Ann Arbor Mayoral Race: Hieftje or Bean

Five-term incumbent faces independent challenger

In the mayor’s race, Ann Arbor voters are offered a choice in the Nov. 2 general election between Democratic incumbent John Hieftje and independent candidate Steve Bean. On the last Monday in September, the League of Women Voters hosted a forum for the mayoral candidates. The mayoral forum took place at Community Television Network studios and was recorded – it is available online through CTN’s video-on-demand service.

Welcome to Ann Arbor sign

In contrast to other members of the city council, which represent one of five wards in the city, Ann Arbor's mayor is elected by all Ann Arbor voters. Kudos to any reader who can recognize the location of this sign.

By way of general background, in Ann Arbor, the mayor is elected for a two-year term and is a member of the 11-member city council. The other 10 members of the council come from the city’s five wards – each ward has two seats on the council, one of which is elected each year for a two-year term. In addition to the rights and responsibilities of a councilmember, the city charter assigns the mayor other rights, including: a veto power, the responsibility to make appointments to committees, certain powers during emergencies, and the responsibility to preside over city council meetings. The management of the city is handled by a city administrator [Roger Fraser], who is hired by the city council. The mayor’s annual salary is $42,436.

Hieftje has served as mayor for the last 10 years, first elected in 2000 after serving half a term on the Ann Arbor city council representing Ward 1. At the League’s forum, Bean highlighted his own record of 20 years of service to the city on the energy and environmental commissions – currently chairing the environmental commission. Board and commission service for the city is not compensated.

The two men share many similar views – they occasionally expressed their agreement with each other’s views during the forum. They get along well socially – in fact, they carpooled together to the League of Women Voters event. Still, it’s possible to discern some differences between the two candidates on local issues as well as in their national perspective.

For example, Bean’s take on the proposed Fuller Road Station is that a citizen vote is needed and that the accompanying parking deck doesn’t move us in the right direction of alternative transportation. Hieftje, on the other hand, promoted the location as the best place in all of Michigan for a transit center. Hieftje’s focus on the city’s budget is to continue to find efficiencies to reduce expenses in the face of declining state and federal revenues, while Bean’s perspective seems to include more prominently the possibility of a severe national financial crisis that could be further complicated by declining world oil production capacity.

Bean and Hieftje’s responses are described in greater detail below.

Opening statement

Each candidate made a 1-minute opening statement.

Bean’s Opening

Steve Bean said that the reason he’s running for mayor is to bring to our local government the context of climate change, peak oil and a future financial crisis. He said he didn’t feel like we take that broader context enough into consideration at the local level. He noted he has more than 20 years of experience in local Ann Arbor government, serving on the environmental commission – for the last five years as chair – and also the energy commission prior to that. He said that if people didn’t hear their questions answered that evening, to contact him and he’d be happy to respond.

Hieftje’s Opening

John Hieftje thanked the League of Women Voters for hosting the event. He said that the last decade has been a tough one for the country and the entire world and certainly for local governments in Michigan. He allowed that cuts have had to be made, but said that Ann Arbor has done this through finding greater efficiencies – he contended that about the same work is done by the city as was done 10 years ago, but with many fewer people. He said that while other cities in Michigan have had to raise taxes, the millage rate in Ann Arbor is slightly lower now than it was 10 years ago. Ann Arbor will need to focus on finances, he said. He said he felt that Ann Arbor will be able to “keep all the balls in the air” as we move forward with the various initiatives that the city has in place.


Question: What challenges specifically will the city face in the next two years?

Hieftje on Challenges: Financial challenges are major

John Hieftje said that every city needs to be focused most acutely on the bottom line financially – we don’t know what to expect from the state in terms of state revenue sharing, he said. He noted that the state has recent cut state revenue sharing as well as funding for roads, funding for the arts, and funding that was previously available for affordable housing. Federal funding has also decreased, he said. Finances will continue to be a major chore, Hieftje said, and he thinks that the city will continue to do a good job of that. That doesn’t mean the city can’t continue to look at alternative transportation and be one of the nation’s leaders in environmental issues, he said.

Bean on Challenges: Financial challenges will become more serious

Steve Bean said that he largely agrees with Hieftje – that the financial situation is already a challenge. He said he felt that we’d see rising gasoline prices, which will dampen economic growth. We’re in a situation where we can’t expect to get out of the recession very soon, Bean said, so we’ll likely go into a deeper recession. We have an opportunity to continue to be creative and innovative in continuing our quality of life, he said, but it will be very challenging and we need to be open to exploring alternatives.

Mayor’s Role

Question: What role does the mayor play in a city manager type of government such as we have in Ann Arbor, and what strengths would you bring to that role?

Bean on Mayor’s Role: Leadership

Steve Bean said that the mayor plays primarily a leadership role, both on the city council and in the community. The 11-member council develops policy for the community and directs administration and staff, and it’s the mayor’s role to guide that process. It’s also important for the mayor to play an educational role in the community about what we’ll likely face in the future – about budget issues as well as opportunities.

Hieftje on Mayor’s Role: Evolution of role due to electronic communication

John Hieftje said that as the system is set up, the city administrator handles the day-to-day activities and makes sure the garbage gets collected. The mayor and the city council hire the city administrator and the city attorney, he said. He compared the mayor to the chairman of the board of directors, but said that there’s a lot of room for the mayor to be more active or less active – he characterized his own approach as more active.

He said that the role of mayor and the city council had changed over the years, particularly with the growth of electronic mail. People take advantage of the fact that the mayor and city council members are very accessible through electronic mail. As a result, the mayor and the city council are the liaison to the community, which is as appropriate, he said. The role of the council has expanded, Hieftje said, and in the past decade it has taken a greater role in watching over city finances and making sure that the work that’s done throughout the city meets the expectation of the residents. There’s been an evolution in the roles of mayor and city council, he said, compared to the way they’ve been set up in the city charter.

Parks: Golf

Question: Are the city parks under threat? For example, what should be the future use of Huron Hills golf course?

Hieftje on Golf: Huron Hills needs to pay for itself

John Hieftje characterized Huron Hills as a beautiful piece of property. He said the city has been struggling for a couple of years to see if it can be made to pay for itself, so that golf is not taking away from the general fund budget. Golf seems to be on the decline as a sport, he said, with many golf courses built over the last several years going out of business or being converted to other uses. If Huron Hills can make a go of it as a golf course, he said, that would be a great thing.

Hieftje mentioned that the city has put out a request for proposals (RFP) on the course to try to get some new ideas, but that it would certainly remain a park. He said the golf task force had made a lot of progress and Huron Hills is a better course than it was before – it’s less expensive to play. If it turned out that it could not be made to be viable as a golf course, there could be some other park use for the land.

Bean on Golf: Why not Leslie, too?

Steve Bean said that for the short term it would be preferable for it to be a viable golf course. In the future, he said, he agreed with Hieftje that if it can’t be viable as a golf course, it should remain a park. He asked, however, if we are exploring the possibility of making Huron Hills viable with a private operator, why we are not doing the same thing with the city’s other golf course – Leslie Park golf course. He said that we are not being consistent in that respect.

Parks: Fuller Road Station

Question: Is a parking garage and transit station an appropriate use of Fuller Park?

Bean on FRS: Citizen vote is needed

Steve Bean said he tended to look at the question as: Is a parking structure appropriate at all? The concept for Fuller Road Station, he said, is to develop a train station, but a parking structure is not moving us in the direction of alternative transportation or in bringing in commuters on a train line. He said there’s an agreement with the community regarding how to use park land in the long term – it’s a matter of semantics, he said, and he felt it should be put to a vote and get community buy-in before going forward.

That’s especially true, Bean said, because there is no commitment beyond a parking structure at this point. In order to get the long-term commitment for a transit station with trains and buses, we need to get the community’s full support, he said.

Hieftje on FRS: Full support

John Hieftje said that while the place where there’s a paved parking lot at the base of the University of Michigan hospital is “technically park land,” it’s been a parking lot since 1993. There was a land swap with the university, he said. The key point, he said, is that the location is possibly the best place in the state of Michigan for a transit station. There are 18,000 people who go there every day, Hieftje said, 12,000 of whom work there and 6,000 who are patients and visitors. There are 4,000 people with an Ypsilanti zip code who work there. He described a train that would allow them to commute to UM as a huge economic development tool for Ypsilanti. He said that like Bean, he’d like to see the number of automobile trips into the city limited, but he does not think they should be trying to “starve” the most vital employer in the city. As far as the park question, it has not been what we think of as a park for a very long time, he said.


Question: Development is always a hot topic in Ann Arbor. There may be an attempt to bring back Heritage Row/City Place to the city council. Which of these projects do you think would be the best use of the property: Heritage Row or City Place?

By way of background, Heritage Row is 154-bedroom residential project, which would have been located on the block of Fifth Avenue, south of William Street. Heritage Row was rejected by the council at its June 21, 2010 meeting, on a 7-4 vote in favor of it, falling one vote short of the super-majority needed to approve the planned unit development (PUD) project. The super-majority was needed because of a protest petition filed by nearby property owners.

Heritage Row was brought back for reconsideration at a subsequent council meeting on July 6, 2010, but again failed, that time on a 7-3 vote. It was nearly brought back a third time – on that same evening. But Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) abandoned the effort in the middle of a parliamentary procedure that had appeared momentarily would result in another vote, this time with Hohnke providing the deciding vote in favor of Heritage Row. Hohnke had voted against the project on both previous occasions.

The developer of Heritage Row, Alex De Parry, has an already approved “matter of right” 144-bedroom project in the same location as Heritage Row – called City Place. Approved last year, the City Place project contrasts with Heritage Row in that it would demolish seven existing houses and replace them with a streetscape consisting of two buildings separated by a parking lot. In the Heritage Row project, the seven houses would be renovated, and three additional buildings would be constructed behind them, with parking located under the site. At a recent Sunday night caucus, the prospects for Heritage Row getting a third consideration by the council looked slim [Caucus Chess Talk: Building City Place].

Hieftje on Development: Heritage Row would be better

John Hieftje noted that the proposal for a historic district in that area failed. [Hieftje voted for the district.] That means, he said, that the developer could choose to pull a permit for demolition of the houses next week if he chose to do so – the houses belong to him. He said he’d prefer to see Heritage Row than City Place, because Heritage Row would preserve the seven houses. He noted that he’d voted for it at the last council meeting.

He then said he wanted to “drop back” to the question about the Fuller Road Station question and said that he’d agonized over the project. He contended that you’d be hard pressed to find a mayor who had done more for parks. The Fuller Road Station situation would be different, he said, because the university would be a user and the city would also be a user, and eventually Amtrak would be a user. We have an opportunity to use the university’s investment to make the entire match that’s required for federal money, he said. That’s why the city is continuing to pursue that project, he said.

Bean on Development: Let’s reflect on the accumulation of lots

Steve Bean said that Heritage Row is definitely a preferable option between the two – Heritage Row and City Place. But he said he didn’t see those as the only choices. He noted that The Moravian had also been proposed in the same neighborhood.

Both Heritage Row and The Moravian were planned unit developments, he said, where the developer had accumulated multiple lots and put them together for the project. Bean said that he did not feel that the PUD process or the zoning for that neighborhood [R4C – multi-family dwelling] anticipated that kind of proposal. He said it’s inappropriate for the city to accept those kinds of proposals until we define what constitutes a public benefit in those kinds of areas. He called for a community discussion about the near-downtown neighborhoods and whether we wanted to expand the downtown.

Development: Washtenaw Avenue Corridor

Question: Would you favor the development of a corridor improvement authority for Washtenaw Avenue that would oversee development from East Stadium Boulevard to the Ypsilanti water tower? If so, should the authority have the ability to capture future tax increases that results from new development along Washtenaw Avenue?

Bean on Washtenaw Avenue: Support for an authority

Steve Bean said that such a corridor improvement authority was very appropriate, because that might be the only way development would occur along that transit corridor the way we’d like it to. It’s an important connection between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, he said. It’s currently not very pedestrian-friendly – the street width and the setbacks are not helpful in that sense and it’s not safe to bicycle on. Bringing buildings closer to the street – along the lines of the new area, height, and placement changes – would help, he said. Bean said that the authority should include stakeholders along the corridor, in particular those in Ypsilanti.

Hieftje on Washtenaw Avenue: Not sure about tax increment financing

John Hieftje said he felt that Bean had described it very well. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done there, which currently has a strip mall kind of look to it. He said he had some questions about establishing a tax increment financing (TIF) zone out there – that would need to be looked at very carefully. But he suggested that some kind of mechanism was needed to help finance improvements in the corridor.

He then said he wanted to go back to the previous question about Heritage Row and City Place. He said it was important for people to understand that because the historic district had not been approved, it leaves it open for City Place to be developed. He noted that seven city councilmembers, including himself, believed that Heritage Row would be a better way to go. The developer might have to go through with the City Place development, he said, which would be a shame, because it would remove the seven old houses, completely changing the look of the street.

Budget: Expenses or Revenue?

Question: Looking at the city budget, what further cuts, if any, would you favor? Should the city look for additional sources of revenue – and if so, what?

Hieftje on Budget: Additional cuts will be needed

John Hieftje said that the last decade had been the worst financially of any decade since the 1930s. Unlike other cities, Ann Arbor has not raised taxes, he said, with a millage rate a little bit lower than it was 10 years ago. The city would continue to look for efficiencies without targeting any one thing, he said. The last fiscal year, ending on June 30, had finished with a modest surplus, he said. He characterized the general fund reserve as adequate and said that compared to other cities, we’re doing very well.

Hieftje said we’d probably need to make some additional cuts this year and the year after that, and they’d watch the state budget to see what happens there. He said he didn’t want to put a finger on any one area to see where to make cuts. Up to now, the city had been trying to find efficiencies through the whole system. He concluded by saying that he was sure they’d get through the next budget year.

Bean on Budget: Need to prepare for crisis of inflation or deflation

Steve Bean said he agreed with Hieftje that we shouldn’t choose winners and losers about where to make budget cuts. He anticipates that we will need to make further cuts. The next decade might be worse than the previous one, he warned. He said he’d encourage the city administrator to develop a budget that anticipates either inflation or deflation in the future. We need to be prepared for more volatile financial situations. What he’d prioritize, Bean said, was ways to transition away from reliance on fossil fuels. Services that involve moving a lot of trucks around, he said, we need to think of ways to reduce. He suggested we could put more police on bicycles or think of other ways to move in that direction.

Business Climate

Question: How would you rate the business climate in Ann Arbor? Is there anything we can do to make it better? If so, what?

Bean on Business: Generally good climate, energy improvements can help

Steve Bean said the business climate is relatively good, considering the broader context of the state and the nation, where the climate is not so good. He said he serves on the board of Think Local First and certainly supports local and independently owned businesses, and through that effort we can cooperate more at the local level and find ways for local businesses to be more successful.

The property assessed clean energy (PACE) program could be helpful in that sense, he said, where low-interest loans could be extended to businesses to help finance energy improvements. Hopefully down the road, he said, homeowners would also be able to take advantage of PACE. It would help them to be more energy efficient, so that their money stays in the local economy and supports it rather than going to fuel sources outside the state and the community.

Hieftje on Business: Quality of life is key

John Hieftje said that Ann Arbor has one of the best business climates in the state. He also said that Ann Arbor competes with cities around the world for top-level researchers and other talent. He said he believed in continuing to invest in and improve Ann Arbor’s quality of life, because it’s an attractant to the best talent in the world – that’s an accepted theory about attracting the creative class, he said. He suggested continuing down that road. We have beautiful parks and a clean, green environment, stable finances, a good public school system, a great university. He also cited awards won by the city.

Closing statements

Each candidate gave a 2-minute closing statement.

Hieftje’s Closing

John Hieftje said it’s vitally important to continue to improve our quality of life. The city continues to win many awards, he said. He distanced himself from the idea that the awards have literal significance but said that winning them was better than not winning them and they indicated we’re moving in the right direction. The fact that Ann Arbor is an attractive place to live is our economic calling card, he said. We’re also doing many things to move towards sustainability. This year, he said, Ann Arbor had achieved 20% renewable energy for the municipal government. A lot of that had been achieved through reducing energy use. The city’s work for the environment, as well as his own work, has been recognized, citing his endorsement by environmentalists locally and various organizations.

He also said that the financial picture is very important – that’s the bottom line.

Bean’s Closing

Steve Bean said that he’s very much in agreement with Hieftje about the quality of the community, its residents, the university, and the resources we have, including the people. He said that he wanted to say a bit about himself, because people might not be familiar with him. He said he’d live in Ann Arbor for 28 years, came to study physics as well as ecology and environmental policy, and decided to stay. While still a student, he said, he’d become involved in city issues around recycling, and since then he’s served for over 20 years on city commissions – the environmental and energy commissions.

Bean also noted that he’s served as a park steward, served on the Think Local First board, volunteers with a number of nonprofits, works for a small business in the city, and was married for a time to a small business owner on Main Street. So he has familiarity with the downtown and the local business situation, he concluded. His focus, he said, is not just on what we’ve been doing so well, but to look at the challenges we face if the financial situation get worse, if oil prices go up – now that we’re probably past the world’s peak capacity to produce oil. We need to transition away from fossil fuels, he said, and be creative and innovative. To do that, we’ll need to work together, he said. We need to be open to other possibilities without believing we have all the answers, he said.


  1. By Mark Koroi
    October 4, 2010 at 10:07 pm | permalink

    Has Steve Bean put up a campaign website yet?

  2. By Dave Askins
    October 4, 2010 at 10:17 pm | permalink

    RE: [1] Yes, his name at the start of this article links to the site.

  3. By Mark Koroi
    October 4, 2010 at 10:19 pm | permalink

    Thank you, Dave.

  4. By anon-u-are
    October 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm | permalink

    Well, after looking at Steve Bean’s website I’ve learned:

    -he’s not running, the back of his head is (judging by the photo)

    -and the back of his head has no issues to run on(judging by the content-free-content of the website)

    -Still, even a non-candidate candidate should probably get more votes than Lesko. Sigh.

  5. By Mark Koroi
    October 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm | permalink

    In 2008, a 20-year old undergradute student named Eric Plourde ran on the Libertarian ticket against Mayor Hieftje in the general election with a largely invisible campaign and pulled in 14.72% of the vote; Lesko received 15.54% in the Democratic primary in 2010.

    Plourde received and endorsement from Ron Paul and was “ecstatic” about the results of the election. Lesko was not as enthusiatic about her finish.

    Given that Councilperson Marcia Higgins in 2002 could only muster less than 25% of the general vote against the Burgermeister in that mayoral election despite being the GOP nominee suggests to me that the independent Bean’s quixotic quest for mayor will be a “success” if he can pull in 20% of the general vote in November.

    Steve can look back on this election as learning experience as it is his first try at elected office.

    My disappointment is that no Republican, Green Party, or Libertarian is running against Hizzoner.

  6. By ROB
    October 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm | permalink

    I’ll second that last comment Mr. Mark. Talk about Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum… they are practically mirror images (and not just ’cause they look alike), bookends no less. What a depressing choice. Everyone should just abstain from voting for mayor, so the totals will be so low that the result will be meaningless. Maybe then they will just go away.

  7. By Just Ken
    October 6, 2010 at 8:33 am | permalink

    Seeing that pretty much everyone in Ann Arbor is a progressive Democrat nowadays what sense does it make to keep the partisan political process? Unless you want the actual election to be the Democratic primary that is. While the pols no doubt would like to keep things this way because it allows them and a small group of followers to dominate the process Ann Arbor’s citizens and residents would be much better served by adopting the non-partisan system like most Michigan cities have. Let candidates run without having to put a D or R after their name and let a thousand flowers bloom. The voters can then pick the ones they like best. Staying with what we do now leaves the city’s governance to a small cabal of insiders within Ann Arbor’s very undemocratic Democratic Party.

  8. By Leslie Morris
    October 6, 2010 at 10:26 am | permalink

    If “pretty much everyone in Ann Arbor is a progressive Democrat nowadays”, why don’t they vote in (and run in) the Democratic primary? That’s what primaries are for.

  9. By Just Ken
    October 6, 2010 at 1:55 pm | permalink

    @ Leslie Morris,
    Things have changed a lot since you were on the council. Ann Arbor Democratic Party politico Tom Wieder explained the demographics thing to me in a response to to a post I made on Ann Weider says that there aren’t enough Republicans, independents, Greens, Libertarians in AA for them to have any dream of winning a council without some serious gerrymandering which is as I’m sure you know is against the charter. So like the old story goes “I know the game is rigged but it’s the only game in town. And that game is the Democratic primary.
    Or are you seriously arguing that no one but Democratic elites have anything to offer or contribute to the city? Are there no independents, Greens, Libertarians or even Republicans who have anything to offer? I just don’t believe that. And as long as AA keeps the partisan system for municipal elections were all stuck in a kinder, gentler version of 1962 East Germany.

  10. By Leslie Morris
    October 6, 2010 at 3:21 pm | permalink

    In other words, political minorities don’t win elections, and some people don’t like the fact that most people in Ann Arbor are Democrats. Nothing prevents anybody from running in the Democratic primary, or from running in a general election as an independent (see Steve Bean and Newcomb Clark), or from running as a Republican (see John Floyd), or as a Libertarian (see Emily Salvette).

  11. By Just Ken
    October 6, 2010 at 4:12 pm | permalink

    @ Leslie Morris
    Just sayin’.

  12. October 6, 2010 at 10:02 pm | permalink

    For those interested in some supporting material on my comments on the financial crisis (current, Dave, not future) we’re in, here’s the transcript of this week’s speech by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke that references the fiscal challenges facing all levels of government in the US: [link].

  13. By Just Ken
    October 7, 2010 at 6:46 pm | permalink

    @ Leslie Morris
    Get this. Jeff Irwin felt free to blow off a debate with his (“political minority” as you put it) opposition for a debate he agreed to do. And why not? He knows he gonna win any way, eh?

    And then this week from “Clark and Floyd are competing to oust incumbent Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, in the Nov. 2 general election. Clark, a commercial real estate professional, is a Democrat running without party affiliation in his first bid for public office. Floyd, an accountant who challenged Hohnke two years ago, is a Republican. Hohnke declined to participate in Wednesday’s debate.” [link]

    Carsten doesn’t care. He’s gonna win too and he knows and acts like it. Like I said, East Germany, 1962.
    Ahem. As I said Ms. Morris, East Germany, 1962.

  14. By Tom Hollyer
    October 7, 2010 at 8:37 pm | permalink

    I have to agree with Just Ken here. The city would be better served if council elections were non-partisan. Most people in Ann Arbor simply vote for whomever (whoever?… not sure of the grammar here) is on the Democratic ticket.

    Were the elections non-partisan, the debate would at least stand a chance of becoming one of issues. As it stands, they can talk, talk, talk and the candidate on the Democratic ticket will most likely win.

  15. By Leslie Morris
    October 8, 2010 at 9:27 am | permalink

    The majority of voters in most good-sized American cities are Democrats, so it is not surprizing that their city governments are dominated by Democrats. This holds true whether elections are partisan or non-partisan.

    There are two new factors which would be introduced if elections were non-partisan. One of these is that Democratic candidates who want the votes of resident Democrats would have to spend the money to get literature to the voters that included the information that they are Democrats, since that information would no longer be printed on the ballot.

    The other is that, depending on the form of non-partisan election chosen, the possiblity might exist that several Democratic candidates might be running against each other in a general election. In that case, the incumbent is usually elected, because a lot of people have a history of voting for him or her. In the case of an open seat, the person with the most name recognition, or the most money, or who works the hardest on the election would be the likely winner. This is exactly the situation in the current partisan Democratic primary.

    The problem members of political minorities have is not partisan elections, but the demography of Ann Arbor, which would not change if elections were non-partisan.

  16. October 8, 2010 at 10:03 am | permalink

    If Ann Arbor adopted non-partisan elections for City Council (joining, as I understand, almost all other Michigan cities), there would presumably be a primary in which several candidates of varying political affiliations would run, and the November election would essentially be a run-off of the top two vote-getters. But they would have previously been campaigning against each other in the primary.

    I would expect that the local Democratic party would move to endorsement of candidates in the primary. That would be a source of drama, with questions about “who is a Democrat”, etc., as I described in a blog post [link] a year ago (the last time this subject came up).

  17. By Just Ken
    October 8, 2010 at 10:19 am | permalink

    Leslie Morris is against full participatory democracy and in favor of a one-party rule in Ann Arbor because non-partisan candidates “…would have to spend the money to get literature to the voters.”[?] That’s some pretty weak tea Ms. Morris. This argument isn’t about saving candidates $50 in copying expenses Leslie. As noted in the previous posts Hohnke and Irwin didn’t have to spend a dime to blow off their debates. And Democratic Party apologists tell this system is the best of all possible systems. How many of us would shop at a grocery store that only had one brand of product instead of several to choose from?

  18. By Leslie Morris
    October 8, 2010 at 11:55 am | permalink

    Anybody is free to participate in any election under any of a large number of political party names, or as independents. But in a city where most people are Democrats, the winners will normally be Democrats. The same would be true if elections were non-partisan. I didn’t set set this up, and I am not defending it; I am just describing the demographic reality. Ann Arbor used to be a mostly Republican college town. Now it is an overwhelmingly Democratic city. Short of kicking a large number of Democrats out of Ann Arbor, and replacing them with an equally large number of unhappy Republicans, there is little that can be done to change this. I don’t necessarily think this is the most ideal situation, but it is often the way it happens in the U.S.A. (not East Germany). The question I have is why do so many Republicans dislike living in cities? That ultimately is what gives us the political result we see.

  19. By Leslie Morris
    October 8, 2010 at 12:44 pm | permalink

    One more note:

    School Board races are non-partisan, and all the School Board candidates this year are running unopposed. Lots of choice there? How about East Germany in 1962?

    Library Board races are also non-partisan, but all the candidates I plan to vote for are Democrats. I believe they are also the best candidates.

  20. By Jack F.
    October 8, 2010 at 2:05 pm | permalink

    So what about Council ‘Dems’ who are/were Republicans and jumped Parties because the kiss of death of being a Repub in A2? So are they ‘real’ Dems? DINO? I guess I’m a bit confused because several memeber of the current City Council don’t reflect the values of the Democratic Party I grew up with.

  21. October 8, 2010 at 6:32 pm | permalink

    Both national parties are broad coalitions with a variety of interest groups in them. In recent decades, for example, the Republicans have been a coalition of the rich and the crazy.

    There are only a few people who are only interested in “local” politics without also being interested in state and/or national politics. It is no surprise that most people on the Arbor City Council is out actively campaigning for state/national candidates right now. They are campaigning for Democrats.

    There are also very few folks in politics who are truly “independent”. Most people who identify themselves as independents are merely disgruntled partisans of one party of the other, or are folks who don’t actively participate in politics at all.

    So local politics is, in a way, an extension of state/national politics. This fact should be no surprise.

    If, contrary to all political reason, Ann Arbor should turn to “nonpartisan” elections, all that would happen is that voters would be deprived of a vital piece of information about candidates’ political identities and views.

    No wonder that the most prominent advocates of nonpartisan elections are Republicans who want to hide their true identities. People who are Republicans locally have deliberately identified themselves with the most retrograde and bizarre views in our nation. That is their choice (even though Republicans are anti-choice).

    They can run, but they can’t hide.

  22. October 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm | permalink

    @21: “political reason”=oxymoron=confusion.

    From a Chronicle Old Media Watch item from this summer [link]:

    “The Boston Globe reports on a UM study that found ‘when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs.’ The article quotes the study’s lead researcher, UM political scientist Brendan Nyhan: ‘The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong.’”

    “…voters would be deprived of a vital piece of information about candidates’ political identities and views.”

    Vital? Redundant, at best.

  23. October 9, 2010 at 9:15 am | permalink

    Vital? Essential.

    Steve Bean’s comments would be more credible if he were actively campaigning for mayor.

  24. October 10, 2010 at 11:36 pm | permalink

    By way of clarification of some of my statements from the forum as reported above:

    - I don’t tend to use the word “feel” when I mean “think”, or “needed” when I mean “appropriate”.

    - My pointing out the inconsistency with regard to RFP for Huron Hills wasn’t a suggestion that we should do it for Leslie, too, but simply a questioning of the thinking on that process.

    - My “more police on bicycles” comment was a question, not a suggestion. I pose a lot of questions as a means of exploring options.

    @4: The placeholder graphic on my web site (borrowed from the Chronicle by a well-meaning volunteer) has been replaced. The site wasn’t meant to go public until that had been done, but reporters wanted a link, and I didn’t have a chance to replace it. As for “issues to run on”, the Media Coverage page has links to articles (including this one) that include my comments on a number of issues. I’ll be adding more detailed statements and my responses to various survey questions submitted by various groups/sites as I find time.

    @5: Mark, you seem interested in improving democracy. I don’t see how your prognostications contribute to that. And an independent candidacy is “quixotic”, but a Republican, Libertarian, or Green candidacy wouldn’t be?

    @23:Thanks for the fine example of “political reason”, David.

    Dave, since no one else has taken a shot at it yet, I will. Is that the welcome sign on Dexter Rd.?

  25. October 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm | permalink

    I’m glad Steve is asking the questions about the fiscal crisis (and even peak oil). He seems to have a better grasp of the macro environment than John Hieftje who seems to boil down to a business-as-usual / wishful thinking model.

    I saw Rick Snyder’s ad the other day where he mentions a) that MI has lost 50% of all the jobs lost in the last 5 years and b) his master plan to solve the problem is to eliminate the business tax. It’s pretty obvious that most of those jobs were lost for reasons having nothing to do with the business tax, so how is eliminating going to create that many jobs?

  26. By John Dory
    October 17, 2010 at 5:16 pm | permalink

    One thing I have found interesting is that there seems to be a Green Party connection to the Bean candidacy.

    In the past, Steve has indicated he was once a member of the Huron Valley Greens. He has never stated why he left the group.

    Could you explain this, Steve.

    Mr. Bean’s campaign manager, Pete Schermerhorn, is a current Huron Valley Greens member and previously ran for City Council as a Green Party nominee.

    I believe that a Green Party designation on the ballot would have been benficial for Steve this November.

    All third parties on the Michigan ballot are expected to make record showings this November, including the Green Party.

    I shall be supporting the Green Party nominee in the 15th Congressional District race. Dr. Aimee Smith is a far better advocate of the environment than Dingell.

  27. By Pete Schermerhorn
    October 26, 2010 at 10:06 pm | permalink

    Once again, I’m not Steve’s campaign manager – but his treasurer. I know Steve from the days (years ago) when we were both in the Huron Valley Greens. Neither of us participate there now, for reasons which should be obvious to those paying attention to local politics (not the point of this article). I still identify as a Green in that I hold state party membership, but don’t participate directly, nor have any wish to. I don’t really advise Steve on political matters. We’re friends, and he tapped me because he knew I had been a campaign treasurer before.

    I can’t help but weigh in on the partisan/non-partisan debate just a bit. Yes, I did run in 2006 as a Green, and got around 16% of the vote. I worked hard in that race, and got a lot of support. The votes didn’t reflect that, in part because Michigan still has straight-ticket voting. In ‘important’ races, i.e., when state and federal offices are at stake, many people just vote straight-ticket. I think that does a disservice to the political process, in that voters don’t have to know anything about a candidate and his/her position, just affilitation – and in many cases not even the candidate’s name. It’s one-stop political shopping. If people were required to fill in a box for every race, yes, voting would take longer, but it would also be potentially much more thoughtful, and there would be a lot more cross-party voting – i.e., the best candidate has the best chance.

  28. October 26, 2010 at 10:34 pm | permalink

    I interviewed Steve Bean for my blog [link] and he gave some long and fairly explicit answers that might be of interest here. I have not endorsed him or anyone else.

  29. October 27, 2010 at 11:07 am | permalink

    “Could you explain this, Steve.”

    Sure, John. The explanation is that your statements are inaccurate, as Pete’s comment shows. No Green Party connection exists. As I wrote for the voter’s guide [link], “I’m an independent candidate because I prefer to build and serve a community rather than build and serve a political party.”