Few differences at candidate forum
For the most part, Dave Pagel, David Mann and Brian Savage, the Republicans vying for Tyler's job, appeared to be on the same page, as were Democrats Jack Arbanas and Gerry Welling. And while Arbanas did raise objections, they weren't directed to Welling or the Republican contenders but to J. Patrick Yoder, the program moderator whose figures on the cost of housing Michigan prisoners, for example, differed from Arbanas' number.
All the candidates emphasized the importance of reaching across the aisle, although they differed on who'd be best at it. Mann, a first-year Niles city councilman who is hoping to become the youngest state House member in Michigan history, called for reform of the state's recall election law, while Arbanas looked for more cooperation from Republicans who control both chambers and the governor's office.
"When you don't have to consult with Democrats, they can just roll, which they do,'' he said.
Education was a priority for the candidates, with Welling, of Niles, stating that's the primary reason he's running. But Pagel, a business owner who serves as chairman of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners and formerly was a member of the school board in Berrien Springs, argued it's local residents who should exercise control.
"Just send us the money (for schools) and we'll do the rest,'' he said.
Savage , a Baroda resident and the manager of food and beverage services at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, was the lone candidate to voice support for right-to-work legislation. Regarding privatization, Arbansas voiced the strongest opposition, calling it "kind of a scam'' because it doesn't always result in lower costs.
On term limits, Pagel said he'd like to see them stretched out a bit. Savage's response generated laughter.
"Currently, I'm in favor of them. If elected, in six years ask me again,'' he said.
As for medical marijuana, some called for more controls but no one called for its repeal. Opinions varied on President Barack Obama's health care plan, with Mann calling it "a mistake'' and Pagel arguing it doesn't lower health care costs and needs to be supplemented by tort reform.
The forum at the Berrien RESA facility, sponsored in part by the League of Women Voters, also included questions for Berrien County drain commissioner candidates Roger Zilke, Rich Hurst and Christopher Quattrin. Zilke's the incumbent and all are Republicans, and with no Democrat filing, the winner on Aug. 7 is virtually assured of the seat.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: