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Posted on Thu, Jun 3, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

Ypsilanti City Council delays mayoral reappointments, citing upcoming election

By Tom Perkins

With two months remaining before the primary election, the Ypsilanti City Council narrowly blocked a series of mayoral appointments to boards and commissions.

The reasoning? If Mayor Paul Schreiber is ousted, his successor should have a chance to hand-pick the appointments instead.

A majority of City Council members agreed Tuesday to remove a resolution approving two mayoral reappointments to boards and commissions.

Council Member Mike Bodary made the motion to remove the resolution, which called for appointing Rod Johnson as the head of the planning commission and John Bailey to the zoning board of appeals.

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Mayor Paul Schreiber

Bodary said the upcoming mayoral election between Schreiber and Council Member Pete Murdock, both Democrats, could bring in a new mayor who would want to work with his own appointees.

“What I would like to see is a little more control by the person who will be mayor,” Boadary said.

Schreiber called the move political.

“I was voted mayor for four years, not three and a half,” he said. “According the city charter, the mayor appoints members to boards and commissions. I feel in order to perform my duties according to the charter, I need to appoint people I feel will serve or have served well.”

Because appointees’ terms last from two to five years, depending on the position, some appointments or reappointments always occur in an election year.

Eight more appointees’ terms expire before the August primary, meaning reappointments will be in front of council again. Schreiber could also choose to fill several vacancies.

Schreiber said he is “not about to stop making appointments.”

Council Member Brian Robb, Council Member Lois Richardson, Murdock and Bodary voted to remove the resolution. Schreiber and Council Member Bill Nickels voted against removing it. Mayor Pro-Tem Trudy Swanson-Winston was absent.

Council minutes show previous Mayor Cheryl Farmer made 30 appointments and reappointments to boards and commissions between June and November 2006, including 11 during her last meeting in office.

Nickels, Swanson-Winston and Richardson were on the council at the time, and all voted to approve the appointments when present.

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Mayoral challenger Pete Murdock

Bodary said Farmer supported Schreiber’s campaign in 2006, and this year’s race is much different.

“Paul and Cheryl are very close in terms of their views and goals,” Bodary said. “They were supporters of each other, and I don’t think we have quite the same situation here.”

Murdock said he discussed an agreement on appointments with Schreiber in private, but declined to elaborate. He also pointed out the council approved five appointments at its previous meeting.

"I don't think we have been unkind to his appointments," Murdock said.

Schreiber said the only agreement he had with Murdock was that he would let him know if he would be reappointing Johnson. Johnson is chair of the planning commission - on which he has served for 11 years - and unsuccessfully ran against Murdock for a City Council seat in 2008.

Johnson told council during public comment Tuesday night that he wanted to allay any perception of a disagreement between council and the planning commission stemming from the Water Street redevelopment project.

Schreiber and Murdock have differed on how to proceed with attracting development to Water Street. Schreiber has pushed for adopting the planning commission’s January 2009 zoning recommendations to attract the type of developer the city wants, while Murdock says the city needs to remain open to different proposals and ideas developers may have. 

Johnson has supported updating Water Street's zoning, which only made it as far as a first reading due to lack of support. Johnson said Tuesday he realizes it is council's decision on how to proceed.

Richardson said she viewed delaying the reappointments as an extension of the appointees' terms.

“I don’t believe that removing that resolution from the agenda in any way reflected on either of the gentlemen,” she said.

Nickels had a different take.

“This was done for political reason and has nothing to do with the capabilities of these people,” he said.

The next appointees’ terms expire on June 19, and are all members of the Recreation Commission. Three Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority Board members’ terms expire on July 7.

Bodary said he would be more likely to support an appointee to fill a vacancy rather than a reappointment because a board or commission has a harder time functioning while understaffed. He said delaying a reappointment keeps a person in the position until after the election.

“I don’t see any hurry to reappoint,” Bodary said. “If Murdock should win this election, then Pete has to work with the people Paul appointed for the next 2.5 to three years. We need to think about 'Is this the fair thing to do?'"

To fill a vacancy, Schreiber first accepts suggestions for the various boards and commissions, then places information on their backgrounds and a statement of goals in the council packet with a resolution for appointment or reappointment.

“We have a number of people whose terms are coming up for expiration and these are all people who have served very well,” Schreiber said. “I think it’s a vote of confidence for people who would like to volunteer and continue to serve the city, and I think putting off the reappointments is pure politics.”

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Fri, Jun 4, 2010 : 1:47 p.m.

I agree with the poster who said it is good to have both Murdoch and Schrieber on council together. The mayor can work to cooperate with people and Murdoch can get things done like save firefighter and police officer positions and fund busing. They are a dynamic duo!


Fri, Jun 4, 2010 : 11:32 a.m.

If this is to be an example of "what is to come" should Pete Murdock be elected mayor, Ypsilanti can count on the very unilateralism that was spoken of earlier. There is a fresh, trendy breeze blowing in the culture of our city at the moment. Albeit a reaching argument, politics of this nature will only nurture a stagnant, stale, "old school/small town" environment which will, in turn, promote idleness and regression. Mayor Schreiber and Councilman Nickels appear to be the only city officials aware of the task at hand in this particular case. Allowing city decisions to be altered for the sake of political movement and strategy should not be taken lightly. In my opinion, this is a symptom of a potential disease which could drag the city down into the abyss of "cronyism" and personal agendas. I'm not judging....I'm just saying.


Fri, Jun 4, 2010 : 10:19 a.m.

I was very disappointed to see the council playing politics with appointments. I feel this sets a bad precedent, is disrespectful to the volunteers who have agreed to serve, is disruptive to the work of the boards and commissions, and is not in the spirit of the city charter which charges the mayor with making appointments. The actual election isn't until November, so if this becomes established practice, then appointments could be on hold for months. Choosing to hold up appointments in June is utterly arbitrary. This could easily put into place a slide that would result in no new appointments in an election year. Ypsilanti has a lot of work to get done, and we need fully staffed and engaged boards and commissions to do it. Furthermore, this isn't about the principle of who gets to make the appointments. It is about an individual that some members of council do not want to re-appoint. So I think they should stand up in public and vote no on his appointment rather than trying to manipulate the mayor behind the scenes to give them the candidate they want. The role of the mayor is to recommend appointees and the role of council is to vote yes or no so that is what they should do. The DDA has three appointments up in July. The volunteers who are up for renewal (Linda French, Sandee French, and John Coleman) have put in hundreds of hours of their time over the last year. They have business trips and family vacations to plan and I think they have a right to know by the start of the new term whether or not they are expected to serve that term. I believe that keeping them in limbo would show a lack of respect for their time and the volunteer work they are doing on behalf of the city. And the same goes for Johnson and Bailey. If a majority of council feels that either of these volunteers are not headed in the right direction, they should have the courage to vote them down and let the mayor recommend other candidates. And even though I am supporting Mayor Schreiber's re-election, should Pete Murdock win, I hope that his council will resepect his right to make appointments until the very end of his term as well and will fight for his right to do so.


Fri, Jun 4, 2010 : 8:41 a.m.

The citizens of Ypsilanti deserves more than the destructive brand of personal politics that Murdock and his supporters on City Council can offer. Pete Murdock was an awful mayor during his tenure and Lois Richardson tenure on Council has been unremarkable and marked by constant conflict with other members. Citizens of Ypsilanti, re-elect Schreiber so that you can continue in a positive direction in the city.

Kristin Judge

Thu, Jun 3, 2010 : 10:14 p.m.

Mayor Schreiber is a professional, caring and honest public servant. The city of Ypsilanti is lucky to have him.


Thu, Jun 3, 2010 : 8:34 p.m.

I couldn't agree more with Glen in this case. If you have a problem with the appointments, then vote them down. Is this really supposed to look better than a straight up or down vote? Again, it doesn't pass the smell test. Even if Mr. Murdock wins, he won't take office untill January! Are we putting all decisions and appointments on hold untill then? And ice, as far back as I remember, every president has scrambled to make as many last minute appointments as they could get away with. This isn't some last minute push through, these posts have been up for appointment for some time. Making these appointments is part of the mayor's duties, just as giving a straight vote is council's duty.

Glen S.

Thu, Jun 3, 2010 : 3:55 p.m.

First: These are not "last minute" appointments. The City Charter clearly spells out the terms of office for all Boards and Commissions, and most have staggered terms -- which means that at least a few members of each Board or Commission come up for re-appointment (or replacement) each year. The two Commissioners in question have both had their terms expire recently, and both have requested to be reappointed. Second: To those who say "what difference would two months make, anyway?" I have to ask: What is an acceptable length of time to keep dedicated citizen-volunteers who have important City business to conduct waiting in "limbo" over whether they will be reappointed -- merely for the sake of petty politics? If Murdock and the Council majority don't approve of these two appointees, they should at least show them the respect of saying so and voting them down. Instead, to simply put these (and potentially other) appointments "on hold" -- thus making them political pawns -- is an insult all of the highly dedicated Board and Commission members who currently serve our City.


Thu, Jun 3, 2010 : 3:30 p.m.

I agree, Ice1950. It's only two months, for heaven's sake and I don't see the Water Street Project being resolved in that short time. I didn't agree with Mayor Farmer's appointments at the last minute, either, but that's water under the bridge. Let's wait and see what happens at the polls.


Thu, Jun 3, 2010 : 2:48 p.m.

Did George Bush get to appoint Barack Obama's cabinet before he left? I don't think so! What difference will 2 more months make anyway? At least wait until after the primary to see who is running in November. Maybe it will be the same people but it would be a nice gesture for the Mayor to show that he's not pushing his own cronies when his continuance in office is not yet assured.


Thu, Jun 3, 2010 : 11:52 a.m.

Have Mr. Bodary been watching too much C-Span? Felt things in city council should look a little more like Congress? What a wast of time. The Ypsilanti City Council has a whole lot more important things to be concerned with than blocking citizen appointments to boards and commissions. These are unpaid positions. There will be more to be made in the next mayoral term. The reasoning is silly, and I don't think this passes the smell test. To Mr. Bodary, Mr. Murdock, and all who voted with them: Pete, Mike do you truly believe would be unable to work with Mayor Schreiber's appointees if you(Pete) win the election? Would there really be that big of a problem communicating with fellow citizens who, unlike city council, volunteer their time to serve in these positions? If you do, I think that says a lot about your vision of city government. Look, I like Pete Murdock, and I think he should continue to serve the city on city council. But Paul has worked to cooperate with people from all walks of life all across Ypsilanti, and it has made a positive impact on the city. Pete tends to push things unilaterally. We do need Pete's experience and knowledge during these tough times, but we need Paul's consensus building just as much. If Paul wins, Pete is still on council. I wouldn't call them a team, but they do get things done together. To me, it's the best solution.


Thu, Jun 3, 2010 : 11:08 a.m.

First, there has already been a delay. Second, these people are experienced and Ypsilanti needs experienced people on these commissions. Murdock is great at playing this game but its a game and Ypsilanti deserves better. He was a terrible Mayor back in the 80s. So bad, Ypsilanti elected a republican (something rare in Ypsi politics) rather than re-elect him again. This is the same guy with the same games and same terrible behavior. Why not work with experienced people? I hope the people in Ypsilanti do their research and check their memories because this is Ypsilanti not Pete'silanti and his brand of personal politics will doom our city staff to a confrontational environment, it will doom our relationships with our neighboring townships, and cities and service providers to the inconsistencies of his personal whim and it will take us off the path of recovery we continue to be on in spite of the terrible economy.

Glen S.

Thu, Jun 3, 2010 : 10:59 a.m.

Mayor Schreiber has gone out of his way to appoint (and re-appoint) members from a broad cross-section of the community (some supporters, some foes, and some "neutral") to serve on various Board and Commissions, because he believes that skill, experience and dedication -- not politics -- should be primary thing that determines who serves in these positions. In contrast, candidate Murdock obviously believes that all future members of boards and commissions must be in "lock-step" with him and his supporters on Council in order to eligible to serve. To make that point, Murdock is now even willing to suspend the reappointments of experienced, competent incumbents who have a long track-record of service to our community. As Ypsilanti's budget resources continue to shrink, more and more work will fall to our Boards and Commissions -- which rely on committed citizens who are willing to give their time, talent and experience (with no compensation) to work on important issues related to planning, zoning, economic development, etc. If all future nominees to City Boards and Commissions are forced to pass a "litmus test" (i.e. loyalty to the Mayor, or to certain Council members in order to serve), I think this will send a terrible message, and ultimately be very damaging to our city.