Getting to know Ann Arbor City Council candidate Travis Radina

Travis Radina is running for the ward 3 city council seat. (Travis Radina)

ANN ARBOR – Travis Radina (D) is running for the Ward 3 city council seat. 

He first moved to Ann Arbor in 2004 to study at the University of Michigan and then returned in 2014.

Radina is the president of the Jim Toy Community Center and LGBTQ Liaison to the Mayor.

He currently works as the Director of Global Alumni Communities at the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.

The following interview was conducted via email.

In your opinion, what are the main issues in your ward? How do you propose to solve them?

Throughout this campaign, I've been privileged to speak with hundreds of my neighbors throughout Ward 3 about the issues that matter most to them. As you can imagine, depending on the life experiences and individual circumstances of every person, the main issue for them and their families may differ. 

They've expressed concerns about how we will recover from the ongoing pandemic, disappointment with the Council's factional bickering and -- at times -- lack of professionalism, and disgust over the unexpected and expensive removal of our previous city manager.

My neighbors have also spoken to me passionately about the need to tackle housing affordability, to fix and adequately maintain our roads and pedestrian infrastructure, to keep our water safe and clean, to address the global climate crisis and preserve our environment, to improve on racial and economic equity, and to fundamentally change our approach to policing.

Pervasive throughout these conversations; however, has been a consistent frustration by residents who feel they are not being heard by Council.

I believe it is the most basic responsibility of an elected official to show up, listen to residents, and to respond to the needs of our community. I have experience working in government, finding solutions to complex challenges, and getting results for the people my office served. If elected to represent them, I understand my first responsibility is to be accessible and always listen to -- and truly hear -- the residents of Ann Arbor’s 3rd Ward.

What do you feel are the biggest issues in Ann Arbor?

While Ward 3 has some unique issues, many of the issues highlighted by neighbors while canvassing are the same issues that need to be addressed city-wide. A few of those issues rise to the top.

Specifically, Ann Arbor is in the midst of a housing crisis. While we often take pride in being a welcoming and inclusive community, far too many of our friends and neighbors can no longer afford to call Ann Arbor home. This results in Ann Arbor having 80,000 commuters (pre-COVID) driving to/from the city each day -- significantly contributing to our carbon footprint and making our region one of the worst int he nation in economic segregation and income inequality. It is unacceptable that so many hardworking people come to Ann Arbor for work, but are forced to leave at the end of each day to live, raise a family, pay taxes, and retire elsewhere.

Ann Arbor residents also pay for -- and deserve -- better-than-basic public services. With fluctuating PFAS levels in Ann Arbor’s drinking water and the continued spread of the Gelman dioxane plume, Ann Arbor must follow through on our commitment to provide better filtration and treatment of our water supply, clean up the Gelman plume, and restore the public’s trust in our water supply. 

We also must do better when it comes to our roads and infrastructure by fixing roads in desperate need of repair, focusing on preventative measures to keep our roads operational longer and fulfilling our commitment to developing roads and sidewalks that are planned, designed, operated, and appropriately maintained to provide the most safe, convenient and comfortable use by all Ann Arborites whether they are walking, cycling, driving or utilizing public transportation.

Why did you decide to run again for City Council?

I’m running for City Council because I believe that Ann Arbor residents pay for and deserve better-than-basic public services, because access to clean drinking water should be a basic human right, and because we are in the midst of a housing and affordability crisis that is threatening our city’s future. I’m running to help achieve our ambitious carbon neutrality goals, to expand upon our city’s long history of leadership on human and civil rights, and to ensure that City Council is responsive, accessible and transparent.

I have always had a passion for public service and a desire to give back. It is because of passion that I am currently serving my fourth term as President of the Board for the Jim Toy Community Center, which represents the LGBTQ and allied community of greater Washtenaw County. In 2018, I was also appointed Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ Liaison -- a position that works with the mayor, members of the city council and the Human Rights Commission to improve the lives of Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ residents. 

After several years of giving back to the community that I love in those roles, I realized that there were several other issues that I cared deeply about, but weren't being adequately addressed by Council. I decided to run to continuing serving my neighbors and improving our city, but also because I am the most experienced and qualified candidate to tackle these challenges.

As a former Constituent Services & Legislative Director to the Democratic Floor Leader in the Michigan House of Representatives,  I have a deep understanding of policy, know how to work across political divides to get things done, and understand that government should work well for the people it serves.

What could Ann Arbor do better?

Ann Arbor residents deserve better than factional bickering and name-calling from their elected officials. When I am your next Council Member, I will strive to elevate the tone of our public discourse, to re-earn the public’s trust and restore confidence in our collective ability to work together to overcome the challenges facing our city.

As a community leader and the city’s LGBTQ Liaison, I have developed strong professional relationships with many members of Council. We don’t always agree on every issue, but I believe that it is our responsibility to find common ground when possible, to always vote by listening to you and my conscience, and when we disagree, to strive for a level of civility and respect that allows us to move forward and work together on the next problem that needs solving.

Council meetings also regularly run late into the night, often past Midnight. The people’s work should not regularly be carried out while the people are at home asleep. Public oversight is a critical feature of good government, and when Council business regularly runs late into the night or happens behind closed doors, the people cannot be expected to stay engaged. I will work to put an end to regular late-night Council sessions and fight to protect public oversight and accountability.

What do you love about Ann Arbor?

There is so much to love about Ann Arbor. 

The relaxing outdoor summer brunch scene. Thrilling Football Saturdays in the fall. Tranquil & scenic walks through our neighborhoods and parks. The vibrant energy of our downtown. AFC Ann Arbor matches. Ann Arbor Pride. Ann Arbor Summer Festival. Ann Arbor Art Fair. Festifools. The list goes on and on. 

Ann Arbor is a community that embraces its weirdness and never misses an opportunity to bring people together in celebration or for a good cause. Above all, I love Ann Arbor because of our values and our people. We are a close-knit community of people who care passionately, who help one another, and who strive to make our community and the world better (even if we sometimes disagree on how to accomplish that goal). 

I’m running for City Council because I know Ann Arbor is already a great place to live, but because I believe we still have work to do if we want the Ann Arbor of tomorrow to continue being a prosperous, inclusive and desirable place to live, work, raise your family and eventually retire.

For more information, visit his website.

All About Ann Arbor reached out to all of the city council candidates for interviews.

For more information about the Aug. 4 primary, read:

Aug. 4 primary: Who’s running in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.