Questions from Wednesday’s Debate Round 2

Economic growth:
1. What should be our top three priorities for economic development?
  1. Reduce regulation so small business will start here, and established businesses want to relocate here.
  2. Tax incentives.
  3. Emphasizing education of our workforce. If people wish to stay in Grand Rapids, getting training in some aspect of the medical field is a great way to proceed. There are a variety of jobs that need to be done, so a large portion of students should have the possibility of interest and aptitude.
2. Grand Rapids is experiencing high rates of youth unemployment; what are you planning to do to address this?
3. Do you plan on lowering taxes?
  • I would love to lower taxes. I’m the only small government, low tax candidate running. I write about this in a post called, “Want Better Roads? Here’s One Way to Do It” ( http://george4mayor2015.com/?p=948 ). To be honest, I don’t think it could be accomplished in four years, as we currently are approaching 1 billion dollars of debt. That said, I would hope to leave the foundations in place for future mayors to enact tax cuts, if they were of the same mind as me in that area.
4. Should the city establish an Arts and Culture office under our Economic Growth Office like Austin and Toronto?
  • No. I would encourage private sector groups with interests in this vein to interact with existing city departments where required, but I am against expanding government, especially when there are frequently questions about tax cuts, like the last one. Do we want a large, expansive, do everything government, or do we want a lean government that protects its citizens, provides essential services, resulting in lower taxes? I don’t know of an example in history of a bloated, yet cheap, government.
5. What is your stance on AirBNB, Uber and other sharing economy platforms?
  • The city has initial Taxicab licencing (Chapter 94 & Chapter 181) fees of $2412, and it appears the company stays involved with the cabs in perpetuity. They also have higher costs due to front office, management and infrastructure costs, to name a few. While I empathize with any business trying to make it, some are at a disadvantage when competing with the likes of Uber, in small part because of government intrusion. So I am in favor of letting the free market decide regarding issues such as these. I will not use city resources to prop up cab companies, in essence making them ‘too big to fail’. I would be in favor of reducing government overhead costs, which would even the playing field a bit. It is my long held opinion that in most cases, government shouldn’t tell people how to live, government should stay out of the way and let people live as they see fit.
Talent retention:

1. How do we make GR more attractive to creative class & STEM innovators?

  • As with any business, make it economically advantageous for them to relocate here. We also need parents and counselors that direct their children to look where jobs are likely to be before choosing a major in college. I did that when I decided to go into engineering. Projections were that engineering was going to be one of the top fields hiring, so that’s what I concentrated on. If we have a potential workforce loaded with the credentials these types of  companies want, that’s a further inducement for them to locate here.
2. What strategies do you have for retaining young adults of color and their talent in GR?
  • I would encourage all young, regardless of race, to get an education in something to do with the medical field. There are all sorts of talents required, so it’s a wide spectrum employer. If you have the education, show up for work, and do a good job while you’re there, you will be a considered a valuable employee regardless of race.
3. How will you be focused on the millennial brain drain?
  • I’m sorry, but I think in this day and age, people will be inclined to go where the jobs are. I will do everything I can to encourage employers to locate here, but the reality is, if you have a specialty in an area where there are no local jobs, then you’re going to be inclined to relocate. I think a mayor is limited in what he can accomplish in situations such as these.
4. We have a vibrant college community. Why don’t we retain that talent?
  • Because many of them apparently get degrees in areas where we don’t have employers that correspond to their education. I will do everything I can to encourage employers to locate here, but the reality is, if you have a specialty in an area where there are no local jobs, then you’re going to be inclined to relocate. I think a mayor is limited in what he can accomplish in situations such as these.
 Transportation:
1. What are you prepared to do to encourage surrounding cities and townships to participate in the Interurban Transit Partnership?
  • I would use the experience and recommendations of the Rapid, work with members of the city commission, and determine the best course of action going forward.

2. How will you help our transportation structures to be more accessible in GR?

  • There are a lot of streets in this city, it’s impossible to service them all, and no matter what, there will be people that are unhappy with their service. I’m sure the Rapid currently walks the fine balancing line between demand and service. I would be open to promoting modifications where there was enough citizen input to support changes.

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