Voters decide City Commission, charter amendments

Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 23, 2013

On Nov. 5, residents in the in the Eagle’s coverage area will be asked to elect members of the Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham city commissions. Bloomfield Hills residents will also be asked to decide if four sections of the city’s charter should be amended.

Following are profiles of the candidates and the exact ballot language of the charter amendment proposals. Candidates for City Commission were asked, in 150 words or fewer, to state the top items they would wish to accomplish if elected and how they would go about accomplishing them. If a candidate went over the word limit, ( … ) replaces the rest of the answer. (I) indicates the candidate is an incumbent. The answers are printed verbatim.

Birmingham City Commission
Four candidates are running for three four-year terms.

Rackeline J. Hoff (I)
Age: 70
Occupation: Former Public Relations Director; currently retired
Municipality of residence: Birmingham
For how long: 37 years
Education: B.A. in Advertising, Michigan State University
Previously held elected offices: Birmingham City Commissioner since 2001; Mayor of Birmingham, 2005 and 2010
Top goals: 1. I will continue to make fiscal responsibility a priority. Through sound management and careful oversight, Birmingham has been able to maintain its financial stability and AAA bond rating. I strongly support continuation of our conservative financial approach — making prudent spending decisions and continuously pursuing cost-saving measures.

2. As a member of both the Library Building Committee and the Senior Services Committee, I am committed to ensuring that all plans for the renovation of the library and expansion of services to our senior population are monitored carefully, funding resources are explored thoroughly and there is adequate opportunity for public input.

3. The need for replacement and/or repair of Birmingham’s aging infrastructure — streets, sidewalks, sewers and water mains — is ongoing. I will continue to give thorough oversight to selection of projects and carefully monitor the expenditure of city funds.

Mark Nickita (I)
Age: 50
Occupation: Architect and Urban Planner
Municipality of residence: Birmingham
For how long: 25 years
Education: Bachelors of Science Degree in Architecture, Bachelors Degree in Architecture, Masters Degree in in Architecture.
Previously held elected offices: Birmingham City Commission
Top goals: I will focus on continuing to manage our city’s current economic budget demands, specifically our increasing legacy costs. To stay in front of these growing financial commitments, I will work with the Commission by continuing to implement efficient strategies to maintain services without increasing taxes. This leads to a more effective government that will meet on-going needs for all community members — individuals, families, seniors and business owners.

Birmingham is about to embark on significant civic projects/initiatives, including the rebuilding of Old Woodward in downtown, the library expansion, Triangle District and enhanced senior services. My professional expertise as an architect and urban planner is unique on the Commission and will be valuable in guiding successful results.

Based on my consistent advocacy for pedestrian-friendly environments, I will continue to work on enhancing the walkability of our neighborhoods, parks and business districts, especially for children and seniors by implementing our Multi-Modal Plan.

Stuart Sherman (I)
Age: 48
Occupation: Attorney
Municipality of residence: Birmingham
For how long: 22 years
Education: New York University, LL.M. Taxation; Wayne State University Law School, JD; Indiana University, BS Accounting 
Previously held elected offices: Birmingham City Commission (2005-current)
Top goals: We must continue vigilantly controlling the City’s spending and exercise responsible budget management. During the economic downturn, as a result of responsible management, we balanced the City’s budget without using reserve funds or raising taxes. I have been a diligent gatekeeper on your behalf by personally scrutinizing every line item of every budget and every request for funds that comes before the Commission. 

Challenges lie ahead, many of which we don’t even know yet. To address all challenges, we must listen to our residents’ views and concerns. We must continue re-investing in our infrastructure to protect our property values, our neighborhoods and our way of life. We must continue addressing how we provide services to our seniors and, at the same time, to our younger families; two vastly different demographics with different and sometimes competing needs.

I have shown that I can make difficult decisions in a fair, equitable manner.

Vicki Walsh
Age: 34
Occupation: Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Child Protection Unit
Municipality of residence: Birmingham
For how long: Almost 25 years
Education: Cranbrook Schools, University of Michigan, B.A., Michigan State University College of Law, J.D. 
Previously held elected offices: None
Top goals: I wish to address furthering senior services, initiating a downtown recycling program, and improving city safety. I am very excited to be a part of the expansion of BASCC, and hope that my ability to make informed decisions will fast-track its execution. Second, it is time to introduce a recycling program in our main streets and parks, because Birmingham has the need for one and I truly believe it is our moral obligation to be more earth friendly. Finally, my unique law enforcement background will be essential to the committee when addressing public safety issues. I work with police every day, and I have a skill set that will benefit the city and help counteract increases in crime we have recently experienced. I am part of a demographic that does not exist on the current commission.  I am here to bring a fresh, unparalleled perspective.

Bloomfield Hills City Commission
Four candidates are running for three two-year terms.

Michael P. Coakley
Age: 61
Occupation: Lawyer- 31 years at Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone PLC, Senior Principal and immediate past Group Leader – Commercial Litigation Group
Municipality of residence: City of Bloomfield Hills
For how long: 25 years
Education: Juris Doctor, University of Michigan Law School, 1982
Previously held elected offices: None
Top goals: My priorities are the community’s priorities, preservation, protection and promotion. Preservation means good stewardship of the quality of life in Bloomfield Hills and the natural beauty of our surroundings. A priority of this term of office will be review, improvement and implementation of our Master Plan, including needed work on our infrastructure. Protection means police, fire and rescue, maintaining the high level of professionalism of our public safety personnel as well as the superb city services provided by our excellent city staff. Promotion means maintaining and publicizing our superior family, education and cultural assets and values, while fostering responsible development of quality businesses in a vibrant business district. The City of Bloomfield Hills is a wonderful community in which to live and prosper and I will work hard to keep it that way.

Pat Hardy (I)
Age: 74
Occupation: Community Activist
Municipality of residence: Bloomfield Hills
For how long: 40 year resident, 10 year incumbent
Education: Eastern Michigan University Graduate ’61 Former English/History Junior High School Teacher
Previously held elected offices: I served on the Planning Commission for 10 years before being elected to the City Commission in 2003.  I served as Mayor of BH in 2007.  I was elected the 11th Republican Congressional District Chair, in 1995/96 when Joe Knollenberg was our Congressman. 
Top goals: 1. To maintain a highly skilled Administrative and Consulting Team. The professionalism, outstanding abilities and harmonious spirit they collectively bring to our City currently are the reasons we are such an effectively run community. 

2. To continue reviewing every aspect of cost, from A-Z, to see where we can further economize without reducing the high quality services we deliver.

3. To view future challenges with optimism, creativity and long-range vision, continually looking for measures to keep Bloomfield Hills one of the most-desirable communities in which to live. The continuation of our road improvement program will likely insure that perception.

Hills’ residents take great pride in their city, weigh in on important issues and take elections seriously. I personally favor candidates who are practical, open-minded, truthful, and recognized for good judgment and community involvement. If residents perceive me to be such a candidate, we’ll work together to make good things happen.

Mark Edward Kapel
Age: 64
Occupation: Retired
Municipality of residence: City of Bloomfield Hills
For how long: 24 years
Education: Ohio State Graduate. Stuied German at the at University of Vienna.
Previously held elected offices: Member City Zoning Board since 2011.
Top goals: • Get resident’s opinion and input before committing the City to irrevocable decisions with undetermined consequences. This was not done when City Commission decided to explore outsourcing Public Safety Dispatch, or spend the general fund down by a half million.

• Advocate moving our now bi-annual election in odd years only to even years only to coincide with state and federal elections. Michigan Public Act 523 gives Municipalities the option. In 2010 a November City millage issue produced a 60% voter turnout. The same issue in November 2011 drew only 30%.

• Publish the City’s on line newsletter monthly. In the last three years the City has published only five editions. By comparison the City of Bloomfield Hills Blog has published 425.

All these items can be accomplished at no cost to the City.

For more information on Mark Kapel and a tour of the City 2011-2013 visit

Stuart David Sherr (I)
Age: 56 years old
Occupation: Attorney at Law; Certified Public Accountant; Licensed Real Estate Broker; Sherr Development Corporation – Board of Directors and Vice President – Full-service residential and commercial real estate development and construction company
Municipality of residence: City of Bloomfield Hills resident
For how long: 21 years
Education:  Wayne State University School of Law – Juris Doctor; University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School – B.S. Economics; Southfield Lathrup Senior High School
Previously held elected offices: Bloomfield Hills City Commission Member – Incumbent (Dec. 2012 to present); Bloomfield Hills Planning Commission;
Top goals:

Personal and property safety and security is my top priority.  Recently, we chose a new Director of Public Safety and negotiated labor agreements with all of our union employees. My skill set as an experienced attorney and businessman is essential in managing labor, employee, and contractual matters.

Running a city is like running a business.  Our City has millions of dollars in assets, liabilities, income, expenses, and capital investments (e.g., road improvements). I believe in balanced budgets.  As a CPA and businessman for 30 years, I have the perfect skill set to successfully plan our annual budgets and manage the City’s operations.

Bloomfield Hills is a beautiful and conservative high-end residential community. As an experienced real estate developer, builder, and broker, I understand road construction, underground utilities, grading, zoning, and master planning.

No other candidate has all of these essential skills.

City of Bloomfield Hills Charter Amendments

The proposed amendment amends Chapter III, Section 4, and Chapter IV, Section 7, to acknowledge that city commissioners are elected to 2 year terms at the  odd-year November election commencing with 3 commissioners being elected at this 2013 election and all 5 commissioners being elected in November 2015.

Shift from annual May elections to the November odd-year general election was made last fall by the statutorily-authorized Resolution 22-2012 of the Commission.

The amendment also provides that a commissioner’s term of office commences on the first Tuesday after the commissioner’s election.

Shall this amendment be adopted?

Chapter III, Section 5 [Organizational meetings; election of mayor and mayor pro tem] provides for an organizational meeting of the city commission. At this meeting the commissioners elect from among themselves a mayor and mayor pro tem on the first Monday after each city election. It is proposed that the day for this organizational meeting be changed, from the first Monday after each city election, to a regularly scheduled meeting in November of each year.

Shall this amendment be adopted?

Chapter IV, Section 4 [Conflicts of Interest] provides that no member of the city commission shall vote for any contract or expenditure of any city money if he or she is financially interested in the proceeds of the contract or expenditure. It is proposed that a second sentence be added to this section to authorize the commission to implement this section by adopting a resolution or ordinance.

Shall this amendment be adopted?

The proposed amendment to Chapter VII, Section 9, [Annual Budget] changes the deadline date for the commission to prepare an annual budget, from the 10th day in May, to the second Tuesday in May.

Shall this amendment be adopted?