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Libertarian Up

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Parent Issue
Month
November
Year
1995
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
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1 f hen Arm Arborites cast their Ut llf 9 votes for city council on Nov. 7, they will find Libertarían Party 11!!! lili (LP) candidatcs - along with Uil I; DemocratsandRepublicuns - %sm sm on the bajlot jj, every ward except the first ward. If Libertarians were to be elected to city hall, it would dramatically change the debate about city politics as we know it. And if the LP ever gamered enough votes to actually set policy, we could expect services traditionally handled by the city such as trash collection, recycling, public transportation and water to all be put in privatehands. We could anticípate otherchanges as well consistent with the Libertarían maxim: "Best government is less government." But the chances of the Libertarians winning even one seat - much less taking over city council - are slim . For the last 20 years, Ann Arbor city council has been a two-party game (excepting Peter Nicholas' recent defection from the Democrats to 'Independent" status). The only third party in recent history to be represented on council was the Human Rights Party in the early '70s. For five years, this party - which had its roots in the war student mo vement - held up to two seats at a time on council. No other party or independent candidate since that time has even taken enough of the vote to act as a spoiler in any race, let alone win. But in these times of disillusionment with the two-party system, the national trend is for voters to favor independents or third-party candidates. In part, it is this sentiment which has made the LP thenation'sthird-largestparty.OnNov.7theAnn Arbor Libertarians hope that this national wave translates into local results. THE LIBERTARÍAN PARTY According to Chair of the Washtenaw County LP James Hudler, the LP has been active in Ann Arbor since 1976. They began running for city council seats 1 5 years ago, and in every election for the past five years they' ve run candidates for council in almost every ward and for mayor. They have polled as much as 15 percent of the vote. Libertarían candidates in Michigan, over the past 20 years, have run for nearly every statewide seat and for U.S. Congress. In these races they have polled as high as 4.5%. They've never won a statewide race in Michigan, however, in 1994, their U.S Senate candidate Jon Coon received nearly 130,000 votes (4.5%). Nationally, since their 1971 inception, LP candidates have received millions of votes in a multitude of races and have won a handful of statewide (three in the Alaska state legislature and four in the New Hampshire state legislature), county and local seats. In 1980 their presidential candidate Ed Clark appeared on the ballot in all 50 states and received almost one million votes. In 1992 the LP's presidential ticket was once again on the ballot in all 50 states. Each time the LP was the only third party to achieve this status. What are the cornerstones of this up-andcoming political force? The LP's national platform claims that "government's only role is to help individuals defend themselves from force and fraud." It calis for a free-market economy; civil liberties and personal freedoms; and a foreign policy of non-intervention. They are for the decriminalization of drugs, guns, and abortion (and all other victimless crimes); the deregulation of industry; the privatization of government services; and the repeal of all taxes. Their emphasis is on self-reliance over social welfare. Libertarians believe that the government has created most of our social problems and is thus unable to solve them. CITY POLITICS AGENDA interviewed each of the Libertarían candidates for council in order to find out where they stand on the issues and what we could expect from them as decision-makers. We asked broad questions about why they are running for council, what they would hope to accomplish on council, and what itmeans to be a Libertarían. We also asked about specific issues, including privatization, crime, low-income housing, affirmative action, development vis environmental protection, and their party's relationship with industrial polluter Charles Gelman. The answers to some of these questions are better understood when placed in the context of the following information. Low-income Housing City Council's current involvement with low-income housing in the city consists primarily of distributing federal funds (HOME program money andCommunity Development Block Grants) and a small amount of local taxpayermoney, to organizations that acquire and rehabilítate properties and rent them out as lowincome and affordable housing. Affïrmative Action The City of Ann Arbor has had an affirmative action poliey in place since 1969. The city's current statement, updated earlier this year, states the city will "provide equal employment opportunities in all personnel areas without regard to race, color, religión, national origin, sex, age, condition of pregnancy, marital status, physical limitation, sourceof income, family responsibilities, educational association, or sexual orientation." It pledges that the city "will attempt to establish a ratio of minority and female employees at all job levéis that reflects the composition of the labor market recruitment area." Development and the Environment City council is the goveming body that grants or denies permits for land development- an especially difficult process when the land in question contains environmentally sensitive features. For instance, City Council just negotiated a solution with the developers of the Arbor Hills housing complex north of Dhu Varren Rd., which will allow for housing y et preserve the woodlands and wetlands on that property. The Gelman Factor One reason that questions about environmental protection are complicated for the Libertarians is their party's relationship with Charles Gelman (CEO of Gelman Sciences, a firm well-known for their contamination of the groundwater on the city's far west side). Charles Gelman last year considered running for mayor on the Libertarían ticket. In 1993 the LP (concurrent with Gelman) launched an attack on the Ecology Center, an organization that was monitoring the Gelman Sciences pollution case. Gelman has contributed financially to several past Libertarían campaigns (in 1993 he contributed $500 each to at least two Libertarians - Salvette for Mayojand Raaflaub for city council). This raises the questions: What does a Libertarían do when two of their basic tenets - free enterprise and the sanctity of private property - go head to head? Does the local LP have a greater ideological affinity to an industrial polluter than to thecitizens who have suffered as a result of that pollution? THE CANDIDATES Ward 2- Douglas Friedman Douglas Friedman, a gradúate student in marketing and a research assistant at U-M, has lived in Ann Arbor for 18 months. Friedman discovered his Libertarian ideáis during his two-year stint working for the Department of Energy - an experience he describes as disillusioning. Friedman claimed that, if elected, he would provide a distinctive voice on council. He sees the city as "lurching from crisis to crisis" and wants to put an end to that cycle. To Friedman, being a Libertarian "means that the govemment should keeps its hands off people's wallets and its eyes off people's bedrooms." In the long run, Friedman said, he wouldliketoprivatize city operations such as housing, the airport, and the golf courses. He emphasized that the city should take bids and work out long-term leases with operators, rather than conduct outright sales, to give the city a continuous stream of revenue. In some cases, he acknowledged, the city may come in the low bidder. The projected city deficit is a cause for concern for Friedman. And taxes. "The population is stagnant in Ann Arbor while the population in the suburbs grows," he claimed. "This is due to the high tax rate." He also thinks the city should loosen up on rules against establishing private parking lots and on parking enforcement. 'It's oppressive," said Friedman. "It's what sends people to Briarwood [to shop], where at least you can park your car." Friedman believes that neighborhoods will be safer when relations between pólice and people of the community improve. He referred to the serial rapist investigation as a área where trust was breached between pólice and the public. "Cops who see themselves as a cavalry, rather than a pólice forcé, need retraining," said Friedman. "Where there are gangs, pólice have to go in and go in hard," he added. Friedman contended that, rather than subsidizing low-income housing, the city should ease up on zoning rules that prevent or delay construction of affordable housing. In addition, he feels that the city should cut taxes and look for other ways to reduce the expenses it's imposing on construction - that this would reduce the cost of housing for purchase or rent. But, he conceded, this still may not provide enough low-income housing for everyone who needs it. "There's not going to be as much low-income housing as you and some others may like," he said. "Not everyone who's going to want to live in Ann Arbor is going to be able to, just like Bloomfield Hills [where housing is also expensive]." Friedman is opposed to affirmative action. "It's notright tojudge people by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," said Friedman, whose wife is Mexican and whose kids are Hispanic. "Affirmative action never benefits the poor, but and upper-class blacks," he said. Friedman feels that the city should not restrict developers.even where en vironmentalconsequences are an issue. He proposed land swaps where the city could trade a parcel of land it possesses elsewhere, fortheprivately-owned land in quesüon as asolution to the developmentenvironmentai protection dilemma. He also suggested thatgroups like the Nature Conservancy could buy up easements of land of special importance. Friedman admitted that the Libertarians have close ties with Charles Gelman. 'Tm proud to have him as a supporter," he said. But he was quick to add, "Hé doesn't give us marching orders." Friedman also noted that Gelman is a big source of jobs for the city. Ward 3 - James Montgomery James Montgomery, a foreign student ad visor at the U-M International Center, has lived in Ann Arbor for 33 years. Together with his wife, he opened Clonlara School (a primary and secondary private school in Southeast Ann Arbor) 30 years ago. Montgomery said he' s running for council "to try to keep govemment from growing ever larger and larger." As far as Montgomery is concemed, "If govemment could only do one thing, it should be safety and the protections of citizens and property ." Being a Libertarían, to Montgomery, means believing in individual responsibility and small government. He said that privatization of many of the city functions (airport, refuse pickup, recycling, the MRF, and the power plant at Barton Dam, to name a few) would be a "major focus" on council, as would cost containment. Intermsofcrimefighting measures, Montgomery suggested increasing the numberof cops on the beat in neighborhoods, especially bicycle patrols. He's also in favor of neighborhood watch programs. "I'd like to encourage the city to make it possible for tenants to become owners of their units," said Montgomery regarding low-income housing. "If this is notpossible, thecity should sell it or turn it over to other agencies. I'm not in favor of the city itself taking financial responsibility [for housing]." However, he added, "I could conceivably support council setting broad policy." Montgomery came down on the side of the city's affirmative action policy, but stated that his support is in a "broad policy" sense. He added that he's not in favor of quotas. Montgomery held the middle ground on development vs. environmental protection. "'I simply feel that the city should encourage the owners and developers to look for mutually agreeable decisions in protectingenvironmentally sensitive areas," he said. "I'm not sure I feel the city itself can be the controlling force in that." When asked what should happen if no voluntary solution could be reached and sensitive lands were at stake, he replied, "Yes, there is some point where the city could set bottom-line policy guidelines." Montgomery said that he does not know Gelman personally and has not received any contributions from him . He said that he' s aware of Gelman's support for Libertarían causes, but doesn't know the extent to which Gelman has financially supported the LP or its candidates. Ward 4- David Raaflaub David Raaflaub, a lawyer in private practice, has lived in Ann Arbor for 30 years. Raaflaub is a perennial candidate who claims that his candidacy andorofficeholdingon the Libertan an ticket "is going to be a lifelong avocation." He has run for Mich. Supreme Court, Mich. State Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, as well as Ann Arbor City Council and Mayor - a total of eight races (four of them, including the curren t one, for city council). The reasons why Raaflaub is running for city council include his opposition to government excesses, high taxes, and govemment interference in people's lives. His anger at the government began "when thecity was givingme parkirtg tickets, especially when the meter had not even expired," explained Raaflaub. Rauflaab said, if elected, he would work with city administrators to come up with privatization plans 'Tor every function of city governmenL" Raaflaub is at home in the LP. "Libertarians talk about freedoms, individual rights and democracy ," he said . 'This is the natural place for me to be." He also claimed he would seek to increase voter participation in city decision-making by setting up a computer bulletin board. Every voter would be assigned a security code and could vote on issues before city council, as well as introduce their own topics. For people who don't have access to a computer, Raaflaub would place voting phones in public places like city hall and the public library. Anytime a majority of those participating voted in favor of a proposal, Raaflaub would support it in council. "This would allow every voter in the city to vote every day on every issue," said Raaflaub. Short of this, Raaflaub advocates, city council elections should opérate under aproportional representation system. This means that if a party gets some level of support, they get some representation on council (possibly by electing a certain number of candidates from each party, proportional to the number of votes cast for that party). Raafluab's other concerns include: the return of the blood samples taken during the serial rapist investigation; the focus of pólice efforts solely on stopping those who commit of violent crimes and crimes against property ; and the clean up of the city landfill. Raaflaub contended that gun ownership is important for personal safety . "I have a bumpersticker on my car that reads: 'If Nicole would have had a gun, she'd be alive today,'" said Raaflaub. "We are all sheep being led to the slaughter if we don't have the power to defend ourselves with deadly force, if necessary." Another element of Raaflaub's crimefighting plan is for neighborhoods to hire private security forces and to receive tax credits for it. In terms of gangs, Raaflaub asserted, "Young people have a right to associate. What is reprehensible about gangs is when they attack people. Gangs don't matter. It's individual victim crimes that matter." According to Raaflaub, Ann Arbor's low-income housing shortage is caused by excessive regulations and inspections, and high taxes. "Government regulations have meant that builders and landlords cannot build cheap, large, high-density housing that people can afford," said Raaflaub. "The socialist approach is that government has to subsidize housing. I'm a believer that the free market provides the best, cheapest goods and services possible." Raaflaub is opposed to affirmative action. "In order to address past injustices, affirmative action creates discrimination," said Rauflaab. "Preferential hiring for minority groups is a method of discrimination on the basis of race. It's justifying two wrongs, which doesn't make a right. The government can't solve these problems." Raaflaub was adamant that the city stay out of the affairs of developers. 'The environmental protection movement has gone too far in its zealousness," said Raaflaub. "I even saw a bumper sticker that said: 'Save the Planet Kill Yourself.'" He advocates city council deregulating housing, development and planning regulations. As for the relationship of the LP to Gelman, "The city should formally apologize to Gelman Sciences for the witchhunt it conducted for a fairly innocuous pollution problem," said Raaflaub. "Gelman's pollutants pale by comparison to the chemicals leaking at the city landfill." Ward 5 - Renée Emry Renée Emry, a homemaker and the director of the Coalition Advocating the Legalization of Medical Marijuana, has lived in Ann Arbor for ten years. Emry, who has multiple sclerosis, has achieved the status of local celebrity due to her ongoing battle with law enforcement officials over her medical use of marijuana. She claims that if not formarijuana she would be in a wheelchair by now (presently she walks with a cañe). Emry considers herself a "rogue" Libertarían, in that she does not entirely fit themold. 'They asked me to run on their platform," she said. Emry stated that her campaign is about grassroots politics. "I feel that the only way I can affect the environment I live in is to become an active, integral part of the community," she said. The meaning of Libertarianism, to Emry, can be summed up in a word - "freedom." "Less government is best government," she said. Emry 's first priority as a council member would be to make the sidewalks and curbs of the fifth ward more user-friendly for disabled people. She would also like to: hold the school board accountable for theirdecisions; use therainy day fund to clean up the city landfill; legalizemarijuanaformedicaluse; and privatize such basic city services as garbage collection, recycling, public transportation, and water. In reference to her own case, she said, "I'd like to edúcate administrators as to the expense that the court case against me has had on taxpayers. It's ridiculous how much money they've spent prosecuting a sick woman." Emry believes that community policing, neighborhood watch programs, recreational activities for youth, and cleaning up trash in the neighborhoods would all be effective in reducing crime. She would like to recruit youths from the juvenile justice program to clean up neighborhoods, as a form of restitution to the community. Emry is the only candidate of the four Libertarians who believes that city council should be involved in creating low-income housing. "I'd renovate existing buildings and look for grants to build new housing, and compare notes and go with most cost-effective method," said Emry. On the question of developing environmentally sensitive land, Emry responded, "Preserve the wetlands. We will have developers forever but we have to protect Mother Earth." Emry, who met Gelman at one of her f undraising parties, sees him as a potential corporate polluter tumed environmentalist. "He's trying to protect the wetlands in Westland [Mich.]," she said. "Maybe he saw the error of his ways."