So to the Pierce scuttlebutt.
Nobody who is criticizing Pierce wants to be quoted. I have always honoured that request when it is made of me (that’s how I get to know things, and eventually turn up something that can be quoted as authoritative).
So far, the most damning thing I have heard about Steve is that working with him leaves ”a bad taste in the mouth”. It is true that several of the people who have worked with him on various boards have openly supported Schreiber. Behind this “bad taste” lie accusations of double-talk and self-serving ends. There are folks who say he can’t get things done, and others who accuse him of being a snake.
Several people have quoted the Blue Ribbon Committee on City Finances and the infamous “not at the same meeting” comment from Paul Tait, who chaired the BRCCF. Paul’s comment was in response to a loud and lengthy objection from Steve when Mayor Farmer misconstrued the BRCCF final recommendation.
As it happens, I attended the deliberations of the BRCCF because I saw its recommendations as the most important discussion affecting the future of the City at the time.
I like Paul Tait, I think he did a great job with the BRCCF and I believe every member of that committee should be commended for the effort they put in to sorting through the city’s issues. It was a difficult job, and sitting in on those deliberations provided a great perspective on the problems the city faces.
As the committee was winding up and putting together a recommendation, it was clear in the minds of all present that an income tax, though entirely undesirable, represented a plausible band-aid respite that could buy the city enough time to get Lansing to pay attention and fund its commitments.
Paul Tait put together a resolution that basically recommended that the city put the tax to the vote. Steve Pierce objected to that recommendation, saying that the BRCCF was both ill equipped and unqualified to address the political questions about whether or not the tax should be put to the vote. Steve worked long and hard, against considerable resistance, to get the word “consider” put into the recommendation. He was successful. Ingrid Kock worked long and hard to get an alternative plan for the tax’s implementation to be appended to the final recommendation. She was also successful.
When Mayor Farmer came out with a blanket statement to the effect that the BRCCF had recommended that the city put the income tax to the vote, Steve hit the roof.
I probably still have a copy of the e-mail exchange that ensued over the next couple of days, it was long and loud and impassioned. Steve wanted to make it clear that he did not support the tax. Farmer said, “what am I missing here?” Paul Tait was saying that the committee had decided it was the only feasible solution. Pierce went on to elaborate other alternatives, making it clear that he did not support the tax. Tait was eventually quoted as saying, “we were not at the same meeting” by way of saying that Pierce had reconstructed the deliberations to suit his own ends.
At the time, of course, I was working as a journalist and had to stay out of the fight completely. Pierce did not want to be on the record as supporting the tax. Tait could not see a viable alternative to the tax. Farmer had wanted the tax as a means to maintain solvency.
Tait, while listening to the deliberations of Pierce and Koch and others, was looking to find the language of consensus, and perhaps paying less attention than might be expected to the substance of those deliberations. Paul had a tough job, and he did it very well. Tait was, from a point earlier than my attendance at meetings, largely resigned to implementation of the tax as a solution.
Pierce wanted to distance himself from any recommendation to implement the tax. Anyone who was at those meetings should know that much, unless they ignored him completely.
Farmer was looking for BRCCF’s authority to justify pursuing the tax.
Was Pierce’s reaction over the top? Maybe. But his point was nevertheless valid. Farmer had no business generalizing the committee’s recommendation in the manner that she did. (I recall hearing it at the time and thought… oh dear; this is not going to sit well) That’s what he was initially reacting to. Pierce had fought to have the word “consider” included, and both Farmer and Tait were ignoring it.
I can see why committee heads and others would find this tendency of Pierce’s to make sure he is not ignored irritating. If that’s what leaves “a bad taste in the mouth”, then this is a matter of personal style rather than of substance.
Oh, and I did personally laugh aloud when Steve nominated as a Democrat. You need to keep in mind that, where I come from, the Left is a long way further left of centre than it is here. True to form, however, he now has the support of several key Labour unions which places him a lot further Left than I would have given him credit for. A property owner and businessman who can successfully get the support of Labour must have a pretty convincing argument.
We are blessed with 3 candidates, none of which can be faulted for anything more than infractions of personal style and attention to detail (or the lack thereof).
We have the “Staus Quo” player, who is Schreiber. I have yet to see anything from him that suggests we will get too many surprises out of his tenure, should he win. In fact the
proven leadership in tough times” slogan suggests that nothing much will change.
We have the “Voice for Change” player who is Pierce. The conversation about the future of Ypsilanti is likely to take a sharp turn if Steve is elected. This may or may not be a good thing, but the conversation will be interesting, Steve will be ignored less often if he is Mayor
We have the “Voice of the Oppressed” candidate who is Richardson. Anyone who has lived in or around the city for a while knows that there are plenty of oppressed folks live in Ypsilanti. Lois’ grassroots support should not be underestimated, even if it is invisible online.
The vote for the Democratic primary, at this point, is a vote for style rather than for substance. I find this a bit disappointing. Hopefully the contenders can come up with a platform or two we can sink our teeth into.