The big debate


The debate went pretty well on Friday night. The Dreamland Theater was full, and, from what I hear, people found the exchange between the two candidates informative. Personally, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the way things went, but I think that has more to do with the format than with either my performance or that of the candidates. It didn’t really hit me until about five minutes into the whole thing, but debates, by their very nature, are kind of cold, and not terribly informative. I’m still glad that we did it, but I think, in the future, if we ever do it again, I’d rather just interview the candidates back-to-back. I think that we would get better, more candid responses if we did it that way. Debates, I’m now convinced, just don’t allow for meaningful dialogue.

And that’s the thing that really bothered me about the debate. Every time one of the candidates responded to a question, I wanted to follow up, but I couldn’t. I wanted to press them for details, and maybe I could have, but I thought that my probing could be misconstrued as biased. In other words, I was afraid that, if I were to ask Candidate One to elaborate on something that he said, that his supporters might see it as an attack of some kind, or, worse yet, that Candidate Two might perceive it as though I were helping Candidate One to respond. So, I just asked my questions, which were pretty good, and kept my mouth shut. There were probably 50 times that I wanted to jump in and press for more, but didn’t. And I think that’s what kept eating at me. I knew that I could have done better, but the format, as we’d constructed it, wouldn’t allow me to.

But, even with that, I think that we gave people a good show. Folks seemed to particularly like the musical questions, which were delivered by local celebrity, Charlie Slick, and the “lightening round,” which came at the very end. And, hopefully, the rest of it was at least moderately tolerable, of not terribly informative.

Those of you who didn’t catch the debate, our hope is to have an edited version online soon, followed by a version for Ann Arbor Community Access Television. I’ll post details here when I have them.

[The above photo, taken by Tom Perkins, accompanied an article about the debate which ran on the site today. My hope is that they’re OK with my using the image here.]

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  1. Posted June 21, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed it – but I agree that debates are very limited in what you take away from each person. I would love to see a show where you back-to-back interview them :)

  2. Knox
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    The comments on Ann Arbor Dot Com following the story are great.

  3. Stephen
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    The video of the fight between the Mark puppet and the professional wrestler that started the whole thing off was great, as was the interview with Charlie Slick. I wouldn’t beat myself up over it too much. It was more entertaining than any debate I’ve seen before.

  4. Tim
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    A wide range of comments at

    From this:

    The title of this article brought me here to read about some ridiculous staged debate and have a guffaw or two.

    The jokes on me. This is the kind of debate (or at least presentation) of the issues I wish I could see at the State and Federal levels too.

    A puppet moderated debate? With questions sung by the audience to the debators? Ha! Ha! The jokes on me! And I’m glad.

    Thank you all!

    To this:

    A puppet moderator?????????? Seriously?

    I am now utterly suprised that Ypsilanti is even remotely close to the situation that it is in!!! (

    Maybe the we can get Jim Henson’s Ghost to get his Muppets together and start working on the Water St Project! Or better yet, BEEKER for Mayor. Geez.

    I wasn’t there, so I’ll withhold judgment.

  5. Alice 734
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Can’t wait to see it on TV.

  6. Posted June 21, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The comments on do rock! I said something about how it was so cool and this person came on a few posts later and said that “purhaps” we should keep voting for Democrats and ruining Ypsi and the “ladie” who said how cool it was obviously doesn’t live around here unless said “ladie” likes drug dealers and hookers. I am thinking of changing my user name to LadiePatti and in fact, “purhaps” changing my real name to LadiePatti. Cuz that would be the shizzle.
    For the record, I like neither drug dealers nor hookers.

  7. Edward
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Here’s an interesting question for you. Are the Ann Arbor candidates for mayor debating one another anywhere? Before you look down on Ypsi, you might want to look at yourselves.

  8. Karen Hodges
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I liked that you asked them what they thought of changing the name of Ypsi to East Ann Arbor.

  9. Tim
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    In all this talk of what worked and what didn’t, I find it odd that no one mentioned the sound. The only really bad thing was the god-awful noise coming from outside. Every time someone opened the door, that shitty music from the Crossroads festival came pounding in, totally ruining the mood of the debate. It was terrible. Please never plan to have anything on a Friday night again in the summer. Otherwise, it was great.

  10. kjc
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    ha. see, i wondered about that…

  11. Mark
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. I agree with almost everything said. And I am curious as to whether the two candidates running in the Democratic primary for Mayor of Ann Arbor will debate. I don’t know that it’ll help, but if they want to drive out to Ypsi, I’m sure we can make room for them on the next bill. I’d likely approach it differently, though.

  12. Lois
    Posted June 21, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    If you did host a debate between Heiftje and Lesko, who would you go to the Tap Room with afterwards?

  13. Posted June 21, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    I think I understand where you’re going with this, Lois… Here’s my response.

    I went to the Tap Room afterward with the Dreamland Tonight crew. After our last show, we went to the Keystone Underground, and, after this one, we went to the Tap Room. We chose to go there because Chris Sandon’s significant other, Morgan, was there with two of her friends. (Chris runs all the multimedia stuff during our shows.)

    So, we went in, sat down, and, uncharacteristically for me, I bought a round of beers. I bought 10 Oberons. They were $2.50 each. In addition to me and Chris, Mike Shecket was there, as was Patrick Elkins. (Mike is the guy who picks people out of the audience, and holds up the “applause” sign. Patrick does the puppetry with Naia.) Morgan and her friends were also at the table, as was Ben Miller, who had been in the audience. That was the extent of our group.

    We were sitting there, having drinks, and discussing the show, when, across the room, I noticed that the Mayor was having a beer with Gary Clark, with whom I served on the 2020 Task Force. As they were leaving, they both came over and said goodbye. They didn’t stay for beers. They didn’t talk politics. They just said goodbye.

    I think Lois is implying that I went out for beers with the Mayor after the show, and that isn’t true. We were on different sides of the same bar, but we were not together. And I encourage you to contact any of the people I’m mentioned here to corroborate what I’ve just said.

    This city, by the way, if you can’t tell, is fucking crazy. Some people, it would seem, have it in their minds that I’m for one candidate and against another, and it simply isn’t true. The questions that I asked were fair. I didn’t play favorites. And you know it… Pedal your conspiracy theories somewhere else.

    Now, I hope someone from Paul’s camp leaves a comment suggesting that I’m on Pete’s team because my puppet was wearing a Vote for Brian Robb button.

    I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but it really is a wonder that anyone in this town ever decides to contribute a damned thing.

  14. kjc
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    To further prove your impartiality, I’d need to see you and the crew at Smarty Katz.

  15. Knox
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    I like that someone has spies following you around. That’s cool.

  16. Kristin
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    The League of Women Voters is hosting a series of debates for the Ann Arbor candidates. They don’t mention puppets, but I guess that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

  17. E Blast
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Steve Pierce as Agent 13.

    (Sorry for the Get Smart reference.)

  18. El Bow
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    The Courier must have been there too. And they’ve got video. Here’s the article, followed by the URL.

    It wasn’t exactly JFK vs. Nixon, thanks in part to a puppet moderator, but the first mayoral debate between current Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber and mayor hopeful Pete Murdock accomplished its goal of introducing the candidates and their respective platforms to the public.

    Dreamland Tonight, a non-profit puppet theater located on downtown Washington Street, hosted the debate while puppet Mark Maynard, the creation of local blogger Mark Maynard, acted as the moderator.

    In front of a packed house, puppet Mark fired off questions to each candidate in regular debate style, while each candidate was given three minutes to answer and short rebuttals as well.

    The issues ranged from public transit to crime, and included other topics such as the Water Street Project, the Thompson Block and Ypsilanti Schools.

    “It’s a lot of fun being mayor,” said Schreiber. “It’s a lot of work, but you get to work with a lot of great people and there are a lot of things you can do as mayor that will leave a lasting impact on the city. It’s a great experience and it’s great to be a part of legislation that could help the city.”

    Murdock said he wants to be mayor again because he feels he can positively affect the city through the crucial four-year period approaching the area.

    “The next four years will be very difficult for not just the city, but also the state and probably the world,” Murdock said. “I want to be a part of coming up with a solution to these problems.”

    On the issue of coming up with ways to generate new revenue in the city and to attract new residents, Mayor Schreiber reiterated his stance on the fact that Ypsilanti is changing and the businesses need to reflect that in order to bring in new people.

    “Ypsilanti is changing from an industrial town to a vibrant, arts and entertainment, technology-driven city and that’s what will attract new business and attract young people to move here and invest in the city.”

    Murdock said that Ypsilanti is a city with a vast population of older people and younger people, which puts the majority of the population on the ends of the spectrum.

    “A lot of people moved here a long time ago because of the industrial jobs and now they aren’t here anymore,” Murdock said. “A lot of people without extensive education backgrounds are now out of jobs so we need to create job situations for people who don’t necessarily have the ability to do high-education jobs to find work.”

    Schreiber agreed saying that projects like the Parkview Apartment renovations will generate between $6-$12 million in funds for the city between jobs and other work contracts.

    Water Street, another hotly contested issue for residents, was a place where the candidates didn’t see eye to eye. While Schreiber said that zoning is imperative to the development, and that city council needs to lay plans for a vision, Murdock said that zoning would not be ideal for potential suitors of the property.

    “Zoning, by its very nature, is restrictive,” Murdock said.

    Murdock also said that he would like to see more collaboration with Eastern Michigan University, especially when it comes to policing.

    “I think they actually have a bigger force right now than (the Ypsilanti Police Department),” he said. “It’s important to keep crime low by growing these partnerships with neighborhood associations and other groups.”

    The debate wasn’t all seriousness though, as puppet Mark interjected with comedy, and lighthearted questions came in the form of song and speed-round firing.

    Maynard joked with the candidates about whether the name of Ypsilanti should be changed to East Ann Arbor.

    “I’d go for Ann Arbor-Tucky,” Schreiber said.

    “I think we should rename it West Ann Arbor just to confuse them even more,” Murdock responded.

    The debate wrapped up with each candidate thanking the audience and saying “something nice” about the other.

    “I think Paul is a dedicated city employee and I appreciate him,” Murdock said.

    “I love you, Pete,” is how Schreiber responded.

    Jeremy Allen is a staff writer for Heritage Newspapers. He can be reached at

  19. Posted July 22, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    The footage of the debate is now available online.

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