Hopefuls running for a seat on the Southfield City Council were recently invited to participate in a candidate forum.
The forum, held Sept. 18 at Southfield City Hall, was open to the public and was sponsored by the League of Women Voters – Oakland Area.
The LWVOA is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, according to its website.
In the Nov. 5 election, Southfield voters will be asked who they want to see in three four-year City Council seats and one two-year seat. The three highest vote-getters will be given four-year terms, while the fourth-highest vote-getter will be given a two-year term.
The Southfield City Council is a seven-member body currently made up of Council President Lloyd Crews, Council President Pro Tem Linnie Taylor, and council members Daniel Brightwell, Donald F. Fracassi, Myron Frasier, Michael Mandelbaum and Tawnya Morris.
The seats filled by Brightwell, Fracassi, Frasier and Morris are all up for election. Frasier announced earlier this year that he is not running for re-election.
In addition to the three incumbent candidates, Nancy Banks, Constance Bell, LaTina Denson, Ghana Goodwin-Dye, Sara Habbo, Harold Hill, Jason Hoskins, Amani Johnson and Tina Marie Poole are all vying for a seat this election.
Tera Moon, of the LWVOA, moderated the forum. Candidates were given one minute for opening statements before taking questions from the audience in groups, due to the large number of candidates. Candidates were also given an extra minute prior to their closing statement to address any questions asked of the other group.
Candidates were asked questions about the city’s budget, new businesses, the Northland Center site, apartments, how they plan to be inclusive and education.
Banks said her entire life has revolved around the city of Southfield.
“I am a homeowner, taxpayer, patron of Southfield businesses — Southfield has been my life,” Banks said. “I worked in the city of Southfield for 43 years and was your elected city clerk for 19 years.”
Bell said she wants to serve on the council because it is a “God-given assignment.”
“I have dedicated half of my life to public service,” Bell said. “I am a public servant at heart, and I sincerely care about the welfare of the residents of the city of Southfield.”
Incumbent Brightwell said that his track record on council speaks for itself.
“I’m one of the most impactful city councilmen, one of our senior members … in 20 years,” Brightwell said. “I’ve passed more resolutions and more ordinances in these three years than anyone else on council.”
Denson said she recently suffered a stroke that has impaired her speech, but her brain is “on point.” She spoke about her experience as a city planner.
“Although the stroke tried to knock me out, as the saying goes, if you don’t die, you are better and stronger,” Denson said.
Incumbent Fracassi said he has deep roots in Southfield as a former longtime mayor and councilman.
“You have to look at the business part of everything — it’s an important thing to be on the council of this city, having a business background,” he said.
Goodwin-Dye said she decided to run for council because she saw some issues she could help fix.
“I decided to run for Southfield City Council because I saw some things I thought I could improve on,” she said. “My experience running a local union and participating in engaging my membership has given me the qualities necessary to engage and encourage our residents to participate in our government.”
Habbo, who said she currently works as a legal aid attorney, said she cares deeply for the city and its residents.
“I love Southfield, and that’s why I’m running for Southfield City Council,” Habbo said. “I’m a proud Southfield Public School graduate. The values that I’ve learned as a student in Southfield Public Schools are what led me to go to law school at Michigan State and become an attorney.”
Hill said he got interested in the city’s affairs after doing research on the 2014 $99 million road bond.
“I think I can help move the city forward, for the health of the city is my platform, and I plan to be a proud person to push the agenda forward,” Hill said.
Hoskins said he has previously worked on campaigns for former state Rep. Rudy Hobbs and current state Sen. Jeremy Moss.
“I’ve been able to craft policies that help move our city forward, policies that help keep our neighborhoods vibrant and livable, help give us all the tools for economic development here.”
Johnson said he has served in the offices of Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, Moss and current City Administrator Fred Zorn.
“I’m running for City Council because I’ve been to Southfield High School four or five different times, and each time I talked to different student groups, and I always ask them, ‘How many of you want to live here after you graduate high school?’ And most of them say that they don’t,” Johnson said. “It seems like an issue that people aren’t paying enough attention to.”
If re-elected, Morris said she plans to encourage reinvestment in the city.
“I want to strengthen relationships with our small business community, bring more sit-down restaurants to Southfield, clean up our dilapidated strip malls and make our city more appealing to millennials,” she said.
Poole said that if she is elected, she will help Southfield remain a vibrant and progressive community.
“I wanted to be a part of a larger conversation in terms of having a seat at the table and the decision-making process,” Poole said. “Therefore, I announced my candidacy with a motto of advocacy, action and accountability.”