Wayne County: Wayne city councilman recalled

The Detroit News

A Wayne city councilman was recalled by a sizable margin Tuesday.

Councilman Chris Sanders was ousted by a 928-359 tally. He will be replaced by another councilman, Jeremiah Webster, who will switch from being at-large to Sanders’ Ward One position.

In other Wayne County votes, Trenton voters approved a $57 million bond proposal that would allow the school district to expand their elementary schools, which have been at capacity since 2012.

By a 2,098-1,422 margin, the voters passed the measure, which will increase their property tax by 3.99 mills.

In another school-related vote, Ecorse voters appeared to narrowly defeat a sinking fund proposal to allow the school district to buy land and build new schools and repair old ones.

The tax lost 175 to 172, according to complete unofficial results. The sinking fund would raise property taxes by 3 mills for 10 years, generating $300,000 during the first year.

In other Wayne County races, a vacancy on the Lincoln Park City Council was won Tuesday by Lylian Ross with 585 votes.

The other candidates, and their votes, were Carlos Salcido, 518, Sean Stansberry, 303, Rikki Varieur, 102, and write-ins, 10.

The spot opened when longtime Councilman Mario DiSanto died in August.

Lincoln Park voters also amended the city charter to give the city more leeway in appointing someone to the council to fill a vacancy.

By a 1,066-489 margin, they approved a measure that would no longer limit such appointments to losing candidates in the previous election. The losing candidates would still be considered first but, if there weren’t any, the council will now be allowed to find someone else in the city.

As for the Wayne recall, when Sanders and the Wayne City Council voted to switch their elections from odd to even years in 2016, they also extended their terms by a year.

That didn’t sit well with some residents, who voted Tuesday to subtract, not add, to Sanders’ term.

Recall supporters are unhappy with all four council members who voted to lengthen their terms in 2016 — Sanders, Mayor Susan Rowe and councilmen Ryan Gabriel and Anthony Miller. The four said moving elections to even years would save money because they would then be aligned with state and national elections.

Recall supporters also don’t like Rowe and the three council members because they voted against selling the closed Wayne Activities and Banquet Center in 2016. The recall group said the financially strained city badly needed the money from a sale. The building was eventually sold last month.

Despite the recall group’s unhappiness with the mayor and three council members, Rowe, Gabriel and Miller couldn’t be recalled because their terms end this year. An officeholder can’t be recalled within six months of leaving office, according to city rules.

That left Sanders, whose tenure would have stretched to 2020.

Resident Bob Boertje, who organized the recall, said the council spends too much time attacking each other and city workers instead of fixing the city’s financial problems.

“It’s a disgrace. Meetings are a circus,” he said.

He also was critical of Sanders for sending a text message to 90 supporters telling them to come to a council meeting and call for the firing of city manager Lisa Nocerini.

In the message, Sanders tells people who don’t live in the city to claim they do.

“I need you to act like you live in the city,” read the text, which was shared by one of the people who received one. “You might even want to stick in there that councilman Sanders is the only one that has the courage to speak truth to power.”

When asked about the text by The Detroit News, Sanders freely admitted sending it. He said the ouster of Nocerini was needed so badly that it called for desperate measures. He said Nocerini treats city workers and residents badly.

But he allowed that he may have gone too far by asking people to lie.

“I owned that mistake. I owned it,” he said.

Sanders had said he shouldn’t be removed from office because he’s an independent voice who isn’t afraid to stand up to the city manager.

With Tuesday’s vote, Webster will fill the remainder of Sanders’ term until 2020.

Sanders accused his foes of improperly gathering signatures for the recall by, among other things, failing to witness the signing of petitions.