As the Nov. 8 elections approach, The Michigan Daily has created a voter guide with information on Ann Arbor City Council candidates and ballot proposal measures.
Sumi Kailasapathy (D)
Sumi Kailasapathy, a local certified public accountant and former Eastern Michigan University faculty member, has represented Ward 1 on City Council since 2012. On the council, she has been known for her independent streak in seeking to rein in the tax authority of the Downtown Development Authority, calling for greater government transparency regarding the city’s Amtrak project and being overall skeptical of large development. Additionally, she has been heavily involved with local law enforcement issues, acting as one of the City Council liaisons to the city’s Human Rights Commission and championing its push for greater civilian oversight of Ann Arbor Police Department practices.
In the August Democratic primary, Kailasapathy handily prevailed over Jason Frenzel, who was endorsed by Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor, in a three-way race by seven points, though she only secured a 45 percent plurality of Ward 1 votes. Kailasapathy is unchallenged for re-election in the November general election.
Kirk Westphal (D)
Kirk Westphal, a videographer and urban planner at Westphal and Associates LLC, has served one term on the council. Before being elected as a city official, Westphal served for several years on the city’s Planning Commission and Environmental Commission. Running unopposed in the August Democratic primary, Westphal is the only City Council member candidate for Ward 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot.
During his past two years on City Council, Westphal has supported a number of development projects, including the city-owned library lot on the corner of Fifth and Williams streets. Westphal is also a co-sponsor of the ballot proposal to extend Ann Arbor city officials’ terms to four years, and has said it would improve voter turnout if local elections aligned with presidential races.
During his next term on City Council, Westphal has said he plans to focus on Ann Arbor neighborhoods by improving parks and roads and making streets safer from speeding. He also wants to develop downtown neighborhood and commercial areas.
Julie Grand (D)
Julie Grand, a health policy lecturer at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, has represented Ward 3 on City Council since 2014 after prevailing in a three-way Democratic primary. On the council, she has largely voted in line with the majority of the body on issues such as development, the deer cull and the disclosure of redacted documents regarding the city’s Amtrak station project. However, she has also spearheaded her own public health initiatives, most notably Ann Arbor’s recently approved ban on tobacco sales to those under 21, which passed in August with support from numerous public health advocacy groups.
Grand was unopposed for re-election in the Democratic primary and will not be facing a challenger on Nov. 8.
Graydon Krapohl (D)
Graydon Krapohl, a former Marine Corps colonel, has represented Ward 4 since 2014. On City Council, he has been a self-described pragmatist, and has typically voted in line with the majority of the Council on issues such as supporting development, the deer cull and opposing the release of documents regarding the Amtrak station project. Also, Krapohl voted against the majority of council members in his opposition to the City Council term extension ballot proposal.
In the August Democratic primary, Krapohl narrowly defeated challenges from Eric Lipson and Diane Giannola by just 93 votes in a three-way race. He is unopposed on the November ballot.
David Silkworth (I)
This is David Silkworth’s first run for public office. Though he does not have formal government experience, Silkworth has been an Ann Arbor resident for most of his adult life. In an interview, he said his current work as an insurance claim representative, working with homeowners and businesses, has been instrumental in fueling his interest in public service.
Silkworth became actively involved in local politics about one year ago when he began attending City Council meetings. He was most vocal about the city’s deer cull, establishing himself as a firm opponent. In previous public comments, Silkworth has expressed disapproval of lethal methods of deer management, saying the cull goes against all the values Ann Arbor claims to hold as a progressive city.
His opponent, incumbent City Council member Chuck Warpehoski (D-5th Ward) has supported the deer cull to reduce the deer population in the city.
Silkworth's campaign is centered around protecting Ann Arbor’s single-family neighborhoods, aiming to offset what he describes as a pro-development imbalance on City Council. He plans to fight against the development of large apartment complexes in traditionally single-family neighborhoods and to aid neighborhoods in solving issues like the dioxane plume directly under the houses and parks of Ward 5.
He also supports turning the highly contested library lot on the corner of Fifth and Williams streets into a green space. Silkworth says the current council would like to place a 17-story apartment complex in the space — while the zoning allows such a project to take place, he charges the public should have been given the opportunity to vote on the issue on the November ballot.
Warpehoski opposed a 2015 resolution that would have provided citizens with a vote.
In June, a group of Ann Arbor citizens presented 5,779 petition signatures to the council to prevent the sale of the lot to a private high-rise developer.
Chuck Warpehoski (D)
Chuck Warpehoski, director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, is running for his third term on City Council. Warpehoski defeated Kevin Leeser in the August Democratic primary and now faces independent opponent Silkworth.
In the past, Warpehoski has focused on issues surrounding affordable housing in the city, and he said he plans to continue to address the problem. In an interview, he said he believes the lack of affordable housing is a result of current supply shortages in the community and favors policies to increase the city’s housing supply. He added that the increase in tax revenue for a larger housing base could be used to provide high quality parks, public safety services and recycling.
If elected, Warpehoski said he also plans to focus his next term on improving Ann Arbor’s transportation system, charging that though the city has a transportation system designed for cars, the road conditions are not conducive to safe transport. He emphasized that the roads need to be made safer for cars, bikers and pedestrians, adding that he plans to improve biker safety by creating buffer lanes.
Christopher Taylor, a business and commercial lawyer, has served in city office for the past eight years. Unseating then-incumbent City Councilmember Stephen Kunselman in the 2008 Ward 3 Democratic primary, he served on City Council for six years for his first foray into city office. Upon the retirement of Mayor John Hieftje in 2014, Taylor entered a crowded Democratic primary field, ultimately beating out three of his fellow council members with a 48-percent plurality for the nomination and landing a general election victory. Taylor is unchallenged for re-election.
As mayor, Taylor has been a supporter of greater urban development and a multi-year proposal for a new Amtrak station. Though he voted against a ballot proposal for non-partisan local elections in July, he supported a parallel proposal regarding term extensions for local officials. Taylor was also the sole dissenting voice against the Ann Arbor deer cull in 2015, though he has not been a particularly vocal critic.
Millage Proposal 1 – Tax for Road Improvement
The first millage proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot regards levying a 0.5-mill property tax for maintaining roads, bike lanes and paths across Washtenaw County over the next four years. The first year of millage would raise an estimated $7.3 million, which would provide funding to the Washtenaw County Road Commission; Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission; and the various cities, villages and townships in Washtenaw County.
This tax would replace the 0.5-mill tax that has been levied in Washtenaw County for the past two years, allowing the opportunity for residents to vote on the proposal. In August, the Michigan Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit filed in April that claimed Washtenaw County illegally collected $24 million in property taxes on levies including this one. The plaintiffs charged that the levies were illegal because they were not previously approved by voters.
Millage Proposal 2 – Tax for Veterans Affairs
The second millage proposal ballot would increase property taxes over the next eight years to fund the County Department of Veterans Affairs. The tax will not exceed one-tenth of a mill. The first year of millage would raise an estimated $1.5 million to provide financial relief and services to Washtenaw County veterans, and these services would include the payment of eligible indigent veterans claims and the funding of the administration of the Washtenaw County Department of Veterans Affairs.
This tax, which has been levied in recent years, was also cited in the April lawsuit.
Ann Arbor – Ballot Proposal for Extended Mayoral and City Council Terms
If approved by voters, this proposal would increase the term length for the mayor and City Council members from two years to four, which supporters have argued would increaes voter turnout. Under the current system, the mayor and each individual council member runs for re-election every two years, with five council seats up for election in any given year. Voter turnout in August primary elections for city office during odd-election years — which tend to be decisive because of Democratic dominance in Ann Arbor — is often half of even-year turnout, which is characterized by high-profile races like the presidential election.
Opponents of the proposal have argued that term extensions would make council members less accountable to their constituents because they would not be pressured by re-election as often, charging that it will merely be a self-serving convenience for the council members who supported the proposal.