Ann Arbor City Councilmember Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, is challenging Mayor Christopher Taylor, D, for his seat in the 2018 Democratic primary election, Eaton announced via press release Thursday.
The retired labor lawyer won his current seat on City Council in 2013, defeating then-incumbent Marcia Higgins in the Democratic primary. After winning reelection in 2017, Eaton’s current term would end in 2020.
In the press release, Eaton criticized Taylor’s plan to fix roads in the city, which has a goal of achieving 80 percent of roads in “good or better condition” by 2026.
“Christopher Taylor supports a road repair plan that forces residents to wait eight years for better roads. That’s not a plan; it’s a can kicked down a potholed road,” he said. “Taxpayers can’t afford that kind of leadership any longer.”
In an interview with the Daily, Eaton touted his own record on infrastructure improvement, saying he had been “a strong advocate.”
“We want to enable people to bicycle and walk –– those are really big issues for me to take care of that basic infrastructure,” he said. “That’s just essential for a bustling city like this and especially around campus.”
Speaking to student concerns, Eaton acknowledged street lighting in areas such as Kerrytown and neighborhoods off Hill Street was lacking, and said he’s been a proponent of street light improvement.
“I think this is particularly important to students because students you know whether they’re coming home from a friend’s house, the library or whatever are out later than other residents in town sometimes,” Eaton said. “And it’s just good safety practice for neighborhoods to keep well lit so that when you’re walking home you can see what’s around you.”
Eaton also took credit for creation of “Ann Arbor’s first citizen-controlled police oversight board,” noting his opposition to Taylor on the issue, who Eaton said “sought to undermine citizen control of the police oversight board.” At a City Council meeting on February 5, Eaton successfully proposed amendments to a resolution regarding formation of a police review board, providing for creation of an independent civilian-led task force to make recommendations on the creation of a board.
In addition to wanting citizen-led police oversight, Eaton said he wanted to make increases to the Ann Arbor Police Department’s shrinking and aging staff, citing complaints of women being harassed downtown. Eaton said he thinks a greater police presence “would encourage people to behave themselves.”
“Just so that they’re there, not to arrest anybody not to be oppressive or anything, just to let people know that they’re safe,” he said. “A common complaint I get about the downtown is that young females are harassed you know by aggressive pleas for panhandling – and all that icky stuff that terrible men say to young women.”
In an interview with MLive, Eaton said he considered himself to the left of Taylor on the political spectrum, calling Taylor “corporate.”
“I consider myself kind of a lefty populist –– you know, an Elizabeth Warren sort of Democrat. And maybe it’s unfair, but I’d characterize the mayor as kind of a Clinton Democrat,” Eaton said. “So, (the city does) a lot to skim money off from our public revenues and give it to the DDA and SPARK and all of these entities that are in the business of shifting public dollars to private hands.”
One of the most prominent issues on which Eaton and Taylor have voted against each other was the sale of the downtown “library lot,” which Eaton opposed and Taylor supported.
Eaton also cited flaws in the city’s recycling program as motivation for running.
“Incredibly, under the leadership of our previous Mayors, residents have been forced to ask, ‘Why was our recycled glass being quietly landfilled?’” he said in the release.
Taylor was not available for comment at the time of publication. In a statement to MLive, however, Eaton said he welcomed the competition.
“When I ran in 2014, I pledged improved basic services and enhanced quality of life,” Taylor said. “We have had real success –– millions more for road maintenance, millions more for pedestrian and cycling safety, stormwater improvements, 1,000s of new street trees, expanded funding for climate action and affordable housing, and more –– but we’re not finished. We need to double down on roads, traffic improvement, and enforcement; affordability and housing; and ensure that our infrastructure is the envy of Michigan.”