|Charles Dittmar has been a senior environmental scientist with ARCADIS for the last 4.5 years. A graduate of Eastern Michigan University with a bachelor’s and master’s degree, Dittmar served on the Huron Valley Schools Board of Education from 2004 to 2012 and as an advisor to Fire Explorer Post No. 28 in Highland Township. He and his wife have two daughters.|
Ten candidates — Mary Pat Chynoweth, Charles Dittmar, Jim Gorman, Brenda Granroth, Brian Howe, Bob Husic, Joe Jozwiak, Beth Lewis, Raymond P. Polidori and Russ Tierney — are competing for one of four trustee positions on the Highland Township Board of Trustees in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 Republican primary election. Since no Democrats filed to run for a trustee position on the township board, the top four vote-getters will each earn a four-year term that pays a base annual salary of $5,531.
The following are questions we posed to Dittmar, and his responses to those questions.
BUDGET: All municipal governments in Michigan have faced difficult budget scenarios over the past few years, as declines in property values have produced a revenue stream that can’t keep up with various rising costs. What changes in township budgeting priorities or processes do you advocate to deal with these hurdles? Where could the township’s budget be trimmed back? What, if anything, in the budget should be held harmless from the budget ax?
DITTMAR: The township has maintained a balanced budget, but needs to find areas to trim more to find money to help grow the community. Cutting the budget as (the) only approach leads to cutting yourself out of existence. I would ask the treasurer and (township) board to move toward “zero-based” budgeting for all areas, and have staff justify the level of funding needed from zero, and not just based on previous spending levels. We also need to be firm on collection of fees and fines — not to be overbearing, but as a normal matter of township business.
DEVELOPMENT: Some in the community are striving to preserve the township’s rural character while others are yearning for more business development in Highland. Is there a way that Highland can maintain its rural ethos while attracting new business and development? If so, how? If not, why not?
DITTMAR: Yes, we can strike the balance between maintaining our rural character and helping grow business. This can be done by having clear, understandable zoning ordinances and construction codes that restrict unwanted development, but provide for businesses to come into the community and be successful. It is about having the community’s preferred types of development in the right places, and to know this we need to first develop a community sense of what we want the future of Highland to be.
PUBLIC SAFETY: Highland voters are being asked to authorize a two-year, 0.75-mill increase in local property taxes to continue providing for police services in the township, with the increased revenue generated in the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) District being disbursed to the DDA. Please explain why you do or don’t support the ballot question.
DITTMAR: I am in support of the additional (Oakland County) Sheriff’s (Department) positions and the temporary supplemental millage — because it is temporary. Taxable values in the township have reduced to a point where additional money is needed to regain prior staffing levels and provide more local service to the community. We need to work to move property values higher so the millage rate can be reduced in the future.
PATHWAYS: The township is considering a master plan for future non-motorized paths in the community, after about a year of work. Please state why you do or don’t believe embarking on future path projects should be a priority in the township.
DITTMAR: I believe the township should continue its work on the Non-Motorized Pathways Master Plan. These types of pathways would be a big benefit for the community by providing places for the community to safely bike and walk without fighting for space on the roadways. The master plan for the paths should be tied into DDA plans for sidewalks and other improvements, and the overall township master plan.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
DITTMAR: No. 1, growing small business. No. 2, future use of Highland Middle School. No. 3, strengthening the sense of community. As a trustee, I would work with the supervisor to ensure that township government helps businesses navigate the process of “setting up shop” to support getting themselves up and running. Township board members should also be actively engaged in promoting Highland to show business they are supported and help attract new businesses. The future use of (Highland Middle School) property will be a pressing issue because the school board has set a deadline of March 31, 2013, for the township to make an offer. I would help to develop a creative offer that includes little-to-no cash outlay, and keeps this building and property for community use. I will help build our sense of community by working to create unique social gathering events, and partner with our neighboring communities to help each other grow.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponents?
DITTMAR: I have the experience working as a trustee on the Huron Valley School Board for 8 years, and understand how government should work for the benefit of the community. As my (district) board tenure shows, I approach decisions on a factual basis, evaluating the information and options provided, and do my own research to gain a better understanding of the issues at hand. In my professional life, I develop creative solutions to environmental issues for clients to keep them in compliance, and keep up to date with federal, state and local laws. I also work with clients and municipalities in property redevelopment. I am a good listener and independent thinker. I understand the balance needed between protecting the interests of the community and promoting cooperation between the township, businesses, and the community. I believe these attributes and experiences suit me well to serve as a township trustee.