We must move forward

I watched a most amazing program on PBS the other night.  Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City examined how Detroit, a symbol of America’s diminishing status in the world, may come to represent the future of transportation and (seeming lack of) progress in America.  It firmly jivved with my belief that we cannot escape the fact that our future is in being the regional entity of southeastern Michigan.  Most successful and growing communities owe their fortunes to the notion of being regional collectives that embrace greater resources because of their cooperative approach.
The program video is available on the PBS website:

A man’s got to believe in something and I believe I’ll have another drink

YPSILANTI – City Council member requests a cocktail during meeting while calling for funding cuts to municpal bus service.
Does anyone remember the sheer audacity behind this campaign statement?  Remember how voting no to revenue increases was the way to safeguard bus service?  Well, while Robb requests that they make him a cocktail, he apparently is out to prove that maybe voting no to revenue increases was not the way to safeguard bus funding.
Well, at least he is consistent.  He campaigned against raising revenues (which apparently will force reductions in bus funding).  He argued at the council table that we not budget for the cost of the bus service agreement.  Now he again returns to his mantra of cut funding for bus service.  I am going to guess that Brian Robb never got around to signing the Keep Ypsi Rollin’ petition a few years back.  So what should we discern from Robb’s proposal?  That bus service is not critical to residents?  Or that we should count on the largesse of AATA?  Maybe it’s the idea that if Ypsilanti cuts its own funding to public transportation, it will spur the county voters to approve a transit millage for commuter rail AND enhanced bus service?
Wait, aren’t we all solidly behind the Ann Arbor-to-Detroit commuter rail service and want desperately for there to be a stop in Ypsilanti?  Don’t think bus service and commuter rail aren’t mutually complementary?  Well, they are and deconstructing one doesn’t improve the chances for the other.
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  • Maxe Obermeyer lost his last shred of decency

    Truth should not be victim to politics
    Just because a letter to the editor is published in the newspaper does not mean it is vetted for truthfulness.  As a public official, I am often subject to criticism based on a less than factual account of actions attributed to me.  However, once in a great while there is an egregious violation of the facts that I am required to respond to.  Maxe Obermeyer has submitted a letter to the editor published in the Ann Arbor News on Sunday, 03 August 2008, that contains such a blatant misrepresentation of fact that I must respond publicly.  It is widely know that my campaign literature contains reference to my express advocacy for fair and equitable consideration when addressing the city’s budget.  To that point, I have been criticized for my resolution that called for no reduction for AATA bus service in the City for the coming fiscal year.  So be it.  You may disagree with that position, as did one of my fellow council members.
    Mr. Obermeyer did not let the facts stand in his way of advocacy for his particular candidate, Michael Bodary, and thus he was willing to willingly propogate statements that are patently untrue.  In his letter to the editor, Mr. Obermeyer stated that "Mr. Gawlas voted to eliminate AATA bus service".  The public record reflects the actions of Ypsilanti City Council on both 08 May 2008 and 27 May 2008.

    As reported by the Ann Arbor News, "The council first voted in April to fund the service in full. But Council Member Bill Nickels, D-2nd Ward, was absent for that vote and asked the council Tuesday to reconsider its decision. He called it improper to cut other services to balance the city’s budget while sparing the bus service.The council approved the resolution to keep bus service in full in a 4-1 vote, with Robb voting against it.

    Gawlas said many people in the city depend on the bus for transportation, and reducing the service would impact more people than cuts in other services – especially at a time when the price of gas continues to rise. "It’s important for us to maintain the bus service," he said.

    From the minutes of Thursday, 08 may 2008, of the Ypsilanti City Council Meeting:

    BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Ypsilanti commits to safeguard this minimum service level and City Council hereby directs the City Manager to identify potential additional funding options including, but not limited to, further contribution from the general fund for the fiscal year ending 2009; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that City Council, both collectively and individually, undertake the task of advancing public understanding of the tentative nature of public transportation as it exists and call for a coalition of municipalities, institutions and private businesses to advocate a regional transportation model that better serves the needs of the County of Washtenaw.

    OFFERED BY: Council Member Gawlas SUPPORTED BY: Mayor Pro-Tem Swanson Council Member

    On roll call, the vote to approve the resolution was as follows:

    Council Member Filipiak Yes

    Council Member Robb No

    Council Member Gawlas YES

    Mayor Pro-Tem Swanson Yes

    Council Member Nickels Absent

    Mayor Schreiber Yes

    Council Member Richardson Yes

    Finally, again on 27 May 2008, the City Council again considered the support of bus service provided by AATA and approved the following resolution:

    From the minutes of Thursday, 27 may 2008, of the Ypsilanti City Council Meeting:

    WHEREAS the City of Ypsilanti has committed to safeguard current service levels provided by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA) and anticipates entering into a Purchase of Service Agreement (POSA) that maintains those levels, and

    WHEREAS, the Ypsilanti City Council has previously given direction to the City Manager through Resolution 2008-088 to identify potential additional funding options including, but not limited to, further contribution from the general fund for the fiscal year ending 2009, and Council Budget Session May 27, 2008 4

    WHEREAS, the City Council was provided a memorandum from the Assistant City Manager dated 16 May 2008 outlining three options by which the City can contribute in the event other outside funding such as partnerships are unable to be secured,

    NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council rejects any option that directs the City Manager to eliminate more personnel as a funding strategy for the Purchase of Service Agreement (POSA), and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City Council hereby accepts the recommendation of staff and directs the City Manager to allocate the necessary balance of funding from the projected excess revenues for the fiscal year ending 2009.

    OFFERED BY: Council Member Gawlas  SUPPORTED BY: Council Member Nickels

    The roll call vote was as follows:

    Council Member Filipiak – Yes

    Council Member Robb – No

    Council Member Gawlas – YES

    Mayor Pro-Tem Swanson – Absent

    Council Member Nickels – Yes

    Mayor Schreiber – Yes

    Council Member Richardson – Absent

    Political hyperbole aside (which I understandably expect during the normal political), Mr. Obermeyer’s misrepresentation of the facts is incompetence at best and at worst represents a willful effort to engage in deceitful actions in the advocacy of his chosen candidate.  Ypsilanti deserves better than this and I call Mr. Obermeyer out on his fabrication.


    John Gawlas


    Establishing Priorities – This Candidate’s View

    Campaign Questions


    I thought it worthwhile to include these questions posed by MLive.com and my responses as a way of providing more insight into my approach to the issues facing Ypsilanti – John Gawlas


    Q: What do you consider the most important issues that need to be addressed?


    Redevelopment of commercial and industrial property within the city is critical to increasing the tax base. To encourage investment in our community, we must reduce barriers and seek out tools to assist private sector partners in achieving highest and best use of existing industrial and commercial properties. We should certainly maintain our certification in the Redevelopment Ready Communities program of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance. The city must be at the forefront of economic development efforts in eastern Washtenaw County, leveraging the SPARK East incubator and pushing for greater county commitment to a regional transportation model. Long term sustainability for the City of Ypsilanti will require effective collaboration with neighboring communities to safeguard and enhance public safety. The recently completed feasibility study for a regional police authority was an important first step. Of course, the fiscal challenges facing all communities in Michigan point to the dysfunctional model of municipal finance in our state. Revenue sharing must be established as a priority while identifying additional regional options for funding transportation.




    Q: What makes you uniquely qualified for the position?


    I have been an active community member who has built relationships with the business community, economic development entities, non-profit organizations, volunteer and neighborhood groups. My experience has provided me a broad perspective and afforded greater understanding of how the collaborative process can increase achievement. Having served on numerous boards and committees, I also know how difficult the process can sometimes be to develop trust and consensus. It takes time to comprehend the eccentricity within municipal finance and the manner in which the local, state and federal governments interact. This oftentimes defies simple solutions, requiring one to embrace highly creative approaches to achieve success. In this context, experience in government is an asset that aids in the understanding of how to address complex issues. For over a decade, I have interacted with public officials within this county and throughout the state sharing our successes and failures. It is this knowledge base from which I draw when considering the issues facing my own community


    Q: What else do you want voters to know about you?


    I have committed a great deal of time to public service but also struggle with the priorities of being a parent. That has taught me significant lessons about patience, honesty, empathy and communication in establishing relationships. I take my role as an elected representative seriously and recognize that criticism or disagreement is a necessary component in honest governance.

    Supporters (Part 1)

    Mother Jones



    I am pleased of the support afforded me by many friends and colleagues.  I am proud to report that I had the opportunity to speak to local labor leaders recently about my commitment to working families within our community.  As a result of that discussion, I have received the endorsement of the Washtenaw County Skilled Building Trades Council.  Their individual member organizations include:


    • Asbestos Workers Local 25
    • B.A.C. U-M Skilled Trades Union
    • Boilermakers Local Union 169
    • Bricklayers & Allied Craft Workers Local 9
    • Elevators Constructors Local 85
    • Glaziers Local Union 357
    • IBEW Local 252
    • Iron Workers Local Union 25
    • Laborers Local 499
    • Millwrights Local Union 1102
    • MI Regional Council of Carpenters Local 687
    • Operating Engineers Local Union 324
    • Painters Local 514
    • Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 190
    • Roofers Local Union 70
    • Sheet Metal Workers Local 80
    • Sprinkler Fitters Local Union 704
    • Teamsters Local 247
    • Tile Marble & Terrazzo Local 32

    Experience and Commitment to Ypsilanti



    First elected to office in 1996, I have had the honor of serving three terms as Council Member for Ward 2.  I was one of the authors of the City’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance which was affirmed by voters in two separate challenges.   As a member of the negotiating subcommittee, we obtained a settlement with Oakwood Healthcare System’s closure of Beyer Hospital resulting in the establishment of the Beyer Memorial Health Foundation.

    During my tenure, we also passed the Living Wage Ordinance respecting our community’s belief that public money not subsidize or perpetuate working poverty. I advocated for investment in our local infrastructure and was a member of the Ypsilantians Enhancing Streets (YES) committee for the road bond proposal passed in 2001.

    We have seen real progress in our city from ridding our business districts of the nuisance adult businesses to development of additional tax base such as Forest Health Services (the former Beyer Hospital), Cross Street Village (the old Ypsilanti High School) and Walgreen’s/Auto Zone (former site of Cleary College).  There has been redevelopment of older industrial sites such as Peninsular Place (former site of Pennisular Paper Company) and the popular Corner Brewery (part of the old Motor Wheel site).  It is clear that Ypsilanti offers developers a “redevelopment-ready” community in which to invest.  An honest appraisal says we are doing some things right.

    We still have much work to do…and that is why I am seeking re-election.  


    SPARK East in Downtown Ypsilanti

    Ann Arbor SPARK settles on Ypsilanti business incubator site

    by Nathan Bomey | Ann Arbor Business Review

    Wednesday May 21, 2008, 5:16 PM

    Economic development organization Ann Arbor SPARK expects to open its long-anticipated Ypsilanti business incubator in the fall at the former Smith Furniture building on South Washington Street.

    SPARK’s board this afternoon officially authorized the signing of a lease for the 13,000-square-foot first level of the 24,168-square-foot facility, said Elizabeth Parkinson, SPARK’s director of marketing and public relations.

    SPARK CEO Michael Finney said the new business incubator, which is being called SPARK East, would open in the fall with plans to house 10 to 15 startup companies at a time.

    The organization will also relocate the Michigan Innovation Equipment Depot – a collection of used life sciences equipment, mostly donated by Pfizer Inc. – to the Smith Furniture building. The equipment, previously stored at a secluded warehouse near Eastern Michigan University’s main campus, will take up about 1,500 to 2,000 square feet.

    "This will allow us to consolidate it there and be able to manage everything out of one location," Finney said.