Public safety was at the forefront of a debate among candidates for Ann Arbor City Council last night.
Candidates for Ann Arbor City Council Wards 2, 3, 4 and 5 also discussed contentious issues, including the status of Ann Arbor’s annual street millage, the Fuller Road Station project and funding for public art at a League of Women Voters debate last night at the city’s Community Television Network studios.
In his opening statement, Republican Ward 3 challenger David Parker criticized the city’s cuts to public safety departments.
“Are we 35 percent safer with 35 percent less police?” Parker said. “I don’t think so.”
Parker’s opponent, incumbent City Council member Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) said he stands firmly against public safety cuts and is working to prevent further decreases in funding.
Continuing the discussion on public safety were the Ward 5 candidates, incumbent City Council member Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) and Democrat challenger Stuart Berry. Berry said he hopes funding reductions to public safety departments haven’t adversely affected safety in the city, and, if elected, he would work to limit city funding to basic services.
“When times are tough, council has to make tough choices that are not part of basic services,” Berry said.
In an interview after the event, Anglin said his ultimate concern for students is safety.
“I want to make sure when, late at night, when the students are moving around much later than the general population, that they remain safe and that we have enough police out there to make sure (of) that,” Anglin said. “I’d like to change the lighting ordinances just to make sure that landlords in the area need to know they have to light their properties.”
The candidates also discussed the annual street and sidewalk millages to improve city streets and sidewalks that Ann Arbor residents will vote on in November. Currently, residents are responsible for repairing sidewalks in front of their homes, but the millage would transfer that duty to the city.
Kunselman and Parker both said they would support the annual street millage. Kunselman said this year’s millage also includes improvements to bridges, which was not in past millages. He also noted that this could include the East Stadium Boulevard Bridges project currently being discussed by City Council.
Republican Ward 4 candidate Eric Scheie said the current sidewalk policy is inefficient and expressed concern over whether the city has repaired the sidewalks of residents who contracted the city.
Berry said he was concerned that money used for the street millage would not be used properly. He said he would vote against the sidewalk millage because he believes it would be unfair to tax people who had already improved their sidewalks using their money.
Candidates were also asked about the proposed Fuller Road Station — a mass transit project headed by the city, the University and several state and federal government entities.
Citing the recent debate over the station, Kunselman said there is a lack of information regarding the project, and the University has not been forthcoming with resources. He noted that current plans only show the construction of a parking structure rather than a train station.
“I’m again very reluctant on the whole project because unless it actually includes a train station … I will not support it,” Kunselman said.
Scheie said the project should be voted on by residents, and not just the council.
“I don’t like the plan, and I think it’s undemocratic,” Scheie said.
— Angela Son and Alexandra Mondalek contributed to this report.