As Election Day approach, the candidates share their thoughts on the community, opinions about the challenges ahead, and offer some of their plans and ideas.
Gerald R. Brown (I)
56-year resident of Trenton
1966 graduate of Trenton High School
Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Madonna University
29-year career in law enforcement as Trenton Police Officer; served as Police Chief from 1992 until retirement in 1999
U.S. Air Force Veteran
Member of St. Paul Lutheran Church
Served on the Trenton School Board from 1990-2001; resigned to take the Mayor’s position in November 2001
A 23-year member of the Trenton Rotary Club
Currently serves on the Wayne County Senior Alliance Board of Directors as its treasurer
Kyle F. Stack
54-year Trenton resident
1975 graduate of Trenton High School
35 years with the City of Trenton, including 27 years as City Clerk and eight years as a secretary for Parks and Recreation
Associates degree in business administration from Henry Ford Community College
Member of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks and Michigan Municipal Clerks Association since 1985; Association for Wayne County Clerks, President 1993-95, active member since 1985
Trenton Rotary Club member since 1997 and first woman president, 2006-2007;
Rotary District 6400 assistant governor 2007 through June 2011
Member of St. Joseph Church, serves on St. Vincent DePaul Committee
Trenton Goodfellows president 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2011; member since 1984
It’s getting down to the wire in the race that will determine who serves as the city’s mayor for the next four years.
Kyle Stack, who retired at City Clerk Sept. 30 after 27 years on the job, is vying to unseat incumbent mayor Gerald Brown, who has held the post since 2001.
This is the first time since that 2001 race, when Brown unseated Patricia Hartig, that the mayor has been challenged for the position.
The two candidates have been campaigning actively throughout the community during October, including discussing the issues at a candidate forum sponsored by the Trenton Democratic Club on Oct. 20. That discussion was recorded and will be broadcast on the city’s public access channels at various times between now and Election Day.
The Trenton Trib also asked the candidates to respond to questions about a number of key topics that voters will be contemplating as they go to the polls Nov. 8 to make their candidate selection. The candidates’ answers to those questions follow.
TT: Progress in the city is usually dependent on the mayor and City Council working together on key issues. What is/would be your approach to working with the council?
Brown: When I first came became mayor 10 years ago, I realized the importance of the council, mayor and city administration working together as much as possible, especially on key issues. Through telephone calls, emails and printed materials, my administration has been able to keep our council informed as much as possible so that we can all make decisions intelligently and informed. Council study sessions throughout the year are extremely important to have informal discussions on issues to gain consensus of the entire council so that we can move forward and accomplish our goals.
Stack: One of the advantages of being Trenton’s City Clerk for 26 years is that I’ve gained an intimate understanding of how the process works. I also know all the current council members on a personal level and while we won’t always agree on every issue, I believe we have a sincere mutual respect for each other. My approach is to involve everyone in the process, regardless of their point of view, so that we see all sides of an issue. Each of our council members have unique skills, expertise and experience that they bring to the table and we’ll leverage those to make better and more informed decisions for the residents of this city. One of my favorite sayings is, “I have to do it myself but I can’t do it alone” and that philosophy will certainly apply for me as Mayor of Trenton.
TT: In recent years the city has undertaken more cooperative ventures with other communities to help save funds. Is this a direction we should continue to head in the future? What, if any, additional types of cooperative efforts do you foresee?
Brown: For many years, the City of Trenton has been involved in consortiums, collaborations and joint ventures with many of our neighboring communities. A Downriver Mutual Aid Task force for our police and fire departments back in the late 1960s was the beginning of it all … In the last few years we have had arrangements with the cities of Wyandotte and Riverview with their golf courses and in return their residents receive use of our Kennedy Recreation Center at resident rates. Yes, this is the direction we should continue to go in order to effectively and economically provide each community’s residents the city services that they deem important to them. Other cooperative efforts that are currently in the discussion stages are ones such as combined dispatch center for police and fire services with the City of Riverview. The cities of Trenton, Riverview and Grosse Ile Twp. have been discussing the possibilities of building a combined water purification plant for our own use instead of being dependent on the Detroit Water System and the possibility of expanding the dispatching cooperative effort to a merging of public safety services and creating a regional police and fire department. As long as these cooperative efforts can be more economical and provide at least the same service level that we currently have, then collaborations and merging services with other communities is an absolute necessity.
Stack: Yes, we should continue to explore more opportunities for cooperative ventures with other communities, not only because the State of Michigan has mandated cooperative ventures in order to receive state funding, but also because it makes good, sound business sense to work together with other communities to find innovative and collaborative solutions to similar challenges we all face today. We would need to sit down and discuss what would work for each of our communities.
TT: What can be done to help improve the local business climate so more businesses can succeed in Trenton?
Brown: During this economic recession that we are currently in, it’s been very hard for our business climate to flourish. We in Trenton are fortunate that we do not have the amount of empty storefronts that some communities are experiencing. In order to at least maintain what business activity that we currently have during this economic crunch, the city needs to continue provide the essential services of public safety, refuse pickup and city services in general so that Trenton businesses will want to remain here and hopefully be more successful. Maintaining our infrastructure, such as our roads, sidewalks, sewer and storm systems, etc., will convince businesses to stay and even entice other businesses from other communities. Once we are well onto the road to economic recovery, the business climate will be better and the financial institutions will be more inclined to make monies available to aspiring entrepreneurs that take their roots in Trenton.
Stack: We’ve got to make Trenton a “user-friendly” place for businesses to operate. That means we’ll need to do a full review of our city regulations and make sure they’re fair and reasonable. Where we can make changes to our regulations that will both attract new businesses and encourage existing businesses to remain in Trenton, we’ll make those changes while at the same time ensuring that we safeguard the best interests of the residents of Trenton.
TT: Do you think home values are stabilizing? And what steps can the city take to help?
Brown: We are getting very close to stabilization of home values in Trenton and at this time it is unclear whether there will be another slight drop in State Equalized Values (SEV) for 2012 or will they flatten out. If the taxable SEV flattens out next year, it will be the first time in three years that they will not have dropped (20 percent over the past three years). Obviously, it has been the distressed economy that has caused the home value descent, but what we can do as a city government is to continue to provide the excellent services that our residents are accustomed to and it won’t take long for families that are looking to relocate from other communities to learn that they can receive much more in services than what they are receiving in their present communities. Trenton homes will rise in value as more interest in our housing stock rises.
Stack: I don’t believe anyone can predict with any degree of accuracy exactly when or if home values will stabilize. Our approach should be to plan for the worst and hope for the best in this area. Trenton has always been in the enviable position of being the “community of choice” for families in the Downriver area and we’ve not overbuilt like many other cities have in the past 10-15 years. It will be critical that we step up our City Code enforcement to protect and stabilize home values for existing homeowners in Trenton.
TT: What can the city do to help maintain and improve the quality of life for Trenton residents?
Brown: Our city elected leaders must show the same fiscal responsibility that has been demonstrated for the past 10 years and make the most use of taxpayer dollars by prioritizing expenditures and providing enough funds to continually maintain our entire infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, sewers, tree stocks and City owned facilities). If we continue to stay on this path, when the economy is better we will be in a position to offer so much more in Trenton than what other communities can provide to their residents.
Stack: To help maintain and improve the quality of life for Trenton residents, the City of Trenton should focus on three key priorities over the next two years: 1) Support our young people by continuing to invest in our schools and high-quality educational programs, 2) Support our families by continuing to invest in the City Services that are most critical to their health and well-being, and 3) Support our Seniors by continuing to invest in programs that address their needs. All of these must be done in a fiscally responsible manner, which will be no small feat given today’s challenging economic environment.
TT: What is your strategy/approach for keeping the financially viable in light of the huge revenue losses that have occurred?
Brown: My strategy for keeping Trenton financially viable in light of the revenue losses that have occurred for the past 10 years is to stay on the path that has gotten us to the financial stability that we currently enjoy today. By attrition of employee positions, every position that vacates, we must thoroughly evaluate the need for replacement of it and we will find that some will have to be replaced and others in various departments may not be. Reorganizations of our departments may be necessary to be able to allocate the proper number of employees to provide a particular service. As mentioned in a previous question, collaboration and sharing of services with neighboring communities will be necessary to keep our community financially viable.
Stack: Here’s my Five-Step Plan: First, I’ll work with the council to identify the city services that are essential to meeting the most basic needs of our residents and we’ll continue to invest in those services. Second, we’ll put all services, both essential and non-essential, under a microscope to determine if we can deliver those services more cost-effectively or, in the case of non-essential services, if we can live without them all together. Third, we’ll look at the funding options (both revenues and expenses) available to us to deliver those city services (both essential and non-essential). Fourth, the Mayor and Council will present their recommended options in the form of a three-year operating budget to the residents of Trenton. Fifth, and most importantly, Trenton residents always have the chance to express either their support for or their opposition to the budget at our Budget Hearings. If we follow this process, we’ll have all the government we need but not a penny more government than we’re willing to support.
TT: Do you have a pet project or top priority you’d like to pursue in the next four years if elected?
Brown: There were actually two priorities that I have been thinking about for many years and they are the futures of the former McLouth Steel property and the former Riverside Hospital site. The Riverside Hospital site has come to a conclusion with Dr. (Iqbal) Nasir’s redevelopment plan to turn the facility into a multiple use arrangement of nursing home, elder care, rehabilitation center, offices and senior apartment complex. This is wonderful news! Regarding the McLouth Steel site, it has been my priority for the past 10 years and I have expended much of my time meeting with potential developers of the site and the owner (and there have been many) to explore ideas that would make the 200-acre site, once again, a very productive portion of our community. Ideally, the site would become some sort of mixed-use development and my administration stands ready to assist the owner in any way we can to make something happen there which would benefit the residents of our community.
Stack: I’d like to expand the vision to hire an economic development director to include not only our downtown area but the entire city limits of Trenton. In support of that vision, I’d like to create a volunteer office in City Hall that will leverage the collective energy and creativity of our residents. That includes our young people, our senior citizens, members of our business community, members of our church community, our neighbors, teachers, parents and grandparents. We’ve got to be aware of what’s working in other communities around the region, around the state, around the country and around the world, and then implement what works in our own community. Our only limitations are the ones we put on ourselves.
TT: In this spot the candidates we’re provided the opportunity to offer a closing comment on the subject of their choice:
Brown: I am hopeful that the voters in Trenton will take advantage of their voting opportunities on Tuesday, Nov. 8. The primary election in August was only participated in by 16 percent of the registered voters and certainly is not indicative of what the participation level of the Trenton electorate has done in the past. It would be disappointing to learn that only a minority of registered voters were the ones that selected Trenton’s leadership and future. I’m also hopeful that our residents will do their research by reading over the literature pieces of each candidate and the reporting of the local print media that will be available to our voters. Please vote to continue the leadership and commitment that Mayor Jerry Brown has demonstrated for the past 10 years.
Stack: We need to keep on moving forward in this city to make it desirable for people to want to live, work and recreate. Toward that end, I want Trenton residents to know that my door will always be open, my phone will be answered and my mind will always be open to their ideas. Working together, our future is unlimited. You can contact Kyle Stack at (734) 676-4838 or firstname.lastname@example.org.