Sunday, October 25, 2009

$13.65 per vote

I was more than a little bit shocked to read, in an article on the proposed schools millage, that

Al Berriz's company--McKinley--donated


to the anti-millage campaign.

Yes, you read that right. 


I know--silly me. My thought process went like this...local millage election...big donations will be in the $1,000-$3,000 range.


In 2007, the last "off-year" November election, 10,992 people voted in Washtenaw County. (That is not quite a 9% turnout.)
Assuming the same turnout, McKinley/Al Berriz have just donated $6.82 per vote.
But actually--each side only needs to convince a majority to vote the way they want, so McKinley/Al Berriz have donated $13.65/vote.

Don't get me wrong. I am not trying to imply that Al Berriz, or McKinley, or anybody else,  is "buying" votes. It's all legal.

I'm just saying: $75,000 is an awful lot of money to spend to try to defeat a millage, and I don't "buy" that this donation is about the kids, or the schools. No. Al Berriz is just spending from his company's pocketbook, to preserve his company's (and his) pocketbook. After all, who is Al Berriz? What is McKinley? Al Berriz is the CEO for McKinley, Inc., and McKinley is a real estate company which owns and operates at least 15 apartment complexes in Washtenaw County, and a whole lot more nationally. According to a 2008 article in Ann Arbor Biz News, in 2008 they owned or operated at least 5000 apartment units in the county, plus commercial real estate.

In an interesting side note, less than a month ago, Albert Berriz joined the editorial board. But on October 18, Tony Dearing of wrote,
Albert Berriz has been serving as one of two community members on our editorial board, and recently became treasurer of the PAC opposing this millage request. Because of his involvement in this issue, Albert has recused himself from any of our discussions. He has no role in our coverage or in any editorial position we may take on this issue.
Umm, it's a little too late for to distance themselves from him when he is obviously so completely, over-the-top involved in this campaign.

As if to prove my point, obviously--when the financial statements came out. . . with the editorial position coming up. . . recusal was, and is not enough. Hence today's announcement: Albert Berriz stepping down from editorial board.

And then--surprise, surprise--and proving my point even more--the editorial board wrote an editorial that we should vote no on the millage. I'm sure there's no relationship. Yeah, and I've got some swampland to sell you too. . . (no offense meant to swampland--it's important for the environment).

Well, I'll tell you something. I don't like feeling that someone is trying to buy my vote to line their own pocket. I want to make up my own mind. You--make up yours.

P.S. You might or might not think the Ann Arbor schools are struggling, but there are NINE other school districts involved, and they educate 63% of the affected kids. NONE of them had per-pupil funding (before the most recent cuts) that came close to what the state said should be the minimum of $8400 per student.

P.P.S. Kudos to Scot Graden and his administrative staff for keeping anyone interested in the Saline schools informed about the budget and other happenings. I've been learning a lot--you can link to the Superintendent's blog, and/or the Budget Blog. I'm learning from those blogs, and I know that they would like to reach more people. Go to: and visit all the blogs--including one on art! Oh, and: Saline Area Schools will be holding a public forum to discuss the millage on Monday, October 26th at 6:30pm at Union School.


  1. Finding out about Berriz's involvement with Ann makes me thing twice about any of the comments, stories, editorials.

    The story they should be focusing on his his involvement in the campaign, and spending more time on uncovering the facts of the school funding issue. There are so many unsubstantiated comments about waste in the system, the unions, etc. I would like to read sourced aritcles, rather than opinion and statements by one side or the other.

    I was a bit on the fence about the millage until I found out about Berriz's involvement, and now I am certainly voting yes.

  2. I haven't seen a detailed breakdown of donations, but it's clear that the NO side is the side with all the money behind it.

    I don't care whether teacher unions, administrators, or school board members have donated to the YES side. Their total donations cannot compare. More importantly, why wouldn't those groups want to donate? One assumes they will do what it takes to keep their districts from sinking.

    The work I and many others have done on this campaign has been about more than raising money. I think that spreading the word throughout the community is much more important. That said, Ruth, thank you for doing such good work in this area!

  3. David Jesse, the K-12 education reporter covering the millage campaign, tells me he is interested in covering the stories about the millage that interest you, and you can email him directly at if you like.