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Our endorsements for November election

Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Bloomfield Township voters will be deciding in the November 8 general election a variety of congressional, state and political offices, along with local school boards candidates, plus determining the fate of several state, county and local ballot issues.


Downtown Newsmagazine sent questionnaires to candidates in all of the races, the answers to which can be found in the Voter Guide inside this edition or at downtownpublications.com. Not all candidates responded, a requirement to get an endorsement.


We considered a number of factors based on answers from candidates and our institutional knowledge of candidates and issues. In determining who we thought could best represent voters, we looked at both views of the candidates and how well they sync with the views of those they would represent. In addition, we took into account whether or not they accepted the results of the 2020 presidential election – an absolute defining litmus test for us.


With the newly redrawn districts, it can be confusing but your ballot will have the appropriate persons/districts for where you reside.


U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

11th District / Two-year term

Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills


Since we first got to know Democrat HALEY STEVENS in 2016, when she set her sights on flipping this formerly-Republican district, our admiration of her drive, knowledge and tenacity has continued to grow. While Stevens advocates classic Democratic ideals and issues, she stakes out a more moderate stance which we think aligns best with this district. She has been focused on strengthening business manufacturing in the district, worked with women in business and led efforts to engage younger women in technology and engineering, while doing outreach to minority communities. Her strong advocacy for women's health issues put her firmly in alignment with the district. Her Republican challenger, Mark Ambrose, is a qualified and strong Republican – for another time and in another district. That said, Stevens' experience in the House and her values make her the stronger choice for this race.


MICHIGAN SENATE

7th District / Four-year term

Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills


Incumbent Democrat state Senator JEREMY MOSS has nimbly navigated the role as a statesman in Southfield, where he resides. Moss has spent his adulthood representing the city – first as the youngest Southfield city councilman, serving as the chair of the council's legislative and urban affairs committee, a member of the neighborhood services committee, and the economic development committee he helped create. He was elected in 2014 to the state House, becoming the second openly gay member to ever be elected to that chamber, and was re-elected in 2016. In 2018, he won a state Senate seat, championing ethics and judicial reform, voting rights, closing the education gap, infrastructure, the revitalization of low-income housing stock, and passionately, the expansion of Michigan's civil rights protection. Those in this newly-shaped district will benefit from Moss' collective knowledge. As for his Republican challenger, she is a former (and was not an impressive) Bloomfield Township trustee. Now she panders to the far right party base.


8th District / Four-year term

Birmingham


Incumbent Democrat state Senator MALLORY MCMORROW, who has already served Birmingham in her current district, was elected as part of the “pink wave” of women flipping many traditionally Republican districts in 2018, dethroning an incumbent with a legacy Republican name. Her first term in the Senate has been a productive one in terms of proposed new legislation, although often stymied by Republicans in getting them out of committee. McMorrow has shown considerable moxie in Lansing when it comes to challenging the old boys network, be it on sexism and other issues, and the fringe far right powers that populate the Capitol – even though many might shrink from the fight. Not McMorrow. In fact, her most recent foray against the homophobic and hateful forces in the legislature has made her a rock start of sorts in Michigan and on the national scene. We have no doubt she will continue to shake up the traditional power structure, all to benefit the residents of this district. Her opponent ghosted us – and seemingly everyone else.


MICHIGAN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

5th District / Two-year term

Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township


The choice in this election is between a current Berkley city council member and former educator who supports reproductive rights, strengthening democracy through expanded voters' rights, believes in expanding per pupil spending, protecting the environment and addressing gun violence – and a fervid 2020 election denier. Voters will be best served by voting for Democrat NATALIE PRICE.


19th District / Two-year term

Birmingham, Bloomfield Township


Some candidates believe if you obfuscate the issues in a wordy response, no one will realize what you're really saying. But the Republican candidate in this race is following the boilerplate script from the far right GOP. State House Rep. SAMANTHA STECKLOFF (D-Farmington Hills) is clear in her stance as a forward-looking candidate embracing liberties for all residents of the district. Her goals of economic stability, universal Pre-K, strengthening the environment and energy independence, improved health care and reproductive rights address the needs of those living in this new district. A former Farmington Hills council member finishing her first term in Lansing, serving on the House's Appropriations and Transportation committees, she has a front row seat to help make changes..


20th State House District / Two-year term

Bloomfield Township


The Democratic candidate, NOAH ARBIT, is a go-getter and ball of energy which we suspect is due to more than just his youth, but a true commitment to tackling the issues of hate crimes, expanding mental health care services, safeguarding democracy, defending reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights, and combating gun violence. We can't even remember the Republican challenger's name as he was absent in both the primary and general election.


54th State House District / Two-year term

Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills


Republican Donni Steele, who has spent time in office in the northern hinterlands of the district, is just not in sync with this area. SHADIA MARTINI of Bloomfield Township reflects the values and interests of our communities, firmly standing for reproductive choice and voters rights and against legislative bans on educative topics, and represents the stronger choice for voters.


56th State House District / Two-year term

Birmingham, Bloomfield Township


Democrat SHARON MACDONELL has a history of activism in the community of Troy, helping to restore services that had been cut back and pushing for ethical standards on local elected and appointed boards, and vows to fight for proper education funding, voting rights, improved access to healthcare and the economy, and against discrimination. Her GOP challenger gave us the proverbial middle finger despite our repeated outreach.


OAKLAND COUNTY COMMISSION

1st District / Two-year term

Birmingham


Former state House member DAVID WOODWARD, Democrat of Royal Oak, has been an Oakland County Commission member since 2005 and chairman of the board since 2019. We have always respected his devotion to the county and his forward thinking when it comes to helping Oakland government evolve to address issues important for current and future residents. Definitely voters best bet in this race.


9th District / Two-year term

Bloomfield Township


Incumbent Democrat incumbent ANGELA POWELL of Pontiac is our choice in this contest. First elected in 2018, she has a good grasp of the issues and her experience will best serve the district.


11th District / Two-year term

Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills


First elected to the Oakland County board in 2004, Democrat MARCIA GERSHENSON of Bloomfield Township has built a reputation as a hard working, devoted member of the commission. Currently the vice chairwoman of the board, she brings detailed knowledge of county government along with her past involvement with the regional SEMCOG organization. Another two-year term is in order.


19th District

Birmingham


In this new county district, we are looking forward to working with Democrat CHARLIE CAVELL, a social worker from Ferndale. Now in his first term as a county commissioner, we like what we have seen so far.


BIRMINGHAM SCHOOLS BOARD

Six-year terms / Non-partisan / Vote for two


We looked at a number of issues in the Birmingham Schools race, not just the budget shortfall elephant in the room. First, in good or challenging times, we expect transparency on the part of the board, including during all, not just some, of the budget sessions. We started by eliminating those seeking office who felt that it was okay sometimes to take budget talks into closed session when we see no reason to block local residents from seeing how the “sausage is made.” The process of planning how to fund education – as well as all other decision-making – must be done in a public setting, allowing everyone to see the give-and-take of setting priorities, except as allowed by law. Second, we expect that a board member understands the fine line between encouraging involvement by parents in their child's education and allowing individual parents to set for all other students the content of what is taught in the schools. On that basis, we eliminated one female candidate who either is associated with or has backing of one (if not two) ultra-conservative parental rights groups. Another candidate we eliminated because we are familiar with his involvement in a city committee and his errant behavior which drew a recent admonishment from the Birmingham Ethics Board – a clear indication that a position of authority with the schools would be a crap shoot the district can ill afford. That leaves us with only two choices – NICOLE SPENCER and incumbent board member KIMBERLY WHITMAN as the best qualified to fill the two open spots. We don't buy into the blowback logic of blaming Whitman for the district's current financial quagmire. Her skill set and views are needed on the board now more than ever.


BLOOMFIELD HILLS SCHOOLS BOARD

Four-year terms / Non-partisan / Vote for four


For four seats on the Bloomfield Hills Schools Board of Education, we used a process of elimination to whittle down a 10-person field. We made an easy elimination of one female candidate who is linked to a fringe right group that has evolved from being an anti-school closure group during the height of the pandemic to now treading into the mine field of dictating what is taught in the classrooms. A second similar group has also given her an endorsement. We then reviewed the slate of candidates running with the only incumbent in this race – who happens to have been voted out as board president by his fellow board members in his current term for turning over to the local police a list of anti-mask parents during the pandemic. To this day he still defends his authoritarian action, obviously not learning his lesson. Add to that the allegations that he does not fully understand the role of a board member, according to current and past employees of the district who say he meddles where he does not belong, and the common description by others that he is generally irascible. Unfortunately for them, three other candidates have hitched their wagon to the incumbent, the lot of which got an endorsement from one of the fringe right groups that are helping to politicize school elections. From the remaining field, we recommend JIM BAKER, TAREQ FALAH, NICHOLAS HAUGEN and CAROLYN NOBLE. All well grounded in the history and what the district is facing, and their proper role in serving as board members.


STATE PROPOSAL 1

Term Limits/Financial Disclosures Amendment


It makes sense to expand the time legislators can serve in their respective bodies, which allows for greater institutional wisdom and less lobbyist power. This amendment to the Constitution also requires financial disclosure (albeit weak) for state lawmakers and members of the administration. Although we recommend a YES vote, voters may need to come back in time if our worst fears prove true that state lawmakers can't be trusted to do an honest job of implementing this.


STATE PROPOSAL 2

Voting Rights Constitutional Amendment


Voters rightly – and overwhelmingly – approved a Constitutional amendment in 2018 to allow no-reason absentee ballot voting, among many other voting rights. This second Constitutional amendment fills in the gaps, providing greater election security, recognizing the fundamental right to vote without harassment; permitting nine days of early voting; requiring ballot drop boxes for every 15,000 voters; establishing post-election audits only by election officials; publicly subsidizing and tracking absentee ballots; among other common sense things, which state legislators could not take away. Vote YES.


STATE PROPOSAL 3

Reproductive Freedom Amendment


This constitutional amendment would enshrine in the state Constitution the right to reproductive freedom, including the right to make decisions about pregnancy, prenatal care, childbirth, contraception, abortion, miscarriage management and infertility. This proposal is about permitting privacy, dignity, respect and personal autonomy for half the population of Michigan. Vote YES.


OAKLAND COUNTY MASS TRANSIT MILLAGE


This public transit millage would be levied at a maximum rate of .95 mills for 10 years beginning in 2022, and end the opt-out provision currently permitted by SMART. This tax would replace the current one-mill levy by SMART which expires at the end of 2022. If approved, the tax will support current public transportation services in Oakland County, create and extend new routes to connect local communities and increase transportation service for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. We recommend a YES vote.


BIRMINGHAM CHARTER AMENDMENT

The Birmingham City Commission is seeking a $75,000 minimum threshold to bid out contracts, up from an outdated $6,000. Above $75,000, the contract must go through the request for approval process (RFP), be subject to bidding and approval by the city commission.Vote YES.


BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP SAFETY PATH TAX

Since first approved in 1998, Bloomfield Township has been transformed by a 70-mile safety path network connecting it to neighboring communities, providing residents walkable access to destinations within the township and outdoor fitness. This renewal, of .4511 mills for a period of five years, is a must. Vote YES.


BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP SENIOR SERVICES TAX

This proposal renews a senior services millage of .2273 mills and increases the millage by .1027 mills, for a total millage rate of .3300 mills for 10 years. The senior center is open to all residents over the age of 50 – and more than 50 percent of Bloomfield Township residents are over 50. COVID, maintenance and demands on service necessitate a millage increase to this important township asset. Vote YES.

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