Candidates in quiet mayoral election lay out vision for city

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published October 26, 2015

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WARREN — Who’d have thunk it? Warren, a city known for raucous politics, has been transformed into a strange political place where a mayoral election has gone relatively quiet.

Traditionally, with such a high-stakes job on the line, Warren’s mayoral elections have become hard-fought contests. But this time seems to be different.

There hasn’t been much happening in terms of campaigning. There were no debates this time around and no open forums where candidates took questions from the public or a moderator. There wasn’t even a primary election, given that only two candidates — two-term incumbent Mayor Jim Fouts and challenger Karen Spranger — were left vying to lead the city for the next four years after a second challenger, Hawke Fracassa, passed away in April.

Here’s a bit more about the two candidates that Warren voters will select from when they head to the polls on Nov. 3.

Mayor Jim Fouts
A retired high school teacher who spent 26 years on the City Council before he was elected mayor in 2007, Fouts was quick to discuss his accomplishments when asked about a third four-year term in the Mayor’s Office.

He pointed to his efforts to address neighborhood concerns, his willingness to take on issues that extend beyond the city’s borders, to the city’s financial stability and to the work being done by what he called “the best administration in the history of Warren.”

“We care. I care. I, personally, am a hands-on mayor,” Fouts said Oct. 21. “I think I’ve redefined the role of the mayor as being a neighborhood mayor, a mayor that cares about the neighborhoods, a mayor that cares about citizen concerns as much as the normal things, like the budget and the relationship with the City Council.”

Fouts held up programs like blight sweeps, steps to grow the city’s “rainy day” fund balance, and what he called a continued effort to lure new business investments to the city as his administration’s signature accomplishments.

He said he’s proud of the stands he took on statewide issues including Proposal 1, right to work, and changes to laws governing fireworks and medical marijuana.

Fouts also touched on the work that he, members of his administration and city employees did to assist residents affected by the catastrophic August 2014 flood.

“I think that this has been a very active administration,” Fouts said. “First and foremost, it is my responsibility to take care of people and their problems, whether it be flooding, whether it be blight, what have you.”

The former “neighborhood councilman” who became the “neighborhood mayor” pledged to take calls from any citizen with any concern, either through his office or at home, over the next four years.

“It’s my job to represent all residents, even those who don’t like me,” Fouts said. “I’m energized, I’m excited and I’m enthusiastic about the job as mayor. I get up every morning and look forward to going to work, and I talk to people in the evening until 10 p.m. at night. I like the job and I want to continue.”

Mayoral challenger Karen Spranger
One of a comparatively few outspoken people following Warren politics these days, Spranger said she considers three questions when assessing what’s best for the city and its residents.

“Is it necessary, is it kind, and is it truthful? Those are the three questions I’d ask,” Spranger said.

Describing herself as an organizational environmental consultant, Spranger has brought her concerns about smart meter technology to the forefront.

She’s also battled the city over her assessed taxes.

If elected, Spranger said she’d work to update Warren’s master plan, that she’d fight for lower taxes and end what she called “corruption.”

“On my signs, I say ‘new hope’ and ‘vote for Karen Spranger.’ I have good ideas and I go back to my philosophy of how people need to be involved,” Spranger said. “I would like to be the first mayor to attend council meetings and get the right information directly from the people, to solve some of the issues.

“I might not have a lot of experience, but I do have a good foundation of doing the right thing, and always looking at common sense and what our ordinances say.”

Spranger said she’s a lifelong resident of south Warren, and she  would like to see more done to improve the quality of life for residents.

She said programs in other communities, such as Ann Arbor, and revitalization efforts in neighboring Detroit should serve as examples to explore and follow.

“Everything our neighbors are doing, welcome them to the table and find out what they’re doing,” Spranger said. “They are really doing some exceptional work, just cleaning up the neighborhood.

“It’s all because of hope. I do believe we have the base. We have the help of the community. Now we just need the help of the leadership,” Spranger said.