City Councilmember Chris Taylor (D–Ward 3), the Democratic mayoral candidate, has discussed taking a balanced approach to city issues if elected. However, Taylor has repeatedly highlighted the importance of downtown Ann Arbor in both the first post-primary debate Oct. 7 and in an interview with the Daily Oct. 16.

Taylor said the downtown area needs to be a vibrant place where people can work and live comfortably, while still maintaining a focus on other issues.

“It also has to have a character and finding that balance is going to be what we are trying to do here,” Taylor said.

For downtown Ann Arbor to preserve this character, Taylor plans on working closely with the Downtown Development Authority.

“I think the DDA has done great work for the downtown (area) and I look forward continuing with it,” Taylor said.

DDA Executive Director Susan Pollay said she looks forward to building downtown and ensuring the high quality of life that is associated with downtown Ann Arbor.

“As we have with the previous mayors, the DDA will strive to find projects and initiatives that serve its mission, which is to strengthen downtown and encourage private investment that also serve the city administrator, mayor and city council goals,” Pollay said in an e-mail interview. “We all are working toward community prosperity and quality of life.”

Taylor said the DDA is currently working on long term transportation issues, one of his priorities, and is exploring other areas of concern. Though the DDA requests city assistance on downtown matters and has to receive city approval of development and financing plans, Taylor said he doesn’t want to overstep boundaries and exert too much influence on the DDA.

“The DDA takes a pretty careful approach to the issues that it tackles,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to get in the way of that.”

“It is a weak mayor administrative system,” he added. “The DDA is a separate entity, which has budget review from City Council, but makes its own decisions.”

The free decision-making process has led to concerns, often raised by Councilman Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3), regarding the lack of transparency with the DDA.

Kunselman said the most recent issue that caught his attention was that the DDA director received a raise in past years without a vote by the DDA board. Kunselman said the previous votes were done with Mayor John Hieftje present, who was on the DDA board until recently and also nominates the DDA board members.

However, according to an Ann Arbor Chronicle article, the DDA board held a closed session on July 2 to evaluate Pollay’s performance on the DDA. After the closed session, the DDA board voted with City Administrator Steve Powers at the table and approved her five percent raise.

Kunselman said the most recent DDA board member pay raise was done by a public vote with Powers at the table.

“To remove (Hieftje) and put the city administrator on removes that political cronyism element that is so distasteful to a number of us,” Kunselman said.

Kunselman also said there is now interest in the state legislature about proposing amendments to the state Downtown Development Authority Act that was passed in 1975.

“We are moving in a better direction with the DDA,” Kunselman said. “We have gotten significant ordinance amendments passed.”

Taylor sponsored three resolutions regarding the DDA in 2011, but hasn’t sponsored any proposals regarding the DDA since. Those resolutions addressed the DDA and TIF, a form of development financing, redevelopment of city-owned parcels and a parking agreement.

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