Planning Commission Debate Becomes 'Racial' Dispute
West Bloomfield Township Supervisor lashes out with personal attack after resident accuses appointment nomination process as a charade.
West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste lashed out Monday night at a resident who criticized the supervisor's repeated attempts to fill a Planning Commission seat, calling the monthslong debate over candidates a "disingenuous" charade.
Ureste made the comments during the West Bloomfield Township Board meeting to resident Sheryl Mitchell, taking Mitchell to task for making the tug-of-war over the Planning Commission seat a "racist" issue.
The supervisor's comments were an "embarrassment," Trustee Larry Brown said.
Mitchell spoke out against Ureste after the board voted down Ureste's latest nomination, 18-year resident Arnold Reed, to replace term-expired, eight-year commissioner Don Jackson.
"The seat that is held by Mr. Jackson on the planning commission has been unofficially designated as the black seat, since there is a parade of African-American candidates who have been brought forward by the supervisor," said Mitchell, who works as a senior analyst for the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.
"Apparently, they aren’t aware of the political situation they are going to be confronted with."
Mitchell was referring to the stance of the majority in this vote — trustees Brown, Howard Rosenberg, and Gene Farber, as well as Clerk Catherine Shaughnessy — who have repeatedly voted down candidates in a show of support for Jackson.
"Your comments were so cruel," Ureste said to Mitchell, who unsuccessfully ran against Shaughnessy for the clerk's office in 2008.
"I am very offended that you have made this racist. You did this in 2008 after you were unsuccessful ... you made it a racial issue for two months straight. That's not me."
The board has voted down seven different potential candidates presented by Ureste, all by a 4-3 margin.
"I really shouldn’t have responded like that. It’s not the person I am. I had to respond. I just didn’t expect that kind of attack right now," Ureste said.
Shaughnessy explained that her vote was "for" Jackson as opposed to being "against" Reed.
Reed, an attorney, responded tongue-in-cheek: "I guess I've never been voted down before I had a chance to get started — in 20 years of practice. I appreciate that ruse."
Jackson will continue as a commissioner for an unspecified period of time.