I am running for reelection to City Council against two opponents. I have a long record of service on Council, so it seems that my opponents would be able to identify votes or positions I have taken and tell voters how they differ with me on those issues. Instead, the campaign has devolved into personal attacks.
One of my opponents has a long history (17 years) of appearing at Council meetings and being disruptive and divisive. Dr. Savabieasfahani’s anti-Israel rhetoric at Council meetings and in the community is hurtful to many. I have made clear at Council meetings that I will not sponsor a resolution to boycott Israel or otherwise involve Council in international affairs involving Israel, would not support such resolutions if sponsored by other members of Council and would advocate against such resolutions. That, of course, has caused my opponent to be particularly critical of me, both before and during the campaign.
My other opponent is a partner in a public relations firm in Lansing that has been connected to the negative campaign mailings sent to voters during the 2018 Council campaign.
Last year, Jen Eyer invited me to meet for coffee and that was when she informed me that she would be running for Council. That is the usual, polite manner of entering a race. During that conversation, she sought assurances that I would make sure my supporters would not say bad things about her. I expressed my surprise that she thought a candidate could control what supporters said about an opponent. I suggested that she would find that her supporters would engage in negativity and she would not be able to control that. She mentioned one person she believed to be a supporter of mine, with whom I have had nearly no communication. I mentioned a number of her supporters, including Ned Staebler and Joan Lowenstein who frequently attack me on social media, as examples of those over whom she would have little control.
A September 2018 Ann Arbor Observer article quoted Mr. Staebler defending negative campaigning. “A union-backed group mailed flyers detailing the purported flaws of four challengers, three running for council and one for county commissioner ... Many of the same attacks appeared on the Facebook page of the Michigan Talent Agenda, run by former state house candidate Ned Staebler. ‘Negative ads are effective,’ Staebler says. ‘They turn some people off, but the data shows it works.’"
The first five years I served on Council, Mayors Hieftje and Taylor had automatic majorities to support anything they wanted. During that period, I was calm and deliberate in discussion at Council and in public. I have maintained that respectful behavior since the composition of Council changed in 2018. It does not serve my constituents to engage in negativity.
The City faces so many challenges during the pandemic and recession. Let’s have a meaningful debate about those challenges and the issues of great concern to our community. The distraction of personal attacks and negative campaigning prevents meaningful discussion of budget priorities, climate action, public health, police reform, drinking water safety, and affordable housing. We owe it to the voters to focus on what matters to them.