Westphal Pulls Petitions for Ward 2 Council

Kirk Westphal has pulled petitions to run in the Aug. 6, 2013 Democratic primary for a seat representing Ward 2 on the Ann Arbor city council. According to Westphal, he took out the petitions on the afternoon of March 21.

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.

If he files the petitions with at least 100 valid signatures by the May 14 deadline, he’ll be competing for the seat currently held by independent Jane Lumm. Lumm was elected most recently in November 2011, winning the general election against Stephen Rapundalo, who ran as a Democrat. Lumm, who served for a period on the council in the mid 1990s as a Republican, is expected to run again this year.

In a telephone interview with The Chronicle, Westphal stated: “I consider myself strongly pro-environment, pro-transit, pro-alternative energy, and a strong Democrat. I hope to represent my ward in that capacity.” Responding to a standard question, he said he’s running “because I sense we’re on the cusp of some unique opportunities and challenges. I’m hopeful my vision of the future resonates with the ward.”

Westphal is currently chair of the city’s planning commission. He was first appointed on Oct. 3, 2006, replacing James D’Amour. The city council confirmed Westphal’s reappointment to the planning commission on July 2, 2012 for another three-year term on the commission, ending July 1, 2015. Westphal also serves on the city’s environmental commission.

Westphal is married with two children, ages 5 and 7, and lives in the Glacier neighborhood of Ward 2. Chronicle readers might be familiar with that part of town through The Chronicle’s coverage of last year’s Memorial Day parade.

Westphal is founding principal of a documentary production firm, Westphal Associates. He holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan. For a Chronicle profile of Westphal, written in 2010, see “Know Your Kirk: Public Servant.”

The Ann Arbor city council is an 11-member body, including the mayor. Each of the city’s five wards is represented by two councilmembers, who serve two-year terms. In any given year, only one of the councilmembers is up for re-election. Not up for re-election this year in Ward 2 is Sally Petersen, who was first elected in November 2012.

Westphal is the second non-incumbent to indicate plans to run for city council this year. Earlier this month, Julie Grand – chair of the Ann Arbor park advisory commission – pulled petitions to run in the Ward 3 Democratic primary. If she files the petitions with at least 100 valid signatures by the May 14 deadline, she’ll be competing for the seat with incumbent Stephen Kunselman, a two-term councilmember who is running for re-election.


  1. By James Jefferson
    March 21, 2013 at 7:42 pm | permalink

    Not my ward to vote in, but, no thanks. As far as I am concerned the planning commission, under his watch, has done more to ruin the charm and architectural integrity of the city than had been done in the previous 40 years. Let them prove otherwise, but in this next election so far it looks like Heiftjes minions are back in full force. Soon our city will be nothing but bike lanes, crosswalks and high-rises.

  2. By Forward Progress
    March 21, 2013 at 8:20 pm | permalink

    This is great! Westphal will make a great councilman. He is smart, dedicated and is not beholden to any interest group. He is a true democrat that can represent ward2 in an honest way. Now we have a Dem to vote for in the primary who is progressive and who thinks green energy and transit. Sadly, the current ward 2 representation only thinks about how to keep the golf course that they use for their backyard green.

  3. By Alan Goldsmith
    March 22, 2013 at 6:37 am | permalink

    Mr. Westphal will be forced to run on his Planning Commission record, which is a total fiasco. If anyone thinks he’s be anything other than a rubber stamp for the Mayor and his policies, you’re wrong. No thanks is right.

  4. March 22, 2013 at 7:27 am | permalink

    My impression of Kirk Westphal was formed at a Concentrate forum where he stated with a straight face that Sweetwaters’ is a public space. He has worked up a whole presentation that basically supports the idea of no new green or open spaces downtown. Of course, as a member of the DDA’s LOC for Connecting William Street, his direction is very clear.

    So what does “thinking green energy” imply? I get the transit part.

  5. By DrData
    March 22, 2013 at 7:58 pm | permalink

    Someone should have told Kirk Westphal that if I go to Liberty Plaza, Almendinger Park, Gallup Park, etc., I do not have to purchase something to use the park. Sweetwaters, rightfully, expects you to purchase something to sit at their tables and use their (slow) wifi; and, then to purchase something again and again if you expect to camp out all day.

    On the other hand, the Starbuck’s at Liberty and State is pretty close to public space. The employees do not police the area. I can recall years ago sitting in there with my Sweetwater’s cup because of construction going on in my office.

    I’m being facetious. I don’t consider any of the businesses in the central business district as a place I sit in like I might in my backyard or a park.

  6. By Mark Koroi
    March 22, 2013 at 9:10 pm | permalink

    Kirk Westphal was a University of Pennsylvania grad prior to his graduate work at the University of Michigan.

    His entry into Ann Arbor politics came after he was a student in a class at U-M being taught by John Hieftje. The Mayor promoted his entry into Ann Arbor municipal government.

    My guess is that John Hieftje asked him to run against Jane Lumm.

    Will Jane run under a party affiliation this time around?

  7. By Hillary Murt
    March 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm | permalink

    I am very pleased that Kirk Westphal has decided to throw his hat into the ring to run for City Council. Kirk brings with him a breadth of experience and a strong sensitivity to ways in which cities can grow and prosper and still hold onto their defining character. I was asked to serve on the DDA’s LOC Connecting William Street because of my experience as a former business owner in downtown Ann Arbor and, with no former knowledge of Kirk, came to appreciate and respect his insights and perspectives during our lengthy discussions.

    I have been an Ann Arbor resident since 1975 and like many who comment on these pages have witnessed an evolving city. I endorse candidates like Kirk who recognize that thoughtful growth and development is better than no growth at all or worse, growth that has no limits or boundaries.

  8. By John Floyd
    March 26, 2013 at 5:30 pm | permalink

    @7 Apparently, Westphal is the DDA candidate. After the Connecting William Street fiasco, this tells us a lot about what he would do – and who he would represent – on council.

  9. By Steve Bean
    March 26, 2013 at 8:53 pm | permalink

    Vivienne and John, as you well know, limited impressions don’t tell the whole story about a candidate.

  10. March 27, 2013 at 9:55 am | permalink

    Steve, of course not. However, one can reach tentative conclusions based on available knowledge.

    Personally, I’m always open to more information. But when there is already a fair public record of an individual, it can be used to establish a tentative hypothesis of where that person stands. We are fortunate in having a substantial number of votes and public statements to scrutinize in the case of Kirk Westphal. We have those for Jane Lumm, too.

  11. By john floyd
    March 29, 2013 at 11:39 pm | permalink

    Mr. Bean,

    I would be interested to see Mr. Westphal address the “Robust Public Process” of the Connecting William Street project. Is not including the opinions expressed by the public part of his understanding of Robust Public Process?

  12. March 30, 2013 at 9:11 am | permalink

    The fix was in on the Connecting William Street project long before the first public meeting.

  13. March 30, 2013 at 10:10 am | permalink

    Actually, the CWS process was explicitly constructed to avoid a messy public process. Instead, they used focus groups from “stakeholders” and the LOC as a means of avoiding unwanted public input from “the usual suspects”, i.e. members of the public who actually pay attention. There are mentions of this throughout the LOC meeting documents. For example, in one chart (January 2012), responses from a parking survey were analyzed to indicate that ages 35-70 were “overrepresented”. It called for reaching out to “Those that we need to attract as employees, entrepreneurs, and future residents”, which apparently was the under 19-34 age groups.

    The bias in the final survey against open space has been well documented by others, so I’ll leave that alone.

  14. By Steve Bean
    March 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm | permalink

    @11: Do you want me to ask him for you, John? It would be more direct for you to do so yourself. if Kirk wondered about your thoughts as a candidate on something, would you have preferred that he ask me or you? Or would you prefer that he draw conclusions and skip the questions?

  15. By Timothy Durham
    April 1, 2013 at 6:49 pm | permalink

    If you’ve ever taken the time to listen to the available portions of Westphal’s urban planning video:


    He talks up the Main Street corridor and its architecture (with a ~200% FAR, by the way) as an example of a nice, “accentuated core” noting how the buildings address the sidewalk- what new urbanists refer to as an “active, permeable membrane-” with a diverse mix of businesses, and that this part of Ann Arbor is what most people think of as the “heart” of the city.

    But knowing what people love about the city (by asking them) one might expect that, as head of planning, he might seek to extend or recreate some of this magic when the opportunity knocks?

    Then look at the Connecting William Street proposal and the student mega-monoliths (700-900% FAR) built, and yet to be built, during his reign on the planning board…. What could explain ditching his own research so readily? Research still up for sale in *DVD form for $94.99?


    *By comparison, if Borders were still around, you could get:
    Léon Krier’s “Architecture of Community,”
    Jane Jacobs’ “”Death and Life of Great American Cities,”
    JH Kunstler’s “Geography of Nowhere” and
    Andres Duany’s “Smart Growth Manual” and have enough left over to take your sweetheart out to dinner. I’d love to hear what each of them has to say about what’s going on in Ann Arbor these days…