Ypsi votes: Council of Commissioners candidates want better access to resources for eastern Washtenaw County

Ypsi Votes is a new Eastern Echo series featuring top-to-bottom candidates voting in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township. Get accessible and detailed candidate information on your ballot. Note: L’Écho does not support any candidate for any position.

Denise Kirchoff and Justin Hodge are running in the Democratic Primary for the Washtenaw County Commissioners Council, District 5. District 5 includes Ypsilanti Township and Augusta Township.

There are two other candidates running; this is the first of two articles featuring the candidates of the 5th constituency. Check out our coverage of the other two candidates, Karen Lovejoy Roe and Michael White.

Amap County of Washtenaw showing the nine districts of the Council of Commissioners.

The Council of Commissioners is the Board of directors which administers the government at the county level. Commissioners act both as an executive and as legislators, which means that they make and administer laws.


Denise Kirchoff seeks to bring accountability and transparency as county commissioner

Courtesy of Denise Kirchoff’s Campaign.

Denise Kirchoff sees herself as a strong advocate for the community ready to bring transparency and accountability to the Washtenaw County Council of Commissioners.

Kirchoff has long used his voice to promote the problems of others. When she started attending local government meetings in the county, Kirchoff said she had become known as the one who asks questions about community issues.

“I started to become the person people turned to because [I] really want[ed] answers, ”Kirchoff said in an interview with the Echo.

Soon people from other communities started asking him to come to their own local government meetings to advocate for the issues of that community.

Kirchoff is a longtime Washtenaw County resident, mother of two, and is currently one semester away from completing her Bachelor of Social Work degree from EMU.

She was brought up in a strong union environment because of her father, and her mother was a social worker and nurse who always stood up for the rights and concerns of others. “She was always there to try, always to help,” Kirchoff said.

Kirchoff is leading his campaign focusing on increased access to various resources in eastern Washtenaw County. She says residents of east Washtenaw struggle to access resources, especially healthcare.

One such resource is the free and income-based clinics in the county. Kirchoff says that many members of the community have complained about not being able to find accessible and accurate information on the location of these clinics, and that there has been confusion over how to use these clinics. resources.

“Everyone I spoke to complained about the access, they couldn’t access it, and they couldn’t reach anyone in the office to do anything,” Kirchoff said. “I found out that a lot of people in our area actually went to Ann Arbor to do a lot of things.”

Kirchoff would like to partner with UEM and Washtenaw Community College to use the resources they could provide to residents of eastern Washtenaw County.

“A lot of people in our region want to develop businesses. UEM has one of the best business schools in the country, why not partner with them? Kirchoff said.

EMU Physician Assistant Program is also a point of interest for Kirchoff, with local offices available in Ypsilanti.

Kirchoff’s campaign is also focused on transparency and accountability; If elected, Kirchoff says she will make herself available to her constituents and provide easily accessible information about the resources and services available to residents of Washtenaw County.

“I think we all need to have access to our local leaders. I don’t think you should just move into an office and not see people again, until it’s time for them to vote for you, ”Kirchoff said. “People can influence local leaders through their offices, and I think people need to know that you have the right to see your local leaders, not just every 2 or 4 years when they show up. “

Other key elements of Kirchoff’s campaign platform include:

  • More access to the clinic and extended opening hours

  • County Financial Literacy Center, Financial Literacy Programs in Schools

  • County sponsored extracurricular activities and summer programs

  • Improve Internet and telephone access throughout the county


Justin Hodge Campaign Tackles ‘Health, Wealth and Security Inequities’ in Washtenaw County

Courtesy of Justin Hodge.

Justin hodgeHis education and career has focused on psychology and social work, and he wishes to bring this expertise and experience working with the government at the county level to represent the townships of Ypsilanti and Augusta on the council of county commissioners.

Hodge grew up in Lansing and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan. He went on to earn a master’s degree in social work and obtained a clinical license and an advanced general license in social work.

He worked at the Community Mental Health System, where he was a case manager for children and adults with developmental disabilities. He also went to home therapy, where he met children at home, at school or in the community, for therapy. Eventually, he began providing outpatient therapy services at Michigan Medicine and the Ypsilanti Health Center. Today he is a professor of social work at the University of Michigan, where he teaches politics.

Hodge said he was running for office to address “health, wealth and security inequities in Washtenaw County”, particularly in eastern Washtenaw County.

Pointing out that Washtenaw County is one of the most economically separated regions in the country, Hodge said, “I have worked to resolve these issues as an unelected public servant, I sit on a number of different appointed boards. . . , Including the County Health Board and the Community Action Board, which focuses on addressing economic inequality in the county. Hodge also chairs the Sheriff’s Community Law Enforcement Advisory Council.

Hodge offers a children’s savings account program as a way to tackle economic inequality, “what we hope to do is start a county-wide children’s savings account program where all kids starting kindergarten or first grade get a college savings account and we would seed it with a certain amount of money depending on what we are able to raise.

Hodge says he has worked on implementing such a program in Lansing before. Research suggests that children who contribute any amount to a college savings account over their lifetime are three times more likely to go to college.

Addressing abusive lending practices in the county is another initiative that Hodge is championing to tackle economic inequality.

“We must do something to [predatory lending practices] so that we can help people build wealth. It is difficult for anyone to build wealth when they are trapped in cycles where they have to pay that absurdly high interest rate on one small loan and then some people have to get another loan from another [lender] just to pay off the previous one, then interest skyrockets. . . “Hodge said.

To solve this problem, Hodge acknowledges that a permanent solution would have to come from the state government, but he aims to work with local governments to use zoning laws that would reduce the number of payday loan companies. He also wants to partner with banks to create low or no interest loan programs to replace the need for payday loans in the first place.

“They would still need to get that money, I mean when you take something away you have to replace it with something, so replacing people’s dependence on payday loans with low or no interest loans would help solve it. this problem, ”Hodge said. .

Other key elements of Hodge’s campaign include:

  • Provide better high-speed internet access, especially in the township of Augusta

  • Partnership with surrounding counties to provide better regional public transport

  • Offer more home services, as well as better access to telemedicine and teletherapy

Hodge believes his experience as a social worker is particularly valuable for this election, and he has said he won’t be going anywhere if elected. “I’m not showing up for this to try and run for something else later, I have a lot of experience working with the county level government and I think that’s one of my areas of expertise and I would be able to bring a lot to the table. “

Hodge’s campaign was supported by many local elected officials, comprising:

  • Sheriff Jerry Clayton
  • Ypsilanti municipal councilor Annie Sommerville
  • Six commissioners currently in office
  • Former State Representative Adam Zemke

Previous articles from Ypsi Votes:


About Elizabeth J. Swartz

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