The Mixed Use Party is shaking up Ann Arbor’s Ward 2 elections this November.
LSA senior Conrad Brown, running for city council as an independent, hopes to be a force to be reckoned with against independent incumbent Jane Lumm and Democratic challenger Kirk Westphal.
Brown, along with the rest of the Mixed Use Party, bases his platform on concepts of fiscal conservatism and “classical liberalism.”
“We are a political party that started in order to address some of these fundamental issues facing the city of Ann Arbor that in most ways our current and past city leaders have failed to address,” Brown said. “We are trying to offer some real reforms to address these issues, such as reforming the city’s zoning codes, which is at the core of our platform.”
Perhaps the most important tenet of Brown’s campaign is the idea of implementing a policy of mixed-use zoning rather than the city’s current single-use zoning policy. This essentially means Brown and his party endorse the usage of city zones for more than simply one purpose — whether it be residential, commercial, etc. Brown hopes this type of policy will alleviate, if not solve, many of the city’s pressing issues.
Brown argued that the government of Ann Arbor has been trying to control the use of certain zones for too long, and such a policy has been hurting the city rather than helping it in many instances.
“Sometimes the best government solution is no government solution,” Brown said. “We need to give more flexibility and freedom to property owners and communities to address their own problems rather than the other way around, and I think that’s what Ann Arbor needs right now.”
The issue of urban sprawl is especially important in Brown’s platform, as he believes the suburban, residential areas are becoming too far removed from more highly commercialized areas. He attributed many problems to sprawl, such as higher traffic, pedestrian safety and student discrimination.
“If we really want to change this in the future, because zoning reform is not going to change these problems overnight including parking, we have to ensure that more people live in the city, and mixed-use zoning will allow this to happen,” Brown said.
Brown also discussed the ways students are affected by zoning laws. He and many other Mixed Use Party candidates have said current zoning practices discriminate against students, particularly codes about fraternities, sororities and co-ops.
He specifically noted his desire to abolish the part of the zoning code that forbids more than four students from living together in any single unit where one bathroom and kitchen is shared, calling the law “unproductive” and “backwards thinking.”
“The code itself states how a functional family does include a fraternity, co-ops, or any kind of association that is considered temporary,” Brown said. “The law itself specifically mentions students, so the law was never meant for safety reasons. It was more or less a discriminatory law.”
Another issue pertaining to students raised by Brown is that of consistency of punishment in cases of minors in possession of alcohol. While he noted that Ann Arbor residents would not find such an issue pertinent, he noted that much of the city’s policies regarding illegal substances are inconsistent, specifically with regards to minors caught possessing alcohol versus possessing marijuana, as marijuana possession is treated as a civil infraction.
He also noted that while he and Lumm may agree on some things, Lumm is not offering real reforms some of these issues.
As a candidate, Brown said he has gotten a lot of positive feedback in his ward, and he noted that a lot of people are sympathetic to his party.
“Conservatives love the fact that I don’t abide by tax increment financing,” he said. “Liberals love the fact that I want to create more affordable housing and make Ann Arbor a place where everyone can live.”
Brown said he is not simply running because he thinks he can win, but he wants to bring a fresh perspective into city politics.
“I’m fighting an uphill battle,” Brown said. “I didn’t run because I thought I could win hands-down. I ran because I wanted to bring real issues to the table and express the kind of voice that is needed in these debates because if we didn’t, we’d still have the same two type of status quo candidates bickering over the same issues without offering real substance.”