(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 29, 2013)
The first of at least four candidate forums took place at the Kulick Center on Aug.28, hosted by the Ferndale Seniors. There about 50 people, mostly over age 50, got a chance to listen to candidates for mayor and a city council candidate talk about why they are running.
Current Mayor Dave Coulter and former Mayor Craig Covey, both also former County Commissioners, were there along with Sherry Wells who is also running. Linda Parton is the fourth candidate for the position, but she was unable to attend because she was out of town on vacation.
The City Council race is uncontested, with incumbent Melanie Piana seeking re-election alongside Greg Pawlica. Piana spoke to the seniors, and Pawlica was late due to work so he did not speak officially, but met with members of the audience afterward.
Once candidates gave their opening remarks, Seniors asked questions about topics important to them, including improving the neighborhood parks, construction on W. 9 Mile, and how candidates would keep spending down.
Katie Hershberger asked each candidate to name what their number one issue would be. Piana said fire collaboration, managing the Headlee Override [voter-approved tax increase], and bond renewals. Wells created a new word, “trialogue,” to describe the need for communication between government, residents and businesses. Covey said that costs were his number one concern, stressing a fear of increased spending. And Coulter said that neighborhoods, including parks, and keeping the budget balanced were his top concerns.
Parking seemed to be the most contentious issue of the day, with Covey stating that he had no intention of running for office until the City implemented a new multi-space parking meter system. The new system’s implementation had some kinks, including long lines as people figured out how to use the machines. Covey also said that the system was too costly.
Piana, Wells and Coulter defended the system, explaining how many cities are going to such systems, and the reasoning behind the change. Main reasons for the change were that old parking meters were being broken into, that parts to repair them were no longer available, visitors and business owners complained about always needing change for the meters since credit cards were not an option, and because the new meters could not be changed to set for different parking rates.
Covey asked the audience members to raise their hand if they had tried the new parking system. He asked for those who liked it to leave their hand up. About a third of the Seniors did. He then asked for those who did not like it to raise their hand, and it was a majority of the group.
Parton, who was not present, previously said that parking is her main issue as well. In an email she said that she would be at the Ferndale Area Chamber forum in October, and that she is planning on kicking off her campaign next week. “I would have wanted them to know that I highly respect their point of view on matters, and plan to see many of them as I go door to door. My campaign will be more on the grassroots side, seeing as many residents as I can to hear what they want for Ferndale,” she wrote in her email.
There will be at least three more candidate forums. Information on those, as well as other election info, will be continuously updated at http://oaklandcounty115.com/2013/08/22/2013-voter-information/.
To hear the candidate’s give their opening remarks, check out the videos below.