Emails/Texts Reveal Council Members Staged Homeless Support for Library Lot Sale Vote

Emails/Texts Reveal Council Members Staged Homeless Support for Library Lot Sale Vote

by Patricia Lesko

The Ann Arbor Independent used FOIA to obtain emails, Tweets and text messages sent over several weeks prior to the April 17 City Council meeting between a trio of Council members and Caleb Poirier, founder of tent community Camp Take Notice and a member of the M.I.S.S.I.O.N. Board of Directors. In those electronic communications, Chuck Warpehoski (D-Ward 5), Chip Smith (D-Ward 5) and Zachary Ackerman (D-Ward 3) strategized with Poirier to bring “hundreds and hundreds” of individuals, including homeless individuals to whom M.I.S.S.I.O.N. provides services, to the Council meeting in a staged and scripted show of support for Council members’ votes in favor of the $10 million sale of the publicly-owned Library Lot to Chicago developer Core Spaces in order for the developer to build a luxury hotel/apartment building.

In this email sent four weeks before the April 17 vote, Poirier asks Smith to help script public comments.

M.I.S.S.I.O.N. Board President Mr. Lynn McLaughlin stated that the non-profit Board meets twice monthly. McLaughlin said Executive Committee officers were unaware of Poirier’s communications with the three Council members. McLaughlin added that while the non-profit supports the creation of more low-income housing properties, Poirier’s actions violated internal policies in place to protect the non-profit’s credibility. The Ann Arbor Independent reported on April 15 that M.I.S.S.I.O.N. Board Vice President Peggy Lynch paid for the barbecue held at City Hall before the April 17 City Council meeting. It was after the barbecue Poirier planned with Council members and did in fact invite homeless individuals to hold up signs and deliver scripted public comments in favor of Council members’ votes to sell the Library Lot.

Poirier did not respond to repeated requests for a comment.

Caleb Poirier.
Ann Arbor native Caleb Poirier.

In communications sent over the course of four weeks prior to the April 17 vote, the trio of Council members and Poirier discussed efforts to turn out homeless individuals served by M.I.S.S.I.O.N., as well as low-income housing activists to support Council members in their controversial vote to sell the publicly-owned Library Lot parcel. Eight Council members voted in favor of the sale—including Warpehoski, Smith and Ackerman.

According to an April 17, 2017 piece published after the Council meeting by The Michigan Daily, “Public polling has shown majority support for a public space. A 2013 Park Advisory Commission survey showed that 76.2 percent of respondents thought Ann Arbor would benefit from more downtown open spaces, like a park or town square, and 41.5 percent of respondents chose the Library Lot as the best place to build such a space. Last year, the Ann Arbor Committee for the Community Commons delivered a petition to put the future of the lot to the November election ballot, but it fell just short of a few hundred signatures because of technical mistakes.”

Developer Core Spaces plans to build a luxury hotel, commercial retail and office space and so-called “workforce” housing, the rents for which are expected be set at $922-$1,276. The plans include a .28 acre open space area, the use of which will be “programmed” by Core Spaces. Half of the $10 million from the sale will be deposited into the Ann Arbor Housing Trust Fund. This fact was referred to by Warpehoski, Smith and Ackerman as justification for voting to sell the Library Lot in the face of ongoing public protest.

Ward 5 resident Ali Ramlawi owns Jerusalem Garden restaurant. The April 17 vote by Chip Smith prompted Ramlawi to run for City Council as an Independent candidate in the Nov. 2017 general election.

Council member Chip Smith (D-Ward 5).
Council member Chip Smith (D-Ward 5). (photo: Kevin Leeser)

“Using that affordable housing argument to sell us down the river was so disingenuous that it really motivates me to take some action,” Ramlawi was quoted as saying after his announcement that he would run.

Prior to Council’s April 17 vote, Ann Arbor Housing Commission (AAHC) director Jennifer Hall told Council members in a Mar. 20, 2017 email, “There is currently $3,680 in the AAHTF [Ann Arbor Housing Trust Fund].”

Her email goes on to paint a damning picture of political ineptitude, and staff neglect: “In the case of public housing, a lack of maintenance and capital funding over the past 40+ years has led to the deterioration of this community asset. Twelve of the City’s 18 public housing properties would have needed to be demolished in the next 10 years if we were not investing millions of dollars now to preserve what can be preserved, and demolish and build new and additional apartments where density can be increased.”

Hall tells Council members that $2.2 million of the $5 million could  fill budget gaps for Avalon Housing and the Ann Arbor Housing Commission to create 135 low-income housing units. “The development process can take 4-6 years from concept to full occupancy,” writes Hall.

The question becomes whether the $5 million given to the AAHTF from the sale of the Library Lot will be used to save from demolition the city’s present 12 crumbling low-income housing properties, or to build new low-income housing. Hall’s memo makes clear that without a steady stream of funding amounting to millions of dollars, the renovation and repair of existing units and the creation of new units can’t be funded simultaneously.

Council member Zach Ackerman (D-Ward 3).
Council member Zach Ackerman (D-Ward 3).

Former Ward 3 Council member and current Council candidate Stephen Kunselman (D) has pitched the idea of depositing a portion of the city’s parking revenue annually into the AAHTF. Zachary Ackerman, using Kunselman’s idea, recently suggested diverting $400,000 from parking revenue to the AAHTF. Jennifer Hall’s memo, however, makes clear that $400,000 annually will not fund the repair of the demolition-threatened city-owned properties or provide adequate funding for the construction of new properties.

Scripting Public Commentary and Staging Public Support 

Public records show Warpehoski, Smith and Ackerman used email, text messages and phone calls to discuss the April 17 meeting and advise Poirier, including scripting public comments by individuals served by M.I.S.S.I.O.N. whom Poirier urged to attend the Council meeting and whom he told Council members he would help sign up for public commentary.

A Ward 3 Burns Park resident who, when told of Ackerman’s efforts to manipulate public perception, and Council members’ efforts to stage support for their votes and script public comments, expressed dismay: “Who uses homeless people like that? Zack’s turned into a total train wreck, an embarrassment. Ugh!”

In an April 15 email to Warpehoski and Smith, Poirier told them: “Although I am not often fond of using poster board signs, I have had a council member request that I do so – which I will do. There will be lots of them – tasteful, not brow beating. Folks in the front rows will hold medium to small size signs while folks in the very back row will hold larger signs.”

It’s not known who on Council asked Poirier to provide poster board signs for M.I.S.S.I.O.N.’s clients to hold up during the meeting.

David Silkworth is running in the August Democratic primary election to represent Ward 5 on City Council. He said, “The lack of affordable housing is a really important issue for our community. I think that it’s reprehensible that any city council member would exploit the homeless in an attempt to confuse the public into believing that the sale of our Library Lot was about affordable housing.”

Public records requested show that on March 17, Warpehoski sent an email from a personal email address to Poirier concerning the date of a Council meeting at which the Core Spaces deliberation would take place. Council Rules adopted by Council (including Warpehoski, Smith and Ackerman) in Dec. 2016 require elected officials to conduct business relating to the city using only their city-provided email addresses.

Council member Chuck Warpehoski (D-Ward 5).
Council member Chuck Warpehoski (D-Ward 5).

Poirier writes to Warpehoski’s personal email address: “What day will Core Spaces be returning to City Council for additional deliberation? Is it March 27th or April 3rd? Any other thoughts on Strategy?” Warpehoski responds from the same address that he would be “happy to chat in person or by phone about it.”

Public records recently revealed that Warpehoski, in addition to using personal email in violation of Council rules, has been accessing Facebook chat during public meetings. Depending on the contents of the chats, his actions could be a possible violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. Outgoing mail server records requested revealed that Warpehoski, Julie Grand (D-Ward 3) and Ackerman have also been sending emails during public meetings. Warpehoski has thus far refused to turn over the contents of the Facebook chat messages accessed during the public meetings.

Julie Grand said in response to a question about the emails she has sent began by saying, “I never send emails during public meetings.” When told that the city’s outgoing mail server records indicated that she had, indeed, sent emails during Council meetings, Grand said, “I know the rules and I follow the rules. During breaks I might send an email to my husband. I read emails during Council meetings, but I don’t send them.”

The newspaper has filed a FOIA request for the Council members’ email messages sent during the public meetings.

On Mar. 25, 2017, three weeks before the Council vote, Poirier sent an email to Chip Smith in which Poirier writes, “I am attempting to do robust brainstorming around the messages that I should encourage future speakers to use when talking before Council about the library lot tower. I would be very grateful to hear from you about what you believe will work best. Please call anytime of the day or night, workday or weekend.”

Tipped Off and Ticked Off

Prior to the April 17 Council meeting, The Ann Arbor Independent received a tip: Council members were planning to “use” the homeless as political cover for their votes to sell the publicly-owned Library Lot.

Section of an April 15, 2017 email between Poirier and Chip Smith. A duplicate email was sent to Chuck Warpehoski.
Section of an April 15, 2017 email between Poirier and Chip Smith. A duplicate email was sent to Chuck Warpehoski.

On April 15, The Ann Arbor Independent published “Let Them Eat Barbecue: Council Members Plan to Use Homeless at Upcoming Meeting to Show ‘Strong Support’ for Library Lot Sale.” In that piece, the paper reported, based on an interview with a M.I.S.S.I.O.N. Board member, that local nonprofit M.I.S.S.I.O.N. at the April 17, 2017 City Council meeting “would turn out homeless individuals to stage a show of support for the sale of the publicly-owned Library Lot parcel for $10 million to the Core Spaces group, and the construction of a ‘workforce’ housing development project on the site.”

On April 18, The Ann Arbor Independent published “Amid Claquers, Boos, Cheers and Political Theater Council Votes 8-3 to Sell Library Lot to Core Spaces.”

Greg Pratt is Avalon’s Support Coordinator at Miller Manner, a low-income housing community. Pratt sent @A2Indy a series of Tweets after the April 15 and April 18 pieces were published in which he expressed anger and frustration. He referred to the city’s mayor and his seven allies on Council as the “Gang of Eight,” a reference to China’s Gang of Four, individuals who came to power during the Cultural Revolution and who were later charged with treasonous crimes.

Pratt Tweeted that he was angry at the vote to sell the Library Lot: “Something that could have/ should have happened was a ballot vote on this. I signed a petition.” He was angry at The Ann Arbor Independent’s reporting of M.I.S.S.I.O.N.’s involvement in allegedly using homeless individuals to manipulate a public hearing. He Tweeted: “But demonizing people for feeding others to participate in civic activity is a low blow. Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” After the April 18 article, Pratt repeatedly accused The A2Indy of “demagoguery.”

Ward 1 resident Jeff Hayner.
Ward 1 resident Jeff Hayner.

Long-time Ward 1 resident Jeff Hayner plans to run for a City Council seat as an Independent candidate in the Nov. 2017 general election. In Twitter responses to Pratt, Hayner “cried foul on lack of legitimate public process” related to the sale of the Library Lot parcel. As for M.I.S.S.I.O.N’s involvement, Hayner Tweeted, “MISSION should have joined the voices saying ‘this is not enough, it’s a bad deal for the owners (us), it’s not going to benefit enough ppl.’ They could have rejected the scraps & withheld their political cover.”

In an April 15 text message and email sent to Council members Warpehoski and Smith with the subject line “Monday night preparations in progress,” Poirier begins, “Today I put my mom into a nursing home (for the next three days) to free up my time to exclusively focus on turning out hundreds and hundreds supporters for affordable housing and Core Spaces.”

Anne Bannister, former co-chair of the Ann Arbor Democratic Club, is running for the Ward 1 City Council seat in the August Democratic primary election. Bannister, who attended the April 17 meeting, said, “I’m watching the [May 1] City Council meeting on YouTube right now, and would like to publicly comment at the May 15 meeting about scripted commentary and staged support.”

The “Three Minute People”

In 2014, a member of City Council was captured on a live mic referring to members of the public commenting at a meeting as “three-minute people.” The insult has been embraced by some. Peter Honeyman, a researcher at U-M who follows Council meetings live on Twitter has Tweeted out at the end of public commentary, “And that’s it for the three minute people.” Public commentary at City Council meetings is a time for ten members of the public who sign up for three-minute speaking slots to share their opinions, views and concerns with their local elected officials.Those who wish to comment, must visit or call the City Clerk’s office to request one of the 10 slots and state a reason for addressing Council.

At the April 17 meeting, all of the public comments addressed the sale of the Fifth Ave. Library Lot parcel. As a part of the sale, Core Spaces was granted a 50-year lease to 360 parking spaces, including spaces in the Library Lot underground parking garage.

The vote was contentious and Council members who spoke in favor of the sale were subjected to booing and jeers from members of the public in attendance.

The large crowd became increasingly agitated.

Julie Grand (D-Ward 3).
Council member Julie Grand (D-Ward 3).

According to The Michigan Daily, “The tension reached a tipping point when Council member Julie Grand (D–Ward 3) charged that anti-high rise advocates were ignoring the realities of compromise and resisting stubbornly against a democratically decided process.”

Grand went on to say, “We have residents that are telling us that they want to be able to have the desirable amenities in the downtown, that they can drive to with no traffic, that they can have lower taxes and have parking for free at 7 p.m. on a Saturday.  I’m going to be the adult in the situation … Sometimes I feel like I’m getting asks from residents like I’m talking to my children.”

In a phone conversation, Grand said she had been taken to task by “individuals” whom she said had been offended by her comments and who’d contacted her.

“Those were private conversations,” said Grand, “why should I tell anyone about them?”

When asked if she’d exchanged emails with Caleb Poirier prior to her April 17 vote, Grand became irate.

“I’m not going to tell you that! I don’t have to answer that question. Why should I answer that question? I don’t have to answer that question. I’m not going to answer that question.”

She went on to allege her refusal to say whether she’d exchanged emails with Poirier stemmed from the fact that she’d been called a prostitute in a 2013 piece that examined her votes as Chair of the Parks Advisory Commission, such as her support of the use of parkland for parking, during her unsuccessful bid for City Council.

“I only answer to people with integrity,” said Grand.

The video, below, is of Council member Chip Smith at the April 17 meeting reading a prepared statement to the public in which he says he spent the previous weeks “listening to residents.”

 

When Council member Chip Smith (D-Ward 5) read his prepared statement explaining to an audience filled with angry residents his vote in favor of selling the Fifth Ave. public-owned Library Lot parcel, Smith said:

“I have focused my time over the last few weeks listening to residents, both within the Fifth Ward and outside it, to determine what would most benefit the entire City. I have made it a point to seek out input from those who generally disagree with my positions and to listen to their concerns about the project. Those concerns have not landed on deaf ears. I certainly understand that people are concerned about 17 stories. I hear the fear about how this project impacts parking. I get that many feel that, because this is a city-controlled property, we should be getting quite a bit in exchange for development rights.”

Similarly, Ward 5 Council member Chuck Warpehoski’s comments indicated that the decision to sell the Library Lot parcel for $10 million was one with which he’d struggled:

“As I wrestled with the vote on Monday, for me it came down to affordable housing. As I reviewed the list of projects in the pipeline that might need money from the affordable housing fund (which is currently unfunded), I asked myself, “If I say ‘no’ to this sale and the $5 million for affordable housing, am I willing to call the people on the housing waitlist and explain to them why I voted to turn down money that would have allowed us to house them?” The issue was more complex than that, but this single question more than anything led to my vote.”

In an email comment on May 2 about the April 17 Council meeting staged support and scripted public comments Hayner wrote, “What can I say? I called it. What a bunch of phonies. Citizens don’t have the luxury of writing 1,600 word apologies to potential voters ahead of time and reading them at length while fighting back tears … I think they all are taking acting lessons from our Mayor. What they should have done is used that $5 million to retire that much debt on the bonds (the amount of the footers) and pledged whatever interest we would save by doing so to the affordable housing fund.”

Warpehoski, Executive Director of the small local non-profit Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, was sharply criticized by one the organization’s Board members who made clear the reaction reflected a personal opinion: “I am absolutely saddened and stunned that Chuck would do something like this. It’s not the kind of treatment anyone, homeless or not deserves, and certainly not in the spirit of what I expect from him as a community leader who is supposed to stand up for social justice. To take advantage of the vulnerable for political reasons is wrong. I’m disappointed he’d do something like this.”

This email between Chuck Warpehoski and Caleb Poirier suggests the Council member's public comments made at the April 17 meeting were disingenuous, at best.
This March 17, 2017 email between Chuck Warpehoski and Caleb Poirier suggests the Council member’s public comments made at the April 17 meeting were disingenuous, at best.

Ward 5 Democratic candidate David Silkworth said: “Our city council members should have valid reasons for the decisions that they make, and they should never attempt to confuse or mislead the public or manufacture excuses to support their votes.”

At the April 17 Council meeting, after having corresponded with Caleb Poirier for a month prior to the meeting, and working with Poirier and other Council members to stage political cover from M.I.S.S.I.O.N. and the homeless, Warpehoski addressed the members of the public present and said, choking up:

“Leading up to the vote I wrestled with these issues. I called up people from across the community to poll their perspective from labor leaders like Ian Robinson (head of the Huron Valley Area Federation of Labor), Bob King (Former head of the UAW), environmental leaders like Jeannine Palms, friends and neighbors at our neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt (April 16). I looked for a ‘plan B’ that credibly meets the affordable housing needs while addressing the concerns about the proposal. I prayed.”

This is a video of Warpehoski telling the public that he’d “wrestled” with the decision about whether or not to vote to sell the Library Lot:

 

At 8:57 a.m. April 20, in an email the subject of which is “re:thank you,” Poirier replies to Chip Smith: “Also, I’d like to post a link about how folks can donate to your campaign but I can’t find it. Let me know the details and I will post it promptly in the [MLive] comments section.”

Three days after the April 17 vote, Poirier sends Smith an email asking for a link to his campaign fundraising page.
Three days after the April 17 vote, Poirier sent Chip Smith an email asking for a link to his campaign fundraising page.

Council members Warpehoski, Smith and Ackerman did not reply to an email requesting a comment. The Ann Arbor Independent filed an appeal of the FOIA response to the request that produced the electronic messages between Poirier, Warpehoski, Smith and Ackerman. Based on the contents of the emails and text messages provided by the three Council members, it appears emails and text message responses from the Council members may have been omitted or withheld.

Update: On May 5, The Ann Arbor Independent’s FOIA appeal to City Administrator Howard Lazarus for any additional emails which may have been inadvertently omitted or withheld relating to Council members’ communications with Caleb Poirier during the months of Feb.-April was denied. 

63 Responses to "Emails/Texts Reveal Council Members Staged Homeless Support for Library Lot Sale Vote"

  1. Pingback: Ann Arbor Observer’s Coverage of Local Politics Criticized Sharply By Its Readers | The Ann Arbor Independent

  2. Z. Johnson   July 18, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    The thing I keep searching for in these articles is any evidence or inclination that the council members were colluding or staging any of the things that Poirier is suggesting.

    I see a number of messages from Poirier to council members but nothing in response to him. Is it possible that Poirier was just sending message after message to these council members with his grand schemes and plans, but the council members never responded or encouraged this in any way?

    I could put on a tinfoil hat and send a hundred emails saying I am planning to send my army of squirrels to chew the shoelaces off of the drain commissioner’s sneakers, but it wouldn’t necessarily mean that the council members were complicit (or even taking seriously) my plans.

    It is stated “FOIAed public records revealed that only Smith, Warpehoski and Ackerman communicated electronically with Poirier during the Mar 17-Apr. 17 period for which public records were sought.” but I don’t see any communications coming from Smith, Warpehoski or Ackerman, just emails being sent TO them.

    Statements are made like “In communications sent over the course of four weeks prior to the April 17 vote, the trio of Council members and Poirier discussed efforts to turn out homeless individuals…” but it is never shown anywhere that “discussions” (back-and-forth dialog) were taking place.

    Another statement: “Public records show Warpehoski, Smith and Ackerman used email, text messages and phone calls to discuss the April 17 meeting and advise Poirier, including scripting public comments by individuals served by M.I.S.S.I.O.N…” but are these public records linked anywhere?

    If messages from Warpehoski, Smith or Ackerman are available, I haven’t been able to find them.

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   July 18, 2017 at 8:45 pm

      @Z. Johnson thanks for your comment and questions.

      CM Smith told the Ann Arbor Observer in June 2017 that he did, in fact, exchange “an email” with Poirier offering up advice on how Poirier could best “advocate” his position. This was a lie, because the public records released (emails, text messages and instant messages) show the council members—including Smith—communicating with Poirier, including by phone, over the entire four week period examined. Smith refused to comment. One would think if Poirier had really “invented” the dialogue, Smith, Warpehoski and Ackerman would have said so.

      Smith also claimed to the Ann Arbor Observer in a June 2017 interview that he offered up advice to several other residents on how to sway Council members’ votes to folks who wanted to see a “no vote” prevail on the sale of the Library Lot. Comments in response to this article (http://www.a2indy.com/2017/07/03/in-comments-ward-5-council-member-misrepresents-contents-of-public-records/#comment-8672) from those people whom Smith claims to have advised reveal that claim made by Smith was a deception, as well. He lied to the Observer writer who did not use FOIA to obtain the relevant public records to make sure Smith’s statements were truthful. That’s a problem the Observer should deal with, and perhaps the editor John Hilton will some day.

      On his 2012 resume for a spot on the RTA Board, Chip Smith fabricated two jobs he said he’d held.

      It’s a pattern of dishonest behavior on the part of this man and he’s an elected official so the public has a right to know and should know.

      All FOIA requests made to the City Clerk are public. That means any and all of the FOIAs submitted by the A2 Indy are available to the public. You can create a FOIA to request electronic communications between the three Council members and Poirier over a longer period (say Feb-April 2017) than the newspaper did. You should.

      In any case, any assertion that Poirier invented this dialogue (and Smith, Ackerman and Warpehoski) never answered Poirier’s emails isn’t supported by the CMs own emails and text messages. It’s like the three of them claiming that when web server records revealed they were playing on Facebook and Twitter during public council meetings, the City of Ann Arbor web server records must have been wrong.

      As I wrote in a recent opinion piece, welcome to local politics in the era of Donald Trump.

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  3. Pingback: A2Politico: Please Don’t Interrupt Your Councilmember While He’s Ignoring You | The Ann Arbor Independent

  4. Pingback: Leaked Email—Council Member Seeking Re-Election Trying to Dupe Voters? | The Ann Arbor Independent

  5. goblue   May 17, 2017 at 9:55 am

    This is not the first time the ‘homeless’ have been trotted out to support city council. Anytime there is talk about affordable housing this happens. And remind me again how much affordable housing Ann Arbor has built over the past decade? Ann Arbor voters are a special kind of stupid.

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  6. Hunter Van Valkenburgh   May 8, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    Speaking of being deceptive, you published this story with an un-captioned photo of a anti-homelessness protest that occurred over 25 years ago. Some of the people in it are friends of mine, and they moved away decades ago.

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 8, 2017 at 7:09 pm

      @Hunter, the photo is attributed to the AADL’s collection, but the attribution was cropped out by the WordPress theme. It is in the public domain, however. No deception, just a finicky digital publishing platform. As you’ll note, photos are attributed in the pieces published. Love to hear your thoughts on the content of the article, Hunter. What says our Ward 5 three time school board candidate?

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    • Susan Q.   May 8, 2017 at 7:54 pm

      @Hunter Van Valkenburgh, photo attribution rant? The big picture is not the photo attribution, in case you didn’t read the article. If you’re outraged about the photo attribution and not the fact that these people took advantage of homeless folks, I can see why you lost three times and have to say I’m glad you did.

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  7. Denise RJ Bertoni   May 8, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Were there violations from council members emails and texts? If so, what are they and what are the consequences of said violations?

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 8, 2017 at 8:27 am

      @Denise RJ Bertoni, thanks for the question. Use of email by council members during council meetings is governed by Council Rules. The newspaper used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain emails sent by council members in violation of Council Rules. We’re waiting for those public records to be gathered and turned over.

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   June 30, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      @Denise RJ Bertoni FOIAed public records revealed that only Smith, Warpehoski and Ackerman communicated electronically with Poirier during the Mar 17-Apr. 17 period for which public records were sought.

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  8. EHunter   May 6, 2017 at 8:13 am

    If council members who claim to care deeply (and pray) about affordable housing and homeless people had been working on the issue persistently over time, I wouldn’t question their sincerity. However, only when it means they can erect a 17 story tower do they show real interest.

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  9. Valerie Mapstone Ackerman   May 6, 2017 at 12:13 am

    As a former resident of A2 I am amazed at what my once beloved city has become. Moving back for retirement was once our plan, but we’ve been priced out. Nevertheless it is good to see Lauren Sargent and Alan Haber still fighting the good fight! And thanks for the article AAIET. I am going to reference it in a discussion on gentrification on Saturday morning in my current city of Peoria, IL.

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  10. Frank Wilhelme   May 6, 2017 at 12:00 am

    First, let me say how pleased I am to know we have an “independent” press that is willing to undertake some much needed investigative reporting. Thank you! BTW, I sent in my check to the Ann Arbor Independent this morning.

    Next, I am heartened by the strong sentiments expressed by many individuals to the indefensible behavior of our council members featured in the article. As a result of my active involvement with the petition drive and the Library Green Conservancy I have been observing the arrogance of the mayor and council majority for nearly two years. They really don’t want citizen involvement. They were very clear about it when they twice had the opportunity to approve a resolution to put the matter of the Library Lot’s future before the voters. Both times they refused to do so.

    Let me clear up one important matter. The fight to oppose the mayor and council majority on the Library Lot has only just begun. Its action to enter into a sales agreement with CORE Spaces is only round one. We will continue to oppose the project by all means possible. I strongly encourage all who are opposed to the council’s action and tactics to get involved now. Two very specific things you can do are: (1) join the petition drive to place the matter of the Library Lot before the voters next November. (see Alan Haber’s earlier post) and (2) get involved by supporting council candidates who are committed to truly listen to their constituents and involve them in the decision making process.

    Neither of these crucial undertakings will be easy to accomplish. Only a strong grassroots citizen response will be able to accomplish meaningful change.

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  11. The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 5, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    A May 5 response from CM Warpehoski to constituents concerning the council member’s weeks-long correspondence with MISSION Board member Caleb Poirier was forwarded to The A2Indy from a reader.

    ——————————————————————

    Thank you, and especially thank you to everyone who took the time to review the evidence.

    Yes, Caleb reached out to some of us on Council to let us know his plans, share his perspective, and ask our advice. So did several people opposing the development. I met with residents, spoke with people for and against, and did wrestle with the vote. To opponents I shared what I thought were the most influential arguments against the building (scale and parking) and to proponents I shared what I thought were the most influential arguments in favor (affordable housing, a developer-funded and maintained downtown park).

    Council members regularly advise people on how to effectively advocate for their cause. For example, I did work with immigrant right’s organizers to discuss both the policy around City Council’s recent vote on immigrant protections and the organizing to get support.

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    • Robert Kruger   May 5, 2017 at 3:23 pm

      “Council members regularly advise people on how to effectively advocate for their cause.”

      Um…this is the most ridiculous sentence in the whole thing. This is exactly what the article reveals the council members did. They advised an advocate for the homeless how the homeless could best advocate for COUNCIL’s cause. Still feeling like I have to throw up.

      Chuck the MISSION guy told you in writing he was putting his own mother in a nursing home to help you and your cause. If giving advice is what you were doing, #EPICFAIL, man. It’s either that or you would sell your own mother down the river to get what you wanted.

      Release the emails of the folks you advised on how to best convince you and others to vote no, or resign your council seat.

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      • Tim O'Connell   May 5, 2017 at 3:59 pm

        “Release the emails of the folks you advised on how to best convince you and others to vote no, or resign your council seat.” Yes!! Let’s see the emails and texts between Alan Haber and Chuck where some on council advised those people who gathered thousands of signatures on how to stop the sale.

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    • A2Mom   May 5, 2017 at 3:53 pm

      The “cause” of Ann Arbor’s homeless was Core Spaces and apartments a homeless person could never afford to rent? This just gets stranger and stranger. What am I missing here? I don’t understand how the council people did this to Mission, the vulnerable people Mission serves, or the public who thought meetings were for discussing votes and not deception. He says ‘some of us on council,’ how many are some? Why is he not being more forthcoming?

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    • Carol Hall   May 5, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      This is just so disappointing and upsetting. This council member’s explanation lacks any self-insight and it’s missing the apology he owes to the public and of course to those homeless individuals who were herded like cattle into the council meeting for the personal use of some on council. This is simply monstrous behavior and I don’t understand how he can try to explain it away with such a lack of remorse. The point is not that we believe he wrestled with his vote. The point now is that he deceived the public and took advantage of those who needed his help the most.

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  12. EHunter   May 5, 2017 at 10:53 am

    A bottom line from this story for me is the contempt for ordinary citizens displayed by the Council Majority or Gang of Eight. They didn’t need to be deceptive. They could have been straightforward about their position in favor of the CORE proposal, but they wanted to posture. They chose to use and deceive homeless residents – and the rest of us.

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  13. justwondering   May 5, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Question for the writer. Did Mission’s board know about this or not? It’s not clear from the article. The president of the board says the board didn’t know what was going on but the VP of the board paid for the bbq. Any idea whether the third board member (Caleb) went rogue (still a pretty significant problem for the organization) or what?

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 5, 2017 at 12:59 pm

      @justwondering Mr. McLaughlin, MISSION’s Board President, was clear in his comment that the Board was unaware of the collusion between Caleb Poirier and the Council members. That the MISSION Board VP paid for the barbecue doesn’t mean the Board was informed about that, either. In reality, whether the Board members knew or were kept in the dark present equally problematic issues. MISSION’s federal income tax return states the group provides humanitarian aid to the homeless.

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  14. Nancy West-Diangelo   May 5, 2017 at 10:33 am

    A friend sent me a link to this article yesterday. I didn’t know Ann Arbor had an independent newspaper but am very glad we do. Thank you for your excellent reporting. Holding our elected leaders accountable on ALL levels is so very important. I’ll be sending a donation.

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  15. Anthony Fields   May 5, 2017 at 10:26 am

    This is nothing more than politics. People who think this doesn’t go on all the time are naive. This kind of crap goes on in Washington, Lansing and Detroit all the time. You trot out your “random” supporters at hearings and meetings to speak in favor (or against) what you want (or don’t want) to do. You then speak thoughtfully and ever so meaningfully about how much you struggled with your decision to cast the yes or no vote you knew you were going to cast weeks or months earlier. Politics. These guys are just bad at the game. Anyone who expects anything different is deluding themselves.

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    • Jeff Hayner   May 8, 2017 at 10:05 am

      I am not naive or deluded and I expect something different. I know this goes on all the time, that doesn’t make it right. Saying “that’s the way it’s done” only serves to enable more corruption, more pretense and more partisan politics. We should have zero tolerance for even the suggestion of impropriety, esp. at the local level where the people’s business is most pressing.

      Let’s start by saying how we would like “it” to be done: in an honest and open manner. Then let’s work to elect people who can manage to do that. We don’t need more schemers telling us what’s best for us from a council table filled to the brim with wanna-be career politicians and public-teat suckers. What kind of future is in store if we don’t do something about it?

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  16. Lauren Sargent   May 4, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Unfortunately, while we were distracted by disgraceful behavior of candidates for President during the fall elections, our current City Council members lobbied for and got 4 year terms. I suspect that many had ballot fatigue and did not consider the implications. Ms. Grand has consistently exhibited both ignorance and arrogance in communicating with her constituents–and why not? Four years is a long time to hold a voting record against her. As for the 3 Council members engaged in this shameless exercise in manufacturing consent–if they have any sense of integrity they will resign.

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 4, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      Council members in all Wards have terms that expire in 2018: Kailasapathy, Westphal, Grand, Krapohl and Warpehoski. Those candidates elected in 2018 will serve 4 year terms.

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      • A2Dem   May 5, 2017 at 10:42 am

        Since she was born for this job, YUGELY Grand will probably run again. Should be interesting.

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  17. John Floyd   May 4, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    “Badges? We don got any badges. I don have to show you no stinkin’ badges!”

    I’m sure we are all pleased at Ms.Grand’s invocation of John Huston’s 1948 classic film, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, but I’m not certain that invoking that particular quote helps her cause: it is spoken by a bandit leader pretending to be a member of The Federales, troops of the Mexican government, to forestall his unmasking. That is, it was spoken by a bad guy, whose pretense to be a good guy with the force of law behind him, is falling apart. The protagonists aren’t fooled. Hard to see how her constituents will be, either.

    If the contempt, disingenuousness, and desire to humiliate that Ms Grand demonstrates to the public, truly represents how she parents her children (as she announced in this council meeting), then I pity her children.

    As important as the public issues here are, the quality of parenting – which topic Ms Grand raised in a public meeting – is a much more serious issue. From what I have known of Chris Taylor in the past, I am take aback that he would ally and identify so closely with this sort of behavior.

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    • Julia Holcomb   May 5, 2017 at 10:59 am

      I thought the same thing about her kids when I read about her comments. She mocked residents while at the same time mocking her own kids. She has a husband, she says, but he is obviously not able to help her make better choices when she speaks in public. Sad.

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  18. A2Mom   May 4, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Am I the only person who followed the link to A2 Politico and read the article? It’s about her votes when she was on PAC. What’s with her saying she was called a prostitute? I don’t get it.

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    • Jeff Hayner   May 4, 2017 at 11:23 am

      If I recall, she could have taken offense for the suggestion that she pimped our parks out; so not a prostitute but a pimp. CM Grand has been on a mission to monetize our parks from Day One on PAC. In fact, she cares so much about city parks that she repeatedly refused to consider putting one on the Library Lot.

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 4, 2017 at 11:25 am

      The title of the 2013 article: Ward 3 Council Race Asks: Should We Prostitute Our Parks? One Candidate’s Votes = “Leave Your Money On the Dresser, Baby.”

      For fans of the 1996 Robin Williams/Nathan Lane/Gene Hackman/ movie “The Bird Cage” the “Leave Your Money on the Dresser, Baby” is a line from that film.

      In the movie, an ultra-conservative U.S. Senator, the president of the Coalition for Moral Order, dies in the bed of an underage prostitute. The VP of the Coalition, another ultra-conservative senator (Hackman), who running for re-election is left to deal with the fallout. Hilarity ensues.

      Perhaps CM Grand never saw the film or the reference was overly obscure. However, the 2013 piece looks at her votes as a member of PAC as she was running for Council. She lost that race against Stephen Kunselman.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birdcage

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  19. goblue   May 4, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Was Julie Grand under the influence of a quart of vodka when she gave her comments?

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 4, 2017 at 10:48 am

      @goblue She was not and it’s doesn’t add to the conversation in a constructive way to suggest she was. Her comments reflect the fact that she was hopping mad, however, and furious at being asked about any contact she may have had with Caleb Poirier.

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      • goblue   May 4, 2017 at 10:58 am

        You’re right. Sorry. But come on! That this lady can’t control herself in council meetings and speaks to the press like some crazy lady does suggest she’s suffering from something, maybe affluenza?

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        • Jeff Hayner   May 4, 2017 at 11:25 am

          I think many on Council suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You may remember when CM Grand first ran for office, she was quoted as saying “I was born to do this.”

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    • Tim O'Connell   May 4, 2017 at 11:01 am

      @goblue She was under the influence of her own YUGELY inflated sense of self-importance.

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      • A2Dem   May 4, 2017 at 11:05 am

        LOLOLOL. Julie’s new name: Council member YUGELY Grand. Seriously though did the A2 Indy find any emails sent by Grand to Porier?

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        • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 4, 2017 at 11:32 am

          @A2Dem Keep it constructive. As for your question, CM Grand was not included in the original FOIA. The tip received suggested the A2 Indy FOIA public records created by the three CMs: Ackerman, Smith, Warpehoski.

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  20. Carol Hall   May 4, 2017 at 10:13 am

    No comment from any of the city councilors? Where are the apologies for heaven’s sake? Grow up!

    What they did is beyond reprehensible. No thought to dedicate money to keeping up the affordable housing properties for the entire time our mayor has been on council? I feel sick! What kinds of conditions must these people be living in? Is the paper planning to write about that?

    Good grief. The loss of twelve of the eighteen buildings would be a catastrophe and nothing has been done to keep this from happening. Ms. Hall’s information was misused to dupe the public into thinking this money would create new places for our low-income neighbors.

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 4, 2017 at 10:33 am

      @Carol Hall, yes it seems like an important issue to look at since Jennifer Hall’s email to Council members outlines the systematic neglect by both city staff and elected officials of tens of millions of dollars of capital assets owned by the public. If the goal is to (literally) destroy hundreds of units of low-income housing in Ann Arbor, then Ms. Hall’s email shows how it has been pursued.

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    • Tim O'Connell   May 4, 2017 at 10:44 am

      @Carol Hall That’s the point! They wanted us to believe that the $5,00,000 would pay for hundreds of new affordable housing units so they could sell the library lot.

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  21. A2insider   May 4, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Finally someone grows a pair and writes about what’s really going on here in the tin can. This isn’t the first time Caleb has worked together with council to herd homeless people into meetings. This charade stretches back to Hieftje. Taylor learned at the foot of the master and if you want some advice from an insider, don’t stop your FOIAs at Zack, Chip and Chuck.

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  22. alan haber   May 4, 2017 at 8:19 am

    1, 2, 3, … 1) Sign the petition to put the future of the Library Lot on the Ballot…affirmatively to develop the public land as an urban central park and civic center commons. Petitions on the porch at 531 Third Street or call 734 657 8083. 2)Contribute money to the Legal Appeal against the Grand Dragon City Attorney for using local rules to deny the constitutional Right of 5647 Ann Arbor Registered Voters to Petition the Government for a Redress of Grievances, in violation of the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Civil Rights Act (Checks to Ann Arbor Committee for the Community Commons…531 Third Street, 48103). 3) Support the Primary and November election campaigns to elect opponents of Chip Smith, Zack Ackerman and Jason Frenzel. in ward 5, 3, and 1. Prepare for the next election to hold also the Mayor, Chuck and Julie accountable for their failures to represent the Best Interest Of Ann Arbor….

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  23. Kai Petainen   May 3, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    I’m not a fan of how folks who fight for affordable housing/homelessness were pulled into this issue. I could imagine someone saying something like this: “oh, they voted against the core building, so they must be against affordable housing”. And something like that would be far away from the truth. Those are two separate issues that should have viewed at separately. Council should have dealt with the Core Spaces building and then afterwards… they should have voted on what they should do with the extra $$. I was in favor of the building, but not in how the issue of affordable housing/homelessness was used as a pawn in this. I feel bad for MISSION and for Caleb. These are good people with good intentions, but by mixing themselves in a political issue like this… it has the possibility of turning people away from their non-profit. They should make an effort in the future to make sure their comments are theirs only and they’re not (giving the impression of )representing a non-profit.

    As for the comment about the ‘3 minute people’. I was one of those that criticized that phrase when it first came out, but as time has gone on, I embrace it. I think it’s a cool phrase and I think most people who speak on a regular basis (myself included) are not offended by it. We even joke about 6-minute and 9-minute people (if we go up and speak again). A 9-minute person pulls off a hat-trick. However, the ‘3 minute people’ comment should only be used against those of us who are regulars — someone new to the podium should always be made to feel welcome.

    I could understand a CM sending emails to people during a break. Hopefully that’s the case and it wasn’t during a meeting.

    I’ll probably never run for council as I could see myself watching #a2council (but not tweeting) during council. Has anyone noticed how Yousef Rabhi does Facebook Live at meetings? As time goes on, I could see CM’s using social media even more.

    I find this portion offensive: “Today I put my mom into a nursing home (for the next three days)”. Why? I think personal things that deal with significant others or parents should stay out of the news. Those are personal and something like putting a person into a nursing home can be a very difficult time for all involved. Unless those folks are well-known public figures/political folks… I don’t see how it belongs in the discussion.

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    • CE Michaels   May 4, 2017 at 9:25 am

      @Kai interesting comment and I agree with much of what you’re saying with one exception. Caleb Poirier emailed that he put his mother in a nursing home to “focus exclusively” on organizing support for a Chicago developer and city council people who used homeless people (and Poirier) to deceive the public. It totally belongs in the discussion and shows to what lengths these self-proclaimed social justice advocates and progressives were willing to use people to get what they wanted.

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    • Robert Kruger   May 4, 2017 at 9:40 am

      @Kai I find this portion offensive “Leading up to the vote I wrestled with these issues. I called up people from across the community to poll their perspective from labor leaders like Ian Robinson (head of the Huron Valley Area Federation of Labor), Bob King (Former head of the UAW), environmental leaders like Jeannine Palms, friends and neighbors at our neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt (April 16). I looked for a ‘plan B’ that credibly meets the affordable housing needs while addressing the concerns about the proposal. I prayed.”

      He name dropped and then he played the God card. “I prayed.” Maybe Chuck did pray (that he wouldn’t be found out). He’s lied through his teeth and used those less fortunate for his own political flak jacket.

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 4, 2017 at 10:20 am

      @Kai, as always, thanks for sharing your perspectives. While it would be nobody’s business what Caleb Poirier did with his mother, he sent the information to Council members as a part of a lengthy email (a public record) in which he tells them on April 15 about the preparations made in order to stage support for their votes and script public commentary at a public meeting two days down the road. I’m hoping that when the missing emails and texts are turned over, one of these council members will have emailed or texted Poirier back something to the effect of: “For god’s sake, please don’t put your mother in a nursing home so you can help me! The Core Spaces vote and my political machinations aren’t as important as caring for your mother.”

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  24. Jeff Hayner   May 3, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Surprised to see my comments in this story, but I stand by them. Anyone who wants to know how I felt about this entire deal need only view any of the council meetings on CTN, including the April 17th meeting, where opportunity was given to speak on the matter. I spoke before and after the 4/17 meeting at public comment time. This sale is a bad deal for the people of Ann Arbor in so many ways.

    Something NOT in the story: I was told the MISSION folks had arrived at the city clerk’s office at 8 a.m. en masse with hopes of claiming all 10 speaking spots for their use. I was lucky enough to get one via phone, and it was evident that there was some commotion in the background. To be clear, I have no problem with any resident wanting to participate in our democracy, and organize around a cause that is meaningful to them. But to openly (and privately) conspire with council members to push for a specific outcome on the contentious sale of public land is going too far IMO.

    As for the Gang of Eight comment, I believe that Greg Pratt used that in response to my earlier and frequent use of the term in our Twitter exchange. I’m still not certain who our council majority serves, as they continue to cut bad deals for the majority of people. Gang of Eight is an apt description in my view, so, if the tire sandal fits, wear it.

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  25. EHunter   May 3, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    “Ann Arbor Committee for the Community Commons delivered a petition to put the future of the lot to the November election ballot, but it fell just short of a few hundred signatures because of technical mistakes.” (a Mich. Daily quote in the article)

    My understanding it that the city had 2 choices: eliminate only the duplicate/triplicate/etc. signatures OR eliminate those plus the originals. The city (atty. Postema most likely) chose the latter. Only because of that decision did the petitions fall short.

    It’s interesting that for state elections, the law says original signatures *cannot* be eliminated.

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  26. A2Dem   May 3, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    ‘I’m not going to tell you that! I don’t have to answer that question. Why should I answer that question? I don’t have to answer that question. I’m not going to answer that question.’ Another super intelligent, thought-provoking quote from CM Julie Grand. Burns Park sure knows how to pick ’em!

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    • Burns Park   May 3, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      Believe me, there are those of us here who have had more than enough of both of our two council people.

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  27. Shahida S.   May 3, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Jeff Hayner has it right, they’re a bunch of phonies, but worse than phonies. These people are arrogant, entitled phonies. This is just sickening.

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  28. peregrine   May 3, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    “Council members Warpehoski, Smith and Ackerman did not reply to an email requesting a comment.” Huge surprise there. What could any of them say? ‘Yeah, I’m an a**hole but the homeless love me.’

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  29. Dave D.   May 3, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    So it sounds like from the last paragraph that you think A2Indy didn’t get all of their emails, texts, etc…Why?

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    • The Ann Arbor Independent Editorial Team   May 4, 2017 at 10:28 am

      @Dave D. Council member Ackerman turned over an email he sent to Poirier in which Ackerman writes, “Thanks for your note.” Ackerman neglected to turn over the note to which he refers in the email. There are other instances of such omissions.

      The problem is that Ann Arbor permits Council members to search their own emails in response to FOIA requests (the honor system, as it were). This practice needs to end as we see, quite clearly, that Council members are not adhering to the honor system they set up for themselves (Council Rules) and so could reasonably be presumed to be tempted to skirt FOIA when given the opportunity.

      Update: Update: On May 5, The Ann Arbor Independent’s FOIA appeal to City Administrator Howard Lazarus for any additional emails which may have been inadvertently omitted or withheld relating to Council members’ communications with Caleb Poirier during the months of Feb.-April was denied.

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  30. Robert Kruger   May 3, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    I had to read this twice. So they have Mission organize a bbq for homeless folks at city hall, then a member of Mission’s board, in cahoots with a bunch of council members, led these folks into the council meeting, gave them signs, told them what the council members wanted them to say and council members basked in the fake support. Anyone on council who had anything to do with this disgusting farce needs to resign.

    As for Mr. Peace and Social Justice Chuck Warpehoski, the ICPJ Board needs to ask him for his resignation too. I will never donate a dime to the group as long as he works there and I intend to encourage others to do the same. These people are pretending to be progressives.

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    • ICPJ donor no more   May 4, 2017 at 10:06 am

      ICPJ board members: Ron Gregg, Rev. Donnell Wyche, Catherine Bartholomay, Rabbi Kim Blumenthal, Tamara Stiles Beechey, Angelina Zaytsev, Betsy McCabe, Lois E. Allen-Richardson, Pastor Lori Cary, Bob Milstein, Munir Khan, La’Ron Williams, Emmeline Weinert.

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  31. Burns Park   May 3, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Julie Grand like Zachary Ackerman has become an enormous embarrassment to our Ward. Is she capable of speaking without managing to jam both of her feet into her own mouth? First she calls us ‘children’ and now she she gets to pick and choose whom she answers to as an elected official? I’ll gladly be voting for other candidates in the upcoming elections.

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    • Michele Spino Martindill   May 3, 2017 at 3:55 pm

      What a nice way of putting it. Julie is not only an embarrassment to the people she represents, Julie is an embarrassment to the entire city because that’s who she insulted by calling us all children. And yes, Julie, you do have to answer questions, I just hope I don’t have to listen to your ridiculous answers much longer.

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  32. CE Michaels   May 3, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Where’s the donate button for A2Indy? Jeeeeesus. These council people are as dishonest as Trump. As for Caleb, homeless individuals are not yours to ‘use.’ And you put your own mother in a nursing home so you could help these SOBs pull one over on the public?

    I have to go and throw up now.

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