Concentrate on AATA: Jon Zemke Gets Radical
Concentrate’s Editor Jon Zemke wrote a great letter to Mayor Hieftje. Zemke had some spot on suggestions concerning two upcoming appointments Hieftje is set to make to the Ann Arbor Transit Authority Board (AATA). It is the first time I have read anything in the local media about how the Mayor ought to make his appointments to the city’s various boards and commissions. Zemke has this to say about Hieftje’s previous appointments to the AATA Board, and it sums up, really, Hieftje’s appointments to many of the city’s boards and commissions: “I’m not saying your previous appointments have been wrong per se, but they have been unimaginative….AATA’s board is made up with a majority of middle age-to-senior white males whose bank accounts are rivaled only by their degrees. These are the people who have the choice of whether to catch The Ride or cruise off in their own vehicle.”
You GO, Boy!
I have for quite some time shared Zemke’s opinion. On the one hand, Mayor Hieftje casts about for appointees like a blind man. At other times, his appointments have been made to simply gut the life of a particular Board or Commission so that His Will Shall Be Done. The Ann Arbor Planning Commission comes immediately to mind. Appointments to that Board have turned the group into a Mayoral rubber stamp. Ex-Council members Jean Carlberg and Wendy Woods help make sure that Hieftje’s peculiar brand of planning, which the Ann Arbor News in July of 2008 dubbed “without vision,” gets all the support it needs. Planning Commission appointments have long been used by the Mayor as a stepping stone for people whom Hieftje wants to groom to run for Council. Steve Kunselman was appointed to multiple terms on the Planning Commission before he ran in 2006 for the Third Ward City Council seat.
The AATA Board is stacked, as well. Chair David Nacht is one of the Mayor’s most reliable individual political donors, according to campaign finance forms. Nacht’s $1,000 donations to Hieftje’s Mayoral campaigns are virtually unequalled. As Zemke astutely writes, “the AATA Board lacks diversity in its point of view.” It does not, Zemke points out lack cultural diversity. There are the token African-American and female AATA Board members.
Zemke stumbles when he goes on to suggest candidates for the open AATA positions. He digs deep and comes up with….Rene Greff. Fresh off of more years on the Board of Downtown Development Authority than is decent to mention, Greff is a perfect example of the kind of usual suspect who gets appointed by Hieftje to the city’s boards and commissions. Zemke’s choice of Greff is interesting for another reason: she didn’t leave the DDA Board voluntarily. Hieftje gave her the heave-ho, after he described her (at at DDA Board retreat at which media were present) as being perceived by City Council members as “having a chip on her shoulder.” If Mayor Hieftje ordered a beer at Greff’s Arbor Brewing Company Rene Greff might just spit in it then serve it to him.
The best suggestion Zemke makes concerning whom Mayor Hieftje ought to appoint to the AATA Board is the simplest, yet most radical: One regular person who rides the bus, but doesn’t run in local political circles. Zemke writes, “AATA should find at least one of these people and give them a voice. Spend a little money advertising on buses and at bus stops asking for AATA board applicants.”
What Jon Zemke suggests is radical, simply because is hasn’t been done for appointments to high profile Ann Arbor boards and commissions such as the Planning Commission, AATA Board and Park Advisory Commission for, literally, most of the years Hieftje has been in office. Mayor Hieftje stacked city boards and commissions by mining the depths of his political cronies, campaign donors, political friends and people who not only run in local political circles, but run the local political circles.
As well-written and well-reasoned as Zemke’s piece is, now that AATA has taken over the oversight of the WALLY project, Hieftje can have no dissenters. Look for the next appointments to the AATA Board to come from within the Mayor’s trusted political circle. Dissenters (one might call them voices of the people) who’ve recently gotten the bum’s rush from the Mayor including, Rene Greff (DDA), Eppie Potts (Planning Commission) and Dave DeVarti (DDA), need not apply.
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