Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include interview responses from Council member Chuck Warpehoski, D-Ward 5.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include interview responses from Council member Graydon Krapohl, D-Ward 4.
The Ann Arbor City Council will hold a primary election for mayor and five council positions Aug. 7. Here is a breakdown of this year’s candidates:
Incumbent Mayor Christopher Taylor will seek reelection against Council Member Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4.
Taylor admits he’s proud of the progress made during his first term but feels his work isn’t over.
“Although I feel we have done a lot of great work in Ann Arbor, there’s still a great deal more to do,” Taylor said. “Obviously, we have to work to fix our roads; our (storm) water infrastructure is aging. Also, it’s important that we make Ann Arbor the most equitable and sustainable place you’ve ever lived. We need to fund and commit to affordable housing and implement our climate action plan.”
Yet the mayor’s first term hasn’t been all roses. After the city voted May 2 to repurchase the Y lot from local real estate developer Dennis Dahlmann for $4.2 million, Councilmember Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2, criticized Taylor for a statement he made in which he lamented how supporters of the vote cost the city “thousands, if not millions, of dollars.”
“The statement is plainly and obviously temperate and not a personal attack,” Taylor said. “It is in my view, plainly and obviously factual: The fact that my colleagues made a very poor decision on April 2 and, in my view, contrary to the city interests. I can understand why people don’t want to hear that, but it was not said with personality. It did not get to the motive. It just got to the effect of the decision. That’s public discourse.”
Eaton, on the other hand, attributed his candidacy to the fact that he felt the city was not addressing many issues in the way that he preferred.
“There are a number of issues that are very important to me that I just feel that we’re not taking a lead on,” Eaton said. “I think that I can provide leadership on the really important issues facing the city.”
Eaton has served on City Council since 2013 and specified the issues he hopes to improve include infrastructure, public safety, affordable housing and the environment.
One environmental concern Eaton addressed was the 1,4-Dioxane plume that contaminates Ann Arbor groundwater.
Dioxane is a carcinogenic compound that was widely used for manufacturing in the past. Ann Arbor manufacturer Gelman Sciences, now Pall Corp., released the chemical as an industrial byproduct into an unlined lagoon from 1966 to 1986. The main concern is the plume will reach the Huron River and contaminate Barton Pond, Ann Arbor’s main source for drinking water.
“I would like to join the petition that other communities in the area have filed with the EPA asking the EPA to take a more active role in the oversight of the progress of the plume,” Eaton said. “I’m embarrassed that a city like Ann Arbor with a strong reputation for environmentalism isn't more active and seeking an actual remedy.”
Yet some critics and councilmembers have complained about Eaton previously accepting donations from Dahlmann, the local real estate developer who purchased the “Y lot” from the city in a failed promise to develop affordable housing and commercial developing.
“All council members receive contributions from people who later have business in front of council and the efforts to disparage me for having received the contributions from Dennis Dahlmann are purely political,” Eaton responded.
Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy, D-Ward 1, will not be seeking reelection. Democrats Ron Ginyard and Jeff Hayner are running to fill her position.
Hayner sees major concerns with the city’s natural resources and environmental concerns, specifically within his ward.
“Especially in Ward 1 where I’m running, we have a lot of land-use issues here on the north side,” Hayner said. “We’re the river part of the city primarily. We had the most vacant land, township (island) and agriculture land left over.”
Councilmember Kirk Westphal is seeking reelection for Ward 2 against challenger Kathy Griswold.
Westphal feels the main issues the city faces include public safety, affordable housing and infrastructure.
“I think I speak for all of Council when I say we will get resources that our police ask for to the extent we can within our budget,” Westphal said. “I think sexual assault is a complex problem that needs focus and cooperation between the city and the University to look at the sources of the problem and ensure we continue coordinating and communicating with each other to go after what’s driving this latest uptick in these assaults.”
Ward 3 will see a competition between Councilmember Julie Grand and Alice Liberson.
Grand claims city affordability and public safety are major issues in Ann Arbor. As a pre-health academic adviser in LSA, Grand said students often bring up concerns with city affordability in advising appointments.
“I hear a lot from students on their struggles to find housing,” Grand said. “If the University is thinking about DEI initiatives and bringing in students from a range of income groups and increasing the number of transfer students, I really am concerned about affordable housing.”
Liberson was not available for comment in time for publication.
For Ward 4, Councilmember Graydon Krapohl is running for reelection against Elizabeth Nelson.
Krapohl sees affordability as a major issue in the ciy, and feels it needs to be addressed in order to continue a level of diversity and equity.
"I believe this is one of the most important issues we are going to face as a city if we want to continue to be a diverse and equitable community," Krapohl wrote in an email interview. "All of the things that we all love about Ann Arbor and make it such a great place to live have made it a place that people want to live and work and have contributed to making housing unattainable for many in our community."
Nelson works as a substitute teacher for Washtenaw County and has been an Ann Arbor resident since 2004. Her inspiration for running for City Council came after her realization that she does not have to be a specific type of person to run for a council seat.
“I finally realized that it doesn’t take someone who’s lived here for 50 years or went to U of M and has the all connections in town to be a thoughtful voice on Council,” Nelson said.
One concern Nelson addressed is the Ann Arbor Police Department Task Force. In response to issues of police brutality in the city, a review board was created to improve relationships between community members and AAPD. Controversy has brewed throughout the creation and implementation process regarding who will serve on the board. Nelson feels it is important to incorporate as much diversity on the board as possible.
“I think we should have as many marginalized voices on a task force as will make them feel heard,” Nelson said. “It’s not good for any of us if we have people in our community who don’t feel safe and don’t trust our law enforcement. I’m a white woman; nobody is going to harass me on the street because of what I look like. It should matter to me that my friends and neighbors who don’t look like me feel like they are harassed or that they’re not going to be treated as fairly as I am.”
Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski will seek reelection against challenger Ali Ramlawi in Ward 5.
Warpehoski feels that he has performed well this term, but believes there is more work to be done on housing, climate change and basic services.
"I feel that I have performed very well. I have been responsive to community concerns and have a good record of replying to constituent emails," Warpehoski said. "The biggest issue we face as a community is housing affordability, and I’m proud of the role that I’ve had to line up approximately $12 million in funding for affordable housing and related services. I am seeking re-election because we have significant work to do on housing, climate change and basic services."
Ramlawi owns the Jerusalem Garden restaurant located on East Liberty Street. He is running for City Council for the second time after narrowly losing to Chip Smith in the 2017 election, in which he attained nearly 48 percent of the vote. As a small-business owner, Ramlawi wants more diversity of council members.
“I think we have a problem with ‘groupthink’ on City Council with people not really listening to Ann Arbor and not really listening to the small-business owners,” Ramlawi said. “I have a chance now to offer that to the residents of Ann Arbor with having somebody who understands the realities that we face.”
Ramlawi also sees city affordability as a major issue.
“We like to call ourselves liberal progressives, but I don’t see it being attacked from the bottom-up when it comes to what people are making and what they’re earning,” Ramlawi said. “I don’t see the voices on council demanding action … it’s not just the supply side of housing.”
This is a developing story. Please check back at michigandaily.com as the elections continue.