A2Politico Grilling the Media: AnnArborChronicle.com Calls Hieftje a Big Fat Lyre (Politely)

The AnnArborChronicle.com has been tweaking its brand, as of late. The site, described by Publisher Mary Morgan as a chronicler of local government, has been doing more than just repeating what happened at meetings. The site has been posting original reporting (including a recent tip that former Second Ward Council member Jane Lumm pulled nominating petitions to run against local DINO Stephen Rapundalo), and throwing in a bit of gossip, opinion and rumor, as well.

In its latest coverage of the August 4, 2011 City Council meeting, editor David Askins (who is married to Morgan) chronicled Third Ward Council member Stephen Kunselman’s latest dance-and-jab in the general direction of the Downtown Development Authority. Using information provided to him by concerned citizens, he pointed out that the DDA’s most recent financial audit tagged the entity for being on the wrong side of state law. Evidently, Joan Lowenstein, a self-proclaimed believer in the Think Method of policing (whereby citizens are bamboozled into thinking they are safe when there are often times fewer police patrolling the city than it takes to field one side of a basketball game), is not, perhaps, a strict believer in fund balances that keep the DDA on the financial straight and narrow as dictated by state law.

The schenanigans Kunselman was referring to were uncovered by DDA’s most recent audit, and caught by citizens who took the time to read the audit, and who then shared the information with Council members who obviously had not read the audit, or understood the implications of the DDA’s proprosed budget that put one of its fund balances into the red as a result of making bond payments for the latest underground parking garage project.

If this sounds overly complicated, it’s not. The result is that taxpayers will be footing a bill Hieftje, DDA Board members and others promised taxpayers they would never have to foot.

In the course of chronicling Kunselman’s comments, Askins writes:

By way of background, the deficits had been for a fund within the DDA’s budget (the parking fund), but taken in aggregate, the DDA’s budget was not in deficit. However, the required adjustment to the accounting, to show positive balances for all the funds, meant that the accounting showed clearly that TIF tax capture would be used to help pay for the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage. That meant that mayor John Hieftje’s claim during his 2010 primary election campaign – that parking revenues, not tax money, would be used pay for the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage – was not accurate.

That last sentence is not Stephen Kunselman talking. That is David Askins going the extra mile to ever-so-gently point out that John Hieftje told a whopper when running for re-election in 2010. In fact, Hieftje told the same whopper over, and over, and over: the Fifth Avenue parking garage will not impact the city’s budget, because it will be paid for with parking revenues, not tax dollars. Bzzzzzzt. Another Whopper  from John. Care to try for Double Jeopardy? How about doubled parking rates and extended enforcement hours to pay for the behind schedule, sink-hole plagued parking garage? Higher rates and longer enforcement hours are coming soon to a parking kiosk near you courtesy of a puppet DDA Board whose members are appointed by Hieftje. All but one or two (Newcombe Clark and Jennifer Santi Hall come to mind) have found it impossible to tell Hieftje he can’t use DDA parking revenues and tax dollars for his pie-in-the-sky building spree, such as the over-budget city hall, and the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage).

As interesting as it is to read Askins’s connect-the-dots-lightbulb-goes-on moment, I just can’t help but find the move a bit cheeky. Now, those of you who have been reading A2Politico for any length of time know A2Politico appreciates cheeky writing and observations. Here’s the cheek: While covering the same 2010 primary elections, David Askins repeated (i.e. “chronicled”) Hieftje’s whopper.

Is AnnArborChronicle.com starting to get tired of simply being a stenographer for politicos like Hieftje who use the willing site to spread information that is not, well, “accurate?” Along with AnnArbor.com, AnnArborChronicle.com is a dream come true for politicos who like to tell whoppers, such as these told during the 2010 primary elections:

“Work on the Stadium Bridge is scheduled to begin no later than March 2011” (Fourth Ward Council member Margie Teall).

“Council has instructed city staff to commence work on the $23 million project no later than next spring.” (Fifth Ward Council member Carsten Hohnke).

If AnnArborChronicle.com is prepared to point this out: “That meant that mayor John Hieftje’s claim during his 2010 primary election campaign – that parking revenues, not tax money, would be used pay for the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage – was not accurate,” we must also wonder if the site’s editor and publisher are prepared to take responsibility for the site’s role in aiding Hieftje, Teall, Hohnke and Smith in their concerted efforts to simply spew made-up stories as well as answers to questions that were, well, “not accurate” during the 2010 election season and beyond.

It’s about time AnnArborchronicle.com applied some of the brain power that fuels the site, and attention to detail that makes it a worthwhile resource, on connecting the dots instead of allowing the city’s local politicos continue to claim there are no dots to connect. It’s about time John Hieftje and his political allies on Council faced the consequences of their penchant for telling half-truths and outright whoppers whenever the mood strikes them, or when they want to spend obscene amounts of money on building projects the city clearly can’t afford.

Short URL: http://www.a2politico.com/?p=9725

5 Comments for “A2Politico Grilling the Media: AnnArborChronicle.com Calls Hieftje a Big Fat Lyre (Politely)”

  1. Gotta agree with Yale89. It’s one thing to read what happened, if you’re into reading about city meetings – clearly people like #Jack Eaton are – but writing down what people say who have been fingered for lying over and over again does not credibility make. It’s harder to actually figure out if what these jokers are saying is the truth. Yeah, they can be hanged with their own words and should be, I just don’t see AnnArborChronJob doing it. I wish them well but let’s get a grip about credibility. The NYTimes = credibility IMHO. There’s just no comparison here.

  2. @Jack Eaton I’m forced to disagree. On the surface, I’m sure a site that copies down what is said might seem credible. However, journalistic credibility is not about who can repeat best, but rather who can report most accurately, and on whom one can depend to provide analysis and fact checking that points the way through the ever present spin and propaganda we find in national politics on down. I would offer that the current state of reporting in our town is somewhat improved by knowing that meetings take place and that so-and-so attended and that so-and-so said such-and-such. However, to presume that a site is credible because they go and listen to what is said and regurgitate it back to people who were not at the meetings is a wholly naive assumption.

    If we look at it logically, and I hope we can, AnnArborChronicle.com will repeat what is true and what is not. I think this A2Politico entry points that out, and while it’s a ‘cheeky’ challenge, as it were, one imagines local news would be that much better with more analysis and checking of facts.

  3. I think you misunderstand the real value of the Chronicle’s style of coverage. The Chronicle has developed a reputation for unbiased, credible reporting. It stands as a semi-official record of what happens at these public meetings. No one questions the veracity of their reporting.

    When the Chronicle started covering meetings, almost three years ago, it had no back catalogue of reporting to use as background. Now, however, the Chronicle has all of these years of meeting reports and its sterling reputation for credibility. When an article contrasts the current statements/actions of a politician with that person’s prior conduct, no one can doubt the validity of that reported deviation.

    While some readers may have wished that Mary and Dave had taken a more openly skeptical view of the statements made by our local politicians, that would have made them just another opinionated news site. The former A2 Snewz and the current A2dotcom both practice that kind of point-of-view journalism –- but as Council fans rather than skeptics.

    The years of accurately reporting what was said in meetings gives the Chronicle the unique ability to hang politicians with their own words. I look forward to many more years of credible reporting from them.

  4. Where’s the outrage? The voters don’t seem to care how bad the roads are, and this site has reported on many, many glaring failures to give us cost effective, citizen friendly democratic governance yet the mayor and his gang continue to carry on with little resistance. This is puzzling to me.

  5. Another whopper is the assertion that the reason the city has built up
    a $28 million surplus in the Streets Repair fund is due to the question
    of securing Federal and State funding for the Stadium Street bridge
    replacement. This is like an apartment owner telling tenants that
    the reason he can’t replace worn-out carpet and paint when they
    move in is because the landlord needs to save money for a new roof. I
    don’t profess to know why the city is saving up $28 million while
    Ann Arbor’s roads crater, but the facts and concurrent whoppers to
    explain this excessive treasure trove really stink!

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