There are five Ann Arbor City Council positions up for re-election this November, but Ward 5 on the city’s northwest side is the only contested race.
Incumbent Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D), who has served four years on City Council, is running against political newcomer David Silkworth (I), an insurance claim representative for homeowners and businesses.
In the August Democratic primary election, Warpehoski defeated challenger Kevin Leeser, a nurse in the University Health System, garnering 2,424 votes compared to Leeser’s 1,120. Warpehoski was expected to run unopposed in the general election until Silkworth decided to enter the race as an independent in July.
Silkworth initially began collecting signatures to run as a Democrat in this year’s City Council election, but after attending the council’s meetings and further involving himself in local politics, he said he noticed his ideologies did not truly align with the sitting Democrats on the council, deciding to run as an independent.
Warpehoski and Silkworth hold opposing views on several issues, including property development in their ward and throughout the city.
In particular, Silkworth said he thinks there is currently a pro-development imbalance on City Council. While Silkworth has been most vocal about his opposition to the deer cull in previous public comments, he emphasized that protecting single-family neighborhoods from more large development projects has become a main component of his campaign.
“While very good at soft conversation, when it comes to hard issues, they (current City Council members) always come down on the side of development,” Silkworth said.
In an interview last week, Warpehoski said he sees future development projects as essential to solving the city’s affordable housing problem. He attributed current discussions around housing affordability to supply shortages, pointing to a lack of housing to accommodate the number of people who want to live in the city.
“Part of it is a supply and demand problem,” Warpehoski said. “One of the ways to address that part of the housing affordability problem is to increase our housing supply, so I am in favor of policies that help us increase our housing supply.”
One potential project the candidates are divided on is the city-owned Library Lot on Fifth Avenue and Williams Street. City Council has been discussing the idea of building a 17-story apartment complex in the currently empty lot. Councilmember Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) has proposed letting the public vote on the development of the space in the November election, but the current council, including Warpehoski, voted the measure down.
Silkworth said the use of the lot needs to be taken to a popular vote, adding that there needs to be greater trust in the public and transparency between all parties.
He also emphaized erm limits, nothing an upcoming ballot proposal to increase in mayor and City Council member term length from two to four years, Silkworth argues keeping the two years would lead to greater civic engagement.
Supporters of the resolution argue that extending term length would lead to greater voter turnout since the mayor and City Council elections would take place during a higher-profile election, like presidential elections. Silkworth, however, said local elections should take place in years without high profile elections so voters can focus on the local political landscape.
Warpehoski voted for this proposal to appear on the ballot.