While much attention is directed toward the presidential election, Ann Arbor’s local elections are also important to students and their daily lives. City government provides basic services to Ann Arbor residents and even has the power to help control housing prices. Yet, no one seems to be talking about the importance of this election for the city. The mayor, a City Council member and numerous ballot proposals will all be voted on next Tuesday, and all are issues are worthy of examination.
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, a Democrat, faces independent candidate Albert Howard in the 2012 election. Howard has criticized the incumbent for a lack of transparency, fiscal irresponsibility and misguided priorities on public safety — specifically the cuts to the Ann Arbor Police Department and the Ann Arbor Fire Department in the past two years. He stated this month that the city of Ann Arbor couldn’t handle “more than one fire,” according to AnnArbor.com. Hieftje countered with the fact that fires are trending downward and crime levels are at record lows.
Ann Arbor, despite Michigan’s struggling economy, is thriving. While it may seem to some that Ann Arbor is recklessly spending money on more frivolous expenses, like public art, it is one of the only cities in Michigan that can still finance more than just basic services. Hieftje has been able to orchestrate this without raising taxes during the recession, except for a 2012 millage to take over sidewalk maintenance. Ann Arbor has the responsibility to provide basic services along with certain quality-of-life components, and to maintain this, vote for JOHN HIEFTJE for mayor of Ann Arbor.
Only one race for an Ann Arbor City Council seat is contested. Republican Stuart Berry and Democrat Chuck Warpehoski are vying for the seat to represent Ward 5, which includes West Quadrangle Residence Hall, Betsey Barbour Residence Hall, Helen Newberry Residence Hall and off-campus housing from East Madison Street to East Liberty Street and a small section near West Huron Street. In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Berry stressed the importance of addressing of basic services, such as police and fire protection and roads. He believes this is the primary responsibility of Ann Arbor’s government, but this severely underestimates what the city should do for its residents. He wants to be the opposing viewpoint on the Council, which has no Republicans members, yet he seems to have no further plans beside consistently voting in the opposition of other Council members.
In an interview with the Daily, Warpehoski stressed the importance of core services as well. However, he said the government should also provide additional services, such as improved transportation and funding for public art. Warpehoski said he plans to address Ann Arbor housing costs if elected to Council, an issue of great importance to students. This should be a priority, and if elected, he should come up with a specific plan to reduce housing costs. While basic services should always be a priority in local government, Warpehoski promises to be a more dynamic Council member who is willing to address the problems students face. For that reason, vote for CHUCK WAREHOSKI for Ward 5.
Proposal A would allocate $5 million annually for Ann Arbor’s public parks and passage would renew a similar 2006 millage. The proposal, recommended by the city’s Park Advisory Commission, intends to support maintenance of city parks — including nature preservation and security measures — with 60 to 80 percent of the funds. The rest of the millage would be used to improve park capital for historic preservation, equipment purchases and recreational facilities. Public parks form an important part of the city’s culture. As a civic space, they allow for community growth and engagement. Vote YES on Proposal A.
Proposal B would expand Ann Arbor’s public art funding to include temporary installations, sculptures and murals. Ann Arbor’s current Percent for Art program allocates 1 percent of the funding for city-sponsored construction projects for permanent art displays and requires that the art relates to the purpose of the department the funding comes from, like the fountain in front of the Ann Arbor District Library. Public art denotes cultural establishment, increases property values and illustrates a commitment to businesses from street boutique stores to restaurants and parking structures. The millage would generate about $459,273 in revenue its first year and it will only cost the average taxpayer about $11 annually. As a result, this cultural measure is sustainable as well as sensible. Vote YES on Proposal B.
The Ann ArborDistrict Library Proposal will demolish and rebuild the downtown library at Fifth Avenue and William Street to include a larger auditorium and study rooms, better wheelchair accessibility, longer cafe hours and new computers. The $65 million bond is supported by the Ann Arbor District Library, but several local groups have mobilized in opposition. The downtown library building is only 20 years old and the $65-million price tag seems unreasonably hefty. The AADL states that the demolition and subsequent rebuilding costs 10 percent more than it would if the building were simply renovated. Though the AADL has suggested a 30-year time table for bond repayment, the millage places undue burden on taxpayers for an extended period of time. Additionally, the plan has not yet been finalized to include important logistics such as architect choice and building blueprints. Though libraries remain an integral part of the community and perform a priceless function, the AADL needs to have a more concrete plan in place before asking voters to approve such a large allocation of funds. Vote NO on the District Library Proposal.