“I really don’t care about politics – but I love policy,” Amanda Edmonds said.
Ypsilanti mayor Amanda Edmonds was the guest of EMU’s College Democrats, Tuesday evening, March 29 in Pray-Harold auditorium. She spent the first half of the hour long seminar informing students about her background before becoming mayor in 2014. The other half, she spoke to roughly two dozen students about issues they care about within the city.
Students who live on campus are Ypsilanti residents and as such they can take advantage of the new app that Ypsilanti launched this year called Ypsi Connect.
This app allows Ypsilanti residents to tell the city directly about problems around town such as broken street lights, garbage build up, broken sidewalks, etc. It also allows residents to track the progress of the city’s response.
Edmonds says that Ypsilanti needs development, but she doesn’t want to do that in a way that means pricing out the people who are already here; a fate that Ann Arbor has had. To her, sustainability has three pillars: equity, economy and ecology.
Originally from St. Louis, Edmonds graduated from the University of Michigan studying environmental justice. To her ecology means things such as water quality, air quality and sustainable power. One such project she has in the works to coincide with this is Solar Ypsi.
“Solar Ypsi is a grass-roots effort in Ypsilanti, dedicated to the use of renewable energy sources,” their website says. You can find a map of solar installations on their site.
Edmonds also touched on how social enviornments around the city need to stay safe.
An EMU student asked Edmonds about safety in neighborhoods that EMU students live in. Specifically the area between main campus, Frog Island Park and the College of Business. To that end, Edmonds mentioned the Eastern/Washtenaw Safety Alliance.
Eastern Michigan University has seen several students murdered over the last couple of years. In response to that, the Ypsilanti Police Department, EMU’s Department of Public Safety and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office cross-deputized into the Eastern/Washtenaw Safety Alliance. Whereas before, they could not operate beyond their very small jurisdictions (the city of Ypsilanti is only 4.52 square miles and is surrounded by Ypsilanti Township, which is policed by the Sheriff). This was done to increase the coordination and number of police on the street and end the practice of jumping police lines when being pursued by law enforcement.
“Maintenance really does go a long way,” Edmonds said.
Other things Edmonds pledged to do was provide better lighting, cleanliness and plantings to give the aura of safety. Those things and economic development are sought not only for safety, but to fill space with more than just loiters and abandoned buildings.
Economy, Edmonds said, has to balance the needs of the tax base to fund the city and creating living wage jobs. In that, she praised Ypsi’s downtown for being diverse in terms of accommodations for different income levels, races and ethnicities. She wants to keep it that way.
Edmonds started a food-accessibility non-profit Growing Hope in 1999. From a simple backyard garden, she moved across Ypsi to provide quality, reliable, local food to residents. They run two farmer’s markets – one in Depot Town and one Downtown.
A big issue for students on campus is food accessibility. Edmond’s organization operates on an $85,000 budget, so expanding the food market to campus is something she wants to do, but she said she would need the support of campus to make it happen.
But in a city where according to the US Census, 14.8% of the people live in poverty, food accessibility is still an issue.
Students also asked questions about transit. Although not making any promises, students discussed moving the bus stop or increasing security around it. Students also talked about the Depot Town Train Station’s sometimes precarious position.
The city has $2 million to remodel the building to get it to be an active stop again. Amtrak’s train, the Wolverine, could be serving Ypsi on its Chicago to Detroit line, three times a day each way. But at best, that won’t happen for 2 to 3 years.