The Ann Arbor Democratic Party hosted a forum on July 14, 2012 for candidates in four city council Democratic primary races. This article summarizes the responses from Ward 1 candidates Sumi Kailasapathy and Eric Sturgis. [For additional, previous coverage of the Ward 1 race, see "Ward 1 City Council Race: Filling Sandi's Seat"] Other races are covered in separate Chronicle articles.
This is the second time that Kailasapathy has run for city council. In 2010 she challenged incumbent Sandi Smith, and received 45% of the vote – the best showing of any challenger to an incumbent that year. This year, Smith 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.
The winner of the Democratic primary in Ward 1 will likely not face an on-the-ballot opponent in November. No Republican is running, and the deadline for independent candidates to file is July 19.
In remarks about himself, Sturgis stressed his continued connection to the Ann Arbor public school system, having grown up in Ann Arbor attending public schools. He emphasized that he has a positive attitude about Ann Arbor, which is appropriate, he says, because Ann Arbor has been rated as one of the best places to live in the country. He stressed the importance of having a positive vision.
Sturgis also highlighted his endorsements, which include three former Ward 1 councilmembers, as well as outgoing Ward 1 councilmember Sandi Smith. But he highlighted the fact that mayor John Hieftje has not endorsed him, analyzing that as a positive – because that means he wouldn’t be indebted to Hieftje. Sturgis is relatively sanguine about the condition of the city’s budget – to the point that he dismissed Kailasapathy’s concerns about debt and unfunded liabilities by pointing to the slight surplus the city enjoyed in the most recent fiscal year.
Kailasapathy took Sturgis’ remark on debt as an opportunity to draw on her professional experience – as a college educator – to give a short lesson on the difference between income/revenue statements (which Sturgis was talking about) and balance sheets (which show the city’s debt). In her opening remarks, she also stressed her education and her professional training as a certified public account.
Kailasapathy told the audience that she wants to focus on core services and the preservation of neighborhoods and parks. She allowed that she brings a skepticism to government and she would be asking lots of questions.
Candidates were asked to comment on one main policy issue – the idea of a new rail station possibly to be constructed at a site on Fuller Road. Sturgis held in abeyance his view about the proper location of a new rail station, pending the outcome of a site alternatives analysis that is currently being conducted. Kailasapathy’s view, expressed at an earlier forum, is that a voter referendum should be held if the Fuller Road site is used for a train station – because the site is designated as city parkland.
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 all 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.
Broadcast live earlier in the week on the Community Television Network was a local League of Women Voters candidate forum that included Kailasapathy and Sturgis, 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 – Vote411.org – which includes biographical information on some candidates, stances on issues, and a “build my ballot” feature.