Mixed Use Party fails to win seats on City Council

Erin Kirkland/Daily
Third Ward city council candidates Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) and Eastern Michigan University student Sam DeVarti, an independent candidate for the Mixed Use Party, talk strategy during the joined DeVarti/Kunselman watch party at Dominick's. Buy this photo

By Matthew Jackonen, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 5, 2013

After a poor turnout, the Mixed Use Party is bent but not yet broken.

Ann Arbor City Council incumbents Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) and Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) defeated both Mixed Use candidates, LSA senior Conrad Brown in Ward 2 and Sam DeVarti in Ward 3. Though DeVarti garnered nearly 30 percent of the vote in the third ward, Brown failed to surpass a two percent of the vote in the three-person race in the second ward.

So, what will come of the Mixed Use Party, an effort by college students to influence the city’s zoning laws?

University alum Will Leaf, co-chair of the Mixed Use Party, said he is not yet done fighting for his party’s platform, but is unsure of the party’s future.

“We believe in our ideas, and we knew it was going to be difficult,” Leaf said. “We’re going to continue advocating for those ideas, and we don’t know what form that is going to take yet.”

While working the polls and attempting to coax more residents into voting for Mixed Use candidates, Leaf noted that success for him meant getting more than three students out to vote. In the last off-year city council election, only three students in the Markley and Hill neighborhood voted, he said.

“I think anything that’s an improvement over two years ago is good,” Leaf said. “Two years ago student turnout was close to zero.”

Leaf said the party built steam earlier in the year while they were recruiting students, especially among freshmen. He noted that the party had hundreds of people initially interested, and about 30 people attend its mass meeting, but failed to retain prospective members. Students paid less attention to the party and its goals, and only a small amount — roughly 80 students — returned.

He said the Mixed Use Party registered anywhere between 300 and 400 students to vote.

DeVarti, the Mixed Use Party’s candidate in Ward 3, said his campaign was not wholly geared toward students and he did a lot of campaigning in non-student areas. However, he still maintained that his campaign, as well as the party as a whole, placed emphasis on student voters.

Both Leaf and DeVarti said the Mixed Use Party’s platform is founded on seemingly radical ideas that can still bring positive change to the city of Ann Arbor. Leaf specifically noted that gaining the support of city officials already on committees and boards could really bring about realistic change.

“A member of the planning commission came up to me and told me that we had a good idea,” Leaf said. “Maybe that’s how some of the ideas can be incorporated into reality.”

Leaf also said he and his party are waiting for a counterargument to their mixed-use zoning solutions. On that level of debate, Leaf said the party is sound.

“We haven’t heard a counterargument yet,” Leaf said.

DeVarti also maintained that his goal was to build enough of a foundation for the continuation of the Mixed Use Party.

“My goal ultimately was to get a good enough showing flying the Mixed Use Party flag where I could ensure a future for the Mixed Use Party,” DeVarti said. “Goal number one, realistically, was to make sure the party has a future.”

The future of the party isn’t clear. Leaf said he hopes for its continuation, but is unsure how to make winning a reality.

But there’s still hope, and DeVarti said he believes Leaf is key to a successful future for the Mixed Use platform.

“The conventional wisdom is that students don’t vote,” DeVarti said. “And if there’s anyone that can break from the conventional wisdom, it’s Will (Leaf).”