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Traverse Connect 2020 Primary Candidate Profiles

2020 State Representative and County Commission Candidates

In preparation for the August 4 primary, Traverse Connect and the Traverse City Young Professionals (TCYP) offered regional candidates the opportunity to provide information to our business community investors. 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 welcome the opportunity to share how candidates running for the State House and County Commission would advocate for our business community and issues important to our investors.

To see a list of all candidates on the ballot in Grand Traverse County for the August 4 primary, be sure to visit the Grand Traverse County website.

 

State Representative Candidates

No August 4 primary opposition.

Traverse Connect: Why are you interested in serving the people, families, and businesses in the Grand Traverse Region?

Grand Traverse County is my home. Me and my five siblings were all born here. My kids went to the same high school I did. I’m proud of this place and the people who live here. We balance earning a living with protecting the environment. We provide financial support for a great hospital and community college and at the same time defend the right of nurses and faculty to bargain collectively with their employer.

Despite our success, with proper support and investment there is much more we could do. Like many “rural” areas, Grand Traverse County is often left out of statewide programs that promote smart growth through assets like affordable housing and transit because we lack the existing infrastructure. We need to change that.

But our region faces real problems. Academic achievement is near the bottom of the country. We dump 6 billion gallons of sewage a year into our Great Lakes. And our government is the least transparent in the nation. We can and must deal with these issues.

Traverse Connect: How will you use your role to support the economic recovery of our region after COVID-19?

In the short term, government has a role to play in ensuring that this pandemic does not destroy the economic security of our friends and neighbors. We should offer supports where feasible to protect peoples ability to stay in their homes, to continue to earn an income, and to have access to health care.

In the medium term we will need to continue those supports and add to them the financial resources to fill the many holes that will be left by the pandemic. We cannot be afraid to fashion solutions that are new and innovative, such as small business loan guarantees and greater investment in job training and human capital. And we need to avoid, as much as possible, cutting essentials like education. The quickest way to turn this crisis into a catastrophe is to let kids and families get so far behind they can’t catch up.

If there was ever a time to use Michigan’s $1.2 billion rainy day fund, this is it. We must protect our small businesses and provide relief for the unemployed.

Traverse Connect: How can you use your role to influence access to rural broadband?

Among the many lessons to be learned from this crisis is that broadband access is no longer a luxury. Providing equal economic opportunity to every resident requires affording equal access to the tools necessary to compete. I’ve talked to people in this county who were driving their kids to coffee shop parking lots every day to get schoolwork done. Fast, reliable broadband is a necessity in 2020.

In 2018, an estimated 368,000 Michigan households did not have access to broadband. The state, municipalities and ISPs must work together to expand this crucial infrastructure. I support allowing localities to authorize special assessment districts to fund broadband projects. I’m also interested in working with rural electrical cooperatives to find ways to help them offer broadband to existing customers. Lastly, the state needs to do a better job of providing technical assistance to municipalities and incentives to providers to increase broadband access. We need to get this done.

Traverse Connect: What do you believe is the most overlooked issue for our region? How will you help address this issue?

Mental and behavioral health is a huge problem in this community. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked to who have lost loved ones to addiction or mental health issues. More than half of Michiganders who have insurance can’t afford mental health care. A big part of the problem is lack of providers. The state needs to invest in encouraging and training the next generation of behavioral health counselors and addiction specialists. And we need to encourage more graduates from our state university system’s medical schools to stay in Michigan and practice here.

Perhaps most importantly, Michigan needs to do more to enforce the federal mental health parity law. There is a federal requirement that insurers treat mental health the same as other ailments, but the state needs to adopt a stricter process to monitor and enforce the rule.

TCYP: How will you engage young professionals in your decision-making process?

When I’m in the state house, I pledge to be as accessible as possible. There are already too many politicians who are invisible until their next election. I will hold regular public events, including town halls, and I will consult with business and community leaders on issues of their expertise.

I recognize that Grand Traverse County’s young people are our future leaders – and in many cases our present leaders. I’m happy to meet with and talk to anyone in our county who shares my commitment to improving this place and the quality of life of our people. And I would, of course, be pleased to speak at any event a group like Traverse City Young Professionals saw fit to invite me to.

TCYP: In a recent Traverse Connect focus group comprised of individuals who recently moved to the region, participants noted the availability of housing as a barrier to life in the region. How do you intend to address our region’s housing shortage?

There are too many people in our community who are seeing half their paycheck go to rent, or who can’t find somewhere affordable to live at all. I want to expand tax incentives for first-time home buyers, and I want to offer encouragement to developers who build affordable units.

And as a former chair of the city planning commission, I know we need to increase housing density in Traverse City. It’s simple supply and demand: as developers are allowed to build more units, housing prices will decline.

Part of the equation is also raising wages. I support an increase in the minimum wage as well as a return to the prevailing wage, which study after study shows raises average compensation for government and non-government projects.

TCYP: Many families struggle to secure quality child care. This can be a barrier to attracting talent and keeping people in or bringing people back into the workforce. How will you work to increase access to affordable and quality child care?

Childcare is an essential job support for almost all workers with children. Consider the following:

1. According to the U.S. DHHS childcare is considered affordable when it costs no more than 7% of household income. By that standard fewer than one in ten Michigan households have access to affordable care.

2. A minimum wage worker in Michigan must work 30 weeks out of each year just to pay for infant childcare.

3. Michigan spent less than half, in real dollars, on childcare subsidies in 2015 than it did in 2003.

We need to increase payments to providers and distribute more grants to newly opening childcare centers. This county has lost 26% of its providers in the last decade. We have to reverse that trend.

I also think we need to expand the number of families who are eligible for childcare subsidies. The governor proposed using $13.6 million in federal funds to increase eligibility for childcare but it was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate. I would support that allocation.

TCYP: What can elected officials do to promote diverse and welcoming communities in an effort to attract the best and brightest minds to our region?

It’s a good question. At a bare minimum, I would aim to model the values of openness and equality we strive to see in our community. I also plan to actively engage with minority groups in our community who feel their voices aren’t being heard.

Legislatively, we still need to reform the Elliot-Larsen Act to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. I was pleased that Michigan’s own Aimee Stephens – may she rest in peace – won her discrimination case at the Supreme Court this past June. But federal anti-discrimination laws don’t apply to all businesses. We need action from Lansing to ban discrimination in our state once and for all.

State Representative Candidates – 104th District

  • Democrat, Dan O’Neil
  • Republican, Heather Cerone
  • Republican, John R. Roth

Traverse Connect: Why are you interested in serving the people, families, and businesses in the Grand Traverse Region?

This community has been so good to me and my family I want to give back. This is a welcoming community to all who come here. I have worked with many small businesses in this area. I have watched the struggles to be successful in a sometimes season economy. I own a small business running a marina. I have seen the troubles in hiring staff and experienced some of that with businesses that I have managed. Every place that I have worked for has seen a positive change for that business, whether it is repeat customers, to increased sales.

Traverse Connect: How will you use your role to support the economic recovery of our region after COVID-19?

The one glaring issue in the State of Michigan’s response to Covid-19 is their lack of business engagement. We have robust manufacturing industries in our state. Our state did not reach out to them until way late in the Covid outbreak. We had several local businesses sell first to the federal government and months later asked to sell to the state and local governments and businesses. I would ask our state government to create a recommended vendors list for PPE’s and other emergency items. With the vendors list there should be a way vet those businesses before hand.

Traverse Connect: How can you use your role to influence access to rural broadband?

Rural broadband is possibly a need and not a desire if we are going to make sure kids are educated in the case of Covid-19 staying around or another future pandemic. It could also help with snow days not extending the school calendar. I am aware that farmers are also asking for broadband in helping them becoming more efficient and keeping them up to date on technology. The state should be a partner, not the sole cost provider in this service. It will require shifting spending from other areas of the budget with little support of raising taxes in our state.

Traverse Connect: What do you believe is the most overlooked issue for our region? How will you help address this issue?

I am not sure it is overlooked, but skilled labor in our area is in short supply and with our expanding region it is needed now. I will take to Lansing a desire to improve trade schools and vocational training. We have for years shamed young students into four year college and should have been promoting skilled trades where incomes have been raising.

TCYP: How will you engage young professionals in your decision-making process?

I will work with the non-profit programs like 20 Fathoms and others to listen their concerns and bring knowledge from the state level back to the Grand Traverse County Region. I have been active member of the community and will be available to our citizens. I will hold scheduled coffee hours and some specific meetings directed toward business and other community members.

TCYP: In a recent Traverse Connect focus group comprised of individuals who recently moved to the region, participants noted the availability of housing as a barrier to life in the region. How do you intend to address our region’s housing shortage?

This is more of a local challenge, but there is talk in Lansing of incentives towards landlords and builders to work on this issue. The City of Traverse City has more an issue than the outlining townships. We must work together on this issue if we want to continue to grow. An important component of the lack of housing involves the lack of Day Care. If we want young families to stay or move here, we need to promote more day care facilities. Too many residents don’t want a day care near them and state LARA rules prohibit members of our community from opening these facilities.

TCYP: Many families struggle to secure quality child care. This can be a barrier to attracting talent and keeping people in or bringing people back into the workforce. How will you work to increase access to affordable and quality child care?

As I stated on the last question day care is a large problem. I would ask to be put on the oversight committee to make sure the regulations on these providers is not too restrictive. One issue with LARA is every visit to a providers home is a strike whether the issue is proven or not. If a provider has someone in the neighborhood that doesn’t like the business the strikes can add up quickly. At the same time the state does have to protect against negligent providers hurting children. Making sure there is a good balance should increase the chances more day care facilities will open.

TCYP: What can elected officials do to promote diverse and welcoming communities in an effort to attract the best and brightest minds to our region?

Elected officials should be ambassadors for our region. We should be listening to our business needs and looking for potential professionals to fill those needs. We need to listening to community leaders and elected official for problems we may be able to lend a hand to solve. We should be honest and transparent in our conversations and decision making. We should be available to the citizens daily, weekly, monthly and make sure we are seen in the community as much as possible. The Grand Traverse Area is very welcoming by looking at the diverse community we have today.

Grand Traverse County Commission Candidates

No August 4 primary opposition.

Grand Traverse County Commission Candidates – 1st District

  • Democrat, Betsy Coffia
  • Republican, Josephine Ferry

No August 4 primary opposition.

Grand Traverse County Commission Candidates – 1st District

  • Democrat, Betsy Coffia
  • Republican, Josephine Ferry

No August 4 primary opposition.

Grand Traverse County Commission Candidates – 2nd District

  • Democrat, Bryce Hundley

No August 4 primary opposition.

Grand Traverse County Commission Candidates – 3rd District

  • Democrat, Melissa Hogan
  • Republican, Brad Jewett

No August 4 primary opposition.

Traverse Connect: Why are you interested in serving the people, families, and businesses in the Grand Traverse Region?

I have been a Grand Traverse County Commissioner for going on one term now. I want to continue serving our community and I feel being a Commissioner allows me to serve and also be a voice for the constituents I serve. I look forward to serving another term.

Traverse Connect: How will you use your role to support the economic recovery of our region after COVID-19?

As a commissioner I feel we will see topics/issues come to our board that important decisions will need to be made to help promote the economic recovery after COVID-19. The decisions we make will be fact based, constituent ideas and suggestions will be listened to and our local economy will make it thru this and will come out on top.

Traverse Connect: How can you use your role to influence access to rural broadband?

Rural broadband will require decisions being made by many people to help bring broadband to our communities. It will take working with other community members and providers of broadband to make it all come together.

Traverse Connect: What do you believe is the most overlooked issue for our region? How will you help address this issue?

One of our most overlooked issues is our available employee issues. Many employers, both before and during, COVID-19 are and have been continuously looking for employees. We will have to look at what it takes to enlarge our employee pool so our businesses can survive, grow and be a part of a larger economic engine for our community.

TCYP: How will you engage young professionals in your decision-making process?

Young professional play a vital role in decision making to progress into the future. I would encourage young professionals to get involved and work with leaders within the community to find ways to move forward into the future.

TCYP: In a recent Traverse Connect focus group comprised of individuals who recently moved to the region, participants noted the availability of housing as a barrier to life in the region. How do you intend to address our region’s housing shortage?

Housing is an issue throughout the country. We have already put software into place to help builders and developers to help streamline the permitting process. That alone will not reduce cost but will help. Supply and demand is what really drives housing and prices of housing. That is not saying that is the only issue but when you look at availability of land and current housing those are key factors in driving up prices. Shortage of labor, cost of materials, availability of contractors also drives up prices. I feel there is not one key factor to solve the housing availability or pricing.

TCYP: Many families struggle to secure quality child care. This can be a barrier to attracting talent and keeping people in or bringing people back into the workforce. How will you work to increase access to affordable and quality child care?

Affordable child care can achieved by more child care availability. As a commissioner, we don’t have a lot of say in regards to licensing of child care facilities, but I believe local leaders can work with the State of Michigan to help the licensing aspect of child care.

TCYP: What can elected officials do to promote diverse and welcoming communities in an effort to attract the best and brightest minds to our region?

Work together with other leaders and our constituents.

No August 4 primary opposition.

Traverse Connect: Why are you interested in serving the people, families, and businesses in the Grand Traverse Region?

I am running for County Commission to preserve the essence of this community that make it the quintessential up north family destination. With a degree in in Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy from MSU in 1999, the fulfillment of this civic duty has been a long time in the making. After experiencing the world, I chose to lay roots here. Grand Traverse has a draw, which comes from our beaches, lakes, and culture. I would not have given up NYC without the Traverse City scene: beaches, lakes, recreation, tolerance, foodies, and events. While we’ve lived all over, this is where we wanted to call our forever home, where I chose to start my law practice, and where we decided to raise our family. Because we live here, we can expect our children to return after experiencing the world (so we don’t have to chase them in our retirement just to see the grandkids) because there is no place comparable to Grand Traverse.

Traverse Connect: How will you use your role to support the economic recovery of our region after COVID-19?

I intend to make daycare expansion a priority. Parents cannot return to the workforce without it. Before COVID, the waitlists were over a year. Between the financial impact of the lockdown and the increased costs of implementing virus protections, few daycares are going to survive. Before COVID, we knew we needed this vital community resource to attract young entrepreneurs like me. Now, we have a greater need for it so the employed parents that already live here can return to work. Our two-income, working-class families are going to be in desperate times when unemployment benefits expire. If they cannot return to work because they do not have daycare, then we are going to see family homelessness rise as they get fired, evicted, and foreclosed upon. When this occurs elsewhere in the country, we’re going to see our adult children returning home to live in an RV on their parents’ property. That is going to cause a problem with our septic systems keeping up with the increased usage.

Traverse Connect: How can you use your role to influence access to rural broadband?

Encouraging competition. Without competition, one supplier sets the price. We’ve never paid more for internet than we pay here ($74.99/month), and we don’t have another option. This price is too high for our working-class families, who must now view internet access as a necessity for their children’s virtual education. Given our new increase in demand to facilitate working and learning from home, we cannot rely almost entirely upon one provider. Given our geographical isolation, our neighboring counties have the same problem. This gives us the opportunity to collaborate with our neighbors. Collectively, we can reduce the cost and seek assistance from the state to connect up north to multiple, reliable, and affordable internet provider options. Additionally, as with any issue, I would consult our local groups, such as TC New Tech, and experts in the field to learn our options and their recommendations.

Traverse Connect: What do you believe is the most overlooked issue for our region? How will you help address this issue?

Divisive, non-transparent, and self-interested politicians who are not serving the will of the people. Our current County Commission has a gang of four commissioners voting as a block on almost every motion. They are overtly partisan, and because they comprise a majority, they refuse to consider opinions that are not their own. Rather than solving local issues, they pass unenforceable resolutions focused on divisive national issues outside of their jurisdiction. When public comment ran too long because of opposition to the actions the gang of four were taking, the gang moved the evening meetings to 8:00 a.m. to discourage turnout. Though that worked, they wanted to further suppress public comment, so the gang began to describe agenda items vaguely to keep the public from realizing what they were about to do until after it was done. The gang also adopted a conflict of interest policy that applies to all county employees, except them. If I am elected, you can expect this to change.

TCYP: How will you engage young professionals in your decision-making process?

Leading by example. A decade ago, I traded Manhattan for here. Since then, I’ve been able to open my own law practice, buy a home on woods and water, and start a family. To get my foot in the door, I volunteered both as a mediator and board member for Conflict Resolution Services, and I was probably the youngest President of our local bar association. As President, I encouraged younger attorneys and preferably females to accept an officer position. Before this movement, our bar association membership and involvement were declining. As a result, the youthful leadership’s eagerness and ambition drove up membership and participation. As commissioner, I will create more committees to allow for more community participation and oversight of county functions. The youth are clearly ready to participate, we just need to offer them more committee opportunities to get their foot in the door to local government.

TCYP: In a recent Traverse Connect focus group comprised of individuals who recently moved to the region, participants noted the availability of housing as a barrier to life in the region. How do you intend to address our region’s housing shortage?

Although I had the funds, credit, and desire to buy a house, I rented for six years before it happened. Historically, I’d upgrade rentals. Here, the market was too slim, so I remained in the same rental. Although my NYC salary took a 40% cut upon arrival, my annual living costs went up. The reduction in rent was overshadowed by the cost of owning a vehicle (which I did not need in NYC). The car payment, insurance, maintenance, and gas surpassed the amount I saved on rent. Then, there are the extra costs of lawn care, snow plowing, and the need for a second car. To facilitate affordable housing, we need to develop a new type of site condo. At $200/sq. ft., we cannot keep building the same product and expect affordability. I believe we should develop quaint villages of tiny starter homes on bike trails and close to employment opportunities. Many are interested in a smaller carbon footprint.

TCYP: Many families struggle to secure quality child care. This can be a barrier to attracting talent and keeping people in or bringing people back into the workforce. How will you work to increase access to affordable and quality child care?

In the short term, a COVID exemption from standard regulations. As the virus now begins its spread through our community, parents are not going to want to take their children to large daycares. To allow parents to return to work, small attendance daycares should be temporarily allowed to operate with minimal barriers to entry. New providers will emerge from out-of-work parents who want to use their child-safe home to make up for the loss of a second income. Restricting the size of attendance will keep overhead, payroll, and risk of transmissibility lower. In the long run, our county should have a committee focused on assisting daycare providers and employees in understanding and navigating the state licensing requirements. The key to succeeding is collaboration evolving into consolidation into larger facilities. It takes leadership to bring together those with common problems to work towards a collaborative resolution.

TCYP: What can elected officials do to promote diverse and welcoming communities in an effort to attract the best and brightest minds to our region?

Lead by example. Listen with consideration, speak less divisively, and turn away hate groups. Hate speech does not flow from the best and brightest minds. The gang of four passed a hate group’s symbolic resolution to do the opposite of promoting a diverse and welcoming community. It’s no secret that we love our guns, but flaunting it for intimidation is inconsistent with our small town, friendly, and welcoming values. Who the community elects and how that person speaks projects an image of how the people in that community think and feel. If Long Lake elects me, it will send a welcoming message because they have never had a Democratic commissioner. While I’m not into partisan labels, I’m running as a Democrat to give the people a choice in November. How can we live in a democracy without a choice? Our best and brightest minds are not interested in moving to a community that only elects from one party. That is not a welcoming message.

Traverse Connect: Why are you interested in serving the people, families, and businesses in the Grand Traverse Region?

I have been a leader all my life. I believe in listening and helping my constituents regarding how I act towards the bills and budgets that will be voting on. I also believe in a planned economic growth throughout our county to provide well paying jobs. I plan to be involved.

Traverse Connect: How will you use your role to support the economic recovery of our region after COVID-19?

Wear a mask and be sure I keep the 6 ft social distance when I communicate with my constituents in person. I will explain the latest news regarding COVID-19 and will encourage the citizens to listen to the experts.

Traverse Connect: How can you use your role to influence access to rural broadband?

I do not know. If elected, I will research.

Traverse Connect: What do you believe is the most overlooked issue for our region? How will you help address this issue?

Mental health issues. There are no available psychiatrists in the area to help the needs of our citizens. You have too many young people with learning disabilities that are not being cared for. Moreover, drug, and alcohol addiction problems along with general mental health problems are not being served as well as it should be.in my opinion.

TCYP: How will you engage young professionals in your decision-making process?

Meet them where they gather. Zoom to one of their meetings. Speak and listen to young professionals the important issues important to them.

TCYP: In a recent Traverse Connect focus group comprised of individuals who recently moved to the region, participants noted the availability of housing as a barrier to life in the region. How do you intend to address our region’s housing shortage?

GTCC alone can do nothing. The county government has no zoning. However, I would lead. Housing North are the experts. We need to have a meeting which will eventually have all the townships available because they control the zoning. There will be much planning before this occurs.

TCYP: Many families struggle to secure quality child care. This can be a barrier to attracting talent and keeping people in or bringing people back into the workforce. How will you work to increase access to affordable and quality child care?

Another complex issue. I believe this is a more of a state and federal issue because of the strict regulations. Tax incentives may be offered, however, in this COVID-19 time, funds probably will not be available.

TCYP: What can elected officials do to promote diverse and welcoming communities in an effort to attract the best and brightest minds to our region?

Create a welcoming committee of city and county officials. I believe diversity training would be a must for all elected officials.

Grand Traverse County Commission Candidates – 4th District

  • Democrat, Brace Kern
  • Republican, Hal Gurian
  • Republican, Todd M. Knipe
  • Republican, Penny Morris

Traverse Connect: Why are you interested in serving the people, families, and businesses in the Grand Traverse Region?

I have lived here over half my life, raising kids and now grand kids here. I have been blessed to watch the exciting growth over the years. But I never knew what an amazing community this was until 2004, when we suffered the tragic loss of our daughter Adrian, a TC West Band student. The community stood by us, wrapped its arms around us, and restored our hope. Since then, we have sought ways to give back through charitable organizations or directly meeting needs. I have personally put my energy into empowering women, who in turn empower others. It has been rewarding. A few years ago, my business became a partner with County Parks and Rec, and I became familiar with our local governing bodies. It has inspired me to do more to advocate for community resources. Recent events have caused a lot of grief and pain. I know about working through grief and starting over, and I believe that I can be an effective, compassionate leader while our area recovers both financially and emotionally.

Traverse Connect: How will you use your role to support the economic recovery of our region after COVID-19?

As a small business owner, I have experienced the need for innovation and flexibility in order to remain open and financially solvent. My perspective gives me a unique ability to understand the challenges for other businesses who are struggling to survive, and to recognize solutions that can bring a satisfactory outcome. Because I have the ability to be a big picture and unconventional thinker, I am more open to utilizing innovative ideas to help bring about solutions.

Traverse Connect: How can you use your role to influence access to rural broadband?

The need for access is going to become increasingly important, especially if more schools transition to online models. I’ve spoken to several people in this district who do not have access to reliable internet service, which made it difficult for their children to continue learning when schools closed. I feel that we need to push for a solution so that everyone has an equal opportunity to access necessary resources.

Traverse Connect: What do you believe is the most overlooked issue for our region? How will you help address this issue?

Infrastructure vs. growth. Over the past three decades, this region has grown exponentially! But, while it’s exciting to see, growth has its challenges. We have seen traffic problems crop up in many locations wherein the number of cars on a given day outweighs the structure of the intersections and speed limits. For example, in District four, we have one particular intersection that has become a series of white knuckle exchanges and near misses, especially at the prime traffic time of day. I am currently pushing on doors with landowners, business owners, and various other entities to try to solve the problem. We have a lot of high schoolers traveling these intersections, and I am willing to work hard to ensure that no other family has to endure the tragedy that we have borne due to high speeds in a congested area.

TCYP: How will you engage young professionals in your decision-making process?

A good leader listens to as many demographics as possible, and young professionals are like a new set of eyes. They tend to be open minded and positive, and therefore a great resource to those who are seeking input for decision making. I would enthusiastically seek their perspective at every possible opportunity.

TCYP: In a recent Traverse Connect focus group comprised of individuals who recently moved to the region, participants noted the availability of housing as a barrier to life in the region. How do you intend to address our region’s housing shortage?

If we are to be welcoming to young professionals and families alike, the lack of affordable housing will be a key component to attracting and keeping them. I am going to generally be in favor of policies that offer a creative solution to this issue, such as tax incentives for developers, brownfield funds, etc where fiscally warranted.

TCYP: Many families struggle to secure quality child care. This can be a barrier to attracting talent and keeping people in or bringing people back into the workforce. How will you work to increase access to affordable and quality child care?

This is a tough one! The scarcity of child care has been an issue since I was a young mom, and it has only increased exponentially. One of the problems for small home daycares is the stringent regulations that seem to change on a regular basis. This can cause undue stress, and I personally know many daycares which have closed their doors because of it. At the same time, we need to be assured that our children are being cared for in a safe environment. I would be interested in working with our state legislators to lessen the regulatory burden for home daycare centers so they can offer more affordable programs, while streamlining the oversight process to promote safety for our children.

TCYP: What can elected officials do to promote diverse and welcoming communities in an effort to attract the best and brightest minds to our region?

One word: Respect. We are a nation of diversity, and acknowledging that each person’s perspective comes from their own life experiences is key to opening your mind to another’s point of view. It’s important to realize that acceptance of all humans, regardless of race, gender, orientation, religion, voting habits, or any other factor is key to maintaining an atmosphere of welcome acceptance.

No August 4 primary opposition.

Grand Traverse County Commission Candidates – 5th District

  • Democrat, Jade Prange
  • Republican, Ron Clous

No August 4 primary opposition.

Grand Traverse County Commission Candidates – 5th District

  • Democrat, Jade Prange
  • Republican, Ron Clous

No August 4 primary opposition.

Traverse Connect: Why are you interested in serving the people, families, and businesses in the Grand Traverse Region?

I grew up in Mt. Pleasant, earned a Chemical Engineering degree at U of M and then spent my working life in Dallas, TX. My wife and I retired to Traverse City about two years ago after what amounted to a business-school site selection study. Through volunteering at Safe Harbor, I’ve become dismayed that people with full-time employment cannot afford housing and spend winter nights at an emergency homeless shelter. Climate change will cause a reversal of the outward migration that Michigan experienced over the last generation, and I want to make sure that my city does not make the development mistakes that I saw in Dallas over the 30 years that I lived there. Grand Traverse County Commission in particular is a high-skill, high time commitment, and low pay job that few people are in a financial or work situation to do. I am able to do this and want to do this.

Traverse Connect: How will you use your role to support the economic recovery of our region after COVID-19?

Between now and the availability of a vaccine in quantity—hopefully in 2021—we need to focus on preservation. Only when a vaccine is available can we begin to talk about recovery. For preservation of business infrastructure, we first need to get widespread social cooperation for mask use and other infection control practices. A widespread outbreak will result in customers voluntarily staying at home and switching to mail-order and other behaviors that will cripple businesses with the costs of staying open and the total disappearance of customers.

At this writing in mid-July, mask use and other infection control measures are far from universal, even though we’ve started exponential growth in COVID-19 cases. The overwhelming majority of businesses are doing a great job, but some are ignoring mask use, and one supply chain business that I have observed could shut down an entire business segment.

Traverse Connect: How can you use your role to influence access to rural broadband?

In Grand Traverse County, access to broadband is a cost rather than availability problem, though there are some availability and reliability problems. As a society, we subsidized postal, radio, TV, telephone, and electricity utilities in low-density/high-cost rural areas. We should advocate and pursue similar programs to reduce costs in the county. The current low-cost programs at Spectrum don’t go high enough up the income scale and are not significantly less than my wife and I paid for far more reliable subsidized fibre-optic service in a metropolitan area.

The County and Townships could subsidize antennae towers for increased fixed-wireless service to inexpensively give competition for Spectrum in more areas. Spectrum’s current effective monopoly pricing means Spectrum will drop short-term prices to kill any start-up that enters the market, but will have to adjust to a lower long-term pricing structure if a competitor has a cost structure to compete long-term.

Traverse Connect: What do you believe is the most overlooked issue for our region? How will you help address this issue?

Systemic racism is easily overlooked in a region that is more than 96% white. Eliminating systemic racial barriers and racial harassment in housing, banking, policing and education are critical to maintaining and growing the economy in the region. The most robust economies in the US also have the greatest racial diversity. The first step is to acknowledge that systemic racism exists in Grand Traverse County. The second step is to identify and address specific issues in policing, banking, housing and education as a priority.

TCYP: How will you engage young professionals in your decision-making process?

The most important step is to hold public meetings at times when working professionals can attend in person and consider running for office. This means going back to evening meetings instead of the 8:00 a.m. time adopted by the current board. If you cannot attend public meetings, your voice will literally never be heard. I already attend TCNewTech and would plan to add other forums to my schedule subject to the constraints of the Open Meetings Act.

TCYP: In a recent Traverse Connect focus group comprised of individuals who recently moved to the region, participants noted the availability of housing as a barrier to life in the region. How do you intend to address our region’s housing shortage?

The most important step is to talk about this regularly at the county level. There is no single solution to housing availability, as the problems are different in each segment of the market. A first step should be to standardize zoning definitions across townships to simplify planning and execution for developers. Continuing the permit streamlining and consolidation work at the county and township level is also important. Encouraging building-code compliant manufactured housing is perhaps the only way to address the skill-trades labor shortage. Aggressively pursuing and advocating for subsidized housing grants is critical to low-wage worker housing. Re-instituting a county-wide planning commission would also be an important step to avoid the County turning into a version of Houston in the Midwest. A stronger county-wide septic ordinance or state-wide law with uniform enforcement would go a long way to protecting watersheds as the county develops.

TCYP: Many families struggle to secure quality child care. This can be a barrier to attracting talent and keeping people in or bringing people back into the workforce. How will you work to increase access to affordable and quality child care?

Although I recognize this as a major problem in both the long term and even more so during the pandemic, I don’t have any clear ideas on solutions other than making it a Board of Commissioners study-session priority. Many people with skill and qualification (that parents increasingly recognize and value) will be leaving the workforce due to fear of infection and probably won’t come back after the pandemic. This implies increasing capacity in the NMC Early Childhood Education and Care certificate program.

Long-term, we need to look at childcare in much the same way we look at education and finance it similarly; you need this very expensive service when you are young and don’t have money, so you finance this up-front life-cost by paying school taxes your whole life.

TCYP: What can elected officials do to promote diverse and welcoming communities in an effort to attract the best and brightest minds to our region?

The first and most important is to make sure that our regional policing organizations have training in systemic racism, and body cameras. We need to look at police union contracts to make it easier for officers who demonstrate excessive violence to leave the profession. This probably means better protections for their pensions to make leaving the profession less of a high-stakes decision. A related action is to look at ways to reduce the number of potentially dangerous situations that officers face through non-policing policies in housing and mental health.

Elected officials can also lead in public efforts to learn about domestic and international cultures other than their own.

No August 4 primary opposition.

Traverse Connect: Why are you interested in serving the people, families, and businesses in the Grand Traverse Region?

I am a third generation homeowner and business owner in Grand Traverse County. My children are now continuing the tradition and are the next generation to benefit from the service of so many others who have served before us to make this a special community with so much to offer so many.

My family has a long history of giving back to the community. I have served on many different boards and organizations. I see my serving on the Grand Traverse County Board as another opportunity to serve the community that my family is blessed to live, and play, in.

Because of my history in the area I have observed, or been involved in, many of the issues this area has faced for five decades. My varied experiences help me understand how we got to where we are today, and will help me find solutions to our current and future issues.

I love living in Grand Traverse County and I want it to be as great of a place as it can be. I hope that I can be a small part of helping that happen.

Traverse Connect: How will you use your role to support the economic recovery of our region after COVID-19?

Small business is the backbone of any community. Small business has taken a huge hit and will need responsive county government that can be nimble like a small business.

We must find an appropriate and adaptable plan to help all of our citizens be able to safely get back to full employment, and the ability of business to operate under the levels of restrictions only absolutely necessary, but preventing unwarranted road blocks for both.

The biggest issue facing all levels of government in the state of Michigan will be budgetary pressure stemming from the response to COVID-19. It will require some difficult and measured decisions with long-term goals in mind.

It will take level-headed, board members who understand business, and finance to accomplish this.

The GT County Board will be challenged with working through these issues while providing necessary services to the citizens. We have all had to adapt to these changes and the County must continue to find their way through as well.

Traverse Connect: How can you use your role to influence access to rural broadband?

The County Board should work with the County Administration to determine the role that the County will play. The decisions should be based on costs associated vs the benefits provided.

Good internet is becoming an essential infrastructure that the County should play, at the very least, a support role in providing countywide broadband. I would help facilitate the County finding the best way that it could support access to broadband for citizens.

I think getting all the stakeholders together, without preconceived restrictions or plans, and determine what it will take to come up with a plan that works. Traverse Connect has been at the forefront of this issue and absolutely should be a part of the solution.

Traverse Connect: What do you believe is the most overlooked issue for our region? How will you help address this issue?

I think that too often elected boards can become too focused on short-term, hot-button, issues that are in the headlines today, without taking a long-term approach to sound solutions.

I encourage all elected officials to stay in the long-term mode, even while responding to short-term issues. Sometimes an elected official has to take the hits to stand up for doing what they think is the best decision.

I believe strongly in hiring good administrators, providing them the tools necessary to do a good job, and then staying out of their way. Stay at the 30,000 foot level and support the administration do their job following the boards direction. Only coming down to more detailed control when requested, or required.

I’ve lived in this region for over 50 years, my family has been here since 1947, my daughter and son in law recently purchased a house here.

I’m looking for what is best for the community long term.

TCYP: How will you engage young professionals in your decision-making process?

As a scout leader I have assisted about 100 Eagle Scouts attain their rank of Eagle. I have worked with 100’s more as an annual chaperone to Washington DC for a local school for the last 12 years. I work with young professionals via my other board roles in the community. I understand the importance of community involvement from an early age. I was encouraged to be involved when a young man myself.

I am a Leadership Grand Traverse Graduate – a great program to engage young professionals in the community.

In my day-to-day business and personal interactions I have helped get many youth involved in local non-profits in many ways.

If elected to the County Board, I see another avenue to help involve younger professionals now, so they gain the experience to lead in the future – or in so many cases they take on a leadership position quite young. That is always exciting to see. The perspective that a younger person brings to any organization is invaluable for success.

TCYP: In a recent Traverse Connect focus group comprised of individuals who recently moved to the region, participants noted the availability of housing as a barrier to life in the region. How do you intend to address our region’s housing shortage?

First understanding why this is an issue in GT County, and many other areas is key.

Housing costs and availability are always related to the economic health of a community. There is a direct correlation between less affordable housing and positive growth. There will always be a lag time between need and supply. In the meantime housing costs go up, and supply goes down.

The County needs to allow some higher density/less costly complexes, and I think we have. But the higher the cost of permitting, and approvals, or excessive time to obtain permits all add costs to the project, and thus cost to the consumer.

The County needs to minimize barriers to more affordable housing and ensure we are not part of the problem. I have already heard from contractors of the sometimes confusing, or overly complex, permitting process can be. I would encourage coordination between the contractors and the County to find ways to safely streamline the process. This will save time, and costs & more housing.

TCYP: Many families struggle to secure quality child care. This can be a barrier to attracting talent and keeping people in or bringing people back into the workforce. How will you work to increase access to affordable and quality child care?

The child care providers I speak with all cite the same reasons for a lack of child care in the area. That is increasing licensing requirements. More paperwork, ridiculous rules, and larger barriers to entry.

One 35 year veteran day care provider told me about a “critical citation” she received. There was a tin foil box in a upper drawer in the kitchen. The same box we all have in our kitchen. It has a sharp serrated edge to tear off the foil. This was deemed a dangerous violation!

The solution is a much more reasonable and balanced regulatory environment, or it will not get any better. And the fix isn’t going to cost taxpayers a bunch of money.

The County Board should get input from current daycare providers and send a request to the State asking for relief for our day care providers, as well as speak state legislators to ask them for legislation reducing the excessive regulations that are the barrier.

TCYP: What can elected officials do to promote diverse and welcoming communities in an effort to attract the best and brightest minds to our region?

Listen. Never assume what someone else is thinking, whether it is a group, or an individual, listen.

Ask. Ask individuals to tell their story. Their troubles, including their positive experiences, or what could be done better.

React. Try to come up with reasonable solutions that remove barriers, or roadblocks to our community treating any citizen, or visitor with respect and fairness, or that unreasonably hinders their business.

I think that overall Grand Traverse County does a very good job of this. The change in a more varied demographic the last 20 years is evidence of that. We have welcomed many groups and causes to our area.

Positive economic growth, well funded police, fire, and EMS. Quality health care, quality schools, a positive business environment, safe neighborhoods, elder services, good child care, and good infrastructure are key elements to attract new people to our county. The County needs to be a positive part of as many of these elements as possible.

No August 4 primary opposition.

Traverse Connect: Why are you interested in serving the people, families, and businesses in the Grand Traverse Region?

To continue the current positive momentum and service focus of our county government. In 2019 as part of the current Board of Commissioners we lowered taxes, increased services and paid more on the unfunded pension liability than any board in history. In 2020, we are on track to do it again and we will keep doing it in 2021 and 2022.

Traverse Connect: How will you use your role to support the economic recovery of our region after COVID-19?

Providing the best possible service levels to businesses who must interact with county government at optimally low levels of taxation.

Traverse Connect: How can you use your role to influence access to rural broadband?

Government is not the answer to all of your problems. The strength of our country comes from private individuals solving problems and being rewarded through the process of capitalism. Local government needs to focus on clearing the way for this process wherever possible.

Traverse Connect: What do you believe is the most overlooked issue for our region? How will you help address this issue?

Scope creep. Local organizations and individuals inferring that local government should be solving problems which it has no authority, funding or charter to solve which ends up wasting tax dollars on fruitless initiatives that are put on to make politicians look good.

TCYP: How will you engage young professionals in your decision-making process?

I regularly enjoy conversations with constituents of all ages, including young professionals and I encourage them to offer input or get involved on a board or committee. It’s a great way to have influence on the prosperity of our area.

TCYP: In a recent Traverse Connect focus group comprised of individuals who recently moved to the region, participants noted the availability of housing as a barrier to life in the region. How do you intend to address our region’s housing shortage?

Government is not the answer to all of your problems. The strength of our country comes from private individuals solving problems and being rewarded through the process of capitalism. Local government needs to focus on clearing the way for this process wherever possible.

TCYP: Many families struggle to secure quality child care. This can be a barrier to attracting talent and keeping people in or bringing people back into the workforce. How will you work to increase access to affordable and quality child care?

Government is not the answer to all of your problems. The strength of our country comes from private individuals solving problems and being rewarded through the process of capitalism. Local government needs to focus on clearing the way for this process wherever possible.

TCYP: What can elected officials do to promote diverse and welcoming communities in an effort to attract the best and brightest minds to our region?

There are terrific examples around the country of public-private partnerships which accomplish this through economic development programs. It cannot be a function of government alone. There must be relationships with clearly defined boundaries, such as eliminating PAC ties that fund local candidates in exchange for public tax dollars funding such economic development programs. But when the players stay in their lane, the opportunities begin to open up and everyone can benefit.