The Ann Arbor Chronicle » Chuck Warpehoski it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bryson Won’t Campaign for Ward 5 Council Fri, 20 Jun 2014 20:38:54 +0000 Chronicle Staff In a press release emailed on June 20, 2014, Leon Bryson has announced that he will no longer be a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination in the Ward 5 city council primary on Aug. 5, 2014. Bryson had submitted the necessary 100 signatures to qualify for the ballot alongside incumbent Democrat Chuck Warpehoski, who is nearing the completion of his first two-year term on the council.

In his press release, Bryson writes: “As much as I wanted to represent you and our city, I have learned that I am not yet ready to take on this position. As I campaigned for office, it became clear to me that I needed to know more about city issues and local politics in order to serve residents in the most effective way.” Bryson also indicates in his press release that he’ll be returning monetary campaign contributions. He concludes his message with well wishes for Warpehoski: “I wish my opponent Councilmember Warpehoski the best, and hope that he serves the residents of the Fifth Ward and our city well.” [.pdf of Leon Bryson June 20, 2104 press release]

Bryson’s name will still appear on the Ward 5 primary ballot. Bryson’s announcement of his withdrawal came on the same day that the city clerk announced that the first wave of absentee ballots were being sent to those who had requested them. The deadline for withdrawing from the race in time to ensure that a candidate’s name does not appear on the ballot is three days after the deadline for submitting signatures – which was April 22 this year. If Bryson were to receive more votes than Warpehoski, he would still be declared the winner of the election.

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Council, Mayor Primary Election Lineups Set Wed, 23 Apr 2014 02:13:37 +0000 Dave Askins The 4 p.m. deadline for filing petitions to appear on the ballot in Ann Arbor’s city primary elections passed today with no surprises, but a bit of suspense. All candidates who took out petitions and intended to file them did so and the clerk’s office was able to verify sufficient signatures for all candidates. The primary elections will be held on Aug. 5, 2014.

Samuel McMullen turned in supplemental signatures to qualify for the Ward 3 city council ballot. He'll be contesting the open Ward 3 seat with Julie Grand and possibly Bob Dascola.

Samuel McMullen turned in supplemental signatures to qualify for the Ward 3 city council ballot on April 22. He’ll be contesting the open Ward 3 seat with Julie Grand and possibly Bob Dascola.

Council candidates must collect 100 signatures from voters registered in the ward they seek to represent. Mayoral candidates need 50 signatures from each of the city’s five wards.

All candidates who filed petitions are Democrats. No Republicans took out petitions. Only one race is uncontested – in Ward 4.

Here’s a quick listing of candidates for city office. Mayor: Sabra Briere, Stephen Kunselman, Sally Petersen, Christopher Taylor. Ward 1: Sumi Kailasapathy, Don Adams, Jr. Ward 2: Nancy Kaplan, Kirk Westphal. Ward 3: Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and possibly Bob Dascola. Ward 4: Graydon Krapohl. Ward 5: Chuck Warpehoski, Leon Bryson.

The minor suspense stemmed from the fact that McMullen had fallen eight signatures short with his initial filing. But he handed in 17 supplemental signatures on April 22, about a half hour before the deadline. Those signatures gave him more than the 100 total he needed.

One independent, Bryan Kelly, took out petitions in Ward 1 – but he’s been informed by the city clerk’s office that he does not meet the one-year residency and voter registration requirements in the city charter. Kelly might become eligible, depending on the outcome of a pending lawsuit that’s been filed against the city by a would-be Ward 3 candidate, Bob Dascola.

Dascola has submitted sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot, but has also been informed that he does not meet the charter requirements on one-year residency and voter registration. The U.S. District Court is handling the case on an expedited schedule, so the matter is likely be settled before ballots are finalized in June.

As an independent, Kelly would have until July 17 to file petitions to appear on the November ballot.

Brief snapshot descriptions of all candidates except for those in Ward 1, based largely on their own remarks or campaign website descriptions, are presented in this report. [Editor's note: We've elected instead to add Ward 1 candidate information to this article, instead of creating a separate file.]


Mayor John Hieftje announced last year he would not be seeking re-election. Four candidates will be contesting the mayoral primary: Christopher Taylor, Sally Petersen, Stephen Kunselman and Sabra Briere. All currently serve on the city council.

Mayor: Christopher Taylor

Christopher Taylor was first elected to city council representing Ward 3 in 2008, having won the August Democratic primary against then-incumbent Stephen Kunselman. Taylor has not faced a challenge in a primary or general election since 2008.

Mayoral candidate: Christopher Taylor

Mayoral candidate Christopher Taylor.

Now in the concluding year of his third two-year term, Taylor will be leaving the council if he’s not elected mayor. The seat he currently represents on the city council is being contested by Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen, and possibly Bob Dascola.

At an April 16 candidate forum, which was held in the context of a public policy class taught by mayor John Hieftje at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy, Taylor described himself this way: “I came to Ann Arbor in 1985 and like many of us, for the university, and, like many of us, stayed because I ended up loving the city. I am a four-time graduate of the university, two bachelor’s degrees, degree in American history and degree in law from the law school here. I am a lawyer. I work at the law firm of Hooper Hathaway downtown, where my representation mostly focuses on local individuals and local businesses. I have, let’s see, a wife and two kids – both go to the public school at Tappan.

“I have been on city council for six years, three terms, and my service on council has been tremendous. I have enjoyed it … the problems and challenges of government are to me intrinsically interesting and I have enjoyed so much working with residents and colleagues on the problems and opportunities, problems that confront us and the opportunities that present themselves. I am running for mayor largely because I love the city. And because the city is at an important time in its history and it is, I think, critical that the next mayor have the experience, temperament and judgment to work collaboratively with residents and colleagues and staff, of course, to work to improve and maintain the quality of life for everyone in the city. It is an important place. It is a special place and it deserves that careful attention.”

Mayor: Sally Petersen

Sally Petersen is concluding her first two-year term on the Ann Arbor city council, having been elected in 2012, after winning the Democratic primary against incumbent Tony Derezinski. If Petersen is not elected mayor, she won’t remain on the council. The seat she now represents is being contested by Kirk Westphal and Nancy Kaplan.

Mayoral candidate: Sally Petersen

Mayoral candidate Sally Petersen.

At the April 16 candidate forum, Petersen described herself this way: “I moved here in the summer of ’96 from Massachusetts, which is where I grew up. I moved here with my husband, Tim, so he could attend the university at what was called the University of Michigan business school and I had a five-week-old baby at the time. … My undergrad degree is in psychology from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. I have an MBA from Harvard business school.

“So while I grew up and was educated in Massachusetts, most of my professional career has actually been in the Midwest. Between undergrad and graduate schools I worked for Cummins Engines in Columbus, Indiana, and after business school when I moved here with my husband I actually had to go back to work full time even though I had a baby, and I worked for CFI Group … and most recently in the for-profit world I worked for Health Media. In 2007 I became a stay-at-home mom. My kids were approaching middle school years, so I became very involved in the community, and … did a lot of PTSO, PTO work, and then eventually decided, after a couple of years, I would try to run for city council. And it has been a great experience.”

Mayor: Stephen Kunselman

Stephen Kunselman is in the middle of his fourth two-year term. Those terms have not been served consecutively, as he lost the 2008 Democratic primary to Christopher Taylor, after first winning election in 2006. The Democratic primary in 2006 was a three-way contest between Kunselman, Jeff Meyers and Alice Ralph.

Stephen Kunselman

Mayoral candidate Stephen Kunselman.

After his loss in 2008, Kunselman came back the following year with a successful challenge to Ward 3 incumbent Leigh Greden in the Democratic primary, which was a three-way contest that included LuAnne Bullington. Two years later, in 2011, the Ward 3 primary was again a three-way race won by Kunselman – against Ingrid Ault and Marwan Issa. And last year, in 2013, Kunselman prevailed in the primary against Julie Grand, and in the November general election against Sam DeVarti, who ran as an independent.

At the April 16 candidate forum, Kunselman described himself this way: “I was recently re-elected to my fourth term on Ann Arbor city council. I grew up in Ann Arbor, graduated from Pioneer [High School] in 1981, attended the University of Michigan, graduated with a bachelor of science in natural resources, spent the summer of ’86 working for the Ann Arbor city forestry department and in ’87 I was a driver for Recycle Ann Arbor. Went back to school, to the University of Michigan, [earned a] master’s of urban planning.

“And from about 1992 to about 2002, 2003, I worked in local government. I served as environmental planner for six years in Sumpter Township, which is in the southwest corner of Wayne County, and rose up through the ranks to township administrator, worked for seven elected officials for over ten years. And I think that is really one of the highlights of my qualifications for … mayor – that I know local government and I understand government, and I understand politicians and what we can do and what we cannot do within the limits of law. Local government is a book of rules and I think it is really important that we abide by those rules.”

Mayor: Sabra Briere

Regardless of the outcome of this election cycle, Sabra Briere will, along with Mike Anglin, have the longest tenure on the new council in November. Anglin and Briere were both first elected in 2007. Briere won the 2007 three-way primary, a race that included John Roberts and Richard Wickboldt.

Mayoral candidate: Sabra Briere

Mayoral candidate Sabra Briere.

In 2009 she wasn’t challenged in the Democratic primary and prevailed over independent Mitchell Ozog in the general election. In 2011 she did not face a challenge. And in 2013 the Democratic primary was also uncontested. She prevailed in the November general election against independent Jeff Hayner.

At the April 16 candidate forum, Briere described herself this way: “My name is Sabra Briere, I sit on city council. I have been on council since 2007.

“I am a neighborhood activist – that is what got me involved in politics and it is what I still am. I have a firm commitment to government that is from the people, not to the people. And so as a person who believes government comes from an educated and engaged populace, my task has always been to try to engage the people of Ann Arbor in what we are doing. I am still trying to do that. And it is a challenge. This is an excellent way to do it, and I thank the class hosting us and I thank all of you out there for attending this class, because I think that we should all take some public policy classes from time to time.”

Ward 1

Two candidates will be on the ballot in the August primary: incumbent Sumi Kailasapathy and Don Adams, Jr.  When we have something more than cursory information to report on Adams, we’ll report Ward 1 separately. [Editor's note: We've elected instead to add Ward 1 candidate information to this article, instead of creating a separate file.]

Ward 1: Sumi Kailasapathy

Sumi Kailasapathy is concluding her first two-year term representing Ward 1.

Ward 1 incumbent Sumi Kailasapathy

Ward 1 incumbent Sumi Kailasapathy at the council’s April 7, 2013 meeting.

She won the 2012 Democratic primary against Eric Sturgis and was not challenged in the general election. That year, Sandi Smith did not seek re-election to represent Ward 1 after serving two terms.

Kailasapathy is an accountant, and works for a downtown firm. She describes herself on her website as focusing on the basics: fiscal responsibility, funding core services, protecting parks and natural areas, supporting local public transportation, preserving neighborhood character and upholding zoning ordinances.

She has served on the city council’s audit committee both years of her service, chairing that group this year. The audit committee has become more active over the last two years, as it has met to review the city’s annual audit as well as the audited statements of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. That contrasts with 2010, when the council’s audit committee did not meet at all.

Kailasapathy’s efforts on the council have included a revision to the ordinance regulating the tax increment finance (TIF) capture of the DDA, a version of which eventually was approved by the council. Her efforts also included support for a revision of the city’s crosswalk ordinance – to remove the requirement that motorists stop for pedestrians who were standing at the curb, but not actually in the crosswalk. The crosswalk ordinance amendment was approved by the council, but subsequently vetoed by mayor John Hieftje. She also helped lead an effort to return money set aside under the city’s former Percent for Art program to the funds from which the money had originally been drawn.

Ward 1: Don Adams, Jr.

In a phone interview with The Chronicle, Don Adams Jr. described himself as originally from Detroit, having lived in Ann Arbor for the last 13 years.

Don Adams, Jr.

Don Adams Jr. (Photo provided by Adams)

Since 2005 he has worked at the Eisenhower Center, a rehabilitation facility for patients with traumatic brain injuries. He serves on the center’s board of directors, a group drawn from the employee-owners of the company, which is structured under an employee stock ownership plan. He’s completed coursework at Eastern Michigan University most recently in health administration and before that in biology, chemistry and initially in computer science. His undergraduate studies were interrupted when the car he was driving was struck by a drunk driver. He spent a year in rehabilitation for injuries to his leg and arm.

Adams serves on the executive board of the Ann Arbor Public Schools PTO Council and has for the last three years served on the PTO of Northside Elementary School, where his two daughters attend school. He described how Alena (age 7) and Ayana (age 6) joined him as he walked the ward to gather signatures for his candidate petitions.

Adams indicated that he’s running to represent Ward 1 on the city council because Ward 1 residents want accountability and collaborative government – based on the input and ideas of a lot of people. They’re not sure they’re getting that, he said, because city councilmembers seem like they’re fighting all the time. He bases his impressions of what Ward 1 voters want on his interactions with people as part of the PTO, and the local Democratic Party organization – saying that his ear is to the ground. He wants to be a voice that will work for the best interests of the ward. He said that he would schedule a regular coffee hour for Ward 1 residents on either a weekly or monthly basis – citing the coffee hours of state representative Jeff Irwin (D-53) and city councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1) as examples. “You need it, I’m doing it,” he said. “You’re my boss.”

Ward 2

The incumbent candidate for this Ward 2 seat would be Sally Petersen, but she is running for mayor. The seat open is being contested by Kirk Westphal and Nancy Kaplan.

Ward 2: Kirk Westphal

Kirk Westphal previously ran for a seat representing Ward 2 in 2013, but did not prevail in that general election contest, which was won by independent Jane Lumm – in a field that also included independent Conrad Brown.

Kirk Westphal at the March 4, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor city council

Kirk Westphal was in the audience at the March 4, 2013 meeting of the Ann Arbor city council, when the council considered a moratorium on site plans for areas of the downtown zoned D1. He serves as chair of the city planning commission.

Westphal currently serves on the city’s planning commission, having been first appointed in 2006, and is now chair of that group. He also serves as the planning commission’s representative on the city’s environmental commission.

His reappointment to the environmental commission, representing the planning commission, will be considered at the council’s May 5, 2014 meeting.

Westphal holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan and owns a business that produces video documentaries based on research and interviews, with an emphasis on urban topics. Westphal served on the leadership advisory group for the Connecting William Street study, which contemplated future use of five city-owned parcels downtown. That study, led by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, concluded in early 2013.

Westphal is married, with two sons ages 5 and 7.

Ward 2: Nancy Kaplan

Nancy Kaplan was elected to the Ann Arbor District Library board in 2012 for a term that runs through 2016.

Nancy Kaplan, Ann Arbor District Library board, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ann Arbor District Library trustee Nancy Kaplan at the Jan. 21, 2013 meeting of the AADL board.

She’s told The Chronicle that she’d resign her position on the AADL board if she were elected to the city council.

Kaplan’s press release announcing her candidacy describes the priorities of Ward 2 residents as having “well-staffed police and fire departments and well-maintained streets and parks.” Another priority that her press release describes is  ”growth that respects Ann Arbor’s community values.”

Kaplan has lived in Ann Arbor for 37 years. She is former director of the physical therapy department at Glacier Hills Retirement Community.

Her public service has also included tutoring for Washtenaw Literacy, and membership on the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy Advisory Committee.

Ward 3

Christopher Taylor would be the incumbent candidate for the Ward 3 seat, but he is running for mayor instead. Candidates for the seat are Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and possibly Bob Dascola. Dascola’s participation depends on the outcome of a pending lawsuit that will determine whether Dascola is eligible to run, in light of city charter one-year durational requirements on residency and voter registration.

Ward 3: Julie Grand

Julie Grand‘s previous experience running for elected office was the 2013 Ward 3 Democratic primary – a race that was won by incumbent Stephen Kunselman.

Julie Grand.

Julie Grand, a candidate for city council in Ward 3 at a June 8, 2013 candidate forum.

Grand is a lecturer in health policy studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Before earning her doctorate, Grand worked as a health educator for the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute’s Community Outreach Division.

Grand served the maximum two three-year terms on the park advisory commission, concluding the last three years of that service as chair of that group. Grand volunteers at Burns Park and Abbot Elementary Schools.

Grand has lived in Ann Arbor for 17 years, and is married with two children ages 8 and 5.

On her campaign website, she describes why she’s seeking office: “My reasons for running for city council have not changed. I continue to believe that Ward 3 is in need of a representative who will be responsive to constituents, thoughtful in their decisions, and focused on promoting healthy neighborhoods and community.

“The current composition of City Council and transition to new leadership in 2014 further heightens the need for leaders capable of making sound policy decisions and providing comprehensive constituent services. I look forward to our conversations and the campaign ahead.”

Ward 3: Samuel McMullen

Samuel McMullen is concluding his freshman year at the University of Michigan, where he’s studying biochemistry with the intent of eventually attending medical school.

Samuel McMullen sat in the audience of the April 7, 2014 city council meeting.

Samuel McMullen sat in the audience of the April 7, 2014 city council meeting.

He grew up in Ann Arbor in Ward 4, right across Packard Street from Ward 3. He attended Rudolf Steiner High School.

He works as a nurse’s aid at the Rudolf Steiner Health Center, which is an anthroposophical medical practice operated by his parents, who are both physicians.

In an interview with The Chronicle, he said that as he’s gone door-to-door collecting signatures, one concern he hears about frequently is the condition of the roads: “I hear about roads a lot. About every other person says, ‘What are you going to do about roads?’”

McMullen said one of the main responsibilities of local government is “to keep roads in repair, to keep infrastructure in repair.” Once infrastructure and public safety are covered, he said, then it’s possible to start thinking about further development. That’s something he says he was already planning to run his campaign on, but that’s been reinforced in the conversations he’s had with Ward 3 residents so far.

His interest was drawn to city politics, he said, when independent Sam DeVarti’s Ward 3 city council campaign – for the fall 2013 general election – asked him to help register people to vote. He wasn’t campaigning for DeVarti, and is not affiliated with the Mixed Use platform that DeVarti ran on. But he helped with the voter registration effort, he said, and as he started to research city politics in more depth, he knew that it was something he wanted to do.

McMullen participated in the model UN in high school – as ambassador representing Cuba.

Ward 3: Bob Dascola

Dascola’s candidacy depends on the outcome of a lawsuit that is currently pending in U.S. District Court.

Bob Dascola sitting in the audience of the April 19, 2011 city council meeting. He addressed the council during public commentary on the topic of panhandling in the State Street area, where his downtown barbershop is located.

Bob Dascola sitting in the audience of the April 19, 2011 Ann Arbor city council meeting. On that occasion, he addressed the council during public commentary on the topic of panhandling in the State Street area, where his downtown barbershop is located. (Image links to Chronicle report of that council meeting.)

Ann Arbor’s city charter includes two durational requirements – for residency and voter registration – each for one year prior to election.

In his most recent filing, Dascola’s attorney Tom Wieder rejects what he calls the city of Ann Arbor’s implication that “Dascola is some sort of aggressive interloper who is trying to exploit legal loopholes so he can parachute into the city and do political mischief.” Wieder concludes that: “Fortunately, neither of these portrayals bears any resemblance to the truth,” pointing out that Dascola has spent his entire career as a barber, always working in the city of Ann Arbor.

In a press release, Dascola described himself as a downtown barber, a community activist, and a Vietnam veteran.

Dascola describes his concerns as focusing on basic city services, police and fire protection, crosswalk safety, road repair, public transportation, the Allen Creek Greenway, and the city’s parks.

If elected, Dascola says he will set up a monthly town hall meeting for Ward 3 citizens.

Ward 4

The Ward 4 seat Graydon Krapohl is seeking to fill is open because Margie Teall is not seeking re-election. After mayor John Hieftje, Teall is the longest serving member of the council, having first been elected  in 2002.

Graydon Krapohl, Ann Arbor park advisory commission, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Park advisory commissioner Graydon Krapohl at the May 21, 2013 meeting of the commission.

Krapohl was appointed to the city’s park advisory commission in January 2013. He currently serves as vice chair.

Krapohl describes himself on his website as born in Ann Arbor and raised in Jackson. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from George Mason University and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College, where he teaches as an adjunct faculty member.

Krapohl is a colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, having joined the Marines in 1984. He served nine years on active duty stationed in Hawaii.

In the private sector, Krapohl has worked for national consulting firms in operations management, information technology.

Graydon has been married for 25 years and has a daughter who attends Tappan Middle School.

Ward 5

Two candidates will appear on the ballot in Ward 5: incumbent Chuck Warpehoski and Leon Bryson.

Ward 5: Chuck Warpehoski

Chuck Warpehoski is concluding his first two-year term on the city council. He was first elected in 2012, having won the Democratic primary against Vivienne Armentrout. That seat was left open by Carsten Hohnke, who did not seek re-election after serving two terms.

Ward 5 incumbenet: Chuck Warpehoski arrives at the April 21, 2014 city council meeting.

Ward 5 incumbent Chuck Warpehoski arrives at the April 21, 2014 city council meeting.

Warpehoski serves on the city council’s audit committee and on the rules committee. For his first year on the council, He also serves he served as one of two council representatives on the city’s environmental commission. His efforts on the council have included an ordinance to regulate video surveillance, which did not get enough support on the council to move forward. He also worked to create a pedestrian safety task force and an ordinance to regulate smoking in certain outdoor locations, which was approved by the council at its April 21, 2014 meeting. Leon Bryson, who’s also running to represent Ward 5, delivered remarks at that meeting in support of the ordinance.

About his first two years of service, Warpehoski states on his website: “I’m proud to have increased funding for affordable housing, promoted policies to keep our neighborhoods safe from too-fast traffic, and fought for cleanup of pollution that threatens the supply of our drinking water, among other accomplishments.”

Warpehoski is director of the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice. He is married with two children. His wife is Nancy Shore, who is director of the getDowntown program and employed by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

Ward 5: Leon Bryson

Leon Bryson describes himself on his campaign website as originally from Detroit, and a 15-year resident of Ann Arbor.

Leon Bryson at the April 21, 2014 city council meeting. He delivered public commentary in support of the outdoor smoking ordinance, which was brought forward by Chuck Warpehoski.

Leon Bryson at the April 21, 2014 city council meeting. He delivered public commentary in support of the outdoor smoking ordinance, which was brought forward by Chuck Warpehoski.

He holds an engineering degree from Wayne State University and has worked in manufacturing and product development for larger companies, but currently operates a small business.

Bryson has attended several of the council’s meetings through the early part of 2014, and addressed the council on Jan. 21, 2014, calling for a moratorium on fracking in the city. During council communications, after Bryson’s commentary, Warpehoski pointed out that the city of Ann Arbor already bans fracking, through its prohibition on mineral extraction through drilling (Chapter 56: Prohibited Land Uses).

Bryson’s website highlights environmental issues, in part through his description of outdoor activities that he enjoys – and his campaign blog includes an entry describing a six-mile run he took through the ward on Easter morning.

On his campaign website, Bryson describes his entry into city politics as stemming from a perceived lack of focus: “[O]ur city government has lost its focus on providing the basic services we have come to expect. Our roads are crumbling. Leaf collection has been eliminated. Police and fire protection have been severely reduced. We also face the threat that our drinking water supply may be contaminated by the Pall/Gellman 1, 4-Dioxane now moving through the groundwater toward the Huron River.”

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Local Dems Pull 2014 Council Primary Petitions Thu, 21 Nov 2013 20:22:11 +0000 Chronicle Staff According to city clerk records, two sitting Ann Arbor city councilmembers have now pulled petitions to seek re-election in 2014 – Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) and Chuck Warpehoski (Ward 5). They are both Democrats, first elected to the council in 2012.

Ann Arbor city councilmembers serve two-year terms on the 11-member body, which includes the mayor and two representatives from each of five wards.

Kailasapathy responded to a Chronicle query by saying she planned to file signatures by the end of the month. Candidates must submit at least 100 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. She took out the petitions today (Nov. 21, 2013).

The Chronicle asked Warpehoski if his action to take out petitions on Nov. 7 reflected a deliberate decision not to run for mayor. His response: “I am not running for mayor. I am running for re-election to council.”

Other than Kailasapathy and Warpehoski, the clerk’s record shows one other councilmember who’s pulled petitions: Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) pulled petitions to run for mayor on Sept. 27, 2013, which has been previously reported.

On Election Day, Nov. 5, 2013, Kunselman stood outside polls in wards 5 and 3 to collect the 50 signatures per ward he needed for those wards. Asked today where his effort stood, Kunselman indicated he had about half of the signatures required in Ward 4, so about half of the total he needs citywide.

Kunselman won re-election to represent Ward 3 on Nov. 5, so if he were to win election as mayor that would leave one of the Ward 3 seats vacant. The vacancy would be filled under the city charter through appointment by the council. This procedure was used when current mayor John Hieftje was elected mayor while serving as a Ward 1 city councilmember. The council appointed Bob Johnson to fill that seat in 2000.

Hieftje has already announced he will not seek re-election for an eighth term.

Speculation about others who might run for mayor include two other current councilmembers, Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Christopher Taylor (Ward 3). They would both need to choose to run either for mayor or for re-election to their council seats. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) is also seen as a potential mayoral candidate, but was just returned to her seat by voters, so she would not face that choice.

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Hieftje Re-Elected; Warpehoski Wins Council Wed, 07 Nov 2012 11:37:44 +0000 Chronicle Staff Only two races were contested on Nov. 6 for Ann Arbor mayor and city council – both for two-year terms. Incumbent Democrat John Hieftje defeated independent Albert Howard with 42,255 votes (84.11%), compared to 7,649 votes (15.23%) for Howard. Hieftje was first elected mayor in 2000, and will now start his seventh term in that office.

In Ward 5, Democrat Chuck Warpehoski was elected over Republican Stuart Berry, winning with 10,371 votes (81.49%) compared to 2,281 votes (17.92%) for Berry. The incumbent Democrat, Carsten Hohnke, did not run for re-election.

The four other city council races, also for two-year terms, were not contested. Democrat incumbents Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Margie Teall (Ward 4) were on the ballot, along with Democrats Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) and Sally Hart Petersen (Ward 2). Petersen had defeated incumbent Tony Derezinski in the Aug. 7 Democratic primary. Kailasapathy prevailed in the primary over candidate Eric Sturgis. The current Ward 1 councilmember, Sandi Smith, did not seek re-election.

The 11-member city council includes the mayor and 10 city councilmembers, two from each ward.

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Ann Arbor City Council: Ward 5 Race Wed, 17 Oct 2012 15:31:46 +0000 Mary Morgan Aside from the mayor, only one Ann Arbor city council seat is contested in the Nov. 6 general election – in Ward 5. Candidates in four of the city’s five wards are unopposed.

Stuart Berry, Chuck Warpehoski, League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area, Ward 5, Ann Arbor City Council, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Republican Stuart Berry and Democrat Chuck Warpehoski are candidates for Ward 5 Ann Arbor city council. (Photos by the writer.)

The Ward 5 seat is currently held by Democrat Carsten Hohnke, who did not seek re-election for another two-year term. Vying for the opening are Democrat Chuck Warpehoski and Republican Stuart Berry. The two candidates answered questions about their background and vision for the community at an Oct. 10 forum organized by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area.

Berry stressed the importance of basic services, and advocated for giving power back to the people. In general, he indicated a belief that government at all levels has overstepped its bounds.

Citing his experience as executive director of the nonprofit Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice, Warpehoski emphasized his skills as a listener and in bringing together people with different perspectives. Warpehoski also provided written answers to a set of questions on the league’s website. The site indicated that Berry did not participate.

Both candidates highlighted the challenge of providing services at a time when budgets are tight.

The Oct. 10 candidate forum was held at the studios of Community Television Network in Ann Arbor, and is available online via CTN’s video-on-demand service. The forum also included candidates for Ann Arbor mayor – Albert Howard and John Hieftje. The mayoral portion of the forum is reported in a separate Chronicle write-up.

Information on local elections can be found on the Washtenaw County clerk’s elections division website. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website.

Opening Statements

Each candidate was given the opportunity to make a one-minute opening statement.

Chuck Warpehoski: He thanked the league, noting that this event is important to give viewers a better understanding of the candidates. He believes he brings important skills that are necessary to serve the community. He cited the past 10 years of experience he’s had as executive director of the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice. In that role, he said he’s gained important experience in how to listen to constituents and bring people together across their differences to address their concerns. This is an important skill for serving the community, he said. Warpehoski’s work has also given him experience in balancing a budget and meeting payroll. Those are hands-on leadership skills that a councilmember needs, he said. He directed viewers to his campaign website to learn more, and he asked for their vote on Nov.6.

Stuart Berry: He also thanked the league for hosting the forum. He first came to Ann Arbor in the late 1960s to help his father, a Scottish immigrant, deliver milk to Ann Arbor families. It was hard work – and his father worked six days a week, 52 weeks a year, but was glad to do it because he came to America knowing that hard work paid off, Berry said. During those years, Berry said he witnessed the building of many great neighborhoods, commercial areas and parks in Ann Arbor. The city was changing then to redefine itself. Now, Ann Arbor must face new realities if it is to remain great. When he returned in 1989 to live and work here for the University of Michigan city services were very good. Over the years, declining revenues have forced some tough choices, and the city council has not always been wise in making those choices, he said. The council has chosen to reduce basic services, he noted, and to fund many projects of questionable value and benefit. He looked forward to discussing his concerns and solutions.


What are the biggest challenges that the city faces over the next two years, and how would you act on them?

Stuart Berry, League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area, Ward 5, Ann Arbor City Council, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Stuart Berry

Stuart BerryThe biggest challenge relates to basic services. Police and fire protection have been cut back, and it’s impacting the safety of the citizens and taxpayers, he said. Another basic service is the roads, which continue to be in poor shape. The city needs to improve the roads, he said. As he goes throughout Ward 5 knocking on doors, people are questioning why the city eliminated a fall leaf collection program, saying that many people feel that is a hidden tax – because they now have to spend money and time on it themselves. The city council needs to redefine itself so that it better provides the basic services of Ann Arbor, he concluded.

Chuck WarpehoskiMany of the challenges will be budget-related, he said. It isn’t always a choice between a good thing and a bad thing, he noted. Often it’s a choice between multiple good things, or the difficult choice of making cuts. The city has faced significant challenges. It lost property tax revenue when Pfizer left town, he said. Property values have declined, so the revenues from property taxes have declined. The city has lost several million dollars in state revenue-sharing, he said. So continuing to provide services and balance the different needs of constituents is a vital challenge.

Warpehoski said there are a couple of things he can bring to meet that challenge. With his background in listening and bringing people together, his goal is to have a participatory process that will bring people into that discussion. As they move forward in that process – having made cuts in the past – part of the challenge is how to look for alternative revenue sources to help fund community needs, he said.

Relationship with the DDA

Are you satisfied with the relationship between the city and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority? What are your thoughts about the DDA’s Connecting William Street project?

By way of background, in 1975 the state legislature authorized the Downtown Development Authority Act (Act 197 of 1975), which enabled cities to set up DDAs with the purpose of protecting and revitalizing their downtowns. The Ann Arbor DDA was established in the early 1980s, and renewed by city council in 2003 for another 30 years. It is governed by a board that’s appointed by the city council, based on nominations by the mayor, who by statute also serves on the board. The DDA is funded by tax increment financing (TIF) – that is, it “captures” a portion of the property taxes in a specific geographic area that would otherwise be collected by taxing authorities in the district. The tax capture is only on the increment in valuation – the difference between the value of property when the district was established, and the value resulting from improvements made to the property. In Ann Arbor, the DDA also operates the public parking system under contract with the city.

Earlier this year, the city council also directed the DDA to embark on another project – now called Connecting William Street – focused on developing a plan for five city-owned properties along William Street, between Ashley and Division. Four of the parcels are surface parking lots; the fifth is a parking structure at Fourth & William. For more background, see Chronicle coverage: “PAC: Downtown Park, More Input Needed” and “Planning Group Briefed on William St. Project.”

Chuck Warpehoski: The downtown is part of what makes Ann Arbor great – that, plus the city’s dynamic neighborhoods, he said. As he hears people discuss the downtown and the DDA, he hears that some people are unhappy with the DDA’s administration, that it’s taking too many resources. But he also hears people argue on the other side – for example, that the DDA gave too much away when it negotiated with the city for the most recent contract to manage the city’s parking system, and that as a result the DDA is not able to fully fulfill its mission. He thinks the DDA is important for maintaining the downtown’s vibrancy. There are continuing discussions about how they can best do that. He hears a lot about the importance of making the community accessible to all residents. When the DDA puts in ADA-compliant curbcuts downtown, that’s a good investment, he said. The downtown is important, but it’s also important to make sure that the partnership with the DDA works for the community as a whole, he added.

Stuart Berry: He agrees that the downtown is very vibrant. People come in and spend their money, and pay a lot of money for parking, Berry said. The money that the DDA handles is, in effect, taxpayer money, he said, and the DDA’s board is unelected. He’d rather see more oversight over the DDA, because that’s the role of the city council – to make sure that the money collected by the DDA is properly handled. Ultimately, the city council is responsible for those dollars, he said, because councilmembers are the ones who are elected.

Traffic & Population Growth

Is the city’s planning for traffic growth keeping up with plans for the growth in population, with respect to parking, safety and other aspects?

Stuart BerryTraffic in any city is a real concern, especially in Ann Arbor. The city is growing, but the infrastructure is shrinking, he said. The city is on a path to put all the pedestrians, bicyclists and cars in the road at the same time. It’s a prescription for a bad thing – and he’s concerned about that. The city has to find a way to get people into Ann Arbor, to move around safely, then get them out of Ann Arbor if they’re not residents here. Ultimately, the city needs more people and businesses to move in so that the city can grow, he said. To do that, the traffic situation needs to improve.

Chuck Warpehoski: Having a balanced and multi-modal transportation system is very important. Over the last five years, the city has seen almost a doubling of bicycle use, he said. So they need to look at a variety of factors when trying to manage mobility. Some people will drive to shop or work downtown, so the city needs to provide those driving and parking options. Some people will take the bus. Expanding options like park-and-ride lots will get people to the edge of the city so that they can take the bus, which will result in less congestion and less demand for new parking. It’s important to make sure that roads are safe for pedestrians, and that the city’s pathways are safe for cyclists. “It’s a matter of balancing all of these factors.” Overall, the city’s transportation planning has been good, Warpehoski said, given the constraints. Can it do better? Absolutely, he said – and he’s looking forward to helping find options for all of the city’s transportation needs.

Nonpartisan Elections

Should Ann Arbor follow the lead of many other municipalities and abandon partisan tags for mayor and city council, particularly to take top vote-getters in a nonpartisan August primary and into the November general election?

For background on this issue, see “Column: Ann Arbor – A One-Party Town” and “Column: Let’s Put Life into City Elections.”

Chuck Warpehoski, League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area, Ward 5, Ann Arbor City Council, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Chuck Warpehoski

Chuck Warpehoski: There are arguments on both sides, he said. He noted that The Ann Arbor Chronicle published a column on this issue that made some good points. A proposal for nonpartisan elections might be something to bring to the voters. The advantage of a partisan election is that the party label gives voters an indication of things, he said. In the Nov. 6 election there are a lot of races. The League of Women Voters has been doing a great job of helping to educate voters, he said. But it’s very difficult to give attention to all the ballot initiatives, and all the races, to make sure people are really informed. The advantage of the current system is that when people go to the polls for the primary election – which ends up being the real race  for many elected positions in Ann Arbor – there has been a lot of attention specifically on that race. The challenge of getting more attention for the general election and creating an educated populace is something that needs to be worked on, if the city moves forward with nonpartisan elections, he said.

Stuart Berry: Nonpartisan elections would be a very good idea for Ann Arbor, Berry said. The town has a majority of Democrats, so running as a Republican, Berry said it’s hard for him to get his points across to voters on their doorsteps. Many Democrats don’t want to listen to what a Republican has to say. But the ideas in Ann Arbor are not necessarily Republican or Democrat, he said. We need to work toward improving the city, and the way to do that is to have all ideas heard. With partisan elections, the real election is in the August primary. It tends to bring out the more partisan part of the voting block, he noted. It would be very good to move from partisan elections to nonpartisan elections.

Long-Term Goals

Looking ahead 10-20 years, highlight one or more projects that you’d like to initiate or support now to achieve your future vision of Ann Arbor.

Stuart BerryHe’d like to see city council devote more time to basic services. The council has gotten too far afield in addressing all sorts of issues that are not necessarily the jurisdiction of the government, he said. There are a lot of things that the council does that they could investigate “transitioning back to the people.” Churches, community organizations and fraternal organizations used to be very strong, he said. As the government takes hold of all the services in the community that those organizations used to provide, those organizations tend to suffer. The church he attends is always looking around for things to do, he said, but there are not as many avenues for them as there were in the past. “Let’s transfer the power back to the people.”

Chuck Warpehoski: As he looks ahead 10-20 years, Warpehoski said he certainly would not want to erode Ann Arbor’s social safety net or try to cut funding for those services that make sure the community is responsive to all of its members. One thing that would really strengthen the community is to take a more regional approach to transportation, he said. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority concluded its 30-year master plan after extensive listening and feedback from community members, elected officials and others across the county to help create a vision, he said. Nationally, communities that have the strongest transportation systems are also those that have the strongest job growth. It’s good for the economy. For him, as a Democrat, he cares deeply about our national heritage. Public transportation is good for the environment. And as someone who’s concerned about people who can’t drive because of income, disability or other reasons, he thinks it provides more opportunity for them.

Open-Ended Question

What question wasn’t asked tonight that you’d like to address?

Chuck Warpehoski: As he’s been going door-to-door, one question he’s heard a lot is about shaping the future of downtown. People are on both sides of the issue. The city has taken important steps in trying to envision what the downtown should look like, he said, but there’s still more work needed. He’s heard some concerns about some of the designs of buildings that are going up. There’s an existing downtown design process, he noted. Does that meet the city’s needs? Is it giving us the quality of buildings that the city should expect in a great community like ours? If not, how can that process be strengthened? Ann Arbor is a great town and should expect great buildings, he said. The city’s zoning and design process should give us that.

Stuart Berry: He believes in the power and creativity of the people. Government at all levels should allow the people to do what’s necessary to create community and keep that community thriving. He doesn’t put as much credence in an elected body to plan and design and make sure a city goes from A to B. It’s the people who should do that. “We know what needs to be done. We’re out in the neighborhoods and in the downtown every day.” The city government needs to allow an atmosphere where people can come and take risks with their capital to improve what’s going on. That’s what really brings people to Ann Arbor, he said – the creativity and talent of the people. “We, the people, make that happen.”

Closing Statements

Each candidate had the opportunity to make a two-minute closing statement.

Chuck Warpehoski: He thanked the league and viewers, and said he’s running because he wants the opportunity to serve the community he loves. He has a small daughter, and wants to make sure that the community she grows up in is one that’s as great as it can be. The city has tremendous assets – a fantastic parks system, wonderful neighborhoods, a downtown that draws people from all over. The challenge facing the city council now and in the future is how to keep this community great. For him, an important part of that process is listening. That’s what he does every day with his work at the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice – figuring out how to bring together people from different backgrounds and perspectives. That’s a commitment to listening, inclusion and bridge-building that he said he’d also bring to city council.

Warpehoski described himself as a proud Democrat, and he holds those Democratic values of an inclusive community with a strong social safety net and strong environmental protections – he’d bring those values to his council service too. He thinks those resonate with Ann Arbor voters. Finally, he believes he has the leadership experience serving as a nonprofit director, handling the difficult balancing act in his day job or at council, whether it’s budget deliberations, how to use public lands, or other decisions. He asked for people’s vote on Nov. 6, and pointed viewers to his campaign website for more information.

Stuart Berry: Thanking the league, Berry said the “good people of Ann Arbor deserve more than the city council has been giving us.” He’ll focus on improved basic services – police and fire protection, good roads, timely snow removal, maintaining city parks. He said he’d provide oversight of how hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent. He’d work for a climate change that promotes business growth in Ann Arbor. The growth he witnessed while lugging milk to Ann Arbor families was good for the city at that time, he said. Today, it appears to him that private-sector growth is resisted and blocked at too many opportunities. The paradox is that taxpayer-funded development is promoted at every opportunity, he said.

The purpose of the government is to do the things that citizens should not do – because those things are either too hard to do, or too dangerous. Examples of things that are too hard are building roads, sewer and water systems, or trash pickup. Examples of duties that are too dangerous are police and fire protection. He endorses a refocus of the city council onto its managerial role. Council has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely and appropriately. When he’s on doorsteps, he said he often gets asked “What are they doing, and when will it end?” He’ll promote a council that devotes its time and energy to serving the citizens of Ann Arbor, not on how it can expand. “I have no special interests and no hidden agendas. I support liberty, freedom, and responsible, limited government.”

He told viewers that they can help bring equitable, enthusiastic, efficient leadership to Ann Arbor, and he asked for their vote. He looked forward to representing everyone in the Fifth Ward. “I want to let Ann Arbor be what it can be, not what a few think it should be.”

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Ward 5 City Council: Studying, Listening Thu, 02 Aug 2012 12:46:11 +0000 Dave Askins On July 22, 2012, a hot summer Sunday afternoon, more than 35 people gathered at the Peace Neighborhood Center to hear Ward 5 Democratic primary candidates for Ann Arbor city council respond to questions.

Vivienne Armentrout Chuck Warpehoski

Vivienne Armentrout and Chuck Warpehoski as seen through the viewfinder of a video camera that recorded the July 22, 2012 Ward 5 Democratic forum. (Photos by the writer.)

Chuck Warpehoski and Vivienne Armentrout are contesting the seat that will be open because sitting councilmember Democrat Carsten Hohnke is not seeking a third term. The winner of the Aug. 7 primary will face Republican Stuart Berry in November’s general election.

The format of the forum – hosted by the Ward 5 Democratic Party organization, and moderated by Gus Teschke – allowed Warpehoski and Armentrout to offer a clear contrast to prospective voters. They had four minutes to respond to each question, with an opportunity for a rebuttal and additional follow-up by the person who’d submitted the question.

Both Armentrout and Warpehoski were obviously knowledgeable about the range of topics they were asked to address by questioners.

The contrast emerged mainly in terms of the types of themes they emphasized, rather than differences in specific policy points – but some policy differences emerged as well. Throughout her remarks, Armentrout stressed her experience, knowledge and study of policy. For example, she introduced broad policy issues into the topic of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s administration of the city’s public parking system – in part by calling the parking system the “parking utility,” drawing a parallel between that and utilities like water or electric service. And she explained her thoughts on providing affordable housing and human services by appealing to her understanding of the history of federal grant funding to the city of Ann Arbor.

On that same topic, responding to a question from local activist Alan Haber, Warpehoski said he would spearhead – and is already spearheading – an effort to replace 100 units of affordable housing that were lost when the old YMCA building was condemned and demolished. His effort on that issue is a function of his day job as director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice. He frequently appealed to the skills he uses in that job – the notion of listening, and working to bring people together for the common good. He described several times the kinds of conversations he’s been having with residents of the ward as he goes door-to-door canvassing, relating some of the specific stories from each neighborhood. He pointed to those kinds of conversations as the kind that he’d like to continue if he’s elected, as part of an effort to hear all the voices in the community.

Warpehoski fielded some pointed questions from attendees, including one about his endorsement by mayor John Hieftje. Did that mean he’d favor decision-making behind closed doors? Warpehoski told the audience he’d made clear to Hieftje that if elected, he’d push the mayor on two issues: public process and the independence of board and commission appointments. Responding to another audience question, Warpehoski also said he’d recuse himself from votes if it were appropriate to do that – due to his wife’s job as director of the getDowntown program.

Warpehoski was also challenged to account for his use of the phrase “transit opponents” in an op-ed piece he’d written about the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s effort to expand its governance and service area to a countywide region. He explained his use of that phrase by saying you have to look at people’s actions and whether those actions actually support transit – drawing an analogy to someone who says they are for “health” but who sits on the couch eating Kentucky Fried Chicken all day.

Support for a current countywide transit proposal was one clear policy difference between the two candidates. Warpehoski supports the framework embodied in a four-party agreement – between Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority – while Armentrout does not. At its Aug. 1 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners is expected to give final approval for that agreement, which the other three parties have already ratified.

After the jump, more detail is presented on questions and responses from the two candidates.

The paraphrases of candidate responses are presented in mostly chronological order. In some cases, a thematic grouping dictated re-ordering.

Opening Statements

Like most candidate forums, there was an opportunity for opening and closing statements.

Warpehoski began by thanking everyone for coming out – he said it was good to see people attending and trying to make an informed choice for the election. It’s good to see people taking part in democracy, he said. He told forum attendees that he was running for city council to represent Ward 5 and noted that his day job as executive director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice is also about community service.

Chuck Warpehoski, Ward 5 Democratic candidate for Ann Arbor city council

Chuck Warpehoski, Ward 5 Democratic candidate for Ann Arbor city council.

What he tries to do every day at that job, he said, is to try to bring people together who have different backgrounds and different perspectives and different faiths, to see how people can work together – despite their differences – toward the common good. With a name like Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, he said, you can tell that progressive values are dear to him, and that is why he is running as a Democrat.

Since he announced his candidacy, he said, he’s been getting an education that is not possible from reading the Ann Arbor Chronicle or by reading or in any other way – by going door-to-door throughout the ward listening to people, trying to hear what’s on people’s minds about city issues. One thing he’s learned, he told the audience, is that each neighborhood has its own story. When he was knocking on doors up by North Seventh Street, the story was West Park. When he was knocking on doors on Abbott Street, just south of Jackson Avenue, he continued, the story was about motorists cutting through the neighborhood trying to avoid the traffic on Jackson Avenue.

This listening is what a good public servant does, he said. It’s an important skill for public office, he contended, and that’s something he’s committed to bringing to the city council, he said. He ventured that in the rest of the forum the audience would hear more about specific policy positions – but what he would bring to all of that would be a basic approach of listening to all of the people and all of the stakeholders, and he’d try to bring them together for the common good.

Armentrout began by saying that she is running for the city council based on her experience – but noted that she is not a career politician. She described herself as a citizen who cares about issues and who has taken many different paths to try to make a difference in our community.

Vivienne Armentrout, Ward 5 Democratic candidate for Ann Arbor city council

Vivienne Armentrout, Ward 5 Democratic candidate for Ann Arbor city council.

She described how when she first arrived in Ann Arbor, she got involved in local Democratic politics. She volunteered in the Ecology Center, Project Grow, and the League of Women Voters. She was appointed to the city’s solid waste committee, she continued, just as recycling and composting was becoming a new part of the waste management plan for the city. She also served four years on the city budget review committee. She was then recruited to run for the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, and served in the district that covered most of Ward 5 as a county commissioner for eight years.

When she retired from the county board position in 2004, she said, she thought she was done with politics. But she couldn’t help but notice that there were some trends in city government that did not seem right to her. She felt that the city council was pursuing its own agenda without caring much about what the citizens thought. That’s why she was an early supporter of Mike Anglin, who challenged an incumbent [Wendy Woods] in 2007. In 2008, she noted, she ran on her own behalf for the city council.

[She lost a narrow race to Carsten Hohnke in the 2008 Democratic primary. Mike Anglin won the Ward 5 race against Woods in 2007 and was re-elected in 2009 and 2011. So the winner of the 2012 election will serve alongside Anglin as one of two ward representatives. Each of the city's five wards has two representatives; with the mayor, the council is an 11-member body.]

Then in 2009 she launched her local issues blog, Local in Ann Arbor. She’d done all that, she said, because she has a vision of what a healthy community is. Her idea of quality of life doesn’t just include parks and other amenities – but also extends to neighbors who feel secure in their homes and can expect the government to put them first, above lofty goals. She said we should expect our taxes to support our well-being as residents and local business owners. That’s why she’d made a quest, she said, to defeat the proposed conference center on the Library Lot. That experience – of working with so many community members to achieve that goal – is something she will always carry with her, she said.

Public Process

[Questions were posed by audience members through submission on cards and then were read aloud as submitted. So the some questions themselves reflected a clear perspective on the part of the questioner. The first question is a good example of that.]

Question: The mayor has not favored or encouraged robust public process. How would you change this? If elected, how will you promote more transparency in city government?

Armentrout began by saying she’s been studying this question of public process for some time. She described her time on the county planning commission, saying she was the founding chair of the planning advisory committee. She told the audience she’s attended many conferences about planning. She has also edited a book on planning, she said. One of the central problems of planning is to meaningfully involve the public in decision-making, she said.

Implicitly alluding to Warpehoski’s emphasis on the importance of listening, she said that public process is not just a matter of listening – as there is a methodology, she said. And it’s complicated, she said. One of the conclusions she’d reached from her reading on the subject, she said, is that it’s important to bring the public in when public policy is first being formulated.

She contended that recently there’s been a tendency to maintain the appearance of public process by having a public hearing the night that the city council votes. She also characterized many public meetings as basically “marketing presentations.” That presents the illusion of public engagement, she said. If she were elected to the city council, she said she would work to involve community members early on in the process. She said she had a history of doing that during her service as a county commissioner.

Warpehoski called the concern about public involvement an important one. It’s one of the areas that the current city council has not done a very good job on, he said. As an example, he gave the proposed rail station at Fuller Park. What came forward, he said, was a proposal: Here’s what we would like to build, and here’s where we would like to build it.

[A partnership between the University of Michigan and the city of Ann Arbor – to build a 1,000-space parking structure and rail station at the Fuller Road site across from UM medical center – ended on Feb. 10, 2012, when UM withdrew due to its desire to add additional parking to its system in a more timely fashion.  Currently the city has moved ahead with a site alternatives analysis, using a $2.8 million grant from the Federal Rail Administration, matched by $0.7 million in money the city has already expended in connection with the earlier partnership.]

Warpehoski felt that a lot of the contention could have been avoided and a better process could have been created, if the process had begun with questions like these: What are our needs for rail transit? How do we move forward with that? What are the possible sites? What are the criteria to evaluate the sites? On a short list of sites, what is good and bad about each? How do we deal with the fact that the Fuller Road site is parkland? Does that need to go to a vote? Do we need to find other parkland to offset that lost parkland?

The Fuller Road rail station situation is an example of how the failure to have a robust public process led to an increase in tension around the issue, and we lost opportunities to deal with some issues that would have come up and surfaced through that public engagement process, Warpehoski said.

The Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, which he directs, is a grass roots organization, so it’s member-led, he noted. Within each of the organization’s task forces, his role is to serve those activist volunteers and members. So his experience every day is working to say: What is our vision going forward?

There are two key challenges that he thinks the city council and the city government need to face with respect to a public involvement process, he said. The first one is casting a broad net. When he’s attended city council meetings or other attempts the city has made at public involvement, he said, he’s noticed that there are essentially two groups that tend to be represented there. One is a group of people who are in some sense “paid to be there.” When he appears to speak on behalf of the Interfaith Council Peace and Justice, that is the hat he’s wearing, he said. The other group that is represented, he said, are people who have tremendous time and passion and will show up at 7 p.m. on Monday, or whenever the meeting is.

Both of those kinds of voices need to be a part of the process – but that isn’t all of the process, he said. That doesn’t represent all of the community, he said. So a robust public engagement process has to address how to involve the people who are not around the table – who are not getting all the messages from the city about when the next planning commission meeting is. He picked up on Armentrout’s point about public hearings, adding that public hearings don’t necessarily represent people who are working the second shift downtown. So we need to do better at reaching those who have been excluded, who are not around the table already.

The second challenge, he continued, is that there are multiple sources of information for making a decision. Public involvement is one source of information. There is also the involvement of looking in depth at the data, and consulting expertise and expert opinion. He picked up on Armentrout’s point about the existence of a methodology for public involvement. He noted that the expertise of city staff has to be included systematically as well. Public involvement and public transparency are important, he said, and we need to do a better job at including more people and including all the sources of information that are necessary to make informed, engaged decisions.

Follow-up: The questioner invited the candidates to explore the timing of the public involvement and how that might be managed so that it happens at the beginning – before a request for proposals is sent out, for example.

Armentrout she said the questioner had put her finger on the most difficult part, which is how to reach people and let them know to be involved. It also depends on the type of issue, she said. If it’s something that’s going to affect a particular neighborhood, she pointed out, you have to seek out all of the connections that you can in order to find the affected people. If it is a more general issue, she said, you have to use a variety of media – e-mail sign-up and public notices. She concluded by acknowledging that the hardest part is to find a way to get the appropriate people to the table.

Warpehoski felt like both he and Armentrout had affirmed in their answers the importance of early involvement by the public. He called it an area where they both agreed. The timing of that involvement would be different depending on different issues, he said. The kind of involvement required for the future redevelopment of the old YMCA lot [at Fifth & William], for example, would require a different level of involvement than a proposal to redo a neighborhood park.

Addressing the difficulty of getting people involved, he said that his campaign had made him appreciate the opportunity to talk to people face-to-face at their doorsteps. He’s hoping that time would permit him, if elected, to continue to engage in those kinds of conversations. Otherwise, he felt that people are not getting adequate information or having their voices heard.

Follow-up: In a follow-up to a question that came much later in the forum, the questioner told Warpehoski that Warpehoski claims he wants robust public process, but appears to be aligning himself with the mayor’s group – which the questioner felt is more concerned with closed-room decision-making processes. He felt there was some dissonance there, and invited Warpehoski to explain that.

Warpehoski he stated that he does want robust public process – and acknowledged that he also had mayor John Hieftje’s endorsement. One of the things that he’d told Hieftje, he said, is that he would push him on two things: public process and the independence of board and commission appointments. Those are two areas where he thinks the city has done a poor job and could improve, Warpehoski said.


Question: What is your position on parkland repurposing, including the need for voter approval? In 2008 Ann Arbor voters approved a charter amendment to require a popular vote if parkland sale is proposed. Do you support another charter amendment to close a loophole to prevent leasing for non-park use of parkland? Why? How do you feel about councilmember Jane Lumm’s proposed council resolution to place a ballot question before voters in November that would amend the city charter with respect to the parkland issue?

Background: At the city council’s July 16, 2012 meeting, a resolution was considered that would have placed a ballot question before voters on Nov. 6. The ballot question would ask voters to amend the city charter to require a public referendum on any long-term lease of parkland for a non-park purpose. In 2008, Ann Arbor voters had approved an amendment that prohibited the sale of parkland unless it was authorized by a voter referendum.

Warpehoski observed that parkland has been a big issue this year, and it’s been receiving a lot of discussion. He stated that he supports public involvement before making decisions about parkland. For example, he said, if the Federal Rail Administration recommends the Fuller Road site for a rail station, he thinks that should go to a popular vote. He allowed that the letter of the current charter does not require a popular referendum, but he feels that the spirit of the charter provision does require it.

As far as the ballot question on a charter amendment to require a popular vote – before any long-term lease on city parkland is signed – he feels that the spirit of that resolution is important and he supports the spirit of it. As far as the particular language in the resolution, he still has questions. He told the audience that they did not want an elected official who is making up his mind before he’s gotten all the information. That’s an issue he still researching, he said. He would like to hear the park advisory commission’s view on the subject.

He also noted that the proposal talks about repurposing and long-term leasing. He wants a better understanding of what is, and what is not, included in that. There’s a concession stand in Gallup Park where you can get a coffee and a snack from Zingerman’s. If there were a proposal for another concession stand in another park, would that be considered a long-term lease or a repurposing, and would that require voter approval? he wondered. He described a bicycle rental in Traverse City by the bay right by the waterfront – something he thinks is privately run. If that bicycle rental company approached the city of Ann Arbor and said, “Hey, we’d like to do bicycle rentals at the Gallup canoe livery,” would that be considered repurposing, and require a popular vote?

Those are the kinds of questions he still has about the resolution, he said – before he could say yes to that particular wording he can support. However, the concept he supports is this: These are our public parks and these are our public lands, they serve the public good and they deserve a public process.

Armentrout she noted that she is already “on record” as supporting a charter change to prevent leasing and repurposing of parkland without a public vote. She agreed with Warpehoski that it’s important not to have unanticipated consequences. She felt that’s a matter of tweaking the language to make sure that things that we all agree serve a legitimate park purpose  are not prohibited. Bike rental, she allowed, might be a good example. That she would leave to the lawyers and people who are currently working to formulate the exact language, she said.

The parks are a public trust, she stated. The park system is the history of accumulation of citizen efforts, and often private citizen investment, she said. Each park is a historic marker of citizen involvement, she said. Parks are very crucial to our quality of life, in terms of their preservation of natural communities, their environmental impact – with respect to cooling, air recycling, and the like. She felt that getting too legalistic with this particular charter amendment is not needed, as long as we make sure we don’t have unanticipated consequences.

Follow-up: The questioner was not happy with the responses of both candidates. She was sorry to disagree with them. She felt bad that the city needs the charter amendment because of the ethics of some councilmembers, if voters “don’t get the right people in.” She contended that there was a done deal with Miles of Golf – but because of the efforts of the Huron Hills golf course committee and community input and community support, that proposal was squelched. If they hadn’t spoken up, Miles of Golf would be operating the Huron Hills golf course, she said. She’d like to believe that everybody has the best interests of the city at heart, but it’s obvious from watching the city council in action with its current membership, that’s not the case. That’s why she thinks questions about the use of parkland must go to the voters.

[Responding to the follow-up, both Armentrout and Warpehoski appeared somewhat perplexed.]

Armentrout wondered what the conflict was between what the questioner had said and what she herself said. She’d meant to say that she supports the charter amendment that would require a public vote on the use of parkland.

Warpehoski picked up on the specific concern the questioner had raised – about the example of contracting with Miles of Golf to operate Huron Hills. That example, he explained, is one reason that he wants to do more research on the issue of the charter amendment. He noted that councilmember Sabra Briere – who had co-sponsored the city council resolution on the charter amendment ballot question, along with Jane Lumm and Mike Anglin – had raised the question of the Miles of Golf proposal in connection with the proposed charter amendment language.

Briere had questioned whether the currently proposed wording for the charter would have caused a popular vote to be triggered by the Miles of Golf proposal. [According to the city attorney's analysis, the proposed wording of the amendment would not trigger a popular referendum if something like the Miles of Golf concept were to be proposed.] Warpehoski reiterated that he supports the concept, but just wants to make sure that the details are right.

Question: Should the council obey the letter and spirit of the city charter clause about the protection of parkland, or override the charter when the majority is determined to accomplish its agenda?

Armentrout began her answer by stating, “The charter is the charter and the council has to obey the charter.” When you start talking about the spirit of the charter, that’s hard to define, she noted. If she were elected to serve on the council, she would try to obey the spirit of the charter, but she would certainly obey what the language says.

Warpehoski agreed with Armentrout on that question – that obviously the letter of the charter has to be obeyed. The spirit is something that is sometimes difficult to interpret, he allowed. On federal issues he is not a strict constructionist – not someone who says that we have to follow exactly what the founders meant on issues. With respect to the Fuller Road station issue, he felt that it’s not within the letter of the charter to require a vote on that, but it is within the spirit of the charter, and that is why he supports a popular vote on it – if the Federal Rail Administration selects the Fuller Road site, or any parkland site, for a proposed train station.

Follow-up: The reason for the question, stated the questioner, was that in 2008, when the charter amendment question had been put on the ballot, members of the local Sierra Club tried to “fix the amendment” because they recognized the loopholes that were in it. The mayor and council majority, she contended, “flat out refused” to make the change of language that would have protected parks from repurposing and leasing. She called it a cynical gesture on the part of the council and the mayor at that time. Voters thought they were actually protecting parklands when they passed the 2008 amendment to the charter, she continued. She asked the candidates again if they would honor the intent of the voters.

Warpehoski stated that in the form the charter amendment of 2008 had been approved, it does protect parkland. It might still need to be strengthened, he allowed, but what the amendment did was to prevent what happened in another Michigan community. He described a situation where a parcel was rezoned and then sold [to avoid the prohibition in the Michigan Home Rule Cities Act against sale of parkland and cemeteries]. Ann Arbor had recognized that we did not want that to happen here and passed a charter amendment that prevented it from happening, Warpehoski said. So the charter amendment, as passed in 2008, did provide additional protection, he said. He added that he could not interpret what everybody’s spirit was when they voted for that amendment. But for the issues that the city is confronting now, he felt he had explained where he stands on them.

Armentrout didn’t add to her previous response.


Question: What will you do to protect near downtown neighborhoods from developments like City Place?

Background: City Place is a residential development that’s nearing completion on South Fifth Avenue, south of William, and that’s marketed to students. It was built as a matter-of-right project under the city’s R4C zoning. A different project, Heritage Row, would have at least partly preserved the seven older houses on the site, which were eventually demolished. But Heritage Row would have required a rezoning of the land under a planned unit development (PUD). The city council could never muster more than 7 votes on the multiple occasions when it attempted to approve that rezoning. An 8-vote majority was needed. The council also could not achieve the necessary votes to establish the area as a historic district, following recommendation of a study commission to do so. The history of proposed development on the site dates back at least to 2008.

Warpehoski described the location of the City Place site – near Bethlehem Church just south of the downtown library. He described the two different proposals that had been made for the site. The proposal that wound up getting built, he said, was one that conforms with city zoning and demolished some historic buildings. He characterized that as the worst possible outcome for that site. He noted that there had also been a proposal to maintain the facades of the older houses and redevelop behind those facades. And there were also many people in the community who were hoping that neither of the two development proposals would go forward, and that the houses on the site would simply be maintained.

Warpehoski observed that the planning commission has just gone through a process to modify the way the zoning works in those areas that are zoned for multi-residence buildings [R4C zoning]. The reason that both City Place and Heritage Row were even possible, he noted, was that the current zoning practice allows for parcel consolidation – that is, it’s possible to purchase several properties and combine them into one parcel for development. That changes the math for what can and cannot be built there. There’s currently a proposal – he thought it had been passed through the planning commission, which is now working on developing the ordinance language for it – to make sure that parcel consolidation like that does not happen again. That’s something he supports, he said.

Armentrout began by saying that the particular development had a historical preservation component to it. Either development could have been prevented – if the city council had followed the recommendation of a historic district review committee to establish the area as a historic district. Ultimately, city council chose not to approve the district, she said. She picked up on Warpehoski’s characterization of the committee recommendation against parcel consolidation for R4C areas, and ventured that the planning commission has not actually considered it yet.

But in any case, Armentrout said, she supported the findings in the citizen advisory committee’s report, which include constraints on the consolidation of lots. The city council also needs to take more responsibility for evaluating site plan approvals, she said. The council has the ability to reject the planning commission’s recommendation, she noted. But in more recent years, she felt the city council has become really intimidated, saying, “Well, it seems to fit the criteria, so I guess we have to pass it!” She felt that the council must take into consideration how a site plan affects our overall planning goals and the community’s goals, including health and safety – to the extent that the law allows. [At the council's July 16, 2012 meeting, the issue of health, safety and welfare was cited by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3) in casting a vote against the Maple Cove project, which was presented to the council as a matter-of-right project.]

Warpehoski ventured that it would be possible to get some clarity right then at the forum on the issue of what the current status of the R4C citizen advisory committee’s report is – noting that Erica Briggs was in the audience, who until recently served on the city planning commission. Ask to clarify, Briggs said she thought it had made its way through a working session of the commission. [The committee's report was presented to the planning commission at its May 8, 2012 working session. The commission's ordinance review committee has met twice to work on changes to the ordinance, most recently on July 30.]

Affordable Housing

Question: How would you balance the need for mixed-use projects or multi-family projects and a desire for historic preservation? What about low-income housing? How would you replace the 100 units of affordable housing? Will you support downtown low-income housing?

Background: In connection with the construction of the new YMCA building located at Second and Washington streets, the city acquired the old YMCA building (at Fifth and William) in 2003 in order to preserve the 100 units of single-resident occupancy (SRO) affordable housing that the building offered. The YMCA had no plans to incorporate residential units at its new site, and neither did the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, which had contemplated redeveloping the old building as a transit center and office headquarters.

In 2005, mechanical systems in the old YMCA building failed to such an extent that residents needed to be moved out of the building. City staff led by Jayne Miller, who was community services area administrator at the time, worked over the following few years to find alternate accommodations for the residents, which they did. The city maintained a stated commitment to eventually replacing the 100 units, but not necessarily at the site of the old YMCA. A private development at that site, William Street Station, was to include some affordable units, but city council pulled the plug on that project when the developer failed to meet various deadlines. The site was converted to a surface parking lot, after the city decided to demolish the building. Demolition was funded by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Armentrout stated that where multiple-family housing is built is a question of zoning. She places a very high value on historic preservation, but noted that zoning decisions are a matter of a public planning process. In the case of City Place, the multiple-family housing that is being built there is marketed to students, and it’s going to be very high rent – she does not consider that affordable housing. Affordable housing means different things to different people, she said. For a lot of people, affordable housing means that “I can afford to buy it.” For others, it has to do with the technical formula for levels of income.

Building new housing that is affordable for very low-income people, she said, simply requires public subsidy. There is just no getting around that, she said. You’ll not find any developer building new affordable housing without a public subsidy, she said.

Something she’s followed with a great deal of unhappiness, she said, is what she described as the dismantling of our revenue and processes for providing affordable housing. At one time, Ann Arbor had a city community development department, she recalled. The city had two citizen committees to oversee these issues. Ann Arbor was one of the first block grant communities in Michigan, and because of that, Ann Arbor had $400,000 a year grandfathered in for human services that came to Ann Arbor from the federal government. That money was available for use without further application, she continued – “it was just ours.” And what we’ve done, she said, is that we have turned that money over to the Urban County, and it has become a county function. She described the previously grandfathered-in human services money as having been lost to the whole system. She allowed that because Ann Arbor had joined the Urban County, some additional money had been obtained.

[What Armentrout was referring to is that Ann Arbor had a "grandfathered-in" ability to spend more of its CDBG (community development block grant) on human services than other communities. Joining the Urban County meant that without an additional waiver, Ann Arbor would become subject to the same 15% cap as every other community for its expenditures on human services. In actual dollars, this meant dropping from $396,000 to about $196,000 in human services expenditures. But it did not affect the amount of the CDBG funds for Ann Arbor – just the way it could be allocated. Based on an email to The Chronicle from Mary Jo Callan, head of the joint city/county office of community and economic development, Ann Arbor is currently operating within the 15% cap.

The additional money, to which Armentrout alluded, stems from the fact that Ann Arbor's joining the Urban County, according to Callan, created a "... large enough entity to receive a direct allocation of ESG (Emergency Shelter Grant) funds from HUD [the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development]. These funds are directed to housing and homelessness agencies, just as CDBG human services funds had been previously. In addition, we began utilizing a previously-unused eligible activity within the CDBG funding, called Community Based Development Organization (CBDO). Through this designation, we were able to provide funding to Community Action Network and Peace [Neighborhood Center] (previously funded through either CDBG or General Fund human service dollars) that carry out neighborhood revitalization efforts.” Peace Neighborhood Center, coincidentally, is where the candidate forum was held.]

In her remarks at the forum, Armentrout also noted that the city had spent a lot of money buying the old YMCA building and then demolishing it – to turn it into a parking lot. That means we’ve lost our capital resources, revenue stream and our policy mechanisms, she said. She supposed that what she would have to do is look at what other avenues might be open.

Warpehoski said that affordable housing and making sure that Ann Arbor is a community for everyone is something that is near and dear to his heart. He’s been working with members of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance on an advocacy committee to find out what some of the opportunities are to continue pushing for replacement of the 100 units of affordable housing. The loss of the 100 units of housing in the old YMCA building was significant, he said. He reviewed how there’s a range of options in the affordable housing spectrum. One option is a shelter that provides short-term housing. Family housing is different from individual housing, which is different from supportive housing, which Avalon Housing does such a great job with, he said. What we lost with the demolition of the YMCA building was 100 units of single-residence occupant housing with a staffed front desk – which makes sure that there was some level of security in the building.

Referring to the homeless encampment that was recently dismantled, he said, many of the people who lived out at Camp Take Notice were actually working – but even while working, they still couldn’t afford to pay for housing. It’s really important, he said, that we work to re-establish those 100 units of housing.

Warpehoski then picked up on Armentrout’s mention of the capital side and the revenue side of the equation. In connection with Camp Take Notice, he said there’s been some conversation with the state about identifying funds to create housing opportunities for the chronically homeless – that is one avenue forward. If affordable housing is not part of any of the plans that come out of the Connecting William Street planning process, he feels that some of the capital revenue from the sale of those properties should be put into capital needs for affordable housing, in order to make good on that promise to restore the 100 units.

There are definite advantages to having affordable housing downtown, he said – in terms of access to services for people who need it. At the same time, downtown land is expensive, so if we had an opportunity for one unit downtown and two units outside of downtown, but located close to transit, that would be a balance we’d need to look at. The push to consolidate and coordinate is coming from beyond Ann Arbor, he noted. It’s a push that the feds are making – and we would be in danger of losing a lot more funding if we didn’t do that. He said he still has questions, but he felt it’s important to listen to the perspective of those who are most intimately involved – both on the city staff and in the nonprofit world.

Picking up on Warpehoski’s mention of the use of proceeds from the possible sale of city-owned downtown parcels, Armentrout cautioned that talking about any sum of money from the sale of a city lot and funneling it toward a particular use, means talking about a competition of priorities. So would you rather have a park downtown, or would you rather sell the land to the highest bidder? she asked. She would not even get into police and fire protection, she said.

Warpehoski said Armentrout was right about the need to balance priorities, saying service on the city council would be easy if it were about saying, Oh, this is a good thing, so let’s do that! But the challenge of serving on the city council, he said, is choosing between good things, and making hard choices. That’s the challenge of any leadership position, but especially a public leadership position, he said.

Follow-up: It was activist Alan Haber who’d asked the question about affordable housing. He wanted to see both candidates recognize that there has been a hostility on the part of the city council to looking at the situation, and contended that the city council has not made it a priority, and has not listened to the people who’ve spoken before the council. He said there needs to be a change in the council’s attitude on this issue. He asked if either of the candidates would spearhead that change and say: This is an important priority.

Warpehoski answered Haber by saying, “Yes, I will spearhead it and I’m spearheading it now.” That’s why when the city was looking at its budget last budget cycle – and human services were one of the first things that the city was considering to cut – he had worked with other nonprofit leaders and business leaders in the community to say: No, don’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor, because this is the time when they need those services most.

He said he’s working with other nonprofit leaders and advocates to see how we can keep the promise that was made to restore those 100 units – that’s something that is near and dear to his heart, he said. He wants Ann Arbor to be a city for everybody – not just the One Percent, he said. Having a strong social safety net is part of that, he concluded.

Armentrout agreed that affordable housing is a desirable goal. She said she did not know how we can achieve it. It’s a matter of a lack of resources and competing priorities, she said. It would take real effort to work out, she said.


Question: What is your view on the four-party agreement? Warpehoski wrote an opinion piece for in which he characterized his fellow citizens who have concerns about the countywide transit plan as “transit opponents.” How is this an example of deep listening?

Background: A recent initiative by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to expand its governance structure and service area on a countywide basis dates back at least to December 2009. A four-party agreement – between the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the AATA – would provide a framework and chronological sequence for the transition of the AATA to a new governance and funding structure. The Washtenaw County board of commissioners is expected to ratify the agreement on Aug. 1 – the other three parties have already ratified it. The agreement would require a voter referendum on a funding mechanism, before a transition to the new transit authority could take place.

With respect to the four-party agreement, Warpehoski said – as a Democrat, and as someone who is committed to the values of environmental protection and services for people who otherwise would not be able to get services – he is a strong supporter of public transit. He thinks that transit will help us address the climate crisis, noting that it had been an unbearable summer for canvassing door-to-door.

Transit is important for ensuring that people with disabilities and young people and people who can’t afford to drive have access to their community and can maintain their independence, he said. So he’s a proponent of transit. He’s been working with transit advocates like Jeff Irwin, as he’s tried to help the county move forward towards a more regional approach to transit. [Irwin, a Democrat, is a member of the state House of Representatives. He represents District 53, which covers Ann Arbor.] There have been years of public process done by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, intergovernmental negotiations and discussions – that included Jeff Irwin and Terri Blackmore of Washtenaw Area Transportation Study. There’s been a lot of study about the best way improve transit in the area, he said.

Ann Arbor has a decent transportation structure 9-5 Monday through Friday, Warpehoski said, but it doesn’t do a good job of providing evening and weekend service. Also, he said, his life does not stop at the city boundary, and the current level of service offered by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority doesn’t do a good job of connecting people to everywhere they need to go. In that context, and in the context of all the research and background that went into developing the four-party agreement, he characterized himself as a supporter of the document. He does not think it is a perfect document, he said. There were some things that could have been improved on, he allowed. “But I don’t want that nitpicking to say it’s not perfect so we’re not going to do it.” He continued, “I’m glad that my wife did not approach our marriage that way.”

So he concluded that the four-party agreement is an appropriate way to move forward. In terms of the op-ed piece that he had written, he said he believes it’s important to look at people’s actions about whether they support transit. After years of negotiation, the four-party agreement is the proposal on the table to help improve transit for the community both in Ann Arbor and in the broader area. If someone says they are for health but they are sitting on the couch every night eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, he said, you have to look at their actions. So that’s what he’s looking at, he said: What actions will support transit and what actions will leave us behind?

Armentrout began by saying that she is “burdened with too much information.” She described how much she has written on this topic and how she has attended meetings of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board since 2008, and how she has been following the process closely.

With all due respect to Warpehoski, she said, she thinks that “nitpicking” is what governmental representatives have to do. The details of funding and implementation are crucial, she said. Armentrout said she wanted to make it clear that she strongly supports transit – she considers transit to be very important to the quality of life in the community, the environment, to our ability to “self actualize” and everything else. It’s not a question of being opposed to transit, she contended. It’s a question of whether we will destroy our transit system – by implementing a risky system in its place.

She said she didn’t have time in four minutes to go into the details, but noted that what we’re talking about is creating a new entity, a new regional transit authority, which will have the power to tax, to change fare structures, to encumber itself with debt. She sees a lot of dangers connected to the proposal, including the idea that the new transportation authority would be expected to realize the vision of the WALLY rail system – which she described as having no foreseeable form of financial support. And WALLY is not about our local transit system, she contended. WALLY is about a train to Howell. The new countywide authority, she said, would not empower Ann Arbor residents to travel outside the borders of the city – it would only fund commuter systems to bring workers to the center of Ann Arbor and then leave again at the end of the day.

[At its June 21, 2012 meeting, the AATA board authorized the expenditure of funds for planning the north-south commuter rail project – from Howell to Ann Arbor, known as WALLY (Washtenaw and Livingston Railway). The money had previously been included in the AATA’s approved budget for fiscal year 2012, which ends Sept. 30, 2012. But the board had passed a resolution that requires explicit board approval before the money in the budget could be expended. AATA’s portion of the $230,000 in planning costs is $45,000, with the remainder contributed by a range of other public entities – the federal government, the city of Howell, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, and Washtenaw County. ]

Armentrout continued by saying the documents involved would weigh pounds if you printed them out. Her concern is that we are going to lose our transit system – and that’s why she’s been a strong opponent of this particular change. She also said that under the proposed agreement, accountability would be lost, compared to the seven-member AATA board that is appointed by our own city government. In the new system, Ann Arbor would have a minority stake, she cautioned. One of the first things that has been proposed is to raise fares by $.50, she said. So she does not see the four-party agreement as enhancing transit, but rather sees it as a danger to transit.

Warpehoski picked up on Armentrout’s comment about the importance of looking at details. He pointed out that those details were negotiated over years with a lot of stakeholders. Trying to understand the concerns of all the people who need to be part of this process is a difficult balancing act, he allowed. What he sees, however, is that people outside of Ann Arbor are worried that they are simply going to be subsidizing buses within Ann Arbor. And people in Ann Arbor are worried they’re going to be subsidizing buses that are not for Ann Arbor. That’s a difficult balance, he said.

That’s a balance that the governance structure in the four-party agreement tried to strike – where Ann Arbor has representation far in excess of its population. It tries to strike a balance between income-based representation and population-based representation, he said. [On the 15-member board, a population-based representation would give Ann Arbor just 5 seats. Based just on millage rates without attention to population, the 2 mills currently levied by Ann Arbor plus the 0.5 mill likely to be levied countywide would give Ann Arbor at least 12 seats.] He noted that Ann Arbor under the proposed governance structure [with 7 seats out of 15] is just one vote away from being able to get whatever it wants. That’s the kind of balance that the four-party agreement tried to strike, he said. And that’s why he supported it.

Armentrout allowed that Warpehoski is right – both township folks and city folks are worried about their contribution to the future system. If you listen to some Washtenaw County commissioners, they characterize it as a “power grab” on the part of Ann Arbor – that Ann Arbor is trying to get the townships to subsidize their buses. The facts are, she said, that Ann Arborites will be paying somewhere around 75-80% of the taxes to support the system, because Ann Arbor will begin levying its current 2 mills transit tax plus another 0.5 mill for the countywide tax. She also noted that the median income for Ann Arbor is lower than the entire western side of Washtenaw County. In fact, she continued, most of Washtenaw County has a higher median income than Ann Arbor. The only exception is Ypsilanti, she said – and she does feel that we should do something about Ypsilanti.

Follow-up: The questioner said it’s alarming to her to consider that Warpehoski could be her future representative and to hear him saying essentially that the plan couldn’t be improved on – and if you attempt to do so, you are one of “those naysayer obstructionists.” To her, that does not sound like he is listening.

Warpehoski noted that one of the factors is the role that he plays in different situations. The role he was playing when he was writing that op-ed piece, he said, was as an advocate for transit. He was not thinking about running for office, and he was not thinking about how to represent the whole community in writing that piece. He’d been thinking about how to represent those constituents for whom he had invested the deep listening in order to bring them together – that was the role he was playing when he wrote that piece.

That’s a different role than the one that a city councilmember plays, he said. He felt it would be possible to find things in other people’s writings, where you might conclude that someone is not listening – but they could be playing a different role. If Armentrout wrote something on her blog that he does not feel represents his concerns, he did not think that means she would not be able to listen to him if she were to serve on the city council.

DDA: Downtown Parking

Question: Do you agree with the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s action of building a new underground parking garage on South Fifth Avenue that cost around $70,000 per space to build, and charging two dollars a day for airport parking?

Background: The “airport parking” is provided by the DDA in partnership with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s new AirRide service between downtown Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro airport, which was launched earlier this year. The introductory parking offer was $2 for up to two weeks of parking at the Fourth and William structure. The DDA will be transitioning to a rate of $2 per day.

Armentrout she began by saying that the Ann Arbor DDA is using parking as a policy instrument. She questioned whether that is appropriate. She posed a rhetorical question: Is parking a public utility that should be available to all people who are living in and visiting and doing business in Ann Arbor? Or is it to be used as an instrument to achieve certain policy goals? She felt that lately it’s been the second of those two possibilities. She felt it’s an issue that could use broad discussion.

Warpehoski recast the question essentially as: Do you support the subsidizing of the AirRide airport service with a $2-a-day parking fee in order to help the AirRide service? He noted that the AirRide service has been very popular, and he is still looking at that specific question. With respect to the parking structure, he noted that whether you supported or opposed it, now we have it. And now we have to pay for it, he observed. He did not feel that $2-a-day parking fees for the AirRide service would help that much.

He mentioned that the special rate structure in connection with the AirRide program is not the only instance of the Ann Arbor DDA using special prices to give people incentives to park in different places – alluding to the reduced costs for monthly permits that have been offered in the new underground parking garage. One of the questions he has: Is this an introductory thing that will be around for six months or a year until the usage of the underground parking structure increases significantly? Or is it going to be a permanent thing?

[In connection with the opening of the new underground parking garage, the DDA has also announced temporary lower rates for monthly parking permits for the new garage, to encourage its use. The incentive rate of $95 per month in the new underground structure – for current permit holders in certain other structures, or for new users – is good for two years. That compares to the $145-$155 monthly rate at other structures.]

Those are some of the questions Warpehoski said he has and he’s still trying to work through them. He’d be happy to hear what people think about this issue.

Armentrout followed up by saying she wanted to give an example of the Ann Arbor DDA using parking as a policy tool. As the underground parking garage was being planned and built, she said people were told it was because Ann Arbor suffered a parking deficit and that the merchants needed the parking to keep businesses viable. But now, she said, a considerable amount of the new garage will be assigned to a new office building that is being built downtown. So, she contended, the underground garage is being used to subsidize office development.

[The public commentary and deliberations at the Feb. 17, 2009 city council meeting when the bonds for the parking garage were approved included voices calling for increased parking to support merchants. The meeting also reflected arguments based on more general economic development. The office space to which Armentrout alluded is not a new building, but rather the old Borders corporate headquarters downtown at 317 Maynard. Barracuda Networks is expanding into the space. According to DDA staff, no parking spaces are being assigned to Barracuda. However, as new monthly permit applicants, individual employees of Barracuda would enjoy the same reduced rate as other new permit applicants, if they opt to park in the new underground garage instead of the Maynard Street structure immediately adjacent to their work place. An industrial development district at the 317 Maynard location, which would need to be established in order for Barracuda to apply for a tax abatement, will likely be on the Aug. 9 city council agenda.]

DDA: Planning

Question: What could be done to require the Ann Arbor DDA to engage in real public input? What is the role of active community members in planning for public spaces? The Connecting William Street survey was very biased against green space. What could be done to require the Ann Arbor DDA to engage the public in real public input?

Background:  The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is undertaking the Connecting William Street project at the direction of the Ann Arbor city council. The council passed a resolution on April 4, 2011 that gave the DDA direction to explore alternative uses of city-owned parcels – currently used for surface parking – in a limited area of downtown. The area is bounded by Ashley, Division, Liberty and William streets.

Parcels included in the area are: the Kline’s lot (on Ashley, north of William), Palio’s lot (at Main & William), the ground floor of the Fourth & William parking structure, the old Y lot (Fifth & William), and the top of the Fifth Avenue underground parking garage.

Warpehoski said he’d heard a lot of concern about the initial survey and some of the public involvement – that there has been a “shaping of the path” to push people toward particular discussions. There are a couple of factors with that, he said. One factor is that the multiple choices presented on the initial survey had a set of options – and “open space” was not a part of that. That had resulted in a lot of people writing it in.

Also not included on the survey was affordable housing, he said. When the city purchased the former YMCA building, there was a promise made to replace the 100 units of affordable housing that were lost when the building was condemned and then demolished. So his concern is how that promise is to be kept. That wasn’t one of the multiple-choice checkboxes, either – so he had written that in. Pushing the DDA has to come partly from citizens and partly from the city council, he said. What would come out of the Connecting William Street process is a recommendation that would then go to the city council for approval. That’s a chance for the council to say: Well, this is what was left out!

With respect to the issue of open space as it relates to the top of the underground parking structure, he feels there are multiple stakeholders who need to be involved in that discussion. Whatever the future of that space is, it needs to include an open space component, he said. Questions include: How big? How much? What goes around it?

Public involvement should include citizen groups, including groups like Friends of the Library Green, he said. But it should also include the Ann Arbor District Library board – because the library sits directly adjacent to the parcel. It should also include other stakeholders in the area, he said – and some merchants are very supportive of a proposed park there. But just the previous day, he reported, he’d been knocking on the door of one Ward 5 resident who owns a downtown business – and who is absolutely opposed to having a park there. So he felt it’s important to have all the voices at the table.

His frustration with the process so far, he explained, is that he has seen park proponents and park skeptics talking past each other. He hasn’t seen the level of real engagement on the concerns that he would like to see. The process could be better, he said, and he would like to see an approach of shared problem-solving.

Armentrout began by saying she did not know how to get the Ann Arbor DDA to encourage more public participation – except to tell them really nicely that it would be really nice. She said we don’t have any direct influence on the DDA. As Warpehoski pointed out, she noted, whatever decisions are made by the DDA as a result of the Connecting William Street planning process would have to be endorsed by the Ann Arbor city council. That’s a place where citizens can bring up issues that they perceive as a lack of public participation. She traced the history of some failed request for proposals (RFP) attempts by the city – to find a solution for the YMCA lot and for the top of the underground parking garage. The RFPs tried to do too many things, and had very poor public process associated with them, she said.

The RFP that led to the conference center proposal from Valiant Partners had an appearance of public process, Armentrout said. But she said that the RFP advisory committee that was supposed to be considering the proposals had shown its bias – and didn’t really consider an open space proposal. So there’d been some bad blood about it, she said. There’d been outright rejection of open space, she said.

[The RFP advisory committee reviewed the six proposals that responded to the city's RFP. Two of them were essentially proposals for open space. The proposal selected as the most preferred by that committee was from Valiant Partners. However, on April 4, 2011, the city council vote to terminate the process of RFP review – as the city was poised to move ahead on a letter of intent with Valiant Partners.]

The DDA has had numerous discussions at their board table about how parks don’t belong downtown, she noted – how parks are suburban, and downtown shouldn’t have green space. She was dismissive of the kinds of open space that are sometimes mentioned – Main Street, where people sit outside and dine, or the ability to close off downtown streets and have parties there. There has been every effort to avoid the idea of open space downtown, she said. We’ll have to work as a community to change the conversation, she added, saying she did not have a magic bullet.

[In the DDA board discussions The Chronicle has documented, the distinction between the suburban and the urban has been highlighted by DDA board member Russ Collins. His view, however, is more nuanced than "parks don't belong downtown." From a March 2, 2011 DDA meeting report: "But the types of parks that are effective in a suburban area, Collins said, are not necessarily effective in an urban area. In urban areas, he said, density, activity and noise are positive attributes, even though those features are considered anathema in suburban areas. It’s important to separate the urban from the suburban, Collins concluded."]

Warpehoski agreed with Armentrout’s read of the initial request for proposals for the top of the underground parking garage. She was right, he said – that it was a terrible process start to finish – and he called it rushed, not transparent. He said it was a real problem. He stated that we do have open space downtown, pointing to Liberty Plaza [at the corner of Liberty and Division], saying the challenge is how to make that space work. He pointed to near-downtown parks such as Hanover Square by Blimpy Burger [at Packard and Division] and Sculpture Plaza [at Catherine and Fourth] – so we do have downtown open space, he said. He also believes that whatever goes on the top of the underground parking garage should have an open space component.

Armentrout responded to Warpehoski’s use of the word “stakeholder,” saying that word always causes concern for her. She described the typical process for “stakeholders” as one where you get one person from the merchants, one person from the library, one person from the chamber of commerce, and one citizen – everyone’s at the table, so what’s the problem? She said there are a lot of complexities with the way we make decisions, and once we start talking about “stakeholders,” it always makes her nervous, she said. [For a review of the term "stakeholder" and its original coinage, see "Column: Ann Arbor Parking – Share THIS!"]

Follow-up: Is there any way to redirect the Ann Arbor DDA to include green space in their Connecting William Street planning process – because that’s what the citizens want. The questioner noted that there were a very high number of mentions of parks and green space in the open-ended responses to the Connecting William Street survey.

Armentrout said she’d begun to count and enumerate the responses to that survey – but she had not finished because “a campaign came along” and interrupted some of her activities. But she noted that a very high percentage of the surveys that had been returned did say that people wanted open space or a park in the downtown area. She suggested that what citizens need to do is a proper job of tabulating the responses and then presenting that information to the DDA.

Warpehoski reiterated that in his day job as a community organizer, his job is to try to organize people and to get them to speak, to get them to weigh in on public issues. And often when he’s trying to do that, his job is to make the perspective he’s advocating for the loudest voice in the room. The challenge of an elected official, he said, is to work to hear every voice in the room. Those are different goals, he said.

He feels that stakeholder involvement is important, and what happens at that site affects merchants up and down that street more than it affects him – so we need to hear their voices, too. We need to hear all of the voices – including people who live in the neighborhoods. We need to push hard to consider what are the trade-offs – because when we say yes to something, we are also saying no to something, and we have to engage with that, he said. We need to think about how we can do a better job of hearing everybody, he said. He agreed that so far the Connecting William Street process has not done a good job of that.

DDA: TIF Capture, Conflict of Interest

Question: Should Ann Arbor continue with the Ann Arbor DDA and its current financial structure – which encourages bigger and more expensive financial development? For Warpehoski: Do you feel any conflict of interest voting on issues for the city government, DDA, and the AATA – given that your wife is so connected?

Background: The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, like all downtown development authorities in the state of Michigan, is funded through a tax increment finance (TIF) district. TIF allows an entity like the Ann Arbor DDA to “capture” a portion of the property taxes in a specific geographic area that would otherwise be collected by taxing authorities in the district. The tax capture is only on the increment in valuation – the difference between the value of property when the district was established, and the value resulting from improvements made to the property. The Ann Arbor DDA TIF applies only to the initial increment, not to inflationary gains.

Ann Arbor’s DDA also manages the city’s public parking system under a contract with the city of Ann Arbor. As a part of that contract, renegotiated and finally ratified in 2011, the city receives 17% of the gross revenues from the parking system.

Warpehoski’s wife, Nancy Shore, is director of the getDowntown program. This is a program that was initially funded in a four-way partnership between the city of Ann Arbor, the AATA, the DDA and the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce (now the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber). Initially, the chamber acted as the employer. In 2009, the chamber essentially withdrew from the partnership, which meant that the getDowntown program needed to find alternate quarters – part of the contribution made by the chamber had been to provide office space. The getDowntown program then moved to offices at 518 E. Washington, with the financial support of the DDA. But it’s the AATA that now acts as the employer for getDowntown staff.

So currently, getDowntown is funded through a three-way partnership: city of Ann Arbor, AATA and the DDA – and Shore is an employee of the AATA. The new Blake Transit Center is planned to include office space for the getDowntown program. The go!pass program, administered by getDowntown, is funded through a nominal charge per go!pass ($10) to downtown employers who participate, and a grant from the DDA. The DDA grant for the go!pass program is funded from the city’s public parking system revenues. The DDA has allocated $438,565 in FY 2012 and $475,571 in FY 2013 for the go!pass program.

Armentrout felt it would be valuable to assess the role of the DDA within the city government. There was a 30-year renewal of the DDA’s charter in 2003, she noted. She did not know what legal recourse we would have to re-examine that. The role and the scope of the DDA, however, she feels needs to be re-examined. She contended it has become like an “unaccountable government in its own right.” The DDA is setting agendas and priorities and has a substantial revenue stream. It’s like an organism, she said, and when given lots of fuel, it grows. The priority of the DDA in recent years has been to increase development that adds to the taxable value of property, so that they get more tax increment finance (TIF) funds – it has become a kind of development engine, she said. She felt that we need to ask: Is this what we really want? The original idea of the DDA, she said, was to keep the downtown alive – not necessarily to turn it into an economic development engine, she said, which seems to be what it’s attempting to do now.

Warpehoski began by saying that there are some things that the DDA does well, and there are some things that the DDA does not do well. He noted that the city had been sued over the sidewalks and their accessibility – and the DDA had funded installation of curb ramps in the downtown area to ensure ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance. So, some of the things that the DDA does provide real public benefit and need to be supported, he said.

He pointed to the getDowntown program – which his wife Nancy Shore directs – as a program that encourages people to get out of their single-occupancy vehicles and use alternative forms of transportation. The DDA has been funding a lot of Shore’s program to get downtown employees to use the bus and other alternative transportation – and he thinks that’s a good thing. On the other hand, now that the DDA has the debt from the underground parking garage and the new parking contract under which it pays the city 17% of gross revenues, there’s been an increase in focus on parking revenue. He did not feel that that’s an appropriate part of the DDA’s mission.

In terms of the DDA’s structure overall, he said, he illustrated how the DDA’s TIF capture works by talking about a proposed redevelopment for the former Georgetown Mall, which lies outside the DDA tax capture district. He gets excited about the future new Georgetown development for two reasons, Warpehoski said. Neighbors want the blight in their neighborhood removed. The proposed development to that site will also add a half million dollars in property taxes to the community – across all the taxing authorities, he believed. That’s not taxes for the sake of taxes, but when we talk about things like paying for safety services, or funding leaf pickup, he said, that helps to close the gap.

But when there is a new development inside the DDA taxing district, he pointed out, that doesn’t address the citywide tax need in the same way [due to the DDA's capture on the increment in value between the original assessed value and new construction.] So it is worth asking: How do we make sure that we have a vibrant downtown? We need to ensure a vibrant downtown, Warpehoski said, and he thinks we can have a vibrant downtown. A lot of different groups deserve the credit for it – including the local business community. But it’s important to make sure that those TIF capture funds are serving not just the downtown, but also the broader community.

Warpehoski came back to the issue of his wife, Nancy Shore, noting that her position is with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Her salary, he said, is funded by federal grants, and some of the programs she administers are funded with DDA money.

The first issue related to conflict of interest, he said, is disclosure. There is no secret about the funding of his wife’s position, or his relationship to her, he said – as they are married, with a child. He’s very proud of the work that Shore does, he said, and he would not do anything to endanger her great work in promoting sustainable transportation. If a particular vote came up that warranted recusal, he would recuse himself, so that the law is obeyed, and that he does not endanger the work that he does or his wife does.

Armentrout added her view that it leads to confusion when the DDA is playing two roles – administering the “parking utility” as well as filling its role as a development authority. When we look at the role of the DDA in the future, she said, we need to make sure we’re not talking about apples and oranges. On the whole, the DDA has done a good job administering the parking utility, she allowed. But using parking as an instrument of policy worries her, she said.

Open Meetings Act

Question: Does the city council have too many closed sessions? What would you do when another closed session is called?

Warpehoski said the hard thing about a closed session is that you don’t know what’s going on in there – so you can’t say whether it’s appropriate or not. Certain topics are appropriate for a closed session. Personnel matters and some legal issues are appropriate to have a discussion and have some level of confidentiality to them. If you are around a table in a closed session and the discussion is not appropriate for a closed session, he’d be pushing back and saying: Wait a second, this is not something we should be having closed-door discussions on.

Armentrout noted that Michigan’s Open Meetings Act outlines what topics are appropriate for closed sessions – personnel matters, purchase of property, and litigation, among others. She said she also doesn’t know what’s going on in there, and said that it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on city councilmembers. As a Washtenaw County commissioner, she said, she participated in closed sessions, and they were told that if they revealed to anyone what was said inside the session, they would be breaking the law and could be prosecuted. That was a terrific burden, she said.

She was not sure if a single city councilmember could challenge whether a closed session is appropriate. But she noticed that the current city attorney [Stephen Postema] seems to have an “expansive view” of what attorney-client privilege is. She would like to bring whatever small influence she might have as a city council person to re-examine some of that.

Pension Fund Liability

Question: What specifically would you like to do about the pension fund liability?

Armentrout began by saying that she does not have a solution – as she has not studied the question in depth. She felt that it’s a valuable area to look at. She would not, however, consider altering the existing pensions that employees are getting. We have to keep the promises we’ve made, she said. It’s going to take a lot of analysis to figure out how to fix the pension system on an ongoing basis. It’s much more than she could take on in four minutes, she concluded.

Warpehoski called it an important issue – years in the making, which would take years to fix. But it’s an issue that the city council needs to address through the mechanism of the budget process. His understanding, he told the forum, is that there are two elements that have to be looked at – one is the city pension fund liability, and the other is the retiree health benefit liability. Both of them are concerns, he said. He allowed that he would probably misidentify which one was which, but he ventured that one of them had been fully funded before the stock market crash back in 2008 – and for that fund, the city is much closer to having a fully funded system than for the other. [Fitting that description is the pension fund liability.]

He also thought there had been changes in the federal accounting rules that had put a lot of municipalities into an “Oh, no!” situation. Like Armentrout, he allowed, he does not have a five-point proposal for how to address the problem – but said we absolutely have to look at it for the long-term financial health and sustainability of the city.

Closing Statements

Armentrout she was really glad that the Ann Arbor Ward 5 Democratic Party put on the forum – she felt it was very valuable and felt that it had allowed attendees to get a good sense of the two candidates. She called it a very stimulating discussion on the issues. The reason she’s running is that she’s really asking people to put her to work for them. She felt that people know what they need to know about her, and what her concerns are, so she’s hoping for people support.

Warpehoski echoed Armentrout’s thanks to the Ward 5 Democratic organization. After leaving some of the other candidate forums, he said, he wondered if people had heard enough to make a decision. But he felt that the Ward 5 forum had allowed candidates to engage some of the key issues of the community. His commitment, he said, is a commitment to service – for the common good. That’s the reason he works with the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice. It’s a commitment to what is best for the community, what’s best for the world, and what is best for future generations, he said. That commitment is key if he is elected to office, he added.

People had heard the candidates talk about the issues and their perspectives on the issues, he said, but what’s important going forward are broader questions. When he was first considering running, he said he’d set up a meeting with Sabra Briere. One of the things she had told him was that she is more interested in knowing what a candidate’s values are – not their positions on issues. Positions will change as the issues change, she’d told him, but the values will stay. That thought from Briere had an impact on him, he said. [This is part of Briere's standard "Advice to the Candidate."]

He felt that his record of service with the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice shows that he is committed to the common good, shows that he is committed to bringing people together – and that’s part of what he’ll to bring to the city council, he said, if he is elected.

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Ann Arbor Council Ward 5: Chuck or Vivienne? Wed, 18 Jul 2012 21:16:41 +0000 Dave Askins A forum hosted by the Ann Arbor Democratic Party on July 14 featured eight candidates in four city council Democratic primary races. This article summarizes the responses from Ward 5 candidates Chuck Warpehoski and Vivienne Armentrout. The winner of the Aug. 7 primary will face Republican Stuart Berry in the November general election. Other races are covered in separate Chronicle articles.

Vivienne Armentrout Chuck Warpehoski

Ward 5 Ann Arbor city council candidates Chuck Warpehoski and Vivienne Armentrout. (Photos by the writer.)

The Ward 5 seat will be open this year, because incumbent Carsten Hohnke chose not to seek a third two-year term on the 11-member council – which includes the mayor and two representatives from each of the city’s five wards. Democratic primaries are contested this year in just four of the five wards, as Christopher Taylor is unchallenged in Ward 3.

Hohnke was first elected to the council in 2008, winning the general election against Republican John Floyd. In the August primary that year, Hohnke won a very close race against Armentrout, who is competing for a Ward 5 seat again this year.

Armentrout said she’s running based on her experience – and her involvement in the civic life of Ann Arbor. She cited her involvement with organizations like the Ecology Center, Project Grow, and the League of Women Voters. She also cited her service on public bodies like the city’s solid waste commission, the city budget review committee, as well as the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, an elected position that she held for eight years.

After she left the board of commissioners, she worked as a journalist, she said, focusing primarily on city issues for the Ann Arbor Observer. And she’s been writing a local issues blog since 2009 – Local in Ann Arbor. She wants to apply her experience to represent the residents of Ward 5.

Warpehoski told the forum attendees that he is running because he wants to serve the community. He stressed his strong Democratic values – like environmental protection, and a commitment to a strong social safety net. In his day job as executive director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, he is already serving the community, he said, but service on the city council is another way to serve the community. He stressed the importance of the mix that Ann Arbor offers – of a vibrant downtown and great neighborhoods.

Warpehoski noted that elections end up being a discussion about candidates. But fundamentally, he said, he does not believe that public service and elected office is about the candidate – rather, it’s about the community. That’s why the center of his campaign has been knocking on doors all across Ward 5, he said. And when he approaches the door, he said he’s not starting with a commercial for himself. Instead, he begins with a question: What’s on your mind about what’s going on in the city?

The single main policy issue that candidates were asked to address was a possible new train station at the Fuller Road site – and transportation is an issue on which Armentrout and Warpehoski have the most different perspectives. But the Fuller Road Station was touched on just briefly. Armentrout listed several reasons why she’s opposed to a rail station at Fuller Road, while Warpehoski is supportive of the idea. But he indicated that if the ultimate recommendation of a current study that’s being conducted is to locate a new facility at Fuller Road, he thinks it deserves a public referendum, because it is public land.

Aside from opening and closing statements, not a lot of specific local policy ground was covered by questions put to the candidates – due in part to a time constraint of about an hour for eight candidates. But the candidates did talk a great deal about issues of transparency and group dynamics on the city council – in response to the leadoff question from forum moderator Mike Henry, co-chair (with Anne Bannister) of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party.

Responding to the question of working as a group, Warpehoski described the techniques of “deep listening,” and stressed the importance of assuming good intent. For her part, Armentrout stressed the importance of  expressing mutual respect and in making decisions based on data and on the merits of the case, and “arguing politely,” whatever the case is.

Broadcast live earlier in the week on the Community Television Network was a League of Women Voters candidate forum that included Armentrout and Warpehoski, which is available online.

The deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 7 primary has passed. Oct. 9 is the last day to register to vote for the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election. Information on voter registration can be found on the Washtenaw County clerk’s elections division website. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website. The League of Women Voters also has an online voter information site – – which includes biographical information on some candidates, stances on issues, and a “build my ballot” feature.

Opening Statements

Warpehoski: He led off by saying that voters could find out more about him by visiting his website:

As he goes door-to-door, he reported, people ask him why he is running for city council. His answer, he said, might sound almost anachronistic, but the reason he’s running is because he wants to serve the community. He loves Ann Arbor, and in his day job as executive director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, he sees an opportunity to serve the community. And service on the city council is another way to serve the community, he said.

Part of what makes Ann Arbor so unique, and so great, is that it has a really unique mix, Warpehoski said. The library is sited downtown, and people come from all over the state to experience what Ann Arbor’s downtown offers. And right next to the downtown, there’s a transition to great neighborhoods – he noted that the location of the candidate forum’s venue, at the Ann Arbor Community Center on North Main, is an example. The council needs to preserve both of those areas, he said.

As a Democrat, the values of environmental protection and human services funding are near and dear to his heart. That needs to be well-represented on the city council. The other thing he’s committed to, he said, is responsive government – whether that’s customer service trying to get a permit to build a deck or to get a pothole filled. It also means listening to and involving citizens in decision-making. From his work at the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, he’s learned that people can get across their differences by listening and engaging – and that’s what he hopes to bring to the city council.

Armentrout: She also gave the URL of her campaign website –

She is running on her experience, Armentrout said. She represents all of the progressive ideas that she also thinks probably all the other candidates have. What she’s especially emphasizing, she said, is her past involvement in the civic life of Ann Arbor. When she arrived in Ann Arbor 26 years ago, the first thing she did was to get involved in the Democratic Party. The next thing she did was to volunteer at the Ecology Center. She got involved with Project Grow, and the League of Women Voters. She was appointed to the solid waste commission, and she served on the city budget review committee for over a year.

Then she was elected to the Washtenaw County board of commissioners and served eight years on the board. After she left the board of commissioners, she worked as a journalist, focusing primarily on city issues for the Ann Arbor Observer. Since 2009 she has written a local issues blog – Local in Ann Arbor. That’s experience, she concluded, but it also shows she has a real concern for this community and she hope she can apply her experience to represent the residents of Ward 5.

Working as a Group

Question: As a member of a legislative body, one of the things you’ll be judged by is what you can accomplish as a group. There’ll be group dynamics and differences of opinion. Mike Henry’s question invited candidates to talk about how they would approach finding solutions amid that difference of opinion.

Background: Henry’s question implicitly recalled  the sentiments of Democratic county clerk Larry Kestenbaum, who wrote as a citizen to the entire city council in the fall of last year, roundly castigating councilmembers for decisions that resulted in the demolition of seven houses on South Fifth Avenue, to be replaced by two large apartment buildings (City Place). Kestenbaum had stressed the importance of working as a group: “A city council is not judged by the good intentions of its members. It is judged by what it accomplishes, or fails to accomplish, as a body.”

Warpehoski: As the question states, he began, the city council is a group that needs to work together. Right now, he said, there tend to be factions, and the city council doesn’t always move together.

In his experience with the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, he said, they often have differences of opinion around the table – about which issues they should address and how they should address those issues. What he’s found in his service is two parts to making it work. First, it’s important to engage in “deep listening.” When a concern comes up, he explained, if you’re able to take the time to listen – not just to the palpable concern, but also to what lies beneath it – you can find a workable solution that can move the group forward together. That takes work, and it takes time, and it takes attending to a culture of trust and openness, he suggested.

Second, when he does work around tense issues – like racial justice work or things like that – one of the ground rules you have to set is you have to assume good intent. All the candidates at the table, himself included, are there because they want to serve Ann Arbor. A seat on the Ann Arbor city council is not a position of power and glory, he ventured, but rather a position of service. It means recognizing that even though they might disagree, he said, they are all working for the benefit of the community. And assuming good intent helps to establish a culture of trust. He’s seen that work at the ICPJ, and he feels like that’s something that he can bring to the council.

Armentrout: She explained that she has served on many committees, some as chair, and she believes in expressing mutual respect to all members. She believes in making decisions based on data and on the merits of the case. She believes in arguing politely, whatever the case is. She described herself as very process-oriented. She has also participated in putting bylaws together for committees, she said, and she practices good parliamentary procedure. She does not believe in block voting, she said. When she served on the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, she was sometimes in a coalition with others whose viewpoints she opposed on other issues. She hoped that we would not see factional voting on the city council. She would work to see that that does not happen, she said.


Moderator Mike Henry then picked up on the mention of transparency by Ward 2 candidate Sally Petersen and Ward 1 candidate Sumi Kailasapathy. Henry asked those who are currently on the city council – Margie Teall (Ward 4) and Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) – how they felt about the current level of transparency. Eric Sturgis made clear that he, and perhaps Armentrout, also wanted to respond to that question. So several of the other candidates had a go at the question.

Armentrout: She noted that she had once edited a book on planning techniques – it was called “The Planner’s Use of Information.” It had an excellent chapter by an author who specializes in the whole issue of public involvement, she explained. One of the things the author had written, which had made an impression on Armentrout, was that if you choose to involve the public in the process, you have to take into account what the public has to say.

She felt that the city council has moved in recent years really quite commendably toward the appearance of transparency – by making information much more freely available, which she really appreciates. In the case of the possible conference center on top of the South Fifth Avenue underground parking structure, it was really nice that a website had been established that included all of the responses to the RFP (request for proposals). And there were open meetings of the RFP committee. However, she said, the opinions of the public were not ever actually solicited. And there was no public comment opportunity made available at any of the RFP review committee meetings.

[By way of background on the conference center to which Armentrout alluded, the council had voted on April 4, 2011 to end the RFP review process for the top of the new underground parking garage. That decision came after a committee had selected a proposal for a hotel/conference center by Valiant Partners as the preferred proposal among six that had been submitted. The lack of an opportunity for public comment at the RFP review committee meetings was documented as part of The Chronicle's coverage of the final meeting of that committee, in the form of a column.]

Warpehoski: He began by taking the advice of someone in the audience – that the candidates should stand up so that their voices would project better throughout the room. He quipped that, “Part of transparency is for everybody to be able to hear …”

He noted that several candidates had addressed the issue of transparency in terms of whether the information is out there and whether it’s available. One of the challenges we have today in the information age, he cautioned, is the “drinking from a fire hose effect.” There’s a tremendous amount of information on the city website and elsewhere, he noted. What he had found from his service on the countywide transportation district advisory committee was that very few people are up for reading all 180 pages in a document. So part of that process has to be making that information more accessible – so people don’t have to spend four hours reading it, but can identify what is involved.

He noted that some conversations are public – like when we have public hearings. But some of the conversations are one-on-one – like the conversations he’s had about the 4-3 lane conversion on Jackson Road as he’s gone door-to-door campaigning. Those are important conversations, too. He also pointed out that making decisions involves using multiple sources of information – public input and public perceptions being one source. Those types of information are actually vital, he said. But it’s also important to have expert opinion and expert analysis and really look at data.

Top Issue (Fuller Road Station)

Question: Is there one overriding issue that you would like to work on? [Vivienne Armentrout was the first respondent to the question, and she identified the proposed Fuller Road Station as one reason she'd been prompted to run for city council. So moderator Mike Henry asked the other candidates to try to share their thoughts on the Fuller Road Station as well.]  

Background: At its June 4, 2012 meeting, the city council accepted the award of a roughly $2.8 million federal grant to help fund a site-alternatives analysis for possible construction of a new train station. The Amtrak station is currently located on Depot Street, near the Broadway bridges. The site-alternatives analysis is meant to result in the confirmation of a locally-preferred alternative to be reviewed by the Federal Rail Administration. The preliminary locally-preferred alternative is a site on Fuller Road near the University of Michigan medical complex. That site preference is based on previous planning work, as well as work for which the city has already expended roughly $700,000 (which satisfies the 20% local match requirement of the FRA grant).

Previously, the University of Michigan and the city had a memorandum of understanding that would have led to the construction of a 1,000-space parking structure at the Fuller Road site, in conjunction with the train station. However, on Feb. 10, 2012, UM withdrew, for now, from a partnership on the project. The Fuller Road Station project has been controversial in part because the site is on land that’s part of the city’s Fuller Park. The area proposed for the train station has been a surface parking lot for many years.

By way of additional background on a specific issue Armentrout raised in her response, Amtrak has three routes in Michigan – the Pere Marquette, the Blue Water and the Wolverine. Ann Arbor residents will most likely be familiar with the Wolverine, which runs between Pontiac and Chicago via Detroit and makes a stop in Ann Arbor. Currently, the state of Michigan absorbs the operating subsidy (the difference between passenger fare revenues and costs) for the Pere Marquette and the Blue Water, while the Wolverine is subsidized on the federal level. The effect of the federal legislation to which Armentrout referred will be to transition the Wolverine to a state subsidy.

Michigan Dept. of Transportation communications officer Janet Foran responded to a Chronicle query by email as follows:

Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) of 2008 requires the states to agree on a costing methodology for all Amtrak trains running less than 750 miles in trip length.  Under PRIIA, states will be required to pay these costs and for Michigan that would include the cost of the Wolverine service beginning in FY 2014 (we already provide state support for the Blue Water and Pere Marquette).

If we do nothing, based on current estimates from Amtrak, our subsidy for the Wolverine service would be $14.2M (includes operating and capital charge) and $6.1M for the Blue Water and $3.5M for Pere Marquette services (both those numbers include operating and capital charge). Total cost to Michigan is $23.8M.  If we are able to make the improvements that enhance the service, our market analysis indicates there will be increases in both ridership and revenue, which will lower our subsidy.

Armentrout: There are broad issues, but as far as specific issues one of the things that motivated her to run for a seat on the city council is the proposal to build a new train station at the Fuller Road site. There are multiple reasons why she thinks that is very bad public policy: economic reasons; concerns about precedents that it sets for use of park property; a questionable need for such a station; the possibility it would actually diminish ridership (because it wouldn’t be convenient for people who are currently using the train to travel to Chicago); the lack of money to build it.

Further, she said, she does not believe that there will be trains running. She pointed to Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) of 2008, which will change the way that Amtrak will be funded. In the year 2014, the state of Michigan will need to absorb the cost of subsidizing the Wolverine Line – from Detroit to Chicago. There will not be federal funds anymore. We’re not currently working on a reality-based solution, she contended.

Warpehoski: In terms of his number one issue, he said, customer service is one thing he would like to see the city do a better job on.

He said he’s talked to a lot of people who’ve been trying to figure out how to solve some problem – get a pothole fixed or dealing with traffic on a residential street. And they don’t know how to get that information from the city. His own experience is that if you can find the right person, they will get things done – because we have a high-quality city staff. Out volunteering in his neighborhood park, people will ask him, for example, about a broken bench in a park on the north side of town.

If you know to talk to Amy Kuras, he said, she will make sure that it gets addressed by the right person. [Kuras is the city's park planner.] But if you don’t know to talk to Amy, he allowed, it can be a maddening experience. He noted that some of the people who are best in the world at customer service are in Ann Arbor – Zingerman’s [a collection of businesses, most famously a deli, which focuses heavily on the quality of its customer service]. And he thinks the city could do better. Though it’s not a flashy process, he feels that it’s an important one.

As far as the train station goes, he thinks the train station is important. He disagreed with Armentrout’s implication that the current station is very accessible. It’s actually difficult to get bus service to the station – to complete the last mile of the journey, he contended. Right now, there is a site selection process in place, and if the site that’s selected is the Fuller Road site, he feels it deserves a public vote – because it’s parkland, it’s a public good, and it deserves a public decision.

Closing Statements

Armentrout: She reiterated that she is running on her experience – but she is also looking to the future, she said. She felt the decisions will be made in the next few years that will affect the future of Ann Arbor. The name of her campaign blog, she said, is “Ann Arbor – It’s Where We Live.” She’d named it that, she explained, because she is trying to focus on a city government’s first job: To serve the residents and local businesses of Ann Arbor.

Armentrout wants to preserve the city as a place where we can live and have a good quality of life. That does not mean that she’s against change, she said. As Ward 2 incumbent Tony Derezinski had said (earlier in the forum), she pointed out that we have to “manage change.”

She wants to see city resources used for the benefit of those who live here. One example that illustrates her view would be the proposed conference center on the Library Lot – which was proposed as a broader economic development objective, not just for the benefit of local Ann Arbor residents and local businesses. That idea of a conference center was killed last year – but it has come up again, she said. The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority had commissioned a consultant study for its Connecting William Street project – and “just suddenly” a little report had been “spun off” about why we should have a conference center: “I’ve seen this movie before,” she quipped.

She said she’d been described as independent, and she felt that’s a pretty accurate description. Anybody who knows her knows that she’s pretty confident of her understanding of things, she said. Armentrout promised to be respectful and to judge issues on their merits.

Warpehoski: He thanked everyone for attending and for making an informed choice in the election. The way elections work out, he said, is that they end up being a discussion about candidates. He’s tried to share a little bit about himself with people – his strong Democratic values, environmental protection, commitment to a strong social safety net, his commitment to community service and to listening, as well as his experience in the neighborhood and community.

But fundamentally, he said, he does not believe that public service and elected office is about the candidate – rather, it’s about the community. That’s why the center of his campaign has been knocking on doors all across Ward 5, he said. And when he approaches the door he’s not starting with a commercial for himself. Instead he begins with a question: What’s on your mind about what’s going on in the city?

It’s been an education, he said, that he could not get any other way – listening to people at the doorstep about what is on their minds. For this election, people need to know that he has the values and skills to serve on the council, but fundamentally it’s about respecting the community and serving the community, he concluded.

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