Council, mayor candidates voice opinions at forum

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published October 21, 2015

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SOUTHFIELD — Hopefuls looking for a seat on the Southfield City Council and those looking to be the new mayor participated in a candidate forum Oct. 8.

The forum, held at the Southfield Public Library, was open to the public and was organized by the League of Women Voters Oakland Area.

LWVOA is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, according to its website.

In the Nov. 3 election, Southfield voters will be asked who they want to see in three four-year seats and one two-year seat on City Council. The three highest vote-getters will be given four-year terms, while the fourth-highest vote-getter will be given a two-year term. For mayor, voters will be asked to decide between two candidates for one partial term ending Nov. 20, 2017.

The Southfield City Council is a seven-member council, currently made up of acting Council President Sylvia Jordan, Council President Pro Tem Joan Seymour and Councilmen Lloyd Crews, Myron Frasier, Sidney Lantz and Michael Mandelbaum, plus one empty seat.

The seats filled by Jordan, Crews and Lantz are all up for re-election, along with a vacant seat up for election after then-Councilman Donald Fracassi was appointed acting mayor following former Mayor Brenda Lawrence's election to state representative last year. The mayoral seat is also up for election this year.

In addition to Jordan, Crews and Lantz, Daniel Brightwell, Fracassi, Diane Fuselier-Thompson, Tawnya Morris, Linnie Taylor and Tiffany Tilley are running for seats on council. Jordan and Siver are running for mayor.

Tera Moon, of LWVOA, moderated the forum. Candidates were given one minute for opening statements before taking questions from the audience.

Candidates were asked their opinions on the ballot proposal, if a national search for fire chief should be conducted, what they are willing to do for senior citizens, and their thoughts on code enforcement and the Northland Center property.

One audience member asked about the candidates’ priorities regarding the budget.

Jordan said her first priority would be public safety.

“If I had to prioritize how our city monies is spent, the first thing we have to focus on is making sure that we keep the police and fire safe. We have to make sure that we keep our community safe and secure, so giving them the resources that’s needed,” Jordan said.

Siver said code enforcement is important to him.

“I have talked to thousands of residents since June when we began canvassing neighborhoods, and the top three priorities that I hear from residents are the roads, code enforcement and absentee landlords who are not maintaining their properties, whether they be single-family homes or family apartments,” Siver said.

Brightwell said finances are at the top of his list.

“Finance is the mother’s milk of every organization, and I will make sure that we finance the fire and police, No. 1, and to make sure our public service maintains their excellent record in respect to response time,” Brightwell said.

Crews said his first priority is being proactive on council.

“I think as a council we need to take the time to sit back and develop and create a vision for this city, and be a proactive council and not a reactive council. What I found in the time I’ve been here seems to be we haven’t taken the lead in where we want to see this city going,” Crews said.

Fracassi said priorities are taken care of when the budget is approved in July.

“A few months ago, we had flooded basements and got FEMA money to help the people with their flooded basements. When you have situations that occur throughout the city, you have to make those judgment calls as you see needed,” Fracassi said.

Fuselier-Thompson said public safety is her highest priority in the budget.

“Public safety would be the highest priority, impacting quality of life for our seniors, for families, for our neighborhoods, for our businesses. ... You can’t get businesses to stay if you don’t have good public safety,” Fuselier-Thompson said.

Lantz answered the question by saying he has accomplished a lot for the residents.

“I am a veteran of the Second World War, and have done everything that everybody is saying they hope to do I have done. If you read my flier, if you read my history, you will see what I have done for 32 years for the city of Southfield representing you. I have represented every single person in this room. I have helped them medically, legally — everybody calls me to help them,” Lantz said.

Morris said public safety is a priority.

“No. 1 would be public safety. After the recession, we’ve had a 25 percent reduction in the police force, going from 160 police officers to 122. With firemen, from 106 to 88, so I will definitely make that a priority,” Morris said.

Taylor said that as chair of the Planning Commission, code enforcement is important to her.

“For one, we have helped to reduce the amount of paperwork — the red tape to get things done — by updating our ordinances and code, helping to bring the ordinances in line with the master plan so things can progress the way Southfield needs it to be,” Taylor said.

Tilley agreed that public safety is important.

“I think we all share the same concerns; I definitely care about workers and making sure our firefighters, our police officers are fully staffed and that they have the resources they need to do the jobs they are doing, and they are doing a wonderful job, but we want that to continue,” Tilley said.

Candidates were given one minute to give their closing statements before the forum ended. During this time, things got heated between Jordan and Siver.

“This election — the mayor as well as the council — is a very critical election to our city, and the question is, what type of leadership do we want? My opponent, when he left the schools, he left the schools in shambles and our present superintendent is having to navigate those very, very tough challenges. We do not need collateral damage and that type of politics in the office of mayor,” Jordan said in her closing statement, refering to Siver’s time as Southfield Public Schools’  deputy superintendent.

While the debate was set to end after Jordan’s statement, Moon said she wanted to provide Siver with a rebuttal to Jordan’s comments.

“We don’t allow personal attacks or for other candidates to be addressed personally,” Moon said.

“No, those were facts. Those were facts — those weren’t attacks,” Jordan said over Moon.

Moon said she would give Siver the opportunity to respond for one minute.

“Well, first of all, the schools are not in shambles. We have an aging population in this city, and there is a lot of competition for public education today. We will never see 16,000 students in our schools again, but the Board of Education plan for reorganizing the schools is a sound one. We talked for almost 20 years for consolidating our two high schools, and quite honestly, the kids in our high schools are being cheated today because we cannot offer enough of the electives and high-end courses because you don’t have a critical mass of students at either high school. So something needed to be done and nobody wanted to give up the Chargers or the Blue Jays, but honestly after 20 years, it’s time to address this issue,” Siver said.

A video of the full forum can be found at