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Posted on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 9:38 a.m.

Carsten Hohnke picks up endorsements from majority of Ann Arbor DDA board members

By Ryan J. Stanton

A majority of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority's board members have come out in support of City Council Member Carsten Hohnke, D-5th Ward, in his bid for reelection.

Hohnke made special note of those endorsements in a statement released to the media on Sunday, pointing out that one of his opponents, Newcombe Clark, serves on the DDA board.


Carsten Hohnke

Hohnke is defending his seat on Nov. 2 against Clark, a Democrat and commercial real estate professional who is running without party affiliation, and Republican John Floyd, an accountant who lost to Hohnke two years ago and is back seeking a rematch.

Hohnke announced that seven of the 12 members of the DDA board are supporting him, including Chairwoman Joan Lowenstein, immediate past Chairman John Splitt, Roger Hewitt, Keith Orr, Leah Gunn, Mayor John Hieftje and City Council Member Sandi Smith.

Hohnke also announced endorsements from state Rep. Rebekah Warren, U.S. Congressman John Dingell, the Huron Valley Central Labor Council, Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith, and five other members of the City Council, including Sabra Briere, Tony Derezinski, Stephen Rapundalo, Christopher Taylor and Margie Teall, all Democrats.


Newcombe Clark

He also listed endorsements from several community leaders.

“I am humbled to have the support of such a wide cross-section of the Ann Arbor community and its leaders,” Hohnke said in a statement. “I think it speaks to the desire of the people of the Fifth Ward to move beyond divisiveness and one-issue candidacies to a collaborative, progressive, problem-solving approach.”

Clark has earned a reputation on the DDA for going against the grain and publicly questioning decisions made by the board. He was one of only four board members who opposed a $2 million transfer from the DDA to help the city close a hole in its budget earlier this year after the city had depleted funds from a $10 million parking revenue agreement with the DDA five years early.

In response to news of Hohnke's endorsements, Clark released a statement criticizing his peers on the DDA for engaging in "such blatant politicizing" and "desperate fourth-quarter fouls."


"If some of my fellow board members think endorsing candidates for council under the title of their appointment is in the best interest of our mission and duty to serve downtown, they are free to their opinion," Clark said. "I personally disagree with the practice and question the appropriateness, especially given the state of our current negotiations with the city on the parking agreement and the nebulous legal nature of the numerous documented yet ignored contractual breaches to that agreement."

Clark said he believes there may be a fear by some that, if elected, he would put an end to political expediency.

"I bet it would be easier for some if we didn't demand transparency and fairness from our officials and their dealings," he said.


John Floyd

Hohnke is a native Ann Arborite who works as an economic development professional with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and is co-owner of Vie Fitness & Spa in downtown Ann Arbor with his wife and three other partners. He serves on the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study Policy Committee and as a member of the city's Environmental Commission, Greenbelt Advisory Commission, Audit Committee and Student Relations Advisory Committee.

Clark, also a native Ann Arborite, is a vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle, a global commercial real estate firm with an office in Detroit. He is past president of the Main Street Area Association, in addition to a long list of other civic involvement.

Floyd, whose background is in financial and accounting services, has taught political economy at DePaul University and has experience as a budget analyst for the state of Illinois and as a financial control professional for business and nonprofit organizations.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Tue, Oct 19, 2010 : 12:56 p.m.

Steve, Almost immediately after I posted my comment, I realized that I misunderstood your point. Sorry.

Steve Hendel

Tue, Oct 19, 2010 : 10:38 a.m.

@beuwolf: Thanks-but that WAS my point: DDA board members, because many (ok, most) of them are downtown residents and/or business owners, are by definition in a conflict of interest position. I concur with your analysis.


Tue, Oct 19, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.

Steve Hendel: There is a problem with your point. The Downtown Development Authority Act requires that not less than a majority of the DDA directors have a connection to the downtown. See Section 4 of the Downtown Development Authority Act (which is MCL 125.1654): "Not less than a majority of the members shall be persons having an interest in property located in the downtown district or officers, members, trustees, principals, or employees of a legal entity having an interest in property located in the downtown district. Not less than 1 of the members shall be a resident of the downtown district, if the downtown district has 100 or more persons residing within it.... In fact, Clark lives downtown and is on the DDA board, perhaps serving the function of the "resident board member" consistent with the statute. His "altruism" may perhaps best be defined as a self-interest cake having a thin layer of a civic-minded frosting.

Steve Hendel

Tue, Oct 19, 2010 : 6:20 a.m.

@beuwolf: don't be surprised when DDA board members act out of what you perceive as "self interest." The DDA is statutorially set up for that-many of the same people (as DDA board members) who decide how tax money is spent are direct or indirect beneficiaries of those expenditures (as downtown business people). In my opinion, it's an INHERENT conflict of interest.


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 8:47 p.m.

Oh, yeah - it's always so much easier, and so much better when your pals are on the board with you, and agree with you and... don't want to hear anything different and don't want those pesky contradictions or, heaven forfend, confrontations. Oh yeah. It's about who they prefer... not about who WE prefer? I'm sorry - both of these groups could use a little diversity (DDA & City Council) and Clark seems to provide that!


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 8:16 p.m.

I am also disappointed that Sabra Briere endorsed Hohnke. I thought she and Anglin were the two mavericks on City Council. This will not win her points with the opponents of the Gang of Seven. Is her husband also a Hohnke supporter?


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 6:56 p.m.

All these nasty comments by Mr. Clark's pals cannot hide the fact all this networking that he recommends to others on the make can be a double-edged sword--he people who work with him apparently prefer someone else for Council....


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 12:28 p.m.

I don't like the way Carsten voted on any of the "Germantown" developments. The word Germantown still makes me mad. I am voting for Floyd.

Jay Thomas

Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 12:19 p.m.

Nice to see Ann Arbor becoming more like Tammany Hall every day. :|


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 12:07 p.m.

The more a person learns about Clark, the less appealing he becomes. I am a voter in the 5th Ward, and I do take note that other board members with whom Clark serves, apparently don't like him. Don't forget that until his self-interests were damaged by the Council's defeat of the Moravian and City Place/Heritage Row projects, Clark expressed no interest in this election. Clark's candidacy is only a by-product of his hissy fit reaction to being told "no" by city council.


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 11:41 a.m.

Even with his often strident ways, 'independent' status and pretty laid back campaign, Newcombe Clark would seem to have the establishment a little worried. Is it usual for members of a board seated with a candidate, and for the City Council seated with a candidate to ENDORSE? A little desperate, a little bush.


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 11:38 a.m.

Small town incestuous politics.


Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 9:33 a.m.

Sounds like both the Democrat and the un-party Democrat are a little goofy! I would vote for the Republican John Floyd who is not involved in this monkey business.