Ward 1 Independent Challenger Snags Support From Council Dems
Ward 1 City Council challenger Jeff Hayner has landed the quiet support of several City Council Democrats. Ward 2 City Council incumbent Jane Lumm has the unabashed support of several City Council Democrats. So why are card-carrying members of the Michigan Democratic Party coming out in support of the Independent candidates in Wards 1 and 2 instead of the Democrats in those races?
Ward 4 Council member elect Jack Eaton, who is set to be sworn into office in November, is effusive when speaking about Independent Jane Lumm. “Jane Lumm,” he says with a grin, “is just so damn good at what she does. It’s intimidating.”
Ward 3 Democrat Stephen Kunselman, who’s also endorsing Lumm, told a gathering of Lumm supporters “Jane Lumm is the most ethical member of City Council.”
Ward 5 Council member Mike Anglin is equally complimentary when speaking of incumbent Lumm. “Jane is committed to the people of this city, to their health and safety, and is absolutely the best candidate for the job. She’s proved that over and over.”
Ward 1 Council member Sumi Kailasapathy admires Lumm, as well, and has collaborated with her on several resolutions. “Jane has done what she promised to do in 2011. She focuses on services and fiscal responsibility. We need that.”
Kailasapathy, a CPA, has been unrelenting in her efforts to make sure city staff present accurate financial data to the public. Most recently, she asked for information regarding the projected savings associated with single-stream recycling. She was dismayed to discover that some savings calculations by city staff overseeing the recycling program were off by as much as 100 percent.
Unlike fellow Independent Jane Lumm, Jeff Hayner (right) doesn’t have the public endorsements of Democrats Kailasapathy, Eaton or Anglin, but he has their financial support which, in political circles, speaks volumes.
“I donated $250 to Jeff Hayner’s campaign,” says Eaton, who is a long-time member of the Michigan Democratic Party and a labor lawyer. In past elections, Eaton has donated to Ward 1 incumbent Sabra Briere. “Sabra’s votes have been disappointing,” he explains, noting that the Ward 1 Council member at one time cast votes in support of issues about which he cares, but that she has since moved away from support of local transit, parks, emergency services and other “sensible priorities.”
Like Eaton, Mike Anglin is prepared to support Independent Jeff Hayner’s campaign financially, as well. “I’m there,” says Anglin. “Sabra’s been in John’s (Hieftje) pocket for quite some time now there are so many important issues facing Council, particularly development issues and issues relating to our parks. We need people willing to stand up for transparency, ethics, the parks, the people of the city. I believe Jeff will do that.”
On the afternoon of September 29th Jeff Hayner and his family welcomed about 35 supporters to a party in the balcony area of the Necto. In the place of pounding music was political banter. It was a chance for Hayner to talk about downtown development, and his desire to repeal the zoning of the city’s public land (parkland) for transportation uses, a 2010 zoning change Briere voted to support.
“I will never vote to use parkland for transit. That land belongs to us all,” said Hayner during a speech. The crowd burst into applause. It was a group that included Ward 1 Council member Sumi Kailasapathy.
“Sabra and I are on opposite sides of many important votes, and this troubles me,” said Kailasapathy. As for Hayner, she says: “He supports fiscal responsibility. I am confident that Jeff will protect our parkland and make sure that mayoral appointees avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. These things are so very important.”
Kailasapathy is referring to the recent controversial, and perhaps soon-to-be-reversed appointment of Quack!Media owner Albert McWilliams to the Board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Kailasapathy was incensed over materials she saw on McWilliams’s website—degrading images of women. She was also upset that McWilliams had used a crude term that describes female genitalia to refer to Ward 3 Council member Stephen Kunselman. A2Politico posted a piece on September 4th about the content on McWilliams’s website and Twitter account.
“It’s outrageous that he was nominated and that he was confirmed,” says Kailasapathy. “What if he had referred to someone he disagreed with using the “N” word? These kinds of hostile behaviors cannot be tolerated under any circumstances from elected or appointed officials.”
Briere cast the deciding vote in favor of McWilliams’s appointment.
McWilliams, for his part, removed links to the offensive materials, a move Jack Eaton interpreted to mean it was understood the materials were offensive and that McWilliams was trying to hide them from the public.
“Look, McWilliams would never have gotten my vote,” says Jeff Hayner. “What he puts on his website is up to him, but if you want to represent the city you can’t expect to do that kind of stuff and get appointed. Plus there’s a pretty clear conflict of interest in his work for AATA. I support an ethics policy for Council members and board members.”
Eaton, Kunselman, Kailasapathy, Lumm and Anglin all support an ethics policy for Council members. Sabra Briere, when discussing conflicts of interest surrounding McWilliams’s appointment, noted that the appearance of conflicts didn’t bother her.
At his event at the Necto, Hayner mentioned the proposed 5 Year Solid Waste Plan backed by Briere, as a member of the Environmental Commission. That plan calls for a reduction in the frequency of garbage collection to twice monthly from weekly collection.
“If we get half the service, we should pay half the solid waste millage,” said Hayner. “People I talk to when I go door-to-door don’t want their garbage sitting around for two weeks. Why are we always talking about cutting services? We pay a lot in property taxes. I want to see us get the best value for our tax dollars.”
Briere supported a tax hike to pay for sidewalk replacement, has voted repeatedly over the past three years to cut services, raise water and sewer fees, and in the most recent round of budget discussions, refused to support proposals put forth by Jane Lumm to increase police staffing and restore leaf collection. She also refused to support Lumm’s proposal to expand parkland protection by requiring a vote before parkland may be leased.
Briere voted in support of efforts to lease river front parkland for development and transportation purposes.
Hayner talked about a plan to use private funds for public art. “There are plenty of examples of how that model can work all over town,” he said. “We need to use money from the water and sewer fund for our sewers and money from the street fund to repair our roads.”
This was a subtle jab at Briere who, in response to a resolution sponsored by her Ward 1 colleague Kailasapathy and Jane Lumm which would have required the return hundreds of thousands of dollars skimmed from the water and sewer and street repair funds by the Percent for Art program to those funds, voted no.
“I love art,” said Hayner. “I have a degree in art, but we have to spend our money more wisely and look to other ways to pay for public art.”
One former Briere supporter, a Democrat, said she planned to go door-to-door with Jeff Hayner. “I am just sick of how things are going in the city. Sewage spills, terrible roads, high taxes and on our street we have had several break-ins. It’s time for someone new on Council. Hieftje and Sabra Briere hasve been there long enough. I’m giving Jeff’s yard signs to my neighbors and passing out his literature.”
Toppling an incumbent is difficult, but Ann Arbor voters tossed out long-term incumbents in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 primary and general elections. Jack Eaton toppled 14-year Ward 4 incumbent Marcia Higgins by a huge margin.
None of the Council Democrats backing Hayner seem concerned about what will happen if Briere manages to hold on to her seat. “She doesn’t work collaboratively now. What would change?” asked one exasperated Council member.
As for Jeff Hayner, he’s having fun. “If I get some of these issues out there, like the 1,4 dioxane plume, and Sabra does something, really that’s a win-win. People I talk to are glad to have a choice on the ballot.”
The Ann Arbor League of Women Voters is hosting a Candidates Forum Live on CTN Channel 19 – Wednesday, October 2nd at 7 p.m. It will be a question and answer session for a half hour live broadcast. There will also be a Town Hall Forum at Arrowwood Clubhouse Wednesday, October 16th at 7 p.m. Council Member Briere and challenger Jeff Hayner will answer questions from the audience at this town-hall format meeting.
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