Candidates appear at town hall meeting

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 14, 2012

Bringing together six candidates for three offices living in three different communities, the St. Clair Shores Women’s Civic League Town Hall Meet the Candidates night Sept. 13 was meant to shed light on the views of those vying to represent St. Clair Shores in November.

Sarah Roberts and Candice Rusie, both from St. Clair Shores, are battling for the 18th District seat in the state Legislature, which includes St. Clair Shores and Eastpointe.

Roberts, a former Macomb County Commissioner and state Legislator, said she wants to put Michigan workers back to work and protect the middle class. Her other priorities include restoring education funding, making higher education more affordable, protecting water resources and supporting senior citizens.

“What I want to do up in Lansing is be that strong voice for our middle class values,” she said. “I don’t think that we should be giving away $1.8 billion (in business tax cuts) when we have other priorities.”

Rusie, a member of the St. Clair Shores City Council since 2009, said she’d bring the same qualities to the state Legislature as she does to council: fiscal responsibility, communication, transparency and independence. She said she would fight to bring more state shared revenue back to the communities, as well.

“We need to make sure that Lansing understands that we need this money to provide services and all these hoops they’re putting on us take time,” she said.

Both candidates said they’d like to see the work on the Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site at the Lange/Revere canals proceed more quickly, and Rusie said she’d be in favor of amending Proposal A, which dictates school funding.

Roberts said she’d like to see the state budge be supportive of business, but doesn’t agree with massive tax cuts for large corporations that are balanced by eliminating personal income tax reductions for residents.

If elected, Rusie said she’d take a tougher look at contracts, pensions and other costs facing the state, “just like what we’ve done in the city.”

Four candidates were also on hand to vie for two seats on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners: Veronica Klinefelt, of Eastpointe, and Randell Shafer, of St. Clair Shores, vying for the District 3 seat; and in District 10, Michael Boyle, of St. Clair Shores, taking on Zach Eineman, of Harrison Township.

With redistricting, District 3 now includes St. Clair Shores precincts bordering Eight Mile Road and the lakeshore north to Martin Road, combined with all of Eastpointe, the Macomb County portion of Grosse Pointe Shores and five precincts in Warren. The remainder of the city is combined with Harrison Township for District 10.

Klinefelt, a former Eastpointe City Councilwoman and member of the East Detroit Board of Education, said her passion is poring over the budget and finding savings wherever she can.

“Every penny that you save that’s unnecessary spending is a penny that can go to infrastructure or the services that the residents deserve,” she said. “You can take every year that I’ve served, and I’ve found waste, and I’ve found fraud — and I’ve found enough money to pay for me being in that position for 100 years.”

Shafer, a retired member of the U.S. Army and Junior Commander at the VFW Bruce Post 1146, said he would work with the county executive to reach solutions in county government.

“With the charter and the lawsuits that are in place now, things need to be resolved there,” he said. “When things are wrong, I fix them. I want to plan for the future of our county.”

Both Klinefelt and Shafer agreed that the county charter ought to be amended to add more checks and balances between the executive and the board.

“No one’s accused Mark Hackel of anything,” Shafer said. “(But) further on down the road, we don’t want to happen in Macomb County what is happening in Wayne County.”

Klinefelt also said she would also try to bring more funding to the south end of Macomb.

“One of the things that I noticed for eight years on council … the infrastructure needs were normally done at the north end of the county,” she said. “I’ll make enough noise and get enough attention, so the money is not just spent on the north end.”

In District 10, Boyle, a former St. Clair Shores City Councilman and County Commissioner, said he initially agreed with the charter form of government, but now thinks “it’s not quite working too well.”

“There’s still a lot of wasteful spending going on and, as county commissioners, that’s really all we have control over is spending,” he said.

Eineman said his top goal is job creation in the county.

“As a younger person, I’m very displeased with the kinds of jobs that we have in this economy. There’s nothing out there,” he said. “People my age, I feel their frustration.

“I want a place where parents can see their children grow up and not leave. I want to bring things into the area, so people don’t always have to go outside” the county.

Like Klinefelt and Shafer, both candidates for District 10 agreed that there needs to be more checks on the county executive form of government.

“I really think we were better off when we had 26 commissioners,” Boyle said. “We had more local control over the services.”

He said he would work to increase services to the residents, as well as “ending abuse of taxpayers’ money.”

But Eineman said it’s time for a change.

“We do have problems, and you need somebody to go in there and solve those problems,” he said. “It’s time for a new generation of politicians in the county.”