Scott Blease and Regina Sjoberg are both hoping to become the next mayor of Ferrysburg. But that’s where their similarities end.
In a questionnaire sent out by the Tribune, the two candidates provided vastly different responses to what they believe are the biggest issues facing the city.
Blease, who has been a member of the Ferrysburg City Council from 2011-15 and from 2018 to present, focused on concrete issues – Smith’s Bridge, infrastructure and economic development.
“We have been able to secure full replacement of the bridge from the state budget with no cost to the city,” he said. “The city still does need to pay for twice-a-year bridge inspections and continue the weight restrictions for safety concerns. I would also suggest still contributing to the bridge fund for any future repairs. We do not want to be in this same situation again for the next 40-50 years.”
Blease referenced the street millage proposal on the Nov. 2 ballot in Ferrysburg for 1.5 mills for five years, which would generate $1.55 million for street repairs and constructions.
“The MPO (MDOT funding) also helps contribute some of the cost for street projects,” he said.
As a member of the Economic Development Task Force, Blease noted that the entire city of Ferrysburg is a Brownfield Redevelopment Zone.
“So that could be a benefit to draw new businesses to the city,” he said. “The task force is hosting a forum/informational meeting with the business and property owners on Oct. 20 at City Hall. … The main concern is there is not very much available vacant property in the city, so it is a challenge to grow our tax base.”
Blease said he likes the idea that has been considered by the city’s Planning Commission, which is the accessory upper-floor dwelling units.
“For example, the property owner of a storage unit can live in the upper part of the building and have the lower part for storage or a small business,” he explained. “You could expand that idea to include a retail or small service industry business in a lower unit and have residential living upstairs. That could also help with affordable housing costs in the city.”
Sjoberg, who was narrowly defeated by Rebecca Hopp in the mayoral race in 2017, focused more on intangible topics: communication and responsiveness to citizens, accountability, and serving a diverse community.
“Twice in under five years, citizens have had to go over the heads of their elected officials – to save the Ferrysburg Nature Preserve and to save Smith’s Bridge,” she said. “I would like to host monthly open-table discussions prior to council meetings in which people could informally sit down and talk with council about their concerns.”
Sjoberg, who is a write-in candidate for mayor, believes the city lacks any kind of financial accountability regulating elected employees’ use of public funding to attend conferences.
“I have never seen any business or tax-supported institution – school, library, government board, etc. – let people use funds to attend conferences with absolutely no guidelines,” she said. “If elected, I will implement an accountability policy that required both a rationale for attendance at conferences, and a full report to board members regarding the value of that attendance to the city.”
Sjoberg would like to see the city investigate affordable and accessible housing options to help create a more diverse community.
“Personally, I think Ferrysburg can proudly embrace the fact that we are a bedroom community, and have everything needed in order to attract the skilled workers that allow a community to thrive,” she said.
The winner of the Nov. 2 election will replace Hopp, who decided not to run for re-election this year in order to focus on her candidacy for the state House 89th District next year.