City Council candidates of Ward 5 participate in virtual forum

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 - 11:42pm

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Courtesy of Navya Gupta

The Democratic candidates for Ward 5 of City Council participated in an online forum via Facebook Live Wednesday evening. Participants included Erica Briggs, David Silkworth and Dan Michniewicz. Around 60 people attended the event virtually. 

Chip Smith, D-Ward 5, is the current councilmember, but he is not running for reelection.

Erica Briggs, Democrat for Ward 5

Briggs is the Ann Arbor Planning Commissioner and executive director at Scenic Michigan. Her platform focuses on affordable housing, combating climate change and effective governance.

“I’m running for City Council because I get worried when I hear long time respected city staff members tell me that they have never experienced such a dysfunctional City Council,” Briggs said. “We deserve elected officials who understand the power of their words, have respect for the institutions they govern and the people who work in them and fight for a brighter future for Ann Arbor.”

Briggs said the predicted budget shortfall of $5 million due to the effects of COVID-19 can be combated by holding off on plans of starting projects and instead focusing on plans for future projects. She said she aims to protect the city workforce from layoffs.

“The unfortunate reality is that we have to cut projects and services that are important to everyone,” Briggs said. 

Briggs said it is essential for the Ann Arbor community to reevaluate community safety and policing. She also said she believes the local government should be examined to ensure no disparate impact of enacted policies.

“Thanks to cell phones, everybody is able to see how police brutality and the tools police have developed to maintain social order disproportionately impact lower-income and minority communities,” Briggs said. “Police brutality exists and whether you live or die depends more on the color of your skin than the crime you committed.”

Briggs said the most important issue in Ward 5 is community affordability. She said residents have been impacted by the rising cost of living in Ann Arbor and the resulting lack of diversity. Briggs aims to bring down the cost of living in Ann Arbor by increasing the housing supply and creating better transportation options. 

David Silkworth, Democrats for Ward 5

Silkworth, a University alum, is a licensed property and casualty insurance adjuster. His platform focuses on community policing, affordable housing and fulfilling Ann Arbor’s sustainability and carbon neutrality goals.  

Silkworth said he believes local government plays an essential role in advancing racial justice. He said increasing the investigative and subpoena power of the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission is a way to ensure police oversight and prevent police brutality.

“I believe that city government must listen to the concerns of all residents,” Silkworth said. “Racial justice means working to resolve social justice issues. Our city needs to make sure that we can create a safe and healthy environment for (people of color) and their children.”

Silkworth also emphasized the need for creating affordable housing to support the needs of people from lower-income and lower-middle class communities.

“We can’t continue to only build housing for rich people,” Silkworth said. “Our economy, our residents are suffering.”

Dan Michniewicz, Democrats for Ward 5

Zingerman’s Bakehouse baker Michniewicz said his priorities are ecological action, Ann Arbor’s commitment to carbon neutrality, pursuing social housing and reallocating police funding.

According to Michniewicz, the budget crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic can be mediated by reallocating police funding towards social services that address the root causes of poverty and inequality. 

“In an economic downturn like this, we have a lot of (residents in) financially precarious (situations) in Ann Arbor,” Michniewicz said. “We should be prioritizing funding for services in the city that go towards making sure that broad economic downturns like this don’t disproportionately hurt them.”

Michniewicz also said reallocating the police budget and demilitarizing the police will enable racial justice in the Ann Arbor community.

“In the past, there were slave catchers,” Michniewicz said. “Now what we often see is the police protecting private property. I’d like to address that as a community and demilitarize the police.”

Elections for city council candidates will be held Aug. 4.

Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at itznavya@umich.edu.

Correction: Dan Michniewicz's name was updated to reflect correct spelling.