It’s easy for citizens to forget about city elections. But in the shadow of the race for the governor’s office, two Ann Arbor residents are squaring off to be the city’s mayor for the next two years. Incumbent Mayor John Hieftje faces opposition from challenger Steve Bean, an independent. The outcome of the race will influence how the city approaches environmentally-friendly initiatives and improving public transit — things that students should care about and will affect their everyday lives. Students must head to the polls on Tuesday to cast their vote for Ann Arbor’s next mayor.
Hieftje has been mayor for 10 years. In that time, he has served Ann Arbor well. Under his supervision, Ann Arbor has installed LED lights throughout the city; increased the number of bike lanes and is in the process of adding more; the city government now operates on 20 percent renewable energy and the city has won several awards for its environmental programs. In 2007, he was appointed to the Michigan Climate Action Council by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Hieftje plans to continue to work with the University on construction of the Fuller Road Transportation Center, which he believes will one day serve as a central hub for commuters moving both within the city and across the state.
Steven Bean is the independent challenging Hieftje. He has served on a variety of city commissions — he spent nine years on the city’s Energy Commission. He’s also served as the sustainability community chair and is a member of the solid waste committee and the transportation committee. He currently serves at the chair of the Environmental Commission, of which he’s been a member since 2000. He aims to increase the city’s use of renewable energy. He argues that the city can be more aggressive in its use of renewable energy. He would like to educate the city on the nuances of peak oil. Bean is also interested in working with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to increase the frequency of buses and how late the buses run.
In many ways, Hieftje and Bean are much alike. Both candidates seem open to increasing student involvement in city government. They encourage students to get involved with committees and commissions. Hieftje, who also teaches at the Ford School of Public Policy, has even appointed some students to city committees.
Both candidates also place special emphasis on moving forward with the city’s green initiatives, and both have years of experience in pushing for green initiatives. They’d both like to continue to push DTE, the energy company that owns many of the city’s streetlights, to install LED lights.
But Bean says that the city must make a strong commitment to environmental initiatives. He argues that the approval of the 5-storey underground parking lot on South Fifth Avenue wasn’t compatible with the city’s supposed desire to decrease the number of cars in the city. And perhaps he’s right. But Hieftje’s dedication to going green is not in question: His years of pushing for green initiatives and his success on so many of them from bike lanes to lights to recycling are evidence of his passion for environmentally-friendly initiatives.
Aside from his work with green initiatives, Bean seems to lack knowledge of what the city can do to make Ann Arbor more appealing to young professionals. Hieftje, on the other hand, wants to encourage more art programs that will draw young professionals into the city. And he supports increasing housing downtown that young people would be interested in moving into.
Though Bean clearly has a passion for the environment and there is a place for him in city government, he lacks Hieftje’s breadth and depth of knowledge about city issues. Hieftje seems more willing to work to create a city culture that will draw in young professionals. Hieftje is also more well-versed in urban planning and supports housing developments downtown that would offer students more (and hopefully cheaper) housing options. Because of his experience and proven progress on green initiatives, the Daily endorses JOHN HIEFTJE for mayor.