Three incumbents re-elected to Ann Arbor City Council

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 11:09pm

Tuesday’s Ann Arbor City Council elections concluded with Jane Lumm, Jack Eaton and Chip Smith emerging as winners, affirming the status quo in the legislature. This Tuesday was the final odd-year election in Ann Arbor, as residents voted in 2016 to move councilmember term length from two to four years.

Ward 2 — WINNER JANE LUMM

Incumbent Jane Lumm won handily in the Ward 2 elections earning 2548 votes, or 64.2 percent of the 3968 votes cast. Her opponent Jared Hoffert earned 1420 votes, or 35.8 percent of the total votes cast. This will be Lumm’s fourth term on City Council.

Ward 2 encompasses the east and far northeast of Ann Arbor, containing large parts of Nichols Arb and institutions like the Washtenaw Community College.

Lumm said her extensive experience and successful track record in city government helped her win by a large margin.

“I think it’s … job number one for a councilmember to assist people and help with their issues and concerns,” Lumm said. “I’ve been able to learn a lot about the Second Ward and City government and the neighborhood and that kind of experience … gave me an advantage.”

Lumm named pedestrian safety, substantive election reform and securing enough downtown parking capacity as issues she wants to tackle in her next term. She also emphasized the importance of balancing economic development with maintaining the character of Ann Arbor’s neighborhoods.

“The number one priority for me has always been in continuing to take a lead in properly addressing Second Ward issues,” Lumm said. “That’s fiscal responsibility and … to make sure that tax dollars are spent wisely and specifically with the broader community’s priorities (in mind).”

Hoffert said though he lost, he was proud he managed to capture more than a third of the vote with a quarter of the fundraising Lumm had. He also pointed out he won in student-heavy Precincts 1 and 2, even though he was virtually unknown prior to running.

“I won Precincts 1 and 2, which is very student-based, so I think that says something,” Hoffert said. “I would love to have the students’ voice count.”

Hoffert recalled being humbled by running for office and learning about the everyday issues that affect Ward 2 residents. He said he realized that to be able to be a good councilmember, he had to be able to represent the concerns of every resident in the ward.

“For the first time I’ve ever run for office, nobody knew who I was; I think if you look at it that way it’s rather respectable,” Hoffert said. “We’ll see what happens in three years, if I feel like coming back to the table.”

LSA junior Jacob Caruso volunteered on the Hoffert campaign, knocking on doors and calling voters leading up to election night and then running back and forth between polling places to hear results. He got involved after his roommate, who also worked on the campaign, persuaded him to, but what really drew Caruso to the campaign was Hoffert’s desire to officially classify Ann Arbor as a sanctuary city.

“There’s some ups and downs," Caruso. “It was a good experience overall.” 

Ward 4 — WINNER JACK EATON

Incumbent Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, was victorious in Ward 4 earning 2371 votes, 70.2 percent of the 3376 total ballots cast. Independent candidate Diane Giannola earned 26.73 percent of the ward with 873 votes. This will be Eaton’s third consecutive term in City Council.

Eaton told The Daily he is ready to get back to the City Council chambers. He plans to focus on pedestrian safety, affordability and the Gelman plume in the next three years, as well as openness and transparency initiatives.

While he’s excited at the outcome of the election, he isn’t shocked.

“I’m pretty pleased,” Eaton said. “I’m not surprised that I won because my opponent didn’t run a very vigorous campaign but I’m pretty pleased with the margin of victory. I’m looking forward to getting back to work. … It’s a privilege to represent the 4th Ward and I’m really quite grateful for the support they’ve given me.”

Giannola could not be reached for comment.

Ward 5 — WINNER CHIP SMITH

Incumbent Chip Smith emerged as the winner in Ward 5’s contentious City Council race, defeating Jerusalem Garden owner Ali Ramlawi by a small margin. Smith won with 3008 votes to Ramlawi’s 2826. This will be Smith’s second term on City Council.

When the results were first reported, Smith spoke in front of a crowd of people at a watch party he co-hosted downtown with the Hoffert campaign. He thanked his family and constituents for their support, expressing how proud he was of his campaign team. In an interview with The Daily afterward, he said he was exhausted but excited to keep working.

“Nobody’s going to outwork my team,” Smith said. “We’ve worked really hard right down to the end. … We knocked 6,000 doors, we made 4,000 phone calls, we talked to a lot of people and I think that my policies reflect that and I’m glad I had the confidence of the voters of the 5th Ward to keep doing that, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing that.”

On the other side of town at his own watch party, Ramlawi said he was disappointed with the results but proud of the close election. He was still counting it as a victory and said he doesn’t feel ready to give up just yet.

“When you get that close it’s heartbreaking; you feel like, ‘Wow,’ ” Ramlawi said. “And then after a while, you look at (all these people) that voted for me. I’m an independent who put a campaign together in under three months and nearly knocked off an incumbent supported by everyone in the Democratic party, including the mayor knocking on doors for him — you’ve got to look at it as a victory. You’ve got to keep your head high and no regrets. We don’t regret a thing; I’m glad we did this. We might be back next year.”

Ward 5 contains Ann Arbor’s Old West Side, as well as parts of Liberty Street. The Gelman dioxane plume affects groundwater in the area, but development is the biggest issue for the residents of the ward.

Smith said he’s going to focus on development and affordability in the next three years; both issues were key parts of his platform. When asked about his ideal vision for Ann Arbor in the next three years, Smith said he hopes the city will become a leader in bicycle and pedestrian safety, a role-model worldwide for what we’re doing to curb climate change and a place people of all income levels can afford to live.

“It’s a lot of work to do. I’m up for the work, I’m excited to do the work, I’m honored that I’m being sent back to do it,” Smith said.

The New Council

Though three incumbents won, there will be a new face at the City Council meeting this Thursday as Anne Banister (D) became the new representative of Ward 1 after defeating incumbent Jason Frenzel in the Democratic primary in August. Banister is opposed to the Library Lot deal and is worried about the proposed high-rise.

This means the supermajority of eight councilmembers needed to pass controversial items like the Library Lot deal has disappeared from City Council, putting Mayor Chris Taylor (D) and his allies in a tight spot if they want to push through with big plans like the new Amtrak station and new housing developments.

Taylor said he hopes to work effectively with the new council to solve pressing issues facing Ann Arbor such as affordable housing and rising costs for services.

“I think that the issues that face us continue to face us,” Taylor said. “Those pressures are going to continue and so I expect that we’ll continue to have a conversation about how we make sure that Ann Arbor is sustainable and affordable.”

Councilmember Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, is also excited to be working with her familiar colleagues again. She worked on Smith’s campaign and is especially happy he’ll be back on City Council with her.

“I’m thrilled about it,” Grand said. “I took most of the day off today to make phone calls for Chip and I hung door hangers in the rain on Sunday. It’s really just that part of what I love about serving on council is that I have these really thoughtful, excellent, committed colleagues.”

In addition to the three contested City Council races, ballots also included a millage to increase funding for mental health and public safety in Washtenaw County. The millage passed overwhelmingly, much to the surprise of Conan Smith, the Washtenaw County commissioner for District 9 and a lecturer at the Ford School of Public Policy.

At Smith and Hoffert’s watch party, Smith thanked voters for passing this millage, which will provide Washtenaw County with $15 million to improve public safety and mental health. After steady cuts from the mental health budget from the state of Michigan, Washtenaw County wanted to take matters into their own hands. According to Smith, the majority of the population in the Washtenaw County jail face mental health challenges and he expects this increase in funding to greatly improve the services available to them.

“Putting a mill on the ballot for these two services was a big deal. It was very controversial on the Board of Commissioners,” he said. “It only passed 5 to 4. It was a very close margin just to put it on the ballot. To be affirmed by the people of Washtenaw at two-to-one — I want to cry. I am so, so grateful, I can’t even tell you. The help this is going to provide to our most vulnerable citizens … those are the kinds of people that are going to be served by this.”

This article has been updated to include a statement from Councilmember Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2.