Voters to decide on new state representative in November.

October 11, 2018

Voters to decide on new state representative in November.

#Election2018

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, voters in Michigan’s 101st House of Representatives district will elect a new representative. Republican Jack O’Malley of Lake Ann and Democrat Kathy Wiejaczka are vying for the seat currently occupied by Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington). VanderWall is currently the Republican candidate for the Michigan Senate 35th District seat; the first term representative chose not to seek re-election for the house seat.

The 101st district represents Mason, Manistee, Benzie, and Leelanau counties.

Before the campaign, O’Malley had been the morning show host on WTCM radio in Traverse City for 34 years. He had worked the last 20 years as the host of “Jack’s Journal” on WWTV (TV 9&10). O’Malley is also the operations manager of WTCM.

O’Malley describes himself as a conservative and said in a two-party system the republican party best suits him.

“I believe in God, country and apple pie,” he said.

“I am not one of those people who comes into this process with an agenda,” he said. “I want to go represent the people and do the best I can.”

Wiejaczka has worked as a nurse for 39 years. Her career has included working in hospitals and also in the public schools. 

She said she chose to run for office for two reasons:

“I became frustrated with the votes that were coming out of Lansing and I felt they were more reflective of the pockets they were coming out of rather than the people’s needs.” She said she was also upset with the divisiveness in state politics coming from both political parties.

“I’ve never judged people. Nursing has availed me the privilege or honor to recognize that nothing is black or white but various shades of gray.

“My dad did not fight on the front lines of World War II in France and Germany for this. He would have been appalled.”

O’Malley also spoke about his father’s military service during World War II. “My parents were older when they had me, they were 44-years-old. My dad was proud of his military service but never really talked about it much. He died when I was a young boy. My mother was very proud of my dad’s service and she was very patriotic. I have always been involved with veterans organizations in honor of my dad but I never joined the military. In many ways I regret that and choosing to run for state representative is my way of giving back.”

Recently, O’Malley and Wiejaczka met with MCP, separately, and discussed their views on state political topics. Here are some of their answers:

Education

O’Malley said he is passionate about education, early childhood development, and child care.

“If elected, I am hoping to get on the House education committee,” he said. “I was told that nobody wants to get on that committee because it’s such a hot potato topic. But, I say ‘bring it on.’ I can’t think of a more important topic in this state than the education of our children.”

O’Malley said the state continues to recover from the policies of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, that over-emphasized college preparation and reduced secondary education emphasis on the arts and vocational education.

“We certainly need more guidance counselors who are trained in vocational education. It seems that there was a mindset that manufacturing in this state is dead, but it is not. Modern manufacturing does require education beyond a high school diploma, but that training is not necessarily a four-year, or higher, degree. These are well paying jobs and our society is hurting because we don’t have the skilled workers.”

Wiejaczka agreed that schools need to focus more on vocational training. “My husband is a builder and he learned many of his skills when he was in junior high. He took drafting and shop class. In the end he started his own company. We need to increase trades, not just building trades, but IT, art, music, and gym. We need to have partnerships with businesses and using that as credit.”

O’Malley said school funding is an issue that can always be worked on.

“There’s no doubt that our schools need more attention. I don’t know if there is a better funding formula than what we have, and I don’t know if funding necessarily equates to better education. I do know that our schools spend a lot of time and money on standardized tests. I question if it’s necessary to put that much emphasis on these tests.

“I also am an advocate of local control of our public school districts with guidance from the state, and minimal involvement from the federal government.” 

Wiejaczka said school funding needs to be equitable across the state.

“The average per student funding in northern Michigan is $7,600 and it should be $9,300 per student,” Wiejaczka said. “Downstate, it’s $12,000-plus per student. They don’t have to separate busing downstate because bus routes are only 10 to 15 minutes. Up here, bus routes can be a long way. That funding for buses should be a separate fund. I’ve talked to superintendents here and it’s not fair. We live in a rural area.”

Wiejaczka, like O’Malley, said schools spend too much emphasis on standardized tests.

“We shouldn’t be teaching to the test,” she said. “We need to promote more problem solving and group learning and not put so much weight on the tests.”

Environment

“Line 5 is huge and scares the crap out of me,” Wiejaczka said.

Enbridge’s Line 5 is a 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline that travels through Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, originating in Superior, Wisc., and terminating in Sarnia, Ont., Canada, according to the company’s website. As it travels under the Straits of Mackinac, Line 5 splits into two 20-inch-diameter, parallel pipelines that are buried onshore and taper off deep underwater, crossing the Straits west of the Mackinac Bridge for a distance of 4.5 miles. The line was built in 1953.

“I know Gov. Snyder signed some sort of deal and is in the process of digging a tunnel under the straits. That’s fine and dandy but it will take eight to 10 years. How do we make assurances in the meantime?” Wiejaczka said.

“It’s the most dangerous place in the state of Michigan for pipelines, the University of Michigan stated that in 2013,” she said. “It’s just a flow-through for Embridge to go through the state to go to Ontario, down by Windsor. Five to 10 percent of the oil stays back for us residents. I know there is the whole propane thing in the U.P. That can be taken care of. We talk all the time about the free market. There is no plan right now on what is going to happen if it bursts tomorrow.”

According to Enbridge’s website, as of June 2016, Line 5 supplied 65 percent of propane demand in the Upper Peninsula, and 55 percent of Michigan’s statewide propane needs. Overall, Line 5 transports up to 540,000 barrels per day (bpd) of light crude oil, light synthetic crude, and natural gas liquids (NGLs), which are refined into propane.

“This has been going on for quite awhile and it’s one of the reasons I got into this race,” Wiejaczka said. “I couldn’t understand the rationale behind our elected official (referring to VanderWall) in this area and his stance on Line 5. The only thing I could surmise was that he was in the pockets of that company.”

O’Malley said he looks at the Line 5 issue differently.

“There is a lot of emotion there but the key thing to know is that Line 5 is not a ticking time bomb. There is a fallacy that we don’t get any oil from Line 5. Shutting it down would put 3,000 more semis on Michigan roads every day.”

Agriculture

O’Malley was recently endorsed by the Michigan Farm Bureau as a “friend of agriculture.” The endorsement by the state’s largest agricultural advocacy group, which represents the state’s second biggest industry, is a big boost, O’Malley said.

“I have toured several farms in the four counties and have spoken to many farmers and have learned a lot. This district has one of the most diverse agricultural region in the state and we need to make sure that our farmers are supported by Lansing.”

“Agriculture is huge,” Wiejaczka said. “All throughout this district there are many many farmers. We have good friends who are farmers by us. I think the state could do more in helping farmers with the paperwork and affordability of migrant workers, so they don’t have to dig up the crops and let them rot.”

Law enforcement.

Several area law enforcement agencies have had difficulty the past couple years recruiting candidates. Sheriffs and chiefs have stated to MCP that those difficulties have arisen from the current political climate in the nation. MCP asked both candidates about how they could address this issue on a state level, if elected.

“On a state level, I don’t know, perhaps subsidies could be used to increase training,” Wiejaczka said. “Perhaps if you enter law enforcement there could be some sort of break on your training. I don’t know how expensive it is to go to law enforcement training school but I know other professions, like nursing, get a break on student loans.”

“This is a sad problem,” O’Malley said. “Our men and women of law enforcement are there to keep the peace but also to protect. Putting their life on the line. I don’t know what the legislature can do. But I know this legislator will promote the good that these people do and I will confront those that want to spread falsehoods, who jump to conclusions. We ask them to deal with stuff that’s not fun so that we don’t have to deal with it daily. We must all be ready to confront those who want to degrade or harm our men and women in blue. That thin blue line is huge for our society.”

O’Malley suggested that the state could probably put more resources towards training for all first responders, including law enforcement, firefighting, and EMS.

“This goes back to the vocational training I discussed and how important it is that we encourage these types of careers.”

Economy.

O’Malley said the state’s income tax system needs to be reviewed.

“I have always believed, from the federal level on down, that we pay way too much in taxes. We earn our money and we work hard for it. I think we as citizens should keep more of our money. I am curious about the idea of eliminating the state income tax. I have looked at states that have done this, such as Tennessee, Texas, and Florida. They seem to be doing really well without an income tax.”

“We need living wage jobs,” Wiejaczka said. “Most doors I have knocked on, people are working two or three jobs and just can’t get ahead.” Wiejaczka added that workforce housing and high speed Internet also need to be priorities.

O’Malley said he has been studying the high speed Internet needs of northern Michigan and has been attending forums to learn more about solutions.

Both O’Malley and Wiejaczka agreed the opioid crisis needs to continue to be a priority for the legislature. They also both agreed that there needs to be affordable access to patients who legitimately need pain medication and that treatment opportunities for addicts must be increased.

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