Tom Bourque

Tom Bourque
Attorney, City Council Candidate 2nd Ward November 2005

Tottered on: 29 December 2005
Temperature: 34 F
Ceiling: overcast
Ground: slushy snow
Wind: NNW at 14 mph

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TT with HD: Tom Bourque

TB: If I get to choose, I'm going to choose the one ...

HD: ... that's dry

TB: ... that's dry, yeah.

HD: That's the most popular end, anyway.

TB: Well, you could probably change it simply by tipping it the other way.

HD: But its natural resting position is this way. Even though I tried really hard to get the measurement so that it would just sway in the breeze.

TB: It's funny, I've never been on this street before and now it's the second time in about two weeks. There's a woman who lives, after you make the S-curve, there's those apartments ...

HD: ... the treehouse condos?

TB: ... yeah, she lives in one of those and had a party about two Monday's ago. We actually had to Mapquest to get there. No handles, huh?

HD: No handles. I have an explanation for no handles. And that is, if you want to accommodate teeter totterers of different weights, you've got to have some way of moving things back and forth. So the typical playground teeter totter that I remember from my childhood had a different slots at the fulcrum ... is that what you remember as well?

TB: Well, I remember teeter totters from then, but also when we first moved to Ann Arbor in '92 and when we first bought our house in '93, my kids went to Burns Park. Now Burns Park still had teeter totters. I can't remember when they took them out. Probably a year or two after that '94 or '95? They were right along Wells Street, and they were the kind that were a steel pole that had a wooden seat attached to it and a little bit of a handle. And then they also had three sort of semi-circle things that you could move to try and balance out the weight. But they were not very good teeter totters. I was actually on one a couple of times.

HD: Do you have fond memories of that?

TB: Well, I remember it. I remember thinking, gosh, I haven't been on a teeter totter since I was ... a long time ago. I rode the teeter totters at Burns with probably my daughter, because my son wouldn't have been old enough. I just remember that they were difficult to move around. And they had chains on them underneath ...

HD: ... to keep people from stealing them ...

TB: ... yeah to keep people from stealing them, which when we were kids that wasn't an issue. But I can remember teeter totters at my elementary school when I was growing up in Ohio, but I also remember that they had a fulcrum like this because you could try to stand on the middle and then walk to either side to balance. The question is whether you could really go up one without falling over: walk up the low end to get to the middle, sort of balance and then see if you could slowly push the other one down.

HD: Okay, since designing the multiple-fulcrum middle to make that adjustment seemed too daunting to me, so I said you know I'm going to just design it with no handles and that way people can find a natural balance place.

TB: So how long did it take you to design and build this?

HD: Oh maybe a week. So do you celebrate Christmas?

TB: Yes.

HD: Did you get anything good this year?

TB: Yes I did. A wonderful picture of my kids. Actually it's a series of three. My daughter's a senior at Huron this year and had senior pictures taken and my wife also sent my son ... I have two kids ... who's a seventh grader, out to one of the picture-taking settings and they took some pictures together and I got a frame that shows three pictures of the two of them together. The middle one is sort of the 'straight' picture where they're just looking. And the other one was where they apparently told my son and daughter to look at each other like they really loved each other. There's a picture of them trying to do that at the top and a picture of my son completely cracking up on the bottom because he couldn't couldn't quite hold it. And they're now in my office.

HD: So you're not in any of them

TB: No, I'm rarely in any of the pictures.

HD: Well later we're going to have to take a picture. And I realize now that I left my camera in the pocket of the coat that I was planning to put on, but I'll have to hop off the totter and grab it. Did you watch the bowl game last night?

TB: I did.

HD: Did you watch with partisan feelings as U of M Law School grad?

TB: Yes, I'm a U of M fan.

HD: Did the attorney in you feel like you just wanted file an appeal or a grievance of some kind after the final play?

TB: No not really. I just I thought it was just so bizarre that it didn't really deserve anything. And plus, they showed it a couple of times and the thing about it is, it almost seems like Mike Tirico, who was the ...

HD: ... play-by-play guy ...

TB: ... play-by-play guy, he lives in Ann Arbor.

HD: Does he really?!

TB: Yeah, yeah he lives in Ann Arbor. So sometimes it seems sometimes that he gets a little ...

HD: ... a little partisan?

TB: Yeah, for instance Carl Tabb ran back a kick-off and he said, "Yes, Tabb was a River Rat at Huron High School ..."

HD: YEAH! I wondered how he pulled that fact out of thin air. I thought they must have really prepped well for this game ...

TB: ... no Mike lives in Ann Arbor somewhere, or maybe towards Dexter, but in this area. So I thought it was so bizarre and with all the other bad calls that had happened during the game I didn't find it to be ridiculous. Plus there is sort of a justice that Michigan lost because they just didn't play very well at the end. And they gave up an 11-point lead. So I didn't find that to be an 'unjust' result. I was a little bit more bothered by the lack of a pass-interference call on the fourth-down play. But I was also bothered that I stayed up until 12:20 until the game finished. So that was a 4 hour and 20 minute game. I thought why would it take so long ...

HD: So did you play team sports growing up in high school or as an undergrad?

TB: I played team sports sort of intramurally forever. I did not play any team sports in high school I played on a golf team but that's not really a team sport. And I played basketball ... I played all the sports. When I lived in Miami they had lawyers' leagues for football, basketball, softball ... I played all of those.

HD: The reason I ask is that how I know of you is through the Ann Arbor Track Club ...

TB: ... right ...

HD: ... which is more individual and I used to see you at the Tuesday night workouts. You mentioned in one of your emails that we sent back and forth trying to arrange a totter time that you set a PR in the 5K at one of the Tortoise and Hare 4th of July races?

TB: I think it was the first one in '98.

HD: Does that PR still stand as your personal best?

TB: Absolutely.

HD: What was that?

TB: 17:18

HD: 17:18?! Wow that's really cookin. Do you keep a record of personal bests at other distances as well?

TB: I am fairly obsessive about my running logs. I keep running logs. I have every one since '90 with the exception I think of 1991. For some reason I don't have that one. I keep what I ran, if I race, I keep what I raced. A lot of times I keep my splits, who I ran with, what course I ran. And I go back and look at them every once in a while. I'm ridiculously obsessive about that.

HD: So the 17:18, I would never hit 17:18, even if I committed myself full time. So how far away are you from thinking, "Well, you know that's the best 5K I will EVER run?"

TB: I think I'm already there. A lot of my personal bests in running I'll never reach again. But there is always hope. A guy I run with all the time, Mitch Garner, is now 56 and he has set PR's in almost every distance over the last four or five years. But he also trains like a maniac and also seems never to get hurt. So it is POSSIBLE to do that, but I can't think of any of the PR's that I have at any of the distances that are likely candidates. I seem to keep getting injured more often.

HD: Another thing you mentioned in one of your emails is a rule you have about training runs. You want to elaborate on the 'no-rain' rule?

TB: The rule is I don't start in the rain. I'll start in a drizzle or a very slight rain, but I don't start if it's raining hard. If I can get out the door before it starts raining, I'll keep running as long as I'm already out the door and going. It's just one of many sort of meaningless traditions that I have related to running.

HD: So what if it's raining the day of a race?

TB: If I'm going to race, typically I will run anyway.

HD: So it's sort of a training-specific rule?

TB: No run is so important that you need to start out in the rain. You can always run the next day or later in the day. Or some other time. I have very detailed records of all my runs, and I rarely have ever run more than three or four days a week And if you think of 20 miles a week as a not really obsessive amount of running That's about 1040 miles a year, and I've only hit that probably three or four times ever So this last year, for instance, I've got about eight-hundred and eighty miles, so I'm not even hitting 20 miles a week .

HD: Do you keep a record of runs you would have done except for the fact ...

TB: ... no ...

HD: ... that it was raining? So you'd have entries like 'was raining so I didn't run'?

TB: No, no. I don't do that. Sometimes I'll put down that I was that I wimped out or something along those lines. Usually it's just empty.

HD: Do you have a favorite route if you want to go out and do a long run?

TB: Well, I run with a group of people now in the mornings and then on Saturdays. And one of my favorite runs is to just go down from my house to Gallup Park then around Gallup Park and then back up through the Arb, the long Arb hill up to Geddes, and then back down. That's about six miles.

HD: That takes in a lot of the route of the old Big Ten?

TB: Part of it. I don't run up Geddes, which is where it used to go. And then the other route that we have done a lot lately is sort of the north river loop where we run out along the river north of downtown through Bandemer Park, through the new walkway/bikepath that they have along the west side of the river and then come back through the woods on the east side of the river.

HD: So it doesn't sound like any of that really includes a lot of city sidewalks?

TB: No. It's usually streets or trails. We run on as many trails as we can find.

HD: I tend to run a lot on the sidewalks around here. But through the fall they had that sidewalk repair program going ...

TB: ... right.

HD: How did that impact your neighborhood?

TB: We don't have sidewalks.

HD: You don't have sidewalks?!

TB: I live in Ann Arbor Hills and there are only a few sidewalks in the whole neighborhood.

HD: So it's sort of a non-issue.

TB: It was a non-issue for my neighborhood and for me personally, but it was an issue in the campaign. People were not happy with how it had been done, and how it was structured, and how much time they got, and how much it was going to cost to do that so ...

HD: So where did you stand on that issue?

TB: Well, I just thought the City did a bad job of figuring out how to help people get that done, since City code does say that people are supposed to maintain their sidewalks. They essentially said, here, you're on your own. After some people brought up that there were a lot of discrepancies about how much it would cost per slab to do that, the City sort of helped people get a price reduction based on volume. Which is something the City could have done from the get-go: said okay, we're going to do this but here are some people who have agreed [to a price reduction], because they're going to be doing it all along the block all at once.

HD: Okay.

TB: It's kind of like the tree-removal issue.

HD: So about the campaign. Are you just sick of talking about it at this point?

TB: Well I haven't talked about it too much recently. It seems to have kind of gone away.

HD: One of the emails you sent seemed to be fairly emphatic ... it's hard to read sort of inflection and tone into electronic words on a screen ... but you seemed to be fairly emphatic that you're never going to run again. Is that an accurate interpretation?

TB: It is.

HD: Did you find the experience to be sort of so frustrating that it's not worth it or ...?

TB: Mainly I found it to be selfish.

HD: Huh.

TB: Selfish as far as my family is concerned, because it was a HUGE amount of time for about two months and essentially it sort of took over my life, especially mentally. I mean you just think about it all the time. You just think about all the issues that come up or questions that people ask you that you hadn't thought of or hadn't heard of before, how are you going to be able to find out information to be able to answer questions. It's a very effort-consuming enterprise. Although, I mean I'm glad that I ran. It was a very worthwhile experience overall. Doing it again would seem to me to be the ultimate in telling my family that this was more important than they are and I don't think so. I mean that's why I don't plan to run again, and realistically the chances of potentially being elected would be slimmer than they were before. Because presumably if I ran again in '07 I would be running against an incumbent who is a Democrat and obviously in this town Democrats tend to win.

HD: Yeah.

TB: No Republican has won, I guess, since Mike Reid won in 2003. And so I don't think that makes any sense. With the amount of effort it takes, I have too much else that I have to do, that to run just for the exercise of running ... I mean, I ran because I thought I had a chance to win. Because I thought that I could help if I was able to actually serve. So since the chances of that are even slimmer I don't think I'll be running again. I hate to say NEVER, because who knows how circumstances might change. It would take something pretty unusual for me to run again. Theoretically, serving on council takes up more time than running, but at least that way you're actually having a chance to influence things. I mean, running you do influence things maybe slightly ...

HD: So would this be unusual enough to make you reconsider: if we had a system that was not geographically-based at all? I mean people have talked about redistricting the wards but I don't think I've heard anybody seriously moot the proposal that it be proportional, that it not be geographical. You know you just have the city of Ann Arbor and you get to vote however-many seats there are open and then the top however-many vote getters, they're on council.

TB: So you mean a completely at-large council? I think Detroit has it that way ... then if there's nine seats up you have nine votes? ... and so you can vote for nine people even if they're all your next door neighbors?

HD: Yeah, would that make you say, hmm, that's interesting enough to contemplate?

TB: I would think that would make it even harder for anybody who had a the dreaded 'R' next to their name in Ann Arbor to be elected because then there would be absolutely ... well, ... I don't know. I'd have to think about that. In school-board elections sometimes they talk about 'pinging' candidates.

HD: What's that?

TB: Well, you've got three votes for three seats and people vote solely for one person because they don't want to give other people votes. They want to make sure their candidate gets elected. Could you ping people so that there aren't other votes if you had a completely at large election with say five or six people being five being elected every other year? Gosh, I don't know. I haven't thought of that I mean. I guess that's possible. That would certainly allow the students potentially more representation.

HD: So what if we removed the R's and the D's and the G's or whatever other letters next to people's names and ...

TB: ... and made it non-partisan?

HD: ... yeah, and made it non-partisan?

TB: I would potentially be more likely to consider running. I think that's the way it ought to be. I don't think there are any issues that came up [in the campaign] that dealt with what I would consider to be national or state level politics.

HD: Conan Smith was on the teeter totter earlier in the week and he expressed the view that in our increasingly complex democracy that party labels were increasingly important to retain, and I was wondering what your reaction might be to that sentiment?

TB: I've heard that argument and actually I first saw that on a web log that Larry Kestenbaum keeps...

HD: ... the County Clerk ...

TB: ... the County Clerk, saying that it gives people some basis to identify with a person as to how they might think And I don't know that I agree with that on local political levels. Because local political levels typically aren't about those kinds of issues. For instance, I'm pro-choice, but if people look at the R they don't know that. They probably assume I'm the opposite. You know, I'm not in favor of the affirmative action proposal that's coming up on the ballot, but if I ran as an R, I would absolutely get crushed because of that because of the presumption that I was in favor of it. So I can understand why that makes sense for state senator, state representatives, who are going to be dealing with issues related to those things. I just don't think it makes much logical sense for city politics, when we're talking about how do we balance the budget, how do we provide specific services, that kind of thing. So I don't think that necessarily holds true.

HD: I guess I would say that there's many reasons why people might identify with a person or get an idea of how they might think. So, for example, when I saw your picture in the paper that you were running I said, Oh, I know who that guy is, I've seen him at Track Club workouts. But I mean, if you had been running in my ward, if I'd had the opportunity to vote for you I would have said yeah, I'll vote for Tom. Why? Well because I know that he knows what it's like to suffer through a speed-interval work-out. For no other reason. And I think that's as good a reason as he's a Republican or he's a Democrat.

TB: Right, and I think with non-partisan elections what you end up with is: people vote for you depending on whether they know you or they know somebody who knows you and I think that's ... I can never decide if I did well or didn't do well in this last election. Sometimes I think both ways ... presuming that I did reasonably well for a neophyte person running for office, then I think I have to attribute that to knowing a bunch of people and those people who knew me trying to tell other people, whether I was somebody who was smart enough, and honest enough, and willing to work hard enough to be a good councilperson ... That's why people who knew me through dealing with me as a lawyer or people who knew me through other things even if it was just friends or through my kids or anything ... a lot of people who were staunch Democrats still voted for me. But they also had to have some kind of personal knowledge or at least try and find out if anybody knew me. I think that that's why Stephen Rapundalo probably won. Because he knew a whole bunch of people in his neighborhood.

HD: Yeah, he's very active in his neighborhood association.

TB: And that's where, from a vote standpoint, he killed me. In his neighborhood he essentially beat me 2-to-1. And that makes sense. A lot of people knew him and said, I know this guy and I can trust him.

HD: Yeah, looking at the precinct returns, it seemed like it was very un-even. I mean you actually carried like three precincts and there were precincts that he carried in what seemed like a landslide, and it makes you wonder, hmm, how did that work?

TB: And also it kind of makes you wonder, because some of those precincts he didn't carry when he ran as a Republican for mayor in 2000. In fact he didn't carry any precincts. And you kind of wonder how much of it was the 'D' influence and how much was the people he knew. There's no way to know that. There's no way we'll ever know it. Actually other than me and maybe him .... no one will really care!

HD: Okay, so you mentioned the 2000 mayoral race. You have any inside information on who the Republicans will throw up against the Democratic candidate, which will likely be Hieftje since he's declared his intentions?

TB: I have no idea. I haven't heard of anybody that is interested in running. I'm going to guess that there will be no Republican who runs. You know, I got zapped in the newspaper in the editorial for being 'pessimistic' and 'defeatist' based on a comment I made on the night of the election, but I still think I will be stunned if there's a single Republican that runs for mayor or council in 2006. Because the chances of actually winning are so slim. First of all you're running against all incumbents. The only person who won't be an incumbent is Jean Carlberg who's said she's not going to run anymore. That's in the 3rd Ward. In the 2nd Ward Joan Lowenstein will be an incumbent. Chris Easthope is an incumbent. 4th Ward, it would be Margie Teall. 1st Ward would be the new guy, he was just appointed [John Roberts], all of those people will be incumbents. Hieftje will be an incumbent. It's a Governor and Senate year, so the students will vote in significantly higher numbers than they do in odd year elections. And the anti-affirmative action thing will be on the ballot and that will drive people to the polls to vote against it in Ann Arbor. So I can't imagine a Republican standing a chance in 2006. So the real question is will anyone run in 2007? You look at 2005, an off year election: two Republicans ran out of five wards and both lost.

HD: So it's safe to say that if the Republican Party came and tried to draft you to run for mayor that would be a waste of their time?

TB: That would be a waste of their time. If you can find a City Republican Party that's really formalized as ...

HD: ... so there's no 'Party boss' or someone who remotely fits that description?

TB: I don't think so. Not that I know of. There are a number of people who are involved and who care deeply and try to help and get involved but there's no real Party. The Party is on the County level.

HD: Maybe I should give up my master plan to run for mayor as a Republican.

TB: That would be an interesting experience for you ... but I don't think it would be ultimately successful

HD: Would you vote for me, Tom?

TB: Uh, ..., I'd certainly consider it. I'd have to find out what else you stand for ... what you'd like to do with in the City ...

HD: ... besides ride teeter totters? Besides putting a teeter totters back on the playgrounds?

TB: There you go. That's a public-schools thing that's not the City. If you put them on public playgrounds ...

HD: ... ah well, I'd like to see a teeter totter on every street corner. That's my platform.

TB: Actually, if you ran on that platform you'd have as much chance as a Republican!

HD: I'll let that be the final word, then.