Christopher Kolb, a Democrat from the city's Fifth Ward who has served on City Council since 1993, is seeking to unseat twoterm Mayor of Arm Arbor, Republican Ingrid Sheldon. Kolb, anAnn Arbor native, worksas an independent environmental consultant. The Race AGENDA: What are your chances for winning this race? KOLB: I'm running against an incumbent who has already been elected and re-elected. Thatmeans I'm running an uphill battle. What that does is make me run harder. AGENDA: David Stead did not do very well against Mayor Sheldon in 1994, are you going to do anything differently in your campaign? KOLB: I am going to target more people. I'm going to go to more doors and get more information out to people. A lot of people have watched what I have done on council. People have a pretty favorable opinión of me and I am going to capitalize on that. Character AGENDA: Many gay activists are watching this election for its historie significance. If you are elected, won't you become the state's first openly-gay elected mayor? KOLB: That could be possible, others may have been outed and it hasn't really been picked up in the papers. The first night of council I tried to make sure that people did know. It was the first time the Ann Arbor News ever used it in a quote about any poli ticians - especially locally. I try to be very honest and up front. There has been nothing but positive response. That' s one of the defining things in my life. You cannot completely understand me until you understand that point. It does change the way I look at some issues. It means I can put myself in someone else's shoes. And I've heard it all. And I've heard it from really good people. From a personal standpoint, it allows me to see the world differently. It has allowed me to challenge some thoughts and ideas about the world that I might not have if I wasn't gay. AGENDA: How does being gay affect your politics on a day-to-day basis? KOLB: I've learned that society doesn't treat us all the same. I'm treated differently wben someone finds out I'm gay than if they didn't know. You see it in two different ways, before someone knows and after someone knows. To a lot of people it doesn't matter. For others it does, and they treat you differently. It has sensitized me to how we as a society edúcate our youth to see that difference in a negative sense. Diversity is good but as a culture we somehow teach our children that people who are difieren t from us or different from the norm of society are bad. And we need to look at how and why we are doing that and go back and try to stop it. Leadership AGENDA: How do you plan to shape or lead the work of City Council? KOLB: The mayor's office is actually the highest profile office in the city of Ann Arbor. As we continue to face challenges today and in the future it is actually the mayor's job to provide visión, direction, and leadership. And, by doing that the mayor can cali attention to a problem then help to gather resources needed to address it. It's up to the mayor to be the unifying voice not only in the community but also on council. I think that I have a reputation of rolling up my sleeves and working with all different groups in the city, whether it be activists on one issue, the business community on downtown issues, or the environmental community. F ve made one of my goals to be open enough that I can address people no matter who they are, and get their input and help on an issue. I went to see the administrator and I went to the Chamber of Commerce and asked: "Can you help us on any of these issues?" It' s the first time that anyone had ever gone down there and asked for help. We should be doing that with the University, the schools, and the hospitals. AGENDA: As far as policy and priorities, how do you see yourself as different from Mayor Sheldon? KOLB: I think that it's an issue of style in many senses. I don't wait for something to happen, I want to be pro-active. Instead of talking about maintaining a clean and healthy environment, let' s work with the County Drain Commissioner, the Huron River Watershed Council, and with environmentally concerned citizens, to clean up the streams and creeks that flow into our river. One of the first things I did on council was vote on the Natural Features Ordinance. We sent it off to a committee from the Planning Commission and the Natural Features Ordinance Committee to work out some details, but it has never come back. I know they are working on it, but as mayor I would be out there making sure that it comes back. Three years is way too long. How many natural features have we lost because we don' t have anything on the books to say this is what you have to do. We've been talking about setting up a youth program. Tome, that's one of our priorities. Making sure the right resources are there as a community to put those programs in place . I brought the affirmative action resolution forward. I heard the Human Rights Commission say that this was something that we should be working on. I worked with them and brought it forward and got it passed. And it's not just a policy; wedevelopedaplan. One of the things I'm most proud of was getting that accomplished. The first meeting ever between Ann Arbor City Council and the Washtenaw County Commissioners wasmy resolution . It' s simple, why aren'twe working together? Wearetwoblocks away. We share a huge part of a jurisdiction. It's overlapping problems. Environmental problems do not contain themselves to these nice little city boundaries. They flow across boundaries so that the only way you can really effectively work on them is to work together. Privatization of City Services AGENDA : Some of the city' s parking lots and decks have recently been turned over to the private sector. Other city services have been under consideration for this type of conversión, including the city's garbage collection services. What do you think about local government contracting out services to private companies? KOLB: Privatization is always a possibility. The unions wrote and said "We want to be a part of this; we want to provide better and more effective services. Weknow how, we just want to be able to participate." We are trying to créate ways for the employees themselves to work in teams and to provide us with more effective and efficiënt ways to provide these services. And they've got great ideas. In the past culture of city hall they have not been asked to do that. Our employees want to be part of the solution. AGENDA: If a private company offers the same quality of services at a cheaper price, then what do you do? KOLB: You have to look at it and ask: Is it really the same quality of service and the same levelof service?The Solid Waste Department, for example, has been able to save over $1 million dollars because of increased efficiencies without losing the quality of their service. And they have done that because their employees have been involved and thinking of new ways of doing things. Thus, that money we save goes directly to the bottom line. Itdoesn't get spent. It gets saved by the city. An outside company may fïnd a way to save that money but where is it going to go? Who is going to get it? It' s definitely not going to be given back to the taxpayers. It's definitely not going to be given back to the city. There's no reason that a private company can do anything better than a public entity. And in fact, if you take out the profit margin, we should be able to do it as effectively for a lower price. Recycle Ann Arbor AGENDA: What position did you take on the Ann Arbor Recycling contract? KOLB: I voted for Recycle Ann Arbor both on council and on the Solid Waste Commission. For a little more money, did we get a better valué? In my opinión we did. In addition, as a corporate goal, they have the same goal as the city and that is to increase the amount of recyclables collected and the other companies do not The goal for private companies is to tower their cost to increase their profiL Thus they have a disincenüve to collect more recyclables. Recycle Ann Arbor is doing whatever they can to increase recycling, especially the new items we are able to collect. They ' ve also done extra projects at no cost. They've done extra clean up around campus at move-in and moveout times and are belping to do studies at no cost for the city. They are a partner with the city. Taxing the U-M? AGENDA: Which leads us to the city budget and the alleged future predicted shortfall. We are told by the bean counters that in a matter of a few years the city will be faced with cutting services or raising more revenue. One idea that's been floated is to get the U-M to voluntarily pay some taxes since their property is tax-exempt and they own 40% of Ann Arbor' s property. Would you put approaching the U-M on your agenda? KOLB: The University is a very important player in all of this. They may be able to provide us with in-kind types of services. What has worked in some cities is a PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes). No one knows yet what the new administration at the University will say. But it is an issue that should be approached with them. We want to see what resources they can bring to the table for our community. Ann Arbor's Poor AGENDA: One controversial proposal recently brought forward by the AAPD that passed and that you voted for was the antibegging ordinance. A lot of energy and discussion was spent on this. Why not use that energy and the momentum to find soluöons to Ann Arbor's homelessness problem. KOLB: Itis notan eitherorsituation. It should not be presented as the solution. This is not going to solve anything. What that ordinance did is say: We allow solicitation. This is the manner in which it should be done. The courts have decided, these are the things you can regúlate; these are the things you cannot regúlate. We've worked very hard to put more affordable housing units in Ann Arbor. We have money for matching grants in a contingency fund. That money stays in there regardless of fiscal year. We are taking a look at our whole shelter program. As a city, we havedepartment people, housing activists, service agency people, plus the Shelter Directorandpersonnel looking at how we can address this situaüon. Last year we had to put money into a Warming Center. We had to push that through council so that we could address the new policy at the Shelter. And that was successful. AGENDA: Do you think there is going to be a need for the Warming Center again? KOLB: Hopefully, we will not need a separate Warming Center. We have allocated the money into an account if we need it. I volunteer at St. Andrew's breakfast program. Every week I'm there serving oatmeal. I know what this population is and I know their needs. There are people who either can't go to the Shelter because of the pohcies or won' t go to the Shelter for whatever personal reason it may be. And I'm not going to sit here and say they shouldn't have any shelter. What we had last year, is what we could just do. It has been made personal for me by going down to St Andrews. Ifl was in that situaüon I don' t know if I would survive, but they do. We as a community need to reach out and do whatever (continued on nextpage) KOLB INTERVIEW (frtr prewoits page)s we can. Some people may not want our help completely, but there are others who do need iL AGENDA: The Shelter seems to have adopted a "tough love" kind of philosophy. How do you feel about that kind of approach to problem solving? KOLB: I'm tom in several different ways. One is that the Shelter should not be apermanent housing solution foranyone. That is notan answerto our housingneeds. It is for emergency shelter. I also don't believe that when it'scold you can just say "Sorry your time is up." On the other hand, we need to be able to move people from the shelter to somewhere. We are hoping that by working with the Shelter, we can come up with a way tohandle that need here. Thatdoesn'tmean the city is going to solve it. We've got to have the county and other funding sources in volved whether it' s the UM or the United Way. Youth Curfew AGENDA: A curfew ordinance was recently brought to Council but was tabled. Would you vote for this or if elected mayor would you make it a priority to bring this back to council? KOLB: I think this is one resolution that cut many different ways within our community. I had people who I would have bet you my last buck that they would be for it and they said "How dare the city teil me how to raise my child, or when they should be in or out of the house." These were people who were strong supporters of giving the pólice more money who said "Hey, you' ve crossed the line here." Other people who I would assume would say don't vote for this told me that "this is something we need to do. We need to watch out for our youth. There is no reason for our youth to be out at this time." What we did as council is say this has not been adequately discussed by the community. In the meantime there is a state curfew law that can be utilized. Running on His Record AGENDA: Someone said - an Ann Arbor liberal at that - that he was going to vote for Mayor Sheldon because she had the effect of moderating some of the more right-wing tendencies of City Council's Republicans and that you, on the other hand, had the effect of moving City Council's Democrats to the right on issues and policy. KOLB: I would say that it depends on what your core values and beliefs are. Who brought forward the Affirmaüve Action Plan? Who brought forward the resolution to oppose the anti-gay ballot initiative? Who has fought for more money for human service funding? Has any Republican from the mayor on down? No. I can list off the environmental issues where I've taken the forefront and pushed things through. Have the Republicans ever done that? No. Let' s really look at these issues and see where I fall out. What I have tried to do is to get Council to work as a group to discuss things openly and in a benefícial manner. I may disagree with you but we need to be working together on the next issue. When it gets down to what I think are the core things, the things that I work on, I've done, and I've accomplished, I'm proud of them. I've pushed for more funding for HIV-AIDS and for Hl AIDS employee sensitivity training. They are important to me. If people really look to see what I' ve done and what I stand for, they may have some disagreements with me, but when they look at both records, it would come down that a vote for me, from a progressive standpoint, is a better vote than for anybody else. I'm running for mayor on the issues I ran on for council. I said that human service funding is just as important as other funding needs. For most people, basic services are your roads, your fire, pólice, your sewer, your water. But if you don' t have a roof over your head or food on your table, meeting those needs becomes a basic service of govemment I have tried to put my actions where my words have been.
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