Friday, November 1, 2013

Three City Council Endorsements

Three City Council Endorsements

VOTE Tuesday, November 5th

Politics have gotten nasty.

I am sure that does not come as a surprise to you. And we have gone through this before in our history. When these periods happen it is because politicians place ideology above the job of governing. The end result is government does not do the things government is supposed to do. This behavior generally starts at the highest levels of government and works its way down to local government. That's because local government usually is more concerned about picking up the garbage and putting out fires than ideology. The closer you get to the citizenry, the more government is about providing services.

This dysfunctional behavior has found its way to local government, and the time has come to turn things around. 

Men and women of good will are easily drawn into this behavior. This is why people avoid discussing politics at family gatherings. It is too easy to be drawn into the ideological debate, which always ending up in a yelling match. 

We must be able to disagree on ideological grounds, and still find a civil way to good policy. I do believe that most people who serve as elected officials (and are paid for their efforts) or on civic boards (who serve without any compensation) do so because they love this city. We must respect that.

With that preamble, I have three endorsements to make. The endorsements are for different specific reasons, but are all made in an attempt to get City Council back into the business of making good public policy.

Sabra Briere in Ward 1

Sabra is the hardest working person on City Council. She shows up at hundreds of Board and Commission meetings as an observer. She is not there to push an agenda. She is there to listen.

Outside of those meetings, she researches and prepares. As she is forming her views on public policy she asks questions. She does not ask leading questions. She does not ask questions to embarass anyone. She asks questions because she wants to hear viewpoints (in the case of differing opinions) or learn the facts (in cases where policy should be science or fact-based). In other words. She asks questions because she wants to learn the answers. She listens. And then she applies her personal approach to what she learns.

That is the correct methodology for devising policy.

I do not always agree with Sabra. And she doesn't always agree with me. But we still have great discussions on public policy.

As a short aside, this endorsement might surprise the folks in the middle of the ideological warfare. In their view, Sabra is not part of the "Mayor's Party" and I am regularly listed in that group. This division does nothing to advance policy, and is just plain inaccurate. Certainly the mayor has political allies, but he does not run a cabal. While I know the mayor, I do not know him well. I don't have personal contact information for him. If I want to talk to him, I do what every citizen does. I call the mayor's office. I have never gotten a call from the mayor or any of his allies telling me how to vote as a member of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Kirk Westphal for City Council, 2nd Ward.

I do not know Kirk well. We've met at occasional civic meetings. Even from those occasional meetings I can say he is one of the most warm and genuine people I've met.

More importantly to this task, he is an urban planner who knows more about city, street, and sidewalk design than anyone in the city of Ann Arbor. He is articulate about the subject and passionate about the city.

Kirk has served for seven years on the Planning Commission, as well as having served on the Environmental Commission. He is a best practices consultant to local governments. 

This is a man who understands public policy in the geeky way (said as a compliment) that our City Council has not seen since Chris Kolb. 

The choice in this ward could not be more stark. Jane Lumm is very good at constituent services, which makes her popular. That is important. However I believe that her decisions are leading to poor public policy. She has voted to turn down federal transportation money on ideological grounds. She is part of the attack on the DDA, which is also ideologically based. The DDA is actually one of the best tools in the City's toolbox. City staff members know this and are privately aghast at the attacks. Ann Arbor has survived this recession with minimal cuts in services, no increase in operational debt, and no tax increases in no small part because the DDA has been able to subsidize the City by taking on projects that otherwise the city would have to have taken on, as well as providing important general fund dollars.

Write In Chip Smith in Ward 5

This is my Ward.

I was simply not going to vote in the City Council election. That is not like me. However, Mike Anglin has been a big disappointment to me. I thought, with his background, that he would be a good man for our city.

So I was thrilled to be given a last minute chance to vote. And not just an anti-Anglin vote. Chip Smith is the real thing. Chip (like Kirk) has a background as an urban planner. He knows how to make good policy. And he has lived in the Fifth Ward for nearly 20 years. He threw his hat in the ring late in the game because of his frustration with the dysfunctional City Council. 

Ann Arbor consistently is mentioned as a high-quality places to live and work.  That is not an accident. That is good urban planning. Chip will evaluate every public investment and ask how each contributes to building a stronger tomorrow for Ann Arbor's citizens. His four goals are:

  • Healthy, safe and pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods
  • Economic development
  • Think regionally
  • Better capital planning and budgeting

Write-In candidates have a high bar to pass. A voter must be more intentional in the voting booth. Please take the time to Write In Chip Smith in Ward Five. And explore his website. Like I said above, he is the real thing.