links: Local political blog roundup from around Washtenaw County
From time to time I read local political blogs and see what's on people's minds. Here's a roundup, covering government transparency from the mayor of Milan, the sense of humor of the mayor of Ypsilanti, the budget challenges as seen from a candidate for the mayor of Ann Arbor and more.
A2Politico: Ann Arbor mayoral candidate Pat Lesko
A2Politico, the formerly anonymous blog of Ann Arbor mayoral candidate Pat Lesko, leads with a Feb. 25 piece on The Politics of Management: Paying More For Less. In it she takes aim at City Administrator Roger Fraser and the quality of the financial information being presented to elected officials for use in budget discussions:
"The City Administrator’s data raise many more questions than they answer, and the data are certainly not of the quality necessary to make informed decisions concerning closing projected budget gaps. Mayor and Council have a legal and fiduciary obligation to hold the City Administrator accountable in the performance of his job. Repeatedly presenting incomplete and contradicting financial data to bolster claims of savings that are suspect, at best, is cause for serious concern, close questioning and, potentially, some very frank discussions between Mayor, Council and the City Administrator."
Lesko's comments come after the city released its new data catalog, which published openly for the first time a number of reports which were only for internal use. Our ongoing Ann Arbor City Council coverage has more details.
Ann Arbor Schools Musings
Ann Arbor Schools Musings takes on the privatization question for transportation in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.Â The post from Feb. 18 notes the AnnArbor.com story on the topic with this perspective on open government:
"Well, AAPS has received the transportation and custodial privatization bids. You can read a summary of the board discussion on annarbor.com here. Surprise, surprise--rather than having the board talk about what they think of the bids (or about privatization in general) in public, which is what Susan Baskett wanted to do (thank you, Susan!) the board president wants to do that in closed session."
Our story on school busing privatization got 124 comments. Administrators will present their 2010-11 school year budget recommendations to the Ann Arbor school board at the end of March.
Public Land, Public Process
The PLPP blog is tracking the public process of decision making for the proposed developments on the Library Lot. When it launched, the only identifiable author was "buttercup"; since then, people have started posting under their own names. Here's the latest, a Feb. 21 piece by Ann Arbor resident and Alliance of Neighborhoods organizer Jack Eaton relaying an account of the latest meeting of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party:
"While PLPP has not taken any position regarding a particular use for the Library Lot, we are encouraged by a resolution passed by the Ann Arbor Democratic Party at its monthly meeting on February 13, 2010. The resolution calls for an open space or town square, which goes beyond the scope of PLPP's efforts. Nonetheless, the Party's resolution recognizes that the Library Lot RFP has proceeded without appropriate public participation. We hope the Democrats on Council will be mindful of the Party's Resolution when the RFP comes before them."
If Mark Maynard proves anything, it's that Ypsilanti deserves the Cool Cities signs that greet you on your way into town. He was host of Dreamland Tonight, which he described as "like Fernwood Tonight, if it were real, and done with puppets — a quirky, hyper-local talk show with a dash of Peewee’s Playhouse and a little bit of early David Letterman thrown in for good measure." The inaugural show included an interview with Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber, and his account of the inaugural event places the two cities in stark cultural contrast:
"Speaking of Mayor Schreiber, I cannot express to you what a good sport he was even running out on stage later in the show to give Patrick Elkins the Heimlich Maneuver during the big falafel eating contest. He was an incredible first guest, and he really set the tone for the rest of the show. He was funny, personable, and totally cool with our silliness. I heard someone from Ann Arbor say after the show that they’d love to live in a town where the Mayor would do something like this. And it’s true. I don’t always agree with Paul politically, but he cares about the City and he’s got a great sense of humor. And I think he made a whole lot of fans on Friday."
Inside City Hall: Kym Muckler, Milan, Mich.
Milan mayor Kym Muckler has her own weblog, Inside City Hall. Rather than communicating through press releases on official logo stationery, she is taking it directly to the net. The most recent post from Feb. 17 gives Milan citizens instructions on how to use the Freedom of Information Act to properly ask questions of how their city runs by requesting public records.
"For example, citizens have a right to review all public documents and records that affect public policy. Examples would include copies of the city budget and audit. All of us have a right to see where and how our tax dollars are being spent. Other examples would include our bills payable and payroll. A good way to know what is “FOIA-worthy” (hey I coined a new buzz word) would be any public records that are paid for with public money, (tax dollars) for some public purpose. Anyone can request the Milan City Council meeting minutes and agendas through FOIA."
To Muckler's credit, Milan already publishes meeting minutes and agendas online, with no need for a FOIA to get those records. But if you're looking for the city's Consolidated Annual Financial Report, you'll have to file to request it; this is in contrast to the City of Ann Arbor's publication of the same information. A review of government transparency in Milan which I contributed to in January through the Sunshine Review standard process came up with a D- grade for the city, with gaps in providing information about elected officials contact information, city budget information, zoning appeals processes, financial audits, lobbying information and the FOIA process itself.