AnnArbor.com's endorsements for 5th and 2nd ward city council elections
If democracy works best when voters have a choice among credible candidates who express clear differences on issues, then we’d say democracy is working in Ann Arbor’s 5th Ward.
Incumbent Democrat Carsten Hohnke, who came through a primary contest unscathed, now faces Republican John Floyd, an accountant, and Independent Newcombe Clark, a commercial real estate broker. The race has been lively but issue-oriented, and the differences among the three are vivid in a variety of areas.
Hohnke is smart and hard working. We admire his commitment to community service, but often have not seen eye-to-eye with him on issues. For instance, he is a firm supporter of City Council’s decisions to build the $47 million Police-Courts Building, while both Clark and Floyd remain unconvinced that was the best or only solution. We share their skepticism on that, and think that same degree of skepticism or more should be given to any future proposals for capital expense of such magnitude.
Hohnke also is more supportive than we are of the way the city has come to rely on parking revenue from the Downtown Development Authority to balance its budget. But our biggest point of difference with him has been his opposition to residential projects like the Moravian and Heritage Row, both of which were recommended by city staff and favored by a majority of City Council members - but halted by the lack of an eight-vote super majority on council.
In both cases, we argued that Ann Arbor cannot hermetically seal itself in its current form. The city will either evolve or stultify. In the case of the Moravian, the owners of aging, marginal student rentals won out over new housing. In the case of Heritage Row, a project that would preserve century-old homes in renovated form is in limbo, leaving the possibility that the developer will tear them down to build the far less desirable City Place project instead.
Floyd has called Heritage Row a “gift’’ to the city for the way it would preserve these homes. Clark was professionally involved in both Heritage Row and the Moravian. While he has been accused of running for office because he didn’t get his way on these projects, we find more to his candidacy than that.
In fact, we find Clark not only well versed on the issues, but consistently persuasive in his arguments, whether it’s his support for publicly funded art or his belief that the DDA should be able to contract for downtown beat cops. He’s on the DDA board, has been president of the Main Street Association and serves on the boards of numerous other civic and arts organizations. He also scores points by vowing that if elected to City Council, he would step down from the DDA board because of the potential conflict between those roles.
We admit to some reservations about Clark. He can be a provocateur. To be effective on council, he’d have to learn to temper that. We also have mixed thoughts about his stated intention to serve only one term. While he says it would free him to make tough decisions, two years is not a lot of time to grow in office. On the whole, though, we think City Council would benefit from another perspective and a more progressive voice. Clark has a strong grasp of issues, an impressive resume of community involvement and an eye toward Ann Arbor’s future. We endorse him in the 5th Ward.
The other contested race this fall is in the 2nd Ward, where incumbent Democrat Tony Derezenski is running against Libertarian Emily Salvette. Derezinski came to council well prepared, having served as a state senator and an Eastern Michigan University regent. His background as an attorney practicing in municipal law also has been a plus. We don’t agree with him on every issue, but he cast important votes in favor of Heritage Row and the Moravian, even if the majority didn’t prevail.
Salvette provides a clear alternative, advocating for spending restraint and a much more limited government role. But we find that Derezinski has been an effective council member who deserves another term. We endorse him for re-election in the 2nd Ward.
Editor’s note: The three community members who serve on our Editorial Board - David Mielke, Bob Guenzel and Marsha Chamberlin - did not participate in the endorsement interviews and were not involved in these endorsement decisions.