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The Ann Arbor City Council met virtually Monday evening to discuss the effort to recall Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, for his use of homophobic and racial slurs, the early leasing housing proposal and the Valhalla Ann Arbor Site Plan – a plan to build a 454-apartment complex off Main Street.

Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, opened the discussion on resolution D-6, which requests that Councilmember Jeff Hayner resign from the City Council after he used homophobic and racial slurs in a Facebook post and in an interview with a Black MLive journalist, respectively.

“There was real harm done and I believe there’s a pattern of behavior that we’re revisiting,” Grand said. “The harm and the pattern of behavior crossed a line that I think is important for us as a council to say, ‘This doesn’t represent our community.’”

Grand said she believed there has been a lack of remorse from Hayner.

“There’s just some behaviour that’s unacceptable,” Grand said. “There’s no context in which it is acceptable. There has been no action of remorse or apology and frankly, based on the pattern of behavior, it wouldn’t make a difference to me after what was done is done.”

Councilmember Linh Song, D-Ward 2, also spoke on the matter regarding Hayner’s lack of remorse and inappropriate use of language.

“Language should not be used to diminish and humiliate others as a tool for hateful ideology,” Song said. “This is echoed in conversations with Black constituents, who’ve asked me to remind colleagues that in this year 2021, we should not be having a conversation defending the use of the N-word, even in quotes.”

Song went on to speak about how this might affect Ann Arbor’s Black residents, suggesting it may be the council’s responsibility to call for Hayner’s resignation.

“BIPOC community members look at our votes in support of Juneteenth, the Crown Act, DEI officer position, and even the Anti-Asian Hate and Harassment Resolution as being disingenuous when we have a councilmember who is yet to apologize for his most recent slurs and insists he is the victim,” Song said.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor also spoke in support of the resolution, saying he condemned Hayner’s offensive word choice.

“The voicing of racial and homophobic slurs is 100% unnacceptable,” Taylor said. “The voicing of this word in any context whatsoever, by an elected official, is not acceptable. We should not accept it, and I certainly do not accept it.”

Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, spoke out against the resolution. Ramlawi voted no on the resolution, however he reassured residents that his vote was not cast that way because he agreed with Hayner’s choice of words.

“I am not going to support this resolution, and because of that I will suffer greatly. People are going to suggest I am condoning the abhorrent behavior and the hurtful language Councilmember Hayner has used. But that’s not why I’m voting no on this resolution,” Ramlawi said. “I feel that this resolution was brought to the admin committee in the wrong spirit … I hope the community will forgive me, the ones that are going to paint me as a sympathizer of bigotry and hate – that’s not what my no vote is about.” 

The motion passed in favor of the resolution with a 7-2 vote. Hayner sought recusal from the conversation and the vote, citing ethics rules. With the motion passing, the Council is now officially requesting Hayner’s resignation. Councilmember Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, joined Ramlawi, voting no.

Several community members called in to voice their opinions regarding C-1, a proposed  ordinance to amend the clause of the Housing Code that bars landlords from entering the premises to show it to prospective tenants until at least 70 days since the start of the current lease period.

Ann Arbor resident Ember McCoy said she supports the 210-day timeline proposed by the Central Student Government (CSG) and the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO).

“(A) 210-day timeline would compromise the needs of both undergraduate and graduate students,” McCoy said. “This timeline would allow for a housing search before classes end, would fall within reason of incoming residents and graduate students confirming their attendance at U-M, and would significantly reduce the time between lease signing, lease end and deposit collection.”

Nick Else, a local landlord, said he offers some support for changing this clause due to his close experience working with students.

“We witness first hand the intense pressure students feel to sign leases early,” Else said. “We feel this pressure, whatever the cause, does result in students making less informed housing decisions, potentially can lead to less cohesive group dynamics within leases and also, can result in more frequent turnover.”

However, Else said his experience as a landlord in Ann Arbor leads him to reject parts of the proposal put forward by McCoy. 

“We feel the 210-day proposal is not ideal, and we would suggest you consider changing it to 150, or perhaps 180,” Else said. “We feel 210 could put even more stress on student renters.”

Public Health senior and CSG President Nithya Arun urged councilmembers to listen to student concerns instead of what landlords perceive the problem to be.

“Students can speak for themselves,” Arun said. “We are the ones being affected by these changes.”

When it came time for the City Council to vote on this amendment, Nelson asked to postpone the decision. The motion passed, leaving the amendment to be voted on during the July 19 meeting.

“I just want to acknowledge how many people we heard from and how important this issue is,” Nelson said. “This is an issue that matters … I am looking forward to coming forward with something more substantive in the second meeting in July.”

Ann Arbor residents also called in to voice their opinions on the Valhalla Rezoning and Site Plan, a proposal to develop 454 apartments on Valhalla Drive off of South Main St. in an effort to provide more affordable housing. 

With affordable housing becoming a growing issue in Ann Arbor, many residents feel that the Valhalla Plan would be beneficial to the community in finding more low-income places for people to reside. 

Ann Arbor resident Molly Kleinman said it is imperative that the city provide more affordable housing to all residents.

“We’re in desperate need of new housing of all kinds, including market-rate apartments,” Kleinman said. “This proposed development is on a major transit line, it’s fully bikeable and walkable, it’s close to downtown, groceries and other amenities, and it’s directly across the street from Pioneer High School.” 

Noting similar support for the site plan, Grand said she is excited that her daughter, who attends Pioneer, might have future classmates that would be able to walk to school from the apartment complex.

“When I think of a welcoming community, I think of a place that gives a variety of housing options, where kids and families can take advantage of living in housing directly across the street from a couple of really terrific schools,” Grand said.  

After much discussion, DC-6, the resolution to approve the Valhalla Ann Arbor Site Plan and Development Agreement, was passed. 

Daily Staff Reporters Maanasa Bommineni and Madeleine Bauer can be reached at maanasab@umich.edu and madbauer@umich.edu.