Two men with a passion to make Saline a better place to live and work both want to be mayor, but know only one will get the job.
Brian Marl and Glen Law will face off Nov. 6 in a non-partisan election to replace longtime incumbent Gretchen Driskell, who is running for the state House. Both men have strong ties to the community and a professed desire to see it thrive.
Both men have a history of public service. Marl is a sitting member of the City Council, having served as mayor pro tem in 2011. He also works for State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor). He has always worked in Lansing for the state of Michigan.
Marl believes his experience in government is a plus for his mayoral aspirations.
“My experience in Lansing helps people get the most out of government,” he said. “My opponent suggested working in Lansing is not real work, that is a bunch of hooey.
“I help people on a daily basis to get the best out of the government.”
Law spent more than seven years on Council before moving to the Upper Peninsula to pursue a teaching job. He has worked in commercial radio before going back to school and earning a teaching degree. He spent a year in Menominee to gain experience to help him find a local job.
Law said that background in the private sector give him the real-life experience to relate to his constituents. The ideas of hard work, moving ahead and keeping one’s head above water are his motivating factors.
“I know what it is to make sacrifices, to put off a vacation,” he said. “I have raised a daughter, who is going to be a senior this year.”
Both men have served on various committees or task forces that were designed to address specific issues. The experiences from being on those panels have shaped their philosophies.
Law wants to re-think incentives such tax abatements. The incentives are a useful tool but need some alterations.
“When I was on the special projects committee we tweaked the rules to make it more stringent to hand tax abatements out,” Law said. “Maybe it’s time to reevaluate.
There’s a place for them but we have to be careful on how we hand them out and where we hand them out. I am not against them, but we have to become more attentive. Is this a business we feel deserves abatement?”
Tax abatements are useful in Marl’s opinion, since they are the biggest incentive for a municipality. But instead of focusing strictly on larger companies, Marl wants to emphasize small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“We should be helping people know where the resources are so they can be successful,” he said.
Those resources include financial institutions which can help someone open a business, Marl said.
On the subject of parking, which has become a topic of discussion on council recently, the candidates vary on the proper response. The discussions by council have dealt with what to with drivers who are abusing the 3-hour limits in city lots.
Marl prefers the status quo, which means not ticketing violators, because he said the police department does not have the staffing to monitor the lots.
“I think we have some activity in the city where the police should be,” he said.
Law can understand why the council kept things the way are, but asked why have the laws on the books if they are not going to be enforced.
“It’s a very delicate issue and balancing act when you are trying to balance the needs of businesses downtown and those of residents,” he said. “And not having to scare off potential customers who come to Saline.”
Communication and education should be the proper response to the problem, Law said. But all options should be on the table just in case.
“(We need to) have some form of enforcement at least on those individuals,” he said. “It is not fair to the businesses. It isn’t fair to those residents who live in the area and pay their rent and taxes.
“It’s a delicate balancing act for businesses to keep people coming down to Saline.”
Both men tout the city’s festivals as shining examples of citizen involvement.
Marl likes the Celtic Festival, but believes it should not be subsidized by the city. Law said the city needed more efforts such as the one that put up a new flagpole at Oakwood Cemetery.
The city’s finances are important to both men.
Marl wants to “think outside the box” and partner with local and state agencies to promote growth. He said he wants to be wise with the taxpayer’s money.
That sentiment is echoed by Law. That’s why he wants the city to rethink tax abatements. With the city still lagging behind the state, this is no time to be giving money away.