Ward 1 City Council candidates address recent political controversies

Tuesday, July 31, 2018 - 11:23pm

Ann Arbor City Council D-Ward 1 candidates Ron Ginyard and Jeff Hayner.

Ann Arbor City Council D-Ward 1 candidates Ron Ginyard and Jeff Hayner. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Ryan Stanton, The Ann Arbor News

Ann Arbor’s Ward 1 City Council candidates, Democrats Jeffrey Hayner and Ron Ginyard and Democratic Socialist Ryan Hughes, spoke with The Michigan Daily to address controversies surrounding their campaigns and to elaborate on their respective platforms.

Hayner, a 53-year-old business owner who works in design and fabrication, and Ginyard, a 61-year-old retired financial adviser, will compete in the Aug. 7 primaries. The winning Democrat will face off against democratic socialist Ryan Hughes, a 37-year-old computer programmer, in November. The candidates are vying to replace the incumbent representative, Sumi Kailasapathy, D-Ward 1.

A July 23 MLive article drew attention to the Ward 1 City Council race by highlighting controversial aspects of Ginyard and Hayner’s pasts. Specifically, the article mentioned Ginyard’s past financial difficulties and noted he hasn’t voted since moving back to Ann Arbor four years ago. MLive reporter Ryan Stanton also raised concern over some of Hayner’s contentious tweets.

In an email interview with The Daily, Ginyard, an Ann Arbor native who lived in California from 1970 to 2014, said he wasn’t able to give Stanton the whole story.

The MLive article cited the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck website, which reveals several complaints filed against Ginyard while he was working for investment firm Morgan Stanley in California. In 2003, clients of Ginyard’s claimed he made poor investment suggestions and they requested $525,000 in compensation. The case was settled for $110,000. Different clients made similar claims in 1998 but withdrew their case.

Regarding the 2003 complaint, Ginyard said the financial losses of his clients — for whom he invested $600,000 — were a result of economic downturn.

“Over the course of three and a half years, I made a lot of money for them,” Ginyard wrote. “They withdrew a quarter of a million dollars during that time and still the value of their investment grew to $1,000,000. They were very disappointed when the market ate their gains during the technology crash of 2001, even though they were still up by $100,000 at the time they brought their complaint.”

He added only two of the approximately 45,000 transactions he completed during his 32-year career ended in formal complaints.

Stanton’s article also notes several tax liens were filed against Ginyard for failure to pay taxes between 1988 and 2013. The largest claim was a $263,547 federal tax lien issued by the IRS in 2006.

Ginyard said family issues prevented him from paying taxes on time, but he has now paid off all his debt.

“(O)ver that 18-year period I paid $280,000 in child support for my two daughters,” Ginyard wrote. “In addition, in the early 1990s, the mother of my youngest daughter was diagnosed with glaucoma and declared legally blind. This put additional pressure on me to keep her household up and running, which included paying my daughter’s tuition for her first year at USC and paying all of her health insurance expenses. When you work for a firm like Morgan Stanley, a lot of your income comes from bonuses, so when the market fluctuates your income can vary widely from month to month.”

Responding to MLive’s coverage of Ginyard’s financial history, Hayner said he does not want to get involved in Ginyard’s personal business but does find it problematic that Ginyard missed tax payments. Hayner said paying taxes gives a citizen the right to speak out about local policy issues.

“In this city, I think that our services are not commensurate with the prices we pay for them,” Hayner said. “I’m happy to go down and complain about them, because I pay.”

Hayner also took issue with Ginyard’s spotty voting record, another controversy addressed in Stanton’s article. Since moving to Ann Arbor four years ago, Ginyard has not voted once, including in the 2016 presidential election.

“I think it shows a complete lack of commitment to the system,” Hayner said.

Hayner said he considers voting a civic responsibility, emphasizing his history of Democratic participation. He told The Daily he has always been an active voter and has been interested in local politics for several decades.

Hayner, who describes himself as an environmentalist, advocated for the establishment of Ann Arbor’s Greenbelt in 2000. He continued following local politics and eventually ran for City Council as an Independent in 2013, pushing for action on issues like the dioxane plume. Hayner lost the election to Democrat Sasha Briere but earned The Daily’s endorsement and almost a third of the vote. Since then, Hayner said, he has stayed up to date on local politics.

“I’ve always been a voter and active,” Hayber said. “I’m super involved; I think I’m very informed on the issues.”

Ginyard accepted responsibility for his voting record and said he will become more politically active going forward.

“When the city council seat opened up, my neighbors encouraged me to run and I started believing that I could make a difference,” Ginyard wrote. “In the past, I have focused my energy more on community service and on my family than I have on local politics (as everyone knows from my inexcusable and embarrassing voting record since I moved here), but these past 19 months or so have been a real awakening for me.”

As noted in Stanton’s article, Hayner has received criticism as well, most notably for the fact that a few of his past tweets have offended some Ann Arbor residents. On March 2, Hayner made a post regarding gun control and school shootings.

"We demand the right to abortions!” Hayner tweeted. “Also, ban guns before any more of our precious children are killed! See how stupid that sounds? 'Leftists', go right ahead & have all the abortions you want, you're doing the world a favor. #Overpopulation #WaterPlanet.”

Hayner clarified he supports the right to an abortion and said the March 2 tweet was a response to several other comments on a Twitter thread. Hayner added many adults misinterpret his tweets because he connects more with online youth culture. 

“I was deep in someone else’s comments and I was re-trolling these people who were being really mean to these pro-choice people on this thread,” Hayner said. “Then there was (sic) other people who were saying, hey, we want to have abortions on demand but we don’t want any guns in the schools because they’re killing their kids, and I’m like, hey, that’s a fine line.”

Still, Hayner said he grew from community members’ feedback on his online statements and promised to communicate more professionally in the future. Hayner said he speaks his mind because he’s not a career politician, but sees that as a possible advantage.

“I’m really not a politician. I have a college degree, I spent 15 years working in design, but now I’m working with my hands again." Hayner went on to say, "I think it gives me a white-collar, blue-collar look at the world, and some people don’t get that, but I can’t help it. I think it’s a more informed perspective.”

Ginyard said he finds his opponent’s tweets troubling, accusing Hayner of aligning more with the Republican Party. He said Hayner’s NRA membership, comments on abortion, criticisms of liberal culture and allegedly sexist tweets — including one asking "Why are some women bad at estimating heights?” followed by a joke about penis size — don’t represent Democratic ideals.

Adding to his criticism of Hayner’s politics, Ginyard said he disagrees with some of Hayner’s past statements about guns and schools.

“I unconditionally support the right of school districts to decide if they want to ban guns on school properties,” Ginyard wrote. “Mr. Hayner is on the opposite side of this issue. In a public meeting in 2015, he emphasized that although he personally would never bring a gun into a school: ‘I don’t like the idea of making (schools) a gun-free zone because of the state law.’”

Hayner said he supports liberal policies, though he considers partisan politics problematic.

“We need to be non-partisan so that people can vote for issues, they can vote for their children’s future, instead of having to stick to a column,” Hayner said.

Hughes, whose campaign has not sparked much controversy, responded to the various claims about Ginyard and Hayner, saying his campaign has remained unaffected.

“I’m more focused on my plans and my issues,” Hughes said.

He hopes Ann Arbor voters will rally behind him in November not because they dislike whichever Democrat appears on the ballot, but because they feel passionate about Hughes’ platform, which focuses on affordable housing. Hughes added he wants to get Ann Arbor locals — both students and permanent residents — excited about the idea of democratic socialism.

“I think there’s a lot of people who haven’t been given enough to vote for,” Hughes said. “Before I even heard who was running and what they were saying, I decided my campaign is going to be something to vote for.”

In addition to addressing the controversies raised by recent press coverage, the three candidates shared with The Daily their plans for Ward 1. While the candidates emphasize similar issues, they clash on specifics.

One major focus of the Ward 1 City Council race has been affordable housing. Hughes has centered his campaign around the issue, claiming Ann Arbor is losing valuable diversity because of its high cost of living.

“I think that we’re losing the diversity that makes Ann Arbor an interesting place,” Hughes said. “Having a diverse community just has benefits that are difficult to predict and difficult to quantify.”

According to Hughes, there are two common approaches to making housing more affordable, neither of which he believes is sufficient. He said cities, Ann Arbor included, often trust the free market, allowing new luxury lofts to be constructed in the hopes that housing costs will eventually fall. Cities might also use building contracts to extract concessions from developers, a tactic Hughes said doesn’t go far enough.

Hughes has proposed using a city income tax to fund city-owned housing, which Ann Arbor will run like a landlord, except without the goal of extracting profit. He said he has never seen the idea proposed before and would like to hear more from Hayner and Ginyard on the issue.

“The most interesting thing I’d like to see from either of them is to see a specific plan about affordable housing or a reaction to my proposal,” Hughes said.

Hayner’s platform strongly emphasizes environmental protections and land use policies. Ginyard highlights infrastructure and public services. Like Hughes, the two Democrats also hope to address the affordable housing crisis. Ginyard said he wants to use revenue from the sale of the Library Lot to fund affordable housing, and criticized Hayner for not pushing the deal.

“Mr. Hayner claims to support affordable housing but as we know affordable housing needs funding,” Ginyard wrote. “Mr. Hayner stated in our debate that he thinks the voters will decide whether or not the sale of the Library Lot will go through. That sale, which would put $5m into the City’s affordable-housing fund, is an important way to raise resources for affordable housing without continuously raising taxes.”

The candidates also differ in their opinions on the politics of Kailasapathy, the outgoing Ward 1 representative who has backed Hayner’s campaign.

According to Hayner, the two have similar philosophies, especially regarding human rights. Hayner has been sitting in on the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission, for which Kailasapathy is the City Council liaison, and he said they are both passionate about the Police Task Force's mission of police reform. Hayner added he and Kailasapathy agree on a number of budget-related issues.

Ginyard offered more criticism of Kailasapathy, saying he disagrees with her decision to sue the city over the Library Lot deal and opposes her stance on other local issues, like water rates.

“Ms. Kailasapathy opposed, and is in fact suing the city and the mayor over, the sale of the Library Lot,” Ginyard wrote. “I support that sale because it will put 5 million dollars into the affordable housing fund. She also opposed the council’s recent restructuring of city water rates which I support because under the previous system, renters were subsidizing water costs for people living in single-family homes. The new system asks single-family homes to pay their fair share of delivery costs and could make rentals more affordable if landlords pass the rate cut on to their tenants.”

Despite their disagreements, all three candidates said they are trying to run a clean campaign. Echoing the sentiments of the other aspiring Ward 1 representatives, Hayner said he has been trying to not spend his energy criticizing his opponents.

“I haven’t been playing any of that stuff up, because I’m running a positive campaign about my issues,” Hayner said.