Why I’m Running for Ann Arbor’s City Council (5th Ward)

  • I decided to run for Council because I want to help set a course for the city that will nurture and sustain our sense of community and quality of life. The purpose of city government should be to serve the residents and local businesses of the city.
  • I stand for open, responsible government that has a service orientation. I’ll work toward a healthy, resilient city where neighborhood integrity is respected and basic services are a given.

The Transit Changeover: What Does It Do for Ann Arbor?

  • I am an enthusiastic supporter of mass transit as a societal goal.  I am a long-time user of mass transit whenever it is available to me (was a train commuter when I lived in California).  I use AATA buses to travel downtown during their limited service hours in my area. Mass transit is an important “quality of life” factor.
  • I support the AATA as our community mass transit service and applaud most of their current programs, including the getDowntown program.  I am acquainted with many of their staff and hold them in high regard as effective public servants.
  • I also support the concept of county-wide transit.  However, I do not support the current proposal for conversion to an Act 196 authority.  There are many reasons which I’ll have to discuss in a future post.

The Future Face of Ann Arbor

  • Development of downtown parcels:  Any use of public land should be for the benefit of the Ann Arbor public.
  • I favor a public open space or park on the Library Lot.  (The actual design of the space should be discussed in a public forum.)
  • I support the recommendations of the citizen committee that recently studied the neighborhoods near downtown and campus.  (The R4C/R2A committee.) Their conclusions are consistent with the Master Plan and will help prevent over-sized developments from destroying the character and sustainability of these traditional, walkable urban neighborhoods.
  • I’m opposed to building a new train station in Fuller Park.

6 Comments on “Issues”

  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    As a resident of the 5th ward, I’d like to know – does Vivienne support backyard chickens?

    • varmentrout says:

      I am an enthusiastic supporter of home gardens and local food production and was happy that the Ann Arbor City Council passed an ordinance that permits backyard chickens in a very limited way. This seems to have worked out well, though I haven’t heard any reports either of complaints or of wide-spread backyard chicken yards.

  2. Shirley Zempel says:

    Thank you, Vivienne. I enjoy your comments, especially that you want to sustain our sense of community and quality of life. I’m not convinced that many in our city government have such aspirations. And it is a pleasure to read that you believe that the purpose of city government should be to serve the residents and local businesses of the city. I believe you are sincere and I intend to vote for you for city council or mayor. It would be most refreshing.

    Thanks again.

    Shirley Zempel

    • varmentrout says:

      Thanks, Shirley. Yes, I wouldn’t be running for office again if this purpose didn’t matter greatly to me. I appreciate your vote.

  3. Lucy White says:


    You state that you support the concept of county-wide transit , but you do not support the mayor’s proposal for conversion to an Act 196 authority.  What is your counter proposal for achieving county-wide transit?

    Thank you,
    Lucy White (5th ward)

    • varmentrout says:

      First, this is not the “mayor’s proposal”. Though I gather he is very supportive of it, the proposal for an Act 196 authority has been in process for at least 2 years – in fact, I attended an early meeting in late 2008 where the AATA was consulting with experts on the idea. Early proponents were Jeff Irwin (then the chair of the BOC) and Terri Blackmore, executive director of WATS.

      We have the ability to provide service to the county without converting to an Act 196 authority. In fact, we already are. The current AATA board has already taken many of the steps described in the plan. They have taken over vanrides for the entire county, are offering express bus services to Chelsea, have expanded service into Ypsilanti above and beyond currently funded service (from Ypsilanti), and initiated an airport shuttle service. All these are being done without support from outside Ann Arbor. Also, the AATA currently has Purchase of Service Agreements (POSA) with several Washtenaw County communities. These POSA provide for the communities being served in exchange for a contractual agreement whereby the served communities pay for the service directly.

      As an Act 55 authority, the AATA could continue to expand service to the other county communities, either by POSA or by some other agreement. I have become convinced that we must serve the Ypsilanti community somehow beyond their ability to pay. I don’t have a concrete proposal at this time, but I believe it is possible to serve the entire urban network with an “ability to pay” arrangement. This is essentially what we are doing now, since service to Ypsilanti was expanded with support of Ann Arbor taxpayers and no matching amount from Ypsilanti.

      In contrast, the other communities of Washtenaw County are not likely to pay, nor do they deserve subsidy from Ann Arbor. Most of the townships of the county outside the Ypsilanti area have a higher median income than Ann Arbor. They are being asked in this plan to pay 0.5 mills in comparison to 2.5 mills total from Ann Arbor. Yet Ann Arbor has a lower median income. Also, many of these communities (6 out of 20 townships) have already pulled out of the plan, long before they needed to make a decision. Others have stated loudly that they aren’t interested in a new tax.

      An advantage of a 196 authority is that it can serve a larger region than a county. I believe this is the true intent. Already there are plans in place to send express buses to Plymouth and Livonia. Those are not in Washtenaw County. Should Ann Arbor taxpayers subsidize those wealthy communities as well?

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