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Elections 2022: Low drama, high stakes - A three-way race for Ypsilanti Mayor

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Ypsilanti City Hall

There are three candidates seeking to serve as the Mayor of Ypsilanti in a runoff to be decided in August. All three have experience as elected officials, and all agree they have a good working relationship and similar goals and aspirations for the city. That leads some to beg the question: why run against one another?

The candidates are most certainly familiar to the community and with each other. Lois Allen-Richardson is the incumbent mayor. Mayor Pro-Tem Nicole Brown serves the 1st Ward on City Council right now.

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Anthony Morgan for Ypsilanti City Council Ward 3
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Anthony Morgan

The other candidate is Anthony Morgan. He was a 3rd Ward council member until early June when he was forced to resign after moving out of the ward.

"I'm not running against them; I'm running FOR the city."

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City Councilwoman Nicole A. Brown
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Nicole Brown

Nicole Brown was first elected to council in 2014, and she agrees with Morgan’s position, but says the timing is right.

“I felt like we need a different kind of energy, a different kind of leadership to really move us forward as we're entering into to some really big things, like these two new developments and our dreams and wishes for Water Street to redevelop that property. Just being able to build consensus with the body and work as a team, I thought that there's no moment better than now.”

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Lois Richardson at University House in Ypsilanti.

Lois Allen-Richardson was appointed mayor in 2020 after Beth Bashert resigned, but she’s been serving on City Council since first-elected back in the year 2000. She says her experience sets her apart.

“Some people would call our governmental world the ‘political world.' I do not think of myself as a politician. I think of myself, and always have, as a public servant.”

All three candidates largely agree on city priorities: Housing accessibility, development, social and racial equity and, last but certainly not least, public safety. All support some form of police reform. Brown wants to see an unarmed crisis response team created to supplement what the police do and put some of their responsibilities in the hands of highly trained mental health experts.

“Police have their expertise, and they have their roles, and our police are already stretched. And so, I would really like to see us develop a mechanism for responding to basic needs, crises, as well as mental health crises, with an unarmed group to really support that. Because we know that when people show up with badges and guns, they automatically instill fear.”

Trying to find solutions to gun violence is personal for Morgan, noting he was once a victim himself. He supports a community approach which is why he founded “Y-Town SWAG,” which stands for “Summer Without Any Guns”. It provides for so-called “SWAG Houses,” where kids can go for support when they are exposed to such violence.

“These were, I don’t know if you know, like ADT, where they show you there’s a sign that there’s an alarm on the home. It was like that, having a SWAG house that would show the indicator that this is a safe space for young people.”

Mayor Allen-Richardson convened a group to create a 14-point plan to end gun violence that was recently adopted by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. She says she would like to continue that work.

“And there’s lots of work for everybody to do. So, we really need everybody working together. That’s why we need unity in the community. And that’s why we all do better when we all do better.”

Building the city economically and affordably is also a priority. Mayor Allen-Richardson says her biggest goal is to find a developer for the Water Street property downtown. Longer term, she wants to explore the Huron River’s untapped potential.

“Businesses built there on the river and the river dredge where people can just pull up in their boats and get out and come in and have dinner or have lunch or get out and go shopping.”

Brown wants to see more high-density housing and mixed-use business developments.

“We need to make sure have properties available and housing available, so that we don’t promote gentrification and those who want to be here being pushed out or moved out of the city.”

Morgan says his vision of focusing on accessible housing, environment and youth outreach leads to job creation and reduced poverty.

“We do need to attract bigger businesses and we do need to attract businesses with a view of what Ypsi was, what it is now and what it can be.”

The winner of the August 2nd primary will advance to the general election in November and will likely be unopposed.

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Josh Hakala is the general assignment reporter for the WEMU news department.
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