Mayor Hieftje discusses public transit at RSG meeting

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published December 6, 2012

At Rackham Student Government’s last meeting of the semester, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hiefjte held a question-and-answer session focused on public transit, the early lease signing ordinance and other city issues.

The meeting came on the heels of RSG’s graduate student leadership event, which united students from 10 universities for the Student Advocates for Graduate Education conference — a national association of graduate and professional school student governments.

Universities attending the three-day event came from as near as Michigan State University and as far as the University of Washington and the University of California-Los Angeles.

While the mayor warned the crowd that his voice might be tired after a long day of speaking, the first question posed on the stance of public transit drew a 10-minute response about transit in Ann Arbor and Michigan.

“Ann Arbor is the 15th city in the nation this year for the percentage of commuters who use transit in the whole United States,” Hiefjte said. “AATA has had a big jump in ridership in the last couple years.”

Hiefjte also discussed the city’s police and fire protection services and the possible repeal of the early lease signing ordinance, a city law which prevents landlords from leasing a property until its current lease has been served for 70 days. The ordinance is meant to give freshmen students and individuals living in off-campus housing more time to decide their housing for the following year.

Members of the Washtenaw Area Apartment Association spoke at the Central Student Government meeting on Tuesday night about the ordinance. Hieftje said the WAAA is a “powerful lobby in Ann Arbor,” but he doesn’t anticipate that discussion about repealing the ordinance will amount to any significant change.

Benson, a regular attendee at City Council meetings, said he has communicated with city officials on behalf of RSG in regards to the issue.

“We’ve been working with (city) Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–2) for the better part of the last year,” Benson said. “She’s getting a lot of pressure from the Washtenaw area landlord folks to try and put forward a resolution to repeal that ordinance.”

Benson added that RSG would like to host a forum on the ordinance early next year.

Benson also announced that the rest of the injunction hearing against RSG will be held in January.

Six days before the start of the RSG and CSG elections, CSG filed an injunction alleging that RSG is in violation of laws written in several CSG governing documents.

A day into the election, the Central Student Judiciary split the complaint to expedite hearing the complaints about the election, which were most timely. The alleged supremacy clauses in RSG’s bylaws and a lack of Rackham representatives appointed to the CSG assembly were not considered time sensitive issues and were shelved.

“The Central Student Government’s CSJ case against us, while frivolous, will be going forward in early January,” Benson said. “We’re look forward to hearing their arguments about stuff we can very easily defend.”

Hillary Crawford contributed to this report.