One of the first local candidate forums in the 2012 primary election season was held last week – for Ann Arbor Ward 1 city council Democratic candidates, Sumi Kailasapathy and Eric Sturgis.
Eric Sturgis and Sumi Kailasapathy at their June 20, 2012 Democratic primary forum. They are running for a Ward 1 Ann Arbor city council seat.
In the Aug. 7 primary, the two candidates will contest Sandi Smith’s seat on the council. Smith announced in April that she will not seek re-election to a third two-year term.
The June 20 forum included fairly standard opening and closing statements, and other questions that invited candidates to talk about themselves.
Sturgis emphasized the fact that he grew up in Ann Arbor and noted his connection to the Ann Arbor public schools; he liberally sprinkled through his remarks the names of several people who’ve endorsed him, including Sandi Smith.
Kailasapathy emphasized her educational background in political science and economics and her professional training as a certified public accountant.
Broader policy issues covered at the forum included: communication (transparency and dissemination of information); planning and development (African American Cultural & Historical Museum, Near North, 618 S. Main); and transportation (rail station, countywide transit). The candidates were also asked questions about employee health care, public art, medical marijuana, and the public schools.
The forum featured a combination of questions that had been prepared in advance, as well as some questions submitted by audience members on cards during the forum. Mike Henry, co-chair of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party, moderated the forum and declined to read some of the questions submitted from the audience on cards, calling them “unfair.” But toward the end of the event Henry allowed questions to be asked directly from the audience. Anne Bannister, the other party co-chair, was also on hand to help manage the forum.
A kerfuffle over campaign yard signs preceded the forum – as the two campaigns had difficulty reaching agreement on the appropriate placement of yard signs outside the venue, the Arrowwood Community Center. The center is located off Pontiac Trail about a half mile north of Barton Road.
And during the forum itself, the focus of the conversation at times veered away from substantive issues into associations that Sturgis and Kailasapathy may or may not have had with past candidates for office – locally and statewide. One of those past candidates was current Ward 2 city councilmember Jane Lumm.
In a comment emailed to The Chronicle, Lumm offered this perspective: “I was not at the debate the other night, but it sounds like some of the discussion was about who supported whom in past elections rather than exclusively focused on the issues and challenges facing the city. That’s unfortunate. Whether it’s beefing up public safety, or the strategies and decisions on county-wide transit and the passenger rail station, or service delivery efficiency, there are important city issues and that’s where the discussion ought to be.”
The detailed report of the forum below is organized thematically, not in chronological sequence. The report begins with a brief bit of internal Ann Arbor Democratic Party business, and is followed by the broader policy topics and other one-off policy questions. The various who-supported-whom issues are extracted into a separate, final section. [Full Story]