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Posted on Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 6 a.m.'s endorsements for 5th and 2nd ward city council elections

By Tony Dearing

If democracy works best when voters have a choice among credible candidates who express clear differences on issues, then we’d say democracy is working in Ann Arbor’s 5th Ward.

Incumbent Democrat Carsten Hohnke, who came through a primary contest unscathed, now faces Republican John Floyd, an accountant, and Independent Newcombe Clark, a commercial real estate broker. The race has been lively but issue-oriented, and the differences among the three are vivid in a variety of areas.

Hohnke is smart and hard working. We admire his commitment to community service, but often have not seen eye-to-eye with him on issues. For instance, he is a firm supporter of City Council’s decisions to build the $47 million Police-Courts Building, while both Clark and Floyd remain unconvinced that was the best or only solution. We share their skepticism on that, and think that same degree of skepticism or more should be given to any future proposals for capital expense of such magnitude.

Hohnke also is more supportive than we are of the way the city has come to rely on parking revenue from the Downtown Development Authority to balance its budget. But our biggest point of difference with him has been his opposition to residential projects like the Moravian and Heritage Row, both of which were recommended by city staff and favored by a majority of City Council members - but halted by the lack of an eight-vote super majority on council.

In both cases, we argued that Ann Arbor cannot hermetically seal itself in its current form. The city will either evolve or stultify. In the case of the Moravian, the owners of aging, marginal student rentals won out over new housing. In the case of Heritage Row, a project that would preserve century-old homes in renovated form is in limbo, leaving the possibility that the developer will tear them down to build the far less desirable City Place project instead.

Floyd has called Heritage Row a “gift’’ to the city for the way it would preserve these homes. Clark was professionally involved in both Heritage Row and the Moravian. While he has been accused of running for office because he didn’t get his way on these projects, we find more to his candidacy than that.

In fact, we find Clark not only well versed on the issues, but consistently persuasive in his arguments, whether it’s his support for publicly funded art or his belief that the DDA should be able to contract for downtown beat cops. He’s on the DDA board, has been president of the Main Street Association and serves on the boards of numerous other civic and arts organizations. He also scores points by vowing that if elected to City Council, he would step down from the DDA board because of the potential conflict between those roles.

We admit to some reservations about Clark. He can be a provocateur. To be effective on council, he’d have to learn to temper that. We also have mixed thoughts about his stated intention to serve only one term. While he says it would free him to make tough decisions, two years is not a lot of time to grow in office. On the whole, though, we think City Council would benefit from another perspective and a more progressive voice. Clark has a strong grasp of issues, an impressive resume of community involvement and an eye toward Ann Arbor’s future. We endorse him in the 5th Ward.

The other contested race this fall is in the 2nd Ward, where incumbent Democrat Tony Derezenski is running against Libertarian Emily Salvette. Derezinski came to council well prepared, having served as a state senator and an Eastern Michigan University regent. His background as an attorney practicing in municipal law also has been a plus. We don’t agree with him on every issue, but he cast important votes in favor of Heritage Row and the Moravian, even if the majority didn’t prevail.

Salvette provides a clear alternative, advocating for spending restraint and a much more limited government role. But we find that Derezinski has been an effective council member who deserves another term. We endorse him for re-election in the 2nd Ward.

Editor’s note: The three community members who serve on our Editorial Board - David Mielke, Bob Guenzel and Marsha Chamberlin - did not participate in the endorsement interviews and were not involved in these endorsement decisions.


Somewhat Concerned

Mon, Nov 1, 2010 : 9:41 p.m.

It is amazing to see support for a guy - Clark - who is running for office in order to get his way on real estate projects that he will make money on. That's what triggered his candidacy (according to words out of his own mouth) and that's what fuels it. He didn't make the money he wanted to make on a couple of projects and if he gets elected his chances of making a lot of money go up. On top of that, he is arrogant and divisive. Ann Arbor needs sensible development, but it doesn't need a council member whose idea of public service is to service his bank account. If you want to live in a corrupt city run by people who use their office to line their pockets, you have lots of places you could live. If you don't want to live in that kind of city, don't elect a guy whose motives involve doing just that.

Steve Borgsdorf

Fri, Oct 29, 2010 : 9:55 a.m.

Tony, get a yard sign. I know wants to have opinions, but first it should become a credible source for candidate interviews, detailed analysis of issues, and maybe some muckraking. Go get information for the voters to use.


Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 12:29 a.m.

I am happy the board did not endorse Hohnke. Newk has made a number of good points, however it would be hard to find anyone with the in-depth expertise in financial matters that John Floyd brings to the table. Hohnke was embroiled in E-mailgate and his childish behavior merits no re-election in my book. A number of citizens are stunned as to why he received an endorsement from Sabra Briere, who is staunchly anti-development. (Does she dream of joining the Gang of Seven?) Anybody but Hohnke and I will be happy this November.


Tue, Oct 19, 2010 : 10:39 a.m.

Can we all get beyond the police-courts building please? It is done and over with.

John Floyd

Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 1:52 p.m.

Congratulations to Mr. Clark for this endorsement. I echo Mr. Dearing's observation that democracy is working in the 5th Ward. Perhaps it can spread to those wards where local democracy may not be working this November 2nd. Mr. Clark may disagree, but to me the most noteworthy element of this article was Mr. Dearing's statement that "Ann Arbor cannot hermetically seal itself in its current form. The city will either evolve or stultify." Equating historic preservation with "hermetically seal[ed] in its current form" suggests a mis-understanding of both historic preservation, and of Ann Arbor. At last summer's public hearing for the Germantown Historic District, one speaker noted that "Historic districts do not prevent change; They shape how change happens". This a more accurate version of historic preservation. There are many ways Ann Arbor can have "glass, concrete, and steel" growth without expanding Downtown into neighborhoods. The Washtenaw Avenue Corridor is but one of them; portions of Stadium Blvd seem ripe for change. The Eisenhower corridor between Briarwood and Ann Arbor-Saline could be more pedestrian-friendly. Plymouth Rd near US 23 is in the early stages of change. For that matter, we recently completed a contentious re-zoning of Downtown, creating D1 zoning with 18 story building heights. Given the number of stalled projects in D1, it can hardly be claimed that downtown's commercial/office/residential space is "built out". The Library Lot, for example, seems an obvious place for housing. My support of Heritage Row is based partly on my sense that Mayor Heiftje's and Mr. Hohnke's "Shared high level vision of the future of Ann Arbor" starts with bulldozing and/or degrading historic neighborhoods by "expanding downtown". Your editorial has not provided re-assurance that I am mistaken. By way of background: The mayor's announcement, reported by the Ann Arbor New in August 2008, was made at a council victory party for a slate of 5 successful council candidates that included Mr. Hohnke. Since then, I have repeatedly asked both the mayor, and Mr. Hohnke (in his role as my representative on council) to share that vision with the rest of us. After 2 or 3 attempts, Mr. Hohnke at last allowed that he used Boulder, Portland and Seattle is models for Ann Arbor. Asking for 3 or 4 ways that Ann Arbor should emulate these cities, especially in regard to population, I have received only silence in reply. My support of Heritage Row is based partly on my sense that Mayor Heiftje's and Mr. Hohnke's "Shared high level vision of the future of Ann Arbor" starts with bulldozing and/or degrading historic neighborhoods by "expanding downtown". Your editorial has not provided re-assurance that I am mistaken. I prefer the seven houses, with external fire escapes replaced by internal sprinkles, new foundations, renovated interiors and non-historic additions removed, to the seven houses torn down. I recognize that old houses need expensive major repairs from time to time, if they are to last, and that Mr. DeParry is prepared to make them, and to upgrade the houses as rentals. In my perfect world, we would have the renovations without the new apartment buildings behind them. Alas, it is not my perfect world. For the moment anyway, I am at odds on this topic with certain people whose opinion I respect, and whose esteem I value. I regret this, I understand (and mostly agree with) their points and hope a better solution can be reached. As I implied above, I see this council moving to bulldoze or degrade all historic neighborhoods to "expand downtown", whether or not any particular developer is successful with any particular project, at any particular moment. They want it all down. Our degraded democracy, noted above, means that few on council will have any political consequence for doing this. I want something, instead of nothing, while we can get it. Mr. DeParry and Heritage Row are not the issue - sooner or later, something worse will come to Germantown, as long as it is without historic district protection - the kind Mr Hohnke voted against when the topic was first raised in December, 2009. This is not to be taken as my endorsement of Ann's view, or for changes in my long-support of a Germantown Historic District (expanded version), my respect for neighborhoods, or my belief in an intact Charm Zone as one of the keys to Ann Arbor's on-going and future vibrancy. I would welcome a more neighborhood-freindly solution. @4 Anon E Mous Of course it is silly to judge Mr. Hohnke on a project begun before his term. His attitude towards it, however, gives us some insight into how he would approach similar projects in the future, and therefore is relevant. As I have said, "nearly two years after our 5th Ward incumbent took office, I do not hear probing questions asked about big-money issues". @9 Townie I am delighted to learn, at last, of Mr. Hohnke's holistic thinking. After two years, do we finally get to know the specifics of his "Shared high-level vision of the Future of Ann Arbor?" I couldn't find much about it on his Voter Guide profile. @12 Faypatri If Mr. Clark were the only one showing up, I think it would be a monologue, not a debate. I must resemble a potted plant, at least on TV.


Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 8:11 p.m.

Agreed, glacialerratic, but no one puts it better than Clark himself on his Concentrate blog: "The quickest shortcut to the chairmans office in your own job is having powerful and influential allies and customers singing your praise due to your astounding performance on the board which they serve on with you. Im a real estate salesman who serves on over a half dozen non-profit boards and commissions. My fellow board members just happen to be presidents and CEOs who have turned out to be some of my best customers and professional contacts over the years. Who said altruism is dead."


Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 7:01 p.m.

Clark's just another real estate operator who's opportunistically positioned himself on boards to take part in and shape conversations that favor the strategic interests of real estate developers. This is a strategy warmly embraced by other in the real estate community--it's self-interest in the guise of civic-mindedness.


Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 4:04 p.m.

I really think that the council shutting down the Moravian and Heritage Row projects is a disgrace. Those two projects were a big deal and have a huge impact on the dynamic of the entire Ann Arbor downtown and indirectly on the entire city and surrounding areas. I was at the meeting and my blood really started to boil when I heard the decision that was made. It is un-american that the opinions of a select few can cause so much damage to the other citizens of A2. My vote is going to Newcombe. I was born and raised in Ann Arbor and I have seen how the dynamics of this city have changed. We need to revive the downtown and get diverse housing. NOW. Also, why is Newcombe the only one showing up to the Debates? That fact alone really makes me question the incumbent candidate. Looking forward to changes...


Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.

Did endorse Clark because George Bush wasn't on the ballot? On another note, why have three "community members" on the editorial board, when they don't actually make endorsement decisions. What do they do? And if the community members aren't involved in this, could we please get some actual Ann Arbor residents on the editorial board of Ann Arbor dot com? How many, Tony, of your editorial board decision makers for Ann Arbor dot com live in Ann Arbor?

David Cahill

Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 11:25 a.m.

The Moravian and Heritage Row were both projects that were illegal under the zoning rules. With the neighbors objecting, it took eight votes (a supermajority) to authorize an exception to the rules. Neither project made it. Why is so fervently in favor of breaking the rules?


Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 10:52 a.m.

So let's get this straight: is endorsing Clark for his support of two development projects that he was a partner in. And they are rejecting Hohnke over the Police/Courts building which was approved before he was on City Council. What a thoughtful and well-reasoned endorsement. (That's sarcasm by the way.) Ann Arbor consists of a lot more than Downtown. It has many vital neighborhoods, each with their attributes and problems. Downtown has the DDA, Main Street Association, South U. Association, State Street Association, LDFA, SPARK, Chamber of Commerce (whose public policy committee is dominated by Clark's development partners), that new improvement district on Main, and I'm sure I'm missing a few others. Why should City Council also be dominated by those who see Ann Arbor as only the downtown, and the rest of the City as just cheap land for the Downtown to expand into? Who will speak for the rest of the City? Carsten Hohnke considers each issue holistically and carefully. He understands that the narrow, self-interested developer clique does not get to dictate how Ann Arbor will look or grow. It is a community-wide effort, officially documented in our master plans and other public studies and forums. Time and time again, these documents show the over-whelming support of the citizens for their neighborhoods, coupled with a vibrant downtown that is pedestrian friendly. The Moravian, City Place and Heritage Row were beyond the pale in their striking contrast to the community's wishes for these neighborhoods. This is being borne out in the R4C/R2A study commissioned by City Council. Time and time again, forum after forum, neighborhoods, landlords, and others have spoken in favor of neighborhood preservation because these areas provide the kind of lifestyle that people come to Ann Arbor to live--students, families, professionals young and old, retirees--you name it. It was bad enough that Clark and his partners decided to push the City Place project as blackmail to hold over the City to try and stuff Heritage Row (the size of a Motel 6) into the backyards of these houses. But what is even more disturbing is that he, and, continue to push this from the position of candidate for public office and independent news outlet. City Place was approved last year. If its such a viable project, why hasn't it been built already? Heritage Row is not "in limbo," it is dead--killed twice by City Council after some parliamentary stunts. It cannot be brought back to City Council again. I don't always agree with Carsten, but I do know that he has proven himself to be independent, thoughtful, and considerate of what the citizens of Ann Arbor want for now and the future. He has my vote.


Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 10:15 a.m.

There are many pressing issues for City Council to consider, but the editorial manager of this blogo-paper has been consistently and unduly obsessed with pressing development in the near downtown, specifically using every opportunity to push for the Moravian and Heritage Row/City Place developments that provided income for Newcomb Clark. This endorsement is simply an extension of that pattern. Whatever one thinks of these developments, we expect a little more objectivity from a news organization that enjoys a near monopoly and therefore is morally, at least, bound to report rather than skew information in favor of one side or another. The unbalanced, badly argue, and in some cases misleading nature of this endorsement, apparently made without the full board, is very troubling. The candidacy of Mr. Clark is a disgrace by any means. He worked extremely hard to influence City Council to approve his Moravian project by swarming a meeting with his friends and networking associates, and when that did not work, he threw a tantrum and announced that he would run for office. This is a matter of record. A week after the Council meeting, your own blogo-paper reported that he was filing for run: "I don't want to be a council member I've got my own life but I also believe you're either in it or you're not, and I can't criticize if I'm not willing to sacrifice," he said. "I asked people for courage of leadership and realized it was very hypocritical for me to chastise people without putting myself out there in a similar way." In his mind, courage of leadership meant voting the way he wanted them to votefor his project. These are weasel words, pure and simple. He does not want to serve on Council, and will only do so for one term, because he has his own life, but he has to sacrifice to get HIS way, not necessarily what the community needs. This is a one-issue candidacythe first person singular personal pronoun. All his other positions on issues are simply manufactured as window dressing to the one thing he is running abouthis own present and future business ventures. He wants to punish Carsten Hohnke for voting against his projects and to take out one potential vote that could be cast against any future developments that he and his friends may be involved with. He would have to recues himself, but he would cancel out a possible negative vote, and also be able to push his initiatives from he inside. Putting aside the issue of the developments themselves, as this is an irrelevant matter in the discussion, the audacity of such a blatant injection of ones own personal interest into city politics is deeply disturbing. He has tried to attract attention by claiming that there has been tax fraud, apparently without any real justification, as became clear from a Council discussion on the mattersuch grandstanding is not what we need in city government. Mr. Clark is highly connected within the business community, but this kind of networking, while useful in his work, is a hindrance for Council work, as he would constantly run into conflicts of interest, perhaps not in the fully technical sense, but certainly in the moral dimension of the issue. Ann Arbor deserves better financially disinterested people running for office and also deserves new, more balanced, responsable and objective editorial leadership from its major news source.

Trevor Staples

Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

"Editors note: The three community members who serve on our Editorial Board - David Mielke, Bob Guenzel and Marsha Chamberlin - did not participate in the endorsement interviews and were not involved in these endorsement decisions." How many people does this leave on the "editorial board"? Who is the "we" that is mentioned throughout this opinion piece?

Anon E Muss

Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 9:36 a.m.

@TD, the major capital projects during Hohnke's tenure are, I think, SSRecycling and the Library Lot structure. If you have reasoned arguments in criticism of his evaluative-process on on these projects, then that would have served as a just basis for criticism, but to suggest, the endorsement does, as that he is not sufficiently analytically rigorous when it comes to capital projects due to his support for a project that was designed, debated, deliberated and decided well before his election is simply unfair.

Anon E Muss

Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 8:37 a.m.

Police / Courts Building? Really? The last P/C vote was taken in the summer of 2008, months before Hohnke was elected to Council. The use of that project as a factor in this endorsement is not reasonable.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.

Congratulations to for having a strong independent opinion. Mr. Clark takes a studied opinion of the issues and while he may not make the most popular choices, he does make ones which make financial sense for the city's future. While others gave me the impression he was a sour grapes kind of guy, he has spoken clearly and thoughtfully about his vision for the city, which is toward the type of growth that many resist but that seems to be moving forward in a less than savory way anyway. At least if he is elected, he will be able to eloquently explain what moving forward means to the city and help city council make rational decisions. I hope he will respect historical districts and the need for green in the downtown area.


Sun, Oct 17, 2010 : 7:45 a.m.

Some of us, including the upper management of apparently, share strong opinions on the Moravian and Heritage Row. Still, the blocking of these two projects does not constitute The Pressing Issue of Our Times. Unless, maybe, your name is Newcombe de Parry, or unless you have an address on Fifth Avenue between William and Madison. Then I understand. Otherwise, I'm confused as to why, editorially speaking, anyone would deem to squarely place these two recent city council decisions right into the center of Tree Town's cultural and economic vortex. While the ongoing, developer-driven soap operas playing out on S. Fifth Ave. might conceivably have a limited, precedent-setting impact for other neighborhoods, the final outcome here simply will not compare to other concerns, such as the realignment of top city priorites in light of the Great Recesion — this is where the action is.