ANN ARBOR – Anne Bannister (D) is running for mayor of Ann Arbor.
Bannister served on City Council as the Ward 1 representative from 2017-2020.
She moved to Ann Arbor with her family in 1974 and graduated from both Huron High School and the University of Michigan.
Bannister made her career as a certified financial planner and has been working for a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes personal financial literacy since 2009.
According to her campaign website, she has been involved in local politics in leadership roles with both the Ann Arbor Democratic Party and Yousef Rabhi’s Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Campaign.
The following interview was conducted via email.
What have been some highlights for you during your time in elected office in Ann Arbor?
During my years as a Councilmember, I put people first. I’m a champion of environmental justice and worked with neighborhoods citywide to protect our ecosystem and avoid irreversible mistakes with land use and ongoing loss of our tree canopy due to rapid growth and development. There’s more work to be done, but it’s clear that Tree Town residents are serious about preserving Ann Arbor’s natural beauty.
I’m proud of the work I’ve done with the community to strengthen protections for mature trees and make improvements to our stewardship of nature features, for a better and more equitable future for all residents. Whatever the issue, I’ve used my skills and experience to listen to all residents and bring forward resolutions to create policies, solve systemic problems, and strengthen community benefits.
In the area of mental health, I voted in favor of putting all the County Mental Health Millage proceeds toward mental health services, and I championed the groundbreaking resolution to decriminalize entheogenic plants.
Among my other accomplishments, I introduced and co-sponsored resolutions to preserve habitat for chimney swifts, plan ahead for a nuclear emergency, reduce herbicide use, reinstate State Historic Preservation Tax Credits, implement the will of the voters to have a Center of the City, urge EPA involvement in the clean-up of the Gelman plume, put nonpartisan elections on the ballot for voters to decide, support more substantive civilian review of policing practices and incidents, create fairness in water rates, and improve our process for new sidewalks.
Why did you decide to run for mayor?
As a City Councilmember, I saw too many sad faces and frustration amongst residents who felt like their voices don’t matter. I am running for mayor to strengthen inclusive, citizen-led governance and make sure all people are a valuable part of the process. When people engage with the local government, they should experience a welcoming, efficient, and fair process. I intend to bring more transparency and data-driven decision making to City Hall.
Through my lived experience of being an Ann Arbor resident for 48 years, my lifelong career in financial planning and personal finance education, and my service to others in local politics as a former Treasurer and Co-Chair of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party and City Councilmember, running for mayor is a natural progression in my service to the community.
My supporters are concerned that there’s a great need for improvement in the respect given to regular people’s voices, environmental issues, and the ethical processes used in local government. I’d like to use my skills at listening, collaboration, and problem-solving, to create a better future and path forward for Ann Arbor.
What do you feel are the biggest issues that Ann Arbor residents face right now?
The biggest issues facing Ann Arbor include public safety and congestion on our roads, bike lanes, and sidewalks, affordability, ongoing issues related to the Gelman plume and the pandemic, implementation of an unarmed police response program, increasing diversity within city staff, and the update to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
One of my priorities as our next mayor is to take a leadership role in the update to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which is required by State law. Working with the city’s consultant, I will engage neighborhoods citywide in meetings and surveys to learn what residents say are the priority concerns and opportunities for their local area. I will make sure the voices of regular people are the top priority in the updated Plan and that our input doesn’t fall on deaf ears. I’m committed to working with our regional partners, including MSHDA and the Statewide Housing Plan, all the campuses of the University of Michigan, our surrounding municipalities, and the Federal government.
I’m concerned that in recent years major changes to land use and density have been approved without proper notification and engagement with the public. It’s not okay that in a growing number of cases the opportunity for public hearings and a vote by City Council has been delegated to unelected appointees on the City Planning Commission. Of great concern amongst residents is the city-initiated upzoning of property to Transit Corridor Zoning (TC1), which enriches a small set of landowners and developers, without requiring community benefits in keeping with our goals for carbon neutrality, affordable housing, protections for our mature trees and woodlands, or even requirements that housing units are built.
What are some problems that the city will need to tackle in the next few years?
Among many complex and interrelated issues, how we prepare for climate change, the continuing spread of the Gelman dioxane plume, increasing diversity within city staff, and the ongoing loss of the city’s tree canopy are the greatest problems facing Ann Arbor. Climate change will impact whether the city can be an affordable, inclusive, and sustainable place for a wide range of people to call home and be long-term members of our community. If we continue to make irreversible mistakes with our zoning, land use, and protection for our mature trees and ecosystem, we are creating a future where our collective wellbeing and diversity declines.
The ongoing spread of the Gelman dioxane plume threatens our drinking water. I will continue to work with the Coalition for Action on the Remediation of Dioxane (CARD) and make the involvement of the EPA an immediate priority.
As our next mayor, I will use my skills to facilitate a robust community engagement process in everything that we do, and ask the questions “Where’s the public benefit?” and “Who benefits?” I’m confident that by listening to the community and working together, we will find solutions and implement systemic change that will help us meet all of our future challenges.
How do you think Ann Arbor can get closer to its carbon neutrality goals?
I support the A2Zero Climate Action Plan and was one of the original co-sponsors of the 2019 resolution to create a plan to achieve community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030. I will work diligently to move the city toward a more resilient and sustainable environment, in an equitable way that will not price residents out of the city.
As Dr. Missy Stults from our Office of Sustainability and Innovation has indicated, the A2Zero Plan is a living document that will need to change over time. As our next mayor, I will advocate for greater focus on practical solutions like weatherization of leaky homes and buildings, stormwater management, reducing, reusing, and recycling the amount of waste we create, strengthening the metrics and measurements of success, and creating a municipal power utility, which is the single most effective action we can do to reduce carbon emissions.
I will also advocate for rehabbing existing buildings instead of tearing them down because studies show that the greenest buildings are the ones already built. Furthermore, actions speak louder than words and the city needs to do better at conforming to the words in the A2Zero Plan. For example, the A2Zero Plan states that, “All new residential and commercial buildings are designed and built to operate without the use of natural gas,” and yet the new Transit Corridor Zoning (TC1) contains no incentives or requirements for developers to build without the use of natural gas.
To learn more about Bannister’s campaign, visit www.bannister4mayor.com.