City clerk’s office. City clerk Jackie Beaudry shows me the card catalog of past mayoral veto messages. [photo 1] The most recent entry of April 23, 2001 predates the start of her service as city clerk by four years. That 2001 veto was tendered by John Hieftje. The reason given in his official message refers to a “technical issue” with the ordinance that was passed, citing support from the city attorney and city administrator. [photo 2] Occasion for the clerk to have the files handy: Hieftje’s recent announcement he’d be vetoing a change to the city’s crosswalk ordinance.
In the Ann Arbor mayoral race, incumbent Democrat John Hieftje faces Albert Howard, who is running as an independent in the Nov. 6 general election.
The two men answered questions at an Oct. 10 candidate forum moderated by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area. Issues ranged from the city’s relationship with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority – which Howard described as a “shadow government” that he would dissolve – to nonpartisan elections, current challenges and a long-term vision for the community.
Howard repeatedly criticized Hieftje for a lack of transparency and fiscal responsibility, and for not focusing on public safety issues. He supported moving to nonpartisan elections, and for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) program for the University of Michigan.
Hieftje, who was first elected mayor in 2000, defended his view that the city is one of the safest and most robust in Michigan. He said that he personally has been “extremely approachable” and that the city government itself is open and accessible. He advocated for an expanded transit system, and a focus on quality-of-life issues.
The office of mayor has a two-year term. In Ann Arbor’s council-manager system, the mayor is the eleventh member of the city council, with limited responsibility beyond that of a city councilmember. The mayor enjoys a power of veto over council actions, which can be overridden with an eight-vote majority. The mayor also makes nominations for most city boards and commissions, which then require confirmation by the council. The mayor has certain powers during emergencies, and serves as the ceremonial head of the city. Day-to-day management of the city is the responsibility of the city administrator – currently Steve Powers – who is hired by the city council.
The Oct. 10 candidate forum was held at the studios of Community Television Network in Ann Arbor, and is available online via CTN’s video-on-demand service. The forum included candidates for Ward 5 Ann Arbor city council – Stuart Berry and Chuck Warpehoski. The Ward 5 portion of the forum is reported in a separate Chronicle write-up.
Information on local elections can be found on the Washtenaw County clerk’s elections division website. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website.
On Thursday evening, the North Central Property Owners Association (NCPOA) hosted a forum for candidates in two Democratic primary races: Ward 1 city council representative and mayor.
Coverage of Ward 1 candidate responses to audience questions is provided in a separate article: “Ann Arbor Dems Primary: Ward 1 Council.”
Before the forum began, as candidates worked the room – which would eventually be packed with around 60 people – they greeted their known supporters and detractors alike. Patricia Lesko was cheerily blunt with Ward 1 councilmember Sabra Briere, telling Briere: “Hated what you had to say in The Observer about Lesko!” She was alluding to an article in The Ann Arbor Observer’s July edition, with the headline “Satan for Mayor?!”
Briere was seated in the back row next to John Hilton, editor of The Ann Arbor Observer and a member of the NCPOA. The location of the forum at the Ann Arbor Community Center on North Main Street and its sponsorship by the NCPOA was significant – the site is across the street from Near North, a controversial affordable housing development approved by council in September 2009. The NCPOA had opposed the project most of the way through, but in the end wound up supporting a compromise version of the design.
Development and the definition of downtown was one of several topics raised by questions put to the candidates.
Incumbent mayor John Hieftje’s basic theme was that Ann Arbor was doing fine financially during tough economic times – especially when compared to other Michigan cities. For her part, Patricia Lesko questioned the ability of the city’s current leaders to make tough choices and described her own toughness with flourishes like: “You want a flower girl? Don’t vote for me!”
There is no Republican running for mayor – the winner of the Aug. 3 Democratic primary will not face a GOP challenger in November. Steve Bean and William Bostic Jr. plan to run as independents.
Some facts that students learned about former Ann Arbor mayor Ingrid Sheldon on Saturday: 1) She spent the first part of her schooling, through 7th grade, in a one-room schoolhouse on Earhart Road, 2) she thinks a large part of the mayor’s job entails cheerleading for the city, 3) she doesn’t take herself too seriously. This last fact was demonstrated as she pulled items out of a large “gift box” she’d brought, full of things she said would be useful for students in leadership roles – including a pair of yellow pompoms. And yes, she gave a little cheer.
Sheldon was keynote speaker at a leadership conference held Saturday at Huron High School. The event was organized by the school’s Interact Club, a service organization for teens that’s affiliated with Rotary International. (Sheldon is a member of Ann Arbor Rotary, which sponsors Huron’s Interact Club.) About 40 students attended from Huron, Pioneer High, and several other local schools.