Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Event: Don Williamson is Acting Like a Banana Republic Dictator... Once Again.



Just a few weeks to go until the election, and it looks like Walling has taken more endorsements, while Williamson has perhaps taken more influential endorsements.




As usual, though, Williamson is his own worst enemy. I don't know, for example, whether Sheldon Neeley's insisting on an apology in exchange for a lawsuit is really anything other than typical cloak-and-dagger Flint politics. Sheldon has always strongly opposed Wiliamson and, intentional or not, it is problematic to include him in campaign literature. Williamson ought to apologize. While the lawsuit has no legal basis, the threat was sufficient to get Neeley's complaint coverage in the Flint Journal. Again, Flint politics.

THIS, on the other hand, is much more serious. You should read the whole article, but in a nutshell Williamson paid an unspecified amount (the Walling campaign estimates $10,000) to send a statement by mail (with official city letterhead) to all Flint residents. The letter attempts to refute the Walling campaign's arguments on Williamson's budget, although this is more of a deliberate distortion than a rebuttal.

There are several valid grounds for complaint here.

Two are more or less incidental: First, why isn't the amount spent known (a problem that doesn't say much for the city's bookkeeping ability under Williamson's watch), and couldn't that money have been better spent elsewhere? Second, the letters don't address Walling's claims, and in fact, mischaracterize them. Walling has alleged that Williamson has allowed federal grants to expire, a fact that nobody has contested. The city's budget surplus, confirmed in the letter at $6.4 million, is also uncontested. It avoids an issue that Williamson cannot refute by attaching a complaint to Walling that his campaign has never made. So we have valid complaints that public money was poorly spent, and that it was actually wasted in that the letter did not resolve any outstanding issue.

A third complaint, however, is far from incidental. That is that Williamson is essentially laundering taxpayers' money in order to promote his campaign. Worse, by having Flint pay for his statement and using the city's letterhead, Williamson creates the appearance that the city itself, the very municipal structure he is contained within and theoretically beholden to, endorses his mayorality. This is illegal and despicable. It is not only a blatant act of political manipulation that would make a Chicago alderman blush, but it's a weird shadow of the one-party states and single-candidate ballots of the worst governments in the world: Belorussia, Iran, China, North Korea, oh, and if memory serves me, Burma.

This is not the first time Mr. Williamson has behaved in this way... in his first year as mayor he used the city seal in an ad for his wife's car dealership, and during her run for the state legislature, a park in the East Village was remarkably reconstructed days before she hosted a fundraising event there. Yet this present violation is more serious than these embarassing episodes of the past. By mobilizing the municipal government on behalf of his own campaign, Williamson seeks to illegally manipulate the election's outcome in his favor.

Lesson to be learned? Never trust a mayor who signs away on his own paycheck.

What to do in the meantime? Take it to court. Any Flint resident ought to be able to file suit, with consultation. This is a serious matter, and it should result in criminal charges.




On a last note, Andy Heller has been writing a streak of great columns lately. Check them out.

In All quiet on Flint mayoral election front, he actually quotes me from a comment I left on his blog, and I'm flattered, but that's not why I'm giving him props today. How could I say no to an idea like this?:

It's only a few weeks until the mayoral election. Flint, do you know where your Don is? Honest to gosh, where's he been? I see his campaign signs everywhere, so I know he's out there, but other than that, you'd hardly know an election was nigh. This last month is supposed to be the silly season. Where's the Don's customary announcement of some bizarro project that will turn Flint around -- like, say, turning Genesee Towers into the world's biggest haunted house or making the former Forest Park into a hunting preserve?


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