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Posted on Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 6 p.m.

Ann Arbor City Council candidates differ on downtown development issues

By Ryan J. Stanton

Stephen Kunselman says he's seen significant changes in downtown Ann Arbor since the 1960s when he was a young boy living with his mother where Liberty Plaza is now.

He recalls hanging out downtown as a teenager in the 1970s, and what it was like during his time as a student at the University of Michigan in the 1980s.

"We've seen retail go out to Briarwood, and we've seen nothing but restaurants kind of backfill. We've lost Borders. We've lost all kinds of flagship stores that did bring the older resident into the downtown," he said, suggesting that's not happening so much now.


Third Ward council candidate Julie Grand appears next to her opponent, Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, at a candidate forum on Saturday at the Ann Arbor Community Center.

Ryan J. Stanton |

He added, "I do think we need to pay attention to the fact that if downtown becomes nothing but a food court, that's not going to be sustainable."

Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, is seeking re-election to the Ann Arbor City Council and he's up against challenger Julie Grand in the August primary. The two offered different perspectives on downtown-related issues on Saturday at a candidate forum hosted by the Ann Arbor Democratic Party.

Grand, chairwoman of the city's Park Advisory Commission, gave credit to the Downtown Development Authority for what she views as a vibrant city center that's working.

"We all benefit from what the DDA does," she said. "We all benefit from a vibrant downtown that attracts new residents, that supports our local businesses, and helps grow our economy."

As someone who grew up in a small town and witnessed emptying store fronts, Grand said she appreciates the DDA's efforts. She disagrees with Kunselman's proposal to limit the DDA's revenue growth and instead channel new downtown tax dollars to the city and other entities.

"In terms of funding, actually their current system works pretty well," she said. "The fact that they have more money just speaks to their success. Their purpose is to encourage investment in the downtown, and the fact that they're getting more money into the system shows they're doing their job."

Joining the two 3rd Ward candidates on stage was Jack Eaton, a neighborhood activist who is trying to unseat Council Member Marcia Higgins, D-4th Ward, in the August primary.

Higgins did not attend the event. Supporters of her campaign who were in attendance, including Leah Gunn, chairwoman of the DDA, said she was sick.

The three candidates were asked their thoughts on the controversial 413 E. Huron high-rise project that recently won approval from the City Council in a 6-5 split vote.

Grand said if she were on council she would have voted in favor of the project, which Kunselman opposed. She said she wouldn't have felt comfortable risking the taxpayers' money by rejecting it and bringing on a lawsuit from the developer that could have cost $10 million or more.


Kunselman drew applause from the crowd when he talked about his view of Ann Arbor, saying people need to stop pretending it's some metropolis. "We can think of Ann Arbor as a great metropolis, but as an urban planner all I see us as is a college town — a Midwestern college town that empties out for four months out of the year," he said.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Kunselman said he voted against the project because the City Council has the authority to enforce the city's zoning ordinances and he doesn't think it complied.

"Yes, we would have gone to court," he said. "We would have won that case."

Eaton said he would have voted differently from Higgins, who approved the project. He said the city has made "radical" zoning changes to allow more density in the downtown in recent years without proper consideration given to creating a buffer for nearby neighborhoods.

"We wanted to create an area in the core of our city that was dense, and I agree with that, but the master plan calls for buffers between that density and the nearby neighborhoods," he said.

Eaton said he would have supported a six-month moratorium on downtown development — a proposal that was rejected by council earlier this year — while the city reviewed the D1 zoning. That review is going forward right now, but without the moratorium in place.

"We had three occasions in which we could have stopped that particular building without actually changing our intention to have a good dense downtown core, and we failed miserably each one of those three times," he said of 413 E. Huron.

"And I would point out my opponent was one of the driving forces with the original zoning that had these flaws and I would pay more attention to how zoning changes actually affect the properties that are being changed."

Kunselman said the council's failure to stop the 413 E. Huron project has created a distrust of the city's entire planning process. He said he's supportive of efforts to bring more dense residential living downtown, but he's discouraged that it's been mostly student housing.

He said the city needs to clean up its zoning on the edges of downtown to make sure another project like 413 E. Huron doesn't happen again.

Grand also said she's pleased the Planning Commission is reviewing the D1 zoning, which allows up to 180-foot-tall development.

"I remain in favor of density in the downtown," Grand said. "I just feel we have some opportunities, especially with some city-owned properties, to get it right and to build buildings that are really consistent with what the community wants."


Fourth Ward council candidate Jack Eaton said he agreed with Kunselman that the city has allowed certain people to serve on the DDA board for too long. He said he's in favor of Kunselman's proposal to place term limits on DDA board members and rein in the amount of tax money the DDA collects.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Grand said she hears from a lot of residents who are concerned about the change in the downtown landscape with new high-rises going up.

"We wanted density in the downtown, but we didn't know it was only going to be students in the downtown," she said. "We had a very different vision, I think, for those who supported density initially — that it wasn't going to be blocky buildings and students; it was going to be boomers and young professionals and they were going to live in architecturally interesting buildings."

Eaton said he thinks the DDA has good intentions to diversify downtown and attract more empty nesters and young professionals and businesses. He just doesn't think the DDA has been very successful.

Grand described herself as a consensus-builder. She said those who have served with her on PAC can attest to her ability to bring together diverse perspectives to achieve compromise.

Kunselman touted himself as an experienced, effective and ethical leader. He said he's been effective at getting compromise, though he acknowledged butting heads with DDA officials.

"I think everyone knows there's been some tension between myself and the DDA board over the interpretation of law, our city ordinances, and how the DDA operates," he said.

He said the "political intimidations" and the "character assassinations that the DDA orchestrates" against him have shown that "they're not the leaders of this community."

"When we talk about downtown investment, it's great — downtown is the wealthiest area in the community," Kunselman said. "But out in the deeper ends of Ward 3, our property values decreased by 30 percent — there's no investment."

Kunselman said investing in new roads and water mains and sidewalks helps improve perceptions of neighborhoods and reduce crime, and it's his goal to see more of that.

"That's what we need for all of our neighborhoods," he said. "I am tired of walking along a street with potholes and listening to people complain that we're not getting the services."

Grand said she cares about investing in neighborhoods, too, but she argued there's a symbiotic relationship whereby the entire city benefits from having a strong downtown.

"It's not that I don't acknowledge the fact that property values went down," she said. "I don't think that has anything to do with the DDA or a focus on the downtown. I think that downtown people want to come to the city and want to move into the neighborhoods because they want to have a downtown, and downtown actually supports core services and the value of our neighborhoods."

Eaton said he's found that neighborhoods too often end up fighting the city on issues, but he's hopeful recent elections are starting to turn the tide on council.


Grand, a lecturer in health policy studies at U-M-Dearborn, said she moved to Ann Arbor 17 years ago to attend graduate school at U-M. "I fell in love with the university," she said. "Then a few months later I fell in love with a person, and then over time I fell in love with the community. And it was that love of the community that made my husband and I choose to raise our family here."

Ryan J. Stanton |

"Just since the 2012 election, we've seen council abandon its plan to close fire stations. We've seen council withdraw from an expensive, faulty, countywide transit plan," he said. "We've seen council table a plan to build a train station on parkland."

Eaton said it's time now to turn attention to a positive agenda of protecting parkland, addressing infrastructure needs and unfunded liabilities, and rebuilding the police and fire departments.

"As of this last December, with new council members seated at the table, we are taking on a new direction," Kunselman agreed. "We are going places where I think the community as a whole expects us to go — fiscal responsibility, attentiveness to our infrastructure, and making sure that we put all the cards on the table so the community knows what we're debating."

He added: "No more poker politics. No more hiding cards and trying to play strategies behind closed doors or emails."

Grand agreed there's room for improvement in the relationship between residents and city hall.

"People are also feeling very disconnected from their government," she said.

"And I don't know that we can get every road paved in the neighborhood. I don't know that we can fix all of the water problems. But one thing I think I can do a good job of is communicating with those neighbors."

She added, "You can come to me and I can immediately connect you to the person in the city who's going to address your concern."

The candidates' closing remarks from Saturday:

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

Cute as Mr. Kunselman's downtown is a "food court" comment was, I've heard absolutely no specifics from him or his TEA Party, just-say-no allies, about what they would actually do to strengthen or mold downtown toward their vision, aside from disinvesting. Ann Arbor thrives because of the university and downtown. The University stimulates jobs, and skilled people want to move here because of downtown amenities and culture. Without either, Ann Arbor becomes just another has-been Detroit suburb from the era of $1.50 gas. Were it surrendered to the no-build, bring back 1962 nostalgia vision, we would have Plymouth or Rochester Hills. Were it surrendered to the GOP suburban vision, we would have Canton or Commerce Township. Thank you Ms. Grand for having the courage to speak to a specific vision, rather than annunciate buzzwords.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 12:43 a.m.

I do so enjoy living in a single party, worker's paradise. Every candidate is a loyal member of the ruling party. There are no differences, to speak of, between them. They can all parrot party dogma like good little politburo members. This all reminds me of the height of the cold war, when analysts would make pronouncements based on who was standing next to whom on top of Lenin's tomb. "He drinks Scotch, so he must be a reformer." But, there was no reform, because they were all loyal party members, after all. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over and over and over again, and expecting different results. As long as we keep electing members of the ruling party, nothing will change.

Steve Bean

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

"She added, 'You can come to me and I can immediately connect you to the person in the city who's going to address your concern.'" And that would be… Steve Kunselman? Having been a candidate, I understand the pitfalls of making such statements with wording that can be misconstrued or misinterpreted when taken out of context—or just plain putting your foot in your mouth. On the other hand, the overall impression from Grand's comments as reported (with minor exceptions) is that of a defender of the downtown-centric status quo. Communicating with residents/citizens (not "neighbors") has too long taken the form of telling us "what we [city council/the DDA] are doing" rather than asking "what can we do to address your concerns?".


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

"And I don't know that we can get every road paved in the neighborhood. I don't know that we can fix all of the water problems. ..." This is the problem. The primary role of city government is to FIX roads and water infrastructure issues, not sit around dreaming about public art projects while 40,000 potholes go unfilled year after year.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

"Kunselman drew applause from the crowd when he talked about his view of Ann Arbor, saying people need to stop pretending it's some metropolis. "We can think of Ann Arbor as a great metropolis, but as an urban planner all I see us as is a college town — a Midwestern college town that empties out for four months out of the year," he said." Bravo! The voice of sanity. AA needs to get over itself and stop trying to develop and imagine projects as if it's NY, Chicago, Portland or any other large city of hundreds of thousands or millions. He added, "I do think we need to pay attention to the fact that if downtown becomes nothing but a food court, that's not going to be sustainable." Exactly right. That's all Main Street is now, an overpriced food court for students and their rich parents who come to town now and then. Throw in a few overpriced boutiques and that's what you have in AA. Developers have rolled in from out of state and the city has allowed them to "cash in" on high rises totally out of character and scale for the city, just to capitalize on the rich student population. Restaurant after restaurant has come and gone, leaving a "food court" in its wake. AA is fast becoming Disneyland for rich students and parents and few others.

Forward Progress

Tue, Jun 11, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

The "Get off my Lawn" crowd can just stay at home and gripe in their backyards about the young whippersnappers invading their town. We are not a small town, but rather a small CITY. A small city that is growing, thriving and extremely popular. If you don't want to be where something is thriving, then move to somewhere that is dying. Nothing stands still in time so that is not an option. We are surrounded by communities with sleepy, dying mainstreets where you can get the peace that you seek.

glenn thompson

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 3:57 p.m.

To those that desire to see Kunselman and Eaton elected, I encourage you to actively support their campaigns. Campaigns are expensive, money is necessary to print and distribute campaign literature. If you can't afford a contribution, consider volunteering to distribute the literature. Delivering 100 pieces of literature to voter's doors is equal to about $50 in postage. The opposition will be well funded by their usual contributors. It is up to you, the people, to support the candidate of your choice.

David Cahill

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

I have a "metacomment": a comment about the comments on this article. It is now over 15 hours since this article went up. So far, there is not one comment favorable to Grand, Higgins, or Westphal. There is not one comment critical of Kunselman or Eaton. Have the Grand/Higgins/Westphal supporters deliberately decided to abandon, and leave this important "marketplace of ideas" to Kunselman and Eaton?

Colorado Sun

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 7:03 p.m.

David: is ruled by the anti-development "Townie" elements in the comments section - such as yourself. People like Higgins and Grand are "behind-the-scenes" campaigners who rely on a network of well-connected supporters to achieve victory.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

Or, is there just nothing good to say?


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

We need more voters in A2. And primaries to be held when voters are actually here. And much more attention paid by residents to what's going on in city council. The mayor, DDA, etc. can count on the lack of interest to assist them in pushing their agenda.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

We do need more voters to participate in Ann Arbor. Many long term millages pass with less than 5% of the actual possible vote. If I remember correctly the AAPS tech bond had approximately 7% turnout, and passed by less than 60%, meaning less than 4 % of possible voters stuck us with those mils. I have voted at every possible opportunity since I was able, and that was a while ago. I figure my vote, winning or losing, is also my ticket to gripe...


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

For now we just have to work within our somewhat flawed system, but that's no reason not to vote. If you think that you aren't going to be able to make it on August 6 just get an absentee ballot - it's easy. You can request one today and cast your vote next week if you want. From the city's website ... Voter registration forms and absentee ballot requests can be faxed to 734-994-8296 or emailed to A drop box is also available in City Hall for ballots, applications and other Clerk's Office forms.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

Ms. Grand is another of those who happily gives the DDA all the credit for the current success downtown. That really ignores the realities of the economy of the last number of years. Should the DDA really get to capture all those extra dollars just because they happen to be in power as the recession eases? Just by being in the right place at the right time while there are pressing needs in the 95% of the city where the people live? She's definitely from the mold that we're trying to move away from.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 11:16 a.m.

I think people need to go see other downtowns. Everyone seems quite convinced that we have some unique creature of a downtown, and it's really not. There's a small, short stretch of Main Street that looks halfway decent, but a lot of downtown has TERRIBLE sidewalks, REALLY bad roads, poorly kept trees, grass and weeds growing through cracks, scrubby unkempt shrubbery/weeds in planters, etc. For the amount of money it costs to rent, and how much it costs to eat and shop, there's a huge perceptual gap between that and the appearance of the place. I love Ann Arbor, but I'm not just blindly convinced that somehow we have the last remaining unicorn of a downtown. There's a lot of money being poured into these coffers, and that is NOT evident in the streets. Look, it's no secret that we pay astonishingly high property taxes. You're supposed to see the result of that. I should be able to point to things and explain what I'm getting for paying so much more property tax than other people. Other towns have good roads, good schools, garbage collection, parks, a nice downtown main street, etc. Our school system is drowning in mismanagement and waste, our roads are humiliating, and a good part of our downtown is pretty shabby. Where is all the money going?


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

Went to Plymouth yesterday and the action they have created around that public square is remarkable. If only we had a public square, and I don't mean the Diag. Of course, there are few places left in Ann Arbor that are not already fronted by large buildings. The Library Lot would make a decent square, if the Y lot was allowed to develop in any way that wasn't a giant mass. Ever get the feeling that we have been overrun by mis-guided urban planners?


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 10:40 a.m.

Note to Mr. Kunselman, et al: Ann Arbor is not just a "College Town", it is home to a great (and large) University, major research & medical centers, a diverse range of industry tech and engineering centers, some of the best major entertainment venues outside of NYC & LA, and is arguably the most cosmopolitan and culturally diverse city in Michigan. Governance based on nostalgia (informed by the rosy-tinted spectacles of childhood) is not an option, nor is long-term urban planning that lacks strategy and investment. The fact that "the place I love best is a sweet memory" (Bob Dylan), is a truth for all of us over age thirty does not provide a sound basis for setting policy and objectives for the future of this vibrant city.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:25 p.m.

Spot on, A2Dave! We're never going to rebuild the Ann Arbor that existed in 1965- the world around it has changed. Mr. Kunselman seems to be building a coalition of Area 51/Agenda 21 right wing conspiracy buffs and voters nostalgic for a place that existed before most people who live in downtown were even born.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

That's a serious mischaracterization of what he said (I was there). It isn't about "nostalgia", it's about having the knowledge of the history of the city and how it was actually a pretty great city long before the downtown started turning into a tourist area. Nice try, though.

Colorado Sun

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 7:13 a.m.

Regarding Marcia Higgins: She hardly ever campaigns but has won every election since 1999. She has earned the nickname "The Invisible Woman". She has held posts at Borders, U-M and Ardesta Corporation. Rick Snyder donated to her 2002 mayoral candidacy against Mayor Hieftje. She beat her GOP opponent in 2011 without putting up a website or engaging in any meaningful campaigning. She formerly sat as a GOP City Council representative before joining the Democratic Party at the invitation of the Mayor. She was the only City Council member to dissent against the resolution endorsing U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. She is a close political ally of Leah Gunn, Diane Gianolla and Margie Teall.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 4:38 a.m.

Ward 4 suffers as a result of having Teall and Higgins sometimes deciding to show up as City Council Members. What a travesty.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

Today Gov. Snyder would likely donate to Mayor Hieftje. In 2002 he might have believed in the Mayor's "environmentalist" stance. Ann Arbor has learned the hard way who Hieftje really is.

Colorado Sun

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 7 a.m.

Julie Grand is the "DDA candidate". She is being supported by DDA member Joan Lowenstein and is opposing Kunselman due to his efforts in introducing a proposed ordinance limiting the powers of the DDA and removing the mayor as a member. Her husband is federal magistrate. Kirk Westphal is a Planning Commission member who backed the 413 E. Huron project. He was a former student at U-M of the Mayor and Hieftje has assisted him in his rise in A2 politics. He is an architect and a University of Pennsylvania alumnus.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 3:42 a.m.

Not surprised Higgins wasn't there. Neither Higgins or Teall participate in election debates or events. The bigger surprise would have been to see her THERE. The 4th Ward doesn't get City Council Member representation at most community events, debates, constituent communications, etc.


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 4:36 a.m.

Yes, Teall's 18 vote victory over Eaton should have caused her to adjust her participation in City Council meetings, but she still misses them or leaves early. She doesn't return messages by phone or email, didn't participate in election debates, etc. FAILS to listen or serve her constituents.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

There was scowling, for sure. Well, maybe they know their time is up.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

@DJBud is correct - she was there for a while and sitting in the scowling section. And there's no reason that they *both* can't go, it'll just take another year.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 4:49 a.m.

Ms. Teall was there, but is not up for reelection this year so did not participate. She sat with her DDA voting block; it is too bad Mr. Eaton did not prevail last year, it is a tough choice but I would rather see her go than Ms. Higgins.

Urban Sombrero

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 3:44 a.m.

Move to the Third Ward! We have cookies!

Urban Sombrero

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 3:34 a.m.

I'm a 3rd ward voter (who votes in EVERY election). And, with this particular quote? Julie Grand sealed the deal that I will NEVER vote for her: ""We all benefit from what the DDA does," she said. "We all benefit from a vibrant downtown that attracts new residents, that supports our local businesses, and helps grow our economy."" I see the DDA as nothing but a funnel for money that diverts the funds from NECESSARY expenses (police, fire, infrastructure, etc.), into frivolous ones (Garage Mahal, the "no one really uses this" Washtenaw corridor bike path, PUBLIC ART, etc.). I have supported Stephen Kunselman in the past. I will continue to do so in the future, as long as he wants to run and serve.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:53 a.m.

I enjoyed this forum and hearing the candidates responses. There certainly are clear choices to be made this August. Overall it gives one hope for the future of Ann Arbor, which seems right now to be hidden in the shadows of over-development and politics.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:07 a.m.

"And I don't know that we can get every road paved in the neighborhood. I don't know that we can fix all of the water problems. But one thing I think I can do a good job of is communicating with those neighbors." Translation: Let's spend all our money on the fauxny street lights and bike racks for downtown, and the neighborhoods be damned... I smell a Hieftjeite. Voters in her ward should ensure she doesn't create a bad smell in council chambers... her fellow traveller Hieftjeites do quite enough already.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:54 a.m.

Harsh, but I know what you mean - not impressed by those responses at all.

Dirty Mouth

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.

I want to echo the sentiments of Fourth Ward council candidate Jack Eaton and Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Kunselman by saying that (I think) they're spot in their analysis: Ann Arbor needs to start celebrating the notion that being a College Town is quite alright. In fact, it is the very notion of what a Midwest-college town is all about that draws the most recognition and phrase. Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan exist within a symbiotic relationships, whereby the cultural and intellectual diversity that exists should be cherished and celebrated and not buried beneath gaudy high rises, urban sprawl, or expensive a"public" art.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:11 a.m.

Everyone seems to agree that the D1 zoning ordinance needs to be reviewed and changed, particularly after the approval of the massive 413 E. Huron project that was dictated more by the fear of a lawsuit than by the building's appropriateness. Unfortunately, I have little confidence that the zoning laws will change because the Planning Commission, which will be important to the review, is populated by the same individuals who voted for the present D1 zoning ordinance in 2009. And chief among those participants was Kirk Westphal, who was the Planning Commission Chairman. Westphal's remarks today indicate his continued dedication to high density construction throughout downtown. Also he favors constructing a new railroad station on Fuller Road that will likely cost the city $66 million. Obviously, he would be expected to have such beliefs being an urban planner. The urban planner's credo is "If you cannot change it, you are dead!"


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

Oh, no, JBK. Members of the Planning Commission are not elected but are appointed by the mayor as is the case with the DDA, the Public Housing Commission and the Public Art Committee, for example.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:49 a.m.

So are member of the Planning Commission elected or appointed? If elected, lets start a grass roots organization to replace them AND if appointed, lets get rid of the now current Mayor!:)


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 11:46 p.m.

I agree with Councilman Kunselman that we need to spread resources throughout the town. We need to limit the funds and power given to non-elected DDA members who concentrate development in one part of town. He is a knowledgeable council member, a dedicated Ann Arbor even beyond downtown and from the vantage point of childhood and adulthood. He works for contituents and that helps those of us outside his council district, as well, when he refuses to let non-elected DDA members spend as much of the local taxes that they want.


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 11:42 p.m.

Seeing these "debates" is like going to Home Depot and seeing the 100 shades of white: ultimately, they are all so similar that it doesn't really matter. The biggest problem we have is a lack of political diversity on the Council, leading to our current echo chamber. And when they nominate their like-minded friends to other positions of power (such as the DDA), the symphony of agreement leads to bad decisions. No, we don't need cacophony but we need a more meaningful dissent on the Council. I think there has been some swing at the last election and hopefully that trend continues. .


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:40 a.m.

Ms. Briere is the odd-person out on your list. She is way closer to the mayor than the others you name, she just does a good job of hiding it. I agree it is too bad no one is running against her. But there is still hope for a strong independent challenger. That is how Ms. Lumm made the list.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:09 a.m.

I normally agree with you, Veracity, but not about Breire. Unfortunately, no one is running against her.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:35 a.m.

If you want the trend of unanimity with the mayor to continue to decay then you need to reelect Jane Lumm, Stephen Kunselman, Sabra Briere, Mike Anglin and elect Jack Eaton. If all of these individuals had been seated in City Council during recent sessions votes would have gone against the mayor's agenda 6-5 or 7-4 rather than being supportive. The mayor's agenda is easy to understand, that is, build big everywhere (consistent with the 2009 D1 zoning ordinance and the Connect William Street plan), give the DDA a free hand and lots of money, spend lots of tax dollars on public art, and bury Ann Arbor in debt by building a new railroad station and motorized non-vehicle transportation down city corridors. Unfortunately, the above agenda does not consider constituent preferences but is expected to be imposed without much opposition due to voter apathy as reflected by 10 percent voter turnout for local elections. Considering resident disinterest in city politics and issues, the recent successful election of progressive candidates who are making a difference on City Council is quite amazing, IMHO.


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 11:42 p.m.

"Higgins did not attend the event." This is true of way too many council meetings as well. Th 4th ward has not been properly represented at the City Council for some time. I believe Jack Eaton can change that.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 3:47 a.m.

Higgins and Teall don't attend election related debates or events. The bigger surprise would have been her participation. Jack Eaton seems to do a remarkable job at them !


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 11:39 p.m.

Julie Grand seems like a Heftje puppet. Don't vote for her!


Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 11:19 p.m.

Yes, Julie Grand is going to build a Fuller Road Station where a bunch of evil elves employed as UN bureaucrats will come, at the invitation of the mayor, to enslave the good people of Ann Arbor (those who live on the edge of town or better yet not in town at all) under the auspice of Agenda 21.

Urban Sombrero

Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 3:35 a.m.

If I could upvote your comment a million times, I would!

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 10:21 p.m.

I want to point out that three other candidates also took the stage toward the end of Saturday's two-hour event. Sabra Briere, Mike Anglin and Kirk Westphal offered brief remarks and answered some questions. None of them face challengers in the August primary, though, so they're not included in this story, which I think offers more than enough to chew on for now. It was definitely an interesting discussion, though! I might write a second story out of it.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

@JBK - you sound like you need a Jack Eaton yard sign :)


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 2:05 a.m.

Ms. Briere stunned my friends with her proud remarks about her 'success' in getting the sidewalk millage passed. Many people I know, myself included, despise that effort. Everyone who did as the city asked, and repaired their sidewalks at their own expense, are now forced to pay for those who dodged their responsibility... There were two foreclosed properties on our block, those banks did not pay to fix the sidewalks they owned, but now we all get to pay for them, thanks to sidewalk socialism. It was easy to get that millage passed - everyone who had a sidewalk in need of repair voted for it - leaving the rest of us who did our civic duty holding the bag.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 1:17 a.m.

@JBK - as a fellow 4th ward resident I think that Jack Eaton is an excellent choice.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:47 a.m.

JBK- I sat through the whole meeting and Julie Grand did not change her expression at all. Perhaps she was in disagreement with comments by Stephen Kunselman. She could have just as likely been disinterested and bored or perhaps that is her normal appearance. I had not met her before today.


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:22 a.m.

Brad - thanks for the link. Jack Eaton is my man. He is often times noted in the and he seems like he has a very good grasp of what is going on AND more importantly, he is against almost everything our current Mayor is for! :)


Sun, Jun 9, 2013 : 12:06 a.m.

@JBK - you only get to vote in/for your ward. There are two representatives per ward who are on staggered two-year terms so every year there is an election for one of the reps. Since we are mostly a one-party town and insist on partisan elections, the Democratic primary in August frequently is the "real" election that ultimately determines the winner. That will likely be the case in the 4th ward this year, so please make the effort to become educated and vote on Aug 6. Here's a ward map:


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

Ryan - As a relative "newbie" to A2, I have a question about voting. Am I allowed to vote for anyone on the ballot or am I restricted to only those individuals running in my ward? I "think" I am in the 4th Ward (off Eisenhower just West of Main). This will be the first time that I have voted in a Ward setup. On a side not, those are NOT very flattering pics of Julie Grand. Whoever was taking the pictures sure caught her off guard. :)


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 10:16 p.m.

There was quite a bit of discussion regarding the downtown versus what they call the "neighborhoods" (a/k/a the part of the city where 95% of the people live). Nobody argued that the downtown isn't an valuable asset, but there were legitimate questions about council possibly spending disproportionate amounts of time on "downtown issues" while neglecting the majority of the city. And there were the continuing questions about the wisdom and fairness of the DDA being able to "capture" monies that should probably be shared more equitably throughout the city. It's largely about "priorities".


Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 10:48 p.m.

A key difference I noticed in the ward 3 matchup - Mr. Kunselman's excellent command of the topics no matter what they were. I'd hate to see us lose that knowledge not to mention experience.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Jun 8, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

Yeah, I think that's becoming a key difference between the two candidates. Grand says she doesn't think there's too much focus on the downtown, while Kunselman says there is too much focus on the downtown and neighborhoods are seeing lack of investment as a result.