When voters head to the polls on Tuesday, they’ll have two choices in the Democratic primary race for mayor.
The first choice is fourth-term incumbent John Hieftje, who has a passion for the environment and all things sustainable.
The second is Tom Wall, a mayoral hopeful who ran as an Independent in 2006 and captured 21 percent of the general election vote.
Both men are Ann Arbor natives and Eastern Michigan University graduates with a passion for politics and a love of the city. But when it comes to the issues, the two candidates have very different priorities.
Mayor John Hieftje
If elected for a fifth-term, Hieftje has an ambitious set of plans for his next two years in Ann Arbor.
Near the top of the list is a project to develop better alternative transportation options for the city. Hieftje said that includes the development of a railway that would reduce pollution and traffic congestion, as well as his ongoing project to expand the city’s bicycle lane system by 300 percent.
Hieftje said he would also continue his work to make Ann Arbor a more environmentally friendly place to live, by protecting Ann Arbor’s Greenbelt of undeveloped land surrounding the city—an initiative that Hieftje successfully began with the help of a resident-approved millage tax in 2003. Hieftje added that he would also like to see the city’s Greenway, a path for bicyclists and pedestrians, expand throughout Washtenaw County.
Even with all his plans, though, Hieftje said he intends to maintain the same money-saving approach he’s taken since entering office in 2000. Since then, Hieftje said he has managed to more than double the city’s rainy-day fund, taking it from $6.7 million to $16 million in eight years. He also said that his reorganization of city government has helped save taxpayers about $10 million annually.
What really ties all of these efforts together, Hieftje said, is his mission to make Ann Arbor the best city that it can be.
“I want it to be this artsy, exciting, technologically savvy city, and we’re moving very rapidly in that direction,” Hieftje said. “But I also want it to have this green, environmental overlay, so it’s just going to be a great place to live.”
With a close eye on fiscal responsibility, Tom Wall said his experience as a business owner makes him a prime candidate for mayor and the right person to manage Ann Arbor’s expenditures.
“I’m not a seasoned politician, but people say I am honest,” Wall said. “I couldn’t sleep at night if I did it any other way.”
The founder of All-Star Driver Education, who proudly touts the nickname “Captain Driver’s Ed,” said he would work to stop excessive spending if he’s elected.
Despite the city’s favorable bond rating, Wall said some of his primary spending concerns include the new $47 million police-court house expansion and consultants who are currently contracted by the city of Ann Arbor to evaluate city property and employee morale.
As for the environment, Wall said he’d like to see sustainability written in to Ann Arbor’s laws for construction and development.
“Green and sustainable is everything that John is doing,” Wall said of Mayor Hieftje, “But I will keep that and then take it even farther.”
Wall said his environmental plans would include an expansion of the Greenway, as well as an initiative to clean up the city’s parks.
If elected, Wall said he would also work to make the Ann Arbor city government more responsive to students and residents.
Overall, he said, the collaboration and communication between the University and the city needs to be improved.
“I think we can have a better working relationship than what we have,” he said. “I’m not afraid to speak out on this issue.”
His plans to accomplish that goal include a volunteer phone line that would handle any city-related questions. Wall also said he would like to schedule meetings and “fireside chats” every month to allow residents to voice their concerns directly to him.