Metro Council to press hopefuls for local seats

August 22, 2010
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In an effort to keep the region’s legislative priorities in front of local candidates running for state and federal House and Senate seats, the Grand Valley Metro Council will send each one a letter reminding them of those top concerns.

“We need partners,” said Michael DeVries, superintendent of Grand Rapids Township and vice chairman of the council’s Legislative Committee.

The council recently approved five legislative priorities it wants state lawmakers to embrace and get to the governor’s desk. “I agree with the Legislative Committee that we should focus on just five priorities,” said Milt Rohwer, a Grand Rapids representative on the council.

Three of the five priorities center on state tax policy and the fiscal stability of local governments.

  • The council wants Lansing to restore revenue sharing to counties and fully fund those payments to cities and townships.

  • GVMC wants the state business tax restructured so it provides incentives for retention, recruitment and expansion efforts, but also supports critical state and local government services.

  • The council wants the state to create a “funding mechanism” that allows local governments to retain existing businesses, attract new endeavors and promote tourism. This funding mechanism should be statutory in nature and be equitable to all governments.

The council also wants lawmakers to eliminate the legislative roadblock to the sharing of services. It wants the Urban Cooperation Act, the Intergovernmental Transfer of Functions and Responsibilities Act, the Compulsory Binding Arbitration statute, and the Metropolitan Councils Act amended to accomplish that goal.

The Metro Council also wants legislators to increase funding for transportation improvements and transit operations.

“I would get after these new candidates and vet them. I wouldn’t let them off easy just because they’re the last ones standing,” said Kentwood Mayor Richard Root of the primary election’s winners.

Root, who chairs the Legislative Committee, also told council members to refrain from asking the candidates about their positions on national issues. “The question is, what is good for our local community,” he said. “Now we have a lot fewer to talk to.”

The Metro Council hosted a question-and-answer luncheon in July that drew 17 candidates who ran for state legislative seats in the primary election. The council sent surveys to all 73 in the region that sought state office, and 30 took the time to respond.

“While candidates who responded support many of our core issues, especially in the area of governmental reforms, we still have a lot of work to do on the issue of increasing transportation funding,” said GVMC Executive Director Don Stypula.

Root pointed out that voters didn’t act like ultra-conservatives when they approved millages in Sparta and Tyrone townships and in Comstock Park as part of the August primary election and more proposals involving taxes in the April general election.

“They should understand that people want to support their communities,” Root said of the candidates. “The state couldn’t get a millage passed in 100 years.”

Stypula said the Legislative Committee would put the letters together soon. “We’ll get those letters out to all the winners.”

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