By Mike Kruzman /

Eight candidates for four seats on Brighton City Council squared off in a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Livingston County and moderated by WHMI News Director Jon King.

The candidates, which include 3 incumbents, answered 8 questions from the community in between the opening and closing comments on why they feel they should be the voters’ choice, this November.

Bill Albert said he is running out of a passion for the City. He said he is looking to bring a fresh perspective to Council and wants to do what is best for residents and businesses. He pledged to run under fiscal restraint, but provide the best services to residents.

Susan Backhaus has been a City watchdog for 18 years, keeping records on every meeting she attends. She said she understands the City Charters from 1919 and 1955 and will be a member who “knows” the City, looks into every issue and is not led by City Staff.

Incumbent Jon Emaus, an attorney, said he will continue to bring his education and experience to Council, coming as best prepared as he can for representing the City. He said their job as policymakers is to make the best decisions they can for Brighton.

Jordan Genso says he sees city government as one of the last bastions of true, non-partisan, cooperative government. He said he wants to bring simple, small events exclusive to City of Brighton residents that show a benefit to living there and paying the taxes.

Paul Gipson, an attorney, says he was drawn to serve because he feels those that can, should. He said he will bring science and legal perspectives, and is able to take being corrected and removing his pride from decisions so that a correct decision is ultimately achieved.

Incumbent Renee Pettingill said she has a strong rapport with downtown merchants and believes in “boots on the ground” efforts. She says, on City Council, her decisions are her own and aren’t influenced by “the majority.”

Incumbent Kris Tobbe said he believes he has earned a reputation for being one who listens to the community, understands the City’s heritage, and believes in its future. He said City Council has a proven track record and understands what makes good government, great government.

Jennifer Winningham said that she doesn’t believe the founding fathers set up a government to create career politicians and that we need regular change and different people representing with a variety of backgrounds. She said she hopes to be that voice and change.

One question revolved around their thoughts about the potential of a pot dispensary at the old Rollison Hardware location on Main Street. Incumbent Jon Emaus said he went to Brighton Police Chief Rob Bradford for his insights and learned the top concerns from him were not crime and loitering, but traffic and parking. Paul Gipson said he is open to the idea depending on location and money but thinks an area away from downtown would be better. Jordan Genso said, to him, it was a question of ‘where’, and countered with a different location he thought would better be suited to traffic concerns; the Wooden Spoon restaurant, which is now closed. Incumbent Renee Pettingill pointed to an option like that in Lake Orion, which has several facilities under one roof. Susan Backhaus said they would do best looking at city-owned land by the cinema, but said that they need to find a landlord willing to allow it.

Incumbent Kris Tobbe said he isn’t sure the family-friendly downtown is the right place for a dispensary, suggesting that a location that had drive-through capabilities could be better. Winningham agreed that a Main Street location for a dispensary wasn't a good idea, adding that she wouldn't want to see a liquor or party store located there either. Bill Albert said he joined his seven fellow candidates in opposing the Main Street location and said it would be prudent to do an in-depth analysis of what other communities are doing in regard to this issue.

Brighton City Council, coincidentally, will be discussing their marijuana strategy at a special meeting, Saturday, at City Hall.

The candidates tackled other topics that include challenges they see the City facing, hopes for the future of the City’s recycling program, how well the community meets the needs of low-income residents, if City services should be contracted, should tax incentives be used to draw businesses, and the best use of the former Lindbom site.