The following is the 1974 electoral position of the SUN Editorial Board.
The outcome of the April 1 city elections will not only affect us as individuals, but also as members of a growing alternative community which is always subject to policies coming out of City Hall.
Besides the ballot issues, rent control and the $5 weed fine for which we have already voiced our support, there will be five candidates elected to City Council. The Council people have control over all city agencies, like the police department and the parks and recreation programs. They also control millions of dollars in city revenues, which could be spent either on child care or garbage collection, depending on who wins those five seats.
Ann Arbor's large community of progressive people can move to control City Hall through the polls. This can only be accomplished through the existence of a strong, community-controlled third party committed to the goal of gaining power through the electoral system. Such a party could use the resources of the city to bring about radical change in this community, not in ten or twenty years, but now.
The plan is not new. It is consistent with an overall strategy that has been developed over the years and presented in the pages of this newspaper. It is a strategy we continue to support and have urged the current Human Rights Party to recognize, but without success.
We believe the first step to develop an alternative party is concentration on local elections, running primarily at this time in the First and Second wards, where a strong base of support already exists. In the April 1972 elections, HRP won a smashing victory and two seats on Council by relying on and mobilizing this base.
We still maintain that the HRP must rely on this base if it is to be a viable, radical electoral party in Ann Arbor. But since the April '72 elections, the HRP has been successful in thoroughly undermining its base in the first and second wards. As a result, it has lost every race it entered since then.
Because the HRP clings to its abstract and idealistic theories rather than concentrating on concrete, everyday issues, it maintains only a small base in the radical academic community. By focusing on the internal structure and dynamics of the party rather than developing political power, the HRP has not only undermined their support in the first and second, but they have intensified their isolation from the larger community.
They have failed to create excitement around the HRP and involve larger and larger numbers of people in the electoral process. And, finally, they've turned people off to the electoral process as a useful tool for change, and discouraged people from participating in city government and a third party.
The HRP has been primarily responsible for subjecting this community to the present Republican control of Council because of their vote-splitting tactics. The Republicans in turn have consolidated their strength, taking concrete steps in their own interest but harmful to the majority of people in Ann Arbor. In the eyes of many people in this community, the HRP is indirectly responsible for the tremendous setbacks this community has suffered at the hands of a Republican-dominated Council.
With the Republicans in control of the city, Council was able to repeal the $5 weed law, yet the HRP now champions the cause of weed with the $5 ballot proposal.
The Republican-controlled Council announced it intends to eliminate money needed to keep even the present, inadequate level of social services alive -- Drug Help, childcare centers, Ozone House, the Free People's Clinic and others are all affected. Again, the HRP will champion the cause of social services.
The Repubs have ripped off Federal Revenue Sharing money allocated to secure a new People's Ballroom and Community Center, yet the HRP will be the first to say they "support" a community center. The oldest alternative institution in Ann Arbor -- the Free Park Concerts -- are certainly threatened by the Republican Council; McDonald's, Burger King and the Packard Platt Shopping Center can all be laid at the Republican's door. If not for HRP, we would not have a Republican majority on Council. The HRP has yet to accept its responsibility for playing a major role in these unnecessary disasters.
The HRP, to this very day, hopelessly clings to a strategy and tactics which have been proven wrong by two years of continuous defeat at the polls. In this year's race, they still mindlessly attack Democrats on the grounds that "Dems and Repubs are all the same," when clearly they are not. In the Fourth Ward race between Republican Colburn, Democrat Kenworthy and HRP Nichols, a simple 100 votes or so for the HRP could throw the ward to Colburn. Ousting Colburn is key to eliminating Republican control over Council. The HRP is once again engaging in the most dangerous kind of vote-splitting, totally disregarding practical politics.
After the crushing losses of November, 1972, the SUN pleaded with the HRP:
"Given the enormity of their failure and the seriousness of the threat they pose to the future existence, development and expansion of the Human Rights Party, there is no reason why these backward elements (now in control of the party) should not freely remove themselves from decision-making bodies within HRP, step aside and give the progressive forces within the party the same opportunity they've had to test out their theori.es in actual practice. Their actions so far, since they've been in control, have resulted in stunning losses for the HRP, and we believe very firmly that they would surely finish off the HRP as a viable political force by next April if they were allowed to remain at the head of the organization."
It is now the April after next. The past leadership did not step down; they did not change the basic misdirection of the party and win over tremendous support from the people of this community. Unless the incorrect strategies and tactics put forward by the present leadership of HRP (many of whom are candidates in this election) are thoroughly exposed and discredited in the upcoming election, they will certainly continue splitting votes right into the Mayor's race in April, 1975.
This is not to say that we see no hope for a vibrant, expanding third party. There are progressive, well-meaning individuals in the HRP who, if they hope to build a viable alternative after this upcoming vote, will denounce, isolate and eliminate the incorrect strategy and tactics of the past. When that happens, they will gain our overwhelming support.
Given the present condition of the HRP and its relationship to the community, we cannot endorse any of the present HRP candidates without giving a false glimmer of hope to a community that already views the party with a cynical eye. To endorse any HRP candidates would be to endorse the past two years of needless setbacks at the hands of the HRP "political scientists."
FOURTH WARD - Jamie Kenworthy - Democrat
Margo Nichols - HRP, Clyde William Colburn - Rep.
The fourth ward is the home of Republican superstar Clyde William Colburn, the only member of the Stephenson team seeking re-election. If the progressive vote is split between the Democrat and HRP candidates, Colburn will be gracing Council chambers for two more years, and will be well on the way to the mayorship which he so avidly desires.
Colburn's presence is desperately needed by Council Republicans to ensure the seven votes necessary to approve the city budget contracts. Without him, Stephenson will not have the majority needed to maintain absolute control over city finances, and would probably be forced to bargain with the other parties on budget matters.
We have discussed our concern over the Fourth ward in the past. Under the current ward boundary plan, this is a swing-ward. Neither of the major parties has a clear majority in the Fourth (First and Second being prime areas for Dems and HRP, Third and Fifth going traditionally Republican).
But based on vote totals from last year, the ward can be
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won by a progressive candidate, providing vote-splitting does not occur. Last year, the Republican candidate took the ward with a minority of the total vote, because the Dems and HRP divided the majority.
We place primary responsibility on the HRP for the Republican victory. Because HRP has not got a strong base of support in the Fourth at this time, they have no chance of winning in that ward.
The problem is the unrealistic attitude which the HRP has toward the electoral process. Because the majority of the HRP elite believe that ALL Democrats and Republicans are alike, there has been no concern on the part of the HRP whether a Democrat or Republican is elected. They are unwilling to accept the fact that their candidate acts as a spoiler in a ward where votes are relatively evenly divided between a progressive and conservative candidate. (This same attitude also got Mayor Stephenson elected). They remain more concerned with their "principled" campaigning, rather than the long term effects on the city. And this year, with the Republican majority, the results have been disastrous.
We are concerned with the effects of Republican control on the city, while the HRP is not. We do not expect any real radical change from the Democratic party, but we have seen that it is better to have a liberal Democrat than a rabid Republican. And the HRP does not have a chance of winning; a vote for Margo is a vote for Colburn. Jaimie will work for many of the kinds of programs we want to see instituted, and has a realistic chance to win. We urge our readers to vote for him.
As yet, the HRP has refused to take responsibility for electing the Republicans. A half-hearted effort was made this year to explain the effects of voting for an HRP candidate in the Fourth, by stating in flyers that Margo could not win. But this fact has not been made prominent enough for most people to even notice it. Margo admits that in talks and debates, she does not even mention that she has no chance of winning unless asked.
We do not accept the fact that all Democrats and Republicans are alike. In the Fourth ward there are very clear differences between Jaimie Kenworthy and cool Clyde. Jaimie has come out strongly in favor of both rent control and the $5 fine. He has supported more money for social services, and strong enforcement of the Human Rights ordinance. All of these are anathema to the Republicans.
We do not want to see another year of Republican control over this city. While we do not question Margo's qualifications for Council, we believe it is important to be realistic about the effects of her action. We are therefore throwing our full support behind Jaimie in the Fourth. We have found him to be both well informed on issues, and highly willing to listen to our concerns. We believe that if he is elected, he will work for needed changes in this city.
FIRST WARD - Colleen McGee - Democrat
Beth Bninton - HRP, Joyce Hannum - Rep
In the First ward, both the HRP and the Democrats are running strong candidates. We are endorsing the Democrat, Colleen McGee, in this ward, however, as we believe she will be the most effective in working with Council to bring about progressive reforms.
While we were all impressed with Beth, both for her knowledge of issues and her fairly reasonable approach to dealing with problems, we are unable to endorse her because she still stands behind many of the tactics which are destroying the effectiveness of the HRP. While we admired her stand against the demonstration which shut down the Council meeting several weeks ago, we can not accept her total support of HRP's tactics in the Fourth Ward and in last year's election. We believe that she is the kind of person we would like to see on Council, but until she can disassociate herself from policies which clearly hurt everyone in the city, we can not support her.
Colleen proved to be the best informed and most highly motivated candidate we talked to. She has a history of activism, and had some good programs she hoped to see instituted. While we recognize that she is primarily a reformist, not a revolutionary, we believe she will be highly effective in accomplishing some progressive changes while she is on Council, even if the Republicans maintain their majority. We are therefore endorsing her as being the best candidate to work on Council at this time.
SECOND WARD - No Endorsement
Mary Richman - Detn., Kathy Kozachenko - HRP
No Rep. candidate
In all the other wards we have chosen not to make endorsements. We want to encourage everyone to vote in this election (the ballot issues depend on it), but we do not feel that any of the candidates rated our full support. Like everyone else, we will be faced with the choice of candidates, even when all the choices may be relatively distasteful. So, in the rest of the wards, we will briefly discuss the candidates and our reasons for not making endorsements. We hope that people will then have some understanding of the alternatives, and will be able to make a choice on April 1 .
The Second ward, made up primarily of students, is the ward where the HRP has traditionally had its strongest support. However, the HRP has not been able to capture a majority of the youth and student vote since its original victory in April, 1972.
We believe that the HRP candidate, Kathy Kozachenko, will once again be unable to defeat her Democratic opponent, Mary Richman. What is really sad is that Mary is not a strong candidate, but will win because the HRP has so completely discredited itself by its unrealistic tactics.
While Mary voices support for progressive reforms, we found her uninformed on many issues, and not taking the campaign seriously enough. After meeting with her, we all agreed that she was too much of an opportunist, hoping to use the campaign and the Council seat to further her own career. She strikes us as highly individualistic, and states that she is running as a Democrat because they have no binding platform. We felt she would not be responsible enough to the needs of her constituents if she decided her own opinion was better. However, we did think that once she was on Council she would probably put her energies into the necessary work, and would be subject to pressure by the people she represents.
Although we are not endorsing Mary because of our reservations about her effectiveness, we can give no support to Kathy. Kathy has been a major supporter of the policies which have put HRP in their current discredited state. She was a member of the Chocolate Almond caucus, strongly supporting the position of running in all races, regardless of consequences. She sees the HRP as a forum for radical education, without seeing it as a vehicle for seizing power. Her strong support for the recent disruption of City Council is a reflection of her attitude that it is more important to voice a statement, rather than taking action which will have serious positive results.
Because she so strongly supports these policies, we believe that her election could only encourage the most negative elements in the HRP, and would not encourage needed changes for building, a strong, third party in Ann Arbor.
THIRD WARD - No Endorsement
Dan Burke - Dem., Harry Kevorkian - HRP, Roger Bertoia - Rep.
FIFTH WARD - No Endorsement
Paul Brown - Dem., Jesse Hall - HRP, Louis Belcher - Rep.
The Third and Fifth wards are normally Republican strongholds. In both wards, the Democratic and Republican candidates sound very similar, all running on issues which will appeal to their conservative constituences. The HRP has candidates in both wards, but neither has any chance of winning, and both have been running almost non-existent educational campaigns.
We can not, in good conscience, endorse any of the candidates in either ward. We did discuss Burke in the Third, based on his previous work with Canterbury House and his counseling of draft evaders during the Vietnam war. But his current stand against the ballot proposals (necessary if he wants to win the Third) made it impossible for us to throw our support behind him.
However, we do want to point out to any of our readers who will be voting in these wards that a Democratic victory in either along with Kenworthy's victory in the Fourth would actually end the Republican domination of Council. It may be that a conservative Democrat voting occasionally with the progressive Council members is better than a Republican who never does. But these Democrats also represent the most regressive elements of the Democratic party, and with no binding platform, are unlikely to support much progressive legislation, even when proposed by other Democrats. Although we have never accepted the HRP line that all Democrats and Republicans are the same, in this case it may be mostly true.
After prolonged and intense struggle over this election statement, we have found ourselves unable to reach complete unity on the endorsement of candidates.
The major point of disunity is not over whether the Human Rights Party has made mistakes, but what the best tactical way is to deal with the problems that continue to exist. We all agreed that the HRP has recently taken some initial steps towards eliminating the practices which have been the subject of our criticisms. Our disagreement was over the tactical methods through which to encourage much more change in a positive direction.
The majority at the SUN held that to endorse any HRP candidates would be to encourage those elements within the party who advocate many of its current, misguided strategies. The only way to totally eliminate those practices is for the current leadership of HRP to be discredited through the defeat of all HRP candidates. Following another disastrous defeat like that of last April, the HRP would finally be forced to purge itself, and will once again be open to real community control and content.
After a number of intense sessions, two of us had still not accepted all the endorsements presented above. Because of pressing deadlines, we could not continue the struggle to reach a position of unity, and it was determined that the only solution for the present was to present a minority opinion. After this paper goes to the printer, we will continue our own efforts to reach accord.
Two of us believe the best method to encourage further changes in the HRP is by endorsing candidates who we see as representing those elements we want to encourage. If the HRP is to continue to change, it can best be done by having the party represented by responsible people on Council. Such people would have direct effect on future party policy decisions, and with continued community pressure, both through criticism in the pages of this paper and direct participation in the party, the HRP would survive and grow.
All of us want to see a strong third party movement grow in Ann Arbor, but the present HRP does not meet the standards for such a party. We hope that everyone will carefully consider all the alternatives presented on these pages, and make a careful choice on April 1.
Barbara Weinberg and Ellen Hoffman
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