Ann Arbor City Council convened for another biweekly meeting Monday night, passing an ordinance making it easier for residents to register to vote as well as a resolution committing the city to the goals of the Paris Climate Accords.
The ordinance, sponsored by Councilmembers Zachary Ackerman (D–Ward 3) and Chip Smith (D–Ward 5), as well as Mayor Chris Taylor, amended the City's housing code to require all landlords to provide tenants with a booklet "explaining the rights of tenants under city and state law" at the beginning of their leases, according to the text of the ordinance.
"No owner of rental property located in Ann Arbor or agent of such an owner shall lease or contract to lease such property without furnishing to the tenant, before the time of leasing or contracting, a copy of said booklet," the ordinance reads.
Ackerman noted the ordinance would affect the majority of the city's residents.
"This ordinance would mandate that landlords, at the beginning of leases, provide voter registration forms to their new tenants," he said. "This will help keep our voter rolls updated, but also in a time when voter access is being threatened in this state, will make access to the polls a lot easier for the 58 percent of residents in this city who rent their housing."
Councilmember Kirk Westphal (D–Ward 2) said though the idea had already been pitched in years past, it was the initiative of the sponsors that brought it to finally pass.
"I just want to thank the sponsors for pushing this forward," he said. "An initiative like this has been mentioned on and off for years, but as always, it takes leadership to pick up the flag and carry it across the finish line, so I'm really happy that this is coming to a second reading."
The initiative passed unanimously with nine votes in favor, as Councilmembers Jason Frenzel (D–Ward 1) and Graydon Krapohl (D–Ward 4) were absent from the meeting. The ordinance will go into effect August 1.
Ann Arbor also added itself to a growing list of municipalities, states and corporations that have committed themselves to upholding the Paris Climate Accord following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the agreement. The agreement's main goal is to hold the average global temperature to less than 2º C above the average temperature prior to the Industrial Revolution.
Smith said the commitment of smaller jurisdictions to the agreement was more important than the commitment of the White House.
"One of the most important things to come out of the Paris climate agreements is the realization that cities globally play the biggest role in reducing carbon emissions," he said. "Just because the administration in Washington is not interested in meeting the goals set forth in Paris does not mean the city of Ann Arbor is interested in also shirking our responsibility."
Westphal noted true compliance with the agreement would require more than the passage of the resolution.
"For us to really move the needle, it's abundantly clear we have to radically rethink the things that we do have control over if we want to stay consistent with the Paris agreement when it comes to emissions per capita," he said. "A couple I can think of: housing supply near jobs, heavy rail transit, rules that mandate parking spaces. So in short, we've got plenty of resolutions on the books, but we'll see if we have the resolve to make it work."