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With her Checkbook, Jane Lumm Throws Down With Mayor & His Council Pals

by P.D. Lesko

Ward 2 Council member Jane Lumm is small, perhaps a little over 5 feet tall on a good day, but her desire to openly and diligently serve the people of Ann Arbor is gigantic. On AnnArbor.com, reporting about Lumm’s work on Council and her performance at City Council meetings routinely elicits glowing comments from the notoriously cranky bunch who comment on city politics. There are people who dislike Jane Lumm. They are the Mayor’s cronies on City Council and in local politics. It is rumored that among them she is referred to as “Dumb Lumm.” In May, Fifth Ward Council member Carsten Hohnke, angry that Lumm was asking too many questions about the city’s $390 million dollar budget prior to voting on it, marched over to where she was seated, got in her face and whined that it was “late and he wanted to go home.” FOIA requests filed by A2Politico.com revealed that prior to the presentation of the budget, Hohnke asked not a single question of staff during his several day window of opportunity to do so. At another Council meeting, Sandi Smith, Ward 1 Council member, complained about Lumm’s lengthy comments. At yet another meeting, Smith accused Lumm of engineering a “political stunt.” John Hieftje tried to bully Lumm early on by suggesting she had no idea what she was talking about during a discussion because she was new to City Council. Lumm shot back that Hieftje was being “condescending.”

Jane Lumm (left) crushed Borg Queen Heiftje drone and former Second Ward Council member Stephen Rapundalo in November 2011. He managed to capture a little over 30 percent of the vote. Lumm, running as an independent, raised over $24,000, more than six times the amount raised by the incumbent. It was a stinging loss for the Hive Mind Collective, and one that has proven tough to swallow. Lumm, like a nimble boxer, often dances circles around the plodding schemers on Council, bullies used to silencing opponents by smears, intimidation and exclusion. Former Ward 1 Council member Kim Groome became a verb. Before he was tossed out in a 2009 stunner, former Third Ward Council member Leigh Greden’s emails released in response to 2009 and 2010 Freedom of Information Act requests, revealed that the verb “to Groome,” meant to withhold information from and freeze out a Council member. Former Ward 1 Council member Ron Suarez was “Groomed,” as was Ward 1 Council member Sabra Briere, before she started voting in lockstep with Hieftje and his pals. Fifth Ward Council member Mike Anglin and Jane Lumm are routinely Groomed by staff, Hieftje and other Council members.

Lumm complained about the poor communication between the Mayor’s Office and Council in an AnnArbor.com interview. She said, “I think Mayor Sheldon led from a perspective that she was one of 11 and she erred on the side of inclusion and sharing information with everyone in advance. And Mayor Hieftje’s style, I think, is different. I don’t believe the mayor thinks of the role as one of 11, so the information flows through his office and it seems to be filtered and parsed out on a need-to-know basis.” In response to the question, Would you say council is more or less efficient now? Lumm didn’t hold back: “I don’t think it’s good governance. Before there was more of an opportunity to get involved in things on the front end and to help shape policy. And when you come in on the back end and you can only amend things, you look like a bit of a naysayer and there are so many examples of this. I mean, I’m living it. It’s just the way things are done now.”

In this 2012 election season, Lumm has endorsed against candidates favored by Hieftje, and donated to candidates running against Council incumbents. She has, in effect, turned the tables on the Hive Mind Collective, all of whom have endorsed in Democratic primary elections, a huge political faux pas in more politically cultivated circles. Representative John Dingell is one of only 4-5 sitting member of the House who endorse in local elections. He is the only sitting member of the House who routinely endorses in Democratic primary elections. Representative John Conyers, Jr. told A2Politico that he doesn’t believe it’s appropriate for members of the House to endorse in local races, and “certainly not in Democratic primary contests.”

Jane Lumm, however, is an Independent. She ran for Mayor and City Council as a Republican, but chose to run as a non-partisan candidate in 2011, making her defeat of DINO Stephen Rapundalo, in heavily Democratic Ann Arbor, an even more bitter defeat. It prompted Rapundalo’s former Ward 2 Council pal Joan Lowenstein to publish a piece in The Ann magazine calling voters “old,” “stingy” and “Republican” for having given Rapundalo the boot. Lumm’s not stepping on Democratic Party toes by endorsing; she’s throwing down with John Hieftje and the members of the Hive Mind Collective on City Council.

Sally Hart Petersen is running against Jane Lumm’s Ward 2 Council counterpart Tony Derezinski. Campaign finance forms filed with the Washtenaw County Clerk’s office on July 27th reveal that Petersen has taken in a respectable $7,947, in addition to $2,205.89 in in-kind contributions. Of her total, $1,587 was self-funded. Council member Jane Lumm contributed to Hart Petersen’s campaign. Lumm also contributed to Ward 4 challenger Jack Eaton, who is looking to unseat incumbent Margie Teall. The endorsement Lumm gave to Eaton suggests a desperate desire to serve on City Council with collegial people. It is perhaps even more of an uppercut to Teall’s political chin than was Lumm’s donation to the challenger’s campaign:

“I would welcome the opportunity to work with Ward 4 Democrat Jack Eaton on City Council. In working together with Jack on issues related to the protection of city parkland, I was particularly impressed with his desire to listen to the neighborhood viewpoint. On Council, just as he has in the course of his civic involvement on behalf of his own neighborhood, Jack will make careful decisions. I am confident that his collegiality and consensus building skills will help Jack work constructively with the Mayor and all members of Council on the issues that face our city. Most of all I believe we need people on City Council who are prepared to refocus spending on the basics—public safety, infrastructure improvements, solid waste, parks & open space. Jack Eaton is just such a person. We need Jack Eaton on City Council because he is someone who has the skill and experience to reconnect Ward 4 residents (all residents I believe) to city government in an open and transparent manner. These are just a few of the reasons why I wholeheartedly endorse Democrat Jack Eaton for Ann Arbor City Council and urge you to vote for him on August 7th.”

Ward 1 Council member Sabra Briere has a mantra: “I don’t endorse in Democratic primary elections.” It’s a lofty ideal held by a politico who is trusted by few of her colleagues, and whose many votes in favor of out-of-favor projects have caused increasing consternation among her constituents, as well. Political insiders know Sabra Briere works behind the scenes against the Democratic candidates whose election she does not favor. It a strategy that has done little but damage her own credibility. Lumm, on the other hand, has set out in this 2012 Democratic primary election to beat John Hieftje and his cronies at their own game, and she’s throwing down with them openly. Lumm made her donations prior to the campaign finance form deadline, knowing they would show up before the election.

If Sally Petersen wins on August 7th, Lumm will surely have an ally. If Derezinski is returned to Council, Jane Lumm will face business as usual: enmity from her colleagues. She will, however, have made it clear that she’s prepared to take them on politically come what may. 

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