Paid for by Conan Smith for Washtenaw County Commission  |  234 8th Street  |  Ann Arbor, MI  48103  |  Gratitudes and Disclaimers

Dear Neighbor,

 

For the last 14 years,  I've served as your County Commissioner in District 9, representing both the west and north sides of Ann Arbor. Throughout my tenure, I've made our community more welcoming, more sustainable, and more prosperous through smart public policy. I would appreciate and value your support this year to continue in the office.

 

Ann Arbor is deeply ingrained in me. I was born here, and live in what was my grandparents' house. As a young person I was raised in a family tradition of civil rights activism and public service (my grandfather was the first black mayor of the city, my grandmother founded the state NAACP, and my mother and aunt – amazing black women – have served in the legislature and judiciary). My father – by profession a software engineer, by avocation a poet and woodsman -- instilled in me a love for our planet and trained me to think about how systems affect our community. I've built on these experiences to become a distinctive policy-maker – one who strives to understand and attack the root causes of the ills facing our society.

 

Here are just a few of the issues facing the County that I will focus on in the next term.

 

PROTECTING PUBLIC ACCESS TO PUBLIC PARKS AND PRESERVES

When public funds are used to purchase or protect property, we need guaranteed enjoyment of that land in perpetuity – which means covenants for public access and an endowment to protect that property.

 

INVESTING INTENTIONALLY TO REDUCE RACIAL AND ECONOMIC INEQUITIES

We need to invest more heavily in some communities to ensure that every resident gets a fair shot at a healthy and successful life.

 

IMPROVING SUCCESS ODDS FOR KIDS

The county is uniquely positioned to increase direct mental health services for youth and expand public education to include pre-K.

 

SUPPORTING NEW ECONOMY JOB DEVELOPMENT

Increasing inequality demands that we think about economic development differently. We need accessible jobs that will be durable through this shifting economy.

 

ENSURING WASHTENAW'S SUSTAINABILITY

From renewable energy to public transit, we need to keep fiscal and environmental stewardship in mind.

 

More systemically, overcoming the legacy of racism and its lingering effects must be an ongoing priority for us if we truly see ourselves as a just society. Income segregation, health disparities and unequal educational outcomes create almost insurmountable barriers for some members of our community. We must continuously work to counteract them both through policy and our investment priorities. To me that means measuring and investigating the impacts (e.g. why is the infant mortality rate three times higher for black mothers than white?) and investing in programming to reduce those disparities.

 

We also need to focus on improving economic opportunity across all sectors of our community. An aging population, a changing economy, and an intransigent state government have all created new burdens on us in keeping our community thriving. How we secure the resources to maintain high quality public services (roads, public health and more) should be a top of mind question. Simply taxing more isn't a long-term solution. We need to be designing new ways to fund and deliver services that match our long term fiscal capacity.

 

Washtenaw's greatest assets are our people. Always. We are fortunate to have world experts in almost every field at our fingertips. Our residents are generous and thoughtful. Our business and civic leaders are innovative and cooperative. When we come together – as we did when Pfizer closed here; or when we needed funding for transit, public safety and mental health; or when we expanded early childhood education – we can overcome any challenge.

 

Our approaches to community engagement could stand to be improved, however. We're not optimally leveraging all the talent we have here, and we're not taking advantage of technology in ways that would allow bright ideas to surface. Expanding opportunities for civic leadership and supporting the community collaboratives that have the skills to tackle major challenges must be priorities for us as we consider Washtenaw's future.

 

As your County Commissioner, I will continue to put our values into action, and I would be very grateful for your vote on August 7th.

 

Sincerely,