If there’s any indication that the traditional rivalry between Democrats and Republicans is failing in Ann Arbor city politics, it’s that Ward 3 is home to the only contested election for City Council this fall. That’s because Green Party candidate Pete Schermerhorn is challenging Democratic nominee Stephen Kunselman to represent the ward to the southeast of campus. Republicans, an increasingly rare species in city politics, didn’t run candidates for any of the five seats on City Council up for election this fall.
After a heated Democratic primary last August – when students weren’t around to vote, thanks to a convenient state law – Kunselman edged out opponents Jeff Meyers and Alice Ralph in a surprisingly close three-way election. Kunselman has a profound grasp of the details involved in running a local government and is the best choice for Ward 3 residents.
Kunselman has built a career in public service in various roles, including a stint as administrator for Wayne County’s Sumpter Township. Currently, he is a member of Ann Arbor’s planning commission – a responsibility he clearly takes very seriously. His opposition to the Allen Creek greenway – which his competitor supports – is more credible given his focus on the environment, both in his education and his career. He’s committed to increasing downtown density, and though his displeasure at what he described as the “pay-to-play privatization” of city public recreation programs may not resonate with students more concerned about fees for University intramural sports teams, it’s nonetheless a just criticism.
While his Democratic counterparts in the other four wards will cruise to victory Nov. 7 – barring some unforeseen write-in miracle – Kunselman faces a Green Party opponent. Schermerhorn has had plenty of involvement in building the Green Party, but comparatively little experience in city politics. His dedication to “keeping the ineffable but very real Ann Arborness alive and going,” as he puts it on his campaign web site, is admirable. His concern for students stands out compared with his opponent, and he questions the value of the current ward system that spreads the student vote thinly across all five wards. He also emphasizes public transportation more than Kunselman.
But as a self-described “armchair” attendee who watches City Council meetings on cable television, he lacks the experience Kunselman brings to the race. That alone shouldn’t bar him from City Council, though it does mean he’d face a steeper learning curve on council than Kunselman. More importantly, with a focus on unusual issues such as moving Allen Creek above ground, which would risk flooding, and encouraging more discussion of international issues at City Council, Schermerhorn might be ineffective on the council, while Kunselman almost certainly would be a valuable councilman.
Voters in Ann Arbor’s other four wards don’t have much of a choice for City Council this November. For Ward 3, however, the Daily endorses STEPHEN KUNSELMAN for City Council.