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Tom Graham for State Representative

Why are you running?

I love my community. I was born and raised here, I went to Kalamazoo public schools. I've had a career here and owned businesses here. My family has been on the same land for 85 years. I have a commitment to Michigan's future.

Back in 2016 I lost 2 good friends, one Trump supporter and one Hillary supporter, by simply voicing my opinion about the Trump vs Hillary election on Facebook. When people pick a team they become invested, and if you criticize their team they take it personally, but many have lost the ability to agree to disagree. If we agree on 80% of everything, that makes you a trusted ally, not a 20% traitor.

Our society is becoming more polarized, now there's a right and a wrong opinion to have. Social media has helped turn life into a constant debate with no room for compromise, and not a civil one. Incivility and intolerance has always been there, but most of us just watched it from the outside. Social media now allows everyone to be a mini Rachel Maddow or a mini Sean Hannity and espouse hatred toward each other.

I was watching a black and white movie where Patrick Henry gave his "Give me Liberty or Give me Death" speech. The stars must have been perfectly aligned because I remember the sentence that inspired me to run for office. "No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve."

We should not debate on social media, we should have discussions. Everyone ought to be able to present their opinion and try to have an open mind. We need open minded people in the Congress capable of representing all their constituents and I have those qualifications. The absolute worst person to elect is an ideologue who only represents those who elected her.

What are your thoughts on COVID?(05/02/2020)

It's incredibly difficult to estimate how many people will be affected by this, and I think the President has been doing the best he could with the data he had at the time. A vaccine is probably still a year away. We have a "Case Fatality Rate" established by comparing the diagnosed cases against diagnosed case deaths. But now serology data indicates that there might be 50-85 times as many infected people than have been officially diagnosed. Some people take that to mean COVID is only as deadly as the flu, but that is an apples to oranges comparison because you don't know how many undiagnosed flu cases there are.

COVID, by all consistent measures, is about 10 times more deadly than influenza. That's good news because the estimate began at 42 times as deadly. According to the CDC influenza kills about 12,000 to 68,000 each year in the US. Based only on that, we could be looking at between 120,000 and 680,000 deaths per year. But in a population of 327,000,000, that's between 1 out of 480 and 1 out of 2725 people.

One lesson to learn is that borders matter. As soon as our health is at stake, everyone is on board with shutting the borders. I hope people remember that.

The big lesson to learn from this is that there is no "one size fits all" action a Governor or a President can take. Right now, in Michigan, Detroit is already on the downward slope of the new cases curve while Kalamazoo and Battle Creek are still going up. Outside of Michigan, New York City is almost done with it and people should be going back to work soon. This has to be handled city by city, population center by population center in order to be meaningful. By closing everything down, what the governor has done is simply delayed the inevitable for the less densely populated parts of Michigan. Hopefully our farmers aren't sick when the crops need to be harvested due to the governor's actions.

The second lesson is that people have to start listening to these warnings and taking them seriously. When the CDC issues an emergency warning that people at risk should self quarantine then you should burn through your vacation time to save your life. Unfortunately the WHO and CDC have been so far off the mark in the past and with COVID, that many don't trust them. They need to stop predicting 2 million could die without hard evidence to support that prediction.

And finally, governors need to consider the effect on everyone. People lost their jobs and are going to lose their homes and many are going to commit suicide due to the financial losses. Is it okay to sacrifice one group of people to save another? Should we feel free to sacrifice people prone to depression to save people with COPD or diabetes or the obese?

What does Return2InTEGrity mean?

Nearly three years ago I started my YouTube channel Return2InTEGrity as a way to promote the idea that we are all neighbors and we all have basically the same goals, we just have different ways of getting to those goals. The TEG is capitalized because those are my initials. In a sea of YouTube channels intended to make you take sides, mine was intended to inspire tolerance of different ideologies through a more thorough understanding of the issues. I made a series of videos called "The Hard Answers" covering many of the most divisive issues to give viewers information that they may not have thought of. Most of the videos are over 30 minutes long and each took weeks to research and produce. Now that I am running for public office, the name of my YouTube channel pretty much summed up my outlook so I used it as my campaign name as well.

What are your thoughts about the Oshtemo Sewer Expansion project?

Please click here for a full explanation Download pdf

Why did you get involved with the Oshtemo Residents Association?

For 85 years, my family has enjoyed well water on our property. We have 4 generations living on the same 40 acres. When my home was built, like everyone else on the street, we drilled a well. After we built our home, the township installed a water pipe down our street as part of the KL landfill loop (From KL to 4th to Stadium to 1st to KL).
Two years ago my daughter and her husband built a home next to mine (same 40 acres). My daughter applied with the county for a well permit and one was issued, but later they discovered the township overrides the county. Although there is no danger of our water becoming contaminated, the township required my daughter to connect to the public water and to pay over $8,000 for the privilege. We asked the township if my daughter could pay the $8,000 fee for the infrastructure but also drill a well. They said "no".
I'd been thinking of running for public office for a few years and I'd already committed to running in the 2020 election. Now I was looking for ways to stop this kind of local government overreach legislatively.
When I heard about the sewer expansion project I decided to make sure the township was legally crossing its "t"s and dotting its "i"s. When I went to township meetings to start asking questions I found a large group of people pleading with the township to not force them to connect. Some were in danger of losing their homes due to the incredibly high connection privilege fees. These people were going through what my daughter and her husband went through and I wanted to do something to help. The group that eventually started the Oshtemo Residents Association noticed me standing up to the township, asked me to join their group, and since then we've accomplished some pretty great things together. We've identified our legal arguments, ran a GoFundMe campaign, hired a legal firm, created an incorporated organization with over 250 members, mediated with the township, sued the township, required them to republish the bond notice, and now collected enough signatures to require the township to put the bond issue on the ballot.

Do I have political aspirations? Absolutely.
Does helping this group help me politically? Only if I do a good job.
Am I doing this to get elected? Honestly, that is part of it. I want to show people what I'm capable of, what I care about, what I'm willing to fight for, and how hard I'm willing to fight for it.
How else will you know if I'm worthy of your vote?

What have I been involved in politically?

By trade I'm a computer programmer, so I see legislation from a technological point of view. I am currently pursuing legislation in the Michigan House affecting the HYTA and automatic expungement acts. Both of these acts are intended to give people who have committed a crime and then have paid their debt to society a real second chance by expunging or sealing their case from the public record. The problem is that the arrest records have already been included in news media articles so a simple Google search completely defeats the intent of the laws. My legislation would require Michigan news outlets to remove all individually identifying information from those stories about HYTA and expungement recipients. The News outlet would be free to take down the entire article or simply remove the information including the picture and search engine indexing data.

I was a founding member of the Oshtemo Residents Association. We acted as community organizers to bring legal action against the township after they ignored our pleas month after month at township meetings. We researched legal arguments, filed FOIA requests, formed a corporation, raised $10k using a GoFundMe campaign, hired a legal firm, held a town hall, built a membership of 20% of all the residents affected by the project, and have put the township on notice of our claim and want to mediate.

Update 5/20/2020

Mediation failed.
We have filed a suit against the township challenging a) the notice of intent to issue bonds, was posted in a day not delivered to subscribers and is only 1/6th a page and the statute says it needs to be 1/4. b) the notice of availability cannot be sent until the sewer is actually available. c) the connection fees are disguised taxes in violation of the Headlee Amendment.
The township has agreed not to levy fines against people in the lawsuit for not connecting to existing sewer lines while the litigation is in progress
Two township board members are not running for re-election, this year's election may produce a new board
One township board member has indicated concern that the ordinance might be outside of the Michigan statute, the fact that the bond might not be issued until November making the sewer installation a year late emphasises why the notice of availability should not have been issued before the pipe was in the ground.
Update 6/3/2020
The township has republished the notice of intent to issue bonds
We are now in the process of gathering signatures for a petition to put the bond issue on the November ballot
If the board votes to change the ordinance to require the connection 18 months after a notice of availability is published after the sewer is actually available, then two of our three goals will have been met. The third is that the connection fee be a special assessment assessed yearly on the property, not a disguised tax to be paid immediately. OR a greatly reduced connection fee in line with the benefit conferred to the property, not the cost of the infrastructure.
Update 6/8/2020
The township has sent letters to everyone who was required to connect to an existing sewer in 2020 and has extended that to 2021.
Update 7/9/2020
We have collected enough signatures to require the township of Oshtemo to put the $10,000,000 bond issue on the ballot in November.
I am a card carrying member of the NRA because I believe in the individual right to bear arms.

I am an activist for the Convention of States Project because I believe in Federalism and State's rights.

I actively oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact because I believe in Federalism and State's rights.

How would I fix the roads?

I started from a technology angle, create a web site that people could report pot holes in so they wouldn't waste the time figuring out what agency was responsible for the road and would stop calling the sheriff. Then integrate the data collected into the planning and funding mechanisms to make road maintenance a user driven process. But when researching how to do this, the main bottleneck to fixing the roads is money.

First, we all need to a sense of history and the factors affecting the cost of maintaining our roads. Michigan is colder and gets more snowfall than 80% of the states making our roads more expensive to maintain. Michigan is also rated #1 for providing state funds for local roads, which takes away funding to maintain state roads. As the cost of crude oil and labor goes up, the cost of building and maintaining roads goes up. When the price of gasoline goes up, people buy more fuel efficient or electric cars making our gas tax revenue go down.

Michigan gasoline taxes were raised from $.19/gallon to $.263/gallon in 2017 (7.3 cents), generating as estimated $1.2 billion in additional funding each year, and in 2022 gasoline taxes will be automatically adjusted for inflation in order to keep up with rising labor costs. However, in the past the legislature had diverted $400 million of the general fund each year into transportation which they will no longer do. The 2015 Snyder infrastructure commission determined that beyond the new $1.2 billion in revenue, an additional $2.2 billion is needed each year to keep the roads in good repair. That's an additional $.134/gallon in gasoline tax and we just raised them in 2017. Raising again would not be well received. Today, Michigan has the 26th highest gas tax in the country, we're right in the middle.

In January, 2020, Governor Whitmer unilaterally decided the DOT will issue $3.5 billion in bonds over the next five years to fund reconstruction of the state’s most highly-traveled highways in the worst condition (mostly near the southern Lower Peninsula) and free funds to speed projects further north. All that debt will need to be paid for from future gasoline taxes that simply will not be there without significant changes. We need to make some tough decisions. Do we stop funding local roads with state money? Do we raise our gasoline taxes even more ($.134/gallon) in order to support our roads infrastructure? Do we curb the bond issuing power of the DOT and require legislative approval? Issuing debt and creating problems our children will have to deal with is not the answer.

I would like to implement a 10 year transportation plan, remove the DOT's ability to issue debt without legislative approval, and if needed, raise the gasoline taxes by 1.34 cents/gallon each year for those 10 years. That would bring us more in line with other cold and snowy states, it would allow for a well maintained infrastructure and economic stability by not having out of control debt at the whim of the governor.

Is Healthcare a Right?

That's a sticky question. There are 2 different kinds of rights, human and legal. A human right is like your right to bear arms or your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are protected by the Federal Government and cannot be taken away, but more importantly, THEY ARE NOT PROVIDED by the government. The government did not give me my life or liberty or my pursuit of happiness, and they certainly are not going to buy me a gun. The other kind of right is a legal right, this is also called an "entitlement", you are legally entitled to a service or benefit from the government but only if the government agrees to provide that service or benefit. So today, Medicaid and Medicare are indeed legal rights, legal entitlements as long as you qualify. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that all legal entitlements, even social security, can be taken away by the Congress simply by passing legislation to do so.

Are you for or against the George Floyd protests?

The definition of murder is "unlawful killing". George Floyd was murdered by the police officer who knelt on his neck. The pressure cut off his carotid artery stopping blood and oxygen from getting to his brain. The lack of oxygen caused his brain to request more blood from his heart putting Mr. Floyd into cardiac arrest and killing him of both asphyxiation (lack of oxygen to the brain) and cardiac arrest (heart attack ending in the heart stopping). This hold is typically called a “sleeper hold” and the person being held typically goes unconscious in 15 seconds or less and must be immediately released once unconscious. Because this hold is so dangerous and can so easily cause death if held too long, police forces do not endorse this hold nor do they train officers to use this hold. The police officer used incredibly poor judgment and failed to safeguard the life of Mr. Floyd while in custody, face down in handcuffs. Whether or not Mr. Floyd used drugs or had prior violent offenses on his record does not matter once he is in custody.

Your right to peaceably protest is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution. I support all peaceful protesters exercising their rights regardless of whether I agree with their cause or not. Civil disobedience is breaking a single law because it is unjust, but still being obedient to the rule of law, voluntarily being arrested and not resisting arrest. It is to make a peaceful statement. I do not support violence and looting, I do not appreciate people making excuses for violence and looting. The entire purpose of the protests has been lost in the violence and looting. The only thing violence and looting creates is increased gun sales.

There is a psychology to mob and police interaction. Protesters, for the most part, will remain peaceful if the police remain peaceful. But if agitators push the police to react violently, it all snowballs into chaos. After the violence starts, it is incredibly difficult for police to treat every person in a group of protesters as individuals and not as a member of a violent mob. If our Universities are encouraging our young people to protest, they ought to teach them how to protest appropriately. 1) Don’t physically agitate the police 2) If an agitator is being arrested forcefully, give the police room to do their job. 3) Protest peacefully and wear a body cam at all times. 4) Don’t riot. 5) Don’t steal.