With a number of Democratic incumbents and primary winners running unopposed in the November general election, the contest for the 96th District in the State House of Representatives has become the featured regional race on Bay County ballots.
Bay City Democrat Brian Elder and Bay City Republican David Scholl are vying to replace two time incumbent Charles Brunner, who is leaving office due to term limits.
We posed each candidates a few questions on current issues in Bay County and in Michigan. Here are their unedited answers:
Review: Do you support the establishment of a Regional Port Authority and the creation of a "deep water" port in Bay County?
David Scholl: On its face the idea of a deep water port with its potential to create hundreds of well paying jobs for our citizens sounds ideal. If that were the only factor I would say that I do support the idea.
However, I do have reservations as to the powers given to a Port Authority to seize lands via condemnation through Michigan Act 639 of 1978 and to the potential powers it would receive to regulate the use of the waterways under its control.
Bay City is a haven for recreational boaters and fishermen. The potential for a Port Authority to alter our ability to use our recreational waterways would be of grave concern. Therefore, without concrete assurances that there would be no excessive seizure of property from citizens and no restrictions on the recreational use of our river and our bay, I would not be able to support such a plan.
Brian Elder: The Saginaw River represents the single strongest possibility for future economic development in this region. We need a permanent, sustainable entity for the continuous dredging of the Saginaw River and future infrastructure needs. I am less concerned with the specific vehicle than I am concerned that the vehicle gets moving right away.
Review: While recent changes in funding for the maintenance of articulated bridges will help, it does not address the full need when it comes to keeping the drawbridges operational. An increase in commercial traffic on the river will further expose this problem. How can the State help Bay City ensure these vital corridors stay safe and fully operational into the future?
Elder: The permanent solution to this issue is to have the State of Michigan take over what is really, part and parcel, a State highway system. State Senator Green has pushed for bills that help address these issues, and I am in support of those bills as well.
Scholl: Senator Mike Green’s bill (PA 0246 of 2016) authorizes the creation of the movable bridge fund which will “distribute a percentage of money from the movable bridge fund …. for the operation of a publicly owned movable bridge.” The maintenance and improvement of the bridges will remain the responsibility of Bay City as the owner of the two Bridges – Liberty and Independence. Bay City will submit annual estimates as to the costs of operating the two bridges and I would work to insure we received every penny needed.
Review: Do you support the expansion of Charter Schools in Michigan?
Scholl: Yes, and my stance is echoed by a majority of Michigan voters. A recent survey by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy indicates that “likely voters favor charter schools by a 2-to-1 margin (55 to 26 percent), while 80 percent expressed support for students’ ability to choose charter schools.” Additionally, a Stanford University study found that “charter public school students learn more than their conventional public school peers — with the difference even more pronounced for low-income students, racial minority students, and students who attend Detroit schools.”
Elder: No. One in five for-profit charter schools in the United States of America exist in the State of Michigan. That is because of the grotesque connection between charter school investors and the current control of the State House, State Senate and Governor's mansion. We would never allow a system of for-profit military units to consume our national defense dollars and "compete" with the mission of the United State Marine Corp. It is equally absurd to allow a system of unaccountable for-profit charter schools to drain our tax dollars and "compete" with the public school system.
Review: Are you willing to introduce legislation to expand the 10 cent deposit to all beverage bottles, including bottled water and other non-carbonated 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.
Scholl: No. The bottle return is an impediment to creating a full scale curbside recycling program here in Michigan which could include not just aluminum cans, but Styrofoam, glass, plastic, paper and cardboard. Aluminum is the most valuable recyclable but the Michigan Bottle Law offers a 10 cent incentive for individuals to return the cans to the store instead of placing them in curbside recycling. Without the income that could be generated to support them, most curbside recycling programs in Michigan communities depend upon subsidies to keep them viable.
I would focus on reducing obstacles such as simplifying the DEQ’s environmental permitting process to allow companies to utilize more recycled materials in their processes. This would do more to jumpstart and support a vibrant curbside recycling program than expanding the current 10-cent government mandate.