By NIKKI YOUNK
KINGSFORD - Eleven candidates for congressional, state, and local offices fielded questions from local voters during the American Association of University Women's (AAUW) candidate forum in Kingsford on Tuesday.
Theresa Peterson/Daily News Photo
Dickinson County Deputy Director of Emergency Services Pete Schlitt, center, speaks about the 911 ballot proposal during the candidate forum in Kingsford Tuesday night. Also pictured, from left, are Ed McBroom, Republican candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives 108th District; Ellis Boal, Green candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives First District; Schlitt; Sharon Gray, Democratic candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives 108th District; and Daniel Anderson, Democratic candidate for Dickinson County Prosecutor.
About 75 people attended the event, which was moderated by Dee Benjamin, the former director of the Dickinson-Iron-Menominee Math and Science Center.
U.S. House of Representatives First District
- Ellis Boal (Green).
The other congressional candidates, Republican Dan Benishek and Democrat Gary McDowell, were speaking at a Traverse City forum on Tuesday, so they were unable to attend the Kingsford forum.
Boal said that he is pro-environment, pro-choice, pro-Social Security, pro-labor, and a supporter of single-payer health care.
He mainly focused on his opposition to hydraulic fracking, which he admitted is more of an issue in the northern Lower Peninsula than the Upper Peninsula, and his current lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for defending the fracking industry.
Michigan House of Representatives 108th District
- Ed McBroom (Republican).
- Sharon Gray (Democrat).
Voters asked these candidates how they would strengthen the economy and what they believe the government's role is in women's reproductive health.
McBroom said that Michigan's economy is dependent on natural resources in forestry, mining, and agriculture and on the manufacturing industry.
"What's hindering companies is, where's the workforce?" he said. "We need to give our students the ability to look for career-based training while in high school so they can stay and work in the area."
Gray agreed that Michigan's education system needs to be improved, but she added that the state needs to keep up its infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, to encourage businesses to come in.
On the women's health issue, both candidates agreed that the state should not have a role.
"That's why I oppose Obamacare," said McBroom. "However, I am unashamed to be pro-life, it identifies who I am."
"Health care should not be between a woman and her legislator," Gray said. "It should be her own choice."
- Daniel Anderson (Democrat).
- Lisa Richards (Republican).
Questions directed to these candidates included what the biggest issue facing the county is and their opinions on rehabilitating offenders.
Both candidates agreed that the biggest issue they would deal with is illegal drugs.
"I've seen it go from Ritalin to prescription drugs, to heroin, to bath salts and spice, and now we're starting to see a crystal meth problem," said Anderson. "I will have a zero tolerance policy on meth."
"I would continue to take an aggressive stance on drug dealers, and when appropriate, try to rehabilitate drug users," said Richards.
Anderson and Richards also agreed that first offenders should be given a chance at rehabilitation, but if they re-offend, they should face more severe consequences.
They also concurred that a veterans court would be worth looking into. The veteran court would offer prosecution alternatives for veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and commit offenses.
Dickinson County Sheriff
- Steve Mulka (independent).
- Scott Celello (Democrat).
These candidates answered questions regarding drug use in schools and sheriff department priorities.
Mulka said that instead of trying to control drugs with legislation, there should be a focus on drug education and parental controls.
Celello agreed that education is important, but he added that the sheriff's department's D.A.R.E. program is in need of funding.
As for priorities, Mulka said that he would focus on automatic aid between departments instead of mutual aid, the D.A.R.E. program, cooperating and coordinating with other agencies, and looking at alternatives to incarceration.
Celello said that he would continue to work on the overcrowded jail issue, expand deputy training, continue work van operations, and continue the jail's tether program.
Dickinson County Board of Commissioners District Three
- Barbara Kramer (Republican).
- Dale Alessandrini (Democrat).
Questions to these candidates included what challenges does the county face and what their take on revenue sharing is.
Kramer believed that the county's two major challenges are jobs and budgeting.
"We need to work with the (Dickinson Area) Partnership and economic development, set goals, and communicate regularly," she said. "We should also work to maintain revenue streams through more businesses, more grants, and reducing unfunded mandates."
Alessandrini agreed with Kramer that jobs are an issue, but he claimed that there is only so much a county can do to bring more businesses in. Instead, he said, the county should try to help existing businesses.
On the issue of revenue sharing, Kramer said that revenue sharing will be tied to collaborative efforts, government transparency, and accountability. She suggested that the county could provide easy-to-understand budget information, make its website more interactive, and provide more forms online.
Alessandrini focused on collaboration. He said that he is currently on the committee looking at consolidation between Iron Mountain and Kingsford. If some services could be consolidated, revenue sharing could increase, he said.
- Carol Taylor (Republican).
- Johanna Provost (write-in).
These candidates answered questions about how they would efficiently run the office.
Taylor said that she would implement a continuing education requirement so that she and her staff would be up-to-date on technology and in a position to save taxpayers money.
Provost said that organization would be key. She added that she has the experience needed for the position, as she has worked in the treasurer's office for the past four years and she already takes part in continuing education.
In addition to the candidates, Pete Schlitt, deputy director of emergency services, addressed the county-wide 911 ballot proposal.
Schlitt explained that although Dickinson County residents pay a 42-cent surcharge on their phone bills each month, the funds raised do not cover half of the 911 center's costs.
Furthermore, the center's equipment has already surpassed its life expectancy, he said.
The proposal calls for four-tenths of a mill.
According to Schlitt, the millage will ensure that all people who own property in Dickinson County will contribute to the 911 center.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is email@example.com.