Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

City Council Candidates File

17. May 2006 • Dale Winling
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A few late surprises mark the passing of the filing deadlines for city council, including the non-entry of Wendy Woods into the mayoral race and late entry of two candidates to join Steve Kunselman in the third ward Democratic primary. Throughout the set of primaries, it bears noting that not a single Republican candidate filed for a primary.

The full list, via the Washtenaw County Web site

Mayor

John Hieftje

Councilmember Ward 1

John Roberts
Ron Suarez

Councilmember Ward 2

Joan Lowenstein

Councilmember Ward 3

Jeff Meyers
Alice J. Ralph
Stephen Kunselman

Councilmember Ward 4

Margie Teall

Councilmember Ward 5

Richard J Ankli
Sonia Schmerl
Chris Easthope

As a side note, it seem that the Republican party in Ypsilanti is just about as active as it is in Ann Arbor.



  1. According to the AA News, Woods did file on Tuesday for the primary; her signatures are being verified now.

    Could someone link the News’ article here?


       —David Cahill    May. 17 '06 - 03:17PM    #
  2. For mayor, incumbent John Hieftje is being challenged by fellow council member Wendy Woods. Woods filed her petitions on Tuesday but they weren’t expected to be verified until this morning, according to city officials.


       —David F    May. 17 '06 - 03:44PM    #
  3. Wendy Woods is now on the county site


       —Matt Hampel    May. 18 '06 - 12:28AM    #
  4. The primary campaign started in earnest with the Gantert article in today’s AA News called “Primary highlights divisions”.

    There is a nice quote from Jennifer Hall saying “You have the establishment versus challengers….That is the way it is supposed to work. I think it is refreshing we get to hear different viewpoints. And then the voters decide.”

    According to the article, the two issues are transparency in government and development. A lot of space is devoted to a debate about the city’s paying for an assessment of a potential Greenway property even before the Greenway task force was formed, with the challengers saying essentially that the city had already made up its mind to develop in the Greenway property.

    Can someone link the article here?


       —David Cahill    Jun. 11 '06 - 08:39PM    #
  5. Primary highlights divisions


       —HD    Jun. 11 '06 - 08:55PM    #
  6. Thanks, HD!


       —David Cahill    Jun. 12 '06 - 12:37PM    #
  7. Interesting that Gantert sees an “x or y” division here.

    I note that the 3rd Ward has three candidates running, none of whom are incumbents – if this is a two-sided thing, who’s on which side? And the 5th has two people challenging the incumbents – maybe the monolithic block of dissent that Gantert proposes has problems making up their minds?

    Lowenstein and Teall, meanwhile, are running unopposed. This is certainly a clumsy revolution, if it is one at all.

    Or maybe Gantert is pretending that Ralph and Schmerl are the whole story, in order to support a juicy premise of populist uprising against the Council, and ignoring anything that muddies this up? I know – that’s not at all like Gantert, but there’s a first time for everything, right?

    Meanwhile, I don’t have much confidence that the challengers will respect public input –
    Glorie pointed to the building height issue. She said developers, and not residents, have the ear of the council about building heights. She said she has seen no evidence that citizens support higher buildings downtown.

    Lou, I know I’ve seen you around here, and weren’t there as many or more citizens speaking in support of the Calthorpe recommendations as against at the public hearings? Your right-think filter must be well-tuned indeed, for you to have seen no such evidence.


       —TPM    Jun. 12 '06 - 02:00PM    #
  8. Read your Mumford, dearie—it says that a small, midwestern college town is just like Paris.


       —Dale    Jun. 12 '06 - 03:52PM    #
  9. Gantert probably has it right. The “other” candidates are non-starters. Kunselman is a member of the Planning Commission and Jean Carlberg’s annointed successor in the Third Ward, so Gantert considers him the establishment candidate.


       —David Cahill    Jun. 12 '06 - 04:17PM    #
  10. Schmerl served on the Historic District Commission for how long? A body with actual authority, as anyone watching the Glen Ann project knows. If she’s not an established Ann Arbor player, I don’t know who is.

    This “establishment” stuff is nonsense.


       —Dale    Jun. 12 '06 - 04:46PM    #
  11. Are you calling Jennifer Hall’s analysis nonsense, Dale?


       —David Cahill    Jun. 12 '06 - 06:39PM    #
  12. Yes, Dale, do tell. Because if we can find inconsistencies between you and Jennifer Hall – two stalwarts in Hieftje’s machine – then, obviously, the whole thing starts to unravel! A difference of opinion, a deviation from message within the carefully maintained regime, could break the veil of illusion, and cause the A2 voters to pull the wool from their eyes!

    Or maybe it’s possible that three candidates (Schmerl, Ralph, and Woods, by my count) decrying the Council on the issue of development, out of a field of 10+, doesn’t a widespread grassroots backlash make. And, who knows, maybe it’s possible Jennifer didn’t mean to state a belief that all of the challengers were united against all of the incumbents, but just picked an unfortunately loaded word when praising the role of healthy competition in the political arena – something I think we can all agree upon.


       —TPM    Jun. 12 '06 - 07:09PM    #
  13. The article mentioned First Ward incumbent John Roberts versus challenger Ron Suarez, but unfortunately didn’t include quotes from them.

    So there are actually four candidates (Schmerl, Ralph, Woods, and Suarez) who are challenging the establishment on Council.


       —David Cahill    Jun. 12 '06 - 08:15PM    #
  14. Establishment? Development? Sorry to rain on your conspiracy theory (all the rage in some circles these days) but the mayor originally ran as an environmental activist and last time I looked, he still is. Radical Greenbelt program, radical renewable energy program, (30% by 2010) alternative transportation booster, etc. Widespread support from environmentalists. Hardly establishment. Developement? He was among the leaders that stopped the development that would have destroyed our NE area neighborhood near Arborland and in case you missed it, he came out very early on the front page against the too-tall, too massive Gallery development on N. Main. Johnson and Hieftje voted no, Council member Woods said, “it is a beautiful development and a beautiful welcome to Ann Arbor” or something to that effect and voted yes. So how can she be for less development than him? As I reecall, Woods was on the Residential Task force advocating for taller buildings. You may have missed all this or your “anti” filter got in the way as you searched for yet another conspiricy theory, it must be in there somewhere.


       —Dustin    Jun. 13 '06 - 04:10AM    #
  15. I remember Ron Suarez sounding tempted last fall during the Groome replacement process, so I’m not surprised he’s in the running this time around. I’ve talked to him a bit at the A2 Dems meeting and the AU birthday party, and haven’t gotten the feeling that he’s really attached to any of the other candidates, incumbent or no. Maybe if given an explicit invitation, he’ll take this opportunity to do a little blogland campaigning so that we can figure him out? (Dear Ron: you are so invited.) (Dear all other candidates: you are too.)


       —Murph.    Jun. 13 '06 - 01:47PM    #
  16. I should note that the New West Side is doing online Q&A with candidates throughout the summer leading up to the primaries. Questions have gone out to incumbents in contested primaries, ie Hieftje, Easthope, and Roberts, and answers will be posted on the NWS site when they come in. All other candidates will follow.


       —Dale    Jun. 13 '06 - 02:40PM    #
  17. It’s great that the New West Side is doing this, Dale! I couldn’t find the questions on the NWS web site. Could you post them here?


       —David Cahill    Jun. 13 '06 - 05:57PM    #
  18. I’ll hold off for a couple days to give the candidates a chance to answer them, but will announce when we get responses. About 5 questions apiece with a mix of boilerplate and pointed questions.


       —Dale    Jun. 13 '06 - 06:14PM    #
  19. Dale,

    I’m curious about the timing involved. Is the staggered questioning intended to give the challengers a chance to prepare after seeing the incumbents’ answers?


       —Murph.    Jun. 13 '06 - 06:45PM    #
  20. Yes (if they want), but both incumbents and challengers will have a follow-up set of questions.

    So it could be sort of debate-y or candidates’ responses could be independent of each other. Once the first set of Q&A is up, of course people will can submit their own questions (and plenty of comments) for consideration.

    I don’t have the time or energy to go Mark Maynard on this, but I’m not confident that the News will have any meaningful coverage or analysis.

    This is all dependent on candidates’ getting their responses back in a timely fashion…say, a week.


       —Dale    Jun. 13 '06 - 07:05PM    #
  21. I received a Ron Suarez palm card last Saturday afternoon. Excerpts:

    Over 30 years of Democratic Activism Supporting Peace & Social Justice

    “As a First Ward resident for 20 years, I promise to focus on the interests of our neighborhoods, not the interests of the developers.” [boxed quote]

    * Maintaining the human scale of downtown. I would have noted no on the 11-story N. Main development.

    * Supporting small business and increasing economic diversity to make the community stronger. We need housing affordable to service workers, artists & musicians.

    * Investing locally in alternative energy & transportation. Ann Arbor has successful recycling programs and we can lead in Alternative Energy.

    * Strengthening our commitment to improving public school education.

    * Supporting home-grown artists to maintain our cultural diversity.

    End of excerpts. So put Suarez firmly in the “challenger” column.


       —David Cahill    Jun. 14 '06 - 03:24PM    #
  22. Tom was really hoping to get something juicy from me and we talked for quite some time about what I thought about the 4 contested races. I guess I chose a loaded word and I didn’t really mean it that way. By establishment, I really meant incumbent (or has the backing of incumbents, as it seems Kunselman does). Basically, what I kept telling Tom is that I really don’t find the fact that there are “challengers” very controversial. I guess the fact that I don’t find it controversial IS juicy? But, isn’t that how the democratic process works?

    Also … yes, it’s true that I am a supporter of Mayor Heiftje. I think his commitment to conservation and other environmental goals is exemplary. It’s also true that he appointed me to the Planning Commission. But, it’s news to me that I am part of a carefully maintained regime! Where do you people come up with these ideas? What does that even mean?


       —Jennifer Hall    Jun. 14 '06 - 08:00PM    #
  23. Just ask your fellow Commissioners, over at the Human Rights Commission.

    Almost the minute they approved a Palestine resolution, against military aid to Israel, the Commission was deprived of any staff, and found their major responsibilities suddenly yanked away from them.

    This Mayor, and his City Council, have now spent years going to ridiculous lengths to dodge a simple Public Hearing on their own Commission’s Palestine Resolution…

    ...even now, as Israel shoots missiles into Palestinian children, sitting on a beach in Gaza.

    Why the dread silence on that Palestine Resolution?

    As you can see, this Mayor and City Council, when it comes to Palestine, are very, VERY different than you think they are.

    Their willingness to discuss every other issue, local and international, stands in stark contrast to their Berlin Wall against any public hearing for that Palestine Resolution.

    Again, why?


       —Blaine    Jun. 14 '06 - 08:26PM    #
  24. ”* Maintaining the human scale of downtown. I would have noted no on the 11-story N. Main development.”

    ”* Supporting small business and increasing economic diversity to make the community stronger. We need housing affordable to service workers, artists & musicians.”

    I won’t claim to be any sort of expert on this kind of thing, so I’m open to arguments, but on the face of it, a) restricting the supply of space for housing and retail, and b) keeping rents down and small businesses profitable, sound like contradictory goals. I’d be interested in how he actually thinks we should do this stuff.


       —Bruce Fields    Jun. 15 '06 - 02:52AM    #
  25. “I won’t claim to be any sort of expert on this kind of thing, so I’m open to arguments, but on the face of it, a) restricting the supply of space for housing and retail, and b) keeping rents down and small businesses profitable, sound like contradictory goals. I’d be interested in how he actually thinks we should do this stuff.”

    They are contradictory, but that won’t keep Ann Arborites from claiming to have found an economic “singularity”, where restricting supply with increasing demand actually makes things cheaper.

    It’s been working well so far, as home prices have plummeted in Ann Arbor in the last decade. In fact, our landlord just rolled our rent back by $10 a square foot because, in his words “lots of people have been inquiring about renting your building”.

    Neat!

    It’s strange, Bruce, that a fella like yourself, with a PhD in Math and all, hasn’t come across this economic theory!?


       —todd    Jun. 15 '06 - 04:21AM    #
  26. Appears the Suarez campaign now features double-blog action. Ron easily wins the prize for best campaign website + blog so far; Laura is apparently his campaign manager. Not much word on Ron’s page about local development issues, though. Zero occurances of the word “greenway”.

    (Ypsi’s Brian Robb still takes the Council candidate with best existing blog category, though.)


       —Murph.    Jun. 15 '06 - 02:14PM    #
  27. I’m glad you’re getting a rent reduction, todd. You certainly deserve it.


       —David Cahill    Jun. 16 '06 - 12:30AM    #
  28. Lucky Day:
    “In a way, all of us
    have an El Guapo to face someday.
    For some, shyness
    might be their El Guapo.

    For others, a lack of education
    might be their El Guapo.

    For us…
    El Guapo is a big dangerous guy
    who wants to kill us.

    But as sure as my name
    is Lucky Day…the people of Santa Poco…
    can conquer their
    own personal El Guapo…

    who also happens to be the actual El Guapo.

    Townspeople: “We want to defend ourselves.
    But how?”

    Lucky Day: “By using the skills and the talents of the people of Santa Poco.

    This is not a town of weaklings.

    You can turn your skills
    against El Guapo.”

    Words of wisdom from the legendary Lucky Day, in the Movie “The Three Amigos”.

    Mr. Cahill, or should I say: El Guapo? Someday the people of Santa Poco, er, Ann Arbor will rise up to face you….ok, to be fair, most of them will have been forced moved to cheaper cities by then, but….

    When they do rise up, I will be there, serving cold beer to those who have fought against you and lost!!!


       —todd    Jun. 16 '06 - 02:59AM    #
  29. Dear Todd,

    We’ll be waiting for you with open arms, over here in Beer Town, USA .


       —Murph.    Jun. 16 '06 - 01:01PM    #
  30. The Council primary season is getting off to a s-l-o-w start. Neither Larry Kestenmbaum nor I have received a single piece of campaign material in the snail mail from either the establishment people or the challengers. Normally, by this time party activists like us would have at least received fundraising letters from both mayoral candidates and several Council candidates.

    All is not completely torpid, though. Suarez, Roberts, Ralph, and Schmerl are passing out palm cards.

    Plus – Suarez has cute buttons in blue, white, and black showing a stylized City Hall.


       —David Cahill    Jun. 21 '06 - 12:47PM    #
  31. Now that the primaries are upon us, I’m resurrecting this article.

    Who are you voting for in Tuesday’s primaries? Why?


       —David Cahill    Aug. 5 '06 - 02:33PM    #
  32. I’ve gotten stuff from Greden and Ankli in the mail.


       —Dale    Aug. 5 '06 - 08:15PM    #
  33. Mayor: Wendy Woods has a pretty snappy site. I’m reasonably impressed.

    http://www.wendywoodsformayor.com/

    Lots of flash. Whee!

    I’m voting for Warren in the house election, though I’m still out on the more local races.

    I want to support greater density downtown, and it’s unclear how John Roberts feels. He has no website and the literature I received from him has no way to contact him listed on it. Suarez has the rather confusing position of being for affordable housing and local business, but being unwilling to create lower rents through density that will allow for those things. I’ve sent him an email about this question and will post the result here.

    It seems to me that Hieftje stands in the greenway/height limit camp? Is this correct?
    If this is so and Woods has an opposing view, I’ll be supporting her.

    Does anyone know anything about county commission? The lit piece I received from Montague was ridiculous.


       —Dasbates    Aug. 6 '06 - 05:08AM    #
  34. Dasbates:

    Hieftje has a section devoted to downtown on his website: www.hieftje.org He voted against the 11 story building on the N. Main site above the residential neighborhood while Woods voted for it. Hieftje said he would support the building in the city center but not at that location. Woods wants a “full scale” greenway, Hieftje wants a Greenway that “works and one the city can take of and keep safe.” (On the radio forum) Neither candidate supports a height limit. Roberts voted for the N. Main building but said he was concerned about the height at that location and would be thinking it over before second reading. Suarez opposes it.
       —Dustin    Aug. 6 '06 - 12:30PM    #
  35. I would encourage everyone to vote for John Roberts on August 8th in the First Ward primary for City Council. John Roberts has a proven track record of being fiscally responsible which is what the council needs. Look at John Roberts background and you can see that he is an assest to City Council.

    Ron Suarez should have applied for the City Council vacancy and maybe he would have had a chance of being Councilman. I believe that Mr. Suarez has some good issues, but is running for the wrong reasons.

    Also vote Wendy Woods for Mayor on August 8th. Wendy is the best candidate and it is time for a change on the Mayor side.


       —A2 Democrat    Aug. 6 '06 - 01:25PM    #
  36. Yeah right. So many good things have happened since Hieftje became mayor. He pushed through the living wage, reformed transportation funding to favor cyclists and pedestrians, re-organized the govt. to save money so they would have the capacity to build a new Broadway Bridge & a new boardwalk along Barton by Argo, a new maintenance facility, etc.

    He founded the Washtenaw Metro Alliance for regional cooperation, championed the greenbelt, implemented the clean communities program, reformed traffic calming so neighborhoods can get it, established better recycling, banned mercury medical devices and kept the city from falling behind as so many other Michigan cities have. He also got the city going on long range financial and downtown planning.

    To that add building affordable housing at Carrot Way, Stone School Townhomes, etc., pushing the rent signing date ordinance and protecting human services funding when everyone else in the state was cutting it.

    Now he’s got the city moving on the clean energy and the rail programs. Plus, anybody who wants to can go talk to him every Friday or Monday’s at noon in the park downtown on Liberty. Check it out at www.hieftje.org; check out the awards he’s won.


       —Arborite    Aug. 6 '06 - 02:31PM    #
  37. Also: Check out the quotes on his website, Mike Garfield, Director of the Ecology Center, on the environment and Joe White, former Dean of the Business School on budgets.


       —Arborite    Aug. 6 '06 - 02:40PM    #
  38. Looks like the partisans have arrived.


       —John Q.    Aug. 6 '06 - 05:03PM    #
  39. I don’t care what their divestment positions are, frankly. I want to know if they’ll responsibly spend my taxes and what their ideas are about development downtown and the rest of Ann Arbor. I also don’t really care what they think of impeaching Bush or the Iraq war or other national issues.


       —Young OWSider    Aug. 7 '06 - 02:05AM    #
  40. That’s where my tax money to the Great Satan (I mean the City of Ann Arbor) is going, to funding the hunt for Hezbollah? Wow, I thought it was getting flushed down a rat hole locally. Pretty good bang for your wasted buck that it’s having an effect 10000 mies away. Maybe they hide it in the AATA millage. Seriously, I’d like to know where these local pols stand on abortion so I don’t unconsciously waste my vote on some joker who’ll jump from city council to being a state rep but even flaming pro-lifer that I am I realize my burning issue may not matter when it comes to a city council race. Thankfully the usual suspects all seem proud to go out of their way to say they are pro-death so I know who to avoid when I draw my line in the voting booth.


       —Thomas Cook    Aug. 7 '06 - 02:34AM    #
  41. Well, DPCC, you’ll wait forever, since none of the candidates have a position on that issue.


       —David Cahill    Aug. 7 '06 - 01:13PM    #
  42. How come you don’t ask about the genocide in Darfur? Or are those people not worthy of your concern?


       —John Q.    Aug. 7 '06 - 03:22PM    #
  43. DP—

    If you want to know, please contact the campaigns directly and then report back to arborupdate. You obviously have a specific question. Be an adult and call up the candidates with that question.


       —Young OWSider    Aug. 7 '06 - 03:23PM    #
  44. More importantly – the City of Ann Arbor can’t divest. It would be a usurption of the federal government’s foreign affairs power as it contradicts US policy. It would be immediately enjoined. There is, literaly, zero chance of this witholding a court challenge as Ann Arbor is a public institution (as oposed to a Church).

    If you want divestment – go loby the federal government.

    D


       —David Livshiz    Aug. 7 '06 - 03:24PM    #
  45. The silence is the one you’ve created, DP. You want to know the answer to your question? Contact the people who can answer that question. Nobody’s silencing this topic but you, and you alone. I don’t know what Easthope’s stance is. I don’t know what Schmerl thinks of this. And I don’t care enough to call them up and ask. But you do, so get cracking. Be an adult and pick up the phone and get your question answered.


       —Young OWSider    Aug. 7 '06 - 03:36PM    #
  46. re: #35 A2 Democrat wrote: “Ron Suarez should have applied for the City Council vacancy and maybe he would have had a chance of being Councilman. I believe that Mr. Suarez has some good issues, but is running for the wrong reasons.”

    When it was announced that the City was seeking people interested in Kim Groome’s seat – I went to a meeting where Tim Colenback expressed a strong interest. I met Tim in the Jerry Brown campaign in ‘92 and thought he’d make an excellent representative. I thought Tim was a shoe-in, but he got passed over by the mayor and council for someone with no political history. Had I thought Roberts or anyoneone else like him would be in the running over Tim, I would have expressed an interest back then.

    So what are the “wrong reasons” being claimed here. Roberts has been going to the doors of many people I know and claiming that I am backed by special interests. When challenged, he is unable to say what those interests are. Try Googling “ron suarez” and “special interest.” Aside from the Ann Arbor News accussing all the challengers of special interests, the other Google results include things like the “Special Interest Group” for Design Patterns, as part of the Ann Arbor Java Users Group, which I have run for years.

    And, for all those who have been wondering, I am pro-density downtown. I grew up in New York City and I actually like dense urban environments. But, this race is not about my personal taste. It is about democracy and representing constituents. I belive in direct democracy over representative democracy and I don’t believe that Roberts, a banker, represents the interests of the citizens.

    Out of the approximately 1,000 doors I have knocked on, one person told me they supported the Lowertown Project and the $40 Million subsidy for Stathmore. Oh, four of my neighbors and people I have known from the Old Fourth Ward Association since around 1992 also support Lowertown. They are Chris and Jeff Crockett, Ray Detter and Rich Borer. I explained to the Crockett’s that I do not differ with the end goals for what they hoped to see in Lowertown. My big objection is taking advantage of the Ann Arbor taxpayer. Jeff tried to rally core Old Fourth Ward members in support of Lowertown and against my candicacy in an email, which resulted in the other half of the most active members voicing the same complaints about Lowertown, with some also supporting my candidacy.

    We have some of the highest real estate taxes in the country. Ultimately, this will discourage business and urban density people from wanting to be in Ann Arbor. About 89% of the voters are home owners and other than the few names I mentioned above, these homeowners all feel like they are being ripped off by the City. When I started this campaign I had not emphasized real estate taxes, but as I began to educate myself more I learned more about how out of line these taxes are with the rest of the country. I paid $92,000 for my home in the 1980’s. My sister’s home on Long Island was just assessed at $1.2 Million and she pays a little over $1,000 more a year in real estate taxes than I do. During door to door I met someone who said he just bought a new house in Washington DC, that costs three times as much as his Ann Arbor home and he’ll be paying less tax as a result of moving to DC. At another door I met a couple from California who paid much less tax at their previous home than they do now in Ann Arbor. I met a retired potter who paid off her mortgage years ago, but said she may have to move because she can’t afford the real estate tax. I met a real estate agent who said it is harder and harder to sell a home in Ann Arbor because of the real estate taxes.

    Door to door has been a real eye opener for me. Some now think that I sound like a Republican, but I have always included fical responsibility in my lit, even before I realized there was this huge groundswell of discontent among the voters about real estate taxes.

    I still remain committed to issues Democrats rally around like affordable housing, but I include homeowners in that. My house was the unofficial Ann Arbor headquarters for the Dean campaign and I continue to strongly support progressive social issues like peace, universal health care, funding scholarships and student loan programs, alternative energy, etc. But, in order to be able to afford good causes, we need to do a better job of being fiscally responsible and more tranparency is key to pushing that fiscal responsibility.

    The current council tries to claim they are transparent. However, when a voter recently asked for copies of old emails regarding City business under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, he was asked to pay 50% of the cost, which was estimated at $42,050. To me this is a sign that either they are inflating the cost to keep him from getting the information or that the City is paying way to much money for inefficient services.


       —Ron Suarez    Aug. 7 '06 - 04:16PM    #
  47. Ron,

    Here’s the tax rates for all of the county’s municipalities. Sounds like you may not be familiar with it:

    http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/equalization/eq_taxrates.html/2005%20tax%20rates

    A few things will stand out when you review it.

    1) Ann Arbor’s overall tax rate is in line with the other cities in the County. If Ann Arbor’s tax rates are too high then the same is true in Chelsea, Milan and Saline.

    2) The tax levy for the city is slightly higher than the other cities in the County (except Ypsi) but not ridiculously so. Compared to other urban communities in Michigan (Royal Oak, Lansing, etc.) you’ll find that it’s equal or lower in rate than those communities.

    3) City taxes account for about 1/3 of a resident’s total tax bill. So whatever you do about city taxes, you probably won’t have a huge impact on the overall bottom line in what people are paying.

    Does that mean Ann Arbor taxpayers are wrong when they say their taxes are too high? No but the problem isn’t the tax rates. Ann Arbor residents enjoy higher than average property values. As those property values continue to go up, the bite of the tax rates is felt more than in communities with stagnant or declining property values. Presumably, you’re not going to advocate for driving down property values. So how do you propose to address this “problem”?


       —John Q.    Aug. 7 '06 - 04:28PM    #
  48. Ron Suarez wrote: “However, when a voter recently asked for copies of old emails regarding City business under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, he was asked to pay 50% of the cost, which was estimated at $42,050.”

    Ron, are you following up on this on behalf of the voter, or was this cited more in the spirt of some anecdotal support for the idea that citizens perceive that there’s not enough transparency?

    After all, FOIA provides a straightforward mechanism for arguing that either the amount of services required for compliance is being inflated, or that the price for the services that would be actually be used exceeeds what would be considered ‘reasonable’. Also, when City staffers are approached in a reasonable way, say via a Councilperson, many times the sought-after information can be obtained without resorting to FOIA.

    In any case, fact that FOIA allows government entities to require requestors to foot some of the bill is a GOOD thing. It discourages people from filing requests just for the pure whiz joy of watching public servants do their bidding, distracting them from whatever their actual work is supposed to be. It also encourages requestors to narrowly target their request so that compliance is more efficient.

    You’ve portrayed this as just a request for some emails, which sounds trivial to comply with, but it’s hard to know what the actual scope of that request was from the scant details you’ve provided. Part of the problem in the case you cite (and with many FOIA requests made by average citizens who are taking their first crack at it, which is not to say that this was the case here) may be that the FOIA request was formulated in such a way as to be so broad that $42,000 would actually be cheap. I doubt that handling a FOIA request for emails is as simple as running a query and dumping the result onto a CD, just as complying with a FOIA request for physical documents is not as simple as finding the right manilla folder and mindlessly photocopying the contents.

    Because you’ve apparently drawn some fairly sinister conclusions from the case, it’d help win me over to those same conclusions, if you could provide some additional details.


       —HD    Aug. 7 '06 - 05:18PM    #
  49. Ron, you wouldn’t want to tell us what that voter’s name is, now would you? It’s not an AU commenter, now is it?


       —Dale    Aug. 7 '06 - 05:31PM    #
  50. Ron Suarez: Regarding the appointment to fill Kim Groome’s seat. The Mayor was a strong advocate for Collenback so you can’t blame him.

    A2’s tax rates are not anywhere near the highest in the country, or the state or even Wash. County. City Govt. is just 30% of the property taxes and they have not raised taxes in years.
    Under Headly they go down every year. If elected you need to sit down with the city budget. The citizen passed millages for parks add a lot to the tax rate.

    I suspect the cost of having the city’s attorney staff go through and remove personal information about residnets as required under FOIA is the reason for the charges.

    The mayor and council have already reduced the size of city government by 20%. From what I have seen there is little “fat” to cut at the city without cutting into services. Which services would you cut?
       —Dustin    Aug. 7 '06 - 06:34PM    #
  51. Ron,

    Thanks for your reply. I think you have worked extremely hard and will probably win this election. I however value John Roberts financial expertise on the City Council and diversity. If you wanted a Hispanic you would have worked and actively supported Tony Ramirez when he ran for council whom also lives in the Old Fourth Ward, but that same group did not. I dont think it matters what race or gender, I want to look at what the council needs and we dont need another Kim Groome and Heidi Herrell on City Council. I believe that there is transparency in the Government.

    You claim that John Roberts say’s that you are backed by the special interest groups, well I believe you that you aren’t but its funny how the Ann Arbor News said it as well.

    Ron, I wish you the best of luch in this election and I think it was pretty bold of you to go to doors with Roberts signs on them and talk to people and try to get them to change their minds.

    Thanks,

    VOTE ON AUGUST 8th JOHN ROBERTS AND WENDY WOODS FOR MAYOR


       —A2 Democrat    Aug. 8 '06 - 04:16AM    #
  52. So many good things have happened in our city since Mayor Hieftje was elected. He is the most environmental mayor in the history of A2. He is progressive and practical at the same time and he knows how to lead. Check out his website at:
    www.hieftje.org


       —arborite    Aug. 8 '06 - 12:04PM    #
  53. FWIW – I certainly do not support Alberto Gonzalez, the first Hispanic Attorney General, in particular because of his stance on torture. I like Tony Ramirez as a neighbor, but his politics and mine are very different. I would not support someone simply because of their race, ethnicity or religion. But, I do think that having diversity, whether it is in politics or in the board room, brings about smarter decision making. I’d advise everyone to take a look at The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. I got to meet him at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin this year and was very impressed.


       —Ron Suarez    Aug. 8 '06 - 02:02PM    #