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Michigan Representative District 97

Choose one candidate. Representatives in the Michigan State House serve two-year terms and receive an annual salary of $71,685.

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    Robert Townsend
    (Dem)

  • Jason Wentworth
    (Rep)

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Biographical Information

How should the state assist other municipalities and school districts whose solvency is threatened by its financial obligations to current and future retirees?

Is the way the state funds our cities adequate to ensure safety and service delivery? If not, what changes would you support to our municipal finance model?

When cities are struggling, what is the appropriate way for the state to intervene? Should state intervention – through the emergency manager law or some other avenue – come with dollars attached? Why or why not?

How would you rate the state’s response to the Flint water crisis?

Explain your answer and what you would do, if anything, to improve the state’s response.

How would you rate the federal government’s response to the Flint water crisis?

Explain your answer and what you would do, if anything, to improve the federal government’s response.

Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor? If so, explain.

Have you ever filed for personal bankruptcy? If so, explain.

Do you believe Michigan’s tax system is generally fair? If not, what changes do you support?

Would you support the establishment of a Detroit Educational Commission that would have authority to site, open and close traditional public and charter schools?

What changes, if any, would you support in the way Michigan authorizes and regulates charter schools?

Do you favor amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity?

Do you support state-level laws modeled on the federal Restoration of Religious Freedom Act?

Have you signed any public pledge to support or oppose any organization’s public policy objectives, such as outlawing abortion or barring any increase in taxes?

Do you support legislation to minimize or eliminate the influence of political parties on drawing lines for legislative districts?

Do you support decriminalization of recreational marijuana?

Do you support and will you appear at campaign events with your party’s presidential nominee?

Do you support the renewal and/or expansion of renewable energy mandates for Michigan energy producers?

Do we incarcerate too many people in Michigan? What would you change in the criminal justice system?

City of residence Clare, MI
Age 53
Family wife- Lori children- Robert, Sarah, Matthew, Beth, Katie and Kyle
Education Physician- Nova/Southeastern, Florida Biological Science/ROTC- MSU, Michigan Gobles High School, Michigan
Vehicles owned Dodge Dakota
Professional Experience Physician 1996 Paramedic, Lansing, 1981-1990 Army Medic (E-4), Commissioned Officer (ROTC/MSU) Newspaper Reporter (Weekly)
Political Experience Advocating for patients over 30 years Worked with Legislature, bipartisan bonafide dr/pt relationship bill, testified before several panels on medical issues. Expert witness in court. No prior elected office.
Race/ethnicity Caucasian
Incumbent? false
Michigan has an incredibly effective system of funding for school systems; however, mismanagement is a current pandemic across the public school system. According to the State Budget Office, the Michigan Lottery has provided almost $800M to public schools in 2015. In 2014, according to a report done by Mlive, the School Aid Fund collected $11.5B, which was used almost exclusively for K-12 operations. All of this doesn't even include federal funding. The best thing we can do, as a state, is to ensure that only the most reliable people are managing these school funds, so that we know all of this money is being used effectively and efficiently.
While communities do get some of their financial support from the state, the majority comes from local property taxes. Under the state property tax system, property values are capped and may not be in line with actual market value- causing a significant under collection of taxes for operations. Furthermore, the state pension plan (MIRS) is a defined benefit program rather than a defined contribution based planned. The result is that when investments and new contributor do not match the obligations, the system becomes unfunded and insolvent, adding uncontrolled debt to our communities. Both these factors need to be addressed for solvency.
Gov. Snyder has appointed several Emergency Managers in places like Flint and Detroit, that were hit hard by the recession and, in the case of Detroit, succumbed to corruption. We have a responsibility to these cities to ensure that they are able to manage their own affairs, even in an emergency. The state has the ability to help, but the overarching authority that Republican law makers have given to these Emergency Managers, with painfully little oversight, only creates a situation where we could see the rise of another Kwame Kilpatrick. Emergency managers should be mentors of elected officials, not unchecked dictators.
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I would change the attitude of local government from dealing with a crisis to preventing the crisis. Simply doing routine maintenance would have helped prevent this situation, now we are facing a billion dollar problem, and Flint is by no means the only city in Michigan facing a crisis of infrastructure based on poor planning and lack of preventative maintenance. The desire to save money prompted the change in water supply from safe to toxic, willful misconduct circumvented legal and common sense safety concerns, and now we are going to have to find a way to pay for the mess.
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Flint needs significant financial assistance to repair this damage and we are concentrating far too much federal money on pet projects like the F-35 in the face of questionable defense needs. We need to have a massive federal project to rebuild our infrastructure, including transportation, power grids, water supplies (Flint is by no means the only city struggling with a 100 year old system). Once we have basic services and infrastructure fixed, we should have a look a high speed rail and energy independence before we spend another trillion on a new stealth bomber or even 70 billion for a wall.
I don't think someone applying for a job should have to answer this question, including this job. If you feel my ideas have merit, and that you would like me to be your voice in Lansing, vote for me. If not, don't. I meet the qualifications of the seat.
I don't think someone applying for a job should have to answer this question, including this job. If you feel my ideas have merit, and that you would like me to be your voice in Lansing, vote for me. If not, don't. I meet the qualifications of the seat.
The Michigan Constitution requires a flat tax rate. While there is support for a graduated tax rate, it would require amending the Constitution. I do support the legalization and taxation of marijuana, saving part of the 2 billion dollars a year we spend on corrections in Michigan and generating millions in new taxes for the state. I support the use of Municipal bonds for major infrastructure projects with significant matching contributions between local (Millage) and state (guarantees and matching contributions). Sales tax is just another fixed rate tax that affects the poor more than the rich, as lower income people spend more of their money on purchases of necessities.
What happened with the Detroit Public School System is nothing short of atrocious, and is just as much an indicator of neglect on the part of Gov. Snyder as the Flint water crisis. If a Detroit Education Commission is set up, using tax payer dollars from across the state, I'd like to see all of those taxpayers represented by their elected officials in the decision making process. It is their dollars at work, after all.

Furthermore, I don't believe that marketers should be luring much needed funding away from the public schools to for profit charter schools. Taxpayer money should go to our public schools to support baseline education for all.
I don't believe that charter schools should siphon education money off from public school districts. If anything, they should receive a modest subsidy and require tuition with state sponsored scholarships for exceptional or needy students. We need to invest in our baseline public education rather than allow marketers to encourage our students to abandon our public schools for profit.

The role of charter schools should be specific tracks- science, music, etc. They should not be competing with the public schools for general education.
Of course! Discrimination is discrimination, and cannot be tolerated in our nation, let alone our state. We are state of incredible diversity, and have always embraced that in ourselves. “All men are created equal...,” I believe is how the statement goes. There are no caveats for race, religion, sexual identity, or any other qualifiers.
Religious freedom is a fundamental protection afforded to us by the Constitution of the United States. With that said, however, that does not mean that any one individual has the authority to enforce their religious beliefs onto another human being, even if they are of the same faith. The language of the RFRA states that a state cannot “substantially burden a person's exercise of religion” unless it is furthering a “compelling government interest.” So, does that mean that Hobby Lobby is experiencing some sort of religious 'burden' because they are required to provide contraception to their employees? They are not, they are simply creating a burden for someone else.
NO. I do not work in absolutes. By claiming to have a line in the sand on any issue, my ability to support good legislation and solutions to the problems of our state and people would be restricted.
Yes, it should be simply population based with attention to existing political borders (counties, townships, cities, neighborhoods). If we find our elections are returning one party over another at a ratio inconsistent with the general vote, we should have a look at the district lines to bring them in line with the vote. In other words, if the Republican/Democratic split in the general election is 50/50, yet one party gets a 2/3 majority of the representation, we need to have a look at the district. Districting should be the responsibility of a neutral committee, not the majority party, with a goal of making each vote count, not protecting political power.
Absolutely! The sheer cost to society through the criminal justice system and the loss of personal potential is staggering. Michigan spends 2 billion a year incarcerating people, a significant number of which are in prison for drug offenses. The legal costs for the prosecution of simple possession in the 97th district alone amounts to 1 million dollars. Colorado and other legal states clearly demonstrate the benefit to the economy of new jobs, businesses and taxes. In my opinion the only compelling reason to keep it illegal is to support the system that prosecutes and fines those that use cannabis. No victim, no crime. We have better things on which to spend our tax dollars.
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Yes. I feel energy independence is one of the most important challenges we face. The simple availability of energy is only a part of this equation, it expands into trade and economy issues, creates new markets and job opportunities, and creates wealth. Think about the benefits to the Michigan economy of converting closed auto plants to wind turbine production using skilled but unemployed auto workers? The benefit to farmers of expanding their operations to wind power sales, the development solar power and research into cost effective energy storage technology. This has to be done, it will cost money, and may require mandates to force progress.
Crimes have a victim, civil infractions involve violation of rules. We need to keep that distinction in mind. Michigan not only has one of the highest per capita incarceration rates in the country, the United States in general has one of the highest in the world. Michigan is one of the few states that spends more prosecuting people than those people spend defending themselves (normally it is the other way around). Mandatory sentencing is filling our prisons at an alarming rate, and when those inmates are released, they have little, if any ability to return to a productive life. This has to change.
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