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Below are some brief position statements on key matters impacting Kent County and District 11.

Good Judgment and Ethical Decision Making

I take good judgment and ethics very seriously, and take pride in my record as a Kent County Commissioner and as a former Grand Rapids Township Trustee. I think this is apparent by the endorsements I have received which include local business leaders, state and national elected officials, and residents and leaders from the communities I serve (Grand Rapids Township, Ada Township and the City of East Grand Rapids). I believe this is also apparent in the way I volunteer my time, and by my service with two professional organizations: the Michigan State Bar District Character & Fitness Committee (2005-2010), and as a Michigan Supreme Court Attorney Discipline Board Panelist. Simply stated, before you can even discuss issues, you need to trust that your elected representative is telling the truth, and will apply good judgment and ethics to every vote. I pledge to continue doing this as your County Commissioner.

Good Stewardship and Fiscal Responsibility.

Kent County is one of the most efficient governments in the Country! It has a national AAA credit rating – only 25 of approximately 3,200 counties in the nation can make this claim. The County passes only balanced budgets and never ends the year with deficits. And Kent County has the 7th lowest tax rate of the 83 Michigan counties. This rating and these results are a “report card” not only on financial results, but on best practices, policies, management and overall effectiveness. But with fewer revenues from property taxes and declining state revenue sharing, we cannot take these results for granted. And making sure that we have a fiscally sound budget and good finances remains a constant battle. All commissioners owe it to their constituents to make sure we are using their taxpayer dollars wisely, and that we do not fund programs that are ultimately unsustainable. As long as I am an elected official, I will always strive to see that governments are just as responsible with their finances as a business or a household is required to be. That will involve some tough decisions at times. But as a small business owner and an elected official that helped create and pass balanced budgets, I know I can continue to make a difference in this area.

My colleagues elected me Chair of the Board in 2016. This is an honor and an important position as it allows me to set the agenda for the entire Board, and ensure that our budgets are balanced. These are the principles that serve as my guidelines when it comes to finances and budgets:

  • No new funding initiatives unless our budgets are balanced.
  • Review every program to ensure that efficiencies are maximized without affecting core services.
  • Do not dip into our emergency reserves to balance deficit budgets.
  • Prioritize our expenses by considering first the constitutionally mandated services, and then the discretionary services permitted by the County's fiscal condition.

City/County/Township Consolidation

Talk of eliminating and consolidating governments was a "hot" topic in recent years. It sounds like a great idea when you talk about saving money by eliminating governments and cutting the number of politicians. But just like term limits (which sounded appealing but actually lessened effective representation and increased the influence of bureaucrats and lobbyists), there is a lot more that you need to know before deciding to move down this path. It starts with understanding that extensive studies and actual results from city/county consolidations in other areas of the country demonstrate that governmental consolidation neither improved efficiency nor saved money. So why would we do it? I believe that tearing down borders is just asking for a whole new set of problems that will not be beneficial to most residents of this County or to the residents of the 11th District.

But this does not mean that cooperation and collaboration cannot be employed to effectively and efficiently reduce the cost of government. For example, Grand Rapids Township and Ada Township share the cost of a single building inspector with 3 other township and city governments. This allows the governments to hire one full-time, well-qualified inspector but spread the cost over 5 jurisdictions. This is the type of efficiency we should be exploring. I chaired a special committee comprised of members from both government and the private sector to look at how we can make government more effective and efficient through collaborative efforts. As part of this study, we also studied and recommended ways to maximize our economic development opportunities. These three E’s should always guide and lead discussions about government collaboration: Will it promote efficiencies? Will it make government more effective? Will it maximize economic development? This will be my guide when working on collaborative efforts with other governments and agencies.