Democratic City Council Candidates for Ward 4 participate in virtual forum

Thursday, June 11, 2020 - 9:54pm

The Democratic candidates for Ward 4 of City Council participated in an online forum via Facebook Live Thursday evening. Participants included incumbent Jack Eaton, Mozhgan Savabieasfahni and Jen Eyer. About 40 people attended the forum virtually. 

Jack Eaton, Democrat for Ward 4

Eaton was first elected to City Council in 2013, was re-elected in 2015 and again in 2017. Eaton also ran for mayor of Ann Arbor in 2018, but he was unsuccessful. 

Eaton has focused on face-to-face connection with his voters and said he attempts to hear points of view that differ from his own. 

“I’ve worked hard to make myself available to those residents and hold regular coffee hours, twice each month so that I can hear from residents,” Eaton said. “I attend neighborhood meetings, I meet individually with residents. I attend public meetings such as developer participation meetings and Planning Commission meetings where residents are expressing their concerns.”

In light of recent protests against police brutality, Eaton discussed Ann Arbor’s police force. He said he has spent the past five years working on police force reform, including the development of a police oversight commission. He has also witnessed the city hire a reform-oriented police chief. 

“Like so many other issues, policing is not a subject that is easy to resolve,” Eaton said. “And the reforms that we’ve started will take many years to see the results from at the same time that we address those big issues. We do need to provide excellent public services and maintain our essential infrastructure.”

Mozhgan Savabieasfahni, Democrat for Ward 4

Savabieasfahani often spoke at City Council meetings as a public commenter before she announced her campaign this past winter. One of her campaign’s core issues is raising the minimum wage. 

“The $15 minimum wage has never been proposed in Ann Arbor by anyone, including Mr. Eaton,” Savabieasfahani said. “Mr. Eaton has never proposed a $15 minimum wage for working people in Ann Arbor. This is a huge problem. We are paying our workers $9.65 an hour. Who can live on that? Nobody. Even if we push for and get $15 minimum wage, that would take three weeks of someone’s monthly income to pay the rent.”

When asked about budget cuts in the fall, Savabieasfahani emphasized the importance of recognizing the city's vulnerable populations. 

“At this time, we should be thinking about how to make economic rescue packages for families who don’t have money to pay the rent,” Savabieasfahani said. “We have to rescue the most vulnerable population instead of constantly talking about cuts. Cities that have successfully fought this coronavirus have cleaned up their environment and their people from the virus.”

Jen Eyer, Democrat for Ward 4

Eyer, a former reporter for both MLive and the Ann Arbor News, said she wants to use her time on council to work with both the people on council and in the community.

“So I’ll tell you, my training and my background and my approach to public service comes from my 20 plus years as a journalist,” Eyer said. “A journalist is trained to listen to all sides of an issue to understand that there are multiple viewpoints and to seek out the facts. When I agree with issues, I always ask what’s missing? What information is missing from this picture? Or whose voice is missing from this conversation? And that’s exactly how I will serve on council.”

Recently, protests against police brutality across the city have brought attention to racial discrimination in Ann Arbor. Eyer said she believes it’s important to ensure equal housing, equal transportation and equal opportunities for all Ann Arbor residents.

“The local government has a very big role to play in promoting racial justice,” Eyer said. “Local government historically has played a role in creating racial injustice, and now must take steps to remedy that. And over the years has taken many steps, but we have so much more work to do. I said earlier, diversity is in our city's mission statement, and it's a core value. I believe we have to protect and pursue diversity in every aspect of what we do.”

Daily Staff Reporter Brayden Hirsch can be reached at braydenh@umich.edu.