This week, I was proud to receive an endorsement from the Graduate Employee’s Organization (GEO) at University of Michigan. The GEO endorsement is particularly meaningful to me because I know their work and they know my work. Last year, leaders from GEO (and Central Student Government) organized to push City Council to make changes in our local leasing ordinance to help renters in Ann Arbor. City Council would not have discussed this issue without their advocacy, their insights and perspectives were invaluable. I worked closely with GEO in the last year on leasing issues and together we faced down landlords who were angry and resistant to any changes in our local regulation. I consider GEO serious partners in identifying community challenges, advocating for reform, and working toward policy solutions. I am grateful for their support!
Below is the original endorsement from GEO:
In Ward 4, we endorse Elizabeth Nelson. Nelson has worked closely with GEO in support of the Early Leasing Ordinance last year and has consistently stood up for renters’ rights. She is nothing less than a champion for her constituents. We do not agree with her on everything (e.g., the expansion of the Medical Center Bridge without bike lanes), but experience has shown us that Nelson is far more responsive to her constituents than the typical City Council member. With Nelson, we know what happens when the rubber meets the road. She has proven herself to be a rare, solid ally for GEO and Ann Arbor’s renters on the City Council.
In response to a barrage of social media harassment, GEO released a second statement, which more specifically highlights just how well they follow and understand our local policymaking. It is below:
GEO Statement on the Endorsement of Ward 4 Candidate Elizabeth Nelson
We do not typically do this, but as a collective that believes in community accountability, we wanted to put out this statement acknowledging that there have been some concerns with our endorsement of Elizabeth Nelson. We have chosen to endorse Nelson primarily because she is a rare Council Member who has invested the time and effort in ensuring renter’s rights, pushing for public power, and working to curb the adverse effect that Airbnbs have on the city’s affordability.
We have worked with her and found that:
1. She is willing to stick her neck out on issues that she knows will make her unpopular with the powers that be. When other CMs caved to pressure and watered down the short-term rental (Airbnb) ban, Nelson stood her ground. Some of our very own members have been evicted from their apartments to make room for Airbnbs. Nelson has their back.
2. The Early Leasing Ordinance ensures that landlords cannot pressure tenants into renewing their lease more than 150 days before their current contract ends. This has empowered the residents of Ann Arbor by giving them greater housing security. Nelson was with us on this issue from beginning to end. When other CMs tried to water it down, she stood her ground. This would not have been passed without the help of her and CM Radina.
3. We have been in meetings with her where she has been belittled, derided, and talked over when she has stood up for tenants rights or against short-term rentals. This may not be something every Ann Arbor resident sees, but pushing on topics that are not in favor of the moneybags in the city is not something that many CMs want to risk. She has displayed the courage and fortitude time and again to see it through
4. Not everybody has the time to attend Council Meetings. CM Nelson takes the time to put together a comprehensive newsletter that can keep the residents of Ann Arbor updated on the issues that affect them the most, both ahead of and after City Council meetings.
5. We have had many meetings with CMs about tenants’ rights issues, and many of them come across as blatantly dismissive. Nelson consistently responds to us, listens to our concerns, answers our questions, and engages with us in conversations when we reach out or when she feels something may be relevant to our issues. This is a rarity and we can think of only a few CMs who always answer when we reach out, with her probably being the quickest. The rest routinely ignore us.
Nelson is NOT perfect. We disagree with her on many issues, such as the E. Medical Center Bridge and her defense of CM Hayner. But, she has shown the willingness and drive to take steps that many other CMs shy away from in the issues that matter most: renters’ rights, public power, and transparent and responsive local government. We support greater density in Ann Arbor, but giving carte blanche to developers to build luxury high rises is not going to solve Ann Arbor’s housing and affordability crisis. Those who are concerned about lack of housing supply should thank Elizabeth for standing against the council majority in their quest to water down the short-term rental ban.
Renters in Ann Arbor face terrible conditions that our members report being substantially worse than in internationally notorious rental markets, like London or Toronto. Landlords here have a huge amount of power, and we need someone who is really willing to stand up to them. Elizabeth is one of the very few to do so.
Based on our members’ votes, we stand by our endorsement of CM Elizabeth Nelson.
In a political environment where endorsements are often vague and wholly disconnected from any direct experience, GEO’s endorsement of me is special: it is substantive and reflects their first-hand knowledge of me as an elected leader.
This week, I have updated my website with more video endorsements from local residents who – like GEO – have seen and experienced my work as a Council Member. My endorsers are community members who appreciate that elected leaders should be accountable to the people they represent. I believe that our democracy works better when everyone has an opportunity to engage with it!
Click here for more endorsement statements: