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Democratic Deadlock

Two factions-and three wild cards-face off in the August 4 city council primary.
The Back-to-Basics Caucus took control of city council in 2018. With campaigns that focused on curbing development and rebuilding roads, they emerged with seven seats. That left the opposing Activist Coalition with three, plus mayor Christopher Taylor.

Those are the Observer's labels, not theirs. Basics members in particular sometimes assert that they're all independents who happen to occasionally agree on issues.

In a post on his eponymous website, Ann Arborite Sam Firke recently argued that cross-endorsements, donations, and voting patterns all suggest something more unified. He calls the factions "Protectors" and "Strivers."

By whatever name, council has long been divided between a pro-growth coalition that controlled the city almost continuously from 2000 until 2018, and the growing slate of critics who, in Firke's words, see themselves as "protecting [Ann
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Bivouac's AJ Davidson

What's Next for Downtown?

Shopkeepers talk about finding a path through the pandemic.
What's it like owning a store in downtown Ann Arbor in the summer of Covid-19?

"This is modern-day wartime," says AJ Davidson, president of Bivouac on State Street. "You gotta try new things. If you're not trying to change for the current situation, I don't think you're going to survive."

The clothing and outdoor gear store was requiring customers to wear masks and enforcing social distancing even before Governor Whitmer's latest executive order in July. "I talked to my dad," said Davidson, whose father, Ed, founded Bivouac in 1971. "He said, 'I've never seen anything like this before in my lifetime.'

"We count on Art Fair. It saves the summer. [Without it,] it's a struggle." And with the return to campus uncertain, "we're cutting lots of fall orders."

With social distancing, Bivouac can have no more than forty-two people in the store at a time. They have
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