Mike Eller, Democrat for Council 

 

   MikeEllerforYpsi.com

About Mike

Brief Bio

Mike Eller is a lifelong resident of Ypsilanti’s 3rd Ward. He is a family man, married for over 18 years, and the loving father of four boys.  Mike built a cleaning business in downtown Ypsilanti, from a humble start of only three people, to a successful small business employing over 60 employees in Washtenaw County.

His experience has taught him to serve: whether family, customers, staff, colleagues, vendors, or neighbors. Service is not always easy, in a world where different people want different things. Mike has learned to do everything he can for others, while standing firmly by his principles.

Mike has never held public office.  His interest in joining City Council is simply to serve – to tackle the issues and make things better.  Mike will bring a new perspective that complements the mix of current city leaders.  His real-life business experience, organizational talents, and problem-solving skills will help Ypsilanti find productive solutions to city issues.  Mike will work hard to represent and serve his constituents – the residents of Ward 3.

Please offer your vote of confidence on Tuesday, August 7th.

Mike and Becky Eller and their four sons.

Positions

 As your City Council representative, I promise to fight all future proposals for a city income tax.

Creating and maintaining a pro-business and pro-homeowner environment is key to Ypsilanti’s success.  Investors, employers, and homeowners want to be where costs are under control.  Business-friendly governance will bring the jobs that our residents need.  Homeowner-friendly taxes will prevent flight across city borders.

Similarly, I will fight to control property taxes. 

We cannot afford to increase the property-tax burden if we expect families and businesses to locate in Ypsilanti. High property taxes are a disproportionate burden on the poor and moderate-income residents of Ypsilanti.  They diminish the ability of businesses to reinvest in future growth - most importantly, the type of development that brings more jobs and opportunities to our people.

I support cooperation, not confrontation, with Eastern Michigan University.

Yes, EMU staff and students use city services supported by Ypsilanti homeowners.  But the simple fact is that EMU brings tremendous benefits to Ypsilanti.  EMU is an essential part of our municipal fabric. EMU fosters an educated populace, enhances culture, stabilizes property values, and draws customers for our businesses.  For both businesses and residents, EMU makes an important contribution to our quality of life.  As your council representative, I would work hard to find win-win opportunities for the City and EMU, in the area of policing and fire protection, to deliver maximum value to both residents and EMU stakeholders.

I will work hard to develop a specific plan to return the vacant Water Street property to the tax rolls.  

I will insist on marketing the site with a local commercial real-estate broker - one that can provide the same national exposure as other brokers, but who understands Ypsilanti, its people, and City Hall. The agents we choose must have Ypsilanti’s best interests at heart, as the place he or she lives and does business.  Currently, the property is listed with a national brokerage firm (with poorly negotiated contractual terms), which has thousands of listings and no roots in Ypsilanti. Why use a company with no skin in the game, when we have a number of local agents who could get the job done?

I will assemble a cross-section of local movers, successful businesspeople, and motivated citizens, to put their expertise to work on solving city issues.

Good government is inclusive, and what better way to overcome our challenges than by leveraging our local talent and resources? This group of dedicated volunteers would systematically study a wide range of issues, whether exit strategies for Water Street, or ways to ensure good police and fire protection. As your City Council representative, I would use my management experience and connections in the community to build these teams and get things accomplished – by defining goals, identifying tasks, and setting deadlines.  A plan, momentum, key people, and a winning attitude are the tickets to success.

I will never support gambling with taxpayers’ money on development schemes.

The Water Street development project spent $30 million on bad advice and unrealistic dreams – creating a huge debt that is currently taking police officers and fire fighters off our streets.  In the deal, City officials removed tax paying businesses from the city in exchange for hopes - not guarantees.  In the business and real-estate world we call this “speculation.” In Las Vegas, they call it gambling! Gambling might be cool with your own money, but not with the taxpayers’ money. My position: No more speculative schemes.

As your City Council representative, I will say “NO” to burdening taxpayers with additional debt due to misguided priorities.

The city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest every year paying for pet projects. Water Street, streetscapes, brick crosswalks, brick dumpster corrals for parking lots, new parking lots (which effectively reduced parking flexibility), and so on. Yet city leaders continue to threaten police and fire-protection service, residents no longer enjoy curb pickup of leaves, and we must cut tree limbs into 4- foot sections and bundle them with rope before receiving service.  How does this work out for the elderly who have been here for decades, are on fixed incomes, and cannot do this work for themselves? The folks of Ypsilanti are frustrated with skewed priorities, and the disconnect between City Council and residents’ needs.  As your City Council representative I will work hard to serve the interests of the residents first, keeping Council focused on the basics, and providing real value for everyone.

As your City Council representative, I pledge to stop using police and fire as the scapegoats for fiscal irresponsibility.

If there are genuine reforms needed to provide a safe community, we should examine them; but we should stop with the constant threats of cutting police officers and fire fighters if the folks don’t fork over more taxes!

I believe City Council should return tax dollars to the residents of Ypsilanti, as promised.  

In the early 2000’s we passed a millage to pay for paving all local streets in Ypsilanti.  I supported this measure. The bonds for this will be paid off in the next few years, at which time this millage should be removed from residents’ tax bills, not rolled into some other “project.” I will fight all City Council attempts to hold on to that money for other “projects.”  The voters entrusted City Council to use their money for a specific purpose, and that trust should be honored by returning that money when that purpose is served.

As your City Council representative, I will work hard to keep home equity high.

This is done through maintaining safety in our neighborhoods, reliably providing core services, and keeping taxes as low as possible.  Staying focused on these goals requires the discipline to keep our eye on the ball, and not become distracted by the thousands of other things that might be put before Council. City Council’s job is to provide direction and set policy, much like a board of directors, and then to ensure that paid city staff faithfully executes the policy set forth.

As your City Council representative, I will support all measures that make Ypsilanti more business friendly.

Business is the lifeblood of any community.  Without business, we lack jobs, lose tax revenue, and risk flight and declining property values. Business brings employment opportunities, increased hustle and bustle, customers, tax revenue, opportunity, and a vibrant community.  Success breeds success.

As your City Council representative, I will be willing to put everything on the table with one goal in mind: providing the maximum value to the people of Ypsilanti at the lowest possible cost.

The City of Ypsilanti and its City Council has an obligation to serve its residents - first.  My job will be to make that happen.

 I am asking for you, the voters of Ypsilanti’s 3rd Ward, to give me the opportunity to serve you. I am asking for your vote, Tuesday, August 7th

Mike's Responses to League of Women Voters Questionnaire

What in your education and experience make you the best qualified candidate for this position?

I was born and raised in Ypsilanti, and earned my Bachelor of Arts from Eastern Michigan University in 1990. I know this community and its people. I have a first-hand understanding of EMU, and how important it is as a partner for our city. I have spent my career building a small downtown company into a solid employer of over 60 employees. This requires a strong set of skills in finance, management, and the building of human relationships. Moreover, it requires an ability to focus on the essential, and a capacity to use resources effectively. Ypsilanti is facing serious challenges - many related to past mismanagement of resources - and would benefit from having a council person with this type of expertise. I am prepared to serve, but also understand the importance of seeking the advice and input from all members of our community.

What are your goals should you be elected and how will you work to accomplish them with currently limited resources?

My first goal is to review all pending activity under the purview of City Council, to prioritize the order of business from most important to least important. City Council has only limited time to study issues and formulate policy, and it is crucial that this time is used effectively - particularly in light of impending budget crunches. We do not have much time to “right the ship” before money gets tight, so it is essential to move away from the current City Council habit of becoming tied up with distractions: minor or “feel good” projects that consume valuable time and dollars while larger problems loom. We need to focus on core city services, such as police and fire protection, and new and creative solutions require “thinking time.”

This is not to say that the arts, parks, festivals, and civic organizations are any less important to our quality of life. I hope to actively promote these by building collaborative networks, and to ensure that any necessary intersections with city departments and services are amicable and efficient for all involved. The city must be welcoming to any who would make this a better place to live.

Finally, City Council is comprised of only a few individuals, and no doubt many promising answers to our challenges fall outside its ken. It is currently an insular group, and would be well served with more cross-pollination of thought with a broader cross-section of our community. We have many intelligent and creative people in our city, and I hope to facilitate the formation of citizens’ groups that will study various topics and offer specific proposals to City Council. There are successful models of this approach in other Michigan cities.

Much is said about the consolidation of local governments into one. What savings for the City of Ypsilanti could be expected from merging with a nearby local government? Would consolidation with another local government have a down side?

Consolidation with another local government would definitely have a downside. It is essential that the City of Ypsilanti remains true to its heritage and identity. It would not be wise to sacrifice local control for some sort of short-term advantage.

This is not to say that there are no opportunities in reviewing and revising how we provide city services, and I would not necessarily rule out the possibility of contracting with nearby governments for certain city needs. Naturally, this would have to produce a substantive gain for the city, when all factors are considered. However, at this time, the data suggest that consolidation at the governmental level is ill-advised; and, on a personal level, I think it would tear out the heart of our beloved city. Fortunately, there are alternative ways to secure savings, and thereby maintain the financial viability of Ypsilanti.

How serious are the City of Ypsilanti financial problems?
The City of Ypsilanti is facing serious financial problems. There are three primary reasons: 1) A drop in property values and property-tax revenues, 2) Massive debt caused by City Council speculation on the Water Street project, and 3) Pension legacy costs.

The debt from Water Street, in particular, would be enough to put over 10 policemen or firemen on the streets today. Pension costs by 2017 will consume about 1 in 3 tax dollars – all for services provided in the past. Both situations were caused by careless management of city resources, and a deficit of critical thinking on City Council. I believe such mistakes would have been less likely if Council representation included more people with expertise in business, finance, and contracts. I hope to share that expertise.

How can the City of Ypsilanti government become more efficient?

In these challenging times, the city government must return to basics: providing safety, a hygienic environment, and the orderliness required for productive human activity. There have been too many sideshows lately, which divert limited resources to pet projects and “monument building” by city leaders. The city exists to serve its people, not to build the image of city elites. If city government places the emphasis on core services, the creative energy of the people will make this city flourish.

On a more concrete level, there are also efficiencies to be had by optimizing ordinances, improving permitting processes, rationalizing inspection protocol, creative scheduling of public-protection services, and modernizing of employment-benefit structures. I might add that it is not just about using city resources carefully; it is also about having rules and policies that enable efficient and successful activity by residents and businesses themselves. This promotes prosperity from a grassroots level, and therefore promotes the prosperity of the whole.

As the owner of a small business that has not only survived but grown in this recession, I have learned to seek out efficiency on a daily basis. Opportunities for higher efficiency are not always obvious from the budget-item headers: they often hide within the finer details of the accounting ledger. From my review of city budgets and policies, I am confident that there are still substantive improvements to be had.

The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area election voter guide will be published online at http://www.VOTE411.org .

Mike's Response to Various Facebook Postings

In recent days, various opinions have been expressed about the Mike Eller Campaign, in online forums both reputable and disreputable. While I appreciate the colorful discourse and fevered interest in my candidacy for City Council, please allow me to make a few factual corrections.

First, my initial run for City Council was not in 2008. It was in 1992, when I ran as a Democratic candidate in Ward 5 (back when there was a “Ward 5”). Local bloggers have correctly observed that I was once a member of a now-defunct organization, the America First Party of Michigan – a fact that I have never disputed nor attempted to hide. In 2008, I ran again for City Council as an Independent, but immediately thereafter returned to my roots in the Democratic Party, where I have been a dues-paying member ever since.

I think it is important to recognize that not all Democrats are the same. Case in point: Some in our community would argue that strong opposition to higher taxes can only be a “non-Democratic position.” Clearly this is not the case if Ypsilanti, a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic, overwhelmingly rejected the recent proposals for a new millage and city income tax.

The Democratic Party is, first and foremost, a party of the people. It is built upon a profound respect for the dignity of every individual; and its central tenet is that government serves the people – not the other way around. Nearly two in three of our neighbors opposed higher taxes. Did two in three City Council members do the same? No. Their support was unanimous. Which is to say, City Council is out of touch with its constituents.

This is why I decided to run for City Council. I want to add that missing voice. I want to protect the man on the street from policies that would destroy property values, take away jobs, and cause more foreclosures. I want to ensure that the city remains focused on its core mission of serving the people. Why? Because that is what a DEMOCRAT does. A Democrat does not get into bed with developers on your dime. A Democrat does not seize properties. A Democrat does not strip money from the poor and middle class to hide the consequences of bad policy and save the brand image of local elites.

You may disagree with me, and that is your right. But let me be perfectly clear: My only purpose is to serve the City of Ypsilanti – to serve the city where I was born, the city where I have chosen to raise my children, the city that I love.

Finally, while I understand the human penchant to demonize those one does not know, based on representations from people motivated to misrepresent, it would be misguided at best to believe that success in business or life could be built upon bigotry and hatred. If you want to know what I really think, you can find it here.

Respectfully,

Mike Eller