There is very little doubt that Ann Arbor City Councilmember Jane Lumm will be re-elected to serve Ward 2 in the upcoming election. She’s extremely popular in her district and simply has too much momentum citywide as the leader of the anti-Mayor John Hieftje coalition at a time when he is unpopular. In the last election, she was elected by a large margin by focusing on reducing funding for “discretionary” things like public art while being in favor of increasing funding for basic public services and changing pedestrian laws in Ann Arbor. She also made sure to point out the novelty that she was running without party affiliation, which might have actually been a breath of fresh air if not for the fact that she was a stalwart of the now moribund Ann Arbor Republican Party just a few years ago.
Her main opponent in this race, Democrat Kirk Westphal, is quick to point out that Lumm is a conservative, even linking her with the Tea Party. However, that’s not an appropriate assessment. She is on the right — probably a Republican in any city other than Ann Arbor — but she’s not as far to the right as Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas). Her willingness to work with Democrats on the council just shows how willing she is to work on a bipartisan basis — although it helps that the Democratic council members she’s usually working with are also anti-Hieftje. However, even though she isn’t what Westphal portrays her to be, there are some issues with her record that will make me unable to vote for her on Nov. 5.
Not only has she pushed for essentially cutting off all city funding for public art — a proposal that is controversial enough — she’s also hurled her opposition toward the new railroad station, a railroad station which is necessary if we want Ann Arbor on the Detroit-Chicago Amtrak high-speed rail line. I’m of the belief that connecting Ann Arbor to Chicago via high-speed rail is an essential project. Whether we like it or not, the University, which has strong links to Chicago, is the main spark plug of Ann Arbor’s economy. Cutting travel time to and from Chicago by as much as two hours will make it easier for students from Chicago to visit their homes over the weekend and will also make it easier for alumni to bring their children here to show them how great this city and University really are. Furthermore, her plan to end municipal/state confusion over pedestrian laws is to merely take the right of way away from pedestrians — that’s it.
Based on these policies, one could get the ideas that Lumm isn’t the biggest fan of pedestrians, bicyclists or the art community and is also opposed to measures which will help lead to Ann Arbor’s success. I’ve lived in Ward 2 for 18 of my 20 years, and although I’m the sort of mild-mannered person who enjoys life in Ward 2, there’s a small but disturbingly vocal element in this part of town that doesn’t seem to like the downtown part of the city.
This element finds pedestrians and bicyclists to be a nuisance, they complain that the city has been losing its charm, yet are also the most vocal in opposition to Ann Arbor’s arts culture. They seem to be afraid of Ann Arbor having too much success because they suspect that Ann Arbor being more successful will mean that Downtown Ann Arbor will expand into their backyard, which is problematic because these people are afraid of people younger, hipper and poorer than they are.
This is the element in Ann Arbor politics that Lumm represents – because members of this element are in the demographic most likely to vote in local elections, Lumm wins by large margins. Fear helps explain why Lumm would be so electorally successful. However, I think there’s nothing to be afraid of — there’s nothing wrong with promoting creativity and growth in Ann Arbor. Being able to visit Chicago over a weekend would be nice, too.
Simon Margolis is an LSA junior.