The Fight Against Landlord Monopolies ContinuesCampaign Manager Brian Geiringer
Dear friends, comrades, and enemies,
We’ve reached the official end of the 2022 Amber Fellows race to become the mayor of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Amber will not be our next mayor this time around: Nicole Brown gets that designation. Our campaign was victorious nonetheless–due to your support.
It is hard enough to collect nearly 20% of the vote as a non-partisan candidate in a Democratic stronghold; we did it in 7 weeks. Not only that… it’s extremely promising that those who chose to vote for Amber voted for a uniquely leftist platform including reparations, fighting landlord monopolies, drawing down power, and queer liberation. That’s pretty fucking cool and exciting.
“…the minuscule turnout in our August primaries, consistently less than 15%, determines every single elected seat on Council... if you want to win, you gotta call yourself a Democrat; therefore that label is meaningless…”
Of course, we wanted 51% of the vote, and campaigned to get that amount. Looking at the vote totals we realize how incredibly difficult that would have been: basically half of all Ypsilantians voted straight-ticket Democrat this year, and that is the historical pattern. The fact that candidates for mayor (or councilmember) of this city receive straight-ticket votes is extremely anomalous; it’s not how most cities do things, nor how we have to.
Only six states have straight-ticket voting. In Michigan, only 3 cities (out of 1500) have partisan elections i.e. with a primary (and thus candidates who receive straight-ticket votes). What does that mean for Ypsi? That the Democrat always wins. What does that mean? That the minuscule turnout in our August primaries, consistently less than 15%, determines every single elected seat on Council.
What does that mean? That if you want to win, you gotta call yourself a Democrat; therefore that label is meaningless.
Perhaps that’s why we didn’t see Nicole Brown on the campaign trail. She did not have to face up to the fact that she ran on a platform of reforming the Ypsi Police Dept. when her record shows nothing but throwing money at the police (…for officers they can’t even find to hire). She did not have to answer to her illegal 2017 trip to China on developer money. She did not have to explain why she ran on affordable housing while voting against including progressive housing recommendations into the city’s Master Plan.
The residents of Ypsi deserve answers to these contradictions, but our system is not designed to provide them. While we appreciate the news coverage we got from MLive and WEMU–institutions like these are spineless when it comes to challenging the hypocrisy of local Democratic politicians. This is another weakness of our local political sphere: one that we’d like to continue to address through grassroots institutions like What’s Left Ypsi, along with our friends at places like Groundcover News and Black Ink.
Having said all that… even without Nicole’s 3,600 straight-ticket votes, she still garnered more votes than Amber. I want to acknowledge that. And Nicole’s policy stance is not hyper-conservative, including some key recent support for two dire affordable housing developments coming to Ypsi in the next couple years. I believe that Nicole will be a better mayor than the last two mayors elected to that position–both of whom were openly antagonistic to the local left. I have high hopes and expectations that she will do right by our city. Moreover, Nicole Brown being the first Black woman elected mayor in the city is a wonderful and important accomplishment.
Also, although it can be hard to tell, I’d like to think that Nicole has moved left during her 8 years on City Council, and I hope that pattern continues. I consider Nicole a friend; I congratulate her victory and sincerely look forward to working with her in the coming years.
In fact, it seems the local government could have done a lot worse this season. It is hard to stress the significance of the Council victory of Desiraé Simmons in Ward 3. Nobody has volunteered as many tireless hours toward improving Ypsi life as Desiraé and Amber. She may just be one vote, but Desiraé will provide the spirit of a scrappy organizer combined with the wisdom of a seasoned participant, observer, and moral fortress. There is an inevitability to the weight of Dez’s words. There is a reason many of those in power did not want her there.
We also hope the loss of outgoing councilmember, police enthusiast Brian Jones-Chance is permanent… at least for as long as he owns a downtown business (how was that combo ever a thing??) and listens to the advice of the police department on raising its own budget over the desires of his own ex-constituents.
As I hope you know, this campaign was never about Amber. I’ve already been asked multiple times if Amber will run again in 4 years and I’m like… 4 years?! We gotta run every day we can! It’s a relay marathon toward that better world, and it neither starts nor stops with elections, or individuals that take part in them. Nobody is coming to save us <3
Truly, this campaign would have evaporated, like a whisper, if it weren’t for outsized support from some stellar humans. To the day-one’s who never blinked or wavered. To the volunteers from out of town dedicating whole days to this fight that they didn’t have to claim. To the people donating art, thoughts, dollars, social media love, food… sometimes doing it on a few minutes notice. To the people who have Ypsilanti sketched into their soles from walking these streets together! You made this a beautiful powerful thing. From the bottom of my heart, from the bottom of Amber’s heart, thank you. You know what it is.
More than anything, we hope you continue being inspired to do some cool shit wherever you stay. If you’re around here send us your email so that you and me and Amber and a bunch of other people can organize together soon! Let’s fight those landlord monopolies for real
Big moves on our minds: ballot petitions for tenant protections and ranked-choice voting/ending the primary partisan electoral system, re-crafting the Community Benefits Ordinance, continuing the fight against mass surveillance, and strengthening the bonds between regional local left efforts and orgs. Statewide goals include ending the ban on rent control, fighting for reparations to Black and Indigenous residents, shutting down Line 5, and stopping the expansion of Camp Grayling.
There is so much else going on around here, too! Check out Beautiful Gate Church for food pantry mutual aid, Ypsi Tenants Union to build tenant power, Stop Camp Grayling to disrupt the military death cult of America, Defend Affordable Ypsi for anti-gentrification action, What’s Left Ypsi to help create grassroots news coverage… actually Amber is starting to compile an open list with lots more local orgs and actions right now so stay tuned / hit each other up / hit us up
See you in the commons,
Campaign Manager of Amber Fellows for the People of Ypsilanti