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Macomb County

September 19, 2012

County and state issues discussed at chamber forum

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
State Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, discusses changes to the state constitution amendment process at the Reinvent Macomb forum Sept. 14. The topics at the open discussion varied from municipal service consolidation to the proposed new international bridge to Canada.

WARREN — Municipal service consolidation, the proposed new international trade crossing and the collective bargaining ballot initiative were among a wide range of topics discussed at the Sept. 14 Reinventing Macomb forum.

The Macomb County Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, which provided a chance for business and political leaders at the municipal, county and state levels to discuss divisive issues.

“The business community wants to hear what our elected officials want to say,” said Grace Shore, CEO of the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce. “And it’s important for the elected officials to hear from each other.”

Carol Cain, host of the local TV talk show “Michigan Matters” on WWJ-TV and the moderator for the event inside the Royalty House banquet hall, asked the leaders in the room why there has been little consolidation in Macomb County.

“You would think in this fiscal climate with shrinking revenues … elected officials would have looked at this,” Cain said, moving from table to table with a microphone and often putting business and political leaders on the spot with her questions.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said communities are starting to discuss consolidation of services, but it’s only because of the sluggish economy and the decrease in revenue that came with it.

“Each community must look at the level of service that they’re currently providing,” Wickersham said. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if we weren’t in this financial difficulty.”

He said leaders sometimes feel they are losing political ground if they lose complete control over a department that could be merged with another municipality.

“And I can understand that from a local community that has had their own police department for many years and knows those officers, they’re going to want those people to stay,” Wickersham said.

Cain also asked several people about the county executive position in Macomb, the charter that created it and the lawsuits that have stemmed from it.

Ray Lorenzo, the assistant county executive, said people disagree and go to court over the U.S. Constitution all the time. He said the same must be expected with any charter, including Macomb’s.

“I think there’s basically a good charter in place in Macomb County,” Lorenzo said.

In November, voters will be deciding on five possible amendments to the state constitution, leading state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, to say amending the constitution may be too easy.

“We do make it very easy to amend the constitution, especially when you compare it to other states and the U.S. Constitution,” Bieda said. “And it does make it very susceptible to the mood of the moment.”

Although it is one thing to discuss issues and another to transform them, Shore contends forums like the one held at the Royalty House lead to change.

“Through conversations like this, change can happen,” Shore said. “This chamber started the whole county executive movement, and it happened through discussions like this.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.