For about 90 minutes on Saturday morning, the four Democratic candidates for Ann Arbor mayor answered questions on a wide range of topics at a mayoral forum hosted by the Ann Arbor Democratic Party.
Clockwise from upper left: Sabra Briere, Christopher Taylor, Stephen Kunselman and Sally Petersen.
The candidates all currently serve on city council: Sabra Briere (Ward 1), Sally Petersen (Ward 2), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3).
Questions touched on affordable housing, downtown development, factions on city council, relationships with the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, an assessment of Ann Arbor SPARK, non-motorized transit, commuter rail, and the role of the mayor.
Candidates were also asked to say something nice about each of their opponents – and they did. When Taylor answered the question by describing similar qualities that both Briere and Petersen shared, Briere responded by saying: “I’ve been lumped together!” Distinguishing themselves from the other candidates was a challenge they all faced. The sharpest contrast came when Kunselman said if elected mayor, he would ask Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, to step down from the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board, calling the two roles a “conflict of commitment.” The other three candidates disagreed with Kunselman’s view on that.
Briere stressed her listening skills, problem-solving approach and independence, pointing to specific examples of her work on council. “It doesn’t bother me at all that we have factions, but I’m really resistant to joining one,” she said.
Petersen highlighted her experience in the private, nonprofit and public sectors, saying that this gives her a fresh perspective and skills as the city is on the cusp of growth. She pointed to her work toward developing an economic strategy for the city, and said she’d prioritize improving relations with the University of Michigan.
Kunselman told the audience he’d represent the working class, and stressed that he’s the only candidate with policies and politics that differ from the current mayor, John Hieftje, and from Hieftje’s supporters. “I’m offering you a choice of someone that is not in that camp,” he said.
Taylor, in contrast, thinks that the city is on the right track, though he’d work to improve basic services. He also repeatedly pointed to priorities for affordable housing, parks, and efforts to reduce the impact of climate change.
This report includes written summaries of the candidates’ responses, as well as audio clips from The Chronicle’s live broadcast of the event, which was held at the Ann Arbor Community Center. Several other forums are planned in the coming weeks, leading up to the Aug. 5 primary. There are no Republicans running for mayor this year. So far one independent candidate, Bryan Kelly, has taken out petitions. [Full Story]