Getting to know Ann Arbor City Council candidate Ayesha Ghazi Edwin

Ayesha Ghazi Edwin is running for to represent Ward 3 on the Ann Arbor City Council. (Doug Coombe)

ANN ARBOR – Ayesha Ghazi Edwin (D) is running to represent Ward 3 on Ann Arbor City Council.

She holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Michigan School of Social Work, where she is an Adjunct Faculty member.

Ghazi Edwin works as the Deputy Director of Detroit Disability Power, and has worked on health policy initiatives, immigration reform and collective bargaining rights.

The following interview was conducted via email.

What do you feel are the biggest issues in Ann Arbor that City Council can tackle in the next few years?

Providing Excellent City Services: We pay for, and deserve, reliable and excellent city services. Clean and safe drinking water and affordable housing are human rights. We deserve drivable roads, effective public transit, safe and walkable sidewalks, and reliable trash, recycling, and composting services. With the frequency of catastrophic climate events increasing, we must invest in stormwater management programs and systems in our ward and city. We must engage our city residents and listen to their needs in developing policies and services that are accessible for everyone.

Climate Action: As one of the most pressing issues of our time, tackling the climate crisis will be one of my top priorities if elected. It is important to note that climate and environmental justice is also economic, racial, and disability justice. Marginalized populations are disproportionately harmed by the climate crisis and climate catastrophe. We have made progress targeting our climate change efforts to those most disproportionately impacted, and we must continue these efforts. With an equity overlay, we can make more just and effective decisions that benefit everyone. To reduce our carbon emissions and bring us closer to the goals of A2Zero, we must: increase and protect our walkable and bikeable infrastructure; explore clean, local, energy sources; encourage non-vehicular modes of transportation; invest in stormwater and sewer programs; and continue to target climate change programs in historically disinvested neighborhoods.

Housing Affordability: We have an affordability crisis and a housing shortage. Our housing costs are pushing our essential workers, including our social workers, teachers, nurses, service workers, among others who are crucial to keeping our society functioning, out of the city. This is exacerbating the worker shortage that our local businesses are experiencing, and those who are commuting here are also living, spending their tax dollars, frequenting businesses, and voting somewhere else. The city is making strides around affordable housing, including the passage of the Affordable Housing Millage, and targeting efforts that help keep people in their homes. But we need to continue to expand upon these efforts by: building more housing; building more dense housing, especially along public transit corridors; investing in multi-family, mixed-use, mixed-income projects; and incentivizing inclusionary zoning policies. Doing so would increase our tax base, improve our city services, enable more people to live here, and allow us to age and retire in the community we love.

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

The above listed issues substantially impact my ward, but I’d also like to highlight the following two issues as well. As residents, we have an obligation to protect and maintain our beautiful natural environment and many parks. From the local park in my Turnberry neighborhood, to Buhr Park, and beyond, I commit to expanding programming for our parks that is accessible and benefits residents no matter where they live. We must: prioritize maintenance and upkeep, update our park facilities, and ensure that our parks receive adequate funding so they can remain clean and be enjoyed by generations to come.

Small businesses that have made our city unique and given it character have been disappearing for decades. In addition, small businesses have been hit-hard during Covid-19, including in Ward 3. It’s critical to support businesses that have suffered during the pandemic to stabilize our local economy for future growth. We must also create a path forward for minority and women-owned businesses to compete and succeed in Ann Arbor. Doing so helps to close the racial and gender wealth gap, and strengthens our local economy by increasing our job growth. I commit to ensuring that equity exists in awarding city contracts, and will advocate for more resources that help minority and women-owned businesses prosper and succeed.

What could Ann Arbor do better?

Ann Arbor must be a city that prioritizes racial equity in all that we do. Due to structural racism, and historic and ongoing discriminatory housing policies and practices, we have become one of the most economically segregated cities in the nation. This harms all of us, and has got to change for the health and prosperity of our city. From our climate change efforts, housing, policing, social service programs, city governance and services, we must make equity of all marginalized groups a priority that we evaluate and track in a measurable and meaningful way. Furthermore, we must make sure that city staff, and those that reach leadership positions, reflect the diversity of our city. Equity is hard to advance, however, without safe, well-paying, union jobs. As a union member myself, I am committed to fighting for all workers and advancing the labor movement. As your City Council Member, I will strive to put the equity concerns of our community first and foremost in the decisions that I make on City Council.

Why did you decide to run for City Council?

My family immigrated here when I was a toddler. I grew up here, attending Northside Elementary, Logan Elementary, Clague Middle School, and graduating from Huron High School. As new immigrants, it wasn’t always easy for us, but Ann Arbor welcomed us with open arms. I’m lucky to call this diverse, inclusive city my hometown.

After living in other parts of the state and starting a family, my partner and I decided to move back to Ann Arbor to raise our children. I wanted to raise them in a city that values diversity and inclusion. I wanted them to have the same experiences I did growing up here--feeling welcomed, and like they belonged. At the same time, our city’s cost of housing has become increasingly unaffordable, pushing out essential workers and others who make our community vibrant and unique. This results in commuters who live, vote, frequent businesses, and spend their tax dollars someplace else. We have become one of the most economically segregated cities in the nation, and we are at a critical crossroads with climate change. Ann Arbor needs leaders focused on improving our quality of life and making our city more affordable, equitable, and inclusive. I have a passion and drive for advocating for social policy that improves people’s lives. For over the last decade, I’ve used my graduate degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan, and Six Sigma from University of Michigan School of Engineering, to work for a variety of progressive social justice causes--from health equity, to immigration reform, civil rights, labor rights, and disability justice. Today, I serve as the Deputy Director of Detroit Disability Power, and as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. I also serve as the Governor-appointed Chair of the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, and as an Ann Arbor Human Rights Commissioner.

I am running for Ann Arbor City Council today because I want our city to remain the diverse, inclusive city that my family immigrated to almost 35 years age--for my children, for all of us. I want us to be the city that my parents were able to immigrate to - so that others can move here today and also contribute to our vibrancy and diversity. I am running because I want people who live here to be able to afford housing across the life course - from being able to upgrade your home to something that meets your family’s needs, to being able to stay in your home once you retire and are on a reduced income. I want this to be a city that my children can move back to one day - no matter what professions they choose.

I am also running for City Council because I am a mom of a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old, and I believe that civic engagement should be accessible--that the voices of full-time working parents are invaluable to good policymaking, and should be represented in our city’s governance. I’m also doing this because I want to show my sons that civic engagement matters - that when you see an opportunity for change, when peoples rights are being taken away by other levels of government, you get up and you get involved and you stand strong for what is right.

What do you love about Ann Arbor?

I love so much about our wonderful city: from our world-class parks, to our welcoming people, to our love for learning and the arts, and our vibrant and diverse culture and community. I am so proud to call Ann Arbor my home and I am excited for what the future holds for our amazing city.

Learn more about Ghazi Edwin’s campaign here.

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.