Our endorsements for Wayne County

The Detroit News

Voters in Wayne County will decide a new county executive and body of commissioners on Nov. 4.

With an almost $1 billion budget deficit remaining and an operating shortfall, it is critical residents pick elected officials who lead responsibly and who will rid the county of the cronyism and poor judgment it has suffered.

County Executive

In the race for Wayne County Executive, Democrat Warren Evans gets our endorsement.

Evans defeated incumbent Robert Ficano in the August primary, and should be a fresh face for Wayne's leadership if he wins in November, which is likely given the county's demographics and voting history.

A former Detroit police chief, Evans has solid working relationships with many in the county and understands the fiscal restraints it currently faces.

He will have to continue decreasing the county's almost $100 million budget deficit and $18.8 million operating shortfall. But Evans has the leadership ability to make responsible cuts where needed to county services, restructure systems and negotiate among various parties for compromise.

His experience with public safety will be helpful for Wayne, which experiences higher than average rates of violent crime. He faces Republican John Dalton.

County commission

District 1 (Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe Shores, Grosse Pointe Woods, Harper Woods and part of Detroit): Incumbent Tim Killeen, a Detroit Democrat, is our choice to return to the commission. Killeen, a longtime commissioner, is helping see through a fix to the ill-conceived, half-built Wayne County Jail off Gratiot, a project opposed by neighbor Greektown Casino.

Killeen and his colleagues would be wise to listen to stakeholders in the community on where to go from here. Killeen is facing Republican John Steininger.

District 2 (part of Detroit): Incumbent Jewel Ware, a Detroit Democrat, is a former chairwoman of the commission who was voted out of her position by her colleagues after accusations that she hired county employees for no-show jobs at her husband's resort in northern Michigan.

While we would like to see a change on the commission, Ware faces little-known Republican David A. Dudenhoefer, who used a P.O. box as his Detroit address.

We will withhold endorsement for the 2nd District.

District 3 (Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park): Incumbent Martha Scott of Highland Park, a Democrat, was elected to the commission in 2010 after spending more than a decade and a half in the Legislature. Whether the county ends up in emergency management and whether old habits change will determine Wayne County's financial future.

Martha Scott, our choice for another term on the commission, is facing Republican Matt Schonert of Hamtramck.

District 8 (Dearborn Heights, Redford Twp., Livonia): Incumbent Democrat Diane Webb is the better choice over challenger and political newcomer Jeanette Christe, a Republican. Webb has been a proponent of increased budget oversight in her three terms.

As the county continues to deal with financial struggles, Webb's experience and decision-making will be critical.

District 9 (Northville, Northville Twp., Livonia): Current commissioner Laura Cox is running for state representative and vacating this seat.

Of the newcomers, Republican Terry Marecki is the better choice over Democrat challenger Patrick O'Neil.

A former healthcare worker, Marecki has served as secretary of the Livonia Board of Education, vice president of the Livonia City Council and is currently Livonia city clerk. She promises to watch tax dollars closely, reduce the county's deficit and work to restore public trust.

District 10 (Plymouth, Plymouth Twp., Canton Twp.): Incumbent Republican Shannon Price gets our nod over challenger Democrat Milan Peele.

Price has worked across the aisle with fellow commissioners, the majority of whom are Democrats.

Price has improved transparency in county spending and budgeting, and can continue helping the county through its financial challenges.

In districts 4, 6 and 7, commissioners Ilona Varga, Burton Leland and Alisha Bell, all Democrats, are running unopposed.

In districts 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15, Al Haidous and commissioners Richard Le Blanc, Gary Woronchak, Raymond Basham and Joseph Palamara, all Democrats, are running unopposed.

Ballot proposals

Wayne County Charter Amendment: Voters should support this minor change to the current charter. The Wayne County Retirement Commission, which oversees the county's retirement system, currently consists of six elected members and two ex-officio members: "The CEO (county executive) or the designee of the CEO," and the "chairperson of the County Commission."

The county executive is currently allowed to appoint a designee to the board in place of him or herself.

This amendment would allow the same provision for the county commission chair, who faces myriad responsibilities just like the county executive, and may need assistance or prefer an expert in financial matters to carry out his or her duties.

Dearborn Public Schools: In the 1990s, when Michigan passed Proposal A to help equalize school funding, it allowed school districts that had been spending at much higher levels the ability to levy what's known as a "hold harmless" millage.

"Specifically it is designed to provide resources to local school districts to support their general operation at a level that they were accustomed to spending before Proposal A," explains Craig Thiel, senior research associate at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

The most recent district going to the voters is Dearborn Public Schools, which has a two-part renewal millage on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Residents must decide on a 6.17 hold harmless millage levy.

As long as voters believe the district has spent their tax dollars with care, the renewal should be approved.

Read the full slate of Detroit News endorsements online at detroitnews.com/opinion.