A few days ago, in the wake of the Jaycees’ candidate meet and greet event, AnnArbor.com wrote a story about Ypsilanti’s City Council race. In the article, they had the following to say about Mike Eller.
Mike Eller, 45, a lifelong Ypsilanti resident, is the owner of local business Populist Cleaning Company. Eller has never held public office but said his business background might give him an edge.
“We need to make Ypsilanti as business-friendly as possible,” Eller said. “I’m invested in the community and I’ve got some skin in the game. Ypsilanti makes it difficult to do business here. We have to find more ways to create revenue.”
Eller said the city needs more money coming in but increasing taxes is not the way. Eller also served as a volunteer for the Stop City Income Tax group. Keeping taxes as low as possible makes the community more attractive for homeowners, he said.
“It’s a proven fact that people who are considering where they’re going to live that the two things they look at is whether or not it’s a safe area and can they afford to live there. If they cant afford to live here or do business, we lose those opportunities.”
Eller said the current council is “out of touch” with the sentiments of residents.
“Clearly council and the residents aren’t seeing eye to eye on certain financial issues,” Eller said referencing to the city income tax and Water Street millage. Maintaining the core services should be first and everything (else) second.”
As you’ll notice, there’s no mention of Eller’s past as the head of the America First Party of Michigan, a radical right wing offshoot of the John Birch Society. And, other than a letter to the editor in July, from one of Eller’s enthusiastic supporters, which referred to him as a refreshingly friendly, no-nonsense businessman, that’s all that’s been written about him by our local paper of record this summer. I know that AnnArbor.com has other news to cover, but, journalistically speaking, I think it’s irresponsible of them to aid Eller in his attempt to hide his past as the head of a radical, far right organization, and cast himself as a Democrat, through the publication of such pieces. I think they owe it to the community to point out, for instance, that he’s said in the past that we should let our homosexual population die of AIDS, and that the women’s liberation movement is “the most destructive movement in the history of the country.”
This history, I think, is particularly relevant, as Eller has yet to renounce these statements. While he’s admitted to the fact that he was the head of the America First Party of Michigan, he has not said that he regrets having made these statements. He only says that the organization in question is “now-defunct.” And this, by the way, is debatable, as it appears as though he’s just taken all of his previous content from the America First Party of Michigan and put it online under a new name – The Democratic Populist Caucus. And, furthermore, it would appear that someone just recently launched an America First Party blog. There’s only one post on the site so far, and it’s an attack against Eller’s primary rival, Pete Murdock. So, for AnnArbor.com to perpetuate the myth that he’s a Democrat is, at best, lazy journalism.
So, I’m writing to AnnArbor.com’s News Director right now, asking that she please do the responsible thing, and correct their earlier coverage of the Eller campaign. Here is my letter. Assuming you like it, I’d like to ask that you forward it to Paula Gardner as well, after adding your own thoughts, etc.
Her email address is:
I’ve been watching your coverage of Ypsilanti’s third ward race closely, waiting for you to address the fact that Mike Eller, in spite of what might be printed on his yard signs, is not a Democrat. Sadly, it’s now three days before our Democratic primary, and the only pieces you’ve printed thus far have helped to obscure the fact that, far from being a Democrat, Eller, as the former head of the American First Party of Michigan, ascribes to a radical right wing philosophy that is extremely homophobic, sexist and racist. Among other things, he has called FDR and MLK “traitors” to our country, and said that both Social Security and the civil rights legislation that forms the foundation of our country, should be repealed. He is not, in other words, a Democrat in any accepted sense of the word. Furthermore, he has been given ample opportunity to disavow these beliefs and has not done so. Quite the opposite, he has created a new organization, called the Democratic Populist Caucus, which borrows heavily from the former America First Party of Michigan. I am not asking that AnnArbor.com take a position in this race. I am simply asking that you devote the resources necessary to correct your previously published pieces, which unquestioningly accepted the notion that he is simply a successful local businessman and Democrat. Ypsilanti voters deserve to know the truth.
If you have any questions concerning Mike’s history, you will find the 2008 platform of the America First Party of Michigan, which he authored, here:
I look forward to your response.
A reader of this site just copied me on her letter to Paula. As it’s better than mine, I thought that I’d share it here as well.
I’m sure you’re hearing this from several others, but I wanted to join in to ask you to please make some public mention of the fact that Mike Eller has not only been against the anti-discrimination legislation in Ypsi, any recycling programs, public transit, etc. He also has supported racist, sexist, homophobic and otherwise generally hateful stances. http://ellerfacts.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/read-the-america-first-party-of-michigan-platform/
He comes from a John Birch Society supporting family/past. He equates environmentalists with communists (“green is the new red” bumper sticker on his personal vehicle) and does not support our public schools (all of his children home schooled).
People of Ypsilanti do not know this about Eller and he benefits from that ignorance.
We need some local news coverage with regard to this information. Anything you could do to help would be greatly appreciated.
I’d go a step further. Not only would it be greatly appreciated, but I think it’s to be expected from our local paper of record… especially one that touts its “proud tradition of local journalism.” Coverage of items like this may not sell ad space, like articles about U-M football, but these are the kinds of stories that our local papers have to tell.
Oh, and here’s another good letter to Gardner that I was just copied on.
Dear Ms. Gardner,
I am writing, as I’m sure others have, to urge Ann Arbor.com to illuminate its readership about the true nature of Mike Eller’s campaign for Ypsilanti City Council. Though he has been running as a “Democrat,” this is a gross misrepresentation of his political platform, which includes the elimination of all forms of equity legislation as well as federal, state and local regulation of environmental and consumer protections, the elimination of all federal funds supporting public education, the support of radical anti-immigrant legislation (promoting self-deportation policies of the sort currently popular in the Southern states and Arizona), and the exclusion of the lgbt community from military service.
This is not a Democratic platform, and for AA.com to ignore this fact and allow Mr. Eller to misrepresent himself in this way to Ypsilanti’s electorate, represents a profound failure on your newspaper’s part to uphold the inherent values and responsibilities of the “fourth estate”. Please correct this oversight by paying adequate attention in your reporting to the false claims issued by the Eller for City Council campaign.
Now, please join us in writing to Paula, asking her to publish something prior to the election that would set the record straight, and give our friends and neighbors the information they need to make informed decisions.
update: I’ve heard from several people today that Paula Gardner sent the following note to folks who had written to her this weekend, at my urging, requesting that AnnArbor.com set the record straight on Mike Eller.
“Thanks for writing about this race. I’m sending this note to all of the people who responded to Mark’s call to email me, either pro or con. I did get a chance to talk to him by phone this morning, and I explained that we’ve been telling people concerned about any local race that we’ve maintained our policy of not introducing new coverage in the immediate days before the vote. This stance is not particular to this race; we’re making that call in other races, too.
AnnArbor.com cannot take a partisan position in any contest (and did not make endorsements for the primary), but we’re hearing passionate debate from many people expressing different viewpoints in certain races – and this is tops among them.
While we won’t be covering the specific political background of any candidate in a new story, the Ypsilanti City Council election story is part of our election roundup that’s on our homepage. It’ll stay there until after the polls close. Anyone who wishes to comment on the race (again, pro or con) can add to it – and be reasonably certain that voters in the city will see it.”
I wasn’t going to mention it here, but, as Paula sent an email out to folks, noting that we’d talked, I thought that I should say something… I knew when I asked you all to write to her that it was highly unlikely that AnnArbor.com would publish anything setting the record straight on Eller. I’d heard in the past that they had a policy against running stories on political races in the days before an election. I thought, however, that, if enough of us spoke out, we might persuade her to make an exception, as there was so clearly a failing on their part in this instance. Paula acknowledged that their coverage, “didn’t reach back far enough in the candidate’s backgrounds, and present their ranges of political experience to readers.” And I acknowledged that I shared some of the blame, as I’d waited until the last minute to bring this to her attention. (In retrospect, I should have written to her the day the article came out about the Jaycees’ event, which didn’t acknowledge Eller’s history.) I also told her that I was empathetic, as know she has a great deal to cover, and few resources at her disposal. In the end, I’d say it was a positive call, in that she acknowledged that the organization needed to spend more time covering Ypsilanti, and we made plans to speak again. Still, though, concerning tomorrow’s election, the outcome was unsatisfactory. And, for what it’s worth, I do think, if Eller wins, quite a bit of the blame belongs to the local press… Also, just one quick clarification. Paula says in her note that AA.com, “cannot take a partisan position,” as though I was asking for them to do that. I wasn’t. I was not asking for them to endorse Pete Murdock. I was merely asking that they share the relevant facts concerning this race with their readers. I understand that objectivity is important, and wouldn’t ask them to jeopardize that. With that said, though, I do think it’s newsworthy that one of the Democratic candidates has a history of fighting against things like public education, mass transit, recycling, civil rights, alternative energy, and any number of other core Democratic beliefs.
update: FYI… AnnArbor.com eventually addressed Eller’s past, but it wasn’t until after the election had taken place. Here’s a clip from the article:
…Some Ward 3 residents raised concerns in the days before the election about Eller, who ran as a Democrat but has published ties to the far-right America First Party. Eller said he no longer has any ties to the party.
Eller said there’s no way to be sure if the concerns brought up before the election factored into the results. Eller said he posted a position statement regarding the concerns on his Facebook page Saturday morning.
“Maybe? I don’t know,” Eller said. “But I don’t think anyone would want to be judged on any other basis aside from what they ran on.”…