|Steven Kaplan was elected to the West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees in 2008. A graduate of Oakland University and the Detroit College of Law, is an assistant prosecuting attorney in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Division. He is a past president of B’nai B’rith of Michigan and serves on the West Bloomfield Optimist Club, the West Bloomfield Rotary Club, and Parents of Murdered Children.|
Eight candidates — Larry Brown, Hartley Harris, Jeremy Kaplan, Steve Kaplan, Howard Rosenberg, Gerald J. Sukenic, Diane Rosenfeld Swimmer, and Al Zara — are competing in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 Democratic primary election for West Bloomfield Township trustee. The top four vote-getters will compete in the Nov. 6 general election against one Republican for one of four 4-year terms as trustee that pay $125 per meeting.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to Steve Kaplan and his response to those questions.
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?
STEVE KAPLAN: A two-year budget would be helpful to the department heads and the board members. More autonomy should be given to the department heads to determine essential needs and dispensable cost items. Before the budget process begins, the board should determine the amount of the ideal fund equity balance.
Not fill non-essential positions when a vacancy occurs (is one area where the budget could be trimmed back). More cross-training among the various departments could result in savings by enabling employees to work for more than one department, if necessary.
Public safety positions should be maintained in the current staffing. The essence of local government is to provide high quality, fast responding fire, dispatch and police services.
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. Explain how you would work with the township board’s personalities and egos, and what you would do as township trustee to address the board’s fractured nature to ensure civility amongst its members.
STEVE KAPLAN: Each of the current board members, including me, has contributed to the divisiveness on the board. When the next board takes office, there will be one or more new board members. A retreat facilitated by an expert in government boards and commissions should be held to enable the next board to interact and reduce hostilities. Perhaps a citizens council can be formed to provide an annual objective appraisal of the board members’ conduct.
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.
STEVE KAPLAN: For previously developed sites, the new business, building or homes should be compatible with and enhance the area. The redevelopment taking place on the northwest corner of Orchard Lake Road and Maple Road is an example of an ideal project. It will feature both retail and office establishments, and it is attractive and protective of the environment, evoking a “downtown” and “destination” feeling.
Ideally, the township would attract novel businesses that would draw non-residents to the area.
The vision of a “new downtown” area is feasible. The new project should spur other developers into purchasing property near Orchard Lake Road and Maple Road to develop stores, restaurants and businesses that would appeal to residents and non-residents. This downtown corridor should be coveted by the developers because of its ideal location in one of the state’s best communities.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
STEVE KAPLAN: No. 1, continuing to provide high quality services despite the economic downtown. The township needs to reduce costs and not fill non-essential vacancies during this period when property values have declined, which has resulted in reduced tax revenues for the township.
No. 2, Ensuring the public safety departments remain at full staffing, which results in rapid response times to emergency calls. The residents supported the public safety millage. The township needs to levy only the portion of the millage increase to maintain the current staffing levels. High quality fire and police departments are the paramount goals of a municipality.
No. 3, protecting and preserving the township’s unique, vast environmental features. The township needs to continue enforcing the wetland and woodland ordinance, but in a reasonable manner. More information concerning the rules related to woodlands and wetlands should be provided to reduce the number of after-the-fact permit applications, which often take place because the residents did not know of the specific wetland and woodland regulations.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
STEVE KAPLAN: My background as an elected local official — eight years as a school board trustee, eight years as a township trustee, and four years as a planning commissioner, along with my having served as an assistant prosecuting attorney for the past 25 years — provides me with experience needed to analyze issues and attempt to make reasonable decisions on the board level.