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Farmington Hills Candidate Forum: County Commission District 13

Democrat Marcia Gershenson and Republican Al Zaparackas are vying for the newly drawn district, which includes portions of Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Township.

This is one in a series of articles on a three-hour candidate forum held Tuesday at Farmington Hills city hall. The event was hosted by the Council of Homeowners Associations, the League of Women Voters Oakland Area (LWVOA) and the City of Farmington Hills Committee to Increase Voter Participation.

A long-time Farmington Hills resident and an incumbent county commissioner held one of the most civil exchanges during a Tuesday candidate forum held at Farmington Hills city hall. 

Republican Al Zaparackas and County Commissioner Marcia Gershenson (D-17th District), who are vying to represent citizens in the newly drawn 13th District, answered questions on a wide range of topics, occasionally finding common ground. The new district includes portions of Bloomfield Township, Farmington Hills and West Bloomfield. 

Here are just a few of the topics they discussed:

Public transportation

Gershenson said she is a "very strong supporter" of public transportation. "Communities grow around transit," she said, noting she is sorry that some Oakland County communities have opted out of the SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation) system. 

Zaparackas said he would support public transportation "if we do it on a larger scale". He believes the system should involve Detroit.

Jobs

Zaparackas said cities in Oakland County have their own economic development programs, and noted Farmington Hills is a leader in that area. 

Gershenson said she would extend the county's microloan program, which provides funding to small businesses. She said the county commission has considered a "buy local" campaign, because 70 percent of the dollars spent in a community stay in the community. She also supports the idea of creating a business incubator and pursuing more job retraining programs for those who are forced in career changes. 

Regional cooperation

Gershenson cited passage of the Detroit Institute of Arts and Detroit Zoo millages as examples of regional cooperation. "I think the community showed we are a region, and we need to work together to have this region prosper," she said. 

Zaparackas said the leadership of county executive L. Brooks Patterson and sheriff Michael Bouchard "are keeping our county well-coordinated and well respected by our neighbors."

What's going well?

Both candidates agreed that Oakland County's rolling 3-year budget process, which has helped maintain the county's AAA bond rating and left a budget surplus, should be continued. 

The forum will be rebroadcast on City of Farmington Hills channel 8 for Bright House cable customers. Learn more and watch on-line at swoccstudios.com.

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