Stories indexed with the term ‘economy’

Balancing Ann Arbor, Detroit – and a Vision


[Editor's Note: HD, a.k.a. Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, is also publisher of an online series of interviews on a teeter totter. Introductions to new Teeter Talks, like this one, also appear on The Chronicle's website.]

Dante Chinne Patchwork Nation

Dante Chinni, co-athor of "Our Patchwork Nation." That's a Tigers cap he's wearing, and it's not accidental.

“I don’t want to be another city. I resent the fact that we are compared to other cities when projects are being proposed.”

That was Ali Ramlawi, owner of the Jerusalem Garden on South Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor, addressing the April 4, 2011 meeting of the Ann Arbor city council. He was criticizing the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, and advocating against a proposed conference center and hotel project on the Library Lot – the council voted the project down later that evening.

“Ann Arbor will change … but it won’t become Detroit.”

That was Dante Chinni, while riding the the teeter totter on my front porch last Thursday afternoon. Chinni has made it part of his job to compare communities like Ann Arbor – Washtenaw County, actually – to other places in the country.

Who is Dante Chinni? And why should Ann Arbor care what he thinks?

On his website, Chinni describes himself as a “a card-carrying member of the East Coast Media Industrial Complex.” The part of his job that lets him compare one place to another – in a statistically sophisticated way – is a project Chinni conceived called Patchwork Nation. It’s funded by the Knight Foundation. The effort has already produced a book, which he co-authored with James Gimpel: “Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth about the ‘Real’ America.”

Washtenaw County is featured in the chapter that introduces readers to the concept of a “Campus and Careers” community type. The classification, as well as a read through Dante’s Talk, confirm that mostly what defines Ann Arbor – at least for people on the outside looking in – is its place as the home of the University of Michigan. And certainly for people on the inside, it’s difficult to argue that UM isn’t currently the single most important institution in the community.

But some insiders – and by this I mean not just people who live, work and play here, but actual Ann Arbor insiders – are starting to float the question of what else Ann Arbor might aspire to be besides home to “the most profound educational institution in the Midwest.” [Full Story]

The Shelves Are Getting Bare

PTO sign

Though the arrow points up, donations are actually down at the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop.

When The Chronicle came across a notice that the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop was facing some challenges, we caught AATA bus No. 6 to South Industrial’s Resale Row to get the details.

Susan Soth, the store’s manager, said that donations of clothes, housewares and other items are down 50% since early December, compared to a year ago. And though sales had been going gangbusters earlier in 2008, since early December they’ve been flat or slightly down. On Sundays, for example, they’d generally bring in more than $1,000 – recently sales have been closer to $800. The winter season is typically a slower time of year, Soth said, but “it’s never been this slow, and we’re not alone.” [Full Story]

Dreams Change for Dream On Futon

Dream On Futon, at the northeast corner of Liberty and Ashley.

Dream On Futon, at the southeast corner of Liberty and Ashley.

“It’s just so sad,” Doreen Collins told The Chronicle on Tuesday morning, standing in the front room of Dream On Futon. “I love this building. I love being on this corner. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like not to have this to come to every day.”

Doreen and John Collins opened Dream On Futon 15 years ago at the southeast corner of Liberty and Ashley. Last Friday, Doreen put up large “Store Closing” signs, and plans to shut down the business at the end of March. She said they just couldn’t pay their bills anymore – the monthly heating bill is around $400 – and they haven’t been paying themselves salaries for a while. [Full Story]

Column: Open Letter from a Distressed Bookseller

Karl Pohrt

Karl Pohrt, owner of Shaman Drum Bookshop.

This fall and winter Shaman Drum Bookshop went into a steep financial decline. Textbook sales declined $510K from last year. We managed to cut our payroll and other operating expenses by $80K, but that didn’t begin to cover our losses.

There was some good news. Our trade (general interest) book sales on the first floor were actually up in December from last year by 10%, which is extraordinary given what many other retailers were reporting. And trades sales in January were up 15%. Still, this hardly compensates for our losses in textbook sales.

The evaporation of our position has been astonishingly swift. We had been holding relatively even financially until September. Suddenly we’ve moved into the red.

I sort of saw this coming. [Full Story]

Column: Limited Edition

The popular political and media rallying cry is “we need bold new ideas to move Michigan’s future forward.” Such visionary statements make for good politics and good press. Well, what about going back to the old ideas that worked. Work, provide, save, and be conscious of the needs of others.

Hey, the party is over. We don’t save much anymore. We spend what we earn, borrow some more from other governments, to buy all of the latest plasma electronics at low prices at Wal-mart. America’s largest retailer then ships the $10 billion we borrowed in merchandise payments back to China each year and we start the cycle all over again. [Full Story]

Ypsi: Economy

Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber was interviewed for the PRI program “To the Point” on an episode called “The Road to Recovery and American Cars.” Schreiber’s segment begins at time code 29:45. [Source]