Canton political candidates faced off in front of a packed room at the Thursday night.
The League of Women Voters of Northwestern Wayne County organized the forum to have discuss issues before the Aug. 7 primary.
Candidates for the Canton Township Board of Trustees and for the 10th District of the Wayne County Commission were present to answer questions at the forum, and all agreed on one issue: Something needs to be done about the safety of Ford Road.
“Haggerty and Ford roads are the most dangerous intersection in Michigan,” said Republican township board incumbent John Anthony. “(Township Supervisor Phil) LaJoy has asked MDOT to get the money to fix the roads.”
To laughs from the audience, he said something needed to be done to speed up the process or else the effort would become the Phil LaJoy memorial project.
Fellow Republican incumbents on the township board Gregory Demopoulos and Pat Williams said they agree with Anthony that LaJoy’s current plan is well-thought out and worth pushing.
Demopoulos, Anthony and Williams will face Republicans Deborah Whyman, Joseph Cafarelli and Thomas Yack in the August primary to eliminate two candidates.
Democrat and former Plymouth-Canton school board member Steven Sneideman has no primary opponent for township board.
The problem with roads was also discussed by candidates for county commissioner of the 10th district. Running for commissioner are Republicans Rick Convertino and Shannon Price, both of Canton, and Democrats James Amar, of Plymouth, and Matthew Fiems, of Canton.
Price said the top two crash intersections in Michigan are Ford and Haggerty roads and Ford and Lilley roads. All candidates agreed that the intersections need to be altered.
Fiems said roads are his passion. “We need to utilize Ford Road and have it as an engine of growth,” he said.
League asks candidates to list important issues facing Canton
Paula Bowman, vice president of the League, said the mission is to provide a service to the voters. “We bring some questions,” she said. “But we really want questions from the audience.”
About 30 to 40 people filled the room Thursday night and all trustee candidates were present except for Deborah Whyman, who was unavailable for the evening. Rowe asked the candidates to state the important issues facing the township.
Sneideman said finances are an issue. “It’s a problem in all of America, not just local government,” he said.
He said he wanted to stimulate business growth like in the Cherry Hill Village area, add sidewalks and address roads and water issues.
Demopoulos and Cafarelli agreed that roads and water are issues. However, Anthony said that the budget is most important. He said the township is in good shape and wants to keep it that way.
Rowe asked how candidates will keep Canton the same while tax revenues diminish.
“We’re not pushing enough on the state,” Sneideman said. “We need to work to ensure that state funding doesn’t go away.”
Cafarelli agreed that state funding shouldn’t disappear. He also pushed for privatizing the golf courses because they shouldn’t cost the township any money.
Another matter discussed was , which are obligations to pay benefits for current employees and retirees.
Anthony said legacy costs are in two parts – pensions and health benefits. Although legacy costs are at $74 million for the township, according to a question asked at the forum, Anthony said he is not in favor of freezing employee salaries.
Sneideman agreed with Anthony. “I want to make sure we’re still a place where people want to work and live,” he said.
Township candidates support bike paths, recycling
All candidates answered yes when asked whether Canton needed bicycle paths. They also answered yes when asked whether the township’s recycling was good.
When expanding on his answer, Yack said Canton couldn’t have made it simpler for residents to recycle. Cafarelli said the extra recycling bins should be free and larger so that they are more secure. However, Anthony said the bins should be kept small so those lifting them don’t get injured.
Demopoulos said more could be done for recycling. “There’s got to be other ways to encourage recycling … short of having recycling police,” he said.
Commission candidates address Canton's relationship with Wayne County
The candidates were also asked whether there is disconnect or distrust between Canton Township and Wayne County.
“The county commissioner needs to fight for the 10th District,” Convertino said. “County commissioners receive $80,000 for a part-time job. I want to cut that.”
Price said that there is distrust and the county can’t be trusted with the Township’s money, which is why he wants the county’s “checkbook” to be publicly available online.
“The relationship between the community and the county is very important,” said Tom Yee, 42-year-old Canton resident who attended the forum. “They forget where they come from. They forget the little issues like the roads.”
Yee said he liked that many of the candidates have long been a part of the community. “I don’t want a professional politician,” he said. “We need someone fresh.”