TT with HD: Tom Wall
HD: Actually, I wanted to ask you right off the bat about the Eastern [Michigan University] jacket you have on?
TW: It's just that I played football for Eastern Michigan years ago and I'm still proud of EMU. My wife and I both got our master's and our bachelor's degrees there in education. Hers was in teaching elementary and mine was in special education. The school means a lot to us. It's a great teaching school and I recommend to anyone out there, if they're looking to be a teacher, that's a great place to go.
HD: Before we got on the teeter totter, when you first drove up, we were talking about the fact that your mom grew up on this street.
TW: Yeah, right across the street from you there. And I have just great childhood memories. The Nordman family is well known in Ann Arbor ...
HD: ... that's your mom's family?
TW: That was the Nordmans, yeah. Her uncle was a milkman back when they had horses. Also my grandfather, Lavern Nordman, he too was a milkman. As a matter of fact, the real sad part was--because the cars started coming out onto the street more, and they still had the horses--right down there by Kerrytown, he was making a run, and an automobile hit his horses and his cart ...
HD: ... oh man ...
TW: ... and from that point on, the rest of his life was pretty much in pain, because back then it was pretty hard to take away that kind of pain. So anyway, I have lots of pictures of across the street, and I want to share them with you at another time. I think you'd enjoy looking through them.
HD: I know I'd very much enjoy looking through those. In fact, I'm thinking the people who put out the Old West Side News--there's a newsletter that's distributed every month, it's professionally printed and everything, it looks really nice--might like to have a look at them.
TW: Do you know Chris Lux? She lives right across the street from us and she does the artwork for the Old West Side News. But you're right, you know who I'm going to talk to after the election is Grace Shackman. She's written books about Ann Arbor. I met them when I was a baseball coach years ago. Her daughter played on our baseball team and that's how I met them. Over the years I've continued to talk to them. I was born in Ann Arbor and then went away for about four years. My father was a football coach, so we traveled a lot and then we came back here. I went to Dicken for the fifth and sixth grade, and on to Slauson. Then I attended University High School, which was a University of Michigan education building. I don't know if people realize this, but the reason for that was they would not allow student teachers to go into public schools, because taxpayers said, Absolutely not, we want our kids to learn from a real teacher! So across America, there were lab schools: Eastern had Roosevelt High School and Michigan had University High School. We'd go into a classroom, and I just remember having all the help in the world. There'd be 15, 20 student teachers in the back of the room to help you. But right after that the lab schools closed down when public schools started taking student teachers in the 70's. Hard to believe, huh?
HD: It is. I had no idea there was a prohibition against student teachers in the public schools. Well, you said that you were born in Ann Arbor, you grew up in Ann Arbor and now you live in Ann Arbor. Yesterday in the Ann Arbor News, they ran another article about Roger Fraser, the city administrator, and the fact that he does not live in Ann Arbor. He's purchased a new house in Webster Township, not in the city of Ann Arbor, and I was wondering, do you think that makes any real difference at all?
TW: You know, to me, it does.
TW: Yeah, and I'm going to go right out on a limb and say it definitely does. For a person who balances our books and takes care of them, it's sending a message that, Hey, we have high taxes!
HD: So I take it you're probably against the parks millage?
TW: I am, and I want to explain why. The first thing you're going to think is, Wow, what kind of person is that who's going to close down these parks?!
HD: Yeah, Tom, what's wrong, don't you love parks?
TW: I love parks. But let me just explain why. Last year, if you remember, the City was asking for 4 million dollars to cut down the Ash trees. Thank gosh, we said no, the taxpayers did. And they went ahead and cut them down for 1.7 million dollars. Now I'm trying to figure out, where's the other 2.3 million dollars?! You know, I'm going to have people like Mr. Fraser helping me with the numbers, but I do run a successful business in town called All Star Driver Ed ...
HD: ... in fact, I think All Star Driver Ed has amazing name recognition, as contrasted maybe with Tom Wall. A lot of people who are totally aware of All Star Driver Education, don't realize that the guy who owns that is the same guy as Tom Wall, the guy who's running for mayor.
TW: I hope people will find that out before the election! Because I haven't had that much exposure. But the thing is, as we run our business, I know my figures. We've been successful for ten years. It's a small business, we've grown from one employee, myself, to 45.
HD: You have 45 employees?!
TW: Yes, and we have one of the largest driver ed schools in the state of Michigan right now.
HD: How many cars do you guys have?
TW: We probably have about 26. And I always say 'about', because one goes off the road, because we have to fix it or whatever. It sits idle for a while.
HD: So do you actually go out in the cars with students, still?
TW: On occasion I do. When I actually do it and have done it is when a parent will call me up and say that they have a child who has Attention Deficit Disorder and would really want me to do the teaching. Because my background is in special ed, and I'm more attuned to what they can do and what they're strengths and weaknesses are. So I'll go out always in those situations and take the student out. But I still teach in the classroom. I do a holiday class during the holiday break, and then I also teach another class on the weekends.
HD: So you're actually in the classroom on a regular basis, not just on an occasional basis.
TW: Well, not on a regular basis. I teach a couple in the summer time, but I'm not the regular teacher.
HD: A friend of mine, he had a stepson who was in one of your classes and he got a phone call from you one day. You were calling basically to report that this kid was screwin around in class.
TW: Oh! Good!
HD: Is that something you have to do a lot?
TW: Well, I'll tell you why we do that. I think we have to teach the young person, Hey, this is serious business, if you're not mature enough to watch your behavior, then you're not ready to drive. And nobody in Ann Arbor or anywhere else would want you out on the road, because you're not going to obey the rules of the road if you can't obey the simple rules of acting appropriately in the classroom. There was a young man several years ago, that took driver ed with us, and I called the parents up. His last gesture was taking his finger and putting it in an electrical socket to get everyone to laugh during the final test. We go out there and I talked to him outside and he actually is crying, Please Tom, don't fail me, don't make me come back and take the class again! And I looked at him and I said, You go back in and take your test. After the test, the parents came, and he did well on his test, he scored a 93 ...
HD: ... even after sticking his finger in the socket?
TW: After being silly and stupid. He was one of those very gifted young men, who did very well with tests. I still asked him to take the class again. Now this young man had heard some interesting stories as a part of our classes. We have a lot of unique people who come and talk. Tony, who lost his son to a drunk driver, comes in and he really talks from his heart. We don't show gory pictures, we bring in real people, talking about real incidents and people wake up. Another example, a young man about two years ago, you might have heard about it, who lost control of his car, went off the road and killed a woman, a retired teacher, who was an incredible bicyclist, loved nature, even my wife knew her as just a wonderful person. This young man was only sixteen years old when it happened, and he's got to put in some time. So I called him up and he calls me back, and I almost wanted to cry for this young man. He came and talked to the class and he said he reached down for his reading glasses. I notice you wear glasses. Can you drive without those?
HD: Absolutely not.
TW: Same with Jared. Jared could not drive without them. I feel terrible for the family, because Jared killed the family's mother and he tells these kids: You know, if you just take your eye off the road for a second, it could be as bad as me; think about what happened, I only went down to reach for my glasses, because I couldn't see the road, and as soon as I got them on my face, all of a sudden, I hit somebody; I got out and her friend started screaming at me and I don't blame her. He's telling the whole story. Now back to the story about the young man I asked to take the class again. I was happy that the parents agreed to have him come back, because I wasn't going to pass him anyway. I don't charge parents when the kid has to take the class again, because I think that's wrong. At All Star, we feel that if there's a young man who's not able to focus and stay on task, we attack it right away, because we're afraid that person may do bodily harm to other people out on the road. We're the only ones who do that. That's a long story, but back to the budget, I really consider that I'm knowledgeable about our budget. So why would someone who's running for mayor say No to the parks?! I question the budget, because when you ask for 4 million dollars to cut down the Ash trees, why do you only spend 1.7? Get this: in Howell they were cutting them down for $150; in town, we were going to be charged $400 a tree. Now I've got property next to the football stadium and I just had 6 trees cut down for a little less than $215 a tree, and this was right in Ann Arbor.
HD: So it's not that our Ann Arbor trees are so special that they cost more?
TW: Yeah, so what's going on with our City asking for 4 million? And they go ahead and cut them all down for 1.7 million. What's with the rest of the money? Why are you asking us for more money?
HD: So your feeling is that there's really enough money already there in the general fund for the parks that they could accomplish the maintenance that needs to be accomplished?
TW: All I'm saying is, I challenge the City. There's a woman in town whose name is-- I don't know if you know her--Karen ...
HD: ... Karen Sidney?
TW: Karen Sidney is a certified public accountant. She'd do it for free and she's a wonderful person. I say, let Karen go in there, and I'll be the first to apologize if I'm wrong--to Mr. John Hieftje the mayor, and Fraser and all the rest of them, and I'll take them all out to my favorite restaurant, McDonald's. But you know what, I think we'll find something wrong, I really do, because you don't ask for 4 million when you only need 1.7 million. Now, I have a volunteer park program, and the mayor says he has one, too.
HD: This is the Ambassadors of West Park?
TW: Yeah. I don't know if people are aware, but there's over 2000 volunteers in the three or four things that I run for the mentally and physically disadvantaged. Coming right up is the T-Wall B-Ball, and we've been doing this long before I opened a business. I did this as a teacher. I felt that we needed a carnival atmosphere where all the kids would come together and they have a carnival on one side and a basketball tournament on the other.
HD: Is this the one where they get to run down the tunnel into the stadium?
TW: That's another one. That's called the Super Autograph Day at the U of M. What's coming upon November 2nd is the 3-on-3 basketball carnival for special athletes. And they're going to come to Greenhills [High School]. Greenhills closes down, and they team up with a buddy, one might be in a wheelchair, a Down's Syndrome student, just wonderful younger people and older young adults, they come together. They get a T shirt, they get free food from Kroger's--Kroger's gives us everything and I love them, so support them out there, because that's like $2000 worth of food for over 700 athletes. We have the carnival going on one side where they win prizes and all kinds of fun things, and on the other side about 30 percent of the participants play basketball. The reason they came up with that, my son [Brent] was a very good basketball player. He played college ball.
HD: Yeah? Where'd he play?
TW: He played at Fairfield and he actually made the summer NBA league. That's hard to do, because they only take a few of them to fill the roster. I think he played for the Milwaukee Bucs for the summer. He got his degree in education, had a full-ride scholarship. He was the 18th best 3-point shooter in the country during those four years, and he went to the NCAA's, played against Alan Iverson and some big name people. But he was just a quiet type of basketball player. Brent now runs All Star Driver Education, so he takes care of it ...
HD: ... so kids who take classes at All Star have a chance of being taught by a guy who played basketball against Alan Iverson?
TW: Yeah. That's pretty cool. And Brent developed our own book series. Of course, I'm Captain Driver Ed. I'm dressed as a super hero. We have a whole book and video series, we make it fun and innovative. And I think our government needs to be that too.
HD: That's something I wanted to ask you about, actually. I read in the Michigan Daily, you said you were planning to unveil this Super Mayor costume?
TW: They missed the point. I found out later that the writer knows Mr. Hieftje and I believe he was in his [Hieftje's] class [Ed. note: John Hieftje is an Intermittent Lecturer in Public Policy, Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy]. It didn't really matter what I said that day. But I'm sorry, I'm going to say it here: I think humor is good, but of course we have to be serious, too. We've got ten council people and one mayor, and they're all Democrats. I think it's the worst thing to have on any Council where everybody thinks the same. You don't have the stimulation of other people questioning. The mayor has been accused by the Ann Arbor News of being a person who really resents the fact that anyone questions his authority. Now that's been written, so I don't mind saying it, that he doesn't like it when people question his authority. And when that happens, the Ann Arbor News said he 'alienates' himself from these people. And I'm thinking what kind of situation is that??!! Where you want someone running this city, who can't listen to other people, and who is so offended that somebody criticized him?! Right now for example, you could call me a name, and I would show you how cool I would be about it ...
HD: ... I can't think of any names I want to call you right now! [laugh]
TW: Well, you could take a quote from that article that was written. But I took it in good faith and I didn't call him back. I just took it and pinned it up on the wall.
HD: I think it described you as 'eccentric'.
TW: Well, he might be right there [laugh].
HD: But as far as humor goes, I mean, I think I understand your point about the role of humor, and that you can't take yourself so seriously that you can't stand that somebody might disagree with you. But do you worry perhaps that people might see dressing up in tights and a cape as Super Mayor as leading too much with the humorous aspect as opposed to just occasionally injecting humor?
TW: This is interesting. Let me give you an idea of what humor could be. If there's a lot of tension in the meeting, if somebody was coming after me verbally, and I'm mayor, I wouldn't let that tension lie. Whoever the person was, I'd probably get up out of my seat, and say, I'm going to hug you! Just break the ice and hug somebody. And I've done that all my life, because I really mean that hug. You know, just a simple hug. Wendy Woods says the Council is 'clubby'. Certain members, not all of them. But in her primary campaign, she said decisions are made behind closed doors, and I'm thinking, Okaaay, she knows, I don't know. She said to the mayor, What about that rail program that you had your picture taken for in the Ann Arbor News where they came from Howell down through Whitmore Lake into town? He developed that and put it together without even consulting the City Council. You don't do things like that. I'm a person who can look at ten people and say: I need your help. I'm not acting as an individual here. I will not make my own personal agenda, which is what Hieftje does. He makes his own agenda, and he sticks to it, and he doesn't share it with other people, not totally. And if you've got a mayor who alienates people because they question his authority, no wonder we can't gain any ground.
HD: On your website you say, "It is morally wrong when an individual, developer or any other business devotes significant time, energy and money on a project, plays by the rules and complies with the law – then is rejected at the 11th hour by City Council." Is that an allusion to ...
TW: ... that's the Metro 202 McKinley Associates. And I'll put a little bit of humor into it before I answer. I don't know if you saw the Ann Arbor News and the caricature drawing of John Hieftje, where he says, Oh, Metro 202 is going to be great for downtown, it's going to bring people downtown, it's got rental units and good taxes are going to come off it. And then over on the other side of his mouth, it says, No! That's saying two things. That's very confusing to everyone. Metro 202 cost the City a ton of money to okay it up to the point it was. It was already verbally a done deal basically. And Albert Berriz, the CEO of McKinley, said, Ann Arbor's a beautiful town, Ann Arbor will always get certain kinds of developers, but they may not get the good ones. He said this is going to scare away developers.
HD: But in that particular case, I think it was Stephen Rapundalo ...
TW: ... yes ...
HD: ... who introduced a motion to reconsider, and Metro 2002 was approved anyway, even with Mayor Hieftje's second No vote, but it did pass. So why can't we just say, well, it eventually passed, so no harm, no foul?
TW: I would hope that if I had made that stupid a mistake, that I would have said, You know, I'm really sorry to the people of Ann Arbor, it's really hard to know every issue, it's my job to, I just basically misunderstood it. Instead, he just said, Why, the people of Ann Arbor are probably going to vote me in there again anyway. My feeling is: You vote for him, well, quit complaining! Here's an opportunity to put somebody in there, who doesn't have the so-called experience, but does it take experience to pull one of those 202 Metros? Does it take experience to screw up all the things I feel he's screwed up? You know, he calls himself transparent. When he took office, his office used to be very visible. I went to visit him last year for a short meeting, and I thought it was dark dungeon. I looked at his office, and I said if he wants to send a message that he wants to isolate himself in the back somewhere, he certainly is. Me, I would be out front accessible to everyone, shaking hands and talking.
HD: Not to speak for Mayor Hieftje, but I think what he would say in response, is that every Friday, or every other Friday, whatever it is, he has open office hours. And there was the Lunch in Liberty Plaza with the Mayor or something, I'm not sure if that program still exists.
TW: Sure. And you know he says that, but why isn't it broadcast all the time? You know, when FDR had the fireside chats, everyone knew about it. People don't know that he's at some coffee shop, people don't know that he's open to the public. And there's no reason why he can't use CTN for that purpose. I would be more visible. I would put myself out there. And I would let people know that I'm going to be at this location, come and see me, let's talk issues. He says he's out there and talking to people. But I found out through the Rec department that we have a number of young people that go and visit, I believe, Japan. I was asked to come to their fundraiser about a month ago at the Mongolian Barbecue. All the parents there were very upset at the mayor, because when our kids go over to Japan, the dignitaries, the high officials, all honor them with a big banquet--people way higher than Mayor Hieftje. What happens when they come here? He refuses to have his picture taken with them. And they hate that. They want to do a special thing with the mayor, and the mayor says, I don't have time for it. I bet you, there's a lot more people out there that can tell better stories than that about how 'accessible' he is. He's no more accessible than a hermit, or that kid in high school, who never said a word. That's the way I look at Hieftje, compared to me. We need a mayor who's going to be out there. People are afraid to put me in? Well, I've got a successful business, I've been married for 37 years, I haven't committed any crimes, I'm a good person, I have a foundation where I have over 2000 volunteers working for good programs, and yet people say, Well, he doesn't have any experience! And I'm saying I have experience: people experience, and life experience, and business experience.
HD: So let me ask you about these volunteers. How do you get 2000 people to invest their time, and their energy and their talents?
TW: They're wonderful people. I just sell the idea to them. That's the key, to just keep selling the idea. Mayor Hieftje's got a park program, and I called up that volunteer park program. It took two weeks for somebody to call me back and at that point, I had even almost forgotten why I'd called. I was calling because I had started the Ambassador Park Program. I have to be honest with you, because of the campaign, I haven't had the time to work with the Lurie Terrace residents, but I guarantee that if I was mayor, we would not have to ask for a park millage increase. He's got a volunteer park program, but it's basically not doing anything. Although when I debated him, he talked highly about this park program. There's nobody in it! Nobody's done anything. Mine would be to develop each one of the parks to have a core of volunteer people who would take a lot of care in the park.
HD: So for West Park that would be primarily the residents of Lurie Terrace?
TW: And the surrounding residents around there. Because there's a lot of elderly people there. Years ago, Lurie Terrace had a number of people who were not in wheel chairs and didn't have other health issues. There's very few left. But I'm just saying that I would take a program and develop it to heights that Hieftje would never dream of ever going.
HD: Let me just play the devil's advocate here and say, Alright Tom, it's fine to have volunteers picking up trash, but there's more to maintaining parks than picking up trash.
TW: This is actually interesting, Dave. You know what? I asked, What is this millage all about? Now, I asked them, Will this ensure that our grass will be cut? They said, Uhhhhh, not necessarily. So I said, What are we paying for? Well, picking up the trash, uh, and picking up the trash, and uh, picking up the trash. I must have heard it three times. Pretty much that's it. We can get volunteers to do that, if that's why we're asking for an increased parks millage. I met with the superintendent of schools ...
HD: ... this is Todd Roberts, the new one?
TW: Yeah, Todd Roberts, a wonderful young man. I looked at him, and I go, Am I getting old, or what? I went home and I told my wife, That guy is not only good-looking, he's sharp, but he also looks like he could be my son. I must be getting really old. But I told him what I'd like to do. When you go to Greenhills, Gabriel Richard, you can't graduate without a set amount of community hours ...
HD: ... community service hours?
TW: Right. We're not really doing that in our public schools to the tune that I'd like to see it. So what I'm proposing is, we've got young people, I look at them as young innovative minds who can, for example, look at a City Council meeting, and who are very good at filming, who can figure out how to get every Council person, when they talk, on the screen. Some person is talking over in the corner and the video camera doesn't get over to them.
HD: As opposed to someone who's actually speaking at the microphone?
TW: No, I'm talking about actual Council people. Sometimes you don't see them, because the camera doesn't get over quick enough when they make a point. Why not have groups from high schools, who are very talented in this area, volunteer their time to come up with a very good program? CTN is wonderful and I love everything about it ...
HD: ... yeah, I think they generally do a pretty good job, don't they?
TW: You don't see all the Council people when you're watching it. And some of them will say something and it cuts out. Last night, when I was watching a re-run of the Council meeting last week, they go to a behind-closed-doors meeting and all we see on the screen is a shot of this building. What a great opportunity it would be, to put something on there until they come back!
HD: You mean like a performance of some kind are you thinking?
TW: Exactly. For example, when I was a kid, I came to the City Council with 25 other kids from Ann Arbor. It's involving people in our city to be a part of our government. Let's say we need a mural done. Well, there's some great artists in our school system, wonderful young people who would maybe paint a mural. Why are we paying people to do these things? For the parks millage, what I say is, put Karen Sidney in there, check the books out, and I'll apologize if it's fine, put it back on the ballot, we'll have another election in the spring, let's approve it. Tom Wall will say, Hey, I'm really sorry and that's the end of it. But why not let her check the books? I challenge Mayor Hieftje to let that happen, but he will not let her go in there and check, because maybe he's got something hidden. Maybe not, and if not, then I'll apologize. It's worth checking, if you're asking people to come up with 30 or 80 dollars [on a $250,00 home] for an increase in the park millage. I've got a neighbor behind me. She said, Tom, guess what, I'm selling my house. I said, Oh, Diane, why are you doing that? She said, I can't afford the taxes. Get this: our water meter system, 7 million dollars we paid for it. Now what the crap was wrong with the meter people just walking around to the house the way it was?
HD: Oh, this is the device--I think I remember when they installed it--it sends out a radio signal so they don't have to check it manually?
TW: Yeah, but they can put a little thing outside so when the meter reader comes over he clicks it and a lot of them are still being done that way. It's not fool-proof. And we spent 7 million dollars! Now here's the funny part. What does it really do? Well, Dave, we can sit home and say, Hey honey, how much water did we use last month? Let's check it! That's what we're paying 7 million for. Who cares? For 7 million dollars! If we're hurting for money, why are we doing things like that? Mayor Hiefje's bragging about a list of people who endorse him, and they were just flying down one after another and then right afterwards, I looked at him and I said, Hey, can I have some of those, just a few? You probably wouldn't miss them! I don't even think he knew what he was doing, but he has that luxury. You know what, when he came in 2000, I think he was pretty good. He was a people mayor, he really was. But you know, you stay in office long enough, you get a little stale. And you start talking development, big business and everything else, he changed.
HD: He came in right after Ingrid Sheldon left office, right? And I think it was maybe Jane Lumm who ran for the Republican Party that year? But anyway, I think the transition was Ingrid Sheldon to Hieftje, and he took over the mayor's office from her. And she certainly, by reputation anyway, was very much a mayor of the people, she'd walk down the street and people would recognize her and say hello and she'd stop and talk and if people invited her to things, she'd actually show up.
TW: And she worked well with the Council and I would do that. I'm really good with people, at bringing people together to get things solved.
HD: So I was thinking maybe the difference you've noticed in Hieftje's performance as mayor from the first couple of years to now, reflects the difference in expectations that people had of a mayor of Ann Arbor while Ingrid was in office. So maybe Hieftje rose to meet the expectations that people had based on Ingrid, for the first couple of years at least, to be more outgoing and friendly and to talk to people on the street. But now that he's been in office that he's lost sight of the fact that there's a number of people who really look for that in their mayor? There's more to it that that though, right?
TW: Yes, but the thing is, I'm a quick learner. I've only been campaigning for four weeks. He's had twelve years of it. So when we debated [on CTN], afterwards I said, Ugh, why didn't I say that or why didn't I say this? People don't realize it, but I've done a lot of things over my years. At one time, I thought I'd like to get into athletic administration and I was still teaching at Willow Run Schools. I went to Red Berenson, the hockey coach, and said, Could I market your hockey team? And he said, I'd love for you to! And back then, the only one that filled up, quite honestly, in the mid-80's around '87 was the Michigan State game. Other than that, there'd be three or four thousand people at the hockey game.
TW: Believe it or not, it wasn't filled. So what I did was I increased attendance. This is what Red Berenson said about me in a letter: "He is an enthusiastic high-energy positive person. He is more than a talker, he is a doer and he gets things done. He handles himself very well with both familiar and unfamiliar people. I have very good feedback on his approach and people skills. He is creative and open-minded and not easily discouraged." I did this all in 7 months. I was in the final pool of three for the associate athletic director at Eastern Michigan in a national search. I learn the job fast. To run Camp Al-Gon-Quian, I learned the camping business. There was a lot of business to learn, and I learned it all in a short time. When I went in, we only had 30 to 40 percent occupancy in the camp. When I left after three years, I had it full. That's the kind of person I am. I'm a hard worker. I wish we could have another debate today with the mayor, because I would know from my past experience, because I learn quickly what I should have said and could have said, and I didn't say.
HD: So what would you say would be your benchmarking goals for your performance as mayor? So for the hockey team you can look at the attendance at games, or for the camp, you can look at occupancy rates. What kind of benchmark would you define as mayor to determine if you're succeeding or not? Voter participation or something?
TW: No, the first thing I would do as mayor--and it's going to be tough, but I'm still confident I'm going to win, I really am. I'm not a person running for this office for the purpose of making people more aware of why Hieftje is doing a poor job. I'm running because I can do a better job, and the first thing that I would do is meet with the Council people, because I've never talked to any of them. I don't know one Council person.
HD: Would you meet individually?
TW: If there is time. You know, go out for a coffee or a tea or something, and talk with them, let them know that I am a mayor who will listen to their concerns, who will not get upset. I think argument is good in Council, I think it's the best thing in the world. And I want a lot of it. When it's all over at the end of the night, though, then, Hey, you're my best friend. That's the way I live my life. I don't hold grudges or hold anything against anyone. Right now you're looking at a Council, you've got some people not aware of issues, and then they're voting because the mayor says, Go ahead! And that's what you get with a one-party system. You need somebody up front who's going to be different and say, Let's look at this from all the angles. The budget is going to be the biggest thing. I would bring in Karen Sidney, and I would tell them, Karen is going to check the books. Because they need to be checked.
HD: Does it have to be Karen, or could it be somebody else like Karen?
TW: I don't want to pay someone to do it. Karen will do it for free--at least I hope she will! [laugh] And there's a lot of other people like Karen who would help. We cannot have increased taxes here in this town at this point. We've got to find a way to do it and the volunteerism that I've been successful with, the 3-on-3 basketball, the hot dog stand that I have out in front of house over there, ...
HD: ... hot dog stand?
TW: We have a hot dog stand where we have the Pioneer Hockey Team, parents and everybody, come together. We get over $1000 donation from Sam's Club to buy the hot dogs. We run a hot dog stand, during the game, right on the front lawn with all the mentally and physically disabled kids running it.
HD: Ohh, this is the North End Zone, is that what it's called?
TW: Yeah, it's called the North End Zone and all my kids, young adults, they work the stand and it's great. Last week I said, Yolanda, everything is one dollar, and you know how to do this! And she said, Okay, Mr. Wall! And she ran that store: One dollar, thank you! And when there was big cash, she'd yell for me, Mr. Wall, Tom! And I'd come over while I was trying to park cars. But this is the cool thing. In November, we'll get letters from all the teachers, hardship cases. The hockey team at Pioneer High School--the coach, Steve Armstrong, is wonderful, he said, I want my kids to know that there's something out there that they don't take for granted, that there are people out there who can't pay heating bills, there are people out there who don't have enough money for coats, I want them to see that. Because many times hockey players do have money--they have to, to play the sport, it's so expensive. So Pioneer takes their cut, so their fundraiser gets money, and then this money goes into a hat, and the Pioneer team comes back and they're going to read these very sad letters and then they elect who gets what. So they read a letter that says, We don't have any more money for heat and we living right now with some lanterns to keep us warm. These are true stories. And it's hard to believe, but being a teacher in Willow Run Schools, I saw a lot of that. I know I'm getting off the track, but you say, what is it that makes you different, that makes people rally behind a cause? That's what I'm good at.
HD: Do you think that people are maybe a little afraid to say No to you?
TW: No, I don't get on my hands and knees and cry, but I don't take No for an answer. And I'm always there. And finally people will say, Well, maybe we could do something like that. It took me two years to find one group, and I got the Pioneer hockey team. Nobody wanted to do it. But back to the issues, I think a big part is the Council. The budget's going to be the second thing.
HD: Related to the budget, I wanted to ask you about taxes, because you said we can't raise taxes. And you also said something like you don't hold grudges. And you mentioned the property you own that's adjacent to the U of M ...
TW: ... [laugh] yeah, well, I'd love to talk about that ...
HD: ... well, putting all of those things together--and I sort of find it hard to believe that you don't hold a bit of a grudge against the U of M based on your experience over the property [laugh]--the University doesn't pay property taxes, but one way to go after University money, to collect some money from the University at least indirectly, would be to have some kind of city income tax. It's something that Ypsilanti's considering, I think, way more seriously than we are in Ann Arbor, because they're financially in a bit more dire straits than we are at the moment. So if you tax University employees wages who don't live in the city, and there's a lot who don't actually live in the city who work at the U.--and of course you'd be taxing wages from all employers within the city, I guess--that would represent revenue above and beyond what we're currently getting. So I'm wondering if that's something you'd contemplate, or if that's something you'd reject out of hand, just because it'd be an additional tax?
TW: You know, I'm really glad you brought up the U of M. Obviously, they're the largest group of employees in the city, 27,000 strong, I think. I heard that perhaps only 1,500 of them actually live in the city of Ann Arbor. They're not paying anything. I'm going to go out on a limb here, I think that first of all that I may say Yes [to a city income tax]. But voters need to know, like for you owning a home in Ann Arbor, you're not going to get double-taxed. It's not going to happen that way. What it is, is it's just going to be extra revenue from people who work in the city and leave the city, who use our city an then take off. And that's something that I'll probably lose some votes on, but hey, I'm not suppose to win anyway, so let it fly! But I really want to make this very clear: for a homeowner who's paying taxes in this town, you would not pay any more. One offsets the other. So please don't think that I'm going to double-tax you. Heck no. I don't want to be double-taxed, because I own too much property right now.
HD: Does it worry you though that people might say, Hmm, do I want to take a job working for a company in the city of Ann Arbor and pay that city income tax, or take a job with this other company in a township that doesn't have this extra tax? Or if I'm running a company, like if I'm Google, for example, I might say, Okay, jeez, I'll just build a campus out in a cornfield somewhere, because if I locate in the city, my employees who don't live here will have to pay a city income tax.
TW: You're right, that could very well alienate some companies. But we're talking about close to 27,000 University people who work in this town. Or Pfizer people who work in this town. We gave them a great tax break. Now that tax break was good, but we don't need something like [Broadway Village in] Lower Town. I beat my head up against the wall and I think, What were we doing with this one? The mayor said, Let's do it, it's good idea! And they allow follow like little puppets. Sometimes not. But sometimes they do. For people who don't know where that is, if you remember going over the bridge, Gandy Dancer is down below, it's straight ahead, there used to be a Kroger store there, well now that's closed. It's a 180-million-dollar project. The developer said, Look, I'll put up 120 million, but I'm asking the city to give me another 40 million. Basically it's not a loan, it's a big-time gift. Now the mayor says, Cities do this all the time! Bull. What the cities do, the smart ones, they do what we did with Pfizer. Now we were smart with Pfizer. Hey, we've got to give them a tax break, because they've got all these people here and they were talking about moving away and going back to New Jersey. Good idea. Anybody who was involved in that, good idea. I'm in favor of that. But I'm not in favor of having developers come up and say, Hey, can I borrow 40 million dollars? No! We are not a lending institution. I know that they were going to issue bonds and all of that, but here's the key. If I was elected mayor, I would make sure that we would have a strong lien on that property. I heard that they were going to put in a fitness place [as a tenant]. I don't know about you, Dave, but fitness places come and go as quick as eating an ice cream cone. They go pretty darn fast. Fitness??!! We're going to get taxes off of that business?! That's how we're going to get paid back at the City?? That's a risk. Businesses come and go all the time. What happens if he goes belly up? That's where we get a lien on that property, so the City owns it if he can't pay his taxes. And I'll bet you they're not going to do that. And that would be the stupidest thing, for the City not to get a lien on that property. And if I'm not mayor, that thing's going ahead. Here's another thing that bothers me. Down across the street from Sweetwaters, you're drinking your coffee, you look across the street and here's a new building planned on a historic site. We did it also with the building that's going up at Kerrytown called the Gallery.
HD: Wait up, Sweetwaters? I'm not sure ...
TW: ... there's a corner lot right across the street from Sweetwaters ...
HD: ... oh, there's an old gas station or something there now?
TW: Yeah, and they're going to build a building that looks like it belongs in the Jetsons.
HD: You've seen drawings of it then?
TW: Yeah, it's on the block and it's going to be approved. If I'm mayor, I'm going to stop that. And I'll tell you why. That is a historic area. We have Downtown Home and Garden, we have old buildings across on the other side, we had Grizzly Peak renovate that corner lot. It is the last of section of a group of old buildings. Now we're going to build a young building and stick it right in that little tiny lot??!! I say, it's a great building--somewhere else. But right there, it has to be an old building that continues right to the corner.
HD: I'm trying to remember, is this the one that's supposed to be super environmentally-friendly, with composting toilets and LED lights and whatnot?
TW: Well, outside it looks like it belongs in the 21st Century and it doesn't belong on that block. Whether it's LED lights or not. That's another thing: I can see it with traffic lights--my gosh, we don't need a light to got out. If you put an LED in there and it'll last a long time, and it's energy efficient and it's good for the environment. And that's good. The fact is, they're very expensive. Now when we can get up on a ladder and change a light bulb, why are we paying an enormous amount of money for light bulbs for areas we can easily get to? We're not talking about traffic lights. Traffic lights, we need those things working all the time, but we don't need the whole city like that, because right now we don't have the money to buy these things. They are terribly expensive, so there's another budget cut. Another thing I want to mention to you, I heard that one of our Council people went to our dump site ...
HD: ... you're talking about the landfill?
TW: The landfill, yes, I'm sorry, see you're teaching me words all the time! [laugh]
HD: [laugh] No, I mean I'm just trying to clarify to make sure we're talking about the same thing!
TW: Well, I'm glad. So out at the landfill, there was some rust on our trucks and these trucks only had 30,000 miles and some of them 25,000. The mentality here is, We need to buy all new trucks, because there's rust on the trucks! And the City did it! You know what we do at the driver ed school? We take our cars over to the high school shop, give a donation to the school, or pay the kid if we can, but usually it's a donation to the auto shop program or whatever. But we have them sand it down, fix it, and we get it back on the street and I guarantee you the car will look brand new. And we didn't get rid of it, because that would be a waste of money. There's this attitude, We're Ann Arbor, we're Ann Arbor, we have to buy that 7 million-dollar water meter system. That's a bunch of garbage. Because we're Ann Arbor?? We can really cut, and I think I'll cut a lot. Not people working, but I'll cut waste, waste that we'll find out is all over the place. Karen Sidney says there's so much waste going on out there. I say, How do you know this? The Freedom of Information Act. How many people use the Freedom of Information Act? Probably not too many people. Because we've got jobs, we work.
HD: It can also be kind of arduous, too, to comply. And, ideally, if it's information, that's really needed or information that's legitimately useful, I'd think that with the right approach, the City would just provide the information without having to go through a FOIA.
TW: Exactly. And if I'm mayor, I will not hide anything from our tax payers. I will be honest, I'm not a politician. I'm a public servant. I'll never be a politician. Now sometimes you go into closed sessions because there may be an employee who's pretty much screwed up. Well, you're not going to put that out there.
HD: Or like to maintain client-attorney privilege and whatnot.
TW: You mentioned the University of Michigan, and I wanted to get back to that because back about two years ago, I had an area of property that they promised me I could use. It was to the right of the driveway. I have a letter from the U of M, saying that it was going to go to their lawyers, but that it was going to be okay, and they let me put my picnic tables out there and everything. It was a wooded area ...
HD: ... this was a break area for the driver ed students?
TW: Yeah, but also I allowed all the special education classrooms to come to the facility. They can use it any time they want. As a matter or fact, we have one group coming for the Halloween party. We have a clubhouse with a fireplace and I love to give it to anybody, I don't charge them--church group or whoever wants to use it. So this is an area that's used for parties for my special-needs kids as well. Now there was another area right behind us. And I thought I would like to see if the U of M would let me use that too. So what happened was, I was selected be a finalist for the Ann Arbor News Citizen of the Year. They asked me to go a get-together, and I sat next to Mary Sue Coleman. I said, Hi President Coleman! And she said, Call me Mary Sue! So I will always call her Mary Sue! Anyway, Mary Sue gave a speech that day and her speech was about the fact that the University of Michigan needs to be more sensitive to businesses that they deal with. She even looked over to her people, because they were at the next table, and said, Many times my people are tougher than they should be, but we're working on it. So I remembered that and I said, Hey, Mary Sue, I'm having a little problem with a piece of land that borders my property, which the U of M owns, and she said, Go ahead and go through the process. So I did. I wanted to use this property, which was a wooded area, not being used, and I spent $9000 to clean up this woods where I found beer bottles, needles, all kinds of things, and opened this park up to anyone who wants to use it.
HD: So this was U of M property, though?
TW: It was U of M property and if anyone walks by, come along the driveway and look at 1011 South Main, and look at a six-foot fence, because that's what they put up. I asked my attorney--he's practiced real estate law in Ann Arbor for over 35 years--and he said, I'm not surprised, when the University has any problems with anybody in Ann Arbor, they put up a fence. When I asked about the property, I took it from the bottom up. I was very cordial, very polite, they could never say I wasn't. So I went up the ladder of decision-making and I got to the top, because no one down below ever returned my calls at six different stations. And I got to the top and they said, go back down to the bottom. And I said, Is Mary Sue there? She would know me, because I was up for Citizen of the Year, and I met her and I would like to talk to her, if she tells me No then I will walk away and that would be the end of it. I wanted to use the property behind our building which no one was using. Absolutely no one was using it. Finally I get a letter from the attorney's office and it's from a guy named Marvin Krislov ...
HD: ... the University's top legal dog!
TW: Top dog! And I'm sure that Marvin doesn't like Tom Wall, and I could care less. The letter said, Get those picnic tables off the grounds, we're putting up a fence, and No to that additional area back there, too! So they took away what I had been using that they had said in a letter before that I could use. And they told me to quit asking questions about the other property and we're building a fence and that's the end of it. I called him up and Marvin Krislov didn't want to talk to me, he's so high and mighty. Nobody is that high and mighty. If I'm mayor, I will talk to people. I will talk to everybody and anybody. I will never put myself higher, and if I do, Dave, then please remind me, because I'll quit being mayor if I can't be good with people.
HD: I would just observe that right now on the teeter totter that you are lower than me.
TW: [laugh] I have to because my hips are shot. I've got pins in my hips. If I stay like this, is that alright?
HD: That's cool.
TW: I've had three hip surgeries, but my wife always says, Just say two, you confuse people, because you don't have three hips! My wife, I love her, she's my best friend, but she's also--I don't like that word 'devil's advocate'--but she will always let me know. It was around 9 or 10 years ago, I went to bed watching the Superman movie, and I had a dream in the middle of the night that I wanted to be a super hero, and I woke up that morning saying to myself, I'm going to be a person called Captain Driver Ed, and I'm going to wear a cape. And my wife was sipping tea at the table, and I had my coffee, and I said, You sew, and could you possibly make it for me if I get the pattern? I imagine it will be like red with yellow tights, I don't know, I'm still working on the color, and I have these glasses and they're really cool and they're yellow and red and I'm going to wear those, and I want a bandana that says Captain Driver Ed and I want to do that, I want to be a super hero! And she looked at me and she says, Here you go, you've got your business going real good, you've built your business up, you're over at Zion Lutheran Church, you're doing real good, you've got ten or fifteen kids in your class ...
HD: ... is that where you go to church?
TW: No, that was the first place we had rented, because I had it at my house and at first I would have one or two people come to my class ten years ago and finally when I had twenty-three people, my wife came into the house and she said, C'mere. And she pulled me into the kitchen, and she said, You're not using the house any more! And I said, Where am I supposed to go? And she said, I will help you find a place. So I moved it over to Zion Lutheran Church. But she said to me, You're going to ruin your business now, with this stupid little super hero outfit! So I turned to her and I said, Does this mean you're not going to sew it for me? And she said, Uh, Yeah! And that was the end of that. But I still did it without her. I've got to do those things, because I really believed that that would be a good way to get people to stay focussed on driver ed. Because driver ed can be boring, and you have to have some fun stuff going on to clue them in.
HD: So the Super Mayor costume ...
TW: ... I never did that. I told the kid interviewing me--and he was a young kid--I told him I was thinking of doing it, but I'm not sure.
HD: So it was more in jest or in speculation?
TW: Yeah, it wasn't: I'm going to do this! I told him I might do it, and that I'd give him a call if I do. But I said the purpose of that would be to get the interest of the students first, and then I would have a microphone and talk serious issues with them. It wasn't just to be clowning around and joking around, I would be there for a purpose which was to get their interest, number one, and then number two, talk serious issues.
HD: You know, sometimes I think I'm confronted with the same phenomenon. When I invite people over to take a teeter totter ride, their immediate thought is, Well, this can't be serious. So I lead with something that's apparently not at all serious and is just absurd, but then try to move to something more substantive once we actually get onto the teeter totter. So it's a similar strategy to yours, to lead with something that's humorful ...
TW: ... to loosen everybody up, like you do ...
HD: ... but then you once you get someone to pay attention for five seconds, you try to expand that five seconds into a longer period of time where you can actually prove that you are actually serious.
TW: Well, if I went out there and looked like a 'candidate' and just sat out there in a suit and tie on, I guarantee you, not too many people would walk by.
HD: But you did dress sharp for the CTN debate.
TW: Yeah [laugh], I went out and bought a suit for that one. And I will have to dress up as mayor sometimes, because you're representing the city. The other stuff is going to come natural for me, but the dressing up is really a tough task for me. One other thing I do want to say on the development issues that I didn't get a chance to say. Calthorpe wrote up a report and we spent a lot of money on it. And the only thing that people have said--Council people and candidates for Council--they've said, The good thing that came from it is, it brought people together. Well, I'll tell you what, we didn't need a Calthorpe report to bring people together!! I don't know how many thousands of dollars we paid for that. I don't care what they say, we still don't have a system where all parties--greenway people, the DDA working together, the Sierra Club working together--we don't have a system where we all work together in the early stages. It's important to work together in the early stages, that's the key. The Calthorpe report said we need to get these groups involved early on. We only did it that one time. We have them out there, but they're not a body of people who continue to come together. When I run my volunteerism, I don't have to do everything and it still runs smooth. I let Greenhills now run the show. They called me the other day, and said, Instead of having sandwiches, can we go with pizza, Tom? And I said, That's a good idea, and I've had pizza before, but I just want to share with you what happened the last time we did pizza. It came from them, and I don't want to shoot them down.
People say, Do you have any political experience? I say, Yeah, as president of my student council in high school! [laugh] I ran for president of Slauson Junior High and lost by two votes. Then transferred over to U. High. So I wanted to share with you a song my mother wrote for me, this campaign song. It goes like this [singing]:
We've been working mighty late,
to support our candidate,
now we're shouting, here's our call,
get on the ball and vote for Wall!
Get on the ball and vote for Wall!
Get on the ball and vote for Wall!
Get on the ball and vote for Wall!
Get on the ball and vote ... for ... Wall!
And actually what I'm trying to do is get a group to go downtown in Ann Arbor--you know like they do on a Friday and Saturday night--and sing that song. And my wife says, Well, you're pretty much going to ruin your chances of being mayor with that. And I go, Maybe so, but it's just a song, and it's not hurting anyone.
HD: So is your mother still living?
TW: No, she passed away a long time ago in '75. She was only 53. Betty Anne Nordman, everybody knew her, she was very popular. My father also passed away, he did a degree at Michigan and a degree at Notre Dame and a degree out at Cal Berkeley, a very intelligent man. And he was very serious. But you know there was a question you were asking, that I wanted to say a little bit more on, about the University of Michigan.
HD: Yeah, are you sure you don't hold a grudge against them?
TW: Yes, I was bitter with the U of M. I grew up saying, Go Blue! I grew up teaching my kids those words ...
HD: ... there's a photograph on your campaign website of--now I realize the man is probably your father, not you--and you're one of the three little boys ...
TW: ... I'm the little guy in the far corner the youngest little guy, and we're all wearing ...
HD: ... the sweaters with the block 'M' for Michigan sweaters.
TW: That's the way we were brought up. I love the University of Michigan and I still love the University of Michigan. But what we're talking about, Dave, and I've finally realized this, is we're not talking about the U of M. We're talking about one or two people, who have a lot of power and call a lot of shots. And those are the people, and I'm sorry, but Mary Sue employs them. And Mary Sue needs to talk to them. If only they would have just said, Tom, here's the situation, we're going to take away what we've already given you over here and you need to put this to rest. If I had heard that from the highest level, that's all I would have needed: communication. I would be stupid if I continued to push the issue. Because if they had told me, We may take away what we've already allowed you to use, why don't we just let it lay? Instead, they paid 60 or 70 thousand dollars to ...
HD: ... to build a fence?
TW: To build a fence. Also, we have a parking lot behind the stadium they said they needed. There haven't been but maybe five or ten cars parked there ever since they built it. They don't need it. They didn't even know that property existed when I brought it to their attention. People will say, But Tom, there's a liability issue. Bull. I insured that property. I was responsible. If anyone got hurt, it would come down on me, not U of M. Jim Kosteva is the top community relations person for the U of M, he's the one who works as a buffer between the citizens of Ann Arbor and the University. I took Jim Kosteva out the side of my door and I said, Guys, this is really important here, I'm asking you for one thing. I have a lot of wheel-chair kids who use my facility, and here we have this exit here, so when they come out, they can still go to the left, but could you possibly just move the fence another two feet out--it's going to be ugly as it is--just to allow my wheelchair kids to have two options, go right or go left. It's not going to matter to you, but it will matter to me. The comment was, That's your problem, you're the one who built the door over there. And I said, Well, I didn't know that you were going to build a fence in a wooded area like this. Are you serious, you can't move that fence? That's the arrogance of a few people who work for the University. What I'm saying is, Mary Sue needs to talk to maybe just one or two people.
HD: Do you think that it's arrogance ...
TW: ... it's power, a tremendous amount of power.
HD: But I'm wondering if it's perhaps fear on the part of people who work for the University to exercise their own judgement, as opposed to hiding behind the institution of the University. So the safe play in all cases is going to be to say, No. The safe play is to ask, Do I have to do this? And if the answer is no, then people are going to keep their heads down and do nothing. So it's a risk to say to Tom Wall, Okay, Tom we're going to look at your situation on the merits of the individual situation as opposed to applying a general rule. It's riskier to make that decision to say, Sure, Tom, you can use this U of M property or we'll just sell it to you ...
TW: ... but not really riskier. It's called communication, that's all it is. A quick phone call saying, Tom Wall, we've already given you this other property, remember that. I paid $9000 to clean it up, and I had the use of that. I had it insured, so if anyone had gotten hurt, I was responsible for it. I was now asking for a chunk of property they didn't even know existed. At that level, this where the University of Michigan needs to know that we are neighbors in their backyard. We need to be treated with fairness and respect. It's called communication. Dave, you're into communicating, and I am as well. I think the City is not. And I can bring that forward as a leader up front. The Ann Arbor News said Hieftje's not a leader and he can't be with what happened with Metro 202. He needs to take initiative and be a leader. With little or no experience in government, I would be a tremendous leader. I think I would truly make a difference. If you could see what the city would be like in ten years with Mayor Hieftje, and then look at what it would be with Tom Wall, I think people would see an incredible difference. One thing we are struggling with is how we're going to pay for a new police station. We do need a new police station, but we don't need a new City Hall. We've got vacant buildings that we've gotten out of. The City Hall people don't have to be together, but the police station does. I've been down to the station and looked at that holding cell. That jail is not good for one-time offenders, a young person, say. I've been to that jail twice: two young people over the last ten years have called me because they couldn't reach their parents. I always tell them at All Star Driver Ed, If you're ever in a situation where you have no one to call, you call us. I got two calls. I went down with one and I talked to her and I couldn't believe it, a first-time offender. She had never drank before, she just happened to have one drink and it was drunk driving, tail light was out. Locked up in jail with everybody else, criminals, tough people. And there's a little monitor that comes up, and a steel door with a little cut, you can't see anything that's going on over here. The monitor picks it up, but what happens if that guy is fingerprinting? Nobody's watching the monitor, and something serious could happen to kids or to young people. So my feeling is we do need a new police station. Here's the key: The U of M and the City, we should have a relationship, and I would have that. Mary Sue Coleman was talking to Mr. [Stephen M.] Ross, who has 100 million dollars to donate. You know what, come on, Mary Sue, how about help us out here, and pointing out to him that we need a new police station. But we don't have a relationship with the U of M. I'd like Mary Sue to say, You know, our city needs a new police station, is it possible, Mr. Ross, that you could give another million dollars just for that? What is so wrong with that? [Ed. note: The $100 million dollar gift to the UM School of Business from Stephen Ross was the largest gift to UM in its history and the largest gift ever made to any business school in the U.S.]
HD: I think maybe Mary Sue might point to this fire truck that was given as a gift to the City?
TW: I'm glad you brought that up. Let me tell you how that came about. I went to see the mayor two years ago about my city property and the U of M. That's when I saw this dark dungeon of an office way in the back with the lawyers. I said to the mayor, John, can you help me with this problem? And he said, Oh, I read about that, you want me to help you? And he smiled, and he said, They pretty much tell me what to do, and when to do it and how to do it, they are in control of the city of Ann Arbor and I don't have any control. When I sit there and listen to the mayor say, We have better relationships with the University than ever before! And Wendy Woods says, Better relationships than ever before! I say, What's better?!
HD: I know Tom Crawford, the CFO for the City, said when he was here on the totter that he felt that the relationships between the City and the University were at a historic high.
TW: They're high because the U of M tells us what to do, when to do it, how to do it, where to do it. Basically, we're whipping people. We pretty much do what they tell us to do. So I turn to the mayor and he says to me--and he denies this, but I thought I was listening to it pretty good, so I'd love for him to show me the books and then I'll apologize if I'm wrong--he said to me, Let me give you an example, I sent an invoice to the U of M to pay 1.9 million dollars.
HD: This was for?
TW: This was for a fire truck and two people in the fire truck 24 hours around-the-clock to man the nuclear plant on U of M's campus. So I said to him, So what happened? He said, They gave us a check for $300,000. I said, Well what happened to the million plus you were supposed to get? Did you ever ask for it? No. Does this happen a lot? Not yes, just a head shake. So we've got a great relationship going with the U of M! They build whatever they want, when they want to build it. The Frieze Building, for example, they let that old Pioneer High School rot, so they could say to the public, that it would cost too much to repair it.
HD: Your mom actually went to high school in the Frieze Building, right?
TW: Yeah, and we loved it and but that's okay. The Frieze Building, the front part of it should have been saved, the back part is kind of messed up. I say, tear that away and if you've got to build that stupid 500-people resident hall, then do it, but put in some parking! There's no parking! It's going to be the ugliest thing, the people of Ann Arbor will wish that they had have fought hard to keep that alive. Back to the bill for the fire protection, right about that time you drew reference to, the U of M felt a little guilty, because they only paid $300,000. So they said, Let's buy them a couple of trucks to the tune of $400,000. That's how that all came about. But let's figure it out. They paid us $300,000 then they gave us $400,000 with the trucks. That's $700,000. Minus 1.9 million, um, isn't that 1.2 million dollars that we didn't get that we should've got? That will stop. Not everybody up in Lansing says, Go Blue! But I just found out we have a lobbyist that the City pays to talk to people up in Lansing.
TW: Yeah, somebody told me that, somebody we give money to ...
HD: ... alright!
TW: I heard that, so I could be wrong. I'm sorry if I'm wrong about that. And the thing is, if we have a lobbyist up there, we tell that lobbyist, Okay, go to work! Here's what's going on down here and it's not fair. And I don't blame the University, they're only getting a certain percent of the tax money ...
HD: ... yeah, I think from the perspective of the University, they would say, Gosh, we can't make the legislature give us money!
TW: No, but legislature can say, Here's a situation that needs to stop, because they're doing this to a lot of people in Ann Arbor. People don't come forward, because I'm the only stupid one that's not afraid to fight U of M. I had to write Marvin Krislov a note to say I'd like to talk to him about this, and then afterwards he told me to go back down to the bottom. This is not more than a month ago, I wrote him a note and said, Hey, Marvin, I'm running for mayor, would you give me a donation?
TW: I emailed Mary Sue and I said, I'm naming my fence after you! When I came back and saw the fence up, I said, I'm calling it the Mary Sue ...
HD: ... the Mary Sue Memorial Fence?
TW: Not 'Memorial', just the Mary Sue Fence. I don't know if Mary Sue even really knows me. That's the kind of person I am. I'm a fighter for you. I'll go to work for you, and I'll fight for people in Ann Arbor and their rights. If things are unfair, I'll go to work for you for that. The thing is, I am one of the few people out there who are like me. There aren't too many Tom Walls. And quite honestly, I'm not running again. I'm giving the opportunity to the people of Ann Arbor to say, Let's give this guy a shot, because what we've got going isn't going. Let me run with it and I guarantee you will see some incredible things happen in Ann Arbor that you've never seen before. People say, Why don't you run for Council instead of mayor? I'm one of those people who needs to be more in a position where I can lead. And I feel I can do that.
HD: That sounds like a good final word.
TW: That's fine with me!
HD: So I'd like to thank you for coming to ride the teeter totter.
TW: Dave, I really appreciate it!
[Ed. note: Regarding Tom Wall's treatment by University of Michigan staff in connection with his attempt to put some U of M property to good use, the obvious moral to the tale is, You can't knock down a Wall by building a fence.]