Saturday, January 31, 2015


Not long after Joe Weekly was exonerated from any potential charges in the killing of Aiyana Jones in Detroit, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie issues a press release and 12-page memo outlining his decision to not indict Dave Ried in the killing of Aura Rosser.

We march today Saturday Jan 31 at 4:30pm at 301 E. Huron St.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Filling the Housing Gaps By Any Means Necessary

On December 1, 2014, flanked by Steve Carnes and prompted by Gordon Smith [from Camp Serenity], Caleb Poirier announced the homeless community’s intent to recall Stephen Kunselman from his Ward 3 City Council seat. Yes, it caught me off-guard too. Here is the text from his announcement culled from the LocalWiki site [which, by the way, is being operated by the CivCity Initiative which will only be able to continue this service if you donate to the cause].

...In the minutes there is a little bit of extra – I'm sorry "minutes" is the wrong word... if you go to that website, and you pull up the city council meeting that occurred [November 17] and move the slider bar which is at the bottom to the right to get to the moment two hours and 39 minutes, that's when Stephen Kunselman starts to talk about his desire to ask all of the services, to put all of the city services towards the eviction of the homeless in the wintertime.

Specifically at three hours, zero minutes and seven seconds, Kunselman states...he wishes to make things difficult for the homeless. He wants to make things more difficult and his opinion isn't one that is offhand. He prefaces it with the word "adamant" and he states that it would be something he wishes to do in the months going forward.

I would have a small phalanx of homeless people behind me, but they are busy relocating themselves and helping others relocate. But I can tell you that about 24 hours ago from this moment, I was with many of those folks who are getting relocated as well as friends of them, and they voted nearly unanimously – there was one abstention – to engage and spend our time this winter in the cold, canvassing for signatures to execute a recall of Council Member Kunselman. This year is uniquely suited towards that as it is a non-presidential year and less people voted in total, because of that. [speaking directly at Mr. Kunselman now] I hope that you are able to execute your policies while you can, because your time here is limited, and it will be the homeless that you wished to evict who will indeed evict you.[source]

[I’ll digress briefly here to note that Caleb never once mentions MISSION, nor has that organization ever endorsed his efforts. It is respectfully requested that the Ann Arbor Independent issue a correction retracting that mistake from the December 27, 2014 editorial “Evaluating Human Services.”]

The people who participated in this recall effort have not often had the opportunity to participate in our community discussions about policy and program efforts to remedy their situations. What a feeling to see people who are down on their luck, take off the shelf a political tool available to everyone and dust it off to improve their own lot.

To my surprise and that of my peers on the MISSION board who voted not to participate in the recall for obvious legal reasons, the tactic worked. Homeless individuals acting as their own direction-setting democratic body have been able to push back on Council Members Kunselman and Eaton in their zeal to break up all camps in the city*.

It is now well documented that Washtenaw County and especially Ann Arbor do not have enough permanent residences that are affordable for all who live among us. Until we build those homes, we will continue to encounter people who need help getting back on their feet and into bricks-and-mortar housing. It should be an obvious and forgone conclusion that until then, people will camp.

I am an organizer and a housing rights activist. I obtained my Masters in Social Work from the University of Michigan and have been a lecturer there as well as at Eastern Michigan University. In my current position with HARC, I am a medical case manager working with people who live with HIV. We use a harm reduction approach when engaging our clients.

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. The idea of harm reduction has subsequently been expanded to refer to any strategy that acknowledges that, while a set of unhealthy actions may need to be ceased entirely, sometimes the only accessible behavior modification for those with entrenched habits is one that reduces the harm of the ongoing intractable habit. This does not do away with the push for a complete reformation. Instead, it keeps the individual alive while a relationship can be established to assist in that final transition away from self harm.

I apply these principles to the challenge of helping people who are living outside and when working with people who are camping. It is not a stretch to state that PORT [The County “Project OutReach Team] does the same thing when they pass out tents and sleeping bags through the winter.  PORT and MISSION often exchange information about whose medical or shelter needs are not being met in order to make sure people get the resources they need.

Rather than telling or forcing someone who is struggling to fit our idea of what is safe when they are not yet ready to hear it, a professional outreach social worker’s time is often better spent working to reduce the potential harm that can happen to individuals who are living outside at any time of the year. This includes disbursing warm clothing, camping gear, heaters, propane, food, and water. It can also include visiting people living in smaller group camps to help them organize themselves, look out for each other and survive. It can also include helping someone make a case for disability because they are no longer able to work and will never get into housing otherwise.

Given the positions proffered by Council Members Kunselman and Eaton, I do not think we will ever see eye-to-eye on this issue. Nor will everyone in our community, whom they represent, necessarily appreciate the well researched but counter-intuitive medical intervention of harm reduction. However, this does not mean we cannot strive to find other areas of common ground. One such area is to make sure everyone has a safe, warm space they can sleep every night. I look forward to working on these overlapping concerns as we move forward with affordable housing projects such as Accessory Dwelling Units, Tiny Houses among the many other ways that we can help those living outside improve their quality of life.


* “‘It is not the practice of the city of Ann Arbor to proactively seek out homeless camps for removal, nor to broadly deploy strategies to render areas used as campsites unusable,’ the resolution states.” --- From Jan. 21, 2015 Mlive article by Ryan Stanton, “Ann Arbor officials: city can't turn a blind eye to homeless camps when there are complaints”

Friday, January 16, 2015


JB wrote: "Update! Although there are no media reports yet, we have reliable information that the Michigan State Police have completed their investigation of the police homicide of Aura Rosser. The report is now in the hands of Prosecutor Brian Mackie. A decision could be imminent. Please spread the word and invite friends to the facebook event!"

In addition, it will be critical to show up *in-person* on the day after the announcement at 430pm at 301 E. Huron in Downtown Ann Arbor.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Yesterday, I was scratching my bald head [OUCH] as I read this story about how the Ann Arbor Democratic Club is calling for police professional development, body cameras to be worn by police officers, and other policies to help reduce police brutality.

I like the idea of training police to use nonlethal force to resolve conflicts when necessary. However, do body cameras on officers matter to increasing police accountability? Police are not held accountable for their actions in our society the same way that the rest of us are held to account.

For example, if a typical citizen were to shoot someone to death and there were witnesses, s/he wouldn't have been merely placed on paid administrative leave from his or her job. S/he would be sitting in jail awaiting her or his day in court while the case is investigated by prosecutors and police officers. But, as numerous cases have shown, killing someone on the job is viewed as a professional offense and paid administrative leave is what our society prescribes when the killer happens to be a police officer. Sadly, Ann Arbor is no exception and unfortunately follows this two-tiered legal system which is clearly common to all localities in the the United States. Body cameras will not change this unbalanced application of the law.

That's why the posturing, documented in the article linked-to above, by liberals and law and order apologists in this town is so blatant and obtuse. Case in point, we have a council member, Stephen Kunselman, from Ward 3 who says, "And while there's concern out there among the public, and I understand that concern, I as an elected official will not kowtow to those kind of demands that treat our police officers as if they did something wrong first."

This is the same council member, Stephen Kunselman, who is so bent on "upholding the law" that he is calling for the use of police resources to remove anyone caught illegally camping within the city. [He claims he is the only one to have the "courage" to stand up against illegal camping. Oh, huh-HOH!].

But, is Stephen Kunselman calling for justice and the rule of law in the case of the shooting of Aura Rosser?

NO and yes. [yes, only because our legal system favors elites and the people tasked with protecting them. But you knew that]

He won't "kowtow to those kind of demands" He only kowtows to people who "... shouldn't have to tolerate homeless people living in their backyard." And by backyard, he means a California company-owned abandoned lot that was intended for affordable housing which he doesn't think should be built because of noise and pollution.

I am still scratching my head. Something doesn't add up here.

I am not saying that Officer David Ried is to be found guilty by an elected official or the public through our direct actions. A free and fair society cannot be ruled by mobs. But, the children and family of Ms. Rosser deserve to see her alleged killer have his day in court. David Reid allegedly killed another human being and there were witnesses to this killing. According to the Ann Arbor News, David Ried "shot and killed" Aura Rosser. Killing people is an offense under the law and requires a trial to asses guilt and administer punishment, last time I checked.

Any day now, the Michigan State Police will submit the results of their investigation to prosecutor Brian Mackie who will decide whether to indict [which means "accuse"] David Ried for the killing of Aura Rosser. Regardless of the way the decision goes, the day after we will be gathering at 301 E Huron St. in downtown Ann Arbor at 4:30pm.

Oh, and by the way I think it is kind of redundant for the Ann Arbor Democratic Club to call for the very same things that City Council already voted on in the wake of the incident. Does the Ann Arbor Democratic Club lack critical skills? Or does it unthinkingly follow the example and decisions of the City Council? It smacks of nothing more than preliminary crowd control for the decision that is about to be made. Choose wisely. See you in the streets.

And if you haven't read these analyses of the situation, you should definitely check out Y'all Ain't Hearing Me: : White Liberalism and the Killing of Aura Rosser by Third Coast Conspiracy and Beauty and Police by Peter Linebaugh