- Allison Farrand/Daily
By Anastassios Adamopoulos, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 6, 2015
Incumbent Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) will compete against challenger Jaime Magiera in the August Democratic Primary to represent the 4th Ward on the Ann Arbor City Council.
The 4th Ward is in the southwestern part of Ann Arbor and is partly bound by East Madison Street to the north and Packard Street to the east, with the northwest boundary encircled by the I-94 freeway. According to a Michigan Daily analysis, about 20 percent of registered students live in the 4th Ward.
Eaton, an attorney, was elected to City Council in November 2013. He said the period since his election to council has not been long enough for him to accomplish all the goals he set out to achieve.
“I think I’ve had some impact on the decisions made by council,” Eaton said. “I would like to follow through and just make sure that we really pay attention to the fundamental services that a government should be providing.”
One of Eaton’s main concerns is how the city will allocate its money and he noted that the city needs to prioritize its spending.
“We are coming out of a pretty dramatic recession, and as our revenues increase I’d like to be there to help fashion where we’re going to allocate these resources,” he said. “I think this is a really important time to pay attention where we are spending money.”
While Eaton said he has helped rebuild Ann Arbor’s police and fire departments, he said as the city’s budget increases, initial cuts to these departments need to be reconsidered, and the city must decide how much money it should spend on public safety.
“If we’re careful with how we are spending the money that we have, we can address a lot of areas we neglected during the recession,” he said.
Eaton said his experience and critical voice on council has been key to making him a good representative of his 4th Ward constituents.
“I think that I bring a common sense perspective to City Council,” Eaton said. “A healthy sense of skepticism, so that I do ask tough questions, make sure we are making good use of taxpayer revenues... I think I give a voice to the residents and the neighborhoods in the 4th Ward.”
Magiera has been politically active in the past, such as supporting various political causes, but this is his first time running for elected office.
“I am a proactive person who supports democratic values, progressive values, progressive infrastructure and environmental stewardship,” Magiera said.
Magiera has worked at the University in various capacities related to computer services and programming for more than 10 years and also runs a business that offers digital and programming services. Magiera said these experiences will prove useful to bridging the gap between government and citizens.
“I feel that my experience with managing information will be a useful addition to City Council right now,” he said. “And I think that data is very important right now for understanding where our money goes, our tax money goes, understanding how services work, understanding how well they work and things of that nature”.
Magiera said another reason he is running is his belief that Eaton has not provided effective solutions to the city’s challenges during his time in office. Magiera said he considers himself a “uniter” and someone who can offer viable solutions.
“He’s known for saying ‘no’ to things, but he’s not known for providing alternate solutions or suggesting ways through which things can move forward,” Magiera said. “And I think right now we need someone in that position who is willing to suggest things that can move us forward and provide some inspiration.”
In response, Eaton said he has brought forward ideas and accepted compromises when he has been in disagreement with others rather than standing in opposition of proposed legislation.
Eaton’s main concerns include infrastructure and road repairs, and he suggested using a portion of the budget for to support such projects. Eaton also said the southern part of the 4th Ward faces flooding and sewage problems that need to be addressed.
Eaton said another problem in his ward is the high cost of living. Homeowners have difficulty staying in their houses due to the high property taxes that arise from rising property values.
“We want to make sure that people who are on a fixed income aren’t priced out of our city,” he said. “We want to make sure that we identify how to provide housing that is affordable for a person who works in the service sector that is notorious for low wages. And we want to make sure we can provide shelter for the chronically homeless.”
Magiera noted that affordable housing is related to other housing issues in the city. Construction of large housing structures has priced out people making below the median income level.
“That needs to be addressed because there are economic and social implications of a city where only those who make above a medium-level income can afford to live there and can afford to shop there, can afford to eat at the restaurants, etc. We have to be careful to not isolate our community because that could have economic and cultural repercussions,” Magiera said.
He added that he wants to maintain the city’s parks and incorporate environmental and green technology into the community and foster artists in Ann Arbor. He noted improvements in pedestrian safety and accessibility; bicycle safety and infrastructure as key areas of focus.
Magiera said his candidacy is disadvantaged by Eaton’s incumbency. He said another challenge he faces is that Eaton has tapped into the frustration that people previously had with city government for his political advantage.
“I think that is kind of a disadvantage because he has that momentum going,” he said. “But I am hoping to override that momentum with positive energy and tapping into the possibility that government has to enrich our lives and to be honest and to be straightforward, not corrupt, not full of bureaucracy, efficient.”
When asked to comment on Magiera’s assessment, Eaton said that point does not deserve a response and that he will let the voters decide.
Magiera also said Eaton presents many situations as either downtown issues or neighborhood issues. Magiera said he finds this disingenuous, as he believes that there is no divide between the residents and downtown area.
“Quite frankly, when I’ve asked people as I’ve been canvassing for the campaign, they generally say things that are ubiquitous throughout the city and that deal with the entire city and the downtown area infrastructure and stuff like that,” he said, adding that they want better infrastructure, mass transit and pedestrian safety, issues which are pertinent to the whole city.
Eaton said the situation is not as simple as Magiera presents it, but that he has placed a higher priority on the neighborhoods than prior council members have.
“To the extent that taking care of basic services in the neighborhood costs the downtown, I suppose I would place a higher priority in the neighborhoods,” he said.
Eaton is in the process of collecting the necessary signatures to gain a spot on the ballot, while Magiera said he has already collected the sufficient number.
The Democratic Primary is scheduled for August 4. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 3.