Candidates face off for 3 spots on Negaunee City Council

1 partial-, 2 full-term seats up for grabs

By LISA BOWERS

Journal Staff Writer

NEGAUNEE — Seven candidates are vying for one partial-term and two full-term seats on the nonpartisan Negaunee City Council in the Nov. 7 general election.

Three candidates — Paul Maino, Gary Sjolund and Toby Smith — will square off to fill the final year of an unexpired term.

Meanwhile, four other challengers — Jonathan Becker, David Kangas, Mike Van Straten and Nick Visser — are vying for two seats on the council.

When elected, those two individuals will each serve a three-year term, effective immediately after the results.

Each candidate was asked the same three questions via email, with strict word limits. Visser did not reply to The Mining Journal’s request.

Following are the questions and replies from the candidates.

1.) List a few details of your background you think voters would want to know. (75 words)

2.) What do you think are the most important issues facing the city? (100 words)

3.) Why do you think voters should choose you? (200 words)

Full-term Race

Jonathan

Becker

1.) I am the Executive Director of a statewide non-profit organization that teaches public speaking skills to young people. Prior to that I oversaw the fundraising for the new Marquette Regional History Center and worked for Marquette County Habitat for Humanity. I have also served on the City of Negaunee Planning Commission for nearly a decade, working with residents, businesses and city staff to facilitate projects and modernize ordinances.

2.) The three most important issues facing the City of Negaunee are:

≤ Maintaining quality infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, water, sewer) and services (Police, Fire, Public Works) within an ever shrinking city budget.

≤ Ending the conflicts of interest and self dealing by some current Council members. Council members have repeatedly ignored the City Charter and broken the law by failing to disclose conflicts of interest in violation of the City’s Ethics Policy. Additionally, Council members should not provide or receive special treatment in their business dealings with the city.

≤ Creating economic development opportunities while holding on to our small town community feel.

3.) I am committed to making our community a better place to live, work and raise families. The years I’ve spent as a volunteer on the planning commission demonstrate my belief in public service. Given the opportunity, I will do my best to listen to the public and make informed decisions based on evidence.

I will adhere to the City Charter and hold others on the Council to the same expectation. No more personal vendettas, undisclosed conflicts of interest and sweetheart deals. Seriously, if our elected representatives won’t follow the law, why should any resident?

I understand what local government can actually do to improve economic development. It’s not building a campground or allowing motors on Teal Lake. It is working in partnership with a broad range of players — from elected officials, employers and chambers of commerce to entrepreneurs, universities and non profits to create incentives and infrastructure to support business creation and talent development.

The question Negaunee voters should be asking themselves is: Who do you think will best serve our community — incumbents who have already demonstrated their willingness to ignore the law in favor of their personal agenda or a candidate with a track record of selfless public service?

David Kangas

1.) I have been a Negaunee resident for the past 11 years and have served on the city council the past 4 years. It has been a learning curve with challenges, but I like challenges.

I am a retired state employee who now has a vested interest in 3 different endeavors. This activity has kept me busy, but is helping me grow as a person, for which can help me make better decisions for Negaunee.

2.) ≤ Getting the city charter up to date because it’s affecting some key issues, like the search for city manager, for instance.

≤ Finding someone and monies for a Planning and Zoning coordinator.

≤ Moving the truck route out of town.

These 3 points will help in our ultimate goal; bringing more business to Negaunee.

3.) I like city council for the main reasons that it’s non partisan and you can walk among your constituents so they can give you feedback, either good or bad.

I don’t know everything about the runnings of the city, however it’s like the old saying goes it’s not what you know it’s about who you know and what they know that can help you perform to your highest ability.

Negaunee is a great place to live with an awesome history and I would like to do my part in helping it move forward.

Mike Van Straten

1.) I’m a graduate of Baraga High School and became a licensed as a law enforcement officer in 1974 beginning my career in Baraga then joining the Negaunee Police in 1977 serving and protecting my community until late 2007. After a short service with the sheriff early in 2008 I began employment later in 2008 in 2008 as a federal contractor employee – court security, Marquette.

2.) Hiring a qualified person as a city manager is most important issue allong with the budget. All must remember, like it or not, Negaunee is basically a small bedroom community whose tax base cannot withstand wild dreams. We must live within our means. Public safety, publiic buildings, streets and other utilities upgrading and maintenance must have priority over ideas of adding parks or petitioning the state of Michigan to abandon state highway business routes for the sake of eliminating truck traffic should not be considered by the council

3.) Served for over thirty years as a cop on the streets of Negaunee I became familiar with the operation of the city and had a great interest in the running of city government.

In addition, I had the great privilege and honor of being elected by you to serve two three-year terms on the council 2009 through 2015. I will appreciate your support and vote in this upcoming November 2017 election. Thank you.

Partial-term Race

Paul Maino

1.) I have lived in Negaunee my whole life — born and raised here. I graduated from Negaunee St. Paul School and enlisted in the army for three years — went on to work for C.C.I. for 34 years and 16 years driving school bus for Negaunee off and on.

In the eighties, I ran for city council for a 9 year stretch — two terms as mayor. I ran again in 2008 for a three year term which …

2.) The issues Negaunee is facing are the same as every small town in Michigan and elswhere are facing — major cost in operating a city and lack of funds in paying for those costs.

I think our heavy equipment fleet is in need of replacement in many areas. Naturally our road and sidewalks need continous repair, we have a great library, keep it that way.

Our police department has to have adequate manpower to do their jobs and equipment updates when necessary. I would hope that the Jackson Grove area could again be looked at for senior low-cost housing. I do …

3.) Probably because I would have a strong voice in preserving a section in the charter prohibiting the use of motor boats on Teal Lake. Close to 70 percent of respondents to a surve on this issue responded in support of the charter amendment. I can’t believe three members of the council recently voted to change this amendment.

I also don’t believe taxpayer money should be used to secure funding for grants to finance upgrades to private businesses in Negaunee.

The costs associated with securing those grants should be used on projects that support the entire community.

I was on the council when Mr. Thornton was hired – I voted to hire him. I thought he was doing a good job running the city, I have no Idea why he was removed.

If elected I will work to return the city back to normal stability. I have no special talents other than 12 years experience as a council member and total common sense in making council decisions.

Gary Sjolund

1.) I am a graduate of Michigan State University with a BS in Accounting and was employed for 37 years with General Motors Corporation’s Financial Staff and have strong budgeting and analytical skills. I am a member of the 2016/2017 City of Negaunee Board of Review, a member of the City of Negaunee Planning Commission, volunteered with the Jaycees, UP200, Project Keep Kids Warm, Food Bank, youth sports, and an active member of my church.

2.) Finding ways to do more with less. Cost of health care and energy are rising more rapidly than the amount of revenue received from property taxes. State revenue sharing is nonexistent which means we have increasing costs without increasing revenues to match. Dealing with the challenges of repairing the greatest number of roads with the funds generated from the new millage and state gas tax; recovering the cost of demolishing the Sundberg Building from the building owner; and finding a City Manager who can write grants to help out with the lack of adequate revenue to cover all of the …

3.) I believe voters should vote for me because of my last assignment with General Motors as the Finance Manager of the World Wide Facilities Group. This group was responsible for maintaining the General Motors plants in Lansing, Michigan. We were responsible for the buildings, utilities, roads and sidewalks, plant security, fire protection and snow removal. Basically, these are the same things that the City does for the citizens of Negaunee. I worked with each area of responsibility to develop budgets and more importantly assisted them with controlling their costs to stay with their budgets. As a city council member, I will attend some of the meetings of the various city commissions; I want them to know that what they do is important. I will be available to the citizens of Negaunee to help them work through issues that they may have with the City or its departments. The only agenda I have is to do what is best for the City of Negaunee and its citizens.

Toby Smith

1.) I have been a member of the Negaunee City Council for the past three and a half years. As a former auditor of the city’s financial records I have a unique understanding of the City’s operations and of municipal finance.

2.)

3.) My goal in running for reelection is to see through the hiring of a new city manager, to assure a successful transition for city during the hiring process, and to continue working with city staff to assure we as a city remain fiscally responsible and accountable to the citizens of Negaunee.