Gentle Readers, today is election day. In an effort to help those of you who may still be undecided, Damn Arbor is publishing a series of interviews with City Council Candidates. Here is our interview with Ward 1 independent candidate, Jeff Hayner.
DA: Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you? Why are you running for city council?There you have it gentle reader, our interview with Ward 1 independent candidate, Jeff Hayner.
JH: Links for the short versions -
I have lived in Ann Arbor since 1983, when I moved here to attend the University of Michigan. I worked to help pay for school - I was a lifeguard and swim instructor, did photography for the U of M Rec Sports department, and DJ'd at private parties and night clubs around the area (U-Club, Nectarine Ballroom, Blind Pig, etc.) Besides my studies in the School of Art, I played water polo for a few years, helped start the U of M cycling team, and in my senior year I was a Resident Advisor at Bursley Hall on North Campus. I graduated in 1987 with a BFA in Industrial Design. I had an electronic music show, Crush Collision, on WCBN 88.3 FM. I worked for a few years as a production manager for an exhibit house, then as a designer with Shaun Jackson Design. I got interested in electronic publishing around 1994 and worked in that field and then as a creative director for two local internet companies until 2004. I was the production manager for a local First Ward exhibit house, from 2004-2009, when I started my own business in environmental graphics and specialty trades.
I have been married to my beautiful wife Lea Abbott for 16 years. We have two children who attend the Ann Arbor Public Schools. We own our home on Pontiac Trail. We enjoy all of the natural features the Ann Arbor area has to offer, and all of the activities available for families. I am active in the schools, coaching Science Olympics and other volunteering, which is a must if you are able. It is so important to be a part of the school community. I serve on the executive board of the Ann Arbor PTO Thriftshop.
I decided to run for city council in order to give back to the city which my family and I love. I had been a vocal supporter of Prop B - The Greenbelt and Parks millage. It was the first time I ever spoke at public commentary before city council. It would not be the last. Although it is routinely ignored by many council members when it comes to voting (like paying for consultants and disregarding their advice, something my opponent claims she loves to do), public input and engagement is still to me the most essential part of the civic process. I am running to encourage, among other things, more robust public input. Friends, neighbors and customers have been encouraging me to run for years. I kept waiting, hoping that our neighborhood services and representation would improve, but it has not. And there were many small frustrations with our representation that added up... When I would apply for board and commissions for which I was qualified, I would receive no response. The one time I did receive a response, I was told that the members of the commission had been selected, BEFORE the board was formed by council. That's the kind of thing that makes one want to run for city council. It is an indicator that change is needed. That, and the nagging question myself and neighbors have had - six years and what do we have to show for it?
JH: Facebook's prime demographic, or Ann Arbor's? It is certainly not the prime voter demographic, or I would have an easier time getting elected. The prime voter demographic in Ann Arbor is a 70-year-old woman.
I try to avoid ageism, and treat all taxpayers equally. Renters pay the same, or higher taxes, than homeowners. One of my primary goals on council will be to plan for the future of the city, to keep the city from accruing debt that will be passed on to the next generation. I recognize that there are shared needs across all age groups that can be transformed into policy goals - The young and old alike can enjoy a walkable city, a city that is safe and affordable, that maintains its streets, one that avoids deficit spending that will ultimately will raise the cost of living for all. That hurts those just starting out, and those on fixed or moderate incomes. My wife is 7 years younger than I, and that is alright with us. I recognize the changes that are being embraced by the younger elements of our society, and remain confident that I can represent the needs of all our citizens equally.
As far as straight-up ageism goes, I will say this: I have always thought that 'old' is fifteen years older than one's current age. Take your current age, add 15, say it out loud, and see if that sounds old to you.
DA: What are your 3 biggest goals for your next term if you are elected to City Council?
JH: There are so many things lacking from the city's agenda right now, where to start - affordable housing? Zoning concerns? Continued elective spending on downtown development at the expense of the neighborhoods? I will pick...
(1) To set and follow budget goals that allow for a healthy balance between retaining core services, and planning for the future. For too long the city has maintained master plans that are only given lip service by council. We have a Climate Action Plan and a Non-motorized Transportation Plan that call fort the reduction of automobiles in the downtown. And yet we continue to build parking structures downtown, while reducing core mass transit service. As would fixing the roads, and creating an actionable plan to address our storm water issues. You could sum up my first goal as developing sensible budget priorities.
(2) To re-focus some energy on pressing environmental issues. To get the University involved in the mitigation of the Dioxane Plume that threatens the city's water supply. It is shocking to me that more has not been done about this issue with regards to partnering with UM. Who is going to want to live on the campus where you can't drink the water, or take a shower- in the city that gets it water from the nation's largest superfund site? That needs to be dealt with. Another environmental concern, and benefit that could be brought to the city, is to protect our parks from repurposing and development. We need to give parks and public lands special zoning protection. Along with this we should increase the opportunities for downtown open space, a greenway that would include the Allen Creek watershed, as well as the connections to the border-to-border trails. It has been shown that open space is beneficial to surrounding property values, a communities health, and sustainable cities. Sunlighting parts of Allen Creek would go a long way towards alleviating the storm water problems we are having...
(3) To increase the ability of residents to interact and communicate with the city, in planning processes, service requests, or just keeping up with city doings via Council-members newsletters. To bring transparency to decision making. To institute an ethics and conflict-of-interest policy for council members and members of board and commissions. I have loved going door-to-door, but am concerned at how little attention is paid to city matters. You don't have to be involved in everything that goes on, but we need to do better in reaching out to residents, to inform them, and to respond to their concerns. I believe that with the right leadership our IT resources could be put to work in this matter.
DA: Here’s a reader submitted question: What's something that you'd like to do that might not be super popular right away, but would be good for the long term future of Ann Arbor?
JH: Hmmm... first thought is ...
Change the retiree benefit system from a defined benefit to a defined contribution, lengthen the vesting period, cut loose the current beneficiaries with individual annuities, and transfers of their health care to the Affordable Care Act - or - just to pick a less likely and less popular move - Annex all the township islands to increase the tax base. I don't think it gets much less popular than that idea. - no wait, institute a residents-exempt city income tax. That would be very unpopular.
DA: What’s the best way for your constituents to engage with you? And another reader submitted question as a follow up: Do you tweet?
JH: As I mention on my website, I would like to see the city supply IT tools for residents to use to more effectively communicate with Council Members. A regular electronic newsletter is one way to reach people, but only if they know it exists, Many of us pay our tax bills and water bills electronically, and have email address associated with these accounts. Those addresses should automatically become part of CM newsletter mailing lists, maintained in a strictly secure, opt-out fashion, out of the control of individual council members, where they have the tendency to become political tools. The front page of the city website should provide all opportunities to sign up to receive any or all newsletters. The small investment should be made to purchase CityWorks software, an app already exists to connect to it. This tool and other like it have been shown to dramatically increase engagement from residents, for critical service and public safety issues. If elected, constituents can contact me any way they wish, by phone or email, or my proposed community engagement tools.
To the second part of your question - I do not tweet. I occasionally follow persons of interest or events, but do not add to the clutter myself. I am a big texter, but consider that closer to talking on the phone. I recognize the need for some to follow, and the value that comes from publicly broadcasting information; since Council Members are banned from using electronic communication devices during meetings, and that would be the most lively time to tweet, I am not sure if much would be aded to the conversation by my tweeting. However, if the desire is there for some to stay abreast of my doings as Council Member solely via 140 character snippets, I would be happy to accommodate them.
DA: What would you like to see in Ann Arbor in the next 5 years?
JH: More affordable housing. Fewer cars downtown. A vigorous dioxane cleanup underway. Better relations with the University of Michigan. Zoning guidelines that respect the neighborhoods. A downtown park and community open space. A continued positive local and national economy. A real commitment to ending homelessness and increasing social services. More small businesses able to start up as a result of lowering median rents. A rethinking of the zoning regulations to allow for a more walkable, livable community. The beginnings of a greenway. Fewer cranes. Better roads. A higher percentage of the population engaged and voting.