My name is Jeanette DiFlorio. I live in Oceola Township and have lived in Livingston County for 5 ½ years. Prior to that, I lived in Macomb County. I love living here. I have the knowledge and experience to help tackle the issues facing our county in these difficult economic times. I care about the community I live in and want to make sure we preserve our piece of pure Michigan
Patch: What personal and professional experiences make you qualified to hold that position:
DiFlorio: This is the most important question being asked. The candidate elected needs to be qualified to do the job. I am that candidate.
I have been a full-service staff representative for AFSCME Council 25 since 2004 and am responsible for contract administration, negotiations, arbitration and leadership development. I have experience working in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. I have worked in cities, townships, counties, courts, schools, hospitals, Head Start programs, and with non-profits in mental health and public health. I know how to read budgets and audits and how to negotiate contracts when buying goods and services with our tax dollars.
Prior to AFSCME, I worked for Kraft Nabisco for 24 ½ years in manufacturing. During my tenure at Nabisco, I negotiated work redesign for a new oven and production line that brought in 100 new full time jobs while also adding job security for the workers in the bakery. I have had extensive training in creative problem solving, work redesign, FMCS relationship by objective, and safety and health while working for the multi-national corporation. I understand how working efficiently saves money, increases productivity, and provides job security. The wealth of experience I gained in my work life will enable me to better represent the citizens of this county.
In my personal life, I learned how to live on a tight budget and accomplish goals after I became a single mom when my children were 7 and 9 years old. I worked full time and went back to school to earn a college degree while my children were growing up.
I received a Bachelor’s Degree from Antioch University in 1999, graduated from the Harvard Trade Union Program (2010), and am completing my Master’s Degree from University of Massachusetts in 2013.
I have two grown children and two grandchildren.
Patch: What is the most important issue facing the county related to your position and what do you intend to do about it during your term in office.
DiFlorio: There are many important issues facing the county that need to be addressed by the Livingston County Commission. We need to protect our piece of pure Michigan (regarding hydraulic fracking), fix our roads, provide safer communities, care for our seniors, and pursue economic development. These are all things that affect the quality of life here in Livingston County. There should also be transparency in our local government. In Oceola and Deerfield Townships, we are forced to deal with Enbridge and the mess they are creating along their pipeline’s path.
The most difficult pressing issue facing the county and its residents is the toxic special assessment districts (SADS). Toxic SADS need to be addressed before the problem has a negative economic impact on Livingston County. There needs to be a short and a long term plan on how to resolve this problem. Townships in Livingston County took loans through bonds, backed by the county, to provide sewer hookups for new housing developments. (Cindy Denby and the county commissioners approved this.) Howell Township is the exception- the county did not back their loans. The housing market crashed, developments went bankrupt, and the communities are left with the bill. If any city or township defaults on their loan obligation, the county is financially responsible. The cost of the interest on the bonds is millions of dollars per year. Some local communities do not have money budgeted to pay for this. Currently, Howell Township is considering raising their taxes to pay the interest payments due. If the bonds that the county backed are defaulted on, the county is also responsible.
Recently, county officials discussed paying $500,000 to finish a sewer line for Handy Township. Previously, they have insisted that taxpayers countywide would not be on the hook for these mistakes but now it looks like that’s not true. This suggestion needs more citizen review. The county needs to hold meetings to discuss the toxic SADS situation and the effect it has on all of us. Citizens should have the opportunity to weigh in with ideas and be part of the decision making process. There needs to be honest discussion on the real costs of this and how it impacts each community as well as the county. We need to decide what we are going to do about this debt. We also need to plan on how to recoup the money spent on this “investment,” and determine if there is a return on this “investment” where those dollars go. Someone needs to be held accountable for this.
If this debt is not paid, it will cause poor bond ratings in the county causing higher interest rates on future borrowing, lower property values, and severe financial distress. If the Emergency Manager ballot proposal passes, the state would then appoint an Emergency Manager who would make decisions for the affected townships such as Howell and Handy. Those townships would also have the added expense of the Emergency Manager’s salary and expenses. Our elected officials would be unable to do the job they were elected to do. An Emergency Manager would have the ability to sell our assets, reduce our services, and raise our taxes. An Emergency Manager has the right to break contracts with employees and with businesses. Having an appointed Emergency Manager make decisions for us is not a good option for the citizens, employees, or small businesses here in Livingston County. Property owners would see the value of their properties plummet. Businesses would be extremely reluctant to invest in an area under an Emergency Manager and these parts of our county would become financial wastelands. This is an issue that needs immediate attention and is one of the most difficult economic issues facing the county right now.