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Posted on Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

2nd Ward candidates Petersen and Derezinski debate the issues one last time before Tuesday's primary

By Ryan J. Stanton


2nd Ward Ann Arbor City Council candidates Sally Hart Petersen and Tony Derezinski appeared side by side Tuesday night at Traverwood Public Library during a forum sponsored by the Orchard Hills Maplewood Homeowners Association.

Ryan J. Stanton |

When asked to give their thoughts on Mayor John Hieftje, the two 2nd Ward candidates running for the Ann Arbor City Council had different responses Tuesday night.

Democratic incumbent Tony Derezinski, one of Hieftje's closest allies, said one just has to look at the results. He pointed out Ann Arbor is consistently ranked among the best places in the nation to live.

"These are the awards that we have gotten in the last 10 years," he said, rattling off a list. "Do you think that's accidental? No. I think the City Council and the city government has had a hand in that."

Sally Hart Petersen, who is hoping to unseat Derezinski in next Tuesday's primary, agreed Hieftje has done a fine job as mayor in the last 12 years and deserves kudos.

But she said she's concerned the mayor seems to be chasing projects that don't make sense, like a new train station on Fuller Road.

"I just don't know where the money is going to come, and so if he's leading City Council to pursue that, that is a question I have of leadership," she said.

Petersen and Derezinski appeared side by side at Traverwood Public Library for a forum sponsored by the Orchard Hills Maplewood Homeowners Association.

About 50 residents attended.

The two candidates shared their opinions on a wide range of issues, including budget priorities, a city charter amendment aimed at protecting parkland, and plans to expand public transit services countywide.

Petersen said during a previous debate she liked the idea of developing a city park atop the new Library Lane underground parking garage downtown. She clarified her position Tuesday, saying there's been a lot of discussion recently, and she's now in favor of a mix of open space and moderate development.

"I've come to the conclusion that, whatever goes there, we really need to be creative about it, and I'm open to ideas and to really think about what is the best use for that spot," she said, mentioning one idea she has heard is an indoor/outdoor performing arts space. "Another idea, which I actually like a little bit better, is perhaps we should collaborate with the University of Michigan and build a cultural center."

Derezinski has subtly questioned his opponent's allegiance to the Democratic Party at different times during the campaign. He did again in a recent interview, saying he's been involved in local party functions since he moved to Ann Arbor in 1985 and has never seen Petersen at any of them until now.

"I think it's a bit disingenuous when you all of a sudden become a Democrat and run on what I think could accurately be phrased as a flag of convenience," he said. "I worked very hard on the Obama campaign three and a half years ago, but I never recall my opponent being involved in any of that."

Petersen maintains she's a longtime Democrat. She told she worked on the Michael Dukakis campaign for president back in 1988 and supported Bill Clinton, too.

"Anybody who knows me knows I'm a Democrat," she said. "But how is that even relevant in this election? I want to represent everybody — Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, whoever. I would want to be in touch and communicating with them consistently."

State campaign finance records show Petersen donated $100 to former Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop's Knights of the Round Table Leadership PAC in 2004. Petersen's critics point out that's a Republican PAC known for funneling its funds to conservative candidates and causes.

Petersen said she couldn't recall making that donation, but she didn't deny it. She said it was a long time ago and there must have been a good reason for it at the time.

"While I have not been active in the Ann Arbor Democratic Party, I have been a very active Democrat in Ann Arbor," she said, pointing to her involvement as a volunteer with groups like the Tappan Middle School PTSO, the Neutral Zone, Ann Arbor Art Center and Junior League of Ann Arbor.

Watch below to find out what else the candidates had to say Tuesday night:

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.



Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

I'd like to share a letter I received from a Ward2 resident who happens to be away. He sent this regarding the upcoming primary; Ann Arbor is fortunate to have Tony Derezinski running or a third term on City Council. Tony has long experience in dealing with various governmental and related contingencies. He understands the needs for hospitals because of past experience as General Council and Vice President of a 27 hospital health company, important experience in our community as the U of M hospital is Ann Arbor's largest employer. His almost 14 years as a Regent of EMU makes himn familiar with the needs of universiies. In addition, as the Director of Government Relations for well over a decade for the Michigan Association of School Boards, he is very sensitive to K-12 education issues. Tony is diligent, hardworking and exhibits great integrity in his dealings. He has been a part of the City Council for the past two terms when Ann Arbor has been wisely run, weathering the budget crisis experience rampant in other communities without sacrificing service to the city. Tony has geat knowledge and experience in municipal government. I have known Tony for more than 45 years and have seen him in a wide variety of settings. He has another quality that is essential and all too rare in public life today: civility and respect for people with disparate views. I am glad he is willing to work for our city and proud to give him my vote. Mike Staebler

Michigan Man

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

Sorry looking pair of Dem's if you ask me!


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

Tony D has clearly aiigned himself with PRINCE JOHN and can't see the futility of his actions.Leader is not a part of his vocabulary,he's by far the biggest follower on the city council.Tony lacks spinal fotitude and takes his orders from people who lack ethics and foresight.Its time to get him out of there.Bring new blood to the system,and we'll have a change for the better.


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

I'd be interested in others' thoughts on whether this primary choice is a choice between "small Ann Arbor" and "big Ann Arbor" perspectives. Tony Derezinski seems to have a view of AA as the center (and perhaps financial supporter) of the county. "If we let these communities go down..." he said at one point. This makes him a supporter of the regional rail system and sharing services with other communities (county-wide dispatch). Sally Hart Peterson seems more focused on making AA work for AAites: she's suspicious of the AA transportation system and wants it to work for residents before non-residents, the train station has to make sense from an AA budget point of view, etc. That's not to say which is the better perspective. They are both valid points of view. I just wondered if others agreed that this seemed a difference between them.


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

Sally has my vote in a big way! It's time to rid the council of those who have been on it for so long that they can no longer see beyond their own vision (actually, the mayor's vision). Also, we shouldn't have to put up with someone who is known to be completely unresponsive to his constituents. Get out on the 7th and vote for a fresh new perspective!


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

i do not live in this district. but the one i live in i am voting against those whom are in bed with the mayor. yes i have no business worrying about other districts. just want them to think about voting against his current supporters.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

Thanks for answering! Good to know what others are thinking...


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

dot dash. you asked for it so here it comes. crosswalks. not safe. bike lanes on stadium. and the new transit proposed build. most of all the wasted money on the art commission. plus they get a raise. crosswalks not save because cars stop on the left and people run right on thru on the right. no lights to warn them on stadium. but we have money for art. bike lanes are supposed to be confined to two bikers within the lines. never happens they are outside the line. they run right up the cars waiting for light changes instead of waiting like cars. the art commission money could be used for crosswalks to save lives vs art. my choice is save lives vs art. that should do it. thanks for asking.


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Why in particular? Since you've raised the issue, I'm curious. What is it about the mayor's policies you dislike?


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

We hope our neighbors will join us and vote for Tony Derezinski on August 7th. Tony has provided excellent representation for the 2nd Ward and all of Ann Arbor since he was elected in 2008. He brings a life time of experiences in public service to our community. We have always been proud that someone with Tony's background represented us on City Council. Tony served as a member of the Michigan State Senate, was on the EMU Board of Regents, Directed Government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards and has served on numerous volunteer boards in our community. His expertise in city planning, experiences with educational institutions and his practice of municipal law all serve to inform the decisions he makes for our city. We are most impressed by his understanding of the wide range of issues facing our City Council and his reasoned approach to dealing with each one. Please join us and support him on August 7th. Harvey and Robin Wax


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

Mr. Derezinski was not showing good reasoning when he supported the construction of both the $50 million Municipal Building and the $50 million dollar subterranean library parking structure that is setting back the DDA almost $9 million annually for servicing the bonds and may actually put the DDA out of existence in the next few years. (See my other comments above.) Mr. Derezinski's support for the 4-Party Transit Authority (4-PTA) may result in reduced transportation services within Ann Arbor as all AATA finances and operational decisions will be transferred to the new 4-PTA board which will only have minority representation for Ann Arbor. The money that the 4-PTA obtains from the AATA and a new county-wide millage will be applied to expanding transportation to many areas of the county outside of Ann Arbor and also may provide some funding for "Re-Imaging Washtenaw." (See below) Mr. Derezinski is a strong proponent for the "Re-Imaging Washtenaw" plan. The intention of the "Re-Imaging Washtenaw" plan is to improve traffic flow along Washtenaw Avenue, to enhance its appearance and to stimulate development of properties alongside the roadway. However, the newest development along Washtenaw Avenue, Arbor Hills Crossing shopping center being built at Platt Road and Washtenaw Avenue, will require a stop light at the intersection which will slow down traffic. Furthermore, the shopping center is being built on speculation meaning that not one tenant has yet been identified. With significant vacant commercial property available in Ann Arbor, the Arbor Hills Crossing project may not be financially successful. As it is, the City plans to return TIF money for many years to the developer as reimbursement for Brownfield remediation and other site development costs. Thus, the community may gain no benefits from this development. Mr. Derezinski sits on the 1%-for-art commission. He does not advocate for increased citizen involvement in selection of art


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

I think mentioning a connection with the EMU Board of Regents may not be in Tony's best interest considering how crazy they have been shown to be recently - even if his service was in the past.


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

A few observations from candidates' night at the Traverwood Library: PART TWO Tony Derezinski credits the Mayor for Ann Arbor successes. However, the incumbent Ward 2 Councilman should also attribute the Mayor's efforts to build the Municipal Building and the underground library parking structure, each costing $50 million in bond issuances. For the next 20 years, the annual cost for servicing the two bond issues may exceed $9 million without new revenue that will cover the expense. This financial responsibility is borne by the DDA which has had deficit spending for the past several years and has almost exhausted its reserve fund. Once the reserve fund is gone the DDA may require termination since it is legally not allowed to run a deficit budget. The DDA's liabilities will have to be absorbed into the City's general funds and will provide an additional stress on the city's finances. The Mayor may have also facilitated consideration for the attempted sale of the Huron Hills Golf Course and certainly did not squelch its consideration. Similarly, the Mayor and Mr. Derezinski were advocates for the poorly conceived Valiant Partners 150-room luxury hotel and 32,000 square foot conference center that they wanted to build above the underground parking structure. Only public opposition and a critical feasibility study provided by hotel expert Chuck Skelton caused City Council to finally reject the proposal. The project most certainly would have failed financially resulting in no monetary benefits to the City and a white-elephant standing next to the Ann Arbor District Library.


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 11:17 a.m.

It is time for new people on Council. Mr. d is too cozy with various powers that be.

Bertha Venation

Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

Amen to That, Person!


Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 10:39 a.m.

Here are several possible questions to answer regarding constituent representation: Who will best communicate with ward residents on an ongoing basis? Who will formulate vision and policy with constituent input, prior to formulation? Will the representative be concerned with building / improving a more effective inclusive process? Who will respond to written and verbal constituent inquiry? These questions extend to all of the candidates. The perceived answers will help me to decide my voting choice on Tuesday. Please vote, Ann Arbor!

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 10:27 a.m.

Former Michigan GOP chair Ron Weiser donated to Derezinski's previous Council campaign. Is Tony going to return that contribution?

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Aug 1, 2012 : 10:23 a.m.

Derezinski apparently has little problem in the past taking campaign contributions from major Republican Party folks so this talk about a 'real' Democrat is as phoney as a three dollar bill.