should be on fire about the wasteful, dangerous, predictable gridlock inflicted on residents every day this summer. It doesn’t have to be this way.

For another example of complacency, read William Crandell’s story in the June issue and letters to the editor in this issue. If you assumed Ann Arbor was doing a good job looking after the most vulnerable among us – and who didn’t? – you were wrong. There are many other issues: affordable housing, race relations, public art, the changing face of downtown …. You’ll have trouble finding anyone with passion that transcends into bonafide leadership on any of these issues. Therefore, little progress is made.

So, returning to the issue highlighted above: Yes, there should be a discussion about whether the emerging tech sector fits into the town’s shared vision. But first the town has to have a discussion about its shared vision.

Kyle Poplin

Kyle Poplin is co-founder and editor of The Ann magazine.