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State House - 20Th District - Democrat


NOAH ARBIT


Noah Arbit is the founder and executive director of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus. A resident of West Bloomfield, he has a degree from Wayne State University in comparative politics and Jewish studies. He previously worked as director of communications for the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, was a staffer for Governor Gretchen Whitmer and worked on the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign. He is a member of the West Bloomfield Diversity Task Force, sits on the executive committee of West Bloomfield-Lakes Area Democratic Club and is a member of Jewish Labor Committee.


Legislative bans on education topics


In 24 states legislation has been introduced to restrict or outright ban the teaching and/or discussion of certain topics such as race, racism, gender-based issues and how American history is taught in the K-12 public school system. Critics of these efforts to restrict what is taught in public schools say such legislation prevents open inquiry into important issues. Should the state legislature in Michigan dictate or restrict what is taught in public school classrooms? Would you support such legislation? Why or why not? Please be specific in your answer.


Absolutely not. The idea that we should shield our kids from necessary, if difficult, conversations about our world and our history is asinine. But the truth is, those who advocate for silencing educational inquiry are not concerned with kids’ welfare; they are instrumentalizing our kids to obscure their real motivation, which is both simpler and more noxious: bigotry. If we want to raise our kids to be upstanding citizens capable of contributing to our communities and achieving their aspirations, we must ensure that they are educated in a holistic manner. That means learning about difficult chapters of history; that means learning about messy, inconclusive debates that polarize our society. I will vehemently oppose legislation that seeks to sanitize curricula.


Legislative ethics/transparency


Michigan continues to rank near the bottom in comparison with other states when it comes to codified ethics and transparency rules for state lawmakers. The Michigan House, during several recent sessions, has approved bills to force disclosure of personal financial information of House and Senate members, along with members of the administration, and in some cases members of the state Supreme Court and university boards, although the Senate has not advanced such bills. Would you support financial disclosure legislation and, if so, are the current bills approved by the House sufficient? Should the disclosed information be publicly available?


Yes, I support and will vote for the transparency and financial disclosure legislation, and will work with legislators in both parties to bring greater transparency and accountability to all branches of Michigan government, including the legislature and the executive office of the governor.


Term limits for legislators/administration


Do you think the current term limits for House and Senate members are in need of review? Do you support the proposal for term limits that could be on the November ballot which would allow an elected House or Senate member to serve longer terms in either the House or Senate? Why or why not?


Reasonable minds can differ on the utility of term limits writ large, but any successful term limits policy would adequately balance two competing goals: the need to retain institutional knowledge in the legislature, and the need to refresh our institutions with new blood and new voices. By this metric alone, Michigan’s current legislative term limits policy is an abject failure that has drastically harmed the quality of governance in our state, to the detriment of all Michiganders. Limiting state reps to six years and state senators to eight years means legislators have little time to learn how to navigate the institution before they are turfed out; this vacuum of legislative expertise empowers entrenched lobbyists, special interests, and other power brokers at the expense of the people’s elected representatives. I encourage all voters to join me in supporting the ballot proposal “Michiganders for Transparency and Term Limits.”


State budget surplus


The state of Michigan has been running a general fund and school aid fund surplus for two years and is expected to carry over a surplus of $7 billion moving into the budget for fiscal year 2022-2023, which must be adopted by October 1. The surplus has been driven by growing tax revenues and a decline in student population, which reduces spending in that area by about $300 million annually. The budget surplus does not include nearly $15 billion in federal pandemic funding that will be spent over the next several years. A variety of proposals from the administration and the Republican-controlled Senate have been put forth, including tax cuts for both business and individuals. What are your ideas for using the budget surplus for the coming fiscal year’s budget? Be specific.


I am open to conversations about prioritizing the areas in which the surplus should be used, but as a general principle, it must be used sustainably and targeted to build capacity. I am not interested in squandering a one-time sugar high. Let’s invest with purpose and build infrastructure that will last and pay dividends long into the future. Let’s invest in expanded mental health care treatment for Michiganders, particularly youth and seniors. Let’s invest in a robust public transit system to connect southeast Michigan, and in educating and training young people – our workforce of the future. Let’s build capacity in the services that we deliver to residents, so we can become an even more innovative, thriving economy that fosters dynamic businesses and delivers for people. Let’s help shape the contours of our economic future, instead of letting events and trends elsewhere dictate how Michigan will proceed in the 21st century.


Highland Park water/sewer debt


Highland Park, a member of the Great Lakes Water Authority, since 2012 has failed to pay for what now amounts to over $54 million in water and sewer debt, which means member communities in Oakland County will be placed in a position to underwrite this debt whether through increased rates for water and sewer or tapping budget reserves to accomplish the same. The state of Michigan has failed to deal with this issue. What do you think should be the solution to this growing problem of a GLWA member community failing to pay for water and sewer services? Please be specific.


I strongly support Governor Whitmer’s recent request that GLWA forestall the portion of its planned rate increase attributed to Highland Park’s debt until the culmination of the legal process or arrival of a political solution between the parties. Clearly, residents of West Bloomfield, Commerce, Bloomfield, Orchard Lake, Keego Harbor, and Sylvan Lake should not be held financially responsible for the dispute between Highland Park and GLWA. Pending the outcome of the litigation, I am open to working with the Whitmer Administration, members of the legislature, and experts on various ideas and strategies to arrive at creative, fiscally responsible solutions to the issue of Highland Park’s debt to GLWA – so long as the solution does not involve other communities underwriting that debt.


Voting law changes


Voters approved no-reason absentee voting and a number of other changes by a wide margin in 2018. There have been several attempts since 2020 to make changes to the election laws, but critics have charged that some of the changes would negatively impact some voters. Do you think further changes to the election laws are needed and if so, what specifically would those changes be? If you do, why do you think so? How would that impact the proposal voters passed in 2018?


I believe in expanding the franchise, so that every Michigander has access to the foundational constitutional right to elect their own government. I will zealously oppose any proposal seeking to curtail that right. It’s time to empower local clerks to pre-process absentee ballots, so the public can receive results in a timely manner; make Election Day a state holiday, and cease underfunding municipal and county clerks’ budgets for election administration. These are the kinds of legitimate reforms that would substantially improve Michigan’s elections and boost confidence and trust in our voting system – not the anti-democratic bile promoted by extremist politicians seeking to appease the egos of disgraced former presidents.


2020 presidential election results


Do you accept the presidential election results of 2020 in Michigan? Will you accept the results of the 2022 primary and general election? Explain why or why not.


It is deeply disturbing and a sad reflection of the state of our politics that this question even has to be asked. Of course I accept the results of the 2020 election, in which Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were duly elected. Of course I will accept the results of the 2022 Democratic Primary and general election, regardless of whether or not I am the winner. Our constitutional democracy depends on fidelity to the rule of law, and on the consent of the governed. I will not be party to any action or statement that casts doubt on the legitimacy of free and fair elections, and I will never be afraid to call out election deniers, conspiracy theorists, and demagogues wherever they rear their ugly heads in the State of Michigan.


Michigan abortion ban law


In 1931, Michigan legislators adopted a law that banned abortion in the state, based on an 1846 ban that had been in effect. Now with the U.S. Supreme Court preparing to rule and likely overturn Roe v. Wade, some are concerned that the 1931 Michigan law will prevent any abortions here. Do you think the 1931 Michigan act banning abortion should be revised or eliminated to allow for abortions here if Roe V. Wade is overturned? Why or why not?


Unequivocally, yes. It is long past time to repeal Michigan’s snapback abortion ban. I am thankful that Attorney General Dana Nessel and Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald have committed not to enforce the 1931 abortion ban should Roe v. Wade be overturned. But, that is no substitute for legislative action. If elected, I will sign on to be an original co-sponsor of the Michigan Reproductive Health Act, and I will be a fierce advocate for safe and legal abortion access and reproductive health. I encourage all voters to join me in supporting the “MI Right to Reproductive Freedom” constitutional amendment proposal, which will likely be on the November ballot. Additionally, it is long past time to repeal Michigan’s antiquated ban on sodomy, because we cannot rely on a radical, right-wing United States Supreme Court to protect the rights of women or LGBTQ+ people in Michigan. We need Lansing to act.


Right of redress


The Michigan House and Senate have in the past employed seldom used maneuvers to prevent the public from challenging laws that were enacted. Lawmakers accomplish this by attaching an expenditure provision to the legislation which then prevents citizens from petitioning to overturn the law. Citizens in Michigan are allowed referendum rights when it comes to legislation but not laws involving spending. Do you think that such legal maneuvers should be used by the legislature or do such actions diminish the rights of the public to challenge what lawmakers have adopted? What can be done to eliminate such maneuvers on the part of the legislature?


It is absolutely time to eliminate the distinction between appropriative and policy legislation that makes legislation containing any amount of appropriations exempt from citizen review via initiative and referendum. The legal loophole is anti-democratic and its continued use only erodes faith in our democratic institutions to represent the will of the people. Relatedly, it is also long past time to repeal the constitutional provision undergirding the “adopt-and-amend” legislative tactic, whereby the legislature takes up and adopts a citizen-led constitutional ballot proposal before it appears on the ballot only to amend it later, so as to prevent the substance of the initial ballot initiative from entering the force of law. These are both noxious tactics that fly in the face of democratic principles.


Why select you?


Why should voters choose you over your opponent(s) in this contest? Please be specific.


I never intended to run for office, but I was sick and tired of watching my hometown of West Bloomfield be gerrymandered and treated as an afterthought in Lansing. I stepped up to run when no one else would, because I love our community. I am the only Democratic candidate who was raised in this community, who was educated in this community. And I will move heaven and earth for our community, which is exactly why Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steve Kaplan, county commissioners Marcia Gershenson and Kristen Nelson, and so many of our leaders have endorsed my candidacy. Because West Bloomfield, Commerce, and the Lakes deserve a passionate, forward-thinking, relentless leader who exhausts every path to find innovative, common-sense solutions. A leader who shows up, works tirelessly, and fights for us with faith and fidelity. That’s the kind of person I am. That’s the kind of representative I’ll be.


KEN FERGUSON


Ken Ferguson is a teacher of visually-impaired students with the Grosse Pointe School System. He received his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, and masters and education degrees from Wayne State University. A West Bloomfield resident, he is a trustee on the West Bloomfield Schools Board of Education, and involved with the West Bloomfield/Lakes area Democratic Club and Sierra Club.


Legislative bans on education topics


The state legislature should certainly not be empowered to prevent important race and gender-based issues. During my 24-year career in public education, I have never witnessed “critical race theory” being taught in our classrooms – it’s not part of the curriculum to begin with, since CRT is a university level concept, so why ban it? Efforts to ban these topics from discussion in the classroom absolutely discourages open inquiry by students and prevents students from understanding our country’s history. The purpose of teaching about racism, slavery, the civil rights movement, and the women’s rights movement, among others, has never been to make students feel guilty about history, but rather to teach them about the injustices that marginalized groups have faced to ensure we do not allow history to repeat itself. I would absolutely oppose legislation that seeks to restrict what is taught in schools regarding race and gender.