Ann Arbor currently has a 90%-Democratic City Council and a Democratic Mayor. Some look skeptically on this fact, noting that two previous Democratic Party-identified Council-members, Marcia Higgins and Stephen Rapundalo, ran for office as Republicans, and Jane Lumm the current independent Council member also ran as a Republican. Others are criticized as "closet Republicans" for being overly concerned with budget issues.
The Council traditionally meets the first and third Mondays of the month, at 7pm, on the second floor of City Hall. The meeting opens with 10 "reserved public comment" slots; speakers must call the City Clerk's office during business hours on Monday to reserve one of these three-minute spaces, but can speak about any issue - divestment from Israel is a popular-as-in-frequent topic. Any ordinance change (including rezonings and site plans) receives its own public hearing, allowing anyone to speak for three minutes on the proposal. Another open public comment session at the end of the meeting allows anyone to speak for three minutes on any topic.
This information (and council minutes, etc.) is on the City of Ann Arbor website (http://www.a2gov.org/government/citycouncil/Pages/Home.aspx); Council meeting agendas are typically posted to the web the week before the meeting, including PDF versions of all items on the agenda; meetings are shown live on CTN Channel 16, and replayed several times during the following week.
Several of the local news media cover City Council meetings, to a lesser or greater degree depending on the cost of newsprint. Follow the #a2council hashtag on Twitter for real time coverage.
The city charter (http://www.a2gov.org/departments/city-clerk/Documents/City%20Charter.pdf) gives council members and the mayor each a vote in decisions, for a total of 11 votes. Most decisions are by majority. Some may require a supermajority of 8; for example: "No office may be created or abolished, nor any street, alley, or public ground vacated, nor private property taken for public use, unless by a concurring vote of at least eight members of the Council." The mayor also has a veto on most decisions which may be overriden by an 8-vote supermajority.
Ann Arbor has five wards, each represented by two Council members. Council members are elected to two-year terms, with one seat up for election every year in each Ward. In recent years, Democratic candidates have been seen to have a large advantage in even-year elections, as Ann Arbor votes overwhelmingly Democratic in higher-level elections. Odd years have lower turnouts - only a few thousand votes in each Ward - but 2005 saw Republicans run candidates in only two Wards, and lose both of those.
With Council almost entirely Democratic, the August Democratic Primary is now seen as the most important race for Council, a fact that the New West Side and other student advocates decry as being unfair to students, who are often out of town or at temporary addresses over the summer. Some proposals intended to address this fact, such as moving the primary to November and the general election to February, seem difficult or impossible under current Michigan election law; other proposals, such as using Instant Runoff Voting for City elections, are opposed by the local Democrats and have had trouble receiving enough support to reach the ballot.
See Ann Arbor City Council: Membership for the history of Ann Arbor city council membership
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