Interview with Dan Scripps (D), Candidate for State House

Incumbent Ray Franz (GOP) is term-limited. Scripps held the seat from 2009-2010. His opponent, Curt VanderWall (GOP), declined to respond to our questions.

From staff reports

Glen Arbor Sun
: Please name three top goals you’d like to accomplish as State Representative

Dan Scripps: Create jobs in Northwest Michigan by working to rebuild Michigan’s infrastructure, supporting innovation and local entrepreneurs, and leveraging our strengths in clean energy, agriculture, tourism, and advanced manufacturing.

Support our local schools by working to boost funding for education and addressing the school funding formula that continues to shortchange local kids.

Protect our Great Lakes by tackling the threats they face, from the 63-year-old pipeline running through the Straits to invasive species like Asian carp.

Sun: What should the State House do to support economic development and jobs in Leelanau County?

Scripps: We need a partner in Lansing to support local economic development efforts. One area of focus will be to make sure that any infrastructure plan focuses on the unique needs of rural Michigan, including expanding high speed internet and extending natural gas infrastructure in rural communities.

Sun: How should the House help solve the problem of too little affordable housing in the county?

Scripps: The current criteria for awarding state affordable housing dollars makes it difficult for smaller communities to qualify as one-size-fits-all rules around density and walkability are harder for our small towns and villages to meet. I’d like to see greater appreciation of the unique challenges facing rural communities in the MSHDA scoring system. In addition, I’ve heard of efforts to develop workforce housing units being cancelled because they couldn’t hook up to natural gas lines for heating, and the prospect of heating with propane added extra costs to the project. Extending natural gas lines to these projects would go a long ways towards allowing affordable housing in rural areas.

Sun: Many area businesses struggled to find enough employees during the high tourism season — and some curtailed their hours, as a result? How can the State House solve this riddle?

Scripps: I’m not sure there’s a silver bullet to solve this issue, but the Legislature can certainly play a supporting role by encouraging affordable housing and public transportation options. We also need to be pro-actively working with our small businesses to understand their challenges and identifying resources they can use.

Sun: What can state government do about Sugar Loaf, which was once Leelanau’s largest employer but has been closed for 16 years? Can the House do more to empower the construction code authority to take legal action under the resort’s current “owners”?

Scripps: We need to pull together representatives from local, state, and federal governments to identify and leverage all available resources and authority to revitalize Sugar Loaf. From local code enforcement to state brownfield and other economic development resources, a concerted effort needs to be made to address ongoing legal issues, clear up title and ownership questions, and create a path for Sugar Loaf to be restored as a contributing force to the local economy.

Sun: What environmental issues are most important to you? What role can the State House play in protecting our natural resources?

Scripps: Any representative of this district needs to be a conservation champion. For me that starts with protecting our Great Lakes, whether from the 63-year-old pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac to remaining vigilant in the fight against Asian carp and other invasive species. We also need to protect our inland lakes, rivers, and streams, as well as preserved lands and open spaces. I’ll continue to be a strong voice for Michigan’s natural resources in the House.

Sun: The current Leelanau County Commission voted (twice) against a resolution to shut down the Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. Where do you stand on this issue, and why?

Scripps: We need to shut down Line 5 before it’s too late. Enbridge, the Canadian oil company that operates Line 5, forever lost our trust in 2010 when they were responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, dumping more than 1 million gallons into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. We also know there have been multiple spills on Line 5 itself – including one incident that spilled more than 200,000 galls of oil into a wetland in the UP. A similar spill in the Straits would be catastrophic, and would result in massive damage to our $7 billion Great Lakes fishery, our local tourism economy, and our quality of life. By Enbridge’s own admission Line 5 is currently violating the terms of its easement with the State of Michigan. It’s time to shut down Line 5.

Sun: What lessons should state government learn from the Flint water crisis? Where do you stand on Gov. Snyder’s hallmark initiative, and the state legislature’s law, that put power over Flint decisions largely in the hands of a state-appointed emergency manager?

Scripps: To me, the biggest lesson from the Flint water crisis is that we can’t simply make decisions based on spreadsheets with little or no concern for the people behind those numbers. I oppose the Emergency Manager law that led to the Flint crisis, as well as the governing philosophy that on multiple occasions considered only financial costs – a philosophy that ultimately led to the poisoning of an American city. We need a government that again puts people first.

Sun: Politics has reached pitiful new lows this election season. Both presidential candidates are viewed unfavorably; and one of them has made a habit of insulting women, minorities and the handicapped. What, specifically, can you do to promote civility in politics?

Scripps: We should expect more of our candidates for public office in terms of their honesty and willingness to outline their plans without resorting to personal attacks or misleading voters. I work to do this by focusing on my vision for Michigan and what my proposals would mean for the people of Northwest Michigan, as well as highlighting those issues where my opponent and I disagree. I believe it’s not only possible to have differences of opinion on the issues without insulting either your opponent or the voters, it’s essential to the health of our democracy. This goes well beyond the campaign. To govern effectively, we need to find opportunities to come together around workable solutions for our state. This often means finding common ground with those with whom you disagree and recognizing that all of us represent different constituencies and areas of the state, but that solutions are possible.

Sun: How would you describe the civility of the race between you and Curt Vanderwall, with respect to rhetoric, robo calls, etc.?

Scripps: To be honest, I’ve been disappointed. The special interests backing my opponent’s campaign are willfully misleading voters about my record, and Curt has done nothing to repudiate the lies being told. On water issues, I’ve been a champion for our natural resources, sponsoring legislation to protect our lakes from polluters while also demanding protections for homeowners, including a bill to make sure residential wells would never be taxed. It’s the same on reforming government, including my support for ending lifetime health care benefits for lawmakers, a change that saved taxpayers nearly $5 million a year. Curt’s willingness to stand silent as his special interest allies mislead voters demeans the process, and local voters deserve better.

Sun: What’s your favorite place to spend an afternoon in Leelanau County?

Scripps: I’m so blessed that my family and I are able to call Leelanau County home, and we try and make the most of it. From a day swimming at Van’s beach, eating Cheese Shop sandwiches, and topping it off with ice cream from Harbor House, to the Dune climb or Pyramid Point and burgers at Art’s, to breakfast at Pegtown Station in Maple City and kayaking down the Cedar River, there are countless ways to enjoy Leelanau County. But most often we stay close to our home in Northport, walking in the woods with our dog at the state park, swimming down by the marina, and catching the sunset at Peterson Park. We love it here, and I am so happy that my kids are getting a Leelanau childhood.