Increasing Citizen Engagement
We are a city of bright and caring citizens. To take advantage of the talents our community has to offer, we must increase meaningful public input in decision-making. In tough economic times, the city’s ability to improve customer service depends on its willingness to hear criticisms and respond by leveraging the broad experience of our citizenry.
A Caring, Inclusive Community
Our social safety net is a hallmark of our city’s compassion and commitment to justice. To ensure that all residents can access jobs, education, and medical appointments we must support transportation options such as public transit, walking and biking infrastructure, and safe roadways. We also need to restore the balance of affordable housing in our community. In fact, council should consider the impact on social equity of all major decisions.
Healthy Neighborhoods and a Vibrant Downtown
The quality of life in our neighborhoods depends on our ability to preserve core services such as fire protection, trash and compost pickup, and street maintenance. We need to carefully balance growth in our downtown with efforts to protect the character of our neighborhoods, allowing us to maintain both our city’s cultural and architectural heritage.
On The Issues
I’ve received requests from several local groups asking me to fill out candidate questionnaires or issue surveys. I’ve filled out all of them because I believe in citizen engagement. I also think that politicians should be held accountable for things they say, so to promote transparency, I’m linking to the questionnaires I’ve completed. If I say it to a local interest group, I am willing to say it to everyone.
- Sierra Club of Huron Valley candidate questionnaire: The Sierra Club sent city council candidates a questionnaire asking about personal experience and positions on various environmental issues. Here are my answers. I live my environmentalism every day and I’m proud to campaign on my record and stances on the environmental issues that affect our community.
- Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition candidate questionnaire: as a bike commuter, motorist, and transportation advocate, here are my thoughts on local transportation issues.
- Arts Alliance survey: here are my responses to questions about supporting local artists and culture.
I believe that any future for the library lot needs to include an open space component. The questions we face as a community are how large should that space be, what design does it have, and what surrounds it.
Any plan for the site should incorporate robust input from the library, surrounding businesses, and the Parks Advisory Committee, as well as the wider community.
The challenges of nearby Liberty Plaza teach that plans for an open space downtown must attend to both the space itself and the area surrounding it to ensure active use by many groups of people. I have been frustrated with how park proponents and skeptics are talking past each other instead of engaging. I would work with all parties in reaching a decision.
Rail Transit Station
I am a strong proponent of improving transportation options, including rail. Rail use is growing, Amtrak is buying and improving track to make the Ann Arbor-Chicago trip faster and more reliable, and our climate crisis demands that we develop alternatives to carbon-intensive plane travel. Our current station lacks adequate parking to meet current demand during peak travel times, is not accessible to people with disabilities, and is hard to serve with transit.
Therefore, I support efforts to find a site that could support a rail station. The ideal site would be:
a. Accessible by rail with minimal disruption of existing lands;
b. Sited in an area that would support mixed-use activity around the station;
c. Accessible to adequate usable parking;
d. Near existing employment centers and transit routes.
Fuller Road meets 2 of these 4 criteria; it can accommodate adequate parking and is near the UM Medical Center, a key employment center. Given the existing land use in Ann Arbor, I am not aware of a site that would meet all four. There is clearly work to do to find a viable means to support improved rail service in Ann Arbor. Therefore, I would support a full assessment of the Fuller Road site and alternative sites in hopes of finding a site that better meets the community’s needs and promotes environmental conservation.
The future of this site is a significant public concern, especially with the proposed Fuller Road Station recognized as part of Fuller Park in the PROS plan. If a rail transit station is developed on Fuller Road, I believe the loss of parkland should be balanced by the acquisition of new parkland that meets or exceeds the public and environmental benefits of the repurposed site.
Jackson Road 4 to 3-lane conversion
I live just south of Jackson Road, and when I drive it’s my route to work and to my daughter’s daycare, so I know how bad the traffic can get, how hard it can be for residents to leave the neighborhood, and how unsafe the road is. The ten-foot lanes on that road are too narrow, so buses and trucks are often outside their lanes. No wonder there were 70 accidents on a ¾-mile stretch of road over 3 years.
I have 3 priorities for Jackson Road.:
2. Neighborhood access
3. Traffic flow
1. Safety: Jackson Road is not a safe passage. The ten-foot lanes are too narrow for the large trucks that use the road; in fact, the Michigan Department of Transportation won’t even allow new roads to be built with lanes that narrow. Furthermore, the combination of the lack of bike lanes, a congested, high-speed street, and a hill that increases bicycle speeds makes the motorist, cyclist, pedestrian mix unsafe. We should do better, and I believe that the proposed lane change would improve safety.
2. Neighborhood access: It is already very difficult to make a left turn onto Jackson during the morning and evening rush periods, and for some residents, Jackson is their only choice. Neighborhood access is a key concern that I have not seen addressed well in the coverage of the proposed change, and one that deserves attention.
3. Traffic flow: Jackson is a busy arterial street, especially during the evening rush. I have been one of the frustrated motorists when traffic is backed up past the Fire Station at 5:45pm on a weekday. I see the traffic light at the intersection of Jackson & Maple as the worst cause of these backups. I often find myself caught behind vehicles holding up traffic as they try to make a left turn, so I am not convinced that the lane conversion will significantly worsen traffic issues.
I’ve talked about these concerns with residents who live on Jackson Road and in the surrounding neighborhoods. People who live on Jackson are overwhelmingly in support of the change; people who live just off Jackson tend to oppose it.
I support implementing the conversion and evaluating its impact over a 12-month trial. Such a trial must have clear benchmarks for safety, neighborhood access, and traffic flow created before the change is implemented so that we can measure the extent to which the conversion achieved its intended purposes.
Support for the Arts
Our art scene is part of what makes Ann Arbor great. Michigan Theater. WSG. The Ark. UMS. I loved taking my daughter to FestiFools, and we had a blast at Top of the Park. I strongly support the City looking for ways to nurture the arts in Ann Arbor.
One way that the city currently supports art is through the Percent for Art ordinance. I have not talked to anyone who is fully happy with how Percent for Art has worked out so far, so I think we should evaluate the ordinance. It has significant limitations on what it can fund, it only covers permanent installations of visual arts, and it does not adequately focus on local artists. I would support looking for ways to establish a more flexible funding stream for the arts.
In particular, I would like to hear a community conversation about:
- Can we afford Percent for Art at this time?
- How can we ensure that Percent for Art expenditures provide both high-quality, publicly-beneficial art installations and enrich the local arts community?
I would also look for other ways to support the arts through in-kind support and partnerships.
One concern I have heard from groups organizing festivals and events is that the permitting and approval processes can be arduous. If elected, I will work to nurture a “customer service” approach to these processes to remove barriers that impede the arts programming and festivals that are part of what makes Ann Arbor a truly exceptional place to live.
A centerpiece of my campaign is responsive government. For me, that means including resident input in city decisions, so I am eager to have an engaged discussion about the future of the Percent for Art ordinance. I am looking for a community process in which we can work together to decide how to best support the arts in Ann Arbor.