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September 06, 1979 - Image 95

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-09-06

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The Michigan Daily-Thursday, September 6, 1979-Page E-5
The unpredictable world of 2 politics

GOP retains Council m



"University students here rarely pay
attention to City Council-until an issue
arises which will definitely affect
But even when those matters, such as
tenants' rights, or the $5 drinking fine,
come before Council, the student hype
is usually maintained just long enough
to carry through the specific issue.
Given the past record of Democratic
"student voting tendencies in Ann Arbor,
-the student indifference toward city
politics would seem to be one of the fac-
tors in Ann Arbor's firm standing as a
Republican town. While student ac-
tivism during the late 1960s and early
1970s briefly inserted a liberal tone to
local politics, City Council has in the
last two years regained its Republican
THOUGH THE bickering that ac-
companied the multi-party Council
sessions of five years ago has by no
means disappeared, today's meetings
are tamer and usually end on time, with
the only event to mar the atmosphere of
decorum being the often-tardy entran-
ces of Democratic Councilman Ken
Latta, occasionally accompanied by a
transistor radio.
With the University students less in-
volved in local politics than they were
-earlier in the decade, the radical fac-
tion on Council has all but disappeared,'
but ten years ago the upset victory of
Democratic Mayor Robert Harris was
attributed by several Councilmembers
to student support. Harris' election,
along with those of several new
Democratic representatives, shattered
a 30-year Republican stronghold,
resulting in an 8-3 Democratic majority
on Council.
City politics then took an unpreceden-
ted radical turn in 1972, when two can-
didates from the Human Rights Party,
a local group formed by students, old
anti-war activists, and some former
White Panthers, gained seats on Coun-
cil. That election was the first in which
18-year-olds were allowed to vote, thus
giving the radical faction an edge in the
central-city wards.
IT WAS THE Human Rights4Demo-
cratic powerplay that year that suc-
ceeded in passing an ordinance making
possession of marijuana a
misdemeanor punishable by a $5
fine-much more lenient than the state
penalty. At the same time, however,
some observers were writing off the
local political scene as a "circus."
. The ill-fated Human Rights Party,,

which often gave Council support to one
or the other of the two traditional par-
ties ("whichever happened to make the
most concessions," according to one ob-
server), lasted only four years, taking
its final bow in 1976 when all of its four
candidates were defeated.
After several topsy-turvy mayoral
races (see related story, Page El),
Republican Louis Belcher finally
regained the mayor's seat for the GOP
in 1978. And at the same time a
Republican win in a strategic area-the
Fourth Ward-gave Belcher's party a
7-4 Council majority, which is how the
group stands today.
POLITICALLY, Ann Arbor operates
on a ward system. The city is divided
into five wards-theoretically pie-
shaped wedges emanating from the
center of town, but which are actually
mangled, uneven areas.
Two candidates are elected from
each ward, with only the ward residents
allowed to vote for their representative.
The Councilmembers are elected for
two year terms on an alternating basis,
so general elections are held every
The five wards-most recently
outlined during Harris' tenure and
scheduled for revision in the next few
years-have predictable voting patter-
ns. The First and Second Wards are
dominated by students and lower-
income "inner-city" families, and tend
to vote Democratic, while the generally
Republican-dominated Third and Fifth
Wards are populated by many wealthy
THE FOURTH Ward is known as the
"swing ward," as the politics of its
heterogenous population, composed of
students, liberal University-affiliated
families, and old-time conservatives,
vary from block to block. The mood of
that ward at any particular time is in-
tegral to the political character of
Council, since candidates elected by
the Fourth Ward often determine the
party that will dominate City Hall for
the next year. There is even a super-
stitious formula quoted by local
politicians that says the IFourth Ward's
choice also influences the mayoral elec-
tion: "As goes the Fourth Ward, so goes
the city."
And the city can go many different
ways depending on who's elected to
Council. The group's power ranges
from the authority to pass local or-
dinances-which must always be in ac-

cordance with state laws, such as the $5
pot and liquor fines-to the right to
decide whether or not a particular
street should be closed off to facilitate a
block party. In addition, Council must
approve appointments of city commit-
tee members, as well as the hiring and
firing of top city officials.
But the partisan politics of Ann Arbor
have, and will continue to, make such
decisions Republican-Democrat
And at least until next April, the four
Democrats on Council-Ken Latta and

aj ority
Susan Greensberg from the First Ward,
and Leslie Morris and Earl Greene
from the Second Ward-seated to the
left of the mayor, will continue their
alternating concurrence with and
deviation from the stance of the
Republicans-the Third Ward's Louis
Senunas and Clifford Sheldon, the Four-
th Ward's E. Edward Hood and David
Fisher, the Fifth Ward's James
Cmejrek and Gerald Bell, and Mayor
And next April . . . well, who can
possibly say at this point?


If you are at least 18 and a
citizen of the United States, you
can register to vote in Ann Arbor.
Registration forms are available
at many locations around the
city, including offices of the
Michigan secretary of state, the
city clerk's office, and the public
library. Volunteers also often
register voters door-to-door.
If you are already registered to
vote in another city but wish to
vote here, you must fill out a card

which cancels your old
registration. Address changes of
registered city voters must be
reported to the city clerk's office.
Shelia Robertson of the city
clerk's staff said student voting
here is generally low. "My.
feeling is that most students
could care less about voting, and
it's very said," she said. "They
might register, but they don't

Voting in A2



Legislators talk student issues

Ann Arbor politicians come in a
variety of political shapes and sizes to
match the diverse populations of the
city and the surrounding areas. From
state Representative Perry Bullard,
who has smoked pot on the Diag, to
state Senator Edward Pierce, the only
medical doctor in the Senate, to conser-
vative U.S. Representative Carl Pur-
sell, Ann Arbor area politicians do have
something in common-a large student
Ann Arbor's strong educational
background, Livonia's suburban
character, and Monroe's large percen-
tage of blue collar workers make the
Second Congressional District the
"most challenging" in the state to
represent, said Pursell.

"This district is the most diverse
district," he said. "The district is not a
homogeneous group of people.. . but I
feel very comfortable representing
PURSELL, A Republican, usually
votes along party lines. He said he
normally votes in Congress the way he
believes his constituents would want.
But the "times when they (the con-
stituents) are split 50-50 or (when) I
have information that they might not
have" are cases when Pursell said he
has to make a decision based on his own
best judgment.
Pursell said returning to Ann Arbor
every weekend helps him keep in touch
with the people he represents in
Washington. He said these visits and his
local political history, which includes
six years as a state Senator from

Livonia, give him a "pretty good field
background on what's happening" in
the district.
As a representative of the district
with the largest density of students in
the nation, Pursell said he depends
upon student votes a "great deal." A
bill he co-sponsored, recently passed by
the House, would provide $29 million in
Basic Educational Opportunity Grants
for college students. "I won a big one
for the students," he said.
ELECTED TO the House in 1976,
Pursell now serves on the Ap-
propriations Committee. On
budgetary matters in particular, he
tends to vote in what is generally con-
sidered to be a conservative manner.
Pursell defeated Pierce for the
Congressional seat in 1976 but last year,
Pierce won the state Senate race for the

Ann Arbor district area. According to
Pierce, the most pressing issue facing
University students is the increasing
cost of tuition. Although he said he
would like to see increased state aid for
colleges, he said "the chances are slim,
because there's no money."
"The student has some role (in
government), but until he starts voting,
the role is limited," Pierce said. He
claimed only 10 per cent of students
vote, and "not voting weakens student
positions" on issues.
ALTHOUGH PIERCE is new to the
state legislature, he is not new to the
political world. While he was a prac-
ticing physician in the area, Pierce en-
tered the political arena in the 1960s,
when he was elected to the Ann Arbor
City Counil. After his council victory,
he suffered a string of defeats. He r
unsuccessfully for mayor of the city-*
1967 and seven years later he failed to
receive the Democratic Party
nomination for the 1974 Congressional
race. In the 1976 election, he won the
nomination but lost the general elec-
tion. Pierce finally met with victory
last year when he defeated University
See THEY, Page 8
Hair Stylists
Map. m.Viog.-61-270:


Bullard Pierce

Topsy-turvy mayoral races common here

(Continued from Page 1)
tis year's election into the national
spotlight really began in 1975, when
Republican Mayor James Stephenson
was running for reelection against a lit-
tle-known University professor and
civil rights activist, Al Wheeler.
hat year, Ann Arborites were going
tthe polls under a system called
"preferential voting," a system
previously untried in Ann Arbor. Voters
were allowed to list their second choice
candidates, and in the event that no
candidate received a majority, the
second place votes would be tallied.
WHEN THE FINAL votes were coun-
led, Republican Stephenson had com-
fortably defeated Wheeler. But a third
u party candidate, running on the Human
Rights Party ticket, kept Stephenson's
. win below 50 per cent. The second place
-votes were then counted, and Wheeler
--,nosed out Stephenson by piling up
enough second place votes.
The Republicans immediately took
the case to court, a judge tossed out the
.controversial preferential voting
*ystem, but Wheeler was.allowed to
I ake over the mayorship in an election
the Republicans never forgot.
-onsidered by some an illegitimate
incumbent-was up for reelection after

two years of a deadlocked split council
and doubts about his right to occupy
the mayor's seat. Wheeler's opponent
was Fifth Ward councilman Louis
By the time of that 1977 election, Ann
Arbor had already gained its reputation
as a political circus. "What could hap-
pen next?" the political observers were
asking. they soon found out..
Wheeler won reelection that year
with the barest possible margin-one
vote-in an election that put Ann Arbor
on the CBS evening news. Wheeler's
one-vote victory was immediately con-
tested in court, and one city councilman
sarcastically dubbed the mayor "Land-
slide Al."
tion of 1977 was far from over. In the
course of the court proceedings, it was
discovered that 21 residents of neigh-
boring Ann Arbor township had been
accidentally registered as Ann Arbor
city voters and had voted in the one-
vote election.
A circuit court judge ordered the
"Township Twenty" to reveal how they
voted, in order to determine if their
illegal votes had swung the one-vote
election. When one woman refused, the
case became a cause celebre on the

right of a secret ballot. When the state
supreme court ruled that the 20 did not
have to reveal their votes, the circuit
court judge asked both parties into his
chambers, where they agreed to a
special off-year election.
THAT CAMPAIGN was marked by
bitter sarcasm and pointed charges and
counter-charges that underlined the
philosophical differences between Al
Wheeler and Lou Belcher. Belcher
charged that Wheeler had been ineffec-
tive during his tenure as mayor, and
that the incumbent consistently vetoed
Republican initiatives while not of-
fering any counter proposals of his own.
Wheeler's reply: Of course he had
been an ineffective mayor-he had
been in court every day for the past
year just fighting to hold on to the job.
When the smoke had cleared and the
votes were counted, Belcher had
wrestled the mayor's seat from
Wheeler, and his Republicans managed
to sweep the city council elections.
Reduced to a tiny 7-4 minority, council
Democrats resorted to what one coun-
cilman termed "guerrilla warfare,"
hoping to regain some control in the
next elections.
In April, however, a combination of
Republican incumbency advantage and

widespread student voter apathy dim-
med Democaratic hopes for a
comeback for at least the next two
years. And with six council seats and
the mayor's chair, Republicans have
both the votes and the time to mold the
city according to their game plan for
the future.

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