Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alternative Rider

Ann Arbor mayoral candidate Steve Bean fielded a question recently that most candidates for public office aren't asked: Is your candidacy serious or merely symbolic? He says he's serious, though whether he has a shot at winning remains to be seen. Bean, an independent challenging Mayor John Hieftje in Tuesday's election, has run a deafeningly quiet campaign. And some might argue he hasn't waged the kind of aggressive battle it takes for an independent to upset a popular Democratic incumbent in a left-leaning town like Ann Arbor. As part of his campaign, he rode the bus around Ann Arbor on Wednesday. Read the store here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tea Party Rally

The conservative Republican crowd that gathered on the University of Michigan Diag Wednesday night cheered loudly in support of cutting government spending, repealing national health care reforms and putting up further barriers between Mexico and the U.S. The "Take Back Congress" rally sponsored by the U-M College Republicans was organized to provide a boost to Republican congressional candidate Rob Steele's campaign heading into Tuesday's election. Thayrone X, a tea party activist who served as master of ceremonies, criticized what he called "weak sister Republicans" for reaching across the aisle and trying to work with Democrats. He said that's why Michigan and the United States has "been led to the gates of hell." Read the story here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Week To Go

With one week to go before the Nov. 2 election, Democrat Virg Bernero told a crowd gathered on Eastern Michigan University's campus Monday night that education will be among his top priorities if elected governor. "I'm not here to say, 'Elect me and it'll all be peaches and cream,' but I am here to tell you these are my priorities: education, public safety, economic development — meaning jobs," Bernero told a crowd of about 140 gathered inside EMU's Student Center. Bernero was joined by U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who discussed a fight for education he says the Democrats are leading. Read the story here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Big Willy Style's All In It

Former President Bill Clinton arrived in Ann Arbor today to stump for U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who is being challenged by Republican Rob Steele on Nov. 2. This is one of those times as a photographer when you want to scream. No, not because Bill Clinton is scary. But because I was stuck in a press section in the back of a very large auditorium and told I couldn't move up closer. That forced me to have to shoot straight on against a gaudy orange background from far away the entire afternoon. Ugh. Anyway, it was an interesting rally. Lots of politicking and Tea Party bashing. Read the story here. Oh, and that last photo is of a U-M a cappella group called Gimble that was probably the highlight of the day for me. They opened with this cover of "Far From Home" by the Gabe Dixon Band, one of my favorite bands in the whole wide world (I didn't think anybody knew who they were). Oh, and I have to give a shout out to Bill for looking pretty healthy these days (it's that new "almost vegan" diet of his). He has followed in daughter Chelsea's vegan footstep in hopes of becoming healthier (he had a quadruple heart bypass in 2004) and has reported losing 24 pounds since starting the diet. "I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer recently. "I drink a protein supplement every morning — no dairy — I drink almond milk mixed in with fruit and a protein powder so I get the protein for the day." Viva la vegan.

Eastern Flame

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gunning For Per Diems

Washtenaw County Commissioner Leah Gunn, D-Ann Arbor, is calling for an end to the payment of "per diems" to county commissioners for attending meetings. A report by the county clerk recently determined that more than $26,000 in per diem and mileage payments collected by county commissioners from 2005 to 2009 were either ineligible or questionable. $175 of those expenses belonged to Gunn, who said today she is mailing a check to the county clerk for $175. "I do not wish to have my good intentions and my integrity brought into question on a minor matter such as this," she said, adding: "It is my intention to resubmit my resolution from 2009 that commissioners shall no longer receive per diems, travel money or mileage. This will be part of a package that being organized by the chair of the board. It will eliminate the Money Purchase Pension Plan (for commissioners) and will reorganize and possibly eliminate various boards and commissions of the county." Read the story here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Carpe Diem

It was high drama at Wednesday night's meeting of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners as members of the Washtenaw County Republican Committee rose in defense of Republican Commissioner Mark Ouimet, shown below. "This is politics at its worst," said GOP Chairman Mark Boonstra, scolding the Democrat-controlled board. "These unfounded attacks have slandered the good name of a good man who has served this county well." Ouimet's expense record has been in question for the past two weeks, with the Washtenaw County Democratic Party calling for an investigation into $35,000 in per diem payments and mileage reimbursements he collected. County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum released a report on Wednesday, showing more than $10,000 of the payments don't appear to be eligible under county board rules. Read the story here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Resolution Of Tolerance

University of Michigan student Chris Armstrong, U-M's first openly gay student body president, has been the subject of anti-gay attacks by Assistant State Attorney General Andrew Shirvell in recent months, attracting national media attention. Armstrong filed a request for a personal protection order in September after months of being targeted by Shirvell, who launched a blog attacking him and showed up at numerous events criticizing him for his “radical homosexual agenda,” which includes pushing for gender-neutral housing on campus. Shirvell's blog has included pictures of Armstrong with slurs printed across his face and a rainbow flag featuring a swastika, calling him "Satan's representative" and a "privileged pervert." On Monday, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and the City Council stood up for Armstrong and passed a resolution condemning Shirvell's actions. Read the story here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Two For The Money

U.S. Congressman John Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje appeared side-by-side today during a press conference in the shadow of the 93-year-old East Stadium Boulevard bridge span over South State Street in Ann Arbor. They celebrated a nearly $14 million federal grant on its way to the city to help reconstruct the bridge and another span over the nearby railroad tracks. "This project sort of hung on the cusp for a while, and it is one of two I'm told that are going to be coming into this state," Dingell said, holding up two fingers to indicate how lucky Ann Arbor was to receive the funding. Read the story here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Acting On Argo

Ann Arbor city staff will present a plan to the Park Advisory Commission on Tuesday, recommending reconstruction of the Argo Dam headrace and earthen embankment. The nearly $1 million project would alleviate the state's concerns about the dam's safety and improve conditions for kayakers and canoeists, city officials say. The redesign would get rid of a portage at the end of the headrace, which means river users no longer would have to lift their canoes and kayaks out of the water and carry them down to another launching point. Read the story here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On The Radio

Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry recalled Tuesday night a conversation he had over lunch with state Attorney General Mike Cox in early August. Cox had just suffered defeat in the Republican gubernatorial primary, falling to Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder. And he wasn't happy about it. "He was complaining bitterly," Lessenberry said. "He said, 'I've got all these good things that I could have done for the state, and I understand Detroit, and I understand all this other stuff,' which was not reflected in his campaign. And I said, 'Well, why in that case did you not communicate that? Why did you run a solely negative campaign attacking your opponents?'" Lessenberry said Cox responded: "Because positive advertising never works." Read the story here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Million-Dollar Man

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, led by CEO Michael Ford, accepted a $1 million federal grant today to help rebuild the Blake Transit Center in downtown Ann Arbor. Here, Ford applauds Congressman John Dingell. Read the story.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Great Debate

With three weeks to go before the Nov. 2 election, Virg Bernero and Rick Snyder participated in their first side-by-side interview tonight for the job of Michigan governor. Bernero, the Democratic mayor of Lansing, came out with guns blazing and attacked Snyder for outsourcing jobs at Gateway Computers, painting a picture of the Republican businessman from Ann Arbor as an out-of-touch millionaire who looks out for himself first. This was the scene before and after the debate (no photography was allowed during). Read my story here. My colleague Nathan Bomey from covered the business angle. Read his story here.