Traverse City Record-Eagle

Election 2010

October 16, 2010

Deficits, differences mark GT County contests

TRAVERSE CITY — Continuing budget deficits loom as Grand Traverse County's biggest challenge, county board hopefuls agree, but candidates in three contested races are also highlighting their personality and philosophical differences.

Green Party candidate Tom Mair said incumbent Republican Christine Maxbauer causes "rifts" among the board and staff with her aggressive style, while Republican challenger Ralph Soffredine maintains he's more "tightly wrapped into the community" than incumbent Ross Richardson.

Richardson, the first Democrat to serve on the board in two decades, faces a full-out push by area Republicans to recapture his District 5 seat in the county's only Democratic leaning district.

Soffredine, Traverse City's long-serving former police chief, serves on 13 different boards and commissions since his retirement, including a seat on the Traverse City Commission he'll have to resign if elected.

Richardson forced Soffredine and Garfield Township trustee and Republican activist Molly Agostinelli to resign from the county Department of Social Services Board in 2009 when he discovered they were serving illegally due to their elected positions.

Soffredine at the time referred to Richardson as "lower than a snake" for not coming to him first, but both candidates deny it's created any personal animosity.

"I don't know why Ralph is running, it seems like on most major issues he is following my lead," Richardson said. "I think I've brought an independent voice to the commission that desperately needed one."

But Soffredine said in two years Richardson hasn't led on anything other than a proposal to have the county take over the city senior citizen center, which the two worked on together.

"He's a liberal and I'm a conservative," Soffredine said. "I have more experience than he does in budgeting, government, and knowing this community."

Yet the two candidates agree on several major issues facing the county.

Both are willing to use some fund balance to avoid drastic cuts in services, and favor eliminating drop-off recycling bins but not the rest of the county's recycling services.

Both oppose county funding of the septage plant because it taxes those on sewers and takes away money the county may need to maintain services in the future. They both prefer users pay for the plant, though Soffredine said a loan would be appropriate if the plant could pay it back in the future.

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