Emails Reveal DDA Threatens to Cut Money That Funds Job of Council Member’s Wife
by P.D. Lesko
There are five solid votes on City Council to bring to heel the members of the Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors. Those are the votes of Sumi Kailsapathy, Jane Lumm, Sally Hart-Petersen, Stephen Kunselman and Mike Anglin. The resolution needs six votes to pass, however. The DDA Board, comprised of a bushel of appointed Hieftje cronies who control over $20 million dollars in parking fees and money captured through a tax increment financing scheme, is facing a resolution that would remove the mayor from the DDA Board (or require Council’s written permission for the mayor to serve) impose term limits on DDA Board members, and slow down the DDA’s capture of tax money. If passed, the resolution would return $931,000 per year in tax dollars to various jurisdictions including the city’s parks ($53,000), Street Repair Fund ($72,000), Solid Waste Fund ($83,000), as well as money to the Ann Arbor District Library ($52,000) and Washtenaw Community College ($124,000).
Needless to say, the DDA is in panic mode. DDA Board member Sandi Smith hinted at a March meeting that the DDA would be unable to give money in support of affordable housing should the proposed resolution pass.
DDA Board member John Hieftje decried term limits, saying that they were “ineffective” and lead to “inexperience.” At the April 15, 2013 City Council meeting, he proposed an amendment to the ordinance which would have stripped out term limits. Voting in support of the proposal was Ward 5’s new Council member Chuck Warpehoski (pictured right, with wife Nancy Shore). It’s no surprise that Warpehoski voted with Hieftje. On April 2, 2013, Wapehoski slammed term limits as “mandatory inexperience law.” Evidently, neither man has a clue that there are dozens of city boards and commissions with term limits, including the Park Advisory Commission.
What may come as news is that Warpehoski spoke out against term limits and the resolution to assert Council’s authority over the DDA the day after DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay sent an email to City Council members in which she announced that should the proposed resolution pass, the DDA would be forced to cut funding to the getDowntown program by some 85 percent. Chuck Warpehoski’s wife, Nancy Shore, has directed the getDowntown program since 2007, and the DDA Board provides the bulk of the funding for the getDowntown program. A2Politico filed a Freedom of Information Act request for emails sent between January and April 2013 between Council members, DDA Board members and Pollay that referred to the Kunselman/Kailasapathy DDA resolution. Pollay’s email with the threat to castrate the getDowntown program was included in the emails turned over by the DDA.
In fact, in multiple messages to Council members Pollay writes that should the DDA’s capture of tax money be slowed, the organization will “cut funding to the getDowntown program by 85 percent.” Funding to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority for its go!pass program would go from $479,000 to $69,642. Such a cut would cripple the getDowntown program which exists, primarily, to provide subsidized go!passes (monthly bus passes) to employees of businesses in the DDA district. Since 2010, the DDA Board members have graciously granted the getDowntown program over $1.473 million dollars in taxpayer money captured by the DDA to subsidize $10 annual bus passes for 4,130 (Susan Pollay March 2013 email to City Council members), 6,500 (AnnArborChronicle.com, March 2013), 5,739 (city of Ann Arbor website: 2008 data) active go!pass users.
In comparison, monthly AATA bus passes for K-12 students are $29 per month, or $348 per year. A monthly bus pass for an adult is $58 per month. A monthly bus pass in San Francisco costs $45 for adults and $10 for students. In Rome, Italy, a monthly bus pass for K-12 students costs 18 Euros ($23).
John Hieftje has never seen a conflict of interest that he couldn’t rationalize. In 2006, Mr. B.A. from Eastern Michigan University was hired to teach graduate school by Paul Courant, then a dean at the Gerald M. Ford School of Public Policy. Courant set Hieftje’s per course pay higher than any other lecturer in his class, topping out at $15,000 per course. If that wasn’t enough, Courant, whose expertise is in library science and Dewey decimals, gave Hieftje a glowing endorsement which Hizzoner plastered all over his web site and literature in which Dr. C. complimented Hieftje’s stellar finance skills.
Ward 5 Council member Chuck Wapehoski hasn’t been hired to teach by the University of Michigan. He is, however, a walking conflict of interest in a much more serious way, and has turned out to be someone over whom it is relatively easy to exert pressure—such as threatening his wife’s job. However, the Hive Mind Collective does not exert subtle pressure, as evidenced by John Hieftje’s bullying public attacks on Ward 3 Council member Stephen Kunselman as of late.
Warpehoski is the Executive Director of a tiny non-profit that advocates for peace, social justice and, as of late, county-wide and regional transportation. The Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice “inspires, educates, and mobilizes people to unite across differences and to act from their shared ethical and spiritual values in pursuit of peace with social and environmental justice,” according to its website.
According to tax returns, in 2010 the organization netted $119,117, or about $40,000 less than the City of Ann Arbor pays its city attorney each year, Stephen Postema. Warpehoski on the other hand, was paid $38,801 in 2010, again according to tax documents. His take home pay would be just north of $26,000 per year. Thus his $15,000 salary as a City Council member, then, bumps up his annual income significanty. Warpehoski’s wife’s employer, the getDowntown Program, is funded by the Boards of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and the Downtown Development Authority, appointments to which Warpehoski now votes on in his role as a City Council member. The getDowntown program is also funded by the City of Ann Arbor. Eli Cooper, the Transportation Program Manager for the City of Ann Arbor, sits of Shore’s Advisory Board. Chuck Warpehoski, as a City Council member, votes on recommendations and schemes Cooper brings before City Council. Susan Pollay, the Executive Director of the DDA is one of the getDowntown program’s four Advisory Board members. It was, in fact, Susan Pollay who provided Council members with the information, in March and April 2013 that, should the proposed resolution pass to impose term limits on DDA Board members, and slow the DDA’s capture of tax dollars, that the DDA would be “forced” to cut funding to Shore’s program by 85 percent.
Thus, Pollay’s threat that the DDA will defund the getDowntown program is not subtle pressure; it is a gun aimed directly at Chuck Warpehoski and his wife. The threat is also more evidence that the DDA and its Board members need to be brought sharply to heel. The pervasive lack of discipline and accountability expected from the DDA by City Council over the entire Hieftje era has resulted in a group of appointed officials arrogant enough to threaten a sitting Council member. Then again, Warpehoski laid with the same dogs when he ran for City Council in 2012. He accepted endorsements and large campaign donations from several of the same DDA Board members who, through Susan Pollay, have told Council members that the getDowntown program will be gutted should term limits be imposed and the TIF capture slowed. Did Warpehoski’s wife know he was playing with fire in accepting money and endorsements from the people who fund her job and feed their family? Nancy Shore was her husband’s campaign treasurer and signed the campaign finance forms.
The Hive Mind Collective’s choice, funding, and endorsement of Chuck Warpehoski was no accident. They choose candidates whom they expect to control. The question of whether Warpehoski is the independent-minded representative he promised to be when he ran was answered when he voted in favor of stripping term-limits from the Kunselman/Kailasapathy DDA resolution on April 15th. His conflict of interest is voting on anything to do with the AATA or DDA is immense in light of how his wife’s job is funded, and that he voted on the DDA resolution after Pollay’s direct threat speaks volumes.
In November 2012, Wapehoski’s opponent, Vivienne Armentrout, wrote this to response to a piece posted to AnnArbor.com: “Mr. Warpehoski will face a number of challenges in reconciling his role as an advocate for causes with his role as a representative. He is a thoughtful person who places a high value on ethics, and I wish him well as he threads his way through this and other such issues.”
Chuck’s going to need more than luck on May 6th.
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