Small field of Fraser City Council candidates file for election

Mayor to run unopposed; four candidates to battle for three seats

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 6, 2019

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FRASER — At least one Fraser City Council seat will change this November.

Five candidates are running for the council this year. Mayor Mike Carnagie is running unopposed to retain his spot, and four candidates are vying for three four-year seats Nov. 5.

Kathy Blanke and Patrice Schornak are both running for reelection to their current seats, joined by newcomers Amy Baranski and Richard Haberman. Candidate petitions had to be filed by 4 p.m. July 23.

Carnagie, a former councilman who is technically the interim mayor, said he made the decision to run for the same position after a “late” discussion with his wife. As he put it, he wants to work with other city officials to “continue the mission” of rebuilding the city.

He cited the city’s “best audit” of the past decade, as well as its AA bond rating.

“The support I have received has been great,” Carnagie said, adding that residents showed up to his door with petitions, encouraging his reelection campaign. “It has been a great council for the last two years or so. It’s been a good experience.”

Carnagie wants to focus on issues like infrastructure, fixing and replacing old equipment, making sure kids “have a safe environment to play with” in terms of public parks, and maintaining a strong level of service from the Fraser Department of Public Safety.

“I see the morale higher. I see the young people real energetic,” he said. “They want to work with everybody. They want to work with paid-on-call firefighters.”

Councilwoman Yvette Foster said the behavior of city officials and fellow council members led to her forgoing re-election efforts.

“The current council has disregarded our obligations to serve the people of the city,” Foster said. “Unfortunately, most members feel as if they are smarter than the average citizen and believe the voice of the people should be ignored.

“In 2015 and 2016, the residents spoke in a clear and overwhelming fashion at the ballot box that they did not want a 5-mill tax increase. This council responded by raising taxes nearly double that amount, threatening the financial security of our seniors and most vulnerable citizens.”

Residents are paying more, she said, while “the council and our current city manager (Wayne O’Neal) have gone on a spending spree,” citing raises to city department heads — many of whom “work only four days a week.”

She thanked the residents and city employees for their “tireless” efforts, in the end, saying that “Fraser deserves better.”

 

Small candidate pool
Blanke, who has lived in the city for approximately 50 years, has eight years of council experience under her belt.

“I think Carnagie is a good mayor,” she said. “I think we have a solid council, and I am proud to be a part of it. I hope nothing but good things for Fraser and (that) we do move forward.”

She admitted that she went back and forth on whether to run for another term due to rumblings in the city that there wouldn’t be enough candidates to fill all of the vacancies. She said the small candidate pool may be due to the “unmentionables” that have occurred over the past few years: financial issues and lawsuits.

Blanke said it’s difficult to determine why others were reluctant to get involved in the local political process — or whether it is due to residents being content with the direction in which the city is heading.

“Unfortunately, I think people are just gun shy,” she said. “I think that’s basically what it is, and you don’t know what’s going to be around the corner.”

Haberman is no stranger to Fraser and its political scene.

After serving about four years as the city manager in Clawson, Haberman took over the same role in Fraser in 2010. He and the city decided to part ways in late 2016, with Haberman agreeing to serve as an interim city manager once more in Clawson in late 2018.

Currently a full-time resident of Fraser, Haberman said rumors of few candidates encouraged him to run. He said his knowledge of issues dating back to the 1970s — as well as a short stint as the interim city manager in the city of Adrian last year — make him qualified for the role of councilman.

“I figure I have knowledge, education and experience,” he said. “I think I can offer a lot to the City Council and community.”

A victim of the housing crisis while a Clawson resident, Haberman said his past experience as Fraser’s city manager is an “advantage.”

“I dealt with the issues in this city during the worst economy and economic issues,” he said. “There were a lot of things they were dealing with (that) they’re not dealing with anymore. … My feeling is, I’m looking at large tax increases and I believe services have not been kept to the same level of taxation. I feel it’s important services and taxes are in balance.”

As for the lack of candidates who filed to run, he wasn’t shocked.

“I’ve seen this happen in communities before, where you’ve got a situation where the politics has become what people view as poison — where there seems to be an aimless direction at this point,” Haberman said. “There are good people who choose not to run. They have other things to do with their lives.”

Baranski is an attorney in private practice who has lived in Fraser for 24 years. She said she has always had a “passion for politics,” dating back to her days at the University of Michigan. She has been active in the city in terms of parks and recreation, tree plantings at Fort Fraser, volunteering with the Fraser Goodfellows, and supporting public safety officers during the city’s original PA 33 campaign a few years ago.

“That was kind of what led me at this point in my life to be part of the solution and run for and hopefully win a seat on City Council. … I don’t think our city and community has ever been more informed,” Baranski said. “Education is key. I want to help continue to guide the city into the next phase.

“It’s changed. It’s different than it was. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. There’s still a lot that needs to be done.”

Knowing neighbors and convening at public events is part of Fraser’s small-city charm, she said, and she wants to make sure residents stay safe, home values climb and the feeling of togetherness remains.

“The reason I moved to Fraser and stayed in Fraser is our sense of community,” she said.

At press time, Schornak could not be reached for comment.

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