Forum Gives Ferndale Candidates Chance to Talk Business
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 11, 2013)
On a foggy Thursday morning four Mayoral candidates and one City Council Candidate came before members of the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce to talk about what they would do for business if elected.
Councilperson Melanie Piana is running for her second term on City Council. She is on the ballot with resident Greg Pawlica, and they are shoo-ins for two open seats. “Even though I am unopposed, I still want people to see who I am and put a face to the name. They should know who they are voting for,” Piana said. She spoke for three minutes about accomplishments on City Council, including developments towards complete streets and looking for innovative approaches to getting people in city government working more together.
“One of the things that I led on the City Council is changing over our community development department to be more economic development focused. In partnership with the Chamber we also sort of did an interesting change in how we hired that person. We did a partnership with the Chamber, and some nonprofits. Every organization that had to be involved with working with that individual that the City was going to hire was part of the interviewing process. So it was a teamwork and collaborative effort. And I think that’s what you get from me as a city councilwoman and what you’re going to get from me going forward four more years.” Pawlica, the other council candidate, was unable to attend.
The main decision for voters comes in the competition for Mayor. Residents Sherry Well and Linda Parton are on the ballot along with seasoned politicians Dave Coulter and Craig Covey. Coulter is the current Mayor. He and Craig Covey, former Mayor, have also both served as Oakland County Commissioners.
Attracting business to Ferndale was an obvious concern for Chamber members. Coulter spoke about initiatives like the Mayor’s Business Council and the redevelopment along West 9 Mile. Planning is also in the works to do more to develop Livernois as a quiet, artistic neighborhood with galleries, boutiques and coffeehouses.
Covey gave credit to the years of vision and change that started with former Mayors Chuck Goedert and Bob Porter, and himself first on council and then as Mayor. He touted the fact that he has Porter’s endorsement and said he hopes to carry on with the work already in progress. Parton said she hopes to attract new business by looking at vacant buildings and asking potential buyers to come in. She and Wells both would like to see more retail, more family restaurants, and a hardware store.
One distinction between Coulter and Covey is that under Coulter’s administration is that as former employees have left, new employees have been brought in with a focus on making the city more efficient to the public and attractive to businesses. Positions have changed based on specialties, including a Chief Innovation Officer who handles the city’s new website and other public relations functions, and new Human Resource Director. Coulter said that such decisions have helped bring down vacancy in the city’s industrial areas, and made it easier for companies to do business in Ferndale.
Covey disagrees with hiring in City Hall, as well as with the retaining of consultants to work on specific projects such as the renovations happening at the police station and courthouse. His campaign slogan this year is “keep Ferndale affordable,” and he said that there is too much “bureaucracy.”
Parking is another issue where candidates disagree. Wells and Coulter defend the system, while Parton and Covey oppose it. Covey’s contention is that the system was poorly researched and implemented, and an example of over-spending and bureaucratic decision-making. He held up a sheet of instructions for the parking meters, saying that one should not have to read a page of instructions to figure out how to park.
Parton said she would sell off the machines and try to bring back an individualized meter system. Both said that they have talked to people who refuse to shop in Ferndale because they do not like the system.
Wells explained the process of how the Downtown Development Authority came up with the multi-space parking meter program, explaining that the system is already paying for itself and that a change was needed because the old meters were being broken into and the quarters stolen. She and Coulter both explained that the intention of the new system is to raise money to find a solution to the parking shortage in the city, most likely a parking deck. “It’s not being taken seriously by people making fun of the system,” Coulter said.
When asked about resident dissatisfaction with animal control, which is now being managed by Oakland County, the responses were varied. For years Ferndale had an animal control officer and shelter, but when it was discovered that Oakland County had been providing animal control services to other municipalities for free, cities like Ferndale stepped up and expected the same. Coulter said that prior to that move, animal control had been costing the city $100,000 a year. Covey agreed that it was an economic decision, but that the city could do more to make sure the County is doing their job. Wells suggested that sharing an animal control officer with another city might be a good solution, while Parton said that her concern is with unwanted animals, particularly rats, and that as mayor she would look into what could be done.
Other topics included how the city can help improve the negative image of the Ferndale and Hazel Park school districts, how to deal with flooding in the city, and how the city can encourage diversity.
The video below is of the opening and closing remarks, as well as some of the questions asked of candidates. Questions were given anonymously and Mary Engelmann of the Greater Farmington Chamber of Commerce volunteered to moderate the panel since she is not a resident or business owner in Ferndale.
For other campaign coverage, check out our election information page at http://oaklandcounty115.com/category/election-information/. For more on the Ferndale Area Chamber visit http://www.ferndalechamber.com/.
There will be another candidate forum on Oct. 26 thanks to Citizens for Fair Ferndale. For more information on that visit http://oaklandcounty115.com/citizens-for-a-fair-ferndale-to-hold-candidate-forum-oct-26/.