Stories indexed with the term ‘politics’

Braun Court

Ward 1 city council race comes to the \aut\ BAR with campaign sign for Sabra Briere. [Proper calculation of Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority tax increment finance capture is currently on the council's agenda. Co-manager of \aut\ BAR, Keith Orr, is a member of the DDA board.]

Column: Playing Politics – A Silly Game

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Whether your candidates won or lost this week, we can all rejoice that it’s finally over. Or, we think it is. We can’t be sure anymore, can we?

Watching the political contests and the sporting contests this week, I got to thinking: Which is sillier: playing politics, or playing sports?

As silly as sports are – and I seem to devote half my commentaries to that very subject – after watching the 2012 campaigns, I can tell you, it’s not even close: Playing politics is sillier, in a landslide.

In the sporting world, you’re not supposed to badmouth your opponent, or even talk about them very much. Coaches always say, “I’m just focusing on my team.” And then – amazingly – that’s what they actually do.

In politics, badmouthing the other guy is just about all they do. And if there is any expectation of clean play anymore, I must’ve missed it – along with just about every single candidate. [Full Story]

Column: Ann Arbor Parking – Share THIS!

It’s budget season for the city of Ann Arbor.

Over the last half decade, Ann Arbor’s annual spring budget conversation has evolved to include a discussion of public parking system revenues.

parking meters in Ann Arbor

In discussions about parking revenue, it’s been suggested that what the city of Ann Arbor is proposing is the equivalent of a tax on downtown parkers. (Photo illustration by The Chronicle. This is not what Ann Arbor parking meters actually look like. Yet.)

This year is no exception. The city council’s public hearing on the budget takes place at its May 2 meeting, with a vote on the 2012 fiscal year’s budget scheduled for May 16. At that May 2 meeting you’ll also hear the city council discuss revenues from the public parking system. The board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority – which manages the city’s public parking system – will meet at noon the same day to ratify its side of a contract renewal.

As likely as any other scenario is an offer from the DDA for the city to receive 17% of gross revenues from the public parking system for each year of an 11-year term. But that offer stands a decent chance of getting rejected by the city council. The city’s last bargaining position was 18% for a 10-year term and multiple three-year renewals.

Public parking revenues were already part of council deliberations at a city council budget work session on April 11, when city administrator Roger Fraser had given a dress rehearsal of his budget proposal. At the work session, councilmembers and Fraser played out a scene, in which councilmembers offered up questions to Fraser to elicit this conclusion: If the city does not extract enough revenue from the city’s public parking system, the city will need to lay off additional police or firefighters – four this year and two the following year.

The scene was reprised on April 19, when the city’s budget was formally premiered. The budget did not appear to depart in significant ways from the department-by-department budget impacts that city managers have presented to the council at a series of work sessions since the beginning of the year.

On April 19, it was the city’s CFO Tom Crawford (later in the meeting to be appointed interim city administrator) who played the role of the “numbers guy.” So it was Crawford who gave the recommendation in response to councilmember prompts: Without sufficient revenue from the public parking system, he would recommend laying off an additional four public safety officers. That’s in addition to the five police officers, three other non-officer positions in the police department, and five firefighters who are already slated for layoff.

Councilmembers Christopher Taylor, Carsten Hohnke, Marcia Higgins, Stephen Kunselman and mayor John Hieftje played starring roles in their portrayal of elected officials that evening. But more to the point of this column, I wonder who the city council’s imagined audience is for this sort of theater? Presumably it’s for an audience that pays the price of admission. But in Ann Arbor, it’s an audience that typically doesn’t pay much attention: the city’s shareholders.

Yes, that’s exactly the word I want. Shareholders. [Full Story]

DDA Board Retreat to Focus on City Talks

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting (Sept. 1, 2010): On its surface, the first regular meeting of the DDA board after its July election of new officers seemed to be a relatively uneventful gathering. Two topics that could have prompted extended deliberations were handled in short order.


Washington & Fifth Avenue, looking northwest. The concrete mixer is parked directly in front of the DDA offices. The entry for the board's Sept. 1 meeting was through the alley and the garage, which makes up part of the ground floor of the Fifth Avenue Building. (Photos by the writer.)

The first issue, handled with relatively little comment, was the report out from the DDA’s “mutually beneficial” committee, given by Roger Hewitt. The committee has been meeting over the course of the summer with a corresponding committee from the Ann Arbor city council to renegotiate the parking agreement under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system.

While board members Newcombe Clark and Russ Collins commented in a general way on the status of the conversations, it did not lead to any specific directive to the DDA’s committee for its next meeting, which will take place on Sept. 13 at 8:30 a.m.

However, at the suggestion of DDA executive director Susan Pollay, the board will schedule a retreat between now and its monthly board meeting in October – but likely after Sept. 13 – to focus on the “mutually beneficial” issue. In the meantime, the DDA’s committee will request of its city council counterparts that they provide their own assessment of the status of the negotiations. The Sept. 13 meeting of the two committees will also be the occasion when Pollay provides a detailed version of the outline, which she’d provided at the last committee meeting on Aug. 23, for a possible role for the DDA in the development of city-owned surface lots.

The second issue dispatched by the board with little overt controversy was a resolution that Newcombe Clark had brought through the operations committee last Wednesday to allocate $50,000 for support of skatepark facilities. Clark himself suggested that the resolution be tabled, alluding to the “prism through which everything is looked at this time of year.” DDA board members went along with that suggestion.

The prism to which Clark alluded is a political one. Clark is running an independent campaign for the Ward 5 city council seat currently held by Democrat Carsten Hohnke. Hohnke has positioned himself as a champion of the skating community’s efforts to construct a skateboarding facility at Veterans Memorial Park, which is in Ward 5.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the newest member of the board, former Washtenaw County administrator Bob Guenzel, and the member he replaced, Jennifer S. Hall, were acknowledged by chair Joan Lowenstein – but neither was present. The board passed a resolution of appreciation for Hall’s service, and Lowenstein welcomed Guenzel “in absentia.”

Other business at Wednesday’s meeting included the usual updates from the board’s committees. Notable from the transportation committee was an effort to collaborate with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to enhance bus service between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. And from the partnerships committee came a summary of a presentation they’d received from the chief of police – there’s a difference between being statistically safe and the perception of safety. [Full Story]

Gubernatorial Candidates Outline Agendas

Pamphlets for gubernatorial candidates Alma Wheeler Smith and Rick Snyder, on the table a Wednesday's Morning Edition meeting hosted by the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce. Smith, a Democrat, and Snyder, a Republican, were both speakers at the event.

Pamphlets for gubernatorial candidates Alma Wheeler Smith and Rick Snyder, on the table at Wednesday's Morning Edition breakfast hosted by the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce. Smith, a Democrat, and Snyder, a Republican, were both speakers at the event.

Running was a common theme for speakers at Wednesday’s Morning Edition, a breakfast meeting hosted by the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce at Weber’s Inn.

Alma Wheeler Smith and Rick Snyder are both running for governor, in the Democratic and Republican primaries, respectively. Michael Ford, the new CEO for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, keeps the buses running, while Keith Hafner runs a local karate business. And Kevin Borseth, the University of Michigan women’s basketball coach who makes his team run drills, almost ran for cover when Russ Collins, the event’s MC, brought up an infamous YouTube video that Borseth might well want to forget.

Collins, who’s also executive director of the Michigan Theater, kept the speakers running on schedule – after the jump, we’ll give a summary of their remarks, presented in the order in which they spoke. [Full Story]

State Races in Districts 54, 55 Take Shape

Editor’s note: The Chronicle previously published an article on state legislative races in the 52nd and 53rd House Districts and the 18th Senate District. An update on those races appears at the end of today’s article.

Candidates for Michigan’s House of Representatives still have eight months to file for the 2010 election. But with money to raise and campaigns to organize, most potential candidates for the state’s 54th District say they expect to make decisions about entering the race by the end of this year.

At least four Democrats from the eastern Washtenaw County district are considering running for the seat now held by state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith, who’s ineligible to run after being elected to three terms. (Smith is campaigning to be the Democratic candidate for governor.) Allen Francois, Mike Martin, David Rutledge and Lonnie Scott are all potential candidates in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, which includes the city of Ypsilanti, and Augusta, Salem, Superior and Ypsilanti townships. [Link to 54th District map.]

The field in the nearby 55th House District so far appears to be smaller. Republican Joe Zurawski of Washtenaw County is a candidate for the seat held by three-term state Rep. Kathy Angerer, a Democrat who is ineligible to run again. On the Democratic side, Monroe County resident Michael J. Smith says it’s very likely he will run. [Full Story]

State Legislative Candidates Lining Up

Rebekah Warren

Rebekah Warren, current state representative from Ann Arbor, plans to officially announce her candidacy for Liz Brater's state senate seat on Sept. 19.

The year was 1992. Hecklers in Hamtramck threw broccoli at George H.W. Bush. Ross Perot got almost 19% of the presidential vote. And Michigan voters enacted term limits.

Fast forward to the present: Perot and Bush 41’s broccoli problem are largely forgotten, but term limits now shape elections for state office. Except in districts evenly enough divided between Democrats or Republicans that they might swing either way, it’s rare for an incumbent to face a serious challenge. Instead, political hopefuls wait for term limits to open the right slot.

That’s happening this election cycle with districts representing the Ann Arbor area. And jockeying is under way.

Next weekend, state Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-53rd District) will launch a campaign to succeed fellow Ann Arbor Democrat Liz Brater (D-18th District) in the Michigan Senate. A former state rep and former Ann Arbor mayor, Brater is term-limited and ineligible to run again for that seat.

Warren’s move will, in turn, trigger announcements from the Democrats who’ve politely waited for the two-term lawmaker to make her plans public before lining up to try and take her spot in the state House of Representatives. [Full Story]

Column: Rick Snyder Can Carry a Tune

Think of Ann Arbor’s Rick Snyder as that bar in “The Blues Brothers.” You know, the one that plays “both kinds” of music: Country and Western. If he’s elected to the governor’s office, you can bet that his administration would be friendly to “both kinds” of his supporters: big business and small business.

Rick Snyder candidate for Governor of Michigan

Rick Snyder (File photo courtesy of Snyder for Governor)

In the week of July 20, Snyder’s camp says, expect an announcement on how that business-friendly theme might be used in a gubernatorial campaign for the Republican.

And by business, he means the “C-Level” manager, the entrepreneur, the startup team. Make them happy by creating an atmosphere in Michigan that allows them to be successful. That means stop taxing them so much, stop regulating them so much, train them in how to be successful entrepreneurs – then the rest of the state’s economic puzzle will fall into place.

It’s what Snyder calls “helping the demand side” of Michigan’s unemployment problem. Help businesses find executives from Michigan’s rich talent supply, help create a business climate that favors them, then watch them succeed and dip into Michigan’s waves of unemployed.

“I would argue you’re helping the demand side even more by placing someone in a successful startup team, and letting them have an opportunity to be successful,” Snyder said in a recent interview with The Ann Arbor Chronicle. “Those are the people that are going to go hire the five and 10 other people.”

This is the formula that has worked so far for Snyder the businessman, so why not for Snyder the politician? [Full Story]

Column: Limited Edition

Here we go again. After spending years trying to unsuccessfully prop up two stagnant automobile companies using various tactics, corrective action by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court has now sent Gov. Granholm and her economic team scurrying off on a new and different project.

Earlier this month, the politicos did a groundbreaking for the $44 million I-94/Westnedge Avenue road widening project. Vice President Joe Biden espoused the view that “we are quite literally paving the road to recovery right here in Kalamazoo.” From one lifelong Democrat to another: Say it ain’t so, Joe! $44 million won’t do it, and this project – while offering temporary construction jobs – is just another “plug the dike” tactic as Michigan searches for political leadership that will offer a sound long-term strategy for economic growth in Michigan. [Full Story]

Column: Limited Edition

It would be good to be more like Kevin.

I only talked with him a few times before he got sick. He seemed far too quiet and too young to have had so many successes. Plus, he was always skinny despite devouring at each Michigan Historical Society meeting what seemed to me to be an inordinate number of raisin oatmeal cookies.     

“The world is run by those who show up” was the motto he adopted in dedicating his life to improving health care for the people of Michigan. He worked tirelessly to ban smoking in the workplace, increasing childhood immunization rates, advocating for AIDS education and better end-of-life care. Although a Michigan State graduate, his adage seems particularly applicable to Ann Arbor. [Full Story]

Holiday Shopping: All Things Political

Brian Mackie, Washtenaw County prosecutor, with his dogs in the Political Pets of Washtenaw County 2009 calendar.

Brian Mackie, Washtenaw County prosecutor, with his dogs in the Political Pets of Washtenaw County 2009 calendar. The calendar raises funds for the Community Action Network and Humane Society of Huron Valley.

Throughout the month of December, The Chronicle is highlighting Ann Arbor area businesses and nonprofits to help feed your local shopping habit – or to give you reasons to start one. Our lists are meant as a sampling, and we encourage readers and business owners to add their own favorite finds in the comments section.

We know many of you didn’t totally satisfy your fix during the past election season, so here are some ways to keep you or your favorite political junkies happy for the holidays. [Full Story]

Six Questions: Joan Lowenstein

Joan Lowenstein

Joan Lowenstein

Editor’s note: Four members of the Ann Arbor city council – Chris Easthope, Stephen Kunselman, Joan Lowenstein and Ron Suarez – are leaving office. Their final meeting was Nov. 6.

We asked each of them to share their thoughts about their time on council. These are the observations of Joan Lowenstein, a Democrat who represented Ward 2. She is a local attorney who also serves on the Downtown Development Authority board.

1. What was the best advice you received (or the worst) before starting service on council? What advice do you have for incoming councilmembers? [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Dems Throw Themselves a Party

The local party faithful turned out on Labor Day for the annual Ann Arbor Democratic Party picnic, held this year at The Elks Pratt Lodge on Sunset Road.

Like the sign says, Go left if you're looking for the Dems.

As the sign says, go left if you're looking for the Dems.

Elected officials, former elected officials and those now seeking office were as thick as flies on day-old potato salad – most notably, U.S. Rep. John Dingell and state Sen. Mark Schauer, who’s running for Congress against incumbent Republican Tim Walhberg. (No sign of Obama, though – perhaps the food at Courtyard by Marriott was more enticing.)

[Full Story]