Do you have questions about Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Bill Gelineau as you prepare to vote in the August primary?
WDET, in conjunction with the station’s Detroit Journalism Cooperative gubernatorial interviews, got some answers from him on a wide range of policies and plans, including some submitted by audience members.
- Age: 59
- Elected Experience: None
- Other Experience: Restaurant ower real estate information, insurance
- Education: University of Michigan, Wayne State University
- Campaign Website: Bill Gelineau for Governor
- Facebook: Bill Gellineau
Click HERE for more from WDET on Bill Gelineau.
You’re one of two candidates running for the Libertarian Party nomination. What makes you a better choice than John Tatar?
Bill Gelineau: Well, I don’t really like to talk about it quite that way. I’ve talked with John and I respect him. He’s run for office for us a few times. I’ve been much more involved in the party. I think I have a better grasp of all the things that Libertarians stand for. But most importantly, I’ve spent 20 years studying and really becoming more familiar with the workings of Michigan government. And I have a plan. I encourage people to come to my website. “Come Together Michigan” is really what we need to do if we’re going to solve some of our problems, and I think I have a better grip on where to go with that.
Well let’s start there with the plan the plan that you have. Why vote Libertarian, and why vote specifically for Bill Gelineau?
Bill Gelineau: I think a lot of folks are very frustrated with the system. Obviously, we’ve got a number of proposals, including this thing for gerrymandering and other matters where people have come to realize that the two older parties, the Republicans and Democrats, they act very much like gangs, like the Bloods and the Crips. They even have the same colors, blue and red. The thing about gangs is they don’t worry a whole lot about other people, they cause a lot of problems, they protect each other, and along the way our taxpayers, and what people want, gets lost in the mix. And I think I offer something different.
WDET listeners identified four issues that they consider highly important in this election: Education, water quality, transportation, and gerrymandering. If you were governor, how would you improve Michigan’s education?
Bill Gelineau: First of all, I think people like myself who have broad knowledge need to surround themselves with good people. And I think one of my most important skill sets that I’ve learned along the way–not just as a small businessman, but someone who’s actually worked for a Fortune 500 company and had a lot of responsibility–is to pick good people. The second thing is, where’s the money going to come from? I’ve actually advocated a budget that doesn’t require large increases, but actually makes better priority choices, the first of which is the destruction of what is called the [Michigan] Strategic Fund, which is a large part of the Michigan budget. I’ll just give you one program that really irks me, and that’s Pure Michigan. I’ve referred to that as “Pure B.S.” What we’re talking about is chamber of commerce stuff, where the ordinary taxpayers who may be struggling to put food on the table or just get to their jobs are forced to pay into this account, which is designed to attract people to the lakeshore or Grand Rapids or anywhere else. It’s just simply not a function of government. I think that redirecting some of those moneys into more important priorities, like schools, that’s where the money comes from. There’s a lot more there, by the way, up to $1 billion that I believe can be saved.
That’s being wasted on other things?
Bill Gelineau: Sure. I live out in Grand Rapids where there’s a really nice building called “the pyramid.” It was a former building for Steelcase Corp. and they no longer had any use for it. And the state legislature, the Republican legislature, who always talks about crony capitalism, passed a law to specifically give these tremendous tax benefits. And along the way, needs like schools get neglected. I remember when I went to public schools here in Michigan, we had a lot more counselors, and right now we have about a third of the number of counselors per student as what we had in the 1970s. That’s one area I think needs a lot of improvement. There’re a lot of pressures on kids, and I think that’s something that I’ve identified, and other academics have too.
How would you ensure that Michigan has safe, clean drinking water?
Bill Gelineau: I encourage people to go to my website. I’ve written two extensive treatises on the environment. But the most important element is holding corporations responsible for the things that they do wrong. And one of the aspects that I think is important is that we raise the limited liability limit on corporations, so that when bad things happen, they can be prosecuted. The second thing is that we should mandate they carry sufficient insurance, and what that leads to is best practices, so that perhaps we could look at something like [Enbridge] Line 5, and the insurance industry would say, “here’s what you need to do to make sure that we don’t have an economic disaster And then the third piece is that there’s a little known tax that exists. It’s called the “industrial facilities tax.” It’s what I believe is a fairly modest tax reform to make sure that we have the funds to clean up the currently 7,000 toxic sites. Out in West Michigan, we have Hooker Chemical. Here on the east side, downriver, the former BASF site. Some of those things have been done with federal money, but as you know there’s limits to that, and so I think we need to be proactive to make sure things are cleaned up.
You came over here from Grand Rapids, which means you drove, so you know the shape that our roads are in. How would you fix them?
Bill Gelineau: We’re spending money in the wrong places. Michigan has about 30% more people in prison than our surrounding states, Ohio, Indiana…Michigan people are not more criminal than those Buckeyes are. What it really comes down to is we have a prison culture in Michigan, and particularly with respect to the drug war. I’ve certainly worked hard for medical marijuana back in 2008, and I’m working hard for recreational legalization. But the big thing is to change our priorities for our law enforcement, so that they focus on criminal behavior, but not the drug war. If we can reduce our prison population, we’re going to move $750 million that would be available so we could fix roads and other infrastructure needs we have in Michigan.
Do you think gerrymandering a problem, and if so, what ought to be done about it?
Bill Gelineau: I do. I’m going to vote for the proposal that’s [possibly going] on the ballot. It’s not perfect. A lot of the aspects on it underline the false belief that we have a two-party system in Michigan. As a Libertarian, I’ve certainly advocated for ourselves and others to be in the marketplace of ideas. I’d like to see us move in the direction of what New Hampshire has, which is many more part-time people working in the legislature. A lot of the problems in Michigan stem from how we’ve organized our legislature, and gerrymandering is just one tool. The Democrats, Republicans, they’ve both used it, they’ve abused it, and I’d like to see other systems considered.
What do you view as the proper role of state government, and what would your governing style be like?
Bill Gelineau: Well, I think one of the things that separates me from not just my opponent but many Libertarians is that I believe we have to earn a spot at the table first. And so I’ve proposed a series of reasonable changes and compromises and changes in government. I do agree with some of the things that Republicans talk about but don’t do. My number one proposal, outlined on my website, is called “Drop the Cap.” I had the good pleasure to know Dick Headlee, who was the father of the Headlee Amendment. For folks who want to get wonkish, they can go to Article IX, Section 26 of our [Michigan] Constitution. It limits the amount of money that can come into the state. I’ve proposed that that cap drop by 10 percent, which would still put us $5 billion dollars above what our current budget is. But it does send a message to the investment community that we’re not going to be like California or New Jersey, that they can bring their business here and not get taxed inordinately. And what that will do, obviously, is help people get better jobs and have more opportunities, and that’s a big part of what I’m about.
The Headlee Amendment also limits the amount of local of money that local governments can take in from property taxes. Does that hamstring their budgets?
Bill Gelineau: One of the things that I’ve felt was really important is that I be very well-educated about how those various things work, and that particular aspect of Headlee has to do with the changes we’ve made with Proposal A . And so, the two working together have created a bit of a monster. I’ve proposed that we reform proposal A. It is one of the things that has caused problems for funding for our schools. Not so much for civil jurisdictions, but for schools specifically. And that reform could create a situation where there’d be a more even distribution of funds. I’m very offended by the fact that you have rich districts and poorer districts, which are locked into law, and that’s exactly what Proposal A did for us.
Voters are going to decide in November whether to make recreational marijuana legal in Michigan. Do you support the proposal?
Bill Gelineau: I do, reluctantly. I have two criticisms of it. One is that it has an excise tax. And that’s going to lead to a very high-priced product, and that means that we’ll still have underground marijuana being sold. I think that’s a mistake. The second thing is I have advocated–I’m the only person in the race of any party that, if elected, would pardon all the people who have committed a low-level drug offense who didn’t, in concert with that, commit a violent crime. So, you’ve got a lot of kids especially who have low-level possession, and it ruins their careers. It can limit where they go to work. It limits their college choices. I think that this particular part of the drug war has been extremely destructive and I would change things.
Immigration is a national issue, obviously, but in Michigan it’s also a state issue because we border Canada. What kind of immigration policies would you have if you were governor?
Bill Gelineau: I do recognize that a governor is not the federal government, and the federal government really is responsible for immigration policy. Now, to the extent that we need to cooperate, for example, I’ve called for the destruction of ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. We’ve got to start over. Certainly there needs to some way in which we—we’ve always have had a naturalization service. But ICE in particular has very poorly executed the laws and has really demonized the government, so I’d like to see that come to an end. But, the other aspect of this that I’ve talked about really extends not just to the border, where President Trump has called for sending the National Guard, but the National Guard in general. I’m the only candidate who’s talked about the fact that the governor is the commander-in-chief of the National Guard. In one of my roles years ago, after 9/11, raising and lowering of the flag every time someone from Michigan was killed. And it really affected me. And I said if I was ever in a position to change things, I would. And I would defy an order of a Republican, Democrat, or any other president who was putting our men and women into harm’s way that did not have the consent of Congress, which is required under the statute. So, if there is a declaration of war, or a national emergency, that is the only circumstance in which the president can take command of the National Guard. I would fight that, and I was very pleased when the governor of Oregon, when President Trump talked about sending the National Guard down to the southern border, said that she would not cooperate, either. And it really highlighted the fact that this is a relevant issue that we need to talk about.
Michigan’s government is considered to be one of the least transparent among all states, if not the least. How would you make it more transparent?
Bill Gelineau: I think FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] needs to be expanded. Sometimes we personalize too much of what transparency means and we want to know how much everybody’s making, like that really matters. I think that’s a mistake. But in terms of the process, again, a lot of what goes on in the committee structure–how that information is disseminated and made available–we have tremendous technologies now online and otherwise, where ordinary folks ought to be able to search for these things and ought to be able to find them. It should not be horribly expensive. And of course in the last few years, we’ve gone through a tremendous criticism of the media. The media should be the friend of the public, which it provides with information so people know what’s going on in their own government. And we shouldn’t have things hidden. This is part of what went on in Flint, and what caused the problems up there. I think that more daylight is always good. More information helps people make better decisions.
What would your tax policies be? We know that’s a broad question.
Bill Gelineau: It certainly is. And one of the things is, too often I think people talk about being governor like they’re going to be a king. I hear a lot of ads running right now about how, “I’m gonna do this.” I know how to work with people. I’ve gotten to know, over the last 20 years, many of the people who are in government, Democrats and Republicans alike. People who have more independent thinking and people from different backgrounds. I believe that when you sit down and talk to people, we can come to some agreement. I do support the Libertarian platform to repeal the income tax, but it’s not a high priority for me. I think that if we can drop the cap to the amount of money coming into the government, then we can start to make some better decisions. But I think that as a Libertarian, if we are given the opportunity to govern, we can earn the opportunity to then do some of those other things..
Is there anything you want to add that we haven’t talked about?
Bill Gelineau: I hope people will go to my website. I’ve spent a lot of time working with academics and others to try to present a comprehensive plan. The one thing I’ve talked about that really differentiates me from my opponent in the primary—you know, he’s against “smart” meters. I’m for analog freedom. But really, I’m not just for smart meters, I’m for really smart meters. And why that’s important is that I’d like to see us implement a feed-in tariff. For people who aren’t familiar with what that is, folks who have a clean energy system–whether they be solar or wind energy–can feed that back into the net and actually get a small premium for doing so. They’ve done this successfully in Germany and other parts of Europe, and what it’s created is a much more stable grid of electricity. And if we’re ever going get to electric cars and some of the other things that are going to help us maintain our standard, we are going to need to do a lot more.
How do you that without being too intrusive in people’s homes and on businesses?
Bill Gelineau: Well, I think that’s one of the great lies, that somehow these smart meters are somehow controlling everything in someone’s home. They’re just simply a device to measure what’s going in and out. This has been done very well in Europe, and this is how they’ve created more energy independence. It is one of those things where we look at all the different opportunities and the choices that we make. And to keep the oil flowing we’ve gone to fracking, and we know some of the problems that’s created. I’ve looked at the choices that are available and this would be a way to inspire entrepreneurial visions, whether it be homeowners or businesses who can sell back to the net and actually create a much more stable system. We’ve only built one new power plant, up on the Clinton River, in the last 20 years. And as we’re decertifying a lot of the coal plants around the state, we really need to look at capacity. So if we’re ever going to get to clean energy, clean cars and all those kinds of things, we have to expand our capacity and I believe the feed-in tariff is the way to get there.