Monday, May 6, 2024

Endorsement: vote for the progressive choice, Desiraé Simmons, in Ypsilanti's Ward 3 Recall.


There is an election in Ward 3 tomorrow. Click here for more information on voting in the City of Ypsilanti. 

There is a recall election tomorrow in Ypsilanti's Ward 3. I strongly endorse the incumbent candidate, Democrat Desiraé Simmons. In her time on council, Simmons has been a strong advocate for new housing, and making Ypsilanti a more equitable community. 

The recall against Simmons, and her opponent Rod Johnson, have largely been funded by landlords, out of town business interests, in town business interests, and a dark-money PAC. Please read Ruth Cassidy's well researched article on the finances behind Johnson and the recall. Here's an exerpt:

Newly-posted paperwork of “Ypsilanti Forward” reveals its donors. The recall campaign group is funded almost entirely by landlords who do not reside in the city of Ypsilanti. 92% of the recall campaign dollars came from donors who do not reside in Ward 3. 89% of the recall campaign donors are landlords and 79% of recall campaign dollars came from landlords. The only recall-funder who appears to be registered in Ward 3 is Linda French, who owns Sidetracks and other properties in Ypsilanti. 

Linda French’s nephew and owner of Aubree’s, Andrew French, is another notable donor to the recall. He is also a donor to Republican causes; his donor contributions reveal donations to WINRED, Republican Nikki Haley, and the conservative-leaning Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, of which he serves as president and director. He resides in Ann Arbor.

Other Republican donors who also donated to the recall campaign include Mitch Jerden of Plymouth, Rick Fischer Jr. of Brighton, and Bob Barnes of Ann Arbor. Despite landlords Barnes of Barnes & Barnes and Fischer Jr. using their business addresses on their donation receipts, their registered home addresses are actually in Ann Arbor and Brighton, respectively. Fischer owns a Honda dealership in Ypsilanti and was the business owner who inflated the cost of a property the city sought to purchase in order to connect the Border to Border trail.

Johnson seems like a nice guy, by all accounts. He has a long history in Ypsilanti. That said, I just don't think it is wise to elect someone who represents the will of the landlord class. In this election, there is clearly a progressive choice (Simmons) and a conservative choice (Johnson). Here I mean conservative in the sense of supporting established hierarchies. 

To reiterate, if you are in Ypsi's Ward 3, I think you should vote for Councilmember Simmons. She is clearly the progressive choice. You should also make sure your friends and neighbors vote. Remember, we have same-day voter registration now. If you want to, you can stop reading here. 

This next section is going to get a little speculative. You've been warned. 

Some may say that race between Simmons and Johnson represent a clash between two competing visions for Ypsilanti. They might suggest that Johnson represents the vision of ex-mayor Farmer, the architect of the Water Street debacle. Indeed, Farmer is one of Johnsons donors and one of his fiercest supporters online. This article from Mark Maynard in 2006, as well as the comments give a decent glimpse of ex-Mayor Farmer's philosophy. 1996-2006 was Farmer's term as mayor; beyond Water Street, her signature initiatives were the West Cross neighborhood plan (circa 2003 or 04?)This resulted in the downzoning of everything between the river and campus. It covered something like 800 parcels, including a few hundred that it rendered non-conforming by unit count, and that was the point. Some might say ex-Mayor Farmer and her faction are dedicated to (a) reducing rental properties, (b) increasing property values, and (c) decreasing tax rates. All of that helps the bigger landlords who see their monopoly position strengthening as smaller landlords exit, while increasing the value of their assets (which they can refi to acquire more property) and decreasing their operating costs. Wins all around. The Simmons faction wants (a) more housing, (b) strong renter protections, and (c) increased tax base going to fund strong public services (vs) tax cuts. And the landlords and business owners are less excited about this. 

Indeed, you can see many of the complaints against Simmons are centered around her support for two housing developments (one of which, 220 N Park, she was not even on council when it was approved). It is unsurprising that landlords are against competition, the benefit from housing scarcity. I think the city is much better though when we make sure that anyone who wants to can live here with dignity. 

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