Ypsilanti Township's Y-Town Future candidates challenge incumbents for clerk, treasurer
Y-Town Future candidate Ruth Ann Jamnick is challenging Karen Lovejoy-Roe for the clerk’s office in the Aug. 7 Democratic primary, while Ypsilanti Township Treasurer Larry Doe is facing a challenge from Y-Town Future's Rev. Larry Davis Jr.
Among other responsibilities, the clerk’s office handles Freedom of Information Act requests, maintains meeting minutes, oversees elections and acts as secretary for the board.
Roe, 57, will have completed her 22nd year serving on the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees in some capacity at the end of 2012. She will seek her third term as clerk.
Courtesy of Ypsilanti Township
To counter that, township staff and board took pay and benefit cuts, and positions within the township went unfilled. Roe said her own office has continued providing the same services despite a 25 percent reduction in staff since 2008.
“Through working together as a board and not filling positions as employees retired and working cooperatively with our unions and employees, we have been able to sustain trash collection, recycling, fire and police services, road maintenance and improvements, new bike path construction, senior programs and recreation,” she said.
Roe echoed other incumbents thoughts that the current team in place has worked well together to make that happen.
She said the township continues to work well with the sheriff’s department and other government agencies in the region, and she said that comes from the current leadership and staff’s experience.
“It is all about relationships, experience and the know-how that comes from years of serving township residents and delivering services,” Roe said. “All of us have broad skills and years of experience that we put to use daily for our residents.”
Roe applauded the township’s residents for their assistance in being "the eyes and ears" of the blight reduction and neighborhood stabilization efforts. She said the township’s ordinance, building, zoning and legal departments have built “a finely tuned-machine” in dealing with blight issues in a cost-effective manner.
“This team of staff persons and attorneys have built a model that is constantly being improved as we find more effective ways to keep the mortgage companies and the banks accountable for our neighborhoods,” Roe said. “There is nothing more important than protecting the property values of our homes.”
Roe linked those efforts to the township’s ability to attract business. She said low taxes, access to freeways, access to an airport, good roads and a safe community are all reasons businesses have expanded or moved to the township in recent years.
Roe added that she feels the township residents believe in the approach that the current board is taking.
“I think the residents have said it best as we have been out campaigning door to door: ‘You all are doing a great job; why would we want to change? I am voting for the entire team!’” she said.
Ruth Ann Jamnick
Y-Town Future candidate for clerk Ruth Ann Jamnick has a simple solution for attracting business to Ypsilanti Township.
“The first change to be made is change the elected officials,” she said. “This sends a message to the local and larger community that there are people that serving as our elected officials who are open to, and encourage you, to consider Ypsilanti Township as a great place to locate your business. “
She also took aim at the current leadership when asked about the biggest challenges facing the township.
“One of the biggest challenges is a lack of respect within, and outside of, our community for our elected leadership,” she said. “We are seen as fairly selfish, a difficult community to work with and have incredibly mean-spirited politics with our 'if you aren't with us, you're against us' attitude, 'unless there is something we want' or 'if we can't control the outcome, we are not there.' "
“Our Y-Town Future team will always be involved to make something better,” she added.
Jamick is the most familiar name in Ypsilanti Township politics among the slate of 10 Y-Town Future candidates and has the most history with the incumbents.
Jamnick, 70, served as township treasurer from 1976 to 1998 before representing the 54th district in the State House of Representatives from 1994 to 2004. She served as Ypsilanti Township supervisor until she was ousted by current Supervisor Brenda Stumbo in 2008.
She says her current job is serving as a “community volunteer” who works with the Ypsilanti DDA, Washtenaw United Way Advisory Committee and Washtenaw Area Transportation Study.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
She highlighted her work and experience at the local and state level, including twice serving on a national committee for elections and redistricting, and added that she would bring a new respect to the clerk's office.
While most Y-Town Future candidates say their lack of government experience is an asset and the township needs fresh faces and ideas, Jamnick is the exception.
“I can be their dictionary, history book and resource book,” she said. “I have served throughout our Washtenaw County community with many agencies and organizations as our township's representative, which also brings the knowledge that we do not exist in a vacuum. While our focus must be on Ypsilanti Township and our future success, we must acknowledge and respect the fact that we are part of a larger community.”
Jamnick also accused the board of being slow to react to blight reduction efforts, which she said she encouraged while she was serving as township supervisor, though she said her warnings went unheeded.
“If our elected officials over the years would have been willing to consistently say to whoever you were that it is your responsible for the upkeep of your property in this community, and it is our responsibility to be fair and consistent with ordinance enforcement, perhaps we wouldn't be spending excessive legal fees and long days for Ypsilanti Township staff in dealing with the blight facing our community today,” she said.
Y-Town Future candidate Larry Davis Jr. is challenging incumbent Larry Doe for the treasurer’s office in the Aug. 7 primary.
Doe has served as the township’s treasurer since 1999 and said it is that experience that makes him the best candidate for the position.
Like other incumbents, he pointed to the township’s success throughout the economic crisis as a sign of its effectiveness as a team. He underscored that the township has been able to maintain service levels while reducing its budget and coping with declining revenues.
“Unlike many municipalities throughout state, the current Ypsilanti Township board has continued to maintain a high level of service to our residents, continued to make road improvement, attracted new businesses, annually balanced the budget and maintained a AA bond rating through the economic downturn even though there was a significant drop in state shared revenue and in residential and commercial taxable values,” he said.
He pledged that the board will continue to be fiscally conservative with taxpayer dollars as it has in the past.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Doe highlighted several of his office’s accomplishments he believes have improved township services. Chief among them is implementing a process to collect delinquent personal property taxes.
Doe said his office also has improved service by offering a drop box for tax payments, absentee ballots and 14-B tickets, in addition to a three-year dog license instead of a one-year license.
Like other township departments, the treasurer’s office has reduced its staff and maintained its level of service, Doe said.
He called neighborhood stabilization and blight issues the biggest challenges facing the township, and said the board and staff have created an effective manner of dealing with it.
“The board, in conjunction with the office of community standards and legal staff, diligently work with mortgages companies, banks and homeowners to generate the best possible solution to resolve the blight issue,” he said.
Doe said the board’s goal in every instance is compliance, and legal action is always the last resort.
He also highlighted the partnerships the township has forged with Habitat for Humanity, as well as partnerships with Spark East, the Aeroptropolis project and other groups in helping reduce the number of foreclosed homes and generating business in the area.
Rev. Larry Davis Jr.
Davis and his wife have been owners of the Hallelujah Beauty and Barber Shop in Ypsilanti for 25 years, and Davis says the experience of successfully running a business would transfer to the treasurer's office.
He describes himself as a community activist and serves on the Minister's Alliance and is a former member on Superior Township's Workforce Development Board and as a volunteer road commissioner. He presently serves on the Covenant Pastors Fellowship and the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Council, where he chairs the re-entry program.
"I know how to interact with people in business as well as everyday, ordinary people," he said.
In regards to the blight issues, Davis charged that the current board doesn't do anything to address blight except at election time.
"They tear down, but they are not building up, so we have commercial spots available but businesses keep passing us by," he said. "So, I don’t know what their philosophy is, but they sit down three years and work one year."