What is at Stake for Ann Arbor in the Primary Election of August 7, 2012?Posted: August 5, 2012
I’ve made an effort ever since filing for Ann Arbor City Council, 5th Ward, City Council to make the campaign be about the issues and my qualifications to serve. I’ve always found “oppositional” campaigning to be repugnant and I’ve been fortunate in an opponent who was willing to campaign in a gentlemanly manner as well. He is Chuck Warpehoski, a decent, sincere guy with an appealing family. (I’ll just refer to him as CW from here on out, with respect.)
But it has become increasingly apparent that 5th ward voters are not receiving the information they need to make this choice, and this election, like so many others, does have consequences. In our literature, we often seem to be saying the same thing (apart from my references to experience); indeed, CW’s latest mailing, with its emphasis on neighborhoods, local architecture and business, and community engagement, could almost have been lifted from my early literature.
But we do in fact have very different styles and policy stances, and which one is elected makes a difference to the City of Ann Arbor as a whole.
One inescapable thing about this election is that it is to some extent a referendum on the direction Ann Arbor has been going for the last 10 years (and more) under the leadership of John Hieftje as Mayor. It is also inescapable that there are four candidates (of whom I am one) who are in opposition to many of the policy directions of recent years.
The news media have picked this up. Perhaps you saw the article in the August Ann Arbor Observer titled “End of the Party” (a sly reference to the term I created for the Mayor’s majority bloc, the “Council Party”) Reporter Jim Leonard frames the entire election for Council as a contest between the Mayor’s allies and his potential opponents. As Leonard says, “At stake in the August 7 Democratic primary election is the council majority of Mayor John Hieftje – and with it, the future direction of Ann Arbor.”
The article by Ryan Stanton on AnnArbor.com reaches similar conclusions. As he says, “Mayor John Hieftje and his political allies hold a 7-4 majority right now on the Ann Arbor City Council, but the ruling coalition’s ability to pursue its agenda is in jeopardy with four hotly contested council races on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.” (In addition to the 5th Ward race, Jack Eaton and Sally Hart Petersen are opposing incumbents Margie Teall and Tony Derezinski, and Sumi Kailasapathy is opposed by Eric Sturgis, who enjoys many Council Party endorsements.)
Is it fair to lump CW in with the others of the Mayor’s allies? Seems so, since he has been endorsed not only by the Mayor and by the retiring Council Party incumbent Carsten Hohnke (who reputedly recruited CW as his successor), but by many other members of the Ann Arbor political establishment, from Congressman John Dingell to kingmaker County Commissioner Leah Gunn (Gunn has endorsed and often been on the campaign committee for virtually every one of the Council Party’s members, and the Mayor himself). All these politicians must know what side he is on.
So what about the contenders on the other side? We don’t have a cute name, at least none invented by me. And actually, we are all individuals. There is no common agenda or “slate”. We have had only incidental conversations and have not coordinated our positions at all, though many elements turn out to be similar. Probably one of the outstanding characteristics is that we are all rather independent and not likely to surrender to pressure to vote en bloc. Not even our bloc.
I have few endorsements, but they are good ones. Mike knows that I can be counted on for a vigorous defense of my views, as well as an obsessive attention to detail.
Jane gets this too. Note the “independence” theme. I expect that if I am elected, I’ll be having good heated discussions with Mike and Jane. We won’t vote in lockstep. We’ll improve each other’s understanding. We’ll still be colleagues and fellow advocates for the citizens of Ann Arbor after each meeting.
Don’t think of this as a choice between partisan factions. Think of it as liberating the Council for serious consideration and debate on important issues. (Most housekeeping issues are passed through by Council without dissent and I expect that to be unchanged.)
I’ve said repeatedly in debates and interviews that what I want to see is a “deliberative” council. Sad to say, even when Council has had endless meetings into the small hours of the morning, it has often been about vanishingly small details of language and to some extent about posturing for the camera.
I hope and believe that the next Council will be one where issues are thrashed out at their core, beginning with early notice to both the Council and the public of major initiatives, and a good public debate about their value.
Let’s decide the future of Ann Arbor on the merits, after full disclosure of details, consequences, and the views of our citizen/voters.
Tomorrow: what are some specifics of likely outcomes, either way?