Three years ago today, we launched The Ann Arbor Chronicle with a lot of hope but no certainty of success – we didn’t know if others would embrace our passion for intense coverage of local government and civic affairs. We’re grateful that you did – and on July 29, we hosted an open house to thank the people who’ve helped us get this far, and to honor a few of the people who make this community special.
The lead photo in this column was taken at that event, and like the other photos below, it was shot by my former Ann Arbor News colleague, Lynn Monson. Many of you will recognize Jeremy Lopatin in this image – he and his wife Aubrey are owners of Arbor Teas. They’ve been Chronicle supporters from Day One, but that’s not why we chose this photograph.
The image shows a quiet, gentle moment between a father and his child, amid the cacophony of a crowded room. It’s an intimate detail that likely passed unnoticed by most people around them. But if you were paying attention and witnessed it, it was one of the most special moments of the evening.
Details are important to The Chronicle. We pay attention to them – some might say to a fault. But we see value in the interplay of fine lines that define our community. We’ve strived to bring a finer-grain of detail to the workings of our local government, to record the context in which decisions are made that involve taxpayer dollars. For whatever role you’ve played in helping us do that – as an advertiser, subscriber, commenter, contributor or Chronicle reader and evangelist – we thank you. It’s been an interesting three years.
When we launched The Chronicle on Sept. 2, 2008, we thought we knew this community pretty well. But over the past three years we’ve encountered even more people whose generosity of spirit and commitment to the Ann Arbor area have amazed us.
So as we started thinking of how to celebrate our first three years in business, it seemed obvious that in addition to thanking people who’ve helped us get this far, it was a fitting time to honor some of the people who represent the qualities we admire and respect. And that’s the genesis of the Bezonki Awards, which we gave out at the July 29 open house, held at the Workantile Exchange on Main Street.
We asked local artist Alvey Jones, creator of the Bezonki cartoons published each month in The Chronicle, to make a physical artifact that reflected the uniqueness of this community. And each of the six Bezonki Awards is gleefully unique, at the same time futuristic and grounded in the past – some of the parts were salvaged from equipment at the former Ann Arbor News.
The people who received the 2011 Bezonkis are also unique. Yet for everyone who received an award that evening, there are dozens of others who make similar contributions, shaping this community in special ways. We are thankful for all of you, and thankful that the past three years have allowed us to get to know you in ways we didn’t anticipate.
These awards are a bit unusual in another way. In some sense, they’re just on loan. We’re asking that each winner of the Bezonki be a steward of the award for a year. They will then pass on the physical award to next year’s winner. We hope that in this way the awards will create connections between people in the community year after year – people who might not otherwise have crossed paths.
So who received the inaugural Bezonkis? They are people you likely already know for their work in the community: Claire and Paul Tinkerhess, Jason Brooks and Matt Yankee, Vivienne Armentrout, the teachers and students at Summers-Knoll School, Yousef Rabhi, and Trevor Staples. You’ll read more about them below.
And now, on to the Bezonkis!
2011 Bezonki Awards: Claire and Paul Tinkerhess
Why they’re Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of their vision for a joyful neighborhood celebration, and their efforts to pull off a major community event without relying on government or commercial support. The Water Hill Music Fest not only became an “instant classic” Ann Arbor event, but also gave that neighborhood a name that both reflects and shapes its unique identity.
2011 Bezonki Awards: Jason Brooks and Matt Yankee
What they do: Until recently, both Brooks and Yankee were both deputy county clerks, working at the Washtenaw County clerk/register of deeds office, which handles everything from elections to marriage certificates. In August, Brooks moved to work in the county administrator’s office.
Why they’re Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of their steadfast competence and professionalism – they are symbolic of the many staff who work on the front lines of our local governments, who help citizens navigate the bureaucracy of our public sector, and whose capable, often thankless work on a daily basis makes our community a better place.
2011 Bezonki Awards: Vivienne Armentrout
What she does: A former county commissioner and previous candidate for other political office, Armentrout writes the Local in Ann Arbor blog, which covers issues in the Ann Arbor area.
Why she’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of the wealth of knowledge and experience in local government and civic affairs that she brings to bear on important issues in our community, and for her willingness to share her insights in many forums, both online and in person, with fact-based commentary, wit and good humor.
2011 Bezonki Awards: Summers-Knoll Teachers & Students
What they do: Summers-Knoll is a small private school for kindergarten through grade 8. The head of school is Joanna Hastings, who accepted the Bezonki on behalf of the school.
Why they’re Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of their willingness to embrace and explore the unknown with creativity and good humor. When confronted with something that can seem baffling – like the inscrutable Bezonki! – they approach it with curiosity and see its potential. This is a skill and attitude that, when applied to civic affairs, serves our community well.
2011 Bezonki Awards: Yousef Rabhi
What he does: Rabhi is a Washtenaw County commissioner representing District 11 in Ann Arbor. A recent graduate of the University of Michigan, he was first elected to office in 2010, winning the Democratic primary by a vote of 998 to 997. A recount later gave him a two-vote margin of victory.
Why he’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of the energy, intellect and optimism he brings to bear in his role as an elected representative, and for being a symbolic reminder that one vote really can make a difference. May the enthusiasm he brings to his work in local government remain undiminished in his future years of service.
2011 Bezonki Awards: Trevor Staples
What he does: A life-long Ann Arborite, Staples is a teacher at Burns Park Elementary, but is perhaps best known for his advocacy of a skatepark in Ann Arbor.
Why he’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of the range of ways he looks at the community, from large-scale vision to intimate observation. His tenacity and practical, strategic approach to helping make a community vision for the skatepark a reality is remarkable. But he also has an eye for appreciating the detailed quirks of our community, as he encounters them going about his day. His Stopped.Watched observations in The Chronicle are one reflection of that.
Trevor was unable to join us at our July 29 open house. But below you’ll see a collection of photos from that event, including Bezonki awardees and the many others who helped us celebrate three years of Chronicling. Thanks again to everyone who’s been a part of our venture so far – we hope you’ll continue to join us in the months and years to come.
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