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More than a dozen residents and city officials gathered in Handmade Sandwiches and Beverages on Thursday to meet the candidates running for positions in city government.

Those running for mayor and city council shared what they hope to accomplish for the City of Hillsdale if elected Nov. 7. The re-occurring theme of Thursday’s discussion was economic development — how to expand and improve on what the city has already achieved.

“Great strides are being made within the city,” said Mayor Scott Sessions, who is running for re-election. “I want to see the city keep on prospering. We need to keep on building on the direction we’re going.”

Sessions said he wants to focus on regenerating Hillsdale, and he sees taking advantage of federal grants as one way to do this.

“Take all the opportunities you can get, and use them,” Sessions said. “And right now that means getting all the grants you can.”

His opponent, Councilman Adam Stockford, said economic development is a top priority of his, as well, in addition to public safety.

Stockford said to expand economic development, the city must focus on the relationship between the workforce and businesses. Hillsdale lacks an able workforce, and there aren’t enough businesses to employ a substantial one, he said. Expanding educational opportunities is a solution to this problem, Stockford said.

The drug “epidemic” is another serious threat to Hillsdale, Stockford said. He said as mayor, he would work with the police and private institutions, like the hospital, to crack down on drug usage.

“I think we have all the pieces to the puzzle,” Stockford said. “We just need someone to put them together.”

Ray Briner, who is running for Ward 4’s city council seat, which is currently held by Patrick Flannery, said the city government needs to figure out how to attract businesses to Hillsdale. He recommended improving the city’s infrastructure to do so.

“We all need to step up and play a part in this,” Briner said. “We can all help figure out how to attract businesses to Hillsdale.”

His opponent, Penny Swan, said the best way to attract businesses is to reduce government regulations, which she said hamper economic development. Swan said she also wants to see the city reduce its spending.

“We need to think before we make more rules and spend more money,” she said. “We need to watch the bottom line a little more.”

Swan said she also wants to establish a liaison between the community and the college to address the “existing rift.”

“I want to bring a better feeling for both the citizens and the college,” Swan said. “Right now it seems like we are on a merry-go-round, and we need to deal with some of these issues directly.”

As the election nears, the candidates said they hope to hold more events like Thursday’s so that citizens can get to know them and the pertinent issues they plan to tackle.

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Kaylee McGhee
Kaylee McGhee is a rising junior at Hillsdale College, and is majoring in Politics, as well as minoring in Journalism. This is her third year writing for the Collegian, and is the City News Editor. Kaylee is currently working as an editorial intern for The Detroit News. Follow her on Twitter: @kmcghee04 email: kmcghee@hillsdale.edu
  • Ellsworth_Toohey

    Good story and good contrasts between the candidates.

    Sessions, as is occurring now, advocates taking all welfare the city can get regardless of the outcome “getting all the grants you can”. Stockford may(?) still want the welfare but at least is directing it at more targeted uses with a potential of ROI on the citizen capital.

    Briner wants to grow goverment and have us figure out how to fix things, Swan on the other hand wants to reduce the size and scope of goverment and has some specific answers and suggestions.

    • Penny Swan

      More taxes and Government is not what the City of Hillsdale needs at this time.

      • Stephen French

        How would you address funding infrastructure repairs?

        • Penny Swan

          Well Stephen as you well know being you are our City Clerk, there is not one easy answer to your question.
          It is going to take many many things to come together to get things done, and keep things up once we get things repaired.
          The current council approved a tax increase, we shall see just how much gets done with that tax increase.

          • Stephen French

            The plans show more roads are getting replaced and maintained than what has been done in years

          • Penny Swan

            Plans are one thing, them actually getting done are another. Plans for the roads have been in the works for years and years and years. Many many studies are stored at city hall on the streets.

          • Stephen French

            The budget includes the roads that are planned for maintenance and improvements

          • Penny Swan

            Yes exactly, the new budget with a tax increase, once again we have yet to actually see streets being worked on. As I have said, we will see if that money actually goes to the streets, and streets actually get fixed. Many can talk the talk, but walking the walk is a whole new thing. As I have said there have been many times in the past things have been talked and planned on, but nothing have happened.

          • Stephen French

            I think most people will be very pleasantly surprised when the fiscal year starts and the road projects begin. Hopefully the complaints will be more about the numerous orange barrels and detours than our typical pothole complaints

          • Penny Swan

            I hope you are correct Stephen. It would definitely be a nice change.

        • Ellsworth_Toohey

          City Clerk French:

          Uhhh…. I don’t know, by actually doing it maybe instead of just talking about it? Let’s sharpen our pencil here over the last year and see what money I can find you guys.

          1. Last night, over a million voted to build a apron at a airport that is a ghost town. And not needed. But hey, it was free right or at least didn’t cost the local taxpayers anything?

          Wrong. Your FAA entitlement money, which is $150K a year, is being used for this. That is money that could be used to fund maintenance and operations at the local airport, yet instead that money is banked in a shell game and the airport is funded to the tune of $100K+ out of the general fund. For the time period in question, that’s 2-$300K

          2. $400K spent on the Keefer house + the lose of that from the taxpayers in property tax.

          3. About $300K in revenue per year in PILOT payments from the college, if the city would put a little pressure on them like is done in Boston.

          4. Another million that the city helped 42 union get both from MEDC and in tax abatements. Now I can’t apply that, but I can go back a decade and look at another MEDC grant a more legitimate city administration got…. for a real company, Cobra motor cycle. Instead of cronyism that atttracted a out of state company….. at half the cost. Yearly Cobra motorcycle throws off about $14,000 in property taxes to the city and over 40 jobs that provide living wages. For half the grant value of the coffee shop. So lets call this $30K+ a year in revenue.

          5. And many others I’ve sure I’ve missed.

          All told, in 10 minutes of scratching I’ve come up with over a million in savings. Some of which even included REJECTING grants.

          The city is the way it is because of neglect. You’re not fixing what you have. This addiction you have to grants and cronyism is destroying the town.

          • Stephen French

            I think the apron is necessary, 42 Union is a benefit to the city, and both the Keefer and Dawn will begin to redevelop with the city’s leadership which will bring further development in the city

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            Oh so you “think” a million dollar apron, that forces a new terminal to be built, is a necessity? So City Clerk French, what might be your qualifications and reasons to say that? Your long experience with General aviation? Or surely knowledge of the hangar occupancy at the airport? Or how many takeoff’s and landing’s occur each day?

            You literally have no clue what you are talking about.

            Let me suggest to you, Clerk French, it is pie in the sky thinking like yours that causes the problems. Your love of spending taxpayer’s money on unneeded things while the cities infrastructure decays.

          • Stephen French

            I don’t understand why you think we should just let the airport rot. Why can’t we maintain the airport’s infrastructure like we want to do with roads, utilities, and the like

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            YOU are the one who thinks the airport should rot!! Did you look at your maintenance budget?!? $7000 a year. It should be at least $25K a year but it’s not because your building junk we don’t need. You navigation aids where down half the year because you couldn’t afford to fix them.

            You really need to get an education sir, you are beyond ignorant. You could spend $25K to fix what you have, yet you’ll ignore that and build a million dollar apron that isn’t needed… and still not fix things.

          • Penny Swan

            Maintaining what we have, and building a huge ridiculous terminal are not one in the same. I am all for maintaining what we have, that has clearly NOT happened.

          • Stephen French

            Who said anything about a terminal Penny? The vast majority of funding for the airport are funds that can only be used for the airport and will benefit everyone who uses the airport. The city is always looking for road grant funding and General Fund dollars to improve and maintain our streets

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            Mr. French, you really are embarrassing yourself. The new terminal was discussed here on the pages of the collegian, I think you may have even been posting until you deleted everything.

            Even if not, if you construct a new apron, 100’s of yards from the existing terminal, it goes to logic a new terminal is coming. Because of course, it is. I’ve read the AIP.

            As an actual user of airports, a real pilot, what benefits me as user is not dieing like a pilot did in 2012 at your airport, in part because the city didn’t have the funds to maintain basic aviation aids…. we are talkings $1000’s of dollars to do this…. vs. the Millions you are freely spending on things you don’t need. And that neglect continues to this day, as I said you had a safety aid out of service half of last year. Your hangars continue to be a disgrace and only half full when most airports have a waiting list.

            Listen, we can go back and forth but according to MDOT Hillsdale is now on their radar. What do you think that lease modification agreement was in your packet last night? You clowns at city hall might be able to fool your gullible council but alot of people have their eye on you now. Despite the money you are blowing, you *ARE* going to be running a safe airport going forward.

          • Penny Swan

            For your reading pleasure Stephen. I believe the architectural drawings are out at the airport also.

            http://hillsdalecollegian.com/2017/03/multi-million-dollar-concept-proposed-hillsdale-municipal-airport-expansion/

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            Thank you Penny…. and yeap there he was parroting his same talking points there when some others questioned the cities spending orgy.

          • Penny Swan

            The apron is to go directly to where the new terminal is going to be built. Please don’t play the naïve one here Stephen. I have seen the plans. I am not a stupid person Stephen.

          • Stephen French

            I’m not saying your that way, Jesus. I’m saying the plans for a new terminal are no where near getting funded or even approved. Christ, can’t there being any long range plans?

          • Penny Swan

            I do not appreciate your talking that way Stephen. We definitely need long range plans, but we also do not need a new terminal. As I said plans for the “New multi million dollar terminal” are in place and displayed. We need to be financially responsible and stop this idea we are a wealthy community, and start watching every penny we spend and the terminal is not needed. The expense of keeping that thing up is not what the citizens of Hillsdale want or need to pay for right now.

          • Stephen French

            Who said we are financing a terminal, that’s all I asked. And I don’t appreciate being accused of the mismanagement and crynisms that you have been spreading, so I guess we’re even

          • Penny Swan

            When did I ever say cronyism and mismanagement on your part Stephen??

          • Ellsworth_Toohey
          • Penny Swan

            You are now making accusations that you cannot back up, please clarify your point ??

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            If the new terminal isn’t funded,. then why build a apron 100’s of yards away from the existing terminal? That’s just stupid. Better, you know, to fix what you have at a fraction of the cost.

            When we built our new terminal and apron here in Holland, we had funding for both… because it would be stupid to build an “apron to nowhere”. We also had an actually need, with the existing apron regularly filled to capacity. Your airport is a ghost town most of the time. We also didn’t put the burden on the city alone, we had a millage and brought in some other townships who benefited from the airport. Did you know the majority of your local users aren’t Hillsdale residents?

            How about having a long range plan of fixing the existing infrastructure rather than building things nobody needs?

          • Penny Swan

            Using Christ name in vain, and making accusations that you can’t prove and never happened are serious issues when it comes to a city employee Stephen.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            As to 42 Union being a benefit to the City, is that the role of goverment spending? To benefit itself? I’m not going to come out totally against the central planning being practiced however if you and your band of crony’s at city all had any clue about Keynesian economics, they would know the goal of the central planner is to most benefit the economy.

            MEDC itself said 42 union, at an investment of $750K would general 3 full time jobs. Conversely, in 2006 MEDC said Cobra motorcycle, at an investment of $350K, would general 70 jobs. It only generated about 40, but that was 37 more than 42 Union at half the cost. More to the point, those are jobs that can support families. Coffee barista in a market flooded with coffee shops isn’t a very lucrative job. |

            If you and the crony’s at city hall are going to continue robbing the taxpayers you need to stop handing out favors to the few and look at the long term interests of the city. That would be in leveraging taxpayers to money to minimize the negative ROI.

          • Penny Swan

            So Stephen these things are all very “Nice” but are they “really” a necessity ?? I would also like to know how these things are going to bring money in soon? The city is asking home owners to pay more taxes with cuts in their services.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            Ms. Swan to your point lets look at how Stephen entered the dialog:

            —“How would you address funding infrastructure repairs?”

            Yet all we’ve heard from him is defense of massive spending, on stuff that is not only not needed, but both reduces revenues to city AND increases expenses.

            Quite literally he answered his own question. City administration needs to back off the frivolous spending, and focus on the basics. And this is the problem with hiring out of towner’s who are trying to rehabilitate their reputations, no love for the city and it’s just about puffing up their resume. Airport expansion and Hotel development looks alot better then filled all the potholes on a resume.

          • Penny Swan

            Exactly. I have spoken to many many folks out on my campaign, and non of them were in support of these expenditures when their streets are falling apart, of their taxes are going to go up.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            The airport, today, could be totally self sufficient. I’m a pilot and I love all the new shiny stuff, but unlike your city staff and manager, I also love the airport. The best way to love the airport is for it not to be a burden on the taxpayer’s.

            What has been going on is the FAA entitlement money, which can be used for maintenance and operations, instead has been “banked” so the city administration can claim the airport doesnt’ cost the city anything. But it’s a shell game if look at the budget.

            I supported the runway expansion in 2006 as that did leverage business attraction. But the millions spent since than? Total waste of money. What your clueless city crony’s don’t understand about aviation is it’s demand driven. You expand a airport when there is a need, you don’t expand it to create a need.

          • Penny Swan

            That is what I am trying to figure out, how all this money going out to the airport is going to bring guaranteed money back into the city and fix our financial situation.
            I for one, am ok with air traffic in the sky, if it brings money into the city, otherwise I like our quiet sky

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            Well you recall what Curt Searles said at the last properly OMA’ed AAC meeting, that lets use what we can to make money instead of sometime in the future, or words to that effect.

            While I was chair of the AAC, I was told that if the city got the money for the apron a donor would front the money for the terminal. Essentially the other article says words to that effect. I actually know the name of the person and the affiliation.

            This whole project is for the benefit of one entity, and it’s simply a matter of appearance, not need. From a city cashflow outlook, it’s utter madness as expenses will far outrace revenues, which have been extremely exaggerated. I’ve run the numbers.

          • Penny Swan

            Exactly start making money out there, and not losing money, and then we can talk about other things out there.

          • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

            With cornfields a plenty surrounding the site, there isn’t an argument for, if we don’t do it now, there will be buildings up everywhere and you can’t expand. Nice problem to have, but not the issue here. Can you get all the engineering work done, have it all ready, when, or if a company comes along and says, but for a larger airport we’d move here. Sure, then it’s ready to go, and has a user when completed. Honestly, hangar space is more important than ramp space if you do land a couple larger companies. Besides, the engineering work is small in comparison, and build timelines are known, so a company moving wants something, you already know what it costs, and when it can be in place.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            All you need to do is platt the land, that’s close to free. Runway was already expanded in 2006 so as long as they can maintain what they have, it’s open for business and not a detriment to attracting new business.

          • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

            Ah yes, the keefer project that resulted in 1 proposal that was unacceptable after months of advertising it. I’ve still got to pass 200k worth of potholes named keefer before I move on to calling them dawn.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            Don’t forget their TIFA spawned grandfather named Broadstreet Market

          • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

            Not saying I necessarily approve of it, but at least it was an operating business that was trying to expand, as opposed to two closed businesses in need of serious repair with no current employees or plan. The fact that BroadStreet couldn’t internally get their act together, as shown by one of the partners shutting multiple businesses down, is somewhat independent of the break given. Don’t have enough details to make a meaningful estimate if it could be viable, but if the owners were so leveraged that the loan was taking everything, then they didn’t have a viable business, something that should have been looked at before the request was approved, so either they didn’t check, or the one partner was in bad enough shape to take everything down.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            History is important. Broadstreet market operated for 50+ years without handouts from the goverment. Round about 2003 the county started to shakedown the city threatening to move they courthouse outside of the city so they with the county bought Broadstreet Market’s land for $400K. When that never happened (the County decided to build a million dollar elevator), the City/TIFA decided to buy the county’s share about 2009 and have a “RFQ” to decided who best could run Broadstreet market. The existing owner lost the RFQ. This was followed by more money from the City to prop it up as well as some tax abatements.

            Broadstreet failed less than 6 years later.

            While you could say the shutting down was independent of the break given, this was a viable successful business before goverment decided they could do things better, for over 50 years.

        • Penny Swan

          I am also told TIFA money can be used to redo streets in the TIFA district, that might have been a better use for the money rather then the Keefer and the Dawn. We need to think outside the box, and take a long hard look at the money going out.

          • Ellsworth_Toohey

            Not only can it, it has been used in the past to improve the streets in the TIFA district.

          • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

            Really? Where. No seriously, or is it sidewalks, and curbs? Important yes, but less noticed, so I can see why I missed it. I guess all those new lights might be it.

        • Penny Swan

          And Stephen French I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you were on a lunch break and not on a city system while on social media.

          • Stephen French

            I’m at a conference

          • Penny Swan

            Ahhhhh ok

  • disqus_odKVC5cL1k

    On the point about an able workforce, I’m really missing something here, or the city doesn’t understand the labor force. The statement that the city lacks an able workforce, and there aren’t enough employers to keep one, while accurate doesn’t lead to the conclusion drawn, more education and training. The city spends X thousands, or more likely 10s of thousands, trains some number of people to do what exactly? Training isn’t some nebulous thing, you train for some job, be it a welder, assembler, pixie dust spreader at the tilt-a-whirl, whatever. Now that you have a bunch of folks that are trained, then what, hope they stay waiting for a job to come to town? No, they are going to move where they can get a job, leaving the city without an able workforce, and less money than before training the newly employed, not in the city anymore, folks.

    So what do you do? Part of the problem is convincing someone not already in town to move there, and yes it’s a huge problem. So, a business moving to town is really two parts, one, getting the company to consider relocating, and second, convincing the key employees of the company to move. The first one can be accomplished though tax abatement, companies will move where they can be the most profitable, which often means where they pay the least in tax, something New York has been pushing hard the last few years. But then you have to get the key employees to move, a problem much harder to solve. It’s pretty easy to say they would be moving from a larger location to Hillsdale, which means giving up lifestyle conveniences, one of the hardest selling points.