With the Ypsilanti city council primary election coming up on August 2nd, I decided to ask Beth Bashert some questions regarding a range topics including her vision for the city, recent gang issues in the community, the Water Street millage, and (of course) a few light-hearted questions.
1. What inspired you to run for elected office in Ypsilanti?
I have served the city in many campaigns, starting in 1997. I have helped to defend human rights, to pay for public transportation, to expand green spaces in Washtenaw County, and to pass the Income Tax proposal. I was Amanda Edmonds’ Campaign Manager. Whether or not you agree with the various causes or candidates that I have supported, you definitely know that I am willing and able to work towards solutions to problems.
It is time for me to put my own name out there and serve our community in a more ongoing way. I have collaborated on projects with many office holders, including most of our current council, and I look forward to being a team member with them on city council. I want to be a part of creating solutions to problems, as well as an impetus to growth and the future.
2. There have been a lot of neat and interesting businesses and restaurants popping up in Ypsi during the last few years. What is your take on the city as far as economic growth and development?
I feel that we are on the cusp of a lot of potential growth. Restaurants and storefronts have come in and are becoming highly successful: Red Rock, Mix, Beezy's, Bowerbird Mongo are all good examples from Michigan Avenue. Depot Town has the Eyrie and Maiz as examples of newer and successful businesses to brag about.
Additional office-based businesses would bring us to a whole new level. Some of what’s proposed for Water Street, combining retail and residential development, is another strong addition and hopefully that will come together easily.
I believe the answer here is to keep our momentum going, and add depth with office spaces. We have a growing music and arts culture that we can continue to support, First Friday Art Walks are an amazing event each month, and our diverse festivals every year are a big attraction as well.
3. What is your take on the spate of gang violence that erupted in the city last summer? A community group in town called the Ypsilanti Community Interrupters began re-organizing last weekend to pass out information packets to residents in regard to how to deal with gang violence. Do you think this group will be effective? Do we as a community in Ypsilanti need to do more to stem local gang related violence in the city? What are your thoughts on the issue?
Gangs and violence are symptoms of problems, economic and cultural, that go beyond our little town. Poverty, an education system that thinks testing is educating, and the lack of viable employment opportunities are all parts of the problem.
I love the idea of the Interrupters. I love community-based responses like this. Getting to know the families who are struggling with youth attracted to gangs, keeping kids in school, building relationships within the community so that violence is no longer anonymous, are all incredibly powerful.
In addition, I am excited about the programs coming from our schools and the energy we are seeing in some of the new administers. This is not a fast fix, but long-term fixes are really the only way to get something solid accomplished. We need to have options for youth that are plentiful, varied, attractive, and ongoing. Our school district is starting to step up, the Interrupters are doing relationship-building and intervention, now we need employment and social opportunities for all our youth.
4. We have a mid major university located right smack in the middle of Ypsilanti. What role should Eastern Michigan University play in the economic development of the city?
EMU is a partner with our city in many ways. Of course, this partnership must be continually fostered, checked, and developed. One successful example of EMU supporting our city is the Live Ypsi program, which gives $5-10K to EMU staff and professors purchasing homes in our city. An example where we can do better is working to get local independent food businesses access to catering events at the university.
EMU is a highly-respected institution, and is getting stronger and more respected every year. It also is facing some severe economic challenges, just like our city but for different reasons. Together, we can come up with solutions that benefit us all.
5. I almost hate to ask, but what are your thoughts on the Water Street development situation that continues to seem like a big debacle. Also, what are your thoughts on the Water Street debt mileage?
I support the upcoming millage. The city has done some great work in finding the massive interest-rate savings with the new financing plan. The additional investment of buying down the principle on the debt is a big step towards helping make the overall debt more manageable. Lastly, since this is replacing a millage that is expiring, households in our community will not be realizing an increase in taxes. This is about as painless an option as we are going to get.
Water Street is a big problem that we need to solve. The economy has not been our friend since the project started. Trying to get this land developed during a nationwide economic downturn, specifically one in the housing market, could not have been more badly timed.
There are several problems that we need to solve, and several long-term projects that can come to fruition that will be helpful. I believe that eventually, that land will be full of residents, businesses, and destinations that will help Ypsilanti continue to be a great place to live. Getting there is the challenge.
OK, on a lighter note. Here are some other hard-hitting Purple Walrus Press questions!
1.Now this is important so think carefully on this one. Who is your favorite Beatle?
Hah! Paul. He was so pretty that I wanted to be him. I knew I was a lesbian even when I was a child, and all the girls loved Paul.
2. Do you have a favorite band or musician? If so what band or person would it be?
I am a big Billy Joel fan. I love piano/composers, and his straight ahead rock style is appealing to me. His lyrics are (or were) edgy for the time. He gives a good concert too, by the way.
3. What was your favorite TV show growing up?
Oh, you are going to make me say it: Star Trek. I love the values, the pure science fiction, and the characters are corny but great.
4. Read any good books lately?
I have been reading Terry Pratchett lately. I was saddened by his passing, Alzheimer’s is very cruel and Pratchett was truly brilliant. I put him in the same category as Kurt Vonnegut for the cutting commentary, humorous, and stark truths. Pratchett’s characters are a little more endearing though.
5. Lastly, what is your favorite all-time movie?
It’s a list actually. I will stop everything to watch any of the following: A League of Their Own, The Princess Bride, Galaxy Quest, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Young Frankenstien, the Kill Bills, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There are a couple others as well, but that about covers it.
Purple Walrus Press
Purple Walrus Press