Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

MSA hosts 2nd Ward debate at Markley, Tuesday

26. September 2005 • Murph
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Dale tracked down the following event:

This Tuesday night, September 27th at 7:30pm at the South Lounge of Markley Hall will be the MSA Sponsored Ward 2 City Council Debate. Both Tom Bourque® and Stephen Rapundalo (D) will be in attendance, along with the Michigan Student Assembly.

The debate will be limited to one half hour, allowing for each candidate to make an opening statement, answer questions from the chair, and to conclude with a closing statement. MSA President Jesse Levine will be accepting suggested questions by email at, as well as hand-written notes before the meeting begins.

Free pizza, refreshments, and desserts will be made available thanks to the MSA External Relations Committee.

Rapundalo defeated UM student Eugene Kang in August’s primary, disappointing a number of students and bloggers who had supported Kang. Rapundalo seems friendly to student concerns, and has suggested a City-level committee made up of Councilmembers and students for the purposes of informing the student body on city issues and providing a forum for student concerns. No official proposal exists yet, but with this event and MSA’s decision to create a City Council liaison, relations seem to have moved past the earplugs-and-pinnocchio-doll stage.

If any readers make it to the event, please post your thoughts.

  1. I live in Ward 2. Both Rapundalo and Borque are “good guys.” Known to the AA Hills neighborhood. Seen around school ice cream socials and at the local swim/tennis club.
       —JennyD    Sep. 27 '05 - 01:20AM    #
  2. From tonight’s debate:

    Opening Statement:
    Rapundalo stated that he had a vested interest in Ann Arbor’s future. He had addressed many of the issues that come before council because he has experience on a breadth of issues and a record of results. He has a grassroots activist background and a history of fighting for neighborhoods.

    His issues were fiscal responsibility, a challenge for many years. In the face of coming development, we must protect our neighborhoods (including student neighborhoods), as well as parks and open space. On student issues, he wants them to have a role in city government (see his proposal); he supports the mayor’s plan on lease renewals; he supports a plan that would include interest returned to renters on their security deposit; he supports availability and affordability of housing.

    Bourque is a 13 year resident of Ann Arbor who went here for law school (lived in Miami for 11 yrs between law school and moving back). As a lawyer, he has to learn about issues like an expert so that he can argue on them at trial. His plan will be to take that approach to council to represent constituents and ask about any plan “does it make sense?” He has a history of community service, but not public service, and he wants to make sure Council’s budgets make sense fiscally and for the future. He also supports Rapundalo’s student proposal.
       —Dale    Sep. 28 '05 - 12:48AM    #
  3. Q1: Will you support redrawing the ward boundaries in 2010 and eliminating the pie-shaped wards?

    B. He will. Wards get tweaked every 10 years anyway. Students can have the voice that they want by getting involved. He will listen to anyone anytime anywhere.
    R. Repeats student council proposal. Yes he supports redistricting by it is inherently complicated and would require a ballot initiative.

    Q2: Will you vote to ban couches?

    R. “No.” Focusing on couches takes away from larger housing maintenance issues.
    B. “Generally no.” Aesthetics are covered by other ordinances and council has more important things to deal with. However, he supports aggressive enforcement on yard trash, because people have to take care of their property. With privileges of citizenship come responsibilities.

    Q3: Oxbridge parking district—will you support a permit price break to mitigate the district’s harm to students?

    B. What harm is it to students? The city should work with the U to develop dorms so that cars are not necessary. The AATA is free, so why is a car in Ann Arbor necessary? He went without a car for most of law school and parked far away from campus when he had one. The more important issue is to decrease the need for cars. No breaks for any group of citizens on parking charges.
    R. Parking rules should be equitable. Agrees with Bourque—no breaks. Let’s give Oxbridge district a try and see how it is working. However, he was not happy with how the issue made its way through council. We need to make sure there is alternative transportation and more dorms.
       —Dale    Sep. 28 '05 - 12:58AM    #
  4. Q4: Would you have postponed parking legislation?

    R. Yes. Should have waited until school year; he would have waited until fall to encourage public dialogue.
    B. Shouldn’t have been voted on when students aren’t there but city government does not stop when students aren’t in town. He would have said “Let’s wait until fall.”

    Q5: Why did you choose to run as a Democrat or Republican?

    B. Been an independent most of his life, voting on both sides, but found on local issues he found himself more in line with Ann Arbor Republicans.
    R. Sided more with Democrats on City Council. He’s fiscally responsible but socially conscious and doesn’t like where the national Republican party has gone.

    Q6: Do you support more density on South U.?

    R. Was at Calthorpe workshop and his table worked on South U. His table put in one high rise and several 3-5 story mixed-use buildings. Would like to see a grocery and laundromat. They emphasized non-motorized transportation and better linkages to downtown core.
    B. Not sure what you mean by density—residential or commercial? Doesn’t want another building like one at Forest and South U (University Towers). Wants more midrise residential and grocery if it can survive. As for downtown, he supports density, it’s “the other half of the greenbelt.” But you’ve gotta have the basics that downtown residents want. As property taxes increase, housing becomes less affordable, so he supports the use of affordable housing money to serve the community.

    Q7: In favor of housing inspections every 30 months? (possibly through misspeak, this was interpreted as “30 days” by both candidates.)

    B. Supports increasing inspections. Substandard housing should be inspected, addressed, and cleaned up, but do we have the resources?
    R. 30 month inspection cycle seems too long but the city doesn’t currently have the bodies to enforce. Maybe we could increase/implement random inspections. Current state bill (House Bill 4473) would reduce inspections, which he opposes.
       —Dale    Sep. 28 '05 - 01:11AM    #
  5. Closing statements:

    R. Has experience with many issues, was student council president in college (unnamed) and got a student on board of regents. Repeats student advisory council proposal. Experience with fiscal issues, parks advisory commission, housing—gov’t liaison for Habitat for Humanity. As a research scientist, he’s always challenging the status quo and he will not have much of a learning curve if elected.
    B. Will bring balance to council. Will investigate issues even if he doesn’t know everything. Students must decide how interested they want to be. He moved to Miami and moved back because he wanted to be part of Ann Arbor. He emphasizes common sense and will ask is it good for the city or not.
       —Dale    Sep. 28 '05 - 01:15AM    #
  6. Did the two candidates disagree about anything at all?
       —mw    Sep. 28 '05 - 12:16PM    #
  7. Not really.

    I’m fairly unimpressed with the commitment of either to addressing student issues. Rapundalo put the student advisory council idea forward, but I think that’s a half-assed way of keeping them off real committees.

    There should be a larger event November 2. Announcements coming soon.
       —Dale    Sep. 28 '05 - 02:43PM    #
  8. I sat down and talked to Rapundalo about student involvement (such as Committee work) after the primary – I think I’d be interested in seeing how many students applied for and were passed over for appointments in the past year or two before decrying systematic exclusion.

    One of the things he and I discussed was how the nature of a 3-year appointment cycle makes it hard for a student to even consider an appointment; by the time an undergrad knows enough about what’s going on to hope to keep up with a Committee, s/he is graduating. The grad students who could bring domain-relevant specialized knowledge to a committee are largely masters’ students in 2-3 year programs who, again, have problems committing to three-year appointment, as they can’t know whether the job/housing situation will allow them to stay in town after they graduate.

    I hear from other Council members that he had been considering the idea of a council/campus committee before talking to me, so I won’t credit myself for his idea, but I do think it sounds like a good step towards addressing an existing, structural issue.
       —Murph.    Sep. 28 '05 - 05:07PM    #
  9. Just some points of clarification which perhaps I didn’t speak to last night. Regarding #2… my tenure as SGA President was at the Medical College of Virginia – Virginia Commonwealth University (the institution had two separate campuses and student government organizations). Regarding #7…My proposal for a University Student Commission was to provide a formal role in city government for students, not dissimilar from the Parks, Environmental, Housing Commissions, among others. The idea does not in any way preclude students from applying for appointment and becoming members of any current City commissions and boards. Like any other citizen the student must have an appropriate background in the topic area, interest, commitment and time to actively participate and contribute. The biggest obstacle to student participation on committees is that typical terms are 3 years – somthing most students can’t committ too. I’m in favor of having 1 year terms for students on appropriate commissions. However, it should be recognized that it is very difficult for any new commission member to come up to speed quickly enough and have impact within a one year period. You quickly find out that issues, even the smallest ones, are incredibly complicated when one factors in City Hall bureaucracy and entrenched processes and regulations. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t dissuade anyone from applying if they are so inclined…the City is always seeking good applicants for commission vacancies – applications can obtained from the Mayor’s office.
       —Stephen Rapundalo    Sep. 28 '05 - 05:37PM    #
  10. Stephen, what would the formal role be? Murph’s description doesn’t mention any advisory role.
       —Steve Bean    Sep. 28 '05 - 06:36PM    #
  11. Dale, thanks for the recaps (and Murph, thanks for the explanation). As a Ward 2 resident, I wanted to go but had a prior volunteer engagement.
       —Lazaro    Sep. 28 '05 - 08:06PM    #
  12. Steve…Hi! long time no see – hope Environmental Commission is doing well. As envisioned and the way I discussed it with some of the councilmembers and Mayor, is that the University Student Commission would be “formal” in the sense that it would be just like any other City commission or board. All members would be appointed by Mayor and approved by Council. The commission would be able to discuss any issues that impact student livelihood. If there were policy recommendations that would emerge then those could be forwarded to Council for their consideration and possible action. Since this commission is admittedly a little novel, some time and further thought will be required to figure out its final structure, makeup, scope and process. I left it somewhat open so that I wouldn’t be accused of any omission in representation or having committed to something that couldn’t in reality be delivered by Council. Does that answer your question?
       —Stephen Rapundalo    Sep. 29 '05 - 02:24AM    #
  13. I think two-year terms on commissions for students would do much better for the community—promoting exchange on a number of topics and in a number of settings. In every committee the questions should be regularly asked, “What is the student side of this? How are renters impacted by this recommendation?” I don’t see this happening in many cases because these groups aren’t regularly involved in these discussions.
       —Dale    Sep. 29 '05 - 02:47PM    #
  14. I like Stephen’s idea of a University Student Commission. Also, I don’t think even the standard 3-year term would be an obstacle. If a student can’t serve the full 3 years, s/he can always resign.

    After all, more than a few Council members haven’t served their full 2-year terms.
       —Dave Cahill    Sep. 29 '05 - 05:13PM    #
  15. Can Mr. Rapundalo clarify his role in the defeat of the accessory dwelling unit initiative a few years ago? A letter to the Annn Arbor News in the primary election praised him for helping defeat the ADUs.

    Is is true that you were a leader in one of the neighborhood associations that pressured city council to vote this down? If so can you explain this to those of us who believe this campaign that was based on irrational and unfair charges and was really all about anti-student politics?
       —jack    Oct. 1 '05 - 04:23PM    #
  16. Yes, I spearheaded multi-neighborhood opposition to the proposal. First let me state that I am not opposed to ADU’s as a means to bring additional and affordable housing to the city. What we objected to were the following: 1) the ADU proposal would have allowed administrative approval of the additions without any public review process before the planning commission; 2) allowing ADUs in existing single-family neighborhoods would have been a fundamental change in the zoning designation, at least in practice, and residents were quite upset that this is not what they had in mind when they bought their homes; 3) the City failed to communicate any complete description of the proposal to the public, or provide adequate public commentary on the topic; 4) the City had no means to enforce non-compliance when ADUs were built, thus leaving neighborhoods powerless in ensuring that additions were within character to other buildings in the immediate area, or only contained a legally allowable number of tenants – we had a prime example in our own neighborhood of such legal impotence and this conjured up more severe scenarios in residents’ minds if the proposal had been passed as written. The Planning Director at the time intentionally tried to disguise the proposal as something less than it was, and push it through the approval process as quietly as possible and not alert the neighborhoods to the likely impacts. For my neighborhood, along with several others, opposition was a simple matter of preserving our character, integrity and quality of life.
       —Stephen Rapundalo    Oct. 3 '05 - 04:23AM    #
  17. Santa Cruz has developed an ordinance allowing ADUs and has developed the linked manual for guiding the process. Santa Cruz ADUs have been featured in Architectural Record and the New York Times for their innovations.

    When can we expect a similar program for Ann Arbor?
       —Dale    Oct. 3 '05 - 05:23AM    #
  18. I’m happy to learn more about that city’s policies governing ADUs. Thanks for pointing it out.
       —Stephen Rapundalo    Oct. 3 '05 - 02:18PM    #
  19. Dale…I downloaded the Santa Cruz manual and NYT article, but couldn’t get a copy of the AR feature…do you know where I can get a e-copy (aside from getting a hard copy from archives)? thanks.
       —Stephen Rapundalo    Oct. 3 '05 - 02:34PM    #
  20. I’ll agree with Stephen on at least part of that – the City did a terrible job of telling people what the ADU proposal meant or how it would work, and, as far as I can tell, made no effort to work to figure out what the specific concerns were or how to address them and build a program that was a little closer to consensus.

    The second that Downtown Home & Garden started to see a run on torches and pitchforks, the City seems to have dropped the idea like a hot rock.

    As a familiar contrast, look to the Three-Site Plan. There was opposition to that idea as well – much stronger opposition – and the City said, “well, hey, let’s talk about this and see what we can do.” Result: a revised plan that preserved most of the good of the original while backing off on the part that had the most serious objection. Not everybody is totally happy, but the City addressed concerns while moving forward.

    Let’s hope that, when the question of ADUs is revisited, we can look back at this and say, “Say, maybe we ought to try to hear and address the concerns people have, rather than panicking and running.” Elaborate on the plan, the expected impact, enforcement issues; take questions and answer them; hear concerns and see what kind of compromise can be forged.

    Steven, if you get onto Council, I think we’re going to have to talk about ADUs. You’re the perfect person to know what the complaints were with the past proposal, and to figure out how to come up with a consensable solution. We’ll devote a thread to discussing other cities’ programs, figuring out Ann Arbor’s goals and concerns, and crafting a proposal. It can be the first project of the Ann Arbor Distributed Planning Corps.
       —Murph.    Oct. 3 '05 - 03:04PM    #
  21. Would look forward to that…though it all hinges on getting the vote out on my behalf – so spread the word!
       —Stephen Rapundalo    Oct. 3 '05 - 05:13PM    #