by ANDREW NEAL
Last Friday Shelby Township was host to several of Macomb County’s top elected representatives, including Executive Mark Hackel, Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis and Utica Mayor Thom Dionne.
The discussion, moderated by Crain’s Chad Livengood, featured several rounds of questions in which the leaders shared one microphone and answered the questions one at a time.
Also on hand was Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor, Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon, and Fraser Mayor Joe Nichols.
Supervisor Stathakis repeated several times throughout the discussion Shelby Township’s competitive tax rate, saying, “We have the lowest taxes in Macomb County and we always will.”
“Two words on why businesses want to come to Shelby Township,” he later said, “tax relief.”
Mayor Thom Dionne said the economic development of downtown Utica is his number one priority for the city in the year ahead. “The City of Utica has a small footprint but casts a large shadow,” he said.
When the topic of government pensions came up, several community leaders were boasting how much money they had saved cutting pensions out of their compensation packages, but Dionne, a full-time police officer, said he is happy he has a good pension, adding, “If you start limiting your compensation packages you’re going to start losing top talent.”
As expected, the community leaders discussed the Macomb Interceptor Drainage District (MIDD), the damaged sewer pipe responsible for the massive sinkhole in Fraser. With Macomb County Director of Public Works Candice Miller in attendance, speakers mostly deferred to her efforts in encouraging residents to restrict their water usage until a temporary bypass system can be completed. Exact costs of the repairs won’t be available until mid-March.
When Livengood asked the panel about the recently failed public transportation millage spearheaded by the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), he was surprised to learn that no one from the RTA ever contacted Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor for support or help on the millage.
The Sterling Heights Mayor later interjected with the microphone, boiling down his grievances with the way the state of Michigan functions. “If the state could stop stealing money from us… [they] take money out of one pocket and tell us we need to put more money in another pocket.”
All of the community leaders on stage acknowledged the need to maintain a good working relationship amongst each other and the leaders of Macomb County. After all, as we are seeing more and more, any issue that affects one of these communities will inevitably affect all of them.