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Council's dominant caucus says there isn't one. A crucial vote says otherwise.

by James Leonard

From the June, 2017 issue

In May, mayor Christopher Taylor and his allies mustered the eight votes needed to sell the air rights over the "library lot" underground parking structure. Yet they insist that they don't have a supermajority on the eleven-member city council. "It was not a decision based on faction," Taylor says. "It was a decision based on the merits."

"There's no grand political plan to get eight votes for things," concurs Ward Five's Chip Smith. "The whole idea of a supermajority is giving us too much credit for being politically inclined."

Smith will admit, that "there are people who think like me on certain issues, and I work with the people I work well with--Chuck [Warpehoski], Zach [Ackerman]. And I stopped talking to some councilmembers [about the sale]. Was there any reason for me to talk to Jack Eaton and Sumi [Kailasapathy]? They would never change their mind."

Council's activist coalition likely couldn't have persuaded ex-councilmembers Mike Anglin and Steve Kunselman either--but they'd seen to it they wouldn't have to: they'd helped Smith beat Anglin in 2015 and Ackerman knock off Kunselman the same year.

"Taylor has picked candidates and supported candidates and stumped for candidates" to build a supermajority, Kunselman says. He's hoping to reverse the trend by challenging mayoral ally Zach Ackerman in August's Democratic primary--and says the library lot vote "is one reason why I am running."

"The sale of the Library Lot clearly demonstrates both the existence and the power of the current council 8-member supermajority," emails David Silkworth, who's mounting a primary challenge to Smith after opposing Chuck Warpehoski as an independent last fall. The sale also factored into Anne Bannister's decision to take on Jason Frenzel in Ward One.

Even if an energized opposition can knock off members of the mayor's alliance, though, it's too late to stop the sale. And "I don't anticipate anything in the next year" requiring a supermajority, says Smith. "No property sales on our agenda, no contentious development issues

...continued below...

or rezoning."

Taylor does see one contentious issue that might need eight votes: the possible repurchase of the former YMCA lot at Fifth and William. Dennis Dahlmann bought it from the city in 2014 but shows no sign of meeting a deadline to develop it. "The city has a right of reversion," the mayor points out. "If he doesn't build a building by April 2018 we need to determine whether or not we're going to exercise that right."


From Calls & Letters, July 2017

Readers called us on a trio of errors in our Up Front on council's vote to sell the air rights over the Library Lane parking structure ("Supermajority," June). We wrote that Steve Kunselman, who's seeking a council comeback in Ward Three, is challenging Julie Grand in the August primary--but as mayor Christopher Taylor pointed out, it's Zach Ackerman, not Grand, who's up for reelection this year. CivCity Initiative founder Mary Morgan added that Ackerman defeated Kunselman in 2015, not last year--and that Ward Five challenger David Silkworth ran last fall against Chuck Warpehoski, not Chip Smith.

Jeff Hayner also noted our error on the Ward Three race. Hayner, who ran against First Ward rep Sabra Briere in 2013, went on to argue that the true turning point in building council's supermajority was Briere's retirement last year and the appointment of Jason Frenzel to replace her.

We're not convinced of that, because the highly independent Briere only occasionally allied herself with the faction we call the Back to Basics Caucus; she recently had told Ackerman that she didn't know how she'd have voted on the sale. But those electoral errors were dumb mistakes.


The article has been edited since it was published in the June 2017 Ann Arbor Observer. The errors noted above have been corrected.    (end of article)

[Originally published in June, 2017.]


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