Chuck’s 2012 Election Guide

Voting is personal, we all have to make individual decisions about what we support based on our values and our knowledge of the issues.

But that doesn’t mean it’s private. As I make sense of my ballot (and this  year’s ballot is a long one), I turn to people I respect to help me think through the issues.

Having done that, here are my thoughts about what we will see on the November 2012 ballot in Ann Arbor. Please share my thoughts if you find them useful, please argue with me if you think I’ve missed something.

Most of all, please vote and please bring a friend to vote.


P.S. If you’d like to keep up with my thoughts about issues before Ann Arbor City Council after the November election, please sign up for my email newsletter at

1. Know your ballot—your entire ballot!

Sure, you probably know who you’re voting for in the presidential race, but what about those other races? You can see what’s on your ballot ahead of time by  Print out the sample ballot, take notes on it, and bring it with you into the voting booth.

You can also visit the Michigan League for Women Voters website at for more information about candidates and initiatives.

2. Judicial Picks

My friend, Mike Steinberg, has written his “Mike’s Judicial Picks for Non-Lawyers.” Mike knows his stuff, and I trust his judgment. I’ve included his full post at the bottom of this document, but the summary is:

Supreme Court: Bridget McCormack, Connie Kelley and Shelia Johnson.
Circuit Court: Kuhnke and Connors

Regarding the Circuit Court race between Connors and Woodyard, I think both are good candidates. I have a personal relationship with Woodyard, so he will probably get my vote, but I have tremendous respect for the work Connors has done.

3. Local Ballot Initiatives

Park Maintenance and Improvement Millage Renewal: I’m voting YES. This millage has been an important part of maintaining the high quality parks that are part of Ann Arbor’s quality of life and environmental stewardship.

Art in Public Places: I’m voting YES. For ten dollars a year for the average taxpayer, this proposal would provide a reliable funding stream for art that the public can enjoy. I believe art is an important end in itself, it is also part of nurturing a creative community that contributes to quality of life and economic vitality. Learn more at

Library Bond: This is the most contested of the local issues with good arguments on either side. I’m voting YES. In short, the arguments for are:

  • The current library building faces significant limitations: it is facing significant, costly, and unpredictable system failures, it is not ADA compliant, and it is difficult to adapt to current demands for study space, meeting space, and technology use.
  • The library has an important function as a community space and commons, a function that the current site serves only moderately well. In my work with ICPJ, I am often looking for community sites to host events that are are welcoming to a broad range of people (some people don’t feel comfortable stepping into a church basement for a lecture). The library is the best site we have for that, but its event space is small and often booked.
  • There is little cost difference between a full renovation of the existing library and building a new library, and a renovation does not fully meet all the needs identified for a central library. And, with borrowing costs at historic lows and labor costs also low, it will never be cheaper to embark on this project.
  • The current library board and executive director have shown exceptional leadership both in library operations and in the recent branch library projects they have undertaken.

That said, there are good arguments against the proposal. A renovation would be cheaper, borrowing costs will mean that the total cost of the project will be more than $65 million, and some people dispute the community center function of a library. Some people are also concerned that they are asking to fund a new library absent plans for the new building.

You can read the arguments for and against at:

4. State Ballot Initiatives

Proposal 1: Emergency Manager Law: I am voting NO. I believe the state’s current financial manager legislation provides adequate powers to address crises in municipal governments and I do not support giving unelected managers broad powers over elected local governments.

Proposal 2: Collective Bargaining: I am voting YES. I believe that the right to form a union is just that, a right, and it is appropriate to protect our rights in the state constitution.

Proposal 3—Renewable Energy: I am voting YES. I believe that climate destabilization is one of the greatest dangers facing our world today, and we need to take every opportunity we can to switch to a clean energy economy. This proposal would also create tens of thousands of jobs building, installing, and maintaining renewable energy infrastructure, and it contains controls to limit rate increases. Learn more at

Proposal 4—Home Care Workers: I’m still deciding on this one. People whom I respect differ on this issue. Jack Lessonberry has come out against it, and my good friend Dessa Cosma has written a powerful testimonial for why she supports it. Overall I think it’s a sound policy, but I’m not sure it meets the threshold for being in the constitution.

Proposal 5—Supermajority for Tax Increases: I’m voting NO. This is a very dangerous proposal, funded almost entirely by billionaire Matty Maroun and backed by far-right group Americans for Prosperity. It is opposed by Democrats and Republicans, business groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and liberal groups like the Michigan League for Human Services.  By giving a minority of legislators veto power over tax increases it would make it virtually impossible to close loopholes or to fine-tune our tax system. Even policies such as Governor Snyder’s tax reform, which lowered taxes overall but increased them for some, would be blocked under this system. Learn more at:

Proposal 6—Bridge Vote: I’m voting NO. Matty Maroun, the same billionaire who is bankrolling prop 5, is also bankrolling this one. Why? Because he owns the Ambassador Bridge and is trying to buy his way into the state constitution to make sure he can maintain his monopoly. I don’t think that border crossings should be in private hands, and there is broad, bipartisan support for a new bridge. Canada has offered to finance a new bridge so that Michigan taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for the costs.

5. Ann Arbor School Board

I’m supporting Deb Mexicotte. I’ve spoken with several people who follow Ann Arbor Public Schools closely and they have all expressed their respect for Mexicotte. As a Democrat, I tend to vote for other Democrats, and Dale Leslie is supporting Romney.

6. Ann Arbor Library Board

I’m voting for Rebecca Head, Nancy Kaplan, Margaret A. Leary, and Prudence Rosenthal. These four incumbents have provided superb leadership for the library and have my support.

7. Washtenaw Community College Board

I am voting for Morton and Landau. I had initially planned on voting for Figg and Landau based on the recommendations of the Huron Valley Central Labor Council. Then I saw that Figg did not respond to the League of Women Voters site and he is banned from the WCC campus as part of a resignation in lieu of termination agreement.


That’s my take. I’ll trust you to figure out the partisan ballot on your own. Whatever you decide, please do vote. And please remember that citizenship starts with voting, but it doesn’t end there. Please stay involved year-round.





It is very difficult for non-lawyers to differentiate between candidates in judicial elections because the judicial races are allegedly “nonpartisan” and therefore the candidates’ party affiliations do not appear on the ballot.  As requested, I have again prepared a list of my endorsements for the contested judicial elections on the Ann Arbor ballot.  As usual, I am picking the candidates who, in my opinion, are the most progressive.  Please note that I am endorsing candidates in my individual capacity, not as a representative of the organization for which I work.



         I cannot overemphasize how important the Michigan Supreme Court race is for those of us who care about civil rights, civil liberties, consumer protection and the environment.  Three of the seven seats are up for grabs and so is the direction of the court.  The corporate and ultra-conservative interests will spend an unprecedented amount in an attempt to maintain control of the court and it is up to us to make sure that does not happen by spreading the word.

Although no party affiliation is listed on the ballot for candidates in judicial races, political parties actually nominate candidates for the Michigan Supreme Court (strange but true).  This year my judicial picks are three women nominated by the Democrats: Bridget McCormack, Connie Kelley and Shelia Johnson.

Bridget McCormack is a brilliant law professor at U-M where she runs the Innocence Clinic. (She is also made the coolest judicial campaign commercial ever, starring the cast of the West Wing).  Vote for her and Wayne Circuit Court Judge Connie Kelley in the race for the 8-year term.  Vote for Shelia Johnson, an African American judge from Oakland County, for the partial term.



Carol Kuhnke, in my view, is the obvious pick for the open or “non-incumbent” seat.  She is a progressive, talented and experienced lawyer who would be the first openly lesbian judge ever elected in Michigan.  In contrast, her opponent, James Fink, is an anti-choice Republican who has financially supported Tea Party candidates and the ballot initiative banning gay marriage.  Some people like Fink because he supported efforts to address domestic violence when he worked in the Sheriff’s Department.  However, there’s no doubt that Kuhnke would be better on women’s issues and, unless Kuhnke wins, there would be no women on the Washtenaw County Circuit Court bench.  This is going to be a close race and we must get out the word.

I’m voting for Judge Timothy Connors for the “incumbent” seat. Tim Connors has served as a judge with distinction since 2001 and has made progressive rulings in several cases, most notably the high-profile case on behalf of women inmates who were raped by male prison guards.  Connors’ opponent, Michael Woodyard, is an assistant prosecutor in Wayne County with little support in Washtenaw County and little chance of winning.

Clip and bring to the polls:
Michigan Supreme Court
McCormack, Kelley and Johnson

Washtenaw Circuit Court (22nd Circuit)
Kuhnke and Connors

To view your ballot before going to the polls, go to

Let me know if you have any questions and fell free to share with like-minded voters.  Happy voting! –Mike Steinberg (

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