By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — Dearborn Heights candidates for mayor and city council took questions on medical marijuana, Warren Valley Golf Course, Van Born development, a five-day city work week and more during a public forum at Caroline Kennedy Library on Sept. 25.
Mayor candidates incumbent Daniel Paletko and Councilwomen Lisa Hicks-Clayton were joined by city council candidates including incumbent Robert Constan, retired housing project manager and contractor Denise Maxwell, small business owner Mo Baydoun, business owner Jeff Mallad, retired Marine Bill Bazzi and business development manager Lisa Oshanski participated in the Dearborn Area Board of Realtors forum.
The first question focused on what the major issues are regarding medical marijuana dispensaries or distribution facilities and how candidates thought Dearborn Heights should respond.
Paletko said he did not want a dispensary in his neighborhood and that a lot of residents would not want them in their neighborhoods as well.
“The state rules have not been fully promulgated yet,” he said. “We already have a process that allows for dispensation of pharmaceuticals and that’s all of the drug stores that we have, and I don’t know why they didn’t use the vehicle that has shown to be effective, but are coming up with independent dispensaries.”
Hicks-Clayton said she does not support the dispensaries in the neighborhoods and it is important to keep engaging the residents.
“There are two sides, those who support it and those who have concerns,” she said. “I believe there needs to be further discussion on the five licensing levels. We have to what is best for our residents and keeping our community safe.”
Maxwell said the need for medical marijuana is there but wants to investigate putting dispensaries in the city further.
“I would personally like to see what the state guidelines will be before speaking out on it and hear from our residents,” she said. “We would also need to see how the workload would impact our police department.”
Bazzi said he opposes the medical marijuana dispensaries and that the residents should decide with a vote by residents on the ballot instead of the council voting.
“There should be an investigation and more information provided to residents before a vote,” he said. “Police involvement is to ensure safety and not misuse if approved.”
Constan questioned the impact on land use around businesses if any of the five licensing levels open in the city.
“Allen Park, Detroit and Redford have had issues with dispensaries opening up,” he said. “I want our ordinances to be up to date. Right now in Dearborn Heights you can’t open any of the five uses, and I say we keep things that way until the rules are promulgated at the state level.”
Baydoun said a blind eye can’t be turned to the fact that residents use medical marijuana as a form of treatment, but also said he couldn’t answer until there is an ordinance or regulations from the state.
“If neighboring cities have it, they’re going to get the money through our residents,” he said. “If we have certain restrictions and if the police department could help us through this to use adequate services, we could use this service.”
Mallad said he would look at if the ordinance is a good fit for the city, stance of the residents and if the revenue share will benefit the city.
“We have people for it and people against it,” he said. “There are five classes of licenses, and it is up to each city to determine if its a good fit for our city.”
Oshanski said her stance on the topic is no and still can’t get answers to her questions.
“I have asked multiple times what are the benefits to the residents of the city, and people will stand up and tell you stories about their health that pull at your heart strings, but the reality is they’re not saying there is a guaranteed amount of money.”
Another question asked candidates what their position is on the newly acquired Warren Valley Golf Course and if any part should be developed.
Hicks-Clayton supported the purchase and said she wants to have the golf course remain as a green space with recreational use.
Paletko said he is excited about the opportunity, and he first purposed the city purchasing the golf course from the county. He also said the city did its due diligence legally and environmentally throughout the process.
Constan said he is in favor of getting the best use out of the property with keeping the golf course and possible development on the banquet center.
Baydoun said there should be no development and was in favor of doing what works well for city and residents.
Oshanski said she lives in the area impacted by the flooding, so she is opposed to development and wants to see it finically stable as a golf course.
Mallad supports the current plan to keep it a golf course and wants to see it maintained as a green space with no additional costs to residents, which should be checked through due diligence.
Bazzi said he is for the city purchasing the golf course because they can control it and wants it maintained as a green space. He also suggested hiring new management to attract new customers.
Maxwell agreed with the purchase and ability to control the golf course, but also worries about what possible development could do to flooding in the neighborhood.
Regarding the question on whether the candidates would be in favor of a five-work week at city hall, they all said they would support it.
Candidates listed providing services to the community, running a full-time city with full-time hours, allowing residents to pay taxes or bills and get permits on a Friday if they needed as main reasons to return to the five-day work week.
Other questions asked during the forum included the possibility of combining city services with other communities, Van Born development and a snow removal program. Residents can watch the full forum on the Dearborn Area Board of Relators Facebook page.
Hicks-Clayton left the election forum early due to a prior engagement and was unable to answer questions on combining city services, being in favor of a five-work week at city hall and snow removal program.
The deadline to register to vote ends is Oct. 10 for the Nov. 7 general election.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)