Rochester City Council candidates share views at forum

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published September 23, 2021

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ROCHESTER —  Many of the people running for four open seats on the Rochester City Council shared the spotlight during a League of Women Voters candidate forum broadcast virtually Sept. 8.

Mayor Stuart Bikson, Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Salvia and Council member Steve Sage are all up for reelection, and all plan to defend their seats Nov. 2.

The incumbents will face challengers Douglas Gould, Debra Allen and Terry Tesh, along with write-in candidate Alyse Leidich, on the November ballot. Allen and Tesh were unable to attend the candidate forum.

Four members of the Rochester City Council are elected during a general municipal election in November of every odd year. The three candidates receiving the highest number of votes each serve four-year terms, and the candidate receiving the fourth-highest number of votes serves a two-year term. Members of City Council earn $60 per meeting, with a maximum of $1,440 per year.

The candidates gave opening and closing statements, and were all asked the same questions. Topics included candidates’ top priorities, what qualifies them to serve on City Council, how they feel about the development and the growth of the city, views on how to meet the recreational needs of all ages and abilities, if Rochester is being well-maintained, and what makes Rochester an appealing place to live.

Bikson, a teacher at Waterford Mott High School, was first elected to council in 1999, and previously served as mayor from 2011-2012, from 2006-2008 and from 2020-2021. He has lived in the city for 29 years.

“In serving on the City Council, and currently serving as mayor, I think I’ve helped lead Rochester through the pandemic and I believe Rochester is going to come out of this very strongly. I want to continue to fully fund and support our local police, I want to make sure that our taxes are some of the lowest in Oakland County, and I want to make sure that our city services are efficient and excellent. I will continue to work hard for all of our issues and I will continue to work hard for all the citizens of our city,” Bikson said.

During the meeting, Bikson said his No. 1 priority is to “make sure the city is prepared” when it comes out of COVID and rebounds.

Gould, a professor and the chair of the foundational medical studies department at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, has lived in the city since 2012. He currently serves on the governing board for the Older Persons’ Commission and also chaired the city of Rochester’s Compensation Commission.

“I believe there’s room on council for a new perspective, and I believe there is value to the community in having representation from someone who lives downtown in the city. My family and I walk down there nightly,” he said.

Gould’s top priority is “addressing the amount of traffic and difficulties with parking downtown.”

Leidich — a massage therapist and the owner of A Hard Knot Life in downtown Rochester — has lived in the city for over nine years. Leidich is running as a write-in candidate. Leidich has been a member of the Downtown Development Authority’s Promotions Committee for the past four years, and her husband is the market master of downtown Rochester’s farmers market.

“I love this town. There are so many great qualities, and I just want to be more of a part. I want to just get my name out there right now. … I really just want to give back,” she said.

Leidich’s top priority is “transparency from the City Council and the city in general.”

Sage — who has worked in the auto industry for 35 years, most recently selling steel to tier one suppliers — has lived in the city for 22 years and previously served on City Council from 2011-2015. He was reelected to City Council in 2019.

“I began public service here in Rochester on the Historical Commission and the City Beautiful Commission,” Sage said.

Sage said his top priority is focusing on “sustainable growth,” the right “mix of residential and commercial” development in the city.

Salvia, a financial adviser and an over 20-year Rochester-area resident, is currently serving the fourth year of her term on council.

“I’m re-running because I feel like I’m just getting started and there is so much more that I’d like to accomplish for the residents here in the city of Rochester. My three top priorities are fiscal responsibility, continued infrastructure updates and celebrated community lifestyle,” she said, and a top priority is “infrastructure and water rates.”

To view the entire candidate forum, streaming video is available on the city’s website, www.rochestermi.org.

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