The Rapidian

Local Elections 2012: Kent County 14th District candidates respond to Rapidian questions

Carol Hennessy and Casey O'Neill answered some tough questions to help our local citizens understand who to vote for in upcoming elections Tuesday November 6.
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Our politics beat asked the Kent County 14th District Commission candidates [Casey O'Neill and Carol Hennessy] some questions for our Rapidian readers. We hope they help you to get informed about where they stand on issues that affect us locally. See below the questions and their answers.

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

Casey O'Neill: If passed, Proposition I will take away the autonomy that this elected position has. As an elected officer the Comptroller is not subject to pressures from other city officials. Looking at similar positions in other cities around the country shows the great potential this position has for ensuring honest city leadership using integrity in their monetary decision making. If this position is subject to those leaders, it will open the door for corruption. Changing this to an unelected position will not save the city any money as they are also looking to add an additional appointed position to act as the “watchdog” in place of the Comptroller. I would recommend the City voters vote no on this proposition and then take action to encourage the comptroller to continue to alert us to any issues.

Carol Hennessy: This question does not deal with county policies. I trust city voters will make a decision they are comfortable with.

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

O'Neill: Drug use is an issue that must not be taken lightly. As a parent of young children I do not want to see it become easier to obtain and use drugs. If passed, this proposal will do nothing but exaggerate the problems that come along with drug use. I encourage city voters to do what we were taught by our parents and teachers – Just Say No to Proposition II.

Hennessy: This question does not deal with county policies. I trust city voters will make a decision they are comfortable with.

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

O'Neill: The John Ball Zoo is a great asset the West Side has to encourage tourism as well as enhance the education of our children. First and foremost the zoo must be funded appropriately now and then a sustainable plan for the future must be made. I know that the board is working hard to create a sustainable plan for the future of the zoo but they must not lose sight of the fact that it must be properly funded now as well. 

Hennessy: It is important to develop a streamlined organization to move John Ball Park and Zoo to continued success. Under the current bifurcated structure, Kent County and the Zoo Society are organized separately. We want this treasured area to serve us as well in the future as it has in the past. The well-being of the zoo and park is a shared goal of Kent County and Zoo Society as organizational discussions move forward. A joint statement has been issued pointing to the common interest in maintaining a vibrant John Ball Zoo.

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

O'Neill: Kent County has operated a farmland preservation program aimed at preventing development. In 2009 our County Commission sided with a small group of unaccountable special interests and voted to begin using public tax dollars to fund the PDR program. Meanwhile services vital to the West Side were threatened, such as cuts to our Sheriff deputies, the elimination of youth programs and the endangerment of funding for our veterans. Our commissioner needs to represent the needs of the West Side, not the needs of a political party or a special interest group. 

Hennessy: I support farmland preservation to maintain this important economic sector in our community. Even though this is an urban county, agriculture adds $149 million market value annually. Local support for local foods is strong – which serves to attract interest in our restaurants and farmer’s markets. Additionally, outlying development of our rural areas has costs associated with it including roads, sewers, schools, police and fire protections while our core cities have actually lost population over the last decade. I represent residents in the City of Grand Rapids and support policies that contribute to keeping our urban neighborhoods strong and viable. 

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

O'Neill: The West Side needs a true representative on the Kent County Board of Commissioners. For too long we have had a commissioner who chooses to side with special interests and political parties in lieu of doing what is needed for the citizens of the West Side. As a tax payer and a West Sider I am committed to being a responsible advocate for our neighborhoods on the Kent County Board of Commissioners. 

Hennessy: I like helping people and this position of service as a Kent County Commissioner is an extension of my lifelong commitment to volunteering and my belief that through good governance we enhance the positive development of communities and neighborhoods.


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