The Ann Arbor Democratic Primary election for the Democratic mayoral candidate will be held Tuesday, Aug. 5. Currently, there are four candidates running for the Democratic spot on November’s ballot: Councilmembers Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1), Sally Hart Petersen (D–Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) and Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3). The winner of next week’s primary will face independent candidate Bryan Kelly Nov. 4 in the election for city mayor, where a democratic candidate — John Hieftje — has won the election for the past seven terms. While many University students pay little attention to city politics, the upcoming mayoral election is important for everyone residing in Ann Arbor whether they live here permanently or temporarily, like many students.
Each of the four Democratic Primary candidates have served on the Ann Arbor City Council, ranging from two to seven years. Similarly, current mayor John Hieftje supports each of the candidates to varying degrees.
Sabra Briere has been active in the Ann Arbor community for more than thirty years and has served on City Council since 2007. Briere’s platform emphasizes general improvements to the city. She also supports increased inclusivity, and creating stronger transparency between residents and city officials. Incorporating inclusivity isn’t a surprise for Briere, a candidate well known for listening to residents’ issues within the city. While open communication is desirable, her communication skills haven’t efficiently translated into fruitful solutions to issues. Briere hasn’t provided tangible solutions for improving unity between the University and the city. Furthermore, The Michigan Daily noted in 2009 that her housing viewpoints differ from the notion that students need more affordable housing. While Briere stresses her listening skills, she hasn’t always listened to student needs.
Stephen Kunselman has been a big proponent for off-campus student housing by promoting increased options and decreased costs. He also wants increased public safety by adding more police officers to the Ann Arbor Police Department. Being an Ann Arbor native and a University alumni, he has a strong understanding of both the city and the University. However, Kunselman has stated that he sees no distinction between students and Ann Arbor residents. While this statement is likely an effort to reflect neutrality, it instead indicates that Kunselman fails to see the difference between students and residents, despite the reality that both groups have different needs.
Christopher Taylor has provided consistency in increasing transportation for all city residents by being the only candidate to give support for the expansion of Ann Arbor Transit Authority bus lines. He has been a strong advocate for creating methods to keep University graduates living and working in Ann Arbor. Taylor, along with Petersen, believes reaching out to the student population about their needs falls on the responsibility of the city rather than students. Unfortunately, Taylor, like Briere, has no solid plan for improving relations between the Ann Arbor and the University.
Graduating with a Harvard business degree, Sally Hart Petersen emphasizes solutions to problems by viewing them with an economic frame. She’s emphasized more affordable housing, and one of her biggest concerns is improving the city’s revenue problem. She’s also opposed policies hurting the University, like a University payment outside of taxation bounds. Instead, Petersen emphasizes creating more open communication between the University and the city to discuss important issues. While Petersen’s economic focus is oftentimes beneficial, prioritizing the city’s finances can sometimes be cause for concern. She voted against fossil fuel divestment due to its negative influence on citizen’s pensions, suggesting the city invest in green energy instead. While this vote reaps economic benefits, it subsequently brings to light other concerns. Petersen also has the least experience out of all the candidates, finishing her second term on City Council in November, but, if elected, will have twice the experience of current mayor John Hieftje when he was elected.
This year, The Michigan Daily’s editorial board endorses SALLY HART PETERSEN for the Ann Arbor Mayoral Democratic Primary. Given the intricate balance between the University and the city, Petersen prioritizing Ann Arbor’s finances proves an effective bridge to unify both forces acting on the town.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article’s headline misstated Petersen’s name.