Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) announced Wednesday night that he intends to challenge the recent effort to recall him from Ann Arbor City Council by addressing the issue of homeless camps in Ann Arbor at Tuesday’s Council meeting.
Kunselman has come under fire from various members and allies of the homeless community in Ann Arbor following statements some individuals of that community considered insensitive and threatening. The recall petitions specifically cite Kunselman’s November comments regarding a homeless campsite on private property.
These types of camps do not meet current zoning ordinances in the city of Ann Arbor nor do they adhere to Michigan residential building codes, meaning camps like the one in question cannot legally remain in use.
The Washtenaw County Election Committee decided on Jan. 5 to consider four submitted recall petitions both factual and clear, clearing the way for the petitions to appear on a ballot if they get 2,000 signatures from Ann Arbor voters by May. Kunselman is also up for reelection in November. A successful recall petition would remove him from office several months earlier than his term concludes.
In a press release, Kunselman said he will not appeal the decision to confirm the language of these petitions in court, but rather that he plans to eliminate what he believes is misinformation by placing a resolution on City Council’s agenda. The “Resolution Supporting the Establishment of Homeless Camps in Ann Arbor” is intended primarily to allow for debate on the matter, as opposed to propose a specific action of the Council.
Kunselman stated he intends to vote against this resolution.
In the release, Kunselman also said various volunteers and city officials have ensured there is enough funding and capacity for every homeless person, making camps that pose the threat of hypothermia obsolete.
“My position on homeless camps is no different than that of Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit, who just last week successfully led the effort to dismantle a homeless camp and find safe and legal shelter for all the homeless involved, all of whom were very grateful to have warm shelter,” Kunselman said. “Homeless camps are dangerous, unsanitary, illegal and unnecessary given the high quality of homeless services available to the homeless to live safely and legally in Ann Arbor.”
In an interview Wednesday evening, Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said while she has not reviewed the resolution proposed by Kunselman, her initial reaction was one of concern as to whether this discussion would be helpful in solving problems of affordable housing in Ann Arbor.
“While I understand that he is annoyed, I am sorry he thinks doing this is a solution to anything,” Briere said. “I don’t think it moves us toward finding a solution to the need for affordable housing, but I haven’t seen the resolution yet and I have no idea where things will head, I have no opinion right now about whether I will support this.”
Wednesday evening, Councilmember Julie Grand (D–Ward 3) said she would like to see more constructive solutions to the disagreement between Kunselman and the housing group.
“Councilmember Kunselman is going to be up for reelection in August, so if there’s a group that’s not satisfied with his performance, then they have every right to run a candidate in the August primaries or in the November general election,” Grand said. “I think that’s a more effective way to address the issue certainly than with a recall. Ultimately, the most effective way to address the issue is to work for issues that address our housing and homelessness situation. There’s not a magic bullet, but if there was we certainly would have implemented it already.”
Mayor Christopher Taylor (D) declined to comment Wednesday evening.
Daily Staff Reporter Emma Kinery contributed to this report.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that the comments cited in the recall petition were from July. Kunselman’s comments were made in November. .