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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Election 2020 Endorsements: Disch, Song, Radina, Eyer, and Briggs


I think the following issues are the most important in the upcoming election: addressing Ann Arbor’s housing crisis (both subsidized and market rate); supporting Ann Arbor’s carbon neutrality plan (A2Zero); supporting non-automobile based transit (walking, biking, buses); and supporting substantial police reform. Because of this I am endorsing:

Ward 1, Lisa Disch
Ward 2, Linh Song
Ward 3, Travis Rienda
Ward 4, Jen Eyer
Ward 5, Erica Briggs

Out with the conservative incumbents

Anne Bannister (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), and Jack Eaton (Ward 4) are part of the conservative coalition that currently holds a majority. I am sure there are many people would disagree with the conservative label. Nevertheless, I think it's fair. This group has voted to remove dedicated funding from affordable housing, climate change, and pedestrian safety. They also voted against the Safe Routes to School sidewalk project on Traver Street which caused the city to lose a ~$500k grant. This group has also voted against sever projects that would have added much needed affordable housing market rate housing (Lockwood and Brightdawn). Lumm and Eaton are also strong advocates for more police. This council group has also undertaken a bunch of bad government reforms. They blocked planning commission from discussing denser housing construction along transit corridors. They voted to fire the city administrator for political reasons. They voted to remove road diet decisions from city staff and then blocked several road diets. I don't think Bannister, Lumm, and Eaton are the right people to build an inclusive, sustainable future for Ann Arbor.

DSA Candidates

There are two candidates who are Democratic Society of America members Evan Redmond and Dan Michniewicz. I like their platforms, especially their stances on police reform, but I am not endorsing them. First, I think relative to the other progressive candidates in their wards, they have less experience in city government. Secondly, my gut says that these candidates have less support than the other progressive candidates in their wards and I think it's unwise to split the anti-conservative vote.

Ward 1

Lisa Disch is political professor at U of M. I think her platform is great. Disch highlights affordable housing, environmental stewardship, and a broad definition of public safety. In particular I like her plan to create a Renter’s Commission. Ann Arbor is over 50% renters yet their voice is often absent from our decision making process. I really think she would bring a great perspective to council and that she would help make our community a more equitable place.

From the point of view of many of the things I consider important, Ward 1 incumbent, Anne Bannister’s, record on council has not been great. She has been a staunch opponent of sidewalk special assessment. She voted against reappointing Scott Trudeau from the Planning Commission and then dishonesty manipulated a quote from him on recent campaign literature to make it sound like it was an endorsement (the quote comes from this post). Bannister’s literature also makes it look like Ward 3 Councilmember Zach Ackerman supports her though he endorsed Disch. One of the most offensive things Bannister has done during her tenure on council is sue the city to try to shield her official communications with constituents from FOIA. Anne Bannister has a strong record of opposing things I care about: affordable housing, climate change action, and pedestrian safety. I think Ann Arbor will be better without her on counsel.

Ward 2

I think Linh Song’s record of service to our community is outstanding: she has served as chair of the Ann Arbor District Library Board, she currently serves on the board of directors of Avalon House. Song has also been on the board of directors of CivCity Initiative, Neutral Zone. Her commitment to service and equality runs deep. Song's background show that she is truly someone who is committed to working for the greater good. Full disclosure here: for my day job I work at Duo Security, the local tech company that was founded by Song's husband, Dug.

“Jane Lumm is a typical Ann Arbor Republican, … “ -Jack Eaton

Jane Lumm does not call herself a Democrat. She ran as a Republican until realizing they could no longer get elected in Ann Arbor. Then she started running as an independent. Now that there are no longer odd year elections, she is forced to run in the Democratic primary despite the fact that she does not appear to support progressive values. Lumm has a long history of supporting Republicans including Rick Snyder and Bill Scheute. She has voted against affordable housing (4th and Catherine project, as well as market rate projects with affordable components (Lockwood and Brightdawn). Of particular note, Lumm has spearheaded the effort to reverse the transition to a 4-tier water rate system. I don’t want to get too much into the weeds here, but Lumm strongly advocates for a system where households that use lots of water would be subsidized by apartment dwellers and people who use less water. Read more here. Jane has also advocated spending more money on police. Lumm is one of the most conservative voices on council, and continually stands in the way of making Ann Arbor a more equitable and sustainable place.

Ward 3

Ward 3 has an open seat and I think Travis Radina should fill it. Travis says the main reasons he is running are to address Ann Arbor's affordability crisis and the climate crisis. He recognizes that there is work to be done to make sure Ann Arbor is more equitable in the future. In 2018, Travis was appointed Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ Liaison where he works with the Human Rights Commission, the mayor, and council to improve the lives of Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ residents. I really appreciate Travis' emphasis on equity and sustainability.

Tony Brown is a Ward 3 resident and Digital Distribution Manager at WDET. I really don't like his stance on affordable housing. On his website he states that the main cause of gentrification in Ann Arbor in property taxes. While property taxes can be burdensome, because of Hedlee and Prop A, they are not a primary source of gentrification, especially for long term homeowners. During one of the debates, Brown said that he didn't think you could build your way out of an affordability crisis. Again, this reflects a poor understanding of Ann Arbor's housing needs.

Ward 4

Jen Eyer worked for the Ann Arbor News in various forms from 2000 through 2016. She now works on Democratic campaigns for a public relations firm. Her platform is great and includes things like affordable housing, expanding the tax base, and promoting diversity.

Jack Eaton, again, is one of the most conservative members of Ann Arbor City Council. He has voted against two recent affordable housing projects (4th & Catherine and 415 W. Washington). Eaton has a long history of generally being opposed to new developments. He has been a strong advocate for more police. When he ran for mayor, he made overtures Republicans. In the past, Eaton took campaign donations form Ron Weiser, former head of the Michigan GOP. His initial "no" vote on repurchasing the Y Lot ended up costing the city $1 million dollars. That money went to one of his largest donors, Dennis Dahlmann. Read more here. I think Eaton's work on council has made Ann Arbor a more inequitable place and I would love to see council without him on it.

Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani is also running in ward 4. She is best known in the #a2council watching community for her decade plus of coming to Council and demanding the US divest from Israel. The fact that her tactics have not changed during this time period makes me doubt that she would be an effective member of city council.

Ward 5

Erica Briggs is great and I want her to represent the Fighting Fifth on council. She has been on planning commission. She has been chair of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition. She has a Ph.D. in political science and a masters in public administration. I think Briggs is immensely qualified to serve on council. I think her experience on Planning Commission is especially important given the upcoming Master Plan rewrite. Briggs' platform is based around responsible growth, environmental stewardship, and good governance. I think Briggs would be a great addition to city council.

The last two times I have seen David Silkworth speak at council he spoke against two affordable housing proposals: 4th & Catherine and 415 W. Washington. I don't really have a ton more to say about that.

If you'd like to see more about these candidates, check out the Ann Arbor League of Women Voters Virtual Candidate Forums. /


  1. Thanks Ben. A no nonsense assessment of the decisions before us this year.

    Do we have any idea how many people have already submitted their votes?

    1. The Erica Briggs campaign had this figure for Ward 5 in a campaign email today: "In Ward 5, almost 7,500 ballots have already been mailed out for the August primaries. However, as of last Friday, only 11% of ballots mailed to Ward 5 voters have been returned."

    2. Thanks Sam. I still have my ballot and am kind of waiting to see the campaign finance reports which are due to clerk by Friday the 24th at 5pm