Updated on July 28 at 2:00 p.m. A previous version of this article mistakenly left out a decision by the Michigan Supreme Court which you can read about here.
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Karen Lovejoy Roe and Michael White are running in the Democratic primary for the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, District 5. The 5th district encompasses Ypsilanti Township and Augusta Township.
There are two other candidates running; this is the second of two articles featuring the candidates from the 5th district. Check out our coverage of the other two candidates, Denise Kirchoff and Justin Hodge, here.
The Board of Commissioners is the governing body that administers the county-level government. The commissioners act as both the executive and legislators, meaning they both pass legislation and administer that legislation.
Karen Lovejoy Roe's lifelong career in municipal government draws her into Board of Commissioners race
Karen Lovejoy Roe grew up with a mother who was incredibly active in the local community, which has influenced her own deep roots into the community.
Lovejoy Roe is a lifelong resident of Ypsilanti Township, has graduated from Eastern Michigan University with three bachelor's degrees and one master's degree, and she has served in municipal government for 32 years.
The first elected position Lovejoy Roe held was as Ypsilanti Township Supervisor, to which she was elected in 1996. She is now seeking to bring her expertise in municipal government to represent Ypsilanti and Augusta Townships on the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.
She is currently serving out her third term as Ypsilanti Township Clerk, to which she was first elected in 2008. She previously served on the Board of Commissioners when she was elected to a two-year term in 2006.
Lovejoy Roe has earned a Bachelor's in Political Science, Sociology, and Education, and a Master's in Social Science from EMU.
One of the key projects Lovejoy Roe wants to see accomplished is a YMCA built in eastern Washtenaw County because of the "need for community services in the east side of the county." The project has been proposed by Ypsilanti Township, and earlier this year 25 acres of land was donated by the township to YMCA for development. A feasibility study has been in the works to determine the costs associated with the project and the county's required contribution.
Lovejoy Roe is seeking to be elected as a county commissioner to complete this project, and she says there would be no tax burdens on the community to fund the project. Instead, Lovejoy Roe seeks to find creative alternatives to funding the project, and she hopes for a 2022 opening. If elected as a commissioner, Lovejoy Roe seeks to see the project to its completion.
Another key campaign issue for Lovejoy Roe is transportation improvements on the east side of the county.
“Our district has dirt roads that aren’t driveable for school busses or cars several times a year. Public/bus transportation is limited in District 5. Bike paths and sidewalks are needed in high traffic areas for safety,"
Lovejoy Roe says if elected she will work to find "sustainable solutions" to improve roads, bus service, and multi-use paths.
Higher taxes are off the table for Lovejoy Roe, however, for any project including the proposed YMCA and transportation upgrades. “It’s not sustainable for homeowners to pay property taxes to maintain all government services. Our taxes are high enough!”
Instead of raising taxes, the focus will be to bring new businesses and jobs to the eastern part of the county, to create a larger tax base of residents and businesses.
Earlier this year, Lovejoy Roe was facing allegations of collusion from some Ypsilanti Township leaders, including Township Trustee Monica Ross-Williams and Supervisor Brenda Stumbo.
Lovejoy Roe and Township Trustee Heather Jarrell Roe, who is related to Lovejoy Roe by marriage, both filed to keep their current positions in March. They both dropped out of those races on April 21 and filed for different races. It was the last day to file, and Jarrell Roe filed for Lovejoy Roe’s position as Township Clerk.
There had been no other candidates to file for that race, so Jarrell Roe became the sole candidate after Lovejoy Roe dropped out and refiled on the same day to run for the County Board of Commissioners.
Claims of corruption and collusion were denied by Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Carol Kuhnke in a May 27 hearing.
Jarrell Roe was denied ballot access by the judge, however, because of a separate issue involving a mismatching signature and notarization dates on her affidavits of identity made their filing paperwork invalid. Monica Ross-Williams, who was running for Ypsilanti Township Treasurer, and William Sinkule, who was running for Parks Commissioner, were also denied ballot access for the same reason.
A later decision by the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the decision to remove Jarrell Roe from the ballot. Ross-Williams and Sinkule did not appeal the county court’s decision, so they will not be on the ballot. Ross-Williams is now running as a write-in candidate for township clerk against Jarrell Roe.
"Although the Secretary of State may advise a candidate to date the [affidavit of identity] at the time of signing, we cannot conclude that the Secretary of State may create an impediment to the ballot by imposing a date requirement not sanctioned by the legislature or necessary to the establishment of a proper and valid affidavit,” judges Mark Boonstra and Jane Beckering wrote in the ruling.
Veteran Michael White focuses on government efficiency and economic justice reform in his campaign for commissioner
Note: Michael White did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. The following information was collected from his official campaign website and press releases.
Michael White is a veteran and community activist seeking to bring more efficient government to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. He plans to address poverty, housing, criminal justice reform, and economic opportunities if elected as a commissioner.
White, who is currently the chair of the Eastern Washtenaw Democratic Club, has a bachelor’s degree from EMU and a master’s degree from CMU. He is currently completing a doctorate in education technology at CMU, according to a press release.
White’s primary campaign priorities include using legislation to:
- Increased oversight over county government administrators to ensure financial efficiency
- Reduce the amount of bureaucratic red tape to increase the efficiency of county agencies and services
- Guaranteed balanced county budget
- Improving education in the county
- Providing affordable housing
- Bringing higher-paying jobs to the county
White says he is seeking to bring economic justice reform to Washtenaw County by reducing economic segregation through education programs, eliminating barriers to equal opportunity employment, and establishing racial equality and social justice as the guiding principles for community decisions.
White’s campaign has been endorsed by various local officials, including Ypsilanti Schools Superintendent James Hawkins, Ypsilanti City Councilman Anthony Morgan, Ypsilanti Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo, and Ypsilanti Township Trustee Monica Ross-Williams.
“Michael White is my choice for District 5,“ Commissioner Ricky Jefferson, who represents the sixth district, said in a statement, "because he has the character to be an accountable and an effective voice who will work alongside this Board of Commissioners, which has been working to utilize resources that help create opportunities for the well being of all our residents. He will listen to residents' concerns, with a focus on guiding our decisions to be connected to the good of all County citizens, inclusive of the people living in Eastern Washtenaw."