COUNTY COMMISSION - 13TH DISTRICT
Gershenson, a Bloomfield Township resident, has been an Oakland County commissioner since 2004. She has a degree in English with a secondary teaching certificate from University of Michigan.
REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY
After failing in 2016 by only one percent in Oakland County, there is a new regional transit plan proposed for the November ballot. Do you think a regional transit millage proposal should go on the ballot for all Oakland County communities? Why or why not? Should some Oakland County communities be allowed to opt out?
I am a strong proponent of transit and think it should have been on the ballot in November for voters to decide if they support it. Studies have shown, millennials and businesses looking to relocate prefer a place to live and work that has a transit system. Transit promises to bring many economic benefits to our region. We need a system that can help connect residents to their jobs, hospitals, airports, recreational facilities and each other. Providing a comprehensive transportation network will benefit our seniors as well as attract millennials who prefer transit to cars. As our population ages, we need to be sure our seniors have reliable access to resources that will help them live independent lives. We should work together as a region to find the best options for each community Transit will benefit everyone, and we should all support it if voters pass it.
Oakland County receives a limited amount of money – although increased from previous years – from the state for road construction. Do you think the county, either by itself or in cooperation with neighboring counties in southeast Michigan, should pursue a millage or a dedicated gas tax strictly for road repairs?
We have been frustrated over the lack of state and federal road funding sent to our County for years. All options to raise more money should be on the table. Raising the gas tax to generate more money for road repairs in our state should be discussed. Many local communities already have a dedicated road millage so a countywide road millage should be on the ballot for voters to decide. If the voters show interest in a countywide road millage, those communities that already have a road assessment should be allowed to roll their payments over to the new county millage so they do not pay twice.
IMPROVEMENTS TO THE COUNTY
Oakland County is once again the top-rated county in the state, with AAA-ratings and a 3.6 percent unemployment rate. The county has created a number of focused development efforts, such as Automation Alley. Do you think there are other concerted efforts the county should be launching at this time?
Yes, I think there are other areas the county can help residents in our local communities. Currently, only two of five eligible students access a free school breakfast. That is unacceptable rate for one of the wealthiest counties in America. I would like to see a task force formed to focus on correcting this low participation. Oakland County could partner with other agencies to share costs for green infrastructure. All new projects in our county should be designed with sustainable materials and have partnerships to help with the costs. Additionally, the county should be looking to help fund portable weigh stations for trucks that use our roads. Many of the weigh stations have closed, and it would help maintain our road condition if vehicles were weighed to assure they are carrying the proper weight.
According to experts, teens and young adults are experiencing mental crises, with rising suicide rates. Hospitals are experiencing larger influxes of mental health patients. What should the county mental health division be doing to address this issue? Is there anything the county board of commissioners should be doing to address this issue?
The Board of Commissioners and our health department are very actively addressing the rising rates of suicide among our residents. We have formed The Oakland County Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force to develop a plan to focus and coordinate suicide prevention efforts in our county. This task force will guide and implement these activities by engaging public and private stakeholders. The Board of Commissioners recently designated 2018 Suicide Prevention Awareness Month resolution (MR#18277) on July 19, 2018. Last year (2017) the Oakland County Health Department promoted a documentary film – “The S Word” at the Emagine Royal Oak theatre, this included a Q & A with the film director, Lisa Klein, along with a panel of local suicide prevention experts. We are always open to engage with more partners to address this rising, frightening trend.
Do you feel Oakland County is doing all it can to be a strong partner in the southeast Michigan region as it applies to the issue of regional cooperation?
I do not feel Oakland County is doing everything it can to strengthen regional cooperation. During the recent transit debate our county joined another to obstruct efforts to put transit on the ballot. Oakland County's leadership does not appear to see the value in regional cooperation and transit. We have been dealing with this lack of foresight for too long. It is unproductive and unhelpful to our region. As our entire region succeeds, it will benefit all the communities, including Oakland County, and our state.
Oakland County is the home to hundreds of inland lakes and sits at the headwaters of six major rivers feeding the state’s waterways. Should the county be taking a stronger role in protecting the environment through a more aggressive approach with ordinances regulating items and activities that threaten our natural resources?
I have been a riparian home dweller my whole life. The Oakland County Health Department monitors the health of many of our Oakland County lakes. I convened a group of environmental groups that are active in our community and developed partnerships to test an additional 50-100 lakes each year. From the information that comes from this testing we will work on suggesting local ordinances to communities to protect our lakes, one of our most valuable resources. We have been alarmed by the Phragmitie vegetation growth around some of our lakes and I am working on implementing a partnership with local communities to fund remediation.
Why should a voter choose you over an opponent on the ballot?
Voters should re-elect me because of my experience and dedication to my job. I have demonstrated my ability to work in a bi-partisan way on many important issues, such as our gun safety committee. This committee has held gun safety lock giveaways; partnered with Oakland County Health Department on suicide and mental health programs; Oakland Intermediate Schools to help fund anti-bullying programs and our Sheriffs department. I regularly attend the council meetings of the communities I represent. This helps me to understand the local issues my constituents are dealing with in their neighborhoods. I am proud of the work I have done over my tenure and have many more exciting initiatives on deck. I intend to continue to help local communities fund local road improvements, support our seniors through our senior advisory council and continue to protect the quality of our water.