All of the 14 candidates, with the exception of Councilman Mark Shooshanian, attended the forum and volleyed questions ranging from the pending sale of city hall to Artspace, to government transparency and business growth. Candidates were given 30 seconds to a minute to respond to moderator Linda DePoorter.
Candidate Jane Ahern kicked-off the forum with her response to a question asking how she plans to make Dearborn more business friendly.
Ahern said she feels it is important to engage in open dialogue with residents to determine what types of businesses they would like to see move into the city. She cited the recent opening of the dorms at the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus and the Intermodal Passenger Rail Station scheduled to open in 2014 as positive catalysts for economic growth.
"I can put my money where my mouth is. I'm a real advocate for soliciting civic engagement to get feedback," Ahern said.
Candidate Tarek Baydoun said the city needs to be more proactive attracting businesses.
"We need to eliminate paid parking in west Dearborn. I'm willing to talk to the rest of the city council to develop the best plan to achieve that goal if elected," he said.
Baydoun also said he would like the city to offer tax incentives for new businesses.
"We have over 900,000 square feet of empty office space, and we need to put together a program to fill that space," he said.
Incumbent David Bazzy, president of Kenwal Steel, said he would improve the city's ordinance enforcement.
"People talk about how they don't like paid parking. If we eliminate paid parking, we have to come up with $1.7 million from the general budget which means pools, libraries, the historical museum ... someone is going to suffer," Bazzy said.
Safety a top priority for candidatesCandidates Stephen Dobkowski Jr., Susan Dabaja, Sharon Dulmage and Patrick Melton said their No. 1 priority is public safety.
"We have a situation where the police department cut 20 positions. There's no way to attract business or keep people living in Dearborn if they are fearful," Dobkowski said.
Melton, a Wayne County Sheriff's Department employee agreed, stating that if he were elected he would review what's been done in terms of public safety and evaluate the effectiveness of staffing at the police and fire departments.
Councilman David Bazzy clarified to the audience that the Dearborn Police Department is not operating with a reduction of 20 officers, stating that the department has seen a 20 percent increase in personnel.
Mike Sareini and Brian O'Donnell said while public safety funding is a priority, the reality of city government is learning how to do more with less.
"The climate in Michigan is shared services. That's what the governments in Michigan are doing right now," Sareini said referencing Dearborn's recent fire department merger with the city of Melvindale.
"Instead of sitting back, I believe the priority has to be looking at ways to make sure we get the most out of what we have," he said.
More transparency needed in city governmentOne sticky area for the candidates involved a question on government transparency. Incumbents Thomas Tafelski and Robert Abraham commended Mayor John B. O'Reilly's office, City Clerk Kathleen Buda and the city's legal department for maintaining communication with the public.
"I can honestly say we do an excellent job of being transparent with issues that come before us," Tafelski said. "The real issue is that people do not get involved until it's almost too late. I think people need to get activated sooner rather than later."
Abraham, who is seeking his fourth term on the city council, said he "works hard" to stay connected and listen to the views in the community when hot topics are considered by the council.
"The issues that come to the city council are often complicated and require a long process. For the average resident sometimes the engagement in that process is not as easy as reading a blog or news post," Abraham said. "I encourage everyone to participate."
Candidate Kristyn Taylor, a 27-year-old law student, disagreed, stating that information is not always provided in a timely manner for residents to digest.
"It's not just about whether information is out there, it's about whether people can trust that they have the opportunity to participate in the conversation and be a part of the decisions being made in the city. Right now there is a severe lack of that trust," Taylor said.
Taylor said she has attempted to enhance transparency by forming the group Dearborn Residents for Accountability, a grassroots organization dedicated to informing the public about issues related to city government.
Watch the forum on CDTVOther topics addressed Monday included the Dearborn Administrative Center, funding for the Dearborn Historical Society and the Detroit Institute of Arts millage.
The forum also included a discussion on the three millage proposals for Henry Ford Community College and Dearborn Public Schools that will be included on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The forum is available on repeat broadcast on CDTV. Times will be posted on www.lwvddh.org and the tape will be available at cdtv.pegcentral.com.