With one glaring exception, Ann Arbor
voters made the right decisions on local and state issues Tuesday.
In fact, from a purely local standpoint, it is hard to fathom how
the Democratic Party took such a decisive blow at the national
level. In terms of congressional races, U.S. Rep. John Dingell
(D-Dearborn) and state Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) sailed
smoothly into their next legislative terms. Voters also seemed to
lean toward incumbents when casting votes for the
University’s Board of Regents. Democratic candidate Olivia
Maynard has already clinched a seat, and her party colleague S.
Martin Taylor is running second in the still-undecided race.
By keeping Maynard and Taylor on the board, voters are ensuring
that the state’s flagship institution for higher education
stays in the hands of dedicated and experienced regents —
public servants who will continue to put pressure on Lansing to the
University’s benefit during this era of tight budgets.
Maynard and Taylor also demonstrate an astute knowledge of, and
deep concern for an array of student issues — from class
sizes to housing amenities. Most notably however, the two
candidates, with their support of affirmative action and the
legality of same-sex domestic partnership benefits, have proven to
be enthusiastic champions of diversity and equal opportunity on
At the city level, fortunately, Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje was
re-elected. In a fairly one-sided outcome, Hieftje defeated
Republican opponent Jane Lumm. During his first term in office,
Hiefjte proved to be an innovative policy maker as he advocated
practical and pioneering solutions to some of the city’s most
pressing urban planning problems. His most distinguished policy
victory, the Greenbelt, was highly favored among voters and should
prove to be an effective first step toward achieving balance
between the city’s growing sprawl pressures and its
Working with Hieftje once again will be City Councilwoman Jean
Carlberg of the 3rd Ward. As a retired school teacher, Carlberg has
dedicated the last 20 years to municipal service. She is a
long-time proponent of environmental stewardship, a strong believer
in public transportation and a highly knowledgeable source on
housing in Ann Arbor. Carlberg and Hieftje understand the
unfortunate pressures the fast-paced, high-priced housing market
puts on students and have both pledged to work with landlords to
try and push lease-signing deadlines back later in the year. They
must both propose a city ordinance that would push the
lease-signing date for student housing back into winter term.
Ann Arbor residents also voted to pass Proposal C, a provision
that would decriminalize cannabis use and possession for medicinal
purposes. This law, aside from helping ailing Ann Arbor residents,
represents a monumental step in the right direction toward removing
overly stringent marijuana laws from the books, not just at the
local level, but at the state and national levels as well.
On a less positive note, Proposal 2, a statewide initiative that
amends the state constitution in order to ban gay marriage and
“other similar unions” was enthusiastically welcomed by
the state electorate.
The discriminatory nature inherent in the amendment will
undoubtedly trigger a number of vigorous legal challenges, which
will likely prove successful in striking down the initiative in
federal court. The good news is that Proposal 2 will not be the law
of the land permanently. At some point, it will be overturned.
The University and the Ann Arbor Public School District are
among those government organizations in the state currently
offering same-sex domestic partnership benefits. Having already
pledged to defend its domestic partner benefits against legal
challenge, now that the proposal has passed, the University should
prepare for a legal fight. Just as it defended its affirmative
action policies, the University has a clear obligation in this case
to protect policies designed to reinforce equality. Defense of this
policy demonstrates the University’s continued moral
leadership in the fight against discrimination and inequality.