County Commissioner (Ingham County / 8Th District) - 2 Year Term - Vote For Not More Than 1

County Commissioner (Ingham County / 8Th District) - 2 Year Term - Vote For Not More Than 1

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    Mark Grebner

  • Christopher McNamara

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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 Kankakee IL
Education B.A. MSU, Urban Policy, 1981 J.D. U of M, 1985
Family single, no children
Professional Experience Political Consultant, 1974-present Owner, Practical Political Consulting Inc., 1974-2010. Attorney, with part-time practice, 2014-present.
Political Experience Elected County Commissioner, 1977-1980, 1985-2012. Chairperson, County Board of Commissioners, four terms. Unsuccessful candidate for Drain Commissioner, 2012.
I have 32 years previous experience as a County Commissioner. I've served four terms as Chairperson of the Board, 8 years as the Chair of the Finance Committee, and I've chaired each of the other standing committees of the Board at one time or another. In 1993, I wrote the County Ethics Policy, and have been involved in implementing and updating it since then. I've proposed, written, and shepherded to adoption by the voters roughly ten different millage proposals which expanded services to County, pertaining to 9-1-1 services, the Capital Area District Library, Public Transportation, Juvenile Justice, the Ingham Health Plan, and - most recently - a county trail system.
It depends what is meant by "more". We should spend more than we previously were spending, because the Parks budget was so tight that we were failing to maintain our facilities adequately, and their condition was beginning to affect the public's enjoyment. But the new Trails Millage - which I wrote and advocated - has provided sufficient funds to restore an adequate level of maintenance of our large parks, while allowing us to create a genuine county-wide trail system connecting them.

The County Board has been slow to allocate and spend the Trails Millage money. One of the reasons I'm running again is to get the process moving so people can see their money is being well-spent.
No, the quality of roads all across Michigan reflects our failure to spend enough money to keep them in proper condition.

The problem for the County is that we simply spend the money allocated us by state government. Once those funds run out, we've reached the limit of what can be done during a given fiscal year. The only promise the County can make is to prioritize projects correctly, and to undertake those projects as efficiently as possible. As far as I know, nobody complains we're failing in those objects.
I don't think so, although I'm open to the idea.

The legislature finally passed a half-measure which should eventually provide a somewhat more adequate level of funding for local roads. I want to see how much improvement is possible with that increase.

Also, local units of government including townships and cities have the power to level additional taxes, with voter consent, to fix their roads. Ingham County would be happy to work with any units which take that route.

After those possiblities, if it seems advisable to levy a county-wide tax, with the money generated by cities returned for their use, I'm willing to consider it.

No. County government in Michigan is an archaic hodgepodge of obsolete powers and duties, mainly left over from the 1800's. The legislature really ought to re-think not only county, but city and township government. Powers and responsibilities should be shifted to where they can be more efficiently exercised, and many small units should be consolidated and abolished. Much power should be shifted to regional governments whether those consist counties, or newly created entities.

We need to shift local government taxing authority away from real estate taxes, toward several broader-based taxes, to reduce the economic distortion caused by our over-reliance on property taxes.
Generally, I agree. Zoning and planning powers should be transferred to units of government which control larger geographic areas, to reduce developers' ability to play one unit against another. Many services ought to be provided at a higher level, to consolidate their administration and to achieve economies of scale. For some of these purposes, County government may be the best answer. For others, it may be advisable to create new, regional, governments.

Many small township and cities are simply too small to provide meaningful services. They date back to a time when walking was a major mode of travel, and they are now hopelessly obsolete.
This is really a question for legislative candidates, not county commissioners. The County has such limited power that our views on governmental structure can be - and are - ignored. But since you ask:

I'd abolish the smallest units of government, or at least consolidate them into reasonable size units. Some of the powers of local units - holding elections, tax assessing, zoning and planning, for example - should be reassigned to larger bodies, which might be counties, or might be newly created regional bodies. Large units should be left with duties which are uniquely suited to their size and scale.

1) Fixing the County Ethics Policy, so it provides the tools necessary to deal with newly arising problems. In particular, it should provide more guidance to employees and county-wide elected officials. 2) Getting the Trails Millage process moving. We haven't seen any impact yet from the public's support for the millage, and even the process of allocating the money only recently got underway. I don't see any real focus yet on the need to link the small trail systems into a larger one, spanning municipalities and encouraging nonmotorized commuting. 3) Thinking through how we're going to finance a new jail and justice complex. The public is completely unaware of the need - $70,000,000!
Not in general. Counties in Michigan have such limited power, including taxing power, that we can't really take on new major responsibilities. I tend to focus on typical county responsibilities, looking at the areas where we're failing, and trying to devise plans for improvement.

Our response, over the past 30 years, has been to identify such areas, one-by-one, and then to break them off for separate millage support. The pubic has been consistently supportive of such efforts, precisely because they trust Ingham County to do a good job with the money entrusted to us.
I don't think it's useful to divide services into "vital" and "non-vital". Even the most boring services can play important roles in our society, which we may forget until they fail. Consider Flint and their terrible water problem. Five years ago, who would have called a municipal water system "vital"?

Is the Register of Deeds "vital"? If they stop processing requests for paperwork in time for real estate closings, it'll change everybody's view of how important they are.

Most Michigan county government services are nearly forgotten, as long as they're well-performed. One top goal should be to let the public forget county government even exists.
Ingham County could trim LOTS of services, if the public wanted us to:

We could provide a lower standard of animal control services, and end our support for animal adoptions and reduce investigation of animal cruelty complaints, to match Macomb.

We could close or shrink our park system, to match Eaton.

We could cut way back on public transportation, to the level in Kent.

We could cut criminal prosecution by 30% and still function at a higher level than Genesee or Wayne.

We could chop restaurant and other health inspections, to a level typical of other counties.

These services aren't "non-vital" - they're simply discretionary, and contribute to our standard of living.
Yes, as far as all taxes.

I've never owed or paid child support or alimony.
I'm in favor of eliminating the Health Services millage, because it was requested and approved under very different circumstances. Also, I've never supported our Farmland and Open Space millage, and would be in favor of letting it lapse, unless it is radically reformed.

The other millages cited reflect Ingham County's response to the fact there are large public needs for services, but continually declining financial resources. Our solution has been to break out one field at a time, where the service we provide is substandard, and ask the public whether they're willing to support a specific budget for it. In every case, because they trust us, the answer has been "Yes."
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