Voters in Ann Arbor's Third Ward will be choosing a new City Council representative in next week's Democratic Primary as Christopher Taylor is running for mayor instead of re-election. Bob Dascola, Julie Grand, and Samuel McMullen are all on the ballot.
Grand was narrowly defeated last August by incumbent Stephen Kunselman. She's running again because she thinks most of the same issues remain and council has become even more polarized. She believes several approaches are needed to address the city's roads, "We need to clearly have better oversight where we can, and when we hear those options we need to evaluate them, and of course we need to advocate in Lansing for better funding because the Republican districts are going to see a lot of orange barrels this fall and we won't."
Grand believes wise investments to boost revenue and partnerships are needed to provide the services needed to attract and retain businesses and residents.
Samuel McMullen hopes to provide a different perspective on council as a University of Michigan student and part of a family that owns a small business. Equitable investment across the community is a concern McMullen has, questioning why more road-work isn't taking place in the third ward. He wants the city to look long term, particularly in using zoning and taxing to promote environmentally friendly development, "Making sure that we're not disincentivizing something that would down the line be a smart move. So making sure that people can put solar panels on their houses without maybe getting taxed on that for the life of the solar panel. That's what I'd like to see."
Barber Bob Dascola is the third candidate in the third ward. He understands community concerns about roads after his motorcycle was damaged while campaigning. Dascola wants some outside support to address the streets, "We need to lobby state of Michigan for more money to help our roads out, and it would also be nice if the University of Michigan would throw in some money to help because their employees come into town, the football traffic comes into town."
While there are plenty of issues facing the third ward, this year's election has primarily gotten attention for what the ballot's going to look like. The city initially said Dascola wasn't eligible to run because of residency issues, but a federal judge ruled the city had no requirements to run for office. The third ward race was further complicated when his name wasn't included on some absentee ballots. Dascola isn't sure how these issues will play out on August 5th, "I know that as I've been walking around talking to people they've been saying 'I've been reading about you in the paper,' and they haven't been negative about anything."
Grand believes the confusion about the race has been hardest on the candidates who have been spending more time on this issue than they would like. She also fears that the problem with the absentee ballots may cost some residents their vote, unless they submit a new ballot. Grand also has concerns about the consequences of city council being as divided as it has been in recent years, "I can actually see it where there are certain residents when I go knocking doors wh just have this assumption about me and I'm sure about other candidates as well, and it keeps them from being able to even have that conversation and they have concerns, and even more importantly they have solutions, and I want to hear them."
All three candidates say they look forward to working with everyone on council. McMullen even would like to see other candidates join his effort to have campaign volunteers set aside time for hands on work in parks, or fighting homelessness, "If you had 2 campaigns for every ward trying to make the community a better place at least some of the time. It's a huge amount of money, and manpower, and energy that goes into a campaign and making sure that it's not all a waste come August 5th, I think is a really important thing."
Since no Republican or Independent is signed up for the November general election, next week's primary will be voters chance to decide who will represent the third ward. If the race is close however it will likely take time and a further legal challenge to determine which absentee ballots should count, and who will win the primary.