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Posted on Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti Charter Commission to hold final meeting on non-partisan election proposal, other changes

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti residents will have one last chance to weigh in on proposed non-partisan elections and other changes to the city’s charter.

The Ypsilanti Charter Commission is planning to hold a public meeting to receive input on its proposed changes. No date is set, but it will happen in January, Commission Chair Kim Porter-Hoppe said.

The commission has been meeting for more than a year and is proposing mostly “housekeeping changes” and non-controversial updates to the charter. But in December, the nine-member commission voted 6-2 to propose non-partisan elections.

The commission is made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and an independent.

Independent former Mayor Cheryl Farmer, who helped craft the current charter, and Democrat John Gwalas were the lone votes against the proposed change. Democrat William Fennel was not present. Democrats Robert Doyle and James Hawkins joined Republicans Karen Quinlan-Vlavo, James Fink, Peter Fletcher and Porter-Hoppe in voting for proposing non-partisan elections.

Ypsilanti, which officials estimate is more than two-thirds Democratic, currently has partisan elections and primaries.

City Council has expressed its unanimous opposition to the change and passed a resolution recommending that the Charter Commission hold a public hearing to discuss non-partisan elections.


Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber opposes changing to non-partisan elections.

Tom Perkins | For

Mayor Paul Schreiber previously said he feared the entire charter revision could fail because of the issue and other council members said it appeared to be a way for Republicans to improve their chances of getting into office by hiding their party affiliations.

Porter-Hoppe said she didn’t believe voters would turn down the revision just because of proposed non-partisan elections.

“I would like to think that wouldn’t be the only reason someone would say 'No',” she said.

Council member Brian Robb said he would have liked to have seen other changes, such as allowing council members to serve on boards and commissions or having the city attorney report directly to council instead of the city manager.

"I really think the Charter Commission wasted a big opportunity to make impactful changes and fix the inefficiencies in the charter," Robb said. "They should have been focusing on making changes like allowing council members to serve on committees — like most municipalities — but chose to spend their time immersed in meaningless politicking."

In the November 2010 elections, Ypsilanti residents voted 2,083 to 1,985 to establish a charter commission for a general rewrite of the city's charter. The charter was rewritten in 1994, and, per the charter, the question of whether it should be revised must be put in front of voters every 16 years.

Several commissioners said at the time that they didn’t feel there needed to be any major changes to the charter, though most agreed that changing to non-partisan elections is a major proposal.

But Porter-Hoppe said there was bi-partisan agreement on the proposal and she didn’t believe there was originally any controversy around it.

“Just because writes about it — that’s what makes it controversial,” she said.

Porter-Hoppe said voters shouldn’t make assumptions based on party identification.

“It is up to the voter to find out what each candidate's beliefs are,” she said. “Just because I’m left-handed doesn’t mean I do everything left-handed.

“Anytime that you assume I feel a certain way without finding out who I am or what I’m about — no matter whatever side of the aisle I’m on —it’s like wearing blinders."

Language must be submitted to the State's Attorney General’s Office for approval, and City Clerk Frances McMullan said she expects that process to take up to four months.

Porter-Hoppe said other proposed changes include adjustments to language to bring the charter in line with state language and laws, and some adjustments that bring charter into line with technological advances.

She said all the meetings so far have been open and public.

“If (residents) vote it down, then we’ll get back together and put something in front of voters they can be most happy with,” Porter-Hoppe said.


Martin Church

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

I like the idea of the non partisan election. Last go around I was not allowed to vote for my rep because I am a republican and had no canidates to choose from. there fore in the primary while everyone else was makeing the choice My vote did not get counted or allowed. Wtih the proposed change this would change and the person I would have supported could have won. remember in partisan politics you can not switch votes. this meant in several races I could not support the canidate of my choice, only the party. and I hate people using party affilation to hide an agenda.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

I really think you need to keep the elections partisan because it forces candidates to chose between: Bigger Government, more taxes and less personal freedom or smaller Government, less taxes and less regulations that limit your freedom. You cannot compromise without being a weak candidate.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

Well what party wants to get rid of birth control, seems that is a personal freedom? How about giving tax breaks for the wealthy but not wanting any for the middle class. One of the biggest areas of gov is the military and the republicans want to nation build around the world. Now that fits the category of really big government. What say you xmo?

Martin Church

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

So a person who support a moral or fiscal believe system is stuck with fakes. seams to me we have been down this road enough. I vote for people not parties. I was raised democrat, but when the democrate became communist (check the commuinst website, it's the same core believe as the DNC) I changed.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

At first I thought this is a good idea to get the two sides together. I thought it was a good idea until I read another post on this site. Glen S. thanks for pulling the wool off of my eyes,you are spot on!

Glen S.

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

In a community that routinely votes upwards of 75 percent Democratic, a handful of disgruntled Republicans have hijacked the Charter Commission's otherwise good work in order to push a very specific agenda: Making sure that Ypsilanti voters actually have LESS information about local candidates when they go the polls -- all in order to create an opportunity for "stealth" Republicans (who know they could never be elected if they actually "owned" their party identification) to sneak into office. The irony, of course, is that even under our current system, any candidate who doesn't feel comfortable running as a Democrat already has the option to run not only as a Republican, but as an Independent -- as recent former Mayor Cheryl Farmer did successfully, THREE times. The Commission's proposed switch to non-partisan elections is a "poison pill" for many voters, like me, who would otherwise be inclined to support their efforts to streamline Charter language and align it more closely with updated State laws, etc. -- and will surely doom their efforts, come November. Likewise, given Ypsilanti's current budget crisis, and the fact that voters will likely face some other very difficult choices this fall (including a potential City Income Tax, and Water Street bond proposal), this proposal is unnecessarily divisive and particularly ill-timed. I hope the fact that the Commission had decided to hold another public hearing signals that they are aware of the significant community pushback that will stem from this issue, and are willing to consider removing the "non-partisan" plank from their final proposal.

Glen S.

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

@ Murph Of course there is much more to a candidate that party affiliation, but for many people -- particularly voters who are not as involved/aware as you -- the "D" or "R" (or "Independent," or "Green," for that matter) can serve as an important indicator of a candidate's overall political philosophy. Rather than a "distraction," I think requiring candidates to stand by their party affiliation (if they have one) when running for office provides voters with just one more piece of information upon which to base their vote.

Dog Guy

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

In a community in which a majority directly or indirectly lives on taxes, self-interest requires supporting our party.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

Glen, I disagree. In a town as small as ours, it's easy enough to figure out what local candidates stand for without resorting to a single-letter qualifier. If the only thing a candidate for city council is willing to put out there is their party affiliation, that tells me they either don't understand the city's issues well enough to make real statements about them (and therefore shouldn't be elected) or else are counting on the lever-pullers to carry them to victory in spite of their other shortcomings (and therefore shouldn't be elected). I applaud the Charter Commission for trying to bring Ypsilanti in line with the standard practice of local communities across the state, and remove the distraction of party identification from council elections.

no flamers!

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

Respectfully, I believe your post validates the post of "justcurious" because you acknowledge that party affiliation controls your vote rather that principles, qualifications or experience. In other words, it doesn't matter what the candidate has done to earn the community trust, what intellect or work ethic the candidate has as long as a Democrat is running against an evil Republic, the D gets the vote. We get the government we deserve, let's all remember.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

I couldn't agree more with Ms. Porter-Hoppe. This war between two parties is ridiculous. It's too easy to always cheer for your team and demonize the other size. People need to start thinking for themselves and doing the hard work to find the answers instead of blindly following part affiliations like sheep.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

That should have said "side" not "size", of course. Automatic spell check strikes again.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

nope, Ms. Hoppe you are wrong, we will defeat this if you go forward with it. Its a change that wasn't asked for and a change that isn't desired.