BUSINESS AND ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERS UNITE BEHIND B
By Albert Berriz and Mike Garfield
(Albert Berriz is the Chief Executive Officer of McKinley. Mike Garfield
is the Director of the Ecology Center.)
The two of us don't agree on many things. One of us is an anti-bureaucracy,
lifelong Republican and Ann Arbor business community leader who runs one
of the country's largest real estate investment firms. The other is a
dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and nature lover who leads one of Michigan's
largest environmental organizations.
But there is one thing on which we strongly agree. We both enthusiastically
endorse Proposal B, the Ann Arbor Parks and Greenbelt Proposal. The plan
is good for clean air and water, and it's good for business too.
Open space preservation is vital for clean water. In
Washtenaw County, the primary source of water pollution is run-off from
"impervious surfaces" - the roads, driveways, parking lots,
and other developed lands in our urban and suburban areas. Scientists
have found that when a watershed, or a "sub-watershed," gets
built up enough that 8-10% of the surface is impervious, then water quality
begins to seriously decline. According to research by the Huron River
Watershed Council, several sections of the Huron River are now near that
tipping point, including sections in the proposed greenbelt area.
Ann Arbor's air quality is also near the tipping point.
During the summer months, ground-level ozone (a cause of smog) in Washtenaw
County now reaches levels that violate new federal safety standards. The
number one source of ozone and other criteria pollutants in Washtenaw
County is vehicle exhaust, and increases in tailpipe exhaust are directly
linked to the longer distances residents need to travel to work, to school,
and to stores. By guiding new growth to already-developed areas of the
county, Proposal B will help protect the air we breathe.
Proposal B is also critical to the success of Ann Arbor businesses.
Several national studies have demonstrated the economic benefits of preserving
open space. In one recent survey, small business owners ranked open space
as the most important factor in their choice of where to locate their
businesses because this is critical to winning the fierce competition
for talented employees. In a National Park Service study of the economic
impacts of protecting greenway corridors, the authors found that "corporate
CEOs say quality of life for employees is the third-most important factor
in locating a business, behind only access to domestic markets and availability
of skilled labor." The Ann Arbor area's open spaces help attract
the high-tech and life sciences businesses that are essential to our economic
vitality and employment base.
In addition, the proposal will guide development to where it belongs
- to the City and to neighboring areas where infrastructure already exists.
The plan lays the groundwork for increased development density in downtown
Ann Arbor, commercial thoroughfares, and some neighborhoods. It is a critical
component of the economic engine that can drive the Ann Arbor and Washtenaw
County area forward.
We are not the only business and environmental leaders who are willing
to stand together in strong support of Proposal B. It's endorsed by every
major environmental organization in Washtenaw County - the Huron River
Watershed Council, the Washtenaw Land Trust, the Ecology Center, and the
Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club - and by numerous state and regional
groups. [see complet list here]
It's also endorsed by our area's most prominent business leaders:
Bill Ford Jr., Bill Martin, Joe Fitzsimmons, David Canter of Pfizer, ProQuest
CEO Alan Aldworth, Richard and Norma Sarns, Gilbert Omenn, Bill Milliken
Jr., Howard Holmes, and many others. Proposal B is endorsed by Ann Arbor's
Downtown Development Authority, the State Street Area Association, and
by Paul Saginaw of Zingermans'.
Of course, there are B supporters beyond Ann Arbor's business and environmental
communities. Farmers and farm preservation groups support it.
Parks and recreation organizations support B. Several
neighborhood groups and labor unions back the plan. All
of the adjacent township governments support it. Virtually all of Ann
Arbor's elected officials are united behind Proposal B.
In fact, the only active opposition is coming from the Homebuilders
Association of Washtenaw County, which has pledged to spend at
least $400,000 to defeat the proposal. The HBA has tried to appeal to
Ann Arbor voters by arguing that the plan will take money away from parks.
The only flaw in that argument is that it's not true - Proposal B actually
adds money to the City's parks acquisition fund. The HBA argued that the
plan was rushed to the ballot, even though a nearly identical plan was
put before county voters five years ago. While that plan was defeated
countywide, it was approved by City voters.
Over one hundred years ago, a visionary Ann Arbor leader bequeathed Nichols
Arboretum to the University of Michigan, and the land was preserved for
posterity. Today the Arb remains one of Ann Arbor's great treasures. On
November 4, Ann Arbor residents can cast their vote for a visionary new
plan to save our most important open spaces. If the proposal succeeds,
our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will thank us for our foresight.
It's rare that business and environmental leaders unite so strongly behind
one proposal, but in this case, we're proud to send one unified message.
For the good of the Ann Arbor community, we strongly urge you to vote
YES for Proposal B.