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Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor celebrates win and looks ahead to November and beyond

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Myra Klarman
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Christopher Taylor

TRANSCRIPTION:

David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and our post-primary election coverage continues. I'm David Fair. And on the other end of our phone line is Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor. The unofficial vote count shows Taylor took the primary race with about 62% support of Ann Arbor voters. Former Ann Arbor City Councilwoman Anne Bannister took in about 38%. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us on a post-election morning.

Christopher Taylor: It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

David Fair: So, typically, no candidate will admit to me that they were confident going into an election. They take nothing for granted. How confident were you?

Christopher Taylor: Well, it is a truism. And it's true that you run unopposed, or you run afraid. And so, you know, I was committed to running a rigorous campaign. And we did. I knocked myself over 6200 doors. Our campaign knocked many thousands more. You know, we felt good about the response we were getting when talking to voters, but in the end, it's in their hands. And you just hope it works out.

David Fair: Do you view the win as a mandate from Ann Arbor voters?

Christopher Taylor: You know, I think what it means is that the vision that I have for our community and the vision that I have for local government is consistent with the electorate. You know, I think our task at the in Ann Arbor and really everywhere for local government is to improve basic services and enhance quality of life, focus on things that, you know, the city has to do every single day, make sure they're getting better on the roads and water that comes in and out and police, fire, parks and natural areas. But also, you know, Ann Arbor is not just a basic place. And so, it's our pleasure to. And our drive to focus on affordability and equity and, you know, a moral imperative to take community climate action and sustainability. These are things that I'm committed to doing going forward. And I think these are things that people that resonate with the electorate that they want to see us accomplish.

David Fair: You do have a challenger come November. Attorney Eric Lipson threw his name into the ring as a nonparty affiliated candidate. Now, he actually supported your opponent in the primary and said he was joining the race just in case Anne Bannister lost, so that voters would have an option in November. Now, Anne Bannister did get just under 40% of the vote. So, she has her share of supporters. What conversations do you want to have with them as you head toward the general election?

Christopher Taylor: Well, I have always taken the position that when you're in elected office, you don't represent the people that voted for you. That's not your job. Your job is to represent the community as a whole.

David Fair: You understand that's not the way things are playing out nationally, at the state level, and in many local government units.

Christopher Taylor: You know, I can't speak to them, but I'm just telling you how I think it ought to be and how I approach the job. You know, we have to think, of course, about everyone who's here in the community, whether you voted for me or not. And we also have to think about folks who aren't yet here. You know, our job is to be both representatives and trustees. We have to look out to make sure that the residents here today have a voice and that their needs and wants and hopes and dreams are attended to. But we also have to understand that we have a charge. And our charge is to build a city, build a community that's here for everyone. And that extends over time. And we just need to balance all those things together. And so, for folks who didn't vote for me, well, of course, you know, if I'm so fortunate to be elected in November, I'm going to be your mayor, too. And, you know, I'm just as eager to talk to you about your city than my most fervent supporter.

David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU. And we're talking with Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor, who won yesterday's Democratic primary election. Now, much of the conversation in this election and the campaigns and within city council and government has been about the character of Ann Arbor. You talk about building. With the potential of another four years ahead, how do you see the character of Ann Arbor shaping up?

Christopher Taylor: Well, you know, I think we have over the past several years, we've grown at about 1% a year. And that is, you know, you see that in the census. And so, you know, I picture that pace continuing. I picture us continuing to grow because all successful cities grow. You know, I came here in 1985, like so many in college, and I just loved it. You know, you've had Drake's and the old Borders and different parts of town, and I miss that. And I'm wistful for it. But I also know that that things change and that, you know, all successful cities change. We have a need to improve affordability, particularly for housing and supply. And demand is real. And so, we need to ourselves build, you know, over 1000 units of new permanent, affordable housing. And I'm confident that we will. But we also need to make sure that missing middle housing is built. We have for decades limited housing supply. And those decades of housing supply limitation have resulted in our current conditions. That is to say housing prices that make Ann Arbor unaffordable for people who work here, for people whose participation in our community is so important and so desired. And so, what we need to do is we need to work on that.

David Fair: In conversations past, I've asked you this very question, but I think it appropriate, given the direction of the conversation, to ask again. How do you define affordable in Ann Arbor?

Christopher Taylor: Well, there's the definition of affordable is in federal regulations. So, I'm talking about affordable housing. I'm talking about housing that is permanently going to be affordable--income qualified affordable--in accordance with federal regulations, qualifications to live in those units for folks who make up to 60% of the area median income. Missing dental housing, attainable housing is not really definitional, but, basically, it's like people in the middle. Like, if you're pretty well off, you can live in Ann Arbor, you can find a place to be. But, you know, if you're somewhere above 60% AMI, but you're not, you know, you're not in well-off category, you have a hard time here. And those are folks that we need to listen to. Those are folks that we need to work for. And I'm committed to doing that. [00:06:21][50.0]

David Fair: Now, affordable housing is one thing, but the kind of housing that will be is another conversation. And there are discussions in Ann Arbor of new, all-electric housing developments that would certainly play to the A2Zero carbon neutrality plan. It's going to take a lot to get carbon neutral and will need support of the community. How vital in the lead up to November is it to get the community on board with the 20-year community climate action millage proposal?

Christopher Taylor: I think it's incredibly important, and I am incredibly optimistic. I mean, like I said, I've knocked thousands of doors and talked to thousands of people, and people understand that we are in a climate crisis. They know that we can't solve it alone. But they also know that it is our moral imperative to do our part. They are familiar and understand the A2Zero plan, its commitment for community wide carbon neutrality by 2030. And they also know you just can't dream about getting there. You have to actually get there with actual programs, and that actual programs cost money. And so, we are rolling out to the voters a community climate action millage in November, which we'll talk about, which will enable us to provide real, tangible services to residents today, so that we can expand our carbon neutrality efforts and achieve carbon neutrality tomorrow. It'll mean expanded recycling and composting. It'll mean expanded electrification support for folks to buy electric appliances. It will mean expanding solar both on neighborhood rooftops and in community solar for aggregating large-scale energy generation. It'll mean, hopefully, you know, resilience centers, so that when we do have extreme weather events, folks will be able to go to a neighborhood community center and find some shelter, find some food, find some power. And there's all sorts of opportunities with the community climate action plan with A2Zero. Real services for Ann Arborites today. Carbon neutrality tomorrow.

David Fair: And you talk about that in terms of the entire city and its entire population regardless of how they voted yesterday and how they'll vote in November. However, there were some people that were expressing to WEMU and very well in public that the level of civility in governance has fallen to the wayside. And there were some changes made in the Ann Arbor City Council races yesterday. Ali Ramlawi lost his race. Elizabeth Nelson lost her race. So, there will be new faces. What do you make of the outcomes of those city council races and what it may mean for the direction of city council moving forward?

Christopher Taylor: I think you'll see a city council that doesn't agree with each other all the time, and that is 100% the way it ought to be. Not every principle, not every policy suggestion is going to find, you know, accord across the board. And that's, you know, people are all independent thinkers, people working for themselves, thinking about how we can best move our city forward. But what I'm confident of is that where you will see unanimity is in the style of that disagreement, the nature of that disagreement. I am so excited about this upcoming council that we are going to be able to disagree with courtesy, that we're going to be able to talk to each other about hard issues, and we're not going to be focused on tearing each other down. They're going to be focused on talking to each other and talking to the public about why we think, you know, our various policy is the right way to go. But we're going to do so with respect. We're going to do so with courtesy. We're going to thrive on collaboration. We're not going to thrive on conflict.

David Fair: I thank you so much for taking time to spend with us today, and congratulations on your primary election win.

Christopher Taylor: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure talking to you.

David Fair: That is Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor. He is the winner of Tuesday's mayoral primary election, and Mayor Taylor will be challenged in the November general election by Attorney Eric Lipson. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU Ypsilanti FM celebrating 45 years of jazz broadcasting from the campus of Eastern Michigan University.

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Nearly three-quarters of David Fair’s 20+ years in radio has been at WEMU. Since 1994, he has been on the air at 5am each weekday on 89.1 FM as the local host of NPR’s Morning Edition. Over the years, Fair has had the opportunity to interview nationally and internationally known politicians, activists and celebrities. But he feels the most important features and interviews have been with those who live and work here at home. He believes his professional passions and desires fit perfectly into WEMU’s commitment to serving a local audience.
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