Ann Arbor City Council members knew Fifth Ward Council member Mike Anglinâs resolutionÂ to release the emails was coming. They faced a collective test of character. True to what we learned about their characters from their private emails in which they mocked each other, mocked their jobs and constituents, and lied to constituents about plans to build a convention center, they failed the test. No big shocker there. Dog bites man. The man bites dog part of the meeting came when Councilâs Henchman went to work.
Anglinâs resolution was always going to be voted down. No question.
Which, the politico in me wanted to know, of Hieftjeâs Gang of Eight caught using the cityâs email resourcesÂ and laptops to play on Facebook, award each other Golden Pandys for pandering, rig votes, campaign for office, or have private email discussions about resolutions before Council, would come out and break the kneecaps ofÂ Mike Anglin and Sabra Briereâs resolution that called for the release of six previous years of Council emails sent during Council meetings. Would it be Leigh âLuca Brasiâ Greden, whoâd lost his Council seat thanks to the emails? No. Gredenâs swimming with the fishes. Would they choose Ward Fiveâs Carsten âHyman RothâÂ Hohnke? It was double-crosser Â Hohnke, after all, who got caught when a FOIA turned up an email from him asking Leigh Greden when they would get together to plan a strategy to get rid of Mike Anglin. Would the Gang turn to Ward Threeâs Christopher âTom Hagenâ Taylor? Maybe, the next time, but consigliere Taylor barely talked his way out of the political debacle of calling his Ward Three constituents âdim lights.â
In the end, the Hieftje Eight chose perfectly. They chose the Council member whose need to be liked and fit in would trump her better political judgement. Iâm referring to First Ward Council member Sandi âFredo Corleoneâ Smith. The Ann Arbor News had fingered Smith in June 2009 as one of those eight Council members involved in the inappropriate emailing, though she was not included in the superb editorial cartoon depicting four Council members as babies with computers. Smith never apologized for her blunder, as did Fourth Wardâs Margie Teall and Third Wardâs Greden. She simply went forward, pretending that nothing amiss had ever happened. Sheâs s a realtor, after all, so disassociating from reality must come somewhat naturally to her.Â
Smith played her part as Councilâs henchman with Harry Bennett-like perfection.Â
Smith made a point to say she hadnât read the emails released to the public thanks to FOIAs made by news agencies. Then, sheÂ began her political beating of Anglin and Briere by saying that the resolution as offered was an attempt to shame Council. What, one wonders, do Council members have to be ashamed of regarding their emails sent during meetings over the past six years? Her logic was fuzzy. Then again, henchmen rely on truncheons and brass knuckles rather than higher reasoning. Smith went on to say that those whoâd transgressed had been âpunishedâ already. Punished by whom, one wonders? Finally, Sandi Smith told all present she was not going to be shamed into voting for Anglinâs resolution to release the emails. To her, it was clearly time to let bygones be bygones and move forward.Â
Iâll let you in on a little secret: Sandi Smith is shameless. Donât get me wrong. I love forward-thinking politiciansâpeople who can play the game more than one move out a time. Itâs why County Commish Kristin Judge is my kinda politico. Alas, forward thinking does not describe Sandi Smith. Sheâs a political linebacker, not a QB with slick moves who can scramble in the pocket. Itâs why she was foolish enough to say âF*** you,â to the few, the proud, the SOBs who wonât let this email thing go, dammit.
At the September 21st Council meeting, Smith assured everyone she had nothing to hide, and that the people of Ann Arbor had the Freedom of Information Act if they wanted to double check her doublespeak. To Sandi Smith and her colleagues on Council, FOIA is the other white meat. There are several problems with her argument. First, to FOIA, you have to know what youâre looking for, but like most other such âtoolsâ designed by politicians, it favors the home team. Big Time. Second, FOIA requests cost money. The emails sent by Council members during open meetings belong to the public. We already paid for them with our taxes. Only a politician would have the nerve to tell average citizens who canât tell a FOIA from their elbow, that filing FOIA requests is the logical remedy to assure the general public that the long-time members of City Council and Mayor havenât been breaking the law, scripting debates, cutting sweetheart deals, rigging votes and conducting the business of city government like the Five Families of New York.
Â City Administrator Roger Fraser fell back on a classic argument to counter Anglinâs resolution. To pull the emails off the server would cost too much. Fraser, that paragon of fiscal responsibility and stewardship, was fretting like your old grandmother over the $45,000 (worst case scenario). Fraserâs Â concern was touching. Of course, his annual expense account, car and travel allowances are twice that amount. Second Ward Council member Stephen Rapundalo latched onto the $45,000 worst-case scenario cost like a baby to a nipple. Council member Rapundalo unlatched just long enough to proclaim heÂ had nothing to hide.Â
It was the grandest of grandstanding moments when Sandi Smith suggested that if Ann Arborâs taxpayers wanted access to public information that would cost the city $45,000 to produce (suddenly that was the real cost, and not a worse-case scenario cost), citizens should take up a collection to pay for the FOIA costs. She then tossed a $20 bill at the City Clerk. Smith, obviously confused, thought she was at a strip club with a g-stringed beauty before her.Â
Fellow politicos, I think Council member Smith is on to something. Wouldnât it be amazing if the Downtown Development Authority had Â bake sales to raise the $55 million dollars they need for their new library lot underground parking garage? The DDA could have had a pancake dinner at the Michigan Theater to raise the $700,000 Smith and her profligate cronies spent on the cityâs new âwayfindingâ signs.
In the end, Sandi Smith gutted Anglinâs resolution, and her amended resolution was approved 8-3. Guess who felt like he needed a bit of political cover and voted with Anglin and Briere?
My lips are sealed. Kinda. It was Carsten âHyman Rothâ Hohnke.Â