From the Daily: Vote Elhady, Briere

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published November 1, 2009

There’s an opinion held by many residents of Ann Arbor – and some members of City Council – regarding University students: We don’t care about city elections. This opinion strongly manifested itself during this summer’s Democratic primary campaign when Ward 3 incumbent Leigh Greden predicted that less than a dozen students would vote. In response, a much larger number of students than Greden had anticipated headed to the polls and handed victory to opponent Stephen Kunselman, who won by just six votes. This showed that students do care about Ann Arbor city government and that they can make a substantial difference in the outcome of its elections.

Tomorrow, students will have an opportunity to make an even stronger mark on Ann Arbor government by voting in the general election for City Council. Though Ann Arbor’s perceived hostility to Republicans has made the general elections relatively uneventful in recent years, this year sees two independents making strong bids for City Council seats. Issues surrounding the race include the debate over what to do about Argo Dam and the Stadium Boulevard bridge — structures that many feel are in need of repairs — and a scandal that occurred over the summer when several City Council members were discovered to be sending emails during meetings, possibly in violation of the law.

As vital members of the community with unique ideas for what the city should look like, students have an obligation to silence claims that we don’t care. So head to the polls tomorrow, and as you do, keep the following information in mind.

In the Ward 4 race, Democratic incumbent Marcia Higgins faces a challenge from University economics student Hatim Elhady. Higgins is seeking reelection so that she can continue her work on Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown (A2D2), a plan to streamline the city’s zoning laws. She also believes that her experience will come in handy as City Council approaches tough budgetary decisions. Elhady, on the other hand, believes that projects like the Stadium Boulevard bridge need immediate attention from City Council and wants to get to work addressing concerns of Fourth Ward residents.

Both Higgins and Elhady are, in their own ways, appealing candidates. Higgins expressed an enthusiasm for density in Ann Arbor and opposes height caps. Though this thinking may put her at odds with many residents and other members of City Council, it’s meaningful to students, whose need for affordable housing would be benefited by her independent, progressive approach. But Higgins just can’t match the unique experience that Elhady can bring as a University student.

As a student, Elhady understands that restrictive election laws negatively impact students’ abilities to participate in city government. As an acknowledgement of this, he wants the primary election moved back to April, when students are still around. He also wants to prioritize the elimination of apathy among students and residents by truly staying in touch with his constituents. To this end, he plans to write newsletters and hold regularly scheduled meetings with constituents. Elhady is eager to interact with the people of Ann Arbor and listen to their concerns. While not a perfect candidate — he could stand to gain by adopting some of Higgins’s thinking on density and zoning — the opportunity to put a student who is knowledgeable and passionate on City Council can’t be passed up. The Daily endorses HATIM ELHADY FOR CITY COUNCIL, WARD 4.

In the Ward 1 race, Democratic incumbent Sabra Briere is being challenged by independent Mitchell Ozog, a native of Poland who fled the country in the 1980s. Briere said the budget will be one of the most important issues before City Council next term, and that she possesses in depth knowledge on the issues that comes with experience. Ozog was not available for an interview with the Daily, but his website cites fiscal responsibility and transparency as the most important considerations for choosing City Council members.

Ozog’s background makes him an interesting candidate — he was actively involved in the Solidarity movement against communism during the Polish Revolution in the 1980s. He is also enthusiastic about bringing a fresh perspective to City Council. But ultimately, Briere’s experience and ability to relate to the concerns of both residents and students outweighs Ozog’s fresh perspective. Briere has a long history of involvement with Ann Arbor political life. While her housing priorities don’t always match those of students, she believes in hearing all sides of the debate and reaching compromises that will please students, residents, landlords and developers. The Daily endorses SABRA BRIERE FOR CITY COUNCIL, WARD 1.