Ann Arbor Ward 5 Dems in 100 (Or So) Words

Elyakin and Anglin vying for Democratic city council nomination

On July 13, 2011, the local League of Women Voters hosted debates for Ann Arbor city council candidates in all wards that have a contested Democratic primary election – Ward 2, Ward 3, and Ward 5. The primary takes place on Aug. 2.

Word frequency clouds

Top 100 word frequency clouds for Ward 5 city council candidates. (Image links to high resolution .pdf. Clouds from

This report focuses on Ward 5, where incumbent Mike Anglin is seeking re-election for his third two-year term on the city council. [See also previous Chronicle coverage of the 2011 Democratic primary: "Ann Arbor Ward 5: Democratic Primary 2011"]

Anglin is retired from a teaching career, and is now an owner of a bed and breakfast on the city’s Old West Side. He was first elected in 2007 after winning a Democratic primary against incumbent Wendy Woods. Neal Elyakin, an administrator in the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, is also seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination. The winner will face Republican Stuart Berry in the Nov. 8 general election.

In response to the alternating questions offered by the LWV moderator, neither candidate offered comments that were terribly dramatic.

Anglin took the occasion to talk about a familiar range of topics: the smaller issues he enjoys helping residents solve; his opposition to the proposed Fuller Road Station; his belief that parks need to be defended against their possible sale; his criticism of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority as a non-elected government entity; and his view of Ann Arbor as a small town that happens to be home to the University of Michigan.

Elyakin spoke of retaining the small-town feel of Ann Arbor (describing specific parks where his children used to play) while at the same time envisioning responsible, reasonable growth that would rely on a regional approach, investments in transportation systems, and an important planning role for the DDA.

After the jump, our coverage includes: an annotated verbatim transcript of the candidates’ remarks at the LWV debate; paraphrases of the questions posed to them; and some highlights from the candidates’ remarks broken down in a bit more detail.

The transcript formed the basis of the top-100 word-frequency analysis shown in the Word Cloud 1 and Word Cloud 2. Close observers of Ann Arbor city politics may be able to match candidates with clouds, without scrolling past the jump.

Implicit Critique

It’s not typical for candidates at the Ann Arbor League of Women Voters debates to criticize each other in any explicit way.

But Elyakin’s characterization of his own strengths could be understood as an implicit criticism of Anglin’s recent performance at the city council table. In response to a question about why he, as a loyal Democrat, would be challenging the incumbent, Elyakin included among his reasons [emphasis added]: “… I believe I can be very well-prepared when sitting at the council table to make decisions that are thoughtful, that are future-oriented, that help the city move forward, in real and intentional, productive ways.”

At the council’s July 5, 2011 meeting, Anglin essentially conceded that he had not been well-prepared at the council’s previous June 20 meeting. At that meeting he’d voted – along with the rest of the council – to approve a $1,216,100 construction contract to Hoffman Brothers Inc. That project involves relocating a sanitary sewer south of Fuller Road, and east of the Maiden Lane and East Medical Center Drive intersection. Anglin indicated he had not realized at the time of the original vote that the site of the planned sewer system work was the same site as the planned Fuller Road Station, which he opposes.

So on July 5, Anglin asked his colleagues on the council to reconsider that previous vote – which is an allowable parliamentary step. Councilmembers – all fellow Democrats – voted unanimously to go along with Anglin’s request to rediscuss the issue, but no one was willing to change their vote.

Sabra Briere (Ward 1) is often an ally of Anglin’s on council. But on that occasion she made clear how she felt about being asked to reconsider her vote: “I knew what I was doing,” said Briere.

The re-vote on the sewer project was recorded as 8-1 (two councilmembers were absent), with Anglin’s vote the sole voice of dissent.

Implicit Defense

The fact that he sometimes finds himself in a small minority position was acknowledged by Anglin at the LWV debate, when he said in his opening statement: “And at times my decisions have not been with the majority of people on council, but I think they have expressed a strong rational minority position that many people do agree with.”

Because explicit criticism is rare at LWV debates, candidates will sometimes offer implicit defense against non-explicit criticisms made at the debate or heard elsewhere. One criticism of Anglin that has begun to trickle through Ward 5 is that Anglin, in his nearly four years of service on the council, has simply registered dissent without successfully getting traction at the council table to convert his position into the majority that’s needed to affect an outcome on policy issues. At the LWV debate, that criticism could be heard in Elyakin’s statement: “A few naysayers – while I applaud every person’s right to speak up and speak out – should not hold the city hostage, whether they are in the audience or sitting on council.”

Anglin’s remark about having a rational minority position could be understood as an implicit defense to that critique. Later, in his closing statement, Anglin focused on his role of simply bringing ideas forward – as opposed to taking those ideas and translating them into successful policy initiatives. “And I feel that I am just their voice, trying to listen to them …”

When Anglin did discuss a translation from input into action, it was essentially in the councilmember-as-community-ombudsman role: “… taking phone calls and working with people for some of their smallest items that they bring forward … I think some of the most satisfying part of my service on city council is working with the residents and trying to work on their particular issues.”

Anglin is not unique in identifying that ombudsman role as essential and enjoyable. At the Ann Arbor city Democratic Party forum in June, Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) described some of his strongest supporters as those whom he’s helped with their “end-of-the-driveway-type issues.” In a 2008 interview, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) talked about solving issues one-on-one with constituents as a satisfying aspect of his council service.

Past Attendance Issue

Anglin contended at one point during the LWV event that he’d served on almost every commission in the city. (The claim, given the roughly 90 different boards and commissions that exist in the city, is likely somewhat overstated.) His contention, together with a light-hearted turn by Anglin about attending the city council’s meetings (“I attend them all the time”) may have reminded some in the audience of an issue in the 2009 Democratic primary, which was contested between Anglin and Scott Rosencrans.

That year Rosencrans accused Anglin of failing to attend any meetings of the park advisory commission (PAC) – a body to which Anglin had been appointed to serve as an ex-officio council representative. Anglin then produced attendance records that showed Rosencrans had vastly overstated the case – up to that point, Anglin had attended 11 out of 16 PAC meetings. And for regular council meetings, to that point, Anglin had missed only one out of 41 meetings.

However, Anglin’s attendance for two other council committee appointments was not up to the same standard: 3 out of 10 Washtenaw Area Transportation Study meetings; and 1 out of 5 city environmental commission meetings. That attendance rate was low enough that the council’s administration committee privately chastised Anglin about his poor attendance and impressed upon Anglin the importance of attending those meetings – according to Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2), in response to a Chronicle query at the time. As a result of his poor attendance, according to Rapundalo, Anglin was not reappointed by the council to the environmental commission.

At the LWV debates, Anglin’s mention of his attendance at council meetings came in the context of a question about how to improve communication from the city to the citizens. He suggested that people watch city council meetings as one means of learning what’s going on at the city. “I know they are very interesting – I attend them all the time,” he quipped.

Opening Statements

Each candidate was given a chance to make an opening statement. Their statements and responses to questions are provided here verbatim, in the order in which they answered.

Elyakin’s opening

Yes, thank you. Thank you, everybody, for being here. Thank you to the people who are watching on television.

I especially want to thank Mike for sitting with me here at the table. This is a forum for the city council and I’m running for the Fifth Ward.

I believe in this city – I believe in Ann Arbor. And I have a passion and I care very deeply about the future of this city. I care about our collective future and what our future is going to look like. I believe in certain things and will get into them as I answer the questions later on. But I believe in reasonable growth in the city, to be able to look to economic stability and the future of our city. I believe in regional leadership.

I believe in transportation and mass transit. I believe in bringing business into the city. I believe in protecting our city and keeping our city safe, and keeping our children safe.

I believe that partnerships should be developed with the city, whether they are to help benefit our city or benefit the region in general. I’m sure we’ll get into more later, but I just saw my [timekeeping] sign go up.

Anglin’s opening

Welcome to the citizens of Ann Arbor and thank you to the League of Women Voters for having us here this night for this brief debate.

When we look at the principles that guide the city, the health, safety and welfare of the city should be a primary umbrella that we put over all the issues that we face as a city. And in light of that through my experience on the city council for the last four years, I have used that as a guiding principle. And that principle is to have those as the guides for every decision that I make.

And at times my decisions have not been with the majority of people on council, but I think they have expressed a strong rational minority position that many people do agree with. I’m a business owner, so I know the business, the obstacles that the business community affects and I have also been in the public sector. So using that experience I bring to council.

How would you improve communication?

Question: [The LWV moderator referred to an article reporting that most Ann Arborites are still not following a new city ordinance that mandates stopping at crosswalks when pedestrians are present.] Taking this only as an example, would you please explain how the population is to know what laws have been passed or changed or what decisions have been made, without communication from the city to its citizens? What will you, as a member of the Ann Arbor city council, do to improve this?

By way of additional background, the pedestrian ordinance in question was given final approval at the council’s July 19, 2010 meeting. A further revision to the new ordinance was prompted on that evening of deliberations by a suggestion from Marcia Higgins (Ward 4). She suggested replacing somewhat vague language (“yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield,”) with the clearer directive to motorists to “stop and yield.”

Pedestrian safety traffic controls have been an ongoing issue at one intersection located in Ward 5, at Seventh and Washington streets. Upon installation of a traffic island and sign, motorists initially tended to drive right over the island and the sign. In recent months, reports of the sign’s recurring demise have ceased.

Anglin on communication

I think there’s many means that the citizens can use to find out information about the city, and I think the most important one is the money that you all spend as taxpayers on the television, the CTN [Community Television Network, which broadcasts many public meetings], and as well as the city website. Going to that will often keep you informed as to what the city has been doing.

In addition, if you were to watch the council meetings – I know they are very interesting, I attend them all the time – and I’m sure that if other people continue to watch them, they will find that they’ll learn the characters, they’ll learn the issues relatively quickly. And I think that’s the most important way that the message goes out, including the newspapers. I would not go into a crosswalk unless I made eye contact with the driver. I would caution people that while we get this new law, be cautious about it.

Elyakin on communication

Yes, thank you. I believe communication is the foundation of how we operate as a city. I believe that having excellent communication skills and excellent customer-service skills is what the city should be about. And I use the word “excellent” purposefully. I believe that looking at enhancing the website – it is a little difficult to wade through that website sometimes to find things. I believe in looking at customer-service training for people who work in our city and for our city, as well as for city councilmembers. I believe it’s never too late to have some professional development in being able to be a good communicator.

I do agree that sometimes communication is a lack in the city. And I believe that some people feel as if the city doesn’t communicate at all with them. I believe that having ward-level meetings using social media – you know, this is the 21st century. We’ve got to look at new ways to be able to communicate with all of our residents.

Does the DDA benefit the city?

Question: What is the role of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority? Would you please explain its relationship with the city council and with the Ann Arbor citizens. Are the DDA members volunteers or paid? How are they chosen? Who’s in charge? Is the DDA a net benefit to the community?

By way of additional background, the Ann Arbor DDA has been the focus of heavy Chronicle coverage over the last year, including recent months. One reason for that focus is the recently renewed contract between the city and the DDA, under which the DDA manages the city’s public parking system. That’s a contract that was negotiated in public view for over the last year and finally ratified in May 2011.

However, the DDA’s raison d’être is not to administer the public parking system, but rather to make “public improvements that have the greatest impact in strengthening the downtown area and attracting new private investments.” The streetscape improvements that are currently nearing completion on Fifth and Division in downtown Ann Arbor are one example of the kind of projects the DDA can undertake.

The funding mechanism for those improvements is tax increment finance (TIF) capture in the downtown district. In broad strokes, the taxes on an increment – between the initial value of a property and the value after new construction – are captured by the DDA, instead of being distributed to the authorities that levy the taxes. Those taxing authorities include the city of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor District Library, Washtenaw County and Washtenaw Community College.

This spring, city staff noticed that the ordinance establishing the Ann Arbor DDA provides a kind of cap on the amount of taxes that the DDA is allowed to capture in its TIF district. Up to this point, that cap had not been observed. When that aspect of the ordinance was highlighted, it resulted in a repayment by the DDA of over $400,000 to other taxing authorities. That repayment could increase, depending on how the ordinance is interpreted. [See Chronicle coverage: "Column: Tax Capture is a Varsity Sport"] The newly observed cap, plus the conditions of the new parking agreement  – which call for transferring 17% of gross public parking revenues to the city of Ann Arbor – have put the DDA under considerable financial stress.

DDA board members are nominated to four-year terms by the mayor, and must be confirmed by the city council.

Elyakin on the DDA

Downtown Development Authority. I believe that the Downtown Development Authority has been around since the early ’80s. I have not looked into the history of it, but I do believe that it serves an enormous function in the city – in looking at how we develop our city and how we look at the importance of development in our city. The fact that the DDA operates the parking lots or the parking structures is a small part of what they do – and I believe that we get caught up in a little controversy, without looking at the larger issue.

And one of the larger issues that the DDA can help the city with is the idea of reasonable, intentional, measured, future-oriented growth of the city. We can do that without losing the small town sense of what Ann Arbor is. But we have to work together. Again, going back to communication, going back to how we communicate between the authority and the city council and the rest of the city.

Anglin on the DDA

The DDA, its mission is to promote businesses and economic development within their geographical area. When the council did establish the DDA, they turned the parking lots, which is city assets, over to them. And in return they run them for the city, giving us $2 million a year plus about 16% of the revenues. [Editor's note: The DDA was not assigned responsibility for the city's parking system until 1992, 10 years after it was established. The new contract calls for a transfer of 17% of gross revenues to the city. In the prior contract, there was a provision for a "meter rent" payment of up to $2 million per year.]

What the public needs to know is that all new building that takes place in the DDA area is subject to a TIF – tax increment financing – so the amount of money that is collected in the DDA area for additional taxes stays with the DDA for future projects that they have. And from that, the TIF is actually taken from education – Washtenaw Community College – things that we support as a community. So in turn while we develop our downtown, we are also developing a base of a different type of government, a non-elected government.

City parkland

Question: As a member of the Ann Arbor city council, how would you view and manage parkland? Are parks available for lease or sale as needed? Also, what are your thoughts on the quality of park safety and maintenance? How important is that, and whose responsibility is it?

Anglin on parks

I serve on the parks advisory commission and have since I have been on city council for the last four years. I think the running of the parks and the safety that exists in the parks is outstanding. We passed as a city, our idea was to not sell parkland. [Editor's note: This is a reference to a city charter amendment, passed in 2008, stipulating that the sale of parks would be subject to a vote of the general electorate.] Now, part of that agreement that we made with the public was not to sell the parkland, but also “reuse” I think might have been implied in that vote that the people did take. So I am not one wanting to repurpose the parks for other reasons.

I think if it is done, that has to go to a vote of the people. And we have seen that happen with the Huron Hills Golf Course this year. We have seen it happen with Argo Pond. And now are seeing it happen at Fuller Park also. [Editor's note: What Anglin means by "we have seen that happen" is not that voters have weighed in on the sale or reuse of a park. Rather, these are cases in which some residents felt the city was moving effectively to sell parkland, without putting the question before voters.]

So I would be very hesitant about moving forward with that, because it does contribute so much to the community’s health through recreation and things of that sort – relaxation and a thing of beauty. We’re very lucky to have our parks. It has taken all these years to develop them.

Elyakin on parks

Thank you. I love our parks. I was so excited to see West Park reopen. It’s in our ward – it’s a beautiful, beautiful park, and it looks beautiful now. I encourage you all to go out and visit West Park. But that’s not the only park we have. My children used to go and walk around the neighborhood and go down to Mixtwood Park and hang out in a little tiny – I guess some people call it a pocket park. It’s a very small park, right in the neighborhood – it’s lovely. People are always there walking their dogs past it. [Editor's note: Mixtwood Pomona is a lesser-known park: Google Map provided by city of Ann Arbor of all city parks]

It’s right near a few homes, and the parents are always out watching the kids. The parks are our treasures – we should protect our parks. We should keep them for as long as we can possibly keep them. In tough economic times – and people will say this – everything needs to be on the table. And I understand that everything needs to be on the table in tough economic times. But I would love to be able to protect all of our parks in perpetuity, if we can.

Fuller Road Station

Question: Some very well-situated Ann Arbor parkland is being considered for the Fuller Road Station, which right now looks to be a very large parking structure on Fuller Road. The primary occupier of the proposed space is the University of Michigan. Please explain the current status of the Fuller Road Station project to our viewers and your arguments for or against its continued development.

By way of additional background, the introduction of the Fuller Road Station concept to the public can be traced at least as far back as January 2009, when the city’s transportation program manager, Eli Cooper, presented a concept drawing at a meeting of neighbors at Northside Grill. At the time, the city was trying to encourage the University of Michigan to reconsider its plans to build parking structures on Wall Street.

The city’s strategy was to get the university to consider building its planned parking structures on the city-owned parking lot, just south of Fuller Road, near the intersection with East Medical Center Drive. It would allow the university to participate in the city’s hoped-for transit station at that location. The university has leased that parking lot from the city since 1993.

The transit station is envisioned as directly serving east-west commuter rail passengers. A day-trip demonstration service that was to launch in October 2010 never materialized. But a recent announcement earlier this year, that some federal support for high-speed rail track improvements would be forthcoming, has shored up hopes by many people in the community that the east-west rail connection could become a reality.

The council has already approved some expenditures directly related to the project. It voted unanimously on Aug. 17, 2009 to approve $213,984 of city funds for an environmental study and site assessment. Of that amount, $104,742 was appropriated from the economic development fund. Per the city charter, as a budget appropriation, the measure required eight votes. Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) were recorded as absent at that meeting, leaving only nine councilmembers in attendance. If Anglin had been able to persuade one other colleague on the council to vote with him against the expenditures, that part of the project would not have gone forward that evening. However, Anglin voted with the other eight councilmembers to approve the expenditure.

On Nov. 5, 2009, on separate votes, the council approved additional money for the environmental study and site assessment and to authorize a memorandum of understanding with the University of Michigan. Anglin was among the councilmembers who voted unanimously to approve those resolutions.

The controversy on the project involves the status of the land where the proposed Fuller Road Station would be located. It’s designated as parkland, but formally zoned as public land (PL). In summer 2010, the possible uses for land zoned as PL were altered by the council, on recommendation from the city planning commission, explicitly to include transportation facilities. Any long-term use agreement with the university is seen by many as tantamount to a sale of parkland. A sale should, per the city charter, be put to a vote of the people.

The city’s park advisory commission, on which Anglin serves as an ex-officio member, has expressed some objections to the project, and has asked that the advisory body be kept informed as the project moves along.

Elyakin on Fuller Road Station

As I said in my opening statements, I truly believe in mass transit and public transportation. I believe that the city of Ann Arbor will only be enhanced by an enhanced transportation system – a regional transportation system that includes transportation hubs throughout the city that allows people into and out of the city in an easy way. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could go from the city out to another area of our county to spend the day without using our vehicles, without engaging in a – increasing our carbon footprint? [Editor's note: A countywide transit master plan has been adopted by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which is working to expand bus and other transit services throughout Washtenaw County. The master plan includes development of east-west rail service.]

I believe that the Fuller Transit Center is situated for the future to be a great resource to our city in bringing people into the city, allowing people to leave the city. I believe that with the right level of support and with the regional future looking, I think we could do a really, really good job in expanding our transportation system in the city and in the region.

Anglin on Fuller Road Station

When this was first thought of years ago, back as early as ’06, the city was starting to take appraisals on that property. So this has been around for some time – this idea of either the university purchasing it, etcetera.

I like to explain it as we have a four-page document in front of us. The first two pages deal with the university’s parking structure. Those are full. That means, they are written. The next two pages are the transit center. They are blank. On page four you are asked for your signature of approval. In your personal life, you would not sign page four unless pages three and four were filled in. That’s where we are now.

There are promises, there are hopes, but the money isn’t there. So I would recommend that we move cautiously. We do have a train now, it services us to Chicago, and there will be improvements on the trains. I would put my money more on the AATA as we expand.

Downtown: Design Review Board

Question: Recent proposals for a private university dormitory – The Varsity at Ann Arbor – were presented to a new city design review board. Can you tell us and your viewers your thoughts on the purpose and function of this new entity? For example, are members paid or volunteers? Are they decision-making or advisory? What are your thoughts on the contribution the design review board makes to the city.

By way of additional background, the design review board (DRB) was established at the council’s June 6, 2011 meeting. Review by the DRB of new projects in the downtown area will come prior to a developer’s meeting with nearby residents for each project. The meeting with residents is already required as part of the city’s citizen participation ordinance. While the DRB process is required, conformance with the recommendations of that body is voluntary.

Anglin on the Design Review Board

Since I’ve been on council, one of most important things we’ve been trying to do, led by council member Marcia Higgins, was to work out new zoning for the city, which we have spent a great deal of time on, with a great deal of citizen participation. We now know what we want our downtown to look like – at least we know zoning-wise what we’d like it to look like.

As part of that, there was concern that should we have a mandatory or voluntary design review board. And this was mostly brought up by the architects and engineers and city planners, and these are all volunteers who give their time to Ann Arbor for that purpose. The developer enters freely into this discussion, and therefore starts to receive an idea of how we are going to proceed, what is expected of them, before they go through a process and find out to their chagrin that other things were expected of them and they’re disappointed and so are we.

Elyakin on the Design Review Board

Yes, thank you. I was talking with a resident a while back, who was complaining that he was trying to repair something on his house. And he kept getting information that was contradictory from various different people when he called the city. And was complaining. And one of the things that struck me as he was talking to me was, wouldn’t it be great if the city had a manual, a brochure, something that they could give out to people when they purchase property in the city so that they know what is expected of them. The design review board is what that is.

It allows our developers, it allows people who are coming in to come up with ideas for the city, to know in advance what we are expecting, to know in advance what the outcomes are going to be, to know in advance, so that no surprises are going to come up. I think it’s a great idea. I applaud the volunteers who work with it. I applaud the idea.

Why you?

Question: What qualities and accomplishments make you the better council member for Ward 5? You’re running against an incumbent (or as an incumbent). Why have you chosen to do that? What advantages would you bring?

Elyakin on why he’s challenging

Okay. I am a challenger. I’m running against a very nice fellow here, who has been in office for four years as a councilmember. My opinion is that I can represent the ward and be a responsible city councilmember who is very pro-Ann Arbor, working for the future of the city in very positive ways.

I support regional transportation. I support a dense downtown. I support possibilities based on futures for our city. I believe I can be very well-prepared when sitting at the council table to make decisions that are thoughtful, that are future-oriented, that help the city move forward in real and intentional, productive ways.

Anglin on why he’s earned another term

During the past four years, I have been very heavily involved in ward issues of all kinds, supportive of taking phone calls and working with people for some of their smallest items that they bring forward.

We deal with issues, we get phone calls about barking dogs, we get phone calls about serious things like flooding conditions. We get phone calls about police protection. I think some of the most satisfying part of my service on city council is working with the residents and trying to work on their particular issues. I’ve always believed that a strong neighborhood and a strong community makes a strong town.

It’s a fabric that’s woven together and it’s very delicate. We shouldn’t alienate any citizen or make them feel that they’re not part of this city and appreciated. The more we do that, the stronger we will have a town that adheres to its fundamental principles.

What are the strengths and challenges of Ward 5?

Question: What challenges do you see as unique to the Fifth Ward? How do you propose to address them in the primary and general election campaigns, and then later as a member of the city council?

Anglin on Ward 5 specifics

The strengths of the Fifth Ward are its citizens. We get a heavy volunteerism and involvement in the city. The problems of the Fifth Ward have to do with maintaining diversity of those types of populations that live in the Fifth Ward. How do we keep the prices of things down and make the city affordable as we move forward? You can expect progress, but it comes at a price. And the price will be that people who can’t afford it may have to leave. That may not be something that we as a city want to encourage, strongly encourage.

This is a small Midwestern town with a big university with it – that’s how I view our area and the Fifth Ward. The biggest problem ecologically is the Allen Creek, and the flooding conditions, and the Gelman pollution in the Fifth Ward. All those things are serious issues which we have worked on for the last four years and continue to address council, making them more aware to the rest of council that these still exist and we need to move forward on them. [Editor's note: Allen Creek runs through the Fifth Ward – a citizens group mobilized several years ago to push for a greenway that roughly follows the creek, which now primarily flows underground through drainage pipes. A task force formed by the city in 2005 issued a report on the greenway in 2007. "Gelman pollution" refers to 1,4 dioxane underground contamination from a former Gelman Sciences manufacturing plant in Scio Township, subsequently purchased by Pall Corp. For recent Chronicle coverage of the cleanup efforts, see "Residents Frustrated by Dioxane Decision"]

Elyakin on Ward 5 Specifics

I have been a Fifth Ward resident for 26 years, first living on Maple Ridge right by West Park and now living up near Forsythe school. I have a list of things that I think resonate with me and with people that I have spoken with, as I have walked around the ward and learned more about some of the pockets of beauty that exist in our area. Our parks – we have lots of parks in the Fifth Ward and they are beautiful. I would want to save them, I would want to keep them vibrant, I would want to keep them accessible to all of our children.

The Old West Side, the homes – where Mr. Anglin lives – they’re beautiful homes. They are absolutely gorgeous. I would want to keep them in a way that benefits all of our city. The businesses on Stadium and Maple, the Maple/Jackson traffic flow – we’ve got to do something about that corner. The Jackson corridor – I would like to be able to help that Jackson Road corridor that goes out from Mallek’s out to that area. Street repairs, crosswalks – those kinds of things are important to our ward.

Closing Statements

Each candidate was given the opportunity to make a closing statement.

Elyakin’s closing

First I want to thank everyone who is here. I want to thank Mr. Anglin. I want to thank you all at the League of Women Voters and especially the people who are watching this, whether it is live now, streaming on – thank you very much, – or taped. I know that we can keep the small-town feel.

Neal Elyakin

Neal Elyakin

I know that we can keep that homey Ann Arbor attitude and still have the big-city infrastructure that attracts world-class opportunities. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t move forward, based on a shared vision of this city, one that we get through active participation of our citizenship. A few naysayers – while I applaud every person’s right to speak up and speak out – should not hold the city hostage, whether they are in the audience or sitting on council.

I believe that the city needs visionary work – people who can build a vision through collaborative cooperation and move toward it. We have serious issues out there. Michigan is not recovering quickly enough. It may never fully recover. For us to think that we can rely on anyone but ourselves and our partnerships that we can build and attract to keep this city vibrant. I am running now because I believe my skills in thinking creatively about the future, my skills and understanding and working with a diverse set of people will be crucial on the city council as we move ahead in these uncertain economic times, developing new revenue ideas and expanding our regional approach as needed, to keep Ann Arbor thriving economically.

We need a future economy here in Ann Arbor that supports job creation and economic growth, so our kids can plan on building their future here. I would love it if my daughter, who starts college next year, could decide to relocate back to Ann Arbor, when she is done with college. We need to have those opportunities for the next generation so we don’t lose them to other places.

Anglin’s closing

My time on city council is limited, like all of us who serve in the public for the public.


Mike Anglin

Keep in mind that our town is a combination of 150 years of others like myself and Mr. Elyakin, who are serious about making this town wonderful – we are just part of it. And as we move forward to the challenges that are particular to our time, to approach those challenges with openness and with a great deal of discussion amongst the community as to how we should move forward, rather than timelines guide us, decisions should be made based upon good fact and good information. And I see that happening all the time in Ann Arbor. I am very pleased with the things we do.

I live here, I love the town. I have been very happy since 1992 when I came here, and my family has prospered here, and I have made many friends. In the past four years I have made more friends. I’m surprised there are so many people I meet in the community who I respect a great deal, and they are as passionate about their town as the people who are elected officials. And I feel that I am just their voice, trying to listen to them, the business community, the judicial community, police department, so many different factors come into it, many of which I was not aware of when I started council.

I’ve served on almost every commission there is in the city – one that even spoke of regional cooperation, which is the most difficult thing we have here in Michigan – cooperating regionally. These are goals that we are always striving toward, and as time goes by, maybe we will get closer to them. But again, it’s a process, and I’m pleased with what the present council has done, and I am very proud of the city, and I thank the League of Women Voters and others who have given us this opportunity.

[Word Cloud Note: Cloud 1 is Elyakin. Cloud 2 is Anglin.]

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of elections to public bodies like the Ann Arbor city council. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!


  1. By Mark Koroi
    July 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm | permalink

    Mike Anglin is receiving plenty of support from heavy hitters locally including Jeff Irwin, Lynn Rivers, Vivienne Armentrout, and Yousef Rabhi – all of whom have served either in Congress, State House, or the County Commission.

    Mike did a god job at the debates but it is important that Fifth Warders go out to vote on August 2nd.

  2. July 21, 2011 at 10:47 am | permalink

    As Mark Koroi states, I am supporting Mike Anglin. But my concern about this debate goes beyond that to Mr. Elyakin’s statement:

    “A few naysayers – while I applaud every person’s right to speak up and speak out – should not hold the city hostage, whether they are in the audience or sitting on council.”

    First of all, I’d like to know when the city has been held hostage by a few naysayers. Could he be speaking of the Heritage Row and Moravian PUD projects? Those were blocked because they failed to get enough votes on council. Of course there was very vigorous public participation on both sides of those issues, but ultimately the council made those decisions based on city ordinances.

    There have been a number of other instances when there was vigorous public comment, but the council voted to uphold a measure or project regardless of opposition.

    Is he speaking of the fact that a minority of members currently sitting on council have occasionally gained sufficient support from their colleagues to prevail, as in the case of those two development projects? But surely that is the legislative process. Is he asking that all council action be unanimous and free of dissent?

    Despite his disclaimer, it appears that Mr. Elyakin dislikes any departure from the Council Party line, whether from the public or on council.

    As to Mr. Anglin’s sole vote against the 5th avenue parking structure, in hindsight that doesn’t appear to have been so wild-eyed as all that. We don’t know its ultimate effect, but the financial costs and disruption it has incurred have been notable. There was no “robust public process” to consider the use of that area, and it appears from my perspective that the now terminated conference center and hotel project were an underlying motivation, given the money spent to harden the surface for development. Whether I am correct or not, surely we benefit as a community for having some dissenting voices rather than quashing all debate.

  3. July 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm | permalink

    I may have caused confusion by referring to Heritage Row, the Monrovian, and the 5th Avenue parking structure in my comment. None of them were specifically mentioned in the debate as reported. They are merely examples of dissent and process that I chose to illustrate my point.

  4. July 21, 2011 at 1:22 pm | permalink

    “One criticism of Anglin that has begun to trickle through Ward 5 is that Anglin, in his nearly four years of service on the council, has simply registered dissent without successfully getting traction at the council table to convert his position into the majority that’s needed to affect an outcome on policy issues.”

    Seriously? You wrote about alleged rumors that are “trickling through” Ward 5? You included this in chronicle coverage of an event? No names. Just…criticism that “trickles?” No criticisms of Mr. Elyakin “trickling through” Ward 5? That’s odd: I’ve heard some very interesting trickles over and over.

    Oh, and as for your assertion that there is little direct criticism in League debates: John Hieftje spent a good deal of time attacking the candidates who ran in 2010 as “inexperienced” and as a “slate.” I would say that’s pretty direct criticism, and pretty clearly hypocritical considering neither Hohnke nor Taylor served on a city board or commission before running for Council with Hieftje’s help.

    In 2008, Hieftje stood up and called Stew Nelson a liar in the middle of a public candidate forum. In 2009, Leigh Greden criticized both of his opponents directly at multiple candidate events. Chris Taylor criticized Steve Kunselman directly at the League debate, as well. Your site chronicled several of these events.

    Either write columns, op-eds, or chronicle, but sticking in “trickles of rumors” about one candidate is political coverage that does a disservice to the community, and to the candidates. Somehow overlooking the fact that the Mayor and several Council Majority candidates have run nasty campaigns during which they routinely attacked their opponents during League debates (often with the help of the local press), is revisionist history.

  5. July 21, 2011 at 2:13 pm | permalink

    Re: [4] “Seriously? You wrote about alleged rumors that are “trickling through” Ward 5?”

    Patricia, this is not presented as a rumor, but rather as a criticism that has been heard made of Mike Anglin by residents I’ve talked to, and reflected in Elyakin’s remarks at the forum. If you’ve not heard this criticism, and do not understand its basis, then you should consider expanding the circle of those you interact with. What’s interesting to me is that while some Anglin supporters are frustrated with his inability to get any traction with the rest of the council and to do the hard political and research work necessary to get that traction, they’re also still inclined to vote for him, based on a general sense that he’s more on their side than anyone else could be.

    Further, by quoting “trickles of rumors” in your comment, you leave the inaccurate impression that this quote is taken from the article. It’s not.

    It’s fine to be disappointed that the facts in the article do not all reflect positively on the candidate you’re supporting and who has supported you in your own political initiatives. But in the future, it’s probably a good idea to include in your commentary the fact that you’re a supporter of Anglin.

  6. By Jack Eaton
    July 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm | permalink

    As a frequent naysayer, I’d like to follow up on Vivienne’s comments. This Council doesn’t need less dissent, it needs more. Conducting business by private email during public meetings, using closed sessions improperly, and pretending that City Attorney “advice memos” are not legal opinions which the City Charter requires to be disclosed are just a few examples of Council activity that needs more vigorous dissenting voices.

    When Mike Anglin speaks up against the Council majority position, he is giving voice to those in his Ward and the rest of the City who believe that Democracy requires more that going along to get along. If his opponent believes that disagreeing with bad ideas is the equivalent of holding the city hostage, he misunderstands the role of robust discourse in a healthy democracy.

    Mike’s opponent does not say whether he opposed the downtown conference center. He will only say that the process was flawed. If we adopt a new process that excludes those pesky naysayers, would he then approve of the results? The naysayers protected the city coffers from a dangerous financial entanglement with a seriously flawed project.

    Other naysayers protested the re-purposing of Huron Hill Golf Course for the benefit of a private business. Others clamor to enforce the City’s master plan’s goal of protecting near-downtown neighborhoods. Does he wish them all to be unsuccessful in these efforts?

    Mr. Elyakin’s willingness to fall in line with the other go-along-to-get-along votes on Council is reason enough to vote for Mike Anglin.

  7. By Jack Eaton
    July 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm | permalink

    Re [5] “Further, by quoting “trickles of rumors” in your comment, you leave the inaccurate impression that this quote is taken from the article. It’s not.”

    I think her use of the phrase “trickles of rumors” is meant to refer to the lack of any attribution to the underlying criticism. If the trickle had been attributed to someone, it would have been actual criticism rather than just rumor.

  8. July 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm | permalink


    Name the sources. That’s reporting. What you did is selective character assassination.

    A few months ago, Marcia Higgins blurted out at a Council meeting that the new, unpopular, bag-your-leaves policy was a “pilot program” and that if people were unhappy with it, it could be dropped. Sue McCormick corrected Ms. Higgins. What the exchange showed was that Marcia Higgins clearly thought she’d voted on a pilot program, not a permanent change. She didn’t know what she was doing. Her response to McCormick’s correction was a startled, “Oh!” Oh? What she meant to say was,
    “I voted for this because I thought it was a pilot program. I was mistaken.” She didn’t have the integrity to do that. She wanted to cover up her mistake more than represent her constituents honestly.

    Single-stream recycling did not increase recycling; it increased collections slightly. Collections is not recycling. In that case, all of them voted like environmental no-nothings. Let’s talk about that.

    You and your site wanna to take a Council member up for re-election to task for admitting he was unprepared, knock yourself out, but don’t pretend you’re just “giving the facts, Ma’am.” You’re not, unless you take them all to task. It needs to be done, and in minute detail. Your piece was disappointing because you didn’t stick to the facts; you included rumors and heresay.

    I am friends with Mike Anglin, yep. However, we had a chat recently in which I made it clear because of expanding to include more reporting, I would never again be able to give him money, endorse him, or support his campaigns. I also skipped Jeff Irwin’s great party Burgers at Bellwood, and Ray Detter’s big get together, as well. We have too many media folks in this town who are way too enamored of rubbing elbows with their politico neighbors, Facebook friends and pals. The quality of the political news coverage suffers because of it.

    Our community deserves better; buttons that urge people to vote won’t increase the pathetic voter turnout that has turned Ann Arbor into what someone in a comment on A2Politico once referred to as a Stalinist, one party system and has turned in Pravda. The viewpoint is a bit extreme, but I think we’re all bright enough to get the drift.

  9. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 22, 2011 at 6:35 am | permalink

    “A few naysayers – while I applaud every person’s right to speak up and speak out – should not hold the city hostage, whether they are in the audience or sitting on council.”

    Oh spare me. It’s called democracy–something you might not be that familiar with being so in lockstep with The Mayor and his Greek chorus of YES YES YES supporters on Council. Sounds like you have no place on Council Mr. Elyakin. And, from the veiled punch at Mike Anglin here (rumors indeed!) I thought you had returned to the ‘fair and balanced’ days of Judy McGovern and her political reporting that was such a trademark of your early days. What next–is the Chronicle going to follow Anglin around as he canvasses in the 5th Ward and run a piece a few days before the election ala Ryan Stanton? Lol.

  10. By Libby Hunter
    July 22, 2011 at 7:38 am | permalink

    This writing (including Mr. Askin’s comment) is not a report. It reads as an editorial, and should be labeled as such.

  11. By Marvin Face
    July 22, 2011 at 7:56 am | permalink

    Oh my gosh. Are we going to hear from the ENTIRE peanut gallery now?
    /apparently so.

  12. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 22, 2011 at 9:24 am | permalink

    Maybe this is the real story here:

    “Mike Anglin is receiving plenty of support from heavy hitters locally including Jeff Irwin, Lynn Rivers, Vivienne Armentrout, and Yousef Rabhi – all of whom have served either in Congress, State House, or the County Commission.”

    So why are these ‘heavy hitters’ not on board with a candidate the Mayor has hand picked to knock off Anglin? Is there a split between these folks and…the Mayor’s buddies on Council? I don’t know but am curious and it would make an intriguing story.

  13. July 22, 2011 at 10:21 am | permalink

    I think readers of this story would benefit from being directed to the campaign websites of each candidate. I did not see them referenced here.

    Neal Elyakin:

    Mike Anglin:

    Mr. Elyakin has recently been endorsed by council member Sandi Smith and was also endorsed by former council members Joan Lowenstein and Wendy Woods, as well as former candidates Ned Staebler and David Nacht. He has also been endorsed by rising Democratic star Jocelyn Benson and County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum.

    I was surprised to see the length and extent of Mike Anglin’s endorsements, which include many prominent citizens such as Jean Ledwith King, Matt Grocoff, Al Gallup, Alan Connor, Peter Eckstein, Shannon Brines, former council member Bob Johnson, and AADL board member Nancy Kaplan. (And many others who have appeared at council meetings and served on boards, presumably in an effort to hold the city hostage.)

    Neither candidate has been endorsed by the Mayor or any sitting council member except by Ms. Smith.

  14. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 22, 2011 at 10:52 am | permalink

    “Neither candidate has been endorsed by the Mayor or any sitting council member except by Ms. Smith.”

    So another question is why did Sabra Briere support Mr. Anglin in 2009 and contrbute to his campaign but not so in 2011?

  15. July 22, 2011 at 11:01 am | permalink

    In my opinion, sitting members of council or any other body are wisest to stay out of primaries for their colleagues.

  16. By Alan Goldsmith
    July 22, 2011 at 11:08 am | permalink

    Wise perhaps, but not any Profiles in Courage.

  17. By Gustav Cappaert
    July 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm | permalink

    I’m supporting Neal, and helping him in his campaign. That said, My comment should be recognized as my own opinion.

    I am saddened by the assumption that to be an independent voice on City Council, an official must not be on the “Mayor’s Team.” I do not understand why politics in a city of a little over 100,000 must be reduced to the same simplistic terms that often characterize the national debate.

    Why does supporting reasonable development make someone a sell-out? Why does suggesting that someone build something where the library lot provoke so much ire? When the RFP went out for the library lot, I believe that the only offers were for hotel/conference centers.

    The City Council agrees on over 95% of the things they decide on. Prudent city government has kept Ann Arbor from the worst throes of nationwide recession. Let’s keep things in perspective and realize that city council members do not have the time, energy, or self interest to be involved in the sinister cabals that so many people imagine.

  18. July 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm | permalink

    Re: ” When the RFP went out for the library lot, I believe that the only offers were for hotel/conference centers.”

    Gustav, it’s true that the two finalist proposals were for hotel/conference centers. But the city received a total of six responses, one of which was a community commons and another of which was essentially a park-like amenity. Also included in the mix was a proposal for senior housing. Here’s some coverage from early 2010 that includes a description of the review committee’s assessment of the six proposals: [link]

  19. By Gustav Cappaert
    July 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm | permalink


    Thanks for the correction, which is a good reminder that
    progress-for-progress’ sake is not a good way forward. I’m not sure how the process could be revised, but I’m sure that there is a compromise between a large public park, which costs the city money, and a revenue-generating highrise monolith.


  20. By cosmonıcan
    July 22, 2011 at 7:12 pm | permalink

    “Revenue-generating”? I don’t think so.

  21. By Mark Koroi
    July 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm | permalink

    “The rising Democratic star Jocelyn Benson” lost in a landslide in 2010 for secretary of state. Also there is nothing “local” about her. She lives and works near downtown Detroit and is 75 miles from Ann Arbor and wonder why she would even care to give an endorsement to Elyakin, or how well she is acquianted with him. I suspect that her endorsement arises from political connections within the Democratic Party, probably someone like Joan Lowenstein or Hannan Lis, that Elyakin had that landed for him an impressive-looking endorsement political endorsement from young Ms.Benson. The Wendy Woods endorsement likely springs from her defeat at the hands of Anglin by a shockingly large margin in the 2007 Democratic Fith Ward City Council primary with Woods possibly trying to see the tables turned on Anglin.

    A large number of Elyakin supporters (e.g. Joan Lowenstein and Larry Kestenbaum) do not only not live in his ward and, ergo, cannot vote for him, but many like Florine Mark actually live outside Washtenaw County.

  22. July 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm | permalink

    Re #21:

    Jocelyn Benson is admired by many and her defeat in 2010 could easily be explained by the general Democratic rout. She is again very active in statewide politics. I’m sure that she was prevailed upon by a supporter to endorse Elyakin without any particular knowledge of the local issues. I would support her in a future statewide race.

  23. July 22, 2011 at 9:48 pm | permalink

    Mr. Askins you surely know the facts about the Fuller Park Garage.

    The facts are the the title of the resolution was changed and memo attached written to obviascate, no hide, the fact that this is a vote to start the garage. Even the Goalonggang can’t keep on script when it leaked out in a statement by Mr. Derizenski before the vote that ‘this was a backdoor attempt to stop the [garage in a city park]‘.

    This is just one example of a multitude.

    Mike was doing the right, and difficult thing, in go against this hiding of the real intent of the resolution and the garage. Very disappointed in Sabra’s obviously uninformed comments.

    I was told by a council member at a Fuller Park Garage meeting that the mayor was told by federal elected officials that day not to call this a garage or no federal funds would be available.

    Clearly a shell game.

    Work with the facts, Mr. Askins, not with innuendo and off hand comments. This seems more of an editorial then a chronicle.

    Vote August 2nd, and vote for MIKE, he’s watching out for the rest of us.

  24. By sally m
    July 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm | permalink

    Dave Askins, please explain this word cloud thing.

  25. July 23, 2011 at 9:24 pm | permalink

    Re: [24] ” … please explain this word cloud thing.”

    Word clouds are a way of representing the relative frequency of words in a chunk of text (in this case the transcript of words spoken by each candidate) by giving higher-frequency words greater visual prominence. These clouds were generated using, which offers various options for choice of font, color and layout. offers some very limited flexibility for the analysis itself, like excluding naturally occurring high-frequency words from the analysis (e.g., a, the, he, it, …) and setting the limit on the number of words used to make the cloud. I chose to exclude high-frequency words and to use just the 100 most frequent words for the cloud.

    It would be ideal, for example, to be able to demand that the analysis treat phrases as words. As a specific example, it would be nice to have “Ann Arbor” or “city council” grouped as a single “word” for this purpose. It’d also be nice to group all forms of a single word into one (go, going, gone, gonna). But that’s not a feature offered by

    Why do this? As I listened to the candidates, Neal Elyakin opened with a series of “I believe …” statements. It made me wonder how frequently “believe” showed up in his talk, and I wanted to have something more objective than simply my impression. Two years ago, when Michael Ford was interviewing for the job as CEO of the AATA, it struck me that he said “people” an awful lot, so we generated a cloud for coverage of his interview.

  26. By Lou Glorie
    July 24, 2011 at 1:04 am | permalink

    Hey Dave what’s with the “or so” being in (parenthesis)? Are you winking at us (you sly fox you)? Or is it that you’ve always been winking at us (and we just were afraid) to wink back. Well I’m winking back Dave. This is a very, very funny (piece).