Comprising a significant portion of Ann
Arbor’s population, the voice of “the student” is vital to
decisions made in Ann Arbor. The upcoming City Council elections
are crucial to student involvement in the affairs of the city. This
year the elections are particularly relevant with three students
running for council seats as Libertarian, Independent and Green
Party candidates, running in Wards 1 and 4.
The city of Ann Arbor is divided into five wards, with two
council members in each. These members are elected to two-year
terms in staggered elections, meaning that one council member from
each ward is up for election annually.
On a map, the wards, appear as spokes from a wheel emanating
from the intersection of State Street and Packard Road. Because the
wards have been drawn in a manner that divides the student vote,
the odds of a student being elected to the City Council are
dramatically reduced. Fortunately, student candidates have chosen
to run in two districts with sizable student populations. This puts
the ball in the court of their target constituents, and the burden
on students to get out and vote.
In the past, this support has not been significant for student
candidates. Many students come from out of town and are registered
in another state. For many, the process of changing their
registration address to Ann Arbor is too cumbersome. The irony here
is that what occurs in Ann Arbor, during a given four-year tenure
at the University, is of just as great importance to a student as
the politics in their respective hometowns.
Furthermore, an awareness of the political events in Ann Arbor
contrasts sharply with simply focusing on campus events. Many
students are concerned merely with the affairs happening on campus
and not the city, not realizing that the atmosphere on campus is
often tempered by the decisions made by the council.
Given its location, prominence and size, the University has a
unique relationship with the rest of the city. Ann Arbor City
Council elections are only two months away, and the need for a
student voice, and student involvement, is acute. In a town where
the University places the city on the map, it is disconcerting that
decisions affecting the University community can come from a group
of individuals who are not directly involved in its daily life. The
benefits add up to more than just representation; as a result of
past student involvement, student-friendly ordinances such as low
fines for marijuana possession have been enacted. It is imperative
that students get out, pay attention and vote, because student
involvement in the council is critical if there is to be true
student representation in local political matters.