Former Mayor for the City of Ann Arbor John Hieftje, and the students of the Ford School’s Public Policy Course 456/756 moderate an Ann Arbor City Council candidate debate. April, 2015.
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>> Hello. Hello everyone, thank you very much for coming today. The Ford School Class 456 and 756, very happy to host you today and we appreciate again your coming. We have a panel up front of moderators, graduate students. And we have another panel of students, raise your hand right there, who are going to be getting your 3 by 5 card questions. So the class has developed three questions that they'll be, moderators will be putting forward first. And then as time allows they will be taking questions in from the audience on those cards. Students have put a good deal of work into putting this together and again we appreciate your coming. We've even attracted some City Council members who are not running for election this year. So raise your hand if you're here. I see a couple of them over there, yeah, that's great Kirk and Julie. We appreciate you being here. So without any further comment from me, I'm going to turn this over to our moderators. They'll speak briefly about the ground rules today. And we will be off and running with this forum for Ann Arbor City Council candidates who are running in the August election.
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>> Good afternoon everyone. Candidates, thank you very much for being here and everyone in the audience thank you as well. And for those watching at home on the live stream we really appreciate you tuning in. Candidates, I know that you've already been briefed on the rules and regulations for today's debate. But just to reiterate each candidate will have two minutes to respond to the question as well as to introduce yourself. You will be notified at the 1 minute, 30 second and 10 second mark. A total of three preselected questions have been chosen for you. And then we, if time permits, we will have questions taken from the audience. So without further delay I would like to start with the first question. Thanks.
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>> Good afternoon. Considering the rapidly increasing cost of living in Ann Arbor, what tools would you use to address this growing problem specifically to insure that everyone has access to adequate and affordable housing? Oh, I'm sorry. We're starting with the introductions. Sneak preview. So now you have thoughts, but only think about your introductions now. So you each have 2 minutes to give an introduction about yourself and explain why you're running and what makes, what sets you apart. You can go ahead and start.
>> Beautiful. Can everyone hear me? Okay. I think I know most of you which gives me a slight advantage but I want to introduce myself again. I am Zachary Ackerman, a democrat candidate for Ann Arbor City Council in the 3rd Ward. Ann Arbor and Ward 3 have been my home since I was 8 years old. My father is a computer science professor here and my mother computer programmer. So to almost no one's surprise I have turned into a pretty nerdy kid by the age of 15. But my nerdiness revolved around politics. It revolved around government. So the summer before my junior year of high school I emailed my City Council member, Christopher Taylor. I wanted to learn about the city. How it worked, what it needed and how we got there. And he replied. He invited me into his law office and took an hour of billable time out of his schedule and walked me through the entire City Council agenda. All of the nitty gritty, all of the dirty detail that most people really don't want to know, but I did. And I loved it. And so we did the same every other Friday for the rest of the summer. Christopher was elected Mayor this past year but that's really not what is important. What is important, what this story is about is that from day one I understood what a community centered approach to civic leadership looked like. I understood what it meant to do constituent outreach and to be a community leader. That's the approach that we need for our city government. It needs to be more accessible, more understandable and more helpful. City government needs to ultimately work for you because we need to plan for the long term. And that means better basic services delivered more consistently. That means that infrastructure that lasts longer. That means an affordable housing market because Ann Arbor should always be more inclusive. And that means continued progressive action on things like our parks, our environment, transit and a vibrant downtown so we can attract and retain a next generation of Ann Arbor residents who will respect and uphold our marketable values. Thank you.
>> My name's Mike Anglin. I represent the 5th Ward right now and I'm running for reelection. It's the western part of the city that terminates out at Wagner, starts right downtown here and proceeds out. I would start by saying anyone who has been on council the most important thing is to look at their voting record. Rhetoric is pretty easy. Votes are difficult. And my voting record has shown throughout the time I've been on that my primary concern is for the preservation, long term preservation of the city with a heavy basis on looking at neighborhoods. My belief is that the strength of any organization is based on its members and in the city the neighborhoods are the strength of the city. Weak neighborhoods lead to weak cities. You can see that over and over again throughout America, that's the theme. So my beginning, what was most interesting I went back to all my notes that I have through different elections. The message has not changed. The message is listen to the constituents. And that's why you [inaudible] it's called representative government. And to the degree that we can listen to the citizens and act upon and take the hard votes when necessary. Giving money to developers takes from the community. And we cut programs in the city continually and that will be the future. So the taxpayer has to have a feeling that their taxes are going to benefits for them.
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>> Maybe we don't have enough mics for everybody but we'll share. My name's Sabra Briere. I've served on City Council since November, 2007. So that makes me one of those incumbents. What is it important though is the experience I brought to sitting at the table at City Council and the skills and interests that I brought with me. Because those are the things that I've enlarged upon learning how to do this job and actually growing in it. So I've always been interested in how things work. I'm not by nature an engineer. I'm by nature a historian. And for me to understand the history of Ann Arbor meant I had to understand how decisions were made in the past, what things looked like once upon a time and whether the changes that had occurred over the years were good things improving the community or not so good things, making it kind of hold still. I was always interested in unintended consequences. And I was always interested in learning more about how decisions are made. My particular skills have come into play because I do read everything that anybody hands me and I absorb it and I think about it. But I also listen to the community. And this, one would get the impression that listening to the community is a good thing or a bad thing. It's just a thing. Members of the community may know a lot about their particular interest. They may know very little about something else. It's important to balance what you hear and what you learn and what you do in order to find the solution that works for the problem you've identified. I work hard at doing that. Communicating with and listening to people and then thinking for myself.
>> Hello, my name's Jack Eaton. I was elected to City Council in November, 2013. So I've only served 16 months and I'm already starting my reelection campaign. I represent the 4th Ward which is the southwest corner of the city. In my professional life I'm a lawyer. I represent employee unions primarily transit workers. I moved to Ann Arbor in 1985. I've lived here since. I've lived in the 4th Ward for the, since 1998. My wife and I have raised two children who are now 24 and 26. When I ran for office in 2013, I promised voters that I'd listen to their concerns and try to find a response that helped them resolve those concerns. I identified my priorities as being improved public services and improved infrastructure. It's my belief that government has to provide those essential services and infrastructure if they're to be trusted to do things that are more adventuresome. And we're not doing a very good job. Our roads are a mess, our neighborhoods flood, we have real problems. I've also been particularly attuned to looking at how we spend money. But I'm not going to get into that because I have 30 seconds. And one of the things that we were asked to do is describe how or what it is that sets us apart from the others. And I think that it's my ability to listen to people with whom I disagree. For example last night I attended a forum on nonpartisan elections even though I'm not a big fan of that. I think that the way that you hone your own position is to listen to those with whom you disagree. Thank you.
>> Hi, my name's Will Leaf. I grew up in Ann Arbor. Went to the University of Michigan, recently graduated. And I'm running because I want City Council to be more critical, more creative and more determined. And I want to use an example to show what I mean by that. So my example is road repair. So first I think City Council needs to frame the issues in a public way and in a specific way. So for example we have 55 center line miles of major roads in Ann Arbor that are in poor condition. That's according to the State of Michigan. So I got cost estimates from within the city about what it would take to repair those roads. And the estimate I came up with with those numbers was $87 to $174 million. So that's a huge number. And we only spend about $10 million a year on road repair right now. So to fix that problem we're going to need creative solutions and it has to meet the size of the problem. So we need to spend more money each year on road repair and also do it faster so that there's not too much construction related traffic which happens if we spend more than $10 million a year. So in order to do that I've suggested that we no longer subsidize public parking which I think is bad public policy for a number of reasons. And sell city surface lots to raise about $30 million a year for short term needs. And in the long term reform zoning rules so that more people can live within compact areas within the city rather than sprawling outward into the suburbs. And that's a short and a long term way to try to meet the problem. There's other solutions and I'm not saying that I have all of them but I think that's what we need to do is make solutions that fit the scope of the problem. So that's what I mean by critical and creative. By determined, I mean that we need to assume that we can solve our problems and pursue the best solutions that we currently have access to. So if that solution that I presented doesn't work or it seems unworkable then we need another one. And we need to be tenacious and relentlessly pursue the best solutions that we have.
>> Hi, my name is Jaime Magiera and I'm running for City Council in the 4th Ward of Ann Arbor. I am a resident of the city for 26 years. I'm a graduate of the University of Michigan, School of Music in what's called the performing arts technology degree which involves manipulating and collecting information to be used in creative ways. I've been working for the University for over a decade as a technical support and [inaudible] administration person. I also run a business on the side that does work with data and information and also host a public affairs radio show that deals with technology and information. I am, I think set apart from others in a sense that I have a lot of experience in working with data and information. And a lot of experience in communicating with people about the information, looking up things, parsing that out. And I think another thing that gives me an advantage in terms of my interactions with citizens and would be an advantage on Council is my understanding that we need to continue to build out our services. And to make our community hospitable to future ways of dealing with sustainability, mass transit, pedestrians, bicycles, things that improve our way of life. But also allow us to attract citizens to our city so that we can continue building our infrastructure, maintaining it to the future. Information is key to that. And the things that I've talked about such as mass transportation, etc. are key to building infrastructure and keeping it going long into the future. And I'm also good at sort of deescalating situations in public communications with people and a good diplomat.
>> Good afternoon everyone. Thanks for having me today. My name is Chip Smith. I'm a progressive democrat and I'm running to represent the 5th Ward on City Council. I moved here in 1995 to get my master's degree in landscape architecture at the School of Natural Resources and Environment. I never planned on staying but here I am 20 years later. I've settled here. I'm raising my family here. And I stayed because almost immediately I fell in love, I fell in love with my neighbors, I fell in love with my neighborhood and I fell in love with this city. In my 9 to 5 job I'm an urban planner. I spent the last 15 years working in city halls across the state to develop innovative solutions that improve the quality of life for everybody. Because of this real world professional experience, I understand the financial, the social and the environmental issues facing cities today. And I'm excited to bring that expertise to council. I got involved in local issues because of a University parking lot that we were having trouble with that's right in the middle of my neighborhood. We reached out to city officials to get some help, to bring the University to the table to resolve the problems and we didn't get any help. So I picked up the ball, we formed a neighborhood association. I did a presentation to the Board of Regents and within a month quite literally we had the University sitting at my dining room table hashing out a solution to the problem. I feel a responsibility to help my neighbors when I can and I was able to use my professional expertise to do that. I'm running for City Council because I love the city. And I believe it can be better. We can do a better job on affordability. We can do a better job of making our streets safer for people walking, for people biking and for people driving. And we can do a better job of using innovation to provide basic services and improve the way we deliver those. I'm excited to bring my roll up your sleeves, hands on style to council and to work to make Ann Arbor a better place for everyone.
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>> We're going to try this again. We're going to start with Mr. Anglin and go down and then Mr. Ackerman will finish and we'll keep on moving down the line for who starts. So considering the rapidly increasing costs of living in Ann Arbor, what tools would you use to address this growing problem specifically to insure that everyone has access to adequate and affordable housing?
>> Our current situation for the last years has been the development of the downtown. And with that rising of prices in the downtown area making it nearly unaffordable for most people. That being said, the solution has to come once again from the neighborhoods. So if we were to think about building more high rises out along commercial routes, could be a way through zoning that we look at a future that is more sustainable. Many people have appeared before Council at different times and have spoken to these issues. They wind up moving out to the township or other places while we at the same time provide better transportation within the city. So someone who is looking to maybe influence their budget living closer to the city and a large work possibility, it's better to have more people concentrating. The more we can concentrate we can provide more services. Right now we're running out of money to provide services quite honestly. We just don't have that kind of budget. And consequently what we have to do is think creatively. We own the streets. We own the neighborhoods. We can zone. Zoning is the only mandate that cities can exert that stand any type of pressure. If your zoning rules call for this then developers have to follow it. They're encouraged to follow it. And I would believe that along Stadium Boulevard right now is a great opportunity. The whole ring that goes around Stadium and onto [inaudible] is a great opportunity for further development. So that would be a, I think a solution we could use.
>> One of the challenges we face when we talk about affordable housing is that we don't define it. So I'm going to define it in two different ways. One way is that housing that's affordable for people earning a certain amount of money, call it the adjusted median income and 80% of that. Anybody earning 80% ought to be able to live in Ann Arbor. There's a statement that one could look at and determine whether it was accurate. The other way we define affordable housing though is supportive housing for people of little or no means. And when we talk about housing affordability and affordable housing we really need to talk about both of those and we need to talk about the moving picture of the economy whether people earn enough money to live in the city. What could be done to adjust that? What economic opportunities there are for people's earning capacity while we talk about adding more housing units? And it's not enough to add more absolute housing units. It has to be affordable for people to build those housing units in order for the cost, the decreased cost to be transferred to the renter or to the new homeowner. What are the solutions? At least as far as housing goes we can make denser neighborhoods. We can zone to allow for affordable housing in accessory dwelling units. But we're not going to get anywhere if we don't also tackle the income disparity that's in our community. And that's a bigger issue than just talking about housing affordability.
>> Thank you. This is a great question. Affordable housing is a big term as Council Member Briere has pointed out. It encompasses a broad spectrum of needs. In our community we have retirees on fixed incomes. We have low wage workers who are victims of the grand economic disparities in our, our whole nation. And we have people who are simply without homes because they can't afford anything. And so when you talk about affordable housing you really have to focus on which part of that you're going to try to address and how to address that portion of it. We were presented with a $200 million plan to change affordable housing problems in the [inaudible] area. If we take upon ourselves such an expensive plan we really risk pricing people out of the homes that they've lived in for 20 or 30 years. We have to recognize that new construction is always widely expensive. You can't make cheap homes. If you build a high rise you're going to get $1,200 per bedroom out of the high rise. Our town is gentrifying because we're successful. So we have to be able to answer the expensiveness that any town, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago goes through when the economy succeeds. I think that we start at the bottom of the scale and we try to provide shelter for those who are just simply incapable of housing themselves. And we work up the scale as our financial abilities allow us to do. We can't answer all of these problems in one big expensive plan. We just don't have enough money.
>> I think the first step is to look at why housing is expensive. And I think the reason, you can look at cities and towns where it's not expensive and compare. So in many places housing is not much more expensive than the cost of construction. I really recommend Ed Glaeser's paper on this. It's called Zoning and the Cost of Housing, Zoning and Housing Affordability. And in many places when housing prices go up, developers respond by building new housing and then through competition prices go back down. What stops that from happening is restrictions on supply most through what we call zoning rules or just any sort of land use restriction. So what we have is minimum lot sizes which restrict the number of houses that can go on a certain area of land. We have restrictions on the number of people who can live in each dwelling. We have parking requirements that require people to provide parking lots regardless of whether the people who live there want them. So there's these restrictions that make there be less space available than there otherwise would be which stops new construction which makes housing more expensive. Well new construction often is very often more expensive than people can afford. When people then move into those areas and wealthy people move into the new expensive fancy places there is a decrease in demand in the other areas. So housing can filter. So I think that supply restrictions are what makes housing unaffordable in Ann Arbor and we need to lift those supply restrictions, removing minimum lot sizes, removing parking requirements in a way that is politically acceptable to residents. So to do that I think we need really good noise restrictions, we need odor restrictions. Getting at the physical harms of development rather than just saying you need a half acre minimum lot size. And I've suggested a couple ways of doing that on my Website. One is the sort of performance standards, making sure you handle things like parking and noise. Another is allow people to opt in into a neighborhood mixed use district to allow, to presume in your comprehensive plan that we want to plan for people being able to live in a more walkable compact way if that's what they want.
>> I think as you've heard from several folks already, there are multiple levels of affordable housing. I think that there are several ways to address that. First and foremost of course is zoning. And that deals with density. Now density affects not just how many people you can get into an area but also affects the efficiency of mass transit. It also affects the efficiency and the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists. And so I think we need to address though zoning some of the issues that can help us improve density. I think we also need to address a continual improvement of our mass transit. I think we need to address a continual improvement our pedestrian and bicycling. When people spend less money on automobiles, they have more money with which to live. The rule of thumb is that your rent should be, your rent or your house payment should be about a third of your income. So that's a rule of thumb that we should work with when trying to analyze these types of things. In terms of those who do have an income. So I think that addressing those bits of information, those policies and getting bits of information from citizens about what are their concerns with the zoning changes? We know there's going to be feedback from the community. We want to find out from them what are their concerns? We've heard things such as their afraid that these places will not be handled well like these accessory dwellings won't be handled well because they would think it's akin to student housing. We need to find out what ways we can do zoning to where the tenants have respect for the property that they're on. We need to find ways in which we maximize our space for mass transit and for pedestrians. And I think this has to do with collecting a lot of data and communication building on those things.
>> This is a great question. Affordable housing of course is just one component of the overall affordability of the city. And when I talk about affordability I'm concerned because I think that as we become more unaffordable that is greatest single threat to the character, the soul if you will of the city. When you have to make $65,000 a year or more to be able to live here without spending over a third of your income on your housing means we're not an affordable place. So how do you fix these things? I mean, if there were a silver bullet we would have found it. But there are lots of different things that we need to do particularly as it pertains to affordable housing. Number one there's some very low hanging fruit that will help increase supply in the very short term and that's creating and allowing accessory dwelling units. That's a pretty straightforward one. You know, we can continue to improve transit throughout the city so that areas that are not easily accessible to the main job centers have greater access and therefore become more affordability because it reduced transportation costs. We need to look to what other places have done. And, you know, one of the places that, the most expensive housing market in the country is Aspen, Colorado. It's a completely service based economy. They have gotten together, the municipality with the county, their housing commission and some of the private employers and they have put together a workforce housing program that they run and manage. It's been wildly successful. We need to bring that information here and figure out how we can do some of that here. You know, and then there are the administrative and policy things that we can do. Everybody's talked about zoning. We can talk about a wider range of housing types in the city. And we can look at our development procedures to figure out how to streamline the process to make it easier to develop cheaper houses.
>> Thank you for the question. I think this is one of the most urgent tasks that our city government will be facing over the course of the next 20 years. And thank you for your thoughtful responses. I want to touch a little bit on the why of affordability. When I look back on my public education and my upbringing here, what I valued and what the value to those things is that I grew up in a diverse and inclusive community in which my friends and my peers did not represent one single perspective. And that's not always going to be the case. We are pricing out our neighbors. As Chip touched on, you don't, you shouldn't have to make $65,000 a year or $17 an hour to just get by in Ann Arbor. I've lived here since I was 8 years old and if we don't start taking action that might not be the case anymore. So council is committed to 2,800 units of affordable housing over the course of the next 20 years. And that's a really big hill to climb in a very short amount of time. And we have to be taking every opportunity we can to climb that hill. So first is increasing supply of housing, increasing density in our neighborhoods. We work within a market and we need with that market because our demand for housing is greater surpassing our supply. The second is embracing these workforce neighborhoods, these workforce housing programs because the people we're pricing out are often teachers, firefighters, bus drivers, young families. And that shouldn't be the case. But we need to make them successful by putting them near transit, by putting them near commerce because just transportation costs are a real factor in the affordability of a city. And finally we have to take innovative action and allow accessory dwelling units like people have touched on. The county projects that 15 new units of affordable accessory dwelling units can be built a year. And projected over 20 years, that's 300 units, over 10% of our goal. It's going to be piece meal and we got to get it done any way we can.
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>> All right, for our next question we're going to start with you Mr. Smith and work our way down the line this way. Over the past few months Ann Arbor residents have voiced their grief and concern over the killing of community member Aura Rosser at the hands of the Ann Arbor Police Department. Even after a state investigation, question still remain surrounding the circumstances of Ms. Rosser's death. Since her death in November, residents have demanded removal of the officer who shot Ms. Rosser from paid leave, the firing of the officer and for payment for the burial of Aura Rosser. As a City Council member how would you address the concerns of community members? And how would you work to engage both the police and community to insure that a tragedy like this is prevented from ever happening again?
>> Again you guys have done your homework asking some really good and really tough questions. You know, this isn't an issue that's unique to us in Ann Arbor though. I think a lot of us were a little bit shocked that it could happen here. One of the things that I think we owe as council people, we owe the city is to trust and verify and to always work through that process. I think in Ann Arbor we expect to be leaders in social justice, in equity. So I would think that the, a lot of appropriate responses are to figure out how to develop new and innovative training to discourage and create incentives against the use of physical force in confrontations. And to continue really active community policing where police are partners with folks in the community. I mean, I think that there is no question that this is a tremendous tragedy and if we don't take the opportunity to learn from this and to improve the way that we treat everybody how we deal with folks with mental illness or substance abuse problems then it's on us as a community.
>> This is an issue that I've talked a lot about on my radio show and in the community because there are some technological and some information aspects to it and of course the humanitarian aspects to it. We definitely need to find ways in which citizens have an understanding of what actions police took and why. So that has to do with good communication between residents and the police department. Chief Seto has done some things such as started enrollment of police officers in a class to help them understand community needs. I think that that's a step forward. There's also police body cams which are now being introduced. Now that's going to bring some issues in terms of privacy and other types of civil rights questions. So we're going to have to deal with those as they arise as well. I think we have to work on getting a level of understanding of the problem and not make assumptions about what happened in Ann Arbor based on situations that happened elsewhere. We actually to find the information out and then base our actions on that. And people have made steps to do better. If I were on council I would improve the communication between the police department and citizens and do more work in building a bond between citizens and the police department and other agencies in the community so that we have sort of a network of people talking about this and experts from all the different areas in which this touches. Because it's, it touches on a lot of different aspects of our community.
>> So I think the way to approach the problem is to go through the incident and think about how the Ann Arbor police could have acted differently at each step. So initially I think the first big thing is that we don't know exactly what happened. And one way to remedy that is to require police officers to wear body cameras. I think there are privacy concerns with body cameras but I think they can be managed and I think they would be an improvement. And I'm glad that City Council is now working towards that. And then there's the question of how much force is appropriate or to be prepared for. So in this case there was a threat of a weapon I believe so. I don't if any policy change would ever have an officer going to the house without a weapon. But in some cases it might not be necessary to bring a weapon and that's an important policy to consider and what situations should lead to force be an option on the table. So then after the incident, I guess even before that is a question of when is lethal force necessary to be used. And I think that's, there's important policies on that in place and they should continually be evaluated. But then after that I think there's another big important issue which is the investigation. And I think the investigation needs to be independent. When a police officer shoots somebody, it doesn't make sense to have the police investigate that incident and try to be a neutral party determining what happened. There should be an independent investigation potentially from a higher level of government but ideally fully independent of the police that tries to evaluate what happened and then takes the appropriate steps to reprimand or punish the officer if something bad was, happened. If something inappropriate occurred or vindicates the officer if nothing did.
>> Just two minutes, hey. We have an excellent police department in Ann Arbor. Chief Seto recognized how controversial this was going to be and he asked the State Police to conduct an independent review. Now people who are automatically suspicious of police don't think that the State Police are independent enough. But certainly we did not conduct the investigation of this shooting within our own police department. And Chief Seto should be commended on that. We also need to recognize that even before Aura Rosser was shot our police chief was working with the U of M public safety and the county sheriff to implement a body cam program based on the events that are happening in other communities. So we have a good police department. And we are trying to do as much as we can there. You asked what would, what should we do as a city council? We really have limited authority. When the State Police turned over their findings to the county prosecutor the city council had no authority to second guess the prosecutor. We could have fired the officer involved in this but as a labor attorney I can tell you that the city would not have won the labor arbitration that would have ensured afterwards. If the prosecutor decided not to go forward with charges, a labor arbitrator isn't going to sustain a discharge of that officer. What we are doing is we are using this as an opportunity to review our polices. We've asked our human rights commission to take a look at the body cam proposal that the police chief is working on, to review other polices policies and to make suggestions about a citizen review panel that would independently look at what police do. I've run out of time.
>> Such a challenging question. So what I'll do is pick up after what Councilman Eaton brought forward because there's very little to add to our knowledge about what actually happened that night. What's really important is where we go forward. And many people in our community for 20 plus years have been seeking a citizen review or citizen advisory commission to oversee what goes on with the police department. This has always been a challenge because citizen review, something that second guesses, what a body that second guesses how the police behaved in any given moment is something that becomes a real difficulty when we try to negotiate our contracts with the police department. Labor contracts are really important and obscure thing for us to talk about but as we talk forward we have to look at well what do we want the police to be doing? And from my point of view what we want the police to be doing is becoming better trained, better able to deal with tense situations, better able to really effectively and quickly assess the situation. We want to evaluate whether tasers or guns are the best mechanism for the police to always have with them because police don't know when they get dressed what's going to happen during the course of their shift. We have to help the police constantly review what they have done and improve the mechanism. And more than anything else we really need to reengage in community policing where the police are in the community, talking with, learning from and working with the community.
>> I want to thank everyone who spoke so far. Many of you saw comments are part of the dialogue that is taking place and continuing in our town. Perhaps my suggestion is to have a team of police who are trained solely in domestic violence. Those are the most critical and painful times for the police keeping in mind that most policemen never use their weapon throughout their entire career. So from their point of view, from the families point of view I think the council, several others here on council have listened to them, continued to invite the community to talk to us. I am in favor of a police, civilian board. But not just review, review meaning continual. We have an environmental commission. We can certainly have a commission that deals with this because the police, many of them are willing to talk about things. My suggestion was in a lot of tense situations, come back two days later and you can make the arrest and do things much more quietly. I was a teacher and to intervene at a time when someone's upset is totally inappropriate. And unfortunately these people are put in this position. It's not an enviable position when people's adrenaline and an instant decision is demanded.
>> So Pete, I know you and I know your activism. So I'm going to read between the lines a little bit and speak to the issue that I think is really at hand. Our policing in a community of color is different. There are fears that I will never understand that the majority of our police officers will never understand and that our city council and city staff may never understand. And so there is training that is required to deal with that. And there is, there is a certain mindset of police officers that needs to change. We shouldn't just hire three new police officers charged with community engagement which happened last year. Every, every officer should be charged with community engagement. Having your police force be truly a member of your neighborhood, a member of your community is how things actually get solved. It's not by cops walking a beat. It's not by patrol cars driving by three times a day. It's by having an active and involved voice and ear in the community. But I don't want to stop it at racial sensitivity training or whatever we're going to call it. It's also a conversation about mental health. And Ms. Rosser suffered from very severe mental illness. And so the conversation needs to be how do police address that when they, when they're going into an unstable situation? How do we make them safer by knowing what to look for? And how do we make our residents safer by making sure that police officers have adequate training to deal with the specific problems that need to be responded to?
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>> So a big thank you to the candidates for their responses so far. Before question number three I have two notes. One is if the candidates could please speak clearly to the microphone so that the people at home can listen in. And number two is anybody in the audience, if your cell phone's going off please silence it because it's a little distracting. And this question, question number three we'll start with Mr., Candidate Magiera, Magiera. And question three is residents and commuters in Ann Arbor often cite congestion as a key problem. What initiatives and solutions do you propose to help solve this problem? What steps will you take to insure that as jobs continue to grow in Ann Arbor that congestion does not become even worse?
>> So transportation congestion?
>> Okay. So this is an interesting situation. And it's a situation that I've been doing a lot of research on the past couple years. Being someone who is a pedestrian, a bicyclist, I'm aware by watching a lot of activity on the streets what happens. And I've been doing a lot of research and reading scientific papers on transportation. One of the things we have to do is we have to challenge some of our assumptions. Some of our assumptions are, for example this came up earlier today, that wider streets actually means less chance of pedestrians being hurt. Actually the research shows that narrower streets cause drivers to be more focused and to drive at a more reasonable rate. So examples like that are things where we have sort of conventional wisdom but actually research and data shows that that's different. So we need to as I mentioned earlier focus on the way in which we zone things. And the way in which we build out our infrastructure to improve density so that people have better use of mass transit. And we need to have clearly delineated bike lanes that are well maintained. This is something that's been fundamental in my platform. So those are some things that allow people to avoid using cars. In terms of cars, I'm a proponent of what they call the Michigan left. I actually grew up in the down river Detroit area which utilizes the Michigan left a lot. It's actually, studies show does decrease traffic build up. And so there are things like that that I think we can try. This is something that involves again collection of data, analyzing it and doing scientific research to actually validate the steps that we take to minimize traffic and congestion. And I think that improving facilities for maintaining bikes, bike parking, bike maintenance, things of that nature are other, is another example of something that we can do.
>> There's three things that I think the city could do about traffic that I know of. And these come from, mostly from a book by Anthony Downs called Stuck in Traffic which is a really great resource on traffic if you're ever interested. So I think the first thing you can do is affect parking. There's a pretty strict relationship between the amount of parking available in a city and the amount of traffic. Because almost all vehicle trips start and end in free parking spaces and the ones that don't are in metered parking spaces. So right now the city provides more parking than would exist and, on subsidized market. We encourage there to be, we build parking structures that are not profitable. For example the new underground parking structure has $72 million that needs to be paid in bonds. And that's about $3 million a year over 25 years. And then the operating income is only between $500,000 and $1 million. So we're heavily subsidizing parking. And then eventually when these structures make money after we pay off the debt, we claim that the structures are profitable when really the market never would have provided those on its own. So we can reduce subsidies for parking. That's going to reduce traffic. And then there's two other things as well. One is that we can do road repairs faster because a big source of congestion is road repairs. The Michigan Department of Transportation has an innovative contracting guidelines and you can implement those rules to do a thing called lane rentals where you charge contractors for each day that a lane is closed. So that could make repairs faster reducing congestion. A third thing is to try to change the way we do zoning to make destinations closer together. Jonathan Levine who's a professor at the University of Michigan actually has written about this subject. That the goal is not just to try to make vehicle speeds as high as you can, it's to bring destinations closer together as well so that you don't need to travel as far. And actually what his study found was that the effect of moving destinations closer together was to increase traffic density so it appears that there's more cars in each little strip of road. But it was still faster to get to more destinations. So those three things could reduce traffic congestion.
>> I'm going to suggest that there isn't an easy response to traffic congestion. That we have a successful economy in Ann Arbor and we continue to build that economy. It's estimated that we have 70,000 people who commute into town to their workplace or their, you know, schooling or whatever brings them here and
>> Daily. You have this huge demand because we have a healthy economy. If you go to a town with a healthy economy like New York or Chicago or somewhere, they haven't found any easy response to congestion. It's just a fact. If you have a vibrant economy, people engage in that and they are going to fill your streets. There's this idea that we're subsidizing parking that I'd like to dispel right away. Our downtown development authority actually makes a huge profit on our parking systems. Every year we take in millions of dollars more than we spend on our parking. The idea that we can put destinations close enough together so people will stop driving is also conflicts with social reality. Most households have two incomes. And for instance my household. I work in Southfield. My wife worked in Ann Arbor. At some point in time one of us was going to commute, there's just no avoiding that. So we need to take care of the roads that we have. We need to make sure that they have the capacity to hold as many cars as they can. At the same time that we provide for alternative transportation for those who can use it. But 70,000 people coming into town are not going to bicycle to Ann Arbor. Most of us who commute up to jobs outside of town can't bicycle to those or take a bus. So we're going to have to address the facilities that we have.
>> The reason there are so many books written on traffic is because it's difficult problem. It's always a lot easier to talk about in the abstract putting it into play, actually putting those theories into play is so much more difficult in ways that nobody anticipates. One of the things that the city can do about congestion is to acknowledge that as a popular destination a lot of the people who come to Ann Arbor are coming to Ann Arbor, they're not traveling within Ann Arbor. Another thing that city can talk about is what the goal is for those streets. For many people, the idea of traffic is that you don't want to be part of it. You want to move as swiftly as possible to some other destination. All the traffic studies I've shown indicate that really we should not be widening streets. We should not be making the use of cars easier. That we should be acknowledging their convenience but at the same time we should be designing those streets for multiple uses within the city. That means that the traffic lanes get narrower. That means we should talk about the speed limits. We should talk about the value of stop signs, stop lights, roundabouts, all for controlling traffic. And all of that goes against conventional wisdom because conventional wisdom today is still based on a 1930s and 40s vision of the world where people owned a car as a sign of wealth. And the more you traveled, the less congested your home was, the more segregated your residence was from where you worked, the better off you were. And those are ideas we're going to challenge not just in this community but in this country.
>> I believe with more regional cooperation of the surrounding area we could limit the amount of cars coming into our city. If nothing else we have a lot of land surrounding Ann Arbor. And if we could get a dialogue going for more park and rides, not on our property in the city, but on exterior property meaning in the townships, etc. And then we could leave more vehicles out here. We move the largest number of people during Art Fair. We move them by busses to the immediate downtown. That should give us a suggestion as to what we might try. There's not going to be one solution, it's going to be multiple solutions. People who live in neighborhoods should be able to be within a mile perhaps of where they can shop. And that's shopping local. These are important. Buses I believe are the most economical way to move right now because they're flexible. So you can try a route and if the route works you can sustain it. If not, you can move it. And that's why I'm more in favor of the buses. We did a good job I think moving in the direction of the east out towards Ypsilanti with our buses and those increases have shown increasing in ridership. People have to buy in. Ann Arbor can't afford to pay for people who in the area who would like bus service into Ann Arbor. We'd love to have bus service but you have to help us with the money. So that's where the regional cooperation for transportation is a major factor. And not these big projects that are like the train, build a train. Good luck. Trains only work in huge corridors of transportation. That is not here. That is not out here. California is rethinking the train between two of the largest population cities in the country. So buses once again, flexibility and cars are not giving up. Cars are out there trying to compete right now on miles per gallon and other things. So the future is, we'll look forward to see what it brings.
>> Public transit is a public good. And that's because cars are not the future. Buses and rail, rail are. Buses and rail allow for a more accessible, more affordable and safer community. Putting commuter lots just outside of Ann Arbor in the townships doesn't necessarily work because the buses run where there are people and that's in the urban areas. That's Ann Arbor, that's Ypsilanti. So we need to produce a system that works for people who can't drive, who can't afford to drive and people who don't want to drive. And that starts with a successful bus system. We just passed a mileage that will increase the hours of ridership by 44%. I think that's a terrific start but we could keep pushing for more. Buses take cars off the road which eases congestion, reduces your commute time but also makes streets safer for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians alike. And then in terms of rail, we are on a major corridor. We just haven't gotten to enjoy it yet. There are 15,000 private sector jobs or sorry. There are 15,000 private sector workers who work in Ann Arbor who live along the Ann Arbor, Detroit, east west rail corridor. That's a lot of commuters. Four thousand of them live in Ypsilanti. That's a very short amount of rail. This is a real opportunity that we can harness. And part of that starts with a successful train station. One that fully integrates us into a larger region and then fully integrates commuters into an Ann Arbor transit authority that can successfully get you around the city once you're here. So public transit is a public good and it starts with buses, it starts with successful rail.
>> Guess it's my turn, all right. You know, participating in regional transit is really important. You know, we have to do a much better job of getting people into and out of Ann Arbor. And that means we have to look at every possible way to do that whether it's rail, whether it's bus, whether it's van pooling. It's also providing non-motorized connections. It's lots of different things. And let's not fool ourselves. We pay for other community's transportation every day. Our costs are in providing surface parking lots downtown, they're devoting our downtown space to storing cars, it's taking care of the roads in the city. So we need to be the leaders. We are the job center of Washtenaw County. We draw as people have talked about, you know, 75,000 people into work every day. So if we are not being the leaders in advancing this discussion of how we move people more efficiently, we're failing. That means really jumping in with both feet into the regional transit authority. Really taking a leadership role in that. It's not ruling out trains. It's not ruling out buses. It's not ruling out high occupancy vehicles. But really because transportation is such a multi-jurisdictional effort, you know, we have to bring a lot of people to the table. And we have to be the entity that gets people over some of these pay in differences. And we have to work together and we have to be the catalyst to make it happen because we have the greatest costs and the most to lose.
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>> Thank you candidates. We have time for one final question picked from the audience. And it relates to elections. The question is, should the city change its primary dates and/or awards to encourage more student voting? So change primary dates or awards to encourage more student voting? And we're going to begin with Zach and then we'll go on to Candidate Smith.
>> It's the, it's having the initial Za, you're always either at the beginning or the end. But yeah, no so while I would love to be self-indulgent and get more of a student vote which I think would help my age demographic. I am hesitant. And I don't know as if the conversation should be just the student vote but rather everybody. Right now we see my ward which encompasses a fifth of the city get voter turnout that's sometimes over 2,000. That's very close to 10% voter turnout or rather turnout in terms of total population. That's a scary thing. We are giving a lot of power to the people who show up on a random Tuesday in August. At the same time putting ourselves on a nonpartisan ballot in November also greatly decreases turnout. People unfortunately don't flip their ballots over. So it's a complicated question of how do we thoughtfully increase participation in local government? And expand the number of voters who have, have a voice in our city. I don't think that the solution is everyone is a democrat. Everyone votes in August. We have an election in the third Ward decided by 900 voters. I think we should go to November when people are paying attention. And I think that we need new ways to differentiate ourselves as candidates that are actually based on our values and based on our ideas. Not necessarily because we have the letter D next to our names, although I've been an active democrat since I was I guess 12 years old.
>> Well this is the perfect audience to speak to about this. The city is drawn, if you look at the election districts, they're drawn as a pie. There's a reason for that. The Ward gets smaller as it approaches the downtown around the University to limit the amount of geographical area it's covering. I would be in favor of drawing a ring around that and make it its own district and let the students have a continual representation on City Council because the amount of turnout that we're getting in those pie areas at the tip of the pie, very, very small. It's unique though because it is downtown and it has a kind of philosophy of its own. The students generate a tremendous amount of goodwill towards the community and in the community the time they're here. Although they may live here, maybe people shouldn't be limited by the time they live here as to their representation. You in a fact are paying taxes with your rent. So therefore you should have representation. There are some state mandates that kind of prevent that at the time but I would be in favor of seeing students on, I mean, look at the panel here today. The ideas are fresh ideas and I think they're important that multi-generations talk to one another intergenerationally. And the other neighborhoods that are out there, they will speak up for their needs. But I think some of the needs in the immediate downtown are not, with the student areas are not being met.
>> So I'll be really bold about this. Zach says he's been a democrat since he was 12. I've been a democrat probably since I was born. My parents were new deal democrats and those of you who know anything about the new deal understand that that was a major political move. I grew up with stories about Richard Nixon, none of which were flattering. So I'm a democrat. And when I moved to Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor was a republican town. And you may not realize that but Ann Arbor was such a republican town that getting a democrat elected in any Ward was a real thrill. Frequently we only had one or two democrats sitting on City Council. There was a time in the early '70s when we had human rights party members sitting on City Council and they were students of the University of Michigan. Later we had students of the University of Michigan sitting on City Council because they ran and they won. The reason the Wards are designed the way they are was in part to make certain that an entire economic demographic did not belong to one council member. It was to insure that council members had to listen to students, to people who lived on the outskirts of town in affordable housing as well as in posh housing. And that the responsiveness really was to the entire city. Nobody got just one problem area. We all got all of the problem areas. I'm not in favor of talking about going to nonpartisan because I don't believe it's the right direction to go. Having a student Ward, again I'm really concerned that it changes the nature of how city government becomes responsive to concerns. So the problem we should be trying to solve really is, sorry, really is how to get more people engaged in government not how to, how to, what rules to change but how to reengage.
>> I'll point that we incumbents are really challenged by this two minute rule. There were two elements to the question. Should we change primary dates and should we change the Wards to try to address student voter turnout? We can't change the primary dates. Those are set by state law. I'm going to admit that when the Wards were designed as they're currently designed it was probably to keep those pesky human rights party people off from Council. It's was probably to try to divide the student vote. And although I'm a hardened partisan, I'm a lifelong democrat and don't want to see nonpartisan elections, student participation is probably the only reason that I would support nonpartisan elections because you're not here in August. You're here in November. So I, I don't know about redesigning the Wards to have a student Ward. They did that in Ypsilanti. I was at the League of Women Voters' forum on nonpartisan elections last night. It was pointed out when they had a student Ward it went horribly awry. So we do need to address student turnout. And there are a lot of ways of doing that. In 2009 I supported a student who ran a council campaign named Atinmel Hotty [assumed spelling]. And he did better in my neighborhood, out on the edge of the Ward then he did in the student neighborhoods because students don't turn out to vote. If you want to have a voice in this city, you have to register and you have to vote. My student precinct is 41. I lost that precinct last election 3 votes to 1 vote. Most other precincts had hundreds of voters turn out.
>> Students do vote and if you look at the November vote totals for presidential elections or gubernatorial elections they vote in large numbers. They don't vote in August for a number of reasons. One is that it's hard to vote in August because you need to fill out an absentee ballot form and then know where you're going to be so that they can send you the absentee ballot form months in advance. Also Michigan law prevents you from registering, excuse me, from voting absentee if you register by mail and this is the first time you're voting which specifically doesn't franchise with lots of students who haven't voted before. So there's structural reasons why students aren't involved in city politics and they can be changed. So it shouldn't be the burden of students to change the state law so that they can vote absentee. We should move to a system of nonpartisan November elections where everybody can vote at the most convenient time when they're already going to vote on other things. And so some counter responses I've heard to that or counter arguments is that the democrat and republican label provide valuable information about the candidates. And I disagree with that. We've had former republicans change their affiliation to democrats can now run as democrats. And I think having one single word which you could look up if you do even the most trivial information searching on the internet is not worth disenfranchising students and people who happen to be on vacation in August and other people in the community as well. Another argument I've heard is that it'd be a cluttered ballot in November if you have the elections, the city elections at the same time as national issues. I don't think that's a serious concern because people can research both presidential issues and city issues. And then that hassle of filling out the second half of the ballot is much lower than the hassle of being in the city at a different time and going to the polls on a different occasion. So I support nonpartisan November elections and I think it's a civil rights issue that we make it happen.
>> I think this is a very important issue. We definitely want student input. You are people that contribute not only financially to the community but in terms of working in the community, etc. So I think it is very important to get student input in local government here. That being said I think we need to do more research to actually determine the best paths. A lot of people are putting different discussions forward. You've heard about the League of Women Voters' having these summits for people to talk about it. I think we need to flush these issues out more before we commit to changing a system that may put things in disarray. There is an advantage to identifying with a particular party. And I think if you look at situations where people have changed their identification, they've maybe changed their identification but they haven't necessarily changed the things that are represented by their previous identification. So it's more of a tactic of getting elected versus actually a change in perspective. And that's something to consider. I think in terms of timing we could possibly change the timing but we want to be sure that we do it in such a way that the ballot is not overwhelming to people. And we have to be sure again to get people engaged so that yes we may change the ballot but are people actually showing up, students actually showing to vote in November for an off term or off year election that is not a presidential election or a governor election. So I think we need to do more research to really understand this issue. So I would not commit myself either way until we get more information from students, residents, etc.
>> This is great question. And, you know, I just want to point out and thank Council member Kirk Westphal for bringing this issue, bringing it to the forefront and the community. I think it's a really valuable dialogue that we're having and a really necessary dialogue. You know, first of all I will tell you that number one I do support nonpartisan November elections. Is last summer in a very hotly contested mayoral race I believe there were fewer than 25 votes cast in 51 which is the student section of the 5th Ward. You know, that's just not enough votes to really determine who runs the city. I don't support the idea of changing necessarily the Ward boundaries to create a student only Ward or a student centric Ward. But I really, really energize by the ongoing discussion of how we can create more civic involvement, how we can create a voter turnout. I mean, when we're deciding these elections about which of us will sit on council with, you know, between 3 and 10% of the people that live in each Ward participating, we're failing. Like that's just not good enough. We need to figure out how to fix the system and get more people involved in how we run our city.
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>> I guess that was the horn to, to end the debate. And we greatly appreciate all of you coming. And again I think this will be very beneficial for our students and we appreciate those both within the Ford School community and without who came to hear us today. I was looking around the room and having been at several of the different forums and debates in the past, this is the probably one of the largest turnouts that these candidates will see throughout this whole election cycle. So again our thanks to all of you for coming today.
[ Audience Applause ]
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