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County Commissioner (Ingham County / 11Th District) - 2 Year Term - Vote For Not More Than 1

County Commissioner (Ingham County / 11Th District) - 2 Year Term - Vote For Not More Than 1

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  • Teri Banas
    (Dem)

  • Xavier Durand-Hollis
    (Rep)

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Biographical Information

What makes you more qualified than other candidates for this office?

Should the county spend more on parks? Yes or no, please explain.

Is the quality of county roads acceptable? Yes or no, please explain.

Do you support raising taxes as a way to pay for road improvements? Yes or no, please explain.

Are you comfortable with the structure and scope of county government? Yes or no, please explain.

To promote efficiency and lower costs should the role of county government expand and the role of city and township government shrink? Yes or no, please explain.

Related to government structure, what would you change?

What are the three most important issues facing the county and how would you address them?

As property tax revenue and state aid decline, is it appropriate for the county to assume a larger role in providing services to county residents? Yes or no, please explain.

What county services do you consider most vital?

What county services are least vital and can be trimmed to lower expenses?

Are you current in all tax, alimony and child support obligations? Yes or no. If no, please explain.

The county now levies seven special millages for issues such as healthcare, juvenile services, the zoo and parks and trails. A new millage is proposed for animal control services, and discussions are underway for a new jail, which could result in a millage. What is your position on the taxation level for services in Ingham County? Which millages would you propose eliminating? Would you support new millages, and if so, for what services?

Hometown Haslett
Education BA, Journalism/Urban Studies, Michigan State University; Secondary Ed Teaching Certificate, Spring Arbor University
Family Husband, John Foren; daughter, Alicia; son, Adam
Professional Experience Writer/media relations for Michigan's Children; previously worked for the Early Childhood Investment Corp.; previously worked as a newspaper reporter for the Lansing State Journal, the Flint Journal, the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers; writer, United Press International, Washington, D.C.
Political Experience Ingham County Board of Commissioners, 11th District; Meridian Township Park Commissioner (10 years)
I'm not afraid to work hard, and have done so effectively and w/ success. I've taken the time to study department operations & make site visits, researched continuing issues, communicated with constituents & reached out to those working to make a positive difference. I've served on three commission committees: Human Services (currently vice chair), County Services & Law and Courts. I was named chair of a special task force to plan for repairing/building county trails, and drafted an adopted multi-million plan for that. I also serve on the Ingham County Health Board, the County Park Commission & Tri-County Regional Planning Commission. I held elected office in Meridian Township for 10 years.
We are beginning to restore funds and spend more on county parks this year, thanks to the voter-approved trails & parks millage. Park funding was cut by 26% in past years, leaving a growing list of delayed capital improvements and repairs. As chair of the task force that recommended a spending plan for the trails & parks millage, it was important to me that we have an annual set-aside for improvements to county parks, which are important connectors and destinations for our non-motorized trail system. This year we set aside 8% of the annual millage to fund the 1.5-mile trail at Hawk Island and a new blue ways project (canoe launch) at Burchfield. We'll revisit the exact set-aside annually.
This issue is of particular importance to townships, such as mine, which rely on the county to maintain their roads. While residents have been frustrated by disruptions from recent road bridge projects, it's critical the work be done and local officials say they and county road folks are dedicated to building a stronger working relationship for answering complaints and meeting needs. Still, service is largely a function of funding & road funding derived from the state has been infamously inadequate (federal dollars stagnant) to keep our roads in good condition. The county does what it can to maintain a good/fair level of service, but no one thinks roads are as good as they used to be.
Yes, if the right plan came along with public buy-in. Our state-wide road system has been so neglected and decimated for a long time. County funding from the state's Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) was cut by 12 percent over the past two decades putting us in a position of constantly using a band-aid approach to any needed fix. Now we're expected to see an additional $3 million from the state in 2017 due to the phase-in of the controversial road deal signed by the Governor in November. That raises our MTF funds to $16 million a year & by 2021 to $22 million.The increase helps us w/ maintenance issues short-term, but long-term many question whether we'll see the increase under the plan.
Basically, yes. But there's always room for improvement. There was a major streamlining to the structure of county government when the independent road commission was eliminated and the road department came under direct control of the county commission. This has been important for achieving greater accountability and consolidation of certain functions. I don't see expanding the scope of government right now, so much as tweaking where we can make changes for smoother operations and cost-savings. These are questions discussed weekly at committee meetings in which the work of county departments are reviewed.

There are places where economies of scale would be mutually beneficial so long as the county has the capacity to perform the added workload and is compensated. But the impetus must come from local governments which would essentially be outsourcing functions from their city and township halls. Lansing has asked the county to take over its assessing functions and our Controller's Office and the Commission have been looking at what this would entail. I'm confident the County could do a much improved, professional job of it, too. In my area, school districts (Haslett, Okemos, Williamston) have worked out agreements for combined services w/ good savings.
If it weren't a separate legal entity, I'd like to see the work of the Ingham County Health Plan rolled under direct oversight of the County Board and our Administration. We were able to secure a seat at its board filled by a commissioner so that's a good step. Secondly, and this is more about services, but our website needs an overhaul to make it easier to navigate and to provide better information about county services residents need to know about. People should be able to easily access information important to their lives, but to do that requires finding money we just don't have.
1.Overseeing the Budget & Spending: While dealing with a structural deficit, we must remain responsible to our citizens & employees and carefully prioritize our spending while maintaining quality services. Weekly oversight is critical to ensure timely course corrections. 2.The County Jail: We must move ahead to create a workable long-term plan for a new jail because of safety & structural issues there. 3.Trails Program: We must continue to build on smart plans for a connected countywide system that's considers all communities involved. Plus this. 4. The growing opioid epidemic is taxing our first responders. I support the County's work in leading efforts to combat this deadly threat.
These are the top sources of revenue for county operations, and neither are in decline at the moment. Property values are slowly moving up, just not at the pace we'd like. And the state’s shared revenue, after years of bad cutbacks to local and county governments, is slightly inching upward by about 1 percent. So while I do see better days ahead, the county’s continued though lessening reliance on its savings to balance the annual general fund creates caution. Rather than the county "assuming a larger role in providing services" at this time, a better way to look at this question is, can the county improve its service level to residents? That’s what I think we should focus on.

County services that provide for the health, safety and protection of our residents are the most vital. The Sheriff's Department and Health Department provide obvious services pertaining to this, but so do other departments. Road maintenance contributes to public safety, so does the 911 program, courts and community corrections. Most services are mandated, including caring for drainage districts, keeping vital records, equalization of property, collecting property taxes. Other services are discretionary - parks, the County Fair, economic development. Many residents would say park services are vital to quality of life and in fact are a top reason (with quality schools) for moving to an area.
Well, our parks took a major hit during the economic downturn, but if possible I'd rather look at ways to provide services in a more streamlined fashion to continue to offer park facilities that bring joy and well-being for our kids and residents of all ages. The Commission also appropriates about $300,000 to community agencies (food bank, shelter, youth programs, the housing coalition) for people in extreme need. While not a mandated service, this funding does keep programs that provide important safety nets going without which these nonprofits would not be able to stay afloat, putting vulnerable people at further risk. When people can't find help, bad things happen, driving up social costs
Yes, my taxes are paid up. I don't have any alimony or child support obligations.
The county board substantially reduced the healthcare millage to one-third upon examination of declining participation in the Ingham County Health Plan. I am supportive of taking a new look at that millage, particularly since the health plan (separate from county government) has a sizable fund balance.There are other needs -- senior citizen programs, for one -- residents have been asking about that could get rolled into a human services millage one day instead. We need to talk more about that, and hear from residents. Voters don't generally support jail millage. We desperately need to address this aging structure, and we're discussing new ways to restructure finances to do that.
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