Gentle Readers, the Nov. 5th election is fast approaching. 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 4 Democratic candidate, Jack Eaton. If you are a City Council Candidate and would like to do an interview with us, please check your email inbox.
DA: Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you? Why are you running for city council?Well there you have it gentle reader. Our interview with Ward 4 Democratic candidate Jack Eaton. Stay tuned for more candidate interviews.
JE: I am 61 years old. I am married and have two adult children. I have lived in the Ann Arbor area since January 1985. Before that I lived in Kalamazoo, where I had the pleasure of serving as Local President of a transit workers' union. I came to Ann Arbor to complete my undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan. After graduating from UM, I studied law at Wayne State University's Law School. I practice law in a small law office, where we represent public employee unions whose members work primarily in education and transit.
I became involved in local politics through my neighborhood organization. My neighbors and I found what many residents have experienced when seeking help from local elected officials. We found that Council members had little interest in the concerns of neighborhoods. My experience in my own neighborhood (www.southmaple.org) led me to work with other neighborhood activists to form the Neighborhood Alliance (www.a2na.org) an informal coalition of neighborhoods working together to stay informed and to offer assistance with neighborhood issues.
DA: According to Facebook, our prime demographic is 25-34. What do you have to offer for Ann Arborites in that age range?
JE: I look for what concerns and interests different groups have in common. For example, I am an enthusiastic advocate for improved safety services. Adults in the 25-34 age group are socially active and likely to be out and about in the evening and late night when crimes such as robbery and assault are more likely. Young adults in that age range also are likely to be pedestrians, bikers and users of mass transit. My desire for improved streets and bike lane markings should appeal to that group.
Typically, a person who is age 25-34 has significant opportunities to select what community to settle down in. Ann Arbor has the charm of a midwestern town with the cultural opportunities of a much larger community. This is what appealed to many of us who came here to attend the UM and chose to stay. On the other hand, the small town charm does not appeal to everyone. I don't think that is a compelling reason to drastically change the character of this town. Not everyone who comes here to attend school or work has to stay.
DA: What are your 3 biggest goals for your next term if you are elected to City Council?
JE: My top goal is to have the Council as a group clearly identify its budget priorities. The City will face scarcity of funds for the foreseeable future and we must be responsible with those funds. For example, the City has more than $300 million in unfunded retiree liabilities. There are no quick fixes or gimmicks to cover that liability. We must work diligently over time to pay down that debt. For the past decade the City has acted as if that liability would evaporate if we just ignored it. It won't. Setting spending priorities will help us address our unfunded liabilities while providing a safe and well maintained community.
My second priority is related to the first. We must restore our public services and better maintain our infrastructure. Ann Arbor taxpayers pay high taxes and should be able to expect excellent services. I will support rebuilding our police and fire staffing. Our infrastructure has been ignored for too long. We can all see the poor shape our roads are in. Out storm water system and our waste water sewers are in similarly neglected shape but are not visible. There is nothing particularly "progressive" about neglecting our infrastructure until raw sewage flows from broken sewers into the river (as has been happening recently).
A third area of concern is openness and transparency of our City government. A couple of current Council members are working on an ethics policy for City Council members. I would like to join that effort. I want to address this so Council members have clear standards by which to measure their own conduct, not because I think anyone is unethical. I would also like to make public documents more easily available through the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. Currently, the City seems to have a presumption against disclosure, where I believe the FOIA calls for a presumption in favor of disclosure.
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?
JE: I would like to repeal the City's unique pedestrian ordinance and adopt the Michigan Uniform Traffic Code's pedestrian regulations. I believe that a community, such as ours, with many visitors should have laws that are consistent with the other communities within Michigan. At the same time, I would like to increase enforcement of that uniform pedestrian regulation to address long standing safety problems in our town. Over time, pedestrians will be safer if we have consistent laws that are well enforced.
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?
JE: I am trying to allow for multiple means of communicating with me. If a constituent calls my home, I actually do return the call. I also respond to emails. I am setting up a email newsletter to provide interested residents with updates and other information. I will be asking constituent what kind of community meetings they would prefer. I am always available for neighborhood meetings.
I have a couple of Twitter accounts. My campaign account is @Eaton4Council. I do not post tweets, but I use the accounts to follow others.
DA: What would you like to see in Ann Arbor in the next 5 years?
JE: In the next five years I hope the City will be able to catch up on the infrastructure maintenance that we have neglected over the last decade. I would like to see the City assist residents with efforts to reduce energy consumption and to increase recycling. Ann Arbor has a healthy economy because of the presence of the University and its Health Care System. It is important to seek economic equilibrium so we can avoid volatility of boom and bust economics. A city with a vibrant system of parks and recreational opportunities, safe neighborhoods and talented residents will attract economic activity.