Five candidates running in the November 5th election for four open seats on the Brighton City Council shared their thoughts on a variety of issues at a forum Thursday.
The event, held at City Hall, was streamed on Facebook Live by the Ann Arbor Chapter of the League of Women Voters, Brighton-Howell Unit. The five candidates include incumbents Mayor Jim Muzzin, Mayor Pro Tem Shawn Pipoly, Jim Bohn, and Susan Gardner, and perennial challenger Susan Bakhaus. The candidates were asked questions that were based on input solicited from community members. Some of the issues discussed were ways to maintain downtown Brighton outside of resident taxes, the City’s pension and healthcare plans for employees, and where the candidates stood on permitting recreational marijuana dispensaries in the municipality.
Susan Gardner says as for the latter, there are many facets to consider outside of her own opinion, but did say the proposal for recreational marijuana was approved by voters so city officials will be discussing the issue to decide what will be in the community’s best interest. Bohn says there’s no desire to have a marijuana dispensary on Main Street and that there aren’t many areas where such a facility could be permitted. Muzzin said if zoned properly, dispensaries should be allowed. Pipoly was not against having them but says, “…in plain terms, we need to do it right if we’re going to do it”. Bakhaus said she’d rather see the substance dispensed by medical professionals and not the general public.
Another issue that was brought before the candidates was City Council’s decision earlier this year to charge fees for civic events beginning in 2020. Jim Muzzin says that was a decision he voted against, but only because he wanted the fees to be greater than what was proposed. Bohn felt similarly to Muzzin because he too wanted a more aggressive phase-in for the fee reimbursement, while Gardner and Pipoly supported the measure as it passed. Bakhaus felt that entities that aren’t making a profit should not have to pay the fees.
The cost of housing in the City and what can be done to support more affordable housing was one of the issues discussed. Jim Bohn says while it may be difficult for some to afford homes in the City, there’s also a positive outcome in that current homeowners are seeing the value of their homes appreciate. Pipoly and Muzzin say the issue is really market-driven, while Bakhaus says there’s not enough land for low-income housing. Gardner hinted that early plans for affordable housing locally may already be underway.
The candidates’ did have a final, somewhat fun question, when they were asked hypothetically what city expenditures they would fund if there was a $1 million surplus. Gardner chose roads and sidewalks, Muzzin picked equipment and streets, Bakhaus said ADA compliant sidewalks, and Bohn chose to put it toward the city’s unfunded pension liability or general fund. Pipoly joked that $1 million doesn’t go very far so with $10 million, he’d put it towards roads and legacy costs.
Thursday’s candidate forum was co-sponsored by WHMI, The Livingston Post and the League of Women Voters. The video of the event from the local chapter of the League of Women Voters can be viewed on Facebook through the link below. (DK)