Alliance of Neighborhoods Meeting Held

Media not allowed at gathering

An organizational meeting for the Alliance of Neighborhood Associations was held at the downtown library tonight. We’d been encouraged to attend and file a report by any number of people throughout the community.

On signing in, however, we were told firmly and very politely that this was a meeting for representatives of neighborhood associations only: No. Media. Allowed. We didn’t have the energy to pursue it beyond confirming that we were indeed, as media, being refused entry. That’s why this piece is so short.


  1. By KGS
    October 2, 2008 at 11:29 am | permalink

    Well, that’s disappointing. So much for being open and public.

  2. October 2, 2008 at 10:36 pm | permalink

    I’m disappointed too, Dave – I was hoping for a good set of meeting notes that I could share.

    I’ve asked the person who invited me to go (and who asked me to find someone to go in my place) to get some clarification of what precisely happened from their point of view, hoping only that there was some friendly misunderstanding.

  3. By Dave Askins
    October 3, 2008 at 8:38 am | permalink

    “… hoping only that there was some friendly misunderstanding.”

    There may well have been some friendly misunderstanding among the organizers as to whether they wanted to refuse entry to media.

    However, there’s no room in the facts for a point view that would have it that my departure from the library was the result of some kind of misunderstanding between me and the woman who refused me entry. She was crystal clear (very polite) about denying me entry as a member of the media, even while declaring her respect for what The Chronicle was doing in general.

    In a conversation in the downstairs lobby with one of the attendees of the meeting, I related my view that the potential for “citizen journalism” was limited by the fact that typically no one’s livelihood is at stake. That is, if your personal financial health doesn’t depend on your attending an event and reporting on it, then you’re less likely to gut it out and do it anyway, even on an evening following a long hard day when you feel like you’ve earned an hour of television watching.

    That was certainly the case for me that evening. Yet I had allocated time and arranged other work to be able to attend and report on that meeting. I went anyway because I saw a direct relationship between my personal financial health and reporting on that meeting. Independent of a professional commitment, attending a meeting of neighborhood associations would rank fairly low on my list of preferred activities. Which, quite frankly, is exactly the disinterested perspective that I think results in reports that are loaded with copious facts and descriptions of what went on. (From some of the feedback we’ve received, not every reader likes that kind of thing.)

    I would say that success of organizations like the Alliance for Neighborhoods depends on their willingness to be open, transparent, and inclusive–even of the media, which could have reported exactly what went on at their first meeting. Frankly, we don’t have the energy and resources at The Chronicle to pursue access to organizations that don’t want us there.

    Private organizations that don’t want media present, in my view, just aren’t interesting enough to invest energy in.

    More interesting to me — and consequently what I will now turn my attention to writing about — is when guys like Matt Bradish (who owns Underground Sounds) while walking his dog on a rainy night observes a van smashing into a scooter parked outside the Old Town then driving off, and manages to record the van’s license number phones it into the AAPD and … that was the scene I stumbled across on the way to the College Dems’ debate-watching event at the Union last night. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

  4. By Juliew
    October 5, 2008 at 9:29 pm | permalink

    I went to the Alliance of Neighborhoods meeting (ironically, thanks to a tip from Dave at the Chronicle). I see absolutely no reason why the “press” was not allowed. As a matter of fact, one of the big problems cited during the meeting was lack of citizen awareness of issues. Nothing was mentioned during the meeting that indicated that anyone had been refused entry and no mention was made that anything discussed was confidential in any way.

    The attendance was primarily a collection of about fifty of the “usual suspects.” Most of them were at least familiar to me from local neighborhood groups, the Ann Arbor Greenway, or the Ask Voters First effort. Eppie Potts was there from the Planning Commission, Mike Anglin and Sabra Briere from City Council, and Ellen Ramsburgh from the Historic District Commission.

    The meeting organizers opened the meeting with some background about why the group was being formed. The 42 North development on South Maple, the proposed 601 Forest development, and lack of neighborhood input into proposed Chapter 55 zoning changes were all named as main reasons for calling the meeting.

    The meeting then went into introductions where each person attending was asked to name their biggest concerns related to development. This went on for most of the rest of the meeting as there were quite a few people and many had a lot of concerns. The concerns that rose to the top included zoning changes promoting density, natural features protection, historic preservation, and greenway support.

    There were many complaints about attempts to increase density anywhere in the city (especially outside of downtown). People were worried that increasing transportation options (such as trains) were boondoggles that would divert needed money elsewhere and/or gut the AATA. There were a lot of comments that the Mayor and Council were actively working against the “will of the people.” There was discussion about changing the make-up of City Council to find Council members “more sympathetic to neighborhoods.” I found this somewhat ironic since I was sitting next to Mike Anglin, a “pro” neighborhood Councilmember who had just enthusiastically voted for a project we didn’t like in our neighborhood.

    While many people seemed to feel upbeat and energized when they left, I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed in the tenor of the meeting. The positions taken seemed quite extreme to me. There didn’t seem to be any room for differing opinions or compromise and it was assumed that everyone there felt the same way. It was definitely an “us vs. them” agenda with City Council and the Mayor being the “them.” I have certainly had my problems with the City and would love to have neighborhoods have more of a say in development projects, but not by preventing all of them, which seemed to be the intent of this group.

    The group’s web site is here:

  5. By Jack Eaton
    October 6, 2008 at 11:43 am | permalink

    I am sorry you felt slighted by our decision to exclude media from this first meeting (other than our overlooking Julie from As of the date of this first meeting, the Alliance did not exist. It was just a proposal. The meeting participants have agreed to form the Alliance and will proceed with forming a leadership structure.

    In the future, our public membership meetings will welcome media representatives. We especially welcome attention from the Chronicle, an outlet that serves a very important role in informing residents of events in this City.

    Anyone interested in joining the Alliance and having input into what efforts we will make to ensure that neighborhoods are treated as “stakeholders” by the City, are welcomed to join by sending an email to the group at:
    Please include your name, neighborhood group (if applicable), phone number, and the email address where you would like to receive Alliance updates.

  6. By Juliew
    October 6, 2008 at 9:17 pm | permalink

    Jack, just to clarify. I was at the meeting not as someone who posts on ArborUpdate (you’ll notice there isn’t anything there on the Alliance), but as the contact for my neighborhood. I made this comment, not as a member of the media, but as a citizen commenting on a meeting I had attended. Nothing was said during the meeting that it was in any way secret and I had been notified in several ways that it was happening. Would you have prevented me from sitting in the meeting if you had known who I was? There were several other people there who have their own blog or regularly post on local blogs and several people connected with the City. In the future, you should make it clear if these meetings are “secret” and you might want to specify why that is since one of the complaints of the group is secrecy on the part of the City.

  7. October 13, 2008 at 8:47 am | permalink


    Thanks for clarifying; it’s clear that I wouldn’t have been welcome at the meeting either.

    I’ve removed myself from the group’s list; the other six of you can carry on in peace.