Incumbents running to hold seats on City Council

Incumbent City Council members Sharron Catallo, Rick Detkowski, and Sue Wylie and challengers Al Avery and Hampton Swayne are running for three, two-year seats on City Council.

Al Avery, attorney at Avery Law PLC, has lived in Clarkston for 15 years.

“It seemed to me that someone needed to serve on the City Council who was concerned about all of the residents,” Avery said. “Not just the ones making the most noise. The job of the City Council is to make sure that the City’s business is being done in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

People live in this town because of its small-town charm and neighborhood feel, he said.

“I am running for City Council because I believe that we need to preserve our neighborhoods,” he said. “Allowing the expansion of the commercial district would destroy the very fabric that makes this town great.”

He also wants to make sure the residents are getting the best city services for their tax dollars.

“I do not believe in raising taxes. I also don’t believe in raising fees,” he said. “With our small town and small town budget we have to run the City as efficiently as we can. Making sure that our residents are getting value for their tax dollars is important to me and I will work to make sure that they are.”

The top three issues facing the city are zoning; the condition of our roads and sidewalks; and the amount and speed of traffic, he said.

“I am against any attempt to re-zone residential property to commercial,” he said. “Residents need to feel secure in the knowledge that when they own a home in this town that they will not have to worry about their next door neighbor selling their property to a commercial developer who wants to change the character of their neighborhood. That being said, I will do what I can to promote the City’s existing commercial district to keep it as vibrant and sought-after as it is today. We are very fortunate to live in a City with a great downtown.”

He will work to have more money put in the budget for roads and sidewalks, he said.

“There has been a lot of talk and ‘planning’ but not a lot of action. Lets fix the roads and budget for future maintenance of the roads,” he said. “Step up road patrols to slow the traffic in town. I would request that a speed bump be installed on Depot Road to slow the traffic around the park. I would work to have a four-way stop at the corner of Washington and Holcomb Road to slow traffic.”

We must continue to work to bring the Road Commission of Oakland County to the table and assist us in helping to control the traffic flow and speeds, he said.

Sharron Catallo has been a resident of the Village of Clarkston for 37 years.

“In that time, I have served the community as council member and as mayor. Most recently, I’ve been back on City Council for the past five years, and as a member of the ZBA, the budget committee and coordinating the planting of memorial and street trees,” Catallo said.

“Throughout the years, I’ve been honored to serve this community in whatever way I can. The ambitious project of saving our beautiful historic homes and downtown was just beginning when I moved here and ran for Council the first time,” she said. “We have come so far since then, but there is still more to do. I would like the opportunity to continue the important work that benefits everyone who lives here.”

One priority she has is infrastructure management, such as maintaining roads and sidewalks.

“We need to interface with our engineers and planners and have continued discussions with our residents,” she said. “I will work to ensure the income from the paid parking lot will be spent on infrastructure repair as the council designated. We should work to become preventative rather than reactive whenever possible.”

Communication is another issue.

“I think we need to reestablish the connection with the citizens,” she said. “We need more frequent open dialogue like we had at the meetings regarding the master plan, with a facilitator and community comments in a more relaxed environment than a Council meeting. We need ongoing mutual communication in town hall-style meetings, and on our website and newsletters.”

Clarkston’s character is our community identity and keeps our property values solid, she said.

“It also ensures that Clarkston continues to be the special vibrant place so many people recognize it as,” she said.

Rick Detkowski is a customer demand manager for a global paints and coatings company who graduated from Clarkston High School in 1992 and has lived in Clarkston most of his life, in the city for the last 12 years with his wife Jennifer and their three kids.

“I am running for council again because there’s much more work to do,” Detkowski said. “As my wife said, ‘This was never a two-year job.’ This put things into perspective for me. The first two years on Council were a learning experience, to say the least. It was a bit of a deer-in-headlights education that has taught me quite a bit.”

People are needed who are willing to do the work and not just talk about it, he said.

“We must become more viable and be able to afford and accomplish the tasks of making our city safer and more accommodating,” he said. “We must also continue to strive for a more cohesive and transparent city government. We cannot just raise taxes and hope for the best, as some have suggested at Council meetings since I’ve been a member. These are the main reasons why we are struggling to revitalize our infrastructure – rules and issues were ignored in the past and/or out of reach financially.”

Camp politics is a top issue in the city, he said.

“There is a great divide in our city,” Detkowski said. “While it has existed for years and probably will for many more, it’s silly. Think about much time gets spent trying to disprove or discredit one side or the other. Drive down Main Street right now and the latest round of sign wars will demonstrate what I mean.”

This time could be better spent working on issues together instead of trying to get people out of office that one doesn’t like. These same camp politics are portraying him as “the Mayor’s puppet,” Detkowski said.

“The facts show that I’ve only voted with the mayor 72% of the time. Yet certain other councilmembers have voted together nearly 100% of the time. Perhaps this should be looked at before casting stones,” Detkowski said.

The city has grown quickly and is not what it was 20 years ago, he said.

“We asked for it and allowed it to happen, so we cannot ignore this fact,” he said. “Because of this, we must be unparalleled in preserving what makes us special, that being our historic roots.”

Infrastructure is being stressed by the new business traffic and little planning was done in the past to accommodate or prepare for it, he said.

“Our Master Plan must reflect the ability to proactively address new business growth in the city,” he said. “We’re an attractive location so of course there are going to be requests for new businesses. If we don’t want the growth, how do we fairly and openly prevent it without ensnaring ourselves in more lawsuits? We must have people on Council who understand that balancing the old with the new is how we will be successful in the future.”

Another big issue is following the rules, he said.

“Why have rules if we’re not going to follow them,” Detkowski asked. “Why ignore the work that went into creating our charter if we only adhere to some of it some of the time?”

Some aspects of the charter and ordinances may need to be updated, he said.

“So let’s get to work on it,” he said. “Why haven’t these issues been addressed in the past before they landed on our laps? Rules being ignored in the past have created a lot of work for people like me who just want to help. The sins of our fathers, so to speak.”

For example, the parking deferment has been ignored for years, thus robbing the city of funds supposed to be used for addressing parking and infrastructure, he said.

Sue Wylie is a retired teacher who has lived in the community for 31 years, including 25 in Clarkston.

“I am proud to call Clarkston my home,” Wylie said. “Two years ago, I ran for Clarkston City Council with the view to improve our culture, communication and productivity. I still want to continue in those efforts, but elapsed time, and my two years on city council have modified what I would like to accomplish. As I have listened to Clarkston residents while on City Council, it’s clear that positive changes initiated in the two years have only just begun.”

In order to continue on this path, it is necessary to elect individuals who are committed to continuing to bring about positive change, or in some cases, maintain what already exists, she said.

A top issue facing the city is productivity.

“City residents are concerned about how much revenue the city generates and how our tax dollars are spent,” she said. “We are a small city, with a small tax base, yet residents expect many services that larger and better funded municipalities can offer. Because so few vacant lots exist, we do not have many options for future development. Our zoning laws, the Historic District, and the desires of the residents, also limit any future development. Residents currently pay the maximum tax rate, so our property millage cannot increase without a vote of the residents.”

Another issue facing Clarkston is protecting the city to maintain our quality of life, she said.

“The city constantly faces potential pressures that can affect the historic charm of the city, the environment and the natural beauty of the city,” she said. “The historic charm has suffered from recent increases in traffic, parking and crowd problems. The environment has been harmed in the past by leaking underground gas tanks, and naturally occur

ring arsenic in the water, which is unrelated to any man-made activity.”

Even with many changes brought to Clarkston city government in the last two years, the city still has some struggles in communicating with its residents, she said.

“Clarkston is still embroiled in a lawsuit regarding the release of documents requested by a Freedom of Information Act request,” Wylie said. “Some official communications from the city are sometimes delayed or not delivered at all. Some of this is the result of old habits, which have not yet completely changed.”

To increase productivity, city officials must continue to find creative methods to increase revenue without increasing taxes on our residents, she said.

Both the Clarkston historic beauty and natural environment must be preserved, Wylie said.

“Protecting the historic charm helps maintain our home values, helps preserve the history of the area, and enhances our enjoyment of our home town,” she said. “Protecting our environment, especially our waterways and ground water, is vital to maintaining our quality of life.”

All city officials are aware of the enhanced appeal of the downtown district, that resulted in increased traffic, parking and crowd problems, she said.

“While some say this is a good problem to have, many residents who are directly impacted are suffering from the congestion, and the huge increase in both parked and moving cars seriously compromises the historic charm of Clarkston,” she said. “Elected officials must carefully assess how to further manage parking, and evaluate any commercial enterprises that want to locate in the city limits.”

Contaminated ground water and soil from old leaking gas tanks and other sources is another concern, Wylie said.

“While the state Department of Environmental Quality monitors these situations, city officials must oversee the situation to ensure our water quality is not harmed,” she said. “We must be very protective of our natural environment. The city is rich in waterways, and we must defend the environment, especially the lakes, streams, ponds and groundwater, so we can continue to enjoy the beauty of nature, and protect our drinking water.”

She will continue to serve on the city Communications Committee, which revised rules of conduct at council meetings, rewrote guidelines for following state FOIA laws, and continues to revise the city Welcome Packet and address new methods of communicating with residents and business owners.

Hampton Swayne did not respond to a request for responses.

Next week’s edition will feature the candidates for a one-year City Council seat, Michael Cascone and David Marsh.