Election day is tomorrow, Nov. 5, and Ann Arbor residents will elect new members to city council. Many students don’t afford adequate attention to the local city council elections. But, these officials make decisions that have a direct impact on students. They impact the level of public safety and set zoning requirements that regulate the amount and type of new student housing developments. They also lead projects that revitalize Downtown Ann Arbor, bringing new businesses and opportunities to both students and townies alike.
In Ward 1, independent candidate Jeff Hayner is challenging the democratic incumbent Sabra Briere. In the past, the Daily has endorsed Briere for her stated commitment to hearing student opinions and facilitating compromises between students and the University. However, in an interview with the Daily’s editorial board, Briere offered no solutions to increase communication with the University or better serve the needs of students. The Daily noted in 2009 that her views on housing may not be in the best needs of students, and her time on the council confirmed her lack of commitment to student’s need for affordable housing.
Hayner, on the other hand, favors more student-friendly policies and recognizes that the University plays a critical role in supporting Ann Arbor’s diverse economy and population. In an interview with the Daily, Hayner, a small-business owner and University of Michigan alum, said all students deserve representation on city council since they pay taxes through their rent. Hayner also expressed his concern over Ann Arbor’s lack of affordable housing and pushed for plans that would lower median rents across the board. He’s currently involved with volunteer projects to help local schools, making his claim to care about students credible. Furthermore, his commitment to preserving space for parks and natural waterways in the city promises a maintenance to the open spaces both students and residents support. With a mix of practical, budgetary goals and a sense of student needs, Hayner is the best candidate for the job. The Daily endorses JEFF HAYNER for Ward 1.
In Ward 2, Jane Lumm, Conrad Brown and Kirk Westphal are all vying for the council seat. Lumm, an independent incumbent, pushed for improved public safety in the past. While public safety is very important to students, Lumm failed to provide specific examples of how to improve the University’s relationship with the city in her interview with The Michigan Daily. While she says that collaboration is essential, Lumm didn’t elaborate on specific ways for them to work better together.
Brown, a University student, is also running as part of the Mixed Use Party. Though the aims of the party — which promotes the use of space closer to campus for practical commercial developments like supermarkets and chain discount stores — have the potential to benefit students, Brown’s ideas outside of mixed-use zoning are abstract and under-developed.
Kirk Westphal, on the other hand, has a diverse platform and promises to expand this platform through open dialogue with students. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, he said he’s interested in finding ways to make the University safer. He feels that getting student support will make it possible to make these changes happen quickly. Westphal is also committed to providing public transit projects that extend beyond Ann Arbor, which would be helpful to students looking to work or intern in surrounding suburbs or Detroit. The Daily endorses KIRK WESTPHAL for Ward 2.
In Ward 3, Democratic incumbent Stephen Kunselman is being challenged by Mixed Use Party representative Sam DeVarti. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, DeVarti discussed his party’s main platform, mixed use zoning, and how that change has the potential to make housing more affordable for students. While it’s great to see that students are making a concerted effort to get involved with city council, his relative inexperience and narrow platform are cause for concern.
Current City Councilmember Stephen Kunselman has extensive experience — three terms on council — with local politics and policy, and will be running for mayor in 2014. He has remained committed to student priorities such as public safety. Kunselman has been a strong proponent of off-campus housing developments for students, increasing housing options and helping to minimize cost increases. However, Kunselman should work to foster a more open dialogue with students and residents, instead of just promoting what he believes to be in their best interest without input. The Daily endorses STEPHEN KUNSELMAN for Ward 3.
In addition to council candidates, a proposal on Tuesday’s ballot deserves voter approval. The proposal in question will extend a sinking fund millage for Ann Arbor Public Schools, which adds $1 million to property taxes in order to raise money for a sinking fund which will fund “construction or repair of school buildings” in the school district. Voters have supported this measure twice — approving it in 2004, and renewing it in 2008 — and they should support it again. According to MLive, the millage has paid for security upgrades and improvements in accordance with the Americans with Disability Act. AAPS should have the opportunity to continue these improvements without having to cut resources within the district. Vote YES on Proposal 1.