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Keith Allard wants your vote, Grand Rapids

Keith Allard, local candidate for State Representative, talks about his feelings about his hometown, his generation's prospects and the role of government in people's lives.
Keith Allard, candidate for State Representative, 76th district

Keith Allard, candidate for State Representative, 76th district /Courtesy of Keith Allard

I had a chance to talk with Keith Allard, local candidate for State Representative about his feelings about his hometown, his generation's prospects and the role of government in people's lives. He's passionate about all of them, and has definite ideas about what individuals and groups can do to address today's most pressing problems. 

You're from Grand Rapids. What do you think of the city's development of late? How do you feel about Grand Rapids's future? 

I think Grand Rapids’ development has been amazing. When I used to visit my dad at his office in the mid-90s, downtown was a ghost town. There were barely any options for places to have lunch, and the main attraction was riding the “sky train” around the now-defunct “City Center” building. Now, it’s a thriving urban area. My friends and I used to complain in high school that we couldn’t wait to leave Grand Rapids; now everyone can’t wait to get back here. I’m very hopeful for our city’s future - it’s an exciting place to live and raise a family

Your demographic has had a harder time finding decently paid work in Michigan. What advice would you give someone who wants to remain in the state but can't seem to find a good job?

Pursue your passions. Think out of the box. Start your own business. The days of grinding it out for 40 years in the same 9-to-5 job for the same company are long gone. This is a very personal issue for me: some of my best-educated friends have had to leave our state to pursue opportunity elsewhere. Policy makers remain committed to a 1960s view of the workforce and the economy. We desperately need new policies that reflect the changes that have come from technological advances and globalization. We must also bring reforms to our long-term liabilities and debts, which are a hindrance to job growth today and threaten the prosperity of every future generation. 

Generation Y, despite voting in large numbers for Obama in 2008, seems to be apathetic about politics in general. Why have you decided to try and make government service your vocation? Or is this a "clean house" move on your part?

My generation has born the brunt of the policy follies unleashed by both parties over the past 40 years. In the K-12 years, they were forced into education options dictated by where they lived. In higher education, they were told that college was an absolute necessity and were burdened by massive student loans because of unwieldy subsidies to universities. They graduated into an anemic job market that devalued their skills and pushed them into temporary employment. They lived through endless wars fought over flawed pretenses. Now, they’re losing their health care plans.

Despite this, young folks are not cynical - they believe in the Constitution, they believe in America and they believe in themselves. They just want a fair shot to compete. This is what compels me to enter the arena. Everyday, I miss my friends who have moved out of Michigan. They inspire me to keep up the fight. 

What do you think the government's role should be in regulating selfish behavior - of individuals, of corporations, of interest groups? For instance, how do we as a society properly hold accountable those responsible for the banking crisis or pipeline disasters? 

Government's role should be to enforce contracts and ensure property rights are respected. These are the cornerstones of a free market society. If polluters or bankers act in breach of contracts or property rights, they should be held accountable by individuals in the judicial system.

However, what truly needs to happen as a society is for consumers to use the vast information we have at our fingertips to educate and band together. Economic choices are more powerful than any policy or protest. For example, if a bank engages in risky behavior, or an oil company destroys an ecosystem through negligence, imagine a mass movement of consumers to divest from these entities. This is the most effective approach to redress poor decision-making by large entities. 

Are there any local leaders you are inspired by? 

My parents would be number one. Others include my teachers growing up, particularly the Dominican nuns who taught me in grade school and high school, and Mr. K and Mr. H - my teachers at John Ball Zoo School. Dirk Koning, who founded the Community Media Center and whose philosophy was an enormous influence on my life. Justin Amash has been a tremendous inspiration in the way he has managed to bring a groundbreaking new approach to an entrenched system. I also admire many of the business owners and innovators our area has produced, big and small, who have made it a priority to give back to our community and make Grand Rapids the place it is today. 

Why do you think older voters should vote for you?

I think it’s time for a new generation of leadership. Young folks like myself enter politics without the hard-worn grudges and policy prejudices those who have been in the machine for decades possess. We take a fresh look at the major issues. We’re willing to reconsider failed policies like the war on drugs, and have seen the effects of endless bailouts and regulatory capture for big business. Less than 3% of people my age are in unions. We understand intrinsically where the 21st century economy is heading and are prepared to make policy decisions that are in the best interests of future generations, not just the next election. 


Keith Allard will be on the ballot for the August 5th primary election.

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