Ward 3 Dem Tells Michigan Daily: “I Have Support from Numerous Republican Residents….”
by P.D. Lesko
In the Ward 3 City Council race, incumbent Stephen Kunselman paints the candidacy of Park Advisory Commission (PAC) Chair Julie Grand as running a “revenge” campaign. In a July 17, 2013 piece on the two contested Democratic primary elections, the Michigan Daily talked to three of the four candidates running. Ward 4 Council member Marcia Higgins did not return multiple requests for comments. Kunselman and Grand, however, both spoke at length about their platforms, motivations, support and successes. While Kunselman has exuded confidence and bravado during his campaign, often making his opponent appear lackluster and ill-informed on the issues, it was Julie Grand’s boast that caught A2Politico’s attention. The Michigan Daily reported: “Grand said she has been able to gain support from numerous Republican residents who agree with her local policy stances regardless of her personal opinions of national-level politics.”
Grand has the support of Rene and Matt Greff, who were among Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s top donors in 2010 (The Greff’s recently hosted an event for Democrat Mark Schauer. Of course, this change of heart could be read as just more political opportunism, but we’ll save that for another piece.) She also raked in donations from several other Snyder supporters.
That aside, it would be interesting to know, exactly, what Grand’s “local policy stances” might be.
Thus far, she strongly supports communicating with constituents, which is kind of like throwing one’s support strongly behind breathing. Politicos are expected to communicate with their constituents. She also strongly supports “thoughtful leadership,” “listening” to constituents and “working” for constituents. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. While Grand has repeatedly said she supports the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and its wildly unpopular Board members (several of whom are returning the favor and endorsing Grand’s candidacy), it’s hard to call that a policy stance.
Julie Grand, who as Chair of the Park Advisory Commission, is the closest thing to a Lorax the city has, remained mute when her Ward 3 Council member Christopher Taylor voted to zone parkland for transit. Grand then blocked a resolution which would have given voters the opportunity to decide whether parkland may be leased. Those are policy decisions. The funny thing is, though, 80 percent of Ann Arbor voters who went to the polls supported the 2008 Charter amendment that called for a public vote before parkland could be sold. The Charter amendment proposal had strong support from both Democrats and Republicans. Ward 2 Republicans were thoroughly frosted when former Ward 2 Council member Stephen Rapundalo supported the outsourcing of operations at Huron Hills Golf Course, and even more miffed in 2008 when John Hieftje quietly went about getting a valuation of the land—as if he were thinking of selling the park.
The Ward 3 challenger does support two very interesting policy stances on her website:
1. “adequate numbers of police and fire fighters”
2. “safe neighborhoods”
The question, of course, is whether Ms. Grand is claiming that Ann Arbor doesn’t have an adequate number of police and fire fighters, and that Ann Arbor doesn’t have safe neighborhoods. If so, such a claim would put her squarely at odds with the public statements of several of her supporters, including Joan Lowenstein, who have stated that it’s simply not clear to her whether more police have an impact on safety. She is a media lawyer, however, not an expert on public safety.
Professor David Jacobs is a sociology department faculty member at Ohio State University. He has looked at crime issues through a sociological lens for many years and published articles about police levels in various communities. Dr. Jacobs says “From an economic standpoint, looking more at raw data, the research typically shows that an increase in police force does result in a decrease in violent crime.”
Economist Steven Levitt co-authored the book Freakonomics. He says, “Often the public clamors for more police when crime starts to creep up.”
Levitt authored a paper in 1997 that examined police hiring during electoral cycles, hires that are not usually tied to any crime fluctuations but rather more likely associated with political motivations. Levitt found that increased police forces in many instances led to a decrease in violent crime. Both Jacobs and Levitt have conducted research that pinpoints the importance of the public having frequent “contact” with police such as community outreach and proactive policing programs. Police Chief John Seto has said the AAPD doesn’t have the staff to do community outreach or proactive policing. Jacobs suggests that better community outreach by police helps citizens feel safer.
At the June 8 2013 Ann Arbor Dem debate, Ms. Grand said that she wasn’t sure more police would result in a safer city. Her opinion mimics what both John Hieftje and Joan Lowenstein have said to the local media.
Ms. Grand (left) also wants safe neighborhoods. Again, if she is claiming Ann Arbor residents don’t live in safe neighborhoods, this puts her at odds with John Hieftje’s mantra that “crime is down.” The truth is that property crime, burglary, arson and auto theft increased significantly between 2011 and 2012, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report. Violent crime has dropped, but forcible rape is higher than it was in 2008 and arsons have doubled since 2011. While Hieftje likes to focus on numbers of crimes, the key statistic is the number of “clearances,” crimes solved and cases closed, which AAPD insiders counsel is the statistic taxpayers need to focus on.
Grand, like Hieftje, has said “crime is down,” while avoiding talk of crime clearance rates, though it’s not clear her grasp of policing includes clearance rates.
Independent Jane Lumm, who trounced incumbent Stephen Rapundalo in 2011, and who is expected to do the same to Planning Commission Chair Kirk Westphal, a Hieftje Hive Mind wanna-be, dropped an endorsement bomb on her opponent in 2011 in which numerous brand name Democrats and Republicans backed her candidacy. Lumm is a former Republican Council member. Julie Grand, however, is not running as an independent. She is running as a Democrat.
To tell the Michigan Daily that she has the support of numerous Republican residents thanks to her opinions about local policy issues is to either claim her stances on local policy issues hew more closely to those of a Republican, or that the opinions of Republicans in her Ward hew more closely to those of a Democrat. Either way, it’s tough to know what her local policy stances are, and why they would appeal to Republicans in particular. It’s clear that long-time Democrats have had problems with Grand’s leadership and votes as a member of the Park Advisory Commission. A recent member of PAC, a politically active Ward 3 Democrat, gave money to the Ward 4 challenger, and not Grand.
AnnArbor.com’s recent endorsement of incumbent Stephen Kunselman included the facile criticism that Grand “seems to lack Kunselman’s grasp of the issues, including those of regional importance facing the city….” Grand can’t possibly have Kunselman’s grasp of the issues because she not Kunselman. However, for someone who has served in city government for six years, her grasp of the mechanics is surprisingly limited. She hasn’t done her homework to the extent she might have, but rather parrots the opinions of her supporters but then isn’t able to talk specifics or go beneath the surface. Her stated desire to see that the city has ”adequate numbers of police and fire fighters” is a good example of this.
Kunselman has weathered the personal attacks by John Hieftje, as well as various DDA Board members terrified of having the power of their “shadow government” curtailed. The palpable anger and fear of those DDA Board members who have attacked Kunselman is like that of toddlers unaccustomed to having to play by the same rules as everyone else. Members of the Park Advisory Commission, including Grand, are term-limited. Yet, members of the DDA Board continue to rail against term-limits for themselves. Julie Grand’s attack on Kunselman at the July 10th League of Women Voters debate was unfortunate, but predictable. In many ways, hers is the playbook written by what remains of the Hive Mind Collective, battered and hoping against hope to hold on to their own power.
It’s easy to look at this election, yawn and mutter, “It’s local politics.” Now ask yourselves: Did you pay more in federal income taxes or Ann Arbor property taxes last year? That should wipe the yawn off the face of even the most disinterested voter.
Since 1999 Ward 4 incumbent Marcia Higgins has allocated and spent over $3 billion dollars in taxpayer money. She has plunged taxpayers close to half a billion dollars in debt, on top of that. AnnArbor.com recently revealed Higgins has missed hundreds of votes just since 2011. Go back to 2002-2008, and Marcia Higgins’s attendance record is perhaps even more abysmal. Elected officials have a primary responsibility to represent their constituents through voting. In endorsing Marcia Higgins in 2013, incredibly AnnArbor.com claimed she “has worked diligently behind the scenes, putting in much time on various committees, including the budget and labor committees.”
AnnArbor.com’s editorial board members couldn’t possibly know Marcia Higgins’s committee attendance record, because their government reporter doesn’t cover meetings of either the Budget or Labor committee, and those two committees on which Marcia Higgins sits don’t keep attendance records or minutes. It would be interesting to know how AnnArbor.com’s editorial committee concluded Marcia Higgins puts in “much time on various committees.” You hate to think the editorial boards just took Marcia Higgins’s word for it, because Higgins is of the opinion her attendance is a non-issue.
As for Julie Grand, it’s hard not to conclude that hers is a “revenge campaign.” Several of Grand’s supporters most certainly would relish political revenge against Stephen Kunselman, and have suggested as much in public. That doesn’t mean Julie Grand relishes revenge; it means she’s possibly allowing herself to be used by people with political axes to grind, and if that’s the case that’s a shame. She wasted time assuaging the political grudges of others. On the other hand, Grand has gained valuable experience running for local office. No doubt, if she loses, John Hieftje will attempt to appoint her to one of the city’s high profile boards or commissions, as he did Ingrid Ault when she ran and lost in the 2011 Ward 3 Council race. The 2011 candidate Ward 3 voters chose not to elect is now recommending and shaping public policy on the Park Advisory Commission. No doubt if incumbent Stephen Kunselman loses, he’ll get a mayoral appointment to the Sit at Home in Your Skivvies and Sip Cold Micro Brews Commission. That’s because John Hieftje is incredibly “thin-skinned and vindictive,” or so said the Ann Arbor News in a 2002 editorial endorsing his opponent.
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