2006/07/21

Pierce Scuttlebutt

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.

Take Care

Rod

6 comments:

maryd said...

Regarding the BRCCF: Isn't it true that as a committee, members were never given the information on the budget (the actual numbers, line items) to make rational financial decisions in the first place. And the “study” provided did not answer the questions that should have been asked (I am having a difficult time remembering the specifics, as I only came to later public meetings). Given this case, it must have been extremely frustrating to try and alleviate a situation without the proper info or tools. And this band-aid fix (City income tax) is only a temporary fix, one that could sound the death knell for our fair town.
I have had very positive experiences working with Steve Pierce on committees. I found him to be hard working, well prepared, and very polite in his interactions.

trusty getto said...

The parallels I'm seeing between what the "status quo" candidates and their supporters said about me when I ran for the BOE over two years ago and what's being said about Pierce now are disturbing and like deja vu.

I agree it is difficult to deal with dissent and disagreement. When I ran, one of my central ideals was that we learn more from dissent than we do from people who agree with us. Uncomfortable as it may be to sit and listen to, it is the dissenting voices that frequently contribute the most. A true leader is one who can listen to dissent and hear the productive aspects while not being offended or taking it personally. I know this is one of Steve's strengths. I'm getting the idea that this is certainly not a strength of the "establishment."

In fact, if anything, the "establishment" is sounding a little scared and on the run, what with the adolescent and poorly thought out pot-shots I'm reading on the Internet and in emails that keep getting forwarded my way.

Our city has weathered the storm of the status quo for some time. We have a huge debt to show for it, little regional cooperation, and very little additional business development, which everyone agrees is what we need. Instead of focusing on the solutions, the "establishment" and Schreiber think that taxing us more is the solution to our problems.

I think it's time for a change.

Anonymous said...

When is someone going to come out with the REAL scuttlebutt about Pierce?

For some reason, this guy seems to have fooled an awful lot of people in this town into believing he has the solutions to Ypsilanti's problems by telling them almost ANYTHING he thinks will help him get elected.

Now, he pretends to be a supporter of those who depend on bus service; yet only a year ago he advocated ELIMINATING Ypsilanti's ENTIRE AATA subsidy. (I'll bet many of his KYR friends might be surprised to know that.)

Now, he says he wants to work with local business owners to promote economic development; but not long ago he actually proposed ELIMINATING the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). (Being that Pierce is a former DDA member, surely he knows this would actually result in LOST REVENUE for the city.)

Now, he says he's running for Mayor as a DEMOCRAT; but it was only after his "Pierce for Mayor" signs had been up for nearly TWO MONTHS that he finally changed his filing status to "Democrat." (Doesn't anybody else wonder why his signs don't indicate his party affiliation???)

Now, he claims to be a friend of unions, and of working people; but early in the campaign, his very first showed in front of properties owned by some of Ypsilanti's biggest, wealthiest(and in some cases, most notorious) landlords. (Look around: how many "Pierce for Mayor" signs are currently accompanied by "For Rent" signs?)

Now, he claims he is the candidate best able to bring people together to help solve Ypsilanti's problems; but as Rod himself says, the fact is that there is an AWFULLY LONG list of people who have served with him on various boards and commissions who are pointedly NOT supporting him for mayor. There are likewise many more "anecdotal" stories about people who have found him to be rude, arrogant and abrasive. (Doesn't this call into serious question his leadership abilities?)

Not long ago, Pierce said that the Water Street project was "the single biggest mistake the City of Ypsilanti has ever made, and will probably be the single biggest thing that pushes us toward receivership;" yet a couple of years ago he actually wrote a letter to the Detroit Free Press touting the Water Street Development as "great news" for Ypsilanti.

Pierce likes to talk about how he is an "idea guy," and about how wants to provide Ypsilanti with "Leadership."

Instead, what he seems BEST at is picking apart decisions the City made long ago (ironically, often even decisions in which he was a participant) and then, of course, explaining how and why HE would have done things differently...

I'm sorry folks, but that's not leadership - that's merely hindsight.

Rod said...

Mary,

Your recollection is heavily biased and represents an extreme point of view. Yes the BRCCF could have been done better, but it wasn't quite the lost cause that you recall. I remember hearing that point of view back then, but I don't hold with it.

Plante Moran survey answered the question it was asked to the best of its ability. In hindsight, the Committee might have asked a slightly different question, it didn't, and so it got the answer it asked for with a couple of omissions in detail. I’d need to dig through my notes to remember what those were, but they were things that seemed reasonable to ask, but impossible to deliver in a meaningful manner.

The survey wasn't the sum total of all of the information the committee needed, but there was certainly enough information to get a fair idea of what was going on. I personally provided an analytical tool with which to fill in some of the gaps.

Ed Koryzno provided a lot of information to the committee. He was asked for a "worst case" scenario, and that's what he delivered. That worst case became the standard, and the final deliberations were all built around it.

The City Income tax was never going to provide anything more than a band-aid. You are absolutely right about that. Any way you shake it, it had a shelf-life of 5 years or so before the escalating problems overran the revenue, and the city would be back to square one. The city sought to employ the tax to buy time while other initiatives took effect. The impact of the tax on city life was not adequately researched, and the proposed public meeting on that issue never materialized.

The level of propaganda produced by the city in support of the tax took me by surprise. The spin was blatant and heavily biased in favour of the tax. They were having none of anything else except the tax. Regionalization was considered ineffective and idealistic, further cuts were considered too drastic, nothing else was going to do except the tax.

If you think the “status quo” team have anything else in mind, think again. They have proved many times that, once their mind is set, it is impossible to sway, and they don’t care who gets hurt on the way. The public meetings that I attended were a sham.

Take Care

Rod

Rod said...

Another sad and ill-reasoned post from another mous(e). If this is a-non-y-mous(e), then we might call it an x-mous(e) for short. If it is an x-mous(e) we might call it a he, or dead.

Yes I do have a warped mind, and an absolute disdain for cowardice; and these “brave souls” who hide in the shadows are the bottom of the barrel.

However, being the best the Schreiber campaign can do is whisper behind hands, I guess these mous(e) droppings will have to do for an anti-Pierce comment.

And if you think I am coming out on Pierce’s side here, read my lips… YES I AM TAKING PIERCE’S SIDE HERE. NO I AM NOT ON HIS TEAM.

Do you folks understand the difference?

I was always leaning more his way than Paul’s, but a couple of whisper campaign emails circulating over the last couple of days reminded me why it is that I should care.

Mind you, if Steve messes up, I’ll still hammer him. I’m like that and he knows it.

Now to this clap-trap.

Point 1… a candidate saying ANYTHING that will get him elected makes him a politician. If you think the other guy isn’t, you are extremely na├»ve. Neither candidate has produced much in the way of substantial information, so we are left with a battle of the BS. It happens at election time.

Point 2… I expect most of Steve’s KYR friends do know that Steve put the elimination of the busses up as a possible cost-saving measure. If they don’t then they weren’t paying attention. As I read the e-mail when it was sent way back then, I interpreted that as a man exploring alternatives, not a man developing policy. Smart people explore alternatives and throw bad ideas away. Stupid ones set policy without thinking and defend it to the death.

Text without context is pretext. Learn and remember. Its hard for a mous(e) but you can do it if you try.

Pont 3… Regarding the DDA, again exploring alternatives, again throwing bad ideas away.

Text without context is pretext. Learn and remember. Its hard for a mous(e) but you can do it if you try.

The revenue issue is a fallacy. It does cost the city some revenue to maintain the DDAs. It is true that they make some grants and lots of loans available to the community that otherwise wouldn’t be there. A community that is up to its eyeballs in debts and taxes really doesn’t need more debt. However, MY PERSONAL VIEW… is that the DDA contributes a great deal to the common wealth of the community. The DDA is worth the expense, provided it is well managed.

Point 4… Pierce the Democrat. Has he always been a democrat? Ask him. Does it matter? Maybe it does to you. The real question is, can he uphold Democrat ideals? I believe he can and does. The unions believe he can and does. We’ll see.

Point 5… Who Steve’s friends are and where his signs go up is of little real consequence. This is not a point, it is simply mous(e) droppings.

Point 6… almost a real point, except that the context is wrong. People choose a candidate for a number of reasons. Many people like the “Status Quo”. The current council has served the interests of certain citizens very well. Many of those citizens are members of boards and committees. Paul is the “Staus Quo” contender, and Pierce is a real threat to him. It makes sense that, those who want to maintain the Status Quo will back Schreiber, and many who have never backed anyone, will back Schreiber because they don’t want things to change. A few, I am told, actually dislike Steve. The one or two that I have managed to talk to have not said so. They back Schreiber because they believe he will serve their interests better. That is their right.

Its amazing the answers you get when you ask real questions of real people, rather than listening to whisper campaigns.

Text without context is pretext. Learn and remember. Its hard for a mous(e) but you can do it if you try.

Point 7… again, not a point, mous(e) droppings. The Water Street debacle was so poorly managed by the City’s “experts” that it fell apart at the seams. The City’s entrenched problem of dogged intransigence has cost its citizens many millions of dollars. (17 at last count… do I hear 20…. 30 in the back from the Grim Reaper!!) The City is run by academics and “experts” and there is not a single ounce of business sense in the whole of City Hall. They can’t negotiate, they can’t compromise, they can’t plan. From the great car-park debacle of ’05, to Parkview, to Water Street, the list of woes grows. This is not Pierce’s fault. And before someone tells me how Pierce approved the plans for the DDA car-parks, it was pathetic execution of those plans that caused the problem. (Unless the resolution had something in it about not checking with YUCA, and about not checking for vaults, in which case I’ll stand corrected). Ms Goulet should be thankful I worked for the paper at the time and had to stay out of the mud-fight over that one.

Why anyone would want more of the same is beyond me.

Text without context is pretext. Learn and remember. Its hard for a mous(e) but you can do it if you try.

Point 8… more mous(e) droppings. Steve is an ideas guy. He’s also a details guy. He has railed on the city because it can’t execute its plans effectively. So have I. He has railed on the city because it won’t enforce its ordinances. So have many. Many citizens are sick to the neck of a city council that has not one ounce of real business sense. So they should be.

Can Steve bring the community together? One would hope so, because the current direction the city is headed is straight down the toilet.

I have heard others express a concern that Steve might do something that makes things worse. How much worse can it get? I’ve known Steve to go over the top before. I’ve also seen the people of Ypsilanti put him in his place. To me he has shown a track record of putting many ideas forward and throwing away the bad ones. All up, when it matters, he is thinking and planning. When his ideas stink, he listens and learns. The only time I have heard him say “its not my fault” is when he has been made a scapegoat to vent the spleen of the whisper mills, where the current administration seeks to defray attention from its own complete lack of accountability.

I’ve seen him talk twaddle. Most politicians do. Will he serve the community well while he is in office? I expect so. Will he serve his own ends while in office? Probably. Successful politicians usually do both. The good ones realize that they are fundamentally servants of the community, and any personal gain is gravy.

I’ve seen him listen and learn. Fewer politicians do that.

He will bring some business sense to City Hall, which has to be a whole lot better than the business sense it has now.

Finally, I have not joined “team Pierce”, though I am now more clearly in favour of his candidacy. I don’t subscribe to the “all or nothing” mindset that is common in this country. If Steve messes up, I reserve the right to hammer him.

Quite frankly, the strength of the whisper mill has me startled. The couple of e-mails I have seen from prominent citizens are every bit as poorly reasoned as the mous(e) droppings I have addressed here. Attributing motives to actions taken out of context does not constitute sound reason.

It is the prominence of the citizenry that is peddling this garbage against Pierce that has brought me out in his favour.

Take Care

Rod

trusty getto said...

The REAL scuttlebut from an ANONYMOUS commenter?

Come one, that's a bunch of hooey. You want credibility -- identify yourself.

As to the leadership complaints, it makes me wonder whether we'd have all this debt -- motivating talk of an income tax -- if other "naysayers" had been listened to way back when. I recall a small group of residents with actual land development experience bringing up a bunch of concerns about Water Street years ago. After the city patted them on the head, sent them on their way and threw away the well-thought-out analysis they provided, is it any wonder that their list of worries and concerns actually came true? You can call them naysayers all you want -- I call the correct.


It's not all that surprising that those without vision resent a leader that has it. It's not the complaints of those without vision that are important it's the vision that is. Steve has vision, and so far as I've seen, none of the other candidates for mayor do.