95th District State Representative Candidate Forum

Posted In: Politics, Local, Candidates, Interviews,   From Issue 707   By: Mike Thompson

15th June, 2010     0

Michigan’s State House of Representatives 95th District originally spanned the City of Saginaw from 1966 to 1994, when Jim O’Neill was the representative.

The boundaries have expanded through Buena Vista Township, and into portions of Bridgeport and Spaulding townships, because of a population decline.

 Mike Hanley, Carl Williams and Andy Coulouris have served, all as Democrats. The seat now is open, and the primary election in August will decide the general election candidates in November.

In the Aug. 3 primary, there are five Democratic candidates and two Republican candidates. Review Magazine asked for their statements, with repeated mailings and phone calls.

The Democrats who responded are Greg Dietrich and Joyce Seals. The Democrats who did not respond are J.J. Horgan, Pamela Pugh Smith and Stacy Erwin Oakes. Horgan is 72 years old and reportedly is fighting cancer, but he (or his supporters) have placed campaign signs to indicate that he remains an active candidate.

Republican nominee candidate Joel Wilson answered our questions, but Sarge Harvey did not.

When you vote on Aug. 3, you must choose between Democrats or Republicans. When you vote on Nov. 2, you may choose between the Democrat and Republican candidates who have been nominated in the August vote.

Following are the responses we received at Review Magazine. We tried with due diligence, over and over, to reach the non-responding candidates. We will let you be the judge for their lack of responses. (Editor’s Note: We will also let you decide for yourself how accountable these non-responding candidates would be towards their constituency.)

 

DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

Greg Dietrich, 30, is a production worker at Nexteer Automotive and a member of the Buena Vista Township trustee. He’s a U.S. Air Force veteran who worked for both U.S. Rep. Carl Levin and U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee, and he is a past chairman of the Saginaw County Democratic Party.

 

 

 

Joyce J. Seals, 61, is a retired specialist from first the Michigan Department of Labor, and then the Department of Education. She is former Saginaw Mayor and City Council member, and also was elected to the Saginaw City Charter Commission. She was first vice-president of the Saginaw County Democratic Party. Her grassroots civic involvement includes Ezekiel Project president, Saginaw County Land Bank Authority, United Way, Lake Huron Area Boy Scouts, Houghton-Jones Neighborhood Task Force, Good Neighbors Mission.

 

J.J Horgan, Pamela Pugh Smith and Stacy Erwin Oakes did not respond to Review Magazine’s repeated requests.

 

Review: What are the personal qualities, and positions on issues, that distinguishes you among the other candidates?

Dietrich: My commitment is to find pragmatic solutions for lingering problems. I try to stay away from promoting an extensive resume or boasting about the "distinguished positions" I have held. I focus on what really matters for people who are living life with decency and respect. For example, every one knows unfortunately that Buena Vista Township has been plagued with longtime misuse of money. The issue has given the township some bad PR and may have cost some great opportunities for commerce.  During my first year as trustee, we passed rule changes that were strict and made the township manager more accountable. Was this a pragmatic solution for a lingering problem? Yes. Did the average citizen in BV know about the change? No, because we did not try to make headlines.  But as a township, we now are in a better position to market ourselves to outside investors, which benefits everyone.

Seals:The American dream should be available for all who want to take advantage of it. I am determined to succeed on any issue I take on. I care for people and I’m competent, intelligent, and astute on issues. I am a parent, an educator, a community activist and a policymaker. For jobs and economic development, my City Council service and my role as mayor gave me first-hand knowledge of the concerns of business owners. For community involvement, my service with groups ranging from Houghton-Jones to the Ezekiel Project have allowed me to go door-to-door, so that residents can tell me about their needs on a regular basis. This represents an investment of my time, my money and my love for this community. I show consistent advocacy for our citizens. My track record is proven. Anyone who has worked with me knows my sincerity and my determination to make a difference.

J.J. Horgan: Did not respond.

Pamela Pugh Smith: Did not respond.

Stacy Erwin Oakes: Did not respond.

 

Review:  Would you make any changes in the state's tax structure? Please incorporate your views on whether Michigan should adopt a progressive income tax.

Seals: Yes. The Michigan Business Tax needs to be revamped. My husband and daughter, and two of my sisters, own their own businesses. The tax burden is tremendous. If we are to eliminate the Michigan Business Tax, we have to look somewhere else to replace the revenue. We could institute a higher sales tax in exchange, in that we have the lowest sales tax in the region. Also, the way we fund roads must be revamped. If we make these changes, perhaps we wouldn’t need a progressive income tax, which is a concept that never would pass the Republican Senate.

Dietrich: I lean in favor of a progressive tax system. Some argue this has drawbacks by hindering those who earn a higher income from consuming more products, which would reduce overall demand. That is a worthy position to take, but the state of Michigan is already dealing with a decrease in a demand for production, even without a progressive tax. The upside of a progressive tax is that it would lessen the burden on lower-income earners, allowing for economic enhancement in undeserved areas while increasing the funding for needs like police and fire services, which currently are underfunded but desperately needed.

J.J. Horgan: Did not respond.

Pamela Pugh Smith: Did not respond.

Stacy Erwin Oakes: Did not respond.

 

 

Review:  What can be done to avoid these annual battles over balancing the state budget? Please be specific.

Dietrich: First, end term limits. Imagine hiring a work force for only six years and giving them a job like fixing Michigan's budget, and creating more jobs. Let’s give representatives in Lansing the time to work on our needs. If they don’t do a good job, vote them out after two years. Term limits actually give more power to special interests. Second, adopt a two-year budget so that we can cool the political posturing. We should stop putting our local governing units and school districts on edge every year

Seals: The Legislature has an entry-level group of representatives and senators who are trying to find common ground on issues. I would like to be part of this group and continue these efforts. This could eliminate the gridlock and battles over balancing the budget. The main problem is that many of the legislators don’t talk. The rookie legislators can make some headway. One idea is to have a two-year budget. In my service as mayor from 2007 to 2009, the City Council came together with both the neighborhoods and the businesses. This would be my approach in the Legislature as well.

J.J. Horgan: Did not respond.

Pamela Pugh Smith: Did not respond.

Stacy Erwin Oakes: Did not respond.

 

Review:  Do you offer any proposals for education reform, at the K-12 and/or higher ed level?

Seals: Education affects jobs, safety and prison reform. The new education standards are great, but they do not take total consideration of students who do not plan to go to college, who may instead desire to work with their hands or to start their own business. Therefore, many students are being left behind as we talk about “racing to the top.” We need to pick those students up, because they want to work as well. We’re spending $30,000 to house a prisoner but less than $7,000 to educate a child, yet we still have a 60 percent rate of recidivism.

Dietrich: Now that I am out of school, I don't see the harm in having school all year around! Granted we would need funding to match the pay for the extra work that is done, but the benefit would greatly impact the schools that are consistently struggling year after year. Numerous teachers tell me the first several months of school are spent teaching children what they forgot from the previous year. If we want more of a commitment from potential employers, we must prove we have the best-educated students in the country, even if it takes all year to do it.

J.J. Horgan: Did not respond.

Pamela Pugh Smith: Did not respond.

Stacy Erwin Oakes: Did not respond.

 

Review: The proposed Karn/Weadock Plant is not in the 95th District, but it is a regional issue. Do you or do you not agree with the concept of "clean coal" as an environmental improvement, and should the state permit these sorts of plants?

Dietrich: I have read about this issue in the Review over the years and I believe now would be the time to find the balance between meeting our needs which includes providing more energy and jobs with the need to preserve Michigan's environment.  I think the need for more energy and jobs is greater at this point, not to say preserving our environment is not as important but our needs should be balanced in a way that is beneficial to the state as a whole.

Seals: I believe the coal-related industry has come a long way and many improvements have been made, but there are still questions about mercury and carbon dioxide that raise environmental and health concerns. Clear and current research would have to be demonstrated before I can champion this clean-coal energy.

J.J. Horgan: Did not respond.

Pamela Pugh Smith: Did not respond.

Stacy Erwin Oakes: Did not respond.

 

 

Review: In your closing remarks, please incorporate any issues that you consider important, that were not covered in the preceding forum questions.

Dietrich: Serving on BV’s Citizens District Council for Downtown Rehabilitation, before becoming a township trustee, showed me the importance of planning. This helped us market the Fort Saginaw Mall property.  We need the same planning in state government. What are we going to do about the economy, jobs, public safety and education not just next year, but for the next 30 years?  I favor a two-year budget, eliminating term limits, and using taxpayer dollars more efficiently and creatively. Working with both labor and business, and understanding the needs of each, we can find imperfect but practical solutions to Michigan’s lingering problems.

Seals: In the 95th District, citizens should consider who has lived here, who understands this community, who has government experience, and who represents ALL the people. I was employed in Lansing for 26 years, first in the Michigan Department of Labor and then in the Department of Education. As an elected official, I have worked with every state department head. Most importantly, I have demonstrated concern on a continual basis for nearly 40 years, from the grassroots level on up. I believe I’ll represent what’s best in this community – leadership, service and integrity.  Vote for Joyce Seals, your best choice.

J.J. Horgan: Did not respond.

Pamela Pugh Smith: Did not respond.

Stacy Erwin Oakes: Did not respond.

 

 

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

Joel Wilson, 28, owns the Diversified Group for local residents to invest in stocks.

 

 

 

Review:  What are the personal qualities, and positions on issues, that causes you to stand out among the candidates?

Wilson: I believe that A is A. A thing is itself. Good is good and not bad, Right is right, and not wrong, Success is Success and not failure. I will support those things that are good, right, and successful through Reason, Logic and Common Sense. Reason allows us to understand the problems around us. Logic allows us to find a solution to those problems, and common sense allows us to choose from among those solutions which to implement.

Sarge Harvey: Did not respond.

 

Review: Would you make any changes in the state's tax structure? Please incorporate your views on whether Michigan should adopt a progressive income tax.

Wilson: Michigan’s business tax is unfair and harmful to the state as a whole. Businesses pay taxes like properties pay taxes. They don’t. People pay property taxes and people pay business taxes. We pay for business taxes in higher prices for goods and services and lost jobs. If we are to compete regionally or nationally as a state, we must eliminate all business taxes.

Sarge Harvey: Did not respond.

 

Review: What can be done to avoid these annual battles over balancing the state budget? Please be specific.

Wilson: Unfortunately there must be conflict sometimes. The state is spending too much money and that is fueling over taxation. Those who oppose cuts to spending and therefore support higher taxes and lost jobs must be fought. I promise to fight them.

Sarge Harvey: Did not respond.

 

Review:  Do you offer any proposals for education reform, at the K-12 and/or higher ed level?

Wilson:  Public schools have failed. We cannot keep throwing good money after bad. The problem is not funding, the debates can rage about what the true cause is. To be honest I don’t care. I am interested in results. Reason tells me that the result is failure. Logic causes me to seek another solution, such as private schools and private corporations. Remember that universities are essentially private corporations and they work great. Common sense tells me that we should give it a try.

Sarge Harvey: Did not respond.

 

Review: The proposed Karn/Weadock Plant is not in the 95th District, but it is a regional issue. Do you or do you not agree with the concept of "clean coal" as an environmental improvement, and should the state permit these sorts of plants?

Wilson:   I agree with clean coal as a power solution. I agree more with nuclear energy. The state should get out of these issues and allow us to build the power plants that we need to fund Michigan’s renaissance. 

Sarge Harvey: Did not respond.

 

Review: In your closing remarks, please incorporate any issues that you consider important, that were not covered in the preceding forum questions.

Wilson: I’m a small businessman in the Great Lakes Bay Region, and I understand the steps that need to be taken to make Michigan competitive on a regional and national stage. We must reform our tax structure, and drastically reduce our regulatory culture to make Michigan friendly to businesses. If we continue to penalize small businessmen, we will destroy any hope we have for a recovery.

Sarge Harvey: Did not respond.

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