Ward 5 Council Candidate Chuck Warpehoski: A Moderate Religious Voice Prone To Immoderate Lapses
by P.D. Lesko
Fifth Ward Council member Carsten Hohnke has had enough. In his email to constituents, Hohnke told readers he was stepping down after two terms to “spend more time with his family.” A classic political dodge. Norman Fowler, a member of Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, was supposedly the first politician to give the “spend more time with the family” line when he resigned in 1990.
Chuck Warpehoski, the Director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, stepped humbly forward in sack cloth & ashes, tefillin and a Tibetan monk’s robe to threw his bishop’s mitre into the ring. Warpehoski has never held elected office, is young and has garnered support from several of the usual Hieftje Hive Mind Collective suspects.
ICPJ has been described by those familiar with it as one of Ann Arbor’s non-profit sacred cows. According to the group’s web site, “ICPJ empowers people of faith and people of conscience in the Washtenaw County/Ann Arbor, Michigan area to act on their moral and religious values to build a better world.”
ICPJ tax returns reveal an organization where spending on salaries as a percentage of gross receipts jumped from 48.4% in 2005 to 67.2% in 2007. Tax returns filed with the IRS show that in 2010 ICPJ took in $120,326 primarily from contributions, and spent 75% of its gross revenue on salaries and benefits for staff.
While the organization lost $9,053 according to the 2010 tax forms, Board members rewarded Warpehoski with a raise in his modest pay—a salary that in 2010 amounted to 35 percent of the organization’s total revenue.
Stop peeking behind the curtain, and Chuck Warpehoski looks pretty good on paper, as did Think Local First Executive Director Ingrid Ault, who ran against Third Ward incumbent Stephen Kunselman in 2011.
Warpehoski (left) is a Gen Y Poster Boy, 30ish, and of the opinion that “smart growth” is the Holy Grail of development. Smart growth, for those who have missed the bus, as it were, is the political principle whereby Ann Arbor taxpayers invest in more development projects such as Ashley Terrace (went bankrupt) and Near North (affordable housing units being built for only $384K each, including money from taxpayers to offset the costs of the private developer).
Along with his wife, Nancy Shore, he’s busy Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue, a political plan based on a tax increment financing (TIF) scheme that would skim more tax dollars away from public schools and city services and give the money over to private developers. In short, Chuck Warpehoski is up to his ears in the support of local development funded through public-private partnerships.
These kinds of partnerships are a staple food of conservative political groups such as ALEC. ALEC and its supporters seek to reshape the political landscape into gardens of plenty for business interests at the expense of education, middle-class and the poor. Nancy Sacola writes in The Atlantic, “To itself, ALEC is an organization dedicated to the advancement of free market and limited government principles through a unique ‘public-private partnership’ between government and the corporate sector.”
Warpehoski has said he wants to bring moderate “religious voices”—including his one imagines— back into politics.
Read Warpehoski’s interviews, op-eds and comments regarding local politics posted to various web sites, and a picture emerges of a man prone to lapses of moderation.
In a 2004 interview, Warpehoski says that, “My work chose me… it was a calling. Martin Luther: ‘Here I am, I can do no other.’” Later in the same interview, he blurts out: “As director of ICPJ, I get paid and I see the volunteers who sit through meetings I wouldn’t be at if I wasn’t paid to be there.”
In a May 2011 entry on his blog, cleverly titled the WarpReport, he writes:
“….Failure to engage other perspectives paralyzes us to be able to confront issues….”
Fourteen months later, he published an op-ed dripping with sarcasm and disdain titled, “Three ways to kill improvements in public transit in Washtenaw County.” The piece begins: “Dear transit opponents, even though I’m on the other side of the issue from you, I’d like to offer some advice.”
Comments from readers picked up on Warpehoski’s deliberate failure to “engage other perspectives”:
“The dripping sarcasm of this op ed does nothing to promote healthy public discussion of the public transportation issue.”
“I know that this opinion is written from a sincere public-spirited conviction, but I regret its negative tone. Mr. Warpehoski should acknowledge that many of us who have raised concerns about the current plan to institute a new regional authority (under Act 196) and transfer AATA’s assets to it are, in fact, transit supporters, not transit opponents.”
In 2008, he wrote an upbeat op-ed that slyly urged readers to give to charity, in particular “not to forget justice.” He writes, “Finally, charity is important now, but don’t forget justice. Caring for the people hurting in this recession is important, and we also need to address the causes of poverty and the structures that were leaving people behind even before the recession. That means supporting groups that are advocating for policy changes to provide for the common good.” (Such as ICPJ, per chance?) In the same piece, he urges readers to: “Live within your means.”
Under Warpehoski’s leadership in 2008 ICPJ lost $3,300 on revenues of $115,258—a small amount to be sure—but problematic for an activist writing newspaper op-eds urging others to avoid the moral pitfall of over-spending.
Chuck Warpehoski, while undoubtedly committed to religious tolerance, alternative transportation and social justice is, perhaps, a victim of hubris. It’s common among progressives in Ann Arbor who view dissent among the ranks as unhealthy (he says as much in his blog). His involvement in a local political policy-making group driven by an ALEC-inspired public-private partnership scheme is evidence of a young man blind to the fact that local politicos are throwing social justice under the bus to get money for the projects their campaign donors want to build.
Whether Chuck Warpehoski is blinded thanks to being incredibly naive or politically ambitious remains to be seen.
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