TRAVERSE CITY — The Grand Traverse County District 6 incumbent has an opponent who says she’s tired of county council games.
Republican Darryl V. Nelson, in his first term on the board, faces Democrat Amanda Scott for the district that encompasses Whitewater, Union and Fife Lake townships, and parts of Acme townships. and East Bay.
Nelson said there were many reasons to elect him for a second term. He is a longtime business owner in the area and has spent nearly 50 years volunteering for numerous organizations.
“I raised my family here and saw the good, the bad and the ugly,” Nelson said. “I’m at a time in my life where I can give back to the community in a positive way.”
Scott said if elected she would bring her planning, zoning and housing experience to the council. Scott served on the Fife Lake Area Planning Commission for eight years and sits on the GTC Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. A former Leelanau County resident, she served on a housing committee that worked to address the lack of affordable housing.
“I’m sick of the nonsense, I’m sick of the games and I’m going to put people above politics and get back to work,” said Scott, who has also worked with nonprofits in as part of its work with Child & Family Services. .
Mental health services are one of the county’s biggest issues, and in May the county council voted to leave the six-county Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority and create its own.
Nelson said he was not sure leaving the authority, which would dissolve it, was the solution, but services need to be improved. Nelson said he has spoken to members of local law enforcement, Munson Medical Center, several nonprofits and numerous families who say mental health services in the area are inadequate or non-existent.
“We have real holes in the system and this is unacceptable,” he said.
Leaders from the six counties now meet regularly to rewrite the Enabling Agreement that established Northern Lakes some 20 years ago. This agreement has never been updated, despite changes in state law.
“We’ll probably fix the agency we have and give it what it needs to serve those who need mental health services,” Nelson said, although that means the county will have to spend more money.
“I know it’s a heavy burden, but by exploring it and diving deep into it, we’ll find a better answer.”
Scott said she’s also unsure whether the county should form its own mental health authority.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that Northern Lakes needs help,” but as commissioner she would have approached the issue differently, she said.
“I would have brought people to the table rather than willy-nilly get rid of an agency,” Scott said.
Scott said she started and ran mental health programs, especially for young people, through CFS, where she had worked since 2015.
“I know the area and I’m confident I can help with that,” Scott said. “Our children need to stop ending up in the emergency room for days. It’s not acceptable.
Nelson said the lack of affordable housing is a problem for all thriving communities around the world. The overall solution to the housing problem is inventory and there are things the county can do, he said.
“The county isn’t the ultimate solution, but we need to do what we can to create an inventory,” Nelson said.
That means considering giving developers tax breaks as incentives to build, he said. The county should also support the efforts of local, state, and regional housing authorities and nonprofit organizations; and should work with townships to create zoning that accommodates high-density housing.
The county is also expected to spend some of its $18 million in American Rescue Plan Act money to partner with select townships on water and sewer infrastructure for housing estates. It’s a huge expense for developers and could be used as a compromise deal for affordable housing, Nelson said.
“We need to work with partners to achieve this,” he said.
Scott said housing is her biggest issue and she has several ideas to address the lack of affordable housing for county residents. The county also needs a planning commission, she said, and should access the tools it already has, such as the Land Bank and the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.
A third of ARPA money should be spent in partnership with agencies like Networks Northwest, Home Stretch and Habitat for Humanity, she said.
“We have to get out of their way so they can do their good job,” Scott said.