Archived Story

Leader endorses 2010 candidates

Published 3:02am Friday, October 29, 2010

The Niles Daily Star met with candidates for local races in preparation for Tuesday’s general election. The endorsements below represent the editorial board’s views on which candidates have the best potential to consistently advocate the needs and wishes of southwest Michigan.

Endorsements are an age-old tradition for local newspapers, and our editorial board has put a lot of thought into each, but we urge all voters to do their own research vote for their preferences. Endorsements are intended as a guide to incorporate into readers’ own research of the candidates’ values and positions.

State House, 78th District

In this race, political newcomer Cindy Ellis, a Democrat from Sawyer, seeks to unseat first-term incumbent state Rep. Sharon Tyler, a Republican from Niles.

We believe that both candidates have the potential and the intelligence to serve this district well, but we believe Ellis is the better choice.

Tyler offered great ideas when she was elected in 2008, and we believe she still has great vision, but the editorial board is concerned that she has not capitalized on her 30 years of economic development experience to further the interests of the 78th district. While we understand that Lansing leadership has a way of taking the wind out of the sails of even the boldest freshman legislator, Tyler set her own bar high in 2008 — perhaps too high. With the strength of the 43-member Bipartisan Freshman Caucus, and more economic development experience than perhaps any other legislator, Tyler should have fought to make her voice the loudest on job creation and business attraction; instead, she says she has worked a lot on “behind-the-scenes” business recruitment and co-signing minor changes to legislation. Those are items she could have continued to work on as a local economic development official — a legislator is expected, whether realistically or unrealistically, to make an impact on the bigger picture.

We also continue to be concerned with her sponsorship of a bill to allow municipalities to change their legal notice requirements. This was bad legislation when it was introduced in February, and even after months of committee work, remains a bad bill that will harm accountability and transparency in government. House Bill 5848, Tyler admits, was “basically written” by the Michigan Municipal League, which in this case put minor cost-savings by local governments over the rights of citizens to have transparent local government.

Ellis has many bold ideas, perhaps even bolder than Tyler’s were in 2008. We were impressed with her background: Starting and building a business whose only focus was returning injured employees to work. We believe her 35 years of experience in employment services, putting 10,000 people back to work, gives her a unique perspective on the problems facing Michigan’s economy.

Ellis has already offered some bold plans, including using her first year’s representative salary (just over $70,000) to help pay for software for employment services in the 78th district. She and Tyler also share views on the need to shorten licensure delays for businesses and reform the Michigan Business Tax.

With bold ideas, however, comes a big responsibility. If elected, we hope Ellis is more successful in navigating the Lansing bureaucracy and is able to take a leadership role on jobs. If re-elected, we hope Rep. Tyler will make a more concerted effort in her second term to put her economic development experience to better big-picture use.

State House, 79th District

The two contenders in the north county 79th District are Republican Al Pscholka of Stevensville and Democrat Mary Brown of St. Joseph. They are seeking the seat to be vacated by Rep. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, who has reached his term limit in the House.

Pscholka has experience on the Lincoln Township board and has served as the district director for U.S. Rep. Fred Upton since 2004. His goals are to make doing business in southwest Michigan easier by eliminating some of the regulations and focusing on small businesses already here instead of business recruitment. Based on the little information available about Brown, we understand that she is a teacher in the St. Joseph area. We were not able to reach her or locate a campaign website, and requests from online voters’ guides were not completed. Accessibility is key in public service, and Brown is definitely under the radar.

Pscholka earns our endorsement in this race.

Pscholka has a definitive priority list if elected, including reducing benefits and pensions of state employees; reducing the number of ineffective tax incentives; addressing the super-sized corrections budget; and “changing the culture” of Michigan. “We’re starting to believe what everyone is saying about us,” he said.

We predict Pscholka will be a strong, effective leader in the House.

State Senate, 21st District

St. Joseph resident John Proos, whose six-year term limit is up in the 79th District of the House of Representatives, is competing against Scott Elliott of Benton Harbor for the 21st District seat in the state Senate, to be vacated by Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, who has also reached his term limit.

Elliott, a Democrat, has revitalized two downtown Benton Harbor businesses and currently owns one. He has successfully started 10 small businesses since the 1970s. Proos previously served as vice president of Heritage Homes Inc. of Michigan and also as U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s deputy chief of staff and district director.

“Career politician” is often used in a negative connotation, but having experience and a proven track record are assets for any lawmaker. On that note, we believe Proos is the best man for the job in the 21st District.

Proos sponsored the repeal of the 22 percent Business Tax surcharge. He has been a vocal opponent for increased spending for the Michigan Department of Corrections, believing the department should be more efficiently run and the increased funding used to balance the state budget. His farmers’ market legislation signed by the governor is aimed at boosting Michigan’s entrepreneurial spirit by lessening restrictions on roadside stands and markets.

Proos also shared and drafted legislation that called for a deadline for the state to finish permitting requirements. A common concern shared among several candidates in this election is that painfully slow regulations have stunted business growth in the region.

Although Elliott seems to be genuinely concerned about issues in the Benton Harbor area, we believe he should run for office to solve problems rather than point fingers. He is not happy with how things are run in government, but he has not revealed a plan for action or ideas to make things happen in his district.

Berrien County Board of Commissioners, 12th District

In the 12th District Berrien County of Commissioners race, Democrat Michael Ringler is hoping to knock off three-term Republican John LaMore.

Ringler brings to the table two decades of experience in information technology management and a lifetime of knowledge of Niles Township, where he has lived 55 years. He said he would bring “an ethical approach to business,” and believes tax incentives could lure business here. LaMore, a retired fire chief from the Niles Township Fire Department, said he initially ran for office to “give Niles Township a voice.” He prides himself listening to his constituents and attending as many county and township meetings as possible.

LaMore and Ringler are both good candidates for this race, but we believe LaMore deserves another term.

Part of being an elected official is making really tough decisions in the best interest of your constituents; however, that doesn’t always mean those decisions are going to be popular. For example, LaMore continues to be the target of criticism for supporting building the future centralized county campus in Benton Township. He explains that this is really the best option for all residents. Having six years on the board of commissioners and many hours of research and debate on the subject, LaMore said that building the campus on more expensive land with no infrastructure is not the most feasible option. The drive time between that proposed site and the one in Benton Harbor is about five minutes, he said. “It looks like a pretty good decision to us,” he said of keeping all county services in one place, versus spreading them throughout the county, as they are now.

LaMore is also a proponent of returning an additional Department of Health Services office to Niles — that office was shut down and the closest one is in Benton Harbor. He understands that given the state of the economy, that is not a probability, but perhaps when more funding is freed up. “These folks don’t have resources,” he said.

Ringler brings a genuine interest in serving the people of this area, but we believe he should have more definite ideas and plans in place before throwing his hat in the ring.

Berrien County Board of Commissioners, 13th District

First-termer John Klimek is facing first-time political contender Zach Perkins for the 13th District seat on the Berrien County Board of Commissioners.

Both longtime local residents are strong candidates for this position. Klimek, a Democrat, offers a wealth of community sources and contacts, an outgoing manner and experience working with the city as an electrical inspector. Perkins, a Republican, has an eagerness to learn, a good work ethic and knowledge of technology and business ownership.

We are giving our nod to Klimek for this race. He uses his communication skills and experience in the public eye when representing the City of Niles. Although some county issues have recently sparked heated debate among citizens — such as the site of the future centralized county government campus — he believes the response is healthy and that his constituents should be able to offer their opinions on issues. Klimek is especially proud of the county’s balanced budget for two consecutive years. “I do believe I am the most conservative member of the board,” he said. Despite having to make some tough decisions, like laying off employees, the decisions that need to be made aren’t always easy ones.

Klimek said he is also concerned that the two biggest employers in Niles now are the schools and the hospital, and so many former industrial workers are out of work. “We’ve lost our industrial base,” he said. “We need leaders who will bring in something.” He is also focused on promoting tourism in Berrien County.

Perkins has good potential for a future in politics. He is intelligent and willing to work, and his youth is an asset. However, we believe he could still use some leadership experience and community involvement under his belt before facing commissioner work.

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