Local in Ann Arbor: 2011

I’m not much for looking backward and don’t care much for milestones.  But there is some point, I’ll admit, to reflection on what has happened in the last year, if only to prepare for the next day and what follows. Now how best to  make sense of our recent history?  What made the year memorable from this blog’s perspective?  We’d surely not use the measurement that AnnArbor.com’s approach was to use page view numbers.  This produced a list of mostly sports-related stories, with a sprinkling of crime and tragedy.  Looking back at the year on Local in Ann Arbor, I had some posts I was really proud of but got relatively little notice, while others that got a lot of attention were not all that substantial.  Still, looking at the page view hits was instructive, and I’ve used them as a guide in this year-end review.

Honorable mentions go to posts from previous years.

Scott Trudeau (L) and Murph (R), enjoying victory ca. 2004; photo copyright by Griffin Reames, used with permission

Most irrelevantly accessed post: Ann Arbor Blogs: the Moving Finger Moves On, published in February 2010, is one of our top hits of all time.  This is not because of the brilliant writing or the subject matter (a requiem for Arbor Update), but because of the “porch couch” picture.  I get a search item for “porch couch” at least once a week, which pulls up this post with its picture.  Another example of how your history on the Internet never goes away – the student to the right, known here as Murph, is now a professional planner (Richard Murphy), whose image from 8 years ago is no longer very descriptive.  (The porch couches are now also history.)

Post which made the biggest splash and was most significant: The all-time top hit has been The Secret Plan for the Conference Center, published August 2009, which was the Ann Arbor area’s first report of a hotel-conference center proposal that had been quietly cooking along on back-office desks for over a year.

This post was the first of  a very long chain that recorded aspects of the fight over the Library Lot and what became known as the Valiant proposal.  The series, all of which has been listed on the Library Lot Conference Center page, was a major feature of this blog through 2010 and into 2011.  One of the top posts for this last year was Ann Arbor Conference Center: An Authoritative Study, where a study by a nationally-known expert on hotels and conference centers was made accessible.  The study did a pretty conclusive job of showing that the center would not be a good business risk.   The lengthy What’s in the Box (Compiled) summarized many posts analyzing the Valiant proposal as presented by the Roxbury report, which recommended this proposal for adoption.  But my favorite post is the inappropriately named And Why Are We Worried About It (Valiant LOI) which was drafted and named before a sudden rush of action on the City Council finally, as we were fond of saying, killed the zombie on April 4, 2011.  This post outlines some of the citizens’ campaign to defeat the proposal (the picture was on buttons that we passed out to oppose adoption of the Letter of Intent).

Photo by John Weise

Two of our posts on the Percent for Art program, Taxes for Art and Taxes for Art (III) were in the top 10 visited in 2011. These were an effort to support proposed changes in the Percent for Art program (that ultimately failed to gain Council approval).  The first one in the series laid out arguments, with references, as to why this program is illegal.

Another “top hit” was our piece called “Heritage City Place Row“, written just before the tragic conclusion to the years-long City Place/Heritage Row debate.  The seven historic houses are now only history and instead there will be a cell-block-like student apartment complex installed in the middle of one of our near-downtown neighborhoods.  This was one of the greatest failures of governance of the year.  There are many directions to point fingers, but I’ll just say that it is very sad for our town.

Of course, the two “townie” posts were very successful. What Does It Mean to be an Ann Arbor Townie?  was the top in page hits, with the political discussion The Council Party vs the Ann Arbor Townies close behind.  That’s what happens when I stray from the wonkiness.  Actually, when I began this blog, I had intended to have more pieces that were simply reflective, but events in Ann Arbor (and the politics!) have often driven the topics.  The Council Party piece, like most of my political posts, was written in defense of our embattled group of civic activists (whose numbers expanded greatly during the conference center episode) after an attack from one of The Powers That Be.

Central Area from city website; click for larger image

Central Area (click for larger)

One of my favorite posts did make the top 10:  Ann Arbor’s Suburban Brain Problem was a slow starter but has been getting continuous looks so that it was actually #5 for the year.  This was probably our snarkiest post and the sarcasm and sardonic humor may have confused a number of readers.  But it contains some serious information about the lack of open space or green space not just in the downtown, but the entire Central Area.  (Ironically, the largest green area in the map is Fuller Park, now threatened with a parking structure.) It was written in reaction to a DDA partnership meeting in which the object was to explain why no new parks are needed in the downtown because we have the Palio parking lot (sorry, snarkiness just sneaks in there).

Click for larger (WALLY route)

Finally,  three transportation – themed posts were near the top.  The post WALLY Hitting the Wall came in just under Parking and the Limits of Downtown and the Fuller Road Station: It’s All About Parking tagged along a little farther down.  The WALLY post and the Fuller Road Station post were two of those I consider to be references, with many diagrams and documents attached.  They are part of the major theme that will be going forward in the next year, namely the substantial transportation initiatives currently underway.   The whole long story will be indexed on the Transportation Page.

Of course, these were by no means the only important issues for Ann Arbor.  This is a blog, not a newspaper.

Speaking of which, if you have soldiered through to read all this, you care about events in our city and want the full story.  So now is a good time to write a check to support the Ann Arbor Chronicle.  Or if you prefer, donate online.  (They make it easy.)  Where would we be without the Chronicle’s, er, chronicling all the actions that are affecting our lives?

So now on to 2012.  I can only echo Tiny Tim and say “God bless us, every one!”  We may need it.

UPDATE: According to WordPress (they send a yearly summary), “porch couch” was one of 5 top searches leading to this blog.  The other 4 were variations on my personal name or the blog title.  There must be some commercial opportunities in there somewhere.

Explore posts in the same categories: media, Trends

4 Comments on “Local in Ann Arbor: 2011”

  1. teacherpatti Says:

    Looking forward to reading your posts in 2012, Vivienne :)

  2. varmentrout Says:

    Thanks, Patti! I appreciate your interest.

  3. Peter Eckstein Says:

    Vivienne,

    Thank you for your tireless efforts to bring analysis and a cost-benefit perspective to the issues of the day. You are making a difference.

    Peter Eckstein


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