July 25, 2014 at 1:00 am


For Wayne County Commission

Commission will have to steer Michigan's largest county out of structural deficit

Leaders are needed in Wayne County. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

Wayne County faces a number of unique challenges, particularly financially. Without careful deliberation and prudent decision-making, the county could follow Detroit’s path into bankruptcy.

The News has only endorsed Wayne County Commission candidates in Aug. 5 primary races that are contested. Where uncontested, we withhold endorsing.

District 1 (Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe Shores, Grosse Pointe Woods, Harper Woods
and part of Detroit): One of the county’s most exciting races pits incumbent Tim Killeen, seeking his fourth term, against businessman, former state representative, and former mayor and councilman of Eastpointe, Frank Accavitti Jr., who now resides in Grosse Pointe Shores.

Both have experience governing in southeast Michigan and both are realistic about the limits of the office they are seeking. Killeen knows that Michigan’s problem with roads can’t be solved at the county level. Accavitti agrees, but also wants to work with Michigan’s congressional delegation to shake more road money out of Washington. It’s worth a try.

Accavitti is a self-funder whose candidacy is funded by business success. That’s a positive sign. He would support countywide school choice and says he would use his platform to encourage consolidation and resource collaboration between Wayne County school districts.

Killeen says that the commission has tightened up its oversight of County Executive Bob Ficano in the wake of the Turkia Mullin controversy and the failed attempt to build a new Wayne County Jail. This week, he submitted a resolution requiring a job description for every Wayne County job, so as to make duties clear. Killeen is also clear about what the commission can’t do, including public school reform and aid to also-ailing Detroit. Killeen says that Wayne County is in a state of “permanent downsizing,” and falling property tax revenues won’t make their way back to 2008 levels until 2028.

Voters would be well represented by either candidate, though Tim Killeen gets the slight nod for his experience on the commission and his willingness to vote against Ficano. As part of a commission likely to be more independent-minded than those in past years, Killeen’s experience during the worst of times may help its fortunes improve.

(Districts 2, 3, 4 and 7 either did not have two candidates running or had no candidates who responded to our questionnaire.)

District 5 (part of Detroit): Democrat Michelle Broughton was the only candidate to respond to our questionnaire.

District 6 (part of Detroit): Commissioner Burton Leland was the only candidate to respond to our questionnaire.

District 9 (Northville, Northville Twp., Livonia): Terry Marecki stands out among the three Republican candidates running for this seat in the primary. Formerly a registered dietician at University of Cincinnati and University of Michigan hospitals, Marecki wants to restore public trust in the office by being a “watchdog of tax dollars.” She promises to reduce wasteful spending, and will consider privatization where it makes sense.

On the Democratic ticket, Patrick O’Neil gets our endorsement over opponent Timothy Olszewski. A retired attorney who used to serve on the Inkster City Council, O’Neil also promises to restore order to the county’s fiscal house.

District 10 (Plymouth, Plymouth Twp., Canton Twp.):Current district commissioner Shannon Price gets our endorsement over opponent Charles Clos.

Price says he’s committed to finding more efficient ways to provide county services, and supported the deficit elimination plan recently passed. He also noted Wayne’s taxes are some of the highest county taxes in the state, and wasteful spending must stop before residents’ taxes are raised.

Democrat Milan Peele is uncontested.

District 11 (Belleville, Wayne, Sumpter Twp., Van Buren Twp., Huron Twp., Romulus, Westland): Abdul “Al” Haidous, mayor of the city of Wayne and a small business owner, is the best candidate on this district’s crowded Democratic ticket. Haidous would prioritize fixing the county’s roads, and minimizing county expenditures. He is open to privatization if necessary, and has built a strong sense of community in his time as mayor.

There are no Republicans running in this district.