Salted with Sharks

Bailey: Bridge Builder, Budget Balancer

In Politics on July 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm

By Eric Pyne

DEREK BAILEY SAYS he wants to shake things up for the “old guard” in Lansing. He saw a similar situation when he took over the chairmanship of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. “When I started as chairman in 2004, the Band had a deficit of $4.3 million. After one year, we had reduced the deficit to $849,000. When my term ended, we had a $632,000 surplus.”

Mr. Bailey has deep roots in the money business. His Norwegian grandfather was Leo Stacey, one of the founders of the Honor State Bank. Bailey says, “As a kid, I heard stories about how the bank would take money out of the till to help people during the Depression. That money was always paid back. It was about respect.” The Honor State Bank was one of a small handful of local banks to stay open through the economic crises of the ’30s and early ’40s.

Bailey also traces his family tradition to Chief Jicamoosa, who signed the Treaty of 1836. He says, “That treaty was essential to making Michigan a state. It made it possible to build roads and open our area to trade.” He supports building a new bridge to Windsor from Detroit for the same reasons.

While completing his term as tribal chairman last December, Bailey began campaigning for the 1st District nomination to Congress, then dropped out of the federal race to seek state office. “I’m a team player,” says Bailey. Maybe it comes from his experience playing (and winning at) high school basketball. “[Democratic candidate] Gary McDowell must focus all available resources on defeating his well-funded Republican opponent [Dan Benishek].” McDowell served in the state house from 2005–2011.

Bailey says, “The cornerstone, the legacy that I hope to leave, is our children.” He observes: “You look at the charts, you see that a lot starts at birth. Success, income, jail time, health—you can see the curves begin right away.” He says, “The first 1,000 days of a person’s life affect so much, and those days are the least funded.” In 2011, Mr. Bailey was sent by President Obama to the World Forum on Early Child Education and Care.

Bailey embraces new technologies. “Cyberschooling can be a successful alternative for some students,” he says. Weekly e-mail blasts, lots of pictures, social media—these are all ways in which Bailey hopes to communicate with constituents and make his office inclusive and transparent. He says that “listening is a style of leadership,” a way to build consensus and make strong arguments.

Bailey promises to be a “lead agent” in reforming Michigan’s marijuana laws. “The people of Michigan voted 60 to 40 in favor of decriminalizing medical marijuana,” Bailey says. He has worked as a counselor and a director of substance abuse programs at the Kent County Correctional Facility, at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, and for both the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa.

Derek Bailey promises to “elevate what true representation is.” He says that one stereotype of Native Americans he embraces is to be “caretakers of Mother Earth.” If elected, he would be the third person of declared Native American ancestry to serve in the Michigan Legislature. He seeks your vote in the August 7 primary.

Eric Pyne is a local activist, contractor, and yogi, builiding homes designed to save energy and money.

Mr. Pyne profiled the other Democratic candidate for this race, Allen O’Shea, in our May issue. The Alert does not endorse candidates or parties and is eager to run writing on other candidates and races. / 231-399-0098.

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