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Jendrasiak, Shaffer compete once more for 1st Ward Seat

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The first ward includes West Grand, Black Hills, John Ball Park (above) and Roosevelt neighborhoods.

The first ward includes West Grand, Black Hills, John Ball Park (above) and Roosevelt neighborhoods. /Ici et ailleurs on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons

To some voters, their ballots Tuesday will leave them with a slight case of déjà vu.

Incumbent Jim Jendrasiak and Dave Shaffer both ran four years ago to be elected to the Grand Rapids City Commission, 1st Ward. When the pair competed in 2005, Jendrasiak bested Shaffer by 480 votes.

The biggest concern is preparing for the city looking forward, Shaffer said. “We need to be sure the city is financially sound.”

Jendrasiak said that he has been working since 2000 on diversifying the city’s economy, noting PA 146, the Obsolete Properties Tax.

“Small business needed tools to help rehabilitate properties, rebuild infrastructure and create new jobs,” he said. “If we hadn’t started doing those things we’d look like Detroit or Flint or Benton Harbor.”

Shaffer suggests eliminating the Office of Children, Youth and Families, to be replaced with mentoring. “It’s a non-crucial service--that department works as a liaison for schools.  Do we cut police officers, or others working at the city?” he said. “I want to go out and make relationships with principals in elementary and high schools.  We need more partners and mentors doing that, taking volunteers and bridging the gap for what they’re doing now.”

Shaffer will not touch the existing police and fire pensions, which eat up a significant portion of the budget and is projected to be a $21 million deficit this fiscal year.  He will, however, look at the retirement plan structure for new employees and other departments. Jendrasiak cites the state using the city’s state-shared revenues and cutting the number of administrators the city has.  

Citizens would need to approve any increases in revenue, Jendrasiak said. “We would have to ask them if they’d be willing to pay for those services.”

Consolidation, both Jendrasiak and Shaffer said, is going to be the key in balancing the city’s budget.

“We have to cut and look to consolidate,” Shaffer said.  “I am open to exploring a parks millage.  We need that to create a good, thriving community.”

Jendrasiak recommends consolidating departments like Human Resources and Equal Opportunity, and Planning and Zoning and Neighborhood Improvement.  He also wants communities to share resources.

“We’re looking to consolidate departments- I don’t know if any are going to be eliminated, but they could definitely consolidate,” he said.  “They need to fall under one umbrella.”

Shaffer also commented about spreading the downtown development and growth to other districts, such as Stockbridge, West Leonard, Alger Heights, and West Fulton.  He said that any of the neighborhoods would be suitable for this type of development.

Jendrasiak is seeking his fourth term; he works as an electrician, stagehand, and is president of Knights of Columbus 3104 Activities Inc.  Shaffer is running for his first, works as a banker and is married with a young daughter.

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In general there is not enough information about local races. We need more of this. Thanks!