Council Members Refuse To Back Away From Public Protest of Mayoral Nominee
While members of the audience held up signs of protest against Albert McWilliams’s proposed appointment to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, Ward 3 Council member Stephen Kunselman, Ward 1 Council member Sumi Kailasapathy and Ward 5 Council member Mike Anglin all raised objections when it came time for City Council to approve the minutes from the September 16th meeting at which John Hieftje pushed through McWilliams’s appointment while violating Council Rules. At the October 7th meeting, DDA Board appointee Albert McWilliams was, once again, the point of contention. At the September 3rd meeting, McWilliams’s proposed appointment was met with stiff resistance on the part of five Council members, all of whom found McWilliams candidacy singularly unacceptable. The reason? McWillaims’s personal website and his Twitter account contained material, including photos, that several Council members saw as degrading to woman.
On September 3rd, Hieftje asked to withdraw McWilliams’s nomination. The minutes prepared by the City Clerk, however, did not reflect that fact. At issue was whether the appointment had been postponed on September 3rd (which would have required a vote) or withdrawn.
At issue, really, is whether John Hieftje has enough Milk of Magnesia stockpiled to get him through the next year.
As Kunselman suggested the minutes be changed to read that the mayor “pretended to postpone” the request for confirmation of the McWilliams appointment, shocked laughter rippled through the audience. Ward 1 Council member Sabra Briere did her best to explain to Council members what the mayor actually meant to say on September 3rd, while Hieftje looked increasingly dyspeptic. Ward 5 Council member Warpehoski suggested that Kunselman was engaging in “political theater.” Ward 4 Council member Margie Teall honest-to-Dog “remembered” Hieftje saying he’d postponed the proposed appointment on September 3rd.
Steve Kunselman, not waiting to be recognized by Hieftje, shot back at Teall that had the McWilliams nomination been postponed, Council would have voted on the postponement. “We didn’t vote,” he said, speaking calmly. His point was simple: In bringing the appointment back and requesting a vote the same evening on the 16th of September, Hieftje’s proposed candidate McWilliams had to have eight votes (he only got six) for confirmation, according to Council Rules.
Sabra Briere then asked for “advice” from the City Attorney. The City Attorney, his fingers burning from the hot potato, said it was a matter of parliamentary procedure and so was up to Council’s interpretation of those rules.
All in all, it was an unprecedented effort by City Council members Kailasapathy, Lumm, Kunselman and Anglin to show the public that they are prepared to demand open, honest, transparent government and hold proposed appointees to high standards. Hieftje appointee, Julie Weatherbee, grudgingly agreed as she live Tweeted the meeting that Council members should do research and ask questions about mayoral appointees:
In short, for John Hieftje it was the equivalent of Mexican food at 3 a.m. Take a slug of Pepto to wash down the Tums.
The end to the French Farce that is Albert McWilliams’s proposed appointment to the DDA is around the corner. Come November 7th, Ward 4 Invisible Woman Marcia Higgins (who was absent from the October 7th meeting), will be replaced by Jack Eaton. Anyone who has followed Eaton’s campaign for office during the primary election season knows that he favors an ethics policy that avoids even the appearance of impropriety, and finds McWilliams’s proposed appointment unacceptable for a number of reasons.
It’s probable, then, that unless McWilliams withdraws his name he will find himself the subject of a Council resolution which demands he step down given that his nomination did not get the required eight votes on September 16th. McWilliams and Hieftje could continue with the pretense that McWilliams is actually a member of the DDA Board (he has attended meetings already). They might even claim McWilliams should be afforded the opportunity for a public hearing. Alas, that will mean that everyone will have the opportunity to speak, including Council members and the public. That may not be what either John Hieftje or Albert Mcwilliams wants, because either Council members or the members of the public could read from McWilliams’s own blog, show the photos he had posted or repeat his Tweets—all to stunning effect. Though McWilliams attempted to delete or hide the offending materials sometime after the September 3rd Council meeting, many who visited his sites prior to his efforts to cleanse them obviously took computer screen shots.
It’s worth noting that during public commentary resident Peter Zetlin reported to Council that he’d spoken to Maura Thompson, the Director of the Main Street Association about her personal endorsement of McWilliams, as well as the endorsement of the Main Street Association. Zetlin reported that when asked if she and her organization stood behind McWilliams as the best candidate for the position, Thompson had refused to answer the question.
“Perhaps,” Zetlin posited, “she didn’t answer because she’s embarrassed.”
Also during public commentary, Ann Arbor resident Mary Underwood stunned the dozens of people in Council chambers by simply ending her measured and thoughtful public comments about the McWilliams appointment with a quote from Albert McWilliams’s own Twitter account: “Shove an ice cream cone up your ass.”
The gasps from those present were audible, and several people muttered that McWilliams did not, indeed, seem the best choice to sit on the Board of the DDA. John Hieftje, who’d made a joke about “profanity on the Internet” when defending McWilliams on September 3rd, turned several shades of red, and stared wide-eyed at Underwood, obviously mortified. Council member Jane Lumm, stunned, put her hand over her mouth and shook her head slowly.
Ward 1 Council member Sabra Briere, who’d justified her tie-breaking vote in favor of McWilliams’s proposed appointment by saying she’d read through the allegedly offensive materials and had found nothing that bothered her, found very important things to read on her computer screen as Underwood left the podium. Maybe, just maybe, Briere was pondering what she should do with the ice cream in her freezer at home.
At the end of the October 7th Council meeting, McWilliams nomination was “reopened” in order to consider it at the final Council meeting in October. One imagines Hieftje is planning to try to sort out the mess he made. He’d do better to get to the store and stock up on antacids.
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