I told myself this weekend that I was done writing about the Ypsilanti City Council race, but, now that I sit here, thinking over how I’m going to vote tomorrow, I find that I have one more thing that I’d like to say… Before I get to it, though, I’d like to preface it by saying that, in the ten years of running this site, I’ve never endorsed a candidate for local office. Yes, I’ve gone knocking on doors for Gore, Kerry and Obama, and written about those experiences here, but I’ve never told anyone, for instance, who I wanted to be our Mayor. I’ve never worked on a local campaign, and, to my knowledge, I’ve never had a single sign in my yard supporting a ballot initiative. For some reason, it has been important to me to stay impartial. And I’ve tried, to the best of my ability, to stay evenhanded when writing about things like the proposed City income tax. People, I’m sure, had ideas as to which side of the debate I was on, but I tried, as best that I could, not to use this platform to lobby one way or the other. Rightly or wrongly, I thought that what I’d created here was too important, and too fragile to monkey with. I thought that, as soon as I weighed in on an issue, I’d run the risk of changing the dynamics, and jeopardize the often fruitful conversation that takes place in the comments section. As you’ve no doubt noticed, however, I took a turn about a week ago, and actively came out against Mike Eller.
I did this not only because I found Eller’s politics to be beyond the pale, but because no one else in the “media” seemed to be talking about his history as someone who has actively fought against civil rights, anti-discrimination, public transportation, alternative energy, recycling and any number of other things that I hold as sacrosanct. In spite of this, though, had he not chosen to run as a Democrat, I likely could have found a way to keep my mouth shut. I knew that I didn’t have a choice, though, when I heard that a relatively progressive friend of mine was supporting him, having been taken in by his message of fiscal responsibility. When I heard that, I jumped into the fray, pumping out post after post about his racist, sexist and homophobic views, as expressed through the far right organization that he, until recently, led – the America First Party of Michigan… One more thing. Someone, a few days ago, said that I was grandstanding. They said that I was going after Eller because I wanted to make more of a name for myself. You can believe me or not when I say this, but I would much rather have written about other things this past week. This was not something that I wanted to do. I feel as though it has hurt this site, and, quite frankly, it has depressed the hell out of me. But I couldn’t, in good conscience, just sit by and not say anything.
At this point, I should add that I don’t have any great love for Pete Murdock, for whom I will be voting tomorrow. Rightly or wrongly, I blame Pete for much what we’re dealing with today, in terms of the toxic political environment in which we find ourselves. Maybe Ypsi politics has always been toxic, but I first noticed it when Pete, who was then aligned with Steve Pierce, set out to kill the first city income tax ballot initiative put before voters. Generally speaking, I found their side to be less than honest and transparent. I also found them to be unwilling to engage in constructive dialogue. They were interested, in my opinion, in winning at all costs, and they employed tactics that would see this accomplished, regardless of the damage done to our community. And, to some extent they were successful. Pete Murdock and Brian Robb both got voted onto City Council, where, a few years later, they supported the City income tax that they previously conspired with Pierce to scuttle. Now, of course, things are different. Steve, for whatever reason, has changed teams, and he’s now working with Mike Eller, a man whom, just four years earlier, he actively campaigned against, alerting people, via a website that he’s since taken down, as to his radical views, which, at least then, Pierce knew ran contrary to the norms of our community. But, now Pete’s on the outside, and I’m going to be voting for him to keep Mike Eller out of power. Such is politics in small town America… I should add, in Pete’s defense, that he has been, in my opinion, a good member of Council, in spite of my initial concerns. He’s been responsive to my needs as a constituent and he appears to care passionately about things that I believe in, like public transportation, environmental stewardship and civil rights. Furthermore, he’s knowledgeable about the City’s finances, and I respect him for changing his tune, and supporting the City income tax, even though he knew that doing so would make it harder for him to win reelection. Regardless of how you feel about the income tax, I don’t see how you could not respect that. But, as I said, I’m still a bit conflicted, given the history… My friend Murph, Ypsi’s former city planner, had the following to say about Pete yesterday, in an email he sent to friends.
I usually stay pretty quiet on Ypsilanti’s local elections–and often believe there are multiple good candidates in races. This time, though, I will say that I strongly and enthusiastically support Pete Murdock for the 3rd ward Council seat.
The main reason is that Pete has proven, time and again, to have the combination of ideas and experience that we need on Council. With the fiscal problems that we face, we need Council to have institutional knowledge about how things work and get done–and we need it now, not after a 2-year learning curve. While I certainly have my disagreements with some of Pete’s decisions, it’s always clear that he’s done his homework and has sound reasons. He’s going to all the meetings of the neighborhood and business associations, he’s constantly going to the neighborhoods and downtown businesses for feedback, and he knows who to work with to get what done.
If you want a Council that’s finding a way to squeeze money out of the budget to maintain police and fire service: vote for Pete. If you want a Council that’s finding ways to keep the streets paved, the buses running, and the water mains fixed: vote for Pete. If you want a Council that’s proactively applying incentive programs to support homebuyers and business owners: vote for Pete.
Any other vote in the 3rd Ward is a vote against tackling our problems in a timely fashion. “Fresh ideas” are fine, but only if you have the knowledge of how Ypsi (and Washtenaw, and Lansing) works, and can use that knowledge to make your ideas work.
So, with all of that said, I hereby endorse Pete Murdock for Council, and encourage you to vote for him enthusiastically.
Oh, one more thing… A friend wrote to me a few days ago and told me that, while out walking his dog, he struck up a conversation with a neighbor who had an Eller sign in her front yard. When the friend asked why she was supporting Eller, she said that she knew about his statements concerning homosexuals, and how we should allow them all to die of AIDS, but that she already paid enough in taxes, and didn’t want to pay any more. And, I’ve heard similar things from others. Some people, it would seem, are willing to put up with a little hate, if it means more money in their pockets. Leaving aside for the moment just how sickening that is, do people really think that’s how our City Council works? Do they really think that Murdock, if he wins reelection, will raise their taxes? Don’t they recall that, not too long ago, we voted as a community not to institute a City income tax? I’m assuming they don’t. Because, if they did, they’d know that Council doesn’t have the power to pass an income tax. It has to come before the voters – those of us who actually pay the taxes.
People seem to be mad that Murdock was one of six on Council who supported bringing the idea of an income tax to a vote. What do they think Eller will do differently? Will he fight to keep it from coming to a vote? Is that what people want? As disgusting as it is that people would vote for this man just to keep their taxes low, the thing that really bothers me is that their reasoning just doesn’t make logical sense. Members of Council can’t pass taxes. Eller, however, if he does win, can do a number of things that, in my view, are not consistent with the values of this City as I know them. He could, for instance, employ his racist/sexist/xenophobic views when hiring City employees, fight to overturn the City’s anti-discrimination ordinance (a cause which he’s contributed financially to in the past), work to weaken zoning ordinances, work to bring businesses to Water Street that do not reflect the future direction of our community, end recycling, stop walkability initiatives, and any number of things that really will negatively impact life in this City that we call home… And, that, my friends, is why I’ll be pulling the lever for Pete Murdock tomorrow morning.