Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

1st Ward Dems meet to discuss Groome succession

5. August 2005 • Murph
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About 25 people met tonight to discuss the process of replacing Kim Groome on City Council and to talk to two people interested in filling the seat – Bill Hanson (former Director of the Washtenaw Land Trust) and Tim Colenback (Assistant Dean, UM School of Social Work). Jennifer Hall, Chair of the Planning Commission, had also announced interest, but is currently out of the country, and there are hopes of a better publicized “meet the candidates” meeting with all three once Groome’s resignation is official.

Council must fill vacant seats by a vote of remaining Council members within 30 days of the vacancy occurring; Mayor Hieftje stated that this would probably happen with Council interviewing candidates, publicly, at a Council Work Session (off-Mondays from Council Meetings), and then voting at the following Council meeting.

The two interested candidates present, Hanson and Colenback, then introduced themselves and took questions for an hour and half.

Hanson introduced himself with a criticism of the Calthorpe visioning workshop, but stated that, “despite attempts to stack it with pro-development people,” the “common people” showed up and demanded a full-scale greenway. If put on Council, he’d “immediately work, from day one, to put a park on 1st and William,” he said, since the current Council has done nothing in support of such a greenway. Most of Hanson’s statements included direct attacks on Council, on the Planning Commission, or on “transients”. “If I have to choose between residents and taxpayers or students, I’ll choose residents,” he said in answer to a question on residential permit parking. In general, his tone was not that of somebody who was trying to get Council to select him, but that of somebody who wanted to use the process as a soapbox to preach from.

Colenbeck was less aggressive, laying out a four-point test for judging new development (though stating that Tower Plaza Condominiums and University Towers were out of scale and definitely shouldn’t have been approved); claiming a need to personally study the arguments around using 1st/William, 415 W. Washington, and the North Main City Yard as all parkland versus some combination of uses before taking action; and stating concern for examining the impact of residential permit parking on everyone affected.

Recent Council candidate Eugene Kang joked that he was the “de facto student spokesperson”, and asked how students could be engaged and included in the local process. Colenback stated that “Democrats especially should be looking to be inclusive,” and wondered about moving the primary elections to sometime during the school year. Hanson, continuing to not make any friends on Council, claimed the problem with Kang’s campaign was that, as a “real Democrat”, he wasn’t a part of “the City Council Party”, where people are welcomed based on getting along, and not on what ideas they have.

Since the real decision seems to be between Colenback and Hall, it’s unfortunate that this meeting was held while Jennifer is out of the country. We’ll publicize any future meetings with the candidates and the schedule for the Council process once it is known.

Edit, 9 Aug, 11am: As of yesterday, Groome has resigned and left the state for a new home outside of Princeton, NJ. 30 days to appointing a successor begin sometime between yesterday, when she left, and when her snail mail resignation reaches Council and is officially accepted.



  1. According to an authority I asked, the primary probably can’t be moved to the school year. While some cities have September primaries, since election consolidation the August primaries seem set.

    If that authority wants to chime in…
       —Dale    Aug. 5 '05 - 09:29AM    #
  2. I think a September primary is definitely out. But here’s a question (for Larry, mainly): would it be legal to hold the local (Council/Mayor) primaries in November and the general election on the February election date? The election consolidation doesn’t say that primaries have to be in August, just that all elections must take place on one of those four (Aug, Nov, Feb, May) dates.

    Assuming it would be legal, it would probably require a City Charter amendment, right? Which would involve a ballot issue? Which would (circle one) be likely to pass / not have a chance in the world of passing?

    Or maybe we just have a non-partisan IRV election in November and skip the primaries altogether for local office?

    Of course, all of this pondering assumes that one believes that the “real” competition for local office is in the August Democratic primary right now, and that one believes this is a bad thing. Which I do, and I do.
       —Murph.    Aug. 5 '05 - 09:39AM    #
  3. Oops: a correction has been made above, Hanson is the former director of WLT, as of about a year ago
       —Murph.    Aug. 5 '05 - 09:52AM    #
  4. If a September primary is contrary to state law, perhaps we could look into a September caucus process for the nomination of candidates. The August primary is a strong impediment to participation in Ann Arbor especially for students.
       —Tim Colenback    Aug. 5 '05 - 10:05AM    #
  5. Hanson? Shit, he’s that NIMBY fucker who lives on Orkney and got the condo project on the Bluffs stopped because the shitty suburban sprawl of it would back up to the shitty suburban sprawl of HIS neighborhood.

    And I agreed, it was a crappy condo project, because it should have been denser, more urban, and have included a comercial portion fronting Main Street, BUT that didn’t mean the city had to buy the land, adding to their already overburdened park maintenance.

    The only consolation is that Hanson has to drive by Hunt Park everday, and it looks like hell most of the time because the city can’t afford to mow it regularly.

    And to think I actually donated money to the Washtenaw Land Trust before I figured out who ran it.

    Hanson, you fuck, I want my money back!
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 5 '05 - 10:41AM    #
  6. I thought the Calthorpe workshop was stacked with Friends of the Greenway, actually.

    Colenback seems reasonable. I’ve always been highly-impressed with Hall whenever I attend/watch a planning commission meeting, however…
       —Brandon    Aug. 5 '05 - 11:02AM    #
  7. No, I don’t think the city is allowed to choose to have its general election in February.

    I’m not in favor of party caucuses in place of a primary, and I’m pretty sure the city couldn’t have that either.

    I’m starting to think that a November IRV election (with no primary) may be the right answer for maximizing participation. But I’m still working on that question.

    Yes, the real competition, if any, for city council happens in the August primary right now. And that is surely a bad thing for participation.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 5 '05 - 11:06AM    #
  8. Well, Larry, what would you see as downsides of a November IRV election with no primary? (It sounds like you see some.) Do you think it could/should be done partisan/non-partisan? (I do, especially in years when somebody like anybody-but-Bush or anybody-but-Engler is at the top of the ticket.) It would eliminate this whole silly question of “real Democrats vs. party switchers”; the candidates could identify individually as Democrats or whatever else they wanted, and the local parties could endorse particular candidates, but party-affiliation wouldn’t affect the vote outcomes mechanically.
       —Murph.    Aug. 5 '05 - 11:20AM    #
  9. Hoping for an answer from Colenback, Hanson, and Hall about whether they will allow a public hearing on the Human Rights Commission’s Palestine resolution, which was officially transmitted to City Council in 2003.

    Despite constant urging, during Council meetings, not a single Council member has called a Public Hearing on their own Commission’s Palestine Resolution.

    It’s the resolution recommending a cutoff of military aid to Israel.

    It is quite mild compared to past Council resolutions regarding other places in the world.

    So—when will the Palestine Resolution get a City Council hearing?

    Is it still a forbidden topic of discussion, after all these years?
       —-Blaine. (Palestine)    Aug. 5 '05 - 11:56AM    #
  10. I second your call for a public hearing, if you promise to accept it if they have the public hearing and the conclusion is “No”.

    Me and you Blaine, we could go far, man! You just have to agree to accept a no.
       —Parking Structure Dude! (Parking Structures, Dude)    Aug. 5 '05 - 12:05PM    #
  11. I’m still not sure what I’d like to see done.

    Probably partisan elections and IRV are not compatible, since it would muck up the selection of party nominees, or rather, eliminate the whole concept of party nominees.

    The whole IRV concept would take some explaining and getting used to for most voters, and that would probably be hard to do amid the hullabaloo of a presidential or even a gubernatorial election. To make IRV elections basically standalone, the city could easily switch to November of odd years (rather than November of EVERY year) for its elections.

    On the other hand, elections were moved from April to November in the first place to establish majority rule in the city. Turnout in April city elections was low, so for years a Republican mayor and city council ruled a city with a Democratic population. Electing the mayor in the even-year general assures wide participation in that decision.

    Further, switching to odd-years-only would mean doubling the length of the mayor and council terms to four years, requiring a much longer commitment from anyone who seeks city office.

    I’m still working on the issue of whether the tabulating equipment could handle an IRV election. One simple but time consuming route would be for the tabulators to count only the first choice votes, meaning that any additional tallies which might be needed would be done by hand.

    In a citywide mayoral race during a presidential election, that could be a real bear. Indeed, that would make it very difficult to pass.

    Here’s a possibile compromise: don’t change any terms, and don’t change the even year elections at all. Just have IRV, experimentally, for city council in odd years only, and get rid of the odd year primary. (The even year primary will be held whether or not the city has any offices at stake.)

    That way, interests that are best served by IRV would have access to half the council; interests that are best served by traditional partisan primary and general elections would have access to the other half.

    It would also give us some operational experience with IRV to help decide whether more widespread use would be a good idea.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Aug. 5 '05 - 12:13PM    #
  12. Thanks, Parking Structure Dude,

    A full and free public discussion of what is happening to Palestine, and the case for divestment, is all I can ask for.

    If that happens, and the vote goes against me, I can’t complain that Council is silencing the issue.

    If that happens, I can try again, but I can’t complain that we were denied a fair hearing.

    As of now, though, we have been denied a fair hearing for divestment, and for the Palestine Resolution.
       —-Blaine. (Palestine)    Aug. 5 '05 - 12:24PM    #
  13. Define “full and free public discussion”. I only have enough pull with the council to get you one night. And no trying again. It’s eather yea or nay, and then the issue is gone for time and all eternity. You still with me?
       —Parking Structure Dude! (Parking Structures, Dude)    Aug. 5 '05 - 12:38PM    #
  14. From what I heard last night, Hanson would be totally against a hearing about Palestine, since Council has enough work already handling local issues, (paraphrased; my notebook is not near me) “like a viable greenway, which is a progressive, popular local issue.” Tim has checked in here at least once, and can probably answer for himself, but I’d say he’d be more likely to consider it, as he seemed to think past actions with largely symbolic impacts (e.g. the resolution opposing the PATRIOT Act) were appropriate.

    Nobody asked for their views about human companionship for goldfish, tragically.
       —Murph.    Aug. 5 '05 - 12:43PM    #
  15. Thanks Murph;

    Thanks also, I guess, to Parking Structure Dude for his input about one-try-only.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers that City Council spent multiple nights, up until 3 AM, in multiple public hearings, debating the rights of goldfish, dogs, cats, and other animals, just a couple years ago.

    I bought each Council member dog food, on one of those occassions, and put it at their Council table, with a note asking for similar consideration to be given to the rights of Palestinians, and to the issue of divestment.

    In the 19th century, anti-slavery campaigners also used animal-rights ordinances in their fight to end slavery, as no laws existed to protect the rights of live human beings who were in bondage.

    Now I’ll try to address Mr. Dude’s bargaining position.
    I don’t want to deprive him of his anonymity, but I feel funny calling him “Dude”. I guess “Dad” would be worse.

    It sounds like Dude is bargaining on behalf of City Council. His argument is that a full and free hearing on divestment can last only one night, must never occur again, and must end with silence on the issue.

    Hmmm.

    It’s lucky that anti-slavery campaigners didn’t surrender after Congress gagged John Quincy Adams for reading too many anti-slavery petitions out loud.

    I am arguing for the same rights the goldfish had: a full and free public hearing, whether it takes one night or more.

    And no permanent gag on the issue.

    There is no permanent gag on the animal rights people either, or on Parking Structure advocates.
       —-Blaine. (Palestine)    Aug. 5 '05 - 01:08PM    #
  16. The critter debate was ridiculous, but at least the critters lived in the city. It was a local issue. In PSD’s Happy World the city council confine’s itself to things that a) Happen in the city, and b) It has some control over. At least the critter debate met the first of those conditions.

    And sure, call me Dude. And bring me a White Russian when you get a chance.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 5 '05 - 02:29PM    #
  17. OK, Dude,

    I heard your arguments.
    They’re all valid.

    About the whole “White Russian” joke, it went right over my head.

    I’m guessing that drinking “White Russians” is tied up with being a Dude.

    Now, about your city-business-only argument:

    In reality, when’s the last time you remember non-city-type resolutions and proclamations facing such a stone wall of oppostion as this Palestine stuff is facing?

    You and I could find a raft of approved City Council resolutions against the global nuclear arms race, for divestment from Burma, etc., that never caused a ripple of opposition.

    Nobody was able to halt them, or even cared to halt them, by arguing that resolutions must pertain only to City business.
       —-Blaine. (Palestine)    Aug. 5 '05 - 04:18PM    #
  18. I was at the First Ward meeting. Murph’s report is quite accurate. It seems that Hanson isn’t really running to be appointed to the First Ward vacancy. After the meeting, I hear that the mayor said he thought Hanson was going to run against him next year in the Democratic primary for mayor. Hanson and Hieftje used to be close friends. They split because Hieftje wants lots of development in the city; Hanson doesn’t.

    I support Tim Colenback. He takes a reasoned approach to issues. I have only met Jennifer Hall once, a couple of years ago. She is chair of the Planning Commission. Those who follow her work say that she has always voted for controversial developments.

    So development will be the big issue as Council decides who to appoint to fill the vacancy.
       —Dave Cahill    Aug. 6 '05 - 01:25PM    #
  19. A comment to bounce the update into view – best of luck to now-ex-Councilmember Groome in Princeton. Maybe I should e-mail her directions to the worthwhile parts of town.
       —Murph.    Aug. 9 '05 - 11:07AM    #
  20. Because of Kim Groome’s sudden departure, the larger First Ward meeting that Councilmember Bob Johnson is going to call may be sooner than mid-September.
       —Dave Cahill    Aug. 10 '05 - 09:48AM    #
  21. development will be the big issue

    I’m going to take some issue with that assertion – I think that “development” is an indirect issue that has a lot of more primary issues linked to it. We can’t effectively discuss development without an understanding of what it is we’re trying to achieve through development (or through not-development). To a certain extent, also, “development” is not something we can turn on or off – we can only push it around and mold it somewhat to fit our preferences. If 80k new people are going to be living in Washtenaw County in 20 years, and household sizes continue to shrink, there’s going to be a lot of demand for houses (questions of immediate real estate bubbles aside – I’m talking long-term). We need to think qualitatively, rather than booleanly…

    * Budgetary issues are linked to development; new ratables are one part of managing the city’s budget (with other approaches being, broadly, either tax increases or service cuts).
    * Transportation concerns are linked to development. Do we want transportation in the area to become more car-based than it is now, or more transit- and pedestrian-based? This is a big area in which quality and form of development matter.
    * Environmental concerns are linked to development. The Huron River Watershed Assn and the national Sierra Club are strongly in favor of in-fill development rather than greenfield development, for a wide variety of reasons.
    * Affordability is linked to development; consider Ron Suarez’ comment at the 1st Ward meeting about artists fleeing Ann Arbor. If we value having a vital local arts community, and that’s something that’s not possible in the current state of things, we have to figure out how to make it possible. Development can either hurt the affordability situation or help it, depending on how it is done. Destroying the Tech Center for the new YMCA, for example, hurt this particular aspect of affordability. If new development includes an affordable housing aspect (and I don’t think the current system for PUDs is great), then it can help make living and working in Ann Arbor affordable for a broad range of people.

    I’m sure other examples could be found. “Development” is like “parking”. Hard to talk about well without an awareness of why you’re talking about it – let’s make sure that we’re looking beyond everybody’s position on “development” to see what’s behind it.
       —Murph    Aug. 10 '05 - 11:14AM    #
  22. (bounce)

    A pair of letters to the editor in today’s News endorse folks for Groome’s seat

    A Gene Ragland says “Hanson is a dedicated and tireless worker who consistently seeks to improve the quality of life in our community.”

    The more familiar ‘round here Eric Lipson endorses Hall and Hanson: “With the many important planning decisions on the horizon, it makes a great deal of sense to chose a new councilperson for whom urban planning issues are a strong suit.” (I can certainly get behind that sentiment…)
       —Murph.    Aug. 17 '05 - 01:20PM    #
  23. If only Hanson’s expertise wasn’t honed by blocking a condo development in his neighborhood and convincing the city to buy the land for a park.
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Aug. 17 '05 - 03:41PM    #
  24. Gene Ragland is a member of the Board of Trustees of Ann Arbor Township.
       —tom    Aug. 18 '05 - 08:19AM    #