STATE HOUSE - 45TH DISTRICT
Cooper, of Rochester, is a bartender. He attended Oakland and Eastern universities.
Michigan has a rich history of protecting the environment but in recent years there have been several legislative attempts to restrict the DEQ when it comes to rule-making to implement laws of the state, including the now pending legislation what would place control of future rule-making with an appointed committee comprised of special interests, including factions of the business community. There has long been a realization that the DEQ is underfunded in terms of being able to carry out its mission of protecting the quality of life in the state. Do you agree with the recent attempts to curtail the DEQ? Do you feel that more funding needs to be allocated to the DEQ for enforcement purposes?
We need to do everything in our power to protect our states environmental resources. We have been shown on several occasions over the past decade that the DEQ does not possess the necessary manpower or authority to protect our state from threats to our environment, manmade or otherwise. From the Flint water crisis, to the Asian carp invasion, to Line 5, we need to do more to protect our citizens and wildlife. Michigan used to be a world leader in environmental protection, and I will be leading the charge in Lansing to return us to our former status.
Because Congress has failed to act on proposed increased regulation of gun ownership, a number of states have taken the initiative to address the issue. Should Michigan be taking the lead on gun control? Would you support requiring expanded background checks? Background checks at gun shows? Banning bump stocks? Raising the age on the purchase of weapons? Banning military style weapons? Red flag laws?
As a proud recipient of the Moms Demand Action Candidate Distinction, I will work hard in Lansing to keep the children of our state safe while at school. Universal background checks, regardless of where a weapon is purchased, are a must. This is a measure that is widely supported by most Americans and must be enacted. Creating red flag laws that keep guns out of the hands of those most likely to hurt others and themselves is also imperative. Ensuring domestic abusers are added into red flag laws is crucial as well. As for banning bump stocks and most military style weapons, we cannot as a government create loopholes in laws that make it easier for potential criminals to kill large amounts of innocent people. I believe in “gun violence prevention” and “gun safety,” not “gun control.” These efforts are about preventing gun violence, not controlling the rights of responsible gun owners.
While the state has announced that $175 million will be disbursed this year for road and bridge repairs, do you feel that is sufficient while we wait three more years for the road funding proposal to finally kick in? Should the state rainy day fund be tapped in the interim, as some have suggested?
Our state’s rainy day fund is nearly $1 billion. I think I speak for nearly all Michiganders when I say we are tired of excuses from Lansing. Funding for our roads throughout Rochester and Rochester Hills are the direct responsibility of our current representative in Lansing. I challenge anyone to drive down Livernois Road and tell me they are happy with what’s been done the past four years. Everything from the formula we use to calculate road funding, to where the funding is generated from needs to be overhauled. The system that our state government has been complacent in using is outdated and failing Michigan families.
CHARTER SCHOOL REFORMS
Michigan has developed a reputation as one of the most deregulated school environments in the country, with the largest number of charter schools – 80 percent of which are for-profit ventures. Charter schools were originally billed as a cure for declining student achievement and inequality, but a number of reports in the last few years show that 70 percent of the state’s charter schools are in the lower rungs of student achievement reviews. Lawmakers in Lansing, however, have on more than one occasion rejected tightening the overview of charter schools and have allowed for their continued growth. Should there be more state control over charter schools for performance and finances? Does the ongoing expansion of charter schools threaten the public schools K-12 system that we have relied on for education?
As you mentioned, studies have shown time and time again that divesting in public education and shifting public money into these for-profit charter schools does not work. Mike Webber himself is endorsed by the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), a Devos-funded group that’s sole purpose is to deregulate our public education system and establish as many for-profit charter schools as possible. The direction I want to take our schools in is student centered, not profit driven with your tax dollars. We need to give teachers the freedom to work more closely with students in a one-on-one modality as well as lowering the importance of standardized testing. We need to focus on making education rewarding for the student, not stress filled and anxiety inducing. With education at the forefront of my campaign, I will fight to ensure all students have an equal shot at a quality education in Michigan.
What is your position on the marijuana legalization proposal appearing on the November ballot?
I am in support of the marijuana legalization ballot proposal. I believe that legalization can provide a very large boost in tax revenue that is specifically earmarked for education, roads and infrastructure. This is also another large potential industry to help stimulate our state’s economy. Data also shows that states with legal marijuana have seen a large reduction in the number of opioid addictions. Through legalization and state regulation, we can also take better steps as a government to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors and underaged users. Overall, we can see several significant economic and public safety benefits for families in our community through the legalization of marijuana.
Although Michigan has 1973 Act (196) to regulate conduct of public officials, it is considered less than rigorous when it comes to legislative ethics and transparency, leaving Michigan ranked near the bottom in comparative studies with other states. Would you support financial disclosure by state lawmakers? What about including the governor’s office and the legislature when it comes to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, from which they are now exempt? Would you support a bill that prohibits “Pay to Play” when it comes to lawmakers approving contracts with companies or people who are campaign contributors? Are there any other areas that need to be addressed if we are to strengthen ethics/transparency laws/rules in Michigan as they apply to the legislature and administrative offices?
I wholeheartedly believe in transparency when it comes to taking positions of responsibility and authority, and no elected official in this state should be entitled to secrecy over wrongdoing. Financial disclosures must be made common practice, if not the law and our state government should be subject to the terms of FOIA as well. I would support any efforts to eliminate “Pay to Play” practices. We need to strengthen the ethical framework our government operates in, so that we not only improve how government functions today, but also to facilitate the entry of more ethical and trustworthy politicians into the system. Lansing is meant to be run as a government of the people, and transparency is key in maintaining this integrity.
Are you pro-life or pro-choice? If you are pro-life, are there any exceptions to prohibitions on abortions that you find acceptable? Explain your position on this issue.
My goal with this issue is to reduce the number of abortions through responsible and medically safe means. We must listen when women speak regarding what they need to make informed decisions. We must increase access to contraception for all people who need it, and we need to move away from abstinence-only education in our schools, toward more comprehensive sex education programs. We need to also improve affordable access to women’s healthcare services, and community resources. Just as important as the debate around abortion is the question of what are we doing to take care of mothers and children now? With a foster system that is woefully underfunded, and hundreds of thousands of children who are underfed and malnourished, we can’t stop caring for a child the moment they’re born.
CODIFYING CIVIL RIGHTS
Should the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act be amended to extend civil rights protections in housing and employment to include sexual orientation? Why or why not?
I believe that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act must be amended to include and protect employment and housing protections for all Michiganders regardless of who they are, or who they love. Current employment and housing protections do not protect members of the LGBT community, and many people can be put out of work, denied a job, or a place to live because the law does not protect them. Simply put, the law needs to be updated.
I am running for office because I want to be a high school teacher someday. And through my years in school and talking with fellow teachers, I began to lose hope day by day that I would ever be able to make a good living as a teacher in Michigan. Our public education system in Michigan is under attack. Teachers are struggling to make ends meet while also battling just to give their kids the bare necessities in the classroom. I’ve met teachers that have not been able to purchase new books for their classrooms in upwards of 10-15 years. The children of Michigan deserve better. I’m running because I love this state, and I want to leave it better than what I found it. I will put aside the partisan rhetoric and work with anyone who’s willing to work toward strengthening Michigan’s schools, and finally fix our crumpling infrastructure.
Webber, of Rochester Hills, is completing his second term as Representative for the 45th District. He served seven years on the Rochester Hills City Council, five years on the board of the Older Persons Commission (OPC), and as a board member on the Rochester Community Schools Foundation. He has a degree in international relations from James Madison College at Michigan State University.
While I cannot speak to the funding levels for DEQ prior to 2015, I do believe that the department has been adequately funded over the past four budget years. The DEQ has had some challenges over that time period, none more high profile than the Flint Water crisis that resulted in the resignation of the previous director. Money has been appropriated by the legislature on a bi-partisan basis to respond to the Flint crisis and concerns regarding PFAS. Legislation to allow for greater business community input into DEQ rules struck the correct balance of protecting our environment while also allowing input currently not considered by the department.
Michigan currently has many laws already on the books that are enforced regarding background checks and gun ownership. The legislature has focused efforts on bi-partisan legislation to improve school safety. The budget that was recently passed includes $58 million for school safety initiatives, including grants to help schools update their security, resources to hire additional counselors for students, and an expansion of the OK2SAY program. I expect that more recommendations will come out of the Governor’s School Safety Task Force. Nothing is more important than ensuring the safety of our children in the classroom.
The $175 million mentioned in the question was additional road funding that was used on an emergency basis in this summer’s budget because it was left over from the previous year. Overall, our road funding budget is about $4 billion for this coming year. I expect that it will continue to increase over the next several years. As a state, we have underfunded our roads for decades and now we are just starting to catch up. Having consistent increased funding for roads is the key so that companies come back that can perform these projects (and do it right the first time). Tapping the state rainy day fund is not a smart way to go – it would mean $1 billion in one time money and that is it. Re-doing ACT 51 funding – how we distribute road funding throughout the state – also needs to get done.
CHARTER SCHOOL REFORMS
The decision was made years ago to uncap the number of public charter schools in our state. I would support greater transparency of our public charter schools. It is important to realize that per pupil funding follows the student to whichever school they choose to attend (except for private schools). If public charter schools are attracting students to attend, then there must be a market for these schools. It is also important to note that the per pupil school allotment has increased each of the past four years and that because of the governor’s 2X formula, the gap is decreasing between the higher and lower per pupil funding school districts.
I am opposed to the proposal. While some states have been able to legalize marijuana, this is a dangerous proposal that goes much further than all of the other states. Voters should read through the proposal and stay informed before voting in November.
I would support financial disclosure by state lawmakers. For the second session in a row I have voted for legislation requiring that the governor’s office and the legislature be open to Freedom of Information Act. As a city councilmember in Rochester Hills for seven years I was subject to FOIA, and I think that our governor and state lawmakers should be subject as well. Unfortunately, these bills have failed to reach the governor’s desk the past two sessions. In addition, I would add that Michigan should have a cooling off period for legislators and staff before they join a government relations organization. This is a change that would make sense given our strict term limits.
While I do appreciate that good people can disagree on this issue, I am pro-life and proudly endorsed once again by Right to Life of Michigan.
CODIFYING CIVIL RIGHTS
While there has been discussion about this in the past, including a recent push from the Michigan Civil Rights commission, I believe that the legislature should focus on many other critical issues affecting our state.
A 28-year resident of Rochester Hills, I have grown up in this community, went to school in this community and now proudly serve this community. I have focused on constituent outreach and accessibility during the 11 years (including seven on the Rochester Hills City Council) that I have represented our area. I have focused on results and I am able to work with colleagues to get things through the legislative process. While others attempt to shift our state to an extreme, socialistic form of government, I will continue to focus on providing realistic government that does not try to do more than it should.