Candidate Forum Focuses on Downtown

At Main Street Area Association event, 3 Democratic mayoral candidates discuss density, open space, national chains, the DDA, other topics related to downtown Ann Arbor

Speaking to about 30 people gathered at Sweetwaters in downtown Ann Arbor, three Democratic candidates for mayor answered downtown-centric questions at a May 1 forum that touched on issues of density and open space, the DDA, national chains and support for local businesses.

Christopher Taylor, Sabra Briere, Sally Petersen, Ann Arbor city council, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Democratic mayoral candidates Christopher Taylor, Sabra Briere and Sally Petersen at a May 1 forum. The event was held at Sweetwaters and moderated by the Main Street Area Association. (Photos by the writer.)

The mayoral candidate forum, held by the Main Street Area Association, featured Sabra Briere, Sally Petersen and Christopher Taylor. The fourth Democrat who’s vying for the seat, Stephen Kunselman, was unable to attend. All four candidates in the Aug. 5 primary election currently serve on the city council. There are no Republicans running this year.

In addition to their opening and closing statements, candidates responded to three questions posed by Tom Murray, president of the MSAA board and owner of Conor O’Neill’s, an Irish pub located on Main Street. Candidates were asked for their views on density and open space downtown, as well as their opinion of the DDA. The third question focused on the tension between support for local business and the growing interest from national chains in locating downtown.

All three candidates talked about the need for downtown development, with Briere and Taylor saying that density and open space aren’t mutually exclusive. Briere talked about the importance of walkability, and noted that urban parks provided “punctuation points” for the community. However, she said that for Ann Arbor’s relatively small downtown, it wasn’t logical to insist on a really large downtown park.

Petersen answered the question by focusing on the development aspect, including the need for large floor-plate office space, redevelopment of the North Main/Huron River corridor, and infrastructure like public transportation. She announced her support for the transit tax proposal that’s on the May 6 ballot. All other candidates had previously endorsed the proposal, which is being put forward by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. Mary Stasiak, AAATA’s manager of community relations, attended the May 1 forum.

The candidates all expressed unequivocal support for the DDA, with Taylor in particular lamenting the political culture that he says has “scapegoated” the DDA. That was likely a reference to criticism of the DDA by Kunselman, among others. Russ Collins, a DDA board member, attended the meeting in his capacity as executive director of the Michigan Theater to promote the upcoming Cinetopia International Film Festival.

And while praising the unique character of downtown Ann Arbor and the need to support local businesses, candidates noted that it’s not possible to prevent national chains from locating downtown. Taylor said he was excited that the downtown is attractive to businesses from outside this area, though he didn’t want to see national chains come in to the exclusion of locally-owned retailers. Briere described herself as a firm advocate for local businesses, saying that the downtown should focus on specialty items that can’t be found elsewhere. Petersen said she likes the whimsy of local businesses that inspire the phrase “Keep Ann Arbor Funky,” but noted that certain national retailers – like Apple – would be a perk to downtown.

There is no incumbent in this race. Mayor John Hieftje announced last year that he would not be seeking re-election. The deadline has passed for entry into the partisan primary on Aug. 5, but it’s still possible for an independent candidate to get on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

For additional Chronicle coverage of the mayoral race, see: “Council, Mayor Primary Election Lineups Set” and “Town Hall: Four Mayoral Candidates.”

Opening Statements

Each candidate had two minutes to make an opening statement. They drew straws – in the form of plastic stirring sticks – to determine the speaking order.

TAYLOR: I’m delighted to be here and to have the opportunity to chat with you. I’m Christopher Taylor, and I’m running for mayor. I am a lifelong Democrat.

Christopher Taylor, Ann Arbor city council, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Christopher Taylor.

I am running because I think it’s important that the next mayor have the experience, the temperament and judgment to really work every day to maintain and improve the quality of life for everyone in Ann Arbor. That’s my main thrust. By way of a little background, I’m a lawyer. I work at Hooper Hathaway, right around the corner over there on Main Street. Honestly, do not do anything in front of Mongolian Barbeque that you don’t want me to see, because that’s where my window overlooks and I will see it.

You know, I think city council and the city in general is for the most part on the right track. We need to focus on two things – these are big, broad things. The first thing naturally is that we need to focus on basic services. Public safety and the streets, of course, and water, solid waste – these are things the city needs to focus on and we need to constantly improve.

But Ann Arbor’s not just a basic place. It leads, and I think we need to always act like that. So the city has a role to play in affordable housing, has a role to play in transit, has a role to play in expanding walkability, in maintaining our beautiful parks. But also, and particularly with respect to this meeting, it has an important and vital role to play in maintaining and increasing an active, exciting downtown. The downtown if vital for Ann Arbor, and for our neighborhoods. It’s crucial that the downtown be an open, welcoming, thriving place where folks can come and enjoy themselves to work and to engage in all the awesome aspects here.

BRIERE: I’m Sabra Briere, and I’m also running for mayor. I also sit on council. I’ve been there a year longer than Christopher – this is not a major benefit to you all, but I do know what goes on at the city.

Sabra Briere, Ann Arbor city council, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Sabra Briere.

When Christopher speaks about temperament, he’s quite correct. The temperament to be a mayor, to work with people of disparate viewpoints and bring them together is a really valuable asset. It’s something that I possess. I’ve collaborated with every councilmember on one or another item that has come before the council. Not to say that I agree with everyone on the council – only to say that there are things about which each of us agrees and we can work together.

One of those things that we agree on is how to make Ann Arbor better. We put different percentages of effort into those things. For me, I put a significant effort to talk about walkability, bikeability, alternative transportation – because I’m one of those people who isn’t in love with a car. I like my car, but I don’t need to park it everywhere I go. To a great extent, what I respond to is the community’s request for an increased walkable community. A community with a downtown they can enjoy. For me, that also means thriving local businesses.

As we talk about downtown, we really need to emphasize local businesses and local qualities. Because you’re the character of our community. When people leave our community, what they remember is what you bring into it, more than what I do. And since we thrive on the people who live downtown and work downtown and come to visit downtown, it’s your work that makes all the difference to me.

PETERSEN: I’m Sally Hart Petersen, and I would love to be your next mayor. I’ve lived in Ann Arbor for 18 years. I have a BA in psychology from Williams College and an MBA from Harvard. My time in Ann Arbor is characterized by diverse leadership experience in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

Sally Petersen, Ann Arbor city council, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Sally Petersen.

One reason why I’m running for mayor is, like everyone in this room, I love Ann Arbor. But it takes much more than just a love of Ann Arbor to be an effective mayor of this city. It takes financial acumen, collaboration and a commitment to relentless civic engagement.

Financial acumen means anticipating the consequences of our policy-making. I realized early on when I was on council that economic health is a budget priority, but the city has no staff or funding dedicated to economic development, except for a $75,000 contract with Ann Arbor SPARK. This status quo thinking on economic development is very limiting. For this reason, I sponsored a resolution to form an economic development collaborative task force with the DDA and SPARK. The key outcome was the recognition that there are major gaps in the delivery of economic incentives to ensure jobs and prosperity throughout the city.

Genuine collaboration means going beyond working together with like-minded people. It means actively seeking out and working with people whose perspectives are different from your own. Councilmember [Jane] Lumm and I don’t always agree on the issues, but we’ve been able to put that aside and together we’ve co-hosted six Ward 2 town hall meetings. I think we’re the only ward pairing on council to collaborate in that way. Our next mayor needs to be a champion of civic engagement. As a city councilmember, I have prioritized the voice of our citizens, surveying residents’ views and communicating regularly through Ward 2 emails and a Ward 2 website.

Our residents have higher expectations than ever from the public sector and private sector accountability. Through my experiences, I’ve developed skills in critical thinking and strategic planning and sound judgment, which are necessary in leading Ann Arbor forward.

Downtown Density & Parks

There has been great discussion about the need for downtown density and development, versus the need for downtown parks and open space. What is your position on this, and as mayor, what specific actions would you take to support your position?

BRIERE: I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I think we need both. Good design for an urban space is going to result in increased density. Good design for open space includes places where people can slow down and calm down. A certain amount of open space allows us to gather casually to talk with each other, to engage in people-watching. All of those things are important for a community to thrive. It’s not logical, in a very small downtown – and frankly, what we face is a very small downtown – to insist on a really large downtown park. But urban parks create punctuation points in a community. And the more people who come downtown to live, to work, to play, the more we need those punctuation points in order to have a good, walkable community.

As mayor, I’ll continue to do what I have been doing – advocating for good design downtown, good urban design, good streetscape design, and excellent maintenance of the downtown infrastructure. But I’ll also be working with the Main Street BIZ [business improvement zone] as it continues to expand its services. I’ll be encouraging State Street and South University to establish their own BIZes. A business improvement zone is an excellent tool for a downtown association to use to really make a character for the downtown, so it doesn’t become all the same. The Main Street character is well known. It’s something that works really well for us.

As mayor, I’ll also be encouraging the consistent application of rules. I know that a lot of people think Ann Arbor has onerous development rules. I’m not in a good position to judge whether they’re onerous on a developer, and I’ve never dealt with those rules anywhere else. What I do know is that rules should be consistent, logical, easy to understand, written in such a way that anybody can follow them. And that when you walk into a project – whether it’s a renovation on an existing space or a new space – you should know exactly what you’re getting into when you’re working with the city. But city services go both ways, and the community also has an investment. And if you have good urban design, that community investment is reflected and the community feels comfortable with the change, and understands the benefits that good development brings.

PETERSEN: I’ve heard it said that the math dictates density downtown. But my perspective is that if we had better math, we’d have better buildings. The city has exorbitant upfront costs in terms of utility hook-up fees that force developers to go to the maximum density in terms of height and width. I think if the city had an economic policy, we’d be able to inspire reasonable growth by removing the barriers to desirable development.

Mary Stasiak, Ann Arbor city council, Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Mary Stasiak, manager of community relations for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

As mayor, there are several priorities that I would have for our downtown to support development downtown that is reasonable. Large floor-plate office space – there’s not a lot of it in the downtown area. The plan would be to inspire growth to create that, and maybe that involves our business partners. There’s a vision of North Main Street from Depot to M-14, where we would redevelop the riverfront area. I was at a conference last week [the State of the Huron] where John Austin spoke about the “Blue Economy” and how communities can achieve a three-to-one to six-to-one return on investments along the river. I’ve spoken to Laura Rubin of the Huron River Watershed Council, and it’s good to know we have a shared vision about how that might happen. If we have a vibrant North Main Street, we have more people coming downtown, more people to work, shop and play in the downtown area. I think that benefits everybody.

Also, I think about what are the other infrastructure elements that we need. I mentioned large floor-plate office space. Other infrastructure elements include transportation. How can we sustain economic growth and development downtown through better transportation. I’m glad Mary Stasiak is here. [Stasiak is manager of community relations for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. The AAATA has a millage proposal on the May 6 ballot to fund increased transportation services.] We’ve had lots of debate this week about the millage. I co-hosted a Ward 2 meeting on Tuesday night with Jane [Lumm]. We invited people from the AAATA to present and they took some very, very incisive questions from Ward 2 residents. A lot of the opposition actually resides in Ward 2, and I invited them because I wanted to have a public airing, a fair question-and-answer session.

I am happy to say that I am supporting the millage on May 6 and will vote yes. We need better public transportation to alleviate parking issues downtown.

Finally, I think we really need – and also I’m encouraged to hear – that the DDA is considering an ambassador program. I think we need to look at ways to increase the perception of safety downtown. Partly we can do that through alleviating vagrancy and highlighting the perception of safety downtown.

TAYLOR: The question is essentially to compare and contrast and provide balance for downtown density and downtown open space. I don’t think that these concepts are in conflict. These things are both necessities for a vital, active downtown. The open space, however, needs to be prudent and successful.

I’ve sat on the parks advisory commission for years, making sure that our parks remain beautiful and that the parks we have are well-maintained. The parks?? advisory commission had put together a long, eight-month process identifying what makes a successful downtown park. They looked at experts, talked to and received input from hundreds, thousands of residents. They put together a set of proposals, a set of principles as to what makes a successful downtown park. They presented these things to city council. City council accepted them.

Recently, however, the city council has put these principles to the side – these successful, I think wise, principles to the side – and designated a large portion of the Library Lot to open space. I think we need open space downtown. Open space is critical for residents, for visitors, for workers. It needs to be smart. It needs to be well-thought-through. It needs to be planned in context.

Downtown density and open space only work together if they are conceived of at the same time, and if they are complementary. If you drive with one without considering the other, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’re setting yourself up to replicate the problems of Liberty Plaza. So how do I think these issues are at play? I think they are both absolutely critical to the success of the downtown, but they need to be thought through together, at the same time, so that they can work together to mutually include each other.

Downtown Development Authority

Over the past few years, the public had perceived there to be growing tensions between city council and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. What do you see as the DDA’s most important contributions, and do you see the DDA’s role changing over the next five years?

PETERSEN: I love the DDA. I love the work that they’ve done downtown. Their most important contribution is the work they’ve done and are continuing to do in activating our sidewalks. The other piece that they’ve done, which goes above and beyond the DDAs in other communities, is that we’ve sort of strapped them with our parking situation. Cities usually self-manage their own parking. The DDA is doing that for us, and I think that’s another one of their most significant contributions that goes above and beyond what DDAs are reasonably expected to do.

Russ Collins, Michigan Theater, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Russ Collins, executive director of the Michigan Theater, is also a member of the Ann Arbor DDA board. He was on hand to talk to the MSAA about Cinetopia, but began by thanking the mayoral candidates for running: “You know, my son keeps asking me why I don’t run for mayor. I tell him that I don’t want half the city to hate me immediately upon election.”

I had the good fortune of traveling with the DDA to the International Downtown Association meeting in October – actually, Christopher [Taylor] was there with me. It was really refreshing how we’re able to reach out and get great ideas from New York City and cities from around the country and bring them back to Ann Arbor.

How is their role changing? I don’t think it’s changing. I want them to continue to do what they’ve been doing. They’ve done an excellent job. Christopher and I were also both members of the DDA-city council partnership task force, where we evaluated the future contributions, the projects going forward with the DDA. There was a decision made – we achieved a consensus on it, though that doesn’t mean we were unanimous on it – but there was consensus that beginning in 2016, there would be a cap on the DDA’s take of the TIF [tax increment financing revenues]. To a certain extent, I am in favor of that.

Going back to the concept of DDAs, in good times, the income and the benefit is supposed to be shared. Because the DDA has been managing our parking system for us, the DDA has paid for the [parking system's] debt on the city’s behalf. They haven’t been sharing the wealth when they’ve beaten their TIF plan??, because of the parking debt. And I think that’s OK. But going forward, the economic climate is improving and I think it’s time for the DDA to start sharing that wealth. But they’ll still have plenty of money to continue to do the kinds of things that fits their mission in downtown Ann Arbor.

TAYLOR: The city-DDA conflict, in my view, is a tremendously unfortunate part of what’s been going on in the political culture over the past couple of years. I think it hurts us all. It hurts the downtown. I think it’s just bad for Ann Arbor. The DDA has done, I think, quite good work throughout the city. They provide tremendous infrastructure support, whether it’s the creation of the go!pass program, whether it’s assisting with conduit, whether it’s assisting with street and sidewalk infrastructure changes, whether it is alley repairs. The DDA is there when the downtown needs it – and the downtown needs it.

The move on council to pull money out of the DDA and send it to the county, to the community college – Sally says there was consensus, and it was certainly well-supported on council. I voted against it. I think it is a bad move to take money out of the downtown and send it outside of the city of Ann Arbor. I think the DDA provides high-quality services to folks in the city. I think it is a partner with the city to support the downtown and to keep the infrastructure thriving, which is good.

What can it do going forward? Going forward, I see the role as being largely unchanged as well. The DDA will continue to invest in parking. They’ll continue to invest in streetscapes. They’ll continue to invest in below-ground infrastructure, when asked. They’ll continue to provide grants to businesses for a variety of purposes. They’ll continue to provide the go!pass program. [The DDA helps fund the go!pass, but it is administered by getDowntown, a unit of the AAATA.] They will continue, I believe, to be proper stewards of taxpayer money used for the benefit of the downtown, used to promote the economy of the downtown, to bring people downtown. That’s their mission, and I think they do it effectively.

Stepping back to the conflict between the city and the DDA, I think they’ve been in part scapegoated. The political culture in our city is not immune to the reflexive anger and tensions that gave rise to these sorts of concerns and issues on a national level. The occurrence particularly in, in …. I won’t go there. The short of it is, I think the DDA is comprised of people of good faith who are doing their level best to work on behalf of the city. I think they do an excellent job, and it’s a shame that that is not recognized and honored.

BRIERE: I was elected to council not really understanding the DDA. And to be completely frank, the only way for me to learn about how the DDA functioned was to start meeting with people. I met with members of the DDA to understand what they thought was going on, what they saw as their mission. But I began also attending DDA meetings.

I find the people on the DDA are absolutely 100% working to please council and to please the community. Note the order in which I put that. The council, as it shifts its verbal priorities, pushes the DDA in different directions. From my position, that makes the DDA not an independent organization working on behalf of the downtown, but an extension of city government. I don’t think that’s what any of us want to happen. Certainly the talk on council is the desirability of an independent DDA. But the fact of the matter is that the DDA responds to council demands. And the council does make demands, because a lot of the growth in the tax base and in the community has been in the downtown, and therefore the DDA has access to the flexible funds that the city council finds uses for.

I think that the DDA’s new project on streetscapes is going to be really exciting for the city. I’m so glad they’re doing that. I think their focus on infrastructure – when they’re allowed to focus on infrastructure – is an excellent asset for the city as a whole. I also think that we push them in different directions. We say: Well, what about more office space – how can you incentivize that? How can you use your money to spend on affordable housing? How can you maintain the various things that we see as priorities this year? And an unfortunate aspect of that is that an organization that plans long-term, 10 years at a time, is trying to respond to immediate demands. And they have this conflict, within themselves and their roles, to respond to the council’s immediate demands and their own vision for the downtown.

I became a DDA supporter, with no problem, the more I realized that not only were they well-intentioned as individuals, but their mission and goals were a significant asset. Do I think they have more money than they need? No. Do I think they always spend it as wisely as they would like to? None of us do.

Local Business Versus Chains

Main Street Ann Arbor has received many accolades as one of the best Main Streets in America. A significant component of its success is our unique mix of independent small businesses. The growth and success of our downtown is attracting interest from national chains, which many feel will adversely affect the overall unique experience of our downtown. How do you feel about this?

TAYLOR: That is a leading question! There are very few ways to answer that. I am excited that our downtown is attractive to people. You know, I think downtown is amazing. I think Main Street is amazing. I work there. I see it every day. I love it there, and I’m not surprised that other people do too. Do I want there to be national chains downtown, to the exclusion of local businesses? Absolutely not. We need to do all we can to encourage people who own buildings downtown to bear that in mind as they decide to whom they wish to lease or sell their properties.

Elmo Morales, Main Street Area Association, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Elmo Morales owns Elmo’s Main Street T-Shirts in downtown Ann Arbor. Sitting next to Morales is local attorney Rob Boonin.

It’s not a controlled economy. We can’t say: Multinationals, do not apply. But we can do our part to advocate for a local, active and unique downtown and Main Street, and make sure that the people who do hold the purse strings – who do hold the lease strings, if you will – that they know how important it is that we have a vital and unique mix. You know, I think there’s room for all sorts of things. There’s been some conversations about restaurants versus not restaurants. Again, you can’t fight the market. If the market is there, then that’s the way the businesses will trend. It’s not a demand economy. We can’t legislate that.

But I think what we can do is acknowledge that change occurs, and we need to do what we can to channel change. Whereas there may be restaurants growing in one area of the downtown, retail grows in another area. I think we have so much going for us, and I’m delighted that we do. I’m delighted that it attracts the interest of folks from the outside.

BRIERE: I’m a firm advocate for local business. I’m not nearly as excited as some people might expect me to be at having retail chains come downtown. Part of the reason for that is that national retail chains – a Target, a Crate & Barrel – while it sort of fits into the mood downtown and would work in an old building, it doesn’t bring the kind of foot traffic that I want to see downtown. It’s destination shopping. And destination shopping benefits that destination – it doesn’t benefit the adjoining stores.

One of the things I love about walking downtown is looking at all the various window displays. I love it because I can find myself attracted by something going on in that store and I go in, though it was not my destination. If I were coming downtown to go to a large national retail chain, I might not find myself looking sideways nearly as much. To me, it’s that serendipity of discovery that makes downtown desirable.

But there is no way that we can demand that no one from outside the community establishes a store, and we really have no business talking about it. We don’t have any business [talking about it] because we want local businesses to thrive and they can’t thrive unless other people come downtown to shop. Downtown is not going to provide the daily needs the way it might have in the 1960s – because there are so many other opportunities for people to shop.

Downtown should focus on providing the wants, the things that we really want to buy, the specialty items, the more exotic items. And frankly, that’s what it does already. That’s not what’s provided by national chains. If I want to eat out, eating out at an Ethiopian restaurant is much more interesting than eating out at yet another spaghetti restaurant that you find at the mall. To me, that’s an important value. We can do a lot of things to change the rules to make it possible for people to be innovative in space in order to really capitalize on the asset of our local creativity and local ownership.

PETERSEN: It’s not unprecedented to have a national chain downtown. We had Borders here. I think that having Borders here, the appetite for a national chain, because it was homegrown, was a fit. Unfortunately, they were in an industry that was declining, and they closed.

I will also say that not all national chains are alike. One of the perks of national chains is that they bring people downtown – but sometimes at the expense of local shops and retailers. I look at other national chains, like Starbucks. We have a number of Starbucks downtown and that sort of fits with our community. Am I going to say there should be no Starbucks downtown? I don’t think so.

Tom Murray, Conor O'Neill's, Main Street Area Association, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Tom Murray, president of the MSAA board, moderated the May 1 forum. He is also owner of Conor O’Neill’s, an Irish pub located on Main Street.

Then I look at Apple. Some of the Apple stores are amazing national chains. Not only are they a national chain, but they create placemaking around them. That’s also a perk to downtown. If we had an Apple store, think about the kinds of clientele that would come to Ann Arbor and then shop at other stores. So I’m not going to say no national chains. When thinking about restaurants, I know Carrabba’s and P.F. Chang’s are going out by [Briarwood] mall. I think that’s an appropriate place for chains – to have them on the major thoroughfares in and out of town.

I would love to say no national chains downtown, but I don’t think that’s realistic. I do think we need to think about what national chains do fit the characteristics of our downtown. I love our downtown. I love the whimsical retail, the diversity of food. I’d like to see more companies as well. I think there’s a place for national chains. I think it is more on the corridors, and not so much in the downtown.

I’m fond of the phrase “Keep Ann Arbor Funky,” and I think that’s what our Main Street, State Street and South U do. I would put that ahead of national chains, but again, I do recognize that not all national chains are alike. Some fit, some don’t. For those that don’t, there’s still a place for them in Ann Arbor.

Closing Statements

Each candidate was given two minutes for a closing statement. The speaking order was reversed from the order of their opening remarks.

PETERSEN: From my time on council, and as a leader in this community, I’ve learned that our city faces unprecedented challenges characterized by the need to support impending growth and city services with revenue that is constrained by a reduction in taxable property. It calls for elected officials and all leaders to challenge the status quo and chart a different course for the future. My campaign is about new leadership. I’m running for mayor because I believe that we can build on the unique heritage and heart of Ann Arbor, the spirit of which is very much captured on Main Street, and create new economic and environmentally sound opportunities for our residents and business owners to thrive and prosper.

I see three priorities for Ann Arbor. Responsible growth through the creation of prudent economic policies to reduce barriers to desirable development. Better collaboration with the University of Michigan with regard to mutual areas of interest that influence quality of life: Infrastructure, transportation, and private-sector job creation. There hasn’t been a question today [at this forum] about our relationship with the university, but I think that’s something that we need to have a new attitude about. We’re going to have a new mayor, and they’re going to have a new president. I think it’s time to rethink how we work best together to ensure economic prosperity for the entire city.

The third thing is elevating the quality of civic engagement by modeling high-level standards of conduct, civility, transparency and accountability. So in summary, our next mayor needs to be creative and strategic in her approach to developing prudent economic policy, engaging collaboratively with the University of Michigan and being relentless in civic engagement. I consider the job of mayor as a full-time public servant, being available 24/7. I have the time, energy and interest dedicated to seeing that the cityʼs priorities are brought to fruition.

BRIERE: One of the challenges the next mayor is going to face is how to work with a council that’s periodically divided among itself, and how to work with a community that’s also periodically divided amongst itself. A community that seems to be encouraged in that division. This is not news. It’s also not new. Years ago, the community was divided by town and gown. When I moved here, being born in the city was considered a requirement in order to run for public office. This isn’t news.

What’s news is that more and more, we’re recognizing that Ann Arbor is a place where people move because they love it here. And it’s not because of the buildings. It’s not because of city government, and it’s not because of the climate. It’s because the people who live here are interesting and vital, engaged, excited, curious – and they want their neighborhoods to reflect those skills, those interests, those abilities.

The people who move to Ann Arbor and stay are people who find that what you all bring to the table makes their lives rich. Because you bring that level of entrepreneurship. My relationship with people in the community is very grassroots, very organic. I have learned a lot from every one of you. I have learned a lot from all the people who aren’t in this room, too. I’ve learned because not only do I listen, but I reflect action based on what I hear. I’m not a reactionary, but I am an action-oriented person. I think this is really important for the next mayor.

TAYLOR: What I’d like to do, I think, is answer a question that wasn’t asked. If you want more general information from me, you can go on my website,, and you’ll see a great deal of it there.

I want to talk a little bit about young professionals and talent, because that’s so important to our downtown and so important to the city’s future. It is vital that the city be open and welcoming to young people. And I don’t mean 18-year-olds – they’re going to come. But it is vital that the city be welcome and opening to 25-year-olds, to 30-year-olds. The downtown is an incredible foundational part of it. The next mayor needs to understand that, needs to be able to engage and talk with this generation, be comfortable and fluid with this generation – because that is the base from which we’re going to grow older together.

Entrepreneurs require talent. Businesses that are here require customers, require new energy. We can encourage young people to come – through a vital, active downtown, through better transit, through openness, through workforce housing, through a piloted bike share program. These are things which are welcoming to young people. These are things that we need to continually emphasize and to ensure that the target audience – folks in their 20s, folks in their young 30s with growing families – that they understand that Ann Arbor’s a place for them, that the business community is open to them, that the political culture is open to them, that they can come and stay and build a life here. As mayor, that’s something I want to do. That’s something the mayor has an incredible role in. That’s going to be a benefit to you all downtown.

That’s a more specific closing than anybody anticipated, but there it is – what’re you gonna do.

The Chronicle survives in part through regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of local government. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.