Compare the Positions

Comparing the Positions of the Candidates

In a political race, it is helpful to compare positions of the candidates.  In the race for the 97th, both candidates share some common positions, most notably Robert Townsend and Jason Wentworth both received the same favorable rating from the NRA.  Both were in public safety, both served in the Army, and both are educated family men with jobs that have helped many people in the District.

But a quick look at the candidates websites show positions that differ on key matters.  The substance of the positions also differs in that some are generic and others detailed and well developed.  Let’s review a few.  For ease of comparison I’ll present Mr. Wentworth’s positions first, right off his website, and contrast them to Robert Townsend’s.

Pro-Life

I received the endorsement of Right to Life of Michigan. Being pro-life is not only about the protection of human life. It’s about loving others and protecting the most vulnerable members of our community. It’s about commitment. 

Dr. Robert Townsend has never performed or assisted with an abortion, and does not support it as a means of birth control.  That said, he fully supports a woman’s right to chose and feels the people involved in the decision should be those closest to the situation- the woman and her doctor.

Right to Life contacted Dr. Townsend asking him to apply for their endorsement.  The application was several pages long and very detailed- it was looking for a very narrow interpretation of the issue which essentially dismissed Roe vs Wade and saw no situation where abortion was an option.  This extreme view, which Mr. Wentworth holds, is supported by less than 20% of the population.

More importantly, while it said every fertilized egg should go on to term birth, once born no provisions were addressed to support the child or mother.  You are right Mr. Wentworth, it is about commitment and yours stops in the delivery room as soon as the real need begins.

The extreme Pro-Choice views held by Right to Life (pro-choice with THEM making the choice for you) supported by Mr. Wentworth would not really decrease the number of abortions, they would just force them underground for the poor and the rich would continue to go outside the state/country to obtain the service.  I declined to seek their endorsement for that reason.  We need safe, legal healthcare available to both rich and poor.

Veteran’s Rights

According to the state of Michigan, there are a little more than 9,000 veterans in the 97th District. These veterans deserve more than they are currently receiving.

Dr. Robert Townsend, also a veteran, clearly agrees with this very bland and generic statement.  But what about specifics, what programs would Mr. Wentworth fund, where are his passions and how will he get the money?  Veterans don’t need generic support.  Robert Townsend likes vets too and thinks they need support, we all do.  But what to you actually propose doing, and how will you make a difference in their lives?

Let’s look at a local Veterans issue, there is a homeless Vet shelter right here in Clare that is desperately trying to get funding from Veteran’s Affairs.  They’ve struggled for a year, have available rooms and reasonable rates.  What is your position at the State Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Mr. Wentworth?  Aren’t you a REGIONAL MANAGER in charge of this very issue?  Aren’t you already aware of this facility trying to house the homeless vets of the area, and that it has been unfunded for over a year?  Yet still, there are more hoops to jump through?  Is this really a priority to you?  Or is this just another ‘Feel Good’ statement made to attract voters?  I am sure you can talk about individuals you helped, but what about real solutions to the homeless veterans of the area?

 First Responders

Our first responders are contracted to protect our district. We need to make sure our state is protecting them.

Budget cuts result in fewer resources which trickles down to create a safety issue for the district and the state. I will fight against the wasteful Lansing spending that leads to these types of cuts. Public safety is a priority for me, and I will challenge the status quo.

This is a nice sentiment, again long on ‘feel good’ and short on details.  Robert Townsend was a first responder and worked closely with volunteer fire services.  While Mr. Wentworth talks about ‘wasteful Lansing spending’ and ‘challenging the status quo’, lets talk about actual public safety issues.

Firemen need good gear, respirators and training.  They need vehicles and mutual aid agreements with surrounding departments.  They also need meaningful legislation to assure they or their surviving spouses don’t have to face years of litigation with insurance companies if they have an on the job exposure- the headlines are full of stories of the 9/11 first responders and the health issues they’ve faced and the struggles they’ve had trying to prove the connection between their jobs and their health to the satisfaction of insurance companies.  We have our own version of this struggle right here in Michigan, and I’ll protect the laws we have in place that protect our first responders.

Police Officer Safety is also a priority with many of the same concerns about gear, training, and equipment.  But Dr. Townsend DOES NOT support the transfer of high grade military equipment to law enforcement.  He doesn’t think we need mine resistant vehicles or bayonets in the hands of local police agencies.  He feels we need to have a look at the tactical and military capability of County level and below agencies.  While a tactical response is needed for high risk situations (snipers, hostage rescue, etc) could this be handled by regional teams from the State Police?  Dr. Townsend does not presume to know the answer to this question but would certainly promote a discussion if elected.

Education

The average 2015 college graduate has a little more than $35,000 in student loan debt. Almost 71% of bachelor’s degree recipients will graduate with a student loan. Something has to be done.

Common Sense NOT Common Core.  There are currently two bills, one in the House and one in the Senate, which call for the removal of the state of Michigan from the common core standards.

Dr. Townsend’s oldest daughter, Beth, is enrolled in Mid-Michigan while still attending Clare High School (and doing very well thank you), Katie will follow her this year.  This is a great way for college bound students to get some coursework done and reduce the cost of higher education.

But education is more than college bound students like Beth and Katie.  Dr. Townsend was a strong supporter of the Clare/Gladwin CTE and worked to help pass the recent millage to help fund it.  He agrees with monitoring graduation rates and performance standards.  He also opposes diversion of public education funds to charter schools offering general education.

Dr. Townsend picked his son Kyle up from football practice this week.  ‘How’d practice go?’ he asked.  Kyle replied that the ‘coach made us run 40 yard dashes, 14 of them.  Let’s see thats 10 x 40 for 400 plus 4 x 40 for 160, 560 yard at full speed!’.  Common core in action!

Removing Common Core from Michigan Schools would be a mistake, a mistake commonly promoted by people who can’t even tell you what common core IS (when pressed they talk about how it was ‘imposed’ on local districts by state and federal agencies- like desegregation and busing).  Dr. Townsend wrote an article on common core a few months back and has researched it.  The problem lies not with the process, but the implementation.

Teachers did not get the training they needed, and even something as simple as sending a sheet of paper home with instructions for parents to help them do homework with their children are impeded by the LACK OF PAPER to print them!  Why with the lottery and billions spent on education are 5th grade teachers having to ration copy paper?  That is the problem, funding, not common core.  Dr. Townsend will address this in Lansing.

Mr. Wentworth is also heavily backed by the charter school lobby, which has already done thousands of dollars in mailings on his behalf to get ‘their’ candidate elected.  Dr. Robert Townsend believes tax dollars for public education should go to public schools, not private interest charter schools.  We are facing a crisis in the Detroit Public Schools because 29% of their students (and tax dollars) are going to charter schools.  Despite the draconian cuts of the Republican appointed emergency managers, this loss of tax support makes the public schools unviable, and they are looking to the 97th for OUR tax dollars to bail them out.

Dr. Robert Townsend believes there is a place for charter school- specialty schools for math/science, trades and the arts.  But they should NOT be competing for public funds or with public schools for general education.  Schools should be funded based on the school age population of their district, not how many came to school on the official count day.  Charter schools should be partially tuition based, with public funds on an ‘as available’ basis and merit scholarships.

Infrastructure

Anyone who has driven on a road in Michigan can attest to the investment that needs to be made to our infrastructure and roads. I believe this can be done without raising taxes.

Mr. Wentworth goes on to say there are ‘$20 Billion earmarked for other expenses’ that should be re-evaluated for use (for sure, not all that $20 Billion will actually be available, it is earmarked for something after all).  While this isn’t a bad idea, his notion of fixing the roads without raising taxes is just designed to say two things voters like to hear ‘fixing roads’ and ‘no new taxes’.

Dr. Robert Townsend thinks the problem is more than roads.  It is bridges, and fast internet service, water supplies and aging pipelines.  There is even discussion of bringing commuter rail back to Northern Michigan.  To pay for this we need to improve our tax base by encouraging businesses to come to Michigan and hire Michigan residents.  To attract business, we need to give them the tools to make money, not bribe them to come here.  Dr. Townsend was at a Township meeting this week.  A major discussion centered on the fact they couldn’t get a phone line in the Township Hall to transmit the ballot results.

  1. Why can’t a Township Hall in Mid Michigan get a phone line?
  2. Why does the state require a obsolete land line to transmit ballot information?
  3. What would it take to upgrade the system to use satellite based internet transmission?

Of course we can redistribute unused funds, but we need to look at new sources of income as well.  Perhaps we can look to other states, like Colorado, and see what they have done to finance their roads and schools.

Conclusion:

While in agreement on several positions, there are many positions where Jason Wentworth and Dr. Robert Townsend differ in their views.  Mr. Wentworth tends to be very generic in his positions, Dr. Townsend tends to research them in depth and develop more comprehensive solutions.  It is up to the voters to review and decide where their opinions and views and those of the candidates agree.

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