This afternoon at 5 PM , the Ludington City Council held a special meeting with all members present to interview two candidates for the seat formerly occupied by Wanda Marrison before she resigned for personal reasons at the end of last month.
I was surprised about the attendance at the meeting-- not that all councilors were present, along with City Attorney Richard Wilson, City Manager John Shay, Mayor Ryan Cox, the treasurer, the clerk, and even Assistant City Manager Jackie Steckel-- but that other than the two candidates, there was no other attendee other than my humble self.
This struck me as incredibly odd that at this properly noticed special meeting, nobody else from the Fourth Ward (or anywhere else) showed up to find out who would represent them next. The candidates surely have not been vetted by any of our media as to this date about anything other than their names and addresses.
The City Council may have their own interpretation, but it seems to me like an apathy that is based on the way this council has dissed the will of the people by molding Wanda's successor to campaign only towards the City Council, not the people of the fourth ward. After they dispensed with the regular order of business, I gave a 3-4 minute prepared statement that I reproduce here:
"Today you are holding a special meeting of this council to interview candidates for the Fourth Ward councilor position vacated by retiring Councilor Wanda Marrison. I welcome the candidates that have applied for this position, and hope that the best candidate is chosen either today or at a later date by our city council, none of whom live in the Fourth Ward themselves.
In a similar situation, the council appointed a Third Ward city councilor back in 2011, and I had applied for that position along with three other candidates. Even then, I thought it was a rather foolish thing to be doing for this city council, to appoint a city councilor within months of a scheduled city election when the people of the Third Ward in 2011, and the people of the Fourth Ward here in 2014, could democratically elect their next representative.
The citizens of the Fourth Ward will thus get a representative that curries the favor of six people from other wards who want the interests and their own wards to be better represented by the choice they will make. This in itself is alien to representative democracy, otherwise known as a republic, to have such a system as we have it here now in Ludington, and back in 2011.
When I was interviewed back in 2011, I spoke of how I would represent the people of my ward and respect the rights and property of all citizens of Ludington. Candidates, that kind of thinking in this interview will not get you the job. Instead of concentrating on the livelihood and prosperity of the people of the Fourth Ward, who have systematically had their interests placed on the back burner to other areas, you need to devote yourself to subsidizing the downtown area and all those businesses lying outside your ward that receive tax abatements. Many of those are in my ward.
You must also devote your praise to the Ludington Municipal Marina and actively seek all the state grants and gifts you can get for them and look the other way when they allow charter boats to anchor therein, while all those private marinas around and near the PM Bayou in your ward go belly up because they cannot compete on such an uneven playing field where they must put their own money and money received from their customers into their business, not taken from the taxpayers of the state and the community.
You, as a fourth warder yourself, must devote even more public money and attention to the downtown area, because tax increment financing and two mills in taxes guarantee that they will get more money at the expense of our citizens and other taxing authorities in the coming years. Your constituents, the residents of the Fourth Ward, get to help out paying while they see the husks of their old business district and other anchors of the community disintegrate away into only memories of your once vibrant area.
So my advice to you is to play smart and play to your audience--your six electors who live elsewhere and rarely step foot in the Fourth Ward-- and not to the people you supposedly represent. Those 1000 plus people that call the Fourth Ward their home. Such is the republic that these half dozen aristocrats stand and pledge allegiance to each meeting with their hands on their hearts, which I noticed we didn't do today. Thank you."
The last addendum was an impromptu addition. The order of business was to interview Jess Stubbs, who lives on Jefferson Street, across the bridge, while the other candidate, Michael Krauch, living on Danaher Street at the northern part of the ward, left the room.
Jess Stubbs- Willing to Learn and Work Hard for the City
Jess Stubbs had semi-formal attire on a casual two-toned blazer and a nice pair of jeans as he took the hot seat. Jess was pleasant, but very curt in his answers, answering most of the questions posed to him in one or two brief sentences. But even though he indicated some ignorance about how the council and public policy works, he did indicate he had plenty of time to devote to the job, and said a lot of things that I think in retrospect, the council liked hearing.
Jess was asked early on to describe himself, and he offered his name and his address. Later on he was questioned more about his background, and he replied he had grown up in Ludington worked at Eberhards, spent about eight years in Mt. Pleasant, and came back and is now working at Whitehall Industries. He has three kids, only his oldest boy is still living at home and should be out in a year, and is divorced. He also puts a lot of effort in LudRock and co-hosts a music show on K-ROK.
Stubbs likes the 'vibe' in the City over the last 10 years, and indicated that he has worked for Gus Macker and Suds on the Shore, and can offer a lot of volunteered free time to the council. He said that his integrity was his best asset, and even though he was asked a couple of different times, he couldn't think of anything the city is not doing well or could do better. This stroke the councilor's egos.
When asked for city priorities he mentioned redeveloping the City Park and the West End of Ludington, but later answered a question on financial priorities as being anything concerning the city's infrastructure at the top, and said these were the top thing that city government should be working on. I think those two are conflicting, but the councilors I believe liked hearing it.
He noted that the Fourth Ward's biggest problem would likely be urban blight, and believes he can handle tough budget decisions that may negatively affect his neighbors by explaining why those decisions had to be made. His interview lasted about 15 minutes.
Michael Krauch- Knowledgeable, Professional, and Pragmatic
Michael Krauch gave each of the councilors his resume and introduced himself as an executive working for MSU Extension out of Scottville, who originally came from Illinois. He told a pleasant story about how he would periodically visited the area, and how on one of our summer evenings, a while ago he and his family made the decision to relocate to the area. Back in Illinois he was an attorney specializing in real estate issues for 12 years. Here's more about a recent promotion.
Krauch with a rather small stature, sported a nice grey suit for the interview, and spoke with an assured but relaxed authority; he apologized to the councilors beforehand for needing to use a cough drop in his mouth to counter a seasonal illness common in the area.
Krauch also had infrastructure at the top of his priorities, also mentioning the need for quality health and safety services. Issuewise, he listed correcting derelict properties as a priority, referencing some homes within the Fourth Ward that were in great need of help in interior renovations of electricity and plumbing that he encountered while working with Habitat for Humanity.
He often spoke in great detail often being asked out of interest by Councilor Winczewski and John Shay about how to craft policy to attack such problems. His remedy to control the problem was to consider a full home inspection whenever alienation (change of owner) of a property takes place through a typical mortgage or land contract. He noted correctly the City's current policy of sidewalk inspections that do the same purpose.
The large percentage of non-owner occupied houses in the area is a concern for him, but he noted that many of these may be correctable through changing attitudes. For vacation rentals, an issue brought up by Nancy Mustaikis at the last meeting, he said that transient properties may not be an issue if standards are enforced.
As far as economic development, he mentioned he has talked with his staff and the local CVB and determined that the background infrastructure for tech jobs is basically here, but the main job would be to communicate that fact and to show the area can be a great place to raise a family.
As for explaining tough budget decisions that negatively affect his neighbors, he stated that in any agency, there is a finite amount of money, and so you can't please everyone. You need to be capable of explaining negative impacts to the City, and know that not everyone will be happy.
He even gave me some credit for noting that the decision they will make would be similar to Gerald Ford assuming the presidency after Nixon's resignation, because Ford was never in a national election, and democracy was effectively blocked in many people's perception.
Of course, City Manager John Shay said that the city charter says that the city council must fill a vacated seat within thirty days after the seat is vacated, and so the council's actions were necessary. The same section of law also says: "No vacancy need be filled if it occurs within sixty (60) days preceding a City election." This indicates that the election using the votes of the people (if two or more candidates apply) would democratically choose the successor. This is what a clear-thinking council should want, so the people of the Fourth Ward can have their say.
The next citywide election is on November 4th, so if our city leaders and Wanda Marrison were interested in getting a popularly elected councilor, they could have shelved her resignation to September 6, and in the time between when she 'officially resigned' (August 15) and this month they could have gotten people to submit their petitions and get those names on the ballot.
But then the people might make the wrong choice; right councilors? Here, the choice between candidates to me seemed fairly clear after the two interviews. Mr. Krauch had a lot of knowledge about issues, a balance of ideas, and the capacity to make his own decisions based on logic. Mr. Stubbs had a bit to learn, but a willingness to learn, and didn't see anything wrong with the city, its past, and its current direction. I couldn't see Jess disagreeing or questioning much of what the rest of the council might send his way, whereas I could see Mr. Krauch having his own opinion and basing it on multiple factors.
So even though I think Krauch has the better capacity to serve the Fourth Ward, I worry because Stubbs has the characteristics I believe the city council wants from a councilor from the Fourth Ward, which is obedience and silence. These six councilors will make that decision at the September 22 meeting next Monday.
That resignation date, has a ring of dishonesty now, collusion, and perhaps, conspiracy. If in fact that date automatically opted out the election process for 4th Warders, they should know now, and be up in arms about a "chosen one" to serve. Methinks this again stinks of corruption, whether CM Shay had any input to Marrison, or anyone else on board helped her with that date with what now looks like a "fixed agenda" for Ludington. I thought she said she was gone starting 9/8/14? Anyone remember? Election day is 11/4/14, strange coincidence, or more underhanded tricks?
When she announced her departure it was mentioned her resignation was effective on August 31 but the first actual meeting after that where she wasn't a councilor wasn't until September 8.
Whoever wins this six vote election will have over two years of councillorship before they experience real democracy, however, they will have the extra tools of the incumbent to continue. None of our elected officials were concerned at all about this at the meeting, but they were so greatly concerned about getting the seat filled within thirty days by their fiat.
I wonder sometimes how they can stand and recite the pledge of allegiance and keep a straight face the way they feel about the underlying republic and democratic ideals many of us hold dear.
I totally agree with you Aquaman.
Well done X. I also got the impression that Mr. Stubbs would be the person best suited for going along with the Council, Mayor and Shay. I think the Council would be intimidated by Mr. Krauch because of his expertise and the fact that he's an attorney and is naturally inclined to ask questions. His idea to have properties inspected prior to selling is a bad one though. This is one of the reasons housing in Detroit collapsed. People couldn't afford to fix up homes just to sell them and that caused a problem. It put the City of Detroit smack dab in the middle of all real estate transactions dealing with dwellings. And you are correct to be suspicious of Marrison's decision not to wait and retire within the 60 day period thus allowing the Council to choose someone of their liking. This is truly an unconscionable decision by them and so obviously smacking of the typical shading dealings that seem to never end. Also the fact that the LDN has not pointed this fact out and editorialized about it only confirms that the decision to leave the citizens of the 4th ward out of the election process of choosing their own Councilor was deliberate. I hope both candidates are aware of this collusion to "fix" the election of the 4th ward Councilor and I hope the candidate that is not chosen is aware that their efforts to represent the citizens of the 4th ward was perverted by the Council.
I think Krauch was doing good until he actually mouthed some implied agreement with me about the disenfranchisement of the Fourth Ward in the process. That amounts to crazy talk to our city government; dissent among officials can be a lot easier controlled through hand-picked and appointed candidates. I agree with you completely that Mr. Krauch's positive qualities that he could bring to the role may actually work against him in receiving the votes.
The LDN or Mason County Press have yet to challenge the democratic avoidance of our city elders who did the exact same things with Councilor Les Johnson and Treasurer Linda Rogers before. I doubt whether they will actually run with an article that showcases each candidates views in this appointment, because quite simply that would only make a significant portion of the Fourth Warders (and others) upset that they are shut out of the process.
Another point of interest that was brought out. Both candidates were allowed the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the meeting, Mr. Krauch asked about whether he and his opponent would be told about who would be the winner before the upcoming meeting, at which point, they were apprised that they cannot make that decision beforehand because they cannot make decisions outside the meeting (as per the Open Meetings Act) and they won't know until the meeting actually takes place.
Problem is, that wasn't what happened in 2011 when Les Johnson won the seat over three contenders including myself. We were each interviewed by the Personnel Committee (Councilors Castonia, Holman and Taranko), Mayor Henderson, and City Manager Shay. I was called on my phone before the meeting by Mayor Henderson telling me I wasn't selected, but that it was okay for me to attend the meeting (remember I had that letter of trespass on me at the time prohibiting me from the city hall). At the meeting they didn't have a voting process-- instead they made a motion to select Les Johnson as the next third ward councilor, with nary a mention of the three other candidates to the councilors who were not at the committee meeting. They have changed the process.
Interesting. What does the City ordinance say about the process? Sounds to me like they can change the process any time they want.
Other than what is in section 5.2 of the charter it gives no indication of how they are to select the person to fill the vacancy. In that section it says: "Any vacancy of an elective office, except the Mayor, shall be filled within thirty 30) days by appointment by majority vote of the Council with the Mayor voting in case of a tie. No vacancy need be filled if it occurs within sixty (60) days preceding a City election. Elective officers so appointed shall serve until the next regular election, at which time an election shall be held to fill the remaining period of the term of office.
The boldfaced type indicates that whoever is appointed can serve only until November 4th (the next regular election) when reading the ordinance's plain language. Note it doesn't say 'citywide election'. Yes, I am going to bring that up on Monday when they do the anointing.
Thanks guys, what Willy asks needs our attention too. Seems like the new nowadays normal and legal processes to the COL's actions lies in, what the COL can do to twist, misinterpret, and change charter laws, and also the State of Michigan laws. Those simply don't apply anymore?... but surely should! They actually have the "authority to make changes, to their own liking, and preference"? And act like this is totally legal and above-board for the people they pretend to serve? Guess I have to gasp at that again, cause it sure doesn't sound like what we pledge allegiance to at all, and that is simply FREEDOM & JUSTICE! All I see is a warped form of tyranny, and fascism.
What they need is a well-defined process for the temporary filling of a vacant seat by the council for council members, the treasurer and city clerk. That one charter section is the sole indicator of what to do, and that's exactly why the hand-picked anointing of successors has varied significantly for the last three vacancies filled for treasurer, 3rd Ward, and 4th Ward councilor. Each office has an awful lot of power to give to long term appointees like the City of Ludington envisions this one to be for over two years.
It is enough to make one gasp, because it shows a very unlawful trend in our governance, a trend that has been going on for a long time here in Ludington, without any of our local or state agencies doing any oversight job.
The minutes of the special meeting have just become available here they are. City Clerk Luskin fleshes out a little bit more of the details from her recording of the event, but my notes and memory differ on a couple of things-- nothing major, however.
Also note, I have added a picture of the proceedings just before the special meeting started in the thread head.
Michael Krauch won the Fourth Ward spot in somewhat dramatic fashion tonight. Councilor Holman made a motion to nominate Jess Stubbs, which was slowly seconded by Councilor Johnson. Councilor Winczewski made her usual tip of the hat to both candidates and after some 'tells' by Councilor Rathsack and Castonia that they were not going to vote Stubbs, a vice vote was held, and it sounded as if a majority rejected the motion; a roll call vote determined that only Councilor Holman and Johnson supported Stubbs, the other four didn't. Castonia then made a motion which Rathsack seconded for Krauch as the candidate, and as you'd expect, only the two who voted for Stubbs dissented. The motion for Krauch succeeded and a well-dressed Michael Krauch was congratulated on his success.
Several residents got up to speak against the clerk and treasurer becoming appointees in the public comment, hopefully that fully sank in with the new councilor. The old councilors, however, argued for appointing the two officers during the time in the meeting for that, while the two officers sat mute. Their arguments sounded pretty much like what you might expect from Russia's Politburo during the Cold War decrying democracy. Once I get the video, their statements will be reviewed. If you didn't think our city council was out-of-touch before, your opinion may change on hearing what they have to say about voters in general.