Over on the Ann Arbor Chronicle, Dave Askins has written an article1 about Bob Dascola’s desire to run for Ann Arbor City Council in the third ward. The Ann Arbor Clerk has told him that he did not meet city charter eligibility requirements to run for city council in the next election cycle. Now Mr. Dascola wants to sue the city of Ann Arbor in order to assert his right to run for office. Really? A non-resident of the Ann Arbor area, moves to the city and within months decides he knows what’s best for us? I don’t like it. Read below to see my reasoning why.
The Ann Arbor City charter states:
Eligibility for City Office – General Qualifications
Section 12.2. Except as otherwise provided in this charter, a person is eligible to hold a City office if the person has been a registered elector of the City, or of territory annexed to the City or both, and, in the case of a Council Member, a resident of the ward from which elected, for at least one year immediately preceding election or appointment. This requirement may be waived as to appointive officers by resolution concurred in by not less than seven members of the Council.
Mr. Dascola apparently lived in Grass Lake, MI until a year and a half ago and has only recently registered to vote here in Ann Arbor in January 2014.1 If or when he changed over his driver’s license to an Ann Arbor address is unknown by me. Typically, you change over your voter’s registration when you change your address on your driver’s license. Since he only changed his voters registration in January 2014 it makes me question when he officially changed his driver’s license over to a new permanent address. So in my mind, the year and a half he claims to have lived in Ann Arbor still may only be 3 months potentially.
Nonetheless, the City Clerk deemed him ineligible to run based on the residency requirements spelled out in our city charter.
Now, an ambulance chasing lawyer type, Tom Wieder, has taken on the case and is now threatening to sue the City of Ann Arbor on Dascola’s behalf stating some 40 year old law about residency requirements and voter registration requirements being unconstitutional.
I am not a lawyer or pretend to be one, but what I do know is that Detroit has just looked at this issue last year. I was amazed that Askins at the Chronicle1 and even Wieder did not even mention or compare/contrast this issue with the Detroit election with Duggan last year. They just appear to be concerned with the 40 year old law, that may or may not have been the final word on the matter. Obviously they need to leave the bubble of Ann Arbor a little more often or least read an outside newspaper now and then.
Detroit Primary Election 2013
Last year, the the Detroit Election Commission disqualified a potential city council candidate, Marc Cayce for the August 6, 2013 primary because he did not meet the residency requirement in the Detroit City Charter.2 (Just like in Mr. Dascola’s case)
There was also the issue with Mike Duggan who would have met the residency requirement a couple weeks before the filing deadline. However, his over eager staff handed in the petition signatures a month before the filing deadline, which then caused some people to claim that he was a couple weeks short of a year for the residency requirement. His political opponent, Tom Barrow, cried foul. Barrow wanted Duggan disqualified. Barrow decided to take the issue to court.
The issue for the court was whether the date of candidacy should be calculated, at the time the signatures are handed in to the city clerk or at the filing deadline. The Wayne County Circuit Court as well as the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Duggan did not meet the residency requirement and disqualified him from the ballot.3 However, Duggan ran as a write in candidate and eventually won the election for Mayor of Detroit.
(I do want to say that I disagreed with the court’s decision. Duggan did have a year in residency in Detroit before the filing deadline, he just handed his signatures in too early. I was disappointed that the court did not recognize this. It sort of diminished the intent of the law in my mind. But all worked out in the end for Duggan with his write in campaign. In full disclosure, I was undecided on a candidate in this race. )
The non-lawyer in me surely thinks that if a residency requirement was illegal that one of the two courts that ruled on residency requirements in 2013 during the Duggan case would have mentioned that. But what do I know. Maybe finding some obscure law from 40 years ago to override currently accepted law is what some like to spend their time on. Personally, I think it is obstructionist and a waste of time and money.
My question for you to think about is this:
Do you want to ever vote for someone who is suing the city (which means suing you and me and all residents) for his right to override our city charter?
I say don’t….don’t vote for him if he happens to find his way on to the ballot.
Typically, I expect a city council candidate to want to do right by the city, to do the best for the city, to not purposely cause the city financial distress. One year is not all the long a time period; it is not 5 years or 10 years or an unreasonable amount of time.. Why can’t he wait for a year, get to know the city and it’s residents and run next year? His personal desires to run now is not beneficial to the city, it is only beneficial to him and his ego. Why cause a financial burden of defending a lawsuit for the city intentionally? I just don’t get why this is so direly important now….right now. We are not Detroit….in bankruptcy…looking for a saving grace. We are one of the best run cities in the state. if Dascola thinks the city is actually in dire straits then that should be a red flag for why not to vote for him….he is separated from reality.
This selfishness is a reason why I would never vote for a candidate such as Dascola….ever….after this lawsuit. It makes me question his motives and his judgement.
Another question is:
Do you want to vote for a candidate who has lived in the city less than a year, period?
A year is such a short time. How does Mr. Dascola even know what our issues are? He is from Grass Lake which is not even close to the edge of the city; it is in Jackson County. An issue important to Ann Arbor residents will not be appreciated in the same manner by someone who has lived in such a small town/rural environment . Yes, he owned a business here (a barbershop), but that does not mean he understands the neighborhoods or attitudes of the residents. It just means he understands how the residents of Ann Arbor like their hair cut. Has he ever stepped foot in one of our parks? Is he familiar with development issues? Does he understand the issues wit the students? One needs to live here for a time period to understand these things.
Should elected officials have to live in their districts?
It may come as a surprise to many of you but members of congress do not have to live within their district, only within their state. According to the Constitution:
Article 1, Section 2
No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
The constitution gives them the right to live outside the district, however most congressman do not. It was written with the wordage intentionally for whatever reason was relevant to them back in the day.
However, the Michigan Election Law says:
168.321 City officers; qualifications, nomination, election, appointment, term, and removal; list of candidates; quorum; election or appointment of successor.
(1) Except as provided in subsection (3) and sections 327, 641, 642, and 644g, the qualifications, nomination, election, appointment, term of office, and removal from office of a city officer shall be in accordance with the charter provisions governing the city.
It appears that Michigan Election Law gives Ann Arbor and any other city, such as Detroit, the right to provide qualifications in accordance with their city charter. I don’t know what Wieder and Dascola are trying to sue over. Like I said before I am not a lawyer, but it sure seems to me like they are just being obstructionist and trying to have the city waste a lot of money on a lawsuit.
I just don’t like the fact that a “carpetbagger” sort of candidate wants to come into town and run for a government seat. Not when we have a local resident who has announced candidacy for the same seat, Julie Grand, who has lived here for years, knows the area, and is dedicated to Ann Arbor.
I have never met Bob Dascola, he may be a really nice person for all I know, but I don’t think he has thought his position through very well. This is not about his rights, this is about what is right for our city. We deserve elected officials who wants to abide by our charter, our laws, and our resident’s concerns.
If he sues us and pushes his way on to the ballot, simply don’t vote for him. Don’t encourage carpetbagging. It would be a bad precedent.
non causa pro causa
1 Dave Askins, “Dascola to Assert Right to Run in Ward 3“, Ann Arbor Chronicle, March 15, 2014.
3 Michigan Court Of Appeals Keeps Duggan Off Mayoral Ballot, Deadline Detroit, June 18th 2013.