Dems Turn Out To Support “Paesano” Independent Jane Lumm At Campaign Kick-Off
Ward 2 City Council challenger Kirk Westphal sent out a fundraising letter that includes several interesting claims, one of which is he is the “only Democrat” running in the Ward 2 November general election. Well, yes. For those who were passing notes or snoozing the entire time during Civics 101 in high school, he is the “only” Democrat because there was a primary election and, as is wont to happen, the winner of the primary election moves on to the general election. Westphal was unopposed in the primary election so, he was the “only” Democrat who ran in the primary, as well. Imagine the awesomeness of being the only Democrat in the general election after being the only Democrat on the ballot during the primary election. What. Are. The. Chances?
Jane Lumm, a Republican Council member in the late 90s, ran as an independent candidate in 2011 and beat Democratic incumbent Stephen Rapundalo. Lumm says she and her husband found the increasingly conservative views of the national Republican party difficult to relate to. Jane Lumm is a fiscal conservative, and a social progressive; she is not a Libertarian. In the partisan politics of the GOP and DCCC, Jane Lumm is a political fish without a pond, but fortunately she lives in Ann Arbor, where fish without ponds find creeks, streams and other places to swim.
On September 22nd Lumm kicked off her campaign at a gathering at Paesano’s. It’s an apt choice of locations, if one understands that in Italian the word paesano, the dialectal form of compaesano means “compatriot.” One paesano greeting another? You come from the same region of Italy, say, Lazio or Apulia. At Jane Lumm’s event, there were plenty of paesani, politicos from the same region of fiscal responsibility, social and environmental progressivism. Ward 1 Democratic Council member Sumi Kailasapathy was there; she is endorsing Lumm. Ward 3 Democratic Council member Stephen Kunselman attended, as well. Ward 4 Democratic Council member-elect Jack Eaton, who has endorsed Lumm’s candidacy, showed up to help kick off the re-election of the Council member whom Eaton has said “is a gift to the City.” City Council Ward 5 Democrat Mike Anglin, too, has thrown his support behind his colleague, Jane Lumm.
As Lumm began her speech, she made a point of welcoming her Council colleagues, beginning with Kunselman. The Ward 3 politico, fresh off a tough re-election campaign which he won by fewer than 2 percentage points, smiled and asked Lumm if he could speak.
“I want to announce that I am endorsing Jane Lumm,” said Kunselman, his arm around Lumm’s waist. “There is no other more ethical Council member than Jane,” he said, looking out at the crowd of 50 people gathered.
Kunselman, in six years on City Council, has never endorsed in a Council primary or City Council general election—much to the irritation of Council colleagues. Some find his attempts to stay “neutral” misguided, particularly in light of the fact that political attacks against him by John Hieftje and members of the Board of the Downtown Development Authority, have escalated over the past four years.
Lumm’s kick-off speech centered on the need to keep moving Ann Arbor in the direction of fiscal responsibility and toward providing excellent services. She pointed out that, with the election of Jack Eaton, the focus of the majority of Council members has shifted toward the support of fiscal responsibility, robust public input, governmental transparency, local transit, pro-active safety services, the protection of parkland and sensible development.
Jane Lumm and challenger Kirk Westphal aren’t paesani, and not just because of their differing political affiliation.
The “only Democrat” in the Ward 2 race has cast votes in favor of repurposing parkland for development, and public-private partnerships. The public-private partnership scam is a nifty little bit of model legislation dreamed up by the ultra-right wing organization ALEC and embraced by many of the “Democrats” listed as endorsers of Kirk Westphal on his fundraiser letter. In the public-private partnership, public money is used to subsidize private developers. If the development fails, taxpayers are left holding the bag. The private developer is off to her/his next public-private partnership, developer fees in hand. The scam has about as much to do with “partnership” as boxing has to do with playing the French horn, and about as much to do with Democratic party principles as Rush Limbaugh.
Jane Lumm does not support repurposing parkland or using parkland for transit. In fact, she sponsored a resolution to expand the Charter-mandated protections guaranteed to our parkland to include leasing. The resolution was shot down by Democrats, including one Democrat who co-sponsored the resolution, Ward 1 Council candidate Sabra Briere.
While Westphal voted against the Fuller Road train station (Tip o’ the keyboard to James D’Amour), he is from a political planet where Democrats embrace ALEC model legislation and the development of parkland.
According to Jane Lumm’s campaign website and literature her top priority is public safety. Ann Arbor Police Chief John Seto has told Council and the media that he doesn’t have enough officers to police “proactively.” Ann Arbor residents wait sometimes for hours for police to show up to non-emergency calls. A 2012 report on our city’s Fire Department response times revealed they do not meet national standards.
On his website Kirk Westphal’s top priority is listed as “economic development.” He writes, “it funds the growing costs of our core services and helps maintain a healthy budget.” Economic development is important. However, what Westphal doesn’t acknowledge is that the “growing costs of our core services” are the result of spiraling legacy costs for retirees. Jane Lumm writes in her palmcard, “I have led the efforts to begin transitioning the city employee’s pension plan from a defined benefit plan to a lower cost, more sustainable….defined contribution plan.”
Westphal’s proposed solution to this serious financial problem is to generate more tax revenue in order to continue to fund the understated and unsustainable pension liability our city already has, a pension debt that could top $400,000,000 dollars. Political insiders are waiting for council candidates to demand that rosy assumptions about the pension fund, such as the assumption that the investments will earn an annual 7 percent return through 2024, be adjusted to reflect fiscal reality, and that the city’s true unfunded liability be calculated.
The challenger’s second priority is “to formalize an ongoing dialog with neighborhood groups to brainstorm neighborhood improvements, troubleshoot problems early on, and help cultivate the next generation of city leaders.” In other words, Kirk Westphal as an elected leader is going to communicate with his constituents. We’re talking about elected office to the 5th largest city in Michigan, to one of the “smartest” cities in the United States. Kirk Westphal is really telling Ward 2 voters that he’ll “communicate” with them, and that’s a reason to vote for him? Well, on the other hand, he did send out a letter in which he writes he is the only Democrat running in the general election. Thank the City Clerk for small miracles.
In her previous run for City Council, Lumm raised over $20,000, a formidable war chest that Westphal is unlikely to match. Money, as we saw in Stephen Kunselman’s Ward 3 race, is not everything. His challenger, soon-to-be former Park Advisory Commission Chair Julie Grand, out-spent Kunselman two-to-one and still lost. In 2010, state representative candidate Ned Staebler out-fundraised winner Jeff Irwin.
One of Lumm’s campaign workers perhaps inadvertently put his finger on what will win Jane Lumm re-election to Ann Arbor City Council—her opponent’s efforts to paint the incumbent as obstructionist and overly quizzical.
“I was at a Ward 2 door, a Democrat, who said he’d already been canvassed by a Westphal worker. The home owner said the Westphal supporter had described Jane as a ‘trouble-maker” who ‘asks questions all the time’ and ‘won’t go along with anything.’” At this point the Lumm supporter chuckled. The homeowner, as it turns out, had reported telling the Westphal canvasser that he wanted a Council representative who asked questions and didn’t simply go along with everything. “That’s what Democratic governance is all about,” said the Lumm supporter.
In November 2011, Jane Lumm trounced Hieftje ally Stephen Rapundalo. In December 2011, Rapundalo supporter, former judicial candidate, former Ward 2 Democratic Council member and current DDA Board member Joan Lowenstein published an essay in The Ann magazine in which she called Ward 2 voters “old, stingy and Republican.”
It was JoLo who signed Westphal’s recent fundraising letter sent to Ward 2 residents urging them to send a few bucks to Kirk in part, yes, because he is “the only Democrat” running in the November 2013 general election. As Simpson’s character Lionel Hutz reminds us, “There is the truth, and then there is the truth.” Lowenstein, who one suspects may be a graduate of the Lionel Hutz School of Law, has since 2010 thrown her support behind losing City Council candidate paesani in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.
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