Island Debate

As the election draws near, many year-round island residents are getting ready to make their decisions about which candidates they will be voting into office. To help with that decision, a class from Mackinac Island Public School held a candidate debate today, which took place at the school’s gym facilities. All ten candidates for city council, city clerk, mayor, and school board, attended, and the students asked some very important and hard-hitting questions.


As a teacher at the school I was very excited to hear that a debate was going to take place, although I did miss the first 15 minutes due to my classes schedule, I did hear from others that they started off with introductions from each candidate.


When I first sat down to listen to the debates all eyes were on the two candidates for city council, and how they would address increasing revenue on the island. Anneke Myers voiced her support towards historic preservation on the island, while Ben Horn discussed the opportunities the island can have to create more entertainment activities, such as concerts in the park, for the community and summer visitors. Another question posed was what would you want to accomplish if voted in? Mr. Horn answered that he would like to make the community more aware of our city, that “what we have here is special,” and find new ways to create revenue for the island. Mrs. Myers’s goal would be to bring more critical thought to ideas that have come about in city’s chambers, noting that the controversial issues that have faced us in recent years could have benefited from more dissenting opinions. What I considered the most heated topic in the past couple months, the candidates were asked if they would agree or disagree with the city seeking a single boat company. Both candidates were against the idea of a single franchise or the city owning a boat line. Mr. Horn further included that this should be eliminated and not looked at again in the future, and that “[people’s] trip across the straits is just as important as their walk down the street here in town.” Both felt that everyone should be able to have options.


Candidates for city clerk were asked how their position would affect island students and residents. Although Linda Price felt that the position would not ultimately affect students and residents a significant amount, Karen Lennard voiced that the position does affect those who vote or are getting ready to become voters, and invited anyone to contact her about voter registration at any time. Also asked was what they feel the responsibilities of the position are, Mrs. Lennard said that elections, payroll, pay-outs, city council packets, minutes, child support payments, are some of the important responsibilities. Ms. Price added that to be approachable, available, and to do the job with a positive attitude were also important responsibilities of the position.


Mayoral candidates were asked, if elected, what would be the very first thing you would fix or change? Gabe Cowell answered that he would work on making street cleaning a more efficient process. Margaret Doud cited several issues, answering that she would continue to work on making the taxes lower and encourage people to remain on the island, as well as see that boat ticket prices remain lower in order to accommodate island residents and summer visitors. When asked what major accomplishments will you accomplish as mayor, Ms. Doud wants to keep the island a viable place for people to live and visit. She felt that by working together with the school & community foundation, we can create that vision. Mr. Cowell answered that he would make the island better for everyone, and to make the island more accommodating to everyone. Also asked was what would you improve to raise the quality of year-round residents? Ms. Doud answered that working with the school would be very important because without the school “there would be no year-round community.” She also said that she would continue keeping taxes lower for residents and businesses, and also look for more programs for children and senior citizens. Mr. Cowell answered that he would like to make things better for everyone.


School board candidates were asked how they would address our budget. All 4 candidates did not have a solid solution as to how they would address it, but did make some suggestions, including looking ‘outside of the box’. Carrie Kaminen felt strongly about keeping the current programs in place. Ben Mosley brought to mind the fact that jobs may be the the best place to make cuts, but that he wouldn’t want to see that happen, and the decision is hard because everyone has done a great job. Jack Armstrong mentioned the fact that our school here is the only one in the nation that has netbooks for all HS students, and this happened because of thinking outside of the box. He also suggested finding people who can fill more than one position, and assume “two different hats.” When asked what would you want to see the school pursue more? Mr. Armstrong voiced that music was one program that the school board was able to accomplish this year, and that he wanted to see a foreign language teacher in the future. Mr. Mosley mentioned that he wants a counseling program, as well as would like to see the school offer business and trade classes, since those are two areas that are very apparent here on the island. Mrs. Kaminen wanted to see home economics and personal finance classes to be offered. Getting the short end of the stick, Mrs. Andress agreed with all the suggestions made by the previous 3 candidates, also including that as someone who has sat through many applications and knows how tough the process can be, would like to continue to be a part of that process. Also asked was whether students should have more of a voice with the school board? Across the board the answer was yes. Mrs. Andress & Mr. Armstrong suggested that students be more active in attending school board meetings with Mrs. Andress also suggesting students be given the opportunity to give their opinions through surveys as well.


As closing statements were being made, Mr. Schoonover and his class that organized the event were thanked for providing this debate to the public, and also providing some very important questions for the candidates. I hope the information here helps others to make their decision this coming May!