2022 Traverse Connect Questionaire
Why are you interested in serving the people, families, and businesses in the Grand Traverse Region?
There are several reasons. The first is that I can do a better job than my opponent. I want to focus the County Commission on local issues and stop wasting time on national issues over which the County Commission has no legislative power. I started attending County Commission meetings regularly in February, 2019 and have been appalled at how much time has been wasted on political resolutions that have nothing to do with the responsibilities of county government.
I volunteer at Safe Harbor through Grace Episcopal Church and through that have insight and understanding of the homelessness and mental health problems that face our county.
The current commission does not plan—the vote to leave Northern Lakes Community Mental Health (NLCMH) followed by a vote to remove two board members, which was finally followed by a working meeting with stakeholders is an example. A series of stakeholder meetings started two years ago would in all likelihood have avoided the problems at NLCMH in the first place. The Board should adopt best practices from business for planning and budgeting to avoid problems like the County is currently experiencing with NLCMH.
Government needs to be more accessible. The move to day-time meetings prevents community members with day-time jobs from serving—only business owners and retirees have the flexibility to serve when meetings are at 8:00 AM. As a relatively young retiree, I have the flexibility to step up, and am compelled to do so by the dysfunction that I have witnessed.
Finally, the current commission has no one who has experienced a fast-growing population. I spent my working years in a Texas metropolitan area that grew from about 2 million when I arrived in 1986 to about 8 million when I returned to Michigan in 2018. I lived through the growing pains and understand the problems and trade-offs that face rapidly growing counties such as ours.
How will you use your role to support the economic vitality of our region?
We need a strategic plan and a budget that aligns with that plan. Our budgets are now created by repeating the previous year with no evaluation of changing needs. We need a plan for development, housing and related infrastructure, and it needs to be done with an open process.
I would also repudiate the explicit show of support for the Proud Boys and other extremists demonstrated during the discussion and passage of the 2nd Amendment Sanctuary resolution. Making the region a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds is critical to recruiting skilled workers.
Do you believe local government should have broad authority to regulate short-term rentals?
Local conditions vary widely and local governments should have the ability to encourage, discourage and regulate short-term rentals to meet local needs. In Sedona, AZ, the state removed the ability to regulate short-term rentals in any meaningful way; the result was that working-age families were pushed out—first by prices, and then by the collapse of the public school system. The local community should control its destiny by managing the trade offs between ownership rights and the need to preserve affordable communities.
I do not want Grand Traverse County to turn in to a region where short-term rentals owned by outside investors made the region unlivable for working age families
How would you address the shortage of skilled labor in northern Michigan?
The retirement of the baby boom generation is a part of the skilled labor shortage; it was accelerated by the pandemic. We need to keep and make Grand Traverse County a place where skilled workers of all backgrounds can stay, afford to live and feel welcome.
For Northern Michigan, improving the availability of housing and childcare is critical to retaining the skilled workers we have and to recruiting skilled workers to the region.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) professions are racially and ethically diverse. Recruiting skilled labor in these and other jobs will require creating a welcoming environment and avoiding polemics such as the statements by the Leelanau Road Commissioner, the welcome to the Proud Boys by the Grand Traverse County Commission, and the anti-Islamic statements of the Kalkaska Village President.
would you prioritize the county’s ARPA and Infrastructure Act funding?
Housing availability and cost are root causes for many problems that the region faces. I would spend a major amount on different aspects of the housing problem. I would fund facilities for chronically homeless and mentally ill residents. Homelessness is perceived as a Traverse City problem, but that is only because that is where the unsheltered can find services and shelter.
I would fund programs that rehabilitate housing stock. I would fund sewer and water projects that make it economically advantageous for builders to develop areas that have access to sewer and water services instead of areas where the up-front costs of a well and septic system are lower.
The availability of housing is a barrier to business growth and talent attraction in our region. Do you plan to use this office to address the affordable housing shortage? If so, how?
I plan to use the County Commission to help address the housing shortage. Zoning and many tools for housing development rest with Townships, but the County Commission controls appointments to the Land Bank Authority, Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, and Road Commission. These boards have direct or indirect influence on housing development; the Board of Commissioners needs to make sure that the appointees understand the urgency of the housing problem and that they work on projects to support housing development of a variety of different types.
The County has a largely unused fund for housing rehabilitation; this was proposed and I believe used to help East Bay residents north of the Airport connect to municipal water when PFAS was detected in their well water. Use of this fund should be expanded to keep houses from turning into tear-downs.
The County should have a role in regional planning and should re-institute the planning effort.
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?
Parents early in their careers are limited in how much it makes sense to pay for child care, and even with reduced regulation, providers can’t make money at the prices they can charge parents. A secondary problem is that attrition of childcare workers is very high; training programs will never, ever fix an attrition problem. With the retirement of baby-boomers, the supply of workers is smaller, and demand will force the price of labor higher.
During the decade that parents need child care, there is no way that they can afford to pay enough to actually provide the service in the current wage environment. Subsidizing the cost of providing childcare via grants from businesses, federal programs, state programs or a county tax program is a key part of the solution.
There are a variety of different ways that this could be structured.
Voters in the county need to be given an opportunity to choose to fund and finance child care in the same way that we finance schools and other services that are needed by early-career families.
What are your solutions for supporting businesses being affected directly by inflation and supply chain costs?
Labor availability is one of the root problems for both inflation and supply chain costs. The locally high cost and availability of work-force housing and child care constrain local labor availability and push labor costs upward.
Improving access to housing and childcare will help in two ways: labor expenses will reprice more slowly, and on the revenue side, businesses will have more power to increase prices when customers are not constrained by high housing and childcare costs.