|Michele Economou Ureste was elected supervisor of West Bloomfield Township in 2008. A graduate of Oakland University with a master’s degree in public administration and Central Michigan University, she was previously vice president of Simons-White and Associates and served in a leadership role at the Automotive Industry Action Group. She and her husband have three children in elementary school.|
|Jonathan Warshay, an attorney with a master’s degree in business administration, is a former member of the Ferndale City Council. He was co-chair and treasurer of the SAFER (Save All Fire and Emergency Responders) Committee. He is also vice president of the West Bloomfield Optimist Club and serves on the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Assault.|
Michele Economou Ureste, Jonathan Warshay and Robert Egren will compete in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 primary election for the Democratic nomination for West Bloomfield Township supervisor. The township supervisor serves four-year terms and currently earns $109,347 annually.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to Economou Ureste and Warshay, and their responses to those questions.
Egren did not make himself available for a candidate interview.
LEADERSHIP: As supervisor, at what point do you believe you should disregard public sentiment, and cast a vote on an item based on your own knowledge and feelings about how an issue impacts the greater community?
WARSHAY: I think first of all, I have to look at (if) are there any legal issues involved and how those issues affect the township and what a vote would do. That would be one of the first things I would consider.
Secondly, I would consider the character of the public sentiment and why the public feels so strongly. Sometimes, even if the public may be not entirely right, I’d still go with their sentiment. I think it really depends on the issue I’m aware of.
In other communities where a board went with the public sentiment that was very strong, even the board had been advised by its attorneys that lawsuits would result, the municipality would lose and would pay a significant amount of legal fees not only for its own attorneys but for the entity suing it. So that’s something to be considered and I wouldn’t want to put my township at that kind of risk, even if the public would vilify me for that.
ECONOMOU URESTE: I think legal exposure and health and safety are the two greatest factors to consider in board action that may be contrary to public sentiment.
Of course, with regard to some of the controversy that has occurred over the last four years, it’s interesting because certainly raising an issue and taking a stand to even a minority of the population and the (board) majority, I believe, is very positive in that I have taken a stand with regard to some of the… poor public policy board actions that have been taken.
In July of 2010, the board expanded their powers, changed a long-standing policy to expand the powers to be able to recommend termination of department heads, resulting in a lot of elected officials speaking on a daily basis with township employees that (say) they have seven (members of the Board of Trustees as) bosses.
And then of course, the very next meeting with the issue of the buyout with the police chief and then another trustee, probably for the first time since 1947, a police chief nomination was made by someone other than the supervisor. The very next meeting, the majority of the board voted for one individual not to receive his income and pay taxes.
And that’s where I kind of said, “Time out. We need to appeal. We need to seek an objective ruling.” I was optimistic that the board wouldn’t belabor it and drag things out and essentially just let the ruling play out.
As supervisor, you do need to have clarification what responsibilities and authorities are set by statute. When you see that actions are taken contrary or even pushing the limits of the law, it has negative consequences to township employees and residents.
In fact, following the (Oakland County Circuit Court) ruling, it wasn’t much later that our budget director passed away after 29 years and I had all of the department heads in my office in tears saying “Michele, the seven bosses thing has to stop.” That’s precisely why I and (Trustee) Steve Kaplan spent $5,000 of our personal funds to seek an objective ruling.
It’s difficult on a board that will, I guess, call you out (as) an individual or individuals on actions and can’t just let things go. It’s been at the meetings time and time and time again.
WARSHAY: Since she’s bringing up, basically, the issues that were in her lawsuit — she lost on all those issues and at the time the suit was filed, she said that Judge (Rudy) Nichols, the Circuit Court judge hearing the matter, was a good judge and would run an appropriate opinion.
When she lost, she took it to the (state) Court of Appeals, where she lost a second time on an unanimous decision that came out earlier this month. Again, (on) those issues, they said that what the board did was perfectly legal and that she had no claim.
In fact, I was reading through the Michigan Township Association’s website and it said that the officers are appointed by the supervisor if that authority has been delegated by the board. In West Bloomfield, the ordinance said the board appoints the police chief, for example, so that authority had not been delegated. So the $40,000-plus (in legal expenses) later, here we are.
ECONOMOU URESTE: I really am disappointed that Mr. Warshay has that impression and apparently does not have a global understanding of many of these issues.
Going back to the Judge Nichols comment, yes I made that comment at a board meeting. It’s probably the one time I didn’t research my source, but the comment about Judge Nichols being objective, I hadn’t done proper research on that matter.
Secondly, with regard to the outcome, it was very clear in the Court of Appeals opinion that the board violated the law and I feel vindicated about seeking the opinion, very much vindicated for seeking a ruling.
Had I not sought an appeal, the township would still be in violation of the law because Trustee Kaplan and I stepped up. The township is somewhat in violation of the law.
Legal matters of first impression are usually issued in a published opinion. In this case, the Court of Appeals did not publish their opinion, which means it doesn’t have precedential setting.
I would feel more confident in the decision that was rendered regarding both issues if it were issued as a published opinion. And I feel robbed that Trustee Kaplan and I spent $5,000 of personal funds to seek an opinion, to get clarification, something that the Court of Appeals would hang their hat on indefinitely, a decision that would affect all 1,242 townships (in Michigan).
Right now, I’m the only one, West Bloomfield Township (has) the only supervisor right now that does not have appointment authority of a police chief and certainly the court did rule that it was not proper
The court stated, unlike the trial court, “We conclude that MCL 42.6(a) does not empower a trustee to decline compensation. Instead the trustee’s receipt of a sum per meeting is as established by township board. In other words, 42.6(a) authorizes the board, not the trustee, to pay the trustee and set the terms of his or her compensation. Moreover, a trustee may not decline compensation after it has been set.”
You take your oath of office and that compensation is set for your four-year term because, if you’re unpopular on your board, people can reduce your income to a dollar for your term of office.
I do believe because it was stated as an unpublished opinion, they made this disclaimer that, yes, the township was in violation of law. Four months after I filed for the ruling, a retroactive resolution was created. Money was spent on that. The $39,000 that was spent was authorized by the board majority and all but 20 percent of it was spent before I sought the ruling.
Make no mistake: $7,000 went to Plante & Moran, with Clerk (Cathy) Shaughnessy and (Trustee Larry) Brown calling out Plante & Moran, “Can you put something in writing (saying) that Brown doesn’t have to receive a W-2 tax form?” That was a $7,000 bill.
Of course, I’m on a board with very good politicians. They know how to spin the issue to legal fees rather than the improper actions that have been taken. And why am I steadfast? Because we would still be in violation of the law. When it comes to the supervisor’s attention, the supervisor has a responsibility. Once you’re aware that there is any kind of impropriety going, it’s your responsibility to raise the issue and confront the issue, not cover it up.
WARSHAY: Since she said that I don’t have any global understanding, I think I clearly do.
I don’t think it’s the responsibility of West Bloomfield to sue on behalf of the other townships in the state of Michigan and spend our taxpayers’ money on their behalf.
Secondly, I am an attorney and I know how to read court opinions. This citation she gave you was from the (Court of Appeals’) statement of the law, not the application of the law.
And in the application of the law, there was nothing in it that said that the township did anything wrong. They said that the resolutions (the board) passed later cleared up anything that might have been (wrong) and they said that the board ratified Trustee Brown’s use of his compensation for the Water Benevolent Fund and established a process to allow future trustees to decline the compensation. So what the board did was basically dot the I’s and cross the T’s later on to make sure things were right.
Nowhere in this opinion does it say that the board took any illegal action.
ECONOMOU URESTE: I didn’t read the whole quote, actually. The most important quote from the Court of Appeals is (Brown) cannot reject his sum of money and moreover, a trustee may not decline compensation after it has been set.
Moreover, we are unaware of any authority that would allow a trustee to refuse compensation and direct it into a general township fund. That’s important because we have, for the first time, a very dangerous precedent.
Four board members have established these compensation resolutions to redirect moneys to a general fund. It’s a dangerous precedent because here, what we’re doing is using general fund money to pay private bills and it’s not proper.
It violates the state Constitution of 1963. (It’s) very dangerous. I don’t think it’s ever been done in the history of West Bloomfield Township. It’s mind-boggling that a board majority has approved four resolutions to redirect compensation (to) essentially use General Fund money to pay private water bills.
Mr. Brown has not received one penny of his (township board) income since his term of office. He has no money to redirect. We’re simply using General Fund money to pay water bills.
You can’t mix public and private uses. Public funds need to benefit the taxpayers as a whole. That’s the intent. I’d love to solve world hunger with our public taxpayer money, but it’s unconstitutional and it’s wrong. It’s absolutely wrong.
I know Mr. Warshay is allied with the four board members who the public just laughs (at) because whatever I take to the board is always opposed or it’s always contrary to me. It’s always a 4-3 situation. I just find that it’s wrong.
Now a resident has sued the four board members. Again, they are defendants on a second declaratory judgment ruling because of this (Court of Appeals) opinion. This is an unpublished opinion to save the township a lot of accounting work for the last four years, that’s what it is. It says it’s wrong, but it’s recognizing the resolutions to retroactively set his pay to zero.
So, you know what Nancy Ohl’s declaratory ruling is? It’s a slam dunk if the legal system works the way that it ought to because there is no money to redirect and it says it’s not proper to use General Fund money to refuse his compensation (and) then direct it to a general fund. There’s no money to redirect; we’re simply using General Fund money to pay private water bills.
This clarifies that that’s exactly what’s going on.
BUDGET: Years of revenue decline prompted by falling home values and other reasons have forced a variety of budget cuts. What changes in township budgeting priorities or processes do you advocate to deal with these hurdles? Where could the township’s budget be trimmed back? What, if anything, in the budget should be held harmless from the budget ax?
ECONOMOU URESTE: We have streamlined, restructured, automated everything township-wide.
I was facing a daunting deficit when I walked in the door. The first day I walked in, I spoke with the late budget director about a financial forecast model. We had one developed. In the first quarter we were using that to help us navigate through the downturn.
In terms of budgeting priorities, I don’t know that we cut any services. We went through a drill where we looked at optional services that could potentially be cut — optional being those that are not required statutorily. We didn’t cut service. We instead attempted to restructure, streamline, automate everything.
When I walked in the door, the building department was operating out of six file cabinets. Now everything is automated. In December of 2008, one month in the door, I had slipped in an $8,000 expense to prepare a permitting module, which I knew was very important.
The No. 1 complaint township-wide was the lengthy, costly building permit process, so I knew we had to begin to fix it. I know in a downturn it’s really hard to fix everything at once, but we started and that was a valiant effort, a very successful endeavor. It took time.
Last fall was the dot-net migration for that permitting module and also successfully completed last fall was the (Human Resources) module installation. It took a whole year to reconcile the data between the old database and this new software system. All those pieces are working and they came just in time to produce the 2012 budget using the position budgeting feature in that HR module.
We were able to reduce operational costs by $1.5 million. That was the low-hanging fruit (in the first year), and we avoided back-filling over 20 positions, which also helped out the budget considerably.
I know there have been some criticisms and it’s unfortunate that public criticisms have been made of my staff. It seems like I’m on the attack every board meeting, whether it’s my opponent or the board majority or the group of them, but public criticisms of staff I find just unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable.
Our (Information Technology) department has been reduced in staff. They had one controller failure and yet they’re criticized. I have been working with them really hard. They have come a long way. They’ve put a lot of efficiencies in place the last three years, make no mistake.
Just because of the ugly politics, it’s unfortunate that it has come down on them. As a matter of fact, last week I received a resignation letter from my IT director because of the hostility from elected officials and seven bosses. He’s having health health issues and he has since rescinded (his resignation), but in that letter he stated a hostile work environment and it’s utterly unfortunate.
That’s the real reason I’m rerunning, for the health and safety and welfare of our employees and our residents. Things must change.
We’re down to minimum staffing levels. I have done two years of evaluation on minimum staffing levels for every department. We are operating at our minimums in police, fire and Town Hall. We cannot be trimmed back. We are where we need to be.
Because of politics, we’re actually considering doing some hiring and that’s the consequence of politics and public criticisms … just for political reasons to make me look like perhaps I’m not heading up this department. To try to create that kind of doubt, we’re actually looking at adding staff.
Politics have been very costly to this township.
WARSHAY: First of all, one benefit that came to the township last November was that the voters approved two public safety millages. Now they will be asked to approve two Parks and Recreation millages, as well. But, what that did was ensure that public safety can be continued to be funded in this era of declining revenues.
One thing I would do is revamp the IT Department to make Town Hall more efficient. There was a 90-plus page report that was done by a consultant that the board hired and it analyzed strengths and weaknesses.
What Ms. Ureste (said) was that I criticized the staff. Actually I criticized her management in general. What the report found was it was mostly management issues and that one of the major issues was the lack of communication among the departments, making the job of the IT Department very difficult.
So it’s planning, organizing. There’s no project managers for all the things the IT Department does. It makes it hard to make sure that the work is completed timely and properly. So I think there’s a lot that IT services could provide to the rest of the township to make it more efficient and save some money.
I do agree there’s not a lot of areas left to cut in the township budget. I’d have to go through it more intricately to see if there’s really much at all. I think right now the township’s in good financial footing, again with the recent millages that were approved.
I would also look to see what other services we can provide to other communities and get some reimbursement. We have the fire emergency Tri-cities dispatch and that certainly helps the township fund the fire station in the far northern region of the township.
There are other services that we could provide, like assessing, for example. That would help get some reimbursement for some of our costs as well.
ECONOMOU URESTE: I would like to comment that, in terms of IT, you need to have a macro-level understanding of the economic downturn and crises that a lot of townships have been in for the last four years.
Nonetheless, we have attempted a whole BS&N migration. We have had so many changes. A launch in every single department with IT to assist those departments to migrate information over reconciled data has been a lot of work and it’s been worthwhile.
Secondly, all municipalities have been struggling through this downtown. While we have been in this crisis, we established a general hiring freeze, which we’re still under, so staff is down.
We weren’t sure if that public safety millage would pass. Mr. Warshay brought it up. I just spoke with my assessor. It continues to be a criticism today of the public that the public safety millage was held in a special election and a stealth election was conducted.
I know Mr. Warshay takes a lot of public time to mention he assisted with the public safety millage and the SAFER (Save All Fire and Emergency Responders) Committee was his committee, but we had these fair tactics, these fair pieces.
People criticized these pieces. I criticized them as a resident that it was a special election and that in our financial report, the numbers showed that the board used $3.1 million, excluding non-major funds, of surplus to gain some additional concessions in 2010, avoiding the public safety millage on the ballot in Nov. 2010 after two rounds of concessions were gained from all of the unions.
We have $3 million we will never see again for politics. Politics has cost this township a lot of money and it was just to oppose Steve Kaplan and I.
I brought it to the board four times to put the public safety millage on (the ballot) in 2010 and because it was in a special election, I didn’t do fair pieces, I was disengaged and the voters were disenfranchised with the special election.
I had — instead of fair pieces — community support shuttling with five cars, people to the pools every day to get the public safety millage passed.
I met with the IT director and we talked about the consultant’s study and we feel that there were a lot of holes in the report that we are doing and the IT department is doing quite well. They are a really fine group. I think they have done a very good job. The last thing I would ever do is publicly criticize them. I think that improvements can be made behind the scenes, but they are strapped. They have been responding, doing troubleshooting. We have one person that runs to all of the fire stations, the police stations, for help-related issues.
We are down (in staff). We had to. We couldn’t hire before we knew we would get a public safety millage renewal.
WARSHAY: It certainly wasn’t a stealth election because the clerk sent out plenty of announcements and it was also posted on the board’s website. There were over 6,000 absentee voters.
As far as setting it in 2010 instead of 2011, there was no solid budget from the Police Department at that time and I dispute the supervisor’s characterization of the timing of the concessions.
It would have been irresponsible to ask for the money a year and a half before it was needed, before all the concessions were in.
It’s unlikely that the unions would have offered concessions once the millage would have been approved.
REDEVELOPMENT: Please state why you do or don’t believe the township is adequately prepared to deal with various redevelopment issues. What would you like to see in the way of new developments on previously developed sites? Please state why you do or don’t believe the notion of redeveloping the Orchard Lake Road stretch between Maple and 14 Mile roads into a new “downtown” is feasible in the foreseeable future.
WARSHAY: We certainly have the Cadillac (dealership) site on the south side of the township that’s been vacant for several years. There’s all sorts of different types of developments that could go in. One person said a hotel and conference center.
Whether we could get the type of private investment required is another story, but that’s a major site that’s been vacant for a significant amount of time that is begging to have something out there.
I think as far as dealing with the development issues, we have to have I don’t think just one person, but several people who are occupied with finding entities to come into the township and take up business.
Besides direct lobbying of various businesses, we can work with other levels of government who have an ear to the ground — county, state and even federal. There’s all sorts of officials that I have relationships with that I use to ferret out what types of opportunities there are for businesses to come in.
(As far as) Orchard Lake Road for a new downtown, it certainly would be nice to have an attractive downtown to bring in. Orchard Lake Road is a main thoroughfare (and) that certainly makes it more difficult to do that when you have a busy street.
We’re waiting to see what the county does with the repaving — whether they’re going to agree to fund the boulevard option that the road committee is pushing for.
ECONOMOU URESTE: I have worked considerably with regard to economic development. I think I’ve placed a great emphasis on it despite the economic downturn. That was a lot to wrestle through for several years.
Nonetheless, at the same time, I held foreclosure events. I took a lot of proactive measures with regard to addressing all facets of this economic downturn.
We passed the rental inspection program, as well as the vacant property registration ordinance to maintain neighborhood integrity.
I have held a developer roundtable to create annual economic development plans… We’re inviting the developers in when they’re close to getting their certificate of occupancy.
There is a problem with financing and it continues to be a problem. We need to generate revenue. We don’t like the vacant space.
The public sentiment is anti-franchise (development), too. You have to be careful.
Developers are very supportive, so we do have a lot of discussions with a lot of them.
It’s unfortunate that the 1970s master plan was flipped, so the parking lots are in the front and businesses are in the back.
I have talked (about) my vision of Orchard Lake Road (that) one day would be to have a brick facade up and down that one-mile stretch to hide the sea of parking (lots), bring the signage forward. We could do that with a (corridor improvement authority).
The problem is that we waited until property values got at the lowest (levels) and other community groups are suffering. This is why the CIA is being delayed. That’s how I feel about Orchard Lake Road. I think that our downtown is coming. I’m very pleased.
Besides a brick facade on each side, I wanted with this new multi-use complex where the Larco’s gas station is at Orchard Lake and Maple, that’s going to be demolished in the next month, that’s going to be a new limestone multi-use office.
So the clock will kind of give it a downtown feel. We’re going to have a chop house open up July 29, Prime 29 right across the street.
The other thing I’m really jazzed about is the new authentic Mexican restaurant coming right next to the new White Palace on Haggerty Road.
I think because we are an affluent community, people do dine and I think that the focus being on restaurants and boutiques and medical office is what is needed on the corridor.
Of course, I’m in favor of the boulevard and a boulevarded intersection rather than an roundabout. I’ve met with the (Road Commission for Oakland County) on numerous occasions (to say) that we’d rather have a thriving downtown rather than a ghost town and just encouraging movement through our downtown.
POLITICAL DIVISIVENESS: Much as with the previous incarnation of the township Board of Trustees, the township’s governing body has formed into factions, resulting in divisiveness, bickering, and even members suing one another. Do you see the divisiveness of the past several years as cases of personality clashes, or are there other issues at play? Explain how you would work with the township board’s personalities and egos, and what you would do as township supervisor to address the board’s fractured nature to ensure civility amongst its members.
ECONOMOU URESTE: As far as divisiveness, if I’m out-voted, fine. But if it’s inconsistent with state statutes, that’s where I draw the line.
We heard from these judges at the appellate court that the board was in violation, minimally, for two years of the law and you can’t look the other way. I can’t look the other way. People can’t encourage me to look the other way and be part of something that is not legal, not proper. It’s wrong.
I’m attacked every meeting. On occasion I defend myself. I’m advised by my supporters to not get baited.
When you’re up there and people attack your character at every single meeting and send their people to attack, it’s hard. It’s abuse that I don’t think I signed up for.
I’m glad that new people have come forward to actually run; good people don’t want to run.
If the people I’m supporting all make it through the election, I know they’re strong personalities. I know they’re not going to agree with me, but I know I’m not going to have to call out the tough stuff.
I hate to call out the tough stuff. The tough stuff comes with the job of supervisor though. I do believe that my opponent wouldn’t call out the tough stuff. He’s talking about the same issues, agreeing with this majority and the actions they have taken for the last four years and I’m just in awe.
I don’t think it’s personality issues as much as it is (that) I have a tough job to do and I raise the issue of a violation of the car policy and the clerk and two board members called it a witch hunt.
It was at the same time that the clerk also wrote a check of $783 for insurance on the vehicle, but it was (called) a witch hunt.
I do have to call out the tough stuff and I would hope that the individuals who are elected are professionals and can understand that, when issues have to be raised, we just say okay, cement the policy or let’s give back what we owe: Professionalism. I can’t guarantee that everyone elected is going to be professional. I can’t control that.
As far as the board meetings, I can’t control what people say because of First Amendment rights. People are allowed to speak. Yes, the meeting guidelines say that rude behavior will not be tolerated.
I guess I probably should gavel more when there is rude behavior, (but) I’d be gaveling all day long.
I guess I’m eternally optimistic that there has been enough divisiveness that the township will want change and consider new candidates.
WARSHAY: I think it’s a personality clash, from what I’ve the seen, the way the supervisor acts, it’s about her, it’s not about serving the people.
I agree with her opponents because she’s wrong. Four judges said she was wrong, as well. She’s putting spin on the opinion, but if she hadn’t sued, we’d still be in the same place we are now but with $40,000 more in the township bank account.
The good people that are on our slate… Well, she says she’s running against a gang of four, so it’s her gang of six. It looks like she’s substituting one gang for another.
It’s a personality clash. How do you work with personalities? Well, it’s mostly a willingness to listen, talking, and at least trying to understand their positions, perhaps organize working sessions.
In Ferndale, we had the department heads, as well as all the elected officials, try and work together on major issues and come to an understanding of what types of actions were possible and what the ramifications were. I think those are steps that could be done.
ECONOMOU URESTE: I have kept the people in mind. I’m not the one who’s expanded powers. I’m not the one holding any powers — I’ve been reduced to one of seven trustees.
And the three trustees with no administrative responsibilities are negotiating labor contracts. My focus and the people that I’m supporting this election are people with the sole objective of serving the public and restoring order in Town Hall.
It’s a hostile working environment from one door to the next, back to front in every department. It’s a mess with seven bosses and these employees are counting on me to be successful, to restore order. It’s a mess.
My heart is just sympathetic. We talk about spinning issues. For Mr. Warshay to say I’m spinning issues, that’s not me. I have to say, from time and time and time again on this board, improper actions have been taken.
(For example) one board member disclosing a relationship with a vendor that the (Oakland County) Prosecutor’s Office put in writing, that the majority of the board violated 15.323. When a disclosure is made, when the board majority took action, by law you have to wait one week before you can enter into, in this case, a five-year contract.
Mr. Kaplan and I made a motion to postpone the decision as a result of the disclosure was made, but action was taken and the five-year contract was engaged in.
So I’m not the person who spins. Unfortunately I’ve been the victim of really good politicians that will spin an issue of having a relationship with a (waste) hauler or not receiving a W-2 tax form because of disability to legal fees rather than the improper actions.
A lot of the board and Mr. Warshay are very skilled at spinning issues and it’s always spun onto me.
I’ve had to do a tough job to make sure the township is compliant because part of the reason for that appeal is there’s legal exposure associated with any actions that are taken contrary in that hostile work environment.
In the resignation letter that I got (from the IT director), there could have been a six-figure type of lawsuit. Right now, (the letter has) been rescinded.
That’s just the sort of thing that I knew, thinking 10 steps ahead, is a possibility to the township. That’s why after many issues, I finally had to say we had to try and seek an appeal.
To date, I feel (the appeal) was necessary and I think it forced the township to somewhat be in compliance. The township was in violation of the law. The judges recognized that.
WARSHAY: I think she’s spinning when she read the quote from the Court of Appeals because she failed to read the sentence that said the board took action to resolve the problem, which was only a problem. And the court certainly didn’t say or use (the word) “illegal” anywhere.
ECONOMOU URESTE: The resolution came four months after I filed for a ruling. Retroactive actions were taken. If I had not followed the ruling and just looked the other way, we would still be in violation of the law. It would have been a worse headline that I covered something up, looked the other way. Six out of seven elected officials get a W-2 tax form, one doesn’t and, let’s face it, this is the largest smallest town and everybody knows everything. Everybody talks.
Too many people were aware that Mr. Brown wasn’t receiving his income or paying taxes. It was a problem. It had to be dealt with.
And I think it concerns me greatly that Mr. Warshay defends the actions, doesn’t recognize there was a violation when it was cited (by the Court of Appeals) that there was a violation and it concerning to me.
WARSHAY: It concerns me that the statements that she and Trustee Kaplan state at open meetings get parroted into the current lawsuit against the township. I think it could be a little more circumspect into what people say at open meetings because, as we see, it’s coming back to cost the township more. I believe that’s poor judgment.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
WARSHAY: I would say roads, the economic base and ensuring that we get a fair share of the tax dollars and not get projects forced upon us.
We have a road committee at this point for the township that’s talking with the (Road Commission for Oakland County). There have been about 50 meetings over the last three years with this road committee.
I would continue to support the road committee. It did get Orchard Lake Road repaved. What’s going to happen with the boulevard? I would try to work a little more closely. Perhaps there’s personality issues. I’m not sure what’s going on with the road commission and the county. I think putting a different face on it may change things. The roads have a profound effect on the daily lives of our residents and visitors, so that would be one priority.
We need a more diverse and stable economic base. Small businesses such as restaurants are important to the community, but small business experiences failures at a high rate. We need larger developments, as well, to help create a more diverse and stable (tax) base. I think that will help protect the township’s finances in an economic downturn.
Much more needs done. I mentioned Audette Cadillac before. I think that’s probably the largest, certainly the most visible, large parcel that’s begging for something to be there.
I would say, No. 2, development has to be responsible because we don’t want to diminish the beauty and importance of our lakes and woodlands.
The last part, getting our fair share of tax dollars. The relationship with other units of government, such as the road commission, is vital to the township getting it’s fair share.
I’ve personally known our U.S. senators for more than a dozen years and I have a good relationship with (U.S. Rep.) Gary Peters and his staff. I know our elected officials in Lansing, as well, and I’ll go the extra mile to work with them to advance the interests of the township.
ECONOMOU URESTE: The No. 1 objective is to restore order in the township. Seven bosses isn’t working and the Police Department … there are written reprimands, suspensions and investigations going on in a weekly basis. So restoring order on behalf of the township employees would be the first order of business.
Certainly, a lot of improvements have been made with regard to economic developments and structure has been put to it. Now building on top of that is the second goal.
So restoring order, economic development, building on (the) developer roundtable, the vacant property registration database and the new IT system, so IT is a critical component to that.
Now that we have these programs established, we need to build on top of that. I’ve met with my directors in that regard to analyze the data and to take it to the next level.
Thirdly, the roads. I’ve met with (state) Senator (Mike) Kowall. We have spoke recently about the expandable concrete as possibly a pilot (project) on Maple Road.
The Maple Road widening, to me, is the No. 1 priority with regard to our roads. While the overlay is great and the boulevard would be ideal, the Maple Road widening is critical. I’ve met with Henry Ford Hospital and the road commission and road commissioners about the problem of this new hospital that has reached international acclaim being on a two-lane road.
On an icy or snowy day, it’s the first call I make at the beginning of the day at 7 a.m.: “Are those roads clear? Are they passable?”
The cost estimate associated with the Maple Road widening from Orchard Lake to Haggerty though is $69 million. We’ve had an hour and a half meeting with the road commission, myself and Henry Ford officials, and I think what we centered on was the state’s economic development budget as a possibility right now.
Picking up the phone after that meeting with Sen. Kowall and a five-minute conversation, he said when that (hospital) expansion happened, his first thought was that it’s on a two-lane road.
His first comment was the state’s economic development budget. He’s the vice-chairman and chair of (the state Senate) Economic Development (Committee) and (the state Senate) Transportation (Committee).
So we’ve had recent conversations about a pilot on a two-mile stretch, and I followed up with the road commission. It’s a possibility here.
But certainly, (the) Maple Road widening and deterioration on Green Lake Road (are priorities). I’ve passed that along to put Green Lake Road in the queue. It’s in very poor condition and it needs to be reconstructed.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
ECONOMOU URESTE: Because I’m focused on my sole objective: To serve the public.
I believe I’m compassionate in serving the public. I’ve heard the very nice compliments as of recently that it’s once in a decade that somebody with my caliber run for the office, (that) I’m a younger version of (former township supervisor) Jeddy Hood, (that) the hardest working supervisor the township has had.
I just believe I’ve been very hard-working, results-oriented. I’ve really addressed a lot of issues in the last four years despite the opposition that I have encountered from the board along the way.
WARSHAY: First of all, I think I have the qualifications. I have an economics degree, an MBA in finance and business economics, (and) I have a law degree.
In terms of experience, I have a wide variety. I’m currently an IT consultant with the state of Michigan, (and) I’ve been a consultant before in the IT area.
I’ve been an attorney for Legal Aid (and Defender Association), for the courts and private practice. I’m a professor. I teach at Michigan Jewish Institute and Cleary University in subjects such as business law, economics, accounting, statistics.
I served a term on the Ferndale City Council when we accomplished a lot and revitalized the downtown, attained a community center.
I personally authored and sheparded a pyramid policy to get rid of no-bid contracts to make sure everything is fair. In fact, I noticed that the policy was on the Michigan Municipal League website a couple weeks ago.
I also worked on the human rights ordinance that the city of Ferndale passed and I was mayor pro-tem.
I have community involvement here. I’m vice president of the West Bloomfield Optimist Club. I’m on the executive board of the Democratic Club. I’m in the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Assault. I support the Friendship Circle, the Parks and Recreation Department and I’m a former Boy Scout leader, as well.
I’m not a flashy guy. I don’t favor style over substance. I put people before politics. I’m reasonable and professional. I didn’t sue Ferndale when I was on the council and I will not sue West Bloomfield.
I take responsibility for my mistakes. I know disagreements will rise, but I’ll accept it if I don’t win on a particular issue.
Our residents want their leaders to move on and take care of business. I’ll fight for our hard-working taxpayers, but I won’t engage in personal attacks against my fellow elected officials.
The voters really have to ask whether the incumbent has done the job she was elected to do. I say she has not. That is why I’m running.