The Politics of Being Out of Touch: Leah Gunn Channels George H.W. Bush (With a Poll)
Remember when George H.W. Bush went to the supermarket and was amazed at that thing. You know that thing. That electronic thing that automatically detected the price of the object it scanned. The photo below is a classic.
Bush’s gaffe played right into Bill Clinton’s charge that Bush was out of touch with the common American who, well, had shopped for groceries since 1980, when scanners debuted. Failing to be familiar with this technology made Bush appear to be an elitist who didn’t even have to go to the grocery store, and thus someone who was unable to feel the financial pinch facing ordinary Americans. It sank his re-election campaign.
In Ann Arbor, we have our very own George H.W. Bush. He’s Leah Gunn, first appointed to the Board of the Downtown Development Authority in 1991, shortly after George H.W. Bush took office.
According to a piece posted to AnnArbor.com today, “An additional 150 parking pay stations are scheduled to be installed in downtown Ann Arbor over the next three years, replacing current on-street parking meters.” The reporter went on to write: The Downtown Development Authority’s Board of Directors unanimously approved spending $2.28 million on 150 more parking pay stations at its meeting last week. The rationale behind the purchase was the popularity of the 25 pay stations installed last summer.
DDA Board member Leah Gunn was quoted by the AnnArbor.com reporter as describing the parking pay stations and the accompanying numbered parking signs with the same incredible lack of understanding demonstrated by Bush at the supermarket when confronted by a scanner. Gunn reported to the DDA Board: “These are the little solar kiosks that go along with the little things that stick up with numbers on them.”
Yes, well. Those of us common suckers, who park downtown and have to pay to do so, know that the “little things that stick up with numbers on them” are the numbered parking spot markers.
Gunn didn’t stop there in her addled presentation to have the DDA spend millions of our tax dollars on more of those doohickies for people to feed their hard-earned money into when parking at the on-street spots marked by those numbered thing-a-ma-bobs. She announced that the DDA should make the additional investment because, “We have found that everybody likes them.”
Everyone likes them? Everyone? Should our DDA Board make capital investments based on fiscal realities, or perceptions of popularity as presented by a woman who can’t properly identify the equipment she wants to spend $2.28 million dollars on?
Come to think of it, perhaps the DDA should invest a few hundred thousand dollars in a course for Board members like Gunn so that they know the names of the objects (those little things that stick up with the numbers on them”) on which they are urging their fellow Board members to spend money? Frankly, it would have been nice to know just how Leah Gunn knows “everyone” likes the kiosks. Did she consult a psychic? Is she exceptionally perceptive herself? It would have been responsible and reasonable for someone on the DDA Board to have asked how in the name of George H.W. Bush Leah Gunn had reached her conclusion. Alas, no one on the DDA Board was the least bit curious to know from where Leah Gunn had gotten her kiosk use data.
So, Ann Arbor’s DDA Board members present at the meeting agreed unanimously to spend $2.28 million dollars of taxpayer money because Leah Gunn told them “everyone” liked the parking kiosks. This comes on the heels of the DDA’s August 2009 40 percent parking rate hikes, which DDA Board member and First Ward Council member Sandi Smith, I am sure, told the entire DDA Board “everyone liked,” when she proposed the resolution to jack up the parking rates. It was the same kind of reasoning used when Smith proposed the resolution to extend parking meter enforcement downtown until 10 p.m. “Everyone likes” to pay for parking until 10 p.m.
Then there is the underground parking garage, which “everyone likes,” that the DDA is buiding next to the Fifth Avenue library. Well, except the group of local business owners and environmental groups who, in August 2009, filed suit against the City over the construction of the underground garage, and the alleged secret email deliberations between City Council members concerning the garage vote.
Could it be that the entire Board of the DDA is out of touch with the reality that is the mission of the DDA? It was recently suggested to me that thanks to the current Board’s fiscal decisions over the past three years, the DDA is actually doing harm to the Ann Arbor downtown and the businesses there. It’s an interesting theory, and fodder for a future entry.
In the meantime, are you among the “everyone” who likes the new parking kiosks? Cast your vote.
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