Harpoon Notes for June 13, 2018

The Rotary Bell was rung, and everyone stood to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” President John smiled at Past President Downs Herold, who came to the podium for the Inspiration. “It’s been 20 years since I gave the Inspiration — they called it ‘The Invocation’ then,” Downs began as images of Gauguin’s eponymous painting, one of his last, filtered into the mind of your reporter. Downs continued, “Today our speaker, Eli Cooper, will speak to us about transportation in Ann Arbor.” This led to several examples of Murphy’s Law, which Downs related with obvious mirth: “…Number 9: ‘If all the cars in America were put end-to-end, a guy from Ohio would be stupid enough to pass them all’…And the last — ‘When you go to court, remember you’re putting your fate in the hands of 12 people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty!'” Everybody laughed heartily as Downs tried to settle down what he’d started by evoking The 4-Way Test: “Let’s recite it together,” he directed. This was admirably done by the assembly with all due reverence (and with only occasional glances at the blue banner).

That musical dynamic duo, PPs Ingrid Sheldon and Maurita Holland then led us in song. “Daisy Bell,” “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips,” and “In My Merry Oldsmobile” cheered one and all. Seated behind your reporter two members could be heard giggling, “Oh, do you remember Tiny Tim singing that with his ukulele on T.V.?” Instant flashbacks of ’68 came flooding in. What can one say? A cross to bear then; intolerable now.

“It’s so nice to have Maurita back to play the piano!” John declared. “Welcome to you all — members, guests, and visiting Rotarians.” Members then stood to introduce their guests. There was PP Ashish Sarkar: “Please welcome Varsha Mehta, the wife of world-famous Manish Mehta”; Rosemarie Rowney: “Ralph Rickshaw — his real last name is Zuke — is pedaling his rickshaw from St. Louis, where he is a Rotary club president, all the way to the International Conference in Toronto to bring attention to our fight against polio. Please support Ralph [with a donation] to End Polio Now!”; Ebru Misirli introduced her friend Yoruk, who is visiting from Turkey; and PP Collyer Smith introduced Kirk Westfall, an urban planner.

Rosemarie came to the podium. “We have 10 new cases of polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” she observed. Please help me to welcome Ralph Zuke, who is riding his rickshaw (a comfortable Barcalounger) to the International Conference in Toronto!” Ralph, a tall, muscularly-built man, confessed right off, “I was 25 pounds heavier when I announced that I was going to do this…I’m having a blast.” He regaled his audience about how he decided, precipitously as it turns out, to pedal a Barcalounger rickshaw to Toronto, “to do what I could to End Polio Now. We’re this close to eradicating polio,” he declared, squinching forefinger and thumb to a millimeter apart. “But there are 10 new cases this year, so please help!” Ralph informed his listeners that he would be giving rides around the Weber’s parking lot to anybody who would like one after the meeting. John’s eyes were seen to positively sparkle at the prospect. But he had the rest of the meeting to get through.

Special Note: A real effort was made by Lauren Heinonen, Rosemarie, and fellow Rotarians to gather donations for Ralph before and after the meeting. Bravo! (See photos of the rickshaw rides on separate article- Rickshaw Ralph’s Ride to End Polio)!!

Shelley MacMillan announced that this Friday, June 15, at ten o’clock “our own Burt Voss will be our speaker. There’s plenty of parking — and cookies. Hope to see you then.”

Eric Lipson then intoduced our speaker, City of Ann Arbor Transportation Manager Eli Cooper. “We disagree on many political issues,” Eric pointed out while acknowledging the crucial need to improve Ann Arbor’s mass transit infrastructure. In terms of auto transport, Eric noted “Eli is known as a menace to motorists.” “Thank you, Eric, for your kind introduction,” Mr. Cooper began, amid much laughter. “What I’m here to talk about is ‘working on the railroad.'” Eli’s first slide appeared on the screen. Titled Ann Arbor Station Environmental Review, it listed the options that Eli’s staff and advisors considered in proposing a new city train station. He prefaced his remarks with the observation, “The Ann Arbor community has the highest level of rail ridership in the state…The present station serves 150 riders a day — with parking spaces for 50.” Clearly an antiquated facility. He then projected demand into the future: “From 150-160,000 riders annually, we project that by 2035 we’ll have one million!” In a nutshell, Eli’s presentation charted the evolution of thinking in regard to placement of the new station and ensuring for adequate parking. From considering, believe it or not, the requisitioning of the Gandy Dancer restaurant and returning it to its Michigan Central origins, to locating the new station on one or the other side of the MDOT rail right-of-way, his team finally decided on an elevated station straddling the track, accessible to pedestrians north and south by a bridge-walkway. The old parking lot will remain, Eli pointed out, but additional spaces would be carved out of Fuller Park. However, the environmental impact would be slight, he insisted. “By August or September, we’ll be back to the public with a new document [final plan]. This [procedure] has been fact-based. We’re doing it ‘the Ann Arbor way.'” Eli provided his contact information: ecooper@a2gov.org.

John thanked our speaker warmly, then reminded everyone of JET: “Join leaders, Exchange ideas, Take action!”