By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The audience at the League of Women Voters of Wayne County and the Michigan Democracy Institute Consortium election forum learned more about the statewide ballot proposals and candidates running for Wayne County Circuit Court judge positions on the general election ballot.
Information regarding the Henry Ford College millage renewal also was presented during the forum held Oct. 4 at the HFC Administrative Services & Conference Center.
The HFC millage returns to the ballot after five years, when it was first approved in 2013 by Dearborn Public Schools voters. According to HFC, the 1-mill property tax renewal represents approximately $4.2 million a year in revenue for the college.
If the millage is approved on Nov. 6, $800,000 per year will be used for the college’s Integrated Energy Master Plan project, $300,000 per year toward classroom investments, $2 million per year in employment investment and $300,000 per year to support the improvement and maintenance of buildings and classrooms.
Three ballot proposals that were explained during the forum by League of Women Voters of Michigan President Judy Karandjeff were marijuana legalization, redistricting and voting rights.
According to Vote411.org, the Marijuana Legalization Initiative is a, “proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers.”
The proposal would allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption; impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers; create a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them; permit retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10 percent tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located; change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.
Proposal 2, the Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative, is a “proposed constitutional amendment to establish a commission of citizens with exclusive authority to adopt district boundaries for the Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and U.S. Congress, every 10 years.
Proposal 3, Promote the Vote, aims to “authorize automatic and Election Day voter registration, no-reason absentee voting, and straight ticket voting; and add current legal requirements for military and overseas voting and post-election audits to the Michigan Constitution.”
Following the ballot proposals presentation, the six non-incumbent candidates running for the three circuit court seats fielded questions. Candidates are trial attorney John Cahalan, child welfare attorney Tracy Green, business litigation attorney Bridget Hathaway, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office lead attorney Suzette Samuels, litigation attorney Delicia Morson and advocacy attorney Regina Thomas.
Candidates were asked several questions on various topics including their strengths and weaknesses, determining sentencing outside the guidelines, jury composition to reflect the community, sexual abuse victim cases, making controversial decisions and more.
Detroit League of Women Voters President Rhonda Craig asked the prospective judge candidates what they considered as their greatest strengths and weaknesses.
“One of my greatest strengths which I will bring to the bench is the diversity of my experience as a litigator for some of the region’s most successful companies,” Hathaway said. “As a city prosecutor I have prosecuted cases that have impacted the quality of life for individuals and businesses in our community. As a criminal defense attorney, I have defended the accused in misdemeanor and felony cases in courts throughout Wayne County.”
“My greatest strength is that I’ve practiced in court nearly everyday for the last 20 years and a judge needs to know more than the law,” Samuels said. “The judge needs to be connected to communities in which he serve and understand the people of the communities in which he serves. I can bring the right temperament and there’s something that I have that they don’t teach in you in law school and thats, I have heart and I care.
“One of my greatest strengths is experience, but also integrity and commitment to the community,” Morson said. “I have 22 years of actual litigation, that means going to trial, over 150 trials or closer to 200 if you include family, civil and juvenile.”
“My experience is one of my strengths and I have also exhibited to an ability to listen to others,” Thomas said. “Throughout my career I’ve also had an opportunity to hold some management positions and that has given me the opportunity to learn how to supervise staff and to manage people efficiently and effectively. Those experiences will allow me to manage the court room and to be able to make decisions without delay.”
“I believe one of my strengths is the diversity of my practice, I’ve practiced in all the divisions of the courts that we are running for,” Cahalan said. “I’ve practiced family, criminal defense, prosecution and civil on both sides of the spectrum. I’ve been active in the community through several community organizations doing pro bono legal work representing those that are unable to afford legal counsel whether that would be criminal defense matters or child custody issues as well.”
“I believe my experience, not only professionally but life experience are both my greatest assets that I bring to the bench,” Green said. “Professional experience is probably self-explanatory but my life experience being that I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother; that I take care of my own parents and that I have been a life-long citizen of Wayne County and I understand the challenges that confront people in this county is based right off of my ability to judge fairly and competently even greater.”
Thomas, Cahalan and Green all said having a big heart and compassion could be a weakness when a heart-wrenching case comes before the court.
For more information on the election, candidates or proposals go to vote411.org. To learn more about the HFC millage renewal go to www.hfcc.edu/news/2018/facts-about-hfc-millage-proposal-november-6-ballot.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)