By Steve Zoski, Daily News Editor
Published July 16, 2012
With City Councilmember Sandi Smith (D–Ward 1) not seeking re-election and no Republicans vying for her seat, the Aug. 7 Democratic primary for City Council representing the 1st Ward will determine her replacement.
More like this
Running for the seat are Ann Arbor residents Eric Sturgis and Sumi Kailasapathy.
According to his website, Sturgis, 26, has an associates degree from Oakland Community College, is an Ann Arbor Huron High School alum and assists the tennis program at Ann Arbor Skyline High School.
Kailasapathy, 45, is an alum of Wellesley College and the New School for Social Research and is now an accountant at Ann Arbor’s Edwards, Ellis, Armstrong & Company. She taught at Eastern Michigan University for 10 years and has children enrolled in Ann Arbor Public Schools.
In an interview, Sturgis, who lives on Longshore Drive in the 1st Ward, said he wants to run for a chance to represent Ward 1, which he noted has a large number of students residing in it.
“I had helped Sandi Smith on her campaign, and when she stepped down I felt like now was a good time,” Sturgis said.
Sturgis added that he was concerned about keeping the city going in the right direction and has been involved in Ann Arbor politics since he was 14.
“I paid attention to council meetings, and I’m very interested in what the 1st Ward residents have to say,” Sturgis said. “I wanted to see a positive approach and a progressive approach, and I didn’t feel like we were getting that from my opponent.”
Yet he made it clear he thinks City Council is on point.
“I think the majority of stuff Council works very well on,” Sturgis said. “When you’ve been (in) one of the worst recessions in 70 years and you come out with a surplus, obviously the Mayor and Council are doing something right.”
He said citizens have voiced their concerns for the city during his campaign.
“A lot of people are curious (about) what is going to happen with the train station and how that’s going to be handled,” Sturgis said. “I think they want someone on council who’s going to be responsive and going to listen.”
Sturgis said he opposes the proposed location of the University’s Wall Street parking structure, adding that because it’s in the middle of Ward 1, it will increase traffic and “ruin the aesthetics” of the area.
“I would like to see them build it more by the medical center,” Sturgis said. “I would like to see Council go back to the table and try to push U of M, but the train station had a lot to do with that.”
Sturgis said he thinks he can work with the University to appease his constituents’ concerns.
“I think that I can bring an approach where, let’s talk to the University, let’s try to work with them, sell them on the fact that we’re almost there on the train station and transit and they hold off,” he said.
Sturgis said he plans to work for University students’ concerns as well, if they make their concerns clear to him.
“I plan on trying to hold a meeting on the Diag ... to give students (a chance) to come out and express what their concerns are with the city,” Sturgis said.
Sturgis added that as a relatively young person who can relate to students, he’ll be someone who will advocate for students rather than “look at them as an issue.”
Kailasapathy said she’s running because she can bring a CPA’s perspective to the council.
“I really think I can make a contribution in terms of my skill set in the City Council … I might not have all of the answers, but at least I have the right questions and the right way to analyze (them),” Kailasapathy said.
Kailasapathy said there are two main issues of “grave concern” to her. Specifically, “the unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities” in Ann Arbor.
“That’s just ballooning, and part of the reason is healthcare costs are increasing for the next fiscal year,” she said.