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August 01, 2005 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-08-01

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, August 1, 2005
tothedaily@michigandaily.com Editor in Chief Editorial Page Editor
',I U STUDENTS AT THE Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of
-UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN the majority of the Daily's editorial board. All other pieces do not
SINCE 1890 necessarily refect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.


Vote Kang, Lipson
City Council candidates willing to unplug
ears and listen to students

A little dollar goes a long way
Student fee increase necessary, but more is needed

This coming year promises to be
full of difficult decisions for the
Ann Arbor City Council. Budget
problems, labor negotiations and the cul-
mination of a visioning project that could
determine the future aesthetic of down-
town are just a few of the issues soon
to be facing Council members. Student
frustration with city government is grow-
ing, and even the Ann Arbor News has
noticed the disconnect between students
and City Council. At this crucial junc-
ture, with the stakes high and elections
just around the corner, Council needs a
breath of fresh air, with members willing
to unplug their ears and engage students,
who compose as much as one-third of
Ann Arbor's population. This fresh
air could come in the form of Fourth
Ward candidate Eric Lipson, running
against incumbent Marcia Higgins (D-
4th Ward), and Second Ward candidate
Eugene Kang, a University student run-
ning against former Republican mayoral
candidate Stephen Rapundalo.
This Tuesday, Ann Arbor voters
will cast their ballots in the primary
elections to determine the Democratic
nominees for City Council in the sec-
ond and fourth wards. Although both
nominees will go on to face a Repub-
lican in November, the Democratic
primary may prove to be their tough-
est race. With the recent conversion of
Rapundalo and Higgins, former Repub-
licans, all four candidates now share a
party. But they still are distinctly dif-
ferent and each would bring a unique
set of ideas to the council.
In the Second Ward, incumbent Mike
Reid (R-2nd Ward) declined to run for
re-election, clearing the way for new-
comer Kang and former Parks Advi-
sory Commission chair Rapundalo. If
elected, Kang would be the first student
member of City Council in decades.
Student candidates not only face con-
cerns that naturally arise over experi-
ence and connections, but they also
struggle with gerrymandered wards
that prevent students from consolidat-
ing their voting power. Indeed, with
none of the current Council members
endorsing his campaign, even if Kang
does win the seat, he runs the risk of
being marginalized and rendered inef-
fective after he is elected. This is not
an issue with Rapundalo, who already
has good relations with other Coun-
cil members and clearly beats Kang
in experience. To be sure, Rapundalo
is a good candidate; he has an even-
handed temperament that matches his
training as a scientist, and he recog-
nizes the problems that Council has
with an often opaque and insular deci-
sion-making process.
But even so, Kang's energy and origi-
nal thinking could be the revitalizing

spark that pushes the council to think
outside the box and, furthermore, to
improve its communication with long-
time residents and students alike. Kang
brings innovative ideas about expand-
ing affordable housing and increas-
ing density throughout the city. More
importantly, he is in a unique position
to make student voices heard in city
government; he would be in far closer
contact with student organizations than
any other Council member, and his own
experience as a student would bring an
important and severely underrepresent-
ed perspective to the Council.
In the Fourth Ward, Higgins has held
her seat for three consecutive terms,
a total of six years. Although she is
obviously familiar with Council pro-
cess, progress and positive change are
more likely to come from her opponent,
Lipson. Lipson is an attorney with an
impressive history of non-profit work,
much of it environmentally oriented.
His environmental activism and his
experience in city projects such as the
Ann Arbor Planning Commission indi-
cate that he would play an important
role in improving city zoning and pro-
moting responsible development.
Lipson also has demonstrated inter-
est and experience in student issues. He
worked as a staff attorney for the Uni-
versity's Student Legal Services, often
representing students in disputes with
landlords. His perspective on students'
roles in the community is influenced by
his firsthand knowledge and experience
of landlord abuse, not to mention his
Law School alum status. Additionally, he
favors new and progressive ideas about
the integration of affordable housing
into the city, such as accessory dwelling
units. Lipson seems an ideal candidate
to oversee the direction of Ann Arbor's
rapid growth; while Higgins is compe-
tent, she seems satisfied with the status
quo and lacks the creative vision and
the understanding of student-resident
dynamics required to effectively lead a
diverse and evolving city. Higgins was
also the only candidate who said she
would not have supported moving a vote
on the Oxbridge and North Burns Park
street parking permits - an ordinance,
passed last month, that student leaders
opposed - to the fall, when students
would be in town to offer their input.
All four candidates are qualified for
the job, but Lipson and Kang stand
out for their commitment to bring City
Council more in touch with its residents.
They are also the best chance students
have of gaining a voice in city politics
and preventing future anti-student ordi-
nances like the proposed ban on porch
couches. We endorse ERIC LIPSON
and EUGENE KANG as Democratic
nominees for City Council.

For students, one dollar will buy a can of
pop, a few pages of a textbook or one-
hundredth of a percent of in-state tuition.
Next year, a $1 increase in student fees will help
provide $37,500 in additional fundingforstudent
groups and pay for a lawyer specializing in off-
campus housing. After students expressed their
support last winter for a $3 fee increase through
Michigan Student Assembly elections, the Uni-
versity Board of Regents last month approved
raising student fees by $1, dividing the money
evenly between Student Legal Services and
MSA. The reduced increase was approved by
a narrow margin, with the Republican regents
- all of whom voted against it - expressing
concerns about the financial burden it would
impose on students and the signal an increase
in MSA funding would send in times of budget
cuts and belt-tightening. Raising student fees
does send a signal: that the University is will-
ing to respect the right of students to determine
where some of their money is directed. Expand-
ing funding for student groups and providing a
lawyer to represent student-renter interests will
benefit students greatly at little cost, and MSA
should continue to push the regents to approve
additional increases.
Initiatives like the Housing Legal Reform
Project - requiring a level of dynamism and
responsiveness to students that would have
impeded administrators - exemplify the value
of putting student fees in student government's
hands. Because MSA is accountable to the stu-
dent body, it is a better ward of student fees
than the University - the money it receives
would more directly benefit students than an
additional $75,000 added to the University's
$1.2-billion general fund budget. Although the
increase in student organization funding will
only cost each student $0.50 a year, it will
constitute a nearly 10-percent increase in the
total funding available to the hundreds of stu-
dent groups that receive money from MSA.
The rise in the SLS fees will similarly provide
tangible results - the funds will permit the
hiring of a housing attorney to the SLS staff
who will provide much-needed legal advice
to students and advocate for better off-campus
housing conditions.

With the increase, each student will pay $7.19
to MSA and $6 to SLS per semester, only a
fraction of what student governments on other
campuses receive. For example, the University
of Connecticut's student government receives
$33 from each student per semester, and stu-
dents at the University of California-Berkeley
pay $27.50. Although the increase will certainly
help, it is not enough. MSA originally proposed
raising student fees by $3 and using the funds
to pay for a housing lawyer, an attorney special-
izing in international law, and increased student-
group funding. Unfortunately, negotiations with
the regents and the Division of Student Affairs
made it clear that the board would be reluctant
to approve a large increase in a financially diffi-
cult year. Still, because the $1 increase will only
pay for part of the housing lawyer's salary and
provide half of the proposed additional funding
to student groups, MSA should continue to push
the regents for further fee increases.
Out of fear that raising student fees would
be inappropriate while the University faces
budget cuts, Republican regents opposed the
increase. The University's budget woes come
from severe reductions in state appropria-
tions, however, while MSA remains funded
through student fees and its own initiatives. It
is unnecessary and unwise for MSA to base
its plans on the University's financial situation.
Regent Andrew Richner (R-Grosse Pointe)
also expressed concerns over the financial bur-
den a fee increase would put on students, per-
haps overlooking that an additional $1 in fees
pales in comparison to the $1000 rise in annu-
al tuition, at the least, that students will pay
next year. Maybe Republican regents would
be satisfied if MSA took the University's lead
and offered grants to students who struggle to
afford the higher fee - but, with even a cup of
coffee costing more than a dollar, it is unlikely
that the increase will be so cumbersome. In
raising student fees, the regents need not worry
about sending the wrong signals to the state or
to students. Most students will hardly notice
an additional dollar in student fees, and the
increase will go a long way to improve hous-
ing conditions and expanding MSA's ability to
fund student organizations.

The thumbs have it

Ann Arbor

After a four-year lapse of judgment, Sen. Bill Frist
(R-Tenn.) showed that even right-wing Republicans
recognize Bush's stance on stem-cell research is ab-
surd. What - was the American Medical Associa-
tion threatening to revoke his medical license after
the Terri Schiavo debacle?
In a recent article, the local monthly repeatedly re-
ferred to City Council candidate Eugene Kang as
"Eugene Wang." What appears to be yet more evi-
dence of a citywide anti-student conspiracy could
have all been prevented with a simple fact-check.



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