VanderWall, Taillard discuss the issues during forum

State Rep. Curt VanderWall, (R), and his challenger Democrat Mike Taillard went head to head in a voters forum on Tuesday. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

State Rep. Curt VanderWall, (R), and his challenger Democrat Mike Taillard went head to head in a voters forum on Tuesday. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article is part two in a two part series, following a voters forum held on Tuesday night. Part two features responses from two candidates running for Michigan’s 35th District Senate seat.

ONEKAMA — Members of the public filled the Farr Center in Onekama on Tuesday night for a voters forum that featured two candidates vying for Michigan’s 35th Senate District seat.

State Rep. Curt VanderWall, (R), and his challenger Democrat Mike Taillard went head to head in a series of questions, prompted by the nonpartisan organization League of Women Voters of Manistee County (LWV), in conjunction with the Manistee News Advocate.

Libertarian Timothy Coon, who is also running for the seat, was not in attendance.

Each candidate was prompted to answer three prepared questions, and were allowed two minutes to provide a response. In the audience portion of the night, candidates were asked nine questions and had 90 seconds to respond.

Mediator Michelle Graves, managing editor of the News Advocate, asked candidates to introduce themselves.

First up, Taillard is a Beulah resident and a lifetime Michigan resident, who obtained his degrees in economics and business from Madonna and North Central Universities. He served in the U.S. Army Reserves and with U.S. Strategic Command.

He has experience working as an educator, researcher, author and professor. Taillard started a consulting firm providing solutions for businesses, nonprofits and governmental agencies. He also started a private education business.

Taillard is a member of the American Legion, and his wife, Ashley, is a U.S. Air Force veteran.

“I’ve been behind the scenes for a long time as an economic consultant, I have always been the one doing the research, collecting the data, providing the rhetoric,” he said. “When it comes to Michigan in particular, I have a special interest in making sure things go correctly.”

VanderWall was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in November 2016. He and his wife, Diane, are involved with Covenant Christian School in Ludington and attend Mason County Reformed Church, where VanderWall served as a deacon.

In the past, VanderWall served as commissioner, chairman for the Mason County Board of Commissioners, served on the Western Michigan Fair Association for six years, was district chair for MSU Extension and served on boards for the United Way of Mason County.

He is currently chair of the Women’s Jericho House Board.

“It’s an honor to have currently served as your state representative, and I would like to carry that on in the 35th Senate District,” VanderWall said. “I have three major agenda items I would like to continue to work on, and we struggle on one of them greatly and that’s auto no-fault insurance.”

Economy

Candidates were asked to explain how they plan to create focused economic growth, and where they advocate to expend state resources.

VanderWall said legislators need to create sound policy, enable growth and support businesses.

“We need to make sure when we set policy that it provides stable economic growth for our businesses, it brings people back in to the areas,” VanderWall said. “We have still not rebounded in our population; we are the only state that has not rebounded. We continue to struggle.

“When we do create policy, we need to make sure our businesses are taxed properly, and also make sure our citizens are taxes properly and they remain here.”

In response, Taillard said the state needs to focus more on endogenous growth models, and reduce governmental spending.

“Economic growths come not from inherently external forces like the government, we cannot continue to spend our way into growth,” he said. “We have to make sure the way we are emphasizing our growth priorities and economic development is through internal factors, things like education.

“Also to pursue innovation, pursue new small businesses and really drive home the idea that each of us can contribute by going self employed, developing those skills, sharing those skills…”

Roads

Graves asked candidates to describe how they would address funding for state, local and main/county roads, which have been in a state of deterioration for a number of years.

Taillard said different methods of repair need to be considered, like using other materials to fix the roads. He said we need to not only fix roads, but update them.

“We have better materials out there to build roads with. We have materials that last longer, can withstand greater weight or trucking,” he said. “That is a very serious problem here in northern Michigan. We are not updating what we are doing, it’s absolutely a travesty.”

Taking note of PA51, VanderWall said without this act, northern Michigan would lose of one-third of its funding for roads, and send funds to the southern part of the state.

“We put more money into the roads the past two years than we put in previously,” VanderWall said. “Next year we budgeted well over a million dollars in extra road funding… PA51 treats northern Michigan very fair. The biggest thing we need to do is make sure our economic growth continues to grow.”

Education

Michigan is a bottom 10 state for educational outcomes, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It ranks 34th in Baccalaureate Degree attainment for its citizens, and 36th in income among states. Both candidates were asked to explain the root cause and provide solutions.

“I think our education system right now needs to be completely revamped,” said VanderWall. “We have very little control locally, we are being chased by the dollar from the federal government. Not every child needs to go to a four year university… those who chose to go to a four to five year university, we need to make sure they can attain that and it’s financially viable.”

Taillard responded with a primary focus on reform for K-12 education.

“We were funding our K-12 schools just fine,” he said. “They did well, we did not have collapsing roofs in high schools. We did not have shortages of teachers… One of the things that makes public schools less desirable is that we are taking funds out of those schools, so we can no longer sustain them. We have this huge chunk of change that we can use to fund the corrections that need to be made.”

Final Statements 

At the end of the forum, VanderWall gave his closing statement.

“I want to continue my opportunity, I want to continue to work for you and I want to continue to represent you,” VanderWall said. “I feel that I have been a good listener. I want to continue to have my monthly coffee hours, because the only way I can get a pulse of what’s happening in the district is to be able to be accessible to you.

“I have felt these have worked very well. I want to take your values back to Lansing. I want to work on those things, I want to make sure that we build our district to be the greatest district that it can be.”

Taillard also provided his closing statement.

“We all want the same things; we all want roofs over our heads, we all want food on the table, we all want health for our families,” he said. “We are all trying to strive to achieve the same basic human needs. The question you have to ask yourself, is the old way of doing things accomplishing that?

“The answer is no, by almost every metric. We have been moving backwards, to the point where some are calling us a failed state. If you want a better Michigan we need to start making better decisions.”

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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