Derek Bailey vs. Allen O’Shea on progressive issues

Derek Bailey (left) with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

By Jacob Wheeler
Sun editor

With this year’s primary election upon us and voters casting ballots on Tuesday, Aug. 7, we reached out to two progressive Democrats who are vying to oppose incumbent Republican Ray Franz for Michigan’s 101st House seat in the November election.

During his two years in office, Franz has been a lightning rod of controversy for his outspoken opposition to “Pure Michigan” state tourism advertising; for opposing Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which passed in 2008 and puts the Wolverine state on a path toward 10 percent renewable energy by 2015 (both current Governor Rick Snyder and former Gov. Jennifer Granholm support the RPS); for favoring both hydrofracking and the use of nuclear energy on Michigan soil and, prior to taking office, for disparaging remarks against the GLBT community.

Bailey, the former Chair of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, is a young, dynamic, political newcomer (outside the Native community, at least). O’Shea is a Manistee County construction and renewable energy business owner. Both see this election as an opportunity for pushing progressive causes in Lansing and here in the 101st district.

We submitted eight questions via email to Bailey and O’Shea, and both were kind enough to take time out from door knocking on the day before the election and answer our questions.

Sun: If elected, what will be your top priorities representing the 101st district in Lansing?

Bailey: I think we need to start with REAL representation. The current Representative started his legislative career by gutting the state’s funding for pro-tourism campaigns. When that is the largest industry in the district, he is not representing anyone. Another top priority will be looking to current employers and potential employers in the business community to bring good paying jobs to the district. I will also begin tackling the per pupil funding issue that faces this region of the state. Our students start with a disadvantage, that is unacceptable, and the current Representative has done NOTHING to address it.

O’Shea: I refer to my three priorities as my three R’s and when I am elected to the 101st I will work to restore fairness, reinvigorate our economic base in the 101st and reprioritize the importance of a strong public education system to secure our children’s future.

Restore fairness: the Governor and the majority controlled legislature raised taxes on those that can least afford it ($1.4 billion), our middle class, working poor and seniors. This is not shared sacrifice and leveling the playing field! I will work with local leaders, businesses and schools to find a consensus as to how to rectify these wrongs and get the 101st on track for the 21st century. I will work to reinstate the EITC and childrens’ credit ($600) as well as looking at ways to revise or repeal the seniors’ tax increase.

To reinvigorate our economic base in the 101st. I can and will create jobs and I have an economic plan that I will publish after the primary and I will include policies on: outsourcing and required Michigan and US content; move back to Michigan incentives and preserve our 101st; complete the circle of product development, especially in agribusiness, from field and orchard through processing and distribution. Work to provide more incentives for distribution and food processors. Alternative Energy 101st and statewide CLEAN energy strategy. It fits with our northern Michigan communities.

Re-prioritize education. Demand an equitable statewide education strategy (not just a school aid revision). Close the gap and raise the foundation grant to $7,700. Start and fund early childhood school programs. Integrate our local colleges to our seniors and create data guideposts in every county in the 101st.

Sun: Amidst partisan gridlock, and a state government controlled by Republicans, how will you accomplish your goals?

O’Shea: I am very experienced in working with County Commission gridlock and negotiation consensus agreements including working with different political parties. I will use these skills to find relationships across the aisle. I am a strong communicator with people skills Lansing is NOT using.

Bailey: As a tribal leader in this area, I have first hand expierence being in the minority opinion. I will do what I have always done, create a level of transparency and goodwill to logically discuss the cause and effects of our legislative actions. I believe my track record of being solutions oriented while holding fast my values will help while reaching across the aisle.

Sun: How will you create jobs? What particular sectors will you target?

Bailey: I will start by reaching out to employers and inquire about what is missing, review economic development plans conducted by the counties, labor, and the chambers of commerce to find places where gaps need to be filled. Ideally I would like to target manufacturing and skilled labor positions. We have a beautiful landscape for companies and their employees to appreciate. I would also target tourism, the ‘FlyManistee’ program has shown some success and with some encouragement from the state programs like that could continue to drive our economy.

O’Shea: Focus on current successful businesses and what can be done to preserve and grow them. Work with each county in the 101st District on developing detailed economic investment plans that retain jobs and attract new businesses. Complete the circle of product development, especially in agribusiness, from field and orchard through processing and distribution. Work to provide more incentives for food processors and distributors. Organize an energy efficiency project for northwest Michigan to provide jobs by focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy striving for net zero energy consumption for industry and small businesses, significantly lowering their energy costs. Not only will this save money, it will also provide new investment in our region and protect our quality of life. Develop a clean energy strategy that includes all renewables, including natural gas. The plan will include a smart grid, research and development, manufacturing and installation. Bring in experts to work with local businesses and entrepreneurs on startup businesses. Also bring in venture capitalists and other investors to provide upfront funding for innovative, viable startups. Work with regional leaders on a job strategy to bring young people back to northwest Michigan. Reinvigorate local efforts to teach young people business and entrepreneurial skills, creating a Junior Entrepreneur program, to encourage youth to pursue their own small business. Work in Lansing to reverse cuts to public education. Shortchanging
public education shortchanges our children and their future. Initiate the
Education Promise program for college scholarships for small businesses

Sun: How would you rate the performance of incumbent Rep. Ray Franz? What particular issues do you take with the job he’s done?

O’Shea: Ray is marching to the beat of the Republican Party, pulling levers and not listening or communicating with the people who put him in office. Ray has taken a terrible stance on clean renewable energy. He has a near zero Environmental rating and that is NOT acceptable.

Bailey: On a scale of 1-10 I give him a 1. He has done very poorly on the issues that this district faces. As a representative his job is to hear the concerns of his constituents and advocate for their issues. The largest economic booster in this area is tourism, cutting the Pure Michigan campaign is an attack on this community, its businesses, and its workers. As the person we trusted to be our advocate, there is no excuse for this action.

A lot of those tourists are sport fishermen who come up to enjoy our incredible lakefront, other businesses are commercial fishermen, Asian Carp and predatory species are attacking this sector of the economy. The current Representative has been silent. That’s not Representation.

Sun: When he arrived in Lansing, Franz attempted to gut state spending on the Pure Michigan campaign, which promotes tourism from out of state. What’s your position on Pure Michigan, and how would you support tourism to northern Michigan?

Bailey: Pure Michigan kept our economy in this area growing, while the rest of the state was struggling. Times have been tough during this recession, but without Pure Michigan I believe it would have been worse. I would approach local businesses that would directly benefit from tourism campaigns and ask that they come together and build a coalition to utilize advertising resources, but also brainstorm on innovative ways to promote tourism.

O’Shea: Our Pure Michigan gives the 101st a strong leg up compared to other areas of Michigan which is a bonus for us. When in Lansing, I will look for ways to increase funding and prioritize options that will work for long-term funding.

Sun: Franz also attempted to introduce legislation to kill Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, mandating that 10 percent of the state’s energy come from wind, solar and other renewables by 2015. Franz also rhetorically supports more oil and natural gas hydrofracking in Michigan. What’s your position on Michigan’s current RPS? How about on fracking? What, in general, are the solutions to our energy needs?

O’Shea: I am all for the Michigan 10% by 2015 program. Fracking is not acceptable as it stands. We need to put a moratorium on fracking and develop policies that will represent the 101st and preserve clean water and still look to extract our state natural grass reserves. We need our Natural Gas reserves and it should be available to all Michigan residents. There are ‘waterless fracking’ developments that should be encouraged. We import over 90% of our Michigan energy so we need a statewide energy program. My 40 years experience in all forms of energy qualifies me as the best candidate for the project. I plan to set on the energy and technology committee.

Bailey: There is no one solution to our energy needs. A combination of shifting to renewable and further oil and natural gas exploration is needed. But there is no reason oil and gas exploration and hydrofracking cannot be done in a safe way. I am opposed to fracking under the current standards. I think more oversight needs to exist to protect our water supply and our eco system as a whole. The RPS is a good start to moving Michigan in a renewable direction.

Sun: How would you mitigate the threat of Asian Carp in our waterways?

Bailey: I would continue to lobby the attorney general and the executive branch to push their administration to take a more aggressive approach to the Asian Carp.

O’Shea: We are currently moving too slow, underfunded and not protecting long tributaries that will foster migration and spawning of the Big Head and Silver species. I also have some serious concerns about protecting our ‘backdoor’ and the Lake Erie corridor. We need to get serious about this NOW and other invasive species.

Sun: Where do you stand on Climate Change? What should state government do to address the threat?

O’Shea: These are two of the most important words that will be uttered in the 21st century. They sum up our past mistakes and emissions, our current dilemma and our goals to overcome for our USA and world’s future. The 3300 high temperature records in the country is staggering and the probability of something like this happening is equivalent to all the stars in our universe or 3.7×10-99 power a number considerably larger than all the stars of our universe! This is NOT a political game and the sooner folks realize that the sooner we can get to work and solve our dilemma!

Bailey: Climate Change is a very serious topic that deserves more investigation, and review. The fact that the current Representative has continuously brushed it off is a clear sign that he is unrepresentative of a district that relies heavily on its natural resources to promote tourism.