Mayoral candidates express opinions on Delphi decision at forum

Feb. 9, 2012

Oak Creek - Not surprisingly, questions about the Common Council's vote to relocate city hall and the library dominated the mayoral candidates' forum Wednesday night.

Specifically, the three candidates were queried about Mayor Al Foeckler's tie-breaking vote Tuesday night that decided the fate of the two buildings. The mayor's vote determined that the city hall and library should be rebuilt on the former site of the Delphi Automotive plant, 7925 S. Howell Ave.

More than one of the questions from the audience at the forum, sponsored and held at the Oak Creek Community Center, asked whether Foeckler, who was appointed - not elected - to the city's top position should have had the authority to determine the outcome of the issue that has been the focal point of the election.

Running for mayor are Alderman Tom Michalski, who is also the 6th District alderman; Alderman Steve Scaffidi, who currently is also council president; and Mark Verhalen, who is a member of the Oak-Creek Franklin School Board. The top vote-getters in the Feb. 21 primary will face off in the April 3 general election.

Much like Tuesday's vote, the candidates differed in their opinions on whether the unelected mayor's vote should have such sway.

Michalski, who voted in favor of moving the two buildings to the Delphi site, said Foeckler, appointed to complete the term of the late Mayor Dick Bolender, was only doing what was expected of anyone in that role.

"He is the mayor, and he gets to cast the vote," he said. "He's not the acting mayor. He's not the interim mayor. He's the mayor. I don't think it was inappropriate for Al."

Foeckler took office shortly after Bolender's unexpected death in December. Michalski said Foeckler's appointment was on the "up and up," as according to state statute, the council president, Scaffidi, could only serve as an acting mayor in the event of an absence, not a vacancy, in the role.

Scaffidi, however, said he was troubled by the authority given an unelected mayor. Scaffidi voted against moving the public buildings to the private site.

"I don't think this is good public policy," he said.

Scaffidi said he would've liked to see the issue of the relocation sent back to the council to build consensus, as the 3-3 vote by aldermen on the matter was divisive.

Further, he said he'd like to see local ordinances change so the council president could assume the role of mayor in a vacancy.

Verhalen, meanwhile, agreed with Scaffidi that while Foeckler had the right to vote as he did, it didn't serve the greater good.

"I think Al may have overstepped his bounds a little bit," said Verhalen, who had asked the council on Tuesday to postpone making a decision on the city hall and library until more citizen input was gathered.


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