Bloomfield Township Trustee/Democrats

July 13, 2020

STEPHANIE FAKIH

 
Fakih earned her undergraduate degree at University of Michigan and her law degree at Fordham University.  She is an attorney with First Rights Law and has not run for political office before.

TRUSTEE RESPONSIBILITIES

Unlike the full time positions of supervisor, clerk, and treasurer, trustees are part-time positions, one where you in essence stand in for your constituents, the residents of the township. What do you think is the role of trustee? What qualifications do you have to perform in this position?


A township trustee has many roles. A trustee must oversee township operations and be a policymaker for the township. A trustee must be a leader for the township, familiar with the township and having a vision and solutions for the township. A trustee must work effectively with constituents and other elected township officials, listening closely to concerns and helping advance the needs of the township both effectively and ethically. I have the qualifications to fill all of these roles. As a criminal defense attorney, I routinely have to challenge and investigate policies and procedures to ensure both effectiveness and high moral integrity for the justice system. I work with legislative committees to help advance the interests of justice and am familiar with policy-making. I have the interpersonal skills to work with different stakeholders while advancing the interests of the township. I grew up in Bloomfield Township and chose to move back after graduating law school in New York City. I know what issues face the township and I have the ideas and skills to help solve those issues and keep the township a place we all love to live.

FINANCIAL KNOWLEDGE

A great deal of time as trustee is spent going over the township's budget, finances, special assessment districts, and other economic and investment issues. What is your background, and what qualifications would you bring to the table that would be an asset on a seven-member board?


I started my law firm, Rights First Law PC in 2014. Over six years later, I have a thriving criminal defense practice in Birmingham. I know how to find solutions to problems, whether it is for a client or for my business. I can review and analyze data to help meet identified goals. I utilize available resources and critical thinking to find resolution. We live in a township full of resources, including our excellent township employees. As a trustee, I will work with township employees, elected township officials and other advisors to make sure every financial or investment decision bears in mind the best interests of the township and its residents.

MASTER PLAN/ORDINANCES

How familiar are you with your community's master plan and zoning ordinances? Is there a part of the master plan or an ordinance that you feel needs to change?


Bloomfield Township has an extremely rich, long history and as such has many established homes and properties. It is different from other neighboring areas in that it has little development opportunity. There is not a part of the master plan or a township ordinance that needs to change, but the township needs to work to encourage homeowners to continue to invest in their properties creating more robust neighborhoods. The township should also continue to explore the possibility of creating a park space within the township.

TOWNSHIP SUPERINTENDENT

This past year, a township trustee introduced the concept of a township superintendent, who would supersede the supervisor and act similarly to a city manager in running the township. What are your thoughts on this idea, and why do you think it would, or would not, work for Bloomfield Township?


I do not think hiring a township superintendent is necessary or appropriate for Bloomfield Township. A township superintendent signals a lack of confidence in the board of trustees. Bloomfield Township residents and those running for elected office in the township are sophisticated, well educated, highly regarded members of society. Residents should have confidence in their elected officials and should not require a township superintendent to oversee township operations. Bloomfield Township residents deserve to feel secure about the township’s future and have a board of trustees they can trust in and be proud of.

PLATFORM ISSUES

What is your vision of Bloomfield Township? If elected as trustee, do you see yourself working towards reforming one area, with a specific goal in mind? If so, what is it? If you have a platform issue, how do you expand your vision beyond your goal to understand and represent all of the residents of the township and their interests, which may not be the same as yours?


My campaign slogan of Take Back the Township is about keeping Bloomfield Township a place we all love to live, something every Bloomfield Township resident can support. Bloomfield Township is a desirable community, but we must work to ensure the township continues to be a financially stable community with low taxes, excellent public services and a beautiful landscape to match. In recent years, Bloomfield Township has seen a lack of confidence in its elected officials. Whether misplaced or not, my goal is to unify the community and work to resolve the problems facing the township.

REUNIFYING THE COMMUNITY

There has been an increased lack of civility at township board meetings and social media postings, contributing to a divisiveness and lack of respect and cordiality. Given the very public struggles that have taken place in the township, what would be your plan to unify the community and the staff?


It is important for Bloomfield Township residents to have a board of trustees that speaks with one voice, respectfully and ethically and acts only in the best interest of the township and the residents. It is unseemly for a township of the caliber of Bloomfield Township to be in the news for a lack of civility. If elected as Bloomfield Township Trustee, I will work with all elected officials and constituents to create a township that works for everyone. We all have the same goals for Bloomfield Township – keeping it a top-rated, one-of-a-kind place to raise families and grow old. The township has it all and when we remind people of the things that make this community great, we can all unite to work around those common goals. A united citizenry is integral to maintaining an advanced and desirable community.

WHY VOTE FOR YOU

Why should voters select you over your primary opponent?  Please be specific in drawing your comparison.


I want to take back the township for township residents. I have no special interests. I am just a township resident, ready and able to serve my community. I want Bloomfield Township to continue its tradition of being a township with robust services, outstanding fire and safety, good financial health and a beautiful residential and neighborly community. If elected as Bloomfield Township trustee, I will bring fresh ideas and a new energy to help solve issues facing the Township. If elected to be Bloomfield Township trustee, I will work to encourage continued investment in township properties. The township is in a unique position with little development opportunity. Bloomfield Township has established properties and we must strive to maximize the value of those properties and other investments. As township trustee I would also work to expand and enhance township services like electronic and hazardous waste recycling, while ensuring the township remains one of the safest communities for families. It is also important to create volunteer opportunities for township residents, increasing engagement with elected officials and with other members of the community. Encouraging community engagement helps strengthen neighborhood bonds and ties to a sustained township.

MITSUAKI MURASHIGE

 
Murashige, a project manager at NAGASE America, has a B.A. in visual arts from the University of California, San Diego.

TRUSTEE RESPONSIBILITIES

I believe the trustee’s role is to provide a fair voice for the community. I have experience in various industries and fields to bring diverse insights. Also, I am a problem solver in nature, and meticulous with my approach of deriving at the best solution for the communities.

FINANCIAL KNOWLEDGE

My experience working as project managers and working within pre-set budgets, and my years of experience as operations manager required in-depth understanding of expected outcomes and finding the issues and reasons for when the result varies from the expectations.

MASTER PLAN/ORDINANCES

I feel the zoning ordinances need to be aligned with the needs of the community and potential community members. We need to evaluate our community to avoid and correct any systemic racism and other rights for equality.

TOWNSHIP SUPERINTENDENT

I feel that there is potential for this to work, but any delegation of power needs to be aligned with any overall plan for improvements. We need to avoid any selfish direction which may isolate the township.

PLATFORM ISSUES

I do not come with my own agenda for reform, but I will have a broad eye to understand what our community needs for a better future. My initial goal is to understand better of the needs of the community.

REUNIFYING THE COMMUNITY

I would suggest and push to try new technology and trends, so that our future generation are informed and are driven to be involved. We need to listen more, so establishing an easier way for the community to express issues and concerns will be necessary to unify.

WHY VOTE FOR YOU

I am honest and fair, and I am willing to serve the community at the best of my ability. Although, I consider myself a Democrat, I also have Republican values, and I am willing to listen to everyone’s side to make the right decision regardless of political party lines.

VALERIE SAYLES MURRAY

 
Murray, a retired school district substitute teacher, has a communications/ advertising degree from Michigan State University. She is a political advocate with Voters Not Politicians and Promote the Vote, and has been a member of her subdivision board.

TRUSTEE RESPONSIBILITIES

I have served six terms as a board member on my subdivision board, going back to 1986 serving alongside neighbor (and former Supervisor) Dave Payne.  I learned a lot representing my neighbors, especially the year I was chosen to be road paving chair where I coordinated our streets getting paved from dirt roads to asphalt, carrying petitions, and coordinating with the county and township.  A trustee would be an even greater level of resident support, following the issues, voting openly and honestly for all proposals or considerations for the very best for everyone.  Since the township is 94 percent residential, I would like to see residents input welcomed and greater involvement.  As a 20-plus year public school employee I have a good feel for the pulse of the township, and understand the importance of a positive community.

FINANCIAL KNOWLEDGE

I have a BA from Michigan State University in communication, majoring in advertising. This a business degree, including emphasis on economics, marketing, management and statistics education. I’ve also worked in advertising in the Birmingham and Bloomfield area as a media buyer/planner and operations manager.  When the state was in a recession, I volunteered to learn bookkeeping in the evenings to wear two hats to help the firm through difficult times. I understand balance sheets, payroll, and definitely watching the bottom line being closely involved in bill paying and budgeting for the business, along with buying media within budget for large and small companies. In the 1990s my husband and I started a small company, where I handled creating the articles of incorporation, and served as marketing manager and treasurer. I am also skilled and performed tax returns for this corporation, as well as our personal returns.

MASTER PLAN/ORDINANCES

Unfortunately the township no longer has a strategic plan. Years ago we had one to follow, but about six years ago, under this board, it was allowed to expire and not be renewed, which I believe has led to financial difficulties. You need a solid, structured plan as a foundation for budgeting appropriately. I’d call for a full forensic audit of the township finances, and create a new, sound strategic plan for our financial future. This process would be transparent to the residents, so they would clearly understand shortfalls, and any reason should adjustments in budgets be necessary. Again, it seems ordinances were enforced more in the past. I’ve have had residents complain to me about huge signs allowed in residential lawns, signs too close to the roadway, and odd advertising signs on roadway corners which are not only in violation, they are often unsightly as well.

TOWNSHIP SUPERINTENDENT

David Buckley made this presentation, and I wholeheartedly agree. In our township, there are no checks and balances, and the candidates for office are not required to have any special background or training for their position. For example, Dan Devine voluntarily attended treasurer classes, however, Brian Kepes never did. In our township the supervisor can suggest for example raises, or free cars, and vote to give them to themselves and others. Cities often utilize a professional manager or superintendent. This person is responsible for proposing budgets, purchases, etc. and makes a solid presentation to the board, which the group of seven votes on. This person is hired, and not elected. It’s a much better way to govern, having checks and balances on decisions, while limiting the power of the supervisor to help avoid conflict of interest, and abuse of power which I believe this board has taken advantage of.

PLATFORM ISSUES

My top priority, would be to establish a strategic plan, create a balanced budget that we can afford, taking into account all of the expenses, long-term liabilities and OPED debts of the township. It is my belief, if the current board continues in their lavish spending, the township will become insolvent, and may have to default on long term promises made to retirees, which would be devastating. We owe it to the residents and employees to have a sound plan, and spend every tax dollar wisely. One of the incumbents mentioned wanting to keep taxes low, that’s a rather striking comment since we are at the highest possible taxation allowed by the state, and this board made no concessions. After the tax was passed, they passed six-year employment contracts, but only a one year budget?  There is no plan or proposal to demonstrate how they can afford this.

REUNIFYING THE COMMUNITY

Residents are entitled to make public comment. However, it is very clear that resident input is not welcome. Board members rebuff our ideas, look away from residents, unless it is a compliment. If I am elected, making residents welcome and informed, is extremely important. We have a very intelligent community who have insightful suggestions. Free speech is a First Amendment right. Sharing posts online of factual information, informing other residents what’s happening in our community is part of our constitutional right. Keep posts factual, civil, and if you don’t agree, no need to be unfriendly or attack, either share your honest facts, or move on. I am personally being sued by the supervisor and treasurer for sharing a difference of opinion on social media. This is a baseless attack by elected officials, and coincidental to confirming myself as a candidate for trustee. An abuse of the legal system.

WHY VOTE FOR YOU

A 35-year resident in the township, I truly love this community, raising my three sons here. They had a great environment and excellent education which I value. I want to continue this to be a wonderful place to live, and raise a family. I was elected six terms on my sub board, earning the respect of my neighbors. Ten years as an Adopt-a-Highway volunteer in the township, plus six years as a volunteer foster home for over 100-plus rescue animals.  I am recently retired from 20-plus years in public education, and have the time and desire to work for the community I so love. I’m dedicated, honest and heartfelt. I feel the two incumbent trustees have done very little, during their time on the board, showing little input, while voting for whatever the supervisor wants, whether it’s in the best interest of residents or not. Time for a change.

LINDA ULREY

 
Ulrey, the director of the Ulrey Family Charitable Fund, has a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University and MBA from University of Detroit Mercy.

TRUSTEE RESPONSIBILITIES

Statutorily, township trustees are required to vote on all issues, and are responsible for the fiduciary health of the community. I am sorry to say our current trustees are frequently left out of the information and voting loop on important community decisions. I am knowledgeable of township government operations, have the interpersonal and leadership abilities to engage the community proactively and have policy making skills. My 30-plus years in business and industry in various executive roles have prepared me well. But most importantly a trustee must communicate and listen effectively to the people one represents and possess knowledge of what constitutes ethical behavior.  All residents are equal in my eyes and have a right to express their opinions freely and without fear of retribution.

FINANCIAL KNOWLEDGE

Bloomfield Township has serious financial debts that haven’t been dealt with sufficiently or honestly as I see it.  If we can’t trust and believe in those who govern us at the local level, it destroys our faith in governance and shortchanges what our community can be for all. I will focus on creative and new ideas for achieving financial recovery and solvency – that don’t rely first on more money from the taxpayer. Solutions must come from the board – asking residents for more money is a lazy way to govern. We are a community of incredibly talented and educated people, yet little input from this community is sought in any of the board’s important decisions. I intend to change that. My experience as an operations/plant manager has exposed me to business’s harshest financial realities. The road to recovery is always paved with a solid plan and resourcefulness of the stakeholders.

MASTER PLAN/ORDINANCES

A master plan is a dynamic, long-term plan that guides community growth and development. Our township has not referenced using a master plan in over six years. This is not about just about zoning laws or deed restrictions – it’s a vision for how to want our community to look and develop.  Our community leadership should have made a master plan a priority a long time ago – but hasn’t. The result is a hodge podge of building and development decisions that do not serve the community in a sustained way. Creating a master plan would be a top priority but it must include many members of the community to participate in creating a vision and a community that we want to live in and raise families in. I have heard residents call for parks and more open community spaces – we had several opportunities to consider those ideas in the last several years that weren’t pursued.

TOWNSHIP SUPERINTENDENT

Unlike the successful cities that surround our township, Bloomfield Township residents elect our leaders as partisan politicians who have well-funded PAC’s. I support the concept of a city manager for our community. City managers are professionals who are trained/experienced in municipal management. The concept of a city manager was presented to our board by trustee Buckley,  and the board refused to discuss the proposal. It is my belief that many of the township’s fiscal issues would have been more transparent and managed if we had this form of leadership. City managers report to a board of elected trustees so it provides the professionalism of city operations with the representatives of the community to craft the best way forward. Currently it is my view too much power and authority is vested in the township supervisor position with few checks and balances. This is an untenable situation and must end.

PLATFORM ISSUES

My vision for our community: create a master plan with extensive community involvement and input; provide answers to escalating water and sewer bills and be honest – tell residents what’s going on; we have a $5 million road department and crumbling roads – an unsustainable situation; township debt is one of the highest, annual budgets and spending keep escalating – a deteriorating situation that requires immediate attention and resolution; respect the residents and taxpayers – they pay the bills – stop the name calling and suing residents for speaking out; treat contractors fairly, publicize all contracts and cost overruns; require board approval for spending and stop unilateral decision-making by supervisor; open up the books as other communities have done – stop behind closed doors dealmaking; stop the game playing, hiring consultants for studies that are never produced or used; and restore checks and balances.

REUNIFYING THE COMMUNITY

The tone for civility in a community is set by the top elected officials. When residents feel disrespected, are unable to have a forum for open, honest dialogue, when requests for information are met with “file a FOIA”; elected leaders have set the stage for divisiveness with their management style and speaking tone. When the supervisor is heard cursing residents and saying he doesn’t like them – there is little hope for improvement. When the top officials pit residents against the township employees that are compensated by the taxpayers, it's nothing more than poor political drama to divert attention away from real problems. I have spoken with several township employees who are saddened they have been used in this way. Respect and fairness for the role we each play in this community is the key to restoring good relations. We all need each other to make this community work.

WHY VOTE FOR YOU

I have lived in the township and know it well having served on the board of my association for over 25 years, as well as a director, secretary and treasurer of United Homeowner Associations of Bloomfield Township. I understand the issues and challenges in detail and have been vocal about recent tax proposals that were not in the resident’s best interests. It's time for fresh faces and new ideas on the board. I am also an advocate of board term limits – let's give everyone a chance to consider serving their community. I sense complacency among many of the current board members who seem to just go along with whatever is presented – rarely is there serious discussion or dissent. Board members are difficult to engage – emails are rarely answered. I want to talk to members of the community and what they want to see happen. I don’t consider the position a burden; I consider it a privilege to serve.

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Cover_July2020.jpg
FacesBusCover_July2019.jpg
Sign Up
Register for Downtown's newsletters to receive updates on the latest news, social events and much more!
DBB.gif
VoterGuide_July2020.jpg

Downtown newsmagazine

© 2019 by Downtown Publications, Inc.

Birmingham, Michigan 48009

248.792.6464

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon