Comments on: Dems Forum Part 3: Connections it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Thu, 13 Jun 2013 15:08:47 +0000 Speaking as a geezer, when I moved here in 1986, it was to a ward that had only recently elected its very first Democrat, and Seth Hirshorn lost his re-election bid to Ingrid Shelton (Republican who went on to serve as Mayor for – was it only 4 terms?) I worked the polls at a student precinct, and most students didn’t bother to vote in the council race (they had turned out only to vote for rent control). During my early years here, Republicans were sometimes in the majority, and frequently elected mayors. The Democratic Party was probably as diverse as it is now, but united under the party umbrella because of the partisan divide. Electing Democrats was not a “given” in those days. The November elections helped, but the national Republicans were what killed our local contingent’s ability to compete.

By: Sabra Briere Sabra Briere Thu, 13 Jun 2013 11:10:48 +0000 #s 8, 9 & 10
I’m with Vivienne. But Mr. Koroi has highlighted the effect of unintended consequences.
My version:
After the redistricting of 1980, which was – to many Democrats – intended to limit all future Democratic victories to the First Ward and make a couple of other wards (3rd and 5th) competitive while guaranteeing Republican wins in the 2nd and 4th, local Democrats became more determined to win. (At this point, the City elections were in April, when nothing else was on the ballot.) Democratic Council candidates began to win the 3rd and 5th Ward seats. By the end of that decade, Democrats had won – and lost – both 5th Ward seats, and had won both 3rd Ward seats, making the Council split 5/5. But that wasn’t good enough for some Democrats.
They passed a petition and collected enough signatures to put an amendment to the City Charter on a November ballot – a time chosen because students were more likely to turn out. Voters in Ann Arbor approved a change to the Charter, moving the elections from April (with a February primary) to November (with an August primary). The intent, with regard to students, was to increase student turnout. (April is finals month; many students seemed to forget to vote in the academic crush.) The intent, with regard to the City, was to maybe take a majority of seats on Council and the Mayoral seat when possible – because Ann Arbor November voters were – in 1993 – more likely to vote for a Democrat in November.
The date of the primary is set by Michigan law, not by Ann Arbor law. Michigan law also sets the filing deadline.
Moving the elections to November didn’t increase student turnout. Running students as candidates didn’t increase student turnout. And those students who had been elected as Democrats (Lowell Peterson is the last one I can remember; he left in 1987) went on to lead fully productive lives – elsewhere, I think.
Running in a November election is possible for a student, but unless one is in graduate school, I suspect it’s hard to serve. Yusuf Rabhi, current County Commission Chair, ran just after he graduated. Jeff Irwin was fairly young when he ran, too.
Sometimes, observing from effects can cause someone to invent causes. For background on the switch to November elections, check out the Ann Arbor News archives from 1989-1991. Or ask an old geezer.

By: Eric Boyd Eric Boyd Thu, 13 Jun 2013 11:02:22 +0000 @4: I love the idea of a “Crochetty Party”, but you might get a lot of grumps. :-)

@5: I don’t think the disagreement is on whether to have a bus system, but whether we should be spending AA dollars on how to extend into Ypsi and beyond, whether we should be helping to fund a connector between Briarwood and North Campus, whether we should be pursuing WALLY, whether we should be pursuing a new train station (and where), etc. In other words, an expansive transit focus (“Magnet Party”) or a “keep the buses running” focus (“Knitting Party”).

@6: I agree that many voters hold visions other than the two I outlined, but it does seem that you can break down the current council between two camps: Those who are inclined to say “yeah sure, that’s a nice to have, but we have to concentrate on the basics first” and those who are inclined to say “we have concentrated on the basics and it’s important to do some of that other stuff now”. Deciding whether we’ve done enough on the core stuff really seems like the dividing line on council. But, as I said in my previous comment, I’m sure my own biases are showing and there are other breakdowns and other names that would be more appropriate.

Here’s a test of any such hypothesis: Read a Chronicle article about any council meeting and try to guess the vote breakdown on each major topic before the end of the section. I think its’ pretty easy to do with the division I posited ((with the exception of Councilmember Briere, and I mean that in a complimentary way), but there could definitely be better models.

By: Mark Koroi Mark Koroi Thu, 13 Jun 2013 00:32:56 +0000 @Vivienne Armentrout:

The partisan primaries effectively prevented students from running for City Council since few would consider running as Republicans and filing as a Democrat might force them to have to campaign during the summer when they most likely would not be in Ann Arbor and the student electorate was likewise away.

Hatim Elhady ran as an independent against Marcia Higgins in 2009 based upon his perception that he would draw significant student votes in the November election. A Fourth Ward Democratic Party co-chair advised me that any chance he had at beating Higgins was dashed by his not filing for the Democratic August primary ballot.

Higgins also benefitted from this in 2003 when two U-M students and a recent alumnus filed to run against her under the Green Party and Libertarian tickets and as an independent. The three combined to garner an impressive 47% of the November vote but Higgins retained her seat.

On the other hand in 2008, over 10,000 students filed in Ann Arbor just before the deadline to vote in the November election during that presidential cycle. A campaign organization I was affiliated with was aware of this so we targeted student precincts and it paid off on Election Day.

The ward system also is disavantage to students contrasted to at-large voting as a student running for office would only need to finish in the top ten in the November election to win a seat on City Council and likely could have a good shot at doing so with a city-wide student electorate backing him. The ward system dilutes the student vote to the ward the student resides in.

These are clever electoral mechanisms employed by the powers that be to prevent students from enjoying their full voting rights and to see fellow students elected to local office.

Marcia Higgins only faced one Democratic Party primary challenge during her long tenure on City Council – in 2005 when Rosewood Avenue’s Eric Lipson was defeated in a race that was not a blowout but not very close either. Higgins went on to a razor-thin victory over Jim Hood, Jr., chair of the Ann Arbor Republican Club, in November – Marcia received only 50.7% of the vote.

To me its all to clear that students are effectively frozen out of local political office by both the August primaries and the ward system.

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Wed, 12 Jun 2013 22:10:44 +0000 Re (8): “The August partisan primary is unusual in local Michigan politics, but in A2 is designed to disenfranchise the student vote.”

My first and final reaction: Oh, piffle!

First of all, the reason an August partisan primary is unusual is that very few Michigan municipalities have partisan city councils.

Second, the importance of the Democratic primary only surfaced after the national (and state) Republican party moved so far to the right that it stranded most of Ann Arbor’s moderate Republicans. Until the mid-2000s, the November general election was where the action was. Some very credible Republicans went down to defeat beginning in 2004 when Ann Arbor became overwhelmingly Democratic. Then, after a couple of years in which Council (Democratic) incumbents seemed to be elected for life, some competition in the August Democratic primary began, notably with challenges against incumbents in the 5th by Sonia Schmerl and Mike Anglin.

So while August primaries may be inconvenient to students, they were never “designed” to frustrate them.

The idea that student candidates could do better if only the major contest was in November was thoroughly tested by Hatim Elhady in 2009. I’ve told this story in detail [link). Hatim (though a Democrat] chose to run as an Independent and ran an explicitly student-oriented campaign (though his campaign also contacted other residents). He was well liked on campus. But though given a chance to rise up in a November election, the turnout in student precincts still resulted in relatively few votes.

By: Mark Koroi Mark Koroi Wed, 12 Jun 2013 20:52:41 +0000 @Eric Boyd:

The August partisan primary is unusual in local Michigan politics, but in A2 is designed to disenfranchise the student vote.

The students used to have the Human Rights Party in the 1970s and got several elected to City Council in both Ypsi and A2.

The Mixed Use Party is expected to field candidates this fall as independents. Jaclyn Vresics is planning to oppose Sabra Briere in the First Ward. This party holds meetings on the last Sunday of each month.

Sadly, the GOP and Huron Valley Greens do not usually field City Council candidates in Ann Arbor as they did in the past.

By: Jim Rees Jim Rees Wed, 12 Jun 2013 20:28:38 +0000 I thought we had eight Democrats and two Republicans on Council.

By: Libby Hunter Libby Hunter Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:54:47 +0000 Eric, I’m guessing you have the candidates views in mind when forming your two visions…right? I ask because I’ve gone door-to-door a lot for various causes over the years, and can recall that residents I’ve spoken with have quite a variety of views, some (many?) of which fall outside of your visions.

At this point in time, my personal belief is that basic services are what we pay for with taxes. Care of trees, parks, water, sewer, solid waste, recycling, composting, library, street repair, infrastructure, safety, buses, etc. Only when these are managed well should city government dabble in other areas.

Also, by becoming a fully functioning city government (I can dream!), some of the things you mention in your 2nd vision begin to be taken care of.

By: Leslie Morris Leslie Morris Wed, 12 Jun 2013 18:19:27 +0000 As far as I am able to discern, all the current council members and all the declared candidates support improving our local bus transportation system. Art: not so much. (That varies widely. Source of funding is the main issue. The recent council committee studying the issue has provided helpful suggestions.)

By: Sabra Briere Sabra Briere Wed, 12 Jun 2013 17:59:44 +0000 Oh, dear, Eric. What about those of us who do more than knit – but we knit, too? I’m not ready to become a member of the ‘crochetty party’. Although I do have some stainless steel wool, for the magnets.