Our choices for Birmingham commission
Residents in Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills are being asked to choose candidates to fill seats on their city commissions this election day, Tuesday, November 2. In Bloomfield Hills, there are five candidates to fill five open seats. In Birmingham, seven candidates are seeking to fill three open seats.
Downtown Newsmagazine invited all seven of the candidates in the Birmingham non-partisan race to answer questions via a questionnaire which our editorial staff felt were important and relevant to the job of city commissioner. They are available in this issue in our Voter Guide as well as on our website, downtownpublications.com, to allow residents of Birmingham to read and review as they make their determinations for either absentee ballots or at the polling places.
With some candidates we conducted Zoom meetings to ferret out further the answers that were submitted because we have done this for decades and know the inherent failings of the questionnaire process.
We offer our endorsements on this page, reached after thorough, thoughtful and careful deliberation with the acknowledgement that we are just one voice of opinion in the community, although one backed up by an inordinate amount of time covering city issues.
Among the criteria we sought was knowledge of the issues confronting the city at this point in time and the ability to work collaboratively with six other commissioners, rather than just acting as a disruptive force, as well as with members of the administration who carry out the daily business of the city.
At this point in time, with three long-term commissioners retiring, we also believe it is a time for new vision and new blood, those who can bring independent voices to the commission table, which unfortunately has a couple of very weak members. We looked for voices who will not be part of a coalition or established voting block. While much institutional wisdom will be lost with this election as three long-term members did not seek another term, it is also an exciting opportunity to vote for individuals with fresh personal viewpoints, talent and skills.
Also taken into consideration was the fact that not everyone who actively participates in city meetings as a resident or currently holds an appointed board spot is qualified to be a commissioner, nor are individuals who have not yet served on a committee or board less competent or qualified to make city decisions.
Lastly, we don't always agree completely with recommended candidates on all issues but this is the most dynamic field from those appearing on the ballot.
KATIE SCHAFER, a pediatrician who is managing partner at Birmingham's Bloom Pediatrics, whose passion for issues in her own neighborhood led to her involvement with the multi-modal transportation board as a pedestrian advocate and the ad hoc unimproved streets committee. Her inquisitive mind reflects an understanding of the critical issues Birmingham is facing, from the master plan process to development surrounding the city's Triangle District, as well as the latest issues the city is facing with parking. We were most impressed with Schafer.
For our second choice, we are excited to recommend ANTHONY LONG, an attorney with 26 years legal experience who is a partner and general counsel at a Royal Oak law firm. Long demonstrated both a command and logical approach to the issues in his written answers and our follow up discussion with him. He has the basic listening and communication skills once elected to productively participate in presenting his viewpoint and negotiating compromise when necessary. Long has the potential to be an independent voice and a strong addition to the commission, one that would not involve a long learning curve once elected.
Our third choice was a bit tougher to make but we think voters would be best to cast their lot with ELAINE MCLAIN, who has served well on the Birmingham-Bloomfield Cable Board, although we have some reservations, as we did with the other remaining candidates, so we make the following recommendations. McLain has the underpinnings of knowledge relative to the issues facing the city today. Her written answers to our questions lack specifics, although she improved in a follow up Zoom session. If she can master the art of listening, then she could well prove an asset on the commission.