By Farone E. Rasheed, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 2, 2013
On Wednesday night, the League of Women Voters hosted a second forum featuring Ann Arbor City Council candidates — this time hosting hopefuls from Wards 1 and 2 — to discuss a range of issues, including city infrastructure, downtown development and transportation.
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The event, which complements Tuesday night’s debate with representatives from Wards 3 and 5, is in anticipation of the Ann Arbor City Council elections on Nov. 5.
In the first round of debates Wednesday, incumbent Sabra Briere (D) faced off independent candidate Jeff Hayner to garner votes in Ward 1.
The two first discussed crosswalk safety, a topic sparked by the recent automobile incident in which a bicyclist was struck at a crosswalk on Plymouth Road. Hayner called for increased education about crosswalk safety backed by more effective police enforcement.
“The City Council’s responsibility should be to put the proper amount of money into educating the public — drivers and pedestrians and bicyclists — so we can share the streets safely,” Hayner said.
While Briere agreed that the issue needed to be dealt with, she said she wasn’t sure how to proceed, since most of the incidents stem from irresponsible behavior, rather than unsafe crosswalk policies.
Hayner addressed city infrastructure, which he said was overdue for needed repairs to old and unsatisfactory roads, pipes and draining systems. Briere acknowledged these concerns, but pointed to the complexities and realities in approaching such issues.
“We could do what people in the past have advised — and that is tear up the streets, put in giant systems to conduct the storm water quickly away from the neighborhoods — but we believe that damages the river. Everything we do is a moving picture,” she said.
Hayner also supported an expanded regional-bus-transit system, as long as the regional parties would be willing and able to pay their shares equally. Briere acknowledged that there would be a problem expanding the current system without also funding it — a cost decision the community needs to confront and decide on together, she said.
In reference to the funding of the Downtown Development Association, Briere stood by her past position to put a cap on DDA funding. Hayner noted the inevitability of growth, but also acknowledged downtown growth as a significant concern to the community.
“I think the downtown is getting pretty big, and when I go door-to-door people are concerned about it,” Hayner said.
Incumbent Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) debated Democrat candidate Kirk Westphal and Independent candidate Conrad Brown, an LSA senior and a member of the newly-formed Mixed-Use Party.
Lumm expressed a need to align city spending with the needs of its citizens by focusing on basic amenities and services to the public, including public safety, fixing streets, addressing water and sewage infrastructure, as well as tackling the pedestrian ordinance.
“It is all about priorities in so many ways,” Lumm said.
Westphal, a government consultant and chair of the City Planning Commission, identified long-term economic prosperity, proactive neighborhood engagement and an better budgeting process as three focus areas — stressing city revenue, community awareness and council priority and efficiency in defining and explaining the city’s major problems.
“I’m not an advocate or somebody driving for a single issue — I’m a data person,” Westphal said.
Brown, a member of the newly formed Mixed Use Party and current University student, reiterated the party’s most central concerns, including infrastructure and urban sprawl.