Paul Schreiber

Paul Schreiber
Democratic Mayoral
Primary Winner
Ypsilanti, Michigan;
electronics engineer

Tottered on: 30 October 2006
Temperature: 67 F
Ceiling: partly sunny
Ground: half-raked
Wind: NE at 10 mph

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TT with HD: Paul Schreiber

HD: So did you have a chance to listen through the whole Ypsisongs collection?

PS: Yes, I did!.

HD: Did any one particular track strike you as an instant 'favorite'?

PS: I listened to it once all the way through, and I liked the acoustic versions a little more. I'm a little less enamored of the thrash-punk Ypsilanti genre.

HD: Well, I'll tell you, I spent a lot of the day raking leaves, and the song that I had going through my head was the Sam Vail number. "View from an Upstairs Window" has ...

PS: ... I think I remember something about leaves ...

HD: ... yeah, it has a line something like 'the leaves fall down in Ypsi' So I kind of had that going through my head the whole afternoon. As you can see, I didn't make all the leaves go away.

PS: Well, you did pretty well, though.

HD: I worry that there's just going to me more that fall, and I don't want to put a whole lot of effort into it before they're all done.

PS: [looking overhead at bare branches] I think they're done!

HD: But there's a few behind you, though, that still have a lot of leaves.

PS: Let's see, that way is north [Ed. note: the direction PS is facing], right?

HD: Yeah.

PS: So they're going to be blowing that way most likely [away from your yard], if you get a north-west wind.

HD: That's a good point. So maybe I should just get on the stick and rake them, is that what you're saying?

PS: [laugh]

HD: So do you have a lot of leaves to rake? A lot of yard?

PS: Oh, yeah. I was out all day yesterday and only got about half-way done. Our house is was an architect-designed house that we bought in 1985. Dr. Williamson, who we later found out delivered a lot of people who live in Ypsilanti, originally designed the house and lived in it. We bought the house from his widow, so we're the second owners, ...

HD: ... when you say he 'designed' the house, he worked with an architect to ...

PS: ... right.

HD: Got it.

PS: And he was actually in the construction business. He put himself through medical school by being in the construction business.

HD: Really?!

PS: So there's some things that he did that maybe other people wouldn't have done.

HD: The house is a little quirky?

PS: No, no, it's not. Just in that maybe like a wall is kind of plastered up a little weird in the basement. Nothing that's really important. There is one spot though, where the wall comes and it kind of turns and it goes between two windows. There's one window in one room and another window in the other room, so the wall's got this little curve, where you can see the guys went, Whoah, we missed this one by about 3 inches.

HD: Okay, well, Halloween's coming up tomorrow, are you giving out anything good?

PS: I always go for the chocolate, I like those Reese's peanut butter cups ...

HD: ... like the full-sized ones?!

PS: The small ones, one-cup per package. And Baby Ruth bars.

HD: You decorate the house at all?

PS: No, I'm not creative at all and neither is my wife.

HD: Do you take turns manning the door to distribute the treats, or?

PS: She's actually going to be out of town tomorrow, so I'll be manning the door, and then I've got a meeting to go to. My life has turned into single meetings per night, sometimes double meetings per night.

HD: Oh yeah? This is a function of having won the Democratic primary?

PS: Yeah.

HD: Is there any awkwardness to the fact that basically, in effect, you're the mayor-elect, even though you haven't actually won the election yet, not even like Ann Arbor, where there's an independent candidate challenging?

PS: As somebody said when I won the primary in August, We have a perfectly good mayor who is going to last until November 13th, let's all remember that!

HD: [laugh] So there's people around willing to remind you that you're really not the mayor yet.

PS: Oh yeah. But then there are a lot of people who think I am the mayor and they're the ones who want money. So people will send me a letter saying, Congratulations on being mayor, so now how would you like to contribute to our non-profit? Which is fine, I mean there's a lot of interesting things going on in Ypsilanti.

HD: So they're asking you personally for money?

PS: Sure. Which is actually a good way to find out what's going on in Ypsilanti! All the things I don't know about. There's a lot of things I do know about, but I'm finding out there are things I don't know about.

HD: What's an example of something you had no idea about before somebody contacting you after the primary?

PS: The Michigan Chamber Orchestra, the executive director lives on Oakwood Street. Just things like that. Some things I knew about, the executive director of the South Eastern Council of Governments, SEMCOG, he lives in College Heights neighborhood in Ypsilanti. We have a number of people who work a the Henry Ford Museum--now it's called The Henry Ford--who live in Ypsilanti.

HD: Oh, there's no 'Museum' as a part of the name?

PS: No, it's The Henry Ford. That's the internet version and people think that's a little catchier, or the marketing powers that be, at the museum formerly known as the Henry Ford Museum, now known as The Henry Ford, ...

HD: ... that just strikes me as a little weird.

PS: It is a little weird, but if you drive on I-94 and you look at the billboard, ...

HD: ... the standard green and white sign?

PS: No, just the billboard that advertises it, you'll see it says The Henry Ford. It doesn't say 'museum'.

HD: Huh. Well speaking of asking for money, part of the solution that you describe ...

PS: [laugh]

HD: ... for Ypsilanti's financial woes involves Lansing, and I'm wondering if that's like going trick or treating, but not really having a trick that you can play, if they don't put a treat in Ypsilanti's bag?

PS: Well, it's not just Ypsilanti. The problem is that Ypsilanti is one of the cities that's at the edge, one of the first ones that's going to be over the edge. Another city council member described it as, The problem is going to get fixed eventually, the question is how Ypsilanti survives the time between now and when it gets fixed.

HD: So you see a possible city income tax as a transition between now and the implementation of sort of a general state-wide solution?

PS: Well, one scenario is that there's more Democrats who are elected in November to the state legislature, and maybe priorities shift. I'm not willing to say we need to go after an income tax yet. But what I said during the campaign was that we need to consider it. A city income tax should be a last resort, but it should still be an option.

HD: How soon would you see that going on a ballot proposal?

PS: I would see it early next year sometime. Early to mid next year. Because right now, we're on this path with the three-year plan where things are being cut. The City is understaffed right now. Terribly understaffed. And they're doing as well as they can with what they have.

HD: The three-year plan is the City of Ypsilanti's ...

PS: ... it's called the Three-year Solvency Plan and it's on the City website. It calls for cuts basically across the board in increments. It doesn't really favor any one particular department and it doesn't really target any one particular department. Everything is getting cut gradually.

HD: I guess I would be remiss, given that Ypsi-dixit was one of the early pioneers who rode the teeter totter, in not asking--if she was here on the opposite end from the board from you ...

PS: ... I'd probably be laying on the ground right now! [laugh]

HD: Oh, I think she's kind and gentle, she wouldn't do you any physical harm [laugh]. But I'm sure she would ask you what the long-range solution is. I mean, the crisis that seemed to be looming seems to have been averted, but long-term, seems like AATA is going to have to be put on some kind of regional funding base?

PS: As I understand it, AATA was formed by the Ann Arbor City and the board members are appointed by the mayor right now. So it's basically a child of the Ann Arbor City. I think the long-term approach is to have a regional millage that turns it into not just Ann Arbor, but a whole region, much like there's district libraries and things like that. In Ypsilanti we have the Ypsilanti Community Utility Authority, YCUA, which is the water utility which serves Ypsilanti Township and Ypsilanti City.

HD: You mentioned Ypsilanti Township, and in terms of regionalism--and regionalism is something Mayor Hieftje talks a lot about, it's something that everyone has now learned is the right word to invoke ...

PS: ... it's a word you can say without getting in trouble with anybody.

HD: Yeah. But. Thinking about Ypsilanti's situation, and thinking about police services, for example, the most logical partner geographically, it would seem, for Ypsilanti would be Ypsilanti Township. Yet Yspi Township county-wide, I guess, doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation for working and playing well with others, with regard, in particular, to police services. Isn't it a huge challenge to bring any of this talk of regionalism to any kind of fruition, and can you think of any specific strategy you would have personally once you take office?

PS: Sure, it's a challenge. But I think one advantage I have is that I am new, and we're going to have another new council member, and we're going to start over from scratch ...

HD: ... so you don't have maybe a lot of the personal baggage that some ...

PS: ... I don't have any personal baggage with anybody in the Township. I've never really worked with anybody in the township, either. Again, I think starting from scratch is probably a good thing. And as far as regionalism goes, you know, it's great to talk about it, but you also have to have something to offer. I think a lot of people, not only in the Township, but in the surrounding townships, they use Depot Town, they like going to the Heritage Festival, they like going to the other festivals we have. Ypsilanti City's like turned into Festival City. I'd like to see that keep going, but we have to be able to be solvent enough to be able to do it.

HD: I'm trying to think when it is, is it this Thursday that YpsiVotes is holding their first ...

PS: ... right ...

HD: ... of a series of public forms about, I guess there's two leading questions, What kinds of businesses can Ypsi attract, and How can those businesses be supported, or how can businesses already there be supported? Is that something you're going to be attending, or is that something where you think maybe it's better to ...

PS: ... I'm going to be there.

HD: Because one thought would be that maybe you wouldn't go, to give others the opportunity to speak freely and be openly critical of whoever they want to be critical of?

PS: Well, if I feel I'm stifling the conversation, I'll leave! But until that time, I think I'll stay there!

HD: And that's being held on the EMU campus, right?

PS: Yes, it's being held at the College of Business.

HD: So at least superficially, we can point to that, or for the YpsiVotes debates, we could point to the venue that EMU provided, as at least on a superficial level a partnership between the community and EMU. And the president of EMU, uh, what's his name?

PS: John Fallon.

HD: Right, okay, I thought he gave a really nice speech to open the debate ...

PS: ... he did. Now did you see the debate in person?

HD: Yeah, I was there in the audience, and I have to say, I thought, Wow, that was an awfully good speech, but I wonder if it's even remotely possible that anything might come of it! But like I say, it was a good speech, well-written and well-delivered, and I thought he deserved the hand that he got.

PS: Right, I understand that he's been going to Lansing and he's been lobbying for funds to fix up some of the infrastructure for EMU. And EMU and the City have a pretty good relationship. There's something called the College Place Mall that's being talked about, and I understand there's some opinions ... I was just reading, the master plan of that whole area was done in 2001. I know going door-to-door, a lot of people have moved into Ypsilanti since 2001. So it may be time to update that plan. I think in the last four years, the demographics of Ypsilanti have changed. A lot of people have moved to Ypsilanti from Ann Arbor, actually. People that wanted to live in an urban environment and couldn't afford Ann Arbor. So Ypsilanti seems to be an urban alternative to the gentrification of Ann Arbor, if I want to call it that, I guess. There's quite an alternative culture or counter culture--I don't know which you'd want to call it--but it's thriving in Ypsilanti. The YpsiVotes is one example. Another one is the Shadow Art Fair--there's going to be Shadow Art Fair Two in December, I believe, and that's really exciting stuff.

HD: So you mentioned that one possibility of making some progress or making a shift towards a more intelligent financing for cities would be if there were changes in the state legislature. Do you think the governor's race could have any possible impact on a city like Ypsilanti?

PS: Absolutely. If the legislature stays Republican and we have a Republican governor, I think revenue sharing will be the lowest priority. I think it'll be the first thing to be cut.

HD: So you think it's critical for Ypsilanti specifically that Granholm win ...

PS: ... and for Ann Arbor, too.

HD: You know, she's coming to Sweetwater's right down the street from here tomorrow. Are you going to that?

PS: No, I gotta work [laugh]. I don't have too many things going on tomorrow, but I still can't fit it in.

HD: I was thinking I might head down there, but I'm sure there will be security and ...

PS: ... well, I've done a couple of other fundraisers where she's been there and she does not have a--what's the word I'm looking for--'posse'. There is no Granholm Posse.

HD: Maybe she should get one. Or she might get one after I show up. But I was thinking, if I do have time at that time of day tomorrow, I mean it's only five blocks down the street, and it's not every day that the governor comes to your neighborhood. Let's see, what else did I want to ask you? I think we've covered pretty much everything I wanted to cover, except for one thing.

PS: Okay?

HD: As a part of my preparation, I guess everybody knows you're an electronics engineer?

PS: Yeah.

HD: So I looked up 'electronics engineer' in Wikipedia or something and it said something like, An electronics engineer uses Ohm's Law every day.

PS: [laugh]

HD: So I thought, well, I'll just ask Paul when he gets here: Do you actually use Ohm's Law every day? Or is it just built into the software you use?

PS: I've never thought of it, but I do use Ohm's Law every day.

HD: Really?!

PS: And I even use Faraday's Law.

HD: What is Faraday's Law?

PS: There's a law where you have current--I've got to get this right now--the current through a capacitor is equal to the capacitance times the change in voltage over time, and the voltage across an inductor is equal to the inductance times the change in current over time.

HD: Alright!

PS: That's stuff that's actually in high school physics.

HD: Oh really! The only thing I remember from high school physics is there's something called like a left-hand generator rule and a right-hand motor rule?

PS: Well, the right-hand rule is if you have an inductor and the current's going around the inductor and your hand's going around the way the current's going, then the flux, the magnetic field, is going in the direction of your thumb.

HD: But there was a contrast I recall between left and right hand, depending on whether it was a motor or a generator?

PS: Oh. Uh, yeah, I probably flunked that part. I don't remember, I don't use that one every day!

HD: I remember sitting in class taking a test with my hands out in front of me trying to configure them in exactly the right way, so that I could understand how to label some diagram.

PS: Hmm, well I'm an analog engineer, too, which means that I really use Ohm's Law everyday. I work on AM/FM car tuners [Ed. note: sounds like 'cartooners'] now, so ...

HD: ... what??!!

PS: ...AM/FM tuners for car radios.

HD: Oh, I heard ...

PS: ..., yeah 'cartooners' that's pretty good. Yeah, I work with the kids every day, right! Before that, I worked on remote keyless entry. And there's a legend--I've even heard the Car Guys say this, that if you hold it up to your chin, it works better and you get better range. It's totally false. Well, it's not false, but the best way to get better range is to raise your hand as high as possible.

HD: Oh, really. Like you're doing right now?

PS: Like I'm doing now.

HD: Okay, so that's just a ...

PS: ... just a little tip.

HD: So don't hold it against your chin. Why would anybody think that in the first place?

PS: Because they think it resonates with your jaw bone. It's an urban legend type of thing.

HD: Well, that's hopefully now debunked. So AM/FM car tuners?

PS: AM/FM tuners for car radios.

HD: So that's what you work on. Now, surely to god, there's a whole team, it's not just you.

PS: Yeah, there's a team of three or four people. We do radios for different cars, not just Ford. I work for Visteon. When I first started working it was for Ford Electronics in '93, and then it got spun off as Visteon. So we're doing more radios for companies like Chrysler and BMW.

HD: So is the part that you work on visible enough so that, say, if you were to get into someone's car who was giving you a ride, you could say, Hey, check that out, I designed that.

PS: No.

HD: Well, that must be frustrating for you?

PS: No, no. Actually, the problem with the AM/FM radio is that everybody expects it to work.

HD: Yeah.

PS: Same thing with remote keyless entry. So it's always nice when somebody is standing 50 to 60 yards away from their car, and they can lock it or unlock it, that's nice. And when they're bending over to pick something up, and their car alarm goes off, it's not so nice, but it's still a good performance. It's not my fault.

HD: So you don't accept the blame for that?

PS: No, that's the old saying: It's all my fault but I'm not going to take all the blame.

HD: Ah hah. Okay, well, was there anything else on your mind this evening?

PS: Yeah, what do you do for a living?

HD: Well, uh, that's not really totally clear. Right now what I'm hoping is that I can parlay Teeter Talk into a media empire.

PS: Oh really? A media empire?

HD: I'm only half-kidding.

PS: I understand.

HD: But I think it would be nice to somehow monetize this operation so that I could earn some kind of living off it. For the time being I'm doing some mooching off my wife.

PS: There's something to be said for that. And you've been teeter tottering since 2005?

HD: 2005. December 9th, we're coming up on the first year anniversary. Rene Greff was the first person to ride the teeter totter [for Teeter Talk]. After a snowstorm, so she was a real trooper.

PS: She is a real trooper, I'll give her that. I'm just trying to think, you could probably charge per cycle? You know, if you become the media giant that you want to be, then people would be coming to you, lining up. Instead of you contacting them, people would be contacting you, wanting to be on the teeter totter. But I think there's something missing. In order to get there, there's something missing here. And I don't think you're missing another toilet [Ed. note: a reference to the commode in the yard serving as a planter], I think you're missing something else besides that.

HD: So what do you think it is, because whatever it is you think I'm missing, I'm willing to try to add that missing ingredient.

PS: It could be, hmmm, you need scandal. That's what you need. Scandal, yeah. That's the thing that's missing, there's no scandal.

HD: Um, so you're thinking along the lines of something like, oh, naked teeter tottering?

PS: Yeeeah, or I mean, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but [laugh], but something to get people's attention.

HD: Well, I was thinking maybe I'd head down to Sweetwater's and just kidnap Governor Granholm and drag her down here and tie her to the end of the teeter totter and make her ride.

PS: See, I don't think you want to tie her down. That's a bad PR move. And I think if you just walk up to her and say, Well, I've got a teeter totter in my backyard, I want you to come and see it, I don't think that would go over, either.

HD: No, I was going to say, that would sound a lot like, I have a crawlspace underneath my house I'd like you to look at ...

PS: ... [laugh] But if you said, We're having a neighborhood meeting and all of my neighbors are 'swing' voters ...

HD: [laugh] oh, god ...

PS: ... and I have a teeter totter, and they'd love to see you ride, and as a matter of fact they said they'd vote for you if you get on the teeter totter.

HD: Hmm, okay, maybe I'll give that a try, although it might be confusing to introduce the notion of 'swing' voters and then pitch the idea of a teeter totter.

PS: Well yeah. You'll notice I think when I answered your email, I said I was 'Swingless' Paul, because I used to have a swing on a tree in our backyard, but the tree finally died. Don't have a swing anymore. Doesn't look like you have a good place put a swing.

HD: Okay, well, maybe I'll give that a shot. I did send her a nice handwritten invitation.

PS: Did you send her an invitation like the one you sent me?

HD: Yeah, but you know my guess is that she never personally saw it, because I'd guess she has people who open her mail and whatnot and filter it out.

PS: Well, politicians will do strange things for votes. It's like--what was the movie a long long time ago with Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers where ...

HD: ... the one where there was a guy who watched television all the time?

PS: No, no, they put a bunch of money in a vat of blood and mud and stuff and people were getting into the vat to get the money.

HD: I have not idea what you're talking about.

PS: It came out in '68, somewhere around there, it's right on the tip of my tongue, 'Christian', something 'Christian'. [The Magic Christian] ... What else can I tell you? I can just wrap it up by saying, I think Ypsilanti's got a good future ahead. I look forward to being mayor. I think it's going to be a lot of hard work. It's going to be a lot different from designing AM/FM tuners for car radios. Actually, I might as well tell you this. I had a guy at work, when I was elected in the primary, says to me, Are you going to work here still, if you're going to be mayor? And I said, Yeah, the mayor is a part-time job, you know, the mayor's job doesn't pay anywhere near what my job here at Visteon pays. And he says, Well, what does it pay? And I told him it pays $9000 a year. He looked at me and said, If you really needed the money, why didn't you get a job at McDonald's?

HD: [laugh] So you're not doing it for the money.

PS: No, I'm not doing it for the money, and I'm not in it for the prestige or the power of the office. I've just been in Ypsilanti for 21 years, and I think I can help out.

HD: We'll let that be the final word, then. Good luck. Thanks for riding.

PS: Thank you very much.