Democratic candidates for District 7 seat on Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners face off
Amy Biolchini | AnnArbor.com
As county districts were completely redrawn and reduced from 11 to nine, District 7 now includes large portions of northern and eastern Ann Arbor. Commissioner Barbara Levin Bergman, D-Ann Arbor, chose not to run for re-election and leaves the District 7 race with no incumbent.
During a live televised debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor area Monday night in the CTN studios, Montague and LaBarre each appealed to Washtenaw County voters.
Montague said it was her intent to “represent those people that don’t have a voice at this table,” if elected to the board.
“I want to use my experience as a community person who cares and is invested in this community to do a good job,” Montague said.
LaBarre is an Ann Arbor native and has a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University. He currently is the vice president of government relations for the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Regional Chamber. Previously, Labarre worked as a district administrator in the Ann Arbor area for U.S. Rep. John Dingell.
Montague and LaBarre agreed on a number of issues, but the half-hour debate revealed distinctive differences between the two.
On regional transportation participation within and outside of Washtenaw County:
- Montague: "I think the transportation system that Ann Arbor developed back in the 1970s ... and the tax that they developed is a part of the charter ... and it has been very successful over the years. There's been a lot of discussions going on between the county and the cities and the different townships, and there seems like they're moving very forward towards regional transportation, but then you hear some of the Northfield, Ypsilanti Township have some questions. The commissioners seem to be doing an admirable job in addressing all these issues and hopefully will get them settled before they vote."
- Labarre: "Ann Arbor is a leader here for transit here in Washtenaw County and it does an admirable job, the AATA, in terms of providing that for the city and other municipalities that enter into cooperative service agreements with it. The challange now will be expansion, which I do favor county-wide, because as we move into this 21st century we need more options for folks to get to work, for folks to go about their lives and frankly, we have young people who want transit options as part of their lifestyle from here on out. In terms of regionally, we can do more and we need to do more."
On the possibility of placing a Detroit Institute of Art millage on the Washtenaw County ballot:
- LaBarre: "I would support the establishment of the councils, but I think we have a few more pressing human service needs on our hands."
- Montague: "The Detroit Institute of Art is one of the gems of this state. I would definitely support a millage for the Detroit Institute of Art."
- LaBarre: "We need to work on the Aerotropolis issue, between Wayne and Washtenaw County, and we need to understand that we're connected by I-94 and by rail and by both counties having wonderful public institutions in terms of education. ... We need to make sure in some sense there's always a back and forth between Washtenaw in the west and Wayne in the east in terms of people, ideas, concepts, business, all those things. Our success will be Wayne County's success, and vice-versa. Even within the county there's disparity between the city, the east and the rural west. We've got a lot of work to do."
- Montague: "One of the things that I find so -- that I'm looking forward to -- is the mass transit, that will move people more quickly to Detroit, Lansing, Chicago and then go back and forth. Just the ability to move people more quickly, more efficiently. Sometimes we have jobs that we go lacking in Washtenaw County because we don't have people to fill them."
On social safety net services and their transition from the county to non-profit agencies:
- Montague: "I think that the county has done a very good job to make sure the non-profits are working together, serving together. ... I think there is some duplication of services, and there are some services that some areas that are really being stressed -- there's a very pressing need here in Washtenaw County in the infant mortality area."
- LaBarre: "Several years ago there was a collaborative formed between the United Way, the city, the county, the Ann Arbor Community Foundation to specify with commonly accepted metrics which non-profits were doing the best job, which were suited to do specific jobs, and which ones would probably have to shift to something else. I think that's a wise choice and wise method, and something we need to continue to do. ... I'd like to echo what Christina said that there is a safety net and a structure to this county, and frankly I would argue society as a whole, that has been torn away in the last recent years, and it's up to us to rebuild it, to protect it, to strengthen it because if we don't, we will all suffer."