University of Michigan students enrolled in Public Policy 456/756 hosted candidates for Wards 1, 2 and 3 of Ann Arbor City Council in an online forum Thursday afternoon. Students asked candidates about transportation, affordable housing and climate change.

Anne Bannister, D-Ward 1, is running to keep her current seat on City Council and is challenged by Lisa Disch, a professor in the political science and women’s studies departments at the University. Linh Song, board president of the Ann Arbor District Library, is the sole candidate for Ward 2, the seat currently held by Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2. In Ward 3, Travis Radina, an LGBTQ+ activist, Anthony Brown, the digital distribution manager at WDET and Evan Redmond, a targeting analyst are running for the seat currently held by Zachary Ackerman, D-Ward 3. Ackerman is not running for re-election. 

Disch, Song, Radina and Redmond all participated in Thursday’s forum.

Candidates for Wards 4 and 5 participated in a forum last Tuesday. Elections for City Council candidates will be held Aug. 4 along with other statewide races. 

Lisa Disch, Democrat for Ward 1

Disch said she was compelled to run for City Council due to her concern for issues such as climate change and housing justice shared by many other community members in Ann Arbor. She said the creativity and quirkiness in the community make Ann Arbor an engaging place to live.

When asked about housing developments in Ann Arbor, Disch said student apartment developments are bringing significant amounts of revenue into the city’s budget. She said she supports the creation of a tenant’s union and renter’s commission to provide support for student renters.

“When we talk about development, we need to recognize what development does for us and how dependent we are on it and how fortunate we are to be a place where people want to work and want to live,” Disch said.

If elected to the council, Disch said she will advocate for the city’s new climate initiative A2Zero, which launched March 30 and aims to achieve carbon neutrality in Ann Arbor by 2030.

“I will do my best to continue to be a conduit of communication between the University and the city and also to put pressure on the University,” Disch said. “I think that the first kinds of things I would like to do as a member of City Council is to take the pieces of that plan that we can enact without spending enormous amounts of money and enact them.” 

Linh Song, Democrat for Ward 2

Song is a University alum and lecturer in the School of Social Work. She was appointed executive director of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to distribute funds to area public schools, in 2014. 

Song said it is important to look at models of development across the country when looking for affordable housing solutions.

“For me, I stayed here because my neighborhood is a family,” Song said. “We would all benefit from a bigger, familiar, bigger neighborhood. We should welcome folks here. And I think we should think creatively and not have to rely on developers to fund the work.”

When discussing student voting, Song said important public policies come from the people within a community. She said she hopes student voter turnout increases in the coming years, specifically in local elections.

“This is where elected officials are accountable to the voices of not just complaints and really narrow issues advanced but actually formulating them,” Song said. “So I’d hope for greater student participation on all levels of local government. More students should be at the table, deciding Ann Arbor’s future.” 

Travis Radina, Democrat for Ward 3

Radina, who is president of the Jim Toy Community Center and the LGBTQ liaison to the mayor’s office, said he hopes to be an agent for change for affordability issues in Ann Arbor. 

He said he believes political leaders should be careful in their use of the term NIMBY, meaning “Not In My Backyard,” which refers to residents who oppose proposed housing or parks development in areas close to where they reside. 

“While I do believe there is widespread public consensus in support of smart growth and density here in our community and I believe that an anti-growth mentality would harm our city’s future, I don’t believe that all of our neighbors who voice concerns about specific development projects are motivated by so-called NIMBYism,” Radina said. 

Radina said he thinks the city’s budget solutions should be creative so Ann Arbor is able to maintain a commitment to providing basic services while also avoiding layoffs and preventing outsourcing and privatization of work, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Radina is also a University alum and currently works as the director of global alumni communities at the University’s Alumni Association. During his time on campus, Radina was involved in College Democrats and said he participated in many political movements on campus. He addressed issues of gerrymandering in Ann Arbor. Radina said though the wards were equally gerrymandered during his time as a student during 2004-2008, he feels the student voice was broken up when the ward system was introduced in 2015 and students found themselves split fairly evenly between five wards.

“I think it’s really important for not only council members but candidates for council to continue participating in activities just like this one so that we continue to have open dialogue with students,” Radina said.

Evan Redmond, Democrat for Ward 3

Redmond, also a U-M alum, now works at a marketing analytics firm. He said he plans to focus a lot of his platform on climate change initiatives and on getting Ann Arbor to 100 percent carbon neutrality in the future. 

“Climate change is key,” Redmond said. “Right now DTE is a huge obstacle blocking the city from getting 100 percent renewable energy, but what we can do is establish a publicly owned electric utility.” 

Redmond also talked about how he plans to get the University involved in his goals to get Ann Arbor to become carbon neutral and place it on 100 percent renewable energy sources.

“As you know, the University is a state institution, so there’s little direct power that the Ann Arbor City Council can put on the University,” Redmond said. “We also know the University has been getting grilled in recent months for not divesting from fossil fuels and they continue to operate their coal operated power plant.”

Through collaborations between the city of Ann Arbor and the University, Redmond suggested creating a publicly owned electric utility plant.

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