With two term office holder Charles Brunner stepping down due to term limits, the 96th District seat in the State House of Representatives is up for grabs in this November’s election.
Unlike several races in the County, the identity of the next State Representative will not be settled in the Primary Elections, as Republican David Scholl awaits the winner of the August 2nd Democratic Primary.
The two Democratic candidates are well known to Bay County voters.
Brian Elder, 42, is a Bay City resident who practices law in Auburn. He was formerly a Bay County Commissioner from 2002 – 2010. He also sought the nomination for State Representative in 2010, falling to Brunner in the Primary Election.
Don Tilley, 47, is a teacher at Bay City Central High and has been the 6th District Commissioner in Bay County since 2006. Tilley is also currently Chairman of the Board of Directors at Bay Future.
In preparation for the Democratic Primary, we posed a few questions to Tilley and Elder. We will revisit this race in November, bringing Republican Scholl into the forum.
Review: Michigan has had a tough year. The Flint Water situation is a disaster. We still don’t know if we have solutions to the Detroit Schools or our State funded roads. Rick Snyder was recently named the worst leader in the world by Fortune magazine. What can we do in Michigan to turn around the valid perception that we can’t execute even the basics when it comes to government and public services?
Elder: Primarily we need to stop electing officials who fail to realize that government exists to provide basic services, and not to collect taxes from the middle class to redistribute to insiders. The people of the 96th District pay the same, or more, in taxes and receive less in services. Our State government needs to focus on basic infrastructure (roads and bridges), public education, police and fire protection. These services cost money, money which our people already pay. We need to stop losing services to pay for insider tax breaks.
Since 2003, Lansing has diverted over $33 million that was intended to go to Bay County police, fire and roads. To make matters worse, Governor Snyder slashed some Bay County’s public school budgets by up to 15%. No one should be surprised by lead-poisoned water in Flint, mushrooms growing in the classrooms of Detroit or police officers over-worked and over-stressed when our so-called “leaders” have created this situation.
Tilley: Lansing is broken. Our state government is more concerned with pointing fingers at one another than working together to solve problems. Our elected leaders need to stand up to special interest groups that are more concerned with their bottom-line than protecting ordinary citizens.
Review: Michigan has one of the highest rates of recycling in the nation, due in large part to the 10 cent deposit on the bottles for carbonated beverages. When the system was devised, bottled water and sports drinks were excluded. These were a tiny fraction of the market at the time, but now make up a large part of our waste streams. Would you support – or better yet introduce - legislation to include all beverage containers in the Michigan deposit bottle program?
Tilley: Yes, I would strongly support legislation to include all beverage containers in the deposit bottle program. Michigan has been a leader in recycling for 40 years, but if we are to maintain that leadership status, we must change our current recycling model in order to accommodate the growth in the use of bottled water and sports drinks.
Elder: Yes. As a young child, my father and I would fill a shopping bag with trash every time we went fishing or hunting. After the bottle return laws went into effect, they had a dramatically positive impact on our State land, lakes, rivers and streams. One of Michigan’s premier attractions is our beautiful wilderness. From the Great Lakes to the Au Sable River, we don’t just draw tourists from across the country, we actually get visitors from around the globe. Including bottled water and sports drinks in Michigan’s deposit bottle program is a good idea.
Review: The recent announcement that Dow Chemical would be eliminating 700 jobs in the region due to the assimilation of Dow Corning and the fear that more might go when the Dow – Dupont merger is complete is the latest example of the difficulty that Michigan has had in holding on to its manufacturing base and the high paying jobs that it traditionally has provided. What can the State do to try and create a business climate that will help the average citizen attain financial stability?
Elder: I grew up during Flint’s economic crisis of the early 80s, and for 35 years now I’ve been hearing “The State needs to create a better business climate.” It has been used as an excuse to gut our local government budgets, slash public education, neglect our infrastructure and cut police and fire services. Recently, when robbing the people of their basic services wasn’t quite enough to pay for trickle down tax cuts, we’ve taxed seniors’ pensions too. For some, this is still not good enough. Call me crazy, but maybe the State should just do its job now, and see if that works in “creating a better business climate”. I’m thinking that small and big business alike would prefer paved streets, safe water, cops on the beat and firefighters ready to go, along with a properly educated workforce. It’s worth a try, right?
Tilley: The business community, education sectors, and state government must work together to connect skilled job seekers to potential employers to fill job openings. We must also invest in training programs for low-skilled workers, so that they can acquire the skills necessary to work in innovative industries across the state -- allowing our economy to continue to grow.
Review: In 10 words or less, why are you the right candidate for the 96th District House Seat.
Tilley: I live and breathe Bay County values.
Elder: I’m an advocate who will be taken seriously in Lansing.