Candidates meet, greet LP voters

Photo by James Mitchell

“Experience counts,” Mayor Frank Vaslo told attendees at Wednesday’s Meet the Candidates night. Vaslo is seeking another term in office, and faces Aug. 2 primary election challenges from Patricia Diaz Krause and Chris Dardzinski.

Photo by James Mitchell

Mayoral hopeful Chris Dardzinski addresses voters at the Lincoln Park Public Library Wednesday. Dardzinski said that, properly managed, the city’s property values could return to pre-recession levels by 2013.

Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK – Heading into the Aug. 2 primary election, the candidates in Lincoln Park agreed on one thing: The city has seen far better days.

The solution, depending on the hopeful elected official speaking, lies with either civic pride, business investment or addressing corruption at city hall.

The latter accusation was made by mayoral candidate Chris Dardzinski during a Meet the Candidates night Wednesday, sponsored by the Friends of the Lincoln Park Library. Dardzinski had few details to offer when asked for specifics, but said he would continue his “paper chase” of tracking down what he claimed were improprieties at city hall. Dardzinski did not elaborate on what he called “deep sources” that provided him with tips, but said that his investigation would continue along with a door-to-door campaign.

Incumbent Mayor Frank Vaslo said that campaign statements and vows to fix the city should be taken with a grain of learned salt.

“Experience counts,” Vaslo said, citing that the city budget of $37.5 million in operating expenses only goes so far against more than 140 employees, eight bargaining units and a host of costs and challenges.

“Remember that when promises are made,” Vaslo said of campaign speeches “The administration of city dollars is not a game. Lincoln Park, like all Michigan cities, has some real challenges.”

In her bid for the mayor’s seat, Krause cited 30 years of community involvement, and that the reputation of Lincoln Park must be changed within, and outside the borders.

“We have to properly brand and market the city to attract businesses,” Krause said.

This year’s primary is a crowded ballot, with three candidates for mayor and 13 would-be members of city council. Voters in Lincoln Park will cast nonpartisan ballots and send two mayoral and 12 council candidates forward to the general election.

The seats of all six current council members are up for reelection; incumbents Mario DiSanto, Joseph Kaiser Jr., Mark Kandes, Donald Majors, Suzanne Moreno and Thomas Murphy are running. Seven newcomers join them on the ballot: Elizabeth A. Wright, Tracy Buysh, Paula Hall, Deborah Henderson, Larry Kelsey, Rosolino LoDuca and Thomas Parkinson.

The candidates bring a variety of skills to the table, with a common denominator of disappointment in either the current state of the city or the service provided to residents. More than one prospective council member spoke of having dealings with city officials that, they said, were less than professional.

“Communication was difficult,” said Henderson, who manages optical clinics, of her encounters with local government. “I think we can do a lot better.”

“Lincoln Park should be a gateway to Downriver,” Bush, an accountant, said. “But sometimes it’s hard to tell where southwest Detroit ends and Lincoln Park begins.”

Thomas Parkinson, a retired police officer born and raised in Lincoln Park, said he didn’t agree with the way the city is run.

“I’ve seen businesses run out of town,” Parkinson said. “We should re-evaluate the goals of this town, and what we can do to make things better.”

Some disagreed with how long it will take to get Lincoln Park back on track, to restore property values to their peak. Dardzinski opened the session by claiming it could be done by 2013, while more experienced voices said otherwise.

“We can’t tax our way out of the problems we have,” said incumbent Murphy, who said it would take eight years before the city restored the previous levels of property values.

The primary election ballot also includes two City Clerk candidates, incumbent Donna Breeding and challenger Richard Kudrak, both of whom will move on to the general election, along with incumbent Treasurer Patricia Lulko.

Breeding did not attend the session. Kudrak commented that the Clerk’s office is a structured job, “And not a decision maker.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at