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Posted on Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

On the minds of Ann Arbor's new council members: City budget and communicating with residents

By Ryan J. Stanton


Three new members of the Ann Arbor City Council and three returning members were sworn into office Monday night by City Clerk Jackie Beaudry. From left to right are Mayor John Hieftje, Chuck Warpehoski, Margie Teall, Christopher Taylor, Sally Hart Petersen and Sumi Kailasapathy. Other council members not pictured because they serve odd-year terms and didn't need to be sworn in again: Sabra Briere, Jane Lumm, Stephen Kunselman, Marcia Higgins and Mike Anglin.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Three new faces joined the Ann Arbor City Council this week and all three say they're eager to get started delivering on promises they made during their campaigns.

Sumi Kailasapathy, Sally Hart Petersen and Chuck Warpehoski were sworn into office during their first council meeting Monday night.

Kailasapathy, D-1st Ward, said foremost on her mind is the city's upcoming budget process, which kicks off Dec. 10 with a council budget retreat.


Sumi Kailasapathy, one of three new council members, called for repeal of the city's public art program at her first meeting Monday night.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The certified public accountant said she'll be fighting to increase staffing levels in the police and fire departments and she hopes to halt Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard's proposal to close and consolidate fire stations. She's optimistic there'll be enough votes on council on her side.

"The council has to set the direction," she said. "We don't micromanage, but we need to set the priorities. And yes, fully funding fire and police will be, of course, my dead absolute priority."

Petersen, D-2nd Ward, brings a marketing background to council. She said she already has started working with Ann Arbor-based ForeSee Results Inc. to develop a customer satisfaction survey to gauge how 2nd Ward residents feel about city services.

"I do see the residents of Ann Arbor and residents of Ward 2 as customers of the city and we need to keep a pulse on their attitudes," she said.

Petersen said she also has talked with fellow 2nd Ward Council Member Jane Lumm, who was elected last year, about having a common platform or website — a 2nd Ward website — where they can communicate their views publicly, even if they are in disagreement on issues sometimes.

Those are just a couple of initiatives Petersen said residents in her ward can expect from her in the early days and weeks of her two-year term.

"It starts with going back to the Ward 2 constituents and understanding how I can best represent that voice," she said. "I campaigned on a commitment to be the voice of Ward 2 residents and what you can see in the coming months is a very deliberate attempt to provide a forum for communication."

The city's budget process will start soon and last into the spring, with adoption of the 2013-14 fiscal year budget in May, along with a tentative plan for fiscal year 2014-15.

Kailasapathy said she'll be pressing for "fiscal responsibility all around," and that includes addressing the city's unfunded liabilities for retiree benefits.


Chuck Warpehoski and Sumi Kailasapathy share a hug after being sworn into office Monday night.

Ryan J. Stanton |

She said she's heard from lots of constituents — not just from her ward, but people all over the city — that they don't want to see fire stations close.

Warpehoski, D-5th Ward, said he's still learning the ropes, but he's looking forward to the budget process and setting priorities for the city.

"One of the things I think I bring to council is a commitment to good process and to try to go for public involvement," said Warpehoski, director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice.

None of the new council members indicated they had any specific legislation in the works that they'll be bringing forward.

"I don't have anything drafted and ready to go, and partly that's also the same commitment to process," Warpehoski said. "There are things I want to look at in terms of constituent service."

Mayor John Hieftje and his allies lost their majority on council this week with Petersen and Kailasapathy replacing Tony Derezinski and Sandi Smith, respectively. Derezinski will continue serving on the city's Planning Commission and Smith will continue serving on the Downtown Development Authority board and a city task force studying the North Main Street corridor.

Warpehoski is a somewhat different story from the other incoming members since Hieftje actually supported his bid to fill the 5th Ward seat voluntarily vacated by Carsten Hohnke, another of the mayor's allies. Warpehoski has pledged to be an independent thinker on council, though.

"It's nice to see the new members here and I look forward to working together with them," Hieftje said this week. "We seem to be off to a good start. I think they've done their homework. We had some training going on with staff members, learning about the budget, learning about procedures, learning about procedures through the clerk's office, so hopefully they got to the table well prepared."

Hieftje said he thinks there are several issues where returning and incoming council members will be able to work together for the good of the city.

"Anybody who follows council will see all of us are concerned about doing what's best for the city and we very often come up with better solutions after we've had a chance to discuss things," he said.

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.



Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

With Sumi joining Sabra Briere, we in the first ward will finally have 2 people who actually communicate and keep in contact with their constituents. Sandi Smith never bothered to reach out to her community. She will not be missed.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 10:04 a.m.

Well, whadd'ya know, Chris Taylor is a GIANT. But I think giants should be allowed to hold public office, just like the rest of us.

David Cahill

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

Kailasapathy brings an evidence-based approach to city issues. I expect she will be especially influential during the upcoming budget discussions. Council sets priorities for police, fire, and nearly everything else the city government does in the budget.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 10:16 a.m.

"Kailasapathy brings an evidence-based approach to city issues." I hope for city issues she does, but in the class I took with her years back, she kinda missed a few facts. Mind you, I still thought she was a good lecturer overall and found her to keep us all engaged. Even gave her high marks.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

Good luck Sally,Chuck and Sumi.I hope that this trio will help bring healthy changes to the city of Ann Arbor administration thats been beseiged by favoritsm and corruption. It's time for Prince John and Commandant Steven to be put in their rightful places as servants of the citizens , not as monarchs of the city.Change must take place or the citizens will react a la Tony D. demise..Keep in mind - nothing lasts forever.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

Ann Arbor loves Sumi and Sally!


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 4 p.m.

Glad to get some new (and hopefully different) blood in here. Let's not go crazy with the pay-services for things like surveys and whatnot, though. Remember the guy in charge of water wanting to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a survey asking residents if they liked their water, if it smelled funny, if it had particulate matter, etc. You can figure this stuff out without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on one-time overly-expensive web gadgetry. And councilmembers, please price compare; lots of places jack up the price because it's government-related (and thus inexhaustibly taxpayer funded). Welcome, and please, PLEASE use common sense and be rational. And serve the CITIZENS.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

Sumi is on track to achieve the worst of pandering that there is. When the fire department says we can safely close a station we should. When crime is at an all time low, why do we need more police? Simple as that and ifs, ands or the popularity she chases (read votes) from those who misunderstand should apply. For the A2 residents who say it's too liberal of a city, meet your obstructionist Tea Party council member.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Sumi is far from a tea party member. Odd comments like yours will make it that nobody will take you seriously.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 10:28 p.m.

Sumi is one of the most intelligent and capable persons to run for City Council in a long, long time. Citizens should be happy that they have someone like her advocating for their interests.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

art commission budget should be the first. eliminate it . that is a mil in saving already.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

I bet Ms. Armentrout would've shown up knowing the ropes as well or better than anyone else.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Oh? Most politicians (all parties) normally do not deliver on campaign promises. Someone needs to keep track of this and see if this perceived fact is supported by data. Most studies that I have read confirm the concept - promises only get you elected. Once in office, you do what you want to do regardless of camaign promises. Go figure!


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 10:14 a.m.

Really? That's highly unlikely. It is possible that they have to go back on a promise here and a promise there, but those are few and far between. But to say they "do not deliver on campaign promises," what exactly do you mean? Legislators? Executives? Some things are just not doable, like when Bush 43 wanted to partially privatize Social Security, or Clinton wanted a national health care plan, or Bush 41 vowed to never raise taxes. There are forces beyond their control that prevents them from delivering on everything they promised.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

Unfunded mandates? As in legal liability over the Crosswalk Ordinance? Shouldn't the new Council's elimination of calculable human tragedy and cost - for free - warrant some consideration now? Or are we just waiting for a suit to wear to the long-awaited ceremony?


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

A little over one year ago a woman was killed while walking within a crosswalk in Boulder Colorado. The City has since modified their law for bikes and has put more police resources at work to enforce it. The Boulder Colorado crosswalk ordinance was hailed by the last A2 Council and its mayor as being a model law for Ann Arbor.

Linda Peck

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

I appreciate Ms Kailasapathy's intention to support fully funded police and fire departments. This is a great step forward for residents of Ann Arbor.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

Agree with the comment -- thank you for supporting those who continue to serve the city at all odds.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

Let's hope that some new ideas will be brought into our city council.

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

Now, let's actually listen to voters. Thanks and good luck.


Fri, Nov 23, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

Thank you - was going to say the same thing.