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If anyone dares you to pour soda all over your laptop to see if it still works, don’t do it.
The City of Ypsilanti held their sixth Town Hall meeting last night at the Riverside Arts Center. Because most of Ypsilanti’s residents are made of sugar and the weather was uncooperative, turnout was relatively low in comparison to some of the other Town Hall meetings, however, because of the topic, this Town Hall was one of the more informative. This time, it involved Town-Gown relations with Eastern Michigan University and how the two organizations can better cooperate in order to flourish. A meeting of this type made a lot of sense. When I was in college in the late fifties, few students would ever venture off of College Hill and the townsfolk hated us for it. They didn’t hate me per se, but they hated everyone else. It’s not that different in Ypsilanti. Sure, we don’t have a College Hill, but there are people who are always willing to complain about what students do or don’t do. This meeting was going to bring us all closer together.
New Eastern Michigan University President John Fallon and Vice-President of Student Affairs and long-time Ypsilanti resident Jim Vick represented the college. After a brief presentation, the two fielded questions from the crowd. The biggest concern among all parties was there is no good way of communicating with each other. EMU student body president Robert Murkowski spoke of how he didn’t know about the Draconian residential parking permit program the City put into effect this summer until it had already passed. Residents talked about how they didn’t know about happenings on campus. Business owners expressed their concern over the unfavorable and totally incorrect image that Ypsilanti has especially with regards to crime and what can be done to change that image.
While these complaints and concerns seem reasonable, as with most everything, the information already exists and is easy to find. The Parking Permit ordinance was posted on the City’s web site and was twice printed in the Ypsilanti Courier. The public information office at EMU issues press releases for everything imaginable and posts them on their web site. And both the Ypsilanti Police Department and a slick community watchdog group post crime statistics for all the world to see.
It’s not worth the effort to debate whether people are technological novices, unfamiliar with each other’s web sites, or just lazy. What can be argued is that these organizations need a better way to get their information out there. As pointed out by Ypsilanti mayoral candidate Steve Pierce, the way to do that is RSS feeds. RSS is a format of syndicating the content on web sites so that readers can subscribe to the content and get updates when they are published. A lot of weblogs as well as news media outlets provide RSS feeds. Instead of you seeking out the content, the content comes to you. It’s definitely the solution to this problem. Can you imagine if the City of Ypsilanti started created ordinances with RSS feeds? Instead of waiting for your copy of the Courier to hit your porch, you could see ordinances as soon as they were proposed. It would be rather impressive. City Hall could finally be looked to as leaders. That would certainly throw a lot of people for a loop.
Along with the concerns over the distribution of information, residents wondered about EMU’s hiring and contractor selection policies and what preferences local applicants received. Various EMU administrators explained what they are doing to increase the number of their employees who live within the City. (Currently 450 of EMU’s 2,200 employees live in the City of Ypsilanti and an additional 450 employees live in Ypsilanti Township.)
While it may not lead to helping the City of Ypsilanti balance their budget, this was a much needed meeting between two organizations who really don’t understand one another.
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