Voters in Michigan’s 10th Congressional District have four candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot. WDET’s Pat Batcheller interviewed each of them. Click on the audio player to hear his conversation with Kimberly Bizon, the Democratic candidate. Bizon is a web and interactive director at the Sussman Agency. Here’s a transcript of the interview:
Pat Batcheller: Why are you running?
Kimberly Bizon: I jumped into the race last year, 13 months ago. I wasn’t really pleased with the current administration and the deregulation about the environment. I think we can do better. We need strong leadership to move us forward with the 21st Century. We also need a representative who will listen to people, and I fell that that’s lacking in politics today.
Pat Batcheller: You’re running against Rep. Paul Mitchell, the Republican who’s just finishing up his first term in Congress. Why don’t you feel that he’s representing the district?
Kimberly Bizon: He refuses to hold any public town halls in our area. District 10 encompasses six counties. And I believe that people really need to hear his voice, and to understand what was his voice representing District 10? So I feel that he fell short of that.
Pat Batcheller: Have you ever run for office before?
Kimberly Bizon: No, but some people have mentioned that I didn’t follow the “proper” pathway into this political arena. However, I am the president of Huronia Heights subdivision in Lexington, also the chairwoman of Concerned Associations, which encompasses four subdivisions along Lake Huron, where we talk about E. coli runoff, beach safety, beach erosion, and I also work with my community and we just recently initiated a recycling program, which has brought money in for Sanilac County, and also offered six jobs from the Mental Health Department.
Pat Batcheller: I’m curious. What do people think is the “proper” way to get into politics?
Kimberly Bizon: They believe, like, you should run for a county seat, and then state, and then federal. However, I believe the change that needs to be made has to be done on a nationwide level. So, I was asked to run for state representative and I chose to actually run for U.S. House.
Pat Batcheller: What issue is most important to you, and why is it important?
Kimberly Bizon: Throughout my life, I’ve been an environmental activist. So with that being said, in 2014 I became a climate reality leader to combat and find solutions for climate change.
Pat Batcheller: What does that mean?
Kimberly Bizon: There’s a group of 11,000 of us in the international community, and we focus on communities being sustainable, how to move away from fossil fuel dependencies. That being said, I feel like we’re at peril here with our carbon dioxide levels, and the planet heating up, and the acidity in our oceans. And, of course, the glaciers melting. That same year, I became a volunteer environmental lobbyist for Citizens Climate Lobby. And that was a bill that we were trying to build political will in Congress to not only sign an environmental stewardship resolution, but to also to put a dividend in place to move away from fossil fuel dependency. So, I found that it was very challenging to do that in Congress. We’re still fighting back and forth whether climate change is real or not. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released a statement that should be very alarming to people.
Pat Batcheller: When you meet voters in the district, what do they say to you? What is their main issue?
Kimberly Bizon: The number one thing that I hear about is health care. The current incumbent, Paul Mitchell, voted for a bill that would have put 40,000 people kicked off of affordable health care. I believe it’s a human right to have access to health care. I think that as Americans, and those people who are our neighbors who can’t afford it, or who have pre-existing conditions, they deserve the right to have that health care. I kind of lean toward not only minimally fixing what’s wrong with the Affordable Care Act, but I would also be open to looking at solutions in universal health care with a single-payer system.
Pat Batcheller: How would you pay for that?
Kimberly Bizon: I think in this recent tax reform, they had not taxed the top one percent. That actually would have paid for universal health care. We need to look at that. We also need to look at some of those programs that are not working in our national budget and pull that money out. So, I believe there’s a way to do it. You just have to dig down deep in that budget and figure out where to pull it from.
Pat Batcheller: Our listeners have identified four issues that they say matter most to them this election cycle: education, water quality, transportation, and gerrymandering. We’ve already talked a little bit about water quality. How would you respond to the emerging threat of PFAS?
Kimberly Bizon: We are coming into dangerous times when PFAS gets into our drinking water. They are seeing more and more of it in the state of Michigan. I don’t believe that deregulating those types of regulations in place to protect our environment and our water should be dismissed in any way. I think we need stronger implementation and more penalty when those things happen. I find it very tragic that companies or politicians would find profit before people. And I think that has been an ongoing issue, and I think it needs to stop.
Pat Batcheller: How would you improve our schools?
Kimberly Bizon: I was just endorsed by the Michigan Education Association. And so I stand united with the teachers and our public schools. So the question was, how would I improve it? I believe that when we talk about for-profit charter schools that they’re actually moving that money away from our public school system, so I’m very concerned with that. I also believe that we need more training in programming languages. I also believe we need to give our teachers the resources that they need and limit the size of the classroom so the children can have a better learning experience. There are many things that can be done for better education overall. I’m looking forward to that relationship with the MEA to really dig down and figure out the solutions that they need.
Pat Batcheller: I don’t know if mass transit is a big concern in a large district like the 10th, but everyone drives roads. What would you do about them if elected to Congress?
Kimberly Bizon: The road issue is primarily a state government issue, so they need to work on that budget. We had some discussions in a panel that they need to improve road quality. As far as infrastructure, our railroads in District 10 are very outdated and we need to bring those up. I do believe that District 10 is very unique. On the outside, we have the Great Lakes and tourism. On the inside, we have agriculture, and toward the south more manufacturing. But tourism is failing in those communities. They’re quite beautiful, fantastic little places. So envision that we could probably invest in tourist transportation up there. I also believe that there’s opportunity along I-94. We have a lot of commuters coming in. I think that could bring in tourism for Port Huron and move people around. One other thing that we talk about is families don’t like it when their children leave because there’s no opportunity up in the Thumb. And it is a beautiful area to live in. However, they have a lack of internet in those rural areas. So that really needs to be addressed, and it could offer opportunity. Consulting companies could actually be formed up in the Thumb and they could live in woods and areas along the river and along the lake and offer business opportunities for our youth. So, I think when you’re talking about transportation from a federal level, I believe there should be some incentives and having a representative with a vision to go out and work with those communities to get people around.
Pat Batcheller: As we talk about opportunities in the Thumb, another candidate said one opportunity that exists in the Thumb is energy. It already has wind farms. Solar energy could be another way to boost economic development in the 10th District. And you have talked about your interest and involvement in climate issues and energy. What other things do you think might benefit the 10th District?
Kimberly Bizon: The windmills in the Thumb area have had challenges. For example, in layman’s terms, Joe has a windmill and all of a sudden, Jim can’t go ahead and build a pole barn. So there’s this space proximity issue going on. So I think that when we talk about windmill farms, that the businesses, DTE, what have you, need to come in and really get the community involved in where they want that windmill. There’s excellent wind up in the Thumb area, so I do support that. A great example of success of a community benefitting from that is Akron-Fairgrove. The school district was failing, and when the tax revenue came in from the wind farms, that generated some income for that area, and so they’re rebuilding that school system. One of the other things that’s exciting is there’s a company called Bee Solar. What they’re doing is bringing in solar panels, but they’re also putting bee hives next to them, too, so that land isn’t just sitting there doing nothing. It’s actually used for multiple purposes. I think that when you really look outside of the box, and start to look at multiple solutions that serve many different areas, I think there’s quite a bit of success up there.
Pat Batcheller: Where do you stand on Proposal 2, which establishes an independent commission to draw Michigan’s political boundaries?
Kimberly Bizon: It needs to be done. Absolutely. So, I completely support Proposal 2.
Pat Batcheller: What concerns, if any, do you have about tariffs and how those might affect farmers in the 10th District?
Kimberly Bizon: The tariffs are affecting the farmers. Also the price of the yield for the corn, what have you. In this particular case, soybeans is the tariff in question. They do get subsidies. But ultimately those subsidies are paid by the taxpayers. So we have a tariff which the American people are paying for. I believe there’s a lot of growth in agriculture up there, farming and things like that. But we have to be careful about the E. coli runoff and the way they’re doing that. Because we are so close to the Great Lakes right there that it just runs off very quickly without any filtration. The other thing I strongly believe, I’d like to write legislation and policy to eliminate oil-based single-use products and exchange them with plant-based. This could open up opportunities for our farmers to not only make more money off of their yields, but to help the bees and the pollination up there. And we could create manufacturing by making those products. So I think there’s some really wonderful opportunity up there in the Thumb for farmers.
Pat Batcheller: I want to ask about the state of politics in America right now, the toxic atmosphere that exists. How would you address that?
Kimberly Bizon: I don’t have a problem talking to Republicans, or anyone. Because we’re able to identify, or I’m able to go ahead and identify, those issues, and I think we agree on different solutions. My father is a staunch Republican, and we still have dinners, so I would say I’m pretty seasoned at that.
Pat Batcheller: So you could work across the aisle if elected?
Kimberly Bizon: Absolutely.
Pat Batcheller: What haven’t we talked about that you’d like to add?
Kimberly Bizon: I really hope that everybody gets out to vote. I believe that every person here has a voice, and I would just say that whoever you vote for right now is going to spin the wheel. Is that person going to go forward, are they going to have enough energy to fight special interests and keep them out of politics, to express transparency, and to really go to fight for people and the people of District 10?