By Judy Daubenmier
The Democratic candidates for Livingston County commissioner laid out a bold plan Monday that would protect Livingston County’s environments, give voters a say on improving county roads, and offer more services to senior citizens.
The five candidates said the plan they offered gives voters a choice to “either move forward or stand pat.”
“In the recent primary election, voters sent a message that standing pat wasn’t good enough. We have heard that message and are ready to lead on the key issues facing our county,” the candidates’ platform says.
The key issues highlighted at a news conference Monday were:
- A “Fix It First” approach to road repairs in Livingston County that would emphasize fixing existing roads throughout the county rather than proposing expensive new projects that benefit only a few.
- Allowing the voters to decide whether a local property tax should be levied to finance more road repairs.
- Support for a moratorium on hydraulic fracking until reasonable regulations that protect the environment are put in place, as well as efforts to educate the public about the potential environmental and community impacts of fracking.
- Expanding services to senior citizens to help them stay in their homes longer and keep more senior citizens in Livingston County rather than seeing them move to facilities in neighboring counties.
- Support for a public safety budget that includes restoring the marine patrol for county lakes and making sure an adequate number of deputies are on the road at all times.
The Democratic candidates said the Michigan Legislature has failed to act on fixing Michigan’s roads and it was time for Livingston County to tackle the problem itself.
In 2011, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments reported that 32 percent of Livingston County’s roads were in poor condition and 38.5 percent of the county’s bridges were “deficient” in 2010.
“Our bad roads damage our vehicles, reduce our property values, and give our county a poor image,” said Jeanette DiFlorio of Oceola Township, candidate for county commission District 2.
DiFlorio said Democrats would work with the Livingston County Road Commission to first determine if available funds were being spent most efficiently. Once they were satisfied that existing revenues were being spent wisely, the candidates said they would work with the road commission regarding the size of a millage to put before voters. Even a half mill would go a long ways but cost a motorist less than the price of a tank of gas.
“This is not money that would be spent to Lansing or Washington, but would stay right here in our local community, putting many of our residents to work and helping our local economy,” she said.
Supporting a moratorium on hydraulic fracking until reasonable regulations are in place is necessary in order to protect Livingston County’s beautiful lakes and streams, said Jim Katakowski, of Hamburg Township, candidate in District 8.
“Livingston County is one of the purest areas of ‘Pure Michigan,’ but that is in jeopardy now that the state has awarded drilling rights under Brighton Recreation Area, Island Lake State Park, and the Lakelands Trails,” he said.
The drilling would involve hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” in which water, sand, and chemicals are injected deep into the ground to free deposits of gas. Katakowski said the process is unregulated by the federal government, even though harmful chemicals are known to be used. As commissioner, he said he would take a leadership role in working for a moratorium on fracking in Michigan until reasonable regulations are in place and push Michigan lawmakers to enact reasonable regulations. These regulations include disclosure of the chemicals involved, a requirement that companies use the least hazardous chemicals available, and limits on water used in the process, for example.
“A spill of hazardous chemicals used in “fracking” could spoil our lacks, hurt our recreational opportunities, pollute our drinking water, and lower our property values dramatically,” he said.
Katakowski said the commission could take a leadership role statewide in pushing lawmakers to act on reasonable regulations and could hold town hall meetings to educate the public about what’s involved.
Bruce Schneider of Brighton Township, candidate in District 1, said he feared county residents have a false sense of security regarding the safety of the county, given the slim number of deputies on the road at certain hours of the day, even though the sheriff’s department has returned nearly $1 million of its budget to the county over the last three years.
With some three decades in law enforcement, Schneider said he would work with the sheriff to make sure the budgeted funds are properly spent and to find grant money to supplement county efforts. He said he would work to see the marine patrol reinstated and to make the county a stronger partner in fighting drug abuse.
Dane Morris of Hartland Township, candidate for District 3, said the county needs to do more to help senior citizens stay in their homes. He said increased funding for more programs could be found by reallocating funds returned to the county general fund each year.
Livingston County’s population age 60 and over is expected to more than double by 2030. The county funded an assessment of senior needs in 2008 but has not put money behind the recommendations of the report.
“We need to help senior citizens stay in their homes if they want to, but we also need to have facilities to take care of them when they no longer can,” he said.
Funds could be used to expand LETS service and hire senior advocates who could encourage steps such as delivery of groceries and prescription drugs, construction of more nursing homes so people could stay here close to family and friends rather than having to move to Oakland or Washtenaw counties, home checks on homebound elderly, improvements in Meals on Wheels, and more robust programming at senior centers.
Jeff Lee of Genoa Township, candidate for District 7, called for more transparency in county government including having county meetings cablecast or webcast so more of the public could view them.
“Current commissioners seem to be behind the times when it comes to modern technology. Township governments such as those in Hamburg have figured out how to use technology and the county commission needs to do the same,” he said.
The platform also called for
- More disclosure of the “worst case scenarios” regarding the bad loans the county backed for sewer and water projects in subdivisions that were abandoned by private developers.
- More county oversight of economic developments of activities by Ann Arbor SPARK, on which the county spends $150,000 a year.
- Development of land donated to the county for parks.
- Elimination of perks such as health insurance and pensions for the part-time county commissioners.
(Paid for by Committee to Elect Jim Katakowski, 5550 Arapaho Pass, Pinckney, MI 48169; Friends of Jeanette DiFlorio, 4296 Merriman Loop, Howell, MI 48843; Jeff Lee for County Commissioner, 318 Natanna, Howell, MI 48843; Bruce Schneider for Livingston County Commissioner, 3763 Van Amberg Rd., Brighton, MI 48114, and Committee to Elect Dane Morris, 2837 Sun Terrace Dr., Hartland Mi. 48353. Printed in-house. Labor donated.)