by Tony Pinnell
I know many of you in Ward 2 through Burns Park and Tappan Schools. I’m writing to you because of the upcoming City Council election and the candidates on your ballot for Ward 2. Recent developments in Ann Arbor politics have taken a nasty turn, and I’m fed up: it’s time to act. This is not a soundbyte, not some 3-paragraph bit of fluff. For the faint of heart, look away. If you want facts, read on.
Many of us from across the city have fought hard to refine downtown zoning to better buffer certain interface locations that strongly impact old neighborhoods, and to drive development of downtown housing suitable to permanent, resident stakeholders – not just monoculture student-dorm highrises. In response, Kirk Westphal and the Planning Commission are responsibly reviewing and revising the current legal framework in line with lessons learned from recent controversial projects, and changes are being made at this very moment.
Jane Lumm from Ward 2 voted in City Council to risk catastrophic lawsuits by the developer firm of the watershed 413 East Huron project who, like it or not, was fully within its legal rights. Her poor judgment was irresponsible: the massive claims would have had huge ramifications for Ann Arbor. Our legal liability insurer would have refused to cover such high-risk refusal by Council of a by-right project.
Even M-Live/Annarbor.com chastised her for this vote:
“We question her decision to vote against the 413 E. Huron high-rise development. While we don’t like the idea of building a project of that scale in that neighborhood, the zoning guidelines clearly allowed it. As Westphal notes, it’s unwise to turn down projects that comply with your zoning rule.”
Did you know that this massive litigation against us came within ONE VOTE of happening? Jane played no-win high-risk poker with your taxpayer dollars for petty political pandering.
Do you know what your personal share of a lost $15 million lawsuit would be?
This is just one of many urgent reasons why it is vital for Ward 2 to vote Ms. Lumm out of office on NOVEMBER 5th, and vote in the Democratic candidate Kirk Westphal.
Here are some other concrete reasons why.
Limiting D1 zoning to where it fits is a huge issue – but just one of many that Council regulates to shape the city’s future. Both Ms. Lumm and Stephen Kunselman in Ward 3 have not only spoken out against many issues that my family and I are strongly in favor of: they block motions, hinder progress, drag their heels, spread tall twisted tales about selling off golf courses, and make insinuations instead of talking rock-solid facts. It breeds lies and propaganda. I don’t like the black-and-white politicking that Ms. Lumm, Mr. Kunselman and others practice: for them, you’re either on this team or that team, either “pro-Hieftje” or “anti-Hieftje”.
This is a pathetically simplistic approach to policy-making, and I resent it and reject it.
Kirk Westphal is far and away the better all-round candidate, with deeply informed expertise and a strong sense of integrated future development on all fronts. Kirk believes in detailed facts – purposeful planning and implementation with vision. He supports our zoning reform efforts for high-quality, urbane living in Ann Arbor that promote downtown living and business while protecting old, existing neighborhoods. Was Kirk Westphal already on Planning Commission when some D1 zoning decisions were made that I didn’t agree with? Yes – but also lots that I did and do agree with. And that was then. Now, the zoning review is ongoing, and the changes are at hand.
This is what I mean by rejecting black-and-white, them-vs.-us voting.
I’m fed up with the shallow, anti-train, anti-new train station, and lump-sum anti-DDA sentiment that Ms. Lumm and others have been fostering. She rejected federal funding to research multiple modes of public transportation and the connector route from Plymouth down to State Street – as if these issues were unrelated to our traffic problems on the Washtenaw and Plymouth corridors. Kirk Westphal knows that Ann Arbor and Michigan need state-of-the-art transportation infrastructure to attract and keep high-end national and international employers. He recognizes that the U of M is not our only employer, that airlines and roads are clogged everywhere, and that modern businesses and their employees demand fast, integrated commuter and regional rail and bus services.
Lumm accepts federal funding and taxes for roads without question, but rejects comparable funding for other modes of transport – a nonsensical double-standard. Roads serve private industry just as much as railways do. Southeast Michigan businesses and commuters want top rail service, and Lumm fully disregards the needs of commuters who rely on public transport to get to their jobs e.g. at the U of M hospitals and downtown. Demand is there, and quality service generates demand: Ann Arbor wants state-of-the-art integrated rail-and-bus service now.
Ms. Lumm’s accusations about lack of infrastructural development and staffing in recent years range from misleading to blatantly false, and are an insult to the ongoing hard work by our expert city staffers. More police? More firemen? Better roads? Of course – everyone wants more, and wants to do better. Compared to any other city in America, though, our administration has been doing brilliantly in the face of huge tax revenue losses due to the Pfizer pullout and the economic downturn, budget cuts, and the huge Stadium Boulevard bridge project. Did Ms. Lumm want to pay for police and firemen pensions? NO. What about water infrastructure? Work is already underway all around A2, and is permanently ongoing. Could Jane Lumm have accelerated that work during the downturn? NO. Water infrastructure is about serious engineering, and is permanently ongoing – complicated, hard, messy, long-term engineering that takes time and professionals: Not electioneering soundbytes.
Kirk Westphal has the professional patience and attention needed to streamline and implement ongoing infrastructural improvements and give targeted focus to weakpoints. Engineers and staffers – the hands-on men and women with the dirt under their fingernails – don’t appreciate soundbyte complaints from knee-jerk politicking.
As M-Live/Annarbor.com points out,
“Ms. Lumm lacks the long-term vision for the city that Mr. Westphal emphasizes he will bring.”
Jane Lumm votes against our Greenbelt – a bold, robust concept admired across the United States as an exemplary model – and simplistically rejects Ann Arbor’s safety-at-crosswalks ordinance in favor of motorist negligence. Here are the facts: Ms. Lumm wants my daughter and your children to walk and cycle to school according to Lansing’s Law. She wants the blind and otherwise disabled persons to have to step out and enter out into traffic at pedestrian crosswalks before drivers are even required to start braking. She wants the elderly who don’t drive any longer to do the same – walk out into traffic, before cars have to stop for them. This is Lansing’s Law, and don’t let Ms. Lumm tell you otherwise. It is Lumm’s express intent to repeal our safer local solution that we chose, in favor of Lansing’s long out-of-date law.
We’re forced to accept enough bad law-making from Lansing – we don’t need Jane Lumm doing it for them. Don’t accept pandering to distracted, negligent car drivers who violate the law and reject our codified city policy of walkability and bikeability. Drivers who rear-end other motorists at crosswalks are negligent, end of story – unless of course they kill someone: then they can also rightfully be charged with involuntary manslaughter. This is about firm law enforcement. Ask the police what they think of motorists who break both state and local law at crosswalks.
Mr. Westphal knows that transportation infrastructure, walkability, bikeability, schools and safety are part and parcel of what cutting-edge national and international businesses look for in choosing locations. He knows that businesses want driveable, walkable and bikeable residential and commuter environments. By rejecting and eliminating crosswalks at walkable intervals, Jane Lumm reveals a stunning ignorance of checklists that not only 21st century businesses, but also leading academics use to pick communities with quality of life. It’s like her ally Stephen Kunselman’s complaint about the road signage that the DDA has put up directing the way downtown for visitors to our city. Steve says that’s a waste of money, because we all have smartphones, and can look online or fiddle with our GPS while driving … There is no place on City Council for such flippantly poor judgment and complete lack of common sense.
It makes no difference if someone says Jane Lumm “listens well” or “asks the right questions”, if she consistently comes up with the wrong solutions: What matters are results.
It’s time to break this trajectory in Ann Arbor, and I know you folks in Ward 2 aren’t fooled by simplistic flag-waving and flimsy pushbutton catchphrases of little substance. It’s time to recognize this pseudo “independent” label for what it is.
So here is the solution, and it’s a sure bet:
Vote NOVEMBER 5th for the Democrat Kirk Westphal to represent you on City Council.
Go to Kirk’s website to check out the facts: http://www.kirkforcouncil.org/
or write him at [email protected], or call him at (734) 845-9220
Ann Arbor has always ranked among the rare few – the handful of cities with vision that get it right.
Choose Kirk Westphal for solid, reliable, future-oriented thinking and engineering. Setting the pace demands a steady course and top performance. Leadership is about good judgment, making it better, and moving forward based on solid facts.
Ward 2, we’re counting on you. Don’t march to the rear with Jane Lumm.
This is Ann Arbor: We’re leaders – we set the standard.
On November 5th, go vote for Kirk Westphal, and get your friends out to vote for him.
(Tony Pinnell is a resident of the 3rd Ward in the City of Ann Arbor)
(The statements and opinions expressed in this guest column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of “Middle of the Left” or of any other future contributor to this website.)