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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2003

Change dominates political arena

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - When the final vote totals came in last week on Monroe s hotly contested election, local political observers couldn t say whether the ultra-slim 12-vote margin in the mayor s race would survive a recount.

Unofficial election results said challenger John Iacoangeli had bested six-term Mayor C.D. “Al” Cappuccilli by a count of 1,744 to 1,732.

Mr. Cappuccilli may decide to request an official recount, which would take place next week. But no matter who emerges as the ultimate victor in this year s mayoral race, one thing is certain: everyday politics in Monroe, even though it is officially non-partisan, is about to undergo a change.

“There are four votes to make a change,” outgoing councilman Mark Worrell said.

“My hope is that there would be a unified effort to draw council as a whole together to seek a direction, but I think there s going to be some changes. I just hope those changes will be done with caution.”

Mr. Iacoangeli campaigned around a number of issues: settling the city s union contract with firefighters, which has been open for two years, revitalizing the city s downtown and other neighborhoods, and returning to a curb-side leaf pickup program.

Just how effective he might be at delivering on his campaign pledges ultimately may depend more on his effectiveness at convincing at least three of his fellow council members to vote with him than anything else.

Mr. Iacoangeli said last week that he did not want to discuss specifics of what he might or might not do in office until the results of the election become official. Still, Mr. Iacoangeli said close observers of local politics are likely to notice a change.

“I think [Monroe residents] will see a difference on City Council,” Mr. Iacoangeli said. Regardless of whether he becomes mayor in January, Mr. Iacoangeli said he believes there will be a lively debate about Monroe s direction.

The new council members who were elected, he said, are “all independent thinkers. I think people will see more discussion than there has been because I don t think the new people that were elected are as aligned as other people on council may have been,” Mr. Iacoangeli said.

“I think the community will see more open discussion.”

Monroe operates under the city manager form of government, limiting the role of mayor to more of a ceremonial function and providing the office holder with little more than a corner office and a bully pulpit.

But the council decides who will serve as city manager.

For the last several years, that person has been Robert Hamilton, who came to Monroe from a similar post in Cadillac. Whether his position is as secure as it had been under the previous council remains to be seen.

Charlie Evans, who was re-elected Monroe s clerk-treasurer, said he agrees council meetings likely will become much more lively.

“From my perspective, it looks as though there is a team there, so whatever direction they decide to go in, it looks like they ll have the votes to go in that direction,” Mr. Evans said.



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