1.  The 2015 U.S. Census population estimate for Meridian Township was 42,191. In your opinion, what would be an ideal population size for the township?


Styka:  40,000 – 45,000


Dreyfus:  45,000—Growth should be reasonable and diverse. Nearly 2,000 students (MSU) have been added in three years. Not Good!

Mankowski: Our population will continue to change over time. We need to make sure we keep our community attractive to young people or we will begin to lose population as an inner suburb.


DeGroff:  Can’t give specific number but thinks there is potential for growth if it’s done in a smart way which protects existing neighborhoods and green spaces.

Jackson:  I cannot say, but I think an ideal population target can be estimated based on the land use standards, plans and community expectations for quality of life as described in the community’s Master Plan.

Sundland:  We do not need to be increasing the population, some increase will happen on its own.

Veenstra:  Prefers fewer but says realistically the population will become 44,000 with currently approved projects.

2.  Of the currently proposed options for the Urban Services Boundary, should the area where new development is allowed include more or less of the township? What is your vision for the eastern portion of the township?


Styka:  Favors a compromise between the last proposal of the Board and that of the Planning Com- mission. The USB should preserve the rural character of the eastern portion of the township.


Dreyfus:  I have been a strong, outspoken advocate for an urban services management area, and serve on the USMA subcommittee of the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.

Mankowski: I think our residents like the eastern part of Meridian to be rural. I would need to know more about the boundary to have an opinion because my understanding is the options are very similar.


DeGroff:  Less. Drawing the USB further west will protect green space and encourage infill in already developed areas.

Jackson:  The USB is not intended to forbid development in the eastern 1/3 of the township but, rather, to define and direct the kind of development requiring public service resources to that part of the community that already has those resources, making growth less expensive for the township and slowing urban sprawl. I think the roughly, 1/3rd of the Township, where development is already sparse and urban services have not yet been extended, is a good starting point and allows us to retain a broader range of residential options for a longer time.

Sundland:  The eastern portion should be kept more rural.

Veenstra:  Less. Keep the eastern third semi-rural.

3.  How would you go about preserving open spaces and preventing over-crowding within the urban services boundary?


Styka: Believes in smart growth principles and would apply them to all of the township, including within the USB. Appropriate development includes infill and requires that open and green spaces be maintained and expanded in the western portion of the township wherever possible.


Dreyfus:  1) Eliminate two huge loopholes in the MUPUD ordinance involving the inclusion of commercial property in the site proposal (causing huge density increases), and 2) the definition of dwelling unit as it relates to the number of bedrooms vs. being considered a "unit".  The difference is very significant if a single dwelling unit consists of one bedroom or four bedrooms.

Mankowski: We need to make good decisions and follow the guidelines in our Master Plan.


DeGroff:  Land preservation programs and the park system are key tools for preserving green spaces. Over-crowding can be prevented by the board’s discretion on a project-by-project basis.

Jackson:  Supports continuation of the Land Preservation program and continued promotion of development strategies, like PUD’s, that encourage and reward more environmentally sensitive development.

Sundland:  The board should work with the Master Plan being developed and make sure that development is compatible with it.

Veenstra:  The board must require open space and not approve projects that are too dense especially when considering MUPUD projects.

4.  The board-approved Brownfield reclamation projects, Douglas J in downtown Okemos, Shaw’s Triangle on Saginaw, and the Square on Grand River, have or would have allowed developers to use millions of future tax dollars for development purposes greatly beyond the actual cost of contamination cleanup. How did you vote or how would you have voted on these projects?


Styka:  Voted against the Square. Was not on the board for the other two but says, from what he has  learned, he would have opposed the Shaw Triangle at the level requested and voted to approve  the Douglas J request.


Dreyfus:  I vote against TIF’s, such as brownfield “tax credits”, due to the unethical/immoral transfer of public tax dollars to individuals and the private sector. Risk is taken on by the township rather than by the real estate speculator.

Mankowski: I didn't vote on any of these projects. Brownfield's help clean up the environment. I care about the environment. I would look at each project before me and judge it on the merits.


DeGroff:  In general, not in favor of public money going into private projects.

Jackson: Voted for these projects at the Planning Commission.   Future tax deferments should be based on comparisons of costs to anticipated long-term benefits to the township.

Sundland:  Brownfield credits should be utilized for environmental clean-up only. We need to be conservative when considering approval of such projects.

Veenstra:  Opposed Brownfield tax credits for all of the above.

5.  Do you believe that our current property tax structure guarantees that all developments bear their fair share of costs for public services received or are these costs disproportionately born by residential property owners?  And if there is a discrepancy, how might this be corrected?


Styka:  State law and administrative and judicial decisions have allowed some businesses to escape  paying their fair share of taxes. Both residents and businesses need to pay taxes commensurate  with the services received, such as street, police and fire.


Dreyfus:  Some developers should pay a ‘bond’ that covers unexpected problems/costs such as vacant stores with the sign removed, road issues, etc.

Mankowski: One thing is the streets aren't getting the work they need with our current tax structure. I would work to help make sure roads are a priority. We also need to make sure police and fire/EMS services remain top notch. We live in a safe community and we are aging and need to have good response times for emergencies.


DeGroff:  Residents and businesses alike need to pay for services. Opposes handouts and carve-outs for business and is in favor of rescinding any that exist.

Jackson:  State tax courts have made rulings that reduce the taxable value of certain commercial properties. The problem can only be corrected by legislative action which returns property values to levels that are more fair to communities.

Sundland:  Believes that residential property owners are probably paying disproportionally for the costs of public services. We need to change laws to fix the problem.

Veenstra:  The state’s “dark store” values for property tax assessments are nonsense and must be over turned by the courts or the legislature.

6.  Many in the township view the expensive $143,000,000 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal for Grand River Ave. as unnecessary and believe it will create more traffic congestion, harm businesses on Grand River, decrease travel time from Lansing to the Mall by only a few minutes, and make it more difficult for bus users by cutting the number of stops nearly in half. What is your opinion and would you vote to rescind the township board’s letter of support for the project?


Styka:  States he has all the concerns listed in the question and is opposed to the BRT proposal as  currently configured. However, he strongly supports public transportation as it is good for the  environment and people in the township who cannot or do not wish to use automobiles. Is  hopeful that a supportable proposal will surface from CATA in the future.


Dreyfus:  I specifically got the BRT placed on the June 21 board meeting agenda! I am opposed to the current plan.

Mankowski: One of the first things I noticed when I first became a police officer in Meridian Township was the children and families in need. I have worked very closely with the working poor in the Township and know firsthand how many Meridian Township residents are totally dependent on CATA. I have not studied the proposal in detail but as a small business owner, I also understand there are concerns that businesses have stated. We should work to see if the concerns can be addressed. I hope to learn more about this project.


DeGroff:  Generally supportive of public transit. However, the BRT is not the project he would initiate and hopes it can still be improved to address major concerns.

Jackson:  Sees the BRT as a long-range benefit to the township and region. Has not read letter of support, but hopes it allows for township input into how the BRT will be implemented.

Sundland:  Does not support the BRT. Believes that it is bad for businesses and that riders using it will be vulnerable to being hit by cars.

Veenstra:  Opposes it and voted against the board’s letter of support which passed 4-3.

7.  Do you support placing on the November ballot a reauthorization of the 0.2 mil for expanded Redi Ride transportation services within the township that would also require competitive bidding for service providers and eliminate the CATA monopoly?


Styka:  States that Redi Ride is an essential service for many Meridian residents. But, because he is on  the board’s citizen committee reviewing the Redi Ride program, believes it would be improper  to give an opinion on the question until the committee’s work is concluded.


Dreyfus:  Yes! CATA should not be a sole-source “vendor”.  Perhaps a Red-Ride taxi service for Township residents could be more cost-effective and more customer-centric.

Mankowski: The millage doesn't expire until 2018. When the millage expires, I would listen to debate and gather information on the topic. Our residents love Redi-Ride and I'm not a big fan of privatizing public services. I don't think anybody wants to take away resident's Redi-Ride.


DeGroff:  Absolutely.

Jackson:  Reauthorization and redesign of how the Redi Ride program is implemented should only occur after the current usefulness of the program is reviewed and clarified and the need for changes supported by evidence of inefficiency or ineffectiveness. Did not address the competitive bidding issue.

Sundland:  Yes. Bidding for Redi Ride services should be more competitive.

Veenstra:  Yes.

8.  Is it an ethical conflict of interest for a CATA director to sit on the township’s Redi Ride Review Committee and vote to recommend a contract between CATA and the township?


Styka:  The township attorney has opined there is no conflict of interest. However, the board’s  representative to CATA should seek out and express the opinion of the majority of the board.


Dreyfus:  I called out this issue several times in 2016 during board discussion. The board’s CATA representative appears to be representing CATA and not Meridian Township.

Mankowski: No. It seems very reasonable if you have a review committee for Redi-Ride that CATA will be actively involved in the review since they are providing the service. They are open meetings.


DeGroff:  Absolutely.

Jackson:  “At this time I am not clear enough on the roles and responsibilities of these two bodies. I do not know enough to address this question appropriately.”

Sundland:  Yes, it is a conflict of interest.

Veenstra:  Yes.

9.  What can be done to fill the vacant stores in neighborhood commercial areas such as in Haslett and Carriage Hills?


Styka:  Township needs to be more aggressive in filling vacant buildings and one way would be to hire an outside expert to market these properties. It is important that township residents have needed  commercial establishments with walking distance of their residences.


Dreyfus:  An ecologically-sensitive, size-appropriate MUPUD could work. MSU students designed a number of potential projects that could revitalize the area.

Mankowski: The first thing that can be done is to treat people who want to do business with the board with respect. There has been a lack of civility and professionalism that I intend to change if elected Clerk. Carriage Hills is doing a lot better now that Spartan Dance has moved in. Haslett and Okemos still need help. I hope to project a more positive image for the Township regarding small independent businesses, since I own one.


DeGroff:  A difficult problem and, unfortunately, there is little the township can do to formally locate businesses but supports outreach to the owners to encourage a more active role.

Jackson:  Township can promote pedestrian friendly infrastructure, sidewalks, pathways, trails and a mixture of housing, transportation and recreation options in all commercial areas to attract a resident mixture that could adequately support businesses and services in these areas.

Sundland:  Meridian Township could be more proactive in approaching owners and potential renters.

Veenstra:  The township has a full time staff person working to retain and recruit businesses, but ultimately we only have businesses that choose to come here.

10. Should the township require renewable energy installations (such as solar paneling) on township property? Should the township buy more than the ten solar panels it has already purchased from the Board of Water & Light at its array on Park Lake Road?


Styka:  Supports expanding use of solar and other energy efficiencies on township properties.  The township should invest in more solar panels in arrays created by local utilities.


Dreyfus:  I placed “solar pilot project on township building” as a board goal for 2016. I support purchasing panels—beyond the mere ten we are committed to buying.

Mankowski: It's good that we are supporting solar energy. I care about the environment and also about managing money in a common sense manner for the Township. Alternative energy can save money and should be considered. The township should do more to require energy savings in its buildings. Lights should be turned off, printers and office equipment shut down at night. Many times the little things can really add up.


DeGroff:  Yes, and yes.

Jackson:  Township should seek and develop efficient, effective alternative energy generation on township property. Not familiar with the current BWL project.

Sundland:  Yes, it should be encouraged. Yes, if the budget allows—need to study long term cost savings.

Veenstra:  Yes, and yes. The township should also require solar panels on new private buildings such as Costco.

11. Utility companies are supporting legislation to cut back net metering credits for homeowners, institutions, and businesses that install their own renewable energy systems. Should the township board take a position on this issue and, if so, what should it be?


Styka:  Yes. The township should oppose reductions in metering credits and advise the legislature and congress of that fact.


Dreyfus:  I 100% support net metering credits.

Mankowski: I would have to learn more about the legislation that is being proposed before I could have an opinion. I care about the environment and if elected Clerk would certainly put into effect in my own office energy saving ideas as simple as turning off the lights when I am not in my office.


DeGroff:  The township should be an advocate and oppose cut backs in net metering credits.

Jackson:  States that the township should take positions on legislation to protect the interests of its residents but doesn’t say what those positions should be.

Sundland:  Yes, homeowners should get net metering credits.

Veenstra:  The township should oppose the utility backed legislation to cut back net metering credits.

12. What can be done to improve the Meridian Farmers Market or otherwise support farm to table efforts to bring produce from area growers directly to consumers?


Styka:  A new location with more parking and more space for vendors will improve the Market. The Market needs to remain a priority for Meridian.


Dreyfus:  Not sure—I totally support CSA (community supported agriculture) and am open to ideas from knowledgeable people in this area.

Mankowski: As a vendor at the Farmer's Market (45th Parallel Pickles) I know the popularity of the Farmers' Market and think it should be moved over to Meridian Mall. We would have more room for vendors and customers at the Mall. I'm excited to help put this plan into action.


DeGroff:  Would like to see the Farmers Market in a more accessible location where it can benefit from some synergy with nearby businesses and homes.

Jackson:  It could benefit from a different location with fewer parking limitations and better pedestrian circulation patterns. A larger facility allowing for a year round market would be desirable.

Sundland:  Adjust days and hours to meet the needs of working families who can only attend after work.

Veenstra:  A problem is that only half the vendors at the Farmers Market sell local products. The township plans to construct a new market in the Meridian Mall parking lot.

13. With the population becoming older, is there anything the township can do to provide more or better housing, transportation, recreational and/or health facilities for seniors?


Styka:  The senior population of Meridian is growing. We must follow smart growth principles and use zoning and planning tools make grocers and services convenient for these residents.


Dreyfus: The Meridian Senior Center is an excellent resource. Convening a town hall meeting that focuses on senior issues/concerns is a starting point.

Mankowski: Perhaps we should consider locating senior housing within use of major transit so that our seniors have some easier options besides their cars. We should work with the planning commission to incorporate this into our Master Plan.


DeGroff:  On a project by project basis the board should encourage projects to include affordable and accessible units.

Jackson: Completion of the Master Plan and the updating of zoning ordinances and development standards could encourage smaller, more affordable housing and provide a greater variety of housing, transportation and recreation options.

Sundland:  Yes. In general, give more approval to facilities that benefit seniors.

Veenstra:  We should require more affordable housing and increase the 20,000 rides a year on Redi-Ride by at least 50%.

14. What would you advocate as measures to improve staff accountability and prevent instances of discretionary over-regulation in the township?


Styka:  The current manager does an excellent job of keeping township employees accountable.  I believe, with direction from the supervisor, that will continue to be the case.


Dreyfus:  Better board oversight of township manager performance. Current board provides virtually no oversight regardless of the annual performance review.

Mankowski: One thing missing is elected officials accountability. If elected Clerk, you can count on me to work. We need common sense laws that are easy to follow and make sense.


DeGroff:  These are long-term aspects of organizational culture and best way to tackle them is through exercise of board discretion when opportunities arise.

Jackson:  The board, management, staff and community should reaffirm the principles of the adopted “Policy Governance” system. If it is no longer supported by the current board, it should be changed to one the board and management can agree on.

Sundland:  Less regulation, especially where there are neighborhood associations that can monitor potential problems in the neighborhood.

Veenstra:  The board must be strong and think and act independently. The board must refuse to pass unreasonable ordinances such as requiring a $500 bond for a 19 year old to mow lawns.

15. As an elected official, how would you describe your greatest strengths and what would be your primary objectives in office?


Styka:  I believe I am the best candidate for this position for three primary reasons—my experience, skills, and temperament. Experience: I am an attorney with 40 years as an assistant attorney general, advising state boards, commissions, and departments.  I served 22 years on the Okemos School Board resolving budget and public management issues.  I have served for 4 years as a township trustee.  Skills:  I know how to analyze an issue, research it, and come up with a reasonable solution in the public interest.  Also, I know how to run a meeting.  And, I understand municipal law and governance.  Temperament:  I have shown that I can work together with others to develop consensus on issues.  I have shown that I can help others come to agreement without rancor.  In addition to the matters discussed in Question 16, my objective is to help the Board function effectively and with decorum.  I want to help the Board earn respect from township citizens, township staff, and other governmental officials.


Dreyfus:  An independent, fearless voice that represents a huge variety of viewpoints and perspectives. Sometimes I stand alone in my strong environmental ethics and am outvoted 6-1 (or 5-2).

Mankowski: My greatest strength is my work ethic. My primary objective would be to run an effective, efficient accountable office. I'll protect the integrity of the elections and records for the Township, just as carefully as I protected the residents while I was a police officer for 25 years for the Township.


DeGroff:  My greatest strengths are my ability to quickly process the great amount of information the board deals with, and my ability to build consensus.

Jackson:  My strengths lie in my ability and willingness to listen and learn from others and operate best in an environment of mutual respect and consideration. I am personally committed to openness and transparency in government.

Sundland:  Excellent research skills gained from my employment by the State of Michigan. New ideas because I am new to local government.

Veenstra:  I have experience, listen to people, read carefully, ask questions, think for myself, and try to have common sense prevail.

16. Are there any other issues you would like to comment on?


Styka:  He intends to stress “One Meridian” where all residents and businesses receive the same  attention from township government regardless of post office or school district. “The township  needs to foster its own unique identity, as a community of choice.” Priorities are: (1) Maintain  the good qualities of the township through efficient use of township resources. (2) Work to  maintain the “green” qualities of the township, including its parks, preserves, and the rural  eastern portion. (3) Have the township carefully examine its budget and find funds within the  current budget to improve township streets. (4) Seek out appropriate development for the three  core areas of the township that are in particular need of improvement—the Haslett Village  Square area, downtown Okemos, and the Carriage Hills area.


Dreyfus:  My signature line (on all official communication): “Building an environmentally and economically sustainable community”.  I am honored to serve as the Meridian Township Clerk.  During my first term in office, I completed a 3 year program called the Clerk's Institute, sponsored through Central Michigan University.  Upon graduation, I attained the professional designation Certified Michigan Municipal Clerk.  As Clerk, I am responsible for administering all elections within the Township, maintaining Township records as well as preparing minutes of various public meetings.  I am accredited by the State of Michigan as an Election Administrator, and successfully conducted 8 elections since my term of office began.  All townships in Michigan undergo random quality control audits conducted by the County Clerk’s office.  We’ve passed two audits since I've taken office.  In the next four years, I would like to advocate for no-reason absentee voting in Michigan, improve voter flow at some of our busier polling locations, and help implement new voting technologies which will be introduced statewide starting in 2017.  As a Board member, I am involved in all the day-to-day decisions that affect our community.  I strongly support neighborhood quality-of-life, which means wise land use decisions, preventing urban sprawl and destruction of greenspace and natural areas, and protecting residents from excessive noise and traffic.  I support our first-class police, fire and ambulance services, and strongly support our schools, parks and pathways, and library services.  I also prioritize repaving our deteriorating roads.

Mankowski: I promise to donate 10% of my take home pay to the Community Needs Fund and the Children's Holiday Party because I believe in giving back to my community. I've raised over $100,000 for the Children's Holiday Party and I remain committed to helping meet the many needs that exist in our community. We must consider all of our residents in our decision making and work to make Meridian a better place for everyone.


DeGroff:  Our board is plagued with personality conflicts. Our board members need to realize they don’t get to choose the board, the people of Meridian Township do. It’s the board’s responsibility to work with whoever the people choose, and work together in a positive and professional manner.

Jackson:  None listed.

Sundland:  The Costco project is one that I am really undecided on at this time.

Veenstra:  We must make sure Costco follows reasonable requirements--i.e. pay their property taxes and not get millions in Brownfield money. We must make sure that the Meridian police do not harass people.

Meridian Citizens for a Sustainable Community sent a questionnaire to candidates in contested primary races asking for their opinions on a variety of topics of interest to Meridian Township voters.  Responses received to date are posted below.  Additional responses will be added as they are received.  LINC is making this information available for the purposes of allowing voters to be informed on the issues and opinions of the candidates.  LINC makes no endorsements of particular candidates and the views expressed are those of the candidates and are not those of LINC or its Board of Directors.