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Three mayoral races and a $1 billion school bond: Michigan elections we're following

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Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio

On November 5, Michiganders will head to the polls. While there are many races happening across the state, here are the three mayoral races and one historic bond issue we're keeping an eye on and where you can go to find election day results.

Ann Arbor Schools $1 billion bond

Ann Arbor residents will vote on a $1 billion bond for their public schools. The bond will span over 30 years, and would be used to pay for building upgrades and energy efficiency improvements. As one of the largest bond proposals requested by a school district in state history, it's been met with criticism - even in a district that's generally receptive to millages.

Last week, Stateside chatted with Jeanice Swift, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools.

money beside art equipment
Credit Victoria ? / Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock

"Our current bonds paid their last revenue in 2018, so this is a time when the administrative team, the board, and the community must consider a capital bond," Swift said. "The district will be in a very vulnerable place to have an average of 63-year-old buildings. Five of our buildings will be 100 in the next very short time. It would be a very irresponsible decision to not have a capital investment bond current."

Hear Swift's full interview with Stateside here.

However, as Michigan Radio's Kate Wells reported, many teachers in the Ann Arbor school system are not in support of the bond.

“We haven't had a cost of living increase on our salary schedule since 2006," Fred Klein, head of the teacher's union in Ann Arbor, told Wells. "We've had a few concessions along the years. So teachers have felt like this district and this administration has not prioritized teachers in its budgets. And it was just out of that frustration that we decided that we would not lend our name and support for this current initiative.”

Bonds cannot go towards teacher salaries.

Some educators feel that if the bond doesn't pass, perhaps the lack of teacher support will make the district realize their value.

“If the district sees that teachers not supporting one of their goals, result in it not passing, maybe they'll value us a little bit more,” first-grade teacher Gabby Taylor told Wells. “Maybe they'll realize that the community has our backs. And that's a lot of people supporting us."

Read the full story from Wells here.

For information on voting in Ann Arbor, visit the City of Ann Arbor

For election night results, visit the Washtenaw County site

Flint Mayor: Karen Weaver vs. Sheldon Neeley

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

In Flint, incumbent Mayor Karen Weaver faces a challenge from state Representative and former Flint City Council member Sheldon Neeley in his second run for the job. Weaver took office in 2015, the year following the start of the Flint Water Crisis.

Both spoke with Stateside last week about their vision for the future of the city.

Neeley feels that there have been many "missed opportunities" within the Weaver administration that have not allowed the city of Flint and its residents to recover fully since the water crisis.

"I think [Weaver] mismanaged a lot of different areas," he said. "I think operational audits and financial audits need to be taken. They don't have qualified individiuals in position to service the residents of the city of Flint effectively. I think there's been a mass exodus of qualified individuals leaving the operations of city hall, providing essential services for residents. I think the money that has been allocated to our community has been, at the very least, a missed opportunity for us to be further along, moving us through and out of this particular situation that we currently face."

Neeley also has questions about how money allocated from the state and federal government, as well as the philanthropic community, has been spent. On October 31, he also asked the Secretary of State to provide more oversight of the election, leveling "allegations of possible voter fraud and absentee ballot tampering" from Weaver's campaign, according to reporting by Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson responded on November 4, saying she was declining Neeley's request and recommended Neeley forward specific complaints to law enforcement.

When asked about the accusations made by Neeley against her administration, Weaver noted that Neeley should know how money is received and allocated based on his experience as a Flint City Council member for nine years.

"He knows better than that, and he knows that's not true, because any time money comes to the city, it goes through city council," Weaver told Stateside. "So where's the record of all of this money? He knows exactly where the money went and he needs to stop misleading the community."

"I don't make anything of it," she continued. "We were under emergency manager for the longest, so if we weren't handling the funds appropriately, they would never have left. So, that doesn't threaten me and it doesn't scare me, and he needs to talk to city council. [...] And the other thing he needs to remember is that when he sat on city council, they led us into receivership. So, him handling money is quite scary."

To hear the full conversation on Stateside, click here.

For results from Flint, please check here

Warren Mayor: Jim Fouts vs. Kelly Colegio

jim fouts and kelly colegio
Credit City of Warren
Jim Fouts, Kelly Colegio

In Warren, controversial longtime Mayor Jim Fouts will face City Councilwoman Kelly Colegio.

Fouts is seeking his fourth term as mayor, though Colegio is urging residents to vote him out, saying "words matter" - a reference to the secretly recorded tapes of Fouts saying negative things about black people, women, political enemies, and special needs children, according to reporting from Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton.

Yet, despite the taped evidence, Fouts touts talking points that he feels should lead him to re-election.

From Samilton's interview with him:

He hired Warren's first-ever African American department head, he says. He says his plan for a new downtown will make it a local destination in metro Detroit. He advocated for a detention basin to address Warren's long-time flooding problems.

"So I think I'm a unique mayor, I don't think there's any mayor like me in the history of Warren," Fouts told Samilton. "I live and breathe Warren."

Colegio faces a bit of an uphill battle in her campaign against Fouts. She finished with 24% of the vote to Fouts' 58% in the August primary. However, many of the council members who are pro-Fouts face term limits, and the field of candidates include many who feel Fouts needs to be voted out.

To read more of Tracy Samilton's story, click here.

To get Macomb County election results, click here

Grand Rapids: Rosalynn Bliss vs. Daniel Schutte

rosalynn bliss
Credit City of Grand Rapids
Rosalynn Bliss

In Grand Rapids, incumbent Rosalynn Bliss, the city's first female mayor, faces competition from local pastor Daniel Schutte.

Bliss announced her re-election campaign in January of this year, saying there were many issues she was still hoping to address.

“We’ve done a lot of work around affordable housing, that will continue to be a core issue. We’ve done a lot of work around improving community and police relations, that will continue to be a priority,” Bliss said in an event covered by Michigan Radio's Bryce Huffman.

Schutte previously ran as a Republican candidate for the 75th District of the Michigan House of Representatives. Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) won re-election with 77.7% of the vote.

Check the Kent County website for election results

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Jodi is Michigan Public's Director of Digital Audiences, leading and developing the station’s overall digital strategy.
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