Council Members Rebuke Mayor Over Proposed Appointee’s Perceived Conflicts of Interest
On August 20th, John Hieftje announced his intention to appoint Albert McWilliams to replace Newcombe Clark on the Board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. McWilliams, who works for Quack Media, is in his 30s. He’s a self-styled joker, whose frontal lobe is ever-so-close to being fully developed. In proposing the appointment, Hieftje told Council members: “He’s on Main Street. I heard good reviews of him down there. He’s also another entrepreneur and someone who has a cutting-edge business. He wants to make downtown a place that can attract the talented people he needs to run his business.” McWilliams (pictured below), Hieftje said, cares deeply about Ann Arbor. Deeply. As in Butt Chasm deep or maybe as in Deep Throat Deep? McWilliams has his own website, and a trip to it is to realize that Al McW cares deeply about tits and ass, and exudes just that flavor of self-important condescension which has made the DDA Board a hot bed of arrogance and a PR bad news buffet.
On September 3, under intense pressure by Ward 3 Council member Stephen Kunselman, Ward 1 Council member Sumi Kailasapathy, and Ward 2 Council member Sally Hart Petersen, Hieftje withdrew the appointment of Albert McWilliams. The Council members were concerned that McWilliams’s company does business with the AAATA. As the DDA gives money to the AAATA, it was suggested that McWilliams’ appointment could be a conflict of interest.
Be that as it may, there was a more serious problem with Albert McWilliams’s proposed appointment: his public statements, and his writing suggest the self-appointed “Master of the Universe” is more concerned about his hair than about public policy. Albert McWilliams on the Board of the DDA? To quote Quack Media’s website: WTF?
On his personal website in August 2013, McWilliams pleads with Ward 3 and Ward 4 voters to “make sure that person elected represents you and not the 200 crazy people with nothing better to do than live in your ward.” He points out that “The current 3rd ward incumbent (Stephen Kunselman) was elected in 2011 with 637 votes. You need more people to start a viable space colony, or throw a raging Bar Mitzvah.” What Shegetz (שייגעץ) McWilliams means, of course is a Groyse (גרױסע) Bar Mitzvah. We have Raging Bulls. Raging Hard ons. Raging Waters. Raging Hormones. DDA Board members with raging superiority complexes, and the Groyse Bar Mitzvah where Bubbe and Zayde get all verklempt.
Council member Kunselman made McWilliams’s Twitter feed, as well:
Albert McWilliams cares deeply about Ann Arbor politics. In a November 2012 short entry, he writes: “I had a bitch of a time finding out whether we had a new library, parks/arts were funded or not, who our supreme court judges are and most importantly whether Admiral Ackbar made a dent in the Ward 1 city council race.” Admiral Ackbar, a character from Star Wars, is a commander in the Rebel Alliance. McWilliams goes on to write: “Just because they run unopposed, doesn’t mean you have to vote for someone you don’t want to.” To drive home the point, he posted a photo of his ballot.
Al McWilliams riffs on pedestrian safety in a November 2011 blog entry. He posted a clever little piece titled: “Smart folks in Ann Arbor crash their cars into stuff, blame City Council.” It’s a particularly prescient piece of writing considering that some of the “stuff” the smart folks in Ann Arbor crashed into were people, one of whom recently died. His entry begins:
Awhile back Ann Arbor City Council passed a “motorists must stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” law. No big deal right. It’s already a state law, and nearly every pedestrian-heavy downtown in Southeast Michigan has an enhanced enforcement of that law in some way.
Well, it is a big deal apparently.
First, let me say that I don’t care which way this particular ordinance goes. Why? Because it’s not a big deal. I’ve been hit by cars, a lot, and I still don’t think it’s a big deal. The problem is why people are freaking out about it – and yes, they are losing their minds.
Ann Arbor Dot Com (it’s our “newspaper”) has been following the controversy and people are outraged at the increased number of rear-end accidents due to cars stopped for pedestrians. As in, people are super pissed at City Council because they crashed their car into something. These are adults, mind you.
Yes, Albert McWilliams cares deeply, but perhaps not really about the opinions of others. According to @AlMcAlMcAl:
From this one Tweet alone, it’s evident why Hieftje might think McWilliams an excellent addition to the DDA Board of Directors. After all, as an unelected Shadow Government, Ann Arbor’s DDA Board members have shown time and again they have little use for the opinions of the public.
After being peppered with questions and concerns about McWilliams’s proposed appointment, and perhaps horrified at the prospect of having multiple Council members vote against McWilliams’s appointment, Hieftje asked to withdraw the nomination, so that “some of the issues that have been raised can be explored.” The real issue that needs to be explored, obviously, is how Albert McWilliams was selected for nomination by Hieftje in the first place. While no one should be judged wholly by what they write to their personal websites or Twitter accounts, Albert McWilliams, as an advertising professional, should understand that one’s brand is supposed to be burnished not tarnished by one’s public persona. Making jokes about bodily functions, posting pictures to his website of women with huge breasts and of women in tight pants bending, makes him a typical 30-year-old man-boy. Trashing Council members online, and then expecting those people to support his appointment makes him look like a political pumpkin head.
It’s no crime to be immature or with being a political pumpkin head. We just don’t need those people on our city’s boards and commissions, particularly on boards and commissions that control multi-million dollar budgets. Will McWilliams’s nomination come back? Let’s hope not. If so, it will certainly be before November, when Ward 4 Council member-elect Jack Eaton takes office. Eaton, in his victory speech, stressed the need for an ethics policy for City Council members and, one imagines, would be sensitive to perceived conflicts such as the one his future colleagues pointed out about McWilliams.
In the meantime, here’s a final bit of sage advice from John Hieftje’s proposed candidate for the Board of the DDA. In this Sweet Tweet, Ward 1 resident McWilliams urges Ann Arbor residents to vote in the November 2012 general election. DDA Board-member-gone-quiet Joan Lowenstein couldn’t have said it better. While A2Politico urges voters in Wards 1 and 2 to get to the polls this November, we’ll also encourage those inclined to follow McWilliams’s advice to buy their ice cream cones from the Washtenaw Dairy.
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