By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Not many views were shared between the two mayoral candidates at a forum hosted by Allen Park High School Oct. 13, but there was one common theme.
Both acknowledged the financial problems plaguing the city, which recently reported a $4.8 million deficit, and both promised to have the plan to fix them.
For David Noel Babbage, who served on city council for nearly 20 years, ending in 2002, that plan does not involve “sending residents the bill.” He said he does not support either of two millages, one for public safety and one for the 104-acre former studio property, which would together net about $4.7 million, or any layoffs until a forensic audit is conducted on the city’s finances.
He said residents spoke “loud and clear” when a Headlee Override failed in August.
“Residents are fed up with politicians who seem to only raise their taxes as a first resort,” he said.
He said he has already had meetings with government agencies interested in leasing the former studio property but said the most simple step – posting it on the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s web site – has not yet been taken.
As mayor, he would continue to be a “coalition builder,” and champion teamwork and leadership.
“Allen Park must have someone who can lead us back to a balanced budget and responsible city management,” he said. “This is not a time for a novice leader in our city.”
William Matakas, a local attorney, said the millages are the only way for the city to make the bond payments on the studio property and let prospective businesses know that the city can pay its bills.
“This is the tourniquet to stop our city from bleeding to death,” he said.
He said the 104-acre property’s current developer, Loramax Stern, is not the right choice, as the property has “more possibilities than a shopping center,” and he doesn’t think the company has devoted enough energy to marketing it. He said instead, the city should invite three real estate firms with local and national exposure to present marketing plans for the property so councilors can choose the best one.
He said unlike his opponent, he thinks the city’s financial situation requires immediate action, not further study.
“We do not have the luxury of time,” Matakas said. “That time has passed. We need a leader with a viable plan.”