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Local candidates say students should get engaged with city government

BY ELAINE LAFAY
Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 30, 2008

Tensions between students and city officials was an underlying issue last night during a local politics forum aimed at students.

CLIF REEDER/Daily
Ward 5 City Council candidates John Floyd (left) and Carsten Hohnke during the event.

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During the event, a panel of candidates for Ann Arbor City Council, district judge, state representative and University regent fielded questions from students.

About fifty students attended the event, which was hosted by Voice Your Vote, Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality, the Michigan Student Assembly and Progressive Alliance.

Both candidates for 15th District Court Judge — Eric Gutenberg and Chris Easthope — answered questions on common court cases including minor in possession citations and landlord disputes.

Seven City Council candidates and two current members who will not be running for re-election spoke on the relationship between University students and Ann Arbor residents, which most agreed was strained or non-existent.

“I know that I didn’t pay much attention to what happened outside the realm of the University when I lived here,” said Sandi Smith (D — Ward 1), City Council candidate and University alum. “But I think it’s a two-way street and I hope that there’s a dialogue that begins.”

SOLE member Youssef Rabhi, who moderated the event, said students should take a greater interest in what happens off campus.

“Often we don’t realize how much of an impact (Ann Arbor officials) have in our lives because we’re kind of in the University in this little bubble,” he said. “But we’re still in the city of Ann Arbor, and they’re still making decisions that affect us.”

A tense moment came when Ward 5 City Council candidate Republican John Floyd, who is running against Democrat Carsten Hohnke, said his was “the only seriously contested race,” taking a jab at Libertarian mayoral candidate Eric Plourde, an LSA senior, who was not present.

Hannah Lieberman, LSA junior and Voice Your Vote member, said the remark was degrading and unprofessional.

“He was degrading the fact that (Plourde) was an undergrad,” she said. “We’re all undergrads. I thought it was unnecessary.”

Matt Erard, the Socialist/Green Party candidate for state representative in the 53rd district, and John Boyle, the Libertarian candidate in the 52nd district race, spoke about college costs.

Erard, a University alum, raised some eyebrows when he said he wanted to abolish tuition and forgive all student loans.

“I believe education is a right, not a privilege,” he said.

Boyle took a more conservative approach.

“I don’t know where this money is going to come from,” he said. “The state of Michigan is broke. The federal government is broke.”

Lieberman said she thought the students and candidates got along well.

“I thought it was empowering,” she said. “The candidates were talking about having students take ownership of the city and understanding that it doesn’t need to be a temporary place.”