State and local candidates face off in forum | News, Sports, Jobs

ESCANABA — A candidates’ forum for the contested primary races in the Delta County Commissioner’s District 3 and State Representative’s 108th District was held at Escanaba City Hall on Wednesday evening. The forum, hosted by the Delta County League of Women Voters, gave Republican candidates for both offices the opportunity to answer questions from voters.

Not all local contested races were featured on Wednesday night due to the League of Women Voters “empty chair” Politics. In order to host a forum, more than one job applicant must participate. If a candidate chooses not to participate in a forum or withdraws at the last minute, no candidate for this position can present himself at the event.

The forum began with the position of Delta County District 3 Commissioner, which Bob Barron, current Delta County District 5 Commissioner, and Christine Williams attended.

After a brief introduction, candidates were asked about their top three priorities if elected. Although Barron said he doesn’t like to list the top priorities because a question can “to cut” between them, he pointed out that the high turnover of people who work for the county has led to a lack of continuity, efficiency and increased costs.

Williams, on the other hand, is committed to understanding the addiction and mental health crisis currently affecting the region, as well as creating job opportunities for young adults and tackling the rise of Cost of life.

While the candidates held similar positions on many of the topics discussed, with both candidates expressing support for the Second Amendment and the need for improved transportation infrastructure, divisiveness arose on topics such as county parks and renewable energy sources – such as solar and wind power.

When asked what they believe is the most effective way to operate, maintain and improve our county parks, Barron said the commission’s collaboration with the Soil Conservation District, who recently acquired a 10-year contract extension, has had a positive impact on the state of local parks.

“[The Soil Conservation District] was asked to take over the parks 12 years ago to see what they could do. The parks were in a run down and decrepit state and they were not a destination for campers or people. said Baron. “Parks are now a place of destination. They just changed those things and did a fabulous job.

Although Williams agreed that conditions at the parks have improved over the past 12 years thanks to the Soil Conservation District, she disagrees with the nature of the recent 10-year contract extension, which was a non-competition contract without a bidding process.

“We don’t know if we are getting the best deal for the management of our parks or not”, said Williams. “I am very concerned about OB Fuller Park and the loss of residents’ rights to use this park for [waterfront] day use…I think the Conservation District took away the ratepayer rights. These taxpayers pay for these county parks, they should have these rights. »

In terms of renewable energy, the two candidates support the industrial development of solar and wind energy in the department, but on different scales. Barron, whose neighborhood will receive a solar power source within the next two years, believes the developments are “fabulous.”

“It’s an industry that doesn’t require the county to put in place a lot of infrastructure to improve the industry, in fact little or none at all,” said Baron. “Delta County has been an electricity importer for years. But with these developments underway, Delta County will be a powerhouse in UP. It will be an exporter, and that should enhance other developments in our county.

While Williams supports renewable energy, she cited the different categorizations of solar energy – small, medium and large – and how they should be regulated and used accordingly. Williams believes that large-scale solar, which would be large-scale, should be limited, the two smaller categorizations should be open to the public.

“Where I really focus is small and medium, that would be solar on the roof and on the side, and that’s because there’s a huge saving for residents who can install the solar energy on the side and on the roof”, said Williams. “What I would like to focus on is opening up the network for the public to access.”

The second half of the voter forum featured candidates Casey C. Hoffman, David Prestin and Mark H. Simon for the state’s 108th Representative District. Topics discussed at the forum include Michigan’s gas tax suspension, vaccine/mask mandates, and the current teacher shortage.

All three candidates support suspending Michigan’s gas tax, which currently sits at 7%, because of its restrictive nature for individuals. Hoffman, however, provided a clear method to offset the loss of revenue that would result from this elimination: taxing marijuana sales.

“Let’s tax marijuana…let’s tax people who come to our state and they bring all that marijuana with them,” said Hoffman. The difference between now and maybe a decade or two ago is that we didn’t have a $250 million pot of money to tax…I think getting rid of the gas tax is entirely responsible and I agree and feel comfortable shifting this burden onto the marijuana industry.

Medical confidentiality, bodily autonomy and freedom of choice in health care were frequent topics of discussion. In terms of decision-making powers during a COVID-19 pandemic, all candidates have vehemently opposed Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s decision to shut down the state, especially the Upper Peninsula.

Additionally, the candidates are against all mask and vaccine mandates at state universities and other government entities. Prestin, who is an experienced paramedic, said such health decisions should be left to the individual.

“When it comes to vaccination mandates, I think each person’s autonomy is for themselves. Let me make myself, and I’ll let you be you, “ Prestin said.

Later in the forum, Prestin added to his stance on vaccination mandates.

“Measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, you name it…these are landmark vaccines that have been around for decades,” Prestin said. “This COVID vaccine, all three of them, are still unproven and I don’t support their obligation in any way, shape or form.”

However, the candidates believe that this freedom of choice and bodily autonomy does not apply to reproductive health, including abortion care. With the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, who left decisions about abortion care to state legislatures, the candidates said they were anti-abortion and pledged to consolidate a state-level abortion ban.

Candidates’ responses varied when asked how they would cope with Michigan’s current teacher shortage. Although all agreed that some level of training should be required to allow unlicensed teachers to work in Michigan’s school systems, Simon proposed a student debt forgiveness plan to make the teaching profession more attractive to young adults.

“My idea is that once you get tenured, which means you prove you can do that job effectively, then half of that debt would be eliminated… and on your 10th birthday you would take that number and reduce it by half. After 15 years of teaching, you no longer have any university debt,” said Simon. “We need to recruit good people and good teachers and bring them into the industry, so we wouldn’t have to worry about uncertified and underqualified teachers.”

Candidates also agreed on several other issues, including the belief that there was some level of fraudulent behavior in the 2020 presidential election. Candidates offered solutions, such as mandatory photo ID for voters and the exclusive use of paper ballots, to combat this problem in the future. Additionally, the candidates’ methods for reducing gun violence in American schools included limited entry and exit on school property, metal detectors, and mental health care improvements.

To watch the entire Delta County League of Women Voters Candidate Forum, visit the City of Escanaba YouTube Channel, “City of Escanaba.” More information on the August 2 primary election can be found at

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Melvin B. Baillie