The primary election for Ann Arbor City Council is this week and odds are, this is news to you the student. Make no mistake about it, that’s no one’s fault but your own. Structural barriers that discourage student voters are several and undeniable, but how will they ever be torn down if students are content to just sit out and watch? As we present our endorsements in the contested races in this primary, we ask that you pay attention to the names here and keep an eye out for them in this and other local publications. Oh, and one of these days, register to vote in Ann Arbor and then start voting in local races. This is a small town and students make up a third of its population. We can matter if we choose to.
Some of the issues in this election seem to have been around forever: increasing downtown density to curb urban sprawl, increasing green spaces around the city, parking, budget crises, affordable housing and taxes, among others. Others like neighborhood lighting, expansion of public transportation, lease laws and public safety directly affect students. It’s time we as students weighed in.
It’s important to note that while every conceivable bloc in the city is out demanding answers for its issues, students are nowhere to be found. Sure, we would like to live in a world where council members care about all of their constituents but frankly, why not vote and give them a reason to care?
In Ward 1 there is a three-way contest between John Roberts, Sabra Briere and Richard Wickboldt to fill the opening left by the retiring Bob Johnson. With only a short period of time for the candidates to prepare for the primary, each candidate still seems unfamiliar with all of the issues in this year’s election.
Despite being a former Council member and a lifelong Ann Arbor resident, Roberts has little to show for the 14 months he spent on council before losing in last year’s primary. And he doesn’t have many more answers this time around. Wickboldt is a more recent resident of Ann Arbor and a newcomer in politics. While his experience as manager of the University’s Central Power Plant makes him uniquely qualified to handle the budget, he doesn’t have plans to address the other pressing issues affecting the city.
Of the three, Briere, who has lived in Ann Arbor more than 30 years and has a long history of local activism, stands out as the candidate most likely to catch up with the flow of City Council right away. She understands that making Ann Arbor affordable is important to maintaining the diversity of the city. She also believes that the people of Ann Arbor are not just homeowners and taxpayers; students make up an important part of the city too, and they must count.
In contrast to Ward 1, Ward 3 has two uniquely qualified candidates: incumbent Leigh Greden and the challenger LuAnne Bullington. Bullington has an impressive public service record, especially with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Recently, her work with State Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) in Lansing to repeal Rogers’s law is the type of work needed to give students equal voting access. Overall, Bullington would make a fine member of City Council.
But Greden has a history with the city that is too good to turn down. Of the current Council members, he is one of the few whose active collaboration with the Michigan Student Assembly has yielded positive changes for students. He also promises to be a big part of reforming the faults in the current lease law and student housing in general. Refreshingly, he is an incumbent with specific accomplishments and plans that will move the city forward.
For the past six years, Wendy Woods has represented Ward 5. But this year Mike Anglin will challenge her incumbency, contending that Ann Arbor needs a different voice on Council. Unfortunately, that voice isn’t Anglin’s. While his environmentalist stance on the preservation of green space and the Huron River is admirable, Woods remains the better-qualified candidate.