Suburban Mayoral Choices

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Posted: Oct. 29, 2009

EDITORIAL – DETROIT FREE PRESS (freep.com)

If Detroit weren’t part of Michigan, Pontiac might be this state’s poster child for urban distress. Wracked by plant closures, haunted by the Silverdome’s mocking corpse and hemorrhaging residents and businesses, Pontiac faces financial troubles that Detroit can still only imagine — no money for anything but police and fire, and even those services are thin. This year, the state appointed an emergency financial manager to straighten things out.

On the bright side, if there is one, two strong candidates are vying to be elected mayor in Pontiac Nov. 3. They beat incumbent Mayor Clarence Phillips in the Aug. 4 primary, and either would bring more to the mayor’s office than Phillips has. Both have pledged to work closely with the emergency financial manager to stabilize the city’s finances and move past state oversight.

Leon Jukowski is a former deputy mayor and city attorney who seems to know everything about how Pontiac government runs. He has thoughtful ideas about what services should be eliminated or combined, which ones should be off-loaded to Oakland County, and where the opportunities for efficiencies lie. He exudes competence, if not spectacular vision.

Our endorsement, though, goes to SANDY-MICHAEL McDONALD, the city’s Downtown Development Authority director. McDonald seems to have a better grasp of where Pontiac needs to be headed in the future — how to leverage its hospitals, colleges and the land around the Silverdome for business development that will rebuild the city’s tax base.

McDonald’s strong vision of Pontiac’s economic future will be key to the city’s growth after the emergency financial manager’s work is done.

Southfield

Southfield Mayor BRENDA LAWRENCE, 54, deserves re-election over challenger Sylvia Jordan, 53, a former City Council president pro tem. Lawrence’s work to fight the city’s foreclosures, combined with her efforts to open the city’s wonderful public library, have gilded her tenure as the city’s leader. She deserves a third four-year term.

Taylor

A longtime political pro and the city’s mayor again after a nine-year hiatus, Cameron Priebe, 58, would seem to have the experience needed to guide the city through the precarious financial times ahead. To his credit, Priebe also has been out front on one key municipal issue, the need to alter state law so contract arbitration allows more flexibility. But in Priebe’s case, experience also comes with an air of entrenchment, reflecting what is now 20 years as mayor split over two periods.

His challenger, one-term councilman JEFFREY LAMARAND, 40, confronts a steeper learning curve but also offers the possibility of breathing some fresh air into budget practices and city hall management. Lamarand, currently a high school teacher, is campaigning on issues that include greater transparency in hiring and budgeting, longer term planning for the city’s financial future, and an open door for new ideas — attitudes that may be more important than experience to power this downriver community through the grim times ahead.

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