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Commission candidates answer questions

County Commission candidates include (from left) Tony Albensi, Beth Nuccio, James Porritt, Steve Porter and Kenneth Quisenberry. They all participated in a Q&A at the Addison Township Hall last week. Photo by Andrew Moser. (click for larger version)
July 21, 2010 - Five of the nine candidates running for the Oakland County Commissioner District #1 seat answered audience member questions for just over one hour at a community forum held by the League of Women Voters Oakland Area at the Addison Twp. Hall on Thursday, July 15.

With the Aug. 3 primary election looming, candidates Tony Albensi, of Oxford; Beth Nuccio, of Ortonville; James Porritt, Jr., of Oxford; Steve Porter, of Addison; and Kenneth Quisenberry, of Ortonville, answered questions on various topics that would affect Oakland County, from going green to their stance on the millage renewals that would affect Oakland County.

The guidelines were simple.

The audience would be allowed to submit questions that would be screened for relevancy of issues and duplication, all while not interacting with the candidates during the question and answer session. Meanwhile, candidates would be allowed to answer each question in the allotted time of one minute without interacting or interrupting each other.

Albensi opened the evening by declaring that the biggest challenge facing Oakland County and the state was the economy and unemployment. "In order to attract new businesses and maintain existing ones, we must keep taxes low and keep government out of the way," he said.

Nuccio stated that if she was elected to the position, she would want to continue with a balanced budget, a strong waste management program and ensure that the tax dollars would be spent locally.

Quisenberry noted that as the President of the Village of Ortonville, the village had a $500,000 surplus in their budget for the first time in their history. "That's because of good fiscal budgeting and responsibility," he added.

The first question of the evening posed to the candidates focused on green technology in Oakland County.

Albensi thought that green technology was very important for Oakland County. "I support any initiative to go green and anything that we can do to save tax dollars that would go towards energy conservation we should do."

Porter agreed, along as the initiative was fiscally responsible.

"I think that in fiscal responsibility we need to take a close look at the proposals that are being made so it doesn't cost us in the long run," Porter said.

One of the areas that the all of the candidates agreed on was that they would vote no on a county transportation millage, a proposed 0.50-mill tax request which would provide a county-wide bus service.

"I think we have an adequate busing system that serves our area well without the additional cost here to the district," said Porritt.

Albensi said that the North Oakland Transportation authority was a great system and that the people in District #1 did not need a regional bus system. "It's a great system that we provide our citizens and I think that the communities that the first district will represent have decided to opt out of this and they should be allowed to continue to do that."

Another person asked if the board would support the Oakland County Sheriff's boot camp program for first time offenders. Quisenberry, who was familiar with the program because he worked with the program during his 25 year career with the OCSD, said he would support the program.

"However, this sits on a priority list of the Sheriff's Department where by their budget constraints force them to make budget cuts in certain areas, and at this time they have chosen to do that," he said. "What I wouldn't want to do is be in a position of telling them what programs work for them and what programs don't."

However, Porritt was unsure if the Sheriff's Department would be able to reinstate the program due to budget reasons. "As much as I would like to restore that program along with others that have been cut, we might be looking at more cuts," Porritt said.

Another area that all five candidates were in agreement on was giving tax abatements to keep local businesses in Oakland County.

Nuccio said that she would support an incentive that would "develop the downtowns, encourage business and the development of the communities."

Quisenberry said that local businesses keep the character of the towns they are in. "We like that character and anything that promotes that I am in favor of."

Local control of communities was something else all of the candidates agreed upon.

Porter believes wholeheartedly in local control. "If two communities want to get together and cooperate and work together, the people should have the choice of doing that; it shouldn't be mandated by any county government or state government."

The final question of the night focused on what each of the candidates would do for the voters if they were elected to the seat.

Porter stated that he would work very closely with county Executive L. Brooks Patterson's financial team to make sure that they were staying on budget and being fiscally responsible. "I would also encourage the government union to look at their contract and be willing to become a partner in this process we are going through."

Quisenberry stated that the first item was to make sure that the county stayed fiscally solvent. "That means a balanced budget and planning for the future in a way that everyone can feel secure out there," he explained. He added that he would make sure that there was a return on the money that northern Oakland County taxpayers sent in.

Albensi agreed that the number one job was overseeing the county's budget. "I understand that our citizens work hard for every dollar they earn and as an elected official, we really ought to think carefully about taking money out of their pockets."

Nuccio stated that she would support the current leadership in the county and work to ensure a balanced budget and that tax dollars were being spent on services the county is using. She added that she would work towards a "strong waste management plan that incorporates conservation, recycling and composting and not landfills."

Finally, Porritt said that he "does not come with an agenda to change."

"I would like to see a refocusing of that energy towards the Main Street program or towards the one-stop-shop because I think if we are going to recover, it is going to be with small businesses first."

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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