Ward 4 City Council race challenges incumbent's leadership style

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 - 7:57pm

City Councilmember Graydon Krapohl (D–Ward 4), who ran unopposed in his original 2014 election, faces two separate challenges for his council seat from residents dissatisfied with what they describe as his ineffectual leadership. However, he argues it is merely his brand of centrist pragmatism.

Both Eric Lipson and Diane Giannola are challenging Kraphol for his seat. Whomever emerges the victor of the Aug. 2 Democratic primary election will most likely claim the seat unopposed in November.

In a recent forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, the three candidates came together to discuss their positions on these issues. Lipson and Giannola tended to hold conflicting proposals for solutions to issues facing the council, whereas incumbent candidate Krapohl tended to hold a neutral position.

The topic of development highlighted where these two candidates differ. Giannola is a supporter of growth in density, pushing for the development of a large building complex at the downtown library lot. Lipson opposes this and supports maintaining green space and constrained growth.

However, both Lipson and Giannola share a discontent with the current state of affairs on City Council.

Giannola, a 20-year resident and current manager of the University’s Venture Accelerator, believes the current City Council currently lacks an aspect of customer service and that it operates to push agendas through, rather than communicate and work with residents on their issues.

“Overall, the mentality seems to me that they don’t see it as a service job and more that they have been appointed to this to pass the initiatives,” she said in an interview with the Daily.

She feels strongly that communication with residents is lacking, primarily because many City Council members do not put forth the effort. Particularly, she believes there is no meaningful constituent service in Ward 4 from its City Council delegation.

“Graydon is non-existent from what I can tell,” she said.

Both challengers have expressed concerns about what they described as Krapohl’s neutral, “wait and see” approach to how issues unfold.

Lipson, a 40-year resident who has acted as city planning commissioner and director of Student Legal Services, said in an interview with the Daily he believes that many City Council members, including Krapohl, do not vote decisively. He believes his competitor’s voting habits are non-conducive to taking actual steps forward toward solutions for on-going issues such as the dioxane plume and the lack of transparency around the proposed train station development.

“There are some members who are more independent than others,” Lipson said. “And there are some members, such as my competitor the incumbent that I am running against, who vote along the party line and are aligned with the mayor.”

Krapohl, a former Marine and self-proclaimed pragmatist, says that he votes in line with the mayor for logical reasons, not for political reasons.

I don’t fly by the seat of my pants,” Krapohl said in an interview with the Daily. “When I talk at Council, I try to get to root problems and not treat symptoms. I tend to align with the mayor because I think philosophically on a number of issues I agree with that approach; I don’t think that’s bad.”

Krapohl, who was born in Ann Arbor and has extensively played a role in city government during his time as a resident, has served on the Ann Arbor Parks Commission and as a Neighborhood Watch coordinator. While on City Council, he has served on the Human Rights Commission and the Local Development Finance Authority.

“I think my experience and perspective is different from the other two candidates, and I think that both of them seem to be very issue oriented and to some extent have an agenda” Krapohl said.

Both Lipson and Giannola have focused on particular areas of interest during their campaigns and have expressed that they intend to take immediate action on these issues if they are to be elected. Lipson wants to take immediate action toward addressing the spreading dioxane plume dealing with issues of transparency concerning the proposed train station development. Giannola wants to place City Council priority on the development of the library lane lot.

While these two candidates have outlined specific goals that they want accomplished if they are elected, there has been open comments on the fact that there has been a lack of any specific issues that immediately concern the majority of their constituents.

“On some years there are issues that tears the community apart,” Giannola said. “But this year, I don’t see any issues that will get people out to the polls, and it’s a bit worrisome. There is not a local issue that matters so much to the fourth ward people.”

Krapohl argued that a City Council member driven by personal issues rather than popular consensus could detract from his or her ability to make the best decision based on facts, noting that a lack of support for issues driving candidates could lead to problems once they are in office.

“If you are unable to gain support for that issue, then you are dead in the water,” he said. “If you are only focused on your issues, I think it can cloud your judgement and your perspective when you need to get things done. It is important to get council as a whole to make decisions.”

Giannola summed up what she found to be the fundamental differences in approach to issues.

“Graydon is making decisions based on what is presented to him,” she said. “I want to get the information before the decision-making process, so it’s just a different way that we go after the job. Eric comes at it from an ‘anti’ point of view, he approaches issues as the devil’s advocate.”

Profile of Ward 1 race can be found here.

Profile of Ward 5 race can be found here.