|Larry Brown was first elected to the West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees in 2008. A retired CPA and former managing director of Burnstein, Morris and Brown, PC, he spent six years on the township Planning Commission, is president of Temple Israel Brotherhood, B’nai B’rith Eager Stone Lodge and B’nai B’rith Accountants’ Unit, vice president of the Wayne State University National Alumni Association, and is a founding member of both the township’s Friends of West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation and Friends of the West Bloomfield Library.|
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 Brown 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?
BROWN: Even though our revenue has declined (due to) falling home values, these can be offset by attracting commercial tax base into our community which is not subject to the same decrease reasons as our homes.
The budgeting process needs to be for multiple years out, such as three years, so that we can better project our costs and estimate our revenues. This procedure is still lacking by the persons in charge of our budgets.
We have currently addressed the trimming of our budget and need to live with what we have accomplished in savings before addressing additional cutting of expenses.
Nothing should be held harmless from the budget ax. If we need to cut costs, as long as we can deliver services, then it should be done.
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.
BROWN: When I was elected to the current Board of Trustees, it was always my intention to work in harmony with my fellow members. As a board member, one needs to listen to all the other members’ comments and then make a decision which should be in the best interest of our residents as a whole in our township.
If there is a disagreement between members of the board, they should be discussed and communicated between those individuals and not running to the media. If a vote goes the opposite way of (how) a board member (wants it to go), just go home and let it go rather than continuing to bring the issues up.
We might consider using a professional to meet with board members in a retreat-type setting.
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.
BROWN: Our township still believes in being a bedroom-type community in many ways. With an aging population, as well as new younger residents moving into the area, we need to modify our ordinances to allow for more density in specified areas, as well as allowing more height in the downtown overlay district.
If we can finally develop the boulevard on Orchard Lake Road from 14 Mile Road to Maple, it would encourage a safer area for both traffic and pedestrians, who someday could live in an apartment or condo in the downtown district.
We need more entertainment facilities to replace what is vacant, such as a boutique hotel with conference center, a small theater and more restaurants.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
BROWN: No. 1, having a township board that is congenial so that the dysfunctional appearance is gone, bringing respect back to both the board, which will reflect the same to our entire community. The board is supposed to represent its constituents and being highly recognized as a board that works together to bring about progress together will accomplish this.
No. 2, continuing to control our expenses through the budgetary process since the revenue stream will continue to be a challenge for the next boards. If we are not frugal, we could quickly find ourselves in a deficit fund balance, so we must be cognizant of issues moving forward. For these reasons, we must work with multiple-year budgeting.
No. 3, road improvements such as Orchard Lake Road becoming a boulevard from 14 Mile Road to Maple, as well as improving the two-lane roads throughout our township that is overburdened with traffic.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
BROWN: As a resident of this wonderful and beautiful township, I have been working with the residents in solving their problems way before I was elected to this board. I have knowledge of Parks and Recreation, the library, public safety and (the) cable (commission). I previously served on the Planning Commission for six years, and for all of my volunteering to the community, I am the only board member who has received the Community Volunteer Award during Michigan Week. Lastly, I am the only CPA (certified public accountant) running for office and I bring decades of experience in finance to the board.