From the Daily: Vote Chuck Warpehoski

Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 7:32pm

Next week, Ann Arbor residents will vote to elect the city's mayor as well as five candidates to fill seats on City Council. Four of the six seats are uncontested, including the mayoral position. But for the fifth City Council seat in Ward 5, voters will be choosing between incumbent Chuck Warpehoski (D) and David Silkworth (I), an insurance claim representative for homeowners and businesses. Though both candidates emphasize important initiatives, The Michigan Daily’s Editorial Board endorses Chuck Warpehoski for City Council. His experience; support for affordable housing, transportation safety and a new commuter rail; and his commitment to issues of diversity make him the more qualified candidate for the position.

Affordable housing is an important topic often debated in Ann Arbor. During Central Student Government's town hall on affordable housing, many residents and University of Michigan students voiced concerns about the lack of affordable housing. Though both candidates have spoken to this issue, Warpehoski’s support for the creation of affordable housing is all-encompassing, emphasizing the need for a significantly greater number of affordable housing units, not just subsidies — a position The Michigan Daily’s Editorial Board supported earlier this year. Expanding affordable housing is crucial to keeping the University affordable for everyone.

Warpehoski also understands the pressing issues of transportation and safety in Ann Arbor. Not only does he aim to make roadways safer for drivers and to add bike lanes — an effort that is helpful for all (especially students traveling to North Campus) — he also emphasizes the need for changes to transportation around Ann Arbor and, more broadly, the state, that will be more environmentally sustainable. In September, Warpehoski voted in favor of the regional transit tax proposal. This tax is crucial, as it will help connect Detroit and metro Detroit to surrounding states, allowing for more job, education and social opportunities, especially for Detroit residents.

In addition to big-ticket issues of regional importance, Warpehoski played an important role in a controversial proposal currently on the ballot to extend City Council member terms from two to four years. Warpehoski, while neither explicitly for or against the proposal, backed the motion to put this issue to a popular vote. As the Daily Editorial Board noted in its endorsement of this proposal, this change would likely increase voter turnout and subsequently make City Council more representative. It may also generate more productivity and create more long-term projects, because members will have longer terms and won’t spend as much of their terms campaigning for reelection.

Warpehoski has also consistently been an advocate for diversity and inclusivity throughout his time on City Council, which is vastly important moving forward for students of Ann Arbor. In 2014, Warpehoski sponsored legislation to prohibit city employers from forcing job applicants to disclose past convictions — a law that the Daily’s Editorial Board endorsed at the state level shortly after President Barack Obama banned the box on the federal level. He has also worked in conjunction with Black Lives Matter activists to create programs for local police departments to prevent bias. Already, he has helped select a police chief who will push forward with programs such as these.

While his support of the deer cull may leave some people questioning his dedication to the preservation of wildlife, Warpehoski cites environmental concerns as the main reason for his support. During a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters in July of this year, Warpehoski noted that the overpopulation of deer has allowed their predator populations to flourish, making it increasingly difficult for Ann Arbor to remain ecologically diverse — something necessary for the survival of native plants and wildlife. What’s more, his commitment to remedying potential environmental hazards resulting from the toxin 1,4-dioxane found in local groundwater further highlights his desire to protect the safety of the people of Ann Arbor as well as wildlife in the area.

With all of this said, we recognize there are ways in which Warpehoski could improve. Silkworth has emphasized the importance of transparency in how and why City Council makes certain decisions, an area in which Warpehoski leaves something more to be desired. It is important to consider that Warpehoski has been a City Council member for four years and his position aligns with many other members, whereas Silkworth would be bringing in a new perspective. We encourage Warpehoski to examine the ways in which City Council presents its information and communicates with the public.

Nonetheless, Chuck Warpehoski’s experience, support for affordable housing and transportation and commitment to diversity make him the candidate you should vote for next Tuesday.