Lisa Disch, a progressive Democrat, community activist, and Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, declared that she is entering the race for City Council, challenging first-term incumbent Council Member Anne Bannister in 2020. Disch, a nationally recognized specialist on political representation, is entering the race to fight for affordable housing, safety, and environmental sustainability with a focus on mobilizing people at the grass roots.
Disch has a history of political activism that reflects her upbringing and her scholarly commitments. An Ann Arbor resident since 2008, she has canvassed for Democratic candidates running at the local, state, and national levels. Most recently, she participated actively in Voters Not Politicians (VNP), the successful ballot initiative to establish a non-partisan citizens redistricting commission for the state of Michigan. Disch said, “VNP organizers really understood that gerrymandering is an attack on citizens’ rights of democratic representation, not on the power of one or another political party. Being part of a statewide movement where citizens demanded a change to improve representation in our democracy—and won!—inspired me. It showed me that there is grassroots passion for the issues I care so much about as a teacher and researcher.”
Education and politics were always linked in the Evanston, IL home where Disch was raised by a school secretary (Elaine Disch) and a labor organizer (Ed Disch), who ran highly-regarded union steward training programs for Communications Workers of America, District 5. Her run for council is catalyzed by “Democracy!-Hilldale,” a neighborhood group she has participated in since it was organized in January 2017. An incubator of grassroots democratic activism, the organization spurred members to take lead roles in VNP, becoming spokespersons and field captains even if they had never before been politically involved.
Disch believes that Ann Arbor’s success as an economic engine for Southeast Michigan has brought those who live and work here to a critical moment for asking how the city’s growth should be managed. “The city will soon engage in a master planning process that provides the Ann Arbor community with the opportunity to explore, define, and shape our growth,” said Disch. “I am committed to building collaborative working relationships both in Ward One and in the Council chamber to make the most of that opportunity.”
Jason Frenzel, former Ward One City Council representative, said “I'm exceptionally excited at the prospect of having a city council member who works on environmental issues and thinks deeply on matters of voting rights. The equity and rights of all Ann Arbor's residents is more important now than in many decades past.”