The Ann Arbor city council’s March 4, 2013 agenda includes a proposed change to the city ordinance (Chapter 7) governing the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. I think most of those ordinance amendments have considerable merit, and warrant the council’s consideration. But it’s possible that the amendments themselves won’t receive their due consideration, because they’ll be dismissed as politically motivated.
The Chapter 7 amendments are being proposed by Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), who’s been joined by Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1) in sponsoring them. Kailasapathy’s co-sponsorship might help only incrementally to buffer the proposal against criticism that they’re motivated by Kunselman’s personal political aspirations.
On that theory, Kunselman is proposing revisions to Chapter 7 in an effort to raise his profile – in anticipation of a possible mayoral candidacy in 2014, and to shore up support for his Ward 3 re-election campaign his year. Given that he took out petitions for the 2013 Democratic primary on Nov. 3, 2012 – before the Nov. 6 general election – and collected signatures outside the polls, it’s pretty clear that he’s eager to seek re-election to his council seat. And last time around, in 2011, he campaigned as much against the DDA as he did against either of his two opponents. Kunselman is quoted in the February 2013 issue of the Ann Arbor Observer saying that if mayor John Hieftje runs for re-election next year, he’ll run against Hieftje.
However, on the theory that these proposed amendments are all about Stephen Kunselman and not about good public policy, I figure it’s also reasonable to toss in another possibility. Perhaps Kunselman is trying to raise his profile enough to win local blog Damn Arbor’s current poll as “most attractive councilmember.” The poll includes Kunselman as one of just four nominated councilmembers. It’s not clear to me if the voting is meant to include sartorial choices, but if it does, Kunselman could objectively be considered a natty dresser.
All kidding aside, it would be easy and convenient to dismiss the Chapter 7 amendments as a political ploy, and save the work of understanding some gnarly tax calculations. [You'll have a head start on this if you've read my previous column on the issue: "Tax Capture is a Varsity Sport."]
But I think at least some of the proposed changes to Chapter 7 have considerable merit, independent of Kunselman’s political ambitions. Millions of dollars are at stake. As councilmembers give this proposal initial consideration on March 4, I hope they focus on the tax-related amendments.