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Endorsement Monday is upon us: Time to make some friends unhappy by offering our advice
Endorsement Monday has been a staple of our radio show team ever since we hit the air waves. It's nice to know so many trust our advice on who to vote for when they head to the precincts.
The Morning Gazette Radio Show presented its choices earlier today and a replay of the program is available at right. Simply click the yellow button inside the black box to listen.
It's good for my ego, too, that we reached 10,000 listeners today. That beats our previous record of more than 7,500 who listened to an interview by Leeanne Walters who helped expose Flint's water crisis five years ago. The huge audience has me now re-thinking my prediction this morning that Flint would have an all-time record low turnout. Based on how many tuned in to hear our Endorsement Monday show, that prediction is going out the window.
Three candidates are on the ballot for mayor in Tuesday's primary race in the City of Burton where Paula Zelenko chose not to seek re-election after serving 10 years. Incumbent Dr. Karen Weaver is running for re-election in the City of Flint where there are three challengers on the ballot in addition to a write-in candidate.
Voters in Genesee County's largest city have nothing else on the ballot except Flint's mayoral race where the top two finishers move on to the general election ballot in November. Mayor Weaver, who unseated incumbent Dayne Walling in 2015 and survived a recall attempt in 2017, is hoping to be re-elected to a three-year term instead of the usual four-year term because voters decided in 2017 to switch the mayor's race to the same election year as the governor's race to attract bigger turnouts.
Burton, which is the county's second-largest city, has nine candidates vying for eight spots on the ballot for the November general election when four Burton City Council seats will be up for grabs. All four city council seats are four-year terms and so, too, is the mayor's job.
Below is a race-by-race summary of our election day endorsements for Tuesday's primary.
City of Burton's choices for mayor in November should be between pair with many years of city council experience: Danny Wells and Duane Haskins
Danny Wells and Duane Haskins deserve to be on the ballot in the general election for mayor of Burton.
Both men have had distinguished careers on the Burton City Council and are vying to replace Paula Zelenko. Her 10 years of leadership in the city has been dominated by controversy and scandals, and it's our hope Wells or Haskins can bring a new spirit of open government to Burton City Hall.
Wells and Haskins are challenged on the Tuesday primary ballot by unknown Lynne Freiberger. She's a former business owner and seems very intelligent. We're bothered, however, by stories circulating around the community that she keeps dead cats in her freezer. We've traced every story to a member of the Wells campaign team, but a few have told us she didn't deny the stories when confronted about them. They say she instead attempted to explain how the cats were close to her and she has them in the freezer with intentions of someday having them stuffed. With two experienced city council veterans on the ballot, we decided to impose a new rule in our endorsement decisions: "Anybody with cats in their freezer isn't getting serious consideration to lead our county's second biggest city in its highest office.
Long-time school district administrator Gary Goetzinger best so far among half dozen challengers against three Burton City Council incumbents on ballot
We like three incumbents vying for re-election to the Burton City Council, but our number one choice so far is to recommend picking long-time school district administrator Gary Goetzinger. He shines among the nine candidates in the field.
Goetzinger lives across the street from Burton's boundary line with Grand Blanc, and he retired after a distinguished career as an administrator in the Grand Blanc school district. He's exactly the kind of person we need leading government in a small community where the job is part time, pays very little and appeals to people with a strong sense of community pride. Gary Goetzinger's character, intelligence and easy going ways would be a welcome addition to Burton's brand of politics.
Despite being the new guy on the council, it's our view that Goetzinger would be the perfect leader in trying to bury the constant conflict with the mayor's office that Burton residents have become familiar with during the past three decades.
Incumbents Steve Heffner, Tom Martinbianco and Tina Conley also deserve to be on the ballot for the general election in November. Only one of nine challengers will be eliminated after Tuesday's vote in the primary. We also like Gregory Fenner, Raymond Freiberger and former City Councilman Steve Hatfield who is vying to return to the council chambers.
The final spot on the ballot is up for grabs between Genevieve Field and Greg Hull — neither of whom even sought our endorsement, so we won't be giving a nod to either one of them.
Don Pfeiffer, Sheldon Neeley endorsed for spots on November ballot in City of Flint mayoral race; Gregory Eason deserves consideration as City Administrator
Businessman Don Pfeiffer and State Rep. Sheldon Neeley should be Flint's choices for mayor in the November general election. Many believe only one will move on after Tuesday's primary when Mayor Weaver is bidding to survive a rocky last few months of scandal to avoid becoming the first incumbent in history to lose a re-election bid on primary day.
We endorsed Mayor Weaver in 2015 and didn't favor a recall mid-way through her first term in 2017. We endorsed Pfeiffer then, however, because we liked his ideas about how to create jobs and a vow to fix the pipe replacement task that should have been completed in one construction season, according to Pfeiffer — a successful contractor. He also recently purchased Blackstones Bar & Grill in Downtown Flint to demonstrate his belief in helping steer the city's comeback. Pfeiffer impresses us as a man with vision for the city, and he would be an outstanding mayor.
We've also endorsed every election bid Neeley has ever had during a political career that has included serving nine years on the Flint City Council before winning a seat in the state legislature five years ago. He has had community outreach programs as part of his fiber even in non-election years, and we're impressed by his dedication to the city where he grew up. Neeley would become an outstanding mayor.
If both of our choices make it past Tuesday, we urge one of them to tab Gregory Eason as their city administrator. He knows government and would be a strong asset, especially during their first year or two as mayor. Eason would also be an outstanding mayor, but he's far behind in every poll we've seen. So far behind, in fact, that he isn't even in the picture.
Serving under Walling's administration is likely one big reason for Eason's campaign never building any momentum. He also didn't mount any fundraising power and is the only candidate who hasn't had TV commercials airing non-stop during the past few weeks.
Mayor Weaver deserves credit for steering Flint back on the right track after financial disaster under Walling's leadership that led to a state takeover. He also served as chairman of the KWA pipeline project that led to using the Flint River for the city's drinking source as a temporary plan to save money while the KWA was built from Port Huron to Genesee County.
Her decision not to debate 17 challengers in the 2017 recall election was the major reason why we went with Pfeifer then. Mayor Weaver once again refused to sit down and debate her opponents during this current campaign.
We were also bothered by her decision not to apologize for racially charged comments on a Detroit radio show with Sam Riddle on Superstation 910 AM in 2017. It's inappropriate for a mayor in a major American city, or any sized city, to use race as a way to win votes. It's a sad strategy that further divides a city that has long been divided by racial lines on its election days.
Eason spoke about just that during his interview with The Morning Gazette Radio Show early in the campaign and again last week with ABC TV 12. He's 100 percent correct that we need a mayor to be above that kind of rhetoric.
One of Mayor Weaver's biggest supporters, radio talk show host A.C. Dumas, has used race almost on a weekly basis to promote her for re-election. Dumas, one of her advisers often criticized by recall campaign leader Arthur Woodson, vowed during a Thursday telephone call to me that Mayor Weaver will debate Pfeiffer during the general election.
"Tell your boy she will debate him after the primary," Dumas said. When asking what he meant by his "my boy" crack, his reply was as follows: "We know who your boy is. We know how you white people stick together. We know you are behind his campaign. It looks like you got him on the ballot this time, so congratulations."
It's significant to mention that Pfeiffer is the only white candidate on the ballot to put Dumas' call into proper perspective. It's also significant to mention that we've been careful to always strive to be fair on The Morning Gazette Radio Show. Although it's often a forum to express opinions of Yours Truly that you also read in this space, we are always fair to allow anyone to respond — even if they don't have nice things to say about my opinions.
It's no secret that many of Mayor Weaver's closest supporters and advisers don't like it that community activist Woodson has often been given a microphone on our program since the recall began in 2017. He has continued to expose issues that warrant an explanation from the mayor. She usually offers our community's residents nothing except silence.
If she survives Tuesday and makes it on the ballot, whoever faces her would indeed have a field day with her at a debate.
If you can forgive a candidate for refusing to sit down for a debate, please consider all the other reasons why we urge you to vote for Pfeiffer or Neeley on Tuesday.
• BID RIGGING ALLEGATIONS: Bid rigging allegations have made national news headlines to cast a dark shadow on the mayor's office. One of her few supporters on the city council (1st Ward Councilman Eric Mays) abruptly turned against her last month when Goyette Mechanical was low bidder for a second time on a multi-million dollar contract, yet the mayor instead tried to steer the work to WT Stevens when asking the council on July 2 to rescind its 9-0 vote to go with Goyette for lawn replacement work. When the city council refused to award all the work instead to WT Stevens, she re-bid the contract after City Administrator Steve Branch and City Attorney Angela Wheeler suggested it was because they were ordered to do so by the state because bid calculations were done wrong. City Councilwoman Monica Galloway revealed that the state officials told her it wasn't true. When Goyette was again low bidder, Mayor Weaver gave part of the work to WT Stevens. This episode smells of public corruption any way the mayor tries to defend her actions.
• CONTROVERSY OVER 527 FUND: Two former city executives accused her during a whistleblower lawsuit in federal court of trying to steer donations to help residents during the water crisis to a 527 account. Mayor Weaver testified under oath that her goal was "to get Aoine Gilcreast" paid because he had been working for months without getting any compensation. State Rep. Neeley took to the radio air waves last week during his weekly Saturday morning program on WFLT 1420 AM to provide a forum to Ellis Stafford —a former top investigator with the Attorney General's prosecution team on the Flint water crisis scandal who outright called her a crook. Stafford told everyone he wanted a search warrant for Mayor Weaver's credit union bank account for a 527 account during his work on the case. He accused her of diverting funds there for her personal use instead of the donations going to Flint residents harmed by the water crisis. Stafford said Special Prosecutor Todd Flood told him it was outside the scope of their mission in the Flint case. His revelations left us to wonder why Flood didn't pass on the information to his boss, former AG Bill Schuette, or why it was ignored if Flood did alert the big cheese to the theft. Yes, theft. If she diverted money intended for Flint residents as Stafford says she did, why isn't she already in prison? Remember, too, that Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton was on Schuette's prosecution team for the Flint water crisis scandal. Did Flood tell Leyton about what Stafford uncovered? If so, did Leyton ignore it? Nothing but crickets on all fronts which makes one wonder how she got a pass if Stafford's allegations are true. If it didn't happen, how come he wasn't hit with an immediate slander lawsuit after such allegations late in a political campaign?
• CAMPAIGN TIME NONSENSE: When Flint firefighter Rico Phillips got a little national TV fame by getting the NHL's Community Hero Award for his work to develop an inter-city hockey program, Mayor Weaver quickly celebrated by she (and her supporters) taking credit for the program being under the city's umbrella. She had zero to do with the program that was run by Phillips, created by Phillips, promoted by Phillips and financially supported by the efforts of Phillips.
• FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT JOBS: Taking credit for jobs created during her term is laughable because she had nothing to do with it. Most came via decisions she had no involvement in when General Motors and Lear created lots of jobs in the city. Dozens of other businesses have closed in the city on her watch.
• GILCREAST CONTRACT: After admitting under oath how she wanted to "get Aoine Gilcreast paid" during the whistleblower civil trial, Mayor Weaver later gave Gilcreast a $125,000 per year salary to help lead economic development after the city was given a grant by the Kellogg Foundation. He also gets benefits and it was a four-year contract, according to chief critic Woodson. The community activist has won supporters with his protests about it while building a Facebook Live audience that sometimes attracts thousands of viewers and dozens of comments. Let's just say the comments have been 100-to-zero against giving him any love for the job he's doing or how he became worthy of such a huge salary. Gilcreast was also called an outright "crook" during former City Administrator Natasha Henderson's whisteblower lawsuit when accusing the mayor of some very serious stuff — not the typical kind of lawsuit type accusations. A high profile attorney from West Michigan (Katherine Smith Kennedy) promised listeners of The Morning Gazette during an interview months ago that this trial would attract an audience that included FBI agents. Her opening argument indeed sounded like she was revealing a criminal indictment, except Kennedy didn't have any power to order handcuffs on anybody. By the time she was finished, a jury decided her client properly informed about illegal activity and suffered damages but they didn't hear any testimony to convince them the city attorney at the time (Anthony Chubb) told the mayor about Henderson's warnings.
• CHUBB EXIT: Chubb was given a $56,000 check when he left his job after only a short several months as city attorney. It was more money than the mayor paid his old boss, Peter Bade, to go away after more than nine years on the job. Henderson testified how a key employee at the mayor's office told her she had been pressured to divert donations to the 527 fund. Jody Linquist, Flint's former CFO, backed up her testimony about reporting all this to Chubb. There was an e-mail as evidence, too, as her legal team argued that Henderson was dealing with felons at Flint City Hall.
• STOP THE PAYOFFS: The mayor also wrote big checks to make an old police chief go away, and there have been other settlements with employees as they left Flint City Hall. Pfeiffer promises no such "gifts" when firing people and Neeley is on record with the same kind of attitude about stopping such waste. We're sickened by it.
• REVOLVING DOOR AT CITY HALL: Every department except the police has lost leaders and key employees in the kind of turnover never before witnessed at Flint City Hall. Every department is currently under-staffed and she's been on the job almost four years. There is simply no excuse for such incompetence across the board.
• LAW DEPARTMENT TRACK RECORD: So many exit gifts and settlements on other lawsuits have been a devastating financial disaster for taxpayers. The legal team isn't qualified, according to 1st Ward City Councilman Mays. Woodson has also accused Gilcreast's niece of being on the payroll for the law department, and not once has there been a response to his accusations. Evidence on Facebook shows this lawyer lives in another state, so it's an issue that deserved attention.
• OTHER WOODSON ISSUES: We've been advocating for an apology to Woodson since the 2017 recall election over an attempt to get a PPO order on the community activist who led the recall. The mayor marched in front of a judge to accuse Woodson of mailing a scary letter that turned out to be the work of a nutcase in the Detroit area. She not only didn't get a PPO order but Woodson didn't get an apology. He instead became the target of a fraud investigation that remains open two years after the recall. We did our own investigation and the only investigating any authorities should be doing is to determine how cops gave witnesses rides to court when trying to get the recall effort stopped. We're also bothered by all the controversy over police officers going to selected doors to ask residents why they signed recall petitions. Police officers had every right to pass out campaign literature during the recall, but getting caught red handed doing campaign errands while on duty is unforgivable territory in my book.
• RIZZO EPISODE: How this episode played out over trying to switch the garbage contract remains a big enough reason alone to end Mayor Weaver's stay at City Hall. Her fight with city council reached the court room and she waved the red flag only after a federal indictment for public corruption came against Rizzo's CEO and his father. They were among 17 in Macomb County who were convicted of felonies and are sitting in prison. To add insult to taxpayers, the financially-troubled city had dueling garbage trucks rolling up and down streets for a few weeks while the fight ensued all the way to court when the council filed a lawsuit. Later, Mayor Weaver apparently wrote a check in the neighborhood of $200,000 despite her attorney saying no contract was ever given to Rizzo, according to write-in candidate Tonya Burns during a press conference on the lawn of Flint City Hall with accusations that never produced a comment from the mayor after being accused of writing Rizzo the check while he was sitting in a prison cell.
• CLUB 69: If all the aforementioned items are not enough to want a change at Flint City Hall, consider the last straw. A few weeks ago when campaign finance reports were due, we discovered that the mayor of our county's biggest city wrote a check for $7,500 to Power Team 69 LLC at 1410 Saginaw Street in Flint. That's the location of Club 69 Adult Entertainment. For a woman has often given thanks God for surviving the recall and other positive accomplishments along the way (and there have been many), it's odd behavior. At a time when many want strip clubs closed in her city, she's writing them a "consulting" check that turned out to be her biggest campaign expense. Some of her supporters made matters worse by trying to defend her actions with posts on Facebook or radio show comments. It's my guess whoever included the item on her expense report didn't want her re-elected.
Mike Killbreath hosts The Morning Gazette Radio Show weekdays from 8 am until 9:30 am on CCNRadio.net. He also hosts The Daily Gazette Sports Weekend Show every Saturday from 10 am until noon, and The Daily Gazette Sports Night Show weekdays from 6 pm until 7 pm.
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Meet Mike: Our award-winning Executive Editor
Mike Killbreath is a veteran newspaper man who began hosting a radio show in 2011. He currently serves as Executive Editor at The Daily Gazette and at My AM Advantage while hosting "The Morning Gazette Radio Show" on the local radio air waves live every weekday morning from 8 am until 9:30 am. Mike's background includes winning awards at the state and national levels for investigative reporting, local columns, feature writing, sports writing and sports columns. He has also served as President at the Flint Area Chamber of Commerce since 2011 and has served on its Executive Board since mid-2010. He also counts experience on other local Chamber of Commerce boards and has served for many years on numerous civic groups and non-profit organizations. Mike also hosts the longest-running local sports talk show on the local air waves with his Saturday 10 am broadcast of The Daily Gazette Sports Weekend Show. He talks sports every weeknight, too, on The Michigan Sports Zone Show and The Daily Gazette Sports Night Show. You can find Mike's programs by clicking to CCNRADIO.net for links to them.
Click above to hear a replay of our Endorsement Monday program on The Morning Gazette Radio Show which airs weekdays with award-winning host Mike Killbreath from 8 am until 9:30 am on CCN Radio.
August 5, 2019