32nd Senate District Candidate Forum Two Respected Doctors Issue Prescriptions for Curing the Ills Afflicting Saginaw & Gratiot Counties

Posted In: Politics, State, Local, Candidates, Interviews,   From Issue 711   By: Robert E Martin

23rd September, 2010     0

The battle for the 32nd District Senate Seat, which covers Saginaw & Gratiot counties, involves two respected physicians, each having their own prescription for providing relief to perennial problems that have afflicted the area in recent years.

Incumbent Senator Roger Kahn is a former Saginaw County Commissioner, elected in November 2004 as the State Representative for the 94th District. In November 2006 he won a contentious battle against Democratic candidate Carl Williams and was elected as the State Senator for the 32nd District.

Senator Kahn received his MD degree from Wayne State University and trained at Beaumont Hospital in Detroit, where he became a cardiologist. In terms of community service and affiliations, he is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine for MSU, where he received the Teacher of the Year award. His background of community involvement includes the Saginaw Community Foundation, Saginaw Chamber of Commerce Board, and he has supported the Saginaw Rescue Mission, was honorary chair of fundraising for Pit & Balcony, served as a Board member for the Jane’s Street Clinic, and donated time to Saginaw’s free clinic.

His legislative work has led to numerous honors, including the Legislator of the Year Award in 2008 from the Fraternal Order of Police, the 2009 Michigan State Medical Society Presidential Citation, and in 2002 Roger received the ‘Heart of Gold’ award from the American Heart Association.

He was born in 1945 and after medical training in Detroit, returned to Saginaw at a time when Saginaw had one part-time cardiac laboratory and no cardiac surgery. Roger fought for and brought the balloon pump, modern pacemakers and outreach clinics to Saginaw. He founded the Heart Group and worked to expand the cardiac lab and initiate Saginaw’s cardiac surgery program; and successfully fought to start a second cardiac program at Covenant (then St. Luke’s hospital.) Today, Saginaw has blossomed into one of the best cardiac centers in the Midwest.

Senator Kahn has had over 30 bills signed into law by Governor Granholm as Senator, and notes that he is particularly proud of SB 1270 which authorized MEGA to issue certificates to Hemlock Semiconductor for refundable tax credits, which led to HSC’s expansion in Saginaw County; SB 358 which established SmartZones that increase access to early stage capital, provide access to entrepreneurship education, and offer sources of help for young companies; the Lead Toys Bill which prohibits a person from using or applying a toxic substance in or on any toy or child care article; and his Crime Fighting Bills that made membership in a gang that provides the means, motive, or creates the opportunity to commit a violent felony, a felony in itself and allows the sentencing judge to add another 20 year prison sentence.

Kahn’s Democratic challenger, Debasish Mridha was born in 1964 and is a neurologist and small business owner. In terms of civic involvement, he notes that he is President-elect of the Saginaw County Medical Society, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Michigan State Medical Society and the Saginaw Valley State University Foundation.  He is also a Board of Trustee member on the Michigan State Medical Society Foundation and Chairman of the Saginaw County Medical Society Service Committee.

Although a successful physician, Dr. Mridha came from humble beginnings in Bangladesh, calling a tent at a war refugee camp in India home for four years before attending school in the Ukraine on a full scholarship. Mridha and his wife came to the U.S. in 1991 with $300 in their pockets and today his neurology and pain management clinic has cared for thousands of area residents.

He cites this three top priorities as creating jobs and putting an end to job outsourcing, protecting the middle class by fighting to end exorbitant banking fees and changing foreclosure policies, and reforming Michigan’s government by supporting “any reform that would cut the pay, benefits and perks for legislators.’  He also states that he will ‘lead by example’ and refuse a Senate paycheck.

Review: What are the personal qualities and your position on key issues such as the economy, our environment, and health care that you feel cause you to stand out from your opponent?

Mridha: As a doctor and a small business owner I know first hand many of the challenges that businesses and people in Michigan face on a daily basis. I want to bring my experience of creating jobs to Lansing and help Michigan become a leader in business, education and prosperity. I also want to bring integrity back to the 32nd District. The people of Saginaw and Gratiot County deserve a representative that works with people, not someone who bullies people and embarrasses his office and his constituents.

Kahn: I went to school here at Delta and I have been a doctor in Saginaw for over thirty years. I raised my family here. I know our community and our people. I ran for the legislature to help people. I have worked to improve access to health care for us, first by helping initiate the Saginaw Health Plan. I also brought Healthy Kids Dental here, a health clinic to Saginaw High and also one to Arthur Hill.

I have worked hard to create jobs in our community like helping Morley Company, Hemlock Semiconductor, Delphi (now Nexteer) and Dow. I am passionate in defending our people and I especially believe we should receive equal treatment with the rest of the state. I have fought policies that harm Saginaw. I am able to work with people from both parties to benefit us including working to save the BV Secretary of State office and working with former mayor Joyce Seals to protect our children from lead painted toys from China.

I worked with Chief Gerald Cliff to crack down on gang crime. I am co chair of the bipartisan Great Lakes Bay Regional Caucus. I believe that my experience, work ethic and ability to work for all people in our county make me best suited to continue as senator.

Review: Do you offer any proposals for education reform, either at the K/12 or higher education levels?

Kahn: We must provide a world-class education for our kids so we can build the highly skilled work force that job providers need. That is why I fought for the International Baccalaureate program in Saginaw Township. Though our economy has been hard hit and our state budgets too, I have sought to protect education from cuts whenever possible, for example MSU extension.        

That is why the Michigan Education Association has endorsed me.

I am working on reforms to save money in education like eliminating uncontested elections and their cost. I am a strong supporter of birth to five programs and restored the governor’s cuts to Teen Parent. My bill, now law, found an alternative to Algebra 2 that promotes skilled trades education.

I am working on (as the Saginaw News noted) a number of methods to restart and cost control the Promise Scholarship: means testing, using it for Michigan schools only, and as a loan with forgiveness for those staying in Michigan.

Mridha: Education is one of my top concerns. I want to make sure that my daughter as well as all of the children of Michigan has a change to compete in the global economy. The way to help our schools is to make sure that we are investing in our education system. We need to attract and keep bright and energetic people to teaching. My opponent’s votes to decrease benefits and salary are doing the opposite. As your next state senator I will fight to restore the Michigan Promise Scholarship so that every child can dream of a better future through higher education.

Review: Would you make any changes in the state tax structure or state budget to prevent our annual budget crisis of recent years?

Mridha: We need to look at many different things to help bring Michigan back to the prosperity it once knew. Reforming the state tax structure is a necessity in order to bring in more businesses to the state. Things like the Michigan Business Tax surcharge and other tax policies that hurt Michigan must be reformed or eliminated. We cannot, however, just cut our legs out from under our teachers, police and other vital public services. Any loss of revenue must be made up in some other way.

Kahn: Yes, the Michigan Business Tax needs to be replaced with a simpler, fairer corporate tax structure. I have voted repeatedly against the surcharge. My Medicaid Inspector General Law is a good example of a way to save money and help us live within our means. We need to incentivize business investment to restore empty industrial buildings in Saginaw and I have legislation to do so. I don’t support tax increases as they hurt job providers. We have too many people out of work now.

Review: Are you in favor of the proposal to convene a new Constitutional Convention in Michigan; and if so, why?

Kahn: I support a constitutional convention. This is the longest we have ever gone without examining our constitution. Without a constitutional convention issues like a part time legislature or term limits reform are unlikely to be worked on.

Mridha: No. A Constitutional Convention would be a great expense at a time when Michigan cannot afford it.

Review:  A State of Michigan mineral rights auction last May opened an unprecedented amount of acreage to the process of hydraulic fracturing of natural gas – a little regulated and immensely controversial technique that has been linked to massive ground water contamination in states ranging from Colorado to Kentucky.

More acreage is set for auction in October and current legislation exempts regulation of this practice, as well as identifying the chemicals from regulation under the Halliburton Loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

While the State of Michigan only reaped $178 million in revenue on the May auction, the Encana Corporation reaped net income of $1.8 billion on revenue of $11.1 billion in 2007.

Are you in favor of placing a moratorium on these land auctions and would you support legislation to either ban hydraulic fracturing or make the companies utilizing this practice pay for 24-hour monitoring by State regulators?

Mridha:  I believe that harnessing Michigan’s vast natural resources is a great way to create revenue and jobs in the state. However, we must strive to find the most environmentally friendly way of extracting those resources.  I would support any legislation to help extract those resources in environmentally safe says.

Kahn: I am willing to explore further oversight of this mining technique based on sound science.


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