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Eastpointe, St. Clair Shores

Published September 26, 2012

Candidates come together for town hall meeting

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 and Eastpointe in November.

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

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 continuing to be independent. 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 and Revere canals proceed more quickly, and Rusie said she’d be in favor of amending Proposal A, which dictates school funding.

As for the state budget, Roberts said, she’d like to see it 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.”

On hand to campaign for the District 3 seat for Macomb County commissioner were Democrat Veronica Klinefelt, of Eastpointe, and Republican Randell Shafer, of St. Clair Shores.

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.

Klinefelt, a former councilwoman in Eastpointe and former 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 Veterans of Foreign Wars 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.”

According to the Macomb County Charter, the 13-member commission is responsible for adopting ordinances, establishing committees, approving contracts, levying taxes and appropriating funds, submitting tax and ballot proposals, approving the budget and approving or rejecting executive appointments.

However, those responsibilities could be changing in the near future.

After months of a power struggle between the executive branch and the commission, Macomb County Circuit Court Judge John Foster issued a ruling siding with Hackel May 14.

If the ruling stands — it is headed for appellate court now — the commission would no longer have the ability to negotiate and approve contracts, approve executive appointments or set forth any ordinances that control or administer the expenditure of funds.

Klinefelt spoke on the lack of clarity in the charter and court ruling, saying that one of the biggest issues facing the county is the long-term structure of the county government as it pertains to the board and executive branch.

Klinefelt also spoke on infrastructure issues in the south end of the county.

“During the years of expansion in Macomb County, most of the infrastructure tax dollars were spent in the north end of the county. I want to ensure that the taxpaying citizens of the south end of the county are represented well, that our infrastructure has the same priority, and our residents are benefiting from all the services the county has to offer.”

The election is Nov. 6. Deadline to register to vote is Oct. 9.

Staff Writer Sara Kandel contributed to this story.

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