[ Background Conversations ]
>> John Hieftje: Well, hello. Thank you all for coming to this third annual debate put on by the class members of the four schools, 456-756 local government class opportunity for activism. Throughout this semester the students have learned a great deal not just about our city, but other cities, other cities that face similar challenges and have similar success economically successful cities that deal with issues like adjudication and what they're doing about those issues and going forward, as well as, all the other nuts and bolts of city government. The students have developed the questions, three of our students, Ann Foster, David McKenzie, and Sam Geller will be our moderators today. We will hopefully have an opportunity to take a few questions from the audience and you'll see 3 by 5 cards distributed throughout. The candidates will have a minute and a half to introduce themselves. We ask that they include what they believe is the most important issue facing the city in that introduction and then they will have 2 minutes per question and I do think we have timer setup somewhere, there is our timer right there and she'll be flashing you yellow caution with 30 seconds and red when your time is up. Again, we thank our candidates for being here and we will, I will turn it over to our moderators.
>> So, we'd like to start off by asking each candidate to introduce themselves. Candidates you a minute and a half and please highlight the most important issue you feel and are bringing to address in order to be well prepared for the future. Oh, we'll go alphabetical order, so.
>> Jason Frenzel: Fabulous thank you very much. And thank you everybody for joining us. My name is Jason Frenzel. I'm a democrat running for First Award. I for those of you who notice I do have a splash of pink in my hair today because I am holding solidarity with a friend who's going through cancer. As a 30 year resident of Ann Arbor I believe I possess a unique set of skills that allow me to represent the community at whole at large as the council seat. I've worked for the Huron River Watershed Council in the city on Ann Arbor for the past 15 years. My job has been to create positive interactions for citizens, increase citizen voice, bring more people around the table. My job is to increase the pie for everyone to improve their lives. I've worked with thousands upon thousands of students, community groups and citizens and I really look forward to working with more, excuse me. I think the most important issue facing our community currently is the conversational tone that we have. We have issues, strong issues around negativity we see online on a regular basis. We see people inflating around issues that I don't believe we need to. We don't need to duplicate what's happening on the national level. We have the opportunity to turn frustration and disenfranchisement into stronger resources engaging more people in our community and I have a proven track record doing that. Thank you.
>> Diane Giannola: Good afternoon. My name is Diane Giannola and I'm running for one the seats in the fourth court. I've lived in Ann Arbor about 20 years. I'm one of those people who came to school here. I stayed a couple of years after graduation, left town for 10 years and then have come back. I've been here for about 12 years since I've come back. I currently work with U of N as a business administrator. I run the Venture Accelerator that houses the U of N spinout companies. They are based on U of N technologies. Formally, you know I was a microbiologist and I did medical research for 25 years. I'm running for council because I really want to be a more effective voice and a more informative voice for the fourth Ward and for the city. I believe that people need to hear the meaning of what the issues are. A lot of times issues get put out there by a lot of special interest groups and they're extreme sites on all issues and I really think people need to understand and have a more informative viewpoint about what happens after the vote is taken. So I, even though people might not agree with me on everything, the way I like to deal with things is to include people in a conversation versus instead of just citing the special issues group in this town, I'd rather have everybody discuss the issues on an informative and referenced conversation. I know that's a different way than people like to look at things right now, the biggest issue for the city right now Jason kind of took my answer, it's really the conversation about the future. I think all the smaller issues in town here have to do with division about where we want to go, how we handle growth, how we build up the infrastructure, how to we collaborate with the Detroit area? Oh sorry.
>> Julie Grand: Good afternoon, I'm Julie Grand. Like many of you in this room I first came to Ann Arbor to attend graduate school which was 20 years ago and a few years after finishing my masters I came back to the school of public health and currently teach at the University of Michigan Dearborn in their Health Policy Studies Program. I'm also the parent of 2 elementary school age children and my husband and I really appreciate the opportunities that are in Ann Arbor. It's a great place to raise a family and consequently I spend a lot of time driving kids to those opportunities. Since November 2014, I've had the privilege of representing Ward three which is the southeast side of Ann Arbor. I've really enjoyed helping constituents solve their concerns and also had the pleasure of collaborating with very talented colleagues some of whom are at this table and a fantastic city staff. As a part of that service I currently sit on 9 committees and commissions. They focus on issues related to city finance, parks and greenspace, affordable housing and public schools. I think the biggest issue facing our city is that we have to balance the strategies that help us sufficiently fund our basic services and quality of life. At the same time we have to implement policies that tackle the issue of affordability for our residents. Our community, and you probably heard about it a lot in this class, expects us to deliver exceptional service based on community input and best practices, so as council members we have to answer this question; how do you find the revenue to fulfill these expectations but at the same time, remain accessible to the diversity of residents that help create this unique and inclusive sense of space. Thanks.
>> Graydon Kraphol: Hi. My name is Graydon Krapohl. I am running for reelection in the fourth Ward. I'm currently serving on council. I was actually born in Ann Arbor. I spent time growing up here. Went to my undergraduate here. I did leave for a significant period of time. I did 30 years in the Marine Corps, both active duty and reserve where I held a variety of positions in leadership, senior leadership. At one point I was, I did legislative affairs and for the Marine Corps and then also did, I had extensive tours in recruiting. In my civilian life here I currently work for Merit Networks as a director of business operations where I also teach and lead the executive leadership programs that they offer and then have a background with various national consulting firms. My family and I moved back to Ann Arbor about 10 years ago because of the exceptional place it is to live in so many ways. I got involved in public life because I believe in public service. Even though Ann Arbor has been very successful in the past, that doesn't mean it's going to continue in the future and one of my biggest concerns for this city is how we think and approach problems because I think that shapes the types of solution we'll look at and see in the future because I believe if we keep asking the same questions to the same problems we're just going to get the same answers and we need to kind of turn it a little bit, look differently in how we're thinking about issues and it will give us new and different answers that allow us to move forward. Thank you.
>> Will Leaf: Hi. My name is Will Leaf. I'm running for the first Ward city council seat. I grew up in Ann Arbor and then went to the University of Michigan. After graduating I started Zinc Oxide sunscreen company and what I'm most interested in and what I think the most important issue facing the city is, is population growth. As more people want to live in Ann Arbor, there are certain problems that arise and it's better than some of the alternatives like shrinking Michigan cities are facing, but these problems include an increase cost of living, small businesses being displaced, Ann Arbor becoming increasingly expensive and I think the way the city manages this issue is the most important thing facing the city. I think I'm qualified to try to address some of those issues. I'm most interested in zoning urban planning, I study that on my own time. I took classes in the planning school here. I've written about zoning for the Real Estate Law Journal and I think there's ways for the city to allow more residents to live within the city limits and walkable areas where they're not causing more traffic, they're not living in the townships, not paying city taxes but using city services and there's ways to do that while respecting existing residential neighborhoods and not overly upsetting the neighbors and causing neighborhood conflicts. So managing growth in a way that's acceptable to existing residents and also looking at the bigger picture of the environmental effects of growth and how it affects the cost of living that's what's most important I think.
>> Eric Lipson: Hi. I'm Eric Lipson. I'm running for democrat in the fourth Ward. I've been living in Ann Arbor in for 40 years plus or minus and I am interested in issues regarding the environment and quality of life in Ann Arbor. I graduated from a law school here. I've practiced law but I've also been primarily involved in nonprofit management. I have been in startups and turnarounds and transitions in nonprofits from recycle Ann Arbor's Reuse Center to the cities to U of M housing co-ops. I've managed U of M pilot program for a while now called Lloyd Scholars and I worked at Student Legal Services that was my first legal job. I've been one of the usual suspects in town. I participated in many of the public forums and my big concern with the city of Ann Arbor is maintaining the quality of life which we have come to expect and I think the biggest issue there is controlling development. I think the neighborhoods have to come first. The downtown is important, but that we live in the neighborhoods and I look at all this through a lens of environmentalism. The biggest issues, you know, the city faces are really among other things dealing with the Gelman plume. Our flood control policy right now we're facing some very serious issues with flood control because of global warming, so I think all of these things have to be faced and I want to contribute to that and I'd like to see some more motion on those issues, also the issue of pedestrian safety, lighting and crosswalk safety.
>> Chuck Warpehoski: Thank you. My name is Chuck Warpehoski. I'm the incumbent democrat in Ann Arbor's fifth Ward. I'm seeking reelection. For me, I think there are three, we were asked one, but I'm going to give you three high priority issues that we're facing in our committee. The first one is some members have already mentioned is affordable housing, housing affordability. Recently we saw the statistics and even people who are making good paying, working a good paying jobs doing substitute teaching, working in our community aren't able to afford to live here and I think that's a real problem from an equity standpoint, as well as, for a sustainability standpoint for our economy as a whole. The second issue I think we face as a city is, or the other priority I have is around racial justice issues particularly on police accountability. There's been a national conversation on these issues and I think this is an opportunity for Ann Arbor and the other communities in the area to look at how can we do policing better in a way that's more equitable and just. We've got some things we're working on right now to improve our training to address the emergent science around implicit bias and to improve police oversight and accountability and I think we're at a time that trying to face these issues is absolutely important. Finally, as some people have mentioned, I think the issue of pedestrian bicycle safety is absolutely vital. Just a half mile from my house is one of the white ghost bicycles that marks the site of a bicycle fatality. I think we need to build an infrastructure that works for all of our transit users, all of our transportation users. My background as the director of the interface council for Peace and Justice working to bring people together across their differences to make a difference. I think those made good background and some of the content areas, as well as, good expertise on trying to find those common ground solutions. Thank you.
>> Kirk Westphal: Good afternoon. Thank you again for having all of us here today. I was actually a student in the mayor's class back in my time as a graduate student in urban planning, so this has become a great tradition and I hope that it continues. I am the incumbent democrat in the second Ward and running for reelection the second Ward is in the northeast and east part of the city. The reason why I want to continue at, you know, in council and in public service has remained the same for many years. My wife and I moved here in 2004 because of a lot of the qualities that have been mentioned already; great parks, great transit, great downtown, great schools, great neighborhoods, diverse population and those are the things that got me interested in serving on the planning commission back in 2006, as well as, the environmental commission and why I have been enjoying my time on council right now. And, you know, I'm guessing many of you are here because you'd like to try to distinguish among the candidates and if you look at our campaign literature I think a lot of it you'll see is kind of similar. We want great services, we want better roads, we want a healthy environment and all the things that we expect, but when I was challenged with what's the one issue, I think it all comes down to revenue. We can fix any of the problems that we're talking about today if we have the money and I think there's actually not a whole lot of discord on council right now and because the money is very short. There's only so much more we can squeeze out of the organization. It's been cut drastically. We can tax ourselves more but that gets into the affordability issue and we're already a high tax place and that leaves a discussion about growth and how do we approach that and I look forward to the discussion.
>> We'd like to thank you all for opening comments and we're going to start with an issue that will pose to all of you on the panel today and it touches on something that a number of you have already raised. Last year the council approved a new set of goals to promote more affordable housing in Ann Arbor based on a report commission by the Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor Office of Community and Economic Development. If elected, how will you work to implement these goals and what priority will you give them given the competing issues on the council's agenda? We'll start with Mr. Frenzel.
>> Jason Frenzel: I believe last year Ackerman complained about being the first repeatedly, so I'll do the same. I think that it's very important for us to start off as defining what affordable housing is. It means a lot of different things to different people and in my version what I explained in my opening remarks, to come to an understanding of where everybody is about we have to start with the presumption that people are bringing to the table. It's critical to understand if we're talking about affordable housing for people or housing for people who are homeless, housing downtown for workforce housing. Those of us who are getting or have friends like myself who have friends who are getting priced out of the housing that they're in in the near downtown areas or what the price point is on new housing that's being developed in film. Each of these components has a sweet of potential solutions that have implications against what we all value, what we want to accomplish. I believe strongly that solving homelessness as we've worked on throughout the community for the last handful of years is critical to the health of our community and we've done a lot of work to ensure that that's successful. The housing department has done amazing work in the last few years in leveraging funds across the system and that has helped our system and will help our system and will help our system into the future for a longtime. I think workforce housing is critical for us. We have spent a lot of money and are trying really hard through Spark and through a bunch of other mechanisms to ensure that students are staying here. That we have new innovative growth in businesses and we need to allow those folks a place to stay that is vibrant and accountable to the lifestyle that they prefer and there are lots of studies that show we want to have housing downtown or walkable communities, walkable downtown. I think the last issue for me is it's super-super critical to have workforce housing. I hear a lot that people perceive that we push a lot of our downtown workers to live in nearby communities and that's a good solution for people who want to do that, but we really need to promote infill an alternative price points in the downtown area also. Thank You.
>> Diane Giannola: I 100% agree with everything that Jason just said, but I add to it that we could encourage other types of housing like microunits or the accessory dwelling units which I know is a controversial issue for some in town here. It's, years ago when it was first brought up it was really controversial, actually the most infamous planning issue I guess that's come before the Planning Department. Recently when it's been in discussions again, I haven't seen it. I've only heard about it 10 years ago with pushback [inaudible] and everything that I see now it appears that the community is ready for it, so I would actually encourage people to get onboard that and see if we can get more density near downtown with accessory dwelling units. There's been one development near the downtown that has microunits in it and I know that a lot of the workforce housing people who are for workforce housing really want that so they can be walkable to downtown, smaller units, more affordable. So everything that Jason said about the city encouraging more workforce housing and the homeless, helping out the homeless with the shelter and all that and it's exactly what we need. I just really would like to concentrate more on workforce housing for now.
>> Julie Grand: Thank you. It's a great and really important question. That study was a real eye opener for me about economic inequality in our county and how whether your wealthy or very poor or somewhere in between, that inequality impacts all of our lives and really when we talk about you know a billion dollars in earnings that are lost because of that economic inequality that's it's quite significant and something that's going to bring up some uncomfortable conversations. What we should do going forward I, you know, there are lots of strategies. The first one I think we need to do is keep the affordable housing that we have for our more vulnerable residents through our public housing, that's something that I've worked on this last year. I'm a liaison to the Housing Commission and led a group that looked at how this city is going to finance the Housing Commission going forward. So that's the first thing that we need to continue to do until they can become a little more economic, until they become more self-sustaining economically. The second is accessory dwelling units which I fully expect will pass before anyone at this table is elected or reelected and the third is related to the library law and in selling, if we can approve a sale for that property at least or almost 5 million dollars will end up in the affordable housing trust fund. I asked our housing director to see how much money that leverage is, so often when we think about 5 million dollars you just think, oh well it's a 150,000 dollars per unit and you divide that into 5 million dollars, but she estimates that that money can be leveraged as high as 25 to 1, so it's a real game changer for the city that 5 million dollars could end up providing a range of housing and allow us to be innovative with money and the strategies that have been discussed in terms of you know for our most vulnerable residents through workforce housing.
>> Graydon Krapohl: You know this is an important issue and it's one that you know wasn't short in making in terms of time. It's been evolving over you know decades. So the solutions we have there are no short-term solutions in terms of fixing the problem overall and we have to take a long-term perspective I think in looking at the plan and executing the plan and staying with the plan to actually try and resolve the issues. I think the issues like ADUs those are good short-term answers, but they are, they're just part of the solution but they don't answer the long-term problem that we're looking at. I think the most important thing to do is as we move forward, especially if we look at the next council session coming up this summer is to take a look at affordable housing. What's the next logical step? We worked on one piece of it, what's our next step in moving forward keeping this conversation going and keeping the initiative going so it doesn't stall with just one simple thing that we're doing. I think the issue, you know, we work for housing is significant in that we are pricing out the very people we need to be living in the city and I think add to the diversity across the city in terms of our workers and it's going to take time to fix the problem and I think one of the difficult things in public life is being able to take the long-term solution and having the patience and the dedication to be able to wait and execute those plans as you go forward. Thank you.
>> Will Leaf: I think the first question to ask is why is housing expensive in Ann Arbor to begin with? And I think what you'll find is that it's due to expensive land prices. You can buy an affordable house outside of Ann Arbor, but once you get inside the city limits you're paying a premium for where you're living. City council though controls the supply of land to a degree with zoning and urban planning policies. It can in effect create more and less land for development by regulating density, by saying how many units can go in a certain area, how much parking is required. So I think city council's challenge is to allow the supply of land of buildable space to increase in a way that's acceptable to existing residents. And I think the accessory unit topic is not the solution I would go for. I think it's sort of a token solution. I think it's going to create several dozen units hopefully, but several dozen new units is not going to have a noticeable effect on the cost of living in the city. A new apartment building, a single building might have more units than 10 years of accessory dwelling building and it also I think angers people in the neighborhoods for minimal return. So what I would favor instead is rezoning our commercial corridors. Right now we have office industrial and commercial zones right now which are zoned for strip mall style development. They have lots of large parking requirements. They don't allow many dwellings per acre so I think we could allow more people to live in those commercial corridors and have it be more mixed use walkable area. I think that would have more of an effect than accessory dwelling units. I also think there needs to be a way to allow in residential neighborhoods where people want neighborhood stores or to allow townhouses a more cooperative process for allowing those changes to happen. In my website I suggest how that could be effected, but the important part is we need to have in our master plan a procedure for when people in a neighborhood want to allow more density, to allow it. And the final thing I think is reforming parking requirements which can be done in a way that keeps parking available for residents with a stricter version of the residential parking program that's less harmful than minimum parking requirements.
>> Eric Lipson: Well I agree that there are a lot of tools that the city can use and zoning is one of them; increasing density appropriately is one of them along the corridors I think that's a really a good suggestion and I also think that we have the ability to incentivize those kinds of developments. For example right now we give certain incentives we allow buildings to go higher if the developers do certain things which we consider to be socially beneficial and I think we should add workforce housing to that list of things and try to get more developers to include workforce housing which we all agree is an important one in their housing developments. Homeless housing is another issue which has been raised. It's a very difficult question. We're doing a pretty good job in Ann Arbor and countywide. And I also think that our, the Housing Commission has been under the new leadership of Jennifer Hall has done an extraordinary job in managing and leveraging federal resources and other resources and that's gone a long way, but I also think that I, for me the accessory dwelling unit is something that needs more conversation with the neighborhoods. The whole idea of accessory dwelling units came along a long time before Airbnb did and now that there is an Airbnb that has the potential to start that concept so that people will build an accessory dwelling unit in their backyard and then just rent it out on a constant basis and I think there's a lot of people who have some genuine concerns about that. So I think that in general one of the things we have to do with these things is have a better community conversation and, in general, the having a more robust community process is important for that because I think we all share those. We don't want to see Ann Arbor share those values, we don't want to see Ann Arbor become an enclave for the rich. At the same time, we you know we don't want to destroy those qualities that have made it such a great place to live so we need to balance that, but we definitely do want to figure out ways and zoning is one of those tools that we can use.
>> Chuck Warpehoski: Thank you. So as we've talked about this issue there's been a couple of terms we've thrown around, one is affordable housing and the other is workforce housing. Broadly speaking, there is a sector of our population that if we can bring housing prices down to an affordable point, they can afford market rate housing where people are making 16 dollars an hour, 20 dollars an hour; a private developer can make money developing and renting two people making that much, particularly when you get into two family households. For example, we just had approved some new developments on Nixon Road on the North side of town, you do the numbers on those mortgages and some of those units are affordable for people making in that sort of workforce housing amount, so one of our goals as several people have said has to be to figure out how we get zoning rules setup so that we improve the supply of housing and it was a very attractive place to live and to work. A lot of people want to live here that's part of what's pushing our housing prices up. People are fighting over a very limited supply of units, it's going to push the price up so getting the rules so that we can have enough supply to help cool that and temper that is part of the solution. Now that's not going to make, that's not going to solve the problem for people who are very low income, people who are working who are living on SSI Disability or something like that. So we also need housing solutions that address very low income people in households as well. Now that's a situation where we can't solve that problem without some form of subsidy and I think Ann Arbor's a wealthy enough and inclusive enough community that we should be willing to do that. Now, as was mentioned our finances are tight. We don't have a lot of extra money in our budget to put towards that. We've been able to increase the supply through the Housing Commission's renovation somewhat, but if we're going to really move forward with that we need to find new revenue sources of revenue or land. One option is to use publically owned land, right now the county is looking at providing some affordable units on their site on Platt Road. I've been supporting that effort. Another way to do that is as council member Grand mentioned using the sale of city owned land to help fund that or a third option might be to look for a bond or a [inaudible] to try to get that money. We can let the market solve some of the workforce housing things if we get our rules right, but if we want to make sure that the very low income are attended to, we're going to need to find ways to help fund that and make up that gap. Thank you.
>> Kirk Westphal: Thanks. These have been great answers so far and I'll echo a couple of them. Basically we have to address the hurdles of where affordable housing can be built, where affordable market rate workforce housing can be built and where it's going to go. How it's built and where it goes and the way you can build it is either a direct subsidy like through our housing program. You can incentivize affordable units to be built in new developments, although that gets, sometimes that gets a little tricky because then you basically shift the cost onto the rest of the people in the development and then there's ways to innovate around it and I think Will touched on one of those being a zoning fan myself. There are significant number of folks today who are willing to live car light and our parking standards are good, they're great downtown but in terms of outside of downtown we're still treading in the dark ages I think. So being able to look at ways we can house people instead of cars I think is an important obstacle to remove going forward just in terms of more affordable market rate housing. The opportunity with the library lot is huge. That could leverage up to 700 new units right there if we dedicate half of that asset to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and I'd be willing to do that with every upcoming sale of city land downtown. I think it's the least we can do to share with those who can't afford to live here now. And another big question has to do with transit. Affordable housing isn't just your rent, it's how much is the cost to maintain a car and, again, there are people who would gladly trade living near their work, near school for the opportunity to own a car fulltime. So, again, that comes down to parking standards and lots of policy issues we have to look at aggressively.
>> This next question is for Mr. Westphal, Miss Grand and Mr. Warpehoski and it concerns regional issues. The expansion of the AATA and to TheRide and the sharing of fire emergency services between Ann Arbor and [inaudible] are two recent examples of regional thinking in the city of Ann Arbor's policy making. In what ways do you or do you not believe that regionalism can help Ann Arbor in addressing some of its challenges and opportunities and since you've answered each question last in the first successive ones, let's start with Mr. Westphal.
>> Kirk Westphal: Sure that's a wonderful question and you mentioned a couple of areas where I think it's been working well. Transportation does not stop at arbitrary political boundaries. We all know that. In practice it doesn't stop, but in policy and in financing sometimes it does so we've been able to overcome that with TheRide and to some degree some safety services. I think one thing we can point to recently was the Relmagine Washtenaw Initiative where we're really looking at how people are moving through our communities and how people would like to move through them and how we can all benefit and plan for that. There are some approaches which doesn't affect the city directly having to do with school districts and looking at what drives people to locate in certain areas; that's an issue that, again, falls out of the city's preview, but I think there are plenty of opportunities there. You know, our state, the state of Michigan does not allow or let alone incentivize many things that are available, tools that are available in other states to get communities to look at problems more holistically. You know, the townships act on to their own. They have their own budgets. They want to get tax resources just like the city does and even though it may not be the most efficient use of land or the most efficient use of infrastructure, they will grab that big box store and use that tax benefit. That's not the way that cities work most efficiently. It doesn't give more people access to where they need to go, but unfortunately I think the reason why you hear so little about regionalism has to do with the fact that we, our hands are tied when it comes to many regional issues.
>> Chuck Warpehoski: Thank you. I absolutely think that regional solutions are how we need to address many of the problems. That's why I'm delighted to serve on WATS, Washtenaw Transportation Study that helps coordinate regional transportation planning across the county, as well as, the urban county with council member Grand that tries to address some of these housing and human service issues as a county issue. We can't solve these issues just staying in our bubble and you pointed out to some of the successes we've had. Another success that I think we've had looking at regional solutions has been around addressing issues around law enforcement. The city of Ann Arbor, the Washtenaw County Sheriffs have a very good relationship, a good partnership. I'm working at how do we collaborate on improving training including improving resources, coordinating crisis response teams so that we're able to more efficiently address some of our public safety issues. So I think regionalism is absolutely important. I think one of the areas where we are at our biggest challenges around some of these land use planning discussions. We're talking to each other about transportation. We're talking to each other about human services. Have a staff level, staff are talking to each other about public safety, but we're not talking to each other about how does the zoning that ends at the edge of Ann Arbor fit in with what how it starts at the edge of [inaudible] township. So I think that's an area we need to do a better job. As council member Westphal pointed out, one success has been the Relmagine Washtenaw Program where we got the city of Ann Arbor, the city of [inaudible] looking at that Washtenaw transportation corridor thinking how can we make it work better for every jurisdiction along there and then pulling together to try to leverage federal funds to do things like close some of the sidewalk gaps on there that make it so dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists on that corridor. Using that kind of approach to some of our land use questions I think will have a better approach to what can often be a very disjointed and patchwork approach to how our region gets developed.
>> Julie Grand: Thanks. I think it's a great question. We have made some very important steps in terms of saving revenue through safety services. I know that I, my Ward is split between two county commissioners and I try to keep in regular contact with them about regional issues. We, I think there are some real opportunities in terms of land use and recreation and I sit on the Greenbelt Advisory Commission and we often partner with townships and other communities in the county to buy land for preservation. As council member Warpehoski said, we both sit on the Urban County Executive Board and I found a real spirit on that board of cooperation where there are leaders from around the county that look at regional impact and prioritize using dollars where we can have the greatest regional impact. Council member Warpehoski actually brought this forward. This summer it looks like we're going to be participating in the Sheriff's Program for youth employment, so our Parks Department is going to be providing jobs for at risk youth within the county, so I think that's a great example and then sometimes we are asked to lead Ann Arbor perhaps with a more progressive policy that if we take the first step than others in the county will follow. I'm going to bringing forward in a couple of months a policy to raise the age of tobacco purchase to 21 and part of the reason for why they asked us to do that is that they felt that if we could take the controversy here for first, that it would be easier for other communities where they actually have, there are some communities in Washtenaw County that have pregnant women smoking at rates upwards of 25% and this is one policy that can help change that going forward.
>> Walk, walkability and safety for cyclists has come up a couple times in answers, so a question to the fourth Ward candidates, we'll start with Mr. Lipson. Do you support Ann Arbor's crosswalk or immense and will you support more funding for improved pedestrian and cycling infrastructure going forward?
>> Eric Lipson: You've hit my issue. I, absolutely am in support of more infrastructure improvements, in particular, corridor lighting. I think as I said that the downtown is important but we're ignoring our neighborhoods. The corridor between Packard, excuse me, on Packard between State and Stadium is a black hole. Why isn't, that's one, why isn't that being lit better? That's one of the major pedestrian corridors in the city. It's 24/7 because it's full of students and yet it's one of the worst lit areas we've got these cobra headed lights that are illuminating the treetops. We have to do some creative thinking. We don't even have to spend a lot of money to re-aim lights. We just have to concentrate on this. It's the same for bicycles. Paint doesn't cost a lot and it's one of those ways in which we, when I say paint I mean painting the lines on the road to increase the amount of bicycle lanes for example. We really have to concentrate on those issues pretty significantly. The other issue, why is it in the fourth Ward that the biggest, one of the biggest high schools in the state Pioneer High School has horrible crosswalk markings? Why is it that the stadium right now has inconsistent signs between Main Street and Liberty? There have been some serious pedestrian car accidents there and the signage is inconsistent and confusing and inadequate and we have to really pay attention to that and those are some issues which I find to be extremely important because we do want to create a pedestrian oriented city; a city in which you do not have to rely on the car for everything, you can again, we talked about mass transit. That's very important. Density is important, but creating an environment where people can walk safely is crucial. To get right to your question which is do I support the ordinance? I do support the ordinance. I know there's some confusion. There's some people, some people who support me who think that the ordinance is a problem because it differs from state law and I think we have to, and state law is also undergoing some possible changes, so we do, it would be good to sort of coordinate that so we're not confusing drivers but I overall, I think that concentrating on pedestrian bicycle safety is one of my biggest priorities. We kill more people in Ann Arbor with cars than we do with fire arms. So I think we have to address that.
>> Graydon Krapohl: Thank you. Yeah, I do support it. I think last year we received the input from the Pedestrian Safety Task Force and I think going forward one of the big challenges as council what we need to do or one of the things we need to take on is look at the recommendations with what the task force provided and start looking at how do we start implementing them, you know, where are we going to prioritize, what are some of the most important things. Mr. Lipson hit on it, I think especially as a standardization of signage. How we look at crosswalks, how we designate our signage along roads. I think that's kind of a low hanging truth that I think we need to take on next and provide guidance to staff. This is a priority for us as we move forward. I think also though, I think long-term what we have to do we have to start thinking about not just our roads, we have to think about them mass transportation systems. You know, how do we travel? How are people looking to move? And as we look to the design and redo, repave our roads we do things, think of them in a holistic approach. So as we're thinking not only about the roads for cars but we need to think about for transit, than how does it impact our cyclists? How does it impact walkers and other users of that because they're no longer just simply a car-centric means for folks to travel. They're multi-mobile means and that's the way it's going into the future. That's what is driving folks who are looking at especially millennials and you know we're in that transition point where a paradigm shifts of how we're thinking about transportation where people want to live, how they want to move and it's important that we start thinking about that now and design those roads and those networks for the future and our consideration. And we did that recently at council about how we're presenting the new millage sign a renewal, it's a new millage to try and take that holistic approach and how we look at our networks, our transportation networks. Thank you.
>> Diane Giannola: So yes I also support the Crosswalk Ordinance and the [inaudible] Rights Transportation Plan in full. Where I probably differ than most people though is I think the implementation of the Crosswalk Ordinance failed when they didn't consider the driver's voice. When they first implemented this a lot of the drivers were saying there's no signage, we don't know where the crosswalks are, there's people walking off on bus stops and there was pushback from all sides and it became this huge controversy because the driver was ignored. I was one of those drivers who didn't like people walking out in a crosswalk that I didn't know existed, so we definitely need more signage. We need more training and education. I would like to see some sort of education program with possibly jaywalking tickets for like one month out the year in September so that we can train people to actually abide by the laws and the ordinances and the rules. I know that's controversial for a lot of the students but as a driver driving around in the rain or in the dark we don't see you, so we need people to understand that and to know to use the proper crosswalks where there are signage and that the driver should have a voice any of these ordinances that are for the [inaudible] transportation plans that are implemented. I very much like the bike lane. I think it keeps everybody in their place. You have the drivers in one place, the bike lanes in another place. So there are some roads here where I think that possibly the bikes should be on the sidewalks. Washtenaw is one of them during rush hour I think is horrible to have a biker in that lane and the driver's voice we've been actually complaining about that for years. Some of the sidewalks in that area are wide enough to be a multiuse path and I wish there was signage there that would have the bikes out of the street there until we can somehow make a bike lane on that lane, on that road. So yes I'm for the crosswalk ordinance. I'm for the Non-motorized Transportation Plan. I just wish the drivers had more of a voice in the implementation.
>> The next question will be for Mr. Warpehoski, Mr. Leaf and Mr. Frenzel. Although it's not an immediate threat, on the issue of the Gelman [inaudible] plume, one suggestion for assisting and remediation of the plume has been that Ann Arbor should pursue an assessment by the EPA for designation as a super fund site. While a designation would provide federal funding to aid in cleaning up the plume it may also bring a stigma to our community and affect the city's tax base. Would you support pursuing a super fund designation; why or why not? And we'll start with Mr. Warpehoski:
>> Chuck Warpehoski: Thank you. The Gelman plume is absolutely one of the, it's a long-term threat that the city needs to take seriously. It goes under my house, it goes under the fifth Ward so it's something that I'm very much concerned about. I think the reason that there's conversation now about looking at a super fund designation is because we have seen so little action by the state courts and by the state Department of Environmental Quality to really do what it's going to take to address that long-term threat. Previously the [inaudible] had set an obscenely high exposure level for dioxane in the water of 85 parts per billion and had a very minimalistic approach to cleaning up that plume. The State Attorneys Generals Office I think had dropped the ball in terms of properly preparing and taking the case in the course and advocating the position in the courts and so I'm very frustrated by what we had been seeing and haven't seen from a lot of our state bodies on addressing this. I'm seeing some signs of improvement. The state recently announced that they're going to reduce the exposure standard from 85 parts per billion to 7.2 parts per billion; a much higher cleanup standard and I think that that's starts to set things in place where we might be able to see better outcomes working with the MDQ and the courts. I think also we're seeing the judge who had been hearing the case has since retired. That change, we may see something different there. I don't know. So, in terms of the question this is where we come from, where are we going now? I think that super fund designation is something that we need to have on the table. We've asked staff to explore it and to look at some of the tradeoffs. I'm not yet at the point of knowing the having seen that analysis to say this is the path we should take or that, but we absolutely need to continue fighting whether through the courts and the MDQ or by seeking super funds to get this pollution cleaned up before kids are drinking water.
>> Will Leaf: So my answer is it depends and it depends on whether with this new lower standard, not well, it's actually a stricter standard, but now there's a lower limit to the amount of dioxane is now single digit standard. If that allows us to revisit the consent agreement we have with the polluter, enforce them to cleanup at this stricter standard then no we shouldn't pursue the super fund status. We should make sure that the polluter is the one paying for the remediation. If that doesn't work though, if there's delays, if there's just more monitoring and not enough action, then I think we should pursue the super fund designation.
>> Jason Frenzel: Super. Yeah, so this is a really intricate question that we do not have a crystal ball for the answer to because of the implications and long-term. My initial reaction to the ultimate question is no. I'm really concerned about super fund designation and it's implication socially for our community. That is not to say as most of you who know me, that is not to say that I don't find the DQ's actions pretty reprehensible at this point and obviously they've reacted pretty strongly in the last couple months, but only after we and some of our amazing community members have really pushed for decades. Unfortunately had to take Flint to get this onto the table also and that is a super, super bummer. The biggest issue that I see is that the DEQ has held back any meaningful interaction with the local communities and with the EPA. They intentionally raised the standard from 7 1/2 to 85 parts per billion and now they've moved it back down and it's still over twice the international limit; totally, totally inappropriate. The concern that I have is less for our community and more for our neighboring communities. We don't know where that pollutant is going to go in the [inaudible] river. There is a likelihood it's going to float under the current and go to [inaudible] communities in [inaudible] into a bunch of other people's wells and that's not okay either. I think it's critical for us to understand that we have a series of other voices and other ways to influence community change. When I worked for the city of Ann Arbor, my job in the city was to represent the community and when I couldn't answer the question that the community needed, I said you have elected representatives to help you change the rules if you need to. I think we need to turn the table on this one. We have a lot of community members who care a lot about this issue and we have the opportunity to leverage them, the state to do more to get the EPA to do more for us and I think the voices that we've been bringing to the table while powerful and meaningful haven't been enough and we need to increase the number of people giving those folks a hard time.
>> This next question is for Miss Grand and Mr. Warpehoski and Mr. Westphal again and it concerns election laws. Given the trend towards lower voter turnout during August primaries, would you be in favor of Ann Arbor changing to a top two primary system where the candidates and contested primaries with the two highest vote counts regardless of vote share or political affiliation advanced to a runoff November general election; why and why not? And let's start with Miss Grand.
>> Julie Grand: Thank you. This is an issue that as someone who's run in both odd and even year that thought a great deal about. Top two would not be my first choice. I think it would probably be better than what we have. Currently which I think is disastrous for us as a community to have council members that run in terms where half the body is running every single year. It impacts the discourse on council. It impacts our ability to build relationships with constituents. I can't tell you the number of people who have asked me, they just can't believe that I'm actually running again for office because they feel like I just got here. Within a year in my Ward I was the senior member of council on the third Ward and that's a pretty steep learning curve. Fortunately we have great city staff and colleagues to help us along, but it's a steep curve. So my preference would be to have four year terms where we have elections every two years. I don't think that this community has the appetite right now for a nonpartisan system. I think we, even though it's unusual, feel very strongly about our partisan alliances and what that means. I think that has in part to do with the history of actually having a republican council in not such distant memory, so we know that voter turnout doubles in even years just by doing that alone we would double the turnout for our council members and engage a lot more people. I think it also we might even get better turnout because there's not so much fatigue with half the body running every year and I think in having those four year terms it would allow us to build relationships with constituent staff with one another and government if slow, so it would allow us to you know really dig deep into issues.
>> Chuck Warpehoski: Thank you. When I look at voter turnout numbers for city elections I see two things that significantly drop the number of people who participate. One is when we have elections in odd years where the only thing on the ballot people aren't in election mode and so we see much lower voter turnout. The other thing is when our elections are in August rather than in November. So I think if we're looking, if our goal is to improve the number and to increase the number of people who are participating in our elections as voters than moving to elections in even years is going to increase the number of, is going to increase the participation. When I've watched, when I go to the election forms that I see happening particularly in presidential but also in governor [inaudible] years, the western Washtenaw Business Associations having the [inaudible] of Commerce has having them, the Arts Alliance having them, there are a lot of civic groups making sure that voters are informed at what's going on. When we look at the odd year elections, that conversation isn't happening so the city conversation is happening in a vacuum and people just aren't tuned in, so as council member Grand said, if we can move our elections to even years we'll increase voter turnout and participation and I absolutely support that. Now the other thing is I do think that we see lower turnout with our, there ends up being the real election taking place in August. That means here I am at the University of Michigan, not Ross School that's across the street, Ford School; Ford School and a lot of people in the room aren't in town when the decisive election takes place, that's the systemic disenfranchisement. Some states have gone to what's called a blanket primary system where people can still have the D or the R or whatever it is behind their name, but as was mentioned in the question the top two vote getters square off in November. My understanding is that is not currently allowed under state law. So I would support changes in state law so that we could go to that system because I do think that for some people that D or that R or that I or whatever it is makes a difference. People should have that piece of information when they enter the voting booth. Since that's not available, the other option would be to go to a nonpartisan system where people would be making the decision without that piece of information. That is something I would support getting the voters on, but I would rather have the state laws that would allow us to have the blanket primary system.
>> Kirk Westphal: Thanks. This is an issue that's near and dear to me. Myself and a few others brought some election, reformed proposals to council last year. We felt it wasn't ready to put on the ballot that year. I intend to bring back some more suggestions this year. I would love as council member Warpehoski said to have a blanket-type primary if people wanted to keep their partisan designations. The whole goal for me is greater turnout and how that's done is somewhat secondary. The primary offender for turnout which is almost entirely in the single digits is the odd year August election. We should not be electing council people with single digit turnout. So once you look at that and then you look at all the options, then because of state election law, you're shuffled into certain buckets; one is to go nonpartisan which I would be in favor of. I would also accept keeping the partisan designation as long as we can move elections either to November or into even years. The issue of four year terms was brought up. That is something that wasn't really an initiative of council, but when you look at the way our Wards are represented there's two in each Ward, if we kept two year terms and moved to even year only that would mean that the current council colleagues would be running against each other, everybody would be up at the same time and that doesn't feel right to many and I would tend to agree. So going to four year terms which is what most of the cities and the state do, would allow you to stagger those four year terms on even years and capture that higher turnout even if it has to be August rather than November. So, there's a lot on the table. I think it's one of the foundational questions of how the cities run.
>> Okay another question for the Ward four candidates this time starting with Miss Giannola. Ann Arbor built the library lane underground garage with the intention of future development at ground level. A current proposal to develop the property would earn the city 10 million dollars half of which would go towards the city's affordable housing trust fund. The DDA put at least 5 million into infrastructure to support a building and any development will include a sizable park or plaza. Developing the property would also result in increased tax revenue for years to come. Opponents of the development call for the city to instead build a park or plaza covering the whole lot which would require more funding. Where do you stand on this issue and why do you take that position?
>> Diane Giannola: Well so most people who know me know this is my issue. I'm the one advocating for a tax paying building on the library lot for years now. I adamantly believe that we have to increase revenue in order to have nice things in the city. This is 10 million dollars and to throw it away so that we can expand all the problems at Liberty Plaza just seem foolish to me. I realize there's a group in town here who wants to have a downtown commons and a park down there, but if that was actually wanted or needed Liberty Plaza could function as that. We do have some events down there, but if there's not like a group of people knocking on the door and try to use that plaza at all hours of the day. I think it's more of an antidevelopment movement for the people who want to push for a park down there. They really want no building. Its' been planned for for 10 years. We've had 10 years of public inputs for this site and what the people of Ann Arbor have said over and over is that they want a building on this site. There are no problems with the neighborhoods around there because there is no neighborhood, it's all businesses. All those reasons that people say they don't' want the large buildings on the edge of the city near the neighborhoods don't apply there. We've had so much time and money and public input invested it seems a waste to just give it up. There's an opportunity in this spot to build a multiuse building that can activate the area. We could have a plaza there that can function just like what the antidevelopment people want. It will be a building that can be iconic if we pick the right developer for it. It's really what the citizens of Ann Arbor have asked for for 10 years. So I really think this is the direction we should go in.
>> Graydon Krapohl: Thank you. Yeah, the library lot is, it's an interesting question. I think, I was part, I was on the partisans commission at the time they did the study for parks in the downtown area and what was needed and it was looked at, the library was one of the considerations for that I think the idea of having a public park there is really, I don't necessarily think it's supportable just in how the land is designed, you're not going to have you know because of parking underneath, you're not going to be able to plant the trees, you're not going to be able to have this deep green space I think that people envision. I think you're going to have is an open plaza type space and I believe that I think development in terms, in conjunction with having a plaza, a public area is the way to go. We could use the tax revenues good. I think it will provide a means to activate the space, to have activity there so we can avoid some of the problems of Liberty Plaza, because Liberty Plaza has been around for a number of years and hasn't met the aspirations I think originally intended for the park. There's a lot of problems with it and those problems would not necessarily be solved by just putting an open public space in the library lot. I think for a number of reasons, I think the tax revenue would be good for that area I think with there is designated now 12,000 square feet for a public park there that would provide public use in an open area that I think would be amendable to not only the owner, the developer but also for the library and the other neighbors and other businesses around there in terms of making it a useful and attractive space, so I do support the development of the lot. Again, I think we still have decisions to make on who the developer is in the design. Thank you.
>> Eric Lipson: I should reveal that I am the treasurer of the Library Green Conservancy which is the organization which has been activing for a park or a plaza on that space. That said, we are not talking necessarily about no construction on that site, although there is right now a ballot proposal which is or a referendum which is being, petitions are being circulated that would in fact put this to a vote of the people and I think that's what should happen. Now I completely disagree with Miss Giannola that the people have spoken repeatedly that they don't want a plaza or they want a building on that site. That is not the case at all. During the Mayor Hieftje's time as mayor there was something that was called the, what was the public process that wasn't connecting [inaudible] before that, what was?
>> The Calthorpe thank you. Calthorpe and in that it was the only spot that was designated as a site-specific recommendation. While all those hundreds and hundreds of people who participated was to put a common space, a civic gathering space on that site. The Park Advisory Commission did a survey of 1608 respondents and here we'll show and tell these people 76% said that that space should be a public space. Sacrificing the last piece of publicly owned land downtown at the alter of development I think is a mistake. We all agree that we need more workforce housing. We need all sorts of things and but trying to use this spot which is as I say the last publicly owned spot for what I consider from what I've seen to be an overly dense development is a mistake and I think that it should go to a vote of the people.
>> We're going to conclude with a question we will post to each of you. It will only be one minute in response time. There has been quite a bit of enthusiasm from the community recently on issues involving our parks and wildlife and so is there a local issue that you feel or would like to see more community involvement related to and we'll start with Mr. Westphal.
>> Kirk Westphal: This is a big one. It sounds like you were setting me up for a deer comment but I'm going to sidestep that. I think, again it's tough to boil all this down, I wish there was more community involvement around community involvement. And what I mean by that is and it's something I've mentioned in my campaign materials and to folks I've interacted with, is being innovative about how we get more people from the community who aren't currently engaged in the political process of being engaged. We consistently have vacancies on different commissions. We have people running on opposed on city council. These are not healthy signs. In addition to election reform and some other things, you know, I think we're nibbling away at it. The staff has been pretty stressed lately so it's tough, but the idea of having a Citizens Academy or doing participatory budgeting or having a citizen's budget I think are some ways we can get more involvement from the community.
>> Chuck Warpehoski: Thank you, for me I think the biggest issue I would like to see more engagement around is the issue of diversity. This is something that goes well beyond City Hall, but we certainly have some challenges to face here at City Hall in terms of increasing the diversity and representation of our city leadership. I keep thinking back to an incident that happened about a year-and-a-half ago in Oakland County where a 25-year-old African-American was pulled over by a sheriff's deputy, the Sheriff's Department had received a call that he looked suspicious because he was walking around with his hands in his pockets. Now as we look at the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter Movement, even if the sheriff's deputy responded to that call perfectly and did everything right, there's still a problem not because of the sheriff deputy's actions, but because of the issues that were raised that triggered that call. I was talking to somebody just today about how he sees on his neighborhood list there are questions of "Did you see a suspicious black man walking through the neighborhood?" We need to deal with this issue of diversity. We need to deal with it as a city but we also need to deal with it as a community. We need to build relationships of trust and understanding across our differences and really do the hard work to make sure that Ann Arbor is a community for everyone.
>> Eric Lipson: Oh I'm sorry. Diversity is an important issue in our city, that's one of the reasons why I like Ann Arbor so much. The diversity in our school system, while my kids went to the public schools so I think those are issues which we have to maintain and, actually not issues, those are the values that we need to maintain. You know, the issue with Aura Rosser and with as Chuck had said so eloquently with the issues of police enforcement and neighborhoods who are paranoid of people who are look differently from them is something that we have to constantly evaluate and constantly pay attention to. I think we have a pretty professional police force here in Ann Arbor. I think that I, from what I have personally observed, we have less problems than with other police forces which are more likely to be violating the law and the rights of our citizens based on their race or ethnic origins, so I think there's a, so it's one of those things that we constantly have to evaluate and be aware of.
>> Will Leaf: I think City Council could do a better job communicating specific proposals to the public. I am running and here's my basic strategy. I go door to door. I hear what people tell me, what they want in the community and then I try to propose specific ideas publically to address those problems and based on my principles and their feedback what can we do about it? It's not that what I write down and present publically is necessarily what's going to happen and I should always get my way, but by putting my proposals forward it gives people a chance to then comment on it and say, that's a great idea or that's a terrible idea and then we can work towards specific solutions, because what we've heard thus far is I think there's a lot of agreement on the big issues about affordable housing, about making it safe for pedestrians to walk, but what specifically are we going to do about it? So I would encourage people to check out the websites and the literature of all the candidates and see what are they specifically going to do and then I think if we do a better job of presenting that we'll get a better outcome in the end.
>> Graydon Krapohl: You know I spent the better part of my life in the military defending people's right to vote and for their right to be able to civically engaged and to me I think that's probably the most important issue to me and I agree with council Westphal that for an activist community people aren't that active. They don't get out and vote. They don't get out and identify the issues and I'll give a shout out to Mary Morgan city I think that's a great initiative to try and get out there and get people involved and that's the one thing I would hope people would do is take advantage of that. You know, your right to vote it's a sacred right and it's something I think especially in the United States people take for granted too easily. I mean there's people in the world who can't vote, who aren't allowed to and I think it's your right, that's your opportunity to say something, to voice your opinion, to let candidates know and elected officials know what you think. Thank you.
>> Julie Grand: Thanks. My New Year's resolution this year was to legislate more about people than animals. So in response to that I think what I'd like to see is have us provide more opportunities not just for citizens to tell us what the problems are, but to also help us come up with solutions and that's, you know, we have a person in the community to get that to go in that direction. We have a couple big issues that we're going to be talking about on council one and it's about affordability, the other is implementing the recommendations over the Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force and as I look towards the community we have so much expertise here and it's how do we harness that in a positive way so that we can, you know, use that to come up with solutions.
>> Diane Giannola: I agree with everything that Julie just said except that I actually have a problem a lot with using too many of the so-called experts out in the community. We have a problem here now with special interest groups that seem to slap up a webpage, call themselves an expert and they get special status of the city. I really want to encourage regular residents who aren't part of any special interest group to speak their mind, to come out before something instead of just against everything. We never have the people who come out and they actually like some of the policies. They don't feel it's needed and I really think they need to be able to just come out and say what they like and that's what I would encourage people to do.
>> Jason Frenzel: Oh dear. I'm not always funny but it helps people become more engaged. So I'll address the potential question that you were going to ask. The [inaudible] was really controversial and I don't think it needed to happen that way. I think we had plenty of time to get ahead of the conversation. The staff knew that this was coming long before it became public. I knew about it as a bystander two years before it became a public debate. The staff have the ability, the expertise and the knowledge to deliver high quality services to us. I believe it's the laws and the rules that we pervade onto them and that they live within prevent them from actualizing as many tools as they could have in their toolshed. I propose that we bring the citizens and staff more tools to engage in different meaningful ways, different types of interactions. When I worked for the city I helped both the parks planning staff and the planning staff in a whole creating new strategies to engage the citizens that work for, that were implemented while I was at the city and afterwards and I believe have had meaningful effect.
>> John Hieftje: Well we want to extend our thanks from our class, for myself to all the candidates here I thought we had some very concise and thoughtful answers today. Our thanks go out to Closup for making this available to people through the livestream and to everyone who attended we thank all of you for being here this year and we'll be doing this again next spring with the next group of council members and, again, our thanks to the council members for participating today.
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