Column: On Finding the Ward 4 Candidates

Nov. 3 council race contested between Higgins and Elhady
Judy McGovern

Judy McGovern

This piece was supposed to be a straightforward look at a city council race.

It’s not.

Instead it’s a column that gives an account of an unusual situation involving a council veteran, who dropped from sight when an adult daughter’s long battle with leukemia took a scary turn; and a political newcomer, who declines to be interviewed except via email.

The council seat at issue is in Ann Arbor’s Ward 4, the southwestern part of the city.

Incumbent Democrat Marcia Higgins has been one of the ward’s two council representatives since 1999.

Hatim Elhady, a student at the University of Michigan, is an independent who’s running against her.

Ordinarily, that kind of introduction would be followed by additional biographical information to provide context and then the meat of a story based –  in large part – on interviews with each candidate.

But Elhady’s not talking.

Email Only?

Although I’d interviewed him in April for The Ann Arbor News – and he’d previously expressed an interest in sitting down with The Chronicle – the first-time candidate now takes the position that he should be able to respond to questions by email.

Chronicle editor Dave Askins and I have talked about this at length. We trust that readers appreciate the shortcomings of an arrangement that precludes the give-and-take of a person-to-person conversation and asks us to accept that responses are prepared by the candidate rather than an adviser.

Elhady is aware of the latter issue. In an email asking that questions to him be submitted for replies via email, he wrote:  “You have my word that the questions will only be seen by my eyes and the answers will be authored by me and only me.”

Standards among professional news organizations certainly differ, but the fact is that actual interviews – face-to-face or over the phone – are organic: A comment, an interesting observation, can lead to a discussion that could never be anticipated and wouldn’t occur absent the spontaneity of two people talking.

Email is handy for getting facts – an age, a date, a budget figure. But unless the interviewee is in a situation where even a phone conversation is impossible, I wouldn’t use email, texting or instant-messaging as a substitute for an interview.

And there’s no reason that a local candidate shouldn’t be ready to sit down with a local news publication to discuss credentials, goals and ideas – and let those ideas be tested by the immediacy of someone else’s conversational turn.

I’ve stepped on a toe or two in a dozen years as a journalist in Ann Arbor. But Elhady says his no-interview approach had nothing to do with my earlier reporting. (That April reporting appeared in The Ann Arbor News, which has since closed.)

It’s not about me. It’s not about The Chronicle – at least one other local publication has received Elhady’s email-only proposition.

I attribute it to inexperience or bad advice or both.

Family Illness

For Higgins, the need to make a family illness public has been difficult.

“This has been going on for seven years for us,” she says. “Putting it out there, that this is the reason I haven’t been available, that was a hard thing to do. It’s very personal.”

Higgins and her husband, Pat Putman, have three adult children. Meredith, who’s ill, is 31 and has a 10-year-old daughter of her own. “Most people have understood,” says Higgins.

Friends, including veterans politicians like county commissioner Leah Gunn, are distributing campaign literature on her behalf. Voters will also get literature by mail.

First elected to council as a Republican, Higgins ran unsuccessfully for mayor on the GOP line against John Hieftje in 2002. She was re-elected to the council as a Democrat in 2005 and 2007.

Although she didn’t appear at League of Women Voters candidate forum on Oct. 22 – Elhady gave a solo performance – Higgins made time for a phone interview late that evening.

There’s work to finish on the city council, she says.

  • The new downtown zoning, nicknamed A2D2 for “Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown,” is nearly in place. But there’s a commitment to review it after a year, notes Higgins, who helped shepherd the program through a process that’s spanned several years. “We want to look at it, see if we got it right and see what needs to be adjusted.”
  • There’s also a separate effort to revise sections of zoning that are outdated or in conflict with one another. That work’s taking place in the city attorney’s office, but needs a champion at the council table, says Higgins who’s also involved in uniting the city’s multiple master plans into a single, citywide plan.

“As those things are completed, there are things I’d like to make more time for,” she says, “… like taking a look at how CTN fits as communications continue to change. And the budget is only going to get harder. There are ideas for reducing costs that we’ve said ‘no’ to before that we’re going to have to revisit.”

For now, all that takes a backseat to family.

“My colleagues on council have known that I’d work hard, but if there was an emergency they just wouldn’t see me,” Higgins. The circle of people familiar with the situation is now quite a bit bigger.

So why even try to run and continue to serve on council?

We talked about that a few weeks ago, when her daughter’s health had again become a serious concern but hadn’t yet pulled Higgins away from her city council service or her campaign.

Meredith wanted life to go on and didn’t want her illness to alter life for others, Higgins told me. That included her mother’s service on city council.

Faced with that situation, I don’t know what I’d do. But I’m glad I’m not in a position to find out, and am not about to second-guess anyone who is.

The Decision for Ward 4 Voters

First, some useful links:

Ward 4 residents have plenty of concerns.

No ward is affected more directly by the possible failure of the East Stadium Boulevard bridges. The ward has town-gown neighborhoods, traffic problems, and regular debates over development.

Higgins has a record on all that, including complaints about city staff’s inattentiveness to the bridge that preceded weight limits and lane closures on the bridge by several years. She aired those frustrations when I’d regularly touch base with councilmembers as part of my Ann Arbor News work. It’s the same attitude reflected more recently in a Chronicle report from a February city council caucus:

Higgins said she was not happy with McCormick’s response to her query about contingency planning for emergency response, in the event the bridge is closed on the major east-west corridor. Higgins characterized the response as, “We’ll get to that.” ["Discontent Emerges at Council Caucus"]

Elhady has positions on the bridge and other issues outlined on his website. He’s previously expressed interest in the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority fare increase, traffic congestion and street repair.

It would have been nice to talk in some detail about those and other issues.

Our job is to provide information you wouldn’t have otherwise, so that you can better make decisions about public affairs. In this case, the information is about the dearth of information. It’s not very satisfying, but it’s an honest account.

If you’re a Ward 4 resident who’s been unhappy with Higgins on the issues or on a constituent-service level, then by all means think about a change.

If you’re a voter aggrieved that she failed to appear in a debate, or on your doorstep with a pamphlet, you should probably factor in the reason for her absence.

And, in either case, think about the alternative.

A candidate who – like Elhady – touts “transparency” and accessibility, but won’t talk to a news publication that you turn to for information, should also give you pause.

Election day is Nov. 3.

About the writer: Judy McGovern lives in Ann Arbor. She has worked as a journalist here, and in Ohio, New York and several other states.

Section: Govt., Opinion

The following terms describe the content of this article. Click on a term to see all articles described with that term: , , ,


  1. By ChuckL
    October 25, 2009 at 11:37 am | permalink


    Did you submit questions by email? To say he won’t talk to a news organization is not accurate; he will answer your questions by email. I would suggest asking questions by submitting one question at a time and waiting for a response.

  2. October 25, 2009 at 11:53 am | permalink

    Something is not right here. Elhady *was* interviewed by Plus, he answered questions from the League of Women Voters host at the CTN debate.

  3. By Dave Askins
    October 25, 2009 at 12:04 pm | permalink


    The conditions that Hatim Elhady laid out, namely “email only,” are described accurately in McGovern’s column. The conclusion that he would not talk on the record (by phone or in person) to The Chronicle is therefore accurate. The week before last, I emailed Elhady directly asking him to reconsider his position, which he’d expressed to McGovern. In response to that email, he wrote back that he was planning a “meet the candidate” event for sometime the week of Oct. 19 — with details to be determined and communicated later. That might have provided the opportunity for the kind of interaction sought by The Chronicle. Details of that “meet the candidate” event were never relayed to The Chronicle. I don’t know if that event ever happened.

    If there was some reason other than an unwillingness to speak in person or by telephone for Elhady’s insistence on an email format, he has not conveyed those reasons to us. It’s accurate to conclude that Elhady was unwilling to talk to The Chronicle.

  4. October 25, 2009 at 12:45 pm | permalink


    I am very happy with your position. Email responses is not an effective method of communication for an interview. At best, the closest thing to an interview would be an IM. Although, a video interview via Skype would be decent and provide the respondent the ability to be wherever they wish to be, yet still provide proof of whom you’re speaking with as well as keeping the interview structure.

    The position of the candidate is not something I would consider transparent, nor would I want this in my candidate. The bottom line, I feel, is that as a politician, you are expected to talk to news media.

    Setting an “email only” response in my opinion, is very simply an unwillingness of the candidate to speak with you. Not only do I stand by the decision, I applaud your professionalism for reporting it non-biasedly. It would be easy to take offense and write this in an unflattering tone. You did not. You proved again that The Chronicle provides true reporting; I may just have to “renew” my subscription.

  5. By Matt Hampel
    October 25, 2009 at 12:45 pm | permalink

    Note that the article doesn’t say if, how, or when they communicated with Elhady.

  6. By Patricia Lesko
    October 25, 2009 at 12:59 pm | permalink

    I’d like to clarify exactly what happened. I’m helping Hatim Elhady coordinate his campaign. Chuck and Dave are absolutely correct. Hatim was perfectly willing to be interviewed by this site. His suggestion was to do it via email. It was the same method used when he was interviewed by the AAObserver, by Eve Silberman. The editor of the AAObserver, John Hilton, ultimately, made a different decision than did Dave Askins and Mary Morgan.

    Hatim did the League of Women Voter’s debate (alone) live. He recently did an “Other Perspectives” interview live, both of which are being broadcast on CTN. He was interviewed by The Michigan Daily (link to Daily article) for a feature, and plans to be interviewed by their editorial team when they are ready to make their endorsement decisions. He has been interviewed live by Ryan Stanton of (for a video interview Stanton is preparing), and Stanton covered the League of Women Voters Debate live and wrote up Hatim’s particiation here: link.

    Many weeks ago, Hatim and I sat down and planned out a media strategy, and obviously that strategy was predicated on giving access to him to news outlets where we felt the audience reach maximized the time spent on the interview., for instance, reaches 10x the unique visitors that A2Chronicle does. AAObserver reaches 7x the readers. The Michigan Daily is distributed campus-wide and is the only daily left in town.

    Something else happened though that is important to note: When Hatim offered to answer Ms. McGovern’s questions via email, she became upset, angry and hung on up him. When he told me this, my advice was for him to contact Mary Morgan and Dave Askins, and explain that McGovern’s behavior was the impediment to his participation. Hatim asked for The Chronicle to assign the interview to a free-lancer who, for all intents and purposes, wasn’t angry with him. Dave Askins sent a several paragraph reply in which he, basically, told the candidate that McGovern’s reaction at not getting a face-to-face interview wasn’t an issue. Her disrespectful treatment of Hatim was outweighed by her reputation as a respected professional. Dave explained, quite clearly, that his Chronicle covers “live” events.

    Well, then, the why didn’t McGovern/A2Chronicle cover the League of Women Voters debate, where Hatim was covered live by

    McGovern’s coverage above is biased and based on the simple fact that she didn’t get the kind of interview she wanted from the candidate. Elhady has a media strategy and a media campaign mapped out to maximize media coverage of his campaign. He’s treating his campaign professionally and very seriously. That may be new for Ms. McGovern.

    Her coverage above is condescending and disingenuous. Her assumption that Elhady got “bad advice,” is presumptuous and even somewhat ageist. He’s young, but not naive.

    She writes, “It’s not about me. It’s not about The Chronicle.” But it was, unfortunately.

    I can tell you that her unprofessional behavior lost her the interview, and the A2Chronicle’s owners’ unwillingness to recognize that their free-lance writer had crossed a line with a candidate whom they wanted to interview, lost the site that opportunity to have complete coverage. They should edit this post to make very clear that Hatim never refused to be interviewed and to edit out McGovern’s potshots. There’s a difference between “stepping on toes,” as she admits to doing above. Good journalists do that all the time. This piece isn’t stepping on toes to get a great story, it’s blatantly biased “pay-back” for his insistence on dictating the terms of his own campaign media strategy. Terms McGovern didn’t like.

    When new people run for Council, they come with new ideas and new strategies!

    Hatim’s campaign is planning a meet-the-candidate event at the Mallett’s Creek Library branch. We’re waiting on the library staff to finalize the scheduling. We’ll let Ward Four residents know the exact time and date. We’ll send out notice to media, as well.

  7. By My Two cents
    October 25, 2009 at 1:46 pm | permalink

    So if Elhady happens to win the election, is this how Elhady will treat an upset constituent? He claims he will listen to people, yet his first opportunity before he is even possibly elected he gets upset and says my way or the highway.

    How will he react when constituents are bombarding him with complaints? How will he respond when the press questions him on his decisions? To say that it is justified to not talk to the press because you did not like their attitude shows immaturity and arrogance. To say that this is actually strategic shows lack of transparency and a lack of common sense.

    The choice should be clear for 4th warders now and it is HIGGINS.

  8. By Dave Askins
    October 25, 2009 at 1:52 pm | permalink

    With regard to Ms. Lesko’s comment, I would note that based on a phone conversation I just had with McGovern, she disputes the contention that she hung up on Elhady, or became angry. McGovern did tell me that she advised Elhady that a refusal to be interviewed in person or on the phone could result in his reading exactly that in the piece she would be writing.

    Further, I would say that Lesko’s representation of my own communication to Elhady is somewhat misleading — I’m not convinced that Elhady was treated in any other way than professionally by McGovern, and I did not weigh his “treatment” against anything else. I’ve appended it below.

    At no point in the communications between The Chronicle and Elhady, can I find Elhady saying anything about his media strategy precluding the time investment it would take to reach The Chronicle’s audience. If he had simply said, “Look, given The Chronicle’s readership numbers as I understand them, it’s not time effective for me to do an interview in person or on the telephone — that’s a part of my media strategy,” that would be one thing. What Elhady wrote in an email, though, was that he’d be willing to talk on the phone, just not on the record, and he would also not do an in-person interview with The Chronicle.

    His position that he would not agree to an in-person interview was made and communicated to McGovern by email before McGovern finally called him — which resulted in what Elhady contends was disrespectful treatment. In explaining on the phone to McGovern why he insisted on an “email only” strategy, McGovern says that he contended it was not about her previous reporting. It’s true that he then asked The Chronicle that someone else be assigned to the story. But as his reply to my request that he reconsider shows [see below], he didn’t have a problem with McGovern covering the “meet the candidate” event that apparently never happened.

    As for McGovern not liking the terms Elhady set forth, no journalist would.

    Elhady’s reply is first. The message from me to which he’s replying is second.

    Hi Dave,

    I should be having a meet the candidate next week. I will email you with the time and date and you can send Judy to cover it.

    Hatim E.
    Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Dave Askins
    Date: Thu, 15 Oct 2009 15:41:07
    To: Hatim Elhady
    Subject: Re: Interview Update


    I’m writing to ask that you reconsider completing an on-the-record interview — either face-to-face or by phone — with our free lance writer, Judy McGovern, who we’ve asked to write a piece on the upcoming city council election.

    Emailed sets of questions with emailed replies have become typical tools for journalists who are gathering or verifying raw facts and information. For example, when I need to know from Tom Crawford, the city’s CFO, if his budget shortfall projections included the $400,000 in permit fees to be paid by the DDA for the underground parking structure, then an emailed question, with an emailed reply, “Yes, they did, Dave!” is a perfectly adequate mechanism.

    However, for a candidate profile (election preview) article like this, the content of the piece inherently depends on the reporter being able to ask for clarification and pose immediate follow-up questions, in order to understand more thoroughly what a candidate’s depth of understanding is of issues. Through the dynamics of conversational interaction, candidates are also able to convey what it is they care most about.

    This approach is entirely consistent with The Chronicle’s basic premise as a publication that we report based on first-hand, eye-witness accounts of events whenever that’s possible.

    In this case, I think it’s possible.

    The “live interview” is also something that you can expect to contend with on a regular basis, if you’re elected to serve Ward 4, and you attend the council’s Sunday night caucus. I regularly use that event as an occasion for a “press conference,” where I simply pose questions and followups to councilmembers. I’ll grant you, it makes some councilmembers uncomfortable — Mayor Hieftje has expressed his preference to me that the press not ask questions at Sunday caucus. But it’s a preference that’s not in the best public interest for The Chronicle to honor.

    In the same way, I don’t think it’s in the public’s best interest for us to honor your request that your on-the-record communication for McGovern’s piece be limited to emailed correspondence. Nor is it in the public’s best interest to honor your request that some other writer be assigned to the story — McGovern is an experienced reporter with an extensive knowledge of Ann Arbor city affairs and is highly respected in our community.

    Voters are already getting only an abbreviated picture of Ward 4 candidates due to Marcia Higgins’ non-appearance at the CTN debates. So voters will be looking to other venues to learn something about you and Higgins.

    If you’re willing to reconsider your position, please make arrangements with McGovern by the end of the day Monday, Oct. 19 to complete an interview for a piece that will likely be published by the end of next week.



  9. By Robert Smith
    October 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm | permalink

    This was a comment posted by the reporter Ryan Stanton on his story in response to a user there who had cross-posted to this story:

    Thanks for sharing the link the Chronicle story. As a general rule of thumb, it’s good for readers to have a variety of sources of information. I will say, however, that the Chronicle’s account is entirely the opposite of what we experienced at Elhady was more than willing to come in and sit down with us (see the video interview embedded above), and it took great efforts on our part just to get Higgins on the phone for 10 minutes, and she wasn’t able to speak face to face with us. Of course, we understand her predicament and are sympathetic. But I’m surprised to hear the Chronicle had trouble talking to Elhady.

  10. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 25, 2009 at 2:13 pm | permalink

    “Something else happened though that is important to note: When Hatim offered to answer Ms. McGovern’s questions via email, she became upset, angry and hung on up him.”

    If Ms. McGovern dadn’t done such a poor job of oversight during her time on the Ann Arbor News, I’d take her tears about her failures as a reporter more seriously. I do feel for Ms. Higgins and her daughter’s medical situation–but it doesn’t excuse her failures over the last decade. We hear about her daughter–but not her part in the email scandel, we get a brief mention of her discussion of the bridge saga, but no mention city staff were blaming her for the delay in appointing a citizen rep to the ream overseeing the issue or that the bridge has been an issue since 2001. We don’t hear a word about the City-Court building, the city income tax, the police-firefighter cuts, Argo Dam…well we learn very little from this softball series of questions.

    I’ve been in the 4th Ward for fifteen years and never have seen Higgins campaign door-to-door even ONCE (but have seen the Mayor two or three times). So THIS year Higgins isn’t going to campaign door to door? Lol.

    There are obviously some deeper issues going on with the attempts to get this article. But the worse journalism is ‘oh I couldn’t get the story’ articles.

    Why DID everyone else get an interview and not Ms. McGovern?

    “A candidate who – like Elhady – touts “transparency” and accessibility, but won’t talk to a news publication that you turn to for information, should also give you pause.”

    Thanks Judy. I’ll take your suggestion here in the same way I did your editorials in the A2 News.

  11. By John Dory
    October 25, 2009 at 2:42 pm | permalink

    I support Hatim Elhady.

    I believe their has been no other candidate that has made himself more accessible to Fourth Ward residents.

  12. October 25, 2009 at 2:47 pm | permalink

    I have to question Ms. McGovern’s interest in personal interviews.

    When she recently did a marginal job “reporting” on the Allen’s Creek Greenway for the AAN she felt no need to call the Allen’s Creek Watershed Group, or give mention. A group in existence since before 2000, long since listed on the city Planning web site, and was a major supporter of watershed improvement and the greenway.

    The AAN’s for years didn’t want to get the facts on major flooding and water pollution issues facing the watershed and nor did Ms. McGovern.

  13. By Rod Johnson
    October 25, 2009 at 6:29 pm | permalink

    Disappointing. The last paragraph of this story–”A candidate who – like Elhady – touts “transparency” and accessibility, but won’t talk to a news publication that you turn to for information, should also give you pause”–crosses some kind of line between news and editorial for me (I guess we’re supposed to think that if this is a “column” that makes it OK). But it’s just full of little rhetorical twists that are really out of place in a news story. Putting scare quotes around “transparency” is the kind of contemptuous tone-of-voice thing Fox News does about the Obama administration. Is McGovern accusing Elhady of actually being dishonest or hypocritical here? No, but this way she gets to imply it without having to back it up. The ironic juxtaposition of that with The Candidate That Won’t Talk paints a nasty little picture, but we’ve already seen there other perspectives on his reasons. And the suggestion that this should “give us pause” without any explanation of WHY, or how this affects Elhady’s fitness for office, combined with the sympathetically told story of Higgins, comes awfully close to out and out campaigning.

    Those of us who remember the worthlessness of the Ann Arbor News’s local political coverage might instead see this as pique on McGovern’s part overriding her sense of fairness. We certainly saw that happen at the News often enough.

    Dave, before you circle the wagons to defend this story, step back and take an honest look at it. I have no dog in this fight, and I don’t get Elhady’s decision not to do a live interview, but the bias in this story is obvious to me.

  14. October 25, 2009 at 7:05 pm | permalink

    Re: #6–”His suggestion was to do it via email.”

    “…his insistence on dictating the terms of his own campaign media strategy.”

    McGovern’s account seems more in line with the latter than the former.

    Re: #10–What value do people see in door knocking by candidates?

  15. By Dave Askins
    October 25, 2009 at 8:01 pm | permalink


    When you write, “… crosses some kind of line between news and editorial for me (I guess we’re supposed to think that if this is a “column” that makes it OK) … little rhetorical twists that are really out of place in a news story,” I think you’ve accurately identified exactly why this piece is labeled in its headline as a column and tagged with the “Opinion” section label. It’s written in the first person and contains a column mug shot. It’s expected, as such, to reflect a first-person perspective, and conclusions and opinions associated with that perspective.

    If there were any question about its status as a plain news story versus a first person column, then the lede certainly removes all doubt: “This piece was supposed to be a straightforward look at a city council race. It’s not. Instead it’s a column … ”

    Nobody is pretending that this is a “news story” that is free of any bias.

    That said, as you yourself point out, “I don’t get Elhady’s decision not to do a live interview.” McGovern didn’t get it. I didn’t get it, either. No journalist would get it. It’s the one thing we learned from Elhady’s interaction with The Chronicle that you wouldn’t learn anywhere else: Elhady didn’t want to talk live, on the record to The Chronicle. When no compelling reason is offered for not wanting to talk to The Chronicle, then it’s fair to place “transparency” in scare quotes. And those scare quotes don’t, to my reading, mean that McGovern’s just implying hypocrisy with respect to the transparency question, I read it to mean that there’s an actual claim here, for this specific instance at least, that it’s hypocritical of him not to talk live to The Chronicle. Which means, as you point out, she needs to back it up. And I think that claim is adequately supported by his refusal to be interviewed live by The Chronicle, together with the lack of any reason for that refusal. You write that you don’t get his decision. Isn’t that another way of saying, that his reason is not transparent? If there is some reason, we haven’t heard it. We didn’t hear any mention of a media strategy from him. And Lesko’s optimized time allocation “media strategy” contention is refuted by Elhady’s professed willingness to make time on the phone, but not to speak on the record in that phone conversation.

    My own take on the Ward 4 candidates is this. In Higgins we have a candidate whose family medical situation appears to have the possibility of having a material effect on her ability to make herself accessible and to serve Ward 4 effectively — but it’s a situation beyond her future control, and it’s impossible to quarrel with “family first.” In Elhady we have a candidate who I think has simply made a mistake in choosing not to agree to a reasonable request to talk live to The Chronicle — but it’s the kind of decision he’ll have control over in the future. And that take isn’t so different from the questions that McGovern asks readers to contemplate in her column. A reader could well opt for the candidate who’s got control over the relevant decisions.

  16. By Rod Johnson
    October 25, 2009 at 8:53 pm | permalink

    Thanks for the response, Dave. You haven’t really convinced me, but I appreciate your explaining your reasoning. Hypocrisy is a stretch, though, considering that he’s not refusing to be interviewed, he’s just not accepting the Chronicle’s terms (wisely or unwisely). I don’t think McGovern made much of a case that he really is failing the transparency test, much less that it’s the kind of character flaw we call hypocrisy. What I see is a reporter trying to get a story and a subject being difficult. Lacking any details about Elhady’s true commitment to transparency (and I’m sure you’ll claim that this is Elhady’s fault for failing to answer questions), the scare quotes are basically a cheap shot. You may think it’s justified, but it’s not exactly raising the tone of political coverage in this town.

    And that’s my issue with this article. It’s basically a cheap shot at Elhady on one hand, and a warm, sympathetic hug to Higgins on the other. It’s… “attack fluff.” Regardless of whether you can rationalize it as justified, it’s an inappropriate thing for “a news publication that you turn to for information,” as McGovern piously puts it, to run before an election. No serious “news publication” would let that stand as their major piece of coverage of an election contest, and a reporter’s failure to secure an interview would never be accepted as an excuse.

    I’m sorry for being critical, but, man, I have admired so much what the Chronicle has done in covering so many local stories clearly and fairly–it pains me to see such a bad story here.

  17. By Vivienne Armentrout
    October 25, 2009 at 10:01 pm | permalink

    From all I know and has been said here, I think that it would be more accurate to say that “Elhady refused to talk live to Judy McGovern”. Not “to the Chronicle”. It is clear that he requested a different reporter. “Nor is it in the public’s best interest to honor your request that some other writer be assigned to the story — McGovern is an experienced reporter with an extensive knowledge of Ann Arbor city affairs and is highly respected in our community.”

    Judy McGovern does have a certain history. I don’t know why Elhady refused to talk “live” with her, but it would be reasonable to suppose that her history in covering past campaigns might be a factor. I can state that based on my own experience in the past, her past behavior could at least be a consideration.

    That said, I would not and did not advise him to refuse an interview. But campaign strategy is always unique to the particular campaign. Even the Obama White House has been dissing Fox News.

  18. By Marvin Face
    October 25, 2009 at 11:00 pm | permalink

    Dave, I appreciate your willingness to suffer the fools here. I dare say I would not have the patience. Why people are arguing back and forth about whether Elhady is ignorant, just inexperienced, or being poorly advised is beyond me.

    The simple fact is that Elhady’s campaign is an absolute train wreck. It’s so ugly that people just can’t look away.

  19. By yet another
    October 26, 2009 at 12:05 am | permalink

    It’s easy to understand why Elhady was happy to speak in person to Stanton’s piece is clearly a pro-Elhady editorial presented to readers as an article. Most of it focuses exclusively on inappropriate email during council meetings and Higgins’ role in the ongoing hijinks. Nearer to the end, the Stadium bridge, city income tax, Georgetown Mall and a few other issues warrant a passing mention. Judging from this, one could think that most issues directly affecting ward residents on a day-to-day basis don’t count for much, that only the email messages matter.

    In contrast, McGovern would have challenged him to think on his feet and respond to nuanced questions (based on her experience reporting local government) in reply to his initial answers. The followup could easily have pushed him past the rehearsed talking points and into previously unexamined policy territory, testing the parameters of his knowledge. He would have been expected to show a degree of fluency on a range of local government matters, not just in those specific areas favorable toward his campaign strategy.

    Elhady’s decision to strictly avoid this kind of press interaction, unfortunately, tears a page straight out of the George W. Bush media playbook. During the regency of Dick Cheney, Bush’s handlers willingly accepted some in-person interviews by sympathetic, right-leaning reporters, while ignoring requests from anyone inclined to do probing, intelligent followup questions (like Helen Thomas). White House staff knew it was a big roll of the dice to let George W. improvise his answers on the record in front of the press.

    In fairness to Elhady, Higgins might have chosen to limit her interaction with Stanton for roughly similar reasons. Both candidates give the appearance of seeking to avoid a challenge. They won’t parry with a knowledgeable interviewer with whom they’re not personally comfortable, and who may surprise them by tossing an occasional curve ball. Not very impressive.

  20. By Patricia Lesko
    October 26, 2009 at 12:59 am | permalink

    To be clear, Vivienne Armentrout’s comments are her own; she does speak, in any way, for Hatim Elhady or his campaign. I certainly appreciate her sharing her perspective as a candidate who was interviewed by local press when she ran for office. The choices she for herself make for an interesting addition to the discussion, to be sure.

  21. By Patricia Lesko
    October 26, 2009 at 1:07 am | permalink

    I just realized that the email response Dave posted above was in response to another email, not the shorter message he has posted. Here is the original message Hatim sent to Askins that elicited the response Askins posted above (#8):

    From: Hatim Elhady
    Date: Thu, Oct 15, 2009 at 9:56 AM
    Subject: Interview Update

    Dear Ms. Morgan,

    Thank you very much for your interest in covering my run for the Fourth Ward City Council seat.

    I spoke to Judy McGovern, whom you’ve assigned to do the piece, and told her that I would be delighted to be interviewed. I asked that she send the questions—I’m sure she has already prepared—via email. I told her I would answer them, and send them back. She replied that this is a method of interview she’d never used before. In fact, she became angry, and said that her only recourse would be to write that I was refusing to be interviewed.

    With a new face on Council, we’ll have new ideas and new ways of getting the usual things done!

    So, let’s be very clear: I am not refusing, nor have I ever refused to be interviewed by Your free-lance writer, Judy McGovern, refused on your behalf to interview me using the written Q & A simply because she is not accustomed to using that method. To write that I refused to be interviewed without also making clear that she refused the opportunity to interview me because she was not accustomed to conducting the kind of interview I proposed, would be to write something that was deliberately inaccurate.

    It would be a shame for the Chronicle’s coverage of the race to be incomplete. As I wrote above, I would be delighted to participate. I’ve done interviews with the A2 Journal, Observer and Michigan Daily thus far. I’m scheduled for an interview at However, as I told Judy, I’ll answer any and all questions the AAChronicle cares to submit in writing. If the writer needs to get a sense of me by phone, we can chat, but off the record.

    There’s just one final matter. Given Ms. McGovern’s somewhat puzzling, angry and inappropriate outburst, I’d prefer you assign the interview to another writer.

    Looking forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience,

    Hatim Elhady

  22. By Dave Askins
    October 26, 2009 at 1:53 am | permalink


    Regarding your [17], I think that the initial message from Elhady to me and Mary — posted above by Lesko in [21] — makes clear that our characterization of Elhady’s refusal to speak live to The Chronicle is accurate, extending beyond a refusal to speak live to McGovern specifically, and thus doesn’t need the qualification you suggest. Specifically, here’s what he wrote to us, in the context of asking for a different writer:

    “I’ll answer any and all questions the AAChronicle cares to submit in writing. If the writer needs to get a sense of me by phone, we can chat, but off the record.”

  23. By Vivienne Armentrout
    October 26, 2009 at 8:03 am | permalink

    In #20, Patricia Lesko said of me, “she does speak in any way” for Elhady – this was obviously a typo and left out the “not”. I didn’t intend to imply in my earlier comment that I was speaking for Elhady, in fact I stated that I didn’t know what his campaign strategy was. I also indicated that this would not have been my choice – but I wasn’t involved.

    Speaking for myself, I wonder why McGovern didn’t use the material that she had available, such as the early Elhady interview and the Q&A offered, plus the debate footage? She did give Higgins a pretty full exposition of positions based on previous material, though Higgins wasn’t available for a full interview at this time. I’m sorry that we are not talking about the real issues in the Fourth Ward and the City instead of this one

  24. By Steve T
    October 26, 2009 at 9:09 am | permalink

    This election race doesn’t affect me in any way so I have no axes to grind. But I would like to make a couple of observations on the parties involved and journalistic techniques:
    – I worked with Judy McGovern for about eight years, not closely but from a position to observe her work. Judy and I probably don’t agree on anything and we, on occasion, had some spirited water cooler discussions. But the notion that “she became upset, angry and hung on up him” is so far out of character for Judy that it makes me smile. Of course, we all have our triggers, but I tried to provoke Judy for eight years and failed. And I’m a pretty good provoker.
    – The single most important tool in the professional journalist’s toolkit is skepticism. There’s an old newsroom saying … “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” Conducting even the most fluffy interview via e-mail is a bad idea. Conducting THIS interview via e-mail would be careless and unprofessional. The readers insisting that there’s nothing wrong with it probably let their eighth grade students take their math exams by e-mail (and a hearty laugh is had by all. In the school cafeteria, at least). If Judy was to be fooled by a bogus e-mail interview some of these same critics would be the first to attack her.

  25. October 26, 2009 at 9:18 am | permalink

    This is a real issue, Vivienne. It’s what you and many of us have been asking, if not clamoring, for for years. It’s about that “transparency” thing that Judy pointed to.

    We’re learning about a candidate and his (in this case) approach to communicating with the public, much as we learned about current council members’ approach via the FOIA process. Certainly, much of this is open to interpretation, but it’s relevant information nonetheless. While I think that each of us would have presented this information differently, I appreciate it being presented. (Kill the messenger much, folks?)

    The election is more than a week away. There’s time for a real interview to be conducted and reported here. Let’s see if the candidates are up for it.

    Come to think of it, you publish a blog. You could write something about the 4th ward race there or interview the candidates yourself (via email) and ask about the issues you care about or those you think 4th warders care about. If nothing else, it would be interesting to see if you were able to get a live interview or if Elhady/Lesko’s suspect (time-based? really?) strategy applies.

  26. By Rod Johnson
    October 26, 2009 at 9:25 am | permalink

    To be clear, even though I think this is a poor article (and I’m a fool, apparently), I’m not arguing from a pro-Elhady position. I think #19 above is a pretty good summary of the “media strategy” issue.

  27. By rshackleford
    October 26, 2009 at 9:31 am | permalink

    The Chronicle took a serious blow to its credibility by publishing this catty article. This is standard Fox News “you’re afraid to interview with us” crap. This reporter has a history of this type of action; the fact that the Chronicle would print it is just sad. I find it hard to believe that ElHady would be willing to interview with every other local entity, but decide, supposedly based on nothing, not to do so with the Chronicle. The attitude the writer takes shows that she never had any respect for the candidate in the first place.

    In every other local publication, when a reporter could not obtain an interview with Higgins, they at least published a neutral summary of her points of view. That is nowhere in this article. A single dismissive sentence followed by a backhanded remark. With staff like this who wonders that AA News went out of business? Bravo, Chronicle. Bravo.

  28. By Vivienne Armentrout
    October 26, 2009 at 9:56 am | permalink

    Steve, I think that did a pretty decent job. I have other issues to cover with my blog and I’m not trying to substitute for news media. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

    Elhady has been plenty open in other forums. I’m sorry to see that his campaign got into this dispute with the Chronicle. But it is not an argument for his lack of “transparency” to the general public. Actually, the word is being misapplied for this circumstance. It is properly applied to an entire governmental process, not to the availability of an individual to be questioned in a particular forum.

  29. October 26, 2009 at 10:00 am | permalink

    For an interesting parallel at the national level, here’s a video of a discussion on CNN about the Obama administration’s relationship with Fox News/network (and vice versa): [link].

    Rod and RShackleford, did you not see (or understand or believe) Dave’s explanation that this was a column and not an article? Hard to say whether it’s useful feedback for the Chronicle or not that two commenters used “article”.

  30. By rshackleford
    October 26, 2009 at 10:27 am | permalink

    “This piece was supposed to be a straightforward look at a city council race.”

    …Until ElHady didn’t bow to the demands of the all mighty McGovern, so she wrote a snotty hit job and called it a “column” instead.

    Then it really becomes: “I can’t get the story exactly as I want, so I’ll throw a tantrum and write a story about how I didn’t get the story I want.” Thin skin is not an admirable trait in a journalist. Neither is whining.

    It seems quite plausible that McGovern was snotty to ElHady in the first place, given that he perceived her as hostile from the get go. Much more plausible than Mcgovern’s story, especially given her petulant history. As mentioned, he has done interviews with essentially every other local news outlet and appeared in several voter forums. He has been much more open and engaged with the public than the vast majority of council candidates in recent history. But we’re supposed to believe he had some kind of a priori vendetta against the Chronicle? I think the editors and “columnist” just have a much too inflated sense of their own and their site’s importance.

    Sorry, with this “column” and subsequent defense of it, you just lost one of your few readers. You refused to provide key information for me as a voter, you did it in a snobby and entitled way, and you refused to acknowledge the error. I won’t be clicking on this site again until an apology, a neutral interview with ElHady and better standards for “columnists” appear. I won’t hold my breath.

  31. By John Q.
    October 26, 2009 at 11:00 am | permalink

    If it was anyone but McGovern, I would be inclined to give more credence to the reporter’s viewpoint. But having seen McGovern’s biased opinion pieces on several subjects where important counterpoints were distorted or omitted, I’m not so inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.

  32. By Rod Johnson
    October 26, 2009 at 12:10 pm | permalink

    Hi Steve–yeah, I saw that. Sorry for the loose use of “article”–I guess I was using it in the web sense, where no distinction is implied about type of content. I’m not trying to insist it’s news.

    I wrestled with that point, and ultimately decided that the fact that it’s labeled a column isn’t that meaningful, especially since McGovern insists that this is a “news publication.” If it’s just a column about how hard it was to get Elhady to do things her way, it’s not that interesting–I can’t imagine a real “new publication” running such a piece unless it had more interesting thing to say. It’s OK to focus on the behind the scenes process stuff as long as there’s some sustance somewhere–but there isn’t.

    But the larger point is that right now, this is all the Chronicle has in print. If Fox (or MSNBC, choose your poison) ran a piece to the effect that Candidate A is a lying hypocrite, but Candidate B likes kittens, I think people would have no trouble seeing the bias.

    But OK, I guess I’ve run this into the ground. I think McGovern is getting a pass here because she’s known in the community, but this is part of the difficulty of doing real news in a small town like this–everyone knows everyone else, and navigating the network of friendships, feuds and alliances is tricky. Check out Rene Graff’s interview at a2politico link for a vivid illustration.

  33. October 26, 2009 at 12:17 pm | permalink

    Dave/Mary — Looks to me like you’ve got a lot of people interested in the subject. Seems everyone is evaluating each others motives as well as the content of the article. Not a bad outcome for a news article.

  34. By Lou Glorie
    October 26, 2009 at 1:33 pm | permalink

    AUTHORITARIAN SUBMISSION meets AUTHORITARIAN AGGRESSION* in the “reporting” of Judy McGovern. The chronicle’s editor says it was a “column”, so maybe it is best called unreporting. What I don’t understand is the Chronicle’s need for Ms. McGovern’s opinion. Considering what she’s written in the past, one rightly questions how well rounded those opinions might be. Ms. McGovern’s reporting for the Ann Arbor News has mostly elucidated her penchant to belittle the unauthorized version of events and issues. She’s never seemed an adept skeptic except when dealing with an opposition candidate or view. For too many years, people employed as journalists in this town, have shown a predilection for the official story. It has often looked more like collaboration than journalism.

    It is understandable that ElHady would be wary of a conversation with a “journalist” who has a history of bias against challenges to authority. I would recommend either the course that ElHady took, or resort to recording conversations for back-up.

    *submission to established authorities considered legitimate and hostility toward upstarts, dissenters and others who challenge or act against established authorities

  35. By David
    October 26, 2009 at 1:52 pm | permalink

    This is a very unfortunate turn of events for the Chronicle. Up the this point, it has provided what appears to be fair and thorough reporting of area politics and government. Given the biases and one of the owner’s defense of the article (to me it doesn’t matter is we call it a column, story, report, etc., the key issue is that the Chronicle chose to publish it and therefore support it), I expect to see an endorsement of Ms. Higgins.

    For this story, the owner hired a free-lance reporter, Ms. McGovern, on a contract basis (or something similar) to do a study on the candidate. The candidate would not agree to Ms. McGovern’s terms and proposed his own terms, which appear to have been acceptable to other local media groups but not to Ms. McGovern. Past history, which neither party seems to be speaking about, could be at play. Neither side would compromise so Ms. McGovern did not get the story. Instead of finding another reporter who could work with Mr. ElHady to report the story, the Chronicle choose to publish Ms. McGovern’s useless triade aganist a candiate. A very sad outcome for all of your readers.

    I will probaby continue to read the Chronicle but with a much more suspicious mind now that this article so blatently showed your biases.

  36. October 26, 2009 at 2:28 pm | permalink

    I cannot imagine any reputable news reporter accepting an email interview. If the other news organizations used an email interview, it’s an extremely sad state of affairs and hardly reporting.

  37. By Blaine Coleman
    October 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm | permalink

    All this sound and fury over what Elhady and Higgins say about bridges and taxes, and whether they say it into a phone or into an e-mail.

    Whichever one is elected, it is a dead certainty that they will both dodge the issue of boycotting Apartheid Israel, no matter how many Gazans are starved and killed by Israel between now and then. The whole Council will dodge the issue, no matter how many Palestinian bodies are piled higher and deeper. Like all elected bodies in the U.S., this Council acquiesces to the notion that Arab life JUST ISN’T WORTH TALKING ABOUT.

    It is also a dead certainty that all local media, even the relatively open “Chronicle”, will stand like a stone wall against publicly debating a boycott against Israel.

    No, we will be treated to a sitz-krieg over who is willing to phone up Ms. McGovern rather than e-mail her. I can tell you that she has never phoned me, and never will. Why should she, or the Chronicle, differ from the national consensus when it comes to the value of Arab life?

    This issue, of boycotting Israel, is not the only issue in this city. But it is an issue, and it should be publicly debated just like bridges and taxes are.

    I believe that Arab life, all 250 million Arab lives, are worth raising your voice about, before Israel and the United States kill a few million more.

  38. By John Q.
    October 26, 2009 at 2:42 pm | permalink

    “I cannot imagine any reputable news reporter accepting an email interview. If the other news organizations used an email interview, it’s an extremely sad state of affairs and hardly reporting.”

    Welcome to the brave new world of 21st century media. For better or worse, it happens all the time.

  39. By Vivienne Armentrout
    October 26, 2009 at 3:01 pm | permalink

    The Ann Arbor News used to send out a candidate questionnaire with set questions to which the candidates would reply. This was used for most of the reporting on the candidates. (And was the moral equivalent of the Q&A proposed.)

    When I ran for council last year, my interview interaction with Ms. McGovern consisted of a quick early phone interview (when I first filed and sent in a press release), which she reported fairly and even favorably. Then I had to send in two questionnaires, one each for the News and for Then I had the meeting with the editorial board where I had to answer a lot of questions. McGovern was there but did not participate in the questioning. Unfortunately I found the later reporting on the race (sans interview) to be misleading. An interview to respond to some of the things being said would have been good.

    The means of obtaining information about a candidate can be extremely varied, including actually listening to public statements such as what was said at City Council and the debate. (Videos of the council comments are available on Elhady’s website.) A pretty good overview of the candidate can be obtained in all these ways. No need to fixate on a particular mode of interviewing.

    I was pleased that the Chronicle did not show any tendency toward endorsement or favoritism in the August primaries, and I don’t think it fair to assume that the column represents a crypto-endorsement by the Chronicle. It was just a poor communication complicated by a lot of hurt feelings all the way round (my personal view, not that of any other party).

    Now, to quote Rodney King, can we all get along?

  40. By My Two Cents
    October 26, 2009 at 3:26 pm | permalink

    The real question is not what type of interview style should be used for a candidate, but whether someone who is running a campaign based on openness, communication and transparency can justify intentionally and strategically not talking to a news organization whose purpose is to educate the public. If Elhady truly stood for those things he would answer the questions from the press especially during a campaign.

    That is the problem. Stop trying to shoot the messenger.

  41. By Michael Schils
    October 26, 2009 at 4:17 pm | permalink

    Where’s the Higgins interview? The column states that Higgins agreed to a phone interview but doesn’t give any indication of what questions she was asked, nor of her responses. There’s a question regarding how the crisis in her personal life is affecting her political career, but immediately after that question the author states, “We talked about that a few weeks ago…”. So it doesn’t appear that even that question was part of the phone interview.

    So Judy McGovern set out determined to get two “live” interviews, and then spends the first half of her column whining about how she was only able to get one, but then doesn’t even bother to include the specific questions and responses from that “live” interview in her column! Oh the irony that in a column about a quest for two “live” interviews, McGovern chooses to write more about the one she couldn’t get! So this is “contract” journalism, eh?

  42. By Annette Gilbert
    October 26, 2009 at 7:05 pm | permalink

    I was disappointed by Judy McGovern’s behavior.

    Maybe Hatim Elhady can still be interviewed.

  43. By yet another
    October 26, 2009 at 8:33 pm | permalink

    “I cannot imagine any reputable news reporter accepting an email interview. If the other news organizations used an email interview, it’s an extremely sad state of affairs and hardly reporting.”

    Welcome to the brave new world of 21st century media. For better or worse, it happens all the time.

    That doesn’t mean that now we’re all required to reduce our standards to the lowest common denominator. During the last few decades, informative and investigative mainstream journalism in the U.S. has fallen into a bad enough state of repair as it is. By comparison, it’s been a relief in recent years to access the alternative and international press with a click or two of the mouse, where higher states of intelligence and news coverage may be found.

    What if, about a year ago, news anchor Katie Couric had allowed Sarah Palin to answer by email the questions she asked her live & in person? Afterward on SNL, as you recall, all Tina Fey had to do to bring the house down was recite from Palin’s responses word for word, while in character. Giving Palin a chance to allow a team of GOP writers to compose her email responses behind the scenes would have made that episode in the campaign so much more phony and less interesting.

    Striking though not really surprising is the harsh, accusatory tone in the partisan response over the Chronicle’s refusal to let the Elhady campaign choreograph the question & answer process to their best political advantage. Hopefully the Chronicle editors won’t allow this experience limit them in the slightest in regard to which writers they choose to work with in the future. Decisions on local coverage certainly don’t need a stamp of approval from this or any other small sampling of commenters.

    Among the complaints about this column, I see repeated slams on professionalism and character, with a few accusations of emotional instability thrown in. It reads as if McGovern and the editors (to a lesser degree) are being “Groomed.”

  44. By Brian
    October 26, 2009 at 11:04 pm | permalink

    A candidate for public office is afraid to speak with a reporter because he is concerned he will get some tough questions? I’m sorry, but I want my council member to stand up to anyone and not shy away from controversy or tough issues (or people). That is a fundamental part of the job, from my perspective. It speaks volumes. An email exchange simply will not do in my book.

  45. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 27, 2009 at 6:44 am | permalink

    “Re: #10–What value do people see in door knocking by candidates?”

    Call me old school but getting to ask questions one on one to my potential council rep seems to me to be a positive thing Steve as opposed to having ‘reporters’ get to decide the questions. Even the Mayor, who I’ve disagreed with the last couple of years on several issues, stop by during his last campaign and answered several questions about tree and sidewalk replacement and taxes. I hear in other wards, some council candidates actually do this but unfortunately I’m in the 4th Ward.

  46. By Jack Eaton
    October 27, 2009 at 11:31 am | permalink

    The article and some of the comments seem to imply that Elhady is unwilling to be interviewed live and in person. This is untrue. As others have mentioned, he was interviewed by Ann Arbor dot com. Video from that interview can be found on their web site.

    Elhady also sat for live questioning in the League of Women Voters debate, which can be viewed on Comcast Channel CTN 19 at these times:
    Tuesday at 4:30 pm,
    Wednesday at 8:30 pm,
    Thursday at 3:30 pm,
    Friday at 7:30 pm,
    Saturday at 10:30 pm.

    Additionally, Elhady was interviewed by Nancy Kaplan on her CTN Other Perspectives show, which will be broadcast on Comcast Channel CTN 17:
    Thursday, 10/29 – 2:30 PM & 6 PM
    Friday, 10/30 – 10:30 AM & 8:30 PM
    Saturday, 10/31 – 3 PM
    Sunday, 11/1 – 1:30 PM
    Monday, 11/2 -2:30 PM, 5:30 PM & 8 PM

    Please note that the Other Perspectives show has a 15 minute interview with Dave Askins about the ballot issues, then a 15 minute interview with Elhady.

    Clearly, Hatim Elhady has been available for and willing to do live interviews.

  47. By Tom Whitaker
    October 27, 2009 at 11:45 am | permalink

    Where’s the teeter-totter when we need it?

  48. By Dave Askins
    October 27, 2009 at 12:38 pm | permalink


    Neither the column nor the commentary claim anything other than that Elhady refused to be interviewed live by The Chronicle. That’s a confirmed fact not in dispute.

    So you’ve thus set up a straw man (Elhady won’t be interviewed live in general) and then neatly knocked it down.

    The most constructive contribution you might have made to this conversation, would have been to announce that the “meet the candidate” event Elhady first told The Chronicle would happen last week, is going to happen on Friday this week. It’s an event where I’m assuming The Chronicle will be welcome and can ask the questions with followups that he’s refused up to now to answer live from The Chronicle. Can you give us some details on that event, please?

  49. By sandy
    October 27, 2009 at 12:56 pm | permalink

    From Lesko comment #6:
    Hatim’s campaign is planning a meet-the-candidate event at the Mallett’s Creek Library branch. We’re waiting on the library staff to finalize the scheduling. We’ll let Ward Four residents know the exact time and date. We’ll send out notice to media, as well.

  50. By Dave Askins
    October 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm | permalink

    Re: [49]

    But now that a time and place have been determined — as far as I understand yesterday, but I have had no direct confirmation of that from anyone authorized to speak on behalf of the Elhady campaign, and can’t find mention of it on the campaign website (it’s possible I’ve overlooked it) — the most helpful and constructive contribution that Eaton could have made would have been to spell out the time/date/location … especially since the location specified by Lesko is not the same one that the as-yet unconfirmed information indicates.

  51. By Dave Askins
    October 27, 2009 at 1:11 pm | permalink

    To clarify [50], it’s my understanding the determination of time/date/location was made yesterday, not that the event was held yesterday.

  52. By Jack Eaton
    October 27, 2009 at 2:56 pm | permalink

    I am pleased to announce a meet-the-candidates-event for the 4th Ward City Council election. The Fourth Ward is runs from Pauline and Maple Road on the west to Packard on the east. The exact area can be found in a map on this site: [link]

    As you may know, this year the 4th Ward Council race is between incumbent, Democrat Marcia Higgins and challenger, independent Hatim Elhady.

    The election is next Tuesday, November 3, 2009.

    The event is:

    Meet the Candidates Night
    Friday October 30, 2009
    Starting at 6:30 p.m.
    Dicken Elementary School Media Center
    2135 Runnymede Blvd.
    Ann Arbor MI 48103

    Please join us for an opportunity to hear from the candidates for 4th Ward Council seat.

    Neither the Friends of Dicken Woods nor the Dicken Elementary School endorse or support candidates for public office. This event is for informational purposes and does not constitute support for any candidate.

  53. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 27, 2009 at 3:17 pm | permalink

    “Please join us for an opportunity to hear from the candidates for 4th Ward Council seat.”


    Will Marcia Higgins be there?

  54. By Patricia Lesko
    October 27, 2009 at 3:46 pm | permalink


    If you have a question about Marcia Higgins’s campaign plans, you would do well to call or email Ms. Higgins. I sent Leah Gunn and Marcia Higgins two emails several weeks ago asking for dates/times for a meet-the-candidate event that would be convenient for Ms. Higgins. Neither Gunn or Higgins ever responded.

  55. By Alan Goldsmith
    October 27, 2009 at 3:48 pm | permalink

    Thanks for the information Pat.

  56. By Leah Gunn
    October 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm | permalink

    I was away for about two weeks, but had access to both of my e-mail addresses (private and county) and checcked them quite frequently. If such an e-mail was sent, I never received it.

  57. By Patricia Lesko
    October 27, 2009 at 7:01 pm | permalink

    Subject: Ward Four Meet The Candidate Event
    Date: October 5, 2009 3:25:14 PM GMT-04:00


    Hatim Elhady would like to invite Council member Higgins to participate in a Ward Four Meet the Candidate Event. Like the Ward Three event, it would include opening and closing statements, with the bulk of the time devoted to responding to questions about the issues from Ward Four residents. Since Ms. Higgins’ schedule is the less flexible one, we’d like to give her to opportunity to suggest 2-3 dates (evenings) that would work for her. To be clear, this event is not being sponsored by the AADems. It’s an opportunity for Ward Four residents to gather and ask questions of the candidates.


    Patricia Lesko

  58. By Patricia Lesko
    October 27, 2009 at 7:03 pm | permalink

    Subject: Ward Four Meet The Candidate Event
    Date: October 5, 2009 3:25:14 PM GMT-04:00
    Mime-Version: 1.0 (Apple Message framework v753.1)
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII; delsp=yes; format=flowed
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit


    Hatim Elhady would like to invite Council member Higgins to participate in a Ward Four Meet the Candidate Event. Like the Ward Three event, it would include opening and closing statements, with the bulk of the time devoted to responding to questions about the issues from Ward Four residents. Since Ms. Higgins’ schedule is the less flexible one, we’d like to give her to opportunity to suggest 2-3 dates (evenings) that would work for her. To be clear, this event is not being sponsored by the AADems. It’s an opportunity for Ward Four residents to gather and ask questions of the candidates.


    Patricia Lesko

  59. By Leah Gunn
    October 27, 2009 at 9:10 pm | permalink

    Never received such an email.

  60. By Jack Eaton
    October 27, 2009 at 9:59 pm | permalink

    I received a copy of the email in #58 that was addressed to Gunn, Elhady and Higgins that was also bcc’d to me, Karen and LuAnne.

  61. By Lou Glorie
    October 28, 2009 at 1:32 am | permalink

    In your latest posting (#48), Dave, you retort: “Neither the column nor the commentary claim anything other than that Elhady refused to be interviewed live by The Chronicle. That’s a confirmed fact not in dispute.”

    If the confirmed fact is that Elhady refused a live interview with Judy McGovern, nobody is disputing it. Since there aren’t any claims challenging the fact that he refused a “live” interview, I’m wondering why this fact needs confirmation. Is it to provide the Chronicle with the opportunity to publish at least one undisputed sentence on this subject? In any case, it isn’t this assertion that some of your readers have been objecting to.

    What gets closer to the bone of contention is: “Neither the column nor the commentary claim anything other than”… Elhady’s refusal. You go on to say “Our job is to provide information you wouldn’t have otherwise, so that you can better make decisions about public affairs.” Your only claim is that he refused a live interview? You and McGovern have only been engaged in the provision of information?

    I think this is contradicted by what you’ve both been writing. Per post #15, you disavow the mere implication that Elhady is hypocritical, and proceed recklessly to an accusation of hypocrisy “adequately supported by his refusal to be interviewed”. Good god Dave, you’ve summoned the specter of Torquemada: Elhady is condemned for staying afloat during his trial by assent to be interviewed. It’s risible to state that you’ve said nothing except “Elhady refused to be interviewed”.

    “In this case, the information is about the dearth of information. It’s not very satisfying, but it’s an honest account.” (post #48)

    Really, McGovern’s piece was about a dearth of information? Excepting the inches on the unblemished and now heroic career of the incumbent (no dearth there). But concerning the challenger, there was a preponderance of dearth. This is probably attributable to the fact that the opinion writer was just writing her opinion. Why cloud one’s opinions with information gleaned from a variety of sources. That which she had obviously done for Higgins she would not do for Elhady. So, refusal to undergo a live interview is the beginning, middle and end—the sum of the information we can get only from the Chronicle. “It’s not very satisfying”, let’s just leave it at that.

    I’m sorry if McGovern is unaware of the incongruities embedded in the following excerpts from her opinion piece that the Chronicle now elevates to the level of “otherwise unavailable information”.

    “If you’re a Ward 4 resident who’s been unhappy with Higgins on the issues or on a constituent-service level, then by all means think about a change.
    If you’re a voter aggrieved that she failed to appear in a debate, or on your doorstep with a pamphlet, you should probably factor in the reason for her absence.
    And, in either case, think about the alternative. [ominous note noted]
    A candidate who – like Elhady – touts “transparency” and accessibility, but won’t talk to a news publication that you turn to for information, should also give you pause.” McGovern

    “…should also give you pause” ?!? McGovern presents us with a double threat. One: “the alternative” (the not Higgins). And Two: “a candidate who won’t talk to a news publication that you turn to for information”. This is all so confusing. Are we to turn to her for information or opinion? Wasn’t her piece labeled “opinion” so it wouldn’t be confused with “news”? Weren’t objections to her opinion dismissed on the grounds that she was just voicing her opinion? The Chronicle and McGovern seem to be saying that her piece, tagged “Opinion”, is simultaneously “information” that will help me to “better make” decisions. This is taking me back to Sr. Madonna Michael’s lesson on Transubstantiation. But the Chronicle may be on to something here—faith-based news.

    While McGovern errs on the side of charity for Higgins, she brands the other candidate a transparency-touter. We must thank Ms. McGovern for providing us with valuable information we need to “better make decisions about public affairs”. In Sunday’s piece her biases are transparent enough for the average reader, though she herself be ignorant of them. Voters are advised to consider the source. It wouldn’t be surprising if Elhady had had a funny feeling about how an exchange with McGovern could mutate. Call it a dysfunctional, ungovernable form of creativity, but she seems incapable of just reporting the “he-said, she-said” bits without interjections from an ever so jolly animus.

    The fact (still undisputed) that Elhady would not consent to a “live” interview with McGovern leads the Chronicle’s editor to one and only one conclusion—Elhady is a hypocrite. In post #15, you go through some fascinating contortions to support this conclusion. Dave, is there but one plausible explanation –hypocrisy–“supported by his refusal”? It couldn’t be that Hatim Elhady may have some inhibitions regarding speaking ill of another? That his reasons may stem from a sense of decency? I’m not saying that these are THE reasons. But they seem just as plausible–supported by the facts, such as they are–as the justification offered by the Chronicle for its pronouncement on this young man’s character.

    Furthermore, post 15 is internally contradictory–negating the import of McGovern’s opinion while bolstering it. Her “opinion”, though just an opinion somehow becomes a “claim”. The claim being that Elhady is a transparency-touting hypocrite. Evidence in support of this claim is the editor’s own opinion that only a hypocrite would pronounce himself pro-transparency while refusing the ordeal of a live interview with the Chronicle’s star opinionatress. I think I get it. You’re saying opinion–that is your opinion–is more than opinion if it becomes a claim. Claims supported by opinion are FACT. Verdict: Elhady is a hypocrite. Yikes almighty!

    “Nobody is pretending that this is a ‘news story’ that is free of any bias”–except the Chronicle.

  62. October 28, 2009 at 2:09 pm | permalink

    I also received a copy of the email sent to Leah Gunn. Both Leah and I have Comcast accounts.

    I also want to wish Leah a very Happy 71st Birthday and recognize her many years of work on behalf of our community. Many elected officials would not hold or have held their office if it were not for Leah support and hard work.

  63. By Shirley Zempel
    October 28, 2009 at 3:48 pm | permalink

    It is a shame that this has been blown up so much. I do hope the Chronicle and Mr. Elhady can get together to give the readers a coherent message. I have been curious about Mr. Elhady and found a few short spoken message by him on You tube and was very impressed. I also generally like the write ups on AA Chronicle. It would be great if the Chronicle could reach and agreement and do a write up. It will likely be of interest to many people in the community.

  64. October 28, 2009 at 6:14 pm | permalink

    Is there an opportune moment to ask about the local guidelines for write-in candidates?

  65. By Patricia Lesko
    October 28, 2009 at 7:33 pm | permalink

    Ms. Zempel,

    No worries. There are several news outlets where you can find written and videotaped interviews with Hatim Elhady. Please visit his web site for a complete list: Link

    Better still, if any Ward Four resident would like to conduct your own “interview,” please feel free to contact Hatim directly.

    (734) 274-5833

    As a reminder, there is also a meet the candidate event:

    Ward 4 – Meet the Candidates Night
    Friday October 30, 2009 – 6:30 p.m.
    Dicken Elementary School Media Center
    2135 Runnymede Blvd., Ann Arbor MI 48103

    Finally, I spoke directly to Mrs. Higgins’s campaign manager Leah Gunn, as well as Marcia Higgins today, and made sure they had all the information about the Friday event should Mrs. Higgins wish to participate. We’re expecting a good turnout of Fourth Ward neighbors who, like you, want to know more about Hatim.

  66. By yet another
    October 28, 2009 at 10:12 pm | permalink


    You can take a look at the next-to-last page (p. 26?) in this pdf file found on the city’s web site. It may or may have some details you’re looking for on write-in candidacies. The info there has to do with registration deadlines.

    Or, as summarized in this comment found at Arbor Update:

    Write-in candidates must register by the second Friday before the election. … Any write-in for a non-registered candidate is disregarded.

  67. By Dave Askins
    October 28, 2009 at 10:15 pm | permalink

    [64] Re: local guidelines for write-in candidates

    In order for a write-in vote to actually count as a write-in vote, the candidate whose name you’re writing in needs to have registered as write-in candidate. Working from memory here, but I believe it’s a simple form that can be obtained from the city clerk’s office and submitted up to the end of the day on Election Day. I think in 2005, Dale Winling submitted the form the day of the election and snagged some non-zero number of write-in votes for council (Ward 5, I think).

    Otherwise put, voters can mark the oval and fill in a name all they like, but it’s not going to count as a vote for that person, unless the candidate as registered as a write-in candidate.

  68. By yet another
    October 28, 2009 at 10:15 pm | permalink

    Let’s try: “It may or may not have …”

  69. By Vivienne Armentrout
    October 29, 2009 at 6:31 am | permalink

    The City Clerk’s phone number is 734-794-6140.

  70. By Dave Askins
    October 29, 2009 at 7:51 am | permalink

    In the previous comment referencing my recollection, I may have conflated the experience of Trevor Staples (who was elected as a precinct delegate — by filing his declaration as a write-in candidate on the day of the election) with Dale Winling’s. Candidates for precinct delegate have the option of filing a declaration of intent the day of the election, whereas others — based on [yet another]‘s information — must meet the “second Friday” requirement.

  71. By Brian
    October 29, 2009 at 9:06 pm | permalink

    Did I read correctly in the latest issue of the Ann Arbor Observer that Candidate Elhady similarly refused to answer questions in person or by phone for that publication, instead requesting email-only responses? If so, then is there a similar reporter from that publication that the candidate has issues with, or is the above response(s) more of a pattern?

    Just curious, that’s all…

  72. By Patricia Lesko
    October 29, 2009 at 11:41 pm | permalink


    I’m helping to coordinate Hatim’s campaign, so please let me satisfy your curiosity.

    Hatim answered Eve Silberman’s questions via email. Of the dozen or so interviews he gave over the course of the past weeks, two were by email (by his choice), one was by email by the choice of the interviewer (A2Politico []), two were videotaped (League of Women Voters, for instance), and the rest were face-to-face interviews. He had a face-to-face interview tonight, as a matter of fact. On Friday the 30th, we’ve arranged a meet-the-candidate event at Dicken School at 6:30 p.m. Please come a bit early if you like, as Hatim will be there to chat informally with Ward Four voters before he begins answering questions formally.

    Finally, local arts/politics writer Jeremy Peters’s posting on ArborUpdate ( comment #484, concerning his potential withdrawl of his endorsement of Marcia Higgins may be of interest to those here, as well.

  73. October 30, 2009 at 9:30 am | permalink

    Wow, what a kerfuffle, an almost novelistic drama of clashing expectations. Newsosaur v. Generation Y!

    The most interesting thing to me is that the “they wouldn’t talk to me in person” article is much less effective in a purely online publication than in print.

    When a journalist writes “they wouldn’t talk to me in a person” in a printed newspaper that lands on 100,000 doorsteps and cannot be rebutted, that’s a pretty significant sting.

    When a journalist writes “they wouldn’t talk to me in person” to an audience of a few thousand? in an interactive forum that is frequented especially by people who really, really like electronic communication, that’s not such a significant sting. In fact, judging from the thread, I would say this article may well have been a net benefit for Elhady.

  74. By My Two Cents
    October 30, 2009 at 12:52 pm | permalink

    Actually, what these comments say to me and probably most of the public is that Elhady and his campaign team (Lesko, Eaton etc.) like to spout terms like transparency, openness and integrity, but don’t really know what those concepts mean. They are just campaign slogans to them, not real concepts.

  75. By Cosmonican
    October 30, 2009 at 1:48 pm | permalink

    Since “By My Two Cents” doesn’t speak for me, and I am probably one of “most of the rest of the public,” I get a different view of this. As a fifth warder, with no interest in the outcome other than the makeup of the council, this whole argument stands out as a large battle in a war between Republican carpetbaggers infiltrating the city government as Democrats, and people who follow a more common Democratic party orthodoxy being forced to run against them as outsiders. The concepts of “transparency..” etc. stand for ways in which the orthodoxy has been violated.

    If this interpretation is wrong, someone please correct me.

  76. October 30, 2009 at 1:53 pm | permalink

    “By My Two Cents” — your rather sweeping comment, implies– I think intentionally–that three named people “don’t know what” integrity means. In my view, that in itself is a violation of the norms of public discourse that you are espousing. Ironic, especially since you are using a pseudonym to advocate transparency and openness.

    To be sure, using a pseudonym is widely regarded as an acceptable practice on message boards, but I give the edge in transparency and openness to those who use their own name to make comments without impugning the integrity of fellow members of the community.

  77. By My Two Cents
    October 30, 2009 at 2:44 pm | permalink

    Elhady’s campaign, or platform if you want to use that term, is transparency, openness, and integrity. To NOT talk to the press is not very transparent no matter how one wants to spin that fact. To spin, defame the messengers and defend at all costs the campaign’s right to NOT be transparent is not behaving with all that much integrity.

    If those concepts weren’t the main issues in their campaign , then this “interviewing by email” might not be such a big issue. But they DID base their campaign on these issues, and their actions do NOT live up to their rhetoric (re:transparency, openness). This is and should be a real issue for voters. Can you trust him? I can’t.

    They need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

    And BTW, the violation in public discourse is the defamation and insults that have been hurled at Judy and Dave on all the local blogs, including this one.

  78. October 30, 2009 at 3:29 pm | permalink

    My Two Cents — wow, you certainly see these issues in black and white. People you disagree with are untrustworthy, have no integrity, are defamatory and insulting.

    For someone like me who is less invested, it seems that there are reasonable arguments on both sides. To answer the question whether Elhady et al. can live up to their goals of transparency and openness will require a more deliberate and thoughtful evaluation than this single incident will support.

    Conversely, there *is* an extensive public record supporting the argument the current incumbents in City Council have made a mockery of the transparency and openness called for by the Open Meetings act.

  79. By yet another
    October 30, 2009 at 5:43 pm | permalink

    [73] When a journalist writes “they wouldn’t talk to me in a person” in a printed newspaper that lands on 100,000 doorsteps and cannot be rebutted, that’s a pretty significant sting. When a journalist writes [that same line] to an audience of a few thousand in an interactive forum …that’s not such a significant sting.

    It’s great we readers get the chance to respond and have our comments appear here. That makes interactive online publishing somewhat less of a bully pulpit than the print media and its content more accountable to the public. If there’s ‘sting’ in an online column, readers can directly argue for reevaluation of its content; intelligent counterarguments by commenters will lessen the sting.

    Granted that 5, 10 or 15 years ago, dropping 40,000 copies of the Ann Arbor News on people’s doorsteps throughout town delivered a lot more influence for a printed politcal column than a similar piece here in the online Chronicle. But I disagree with the implication that the combination of interactive response and diluted readership weakens the relevance of original online content and thereby legitimizes evasive behavior by local politicians. Long before online access, a variety of limited-readership, alternative & underground papers broke ground by advancing investigative journalism and new cultural ideas. The modest readership for their often-challenging writing didn’t prevent them from making notable contributions to social and political shifts within the larger society. The internet holds the promise of greatly amplifying this same alternative tradition.

    A number of Elhady supporters have turned up on this discussion thread to stridently rebuke McGovern’s column at top. Such action speaks powerfully against any claim some may make that this column has little significance and its readership inconsequential. On that one particular count, I take their words as far more meaningful than mine. The more of them who write in to say how irrelevant this column is, the more they demonstrate just the opposite.

  80. By yet another
    October 30, 2009 at 6:37 pm | permalink

    [from #71] Did I read correctly in the latest issue of the Ann Arbor Observer that Candidate Elhady similarly refused to answer questions in person or by phone for that publication, instead requesting email-only responses?

    [from #72] Hatim answered Eve Silberman’s questions via email. … On Friday the 30th, we’ve arranged a meet-the-candidate event at Dicken School at 6:30 p.m. Please come a bit early if you like, as Hatim will be there to chat informally with Ward Four voters before he begins answering questions formally.

    Eve Silberman, like Judy McGovern, is an experienced and capable interviewer on city politics. It isn’t surprising to me, however, that she and her editor went along with Elhady’s preference for an email response to their questions. The Ann Arbor Observer traditionally handles pre-election candidate coverage in survey pieces that summarize contested city council races. They’re designed to give voters some general hints about what’s up in their ward and in the city, but not much more than that. Within this context, responses by email should be sufficient.

    In the Observer‘s rundown, you get Cliffs Notes on the candidates’ key views along with a sense of their individual backgrounds, personalities and interests, with these typically placed in context of specific ward/city issues. The Observer adds human-interest stylings and conversational quotes so readers won’t fall asleep under a stiff dosage of policy wonkery. In the past I don’t recall seeing pre-election articles intended as deep or probing — a more frank, in-depth analysis can usually be found in the Observer following an election.

    In the above Chronicle column focusing on just one of the council contests, McGovern no doubt intended to delve more deeply into each candidate’s policy ideas as well as call upon their wider knowledge of city affairs, all through a process of direct interviews. She would surely have gone beyond what you’ll read on the candidates’ respective web sites or in their brochures — or what their respective partisans in the peanut gallery want to tell you. Unlike Silberman in the print edition of the Observer, McGovern does not face the restrictions on columns inches imposed by the newprint economics of traditional publications, thus more flexibility in range & depth of coverage.

    It’s good that Elhady will make himself available this evening for direct questions. This represents a public step in the right direction. Still, as a campaign-controlled event run for the benefit of an audience, the fomat is less favorable to detailed public scrutiny than what can be gained through a lengthy, one-on-one interview conducted by a knowledgeable, fluent political reporter — whether McGovern, Silberman or someone else. As an audience member at the event, a reporter can presumably ask any question, but not a whole number of them at once, and the process of follow-up questions to answers will be severely restricted, so as not to delay others waiting their turn.

  81. October 30, 2009 at 6:38 pm | permalink

    Yet Another… then let me add a voice on one who is not an Elhady supporter.

    I have no dog in this hunt. I have no vote in the 4th Ward and don’t support either candidate. But I have to say, the column sure reads like a hatchet job to me. The non-interview could easily have been dealt with in a single line of copy. It is not worthy of an entire, or even partial, column.

    I also don’t find anything unreasonable or evasive in refusing a face-to-face with a single reporter. Not that I am elevating (or lowering, if you will) Ms. McGovern to the level of, say, Mike Wallace, but any prudent individual would avoid a face-to-face with Mr. Wallace and 60 minutes. When a journalist comes to the party with clear preconceptions and an agenda, as many believe, rightly or wrongly, of Ms. McGovern, it is best to stand clear. That does not mean one is avoiding scrutiny, but merely avoiding no-win situations. There are ample opportunities to find out what this candidate is all about without this non-interview.

  82. By yet another
    October 30, 2009 at 7:05 pm | permalink


    As a response, copied below is the last paragraph from my comment at #19, with some rephrasing to add clarity and context down here at #82:

    … In fairness to Elhady, his opponent Higgins might have chosen to limit her interaction with writer Stanton for a roughly similar reasons — both candidates give the distinct appearance of seeking to avoid challenging interviews. They won’t parry with a knowledgeable reporter with whom they’re not personally comfortable, and who may surprise them by tossing an occasional curve ball. To me, this does not make either one of them look very impressive.

  83. October 30, 2009 at 7:59 pm | permalink

    [79] I disagree with the implication that the combination of interactive response and diluted readership weakens the relevance of original online content and thereby legitimizes evasive behavior by local politicians.

    Two separate issues here:

    a) there’s no question in my mind that the A2 Chronicle in its present form has a less powerful “sting” than the A2 News in the good ol’ days — but I don’t mean to imply that online content is always or inevitably less relevant. It’s just a question of time and scale.

    b) I didn’t imply that evasive behavior should be legitimized, but, frankly, it already is legitimate for politicians and, indeed, humans everywhere. but, as you note in [82], we are free to draw the conclusion that evasive behavior is unimpressive.

  84. By Frank Schwende
    October 30, 2009 at 11:00 pm | permalink

    I DO live in the fourth ward. Looking for information about the candidates, I went to, then the Chronicle. My own feelings are that I’m disappointed that Mr. Elhady didn’t just do the live interview. That McGovern insisted on a face-to-face is admirable journalistic ethics. That the Chronicle stands behind the McGovern piece demonstrates integrity. I’ll continue to go to the Chronicle for authentic journalism.

    I’m still making up my mind on these two candidates, but I would like to publicly express my appreciation to Mr. Elhady for making this a race. This is the first contested Ward 4 election that I can recall in my short (6 years) in Ann Arbor! Why, there were even lawn signs and – amazing!! – handbills! Most people in the ward are aware of this local election, and hopefully the turnout will be significantly greater. Mr. Elhady, even if you don’t win the seat on council, thanks for running. Only next time, don’t turn down an op. to do a face-to-face with a local reporter. From this voter’s perspective, regardless of the above stated reasons pro and con, to me it just looks bad.

  85. By Jeff Meyers
    October 30, 2009 at 11:29 pm | permalink

    I am definitely weighing in late here (flu, life, etc)… but a brief run in with Dave Askins convinced me to show my support for both the Chronicle’s position on this matter and his ensuing opinion column (which was clearly marked as such).

    No news gathering publication should ever accept the ‘terms’ Mr. Elhady laid out. Especially for something as important as an election. The Sarah Palin example is a good one. An email
    ‘interview’ isn’t an interview at all. Or, at least, not a probotive one. Not only does it not allow for important follow up questions, there is simply no guarantee that the responses come directly from the candidate. That is a particular concern in this race where surrogates (with well established political agendas)seem to be doing the majority of communication.

    While Mr. Elhady is under no obligation to speak to any particular publication, there is an irony that he is a candidate who calls so vigorously for transparency in government. Knowing the Chronicle’s rigorous approach to its stories, I would have been keen to have read such an interview. I am sure it would have painted a more complete picture of his candidacy, more than any other local publication. But if there is one truism in politics, virtues like ethics, transparency, and honesty always apply to the OTHER guy (or gal, in this case)… never to the person demanding change.

  86. By Dave Askins
    October 30, 2009 at 11:48 pm | permalink

    Re: “a brief run in with Dave Askins …” I would have described the chance encounter as “running into you,” but not as a “run in with” you. A “run in with” someone, when I use it, suggests more like an argument or an altercation, which our conversation didn’t feel at all like to me. My apologies if that’s how it played for you.

  87. By yet another
    October 31, 2009 at 11:33 am | permalink


    Agree what what you write above in #83, and sorry I misunderstood these points in your earlier comment (#73).

  88. By Jeff Meyers
    October 31, 2009 at 1:22 pm | permalink

    Dave, I should have chosen my description more carefully… please chalk it up to the flu currently decimating all cognitive functions in our household. I meant it simply as the past tense of… I ran into Dave Askins… not had a run in with you, which I think it was anything but.

    Nevertheless, I stand behind both your column and your position on the Elhady non-interview.

    Reading John Hilton of The Observer’s account further reinforces my view that the Elhady campaign has been less than forthcoming in both access and honesty. This shouldn’t be read as an endorsement of his opponent but rather as a red flag as to how Mr. Elhady might comport himself as a member of council.

  89. By yet another
    October 31, 2009 at 2:51 pm | permalink

    Just read the Chronicle column by Ann Arbor Observer editor/owner John Hilton on email responses vs. live interviews, in context of the 4th Ward council election and McGovern’s column. It appears I was incorrect in comment #80 to downplay the significance to the Observer of email-only communications between candidate Elhady and editor/reporter Eve Silberman. For pre-election coverage in their November issue, they did wish to speak to him directly and ask questions.

    After reading Hilton’s column, I’m now even more troubled by some of the comments posted here during the week that sought to defend Elhady’s strategic decision to avoid a live interview for the column above. Among these were attempts to deflect responsibility from the Elhady camp by deeply personalizing the matter — by seeking to have McGovern’s character and professionalism put on trial. There was insistence that she, specifically, was the source of the “problem” and should become the real focus, and that her column showed bad judgement by the editors. Now it turns out the Elhady campaign gave Silberman at the Observer the exact same non-interview treatment as McGovern.

  90. November 1, 2009 at 12:12 am | permalink

    I commend Dave, Mary, and Judy for being steadfast in this.

    As a candidate, and as a public official, I have always been willing to speak with reporters. Indeed, reporters often call me because they see me as someone who will give them candid answers about local politics.

    Moreover, I write frequent comments on local blogs and Yes, I am very busy, but not so busy that I need any surrogates to speak on my behalf.

  91. By RunsWithScissors
    November 3, 2009 at 9:15 pm | permalink

    Oh. My. Gawd. This bickering and mud-slinging is the funniest thing since, well, I don’t know. I had no idea that such vituperative attacks were possible in our lil’ old town of Ann Arbor. The Daily Show would do well to take lessons from the likes of us. I’m not in Ward 4 but heaven help the ones who are.

  92. By Leah Gunn
    November 9, 2009 at 9:47 am | permalink

    I guess everything was settled on Nov. 3, when the Fourth Ward re-elected Marcia Higgins by 62% of the vote, in spite of the vituperative remarks by Lou Glorie, Pat Lesko and others, and also in spite of the prediction on AU by David Cahill that she would lose.

    Marcia’s daughter is very, very ill with cancer, and not expected to survive, hence her reluctance to spend a lot of time campaigning door-to-door. She had a devoted team of surrogates who filled in for her, and these folks did a wonderful job.

    I am plased and proud to have been part of it.

  93. By Leah Gunn
    November 9, 2009 at 9:48 am | permalink

    eeek – of course that would be “pleased” – sorry!