|Doug Bourgeois has been a Highland Township firefighter for the past 16 years, and is currently the township Fire Department’s fire marshal. He has been the owner and operator of a martial arts business for the past 25 years.|
Doug Bourgeois and Steven K. Velasco are competing in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 Democratic primary election for the Highland Township supervisor position. The winner of the Democratic primary contest will face off against the winner of the Republican primary contest during the Nov. 6 general election. The Highland Township supervisor serves a four-year term and currently earns $65,691 annually.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to Bourgeois and his responses to those questions.
LEADERSHIP: As supervisor, at what point do you believe you should disregard public sentiment, and cast a vote on an item based on your own knowledge and feelings about how an issue impacts the greater community?
BOURGEOIS: Any good leader knows that you cannot make everyone happy. When I myself have researched the issue and with the help of informed professionals, competent in the issue in question, then a vote against public sentiment may be needed. As the long-time owner of a martial arts business dealing with thousands of kids, adults and parents per year, I have found that issues dealing with communities and people are rarely black and white but usually some shade of gray.
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?
BOURGEOIS: If revenue is declining than two options need to be explored: 1) Increase revenues by bringing new business into the community and/or fill vacant businesses in the community while promoting and supporting existing businesses in the community to improve their profitability; 2) Apply for zero-match or low-match grants from the business community and state or federal government grant programs (like the AFG and SAFER) to help Highland institute positive changes in infrastructure or help with personnel costs.
The township budget has been cut to its minimum at this point and little else can or should be cut from the budget.
As fire marshal and a firefighter I know first-hand how important law enforcement and fire services are to our community.
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?
BOURGEOIS: Highland can maintain its rural feel by promoting business development in its already established business areas. Development can happen in Highland with a positive DDA that uses its resources to develop a “walkable” downtown. We can promote downtown businesses that attract people to the downtown area like restaurants and merchant shops. We can promote more community events that bring people to our community, like the DDA concert series and the Joey Kocur charity softball games.
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.
BOURGEOIS: I support the mileage but would have rather had the Township and DDA jointly fund the two-year contract from their general funds. The DDA is funded by reallocating funds from fire, police, and library (millage collections) and it also receives funds, which would not have come to Highland, from Oakland County. The DDA investments in the downtown area are to improve the downtown area and its tax base. If the DDA helps make the downtown area more profitable tax-wise and aesthetically better, then the redirection of taxes is worth it. If not, then redirecting taxes is a waste and should be stopped. The two-year police mileage will replace needed lost deputies and give the DDA time to show its worth.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
BOURGEOIS: 1) The decline in collectible tax revenue for emergency services, public service and infrastructure in both the residential and business community, along with vacancy of commercial property. (This can be addressed with) tax incentives for some new businesses and less interference by the township
2) The loss of a sense of community from the closing of two schools in Highland. (We should) cultivate a better working relationship with the Huron Valley School Board and hold more community events.
3) Revitalization and rehabilitation of the DDA area. (We must) bring new businesses to our community any way possible.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
BOURGEOIS: I am the most qualified businessperson and only candidate with public service experience. I truly care about Highland and want to make it a better place for our residents, families and children.
I have 16 years background in public safety. I have been a business owner and operator for 25 years. I have been a Highland firefighter (16 years), involved in the Highland Goodfellows (16 years), the Highland Downtown Development Authority (two years), been a Joel Jeremy Celebrity Bartender (four years), and a Joey Kocur Foundation for Children Volunteer (three years). My community involvement shows my commitment to Highland and its citizens. As fire marshal I work with local, state and federal organizations and have a good working knowledge of government systems.