Comments on: Ypsilanti a Topic for AATA Planning Retreat it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Ruth Kraut Ruth Kraut Mon, 20 May 2013 02:59:40 +0000 I have wondered for a while whether it would be possible for AATA to run the AAPS transportation system and whether that would save the school district any money. (Yes, take over the whole kit and caboodle.) I think it’s worth investigating.

And I am still hoping that the school board will retain high school busing. There are kids who live outside of the AATA system but in the school district who will have a whole lot of trouble getting to school otherwise.

By: PeaceMonger PeaceMonger Mon, 20 May 2013 00:34:51 +0000 Mark Koroi writes:

“There have been possible conflict of interest issues noted by two journalists – Dave Askins and Pat Lesko.

“Dave Askins had noted that AATA board memebr David Nacht is an ACLU member. As such, his loyalty to ACLU’s lofty goals could conceivably compromise his decision-making process – even subconciously.

“Pat Lesko had noted in her blog, also, that some of the key players in the AATA defense team all attended the same synagogue, and wondered if this influenced the decision who was retained to defend the AATA. … ”

I could not find anything by Pat Lesko about conflicts of interest and Coleman v. AATA. In any case, the potential conflicts of interest have little to do with what synagogue anyone attends, except secondarily to the extent that those institutions are pro-Israel. The conflicts of interest relate primarily to the political interests and loyalties of the government officials involved regarding a lawsuit over censorship of advertising clearly hostile to Israel.

For instance, according to the Washtenaw Jewish News (December 2009), AATA counsel Jerry Lax has served on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor and Temple Beth Emeth, the only problem here as it bears on the lawsuit is that both of these organizations are openly and actively pro-Israel. Lax also added his name to a campaign advertisement of “Michigan Jews Who Support Senators Obama & Biden”. The text of that ad encouraged readers to “Stay focused on the issues,” quoting candidate Obama as saying “Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable” and “There is no greater threat to Israel – or to the peace and stability of the region – than Iran … and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.”

Former AATA Board chair Jesse Bernstein has served/is serving on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Israel Business Bridge and is also a donor to Kehillot B’Yahad/Congregations Together, whose stated aims include: “STRENGTHENING THE JEWISH STATE”. Bernstein also has chaired/chairs Temple Beth Emeth’s Long Range Sustainability committee. David Nacht’s LinkedIn profile identifies him as a supporter of the Anti-Defamation League, a former Board member of Temple Beth Emeth, and a donor to the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County. Again, the potential conflicts of interest arise from the fact that all of these organizations are openly and actively pro-Israel.

If you can’t see the potential conflict then pick another contentious political issue and do a thought experiment. Suppose, for example, that Israel had nothing to do with this and and the lawsuit concerned someone trying to run a pro-abortion/pro-choice ad on AATA buses that used charged imagery–something featuring a bloody coat hanger perhaps–to depict the consequences of outlawing or severely restricting legal access to abortion. How would you view the matter of conflicts of interest if you learned that the AATA counsel, board chair, and one or more other board members who voted to censor the ad were indirect/direct supporters of Operation Rescue, local anti-abortion churches, or similar anti-abortion organizations? Now, consider how you would react if you learned that the federal judge hearing the case also had direct and signifcant financial investments in anti-abortion organizations and sent his 16-year-old daughter to intern with Operation Rescue.

In the real life case of Coleman v. AATA presiding judge Mark Goldsmith’s 2010 federal Financial Disclosure Report (Section VII) indicates that he doesn’t own any US bonds but he does own Israel Bonds and they’re the only asset for which he did not declare a value. Goldsmith and his wife also sent their sixteen-year-old daughter to study in Israel. The nominee’s questionnaire Goldsmith submitted to the judiciary committee, he discloses that he became Vice-President for Religious Affairs of B’nai B’rith Barristers in 2009. “Advocacy for Israel” is second on B’nai B’rith’s list of “Our Prime Issues”. B’nai B’rith has publicly “condemned” supporters, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of the international boycott of Israel. Furthermore, Goldsmith has been a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee since the 1990s.

By: A2person A2person Mon, 20 May 2013 00:25:03 +0000 Personally, I am extremely thankful that Baskett would be willing to serve on another board, in addition to all the many, many hours of work she does on the school board, to act as a liaison between the two entities. Hats off to Baskett, it’s a wonderful idea and a huge commitment. It’s the best way to get the two bodies together, in light of the busing cuts in the AAPS.

Also, Briere is hands-down the most responsive councilperson I have ever come across, including personal responses (email and even phone calls) to people she doesn’t know, on issues important to them. She listens, she considers, and then she makes independent decisions. Wish we had a council-full of people like Sabra.

By: Dave Askins Dave Askins Sun, 19 May 2013 21:08:03 +0000 Re: [7] “Last time someone ran against Sabra Briere, he received 21% of the vote as an independent.” That was Mitchell Ozog in 2009

Rounded percentages in the 2007 Democratic primary were Briere 46%, Roberts 34%, and Wickbolt 19.5%.

But Roberts was not the incumbent. It was a seat left open by Bob Johnson, who didn’t seek re-election. Roberts had lost the 2006 primary to Ron Suarez, and Roberts was seeking to return to the council in 2007 after that brief hiatus. Roberts had been appointed to finish out Kim Groome’s term.

The seat in which Groome served had this trajectory: Groome, Roberts, Suarez, Smith, Kailasapathy.

By: Mark Koroi Mark Koroi Sun, 19 May 2013 20:45:46 +0000 @JamesJefferson:

“Your ‘years in Democratic politics’ are a BIG part of the problem.”

Jaclyn Vresics has pulled petitions to run against Sabra Briere this fall for First Ward City Council rep. She is a U-M student affiliated with the “Mixed Use Party”.

The Mixed Use Party wishes to field candidates in all five wards this fall.

Last time someone ran against Sabra Briere, he received 21% of the vote as an independent. Sabra took the seat in 2007 by defeating incumbent John Roberts and fellow challenger Richard Wickboldt, a U-M engineer, in a hotly contested Democratic primary that year.

By: JamesJefferson JamesJefferson Sun, 19 May 2013 17:45:52 +0000 Sabre, OF COURSE you support her nomination. Your “years in Democratic politics” are a BIG part of the problem. A person does not have to hold a seat on a board to work with or influence the board in a way that they think is in the best interest of the community. But as the citizens of Ann Arbor know all too well, the real reason one sits on a board or council is so their vote becomes law. Keep packing the boards with your political buddies, and the laws will keep going your way, right? I assume you learned that from the Mayor?

By: Sabra Briere Sabra Briere Sun, 19 May 2013 16:16:33 +0000 @4
Dear Ken,

Although I know Ms Baskett (years in Democratic politics and from her role on the school board) I don’t have a personal interest in her. I do have a professional interest, though, and want to point out a couple of things.

1) I’m really grateful that Trustee Baskett worked so hard to encourage a relationship between AAPS and AATA. I encouraged her to do so. AAPS proposed eliminating high school busing – leaving some of the least economically flexible families with no way to get students to high schools. (It is true: not everyone who attends AAPS has access to a personal car.) I suggested that the schools could probably save money by getting fare cards and providing them to students. That she researched this idea, agreed it would save the system money, and worked with other trustees to implement the plan shows a level of organization that I admire.

(I do not have a personal stake (financial or otherwise) in the schools or AATA that is larger than that of any other tax payer.)

2) A conflict of interest implies that there is a strong, economic incentive for an individual to successfully recommend and make a policy or contract change. I don’t agree that Ms Baskett’s advocacy for providing transportation, saving AAPS funds, and helping students qualifies as a conflict in any way.

By: ken ken Sun, 19 May 2013 15:06:13 +0000 @1
While I agree that perhaps the AATA should allow Mr.Coleman to run his add on the buses; I VIGOROUSLY am opposed and offended by the illustrated portion of the add. While I am not Jewish, I just find it offensive and totally unnecessary to have this included.

I too am hoping for a more robust discussion among Council members regarding Ms. Baskett’s appointment to the AATA board. Ms. Baskett is one more individual that appears to possibly have a conflict of interest between with the AATA Board. Ms. Baskett was instrumental in developing a contract to purchase bus passes for AAPS High School students last year, a program that is now being explored for expansion during the potential budget cuts for AAPS.

By: James Jefferson James Jefferson Sun, 19 May 2013 00:27:10 +0000 I hope to hear some more vigorous debate on the appointment of Ms. Baskett to the AATA board. Her nomination represents more “board in-breeding” where the mayor in his role as appointer looks no further than the existing pool of current board members in the community. Surely there is someone in the city who is at least as qualified as Ms. Baskett to serve on the AATA board, thereby freeing her to continue her work on the school board. Isn’t one board service per person enough?

By: Dave Askins Dave Askins Sat, 18 May 2013 18:52:00 +0000 Re [1]: “One thing I have been seeing that is conspicuously absent from meeting discusions of the AATA is public discourse on the ongoing American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit”

While it’s true that it’s ongoing, nothing has happened in a few months – since Feb. 4, 2013.

The court had asked both parties to file briefs on the question of whether the AATA’s revised ad policy amounted to adequate relief to the plaintiff, after the court had found that the AATA’s original ad policy – under which Coleman’s ad was rejected – was unconstitutional. After revising the ad policy to avoid the constitutional issue the court had identified, the AATA reconsidered and rejected the ad again. At that point the court asked the parties to file briefs explaining their views about whether the new ad policy and re-review was adequate relief for the preliminary injunction phase of the case.

Not surprisingly, the AATA argued this was adequate relief. Coleman and the ACLU argued that it was not adequate as relief, and that the AATA should be compelled to place the ad. But in connection with those filings, the AATA wanted to submit a supplemental brief responding to the ACLU’s brief. On Feb. 4, the court informed the parties that it would not be hearing oral arguments on the question of whether the AATA should be allowed to file its supplemental brief. But the court still hasn’t ruled on that question of the supplemental brief.

And that’s where the history ends.

Related to that, the AATA’s new advertising contractor (CBS Outdoor) – the vendor who sells ads on behalf of the AATA – seems to be having more success than the previous vendor. The net revenue to the AATA from that contract looks to be on track to total in the ballpark of $200,000 in its first year – as opposed to $80,000 or so previously.