The first major snowstorm of the season last week brought more to Ann Arbor than just a reason to go sledding. The city’s responsiveness in clearing the snow was lackluster at best: Even State Street wasn’t plowed until hours after the snow began to pile up. Perhaps most damning is the fact that many student neighborhoods remained unplowed several days later, which reveals a marked lack of concern for student interests. All of Ann Arbor’s residents – even those pesky, fly-by-night students – deserve timely services. However, problems like this will only be corrected if students can be convinced to play the part of informed citizen and assertively voice their concerns.
Unplowed roads create unnecessary hazards, even for good drivers. The University never closes because of show, and students who rely on their cars to get to school are put at unnecessary risk because their neighborhood roads are not cleared of snow. Furthermore, the traffic delays and poor driving conditions that could be ameliorated by increased efforts to clear the streets often make punctual classroom attendance difficult for on-campus drivers and commuters alike.
The concerns of students should always be considered the city’s problem in a college town. But the city cannot be held wholly responsible for these problems. Landlords who are required to clear snow from the walkways and driveways often do not make good on their promises. The city – but also the student tenants themselves – have done little to redress this problem in an appropriate public forum. Complaints about the city’s lax wintertime road maintenance and negligence by landlords abound in student conversations, but few people do more than write a strongly-worded letter to the editor.
Underneath the layers of compacted snow and ice, residential road maintenance is a civic problem, and it is another gnawing indicator of apathy within the student body. If the treacherous local roads are as much of a hazard or hassle as we make them out to be, we must take initiative and lobby for our needs.
Students make up a significant portion of Ann Arbor’s population, and we are capable of demanding an improvement in Ann Arbor’s public services through communication with City Hall. Last year’s improved housing ordinance has demonstrated that students can make a difference in local politics and can force City Council to consider students’ concerns – even if the ordinance is merely an initial step in solving student housing problems. If students can be convinced to unite in fielding their complaints directly to city, there is a good chance that the city’s response to future snowstorms will be more timely and more thorough.
Last week’s snowstorm serves as a reminder of local politicians’ lack of interest in student concerns, but moreover, it reveals that the roots of their apathy are fed by students themselves. We have to voice our concerns loudly, consistently and to the right parties. It is the job of good citizens to speak out so that elected officials can execute the jobs that they may otherwise overlook. Local politicians will listen foremost to those residents who hold them accountable. It’s time students start doing that.