Ann Arbor City Council introduces new councilmembers, talks development, election

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 12:34am

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Courtesy of Kristina Zheng

 

The Ann Arbor City Council met over Zoom to swear in its new councilmembers, discuss development plans and debrief the 2020 election results.

Monday’s meeting was the first for five councilmembers: Lisa Disch, D-Ward 1; Linh Song, D-Ward 2; Travis Radina, D-Ward 3; Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4; and Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5. The meeting began with each of the new council members swearing their oath of office.

Radina thanked the constituents of Ward 3 and the members on council, and said he is looking forward to working with the council to address critical issues important to the city.

“I know that there will be a lot of times when we agree, and on those few occasions when we do disagree, I just want you to know that I will always strive to approach our conversation with civility and respect, and so that even in disagreement, we can continue to work together on the next issue that comes before us,” Radina said.

One of the main points of discussion surrounded a potential planning initiative to increase development in major transit corridors. The resolution — which was first introduced on April 6, but was tabled due to COVID-19 — seeks to create a transit-supported development district in transit corridors identified in the City’s master plan.

Mayor Christopher Taylor, along with Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, said this resolution will help Ann Arbor achieve its housing and desegregation goals, since people who live in transit corridors will be able to come in and out of the community more easily.

“We all know that we are looking for a wide variety of solutions to improve housing in Ann Arbor,” Taylor said. “It won't be quite affordable but it will be less expensive, I believe, than other markets and other market-level housing throughout the community.”

While Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, said he will ultimately support this resolution, he still has some concerns with the follow-through of the proposal. 

“There is a fear in the community about what our intentions are here,” Ramlawi said. “Is this a Trojan Horse? Are we packing this thing with all sorts of surprises that will come out later? So, that is my only trepidation right now — those fears that hopefully will be dispelled. But there's real reason, unfortunately, to have those fears.”

Song said she supports this resolution because it will support members of the community who wish to reside in the city, while also caring for and sustaining the community.

“Hopefully, we can get these folks to the table — the nurses, the teachers, the librarians, the seniors (citizens), who are hoping to have a place here in the city,” Song said.

If this resolution passes, Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, said there must be careful consideration for the wealth generated from the zoning to ensure those most vulnerable are not marginalized even further.

“We have to realize that there is going to be tremendous wealth created from this upzoning, and that needs to be considered because not everyone is going to be a winner in this,” Griswold said. “We've got to carefully track that, keep a focus on it, and make sure it's being done in a very transparent manner where all of our community members are treated fairly.”

The resolution passed, 10-1, with Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, voting against its passing.

Ultimately, Hayner said this resolution is too broad and doesn’t support Ann Arbor’s signature transit, and instead, introduced an alternative resolution that he said addresses more specific transit-oriented development processes as opposed to the first proposal.

“(This resolution) spoke to and tried to build upon already approved documents that are already part of our master planning process, and very specifically spoke to transit-oriented development in very specific ways,” Hayner said.

Hayner said he hopes this new resolution would push the council to implement transportation initiatives.

“And I think one of the, perhaps, shames of this body — maybe shame is too strong of a word — but a concern that this body should have is that we've been sitting on a master plan, State Street area plan since 2013, a transportation plan since 2009, and have failed to act in any meaningful way to push these things forward well before I was on council,” Hayner said.

Others disagreed, saying that Hayner’s proposal is encompassed in the resolution that was already passed. Disch said Hayner’s proposal may actually limit the original proposal by only allowing a particular area to receive the development.

“It seems to me that it either limits DC-2 by restricting the focus to a particular area,” Disch said. “So it's a limitation or it's redundant to DC-2 because the goals of DC-4 are already encompassed by DC-2.”

The resolution failed to pass, with a 2-9 vote. 

The council also discussed the recent results from the 2020 presidential election and voted to officially recognize President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. 

Councilmember Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, said this resolution is to recognize and honor the ideals of democracy.

“(This resolution) is a response to the many incendiary and, frankly, dangerous public remarks that have been made questioning the results of our elections,” Nelson said. “Our city council tries not to weigh in on national issues. But there's a very real local connection here. This resolution references national leaders — President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris — but this is really about all of us who participate in our democracy as constituents, voters, candidates or elected officials.”

The resolution unanimously passed.


Daily Staff Reporter Kristina Zheng can be reached at krizheng@umich.edu.  


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