KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - There are currently 15 people running to be a member of the seven-member Kalamazoo City Commission.
The person who gets the highest number of votes becomes the mayor, the second highest becomes the vice mayor and the remaining five become commissioners.
Six of the seven current commission incumbents are running, but each seat is up for the grabs in every election.
24 Hour News 8 has contacted and/or reached out to all of the candidates. Here are the ones who have replied.
Occupation: Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Past political Experience: Four terms (eight years) on the Kalamazoo City Commission
When asked how he would solve Kalamazoo's budget problem, Anderson replied:
"Here is what I would do, I would pull the band aid off quickly and make the painful cuts that we're going to have to make to over two years, and immediately following that, I would suggest that were going to give ourselves a time frame to come up with a plan to address it long term. My personal feeling is that plan is some type of regional revenue enhancement, not just the city of Kalamazoo, countywide. For example, Plante Moran just did a study, it was released about a month ago, Southwest Michigan First paid for [the study], and it talked about the disconnect countywide, not just the city, between expenses, and revenues and that's going to have to be addressed sooner or later by everybody."
Anderson went on to say, "there's no way to have those cuts without it being reflected in public safety services."
Occupation: Business owner and financial services representative
Political experience: Ran for Kalamazoo City Commission in 2009 and 2011; Chairman of Zoning Board of Appeals
When asked what the most pressing issue Kalamazoo faces now and for the next two years, Boyd replied:
"Well, definitely it's going to be budget. We have to look at our bottom line. We have to change our mentality. We need a vision of what Kalamazoo should be, and somebody who's courageous enough to go out and stick their neck out and make it happen. We can't do the same things and expect a different result. We need to face this head on, start talking, there's a lot of things current commissioners don't want to talk about."
24 Hour News 8 also asked Boyd for concrete examples of what he would do to fix the budget if elected.
"Everything should be on the table, you have two police stations right on Riverview Drive, less than a mile and half from each other. We should be asking some questions about taxpayers in Kalamazoo Township and the City of Kalamazoo paying for redundant services. As a business owner, I think of the bottom line, and I think of things like overhead cost and where we can alleviate some of that pain in a huge bottom line. The fact that we haven't had these serious conversations really hurts me. I think we can do better. It's great, a lot of current city commissioners have been on the commission more than 10 years, and I think the idea bank has kind of melded together and I think we need to break that up a little bit get some new ideas on city commission and work more effectively, efficiently, and become a little bit more business-minded about how we run our city."
Past political experience: Current Kalamazoo City Commissioner; city attorney for 17 years
Cinabro was asked, if he's elected, what concrete things he would do to fix the budget deficit:
"Well if we could get a countywide dedicated millage for such things as public safety, we'd need legislation to do that. I'd like to push for that. I'm currently on a task force pushing for regionalization of our transit system. That's another area we can combine services on. There's no question about it, it's in the wind. Consolidation of services has to be part of the picture as we move forward."
Occupation: Associate Professor, Western Michigan University
Past Political Experience: Eight terms (16 years) with the Kalamazoo City Commission
When asked what the most pressing issue Kalamazoo faces now and for the next two years, Cooney replied:
"It's hard to say just one problem, the immediate problem is the budget. That we have we had a $6 million shortfall last year, we have about $4 million this year, that's a big issue, but that's an immediate issue. We have a bigger issue here long term, and that's the poverty in our community. I mean, 40 percent of our kids live in poverty. You know, we've got this wonderful [Kalamazoo} Promise but because kids don't get the support that they need, a lot of kids aren't getting through school, and the kids that do get through, a lot of them aren't going to be able to succeed in college. It's not because the schools aren't doing their best, but every study shows that the chief determinant in succeeding in school is the socioeconomic condition of their parents. We have to do something about poverty in our community and we have too many people here who are working full time but still aren't earning enough to support their family. So, I mean, the budget thing is big, and we have to deal with that. Longer term, we're going to have to deal with this issue of inequality because of the poverty in our community."
Occupation: Instructor at KVCC and Western Michigan University
Past political experience: Worked on several campaigns in the past; precinct captain
Hall said she wants to tie the community in with neighborhood associations, businesses and non-profits:
"I'm not opposed to raising taxes. I know it's not a popular decision. Something, maybe like a commuter tax. [The] majority of workers who work in Kalamazoo do not reside in Kalamazoo, a little bit more shy of taxing people who are already paying property taxes, so having this commuter tax is one way, but at the same time I think that's something that needs to discussed by everyone. We need to talk about the pros and cons of those things, and not just the pros and cons of city leaders, or business leaders, but the senior citizens who lives down the block or the 18-year-old student in my class who can barely make ends meet. We need to include all voices."
E. Allen Hayes
Past Political Experience: Worked on campaigns of Former Kalamazoo Mayor Coleman Young, Carl Levin
When asked what the most pressing issue Kalamazoo faces now and for the next two years, Hayes replied:
"Well we do have this toxic waste that really needs to get out of our community, no question, and what we are saying is clean up not cover up. It needs to get out of here. Without question, the budget we have so much that were not utilizing. We have a lot of empty buildings. We have a lot of businesses and homes that are vacant that can be part of our resource that comes to our community, but then not only that we have many individuals who feel disenfranchised, I think the community needs to be more involved. They feel at this present time, they're not as involved as they could be. We also need to address this racial profiling that I believe that can really help us, and how it can help us is that individuals can become in other cities, what the Sheriffs Department has now, and that is reserve police officers. Those individuals come from all segments of the city...and in the midst of that, we can help be more of a blessing to our city. Citizens really feel disenfranchised."
Occupation: Administrator, Borgess Health Park Battle Creek
Past Political Experience: Five terms (10 years) with the Kalamazoo City Commission, six years as Kalamazoo Mayor
24 Hour News 8 asked Mayor Hopewell, if elected, what are some concrete solutions to fix Kalamazoo's budget gap:
"We've got to look at the service consolidation. We've got to look at transit. Those are large ones, but the giant elephant in the room is always about public safety services. They're the largest part of almost any municipality's budget. We need to figure out how we're going to come together around those. I believe you can go as far as merging full departments: fire, police. Or you can look at specific service lines as we call it in health care. One service line is detective bureaus. I believe the criminals creating crime, and doing their thing out there, they don't care which border they're in. They don't care if they're stealing in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo or wherever else. So I think there's opportunities that we need to look at in regard to how we go about finding them, and finding those crimes, and that's a simple thing we can do, and our departments work well together doing it now. [But] can we do it more efficiently, more effectively, as one rather than four or five entities."
Occupation: Volunteer work and being a member of the Kalamazoo City Commission
Past Political Experience: Member of Kalamazoo School Board for eight years; four terms (eight years) with the Kalamazoo City Commission
When asked what the most pressing issue Kalamazoo faces now and for the next two years, Miller replied:
"It's obviously the budget. We keep having dwindling revenues and increasing costs, and until we can get a handle on that either from the state or federal, or somehow get it resolved city or countywide, that will continue to be a problem. I think we will have to come together as a county and come up with some kind of revenue that people can accept, unless we can get help from the state or federal government, they need to realize that all our cities in Michigan are hurting and they need to help us."
Occupation: Douglas Community Association, working with adolescents and teens
Past Political Experience: Three terms (Six years) with the Kalamazoo City Commission
When asked what the most pressing issue Kalamazoo faces now and for the next two years, Moore replied:
"The biggest problem is really generating a revenue stream that's going to balance our budget. You know, the question is where will that revenue come from? Do we have to look at other ways of bringing revenue in but also we have got to look at how we can stabilize our neighborhoods through the high rate of foreclosures. Right now, our neighborhoods are really deteriorating. Homeowners are losing their homes. The American dream. We really have to make sure that we keep people in our houses, so we can generate revenues. In our tax base, we also have to look at the number of non profits that hold property that are not living up to the mission and the vision of the organizations. How can we get those properties back on our tax rolls, and then we have to look at intergovernmental operations there's a lot of things on the table."
Occupation: Beer salesman for a local beer distributor
Past Political Experience: Two years on the Kalamazoo GOP Executive Committee; precinct delegate
When asked what the most pressing issue Kalamazoo faces now and for the next two years, Perrin replied:
"Well, you know, the cost of living here is very high. It's pretty much a college-oriented town, so that's the type of businesses we mainly bring in here, and restaurants and stuff like that. I think that if we could somehow lower their taxes, there would be more incentive to come here to Kalamazoo."
He went on to say that more needs to be done to solve Kalamazoo's problems than have been in the past.
"It's just like the 911 dispatch, they've been trying to consolidate that service for the past six years. I believe it's been going on for some time and nothing's getting done. So what we need to do now is make sure something needs to get done and get the ball rolling."
Jack C. Urban
Occupation: Retired from a career at Upjohn Company
Past political experience: Three terms (six years) on the Kalamazoo County Commission; Zoning Board of Appeals member
Urban spoke with 24 Hour News 8 about the need for a possible local sales tax, and a possible countywide local law enforcement millage to even out public safety costs countywide. When asked if a vote for Urban is a vote for more taxes, he responded:
"Well, I would say it's a vote for more value for your taxes. Clearly no one wants more taxes, and we have to realize what we get for our taxes. If people want services, they have to be willing to pay for them. If they're not willing to pay for them, they shouldn't have them. It's just that basic. So if people feel deprived of services, do the majority of you really want to pay for them? If so, step up. If you don't like it, well, then we'll take them away and we'll deal with it. But the city has to balance its budget. It's not like the federal government, and so that kind of clarity is something everybody understands. If we have to make serious cuts, people can relate to their own budget, and they get it. So I have confidence, that when the decisions are made, that are hard, the public that's been listening will get it."
Occupation: Retired from a career in recycling
Past political experience: Served on different boards and committees in the city of Kalamazoo
When asked what the most pressing issue Kalamazoo faces now and for the next two years, Weisman replied:
"We have to go to the state level to address some of the laws that are in existence, laws that were made back in the early 1900s. Times have changed. Like universities in 1917, and state colleges were given tax exemptions for anything and that's when they were learning institutions only. And they've broadened that scope to almost be in competition right now with the private sector in a lot of areas, and I think there are a lot of things, I'm just using the university as an example, where they can step forward and pay for some of the services provided to them."
Occupation: Business Owner
Past Political Experience: Kalamazoo City Planning Commissioner, Kalamazoo Literacy Commissioner
When asked what the most pressing issue Kalamazoo faces now and for the next two years, White replied:
"I was talking to somebody earlier, and I don't believe we should be promoting Kalamazoo as the beer capital of the world, when we have things like the Kalamazoo Promise that haven't been taken care of. I think the budget is absolutely crucial right now, a crucial financial instability, and we're looking for sustainability, so the budget is definitely the number one issue facing us right now."
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