This coming Tuesday the citizens of Troy, MI, the community I call home, will go to the polls. We will elect three city council members and a mayor. The choices are pretty stark and the future of the community may be at stake. I don't mean to be alarmist, it's just that the citizens of the community need to decide what direction the city will take. Although these offices are non-partisan, it appears that there are factions in the community that are taking a partisan perspective, and by partisan I mean, making this city a 1-party city, where only one perspective matters. Now, as far as I'm concerned, it really doesn't matter whether one is Republican or Democrat. The important question is whether the people running for office have the best interests of the city in mind. That is the criterion upon which I'm making my decisions and my recommendations.
There are eight candidates for city council. From what I've read and observed in recent months, three of these candidates represent the most extreme elements of our community's political scene. I don't think they truly represent the vast majority of the populace, but they're well organized and apparently well-financed (based on the slick mailings and numerous signs). There are five others, who range across the political spectrum from conservative to relatively liberal (at least left of center). While I'm on the left side of the center mark, I'm not making my decisions based on political ideology, but based on whom I think would best represent our community. I don't know all the candidates, though I do know a couple of them, and I'm comfortable with at least four of the candidates -- Amin Hashmi (a friend with whom I do interfaith work), Jim Campbell, Neil Yashinsky, and Bruce Bloomingdale. Three of the four have been endorsed by TRUST, a community group with whom I have affinity with. I take their recommendations and endorsements seriously, though at the end of the day I'll make my decision based on my own criteria. So, I think any of the four would do well and I'd be happy with them on the City Council. The fifth candidate, Allen D'aoust, I simply don't know enough about. He's probably a nice guy, who appears to be on the conservative end of the spectrum but he doesn't appear to be aligned with any particular faction. So, if you're more conservative than me, he might be worth looking at. The other three candidates -- Doug Tietz, who is involved in anti-affirmative action efforts nationally, Ed Kempen, and Dave Henderson (both involved with the right wing Tea Party affiliated Troy Citizens United, represent the extreme end of the political spectrum and I'm concerned that should they gain control of the council it could undermine the viability of the city. They're positions are troublesome, not because they're conservative, but because they're extremist -- and often seemingly uninformed.
For the mayor's position, the choices are stark. Robin Beltramini is a conservative Republican, but she is willing to listen to the community at large. She's experienced and well regarded throughout the state and nationally. I might not always agree with her, but I think she'll make a fine mayor. Her opponent, Janice Daniels, is a political operative and leader of one of the most retrograde political groups around. In past campaigns, including the recent millage efforts she and her group have engaged in rampant disinformation efforts that have tried to confuse voters rather than inform them. They lost in the last round, but that doesn't mean they've ended their efforts. So, I would be very concerned if she should become mayor.
What is my concern with the three other candidates for council and the mayoral candidate? Well, here's the issue. They don't seem in touch with reality. The continually make claims that we can have full police protection, 7-day a week library, 24-hour plowing, all the quality of life elements of the past, and we don't have to raise any revenues. Being a home owner/buyer, I know that my house has gone down in value and as a result my taxes have gone down. While the costs of services haven't trended downward, the amount of revenue available to the city has gone down. From what I've seen the city of Troy, the largest city in Oakland County, is fiscally sound. It has a great library, which serves a large number of patrons, at a comparatively low cost. Just up the road in Rochester, there is a much larger and newer library. In Clawson to our south they're adding on. Troy makes due with a rather small building, and a much reduced staff. The point is -- choices have to be made.
You have your choice between those who understand that you can't have services without funding them and those who haven't gotten the message. I'm not an alarmist, but I do believe that if the faction aligned with Troy Citizens United gets control of the City Council they will not only gut services but could bankrupt the city. And for what? I don't know. It appears that for at least some of these folks, there is a broader political goal, one aligned with the more extreme elements of the Tea Party. Some seem to want to use these positions to further their political futures.
So who will you choose?
As for me, I'm supporting Robin Beltramini for mayor, Amin Hashmi, Bruce Bloomingdale, and Neil Yashinksy. I'd be comfortable with Jim Campbell as well, but I have to choose three of four. In endorsing Amin, I'm breaking with TRUST, but I feel that Amin brings an important voice to our community. We say we're a diverse community but you don't see that in our city leadership. Amin has been involved in a number of ways in community life. I know him and I trust him, even if I might not agree with him on every issue. Having made my positions known, I just want to say -- If you live in Troy, get informed on the candidates and vote on Tuesday!!
Note: I am making this recommendation as a private citizen. My positions do not reflect my congregation or any other group with whom I am affiliated.