As part of the August 2 primary election, a number of political party standard bearers will be chosen for a few local and county offices, along with determining the fate of some local millages and a tax renewal for the Detroit Zoo. In the case of Bloomfield Township, with no Democrats having filed for any local posts, the offices of supervisor, clerk, treasurer and the entire board of trustees will effectively be determined with the August vote.
As a voter – either absentee or at the polls – you will be selecting who best can represent your party in the November general election.
Downtown newsmagazine sent questionnaires to candidates in contested primary races, the answers to which can be found on our website – DowntownPublications.com.
Below you will find our recommendations – based on both answers from candidates and our institutional knowledge of candidates and issues.
County Executive/Democrat/Four-year term
Two Democrats are running in the primary to oppose Republican L. Brooks Patterson in November, and we are impressed withVICKI BARNETT, who brings a wealth of experience to the table, first as a member of Farmington Hills’ city council from 1995-2003, as well as the city’s mayor, and then as a state representative, from 2004-2009. Barnett has a thorough understanding of government and particularly how Oakland County works. We think she could, as the Democratic standard bearer, raise some legitimate questions about the future of Oakland County.
County Clerk/Democrat/Four-year term
On the Democratic side, we endorse current Oakland County Clerk LISA BROWN in this primary race. She has done an admirable job in the position, and has an overall understanding of government, having served in the state House for two terms before becoming county clerk in 2012.
County Clerk/Republican/Four-year term
There are two qualified individuals running to be the Republican standard bearer – Bill Bullard, with decades of political experience, and Tina Barton, city clerk in Rochester Hills. Bullard, who has been Highland Township supervisor, both state representative and state senator, and was appointed county clerk in 2011, has been in one political office or another for the last 38 years. Barton, who holds both master municipal clerk and Michigan municipal clerk certifications, and was recently named 2016 city clerk of the year, has held clerk positions for about 10 years, as deputy clerk in Bloomfield Township and clerk in Rochester Hills. Either would do well as the county clerk. However, this election is about who would be the best Republican to go against Brown in November – and using that criteria, we are backing TINA BARTON. Bullard has had two unsuccessful county elections – against Brown in 2012, and in 2000, for drain commissioner. We believe at this juncture, Barton, as a woman, will be the stronger candidate to represent the GOP.
County Commission/12th/Republican/Four-year term
In the 12th District, which includes Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham, incumbent commissioner SHELLEY GOODMAN TAUB is a long-time elected official (former state rep, multiple-term county commissioner) who has a wealth of institutional knowledge, and understands all of the issues facing Birmingham/Bloomfield residents. She has chaired, or is currently chairing, numerous committees, and in September, will become the chair of Michigan Association of Counties. In 2016, she was chosen one of the top 25 women leaders in local and state government – the first Michigan woman to be so honored.
Her opponent in this race has his own experience at the state House and county level. Frankly, other than one deceptive campaign claim, relative to past wage increases to commissioners, we have yet to hear why Taub shouldn’t be reelected. Her opponent is clearly a politician in search of an office.
County Commission/13th/Republican/Four-year term
MAX ROHTBART, an Oakland University history and political science student and Republican Party delegate, was the only one to return our questionnaire, so by default we endorse him to go against Democrat incumbent Marcia Gershenson in November for this district which represents a portion of Bloomfield Township.
Bloomfield Township has experienced a tumultuous few years because one full-time official, the treasurer, has not been able to separate politics and his political aspirations from his responsibilities, leading to a very contentious and disruptive situation, which voters can rectify in this election. We are advocating for change and we’re calling for the removal of two incumbents – the treasurer, Dan Devine, and his acolyte or sidekick, trustee David Buckley, who often appears unprepared at township board meetings. No Democrats have filed for any township posts, so the future of the community will be decided in this primary election.
Supervisor LEO SAVOIE, appointed in 2011 and reelected in 2012 after having been a trustee since 2004, provides a strong voice of leadership and should be reelected once again. The last several years have been spent trying to clean up financial disarray related to retirement legacy costs and water and sewer upgrades, in order to provide long-term infrastructure improvements. He has a keen sense of budgeting, with the ability to balance wants and needs on one side with what can actually be afforded. He understands a primary part of the job is accessibility. His opponent in this race has been more than willing to accept the half-truths put out by the township treasurer and has shown himself to be part of the fringe group of malcontents who either do not seek the truth or do not understand it, and has run a campaign on deceptive, bogus charges.
Bloomfield Township is fortunate to have clerk JAN RONCELLI. As township clerk for 12 years, and trustee for eight prior years, she is the longest serving board member, and is well-known both locally and statewide as a premier municipal clerk. She serves as the Michigan representative on the national election standards board, and has won numerous awards for her work. She has a thorough understanding of the job and its duties, which are numerous, and performs them to the highest standards. To her credit, in the midst of all the township turmoil, Roncelli is not given to hyperbole. She takes a no nonsense approach to questions, such as the financial issues roiling the treasurer’s office. She was the pivotal voice in moving ahead the concept of oversight of that office in the form of the financial sustainability committee and has proven her worth as a member of the township board. Her opponent pales on all counts and the township can ill afford her as a decision-maker.
Frankly, we made our decision a year ago when we called for the resignation of treasurer Dan Devine, who we believe has done a poor job on a number of fronts. We called for his resignation because not only has he not performed well, there are legitimate questions whether he really works at the job anywhere approximating full-time; he is continuing to sue the township and the supervisor, despite his case being thrown out of court; he was censured by the board after he suggested to police that supervisor Leo Savoie had kidnapped his daughter. He has been a rogue member of the board, causing problems for everyone else, including an exemplary cast of professional employees in the township. He has a tendency to operate with less than accurate information, which raises legitimate questions about whether after all these years he even understands how the township functions. Yes, he has built up a cult following amongst a small group of residents more than willing to drink the kool-aid, so to speak, but grandstanding and being vocally disruptive at board meetings is not an indication of knowledge.
Fortunately for the township, one of the stronger trustees, BRIAN KEPES, has decided to run for treasurer, and we urge voters to choose him. He understands the failings of Devine, and comprehends what needs to be done financially to secure the township for years to come. Kepes has a proven record of service to the township going back 25 years, as a trustee since 2009, former chairman of both the board of review, zoning board of appeals and other boards, dating back to 1994. He brings with him degrees in accounting, as a CPA, and experience in business as a property manager. Because Kepes has lived through the turmoil, he understands how necessary it is to restore stability. He is eminently qualified to right the ship and take the township into the future.
Incumbent NEAL BARNETT bring years of experience, financial insight and stability to the township, having been a trustee for 12 years. He also sits on the planning board, and his background as a psychologist and attorney provides tons of knowledge to the board. Incumbent CORINNE KHEDERIAN also brings a wealth of experience, not only as a trustee, but from eight years on the zoning board of appeals and her long history of community involvement. She constantly digs to unearth the truth. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the elephant in the room – Khederian has been absent from some meetings this year due to a seriously ill family member, but we believe it will be rectified soon, or she will know when to step aside. But right now, her voice is one that township residents need as an advocate.
Political newcomer MICHAEL SCHOSTAK, a professor of finance and a former contractor with the defense department, brings an understanding of finance that is refreshing, and is necessary on the board of trustees. In his answers, he has fresh ideas, which may not all be implemented, but which show he has given a great deal of thought to the inner workings of the departmental offices of the township. Another newcomer, GEOFF HOCKMAN, we believe deserves residents’ votes. He has been involved with the Bloomfield Village Fire Department, a volunteer force, since 2008, and is currently its chief, and understands the critical importance of public safety. He is also a local small business owner.
All Oakland Country residents will be asked to approve a renewal of a .1 mill for the Oakland County Detroit Zoological Authority, for a period of 10 years, to run 2018 through 2027. The millage would replace the previous millage, set to expire with the 2017 tax levy, which was a worthwhile investment the first time around, and we encourage voters to vote YES on the renewal. The zoo is being managed well by the Zoological Society now that it is governed by the regional authority.
Bloomfield Township residents are being asked to approve two millage renewals, one, a road maintenance millage for up to .7115 mills beginning with the December 2017 tax levy, was first levied in 1966 for ten years. This millage is the only one for the township which provides funds for road maintenance, and voters must say YES to provide the most basic repairs for township roads.
Bloomfield Township’s police and fire departments are exemplary, underwritten by four public safety millages. This renewal, to approve up to 1.9935 mills for ten years to finance police, fire and public safety protection, replaces one expiring in 2016, is critical to maintain the excellent services residents expect and deserve. Vote YES.