In the race for the state House of Representatives District 53, which covers the majority of the city of Ann Arbor, and parts of Scio and Pittsfield townships, Republican Chase Ingersoll is running against Democrat Jeff Irwin.
At the Sept. 28 League of Women Voters forum, however, Ingersoll was the only candidate to appear, and after waiting 10 minutes past the scheduled start time, organizers decided to carry on without Irwin.
“We hope nothing untoward has happened,” said Sue Smith, League president. She noted that in Irwin’s absence, they’d be following the “empty chair” format, meaning that the timing for each question would be the same, and the forum would simply be half as long. It lasted 15 minutes.
Questions were selected by a committee from a pool of questions submitted by community members. The forum, held at the studios of Community Television Network, was moderated by Judy Mich. The event was recorded and is available online through CTN’s video-on-demand service.
Irwin later emailed The Chronicle saying he had apologized to the League – he had thought the forum was on the following night. Irwin’s views on some statewide issues can be found in a Chronicle report of a June 2010 candidate forum during the Democratic primary between Irwin and Ned Staebler.
Chase Ingersoll had one minute for an opening statement. He suggested that viewers read his candidate profile on AnnArbor.com, then said “let’s go right into questions.”
Michigan’s Water Resources
Question: Do you see Michigan’s water resources threatened in any way? What legislation and/or enforcement is needed to protect Michigan’s water?
Ingersoll said he thought it was a really broad question that was best answered in philosophical terms. The federal government should have absolutely no say about the water in Michigan. How the state’s resources are used should be determined by people in Michigan. That being said, he added, from that principle follows that people in Washtenaw County should determine how water in Washtenaw County is used.
Question: Outside of one party having total control, give three specific ways that you’d try to surmount the legislative deadlock that has immobilized the state.
If you think of the principle “He who governs least, governs best,” then perhaps we’re better off if the legislature isn’t up in Lansing passing laws, Ingersoll said. Philosophically, he said he looked at it this way: The country started out with a pretty good code – the federal constitution, and a state constitution. But over time, a lot of people with their petty or particular interests have built bad code, or outdated code, on the original code. Coming from a family of computer programmers, he said, you’re not better off investing a lot of time and energy into new code – that just creates additional problems. We may be at that point, he said.
Regardless of party affiliation, you have to look at each specific piece of legislation that’s being considered in its own right, rather than the party origin, Ingersoll said. The biggest problem right now is that people simply aren’t reading the bills, he said.
Question: Budget deficits are plugged by increasing revenues or decreasing expenditures. What sources of increased income would you would support, or what expenses would you eliminate?
Regarding increased income, if you’re talking about taxes, Ingersoll said, all you’ll do is have businesses head over to Ohio or Indiana. For example, if a small transportation business in Michigan decides to title and register its vehicles in Ohio, it saves thousands of dollars compared to doing that in Michigan. Why is that? he asked. Has Ohio found a way to be more efficient in its costs and fees than Michigan? He said he really didn’t have an answer, other than philosophically, everyone’s going to have to “take a haircut.”
Educational Funding Priorities
Question: Like many states, Michigan is facing a shortfall of funding for education, resulting in teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, a shortage of materials, deteriorating buildings and so on. Where does K-12 education rank in your funding priorities? How much would you devote to post-secondary educational support? Are there further economies possible, or must the state change its taxation formula?
Ingersoll said he disagreed with the premise that not enough money is being spent on education. He sees a “bubble” in the price of education in the same way there was a bubble in the housing market. There’s plenty of education out there, just as there was plenty of housing out there, he said. But what we have is a financing scheme for education that has resulted in prices going up.
He said he remembered what it cost to go to a private or public college in the past, and those costs have gone up exponentially – not because of inflation, or the cost of personnel, or the cost of the physical structure of a university, or even because of the cost of the K-12 physical plant. Especially in the university environment, Ingersoll said, costs went up when they increased lending. If you look to what happened in the real estate market, he said, that explains what’s happening in the post-secondary education market.
Question: Voters will be asked on Nov. 2 to decide whether or not to have a constitutional convention. Do you favor a state constitutional convention?
Ingersoll said he doesn’t think the average voter in Michigan understands the law, or would put in enough time to understand the process or the laws or the outcome of a constitutional convention. They would be qualified to elect representatives to actually go to a constitutional convention, and have something that would actually work. On the one hand, he said, you’d love the thought of democracy and people getting together at the convention. But he said he thinks the Michigan voting populace is completely unqualified to actually do that.
Question: Michigan’s roads, bridges and drains all need reconstruction. Has the federal stimulus money all been spent in the state? Do you have a priority list for future projects? We might put off projects to reduce our children’s debt burden, but what kind of state will we bequeath to them? What are your priorities in fixing up the state?
The question is too long to answer in one minute, Ingersoll said. The stimulus was a boondoggle, and we’re not getting the correct technology, materials or work effort in repairing the roads. Take Washtenaw Avenue, for example. “I’ve been in Michigan four years, and every year they’re working on Washtenaw,” he said. “It’s either poor materials or poor workmanship. That wouldn’t be tolerated in other places.”
Ingersoll was given two minutes to make a closing statement. Philosophically, he said, it doesn’t make any sense for Michigan to be sending money to the federal government, and then to have the state ask the federal government how we can spend it. Likewise, it’s not appropriate for Washtenaw County or the local townships or governmental units to be sending money to Lansing, then putting our hand out and asking Lansing to send it back to us with a list of rules on how it can be spent. Anybody who has bought into that paradigm or way of thinking, “I just don’t get them,” he said.
“Are we in Washtenaw County too stupid to figure out how we should spend our own money and what we should spend it on?” Ingersoll asked. “Or are we somehow benefiting in sending it up to a legislature that brings in many of the crooks and thieves from Detroit, who are elected by crooks and thieves in Detroit, and then they dabble around and help articulate the rules that we in Washtenaw County then have to live by.”
“I think we need to take care of our own here at home,” Ingersoll concluded. “And I think we’d be better off if basically Lansing ceased to exist and if the federal government ceased to exist. We’re big enough to handle it ourselves.”