Ann Arborites deserve a government that responds to their concerns, whether that’s filling a pothole or weighing in on a park redesign. As your council member, I strive to listen to all perspectives, seek common ground, and engage constituents in decision-making. While policy work is important for its long-term impact, most of my time on council is spent helping residents and small businesses with individual issues: sewer odors on Arborview, streetlights on Ashley, safer crosswalks on Huron, a problem construction site near Jackson, water quality in First Sister Lake, and hundreds more, down to reporting individual potholes to the city for fixing. Making city government work for my constituents is the bread and butter of my role on council.
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
Protecting the environment is one of my top priorities. I live it in my day-to-day actions (as a bike commuter and a steward of Winewood-Thaler park) and advance long-term strategy through policymaking and advocacy. Environmental advocacy is a common thread that guides me in so many of the issues facing Ann Arbor and the world. I sweat the smaller things, like newspaper litter – and too many others to list here – as well as big issues, like these:
Ann Arbor’s supply of drinking water is threatened by an underground plume of 1,4-Dioxane, a carcinogenic chemical that was dumped by the Gelman corporation west of Ann Arbor, in Scio Township.
I’ve fought hard for stricter cleanup standards and accountability, and for increased testing, including within Ann Arbor’s west side. And I’ll continue to be a leader on this issue. For more details, see this blog post I wrote in March with an overview of the situation that includes my positions on the issue.
A strong transit network is critically important to the health of our city, the county, and Southeast Michigan. I’m proud to be a transit rider myself and to have worked on the transit expansion millage campaign in 2014. Transit gets cars off the road, gives options to those who cannot drive or choose not to, and makes us a more accessible, equitable, and environmentally-friendly community.
For the same reasons that many of us already live in Ann Arbor, other people want to live here, too. That’s a good sign. We have no standing to throw up a “no occupancy” sign, and even if we wanted to, there’s no way to stop people from wanting to move here.
With great interest in our community, we’ll see housing prices continue to skyrocket, eventually pushing out all but the most affluent. Unless, that is, we make room for the community to grow smartly.
To keep Ann Arbor diverse and open to those from a variety of professions, backgrounds, and incomes, we need a mix of housing options. A family putting down roots may not want to live in a student-oriented high-rise downtown, but a college student moving into that high-rise may open up an old Victorian rental near Burns Park that the family can move into.
I’m committed to encouraging smart development in Ann Arbor, with a mix of building types and areas that contributes to a wide variety of housing options. Growth in Ann Arbor preserves our community’s character only when it works for everyone, from preschool teachers to professors, from restaurant workers to retirees.
Allen Creek Greenway
For over thirty years Ann Arbor has discussed the idea of creating a path, a linear park, along the path of the Allen Creek. Not only would this create a nonmotorized path and recreational amenity connecting campus, downtown, and the river, it would also create opportunities to better handle stormwater and prevent flooding.
As a member of the Mayor’s Greenway Roundtable, I have been a leader in seeking ways to move this from a vision to a reality, including helping to initiate the master planning process that will make this project competitive for outside funding.
Fighting for Equality
Ann Arbor is a great place to live for many of its residents – but not for all of them. While I’m proud of our city’s distinguished history of looking out for disadvantaged or marginalized groups and individuals, I recognize that our society is still unequal and that we must constantly fight to level the playing field. I fought against inequality in our community long before joining city council, and I’ll continue to do so in the near future and for decades to come.
I consider the impact of every city council decision on social equality, and have led on several specific issues. On criminal justice reform, I sponsored legislation passed by City Council to “ban the box” on city job applications, making it easier for those who have been incarcerated to get a second chance and get back on their feet. I’ve worked with local Black Lives Matter activists to increase police training and policies to reduce racial bias, and helped select a new police chief who is more open on these topics.
Economic inequality is a major inequality crisis facing Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County (2015 report). This is driven largely by high and still-growing income inequality within Washtenaw County, and the growing cost of housing in Ann Arbor. We are at risk of becoming a community where only the privileged and fortunate can afford to live. This homogeneity would not be good for anyone. I serve on a countywide task force working to combat inequality in Washtenaw County and will continue to pull as many levers as possible to keep Ann Arbor a city where all kinds of people can live out their dreams, together.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)
One tool to help improve housing affordability is to allow accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, which would allow homeowners to put in small housing units as an addition to their home, above a garage, etc.
Ann Arbor does not currently permit ADUs. I’m working to change that. ADUs will diversify our housing stock, spreading out more affordable housing and growing the pool of housing options. They’ll provide a choice to empty-nesters who want to downsize their home and cut costs while staying in place. And they’ll allow people of all sorts to live closer to work and community interests, reducing traffic and environmental impact.
This article from Concentrate Media provides a good overview of how ADUs will help Ann Arbor.
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. We can and should do better.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is currently conducting a major review of possible sites for an improved rail station in Ann Arbor. I eagerly await the results of this study.
Roads and Safety
Yes, I know, our roads are in bad shape. There’s no sugar coating that fact.
The good news, though, is that we have a plan to go from only about 15% of our roads in good condition to over 72% in good condition in ten years with no new local taxes. The key is smarter maintenance. By spending a little bit of money early with things like crack sealing, we can prevent more expensive road work later – just like changing the oil in your car.
But our roads are for more than cars. We share them with bikes, pedestrians, and others. And sadly, we have seen too many crashes that have injured or killed people walking or biking. That’s why I called for the creation of a Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force and have continued to work to implement its recommendations.