In the 2018 midterm election on Tuesday, Ann Arbor’s 4th Ward will decide between candidates Elizabeth Nelson and Joseph Hood for City Council. Neither Nelson nor Hood has served on the council before.
Nelson works as a substitute teacher in Washtenaw County. She said she is concerned about factional divisions on the council after three incumbent councilmembers who regularly voted in a majority alongside Mayor Chris Taylor were defeated in the Democratic primary in August. Though Nelson was one of the candidates to oust an incumbent, she said she doesn’t intend to form factions herself.
“I know a number of people have made comments that there is this new faction on council,” Nelson said. “That is very much not the case. I know the people that were elected and all of them have very independent ways of looking at issues.”
Mayor Christopher Taylor and Councilmember Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, who lost to Taylor in the mayoral primary, endorsed Nelson, who said her party affiliation still makes her intentions to dialogue clear.
“I made it clear: I am a Democrat and my opponent is a Republican,” Nelson said. “My hope is that both Jack and Chris view me as someone that they can talk to and that I will hear all arguments.”
Hood is the IT director for Quinn Evans Architects, Inc. He has run for public office as both a Republican and Democrat in the past, and was elected as a Republican precinct delegate in 2012, but is running as an Independent for Tuesday’s election.
Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, was the only incumbent councilmember to win in the primary. Nelson defeated incumbent Councilmember Graydon Krapohl, D-Ward 4, during the primary election.
Jeff Hayner, the Democratic candidate for City Council in Ward 1, noted the primary races for City Council were extremely close, with the exception of the contest between Nelson and Krapohl. Hayner beat out his own primary opponent by a 130-vote margin, winning 51 percent of the vote. By contrast, Nelson won by 1,069 votes with a 60-percent majority.
“They were all kind of close, except for Elizabeth Nelson in Ward 4,” Hayner said. “She crushed that guy, she really did.”
Hood had initially withdrawn as a candidate in order to better the chances of someone defeating Krapohl. After Krapohl was defeated, Hood came back into the race to run as an Independent. He said he switched to Independent because he does not have official Democratic party affiliation, but wanted to improve his odds of winning.
“To be anything in Ann Arbor, you have to be a Democrat,” Hood said. “I saw the best way to accomplish what I want, which is fixing the roads, as some way to do it. I see being a Republican in Ann Arbor on a ballot as being a hindrance.”
Hood also touched on Proposal A, which, if passed, would require the Library Lot property to remain city-owned in perpetuity and be developed into an urban park and civic center commons. The council previously sold the property to Chicago-based real estate developer Core Spaces for $10 million to build seventeen-story high-rise.
Hood said the most important part of Proposal A is that it allows Ann Arbor residents to have a say in the matter.
“The biggest issue is having it be voted on,” Hood said. “As much as people say ‘Oh, the Diag is available and you can get your free speech there’ … The University has an image to maintain. They can’t have it detracted from it … that (the park) would be a place to have free speech. That’s my take on that whether it goes to a seventeen-story building or a park.”
Nelson said she is glad the proposal is on the ballot, but is frustrated with the conversations surrounding it.
“I think it should have been on the ballot before,” Nelson said. “Right now, the conversations surrounding it are a little frustrating for me because I feel like there is a lot of hyperbole and exaggeration about what’s at stake and what exactly this building is going to provide.”
Taylor has urged residents to vote “No” on the proposal.
Councilmembers Anne Bannister, D-Ward 1, and Sumi Kailasapathy, D-Ward 1, sued the city alleging the Core Spaces agreement was signed without the council’s approval.
Hood also addressed issues regarding an independent police oversight commission, which was approved by the council in October after the council voted down the proposal from the citizen-led task force.
Nelson said she felt disappointed that the commission did not originate from the original task force, but understands the concerns councilmembers had with it.
“It bothered me that the starting point for discussion could not have been the original task force document,” Nelson said. “But, as a practical manner, I understand the position they (councilmembers) were in in terms of amending it and addressing some of the concerns that were raised.”
Hood said the issue regarding policing comes down to the city’s inability to govern properly.
“Yes, racism exists, but what it mainly comes down to is inability of government to govern,” Hood said. “What they were doing with that police task force was trying to reinvent government … They want their own unelected government. What’s happening is our own elected government is not doing the job they should be doing.”
Leah Graham contributed to this story.