Salted with Sharks

New District Draws Fierce Battle Lines

In Breaking, Politics on November 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm

By Eric Pyne

The redistricting of May 2011 split representation for Elberta and Frankfort and created a larger District 7, which will now include the Village of Elberta; Gilmore, Joyfield, Weldon, and Blaine Townships; and part of Thompsonville. Don Tanner (D), the current District 7 rep and county commission chair, and Adrian Poulisse (R), a new face on the political scene, have waged an at-times heated race for the District 7 seat for the past several months. The Alert contacted the two candidates and asked them five questions.

What will you do differently on the county commission?

Adrian Poulisse: I would change the role of the board. Right now their priorities are misguided. We have no sheriff road patrol from 3 am to 6 am. If you call 911, they might wake up, they might not. The sheriff’s department is one of the few agencies that serve everyone 24 hours, and it is not the commissioners’ job to decide how their budget is spent. I’ve gone to more county budget meetings than Don Tanner has, and it would be a disaster if a jail millage fails. I’ve talked with [sheriff candidate] Ted Schendel, and my uncle works for the sheriff’s department. It’s bad. Tanner just laughs, but what if someone is breaking into your house? Can you call 911? The EMTs are in danger. They went into the house on Cinder Road where the woman was murdered, and the guy was sitting there cleaning his gun. I saw a guy driving on 22, his car was all smashed up and throwing sparks. He’d rolled it and he was driving home at 3 am! We need nighttime road patrol.

Don Tanner: I will continue to do what I’ve been doing. I will make sure county services are what is wanted and make government work for people. My folks are from here and I know how hard people work to pay taxes. Government is just like at home—you have to stretch and decide what you must have, what you want, and what you can have. I coordinate with different units of government. National health care is coming, no matter [what happens with] Obama vs. Romney. Governor Snyder gets it: One local dollar brings 9 state dollars and 90 federal dollars. Money for mental health [currently] gets administered by a downstate PIHP [Pre-Paid Inpatient Health Plan organization] that takes 10%. The Northern Michigan Council of Governments could administer that money for 3%. I’m working to set that up. The way it is now, if we get $100 a person, Oakland County gets $500 dollars a person. The people who handle the money are competing with Benzie to spend the money downstate.

It has to be a community responsibility to take care of the profoundly mentally ill and the developmentally disabled. There is no money to be made in taking care of them, so the private insurers don’t want the liability.

What differences in philosophy do you see between yourself and your opponent?
Adrian Poulisse: 
Tanner used county money to consult a lawyer about a wind energy resolution. He called a Sunday meeting for a handwritten resolution from Duke Energy. I would never do that. I would never vote on something where I might have conflict of interest. I’d consult a lawyer at my own expense or just sit it out, saving the county money. I’m more selfless. Tanner is just ethically not comprehendable.
Don Tanner: I don’t know what he thinks. All I know is I’m here to provide good government. I’ll work with anyone. I was on the board before, and I’ve been the chairman. You earn being put at the helm. I find out what people do best and then coordinate them. I have leadership skills. Adrian has little or any experience in government or business. He’s not a bad guy, and he’s done things most don’t want to do—he’s served his country and done things most people don’t have to do. I’ve been a fishing guide and a firearms dealer; an auto mechanic and a carpenter. It’s easy to sit in the weeds and pontificate, but I respect the hands-on.
Is crime in Benzie County getting worse?
Adrian Poulisse:
Well, the county administrator has some numbers that say crime is down. That may be how it looks on paper. It depends on how the courts report crime. There has been an increase in felony crimes. We need more probation officers to keep better track of criminals. I’ve talked with both [sheriff] Rory Heckman and [prosecutor] John Daugherty. The current board is talking about a quota system, where the sheriff’s department would lose money if they write fewer tickets than the year before. I’m totally against that. That’s how you get police like the Ticketmaster in Frankfort. The sheriff needs money for public safety, stopping hard drugs and murders. It’s not my business to run the sheriff’s department. Someone has been stealing my campaign signs!
Don Tanner: I’ve worked closely with the current sheriff. He considered me a team player. [Former sheriff] Bob Blank did not. The sheriff is a key service, and I’ve had my finger on the pulse. There is a downswing in violent-crime statistics, and an uptick in domestic violence. The job [situation is] bad, and families are fighting about money. I want to build the local economy so that people won’t be under so much stress. Domestic violence support services are combating this trend. We’ve had some high profile substance abuse deaths. We’ve had three murders and an attempted murder. Would five more cops have prevented those deaths? You can’t have a cop in every house. Busting everyone on the radar won’t make the community safer. Sometimes kids are just bad. All the money we spend on MSU Extension, the planning commission, and parks and rec won’t buy one deputy.

Are you receiving government benefits?
Adrian Poulisse:
I was injured in the service. I’m not taking advantage of the system; in fact I’m entitled to more benefits than I’ve claimed.
Don Tanner: I talked with Adrian about this and tried to put the issue to bed. I’m reluctant to talk about this, but it’s been an issue. My wife and I had a son with Down syndrome. She has insurance through her job at Munson hospital. We make too much money to get aid. It was frustrating to me when he was born to learn that we could give him up for adoption and that way the state might contract with our family to take care of him for life. We kept him.

Who is your favorite U.S. President?
Adrian Poulisse:
I’d say George Washington. He could have been king, but he chose to be selfless. That way he empowered the people. I think that America’s scars teach a lesson for the future, if we learn from them and don’t try to tuck them in a corner. I want to make this great place better. I don’t think that politics should be partisan at the local level.
Don Tanner: Does it have to be a President? I’d pick Davy Crockett. He went to D.C. and represented his people, making no apologies. He paid the supreme sacrifice for another state’s independence. I always wonder when my Alamo is coming. I want to say something about this wind energy issue. Do people really think I’d sell my soul to the devil for a $200/month lease payment? Renewable energy is a national security issue. We send kids like Adrian to fight for Exxon—why not diversify the energy portfolio? I believe in leading by example. I’m also a leaseholder for fracking!

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