Saturday, October 24, 2009

Analysis of Kalamazoo City Commission Races

One of the local races to be decided this November is that for the Kalamazoo City Commission. All seven seats are up for election. The top seven vote-getters become the next commission, the top vote-getter becomes mayor, and the runner up becomes vice-mayor. The race is non-partisan.

Seventeen candidates have filed for election. Six of seven incumbents are running for reelection, with incumbent Sean McCann running for the democrat nomination for the 60th state house seat being vacated by Robert Jones.

The incumbents range from moderate (Barb Miller) to liberal (Mayor Bobby Hopewell, Vice-mayor Hannah McKinney, David Andersen) to very liberal (Don Cooney, Stephanie Moore). The first five incumbents are all pretty likely to be reelected, though Barb Miller may lose some conservative voters due to her support for the discrimination ordinance that will also be decided in the election.

Stephanie Moore is highly vulnerable due both to the fact that she barely squeaked into office in seventh place in 2007, and her troubles with the law. She was arrested and pled no contest to interfering with a police officer in Battle Creek and spent a short time in jail. There was also a controversy about firemen filling her swimming pool for free. Before her election, Moore was convicted of several crimes, including embezzlement, when she was a community organizer for ACORN.

Moore, who is serving her first term as a city commissioner, pleaded guilty in 2005 to misdemeanor embezzlement from the Fannie Lou Hamer Project, a national nonprofit voting education foundation she headed. Michigan State Police records also show that in 1983 Moore, then 17, was found guilty of misdemeanor retail fraud and in 1998 she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor nonsufficient funds charge.
Kalamazoo City Commission elections often attract cranks, or to be generous, candidates who have no chance of winning. In 2007 there were the two homeless candidates who ran as write-ins after failing to get the fifty signatures needed to get on the ballot. In 2005 there were Phil Bassett and Dennis Flatt, whose big idea was to build a monorail from Western to downtown. There was also the race-baiting reverend Jerry McNeely, who had plenty of ethical problems.

Screening the candidates by occupation and quality of responses, we find the following candidates who are not very likely to win.
Jimmy Dean Ayers: No occupation
Birleta Bean-Hardeman: Transportation manager, B & W Charters Inc
Nicholas Boyd: Home-loan closer for National City Bank
Kyle Boyer: Bartender at Partners Bar
Mike Kilbourne: AmeriCorps worker, Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Anna Schmitt: Server and bartender
Louis Cloise Stocking: Volunteer organizer for Michigan Medical Marijuana Association
Karen Wellman: Did not respond

Interestingly, five of the challengers (Boyd, Boyer, Schmitt, Stocking, and Kai Phillips) are in their twenties. Five of the candidates are black. Boyd's website lists a number of motorcycle-related websites and "oneness scriptures" from the Bible. Schmitt has a facebook group closed to nonmembers. Kilbourne is supported by Don Cooney.

That leaves the following three apparently credible challengers.
Aaron Davis: Restaurant hospitality manager for Greenleaf Hospitality Group
Terry L. Kuseske: Retired
Kai Phillips: Managing director of Yerasoft, a Web and software design firm

Examining their responses to the Gazette survey can help to distinguish the candidates.
17 Kalamazoo City Commission candidates vary on economic issues
Kalamazoo City Commission: Questions and answers
Kalamazoo City Commission: Meet the candidates

On the discrimination ordinance passed by the city commission, Kai Phillips, Aaron Davis, and Nicholas Boyd oppose the ordinance, and all the other candidates favor it.

On the issue of whether tax money should be used to build a downtown arena, Davis, Hopewell, Miller, and Schmitt said yes, Bean, Boyd, Boyer, Cooney, Kilbourne, Phillips, and Stocking said no, and Andersen, Ayers, Kuseske, McKinney, Moore, and Wellman did not clearly answer the question.

On the issue of whether the police should check the immigration status of criminals, Ayers and Phillips said yes, Boyer, Cooney, Hopewell, Kilbourne, Kueseske, McKinney, Moore, and Schmitt said no, and Andersen, Bean, Boyd, Davis, Miller, and Stocking did not clearly answer the question.

On whether the DPS should make marijuana its "lowest enforcement priority", Ayers, Boyer, Moore, Schmitt, and Stocking said yes, Hopewell, McKinney, Miller, and Phiilips said no, and Andersen, Bean, Boyd, Cooney, Davis, Kilbourne, Kuseske, and Wellman did not clearly answer the question.

On whether businesses that receive tax breaks should be required to hire the poor and felons, Ayers, Bean, Boyer, Cooney, Davis, and Kilbourne said yes, Andersen, Boyd, Hopewell, McKinney, Miller, Moore, Phillips, and Schmitt said no, and Kuseske, Stocking, and Wellman did not clearly answer the question.

On the Metro Transit tax on the ballot in Kalamazoo this November, everyone supports it except for Davis and Phillips who said no, and Boyer and Wellman who did not clearly answer the question.

On the issues, Kai Phillips is clearly the best. Aaron Davis is good on some issues such as the discrimination ordinance and Metro Transit tax, but not good on others.

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