Liz Hornyak: On this week's episode, COVID-19 negatively impacts local housing insecurity, officials suspect malicious intentions behind the fire at Ford Early Learning Center, and the university is in a negotiating war with part-time lecturers.
On July 15, Gov. Whitmer’s executive moratorium order ended. This order prevented eviction of tenants and of mobile home owners, and delayed rent payments. On top of that, unemployment benefits of six-hundred dollars provided under the CARES act, will end July 31, leaving many families and individuals struggling to pay for housing and other necessities.
The Washtenaw Housing Alliance and the Washtenaw County Continuum of Care Board are working to help struggling families.
On June 17, in anticipation of the financial struggles that many would face this month, the Washtenaw County Continuum of Care Board voted to allocate $370,000 dollars of the CARES grant funds to help families pay back rent that is now due. The board also voted to increase staffing at the Legal Services of South Central Michigan. The organization provides legal counsel to those who can’t afford it. A study conducted by University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions showed that between 2014-2018, among Washtenaw County eviction cases, only 2.4% of tenants were represented by an attorney versus 90.5% of landlords represented by an attorney.
Even though these resources are available now, experts believe that housing insecurity in Washtenaw County will only worsen as a result of students returning to school and competing for affordable housing.
Ford Early Learning Center on Clark Rd. caught on fire on the evening of July 15, resulting in $500,000 in damages. It took fire officials three hours to contain and extinguish the fire. Officials believe this fire was suspicious, and have released surveillance of an individual that was in the area the day the fire occurred. If you have any information regarding this incident, please contact Det. Mike Babycz via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave an anonymous tip at 734.973.7711.
In university news: Tense contract negotiations are under way between EMU administration and the EMU Federation of Teachers. The EMUFT is the university’s part-time lecturers’ union. At the last minute, university administrators added new clauses to part-time lecturers contracts and decided to dissolve the bargaining team. The clauses include part-time lecturers taking a zero percent pay increase for the 2020-2021 school year, and to only take a one percent pay increase for the next two academic years. With the dissolving of the bargaining team, the university has hired Dykema law firm for future negotiations. According to the EMUFT, this law firm is known for using anti-union tactics.
Prior to the last-minute changes, which were made on July 2, contract details had been mostly agreed upon by both the university administration as well as the EMUFT. According to the EMUFT, the relationship between the part-time lecturers and the university administration had been improving during negotiations up until these changes were made. The changes will now extend contract negotiations into another month.
According to a report by the American Federation of Teachers, 25% of part-time faculty "rely on public assistance to survive.” 40% "have trouble covering basic household expenses”. EMUFT president Daric Thorne called the university’s decision to cut opportunities for full-time employment for its part-time lecturers "an absolute moral failing of this university.” The EMUFT is now bargaining for a contract that "provides a sustainable workload so part-time lecturers can focus on providing a quality education to EMU students.”
In local politics: Karen Lovejoy Roe and Michael White are both running in the Democratic primary for Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners District 5. District 5 covers both Ypsilanti and Augusta Township.
Karen Lovejoy was elected to Ypsilanti Township Supervisor in 1996, and then continued her career serving on the Board of Commissioners in 2006. Currently, she is serving as Ypsilanti Township Clerk, where she was first elected in 2008. Lovejoy Roe has earned a Bachelor's in Political Science, Sociology, and Education, and a Master's in Social Science from EMU.
If elected as county commissioner, Lovejoy Roe wants to build a YMCA on the eastside of Washtenaw County to provide access to community needs in that area. The project was proposed by Ypsilanti Township, and earlier this year, 25 acres of land were dedicated for development of the facility. She hopes that the project will be completed in 2022.
Lovejoy also wants to improve transportation by creating more bike lanes, sidewalks, and to expand public transportation. To raise money, Lovejoy wants to find alternative methods to implement her projects, rather than raising taxes.
Earlier this year, Lovejoy Roe faced allegations of collusion from several Ypsilanti Township leaders. Lovejoy Roe and Township Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe, who is related to Lovejoy Roe by marriage, both filed to keep their current positions in March. On April 21, the last day to file, both dropped out of those races and filed for different races. Lovejoy Roe filed for the Ypsilanti Board of Commissioners, while Jarrell Roe filed for Lovejoy Roe’s position as Township Clerk. With no other candidates filing for that race, Jarrell Roe became the sole candidate.
In a May 27 hearing, the Washtenaw County Circuit Judge denied any claims of corruption or collusion. Lovejoy Roe has yet to respond to a request for comment.
A second candidate, Michael White, is currently the chair of the Eastern Washtenaw Democratic Club. White has a bachelor’s degree from EMU and a master’s degree from CMU. According to a press release, he is currently working toward a doctorate in education technology at CMU.
If elected, White hopes to focus on housing, poverty, and creating criminal justice reform and economic opportunities. He plans to achieve this by reducing economic segregation through education programs, getting rid of barriers for equal opportunity employment, and including racial equality and social justice in all community decisions. White is endorsed by many Ypsilanti officials, including Ypsilanti Schools Superintendent James Hawkins, and Ypsilanti City Councilman Anthony Morgan. White did not respond to multiple requests for an interview with the Echo, so all of our information concerning White comes from his official campaign website and press releases.
Be sure to listen to last week’s episode to hear about other candidates running for the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. Or, you can go to our website and look up the Ypsi Votes series, where our editor-in-chief Austin Elliot has written a series of articles covering various local candidates in the upcoming state primary election.
Written: Jasmine Boyd
Host: Liz Hornyak
Produced: Lauren Smith