July 8, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Farmington Hills residents take on mayor in 37th District race for Michigan House

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Three Oakland County Democrats are vying to replace an outgoing Democratic state House incumbent in the Farmington area.

The 37th District seat — which covers Farmington and Farmington Hills — is being vacated by Rep. Vicki Barnett, who is term-limited and now seeking a state Senate seat.

The candidates are Farmington Hills residents Theresa Rich, Christine Greig and city Mayor Barry Brickner. The winner will challenge either Richard Lerner and Julie Grippo, who are facing off for the Republican nomination on Aug. 5.

Rich, 53, is running because she was raised by parents who taught her that “it was the role of everyone to do more than go to work and go home at the end of the day.”

While employed at General Motors for 30 years, she has been a community activist and mother who has earned two law degrees and a doctoral degree.

“With that experience — working mom, community activist — I really can’t sit back and watch as I see harm being done to our seniors, middle-class families and our kids,” said Rich, who is endorsed by the United Auto Workers Region 1 and is GM’s senior manager of global learning.

Rich says the state’s pension tax and a reduction in the state’s homestead property tax break hurt families. Not only are many senior citizens affected, but those close to retirement are going to stay in the workforce longer and take away opportunities from young graduates, so they have to leave the state, Rich said.

“We need to take a look at the entirety of our tax system right now. Our tax system is skewed in favor of corporate special interests and against our citizens,” she said.

As a tax attorney for GM for 10 years, Rich said she is the candidate best qualified to find ways to overhaul the state tax system.

“We need to start building again,” Rich said. “Tax cutting our way to prosperity is not working. After 30 years, we need to call it a failed experiment.”

Brickner said he is running because he has served Farmington Hills for 15 years, first as a councilman and now as mayor. And he has been a general practice attorney for 37 years.

“I have been passing ordinances, worked with members of government all up and down the line, from county to state to federal officials, representing Farmington Hills and making sure things run smoothly,” said Brickner, who is endorsed by Barnett and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters.

Among Brickner’s top priorities are the roads.

“The roads need to be fixed no matter what the House (GOP) majority thinks,” Brickner said. “People are willing to pay more money. They say it’s cheaper to fix the roads than to fix their cars.”

Brickner is also concerned about having adequate funding for public schools.

“They have been whittling away at the funds,” Brickner said. “It’s harming our students and that should be a main priority.”

He also plans to work to change the state’s taxing policies, which reduces taxes for businesses in a hope they will create jobs for people who will pay income, sales and other taxes.

“If you really look at the whole situation we are losing our college-educated people,” Brickner said. “They are moving to Chicago, LA, Portland, New York. ... You can’t expect businesses to come into the state if we can’t keep our own people.”

Greig, 51, said she is running to bring balance back to Michigan.

“I feel we’ve swung way too far in supporting businesses, and not balancing that with policies for our citizens and community,” said Greig, who founded and became the first executive director of the Farmington/Farmington Hills Education Foundation to support innovative learning in the public school district.

“We’ve taxed seniors, eliminated (some of) the earned income tax credit and given massive corporate tax breaks,” Greig continued. “We’ve cut our schools, our communities. It’s time to get balance back in our policies.”

If elected, she said she would streamline tax polices to meet the state’s needs.

The state’s infrastructure — roads, bridges, a coordinated water system, regional transportation — need attention, Greig said.

“You have to look at the big picture and plan,” she said, vowing to use her business background as a small business technology consultant to help her prioritize. “Then look at: How can we pay for it, when can we pay for it? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of long-range planning going on in the state.”

Greig also argues public education needs improvement, from putting a cap on the number of charter public schools and making them financially accountable to adequately funding K-12 schools and higher education.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com

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