An MCCC student-organized political information forum was held on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
The event was created so students, many of whom will be voting in their first major election, could talk to candidates face-to-face.
The event was put together by MCCC Political Science students Grayson Bacarella, Justin Keck, Drew Lorenzo, Tyler Lambert and Angela Carter, who was also the group leader. Everything from contacting the candidates to securing the balloons (which were donated by North Monroe Floral Boutique) was done by the students.
There were representatives from the Democratic and Republican parties, the city fire millage, the college millage, the Board of Trustees, as well as both sheriff candidates.
“We created this forum in an effort to get the word out,” Carter said. “In a large setting, it can be intimidating to ask a question. We have it set up so that anyone can come here and speak to the candidates face-to-face.”
The importance of being informed was echoed by both the student organizers as well as many of the candidates and their representatives.
“Forums like this are important because students get to learn their candidate’s positions,” Lorenzo said.
Erin Bozec, who represented Democratic nominee for Congress Gretchen Driskell, spoke on the importance of voters educating themselves.
“Get involved and vote. Do your best to learn about your candidates and representatives,” Bozec said.
For those who could not attend the event, many of the candidates and their reps spoke candidly in regards to what students can do to ensure that they are getting the most out of the election process.
“Ballots have two sides. It’s important that you learn about the judges,” said Ernie Whiteside, a representative for the Democratic Party.
“People think that judges rule without political bias, and often that is not the case. It’s important to look at the non-partisan candidates. Political biases from the bench are a big problem,” Whiteside said.
Many of the tables were manned by students. Alexa Angel was at the event in support of Joe Bellino, Republican nominee for the 17th District Michigan House seat.
“I work for Mr. Bellino and can attest that he is nice, respectful, and loves people,” Angel said.
She went on to say students should vote for Bellino because education and working in the best interest of students are among his top priorities.
Niko Mantas, an MCCC student, encouraged fellow students to support Gretchen Driskell.
“She has a more local perspective on issues as well as new and creative ideas to take with her to Washington,” Mantas said. “Finding jobs for Monroe County and keeping them here are a top priority of hers.”
Both of the candidates running for sheriff addressed the heroin epidemic, an issue that either directly or indirectly affects many MCCC students.
Dave Uhl is the Republican nominee for sheriff. He spoke on how law enforcement cannot arrest their way out of this problem, and that combatting the issue requires community involvement.
“The wall between the Sheriff’s Department and the community needs to be taken down,” Uhl said.
As sheriff, he would like to implement a county wide VIPS, or Volunteers in Police Service program, where members of the community volunteer their time and skills to the police force.
“We need to think outside the box,” Uhl said.
Dale Malone is the current sheriff of Monroe County. A Democrat, he is running for re-election. Due to his current schedule, Sheriff Malone could not stay for the entire forum. In his absence, he was represented by Major Troy Goodnough, director of Jail Operations.
Goodnough also agreed that the heroin problem was not something that could be stopped by the sheriff’s office alone.
“We can’t police our way out of this problem,” Goodnough said.
Goodnough went on to list the ways in which the problem is being tackled, such as keeping Narcan — an antidote for opium overdoses — in every police car.
“We’ve partnered with Community Mental Health to monitor all addicts who are dual diagnosed with mental illness, and we’re providing addicts with treatment options as opposed to jail time,” Goodnough said.
Regardless of how students decide to vote, encouraging them to get to their polling location and cast a ballot on Nov. 8 remains an important focus.
“Your voice is going to be heard,” Carter said.