Thursday, September 26, 2019

Statement Regarding Mayoral Candidate David Anderson

26 September 2019

A Statement by Andy Argo, Socialist Party Candidate for Kalamazoo City Commission

The following statement is in response to Mayoral candidate David Anderson's opposition to several of our campaign platform points, and other concerns I have about him as a prospective Mayor.
David Anderson has accomplished some good works for the city during his tenure as commissioner but I believe any critical analysis of his record, coupled with our city's urgent need for expedient systemic transformation, would make his prospective tenure as Mayor a barrier and hindrance towards the type of city we need to create. It is no secret to people who follow city politics that Anderson has assumed the role of a liberal, pro-capitalist politician on the board for many years.
He was one of the architects of the Foundation For Excellence, which as I have explained many times was and is a deeply problematic alternative to a progressive income tax which funnels both tax cuts and de facto financial control of the city to the very wealthiest.

The final question at our recent candidate forum cemented much of this for me, and of particular note he came out in opposition to not only some of our platform planks, but progressive platform planks shared amongst the other mayoral and commission candidates. Popular transformative proposals were all dismissed by Anderson in a quick and insubstantial manner while they were mostly embraced by the other mayoral candidates running.

- On a citizen's land bank, which is one of our key proposals to oppose gentrification and foster housing-for-all, he dismissed it by pointing to the County Land Bank that currently exists- and that if we do not like how it is currently run we should vote them (Mary Balkema) out.

While much is made of Balkema's history of racist decision making, cozying with fascists, and use of the Land Bank as a profit-making enterprise the fundamental problem with the County Land Bank remains with or without her. Unless the entire County government were replaced at once with working class radicals (a tall order to say the least), the Land Bank will bend to development strategies that curb towards profit and redevelopment that favor the interests of the wealthy. Postive change can be made on the margins (a fellow commission candidate has done great work in this regard), but this structural reality and incentive remains the same. This is why a democratically controlled Citizen's Land Bank is vitally necessary.

- He came out against a ward system, that would provide greater representation to the city by having commissioners directly elected from their neighborhoods and districts. This system has existed in many major American cities for decades upon decades. It would allow low-income neighborhoods in Kalamazoo guaranteed representation, not just those cherry picked by large donors or disproportionate representation from higher income neighborhoods like Winchell and Westnedge Hill.

Save any actual argument against it, he vaguely mentioned how "Battle Creek has had problems with their ward system." Lacking any sort of analysis, it becomes clear that Anderson doesn't want a ward system because the entrenched interests that want him as Mayor don't want a ward system.
- To publically financed elections, he asked "who is going to pay for it?" Anderson's dismissal is willful ignorance, there are funding models for such programs across the country and the world we could look at and learn from. It allows for better equity and representation, and doesn't make low-income as much of a barrier to running for office. To oppose this out of hand means you have no interest in equity in representation.

- Anderson pointed out that a progressive wealth tax cannot be enacted due to state law. I will link to the full article below regarding the Foundation For Excellence's dubious inception, but this was not always the case and a progressive income tax was once on the table to deal with the city's budget crisis. I found this particularly dishonest; he painted this as being "out of his hands."
It was Anderson in particular who helped developed the Foundation For Excellence as a billionaire-friendly alternative. It was he who helped defeat and bury the proposed progressive income tax in this city when it was still legally possible to enact it. It may be out of our hands at the moment, but Anderson was directly involved in making sure this tax on the very wealthiest did not come to pass in our city.

I am running in this election, to put it simply, because people asked me to. In this regard I think me and David Anderson have something in common. However, the people making the ask in our cases have competing economic interests, and Anderson's candidacy fundamentally represents the continuity of the status quo. In other words, a city that is socially "Bernie Sanders" and economically "Ronald Reagan."

Candidates like Anderson serve to actively negotiate between the city's oligarchs and the city's middle and lower classes. Positive changes are made around the margins, but always to that outcome which is acceptable to the very rich- which in our case is one that at the root adheres to conservative trickle down economics, a few social welfare programs are funded (but not to the scale that is necessary- just enough to maintain good "public relations" and sentiment to Kalamazoo's philanthropists), but oppressive class relations remain the same.

We all need to be more critical on our politics. Some of you know I used to be part of the Kalamazoo County Democratic Party, and may wonder why I abandoned the tactic of "pushing them to the left." I still work with many people who are part of the KCDP but many in their membership are affected, and not entirely but enough to endorse a candidate like Anderson, by a sort of cognitive dissonance that happens in most of the Democratic Party across the country. The membership is progressive in policy- many of them are workers or retired workers themselves- but they are unwilling to critically analyze how candidates and local politicians actually push, represent, or misrepresent those policies.
I am not choosing to endorse any of the mayoral candidates in this election, but from what I have seen the other 4 candidates have a lived experience of or from the working class, and are offering significant progressive policy changes to the city. In the next few years and decades, it will be important to have a Mayor that is amenable and pushable in regards to radical changes (some of which will be literally necessary for the survival of our city's working class).

As I say time and time again, the power of the city is truly in the labor of the working class. We could shape the city however we wanted with enough direct action and solidarity- and eventually me and the Kalamazoo Socialist Party would like to see a city that does not have a role like "Mayor" and engages in direct democracy with its citizens. But to use an analogy; there is a lot of difference and a lot more energy needed when you are pushing a concrete wall versus a wooden barrier.

On a personal note, I know it is not necessarily good political strategy to critique people who I may, come November 5th, be serving with. But as one of the people who recently endorsed me said so eloquently, part of the reason I am running is to ask uncomfortable questions. So here it is; do you want a Mayor who feels obligated to provide continuity to the status quo, or one who actually seeks to bring about substantial reform? Remember that on the 5th of November, and every election after that.

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