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State House - 54Th District - Democrat



STEPHANIE FAKIH


Stephanie Fakih of Bloomfield Township is founder and principal attorney of Rights First Law PC. She earned her BA in political science from University of Michigan and her JD from Fordham University School of Law. She currently is a Bloomfield Township trustee, involved with Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce, member of the board of Bloomfield Youth Assistance and Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.


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.


In Michigan local school boards are tasked with, among other things, approving recommended curriculum and textbooks based on standards, goals and policies established by the board. It is important these curriculum decisions remain at the local level. Many families often choose to call a place home because of a highly rated school district. Allowing local school boards to approve curriculum and textbooks puts families in control by voting for school board members who represent the ideals important to them.

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?


When personal financial disclosures are required they provide necessary information to the public about a public official’s financial interests and help ensure that officials are making decisions in the best interest of the public and not for personal financial reasons. Requiring personal financial disclosures can also serve as a reminder for public officials of a potential conflict of interest, allowing them to abstain from making decisions that may be seen as conflicts of interest. The disclosed information should be publicly available to allow a determination of what, if any, conflicts exist.


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?


Elections can, and do, serve as term limits when voters are mobilized; voters do not have to wait until someone is term limited out of office before replacing them. Extending the terms of Michigan legislators is only a good thing if voters are engaged and want to continue to vote for a representative in the House or Senate.


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.


Michigan needs a huge investment in infrastructure. According to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Southeast Michigan alone needs an additional $1.2 billion per year for the next 25 years just to get our roads to fair condition. Bonding our way out of this is not sustainable. Michigan’s roads, bridges, water and sewer systems are in disrepair and without a serious influx of money, will never again meet the standards we have come to expect in the United States of America. By investing in Michigan’s infrastructure, we are investing in a better future for our families. Corporations and large companies will finally eye Michigan for their newest facility or office and will gladly come here, without incentives, because of our quality of life and educated, capable workforce. We have to make Michigan viable from a business perspective and the only way to do it is if we get serious about infrastructure; only then will Michigan finally be a national player attracting people to our state, not out of it.


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.


Highland Park is certainly responsible for the amounts owed to the Great Lakes Water Authority, but we have to ask how Highland Park got to this point. We need to ensure local governments across our state do not find themselves unprepared for the increased cost of water and the necessary capital to maintain water and sewer infrastructure. Federal dollars helped create these systems and federal dollars may be required to help maintain them. Until then, Michigan needs to think seriously about water and sewer infrastructure and a municipalities’ ability to maintain that infrastructure with limited revenue that also pays for other critical services.


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?


Like our government, elections have checks and balances. Michigan’s current voting laws ensure that anyone eligible to vote can vote. If questions arise about an individual’s eligibility to vote, there are mechanisms in place to verify that votes are legally cast. If someone is found to be in violation of our voting laws we have severe criminal penalties to account for that behavior and to deter others from engaging in similar acts.


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.


I accept the presidential election results of 2020 and will accept the results of the 2022 primary and general elections. Elections are handled hyper-locally – your local clerk is in charge of the elections in your city or township. I encourage anyone questioning the veracity of election results to volunteer with their city or township clerk’s office during election season and see that everyday people run our democracy and while it may not be perfect, it is fair and just.


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?


The 1931 Michigan act banning abortion should be eliminated. Personal freedoms are extremely important to people in this country and that does not change when it comes to a woman’s body and her decision to carry and birth a child. Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for decades and the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of that decision does not and should not catapult us back to outdated laws. The Michigan legislature should work to ensure women in Michigan have personal autonomy over their bodies.


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?


Legislators represent the interests and values of the voting population and should not employ legal maneuvers that diminish the voice of citizens. If the legislature is eager to pass laws that at first glance seem unpopular, the legislature must work on messaging. Explain to citizens why the law is necessary and why it is in their best interest.


Why select you?


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


The newly drawn House District 54 is representative of our state as a whole: red and blue and seemingly on different sides of everything. Inflation, shortages of goods, uncertainty about the future – these are serious things happening to all of us, right now. We need leadership to take action and lead us out of these problems, together. As a criminal defense attorney I work everyday between stakeholders that have seemingly different end games, but I know this is never the case. I know how to build relationships to get things done and I am ready to do that in Lansing. I am going to Lansing to remind lawmakers we are not in competition with each other, but in competition with other states. We can and should better the lives of Michigan residents. We have everything in this state that we need, we just need the leadership to put it together. I am that leadership.


GARY GERSON


Gary Gerson is principal of Bloomfield Educational Consultants. Gerson, a resident of Bloomfield Township, has a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and a master’s in education from Grand Canyon University. He is a friend of Bloomfield Township Public Library.


Legislative bans on education topics


Teachers must teach the truth. History teachers must be allowed to present factual accounts of history even if those truths are painful. English teachers must be allowed to tackle subjects that might be controversial. We must trust our teachers and administrators to decide what is age-appropriate and necessary for curricular development as needs evolve. Legislating limitations is insular and short-minded, and I do not support such legislation. Efforts to restrict open inquiry are bad for our kids, our state, and our educational system. Buzzwords such as “critical race theory” can be divisive, and I prefer the term “culturally relevant teaching” as it affirms students’ ethnic and racial backgrounds and is the basis for critiquing the causes of social inequality on personal levels. I taught high school for 26 years and know that teachers need to be in charge of their curricula. This is about supporting our good teachers.


Legislative ethics/transparency


Public servants need to show their sources of income and be transparent in their financial dealings. It seems obvious that the Michigan public has impressions that many politicians, judges, and board members have conflicting interests that may compromise their decision-making. While this may not be true in many or even most cases, the perception exists. Michigan is one of only two states that doesn’t require public disclosure of finances. So no, current legislation is insufficient, and I do support House Bill 4062. Previous efforts have been approved by ethics committees so it is a mystery as to why they have stalled. It is time for financial disclosure.