Attorney starts blog to help boost urban Ann Arbor


 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
One nametag is no longer enough for Ann Arbor attorney Joan Lowenstein.
These days, the politically active Ann Arbor booster is happy to plug her blog on her chest, as well.
Lowenstein, a former Ann Arbor City Council member who has lived in Ann Arbor since 1986, started the blog to help make Ann Arbor a better urban environment.
Emphasis on urban. 
As a Downtown Development Authority board member, Lowenstein worked on a project called “Connecting William Street” that sought to do some planning for the city’s surface parking lots. The process taught her that many people have no idea what an urban environment is.
Enter,, a platform for her to discuss just what makes a great city.
Lowenstein says Ann Arbor has thought of itself as a small town for so long that many people see it as sort of a suburb and their ideas about how it should develop follow suburban thinking.  And that translates to box-type stores with surface parking, meandering parks, car-oriented development, and a quiet nightlife, she says.
“This is not how Ann Arbor is developing and my goal is to educate people about urban development and how we can best usher it in,” says Lowenstein.  “This necessarily involves politics because Ann Arbor, unlike many other cities, has such a politically-driven development process.”
Lowenstein writes that Ann Arbor is a city, not a town, and that it should be headed toward increased mass transit, employment opportunities, and downtown development.
Lowenstein graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and worked as a TV reporter before she went to law school.
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s she wrote a column for The Ann Arbor News called “Legal Briefs” that digested legal issues and explained them for the average citizen.
Eventually, she may do the same on the blog.
In the meantime, she says the city’s lack of a daily newspaper has created a big gap in political analysis.
“We still have coverage of news by MLive/Ann Arbor News and very detailed coverage of public meetings by the Ann Arbor Chronicle, but the Chronicle doesn’t do much analysis or opinion and MLive is incapable of doing that since hardly anyone there knows enough detail about the city’s history,” she says. “Most people I know don’t have time to go online and find sources about urban development, public transit, and government best practices, so I’m going to attempt to do that.”
Because she’s opposed to the comment sections of online newspapers where people can use pseudonyms, the blog will not be the place to go if you want to be entertained by the rants of anonymous posters 
“If there are any real people with real names who want to talk to me, I am pretty easy to find,” she tells readers.
In fact, one former Ann Arbor News reporter, Steve Cain, did just that, and ended up writing a guest blog.
 “I am hoping this site will inspire the good leaders, deter the bad, and make the change that is inevitable a little less scary,” she writes. “I am devoted to making Ann Arbor a better city.”