St. Clair Shores City Council candidates speak out on the issues

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published October 7, 2021

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Speaking at a town hall event sponsored by the St. Clair Shores Women’s Civic League, the six candidates running for three seats on City Council in November spoke about how they would bring businesses and young families to the city, improve water quality, and address infrastructure needs.

Incumbent council members John Caron, Dave Rubello and Candice Rusie were joined by residents Justin Maniaci, Jennifer Oresti and Lawanda Turner during the Meet the Candidates night, moderated by 40th District Court Judge Mark Fratarcangeli.

When asked how they would attract small businesses to the city, Oresti suggested an incentive program to help the city shine through the competition, while Maniaci said a campaign to shop local should be instituted. He also suggested forming committees with local brokers who have buildings on the market to work with them on marketing ideas.

Rusie pointed out that new businesses are moving to the city, as evidenced by the more than 80 certificates of occupancy issued last year, and Rubello noted that the City Council has approved business-friendly ideas such as approving permanent outdoor seating in response to demand.

“St. Clair Shores is where businesses want to move to,” Caron said, stating that a review of the city’s ordinances has helped and will continue to help St. Clair Shores remain competitive.

In response to the question of how to attract new residents to the city, Turner said it’s important to focus on keeping current residents in the city.

“A lot of people appreciate St. Clair Shores, but they move,” she said. “You want to identify what would have caused them to leave in the first place.”

Maniaci said it’s important to promote the schools, parks and public safety to attract young families, and Rusie pointed out that City Council has worked to promote the parks and recreation system with recent improvements to the playgrounds and splash pad in the city, great youth sports, and improvements coming to the Youth Services Department of the library.

“We’ve been focusing on kids and attracting young families,” she said.

City events are a great draw for residents, Rubello said, including Music on the Lake, the farmers market, parade, fireworks and more, and Caron pointed out that St. Clair Shores wouldn’t have been able to invest $5.5 million in parks and recreation over the past five years without first being a fiscally stable city.

Oresti said St. Clair Shores is great for younger families, but she would like to see programs extended to people of all abilities, ages, backgrounds and hobbies, and she would like the city’s digital presence to be streamlined so that more people are aware of what is being offered.

It’s important to separate sanitary and storm sewers to prevent combined sewer overflows into Lake St. Clair, candidates said, with the incumbents pointing out some work that has already been done to prevent overflows. Rusie pointed to the fact that the city is working with Macomb County Public Works to increase retention at pump stations in the city, and both she and Caron mentioned that the city plans to use American Rescue Plan Act money to separate a portion of the city’s sewer system that is still combined.

“We have an incredible amount of talent and brains that are dealing with these types of problems,” Rubello agreed.

Turner said she would continue to work with the state and county on feasible solutions, while Oresti said her background in biology and support of environmental science makes her a great candidate to address those concerns. Maniaci said, with the boating industry in St. Clair Shores and how many residents enjoy using Lake St. Clair, it’s important to focus on separating the sewers and finding green ways to keep water from overwhelming the system.

As a new candidate for City Council, Oresti said she is fighting for equity, empowerment and community building in St. Clair Shores.

“I’m here for you. I recognize that we might not all have the same views and stances on things, but I still want to hear you out,” she said.

Maniaci said he has experience working with local governmental entities and could bring that to the table as a new member of city council.

“It’s time for some new people up here,” he said. “I have some fresh ideas.”

Turner said she’s already been working to change things in St. Clair Shores, organizing conversations between the police and the community and trying to get the first week of July recognized as Gun Violence Awareness and Prevention Week.

“I am the candidate that has proven that I’m active in the community way before being elected or on the ballot,” she said.

The incumbents noted their experience and the fact that they want to continue the work they’ve been doing as current members of council.

“Experience matters, and I have a 12-year record where I can stand behind every vote I’ve taken,” Rusie said.

“I’m already ready to go,” Rubello said. “I have the energy to make changes. I’m out there every day with the people.”

Caron said he wants to continue responsibly guiding the city’s budget and spending.

“We will always spend the people’s money wisely in the city,” he said. “I’ve got the experience to do that.”

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