Hayner and Nelson win City Council races, residents pass Prop A
Both Democratic candidates won in the two contested elections for Ann Arbor City Council Tuesday night, and residents voted to pass Proposal A, halting the city’s controversial plans to sell the Library Lot to developer Core Spaces, LLC for development of a 17-story high-rise. In Ward 1, Democratic candidate Jeff Hayner beat Independent candidate Ryan Hughes, a Democratic Socialist, and in Ward 4, Democratic candidate Elizabeth Nelson beat Independent candidate Joseph Hood. In Wards 2 and 5, Democratic candidates Kathy Griswold and Ali Ramlawi won seats on City Council for the first time.
Ward 1 –– Jeff Hayner
At 12:30 a.m., Hayner had 5,163 votes and 73.2 percent of the vote, while Hughes carried 1,858 votes or 26.3 percent. Voter turnout in Ward 1 was 41.3 percent.
Hayner’s campaign focused primarily on environmental issues such as the dioxane plume. In his victory speech at an election watch party at Necto Nightclub, Hayner said he intended to end a trend of “top-down government.”
“We’re prioritizing residents’ concerns and that’s a little different,” Hayner said. “There’s been a lot of top-down government and I think we’re looking at a new look for Ann Arbor where the people’s concerns have been expressed.”
Hayner prevailed in a contentious primary in August against Ron Ginyard, a retired financial adviser who was backed by Mayor Christopher Taylor.
Hayner received endorsements from Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy, D-Ward 1, and Councilmember Anne Bannister, D-Ward 1, as well as the local chapter of the Sierra Club and Councilmember Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, who unsuccessfully challenged Taylor for the mayorship.
During the primary, Hayner faced criticism for being a member of the National Rifle Association as well as controversial tweets regarding abortion and gun control. Ginyard also came under scrutiny after past financial problems surfaced as well as the fact that he hadn’t voted since moving to Ann Arbor from California four years ago.
Hayner prevailed in the primary with 51 percent of the vote and a 130-vote margin of victory.
In 2013, Hayner ran as an Independent against then-incumbent Democrat Sabra Briere. Hayner said he did so to spend more time talking about the issues central to his campaign, which included funding the city’s employee pensions.
Hughes, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan, centered his campaign around the issue of affordable housing in Ann Arbor, arguing that market forces had failed to provide an adequate number of low-income residences. He said Ann Arbor was the most expensive area in Michigan and proposed having the city directly intervene to provide affordable housing.
Hughes ran as an Independent because he felt that by the time Kailasapathy announced she would not be seeking re-election, it was too late to mount a proper campaign in the Democratic primary.
Due to the time constraints that barred him from running as Democrat, Hughes launched a campaign unaffiliated with either major party, deciding to run as a Democratic Socialist because he worried that if he had run as just an Independent, people would have assumed he was a conservative. Hughes said he thought the votes he received meant more since he didn’t have the benefit of running as a Democrat.
“What I’m looking at right now, it looks like 1,600 people voted for me, and I think, like, that means 1,600 people voted for me, you know?” Hughes said. “Whereas Jeff Hayner had the advantage of the Democrat thing next to his name, so we don’t know how many of those votes were actually for him and how many were just for the 'D.’ I tell you, there’s no shame in losing to the blue wave, but I think I did the best I could with trying to get affordable out there, trying to get it talked about.”
Ward 2 –– Kathy Griswold
Democrat Kathy Griswold ran unopposed for Ward 2 after defeating incumbent Councilmember Kirk Westphal in August by 53 votes. This will be her first term on City Council.
Griswold is a former trustee for the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education. She has also worked for Unisys Corporation, a technology company, and as a medical information consultant.
Griswold is a longtime pedestrian safety advocate. She spoke at many public commentary sessions at City Council meetings, specifically critiquing proposals to expand transit services and increase Council terms to four years. She has also been publicly critical of Mayor Christopher Taylor, specifically on “factionalism” among Councilmembers.
Griswold hopes to place a moratorium on new pedestrian sidewalk installation until all of the city’s sidewalks are properly marked and meet engineering standards. Griswold also hopes to have 70 percent of city roads improved to a 7/10 Pavement Service Evaluation and Rating (PASER) ranking within two years.
Ward 3 –– Julie Grand
In Ward 3, Democratic candidate Julie Grand won her uncontested election. Grand has served on City Council since 2014 and won the Democratic primary in August against challenger Alice Liberson with 53.4 percent of the vote.
Ward 4 –– Elizabeth Nelson
As of 12:30 a.m., Nelson had 7,441 votes, or 87.4 percent of the vote, and Hood 1,016 votes, or 11.9 percent. Voter turnout in Ward 4 was 46.5 percent.
Nelson ran on a campaign platform including affordability, environmental responsibility and making City Council more responsive to citizens. She criticized city government for being run primarily by unelected bureaucrats on various commissions and committees.
She defeated incumbent Democrat Graydon Krapohl in the Democratic primary in August, one of Mayor Christopher Taylor’s allies on City Council. Both Taylor and his opponent in the mayoral primary, Jack Eaton, D-Ward 4, endorsed Nelson. Taylor beat Eaton by more than 5,000 votes to hold onto the mayorship.
On the campaign trail, in addition to characterizing herself as a “strong progressive,” Nelson expressed concerns about what she saw as in-fighting and factionalism on City Council, especially after members of Taylor’s voting block on the council lost their reelection bids. In her victory speech, she said she was glad the campaign was over.
“I’ve really enjoyed meeting people and hearing their ideas,” Nelson said. “I’m excited that the process is over because there was a lot of negativity that caught me off guard, so I’m glad that that’s over. I’m really excited and looking forward to representing Ward 4.”
Nelson, who has both a law degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan’s School of Education, works as a substitute teacher, “covering long-term assignments that require certification,” according to her campaign website.
Joe Hood, the IT director at Quinn Evans Architects, Inc., ran as an Independent, but previously served as a Republican precinct delegate from 2012 to 2014. He has made plays for public office on both sides of the aisle, previously campaigning as both a Republican and Democrat.
Hood said he chose not to run as a Republican because doing so would have hurt his chances of winning in the general election given Ann Arbor’s liberal political leanings.
Hood initially entered the race as a Democrat, but withdrew his candidacy so that he would not siphon votes away from other challengers in the primary to improve the chance of unseating incumbent Krapohl.
After Nelson defeated Krapohl, Hood then re-entered the race as an Independent. During his campaign, Hood focused on issues including fixing the city’s roads and bicycle safety.
Ward 5––Ali Ramlawi
Democrat Ali Ramlawi defeated incumbent Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski, D-Ward 5, and ran unopposed. This will be his first term on City Council. Ramlawi owns Jerusalem Garden restaurant at 314 E. Liberty Street.
Ramlawi ran as an Independent and narrowly lost to Councilmember Chip Smith in 2017, obtaining about 48 percent of the vote. He ran on a platform focusing on affordability, climate change and basic services.
Ramlawi was also critical of factional divisions on Council, describing Council as a group struggling with ‘group think’ in a previous Daily article. He believed he can contribute to diverse thoughts on Council with his experience as a small-business owner in the area.
Proposal A –– Passed
Proposal A passed with 22,967 votes, or 52.2 percent of the vote, with 20,998 votes against it. The proposal aimed to derail plans to build a 17-story high-rise on the lot adjacent to the Ann Arbor District Library. The ballot measure requires the city to hold onto the parcel, known as the Library Lot, in perpetuity and develop it as an urban park and civic center commons, in direct conflict with City Council’s decision in April 2017 to sell the Library Lot to Chicago developer Core Spaces.
In June 2018, City Council agreed to $10 million purchase agreement that would allow the developer to build a complex that would include a hotel, apartments, and office and retail space. The plan would also have to include 12,000 square feet of space to be used as a public plaza, in accordance with a resolution passed by City Council in 2014.
Proposal A halts the development proposed by Core Spaces, which is also the subject of an ongoing lawsuit filed by City Councilmembers Sumi Kailasapathy, D-Ward 1, and Anne Bannister, D-Ward 1, who sued the city of Ann Arbor, Mayor Christopher Taylor and City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry. The lawsuit accuses them of violating Ann Arbor’s city charter by signing a development contract without consulting City Council first.
Proposal B –– Passed
Proposal B passed with 36,605 votes, or 87.4 percent of the vote, with 5,261 votes against it. Prompted by the 2016 passage of a proposal increasing term length of councilmembers and mayors from two years to four, Proposal B requires vacancies on City Council to be filled by popular election. Currently, City Council fills vacancies itself via a process of application and appointment, as was the case with former Councilmember Jason Frenzel, D-Ward 1, who filled the vacancy of former Councilmember Sabra Briere when she moved to California in 2016. Elections to fill vacancies are to be held only if the vacancy occurs at least 30 days before the filing deadline for the primary election two years after the four-year term for the vacated seat begins. City Council would appoint someone to serve until the intermediate election.
Proposal C –– Passed
Proposal C passed with 33,047 votes, or 75.2 percent of the votes, with 10,895 votes against it. The proposal levies a tax of 1.1 mills, or 0.11 percent of taxable property value, in order to fund “maintenance and capital improvements” for local parks. The duration of the tax is from 2019 to 2024, and it replaces a tax of the same rate which expires in 2018. The tax is estimated to raise approximately $6 million in revenue for the first year it is in effect, some of which may also be used by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.
Andrew Hiyama contributed to this article.