2020 Traverse Connect Primary Election Questionnaire

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

I grew up in Mt. Pleasant, earned an Chemical Engineering degree at UM 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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

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 AM 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.

How do you intend to address our region's housing shortage?

Full Question

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.

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.