The two remaining Ann Arbor mayoral candidates — independent candidate Bryan Kelly and City Councilmember Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) — took part in their first post-primary debate Wednesday night.

Kelly officially entered the mayoral race July 17. As an independent candidate, he said he made the decision to run in the hope of spurring further debate and conversation by inciting a contested election. A 2008 University alum, Kelly majored in creative writing and currently works as a novelist, among other employment ventures.

Taylor, who is in his sixth year on City Council, won the Democratic primary with 47.6 percent of the vote over councilmembers Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3), Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) and Sally Hart Petersen (D–Ward 2).

Taylor said transportation is one of the most important issues that he would address and focus on as mayor. His vision for expanded transportation would include extending Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority routes as well as a new train station to be operated by Amtrak, which is still in the planning process. Kelly agreed with Taylor, saying he would support any form of transit improvement.

“Our area of most opportunity is transportation,” Taylor said. “We absolutely need a new train station.”

While Taylor supported the recent Washtenaw County millage to improve roads — which will be in effect for one year and was passed without being put on the ballot — Kelly said he believes the city should have addressed the issue of road quality sooner and should have given citizens a chance to vote on a millage.

Both candidates recognized the University’s relationship with the city as a key issue in the minds of citizens and local government officials.

“At its core, the relationship between the city and the University is strong,” Taylor said. “However, with a new (University) president and a new mayor, this is a great opportunity for change and improvement. We’d support the improvement of the University as well.”

While campaigning, Kelly said town-gown relations were key to his platform and to voters. Residents’ concerns included a fear of increasing property taxes as a result of the University’s recent purchase of significant amounts of land throughout the city, including the property on which the University is constructing the Munger Graduate Residence Hall and this year’s purchase of the Edwards Brothers property on South State Street. Kelly said he hopes to see the University demonstrate more respect for the city.

“The first thing out of people’s mouth was, ‘What are you going to do about the University of Michigan?’ ” Kelly said. “Time will tell. I think it will depend on the decisions that our leaders make and the circumstances that we face together as a city.”

Citizens have also expressed concerns about the direction in which Ann Arbor is heading, potentially leaving behind the history and character it has held. While Kelly admitted such a change is inevitable in some ways, Taylor said he hopes to incorporate the new and the old downtown, meeting the needs and desires of a variety of citizens, from students to longtime residents.

“Our downtown has changed significantly,” Taylor said. “I am open to the downtown character evolving,”

Kelly said he looks forward more to the development of neighborhoods than the city’s downtown. Much of his strategy in dealing with downtown development issues involves emphasis on improved and more direct communication with citizens in order to better understand the kind of downtown envisioned by various groups of the city’s residents.

“I would first and foremost like to see high-speed fiber infrastructure,” Kelly said. “But government in the modern day can speak directly to people.”

The general election will take place Nov. 4, and future mayoral debates are yet to be announced.

Daily Staff Reporter Jack Turman contributed to this report.

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