Meet the Kalamazoo City Commission candidates

kalamazoo city commission
The July 17, 2017 meeting of the Kalamazoo City Commission. (July 17, 2017)


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly half the seats on the Kalamazoo City Commission are up for election Nov. 7.

Seven people sit on the city commission. Three of the seats are up for election and will be filled by the top three vote-getters. Of the five candidates running, two are incumbents.

Leona Carter and her family moved to Kalamazoo 10 years ago to take advantage of the Kalamazoo Promise. Carter owns and operates Carter Strategies, where she helps women who are successful in their professions carry that success over into motherhood.

She said she would like to see Kalamazoo be independently sustainable.

“We need some new voices at the table, too,” she said. “And me in particular, I believe the city commission should look like the city that it serves, so I want to be a part of making that happen.”

Jack Urban is in his fourth year as a Kalamazoo city commissioner. He and his wife moved to Kalamazoo in the late 1960s when he went to work for the pharmaceutical manufacturer Upjohn.

Urban said that as an incumbent, he has an understanding of how city government works.

“Right now, we’d definitely like to see more affordable housing in the city,” he said. “We’d like to see better traffic flow, more walkable, bikeable streets, and more intense economic activity downtown plus safer neighborhoods.”

Eric Cunningham says he’s the only candidate who was born and raised in Kalamazoo. He was appointed to the Kalamazoo City Commission in January 2015 after Commissioner Stephanie Moore left to be a county commissioner, but lost his re-election bid in November 2015. Cunningham says business is his passion.

“I want to get to a point where we no longer need that (Foundation for Excellence) to subsidize our budget, and the only way to really do that or the way that I think is the best avenue to approach it is to invest in small business,” Cunningham said.

Small-business owner Charley Coss also says he’s a friend of business. He said he would like to help bring new businesses with what he describes as “good-paying jobs” to the city.

He also said the safety of the city’s water supply is one of his top priorities.

“And I think we have a lot of the same voices there right now,” Coss said of the commission. “I think I’m a very different voice. I’m a fiscally-conservative kind of voice — lower property taxes, business-friendly kind of person.”

Erin Knott has served on Kalamazoo’s City Commission for two years. She said she would give herself a B+ for her work there. Knott believes she has responded to residents’ needs and has connected people with city staff when they have had a problem or needed to troubleshoot an issue.

“The journey is really just beginning,” Knott said. “We have passed our strategic priorities, as well as the master plan and it’s now time to take those plans and put them into action.”