Ward 1 Incumbent’s Campaign Literature Hides A Plethora of Blemishes
by P.D. Lesko
The dictionary defines propaganda as the deliberate spreading of information, ideas, or rumors in an effort to either help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, or nation. Most commonly propaganda is used in the political arena. Really, campaign literature to the closest thing to propaganda most people ever get hand delivered to their doors. As one goes up the political food chain, the campaign literature gets smoother, slicker and the propaganda better packaged. Propaganda is intended to deceive.
After Ward 1 incumbent Sabra Briere’s loopy fundraising letter in which she claimed her U of M student opponent (who has since dropped out, but whose name will still appear on the ballot), and the self-employed small business owner in the trades opponent could be funded by “big out of town developers” and by “major financial and political interests,” Briere’s campaign literature is being delivered to homes throughout Ward 1. Click here to download her campaign piece.
Hold on to your absentee ballots, because in the tried and true tradition of the Hive Mind Collective Sabra Briere is doing her best to bamboozle her way to a fourth term in office. Her fundraising letter was a political amuse-bouche. Briere’s campaign literature is a buffet of half-truths, distortions, over-generalizations and outright whoppers. For starters, the photo of herself on the handout being given to voters is, shall we say, somewhat dated. Below, the photo on the left is from Briere’s campaign lit. The photo on the right is from her September 2013 e-newsletter.
Will the real Slim Shady please stand up, please stand up, please stand up?
The piece of lit received by A2Politico was delivered by a college student who’d worked for newly-elected 55th District Representative Adam Zemke. Shockingly (or maybe not after the fundraising letter and the oooooold photo) the Zemke volunteer launched into his sales pitch by announcing Sabra Briere was the “independent candidate.” In fact, on her campaign literature, Sabra Briere claims that she is “an independent voice on Council.” Not so coincidentally, her independent opponent’s campaign website says, “I am running because we need more independent voices on city council.”
Copying from the other kid’s paper in grade school is wrong. An incumbent who tells voters she’s an independent voice when her voting record says otherwise is beyond wrong. Since 2011, records indicate that Briere has voted in lockstep with John Hieftje more than 90 percent of the time. Briere’s voting record has come under intense scrutiny since November 2012, because she and her Ward 1 colleague Sumi Kailasapathy now frequently vote on opposite sides of bell weather issues, including restoration of lost services (Briere, no), bolstering parkland protections (Briere, no), funding more police and firefighters (Briere, no), and most recently support of the standard that mayoral appointees avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest (Briere, no).
The issue of ethics should be of interest, because unlike Briere her opponent wants to work together with Ward 1 Council member Kailasapathy, Ward 2 Council members Petersen and Lumm, Ward 3 Council member Kunselman, Ward 4 Council member elect Eaton and Ward 5 Council member Anglin to craft and institute a strict conflict of interest policy for council members and political appointees.
Briere’s campaign literature includes the same tired reasons many of Hieftje’s political allies offer up as proof positive they deserve to be elected and re-elected. We read in her literature:
“I contact residents…”
“I attend neighborhood meetings and events….”
“I help neighbors with problems….”
As A2Politico pointed out in a previous piece about Briere’s fundraising letter:
Briere’s “I respond to calls and emails” is akin to throwing one’s unqualified support behind blinking. “I respond to calls and emails.” Blink. Blink. Blink. Isn’t responding to constituents what elected officials are expected to do? She sends out an electronic newsletter. Blink. She has helped “hundreds” of constituents. Blink. Blink. This is the best she’s got? These are the reasons a six-year incumbent offers to voters in support of re-election? The Ward 1 incumbent may as well include among her accomplishments: “I don’t Tweet nude photos of myself to U of M undergraduates, and “I haven’t ever used taxpayer funds to pay an escort service.” There. Don’t we all feel better?
Briere, who was rapped across the knuckles by AnnArbor.com in April 2013 for talking serious trash in behind-the-scenes emails to the Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority about her colleagues Sumi Kailasapathy and Ward 3 Council member Stephen Kunselman, assures voters she is “committed to greater transparency” in city government.
Ward 4 Council member elect Jack Eaton posted a comment to AnnArbor.com in response to the piece documenting Briere’s ill-mannered treatment of her colleagues via emails to a third party. Eaton writes:
At the bottom of every email Council Member Briere sends is a reminder that her emails are subject to disclosure under the FOIA. Yet, she sends out a series of emails that she now regrets. That does not seem to demonstrate the character or skills one would want in a Mayor.
I am not faulting Briere for disagreeing with Kunselman. I am questioning her doing so in emails to others while voting in support of the Kunselman/Kailasapathy resolution in public. This is just so very reminiscent of her co-sponsoring the park land protection amendment to the Charter, only to undermine it in the end. I am not being critical of mere human behavior, I am expressing alarm at her snarky remarks and her failure to realize the possibility that her emails would be disclosed under FOIA.
To put Briere’s “commitment to greater transparency in city government” into proper perspective, in 2009 she voted in favor of a resolution proposed by outgoing Ward 3 Council member Leigh Greden that restricted the city’s Freedom of Information Act request policy. The rule changes, which Ward 5 Council member Mike Anglin and Ward 4 Council member elect Jack Eaton have expressed serious interest in lifting, made it more expensive for citizens and news outlets to request public records and easier for public documents to be shielded from scrutiny. Greden lost his seat, of course, as the result of citizens and the Ann Arbor News filing FOIAs for Council emails.
When she is not trying to persuade voters that attending meetings, listening to constituents and answering constituent communications is above and beyond what we should expect from our elected officials, she is saying a whole lot of nothin’ For instance, she writes, “I am a Democrat. I don’t check my values at the door.”
She’s a Democrat under whose ineffectual and fauxgressive leadership Ann Arbor has become Walmart on the Huron. Under former City Administrator Roger Fraser, whom Briere directly supervised, Ann Arbor slashed hundreds of good-paying, middle-class jobs and paid upper-level managers six-figure salaries, lump sum bonuses and plentiful perks. She has proposed no resolutions nor has she objected over the past six years as the city filled the once full-time jobs with scads of low-paid perma-temp workers, many of whom are women with children.
Briere’s contribution to the city’s mushrooming homelessness among school-age students, families and individuals? She headed a 2011 task force which came up with the bright idea to give the homeless a printed card with the contact information of social service organizations. How’d that work out? Under her “Democratic” watch between 2007 and 2012 the number of homeless students and youths has almost quadrupled from 370 individuals to 1,282.
Since Sabra Briere was first elected, the need for food assistance in Ann Arbor has jumped 138 percent with some 44,000 people county-wide in need, according to a 2012 report put together by Food Gatherers.
Affordable housing your thing? In October 2009, John Hieftje announced that he and Sabra Briere were working together to “double” the 60 units of affordable housing which had been built since 2005. Between 2009 and 2013, Briere and Hieftje added 10 units net of affordable housing to the city’s stock. Councilmember Sabra Briere sat inside Hieftje’s Carnival tent collecting tickets from the rubes and praise from the turnips who have no idea that 60 units of affordable housing over five years would get the lot of them burned in effigy in towns like Boulder or Berkeley. According to the City of Ann Arbor’s own 2005-2009 strategic plan to address the lack of affordable housing: “What should the community look like in 2010? 500 plus new units of supportive housing for under 50% AMI.”
Sabra Briere hasn’t checked her Democratic values at the door, perhaps, because she came to City Council without them. That’s okay. She’ll have less stuff to cram into her knitting bag when she leaves City Council in November, because I’m pretty sure Ward 1 voters don’t have plans to check their values or their hearts at the doors of their local Ward 1 polling places.
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