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City Council Candidates Debate Liquor, Beaches and More at Forum

The Oakland County League of Women Voters hosted a voters forum Monday night at the Sylvan Lake Community Center.

Should the City of Sylvan Lake allow restaurants to serve liquor by the glass? Should beaches be opened up to the public to use in order to possibly secure money from state or federal grants?

Four candidates for the Sylvan Lake City Council addressed these issues and more Monday night in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Oakland area.

Eucharist Cassar, Russell Meskin, Jack Shepp and Megan Rogers-Zumbach answered questions from league members and forum moderator Jerry Burden. Meskin is the lone incumbent running for one of two spots open for three-year terms. Incumbent Sharon Maurina will not seek another term this year. 

Shepp and Rogers-Zumbach are both running as write-in candidates.

Public safety

What is your position on outsourcing police?

In light of the Nov. 2012 ballot proposal which saw Sylvan Lake residents approve a 5-mill levy increase to fund public safety in town, the candidates took varied views on the "touchy subject."

In the event of the proposal failing, Cassar said, the Bloomfield Township Police Department had put a contract proposal on the table which would have provided "more than adequate services." Meskin added that the Sylvan Lake Police Department had changed staffing in recent years to add part-time officers and volunteers.

Shepp said that he was in favor of maintaining the current standard of police service from the local department, to which Rogers-Zumbach agreed. 

Should the idea of liquor by the glass go to voters?

Sylvan Lake does not currently allow for restaurants or bars to open with liquor licenses allowing for the sale of liquor by the glass, a topic which has come up frequently in recent years as the local economy suffered in the recession and businesses moved to more liberal areas.

Most recently, Mike Larco's Ala Carte restaurant's opening has pursuaded the board to reconsider the issue. The candidates generally seemed unsure of whether or not the question should return to the ballot, instead using the opportunity to discuss the issue.

Shepp did mention that he doesn't believe it should go in front of voters, however he is in support of the issue.

"To have a number of taverns open up, I'm not in favor of that," Shepp said. "As long as the city council is diligent in reviewing the applications and enforcing the regulations ... i hope that it will get passed."

Cassar added that based on previous knowledge, voters may not have had an appropriate proposal to vote on. He said that in previous votes, the issue was broadly presented on the ballot, which didn't allow enough creativity for the council to set standards in the planning process. 

How would you fund the cost of repairs and maintenance of the city seawall?

Meskin spoke of recent action by the incumbent board to hire an engineer in order to study the best way to repair the city's seawall in certain areas, which have fallen victim to erosion.

The seawall raises up and makes it difficult for residents to traverse, Meskin said, especially along Ferndale beach.

Also of topic was using due diligence and knowledge to figure out the best way to repair the seawall long-term, including the use of boulders or steel as building materials.

Recreation

Should beaches be opened to the public to allow for the possibility of state and federal grants?

Each candidate stood strong in favor of current policy disallowing non-residents access to the beaches of Sylvan Lake. Meskin spoke on beaches currently being only able to accommodate area residents, owing to parking, the lack of a lifeguard and the lack of a police presence to patrol the area.

Rogers-Zumbach pointed out that other city-owned amenities such as tennis courts and boat docks could be a benefit for those looking at moving to town.

Would you support a raise to dock fees?

Each candidate stood strong in favor of continuing to monitor the trend in town of increasing dock fees, which generate revenue for the city known for its boating community, although only one did not consider the current fees adequate. 

Cassar spoke in favor of a nominal increase with annual bumps. "I know it's not a popular thing to talk about an increase, but I'm not in favor of any major increase," he said. "If you put it on the books, people know it's coming. It's more than fair."

Will you support the traditional display of a manger scene at Veterans Memorial Park during the Christmas season?

Each candidate spoke in favor of the manger scene as it conforms to national standards, while considering sensitivities of residents who may not practice Christianity.

Shepp went a step further, suggesting that the scene should be increased in size to accommodate an ideal of "a little more holiday, a little less religion." Cassar recommended that the manger remain as-is.

"I think both from a religious standpoint and just from the holiday standpoint, we should continue with the display," Shepp said. "Should we maybe tweak it a little bit so that we're not offending residents and making all the residents feel they're all part of that display as well?"

Cassar pointed out that the birth of Christ is the "true meaning of Christmas."

"If you're going to celebrate it, that's what it's all about."

For more on the Nov. 6 election in the Greater West Bloomfield area, visit Elections 2012 on West Bloomfield Patch.

Chris Milia October 16, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Civic Center TV videotaped this Candidate Forum for cablecasting on Civic Center TV (CVTV). The forum will also be available for On-Demand Viewing at the Civic Center TV website, www.civiccentertv.com. The forum will be available for viewing by Friday, October 19, if not earlier. CVTV is on channels 15 & 915 on Comcast Cable and Channel 99 under the City of Sylvan Lake on the AT&T U-Verse service.

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