Last Saturday June 14, I attended the Ann Arbor Democratic Party Mayoral Debate. It was a typical debate and not very exciting. Lots of questions, lots of answers, all of which I am not going to go over in detail here. For a transcript of the questions and answers take a look over on the Ann Arbor Chronicle for the details.
Instead , I am going to give you my impressions of the candidates drawn from not only their performances at the debate, but also from their performances at council. I thought I would do this early in the debate season, so that you, the readers would know where I stand on the candidates. Let’s face it, my mind is made up already. Why pretend to be neutral when I don’t like 3 of the 4 candidates already.
The League of Women Voter’s Mayoral Debate that will occur on July 9 is when I will analyze the candidate’s answers to specific questions. That is where I will compare and contrast the candidates answers and write about how their answers sounded to me.
So here goes, this is the current impressions I have of the candidates.
Kunselman is the “devil’s advocate” type of candidate. No matter the issue, no matter the discussion, he is on the negative side, the opposite side, the side of anti-establishment. He embraces this role and has learned to play this side of his campaign up more and more often. He is the candidate that likes to throw jabs at John Hieftje whenever he can.
If you are the curmudgeon type who likes this sort of thinking, then Kunselman is the candidate for you. If you hate everything about this city and want the city to only spend funds on the limited basic services, nothing more, then this is your Teapublican candidate.
Sad thing is that Kunselman did not always act this way. He has changed over the years. He repeatedly refers to politics as not being personal and it’s all about playing the game. I think that he enjoys his new found role, maybe too much. He would be more likable if he returned to his old self, but then again maybe it wouldn’t be as much fun for him. It will be a sorry state of affairs if this sort of negative campaign actually took over the Mayor’s office.
Sally Hart Peterson
On the other side of the spectrum we have Sally Hart Peterson. Peterson is the “can’t we just all get along candidate”. She has a lot of pie in the sky dreams of economic policies but really does not have much of a plan to carry them through. She tends to imply that if everyone would be nice and congenial to each other then we could get some stuff done.
While being congenial is good, thinking consensus is brought about by being congenial is simply naive. We are a town full of different viewpoints. For every issue, whether controversial or not, there is a group for it and a group against it. These two sides may never agree. To think that you can make them agree is due to inexperience. I just don’t think that Peterson has enough years under her belt to run the city.
Although she has leadership experience in the private sector, it is a different type of leadership experience. Private sectors leaders dictate their management ideas down through the ranks. It does not matter what others think. It does not matter if the workforce agrees or not. Political leaders need to have more of a negotiation and compromising style. They need to listen to the public, but know that sometimes they may have to make a decision that could be unpopular.
Although I agree with some of her economic policies, her lack of a concrete plan makes me think that she may not understand how tough the mayoral job may be. She has only been on council for two years and I think the answers in the debate show her inexperience.
I am sure that she is a genuine and nice person, but her middle of the road style has made her vote the wrong way on some important issues in my opinion. With experience on council she may learn to look at the unintended consequences of some of her votes ahead of time. A leader needs to look at the big picture all the time and not just the little picture regarding the immediate issue.
She is not ready for prime time yet IMO.
Sabra Briere is the the epitome of the typical politician in regards to how many criticize political behavior. She is the “I was for it, before I was against it candidate” (and vice versa). She says one thing, but in the end does another. Yes she talks a good game and makes it sound like she is for something, but that might come before she actually votes against it.
Although I agree with about 70% of what Sabra votes for, I just don’t trust her to do the right thing when it matters.. She touts herself as a populist politician, but I think too populist at times. I don’t believe that the loudest voices amongst her constituents should get her every attention, but they tend to get just that. I think of her as beholden to a small interest group with disregard to what matters for the entire city as a whole or even for her entire ward as a whole. Many of you might think that it is good for a councilmember to be ‘responsive’ to residents, but personally I don’t think the resident who yells the loudest is correct all the time or deserves to be elevated to a more important status. I realize that only a small fraction of residents vote in the primary, but I expect my Mayor to have a broader vision for the city than just thinking about who will vote for them in the next election.
Sometimes a candidate’s own judgement is needed. I have not seen her adequately stand up for things that I believe are important to the city, but are in conflict with some of her residents views. Sometimes she does give excellent answers to questions from constituents and in debates. I just don’t believe that she necessarily will live up to some of those answers.
Christopher Taylor is the “eloquent candidate”. He is smart, well spoken and explains things in detail. I like his style and how he presents the issues with facts. He shows an openness to the issues that others don’t. Others tend to always take the anti-side or against the issue so often that they appear to not be open to new ideas, while Taylor presents his openness in straightforward simple ideas. Yeah, sometimes his vocabulary is a tad bit larger than mine, but hey it’s good to learn new words every now and then.
I agree with about 90% of Taylor’s views on the issues. When Taylor votes the opposite of what I would prefer, I always know that there is a well thought out reason why. I trust him and his judgement. He is one of two councilmembers who I send off a ranting email to when I get pissed off over something that I didn’t like happening at council. He always responds and not always to tell me he agrees. He understands the process and tries to work within it to get a job done.
At the debate, Taylor was clearly the forward thinking and positive candidate. I liked that. He clearly wants the city to move forward, not backwards. There was just an openness to his rhetoric that implied conversation and discussions about issues. Taylor is my pick for Mayor. He is the most qualified, the most optimistic and the most trustworthy.
So there you have it…my impressions of the candidates. Now you know where I will be coming from when I analyze the questions/answers at the League of Women Voter’s debate.
To get a glimpse of the candidates presentation style watch this short video containing the candidates opening statements that was posted on the Ann Arbor New Mlive article by Ryan Stanton (7:33 min)
For more of a review of what happened at the Ann Arbor Democratic Party debate check out the Ann Arbor News articles.
Ryan Stanton, “Ann Arbor mayoral candidates take turns praising their opponents“. Ann Arbor News, June 14, 2014.
Ryan Stanton, “Ann Arbor mayoral candidates lay out reasons for running to become city’s next mayor“. Ann Arbor News, June 14, 2014.