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Ann Arbor Candidate Debates

16. October 2006 • Juliew
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Ann Arbor Candidate Debates are tomorrow and Wednesday at 7:00 and 8:00pm on CitiTV 19. These debates are once again sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Tuesday, October 17
Ward 3 City Council Candidates Steven Kunselman (Dem) and Peter Schermerhorn (Green) from 7:00 to 7:30 pm.

Mayoral Candidates John Hieftje (Dem) and Tom Wall (Ind) is from 8:00 to 8:30 pm.

Wednesday, October 18
18th District State Senate Candidates Liz Brater (Dem) and John M. Kopinski (Rep) from 7:00 to 7:30pm.

53rd District State Representative Candidates Rebekah Warren (Dem), Erik P. Sheagren (Rep), and Matt Erard (no affiliation) from 8:00 to 8:45pm.

Schedule and all replay information is available here.



  1. While it’s accurate that Matt Erard will have no affiliation reflected on the ballot, I’m sure he would not mind people knowing that he’s running as the Socialist Party’s candidate.

    A question for Larry Kestenbaum: is it a matter of needing to collect more signatures statewide (compared to what Matt did to get his name printed at all) for a polictal party to have the affiliation listed on the ballot?


       —HD    Oct. 16 '06 - 03:35PM    #
  2. Right, exactly. Michigan is one of the few states, perhaps the only state, with no provision for locally based political parties. The only way to put a party on the ballot is via a statewide petition drive.

    Until a few years ago, Michigan also did not provide for any kind of independent candidacy in partisan races. Eventually, court decisions forced the state to make that an option.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Oct. 16 '06 - 04:13PM    #
  3. Where are the debates being held? Is there audience seating or is it only being televised?


       —Brandon Dimcheff    Oct. 16 '06 - 05:39PM    #
  4. Brandon,

    The information the League of Women’s Voter’s sent (they politely declined my offer to have the candidates square off twelve feet apart sitting astride a piece of womanized lumber) is that you can attend as an audience member. However, the half-hour time slot, plus the format (alternating candidates with opportunity for ‘rebuttal’) preclude taking questions from the live audience or over the phone. My guess is that hootin and hollarin is also frowned upon.

    Location is:
    Ann Arbor Community Television Studios
    425 S. Main, suite LL114 (Edison Center, corner William)
    Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

    If you’ve never been there, it might be worth giving CTN a call just to clarify what the deal is for live audience members: 734.769.7422 For one thing, I think you have to be buzzed-in at the Edison Center at that time of day.


       —HD    Oct. 16 '06 - 06:07PM    #
  5. “Wolmanized”, HD. “Wolmanized”.


       —Womanized lumber? Uh...    Oct. 16 '06 - 08:14PM    #
  6. Dang, maybe THAT’S why the League didn’t go for it.


       —HD    Oct. 16 '06 - 08:33PM    #
  7. Is that what the teeter totter is made of?


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Oct. 16 '06 - 09:40PM    #
  8. These local debates are non-events, since there are no serious contests.

    What do people think of the Granholm/DeVos debates?


       —David Cahill    Oct. 17 '06 - 02:12AM    #
  9. Larry, yes, that’s what it’s made of. It weathered for a whole year before guests outside the household were allowed on … if there’s concerns about chemical exposure.

    David Cahill, I think of these local debates as the baseball equivalent of running hard to first even though it looks like an easy grounder. Dismissing them as non-events is the equivalent of standing in the batter’s box and watching the second baseman field the ball and throw you out. Sure you wouldn’t have ever beaten the throw, even if you had base-stealing speed. But next time people choose up sides for a friendly game, the guy who doesn’t hustle down the line is going to get picked last … if at all.


       —HD    Oct. 17 '06 - 02:40AM    #
  10. Is there a baseball-to-english translator in the house? I am so confused….


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 17 '06 - 02:43AM    #
  11. Okay, Bruce, I worked hard to make that transparent, even leaving out this year’s favorite post-season broadcaster phrase, “crooked numbers”.

    So just for you: dismissing the local debates as non-events is like a mathematician offering an induction proof by doing first the step showing truth for k=m implies truth for k=m+1 then declaring “You know, that’s ususally the harder of the two steps, and I’ve done that one, so let’s skip the k=0 step and just say the conjecture true, so Hey, like QED and stuff.”

    So THAT guy’s proof won’t be vindicated just because the conjecture turns out to be provable. The proof still fails, and he’s still not going to win a Fields Medal for it.

    And jeez Bruce, if you were THAT confused by the baseball talk, I guess if there’s ever an AU pickup game, you’re gonna get chosen last ;-)=


       —HD    Oct. 17 '06 - 03:34AM    #
  12. Most folks won’t spend time on debates involving cranks; QED. 8-)

    During the first Granholm/DeVos debate, I concluded that DeVos was not a normal human being. He kept smiling at totally inappropriate places. A friend of Sabra’s noticed this, saying that his smile had not reached his eyes.

    Unfortunately, I missed the second debate.

    At the third debate, DeVos had gotten over the smile problem. Instead, he had veered far in the other direction: he ranted a lot.

    I thought Granholm did well in both debates, especially considering that as a Democratic governor she has been hamstrung by a Republican legislature.

    Last night Granholm demanded that DeVos remove ads involving dead children. Does anyone know what this is about?


       —David Cahill    Oct. 17 '06 - 12:42PM    #
  13. Crank, huh? Do I get credit for running out the groundout? (Ironically, that’s something I can’t actually do with a chronically bad back).

    Look, I know it seems like there’s nothing happening politically this year, but geez, there is a contested race in the 3rd, and yes, I do have significantly different views on government that are not crackpot (after all, I read ArborUpdate).

    Why is everyone so willing to give the Dems (in name at least) a pass this year? Hello! No Republicans? Then the Greens are the new opposition party!

    Huron Valley Greens were too conflicted (evenly split) to give Matt Erard an endorsement, but the Green Party of Michigan did so. We don’t have anything against Rebekah, but Matt’s platform (minus dumping the capitalist system and the harsh maximum wage) reads very much like the Greens (check out www.migreens.org if you’re interested).

    I’d be happy to be questioned, critiqued, roasted or even lauded for my debate performance (and the platform on which I’m running) – but being ignored, that’s not really putting your political chops into play very well (all of you, not just Cahill).

    My website is www.hvgreens.org/~pete. Say what you think.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 19 '06 - 06:03AM    #
  14. David, for context on Granholm’s “dead children” remark, see this Laura Berman column in the Detroit News.


       —Tom Brandt    Oct. 19 '06 - 01:41PM    #
  15. Pete Schermerhorn asks: “Do I get credit for running out the groundout?”

    I realize this puts way too fine a point on it, but I had intended the baseball analogy to draw a parallel between baseball players and voters [not candidates] with part of the point being that democracy is not a spectator sport.

    But if you’re looking for a pat on the butt, I’d say you’re on the ballot, and that’s the baseball equivalent of already standing on first base. And the beauty of it is, it doesn’t matter if you got there by drawing a walk, blooping one into center field, or hitting a line shot over the shortshop’s head.

    Question now is: are you a threat to steal second?


       —HD    Oct. 19 '06 - 02:13PM    #
  16. Pete Schermerhorn wrote: “I’d be happy to be questioned, ...”

    Re: Greenway

    For Kunselman, most any Greenway proposal is a non-starter for a conversation as long as there’s an active railway running through the corridor. You support a ‘viable’ Greenway, which includes barring future construction in the floodway.

    Question: Do you envision that the railway will eventually be de-activated, or is your notion of a ‘viable’ Greenway consistent with an active railway running through it (which might be commuter rail)?

    Question: Why is it necessary to bar construction (of all kinds presumably, not just the residential construction proscribed at the federal level) in the Allen Creek floodway? Why, for example, can’t we continue to develop with structures like the new YMCA?

    Again Re: Green way

    Some visitors come to Ann Arbor and leave without realizing that there’s a river that flows through the city.

    Question: If the goal of an Allen Creek Greenway is to provide enhance the green of Ann Arbor, why isn’t it a better strategy to support the already considerable investment we’ve made in the existing riverway by considering the enhancement of pedestrian/cycling corridors between the riverway and the rest of the city (in particular downtown)?

    Re: Instant Run Off Voting

    You support the elimination of the odd-year city primaries by using Instant Run Off Voting. Some currently on Council have expressed concerns (Easthope, for example) about the fact that this would mean at any given time that half the Council would have been elected by simple most-votes-wins and the other half would have been elected via IRV.

    Question: What impact do you think it would have on the Council to have this kind of split?

    Again Re: Instant Run Off

    Proponents of IRV will sometimes claim that IRV is ‘more democratic’ because after executing the algorithm of IRV the winner will have more than 50% of the vote, that is, an absolute majority. But this line of argumentation can be taken one step further by considering IRV2, a system exactly like IRV, but which would execute the algorithm as many times as there are candidates (you don’t check to see if some candidate achieves a 50% majority after each step). IRV2 delivers a winner who has the UNANIMOUS support of the voters. What’s really being reflected there is the fact that voters unanimously agree to abide by the outcome of the vote. In the same way, IRV’s computation of an absolute majority for the election winner across all voters is simply a reflection of voters’ willingness and ability to rank the candidates (which can’t be assumed). I would think the real test of whether IRV is ‘more democratic’ is whether it delivers greater voter and candidate participation than traditional voting.

    Question: Are there any experiments in nature that you can point us to (where a switch to IRV improved voter and/or candidate participation) or other kinds of empirical evidence that help make the case for greater democracy through IRV?


       —HD    Oct. 19 '06 - 03:20PM    #
  17. Whoo Hoo! Thanks, HD – I needed that one.

    Stealing second? That’s up to you all – I’m doing my part to try to get a different take out there, maybe break up the groupthink that has descended on our city like alien pod people. Any 3rd Warders out there? Are we 3W people generally not cool enough to be AUers? (Leigh, I know you’re here, at least).

    Okay, now on to the questions.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 19 '06 - 04:37PM    #
  18. Re: Greenway

    For Kunselman, most any Greenway proposal is a non-starter for a conversation as long as there’s an active railway running through the corridor. You support a ‘viable’ Greenway, which includes barring future construction in the floodway.

    Question: Do you envision that the railway will eventually be de-activated, or is your notion of a ‘viable’ Greenway consistent with an active railway running through it (which might be commuter rail)?

    PS: Steve may be quite right that federal laws on right of way require chain-link fencing and setback, and may well include other things that make a greenway along an active freight or intercity passenger railway non-viable. I haven’t bird-dogged this one yet, and am willing to take his assertions as quite possibly true.

    That doesn’t mean that a greenway downtown or in the Allen’s Creek watershed isn’t viable. It just means it’s more difficult.

    I have seen greenways along abandoned rail corridors (rails to trails) in many places, including major metropolises.

    I don’t think there’s any chance that this line is going to stop being freight or passenger any time soon – it connects Chicago through Ann Arbor down to Toledo and beyond. To the extent that the railroads are beginning to perk up a bit because of the high cost of over-the-road hauling, talk of removing major lines is a non-starter.

    The question of having a more commuter-friendly line is, I think, a separate question.

    The railway is only one part of the watershed and potential for a greenway. We should be looking at every open spot in our city – open for whatever reason – as a possible green spot or park. And those spots ought to connect in some way, through walking or biking trails, through short tunnels, through green buildings even. Yes, there is always tension – especially in our revenue-strapped city – between open space that costs the city money and the potential for revenue generation through development. I err on the side of open spaces.

    Question: Why is it necessary to bar construction (of all kinds presumably, not just the residential construction proscribed at the federal level) in the Allen Creek floodway? Why, for example, can’t we continue to develop with structures like the new YMCA?

    PS: There are federal guidelines regarding flood plains and flood ways. The new men’s homeless shelter was built with federal funds passed around in a shell game (see Mike Betzold’s excellent piece in the AA Observer of several years ago) with part of it in the floodway, a violation of federal law.

    Just because a stream is underground doesn’t mean it’s going to stay there – and it won’t in the hundred-year flood (note: there have been two such events in the past century – if memory serves it’s the late 30’s and the mid-60’s). When the water starts shooting up out of the grates along the creek, we’ll be mightily sorry we built that shelter and the new YMCA – and all the other projects that our development-happy officials want to stick along there. What happens when Fingerle Lumber finally decides its taxes are too much and leaves the city? Does that prime spot get snapped up by the university? Go to a premier developer for a megacomplex? Or become one sweet new park? Or some combo? Believe me, there are people making long-range plans for such parcels – just not our public officials, at least not in consultation with the residents of the city.

    Again Re: Green way

    Some visitors come to Ann Arbor and leave without realizing that there’s a river that flows through the city.

    Question: If the goal of an Allen Creek Greenway is to provide enhance the green of Ann Arbor, why isn’t it a better strategy to support the already considerable investment we’ve made in the existing riverway by considering the enhancement of pedestrian/cycling corridors between the riverway and the rest of the city (in particular downtown)?

    PS: Good question. The truth is, most of the riverine park development is away from downtown. The parts of the river that are right near downtown are either in private hands that aren’t going to come free, or are marginal for even a modest park. Creating a continuous right of way for a pedestrian/bike path is not beyond the means of the city, as far as I can tell. Perhaps since Gallup, the Arb, Argo and Barton are in place, there hasn’t been the will to improve and expand riverfront parks. And there’s that darned railway again, limiting options. As most people know, the chainlink fence at Dow Meadow in the Arb does nothing to stop people from crossing the tracks on foot and going on to Gallup. Does the railroad wink at this? The city surely does. I’ve witnessed a couple of near-misses there with Amtrak trains, so it’s not a minor problem.

    As I mentioned in the debate, a free Allen’s Creek is hampered because of the railroad near Depot Street. The berm that goes across the base of Allen’s Creek is impermeable. Federal funds could be sought to create permeation (the only place the creek should be channelized), thus completely negating the most severe threat from flooding in that area, whether the creek is freed or not. Cost? As of 1999 it was estimated at less than $100,000, all of which could be gotten through a federal grant. Why didn’t it happen? Beats me – probably for the same reason that a greenway is such a threat to people – myopia.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 19 '06 - 05:19PM    #
  19. To the Candidates:

    Is divestment, from Israel, an issue?
    Do you have a position?


       —Is divestment an issue?    Oct. 19 '06 - 05:27PM    #
  20. Speaking of Depot St., why did Joe O’Neal build an office building in the floodway there? I thought he was an advocate for a greenway.


       —just me    Oct. 19 '06 - 07:06PM    #
  21. Re: Instant Run Off Voting

    Question: What impact do you think it would have on the Council to have this kind of split?

    First, let me say that this plan is Larry Kestenbaum’s idea. If it were up to me, we’d do away with primaries in the even-numbered years as well. I can understand that Larry’s hands are tied – in even-numbered years it would mean printing a separate ballot and essentially holding a separate election, hardly a cost-saver (if even legal). I support IRV statewide. For that matter, I support it nationally as well as proportional representation. But one thing at a time.

    Given this plan, the Council would be 5 non-partisan members chosen in odd-numbered years the other 5 in the current way, as well as the Mayor. That would mean 6 partisan members of Council and 5 non-partisan (nominally).

    Sounds fine to me.

    Let me be clear that plurality politics has gotten us into the mess it has today. The majority of the potential electorate sit out every election, in part because of limited choices. When they do vote, often the person who ‘wins’ and is seated in a winner-take-all system has far less than 50% of the vote – which means that for all intents and purposes more than half the voters are disfranchised.

    By having Council members chosen who meet that 50% standard, it will force people to think more thoroughly about the other people who do not have anything like a mandate. Chris is right to be concerned – he may be out of a job under such a system.

    Again Re: Instant Run Off

    Question: Are there any experiments in nature that you can point us to (where a switch to IRV improved voter and/or candidate participation) or other kinds of empirical evidence that help make the case for greater democracy through IRV?

    Cambridge, MA has been using a form of IRV for decades. San Francisco used IRV in its 2004 Mayoral election, and it worked very well (much to the frustration of naysayers). FairVote.org has much more background on how to implement it and where it’s being used.

    Let me just say that in 6 years of promoting IRV, I’ve never heard of IRV2. Just thinking about it at the moment, I can say that it would have serious problems with disfranchisement should someone choose not to rank all the candidates, but instead ‘plunk’. This means that once their limited choices are done, if their candidate did not win they no longer have a vote. This is still true under a 50% system, of course, but there would likely be a lot fewer drop-outs from the system. Of course, the first-past-the-post system disfranchises far more than 50%, every time, unless we’re talking about a gerrymandered or ‘safe’ district where the winner gets well more than half the vote.

    IRV does have its flaws. Some wacky results can come out where a candidate who was trailing can come out ahead of leading candidates when votes are redistributed. That’s OK, as far as I’m concerned. Although it seems counterintuitive, it shows that the system is working – that people are thinking strategically. There are other systems, such as approval voting, where you vote singly for all candidates that you wouldn’t mind being represented by, and the person with the most affirmative votes wins. Again, this doesn’t get to majority very often. It is a system that works best (and the Greens have used it internally) when you have a very large field, such as the last California Governor’s race.

    Finally, if the five non-partisan odd-year candidates are to be chosen at large, instead of by ward, then every voter votes for all candidates in what’s called choice voting, a form of multiple-candidate IRV. It’s harder to run and troubleshoot, but supposedly the machines the city has can handle the software.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 19 '06 - 08:23PM    #
  22. Do any of the candidates have a position on divestment?


       —Is divestment an issue?    Oct. 19 '06 - 08:40PM    #
  23. Answering another question, yes, I believe divestment from Israel is an issue. I’m not going to make my point, though, if you don’t see the current Israeli state as a cognate for the South Africa of apartheid, or disagreed with divestment from South Africa at that time.

    Israel is carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing with the unquestioning aid of the US and British governments (although US aid is larger by far). Neo-conservatives in this administration tried to market an invasion plan for Iraq to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and he even (arch-conservative) took a pass – and that was before 9-11. Once there was a pretext for war (WMD’s? terrorism?) the plan was dusted off and used by this administration. While the world’s attention was on Iraq the settlements in Gaza and the West Bank were massively expanded, with much loss of life and property. As it became apparent to Sharon that it simply wasn’t going to work to push more and more Palestinians into tinier and tinier areas without world outcry, the withdrawal from Gaza began. It was a scorched-earth policy, and the settlements were destroyed rather than be allowed to fall into ‘enemy’ hands. The Israeli government enforced this at gunpoint even on its own ultra-conservative settler citizens.

    It’s really hard to call it self-defense to use Stinger missiles on Hamas members and anybody else that happens to be nearby, to concede a ‘both sides are violent’ attitude when one side has 2000 times the resources of the other, and the disadvantaged side is literally fighting for its life.

    No, I’m no apologist for Hamas or its tactics, and I don’t condone suicide bombing for any reason. But the 60 years of officially looking the other way as Israel grabs more and more land has to stop. If our national government doesn’t do its job and stand up for freedom and democracy everywhere, then it is incumbent on us as citizens to put our own government on notice, and make our voices heard.

    America’s unquestioning alliance with Israel throughout its history in order to have an ideological ally in the region and help safeguard ‘our’ oil has led to the current untrenchable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the decimation of the Palestinian people, and future wars in Syria, Iran and North Korea (remember dominos, anyone?).


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 19 '06 - 08:45PM    #
  24. Pete wrote: “Let me just say that in 6 years of promoting IRV, I’ve never heard of IRV2.”

    Sorry to have created the impression that IRV2 was anything other than a hypothetical ‘extreme’ version of IRV concocted on the fly as I typed to try to illuminate why the 50% ‘mandate’ claimed for IRV might be viewed somewhat skeptically. (IRV2 would always have exactly the same election winners, but would have a claim for a unanimous ‘mandate’.) It seems to have provoked the right kind of thoughtful analysis in any case.

    So for the record, IRV2 has no history of being seriously proposed as far as I’m aware, and if it has benn, then likely not with that label, so if it cost anyone research time in trying to track it down, I apologize for the inconvenience.


       —HD    Oct. 19 '06 - 09:00PM    #
  25. Thanks, Pete,

    What a relief to see a little humanity, when it comes to Palestine.


       —Glad to be reading Arbor Update today    Oct. 19 '06 - 09:24PM    #
  26. “But the 60 years of officially looking the other way as Israel grabs more and more land has to stop.”

    Isn’t this contradicted by your comments about the withdrawal from Gaza?


       —John Q.    Oct. 20 '06 - 03:36AM    #
  27. “Isn’t this contradicted by your comments about the withdrawal from Gaza?”

    Let me say that, as a City Councilperson, I will rarely be called upon to make detailed analysis of foreign policy matters – but that I happen to have a strong interest in such matters, having gotten a degree in Geography and always having been focused on geopolitical matters (one reason why I’m a Green).

    Sure, Israel “withdrew” from Gaza, then tried to seal it up tight as a drum to let the people rot. Then, on the thinnest of pretexts they went back in with force to ‘rescue’ a couple of Israeli soldiers (I won’t get into what those soldiers were doing and why the Palestinians felt justified in arresting them). So, they’re in Gaza in force while the world’s attention is elsewhere (yet again – we seem to fall for distraction techniques so easily).

    And, while ostensibly withdrawing from Gaza, the other shoe drop was that permanent illegal land grabs in the West Bank were to be cemented (literally) with a new separation wall. Some quid pro quo, huh?

    And while we’re talking about illegal land grabs, don’t forget about the Bekaa Valley for two decades in Lebanon, and the Golan Heights taken from Syria (but we couldn’t possibly concede Syria has any legitimate gripes, could we? – they’re Socialist!). Israel was forced to give up Sinai, taken from Egypt in the Six Days War, in order to gain peace with Egypt. The governments of Sadat and Mubarak have been the most ‘stable’ Arabic-speaking governments, according to Western rhetoric, when in truth they have been highly oppressive to its own population – as is Jordan, Saudi Arabia, ...

    Israel is amongst the most criminal governments that have yet to be brought to justice in a democratic world. Dozens of UN Resolutions have been violated or ignored by Israel, and sanctions have been thwarted time and again in the UN Security Council by the US, using its veto – for decades. For those who have been waiting three generations to return to their homes in Palestine/Israel, there is little patience left, especially as the world continues to demonize them as terrorists – all of them, not just the ones who really are using terror and murder as a tactic of self-defense. I’m sure the bulk of the Western world would breathe a collective sigh of relief if a new Palestinian homeland were created on the moon, or if the Palestinians just gave up and died. I don’t work that way, and I think most people when confronted with the truth wouldn’t, either.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 20 '06 - 06:27PM    #
  28. “I’m sure the bulk of the Western world would breathe a collective sigh of relief if a new Palestinian homeland were created on the moon, or if the Palestinians just gave up and died. I don’t work that way, and I think most people when confronted with the truth wouldn’t, either.”

    I’m sure there’s many in the Arab world who feel the same way about Israel and the Israelis.


       —John Q.    Oct. 20 '06 - 06:44PM    #
  29. Pete:

    ”(but we couldn’t possibly concede Syria has any legitimate gripes, could we? – they’re Socialist!)”

    Syria is Ba’athist, certainly the type of Socialism we look upon favorably in the Scandanavian countries. “Socialist” is just a name to them, it’s not what we think it is.

    “Israel was forced to give up Sinai, taken from Egypt in the Six Days War, in order to gain peace with Egypt.”

    That’s an interesting take on it. The giving back of land to Egypt was negotiated, certainly not forced upon by Israel. Now, you certainly can say Israel had an obligation under international law to give it back, but at the end of the day nobody put a gun to Israel’s head to give it back. Egypt had to give something as well.

    “Israel is amongst the most criminal governments that have yet to be brought to justice in a democratic world.”

    That’s another interesting statement. There are certainly things Israel must be held account for, but a grandiose statement like that serves mere rhetoric. There are far more criminal governments in the world, even among the usual suspects in Asia and the Middle East. There are governments whom we refer to as “western,” including our own, that may just be more criminal than Israel.

    Using language like this doesn’t solve anything. Thus why peace can’t be achieved. When one side calls the other racists and anti-semites, what has been accomplished? Considering it is highly unlikely the ICJ will “prosecute” Israel for anything in the occupation other than the Separation Barrier or Wall or whatever you want to call it, to me it seems like a futile exercise to talk about states or actors are criminals. We aren’t going to prosecute Syria, Iran, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, or the Palestinian Authority for its violations, so what’s the point?

    Maybe you see a point. That’s fine. I simply disagree.

    “not just the ones who really are using terror and murder as a tactic of self-defense”

    I’d be really careful here. While it could certainly be argued that when Israel enters the Palestinian territories, if Israel fires on militants and the militants fire back, that could be self-defense. But going to Tel-Aviv and blowing oneself in a market could not and should not be construed as self-defense. You’ve stated that you did not justify suicide bombings, so to put terror attacks as self-defense might be a little problematic.

    “I won’t get into what those soldiers were doing and why the Palestinians felt justified in arresting them”

    Israel detained (I’m using as neutral a term as possible here) two Palestinians on June 24. Then, militants crossed into Israel from Gaza and detained two Israeli soldiers. I could see why someone would say these guys were “justified” in detaining the soldiers, i.e. seen as retalitory for the events that had happened the previous day. But I’m unsure by what you mean of not discussing what the soldiers were doing on June 25.

    Discussing Israel/Palestine at the City Council is a divisive thing, you’re absolutely right. But, it will continue to be as long as the two sides remain as polarized as they are. Campaigning for one sides’ demands is inviting a meaningless fight, and in the end it won’t accomplish anything.

    By the way, don’t respond to Blaine’s posts. Debate is almost impossible with him. I like your discussion, and if possible, would like to keep it between ourselves and everyone else besides Blaine.

    You bring up legitimate issues, and I agree with some of the things you talk about.


       —Jared Goldberg    Oct. 20 '06 - 07:56PM    #
  30. Jared, all right, my characterizations are a bit problematic, especially if we’re going to keep the discussion within the tight constraints forced by various actors on the world stage. A few re-directs/clarifications may be in order.

    Yes, I believe Israel was forced to give up Sinai. I think it was a miscalculation on their part to assume they could take and hold such a large portion of a ‘safer’ Arab country like Egypt, a key former British colony. Or perhaps it was a very canny tactic, in order to gain world attention and get some further airing of their tenuous security situation. Certainly American rhetoric and support was relatively quiet before then, and afterwards was forced to ‘live up to’ its commitment to Israel openly.

    If self-explosion isn’t self-defense, what the heck is it? Sure, it’s a tactic meant to instill fear and destabilize another (its own?) government and force it to negotiate. Why would the people who send young people to suicide need such tactics were they not fighting for their existence? If you recall, the Second Intifada began with youths throwing stones at soldiers, the soldiers fired back with rubber bullets, the rocks became bottles and then incendiaries, and the ammunition of the soldiers became live rounds, and the classic escalation model had taken off. Right now it’s suicide bombers versus helicopter gunships and drone missiles. I’m not on anyone’s side here, but I’m a bit sick of the ‘both sides’ rhetoric that usually gets played out in peace movements – as if they were equal sides.

    As for calling Israel the most criminal government, I suppose I was counting up UN Resolution violations. Certainly other states qualify in the seriously bad category – our own probably worst for its sponsorship of state terror worldwide, repeated invasions, imperialist tendencies, and the use of nuclear weapons (and the rhetoric to continue using them). But you’re right – no state is going to be taken to court, so it’s a futile exercise to indict them even in this way.

    We’re not going to solve the Middle East crisis here, nor in City Council. But if we can agree that America has done far too much to escalate matters in the Middle East, that’s a starting point for talking about what can be done to change that. And I think we need to get into why America has continued to involve itself so closely a third of the way around the world, the obvious and not so obvious reasons.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 21 '06 - 05:09AM    #
  31. “If self-explosion isn’t self-defense, what the heck is it?”

    Err. If self-explosion is self-defense, then I don’t know what isn’t….


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 21 '06 - 05:15AM    #
  32. Pete:

    “If self-explosion isn’t self-defense, what the heck is it?”

    I understand the logic behind seeing suicide bombing as self-defense. Someone who is so desparate with their situation that they kill themselves by strapping dynamite to their chests. The problem I have with such thinking is that it relies on simplistic logic. Why are desparate people all over the world not killing themselves? Desparation alone does not lead someone to suicide bombing.

    I argue that it is more ideological. And, just as in other cases around the world, this ideology to blow yourself up is used to exploit those who are suffering. The politician who tells a kid to blow himself up certainly reaps all the political rewards such violence produces, while not taking on any of the consequences.

    Most suicide bombers have been in fact those of middle class upbringing, not the poorer classes. I have always maintained a non-violent civil disobedience movement in Palestine would be the best strategy because it would ally many more Israelis to their plight as a result of the occupation. But, I’ve been waiting six years for such a movement and I wonder why it hasn’t arisen . . .

    “but I’m a bit sick of the ‘both sides’ rhetoric that usually gets played out in peace movements – as if they were equal sides.”

    Much of that rhetoric is left over from when Israel was being continually threatened by surrounding Arab nations. You have to remember: Palestinians, Muslims, Israelis, and Jews (I’m generalizing here, and for that I apologize) are people of rememberance. While in other countries (I’m not sure if this is true in eastern Europe but I know it is in the US) collective memory only goes back to last Tuesday. For them (I should say us), collective memory goes as far back as possible. People don’t forget.

    So the equal sides rhetoric is part of the same collective memory that has Israel v. all the Arab states. Indeed, I used to think this way until I really limited my view onto the Palestinian-Israeli conflict specifically.

    At the same time, however, the Arab-Israeli conflict is a “childish” conflict; neither side is going to take responsibility for anything and will continue to play out like little kids until peace can be achieved. And even then I don’t imagine any of the actors growing up.

    The peace movements need to do that because at their core they need to gain support for their movements. Without support, there is no peace nor any dialogue. We need to keep that in mind before we outright dismiss them.

    “I suppose I was counting up UN Resolution violations.”

    Here’s the problem with doing that: many of the resolutions are redundant, brought up merely as a political tool. Ten times as many people have died in the last six years in Darfur but how many resolutions have passed? What about our government? Well over a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians have been killed by W’s ridiculous war. Where are the resolutions on that? The truth is, and I know many people don’t like this, is that most resolutions are merely political; they don’t have much practical purpose. And, on that thread, simply counting up UN resolutions doesn’t make a state criminal; they are criminal for what they do.

    Which is why I wouldn’t call Israel the biggest criminal state. By counting up actions, there are countries with far worse records. This, of course, does not excuse the things Israel has done. Any state that commits wrongful acts must be held responsible. I’m just against these comparisons which have largely rhetorical value.

    The problem with Israel/Palestine in City Council is the same problem with the conflict in the Michigan Daily: there can be no winners. No matter what is passed, someone will be pissed off. Now, that doesn’t mean we have to be silent. What that means is that we have to recognize the legitimate issues of both sides. Since this also involves pissing off both sides, it is not alway done.

    I tried to do it over the summer in my column at the Daily and be moderate; not because I should as a “journalist” but because it was important to look at this conflict from outside our own ideological boxes. I got plenty of shit from both sides.

    In reality, let’s be honest, the solution to the Arab-Israeli Conflict will be a “moderate” one, not a radical one. Both Israel and Palestine will need to exist as peaceful, secure states that respect human rights and the rule of law.

    When we begin to acknowledge that, it gets harder to defend extreme positions on either side, of which divestment is one.

    This is roughly my opinion about why the City Council should stay away from the conflict, but you may feel differently. That’s fine. But, I think more can be done by pursuing the moderate agenda on this one (I hate the term “moderate” because it actually makes sense, the only reason we call it that is because the extremists on both sides dominate the debate).


       —Jared Goldberg    Oct. 21 '06 - 07:17AM    #
  33. hey jared:

    i found your comment about “people of rememberance” to be an interesting one. i don’t think you can confine that comment to M.E./Arab nationalities. Rather, I think you have to look at it in terms of wining/losing. Look at the South today, almost 150 years after the Civil War. Events and people confined to textbooks in the North are still talked about weekly, if not daily in the South. For instance, my middle name is Wade, after Wade Hampton, Gen. CSA. My sister’s middle name is Lee (not a very girly spelling, much to her dismay), after R.E. Lee, Gen. CSA. In the same way, Jews remember the Holocaust, and for being blamed for everything else bad in the world. (I should point out that I’m talking about wining and losing, not right and wrong, nor the scope of the loss). Arabs were controlled by the Ottoman Empire and when they won free of them they got booted from Palestine 30 yrs later. African-Americans suffered through slavery. Africans (and lots of other people) suffered through colonization. Heck, look at what we did to the Native Americans who were living on the continent we ‘discovered.’ Make it simpler than that…at the end of the ol’ football season, UM vs. OSU. UM has lost the last two. think that’s going to motivate them? Yeah. Winners play it cool and move on. If they have to apologize and pay some reparations, okay they will, but they’ll never know the pain and humilation of defeat, whether it be colonization, genocide, forced removal, occupation, what have you. The losers have to come to grips with their past before they can forget their grudge and move into the future. The US and Western Europe (as a whole) don’t dwell on the past b/c there is no need to. Our way of life reigns supreme throughout the world (and has since the enlightenment). Captialism/Democracy is king, and until that changes, there is no need for us to be “people of rememberance.”


       —tim    Oct. 21 '06 - 09:11AM    #
  34. pete, am i hearing you right?

    “Why would the people who send young people to suicide need such tactics were they not fighting for their existence?”

    would you care to apply that to 9/11?

    are you saying that suicide as a tactic legitimizes any cause, any effect?


       —peter honeyman    Oct. 21 '06 - 01:07PM    #
  35. Pete,

    I’d like to congratulate and thank you for showing that Israel and Palestine may be discussed in a way that invites actual discussion and engagement, rather than in a way that estranges and closes off participation.

    On another note, though, I’d like to ask about what I think is a straw man attack on your website:

    In a pro-development-at-almost-any-cost environment, open space (not necessarily just parkland) gets taken up very quickly. In-fill development is definitely a good idea, rather than propagating sprawl at the edge or beyond the limits of town, but wise in-fill is needed, not see-an-opening-and-fill-it-now mentality.

    I’d like you to offer one person in town who holds a develop everything attitude. Yes, there are people who advocate for more development than others, but I don’t think there’s anyone who sees all development as good or without tradeoffs. Actually, I’d hazard an estimate that you seem to be in favor of more development than the median voice that we’ve heard around town, with your website’s call for raising by-right height limits downtown to ten stories and your idea of not just permitting but incentivizing four to five story development in other areas).

    All in all, though, I like your platform, and, especially, like the fact that you’ve put it out there so openly and are willing to discuss it. (Does Kunselman have a website?)


       —Murph.    Oct. 21 '06 - 03:59PM    #
  36. pete, i checked out your web page a little … hey, i went to cass tech, too!

    anywho, you mention …

    “I would like to see a clerical union at the University of Michigan, the largest public university to never have such a union”

    but i kind of recall such a union … in the 70s? ... part of UAW? it was not long-lived … my dim recollection is that the … UAW? ... was … was … teh suck, and the local felt betrayed, so they disbanded.

    any farts older than i out there that remember the clerical union?


       —peter honeyman    Oct. 22 '06 - 02:57AM    #
  37. tim:

    You may have a point. I am not a southerner, so I don’t know their culture of remembrance very well. I was only speaking of experience and what I’ve read and studied (Middle Eastern history, and quite a bit of it). You’re very right, although speaking from a Jewish perspective, we remember victories as well. Purim is an example. Perhaps another paradigm would be appropriate.

    Regardless, in this case, the point is in this conflict, history and the people’s perception of it are very important. There is no objective way of bringing it all together. You’ll end up ignoring important events and developments. It’s best to get what you can from both narratives. At least that’s my opinion.

    After years of studying this conflict, I’ve come to believe a solution will neither be easy nor completely agreeable to both sides. But, a solution to stop decades of murder is more important than letting it go on.

    By the way, for everyone reading please ignore comment #37, “Palestinians disappered again.” It’s just Blaine. Nuff’ said.


       —Jared Goldberg    Oct. 22 '06 - 03:44AM    #
  38. Peter H., yes, there was a clerical union formed in the 70’s affiliated with the UAW, but it missed its ratification vote – by a couple of votes. Therefore it never ‘officially’ existed, and the wind was out of the sails for organizing for many years.

    The university has been outstanding at avoiding a clerical union. One way they have done this is to keep a large slice of rank-and-file clericals in a category that feels like management or administration (the P&A) category. These people will never vote for a union, as they identify with the Masters, if you will. More below.

    Recently, as UPower, the clerical union that has been forming, started its drive to count votes in the bargaining unit so that they could go forward with a ratification vote, the university hurried up a planned reclassification system, moving it up a year in its schedule. Not only did this cause serious management problems for the university, which was not ready to do this, but it suddenly cast all those P&A people firmly into the potential bargaining unit, removing any illusion that they were actually part of the administration class. Instead of being pissed off about this, the former P&A people are doing exactly what the university hoped, staying loyal to the administration and refusing to participate in a union.

    There have been at least 5 attempts at a clerical union over the years, all failed for various reasons. Once I learned about these failures (and the university’s sabotage of them), it becomes truly remarkable that GEO and LEO got formed at all, much less as truly viable unions. (GEO is the graduate student worker union, LEO is for the Lecturers, who do much of the teaching). The folks who put GEO and LEO together tried to help make UPower work, but some infighting occurred, some power struggles happened, and I have no idea where the effort sits right now. I do know that the most recent serious effort was being directed by Mark Dilley (regular contributor here) and he’s now off out of town for good. Mark, if you drop in here again, maybe you can shed some light on the situation.

    Just to be clear, my take on how the university torpedoed the clerical effort this time, including moving up their timetable for reclassification a year, is not accepted union dogma, but my own analysis – I think it made the folks at UPower a little nuts to see me blathering about this in the Daily and other places. But results count, and my doomsaying seems to have been correct – or at least my conspiracy theory was not disproved by events.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 22 '06 - 01:53PM    #
  39. Remember, folks, I said I don’t condone suicide bombing. I don’t condone violence of any sort, and I seriously doubt that I would use lethal violence in my own defense (one can never know until one is face with it).

    I’m also not attempting to excuse the political aspects of suicide bombing – perhaps I didn’t make it clear that I think it’s despicable that anyone would manipulate someone into it.

    But I do want people to try to see the Palestinian side of things. Why do middle-class Palestinians agree to blow themselves up? Why do women agree to do it? In the western mode of thinking, we tend to try to put ourselves into any situation such as this, and identify with one side or the other in order to check our own values in the situation – and I think because many Israelis are or were European with a western ethos, and because Jews here clearly identify with Israel, very little personal affinity with the Palestinian side of things has occurred.

    Rachel Corrie certainly identified with Palestinians, and it cost her her life. We don’t have to ‘take sides’, but if people can’t see the ‘enemy’s’ point of view, don’t understand the issues, then no ‘moderate’ resolution can occur. I think there has been a very deliberate effort to keep anyone from identifying with and sympathizing with Palestinians. And the Palestinians have not managed to change that. In the war of hearts and minds, Israel wins hands down, whether it deserves to or not.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 22 '06 - 02:37PM    #
  40. No, he decided not to. Alice Ralph and Jeff Meyers (losing candidates in the primary) both had peachy sites, much better than my miserable effort. But they lost. Maybe Steve has something…

    It doesn’t have to be one person. It is the whole group. If it were one person, it would be easier to combat. But if you must have a name, I think Jean Carlberg was the most pro-development member of Council (retiring now). Kunselman is her protoge’, apparently.

    Alice Ralph (architect) pointed out in her primary campaign that dense development doesn’t have to be tall, and that affordable housing doesn’t need to be new (leveraging developers for affordable units). I think I would have been happy to have lost to Alice Ralph, as she is clearly thinking outside the box.

    Why do I favor raising the heighth limits? The difference between 8 and 10 stories is negligible from the ground. It matters mostly to those in other tall buildings. It does allow developers more profit, and allows denser development, thus satisfying the conditions for more open space.

    But just because the limit raises doesn’t mean that every building should be 10 stories – and there should be good reasons for a 10-story building other than profit. Developers should have to justify the extra height.

    All in all, though, I like your platform, and, especially, like the fact that you’ve put it out there so openly and are willing to discuss it.

    As for incentivizing larger development elsewhere, I admit I haven’t had much traction with voters and the media with my concept of neighborhood nodes – areas in established neighborhoods where mixed-use development above two stories can occur to create an anchor for the neighborhood.

    Here’s where I’m going to step in it with the AU crowd, I’m sure. I am not in favor of the single family home. There, I’ve said it. I’m sure every neighborhood association in town who gets hold of this will skewer me endlessly. I live in a single family home, in a neighborhood built as a suburban enclave (Arbor Oaks – all cul-de-sacs off a central artery), so I could be accused of hypocrisy, legitimately. It’s my first home – always a renter before this. It has opened my eyes even further to the waste of space and function that the suburban model gives us.

    One of the non-profits I helped form was Treetown Co-housing. We were an offshoot of Southeast Michigan Co-housing (SEMCO) which is now defunct. We wanted to build our cohousing in an urban environment, unlike Sunward, which had to build in suburbia. We chose a spot in old East Ann Arbor that was 1 1/3 acre in a thin, long lot with an abandoned house on it (off Platt). The city was going to sell to us for $90,000. We wanted to be ‘off the grid’ as far as sewerage was concerned, as we wanted composting toilets. The city was going to force us to bear the entire cost of renovating the sewer and water lines for the whole area, as they were at capacity (any new developer would face this there). We wanted to build 10 units in townhouse style, with tiny individual kitchens and a large common house with a good-sized kitchen, where communal meals would be made.

    Yup, hippies in the city. Big, bad developers we were. Worse, we were going to make the units $100,000 or less (commies!). What really scotched the deal was that a new environmental study came in that put the entire area in the 100 year flood plain of the underground Swift Run Creek – and we were going to be forced to build on stilts! I note that every house in the area has a basement, and I hear nothing about flooding. But I have to respect the study, which does effectively provide NIMBY’s with everything they need to keep in-fill from happening.

    I note that this was around the corner from then-Councilperson Heidi Herrell’s house, and that Jean Carlberg was fully aware of our plans through RAAH (I think it stands for Religious something Affordable Housing). Coincidence? That’s what started me on the road to City Council, more than anything.

    So, yes – I am pro-development: pro-smart development, pro-affordable, pro-environmental, pro-progressive. I am not pro-profit, although there’s little reason in our society not to let developers make a buck – as long as they don’t make too many bucks at the public’s expense (like Lower Town).

    Lower Town, by the way, would be an excellent example of a neighborhood node – targeted, area-restricted larger development in a particular spot to anchor a neighborhood. The shenanigans surrounding that particular project, however, leave me cold. While the city needs to promote targeted non-downtown development, floating $40 mil in bonds ain’t the way to go.

    Thanks for asking about the non-downtown development idea, and feel free to prod me into further clarification – I admit it’s a new idea for me, and one I was hoping ‘had legs’.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 22 '06 - 03:55PM    #
  41. Sorry, I don’t have the hang of quoting or formatting – lazy I guess.

    In the above post I was responding to whether Stephen Kunselman had a website. (Can you say “Councilman Kunselman”?)

    In the second paragraph I was responding to Murph’s challenge to name a person who was entirely pro-development.

    I then went on to defend the raising of heighth limits and my assumed pro-development stance (relative to most of AU) that Murph suggested.

    Sorry for any confusion.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 22 '06 - 04:01PM    #
  42. Here’s where I’m going to step in it with the AU crowd, I’m sure. I am not in favor of the single family home. There, I’ve said it.

    How exactly is that going to get you in trouble here, of all places? Recall that AU is historically a nest of pro-ADU agitators – and pushing for urban co-housing is certainly nothing new around here, either. Right on.


       —Murph.    Oct. 22 '06 - 06:48PM    #
  43. The university has been outstanding at avoiding a clerical union. One way they have done this is to keep a large slice of rank-and-file clericals in a category that feels like management or administration (the P&A) category. These people will never vote for a union, as they identify with the Masters, if you will.

    So Pete, what exactly would a clerical union provide to people in this category that the University does not already provide? I worked in a clerical position at the U for many years and no clerical person I ever worked with had any interest in being part of a union. We used to laugh when the topic came up every couple of years. I don’t think the U is avoiding it as much as that clerical types aren’t interested in joining. We made decent money, had amazing benefits, good working conditions, lots of vacation and sick-time, good hours, job security, upward mobility, a two-for-one retirement plan. The only thing the Union seemed guaranteed to provide was dues.


       —Juliew    Oct. 23 '06 - 05:30PM    #
  44. The more I read, the more I think a Tom Wall/Pete Schermerhorn ticket is fitting. Of course Blaine would manage the campaign.


       —Jackson    Oct. 23 '06 - 05:36PM    #
  45. The UAW briefly represented the clerical workers at the U when I was a librarian there. They quickly decertified the union because, according to my friends, they felt they were being treated like morons. They got nothing for their dues. Later, AFSCME tried to organize them but lost in a very close election. JulieW is right about the salaries, and in particular, the benefits. When I worked there, health care for the entire family was free, and dental insurance very cheap – and you would have a hard time beaing TIAA-CREF as a retirement benefit.


       —Leah    Oct. 23 '06 - 07:12PM    #
  46. Leah, Julie – would you be interested to know that AFT did a study of salaries at the U and found that they were 7 – 10% less than comparable positions in the private sector?

    You and I may have had pretty cushy jobs, but many at the U do not. They are subject to arbitrary action by management, including summary dismissal. There is no grievance procedure, no recourse should you suddenly find yourself in the doghouse (whether deserved or not). Working conditions in many departments are very bad, with harassment, secrecy, summary job action and low morale the norm. Even though I have a fair job now, I had previous jobs where I had my personal effects searched, where I was given unconscionable workloads, and where I was ‘written up’ for absences after 3 sick days. I was not even allowed to attend the funeral of a close personal friend without threat of being written up.

    Things are not peachy everywhere, by a long shot. Protection for clericals is long overdue.

    And Jackson – I don’t know the Tom Wall campaign at all, and I don’t know Blaine, either. But I’m not sure your intended slight found its mark. If you have a problem with what I’m saying or how I’m saying it, I’d prefer you be specific.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Oct. 24 '06 - 10:58AM    #
  47. Pete – I was just giving you the facts. The benefits outweigh the salaries, and the clericals apparently were not interested in a union when I worked there. I am a firm supporter of unions, but if the group of workers votes them down, I don’t know what unions can do.


       —Leah    Oct. 24 '06 - 11:09AM    #
  48. I think it is more accurate to say that although the U does have a grievance procedure for all employees, it is stacked in favor of management.


       —David Cahill    Oct. 24 '06 - 12:32PM    #
  49. “Leah, Julie – would you be interested to know that AFT did a study of salaries at the U and found that they were 7 – 10% less than comparable positions in the private sector?”

    Reference? A salary-to-salary comparison without taking into account benefits sounds pretty meaningless to me.


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 24 '06 - 02:52PM    #
  50. Most salaries at the U are quite a bit under market value (IT and research certainly are, as are most medical). That is why so many people leave the U to go to private companies. The benefits and good working conditions at the U are why so many people come back. Very few people work at the U because of the great salaries.


       —Juliew    Oct. 24 '06 - 03:42PM    #