The 95th District State House Forum: Andy Coulouris vs. Joel Wilson

Posted In: Politics, State, Local, Candidates, Interviews,   From Issue 625   By: Robert E Martin

02nd November, 2006     0

One of the races covered heavily in prior issues of The Review is the State House of Representatives contest for the 95th District between Democrat Andy Coulouris and Republican Joel Wilson.

Insofar as Coulouris and Wilson have yet to debate face-to-face in these pages, we submitted a few questions in hopes that voters may better discern the differences and similarities between the two candidates.

Review: Would you please summarize your top three priorities and briefly articulate how you feel your approach differs from that of your

Coulouris: Our community-much like our state-is in a fight for its life.  Everyone knows that bringing jobs to Saginaw is what our goal should be, but it's not enough to simply say "we need to bring jobs to Saginaw."  The question is how we achieve the economic revitalization we are all hoping for.

For starters, we have a serious crime problem in our region that is stifling economic development in our core communities & destabilizing our housing market.  I think Lansing has largely turned its back on financially strapped cities like Saginaw.  For years Lansing has balanced the State's budget on the back of cities by continuing to slash state revenue sharing dollars, which are meant to bolster municipal police and fire departments.  Saginaw has taken these hits especially hard-and the result has been dozens fewer police officers patrolling our streets.

It is true that we also need to address crime as a symptom of economic distress and lack of opportunities-be they recreation, job, or education-related.  So we need to approach public policy in a way that is sensitive to this reality.  Certainly we also need to find a way to help cities tear down abandoned houses and fight blight in our neighborhoods.

Unlike my opponent, I have the experience-both at City Hall and as an assistant prosecutor-that is necessary to be an effective public safety advocate in Lansing.

In the very near future health care is going to be front and center in Lansing.  Michigan manufacturers simply cannot compete in a global marketplace where the competition does not have to pay for employee health care because of nationalized health care.  I look to what other states around the country have begun to do-in a bipartisan, pragmatic fashion-to guarantee health care to their citizens while keeping costs low for employers and taxpayers.  I believe we can no longer afford to ignore the economic impact of our slow response the health care crisis.  Michigan should work toward a smart, progressive, and cost-effective retooling of our health care system.  I am anxious to get to work making our health care system work better for citizens.

Lastly, Michigan needs to invest in cities.  The economic phenomenon of the 21st century is that cities that offer a high quality of life attract the young talent that companies seek; and because of this, companies decide to invest in cities that offer a high quality of life.  "Jobs go where the people are," is the new saying. 

Saginaw has suffered through decades of deindustrialization and job loss, and our quality of life has in turn been greatly diminished.  How can we expect to attract the next Google if our younger generations are fleeing the region and the state in record numbers?  When they leave they are taking with them the years of education and talent that job creators crave.  We need a legislature that recognizes that Michigan's economic future is only as bright as our cities'.  We need a land use policy in Michigan that encourages infill development and a tax incentive policy that does the same.  We need to make Michigan's cities safe, livable, and desirable if we want to be able to shift in to the new economy.

Wilson: My top three priorities all run together. They are to bring in Jobs, to reduce Crime and Youth violence, and to support families.

Children get out of school at 2:30 or 3:00 and parents get out of work at 5 or 5:30. The question is who is looking after our state's children in these critical hours? The answer is sadly the streets. This is the beginning of the problem that leads to violence, crime, and a welfare state.

64% of black children are born to single mothers, and 50% of marriages end in divorce. If we don't address these problems we are doomed to failure. I want to involve faith and community programs in helping families stay together, and giving children something productive to do after school. My opponent has given no plan to deal with this problem, and has never mentioned it.

We must also realize that crime is based on economic circumstance. As a prosecutor my opponent sees crime at the terminal end, when it's already too late. He is therefore focused on fighting crime with more cops, tougher sentences, and more prisons. I want to focus on crime prevention, on stopping crime at the source. To do that, we need to get people off of welfare and back to work.

My opponent has said he wants to keep welfare just as it is if not increase it. This typical white liberal thinking is what's gotten the black community in the mess it's in right now. If we upgrade our infrastructure, retrain our workforce and restructure our tax code the jobs will come back, and we'll have less of a need for welfare.

My opponent's answer is more taxes and more entitlements on a population that can't afford the taxes it has now. He has also not supported restructuring welfare to allow common sense things like learning a trade. The choice is clear: a new approach, or more of the same?

Review: Please summarize your background & qualifications for this office and explain how they contrast with that of your opponent.

Wilson: I have a BFA in Directing from Boston University and have worked the past two years as an educator and director in Germany.

There has been much made over this issue. Many have said I am not qualified for this office because I never studied politics or law in college. I stress again, that I am NOT a professional politician, and anyone who is, is a little shady in my book. Anyone who has declared their life's ambition is to be a politician is simply untrustworthy. Our founding fathers would agree.

The egalitarian principle of our republic is not that we elect Kings. It is that we elect people from among us who are like us. Not to lord over us, but rater to represent us. This is even truer of representatives.

Mr. Coulouris is a professional politician. He has stated so. His ambition is to get this office, and move on to the next. My ambition is to represent the people of Saginaw, and to make a change.

Coulouris: The difference between my opponent and me when it comes to experience is clear.  I served as a Saginaw City Councilman for more than three years and have served as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Saginaw County since 2003.  My practical experience in local government makes me ready for Lansing in a way that my opponent is not.

I was born and raised in Saginaw and came home to this community after college and law school at the University of Michigan.  My wife and I bought a home in my hometown and, between the two of us, have become involved in many aspects of the cultural and civic life of our community.  We have a daughter, Alexandra, who will be three months old on Election Day.

Review:  With elimination of many ancillary taxes during the Engler years affecting the excise profits of corporations & businesses, State government in recent years has attempted to make up the difference by leveling substantial increases in license and user fees, which also affect the growth of small business. For example, the renewal fee for a Limited Liability Partnership has increased 400%, from $25.00 to $100.00.  Would you favor a moratorium on these types of legislative tax increases; and if so, what do you feel is a fair taxation model for businesses?

Coulouris: Taxation by fees is not a preferable way to finance government, or drain our bank accounts.  As in the case of Proposal 5, I am not in favor of arbitrary guarantees or moratoria with regard to how we raise and spend revenue in this state.  As the grandson of a former tavern owner, I know how suffocating state fees can be.  The best way to raise the revenues we need in this state is through a smarter, fairer business tax (and I mean tax in the traditional sense) model. 

The SBT became so reviled because it was often difficult for businesses to predict how much in taxes they would owe, and the sorts of activities the SBT targeted were not the sorts of things we should be looking to tax-like providing health care and hiring new workers.

I want to replace the SBT with a businesses tax-but I want the roughly $2 billion gap left by the repeal of the SBT replaced in its entirety.  If we continue to slash revenues in this state we will find ourselves in a position where the only expedient way to raise revenues is through the kinds of fee increases the question references.  Let's be smart about replacing the SBT, and have the boldness to replace the Single Business Tax with a business tax-and not shift the burden on to working people.

Wilson: I do support a moratorium on fee increases. We need to support our small businesses, because they are the future of our job market. I want to sit down with this state's best economic minds, representatives from the business community, all the major labor unions, democrats and republicans, and hammer out a business taxation model that makes sense for us all. What that plan will look like, I'm not sure right now, but I'm certain that as a state we can figure this out. Taxation and economic issues are not political issues; they are really just math problems that we need to solve without the specter of partisan politics hanging over the table.


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