Candidates debate millages, studio property

Photo by Andrea Poteet

Candidates Robert Turner (left) and Angelo Americo DeGiulio talk with attendee Fred Letourneau during an intermission at a candidate forum hosted by Allen Park High School Thursday.

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – Varying ideas on heated topics ranging from the future of the former movie studio property to two millages proposed to combat the city’s $4.7 million deficit were presented by 12 city council candidates at a candidate forum at Allen Park Center for the Arts Thursday.

The forum, hosted by Allen Park High School seniors, featured timed responses to five student-written questions including the city’s decision to enter Downriver Central Dispatch for 911 services and the future of the school’s liaison officer position, which has not been renewed for next year.

Six seats are open in the Nov. 8 election.

Candidate Bob Keenan, who co-owns Dream Dinners at Independance Marketplace and has served as chairman of the Dangerous Building Commission and Public Safety Commission, said his experience as a small business owner sets him apart from the other candidates.

“I have been able and will be able to work with unions for the best interest of our citizens,” he said.

He also said he supported the two controversial millages, one for public safety and the other for the studio property, as the only way to get the city “on track.”

Angelo Americo DeGiulio, a 50-year resident and former owner of Angelo’s Barber Shop, said as a council member he will welcome all points of view on topics in the city.

“The only wrong suggestion is one that is never mentioned,” he said.

He also said he does not support any tax increases.

“Before we ask the citizens to dig deeper in their pockets, the city needs to make some changes,” he said.

Incumbent Councilwoman Tina Gaworecki served on the council from 2003 to 2007 and was appointed to fill a vacant council seat in June. She detailed her efforts to get the city to join Central Dispatch in the wake of 911 dispatcher layoffs and promised residents if re-elected, she would continue work to “get out of this financial mess and give the residents back their city.”

She said she plans to work with the school board to explore grants to fully fund the city’s portion of the costs for a liaison officer.

“It may not be possible this year, but I will continue to review it every year,” she said.

Incumbent Larry Templin, a retired Allen Park police officer, who was appointed six months ago to fill a vacant council seat, said the liaison officer position is especially dear to his heart, as he held the position the last six years of his career. He said he will explore all possible avenues with the city and school to fund the position.

He also proposed a combined public safety department in which firefighters and police officers would be cross-trained on both positions to help keep residents safe.

“We cannot continue to decrease staff and keep citizens safe,” he said.

Candidate Steve Gary, a supervisor for Dearborn Public Schools, said he supports cutting the school liaison officer because the “faculty and staff are capable of policing themselves.”

He also stressed the importance of developing or leasing the studio property to make it self-sufficient as soon as possible.

Candidate Dennis Hayes, a “semi-retired” lawyer and former nursing home administrator, said he chose to run after regularly speaking out against council decisions at city council meetings.

“If I’m going to stand up on my hind legs and make noise, I’d better put my money where my mouth is,” he said.

He said he opposes both millages and instead favors “structural, deep changes” to city services.

“Without those structural changes, we will be back here next year talking about another millage,” he said.

Current mayor Tony Lalli, who was appointed after the resignation of former mayor Gary Burtka, is running for his former council seat.

Lalli, an Italian-American immigrant and U.S. Navy veteran, detailed his commitment to hard work, beginning with his move to the United States at 12 years old.

He said he has worked to develop the former movie studio by personally sending floor plans and pictures to interested companies.

He said his experience as mayor and on council for the last 3.5 years gives him an advantage in the election.

“I’ve experienced the highs and lows of municipal government and will use that knowledge to keep Allen Park the ‘jewel of Downriver,’” he said.

Candidate Robert Turner retired from Flint Ink Corp. with experience in corporate purchasing and cost accounting.

He said he supports both millages and the recently announced layoffs and department cuts.

“The city must make cuts or we’ll see the state of Michigan doing the dirty work,” he said.

Longtime resident Edward Kleinow is married to former Allen Park Finance Director Kim Kleinow and said he wants to fight to keep the city as nice as it was when they were growing up there.

He said he supports shared services, such as Downriver Central Dispatch, but all decisions regarding shared services should be thoroughly researched.

He said research and honesty would be the benchmarks of his time on council.

“I’m not afraid to give my honest opinion,” he said. “Anyone who knows me knows I tell it like it is.”

Harry Sisko, a former business owner and familiar face at council meetings, said as a councilor, he would work to get the former studio property sold as one piece.

“The city tells us they have a plan,” Sisko said. “Parcels will be sold off and we’ll be left with the carcass no one else wants.”

He also said he will only support a public safety millage if the Police and Fire departments agree to “come to the table,” and accept lower wages rather than layoffs.

Incumbent Francesco Tucci, a 44-year resident of the city, reminded residents of his support of both millages to help save “vital” city services.

“We have to work together and we will certainly achieve our goals,” he said. “Now is not the time to walk away from our challenges.”

Christopher Tuccini founded Familia Tuccini Orthodontic Laboratory in Allen Park and is a third generation resident of the city.

He said the move to Central Dispatch “makes sense,” but stressed the importance of separate police services.

“We don’t need to be sharing services,” he said. “We want Allen Park for Allen Park. I would be willing to pay more money out of my pocket to make sure we have Allen Park police on our streets.”