Challenger for Ann Arbor City Council Ward 3 Stephen Kunselman is characterized by two things in his bid for elected office in this year’s Aug. 8 primary election:
— Unlike many challengers for public office, he is not new to the governing body that he seeks to be elected to, having served four two-year terms totally nearly a decade of Ann Arbor City Council experience, seasoned with stints on the Planning Commission, Environmental Commission, and the Parks Advisory Commission.
— He’s a candidate who is going beyond merely presenting a different set of policy priority bullet-points to be compared to those he challenges in the primary. Kunselman seeks to return to city council as a reformer and makes it known with fiery rhetoric.
“It was a recent decision of mine to seek elected office again,” Kunselman said. “After talking with downtown business owners, neighbors, and supporters, it became increasingly clear that our city government is going in the wrong direction.”
Broadly speaking Kunselman leveled the criticism at the current city council that too many important issues are not being aired out for discussion when the camera’s are rolling and the doors are open to the public, and when they are, current city council-members are “dismissive of any alternative views and compromises,” he claims.
Kunselman focused greatly on the downtown businesses when going beyond the broad accusations of “secretiveness and lack of transparency” to get more specific, such as the sale of the Library Lot that will cost the city “hundreds of parking spaces” in exchange for a 17-story high-rise development.
Watch Stephen Kunselman’s full public pitch produced and broadcast by Community Television Network.
In any downtown, but particularly Ann Arbor’s, parking is a critical concern for business owners, as customers from outside the urban core are often deterred by parking challenges and even urban residents have their limits for parking and walking distance given circumstances like the weather, personal mobility, and time availability.
Reducing the number of parking is a hit to the downtown business’s “economic viability.”
“We need a city council that supports our downtown business interests, not one that sells off our federally subsided public parking spaces to out-of-town private developers,” he concluded the point.
Recycling was another point of criticism leveled at the current city council by Kunselman. the loss of the city’s material recovery facility was a result of “poor leadership” that has led to the degradation of this service, while at the same time “tripling” the program costs due to the expense of paying contractors to haul materials that once went to the recovery facility to a processing center outside of the state of Michigan.
“As a former driver for Recycle Ann Arbor, I will do all I can to restore our recycling program to the operational and financial efficiency it once had,” Kunselman promised.
The last of Kunselman’s three main specific issue-related criticisms involved the city’s decision to not release communications between it and the Federal Railroad Administration regarding the ongoing effort to develop a new train-station to replace the Ann Arbor station on Depot Street.
It was “a vote that was clearly against the ideals of open and transparent government,” Kunselman said. “What can possibly be so secretive about a proposed train station location that would lead city council to vote against the most fundamental value of our community: open and transparent government.”
Kunselman has a life background that ticks many of the boxes for what you’d expect from someone running in a Democratic Party primary election, despite his rhetoric sometimes seeming mistakable for something a more conservative candidate would say (an error he would argue with strongly).
He comes from parents who were anti-Vietnam protestors in the 60’s, he is married to a public school teacher at Huron High School, and he has previously worked as an Environmental Planner for Sumpter Township, before becoming that township’s supervisor. Currently he is an Energy Conservation Liaison for U of M.
“I’m asking for your vote as I believe that with my education, my governmental experience, and my passion and commitment for my hometown of Ann Arbor that I offer a perspective and ability for effective representation and advocacy on behalf of all Ward 3 residents at city council deliberations,” he said. “I believe that democracy requires competition to keep our elected officials open, honest, and transparent.”
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