Questions For State Rep Hopefuls
By N3 Editorial Team
With Jon Bumstead coming to the end of his final term as State Representative, five candidates aspire to take his place in Lansing. Three will be seeking to carry the banner for the Republican Party and two are vying to be on the ticket for the Democratic Party with the upcoming primary...
... deciding who will be on the ballot come November.
N3 attempted to contact each candidate in order to submit questions received from community leaders as well as from our editorial staff. We received responses to the questions from the three Republican aspirants whose answers appear in the article.
The questions posed to the candidates have an emphasis on education, youth and how each envisions their role in the State House. It is our hope the answers provided will assist voters who may yet be undecided as they head to the polls next Tuesday.
The candidates are Dan Eley, Scott VanSingel and John Wilterink and here are their responses.
What role do you consider to be most important for a State Legislator, and why?
The most important role for a State Legislator is to represent the interests of her or his district. It may seem like an obvious answer, but the 100th District has not been getting that from the current representative. When his constituents voted to overturn the Emergency Manager Law, he voted to override that referendum and added an appropriation to the bill to make it referendum-proof. The current representative did the same thing when voters repealed the ban on straight ticket voting and defeated Proposal 1 by an overwhelming margin. Will his handpicked successor continue these destructive policies?
It is nearly impossible for a legislator to be totally devoted to his or her constituents when they are on the lobbyist’s payroll even before they are elected. I am the only candidate in this race who has refused to seek endorsements and money from lobbyists. I am 100% lobbyist-free.
The most important role of a legislator is to be a consolidated voice for the nearly 90,000 people they represent in Lansing. They must possess the willingness to listen to their constituents, the competence to understand the issues, and the discernment to resolve them.
To be the people’s voice in Lansing. The people/taxpayers need to see that our state government is not too big to be heard
What leadership roles do you aspire to in the State House, and what qualifies you to get there?
Due to my accounting and finance backgrounds, I would like to be appointed to the Appropriations Committee in my first term and eventually Chair of the committee. While this position does not receive the same publicity as other leadership positions, my goal is to be effective, not to be on the Evening News. The Appropriations Committee Chair is probably the most influential position in Lansing in regards to the State budget.
Anything with business, tourism and outdoor recreation, and transportation and infrastructure.
Because I do not have the lust for power that some candidates may have, I don't "aspire" to any leadership role. One must lead by example. Earn the trust and respect of your colleagues. When you do that, they will recognize your leadership skills and act accordingly. My only aspiration is to work hard every day to represent the interests of the 100th District.
Which legislative committees do you think are most vital to the interests of the constituents of the 100th district, and why?
Tourism and recreation, small business and retail. Also agriculture, due to my large support from this group.
Appropriations is a very important committee, which would be of interest to me. I also think that I would be a good fit for Agriculture due to my previous farming experience.
Agriculture- A large part of the economy in the 100th district is directly or indirectly based around agriculture.
DNR/Natural Resources- Tourism is another large industry in the 100th district. A large portion of the northern part of the district is owned by the State and Federal governments. Ensuring that the DNR is properly funded and that our natural resources are properly managed is vital to tourism in the district.
Insurance- While not unique to the 100th district, the need for auto insurance reform is an important issue for 100th district residents. Michigan drivers pay some of the highest rates in the nation and this should not continue.
Which committees would you like to serve on, and how will you go about securing the appointment(s)?
The two mentioned above. Again, it's all about earning the respect of one's colleagues.
I believe I would add value to any of the committees mentioned above as I have a background in each of these areas. As I intend to be a member of the Appropriations Committee, my role would be as a member of the Appropriations sub-committee for these issues. I have built personal relationships with several of the current State Representatives who will likely be in House Leadership next year and will assign these roles.
Business and retail. 25 year small business owner and employer. Agriculture. I have so many friends and great input from area farmers.
Michigan has recently made a significant investment in early childhood by expanding the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP Building Bridges Preschool) for 4 year olds. Is this a good investment? Why or why not? Should Michigan invest more funding for early childhood education to target the Birth to Three year old population and for more 4 year olds?
While conflicting data exists, the consensus seems to be that the GSRP program has been effective, especially for at-risk and low-income families. The program has also helped identify learning disabilities and impairments at an earlier age so that they can be effectively treated. I do not believe however, that investments in 0-3 year old education would be effective and I will not support this with public funds. Parents need to maximize time with their children to instill their values, especially at these early ages.
Yes, this is a good investment. This is a win, win from an educational and social standpoint.
There's no doubt that GSRP is a success. As a substitute teacher in several public school districts in Newaygo, Lake and Oceana Counties -- I personally see the fruits of this investment. On the other hand, anytime expansion and more funding are proposed, it must be subjected to intense critical analysis before moving forward.
Would you support the use of state and available federal funds to expand child care subsidies to more families with low incomes?
I would have to say no at this point.
As stated above, any expansion must be carefully examined. Because I think that government should be the last resort, not the first -- I would like to search for innovative solutions. Bring together the best and brightest minds from the private sector, charities and churches to see if there is an outside-the-box solution.
Currently, the Federal Government is paying for most or all of these programs. I am not in favor of expanding these programs, especially using State funds. I do believe that they are effective in some cases; however, we need to ensure that those receiving assistance are in the workforce for the programs to accomplish their intended goals. Currently, the oversight of these programs is lacking.
To reduce school operating costs, some have suggested mandatory school consolidation, or at least the consolidation of non-instructional services like business, technology and maintenance/custodial services. Do you support this plan?
Because of my teaching experience, I see teachers and administrators wrestling every day with the latest "mandatory" edict from Lansing /D.C bureaucrats and politicians who are far-removed from the frontlines. Teachers, administrators and school boards are entitled to have a seat at the table and have the opportunity to take some ownership when major decisions such as consolidation are made.
Those who are under 50 years-old may not know this, but there was once a time when Republicans believed in concepts known as "get government off our backs" and "local control".
While I am a proponent of local control, there are great efficiencies to be gained by consolidating services between districts. Many of the administrative roles within districts could be consolidated. I would be very hesitant to mandate such consolidations; however, I would be in favor of the State offering “Best Practices” incentives for doing so. This would be similar to the incentives offered in recent years for other reforms.
I would rather look for another plan
Would you support raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to age 18? Why or why not?
No. Many, if not most teens below the age of 18 are fully aware of the consequences of their actions and understand right from wrong. By effectively lowering the penalties for crimes committed under the arbitrary age of 18, the incentive to obey the law would be reduced and I believe we would see an increase in juvenile crime.
No, there are crimes being committed by juveniles now. We don’t need to bring in 18 year olds with light or no penalty.
Yes. There is already bipartisan support in the legislature (which is rare nowadays) for this change. Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy summed it up well: “This policy change balances the need for public safety with the fair treatment of juveniles by giving judges the option to look at each case on an individual basis."
Some believe that a barrier for moving Michigan forward (in several arenas) is the inability of elected leaders in Lansing to work together. Is this a barrier? If so, what would you do to remove this barrier and improve the environment in Lansing to one that is more collaborative and less partisan?
Yes it is. Our Constitution describes our parties as checks and balances not sparring partners like today.
It all goes back to earning respect of your colleagues on both sides of the aisle through honesty and integrity. You must have consistent principles. A true north. A moral compass that doesn't waver. We've seen the candidates of both parties at the national level bobbing-and-weaving and changing their positions as the political winds shift. It's okay (actually healthy) to modify positions based on new information. But lately, we've seen too much vacillating every time a new poll is released.
Our Constitution was designed to have a certain amount of gridlock built into the system to prevent the Government from making rash decisions and being dominated by the group in power. There are however times when partisanship clouds the judgment of our leaders. One solution is to increase the number of years legislators can serve. The current 6 year limit in the House prevents members from building personal relationships as they were able to in the past. On a personal level, being willing to listen to both sides and not participate in the hyper-partisanship are qualities that will make me an effective legislator.
A talented workforce is critical to the economic development in our area. Currently, Michigan is below the national average of in the number of residents who have a career credential or college degree, and Newaygo County is below the Michigan average. In order to create the talented pipeline that workforce demands, providing affordable access to career credentials or college degrees is critical. What are your concrete strategies to increase access and participation in career training beyond high school (Credential or Degree) and what financial resources and political capital are you willing to expend to get us there?
Newaygo County is blessed to have one of the finest Career Tech Centers in the state. West Shore Community College also has an excellent facility. I know, because I have taught at both campuses. I will definitely work diligently to ensure these programs receive adequate funding and raise the profile so students are aware of all the opportunities these centers have to offer.
We must be careful not to forget about the other career opportunities. It is important that students who want to be doctors or accountants are college-ready to pursue their dreams too.
Political capital gets back to that honesty, integrity and respect issue. With those elements, one will have an unlimited supply of political capital.
I have been in favor of career specific training for years as I see employers in our district struggle to find skilled workers, while University educated graduates struggle to find work. One immediate fix to this is to remove the stigma many high school counselors place on those pursuing skilled trade careers. I often hear how they are treated as second class students and the “smart” students are those entering our Universities. A “smart” student is someone who identifies their unique talents, develops them, and finds gainful employment using them.
From a financial perspective, we need to ensure that more of these programs are available and funded at the high school level and that those who seek post-high school training can find affordable and effective training programs.
There seems to be bi-partisan support for many of these ideas and some have already been implemented in recent years. I intend to continue on this path.
We now have the Newaygo Promise for college bound students. I will help create a skilled trade’s project for our students working with local contractors. Ask any of our local contractors the average age of their workforce. They are looking for future employees and have no pool to draw from now.
Smart students, strong local workforce, and business environment equals our kids staying here and raising their families here.
This will work. The good news is we can do this by working together on a local level.
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