HANCOCK - Candidates for various local and state offices met Friday in the auditorium of Hancock Middle School to answer questions about issues affecting children and what they would do about those issues if elected.
The Candidates Forum on Children's Issues and voter registration fair was presented by the Superior Child Abuse Prevention Council, Copper Country Human Services Coordinating Body, Copper Country Great Start Collaborative and the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country.
Among those taking part in the forum were: Scott Dianda, candidate for the 110th State Representative District, current state Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine; Pam Dobbs, candidate for Houghton County prosecuting attorney, current Houghton County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Makinen.
Daily Mining Gazette/Kurt Hauglie
Scott Dianda, middle, candidate for the 110th State Representative District, and current State Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, listen to a question from Jill Burkland of the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country Friday during a Candidates Forum on Children’s Issues at the Hancock Middle School auditorium.
Here are some of the questions presented to Dianda and Huuki:
Q: What life experiences have you had, which you think can help you perform the job of state representative?
Dianda: "The decisions in my life have been made in K-12 education."
Dianda said his education at the Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw were influential, particularly a business class he took there.
"That really prepared me from the business end."
Dianda said it's important vocational education classes be part of public education.
Huuki: Huuki said family has been very important for him, both as he was growing up and with his own family.
"I've come from a very loving family."
Huuki said the looming debt the state faces and the state budget crisis are negatively affecting families. He's been working in Lansing to address those issues.
"What I've seen is how we can structure that debt so we don't pass it on to our children."
Faith is an important feature for him, too, Huuki said.
"I will support policies and I have supported policies that protect that."
Q: What can the Legislature do to make certain all children have adequate health insurance?
Huuki: He said he has worked to protect Medicaid and Medicare.
"We've held both those budgets harmless."
The MiChild and Blue Cross/ Blue Shield are important for providing children with health insurance, also, he said.
"We are doing everything we can to protect children. It's a long-term investment."
Dianda: "We need to fund the situation well. We're not doing that now."
Funding has been taken from programs which help children and placed elsewhere, Dianda said.
"It's been rerouted to corporate welfare."
Q: Do you think the Earned Income Credit and other tax credits for children should be eliminated to help balance the budget?
Dianda: "You cannot take the funding from our families. That's making things worse for everything in their lives."
Huuki: When he came to office, the Legislature was working on the fiscal crisis the state was facing.
"We decided to make our budget as efficient as possible."
One of the issues addressed was the EIC.
"You're taking from one person and giving to another."
Q: Do you think some sort of evaluation of the progress of home schooled children be required?
Dianda: "Yes I do, or else we fail them. I feel we need a guide in there to make sure someone is qualified to teach."
Huuki: "I very strongly support home schooling."
Parents need to be given more power to help their home schooled children, Huuki said. He also supports cyber schooling.
"I think cyber schools are a great mix."
Here are some of the questions presented to the Houghton County prosecuting attorney candidates:
Q: Many local youth say there is nothing for them to do, which is why some of them abuse drugs and alcohol. Do you agree with that assessment, and if so what can be done about it?
Dobbs: "This is a universal problem. Anywhere you go, the youths say they have nothing to do and they're bored."
There is always something to do, Dobbs said.
"This community cares about their children. We need to work together in a coordinated effort."
Makinen: "I do not agree with the youth. There was a lot less to do when I was young. I think what you're hearing is that youth don't feel valued."
Q: What can be done to reduce incidences of child abuse?
Makinen: "Fund the programs we have and get more programs. Everybody is underfunded, and that comes from Lansing."
Rehabilitation is required for youthful offenders, and rehabilitation of child abusers is needed, also, he said.
"With child abuse, it's the same thing."
Dobbs: Drug and alcohol abuse are a factor in child abuse cases, Dobbs said.
"There's an absence of programs in the area. I think we need to be looking at grant funding."
Q: Should sentences be reduced and should there be an increase in rehabilitation for offenders under 17 years old?
Makinen: "We're doing that on a regular basis now. The prosecutors office is making a case by case evaluation."
Dobbs: "Everything we do in a juvenile case in any crime is rehabilitation. As a child gets older, there's a temptation to put a more punishment aspect in it, but they're still children."
Also taking part in the forum were: Houghton County Treasurer Kathleen Beattie, Linda Pizzi, candidate for Houghton County Treasurer Linda Pizzi; Houghton County Commissioner District 1 candidate Rick Kasprzak, Current Houghton County Commissioner District 3 Anton Pintar, Bill Manderfield, candidate for Houghton County Commission District 3, Houghton County Commission District 5 candidates, current commissioner Tim Palosarri and Judith Rupley.