Ann Arbor Primary Candidate Profile: Chip Smith, Ward 5


The benefit of being an incumbent in an election is being able to run on your record, and that’s exactly what Ward 5 Ann Arbor City Councilman Chip Smith is doing for this Aug. 8 Democratic primary election.

In 18 months, Smith has authored, sponsored, or co-sponsored more than 40 city council items of business that are now on the city’s books as local law affecting the lives of Ann Arbor voters.

“It was an important part of my campaign last time to make progress on environmental, land use and transportation issues, and I’ve been able to do that,” Smith said of the details just below the surface of the “forward-thinking” leadership he campaigned on in 2015.

Smith pointed to his work on the I-4 dioxane plume discovered in near-surface water underneath the city as a result of practices by business practices of Gelman Sciences and efforts to get the state to reduce the acceptable standard for 1,4 Dioxane..

The danger of the plume is its potential to contaminate drinking water. After a decade of waiting for the MDEQ to work with Gelman, Smith and other local and state legislators worked to put pressure on the MDEQ to change the rule to reduce acceptable dioxane exposure levels. AS a result of the change, City Council authorized legal actions which led to the City (along with Washtenaw County and the Huron River Watershed Council) being brought into the existing legal action as parties to the lawsuit against Gelman. The goal of the legal action is a cleanup of the plume, not merely containment which Smith notes, has failed completely.

When not working to protect residents from toxic pollution ingestion and general exposure, Smith was also involved in the adoption of an ordinance intended to protect “vulnerable road-users” such as cyclists and pedestrians by boosting funding for street and sidewalk bicycle and cross-walk improvements throughout the city.

Watch Chip Smith’s full public pitch produced and broadcast by Community Television Network.

Smith is typically very outspoken about the city’s effort to be a leader-at-the-local-level in the fight against global climate change, and he echoed that sentiment in his re-election pitch.

President Donald Trump’s move earlier this year to turn the United States away from the Paris Climate Agreement, making our nation one of only three of the industrialized nations party to the agreement to do so, has exacerbated the situation and further highlighted the need for local action for Smith.

On the topic of locally zigging where the federal executive decides to zag, Smith also pledged his continued effort to make Ann Arbor “a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees.”

“I cite these examples of my record, because it’s a record that I’m proud of and one that reflects the priorities of fifth ward voters,” he said.

Smith invited any member of the public to contact and even meet with him, if they so choose. It doesn’t matter if you’re politically aligned with Smith or want to debate him on every point, he desires public engagement.

“I’m willing to meet with anybody about the issues facing the city, even if we’re not on the same page about an issue,” he said. “Providing information to people so they can solve problems and advocate for positions is a huge part of being an elected official and something that I do well.”

And there are many issues still unresolved to discuss both with constituents and at the council table, according to Smith.

From affordability across the board in the city from housing to transportation, there are still improvements that can be made.

“We need to improve the provision of basic services so people are getting what they pay for. We need to keep working on building a transportation network that moves cars, bikes, and pedestrians safely,” he continued. “We need responsible development; responsible development is development that allows folks to live closer to their jobs, especially lower-wage workers. Responsible development is the kind that doesn’t depend on single occupant car trips to be successful. It responds to the context of its surrounding, Responsible development means good architecture and unique spaces.

“We need this kind of development if we’re going to address affordability in Ann Arbor … if we’re going to reduce our carbon emissions and we’re serious about housing equity.”

Smith concluded his remarks by stating that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that Ann Arbor is “environmentally, financially, and socially sustainable” for future generations.

Smith moved to Ann Arbor’s West Park neighborhood in the summer of 1995 as a student at the University of Michigan, where he received a Master of Landscape Architecture from what is now called the School of Sustainability and Environment. He is married with two young girls.

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