Comments on: Q & A: City Office Eligibility Requirements it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Wed, 30 Apr 2014 20:14:03 +0000 Re (5) What Chuck is suggesting here would actually be a non-partisan election. The first (August) election (an open primary) would have people vying for one of two spots on the November ballot. (If only two candidates file, the August election could be skipped.) Candidates could self-identify as to partisan affiliation but would not be nominated by their party. For example, two Democrats and one other (Republican, Green Party, etc.) might be on the August ballot, and the two Dems might survive to the November run-off.

The August open primary would have to be on the non-partisan section of the ballot. This is where, for example, judge candidates will be found this coming August. The November election would also be on the non-partisan section.

I have come to favor this idea, for many reasons. The point made about increased participation in November elections is one (there will be unanticipated consequences, of course).

I heartily oppose making terms 4 years, which would exacerbate all the other problems, such as importance of money in elections, and promote entrenchment of established candidates so that even more money and effort is necessary. It would also make the commitment for an individual much more than now, and thus promote election of political careerists.

By: Steve Bean Steve Bean Wed, 30 Apr 2014 20:11:08 +0000 @7: “Higher voter turnout requires a candidate to reach more voters during the campaign.”

No it doesn’t.

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Wed, 30 Apr 2014 19:21:50 +0000 Re: (6), Steve said “The effort to knock on a door is unconnected to money or turnout.”

There is a practical correlation between how many doors a candidate tries to reach and the amount of money needed to supplement that effort. In a primary campaign, a Council Ward candidate tries to identify the likely voters in the Ward. Typically, that would be between 3,000 and 4,000 doors. These low numbers reflect the low turn out for primaries.

A candidate can reach a primary election audience of 3,000 to 4,000 voters by going door to door 3 or more hours each day. A general election would require reaching two or three times as many voters. A candidate would be hard pressed to reach that many homes. The effort to visit voters individually would likely need to be supplemented by mailing information to those who are expected to vote. Mailing campaign materials is much more expensive than replacing a pair of walking shoes.

Higher voter turnout requires a candidate to reach more voters during the campaign. Reaching more voters often entails using expensive mailings or media advertising. This is in part the reason why local campaigns continue to increase in cost year after year.

By: Steve Bean Steve Bean Wed, 30 Apr 2014 17:31:39 +0000 @5: “(though for some this is a disadvantage)”

Who are you referring to by “some”, Chuck?

The disadvantages you listed are matters of choice. There is no campaign season except that which each candidate chooses for him- or herself. Similarly, money in elections (campaigns, actually) is another choice, again by the candidates (though they don’t control others). The effort to knock on a door is unconnected to money or turnout. Maybe I misunderstand what you mean by that.

By: Chuck Warpehoski Chuck Warpehoski Wed, 30 Apr 2014 16:56:25 +0000 Regarding Kerry D’s point, I’m toying with idea of putting forward a proposed charter amendment to change to the California system in which races are still partisan but the top 2 vote getters, regardless of party, proceed to the November general election.

* reduce systemic student disenfranchisement (though for some this is a disadvantage)
* Increase participation
* Ensure majority support for elected candidate (we may have a mayor elected with ~30% of the vote in the primary and no general election challenger)
* May save money if only two candidates face each other and would only be on November ballot, not August and November.

* Longer campaign season may push away people from serving (campaign season would be April-November instead of April-August).
* Increases role of money in election. Higher turnout elections make it harder for a candidate to knock every door and increase the impact of direct mail, paid canvassers, and paid advertising, especially in high turnout presidential years.
* potentially less attention on the election as national races dominate debate.

Disadvantage 1 could be mitigated by going to 4 year terms, there may be ways to address disadvantage 2 with some sort of clean money campaign finance reform, but I haven’t researched local options for that sufficiently.

By: Kerry D Kerry D Tue, 29 Apr 2014 22:42:57 +0000 The placement of City Council partisan primary elections in August needs to change.

The key effect of this is disenfranchise college students, many of whom are validly registered in the City of Ann Arbor.

As for Dascola, let’s put the poor guy on the ballot.

Does the City Attorney really want to seek an award of legal fees against him? Will they enforce it if they can get an award?

By: Mark Koroi Mark Koroi Tue, 29 Apr 2014 06:59:05 +0000 Excellent points made by Jack Eaton and Tom Wieder.

“Similarly, the decision to defend against the Dascola litigation began without express direction from a majority of Council.”

I had earlier made the point that we do not know who is calling the shots in the Dascola litigation for the City. Is the City Council aware that Postema is seeking attorney fees against Mr. Dascola in conjunction with his motion to dismiss? Should a City Attorney seek an award of legal fees against a citizen honestly attempting to put his name on a partisan ballot? Is it good public policy?

“The job of the City Attorney, or any attorney, is not to decide for the client……”


Is some reform needed in the way the City Attorney’s office operates vis a vis the City Council?

This case underscores the necessity of City Council placing the City Attorney on, figuratively, “a tighter leash”.

By: Tom Wieder Tom Wieder Tue, 29 Apr 2014 01:18:08 +0000 Jack Eaton makes several good points, but I would go a step further. On somewhat complex and highly political legal issues, the City Attorney shouldn’t rely only on his/her view of the law. The Attorney should present to Council, as objectively as possible, the different legal positions that the City could legitimately take, and let it decide which one it wants the Attorney to pursue. The job of the City Attorney, or any attorney, is not to decide for the client; it is to explain the legal strength and pros and cons of different approaches and let the client decide.

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Mon, 28 Apr 2014 16:17:29 +0000 Thank you for all of the excellent reporting you have done on this dispute. I commend you for your comprehension of the legal issues and the clarity with which you describe the legal positions.

Mr. Weider is quoted as saying “What I heard at the time [of the Wojack dispute] was that councilmembers weren’t too comfortable with the idea of keeping somebody off the ballot based on the legal position that the city had at the time…” Apparently, without formal action of the Council, a decision was made in private to simply allow Wojack on the ballot.

Similarly, the decision to defend against the Dascola litigation began without express direction from a majority of Council.

It may have been that when there was a clear and well organized majority view on Council, anyone from that majority could convey the general sense of the Council to the administration or legal staff. That easy majority does not exist any longer.

It is important to note that a City Attorney violates his or her ethical obligation to his or her client (the entire Council) if the Attorney represents the views of a minority portion of the Council. This is explained in an April 3, 1996 Michigan State Bar ethics opinion, RI-254.

After the Court rules on the Dascola matter, the Council will need to review the decision to litigate this dispute. If the City Attorney believed that he needed to defend his understanding of the validity of the voided Charter clause, that would be better than learning that he was following the preferences of a minority group of Council members.

Additionally, without regard to who wins the Dascola dispute, it is time to revisit the Charter candidate eligibility clause. Perhaps Council can draft something more accurate and more clear than that which was proposed in 2003.