What do you want the business community to know about your candidacy?
I will not undermine efforts to recruit full-year businesses to the area and will work to make it easier to recruit employees to the area. At the commencement ceremony where I received my Doctor of Engineering hood, there were twelve candidates receiving doctoral degrees in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Two of us spoke English as a first language; the other English speaker was black. At professional society meetings in Operations Research and related fields, a very large number of women wear a hijab.
If my classmates and colleagues were to research a job opening in Traverse City, they would find out about the dis-invitation of an Imam for his role in a choral concert, the anti-Muslim statements of the Kalkaska Village President, the racist statements of the Leelanau Road Commissioner, and the invitation of Proud Boys from outside the county to bring forward and ultimately pass the firearm sanctuary resolution.
My classmates would see the Proud Boys and the firearm sanctuary resolution as a green light for armed protests in front of their place of worship—not an expression of liberty as the Proud Boys see it. They would certainly think twice about interviewing for the job; high tech businesses know that they will have a tough time recruiting employees to move to this area under these conditions.
The net present value of the negative publicity from that resolution probably negated the entire advertising budget for Traverse Connect this year, even though it only made the local news. The tail from that event will easily last a decade.
I will not undermine efforts to recruit full-year business to the area and will work to make it easier to recruit employees to the area.
If elected, what would be your top three priorities? Please describe each priority?
My top three priorities are tightly related: housing availability, land use, and transparency. I’ve done enough overnights at Safe Harbor to know that a full-time job does guarantee a place to sleep in Grand Traverse County.
I believe that the outward migration Michigan has experienced during my life will reverse, and that growth in Northern Michigan will be much faster than in the recent past. The housing shortage in the region will only get worse without major effort. Although I only returned to Michigan a little over two years ago, the 30 years I lived in Texas give me experience with rapid expansion that life-long residents of Grand Traverse County do not have. I’ve seen massive land-use mistakes and decisions that looked good at 2 million people, that don’t look so good at 6 million people.
The root problem in many of the poor decisions that I saw in Texas was a lack of transparency; the suburbs that gave everyone a seat at the table for zoning and development discussions ended up with much more livable communities with much more sustainable tax bases. It was sometimes messy, but the results were much better. Transparency means more and longer meetings so that everything is done in the open, but the results are much better.
Can you describe your vision for collaboration between the GT County Commission and other taxing jurisdictions?
My vision IS collaboration. My big priority is housing and land use, but zoning is controlled by the City and the Townships. To maintain the wonderful community that we enjoy now will require cooperation between all entities on the way to a population of 200,000. Cooperative zoning is the only way that the region will develop in a way that we still like at 200,000 people.
The recent spiking of the Senior Center project is a prime example of the zero-sum game that is currently being played, complete with statistical lies on costs and use that ignored the value of the land that the City was contributing free of charge. This project needs to get done and it needs to get done in a collaborative way. The City could just do it by itself, which would leave County residents of Peninsula, Garfield, East Bay, and to a lesser extent Acme and Whitewater with no access to a Senior Center.
Young Professionals: Why are you the preferred candidate for young professionals?
I will vote to move meetings to the evening so that wage and salary workers can attend and run for office. Personally, mornings are better for me, but morning meetings make it difficult if not impossible for anyone with a salary or wage job to participate.
During the pandemic, I will push hard for infection control measures across the community so that we can keep some high-risk activities like schools and even some semblance of bars open. Child care for families and isolation for single adults are horrendous challenges that require some higher-risk gatherings. To facilitate this, we have to make the rest of the community very low risk. When I encounter a business not using masks, I report it to the health department, and I’ve encouraged others to do so as well. When “travel into or out of the area” infections after the Sturgis rally hit in August, we didn’t go into exponential growth. Though getting reported has angered some people, I think the resultant increase in mask use is a contributor to our ability to keep schools open.
I don’t know anything about child care, but I do know that the biggest lever on this problem is keeping schools open, and encouraging infection control measures is the best tool that we have to do that right now. Most people don’t see mask use a partial solution to the childcare problem, but I do.
The pandemic has impacted governments across the state. 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 from the pandemic is to facilitate social cooperation on a community scale. People won’t use local retailers unless they feel safe. To feel safe, they must be safe; feeling safe follows being safe—but it follows at a great distance. To be safe, we need widespread, visible infection control measures. There has been far too much focus on what we cannot do, and far to little on what we can do.
My role is to stand up to bullies, to listen carefully to people with whom I disagree and to call those whom no one else calls.