Sterling Heights City Council candidates share solutions for traffic speeding

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 26, 2021

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Candidates for Sterling Heights City Council recently took their time to enunciate their thoughts about traffic speeding concerns in the city.

The issue was raised during two sets of debates, which were held Oct. 7 at the Sterling Heights Community Center. Both mayoral candidates participated, as well as 11 City Council candidates — only challenger Paul Manni was absent.

That day, moderator Tom Whittaker asked City Council candidates how they would address speeding, since it “has been a major issue in the city for some time.”

Some of the candidates singled out Ryan Road as a problem spot for speeding. Challenger Russ Cleary called the speeding over there “insane.” Incumbent Deanna Koski said Ryan has become “very dangerous,” and she wanted to turn the traffic lights on during the day at Ryan’s half-mile intersections.

“Because if they have to stop, they’re not going to be able to get that straight run, 50-60 miles an hour, from one end of the city to the other,” Koski said.

Challenger Moira Smith called attention to Utica Road — particularly from around Dodge Park or 18 Mile Road to Van Dyke Avenue. She added that some people drive 65 mph where the speed limit is 45 mph. She supported putting halfmile stoplights on Utica Road and added that “the police presence is the deterrent.”

Candidates also brought up the Sterling Heights Police Department’s “Slow Your Roll” campaign, in which officers monitored traffic and issued tickets along Metropolitan Parkway and parts of Ryan Road last summer.

Cleary called the campaign a great step in eliminating speeding, and he wanted the campaign to patrol in different areas. Incumbent Maria Schmidt criticized how “Slow Your Roll” advertises itself by telegraphing its presence to motorists.

“We shouldn’t advertise where we’re going to enhance our enforcement,” she said. “It should be enhanced everywhere, not just specific zones.”

Incumbent Barbara Ziarko partly blamed dangerous speeding on “other government entities that have raised the speed limits on these county roads,” adding that she has noticed the effect around Schoenherr Road.

Challenger Roy Wilson said he rides a Harley-Davidson bike and has seen speeding from other vehicles along Metro Parkway, but he added, “I’ve never seen the county or Sterling police on that road.”

“You can control it. We have laws,” he said.

Candidates also talked about the impact that residential speeding has on the community.

Challenger Elizabeth Hanna pointed out that some neighborhood speeding happens due to nearby traffic construction in the area. Incumbent Liz Sierawski said she wants to see more longstanding speed limit signs and stop signs, adding that “people don’t always even know what (speed) they’re supposed to be going.”

Sierawski added that she wants police to pay more attention to areas like Fox Hill, Canterbury and Brougham drives.

Incumbent Henry Yanez said he has heard residents from the Fox Hill Drive and Ryan Road area complain about speeding from “people going to pick their kids up to school, and they’re in a big hurry.” But besides having more local enforcement, Yanez said he also wants to see more sheriff’s vehicles in the city, who could serve as a deterrent even if it’s not their jurisdiction.

Many of the candidates raised the prospect of more police being devoted to patrols. Incumbent Michael Radtke mentioned the scheduled hiring of specific police officers in 2022 who will work in neighborhoods and address speeding there.

“Sterling Heights has a 10-year low in ticket writing from our Police Department,” Radtke said. “It’s something we’re working on. I think more tickets, more patrols, would calm the speeding.”

Radtke said he also favors speed-calming measures such as lights at mile roads, more trees, improved crosswalks, and pedestrian islands.

Some candidates discussed setting up camera technology to monitor traffic along the roads. Hanna said she is in favor of using those in places like Ryan or Mound roads, and Koski also mentioned the idea of installing intersection cameras if the city “had a whole lot of money.”

Challenger Eric Briskey II agreed that police cars’ visual presence slows speeders down, and he also advocated the use of flashing light installations, whether temporary or permanent.

“They have permanent radar speed signs that can be mounted up that are solar-panel operated,” Briskey said. “Yes, they’re expensive. They’re looking at probably about a grand, $1,500 each. But those can also be put up, especially in residential neighborhoods, with the posted speed, and then it says your speed, and it flashes at you.”

Adding speed bumps, particularly removable ones, was another point of discussion. Radtke, Sierawski and Smith said they oppose speed bumps, offering reasons such as noise and vehicle damage. Schmidt said she wants to find out more information about the topic.

During the mayoral debate, no particular question was asked about traffic enforcement, and mayoral challenger Ken Nelson didn’t directly address traffic issues during his remarks. Mayoral incumbent Michael Taylor brought the issue up, calling speeding “the No. 1 complaint I hear” and adding that people want more enforcement in neighborhoods.

“We are working on a pilot program with speed humps that are going to be able to be installed and uninstalled so that they don’t damage plow trucks,” he said. “I’m working with our police union right now about getting new police officers whose only job is enforcing speeding in our neighborhoods.”

After the debate, Nelson told the Sentry that it’s the drivers’ responsibility to follow speeding laws, and his position “is not to have a special program every time we turn around.” But he said current traffic enforcement methods are not working.

“The only thing that is going to work is putting more police cars on the road, more traffic stops. Don’t announce where you’re going to be,” he said. “Take a month and increase the number of police cars or police presence, more than we currently have.”

Nelson added that he is not in favor of putting speed bumps in residential communities.

The Sterling Heights general election for mayor and City Council is Nov. 2. The top mayoral candidate and the top six council candidates will be seated for four-year terms.

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