City council candidates face off at forum

ESCANABA – Candidates vying for four-year terms on Escanaba City Council answered various questions with basically similar responses during a candidate forum at city hall Wednesday. Voters will be asked to pick three residents to fill four-year seats on Nov. 5.

Candidates include current council members Patricia Baribeau, Leo Evans and Marc Tall. The two other candidates are James Hellerman and Robert LaFave.

Terms expiring are currently held by Baribeau, Evans and Pete Baker, who is not seeking re-election. Tall is temporarily filling the vacancy created when Brady Nelson passed away in June.

Ralph Blasier is seeking election to the two years left on this term. He is unopposed and did not attend Wednesday’s forum.

The five candidates participating in the question and answer session set an overall tone with their answers often focusing on the need for economic development in Escanaba.

When asked about the role of the Downtown Development Authority, appreciation was expressed for the work the DDA has accomplished. Candidates also noted more has to be done to attract people and businesses to the downtown to live, work and shop there.

When questioned about what the biggest current issue is for the city, Evans said the sale of the power plant.

Tall agreed the power plant is the most immediate concern but added jobs and marketing the city are also important.

Hellerman said jobs is the city’s number one issue.

LaFave said the city needs to be a safe, clean town where property values are kept up so people are encouraged to live in Escanaba and create jobs here.

Baribeau agreed economic development is the most important concern for Escanaba and the city needs to attract people to live and retire here.

During closing statements, Tall said he has “the desire, energy, experience and commitment” to continue serving as a council member.

Baribeau said she believes in community service. The city’s master plan and north shore development plan need to continue to be looked at, she said, adding, “Escanaba is poised to grow.”

Evans said he wants to help to continue to make Escanaba better through customer service – providing services for the citizens who pay taxes.

Hellerman said he is seeking election to council to consider the wants of citizens and give them an avenue to be heard.

Robert said city management has to be a leader and not let past history slow down Escanaba’s growth on the north shore where residential and business can be developed.

During questioning, each candidate expressed support for the city’s policy allowing alcohol sales in Ludington Park. They each agreed people need to be reminded about the importance of recycling. The candidates were also in consensus that city roads need to be responsibly maintained with available funding and grants.

The candidate forum was sponsored for the purpose of voter education and awareness by the Delta County League of Women Voters, American Association of University Women, and the Delta County Area Chamber of Commerce.