Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) Calls Resolution to Rein in DDA Board “Irrational.” Records Reveal All CAC Board Appointments Expired in 2012.
by P.D. Lesko
The Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council (CAC). Sounds official, right? It is supposed to be a group of no more than 15 mayoral appointees who, by Council resolution, live within the downtown area and “advise the DDA and City Council with regard to implementation of the Downtown Development Plan and Tax Increment Financing Plan.” Terms are three years. Members serve when appointed by the mayor and confirmed by City Council.
The reality is that the CAC situation has made a mockery of previous Councils’ oversight of boards and commissions. The CAC has been used as a bully pulpit to enthusiastically support and protect the DDA Board and its agenda from public criticisms and from criticisms leveled by Council members. In 2012, there were just three members of the CAC, Herbert and Jane Kaufer, and the “Chair” of the group, Ray Detter, a retired University of Michigan lecturer. After October 2012, all of the mayor’s appointments to the CAC had expired. Despite this fact, Detter continued to speak regularly at meetings of the Downtown Development Authority and City Council on behalf of the CAC “board” and “membership.” The many DDA and City Council meetings at which Detter spoke and claimed to be the chair of the CAC were reported on by AnnArbor.com and chronicled by the AnnArborChronicle.com.
In November 2012, a month after his appointment to the CAC had expired, Detter was quoted in AnnArbor.com as speaking before City Council as the “chairman of the Downtown Citizens Advisory Council.”
In December 2012, the AnnArborChronicle.com, in the course of chronicling a DDA meeting, posted this: “Ray Detter, speaking for the downtown citizens advisory council, updated the board on another major development – 413 East Huron.” When this was written, in reality, there were no members on the CAC, and Detter, no longer a member, had no authority to speak for the CAC.
In April, when the city’s Historic District Commission came out against the proposed development at 413 E. Huron (near Detter’s home), AnnArbor.com described Ray Detter as “chairman of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council.” Detter told Ryan Stanton, “On behalf of the Downtown Area CAC, I would simply say that we are very pleased to see the Historic District Commission give support to the stated positions of the DDA’s Connecting William Street initiative as well as the Downtown Design Guidelines Review Board.”
While the two news blogs appear to have been hoodwinked, the fact is that both Ryan Stanton, AnnArbor.com’s government reporter and David Askins, Editor of the AnnArborChronicle.com, repeatedly told their respective readers that Ray Detter was speaking at public meetings as the representative of an important downtown citizens group. Had Detter been referred to as a resident of Ann Arbor who spoke regularly at those meetings, his “advice” and input would certainly have been construed very differently. Instead, readers were led to believe Ray Detter was speaking on behalf of other downtown citizens. He was not. He had no authority to do so as he was no longer a member of the CAC.
When A2Politico brought the question of the CAC membership to the attention of the Ann Arbor City Clerk, Jacqueline Beaudry, one of her several subsequent emails reported that Detter was applying for reappointment to the CAC. Detter has served on the CAC for 28 years running. It’s no wonder talk of term limits might make him a bit cranky.
The establishment of Ann Arbor’s CAC was a state legal requirement associated with establishing a Downtown Development Authority. The Downtown CAC webpage offers this description:
How Established: Council resolution approved August 16, 1982. Revised by R-44-2-05 changing the title, revising the length of terms, and number of members. Purpose: This group of citizens living in the DDA area is established to advise the DDA and City Council with regard to implementation of the Downtown Development Plan and Tax Increment Financing Plan. Special Qualifications for Appointment: Resident of the DDA area. Individuals who were residents of the DDA District upon appointment may remain on the CAC or be reappointed to the CAC if they move to a new residence on a block bisected by the DDA boundary line or a block abutting the DDA boundary line. Length of Terms: 3 years. Meeting Times and Frequency: This is a permanent committee that meets the 1st Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the 4th Floor Conference Room of City Hall, 301 E. Huron. Membership/Committee Composition: No more than 15 members. Contact Info: Raymond Detter, 120 N. Division St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104, 734-668-7027.
In February 2005, the City Council passed a resolution that amended the 1982 DACAC resolution to provide the following:
RESOLVED, City Council approves the following changes to Citizens Advisory Council as follows:
· The official name of committee shall be the “Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council”
· Applicants for appointment to the CAC must live within the DDA District. Individuals who were residents of the DDA District upon appointment may remain on the CAC or be reappointed to the CAC if they move to a new residence on a block bisected by the DDA boundary line or a block abutting the DDA boundary line.
· Terms will be three years.
The number of CAC members will be limited to 15.
So, who is Ray Detter and why was he reappointed to the CAC for over two decades instead of any one of the other thousands of residents who live downtown? Either you know the name Ray Detter, or you don’t. Either you merit an invitation to his annual Old Fourth Ward party where you can rub elbows with a host of other politicos, their pals, donors and their appointees, or you don’t. Detter is politically-connected, but he is also enamored of being politically connected—a political pilot fish, if you will, a mutualist. Look at the campaign finance forms of Council members, and you will find that every year Ray Detter coughs up multiple donations, primarily to Hive Mind-backed candidates. In 2012, he supported Ward 1 candidate Eric Sturgis, Ward 2 incumbent Tony Derezinski, Ward 4 incumbent Margie Teall and Ward 5 candidate Chuck Warpehoski.
It is because he is a deft political pilot fish that certain Council members are playing Twister over the proposed student high rise a developer wants to plop on a small parcel on the corner of Huron and Division (413 East Huron). Detter’s historic home sits about half a block behind what would be a huge apartment complex tall enough to blot out the little sun that reaches his yard in between the stately trees that shade his property. Detter, speaking as the chair of the Downtown Citizens Advisory Council (CAC), has been generally in support of downtown density, and vocal in support of outsized developments built along the edges of downtown neighborhoods. Until now. Now, the proposed downtown density will shade his garden and block his views. He wants the city to down zone the parcel and stop the development.
However, Detter has not confined his comments at DDA and City Council meetings to “advice with regard to implementation of the Downtown Development Plan and Tax Increment Financing Plan.” In April 2013, six months after his appointment to CAC had expired, Detter spoke as the “Chair” of the CAC and on behalf of the CAC’s board “members” at a Downtown Development Authority meeting. He complained that a proposed City Council resolution to impose term limits on DDA Board members and slow the group’s capture of tax dollars was an “irrational attack” on the DDA by the Council members sponsoring the resolution (Ward 1 Council member Sumi Kailasapathy and Ward 3 Council member Stephen Kunselman).
When asked if he’d been aware that his appointment to the CAC had expired when he’d attacked the Council members’ resolution as “irrational,” Detter responded with a genial email that included a friendly invitation to anyone living within the DDA boundary to join the CAC. The problem, of course, is that the city’s Charter doesn’t give Ray Detter the power to make appointments to the CAC. It’s not a private club, but has been run like one since 2008. Membership in the group, by resolution of Council, is granted by mayoral appointment, and confirmation of City Council.
Some of the appointments of the people listed by the City Clerk’s office as serving on the CAC Board expired as long ago as 2008. Ann Arbor City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry responded to A2Politico’s inquiries promptly and contacted the DDA’s Executive Director Susan Pollay, via email, to ask about the membership of the CAC. Pollay responded with a roster of CAC “members” and an offhand comment that the DDA has little to do with the group. Pollay, it would appear, was unaware that all of the CAC members’ appointments had expired. She is, perhaps, also unaware of the state law and Council ordinance that requires the existence of a CAC from which the DDA will solicit citizen input on downtown development and tax increment financing plans.
Pollay’s list of CAC “members”—from whom the Ann Arbor Charter requires the DDA and City Council to hear regularly— included several people who were not, in fact, members of CAC.
The City Clerk contacted John Hiefje’s office for information on the CAC, then updated the city’s webpage with the correct information, including the names, appointment dates, and appointment expiration dates for each former member:
Raymond Detter start date 10/15/1984 end date 10/19/2012
Herbert Kaufer start date 5/21/2001 end date 10/19/2012
Jane Kaufer start date 5/21/2001 end date 10/19/2012
Jim Kern start date 2/22/2000 end date 7/21/2011
Sue Kern start date 2/22/2000 end date 7/21/2011
Marsha Chamberlin start date 5/5/2008 end date 5/5/2011
John Chamberlin start date 5/5/2008 end date 5/5/2011
Joan French start date 7/3/2006 end date 7/3/2009
Kathleen Nolan start date 5/21/2001 end date 7/21/2011
Susan Nenadic start date 10/17/2005 end date 10/17/2010
The members of the DDA Board have been content to hear from Ray Detter regularly because he routinely tells them what they want to hear and. It’s infinitely better if the criticism of a resolution to impose term limits on the DDA Board comes from the “Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council,” rather than any of the hugely unpopular DDA Board members. However, regularly misleading the general public and the media into believing the CAC is an entity that represents downtown residents, is more evidence that City Council not only needs to rein in the DDA Board, but needs to exercise much more stringent oversight over all the city’s boards and commissions.
A good place to begin would be for the City Council to direct that the 15 openings on the CAC be widely advertised. Then, Council members will need to press John Hieftje so that he offers up applicants from a much larger political gene pool, not his usual cast of cronies. It’s time for the DDA Board members to hear from a wider racial, socio-economic and political spectrum of downtown citizens, including students, young professionals, people with children, minorities and retirees. As for Ray Detter, he has had 28 years to curry favor and peddle his particular brand of “advice.” His behavior in purporting to represent the CAC months after his term had ended smacks of entitlement and comes dangerously close to deliberately deceiving the public. He deserves thanks for his long service, and should join the DDA Board members who are being given the opportunity to “retire” when their current terms end.
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