The Rapidian

Local Elections 2012: Kent County 13th District commissioner Richard Vander Molen

Richard Vander Molen answered some tough questions to help our local citizens understand who to vote for in this Tuesday's elections.
Underwriting support from:
GR Politics 2012

GR Politics 2012 /Pete Walsh

[UPDATE: Our attempts to contact Michael Johnston were unsuccessful, due to our own error, but we have now been able to be in contact with him and will be bringing you a story shortly. Johnston won the 13th District Commission seat by a narrow margin of 5 votes.]

Our politics beat asked the Kent County 13th District Commission candidates [Richard Vander Molen and Michael Johnston] some questions for our Rapidian readers. We were unable to reach Johnston for comment. We hope they help you to get informed about where they stand on issues that affect us locally. See below the questions and Vander Molen's answers.

What are your views about Proposition I, which would adjust the way the city's Comptroller position is determined?

Richard Vander Molen: I'm not real familiar with that, but what I do know is that DeJonge who's now the comptroller...she seems like she wants to do what's right for the city. So I would say I would vote for that proposition if I were living in Grand Rapids. 

What are your views about Proposition II that proposes decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana?

Vander Molen: That's really a tough one for me. But what I do know is that we've got a lot of people in the county jail for possessing small amounts of marijuana that we're spending tons and tons of money on-and there's gotta be a better way. It costs upwards of $30,000 a year to keep someone at the county jail. So while I understand the fact that marijuana is addictive, on the other hand I guess I would vote for that as well.

What is your opinion about John Ball Zoo's new entity development?

Vander Molen: The county owns the zoo. The county invests a lot of money in the zoo. We have two entities trying to run the place-and that just doesn't work. Not that we're anti-Zoo Society at all. They certainly have a function to play. But when it comes to the operation of the zoo, the county needs to be in charge. I'm very much in favor of what the commission is doing...and making it work. You can't have two bosses running the same place-it just doesn't work.

How do you view efforts towards farmland preservation in Kent County?

Vander Molen: This is pretty simple for me. I think if farmers want to preserve their farmland, that's fine; if different organizations want to give them money in order to be able to do that, that's fine. But I think it's bad public policy to put taxpayer's money into preserving farmland.

What motivates you to run for the office of county commissioner?

Vander Molen: You know, I've been doing this for 22 years. And I'm still very interested in what goes on and I love public policy. I love to be able to deal with issues at the 20,000 foot area. I think I still have some capacity to give and would like to do it again. For me, I've got time, I've got interest, I've got energy, I'm retired [and] I think I've done a pretty good job for 22 years and a couple more would be fine with me! 

I presently serve on the public works board, which takes care of all the solid waste... I also serve as the vice chair of the aeronautics board, which we of course that's a huge economic driver for the community and then I chair the West Michigan sports commission, which in the last five years has probably generated 50 or 60 million dollars of economic development into this community. That's really fun-that's very busy, but that's very exciting for me.

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