At times you will hear criticism of the Alliance based on allegations that our group lacks transparency. This claim began when we held our first meeting and chose not to allow a reporter into the meeting. The reporter wrote this brief article on that meeting - Alliance of Neighborhoods Meeting Held
We believe that there is a fundamental distinction between the transparency required of public entities, such as City Council or the City Administration, and the transparency that is appropriate for a private association. In National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958), the Supreme Court ruled that Alabama's demand for the NAACP's membership lists violated the right of due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Private, public interest groups have the right to control who joins and who can know it list of members.
With regard to the complaints about this group, the following email exchange describes what happened:
From: Jack Eaton
Date: Sun, Sept 14, 2008 at 6:33 PM
Subject: Alliance of Neighborhood Associations
I am contacting you because you are listed as the contacts for the Lower Burns Park Neighborhood Association. Wendy Carman (Orchard Hill Maplewood Homeowners Association) and Jack Eaton (Friends of Dicken Woods) invite you to join neighborhood leaders from around the City to discuss proposed changes to the City Code. We have scheduled a preliminary organizational meeting of the Alliance of Neighborhoods, Wednesday October 1, in the 3rd floor Conference Room at the Main Library, 7:00 PM. We hope that you will join us.
The proposed zoning changes would dramatically increase both the permissible height and the permissible density of new developments in neighborhoods outside the downtown area. We believe that it is time to reactivate the old Neighborhood Alliance to create a coalition to oppose these changes. The attached letter explains in greater detail our objectives. Please feel free to print and distribute the letter to others who may be interested in joining the Alliance.
Sincerely, Jack Eaton
Date: Mon, Sep 15, 2008 at 12:22 PM
Subject: Re: Alliance of Neighborhood Associations
To: Jack Eaton
I am very interested and will do my best to attend the meeting. I may need to go out of town that afternoon. If so I will find a representative from the Lower Burns Park Association to attend in my place. This is exactly what needs to happen: I have been talking to several people about forming an alliance of all the neighborhood associations. Thank you for initiating this and we will be there!!!
On Mon, Sep 29, 2008 at 4:46 PM, Nancy wrote:
I cannot make the alliance of neighborhoods meeting this Wednesday evening. I have to go out of town that afternoon. If you cannot make it, do you know someone who might be interested in attending for our group?
This may be a meeting you would also like to attend. This seems to be the initiative to get a city wide alliance of all the neighborhood associations. I hope to attend, but may not be able to. Someone from our association should represent us. If you cannot attend, I will try to find someone who can.
The first Alliance meeting was held at 7:00 pm on October 1, 2008
Date: October 1, 2008 8:41:03 PM EDT
Subject: Re: Alliance of Neighborhood Associations
Unfortunately, the person who I asked to go to the group was refused entrance at the door (!)
Date: October 2, 2008 10:42:09 AM GMT-04:00
To: Jack Eaton
Subject: Fwd: Alliance of Neighborhood Associations
I am curious as to why the representative from the Lower Burns Park Neighborhood group was turned away from attending the meeting last night in my place. There must have been some misunderstanding. As I mentioned, I was not able to attend and we would be sending someone to represent our group.
Would you be kind enough to let me know what happened? I feel bad that this person was inconvenienced.
Thank you. Nancy
From: Alliance of Neighbors
To: Nancy, Wendy, Edward
I was sorry to hear that any neighborhood representative was turned away from the first meeting of the Alliance. I asked a couple members of my neighborhood group to sign-in the participants so we could develop the mailing list. I checked with them and they were aware of only one person being turned away - a reporter. If you provide me with the name and email address of the individual neighborhood representative who felt he or she had been turned away, I will write a note of apology to him or her. This is not what I intended.
A couple of activists brought to our attention that a member of the media -- Dave Askins, AnnArborChronicle.com -- was signing in. A few of us who had organized the meeting made a quick decision to exclude media from this one meeting to give us a chance to speak freely and do the messy work of organizing before we come under scrutiny. He has posted an article on that web site criticizing us for that. We intend to open up our meetings after the Alliance is actually an organization. In the meantime, I will post an appropriately contrite response on his web page.
I hope you will maintain your interest in this important coalition. The first meeting was quite successful, for an initial meeting. Soon we will select leadership and provide them with a formal decision making process. Until then, we are just doing the best we can.
To: Jack, Edward
Thank you very much for your clarification of this issue. Sorry for my late reply; I have been out of town, etc.
A member of our neighborhood association, Ed Vielmetti, had asked Dave Askins to attend in his place and mine. I do not know Dave and I don't think he is part of our association.
I understand both sides of this issue and am sorry this misunderstanding occurred.
I continue to be interested in the Alliance of Neighbors and hope to attend the next meeting. Again, I may have a travel conflict, I will be out of town Oct. 16 - Oct. 27., but I will remain in email contact.
Thank you again for all you efforts and I hope to meet you at the next meeting.
To: Nancy, Jack
Thank you for clarifying this.
Please remove me from your mailing lists.
I do not wish to be associated with your groups any more.
I do not wish you to use my membership in your groups to further your agenda.
From: Ann Arbor Neighborhoods
To: Edward, Nancy, Wendy
Nancy, Thank you for understanding and remaining interested. We'll be in touch.
Edward, I have removed your name from the Alliance mailing list. I am sorry that you are not interested in our agenda of having neighborhoods be considered stakeholders in city planning issues.
To Jack, Nancy, Wendy
Jack, you twist my words.
I am not interested in you appropriating my interest in the welfare of my neighbors for your own political agenda. In particular, I reject the notion that because I have joined a group that has a block party once in a while that that in turn gives the organizer of the group the authority to speak on my behalf to the city.