ELECTION 2012: The Press & Guide endorsements for State House, City Council, County Commissioners, county proposals

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Courtesy of Press & Guide

State House recommendations

Voters in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights will be asked to fill seats for the coming session of the state House of Representatives on Tuesday.

State Rep. George Darany (D-Dearborn) is one of the first recommendations we would make. After running a business and selling real estate, Darany served on the Dearborn City Council from 2007-10 and is now completing a two-year term in Lansing representing the 15th House District, where he has championed education and been an effective legislator, despite being in the minority party. His experience gives him the edge over Republican Priscilla Parness.

For the state House’s 11th District seat, Democrat David Knezek of Dearborn Heights gets our support. He is young and energetic and has an amazing grasp of the issues facing the district, which includes precincts 1 to 12 in Dearborn Heights’ north end, along with parts of Livonia and Westland, and all of Garden City and Inkster. Republican Kathleen Kopczyk has a variety of good experience, but displayed less of a grasp of state and district issues.

Andrew Kandrevas (D-Southgate) has a slightly new 13th District, which covers his home city, Allen Park and part of Dearborn Heights. He has solid voting records in support of his former district and we believe voters can expect the same if they return him to Lansing. His challenger is Republican Tony Amorose.

A small part of northeast Dearborn is in the new 9th District. Rep. Harvey Santana (D-Detroit) said that even though almost all of the district is in his hometown, he said he would work hard to represent both cities. He is a man of many ideas and is passionate, and deserves a return trip to Lansing. His opponent is Republican Rene Simpson of Detroit, who registered using a Farmington post office box and could not be reached despite several attempts because her voicemail box was full.

Dearborn Heights City Council vacancy

With experience on the council and the Zoning Board of Appeals and his current appointment to the General Government Pension Board, which he chairs, Joseph Kosinski has earned our ringing endorsement. He was even elected chairman during part of his many years on the City Council, and was recently appointed to the vacancy on the council. We hope challenger Lisa Farrens remains active and gives public office another try in the future.

The winner gets to serve out the year remaining on the term of Margaret Van Houten, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder as a Wayne County Circuit Court judge. We would also suggest electors give her a vote to remain on the court that is vital to criminal and civil justice across the county.

Wayne County Commission seats

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has been under persistent fire ever since news of a generous severance package paid to former Wayne County Airport Authority CEO Turkia Awada Mullin broke. It’s gotten even worse for the embattled executive since an FBI investigation of his administration and the indictment of a handful of high-ranking appointees.

And the two local members of the Wayne County Commission — whom must stand for re-election Tuesday — have ties to him.

But to blame them for the alleged sins of Ficano’s appointees and the executive’s poor judgment — Ficano has repeatedly said the only mistake he’s made was trusting the wrong people — is short-sighted.

Commissioners Gary Woronchak (D-Dearborn) and Diane Webb (D-Dearborn Heights) have represented us well and should not be judged by the actions of an executive of whom they have very little oversight — though that could and should change if voters support amendments to the county charter. It took the investigative powers of the FBI to uncover the extent of the problems.

Woronchak has been elected by his fellow commissioners to the top leadership post of chair and he has used that post to pass an ethics policy to help stop current abuses. Webb is the major sponsor of a couple of the county proposals (see below), that if passed would give the commissioners better oversight of the county executive and county budget.

Vote yes on Wayne County proposals

Ficano must be delighted to know he doesn’t have to run for re-election this year.

It’s almost as certain as the sun coming up tomorrow that the former sheriff and longtime executive wouldn’t have survived the wrath of voters if he did.

And voters across the county have every reason to be frustrated.

Ever since news broke of a generous compensation package for Mullin, which essentially paid her for leaving one county job to take another, Ficano has been in hot water. It got even worse when a federal investigation yielded charges of bribery and influence peddling by high-ranking appointees.

The current charter proposals give the Wayne County Commission much more oversight of the executive and we encourage “yes” votes on all of them.

One cedes responsibility for setting the budget format — line item or lump sum — to commissioners and another changes the bidding process for auditors. Both are long overdue and we urge a “yes” vote on both.

Another proposal would grant the governor the power to remove the executive — the commission does not have such power under the charter — as he or she could remove any other elected official under state law.

Most important, a fourth proposal will grant the commission the power to approve compensation for all county employees — including executive appointees — unless their salaries already are dictated by law.

All of the aforementioned proposals will add a greater degree of transparency to the day-to-day operations of Wayne County government.

A fifth Wayne County proposal would add the treasurer or a designee to the executive board of the Retirement Commission and make Wayne County Airport Authority employees full members of the retirement system. Authority employees are not paid by the county, but even so, it makes perfect sense for them to enjoy the same retirement benefits available to any other county employees. We encourage a “yes” vote.

WCCCD millage

Wayne County Community College District is asking for a 1-mill increase to make up for funding shortfalls. The district covers most of Dearborn Heights and a sliver of Dearborn — all of the area in the two cities not in the Henry Ford Community College district.

Since the fracas that surrounded the college’s request for a millage increase almost a decade ago, WCCCD has shown marked improvement both in delivery of services and a commitment to a capital improvement plan under Chancellor Curtis Ivery. The myriad improvements at the Downriver campus are a great starting point to see how the current administration has worked to ensure as much of the district’s funding allotment as possible is steered toward meeting the needs of students.

Ivery has cautioned that the district cannot survive without the millage increase and we take him as a man of his word. The services of a community college in a struggling economy are vital.

WCCCD deserves the small funding increase.

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