Michigan Student Assembly President Jesse Levine suffered his first defeat as president last night when the assembly rejected his motion to create an MSA liaison to the Ann Arbor City Council.
Levine’s motion called for the formation of an Ann Arbor City Council Liaison Select Committee to improve communication between the Ann Arbor City Council and MSA. The liaison would have been chair of this committee and responsible for attending city council meetings, planning committee meetings and then communicating back to the assembly.
Levine said he did not expect his motion to be defeated by the assembly.
“To me this is a no-brainer. City Council needs to be communicating in a better way with MSA. The current structure is not enough between the two bodies – We as an assembly need to take a strong step to ensure that the students’ interests are represented,” Levine said.
Levine said the need for the liaison derived from a city ordinance passed over the summer that affected many students living near North Burns Park and Oxbridge. Under the ordinance, the residents were required to pay $40 for parking passes and only allocated three parking passes per residence. Prior to this ordinance parking was free and unrestricted.
“It is my feeling that this ordinance is inherently antistudent. Clearly, many students live more than three to a house,” he said.
MSA North Campus Affairs Co-Chair and Engineering junior Bretlan Fletcher, said he thought a new committee would be redundant and infringe on the External Relation Committee’s responsibilities of maintaining relationships with organizations like the City Council.
“We need to add to the (External Relations Committee) instead of creating a whole new committee. It is a valid concern, and (Levine) is going in the right direction,” said Fletcher, who opposed the motion.
Student General Council Russ Garber said that although he agreed that one person should be held accountable for relations between the two entities, he still supported the assembly’s decision.
“We have the infrastructure and a place to handle this instead of adding more bureaucracy,” Garber said.
In response, Levine said he thought the assembly misunderstood the intent of the motion and that more could be accomplished between MSA and City Council if a particular committee specialized on this goal. “The ERC has done great work, but I personally feel we need to open the field for new students with new ideas and passions while being more inclusive,” he said. Democratic candidate for City Council in the second ward, Stephen Rapundalo supported Levine in the formation of this committee. “Whether it is a person, persons or a board, there needs to be a better bridge between University students and the City Council,” Rapundalo said earlier before the vote. “Many students are feeling disenfranchised from city affairs. I think we need to bring students into active participation in city affairs. Students are legitimate members of the community as much as anybody else.”
Levine said that even though the motion lacked support, he will stay committed to improving the communication between MSA and the City Council. He said there will be a collaborative effort with students at large, the ERC and himself to go about improving relations.
He added that several members of MSA already attend City Council meetings, but he would like the practice institutionalized so that it will continue after he graduates.