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State Representative for the 104th House District

Overview

In preparation for the November 3 general election, Traverse Connect and the Traverse City Young Professionals (TCYP) would like to offer candidates the opportunity to provide information to our business community investors through online profiles.

Traverse Connect is the lead economic development organization for the Grand Traverse region and supports area businesses through a combination of business attraction and retention strategies, talent development efforts, and strategic coordination among partner agencies. We are focused on advancing the economic vitality of the Grand Traverse Region through the growth of family-sustaining careers. To this end, we serve the important role of sharing with the business community how candidates would advocate for issues important to our investors.

State Representative Candidates for the 104th House District:

  • Jason Crum (LIB)
    • *No response received from candidate
  • Dan O’Neil (D)
  • John R. Roth (R)

Additional information on these candidates can be found in their primary election profiles here.

Candidate Profiles

What do you want the business community to know about your candidacy?
I believe that we are all better off when our business community is thriving. I will do everything I can to help our business leaders navigate state government and I’ll fight hard to get us an equal share of the resources devoted to bigger cities. This pandemic is limiting opportunities for everyone, and I’ll make it my job to ensure we do everything we can to keep businesses afloat and people employed.

I believe the role of our state representative should be to build consensus and to advocate for this community. I’ll listen to our business community, I’ll take your meetings, I’ll answer tough questions. And I may ask you some tough questions.

I don’t want to make it harder for anyone in Grand Traverse County to make a living. I won’t raise taxes on anyone during this pandemic. I won’t support a new regulation unless I can explain to you why I believe it makes our community safer, healthier or more prosperous. I do support changes to our environmental and labor laws that I acknowledge are opposed by some business leaders. I’m not going to back down on some of these issues, but I’m more than willing to find compromise wherever possible.

I love this place and care about the people who live here. I’ll do my best to build consensus instead of stoking division, and I’ll always be open to new, counter-intuitive, creative ideas.

If elected, what would be your top three priorities? Please describe each priority.
COVID and the economic recovery has to be issue number one right now. Job losses and evictions are growing daily. We risk turning this crisis into a catastrophe if we let people get so far behind they can’t catch up. We need to provide the necessary supports to help our neighbors weather the storm and then, as we move forward, make sure no one is left behind. Certainly the federal government needs to step up and help businesses and individuals stay above water. State government needs to step up too: we need to expand eviction diversion programs and assistance to renters. We need to expand child care programs so people can get back to work and do so safely. Our unemployment system flags a third of claims as fraudulent, resulting in too many delays. And as we pull ourselves out of this crisis, the state needs to be there as a partner for people getting back on their feet with aggressive investments and loan guarantees for new or re-opening businesses.

Education. Michigan is 43rd nationwide in educational attainment. We can’t build a competitive workforce if we aren’t investing in our young people at every stage: early childhood, K-12, and post-secondary. We flatly aren’t devoting enough resources to education and we’re not investing enough in our future. You can play with funding formulas all you want, but it won’t change the fact that we’re 50th nationwide in per-pupil spending growth. And too many Grand Traverse County businesses can’t find skilled workers. I want to invest more in vocational and technical training and in apprenticeship programs. I want to work with NMC and local business leaders to ensure our talent pipeline is aligned with real business needs.

Health Care. When I knock on doors and talk to people about the issues important to them, health care still comes up more than anything else. Prescription drug costs in particular are out of control. I want to authorize the attorney general to investigate possible criminal collusion between drug companies. The number of uninsured is growing in Michigan, I will oppose any attempt to reduce protections for people with pre-existing conditions or attack Michigan’s successful Medicaid expansion.

Young Professionals: Why are you the preferred candidate for young professionals?
I have been and remain deeply committed to this place and its future. I want to leave Grand Traverse County better than we found it, in order to do that we’ll need to make this county and Traverse City a destination for young people, and I want to partner with our young professionals in that effort.

One thing we’ve learned from this pandemic – whenever it ends – is that we can do a lot more remotely than we previously imagined. There is enormous anecdotal data that many young knowledge-economy workers are looking to leave their small homes in expensive cities which, because of COVID, suddenly lack the amenities they were willing to pay for. Companies like Facebook now say publicly they expect half their workforce to be remote over the next decade. And if we are entering an era where people can work from anywhere, no doubt many would choose to work from Traverse City.

We must do everything we can to make this place a destination for entrepreneurs and young professionals who want the amenities of a larger city without the expenses, hassles and health risks of living in Chicago or Detroit. If the business community and government work together, I think there is an opportunity to be seized.

Here’s where I would start:

1. Make housing more affordable. No one will move here who can’t afford to. In Lansing, I would support offering new or expanded incentives to homebuyers and developers that encourage affordable housing and increased density. And we need to raise wages, including restoring the prevailing wage and raising the minimum wage, to ensure homeownership is possible for everyone.

2. Marketing. Restoring funding to Pure Michigan is a no-brainer, it never should have been cut. But there is more we can and should do to promote our region. We should be sending delegations of community and business leaders to Chicago and New York and Detroit to make the case for opening remote work locations in Traverse City. Our state representative should be a partner with Traverse Connect in making that case.

3. Infrastructure. We need to invest in our water infrastructure so sewage doesn’t leak into the bay every time it rains. We need to fix our roads. But we also need to be thinking about how to make Traverse City competitive with cities orders of magnitude larger. Enhancing transit, adding more direct flight routes and making this county more accessible will be crucial in convincing businesses and entrepreneurs to locate here. And we need to make high-speed broadband available for every resident of this county.

4. Maintaining our character. I think about half the reason young people want to move to Traverse City is the bay. The other half is us — the small businesses, the breweries, the wineries, the people who make this community what it is. We passed an anti-discrimination ordinance ten years ago, and now we need to amend the Eliot-Larsen Act to ban discrimination statewide. We need to show young people that this is a community that shares their values.

What do you see as the biggest challenges as a result of the pandemic? What do you see as your role in the response to these challenges?
The pandemic and resultant economic crash is destroying people’s livelihoods. Somewhere between 35 and 40 percent of people in northern Michigan could be at risk of eviction. There is a backlog of 200,000 pending unemployment claims. We could be staring down the barrel of a homelessness crisis, a joblessness crisis and a debt crisis that will take us years to reverse.

Michigan needs to carefully craft our priorities to ensure this crisis doesn’t become a years-long catastrophe. That starts with increased rental assistance and increased funding for eviction diversion programs. And over the long term we absolutely must do more to increase the availability of affordable housing in Grand Traverse County. Some affordable housing communities have years-long wait lists. It’s absurd. I’ll work to increase incentives for developers and assistance to home-buyers. As a former city planning commissioner, I also strongly believe we need to encourage more density in housing.

We need to fix our unemployment system. Our current system misclassified hundreds of thousands of claims as fraudulent. There is still a 200,000 person backlog. That’s unacceptable. Small errors in entering personal information can result in months of waiting. Upgrading our processing software would go a long way to fixing the problem. I also believe we need to strengthen our paid sick leave laws so that days missed due to illness don’t make it more difficult to access unemployment insurance.

My role as a state representative will be first and foremost to get resources where they are most needed. I’ll go to bat for Grand Traverse County residents to help navigate the unemployment system and any other public support they need. I’ll work with municipal leaders and small businesses to get them grant funding or tax benefits.

What do you want the business community to know about your candidacy?
I am one of you. I own a small business and understand what it takes to operate under the regulations put on small businesses.

If elected, what would be your top three priorities? Please describe each priority.
Skilled Labor Jobs, Education equity, and regulation reform.

Young Professionals: Why are you the preferred candidate for young professionals?
I can communicate with all ages because I listen.

What do you see as the biggest challenges as a result of the pandemic? What do you see as your role in the response to these challenges?
The biggest challenge is getting all businesses open fully with safety in mind. My role is to listen to the needs of all of our business and work with the Legislature and the Governor to provider common sense solutions.