October 11, 2012The race to represent District 1 in the Michigan House of Representatives comes down to two first-time contenders.
One has trouble living within the law. The other puts goals before popularity.
"My past is simply my past," said Democrat Brian Banks, an eight-time convicted felon from Detroit. "Just like I have a past, many of you have a past, many of your family members."
"I'm more concerned about serving the people than being liked by my fellow elected officials," said Republican Dan Schulte of Grosse Pointe Shores. "I think most people will agree with that."
Both candidates acknowledged their characteristics last week during a question-and answer session at Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall.
The event was part of a series sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Grosse Pointe prior to the Nov. 6 general election.
Each candidate gave opening and closing statements, plus answered written questions submitted by audience members and culled by league representatives.
Next month's election for House District 1 will be the first in its present configuration. District 1 includes Grosse Pointe Shores, Grosse Pointe Woods, Harper Woods and part of eastside Detroit. The Detroit portion goes from Eight Mile to Gratiot and roughly down to Chalmers.
The district was created when state legislators split the five Grosse Pointes into two House seats during the latest round of reapportionment. The two resulting districts are heavily Democratic. Schulte, self employed in the marketing and public relations fields, was the only Republican to file for office. Banks, an adjunct professor at Baker College and a non-practicing law school graduate, won a contested primary.
Banks said, "Born and raised on the eastside of Detroit, I saw and heard stories of the underprivileged and disadvantaged. As a product of both a low-income and single parent family, I am personally aware of the difficult choices today's youth face, from dropping out of school to getting involved in crime." Schulte said, "First and foremost, we need to make sure people in this district are able to live in a environment that is safe with reliable basic services, such as police and fi re protection and emergency medical services."
Most questioners stayed close to topics of crime, education, social challenges and economic development. If elected, Schulte said he'd "try to work with other state representatives to bring money to the community, especially in areas we have blight. Crime is the biggest concern. If you can't sleep at night, school doesn't matter and work doesn't matter." Banks said he'd "fi ght for education, not only K through 12, but adult education."
Education & taxes
Both candidates want lower college tuition rates and will support the wishes of district leaders regarding school choice and vouchers. Both candidates are open to changing the property tax system. "(The current system) is based on the premise of property values always going up," said Schulte. "Before we switch to some other idea, we need to look at models and see what really works." Banks said, "When we look a the diverse makeup of our district, property taxes should be reconsidered as it applies to each community and municipality. Property taxes should be lowered. But, we should look at each municipality and realign their property values based on the municipality."
Right to work
Banks opposes right to work laws. "Right to work isn't about right or work," he said. "It's about corporate payback. Corporations spent billions to put Republicans in offi ce in 2010 and they've been demanding paybacks ever since. Right to work laws lower wages and hurt communities." Schulte supports unionization, but thinks some unions have gotten too powerful. "We need a competitive work environment," he said. "We also have to have a work environment that protects workers."
Banks also opposes Michigan's emergency manager law. "It's simply an emergency dictator law," he said. "This law was put in place to reach into cities and school districts and take their resources." Banks said the law is unconstitutional. "It negates the basic rights to elect representation," he said. Schulte said, "An emergency manager is a better option than a bankruptcy judge," Checks and balances are needed to monitor the authority of emergency managers, he added. "We have to have some kind of a committee that plays a role in decision making so we don't get an autocrat in there," Schulte said.
In closing, Banks, alluded to his criminal history. "We live in a society that fosters rehabilitation," he said. "I am a clear example that it works. People deserve second changes. With my second chance, I've been able to achieve many great accomplishment." Those accomplishments include earning bachelors and graduate degrees, and working toward a Ph.D. in public policy and administration, he said. Schulte stressed public safety and quality education. "Nothing matters more than having peace and security in one's own home and neighborhood," Schulte said. "I will work to promote the quality of our children's education while pushing hard to improve the effi - ciency of the educational system."