OPINION: Links to Candidate Profiles and The Saline Post's Endorsements
Salinians will join fellow Americans Tuesday by going to the polls to vote for representatives and decide the fate of proposals.
In this opinion piece, I will present my endorsements in the local elections.
Before I do that, here are the links to the candidate questionnaires posted earlier this fall.
Here are the five candidates for the four-year seat on the school board (vote for 2):
Here are the two candidates for the partial school board term expiring at the end of 2026 (Vote for 1):
Here are the five candidates for Saline City Council (elect three):
Let's get some things out of the way. The Saline Post did not solicit advertising from candidates. But it did not prevent candidates from advertising. Austin, Rumohr, Sontag and McVey purchased advertising.
Personally, I've been pretty far left of center, supporting candidates like Bernie Sanders, who argued for platforms including "Medicare for All." On the other hand, my opinions are evolving due to government overreach and the ugly groupthink and discrimination witnessed during the pandemic. On social issues, I've always been liberal. But I draw the line well before requiring, by law or policy, other people to adopt ideas or definitions that go against their beliefs.
I believe a board should reflect the community. In any given election, this community supports conservative candidates to the tune of 35-45 percent. So a board or council that's 100 percent liberal is unlikely to engage in the kind of dialogue needed to produce policy that's reflective of the concerns of our community.
Finally, I support candidates who are open and honest about their differences, their leanings and their agendas, while still being respectful and showing a willingness to work with people who have different ideas and aspirations.
For the four-year term on the Board of Education, I support Timothy Austin and Michael McVey.
McVey is the vice president of the board and is often the most effective member at the table. He's able to clearly convey his support for policies and initiatives without long-winded grandstanding. He's a former English teacher, a former special education teacher, he's taught in three countries and he's a professor in education at EMU. I've watched him save this board from embarrassing derailments. I've watched him stand up for the rights of people with whom he disagrees. He's earned my support.
Austin is a kind and conscientious man who cares for his community. A lifelong resident of Saline, Austin has been generous with the community through his business, maintaining the landscaping in the median on Michigan Avenue and contributing to the Kindness Rocks and Kindness Garden at Saline High School, among other things. As a board member, Austin brought his business savvy to the board table and finance committee. As board president, he helped keep the trains running on time at the board table. Austin will provide a strongly needed conservative voice at the table.
For the other seat, I support Amy Sontag. It's clear to me that Lauren Gold is more likely to be more prepared to serve on the board and more aware issues at will come from the board. But to be frank, her opinion is already well represented at the board table. Sontag's opinions are underrepresented.
The Saline Post supports a board that reflects the community.
Saline City Council
This has been a tough year for Saline City Council. For many reasons, this would be a great year to start looking for new people to represent us on the council
I eagerly awaited the answers of the new candidates on questions about transparency and the cost of living in Saline. During the utility bill fiasco, I watched closely to see if the new candidates could step into the light and say something convincing. They did not.
And for this season, The Saline Post is endorsing Janet Dillon, Dean Girbach and Brian Cassise.
The council needs someone arguing against spending. The city general fund budget has ballooned from $8 million to $13 million since 2017. As citizen Sal Randazzo asked recently, where did all the money go? Local road millage, two county millages coming into city coffers, COVID-19 relief, and now using the fire assessment - on top of higher taxable values? Someone on council needs to take a wide-angle view of spending and address this.
Dillon continues to ask tough questions and take stances on challenging issues that will make her a target. At times, yes, the tough questions become counterproductive. At the same time, she was the only one willing to ask hard questions about the Huntington Woods sidewalk to nowhere. She stood up for residents of Henry Street and Old Creek Drive by questioning the need to close South Ann Arbor Street, 24-7, for an eating/dining and gathering space.
Girbach, like Dillon, is involved in several city committees. He's probably the most fiscally astute and fiscally conservative member of the council. Like Dillon, he's often the one touching the brakes on an issue to consider a potential pratfall. He's the longest-serving member of council. That's kind of a double-edged sword when considering support for Girbach considering the city's terrible lack of planning. On the other hand, he has great institutional knowledge of the city at a time when Saline is seeing great turnover among staff.
This is a tough time to ask voters for money. Both Saline Area Schools and the City of Saline have proposals on the ballot.
Politically, it's advantageous to each entity to ask for the money this November, before existing levies fall off the bills and taxpayers become accustomed to the lower millage.
The Saline Post supports a YES vote on the Saline Area Schools proposal for a $180 million bond proposal. The district would assess a levy of 7.5 mills - .5 mills lower than the levy about to fall off the tax rolls, which is how the district can portray the proposal as a tax cut For the owner of a $400,000 home would pay about $1500 a year for the proposal. The tax would be levied for 9 years.
What does the school district get for the hefty bond? Roofs for several buildings, including Saline High School and Saline Middle School, additions for STEAM labs in all the elementary schools, SHS and SMS, athletics fields between Liberty School and SMS, fields for Science Olympiad and robotics teams at SHS, synthetic baseball and softball fields, and much more. (CLICK HERE to see the entire list of proposed improvements).
While the timing of the bond proposal gives one pause, given the economic conditions faced by Americans, this investment in students and our facilities is too good to turn down.
On the city's three-year road millage renewal, The Saline Post has no opinion. The three-year, 1-mill levy would raise about $500,000 annually for the construction and maintenance of roads. This millage would be much easier to support if the city could easily account for the drastic rise in general fund spending over the last five years.