City Council candidates look to Tuesday's general election
Ann Arbor's last odd-year City Council elections will take place this upcoming Tuesday, Nov. 7. The Michigan Daily sat down with six of the eight candidates to discuss platforms and how local races impact University students.
Jared Hoffert (D)
I think one of the biggest issues facing Ann Arbor for the future is that supply and demand issue. It affects everyone: it affects residents, it affects students … the best possible solution for this right now is that you have to develop and redevelop. You need to make units available because keeping it constant where it’s at will just affect the supply and demand and cost because if there’s nothing there, the rents or costs of buying a house will keep just skyrocketing and make it less and less affordable.
I think the more you make available whether it be through a development downtown … if you could have good density downtown that will bring in more amenities and keep it thriving and bustling. But also I like the ideas of transit-oriented development, where you can put things … you can keep it from sprawling out but they’re on transit hubs. …
I’m not a rubber stamp for anybody. I am my own person and I am very meticulous about my research and looking at all sides of an issue or a problem. I have no problem working with people … you asked before what the theater degree helps with as well. You work with people. You communicate. With no communication, there is no theater. You communicate with those, even those who don’t come from the same point of view as you do when you start, to work toward a common end. I would like to be someone who can hopefully bridge that gap between the factions that are there.
Zachary Ackerman (D)
I grew up here. And my hometown’s been going through a lot of change … I wanted to be part of channeling that change into a positive direction and I saw that direction being around three main areas.
Making sure that we’re continuing to invest in our infrastructure and basic services. I ran to help keep Ann Arbor inclusive and diverse, and the mechanism to do that I believe was affordable housing. And finally keep pushing all those progressive values that make Ann Arbor the special place it is: a vibrant downtown, a healthy park system, being a leader in climate stabilization. …
We have an incredibly beautiful city that is home to an incredible university that is producing some of the greatest talent in the world. The two are inseparable. Talent comes to the University (of Michigan) because of Ann Arbor, and Ann Arbor has the vibrant and creative community it does because of the University. …
I believe that government’s first and primary responsibility is to take care of our basic infrastructure and basic services. Make sure the potholes are filled and make sure that your trash and recycling are picked up on time, every time.
But we’re more than that. We need to strive to be an inclusive community and I think everybody recognizes that. And that means a more affordable housing market.
Jack Eaton (D)
You come into office and you have a couple issues that are particularly important to you. But really, most of what you do is you listen to your constituents and you try to take their concerns and resolve their problems. And I think I’ve done a good job listening to the points of view and trying to represent all those points of view to the best of my ability.
I don’t think students realize just how much power they have … you should demand more. You should get the city to respond to things you care about. For example, I’ve sponsored an immigrant status ordinance that basically withdraws city staff (the police department) from any federal immigration enforcement because we want this to be a welcoming town.
I want to have an independent body, a police review board, where you can go and you can ask for someone to take a sound look at what you went through. Down in downtown areas, students and service sector workers are trying to find an area they can afford. And our recent development, most of these high rises, are luxury apartments. $1,400 per bedroom is not affordable housing.
Diane Giannola (D)
The big issues for me are the train station and the Library Lot. I’d really like to see those come to fruition. They’ve been going on for so long and I’m really hoping that we’ll eventually get those completed.
I’m very knowledgeable about the issues, and I actually look at the facts and look at the history behind each issue. I actually look at what’s best for the community, what’s best for the city, what’s best for the ward.
The train station to me is all about commuter rail. It’s the biggest effort we can do to help with climate change … it helps the residents and the students in the city because it’s less congestion, it’s less fumes in the air.
Affordability is a huge issue and it’s for everyone. There’s not much the city can do even though the people want the city to do something. The city doesn’t own land that it sells to build … I really push to have affordable housing somewhere in the city. Maybe we can give incentives to landlords to bring the rents down, but it’s really a market issue.
I don’t think citizens should actually have a say in how the police department runs. I don’t mind an audit committee, a professional audit committee, but citizens shouldn’t be allowed to judge another profession.
Ali Ramlawi (Independent)
The city of Ann Arbor is near and dear to my heart, and I feel the direction the city is going isn’t one that I’m comfortable in. The city is becoming less diverse, less inclusive, culturally and socially economically speaking. When Obama left the White House, he said we all need to get involved in all levels, and I’m very fortunate to be able to do that. This was a very diverse community — still is — but becoming less so. So to have that in the heart of all my decision-making, that’s what’s good for the people and the community, and not necessarily what’s bringing in more tax dollars.
I would like to look at other areas of Ann Arbor to develop, work with other corporations and entities and organizations within our community to partner up with to try to address the affordability crisis that we’ve had in our town. … The function of government, the number one function of governments, is to protect its citizens. Not the property values of homes. Yes, that is a concern of mine as an elected official. But that should not come into play when the health and safety of its citizens is in jeopardy. I just think that’s a bad government, bad leadership. …
I know what it means to work, I know what it means to pay taxes and I know what it means to be on the other end of it. I think we’d be a much stronger council, a much more creative council, a much stronger community, with more viewpoints. So at the end of the day, we have the best possible solutions to our issues.
Chip Smith (D)
One of the things I’m particularly proud of is looking at the different legislative accomplishments we’ve had. I’ve moved just shy of 50 pieces of legislation through in just two years. But I’m running for specifically for a couple of different reasons. I look at our city and one of the biggest issues we face is affordability. Not just for the people who live here, but for the people who work here and create all the traffic I hear about from residents all the time.
You have to trust what you hear from your police, but you have to verify that that’s accurate. I think the police study is the verification. As you know, I knelt during the Pledge of Allegiance, and that was really to say, ‘Hey, we’ve got the Hillard Heintze study that we’re going to have a work session about and it could have some pretty radical changes, and I’m interested in seeing those.’ As I look at our police department, I think that we have a pretty exemplary department, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of room for improvement.
I think the method I always try and leave with people is that I don’t self-identify as a politician … but what I am is a professional, and I’m extremely thoughtful in how I approach issues. And I think my background as an urban planner working in local governments means that I know how to get things done. It’s not very sexy to say that you’re the work-a-day candidate, but that’s what I do, and that’s who I am, and that’s why I ask people to support me.
Ward 1 candidate Anne Bannister and Ward 2 candidate Jane Lumm were not available for interview.
Anne Bannister has never served on City Council before, but she has held various roles in the Ann Arbor Democratic Party since 2009, while spending her entire professional career in finance. She cites her status as a certified financial planner as a sign of ethics, and told The Daily over the summer in August her platform includes "budgeting tax dollars in response to citizen priorities." During the primaries, Bannister campaigned against the sale of the Library Lot, a piece of land on Fifth Avenue, across from the downtown library, that is currently used for parking. She said in May that she wanted to “put people first” and make the Library Lot sale a ballot item for residents to vote on themselves.
Jane Lumm, the council’s only current independent member, has been on City Council since 2011. On her campaign website, she lists her priorities as fiscal responsibility, transparency, responsible growth and infrastructure investment. She has recently passed legislation to support increased penalties for speeding in school zones and the installation of a new traffic light near the Huron High School and Gallup Park Entrances.