Ellis's responses to written questions:

  1. According to the Courier of February 1, 2006, the annual budget for 2005 was $11,080,927. What are your priorities for spending for 2006?

    Thank you to the Friends of the Library for sponsoring this important event today, which I hope will become a county tradition.

    The questions were written so I wrote out my answers. I will have them on my website, ellisboal.org, by the end of tomorrow. In the give and take of this session, if someone points out I have misstated a fact or overlooked an issue, I will acknowledge that on the site.

    Allocating the budget is something which requires a lot of thought and time. It's not a process amenable to satisfactory answers in a forum like this. The devil is in the details, and every time you add an item in you will have to subtract some other item out.

    In general, the county is in good financial shape. A few months ago an auditor came to the commission and went over the the report. On Thursday I stopped by and spoke with county Treasurer Marilyn Cousineau. She explained Charlevoix is one of the few counties with reserves to cover tax delinquencies without taking out loans.

    I asked why. She said the current commissioners are careful and don't overspend. Later I wondered about that with the various litigations in the last few years. At any rate, my hat is off to them.

    That's not to say I agree with all their decisions. As I wrote in a News-Review guest commentary on October 12, 2004 -- which you can read on my website -- I thought there was political manipulation of the salaries of the prosecutor and the drain commissioner. The prosecutor was cut despite there being a history and precedent of increasing pay even when a new one was elected. And the drain commissioner got only a dollar a year even though she had to spend a day a week in the office at posted times.

    John, Connie, Ellis, at the library forum In talking with various department heads this winter, several said more money in their direction would be a good idea. Only one suggested more money for any project other than their own department. That was Ken Doty of building safety. He said JoAnne Beemon should be paid for her four years as drain commissioner. He gave me a figure. If you want to know what it is, ask him. I thought it was too low, but I want to say this. Ken Doty was the candidate JoAnne Beemon beat to win the drain job. And it thrilled me to know that, despite being opponents, he thought enough of her integrity and work ethic that she should get anything at all. If you want to know my own pet project, that would be it. Pay JoAnne. She was worth it.

  2. What are your specific reasons for running: are there changes you'd like to make in the way the Board does things, or things you'd like to add?

    At a Bay township meeting in 2004 someone congratulated me on having been quoted correctly by the News-Review about something. I don't get that honor this year. In my Courier interview last week it said I said "I got the candidates to agree to use no lawn signs...." Well as we can see driving into town, they didn't agree to anything. What I actually said was "I want the candidates to agree to use no lawn signs...." I called Benjamin the other day. Everyone makes mistakes. He listened to the tape again and will run a correction.

    Why try to not have lawn signs? Yes, they are part of an American tradition. But they impart no information. They say "vote for me" but they don't say why. Forums like this one say why. Websites say why. Postcards and ads say why. Lawn signs are just another blight, and maybe we can get an agreement on this next time around. In the 2000 election in Hawaii, according to a story Signs of the Political Time newspaper story there, 41 candidates statewide pledged not to use lawn signs.

    More generally, why am I running? The first person who gave me the idea was John Jarema, the Republican I ran against for prosecutor in 2004. After he beat me we were together at a commission meeting a few weeks later. Afterward he came over and in front of his supporters, out of nowhere, said "Ellis Boal for county commissioner."

    A couple of weeks ago I was visiting with Sheriff Lasater, and began by saying I was not there to seek his endorsement. Before I could go any further he said "Ellis I really respected the way you ran last year, with no negative campaigning."

    Statements like this give me confidence that I have something to offer. I called them later for permission to repeat what they said. Each said yes.

    What else am I for? Read my ads, or the postcard that went to district voters this week: Protect Charlevoix's natural resources, protect health by limiting smoking, focus on policies not personalities, instant runoff voting ("IRV") to ensure majority elections.

    If there is a question about IRV later, I will explain how it works.

    For this crowd, I think the most important thing I can say to convince you, is that I am a candidate who does his homework.

    If elected, I will maintain the website, and continue to post positions, particularly explaining how I intend to vote or did vote on the major issues at the commission.

    Finally, a word about campaign finances. I have taken in about $2150, and have spent about $1700. The last bit will go for ads in the News-Review the Friday and Monday before the election. I brought all the records with me. Anyone here can look at my contributors and expenses.

  3. Do you believe that the County needs a professional manager or resource person?

    In this campaign I have attended over 40 meetings with various boards and officials. Sixteen of them have been with county department heads and business leaders. The meetings are listed on the schedule page of my site. Only two have declined to meet with me, Eugene Beer of the county transit system, and Connie. John and I did have lunch.

    No one has suggested we need a manager. Plus, we have the anomoly of certain positions being elected, and others just as important being appointed. What would a manager do? Update the salary grid, as some have suggested? Perhaps. Anyway, my position is the same as the other candidates have said publicly, including Josh the defeated incumbent: I will study it and decide later.

  4. What kind of disaster preparedness do you believe is necessary for our county?

    It took awhile for me to figure out why this question was being asked. There hasn't been any local controversy about this. The light went on when I talked to Charlevoix Fire Chief Paul Ivan and the county's Emergency Management Coordinator Jack Messer. Both were quite informative. Katrina has put this question on agendas everywhere. I invited them here this afternoon to answer questions later as a way to raise public awareness.

    Basically as I understood it, a disaster would be any scenario that would overwhelm local resources. State law requires that the county have an emergency plan. Severe winter weather or a lengthy power outage or a chemical spill by a truck would be likely examples. A nuclear issue is thought to be unlikely. Something like a shootout in a public building would not be, because local police could handle it.

    If a disaster involved two or more townships or cities, it would take action by the county commission, and particularly the chairman Vic Patrick, to declare an emergency. Suppose Vic were out of town or himself injured. There is a line of authority under which succeeding commissioners would have power. If it were limited to one township, the supervisor would have authority, and again there would be succeeding lines if he/she were unavailable.

    The point is, it must be an elected official who has authority, because part of the power could be on-the-spot direction to spend county money or resources that normally is required to go through channels to be approved. The end result would be a call to Jack Messer, who would have discretion to decide what resources should be called in from the state, depending on whether the problem was a fire, a chemical spill, or what.

    Various county agencies -- such as the health department, sheriff's department, etc -- have various disaster plans. They are all physically stored at the sheriff's office.

    All this was too complex for me to absorb in the few minutes I was talking to Paul and Jack. Possibly I have misstated something. They did not indicate any problems which in their view need to be addressed. With my present knowledge I do not have the background to offer suggestions or make any criticisms.

  5. Are there specific updates or improvements you'd like to implement in parks, roads, facilities, equipment, etc.?

    As to roads, the Boyne City Road and bike path has been a subject of interest lately. By common agreement the road is dangerous. It makes me wonder if signs shouldn't be put up saying that, or lowering the speed limit, on the theory of openness in government. I talked with Pat Harmon of the road commission about this a couple of times. Boyne City Road is its next project, after they finish with Thumb Lake Road next year. He estimates the money will be there for it in 2009 or 2010.

    What heartened me is Pat brought up the non-motorized bike path idea. There is 99 feet of easement along there, not the usual 66 feet. Except for bottlenecks in two places, Horton Bay and Undine Cemetery, there is room along the entire way from Boyne City to 31. The bottlenecks could be addressed by acquiring easements from the adjoining landowners. Or they could be solved by routing the path between Boyne City and Horton Bay and then straight north to the existing path along 31, which connects Charlevoix and Petoskey. Importantly, he said green vegetation would separate Boyne City Road from the path all the way along.

    The problem for us as commissioners is we will have little to do with that project. The money will be federal and state. Athletic venues like paths are of personal interest to me as a runner. They will encourage neighboring residents to bike to work and shop, thereby saving fuel. They will give tourists something else to do and in case there are not enough already, draw more of them.

    But most of our constituents are not athletes. Instead of a path, they may prefer other things, like more pay for county employees, more space for the building safety department, or more equipment for the road commission, all of which have been mentioned to me. There may be unexpected demands, like litigation settlements. I have told you the things which interest me, but I don't think I can commit until I am sitting in the chair.

  6. What do you visualize for Charlevoix County in terms of future growth, and do you believe it should be controlled more stringently?

    Yes. Without regulation we will foul our own nest.

    Thanks to the voters in Charlevoix Township, next year it won't be Wal-Mart knocking on the door. But it may be Bay Harbor. Big Rock looks like it may end up with the state, and that's good. (Incidentally I believe both John Haggard and JoAnne Beemon worked on that, and it's a good example that when we put our minds to somthing, we can get it done even though we disagree on everything else.) But what if Big Rock, or the plant at Advance, or sometime down the road the cement plant, ends up being acquired by developers. We have to work to get something in place to prevent those places from being raped. We need regulation.

    Why does that matter? The beauty and the natural features of this area are what draw us together and, in an otherwise mobile society, keep us here.

    This leads to the paper I posted on my site and sent to my list on Friday. I have copies here if anyone is interested. It's two pages. Maybe if the other candidates write up some of their thoughts Benjamin can print all three the week before the election. Titled Empty Stores / Lovely Coasts, this piece tries to grapple with the problem of enhancing the local economy while preserving the flavor.

    Back to the quote issue for a moment: The Courier interview says this paper would be about "stimulating" the local economy. I don't recall using the word "stimulate," but if I did I apologize.

    The paper doesn't really come up with a solution. I'm not sure there is a solution. But it mentions approaches that might work (government/business partnerships, citizen action), and others that I don't think do (waiting lists).

    Citizen action is what stopped Wal-Mart, the massive Nestlé water-drilling operation in Mecosta County, and the big sewer that would have gone out to the Charlevoix high school. It's the kind of activity I am familiar with. But I expect to some extent sound governmental policy can stop those kinds of situations from arising in the first place.