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Involvement key for city council candidates



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From left, Clarkston City Council candidates Charles Inabnit, Frank Schoebel, Michael Sabol, Richard Bisio, and Peg Roth prepare for a studio debate, Oct. 21, at the Clarkston News office. Moderated by editor Phil Custodio, the candidates discussed a range of issues facing Clarkston. To check it out, go to Clarkston411.com. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
October 27, 2010 - This Tuesday, Clarkston's 800 or so registered voters can vote for three city council candidates, but you'll only see two names on the ballot. A mess up by city officials meant only two people, incumbents Charles Inabnit and Peg Roth, filed in time.

To vote for challengers Richard Bisio, Michael Sabol, and Frank Schoebel, voters must write their names on spaces provided on the ballots, then fill in the circle next to them.

We sent questionaires to the five candidates. Here are their responses:

Incumbent Candidates

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Chuck Inabnit: Current City Councilman. I was appointed in Oct "07".  Elected Nov "08" Before joining council I served on numerous  committees, including Chairing the police services committee.  I have lived here for 36 years. I've been married 16 years and have 3 children.  I run with a local running group the Clarkston Striderz.  

Why are you running? 

I'm running for re-election because as life long resident and father of school age children, I know what it's like to work with a small budget, and to balance the wants and needs. I also have a proven track record of fighting to make sure all city residents, and business owners are all treated equally.  

Given the current economic conditions, that the County estimates there will be continuing declines in revenue for at least three more years, and that recovery back to where we were could take 10 years or more, what do you see as the future of a small City like the Village of Clarkston? 

If we continue to do nothing and have a "we'll get by, we always have" attitude I don't see the city lasting 10 years. We have to look for creative ways to save money and to lower the tax burden on our citizens. We need to be open to new ideas that attract new businesses to the city, and improve conditions for the businesses already here.

Do you believe the Village of Clarkston provides adequate or better services for the higher taxes City residents pay? If not, would you recommend reducing taxes or improving services?  

I do not feel that the city provides adequate services for the taxes we pay. 

We need to pay down the city's debt, and be very careful on how we spend the taxpayer's money.  The city has to learn to live within our means, like private citizens do. We need to seriously look at the services that the city provides and explore all options for improving them. 

Do you believe all people in the Village of Clarkston are being equally and fairly represented by our local government?  If not, what would you do to make it better? 

I do not feel that the people of Clarkston are being equally represented.  That was the main reason I got involved with the city government.  The city just doesn't end with downtown, or the historic district.   

If re-elected I will continue my fight to make sure that all residents of Clarkston are represented equally, and not just those that live on the right street, or associate with the right group of people.

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Peggy Roth: We have lived in our current home since April of '98. My husband, Bob, and I have been married 33 years. We have three adult children, Tara, Chelsey and Jordan. I was a stay-at-home mom throughout our childrens' school years doing countless hours of volunteering at their sporting events, worked in the classrooms, playground and lunchroom mom, organized and helped with numerous plays, golf outings, six years of the senior all night party, six years of the senior picnic. The kids and I delivered meals-on-wheels for three plus years. I was an assistant Clarkston United Methodist Church youth leader for three years taking two groups up to Spring Hill. I love to cook, love fashion and am a very strong believer in the importance of exercise and fitness.

Why are you running? 

I am running for City Council because i am very community-minded and really enjoy being involved. We are business owners in the City so I come not only from a resident perspective but also with a strong interest in what happens with our business district. I am co-creator of the Clarkston Retailer's Group. This group was developed in July of '09. We meet monthly and discuss what we need to do to make our businesses more successful and how to attract more businesses to our City and as Chairperson with the Community Committee I think this is a good partnership.

I am also a member of the Clarkston Chamber of Commerce, the M-15/Heritage Trail Committee and just recently joined the American Legion so I have my hand in a number of good organizations in this Community that will help to strengthen our commitment to our City and the residents not just in our City but our surrounding areas as well.

Given the current economic conditions, that the County estimates there will be continuing declines in revenue for at least three more years, and that recovery back to where we were could take 10 years or more, what do you see as the future of a small City like the Village of Clarkston? 

Clearly we need to support our retailer's without whom we would not have a City. We need to frequent our City businesses and attract new businesses to our City. Clarkston being a destination is good for all of us. People coming into the City to spend money, eat, or play at Depot Park is good for our economy.

Do you believe the Village of Clarkston provides adequate or better services for the higher taxes City residents pay? If not, would you recommend reducing taxes or improving services?  

I don't see, in this economic climate especially, any chance or desire to raise taxes. I do believe that adequate services are being provided but there is always room for improvement without raising taxes. We need to encourage businesses and residents to help redevelop current homes and buildings along with attracting new developments in order to increase our tax revenues.

Do you believe all people in the Village of Clarkston are being equally and fairly represented by our local government?  If not, what would you do to make it better? 

If you are talking about the treatment of the residents when coming before a particular committee, commission, etc., and they are not being treated fairly or respectfully then I think that our Mayor and our City Manager should be taken to task for that.

They are supposed to oversee our governmental bodies and make sure things are being done correctly and respectfully whereby maintaining a good reputation for our City so that people want to move into our City and enjoy the wonderful people and things that the City of the Village of Clarkston has to offer.

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Write-in Candidates

Richard Bisio: I've lived in Clarkston's historic district with my wife and young daughter for seven years. I love this city—the old homes, the historic downtown, the parades, the park, the concerts, the farmers market, and all the other community events and people that make it a charming, friendly place to live.

I've worked as an attorney for more than 30 years, handling business disputes in and out of court. In that work I've had experience gathering and analyzing facts needed to make informed decisions on important matters, a skill that can contribute to the work of the city council.

Why are you running?

I'm running because I think the city council should be more transparent and responsive to city residents. I will work to try to make that happen. The council should reach out to the community on important questions, solicit a broad range of viewpoints and participation, and make its decisions in the open.

It should also have a fact-based, analytical, logical approach to decision-making and particularly to budgeting. I think these qualities have been lacking in some recent decisions, particularly the decision to disband the police department. That decision could have been handled better—with more outreach to the community, more thoughtful and thorough consideration of alternative courses, a clearer ballot proposal with a millage dedicated to police services and limited to the amount needed to sustain those services, and a revote when there was such a close result on a large millage increase that was not dedicated to police services.

Given the current economic conditions, that the County estimates there will be continuing declines in revenue for at least three more years, and that recovery back to where we were could take 10 years or more, what do you see as the future of a small City like the Village of Clarkston?

Clarkston is much more than its municipal government. It is the people, the homes, the shops, the lakes, the parades, the park, the concerts, the farmers' market, and all the other community events and people that are the essence of this small town.

All that will continue on in the future regardless of the travails of our city government. The future of our city government, however, is now in question.

Clarkston is no different than many other municipalities that must struggle with declining revenues and increasing expenses. The mayor and city manager have said that the city is on stable financial footing for the next three years and I hope that is so.In any event Michigan's financial stress will likely extend beyond that and the city must honestly confront the financial situation by doing long-range budgeting and closely monitoring its budget from month to month.

The council must look closely at all expenditures and assure that taxpayer money is spent efficiently and effectively. It should also examine all alternatives to the present methods of providing services, both through employees and by contract with other entities, to assure that the city is getting the most cost-effective results.

Do you believe the Village of Clarkston provides adequate or better services for the higher taxes City residents pay? If not, would you recommend reducing taxes or improving services?

The proponents of dissolving the city point to the difference in operating millages between Clarkston and Independence Township. They argue that Clarkston residents would receive virtually the same services for half the taxes. (This ignores the fact that, even after dissolution, Clarkston residents will continue to pay several mills to retire the City's bonded debt.)

The question should not be limited to just looking at tax rates and services and comparing Clarkston and the Township. Local control is an important part of the equation. We have a locally-elected mayor and council that appoints the historic district commission, planning commission, zoning board, and board of review (which decides disputes about tax assessments).

If the city is dissolved, we will be governed by the 32,000 residents of the township, their choice of township supervisor and board, and that board's choice of members of commissions and boards. The voices of Clarkston's 900 residents will have little weight in that scenario. And Independence Township is hardly a model of responsible, competent governance. If dissolution gets on the ballot, Clarkston residents must decide whether local control is worth the higher tax rate.

The city council can make the case for continuing existence of the city by governing responsibly and effectively, so that residents see value in continuing to retain cityhood. And reducing taxes and improving services should always be a goal.

I can't promise either. But I can promise a close look at how the city spends its money and greater efforts to look at alternatives in providing services that are the most cost-effective.

Do you believe all people in the Village of Clarkston are being equally and fairly represented by our local government? If not, what would you do to make it better?

I think that the voices and concerns of some residents have not been fairly considered in the past. I would do several things to improve that. At my suggestion, the council has made a first step toward better communication by posting council agendas and material on the city's web site in advance of council meetings.

I would do the same for the agendas and meetings of the historic district commission, planning commission, and zoning board. I would consider publicizing and opening council committee meetings to the public—particularly the finance committee, where important discussions occur regarding budgeting priorities. The council has discussed but did not act on recording its meetings and posting audio recordings on the city's web site. I would look at that question again.

Most importantly, however, I would like to see the council actively reach out to the community on important questions that affect the quality of life in Clarkston—like the decision to disband the police department. Many people don't have the time to attend council meetings and monitor what city government is doing. And they shouldn't have to. We all have jobs and families and other commitments. People should be able to trust that the representatives they elected will act responsibly and in their best interest.

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Michael Sabol: Resident of Clarkston (20 Buffalo St) for five years. He and his wife Kathy, have one daughter Teri and two Golden Retrievers – Bear and Gus. I've been employed by General Motors for the past 34 years.I enjoy golf, reading books, weight-lifting and watching John Wayne movies. I moved to Clarkston for the small, close community life.

Why are you running?

This is my home and I want to get involved, not only for myself but for all of the residents of Clarkston. I want this City to grow and improve. I want to engage all of the citizens for their input and ideas on the issues that face the City. Key to this is that we are in tough economic times that require a fresh set of eyes on the issues and the budget that are before the Council. I have 34 years of experience with GM including the development and management of multi-million dollar budgets. I believe that my education and experience can provide this new set of eyes that will allow the City to move forward in these times and beyond.

Given the current economic conditions, that the County estimates there will be continuing declines in revenue for at least three more years, and that recovery back to where we were could take 10 years or more, what do you see as the future of a small City like the Village of Clarkston?

I see the future as a thriving community in control of its own identity, character and destiny. We need to be willing to grow and improve the community while maintaining the historic character. My position on dissolution of the City is clear; the City should remain a City and not be dissolved. To do this we need to work the budget, control spending, look at new and innovative sources for revenue, and we need to get all residents, businesses, and commercial property owners involved to make it happen.

We need to take steps to generate and develop businesses and interests for non-residents to come to town, to generate revenues for the businesses and to increase those business values along with our property values.

This is not a short term solution but we need to start now. The new location for KH Home is an excellent example of what can be done to improve the business environment. We need more businesses, within the commercial district, like this to help the City grow.

Finally, I see a community that not only engages the non-residents to be involved through parades, Art-in-the-Village and other community events. These events are wonderful for an entire region referred to as "Clarkston" but what about the community known as the "City?" I have never seen an event for the residents of the City and would challenge the Council and residents for suggestions on how to bring us together as complete community.

Do you believe the Village of Clarkston provides adequate or better services for the higher taxes City residents pay? If not, would you recommend reducing taxes or improving services?

I do not believe that they are adequate because we lost our local police department. I was not pleased with this elimination but now that it has been done, we need to make sure that the Oakland County Sheriff is meeting our needs.

We need to make sure that the Sheriff is aware of any issues that we have and hold them to their commitments. I was pleased that the current Council approved a committee to look at a Constable position with a set timeframe for them to report back to the Council.

I am not sure whether a Constable is the answer until we see the report and understand the budget implications but it must be studied.

I have never met a tax that I did not hate and I would support a tax reduction - IF the City can grow revenues (not by tax increases), cut spending, and weather the current economic storm. A part of the increased costs that we pay are for our self-governance and control. To me this is absolutely necessary to maintain the character of our community.

All services that are provided must be looked at to determine if spending can be cut. A line-by-line analysis of each expenditure must be made to determine each cut that can be made, by how much, and how to execute those cuts.

Do you believe all people in the Village of Clarkston are being equally and fairly represented by our local government?  If not, what would you do to make it better?

No, I do not. This problem is the result of the Council not reaching out to the residents in total and the residents not seeking to be informed and involved. Some will say that the residents elect the Council members to represent them and that should be the end of the story. I don't agree; the City has a widely diverse population to draw upon and there must be an outreach to get more involvement and input from the residents.

Additionally, I do not believe that the Council had adequately engaged the businesses and commercial property owners for their input. In many cases, these people are not voting residents but they pay taxes, either directly, or indirectly, and their input should be solicited with a focus on improving the business atmosphere and improving the community through that increased involvment.

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Frank Schoebel: After 38 years as a managing partner in a highly successful dental group practice, I took an early retirement to pursue other interests. My wife, Liz, and I have four sons, two daughter-in-laws and four grandchildren (with another on the way). Our criteria for a retirement community included friends, family, natural beauty, and a home within walking distance to town. Clarkston fit the bill.

Over a year ago, we bought and restored a historic, cottage-style home on the Mill Pond. Recently, I joined a Mill Pond sub-committee to ensure the preservation of this historic and scenic waterway. I enjoy jogging, hiking, kayaking, golf, reading and landscaping, which are all available to me in close proximity to my front or back door.

Why are you running?

I am running for City Council because I think the same sound business principles used to create a successful dental practice can be applied to our existing budget and keep the village a separate entity form Independence Township without a tax increase.

Given the current economic conditions, that the County estimates there will be continuing declines in revenue for at least three more years, and that recovery back to where we were could take 10 years or more, what do you see as the future of a small City like the Village of Clarkston? 

Declining revenues from state and local government present all of us with a challenge. I would encourage more volunteerism from local civic organizations, more special events, such as wine tastings at our local merchants and possibly tax-based incentives for new businesses. We can indeed make Clarkston a destination spot for all ages.

Do you believe the Village of Clarkston provides adequate or better services for the higher taxes City residents pay? If not, would you recommend reducing taxes or improving services?

I think the village provides adequate services for the higher taxes we pay. However, I would reexamine all aspects of the budget and make sure we are maximizing our dollars.

Do you believe all people in the Village of Clarkston are being equally and fairly represented by our local government?  If not, what would you do to make it better? 

I believe the people of Clarkston are being fairly and equally represented by local government. To reinforce this, I would encourage more participation from the people by holding informal, periodic forums to get a consensus of their concerns, which would then be addressed at council meetings. Maintaining our environment is up to all of us.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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