An Ann Arbor native, Mayor John Hieftje walked in the shadow of University buildings as a child and now runs City Hall. The Michigan Daily caught up with the mayor over break and asked him about the relationship between the campus and the community.

From fire protection to Hash Bash, Mayor Hieftje shared his views about Ann Arbor. One prevailing theme permeated the entire interview. Overall Hieftje wants to see a fair relationship between the city and the University.

The Michigan Daily: How do you see the campus and the community interacting?

John Hieftje: We have a symbiotic relationship what works for the University, works for the city, and it goes back and forth. We share the same space. I think we have a wonderful partnership and I hope it continues as we go down the road. But like any partnership it is like a marriage except that we can’t get a divorce. So it is really good if we can continue to get along well. But from the city’s point of view we need to make that relationship with the University a little more equitable.

TMD: What needs to happen to make the relationship more equitable?

JH: One of the things that has happened recently is that the state government’s budget is really a mess. The new governor (Jennifer Granholm) was left with a real mess, and so there’s been some cuts that have come down to both the cities and the universities. For instance, one of the biggest problems is the city is mandated by the state to provide fire protection for the University, but we’re not fully reimbursed for that. We are only reimbursed for about a quarter of it. So that’s one of the issues between us right now.

TMD: What are your goals for the students and the community?

JH: Making Ann Arbor a welcoming environment for everybody – people come here from all over the world – is really important to me. We need to continue to do that. I love having the University in town, I love the interaction. I grew up in Ann Arbor, so in some ways I feel like I’ve been a student my whole life, because I’m walking around campus and walking around the same places as I did as a kid. In some ways it has changed a lot and in other ways it hasn’t changed a bit.

I think that the students who are here, sometimes getting in the trap of thinking that they are going to be here just for few years, but you also represent the students that will be here after you. I think that there is also a responsibility, because this is a community. It is not just some place you go and go to school and go to a party. It is a place where people live and live year around, and a lot of people who live here came here as students. From the student’s side of it there needs to be a greater recognition that this is a community and we all live together and they are part of the community. Being part of the community has benefits and responsibilities and those go hand in hand.

TMD: Do you want students to get more active in the community?

JH: Definitely, I have tried to appoint students to appropriate places in the city board and commissions, but one of the problems is that because of a student’s schedule – and I understand completely – things come up and there is summer and these boards that go on year round. So it is a little more difficult to get students to work. When I get a call for people to come in I get a few replies and then people tend to find out that this meets year round.

TMD: How do events like Hash Bash and the Arts Fair effect the campus and the community?

JH: Well, the Art Fair happens when a lot of the student population is gone but is a long Ann Arbor tradition. Hash Bash is something that I think that the citizens of Ann Arbor has tolerated pretty well. While certainly many of us aren’t going to celebrate the name of Hash Bash or what it originally started as, it is important for us to allow room for expression. If that’s the expression a particular group wants to make, then that’s the expression they want to make. That’s a political move now.

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