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Elections 2022: Ann Arbor Mayor faces primary challenge from former council member

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A2 Modern
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Ann Arbor City Hall

The two candidates running to serve as the next Mayor of Ann Arbor both claim it is their love for the city that motivates them to serve. Their plans for fostering that love, afford voters the opportunity to choose from different visions.

Challenger Anne Bannister and Incumbent Mayor Christopher Taylor are no strangers. And, they have often found themselves on different sides of the Democratic aisle.

Anne Bannister
City of Ann Arbor
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Anne Bannister

Bannister is a former member of Ann Arbor City Council. Having served the 1st Ward from 2017 to 2020. Taylor is seeking a third term as Mayor having won the seat in 2014 after three terms as 3rd Ward councilman.

At first blush, their goals don’t seem all that different. Both have platforms that call for attention to affordability and sustainability. What separates them is how best to carry out those visions, particularly when it comes to community growth and the character of the city.

Bannister: “My opponent believes more so in that density and tax revenue should come before protection for our ecosystem.”
Taylor: “One of the things that distinguishes me from my opponent is that I’m a practical person. Not every condition of every decision is going to be easy or perfect.”

Both agree it’s not a matter of if the city moves forward with plans for a transit corridor for housing and connectivity, but how. Bannister questions the density, affordability, and environmental consciousness contained in the plan put forth under Mayor Taylor’s leadership.

“One of my big problems with it is that as currently written, it is basically a blank check for developers, and it does not include our requirements for the community benefits. There’s also no affordable housing requirement in the zoning. And so, our current mayor is saying that, well, that if we keep going for density and supply and demand, that affordability will filter down and trickle down to us. But there I disagree that that will happen.”

Christopher Taylor.jpg
City of Ann Arbor
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Christopher Taylor

Mayor Taylor maintains the projects he supports do center on affordability and encourage environmentally responsible construction. He says Bannister cannot accept that the city is bound by legal constraints when working with developers.

“I respect the law. The State does not permit us to impose stricter building codes than are currently provided in state law. So, we cannot, say, obligate electrification, we cannot obligate this level or that level of insulation.”

He suggests the city’s growth in all areas during his tenure have involved foresight and willingness to do what is necessary for change. He suggests Bannister may be resistant to change.

“You know, fundamentally, we can’t be resistant to moving the city where it needs to be. We can't be sentimental about it. We can love what we had and love what we have. But we also understand that the world changes and we need to change with it if we are to we as a community are to thrive.”

Bannister says rather than resisting change, she is seeking a greater degree of control on it.

“I believe that there are ways that we can do better at our land stewardship and work with developers and work with the original landowners, (but) And I think it would be more sensible to put affordable housing requirements into the zoning.”

To highlight the differences between the two, Bannister points when hundreds of mature trees were cut down for housing projects.

“Toll Brothers Concord Pines development on Earhart Road. There were 700 trees on that lot, and there are over 300 of them were landmark trees.”

But Taylor suggests that may be a false comparison of their differences. He says he didn’t support the Concord Pines development tree removal and didn’t consider it a net good for the community. But he said there was no legal mechanism to stop it. Maintaining the city’s forestry, he says, is a high priority.

“We have to make sure that our urban forest is properly funded, that our urban forest is pruned, and that we plant more trees and then we take down them within our street trees. We are planting more than 1000 trees a year.”

Bannister says, if she’s elected, she would implement what she calls “citizen-led governance” to bring more governmental transparency.

“Is my vision for Ann Arbor is one where people feel like they are a valuable and integral part of the process. And so, I look forward to using my skills and experience to help us avoid mistakes and set policies that will protect and enhance our community benefits and provide unquestionable inclusivity for everyone.”

Mayor Taylor says he’ll continue to work to grow the city with a focus on affordable housing options, a continued eye on public safety, climate action, a modernized water treatment facility, environmental sustainability and services for residents.

“I’m excited about the projects that we have and excited about our opportunities with respect to basic services and affordability and equity and sustainability. And, you know, I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

Voters will decide which direction Ann Arbor should go on Tuesday, August 2nd in the mayoral primary election.

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Cathy Shafran is WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
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