Independent candidate David Flaisher is challenging incumbent Democrat Michele Economou Ureste in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election for the West Bloomfield Township supervisor position. The township supervisor serves a four-year term and is currently paid $109,347 annually.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to the candidates, and their responses.
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.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
POLITICAL DIVISIVENESS: Some of the issues from when I was the supervisor were partisan because we were half Democrats and half Republicans. (The current board) is all Democrats, so I can’t explain if it’s personalities or egos or what it is. I can’t explain it. It’s probably more personality than in the past. It’s not partisanship because they’re all Democrats, or they all say they are.
I’ve already been in several discussions with two of my former co-board members who I frequently had differences with before. We’ve had several meetings and we’ve talked about a lot of things that happened and how they wouldn’t happen again.
So what I’m saying is I’m going to try to consider more different opinions or just try to reach more of a common ground. Even with some of the issues that happened before, we’d never sue each other. I don’t think that’s appropriate and I wouldn’t do that.
I’ve also spoken to some of the current board members who I’ve also had a history with and we’re just going to try as hard as we can. Whatever happened before, that’s the past, and we’re going to try as hard as we can to do what’s in the best interest of the township government and the whole community.
TOP ISSUES: One would be the finances and the continuing decrease in property values, which are not dropping as fast as they were in 2008 and 2009, but that is still an issue.
You need somebody with a very strong finance background, which I have, and I think just a lot of knowledge and experience in doing budgets for local governments and also for private industry. I have a cost-accounting background. So that’s one of them — maintaining our fund balance and living within our revenue, doing that efficiently and without cutting essential services.
I think a second one is just to improve (board relations), because people are tired of it. They thought when they voted the former board out that was going to all stop, and it got worse. So I think just to end that dissension and end that conflict and I’m really committed to try to do that. That improves our image. When you see these different things on the 6 o’clock news and things like that, it doesn’t do good for us and it doesn’t help us.
Another one would probably be infrastructure and roads in particular. I know that what was done with Orchard Lake Road was a very temporary measure that was said would last for five years and we’re in the second or third year.
We need to really fix the roads right. I know there’s been some comments from some of the current incumbents very critical of Oakland County in public and it got in the papers. I think as long as we’re a township, our roads will be funded like a township.
I sat on the Federal Funding Task Force for eight years. The way they score the federal funds, townships are going to always come out last because if you build the improvements first and you ask for reimbursement, you automatically get scored higher than if you ask for the money first and then you build it. That’s how townships have to do it because townships can’t do their own roads.
So as long as we are a township, we need the county. I thought I worked well with them before. We need to improve that relationship and we need to do whatever we have to do to fix not just Orchard Lake Road but a lot of the roads that are pretty bad.
MICHELE ECONOMOU URESTE
POLITICAL DIVISIVENESS: 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. 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 at 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.
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 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.
TOP ISSUES: 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.
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.
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.
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.
David Flaisher served as West Bloomfield Township supervisor from 2000 to 2008. He has been a certified public accountant since 1979, and was an auditor for the city of Detroit. He is a past president of the Oakland County chapter of the Michigan Townships Association.
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.