Ann Arbor City Council held a special session this week to interview the seven residents applying to fill a Ward 1 City Council vacancy after Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) announced she would step down from her position to move out of the state. Prior to the interviews, all applicants submitted cover letters and resumes, which were made public on the city’s website.
There are currently seven applicants vying for the Ward 1 City Council seat: Kristoph (K.C.) Lopata, Jason Frenzel, Jeff Hayner, David Moya, Charles Bultman, Brent Eliason and Taha Hussain. At the Dec. 5 council meeting, Briere will offer a resolution that she is resigning, formally create the vacancy and step away from the table to allow council members to discuss who should fill the seat.
K.C Lopata currently works as an afterschool site coordinator for Eastern Michigan University’s Bright Start Program, an after-school program for middle school students in the Wayne County area. Lopata moved to Ann Arbor 12 years ago to attend the University of Michigan, and told The Michigan Daily he instantly fell in love with Ann Arbor. In addition to his fondness of the city, Lopata said he was inspired to apply for the council vacancy following the results of the November general election, noting that his disappointment at the results has motivated him to take a more active role in local government. Lopata added that he was inspired by Briere’s leadership on council, saying every time he spoke to Briere about an issue, she listened patiently and responded with deep consideration.
If selected to fill the Ward 1 vacancy, Lopata plans to focus on pedestrian safety. He said he would start by implementing low-cost solutions, such as clearer markings for pedestrian crossing, repainting stop lines and trimming vegetation that obstructs views to give the council time to work out the details of larger, more cost-intensive ones.
Brent Eliason recently moved to Ward 1 but has lived in the city since 2011, graduating from the University’s Law School in 2014. Eliason said his legal background and experience in local government in Utah, where he earned his undergraduate degree, make him a strong candidate for the Ward 1 vacancy.
The two primary issues Eliason aims to address are the 1,4-dioxane plume threatening to contaminate a main source of city groundwater and city development. Eliason said he would work to clean up the plume, focusing on the removal of the dioxane from the underground water before the problem worsens.
In terms of development, Eliason emphasized the importance of evaluating costs and benefits when voting on development proposals. In regards to the library lot, one of the city’s ongoing development projects, Eliason said he believes the issue should have been voted on by the public. In fall 2015, the council voted 6-5 against putting the library parking lot question on the ballot. However, he said it still should have been placed on the ballot since so many people care about the contentious issue.
Jason Frenzel worked for the city of Ann Arbor from 2001 to 2011 as the volunteer and outreach coordinator for the city’s Natural Area Preservation program. Frenzel ran for City Council this year as a Democratic, but lost in the primary to incumbent Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1). As an environmentalist, Frenzel said he was drawn to the council because he believes Ann Arbor is falling behind some of its progressive sister cities in environmental metrics, and emphasized his work with the city provided him with a unique understanding of the internal processes and administrative work that involved providing many of the city’s core services.
Frenzel added that his environmentalist perspective would also be valuable as the city looks to make important decisions regarding recycling management. If chosen for the seat, he intends to focus on issues relating to climate change by hiring new staff dedicated to the issue and forging new initiatives that make alternative energy more accessible, as well as improving citizen engagement — he told the Daily he has spoken to many citizens who are unhappy about the way the city communicates new projects and developments to the public.
Charles Bultman, an architect, moved to Ann Arbor this fall after living in Barton Hills for 17 years, where he said he was actively engaged in the community, adding that he hopes to continue that engagement here. Bultman noted that his work as an architect grants him experience in the development planning process and related administrative work.
If chosen to fill the Ward 1 vacancy, Bultman said he does not have a specific agenda for the first year. He told the Daily he sees the first year as an opportunity to learn exactly what it takes to be a good councilmember. However, Bultman added that if selected for the council, he will be concerned with certain outstanding development issues, such as the library lot.
Jeffrey Hayner, an industrial designer, has lived in Ann Arbor’s Ward 1 for more than 25 years. He ran for City Council in 2013, earning nearly one-third of the vote, but losing to Briere. Throughout his roughly 30 year career, he has worked in creative fields, the technology sector and skilled trades. Hayner told the Daily there is no blue-collar voice on the city’s current council, and believes his knowledge of practical trade skills and project management experience, along with his familiarity with Ann Arbor’s tech community, would be a great benefit to the council. He added he has always been an avid follower of city politics, saying he reads the council packet every week and frequently attends public meetings and hearings.
There are two main issues Hayner hopes to address if chosen to fill the Ward 1 vacancy. First, he said he wants the IT department to create a template for all the City Council members to send out newsletters with anonymous subscribe and unsubscribe lists. Second, Hayner said he aims to address the dioxane plume through a plan he calls “1% for Water,” similar to the city’s ‘1% for Art’ initiative, in which the city takes 1 percent of residents’ bills and 1 percent of the budget of various projects and places it in a trust set aside for decontaminating the city’s water when the plume reaches the river.
David Moya grew up in Ward 1 and recently returned to the area. He works for Nuit Health, and noted that he feels his works providing health care management and medical resources to the community are strong qualifications to serve on the council. He added that he also has experience working as a lobbyist for health care organizations.
If chosen to fill the Ward 1 vacancy, Moya has a variety of issues he hopes to tackle in the first year. He wrote in email interview that he would like to resolve issues such as the library lot and the deer cull, as well as address the community’s growing concern over affordable housing in the city.
Taha Hussain is an engineer at Ford Motor Company who has lived in Ann Arbor for 29 years. During his years here, he has lived in the Arbor Hills and Foxfire neighborhoods. In both neighborhoods, Hussain worked to improve neighborhood safety, advocating for speed control devices and improved street lighting. He also said he is an active member of his church community, where he has served as the treasurer and secretary of the church school.
If selected to serve on Council, Hussain said he would take the first year to learn more about the city’s budget, and would like to make sure the budget is balanced and used in ways to reflect the priorities of city residents. Hussain added that he will also focus on improving street quality by addressing potholes and the lack of street lighting in certain areas.