By Jan Worth-Nelson
A contest for a seat in the state House of Representatives is shaping up in the 49th district, with three well-known Democrats having filed papers so far: Charter Review Commission member John Cherry, water crisis activist Lashaya Darisaw, and former Flint mayor Dayne Walling. The election is set for Nov. 6.
East Village Magazine is inviting candidates running for the seat to answer a series of five questions each. We promised we would run their answers here, unedited. The questions are not all identical — we have custom designed them around each candidate’s background and experience. Dayne Walling’s answers were featured here, John Cherry’s are available here.
The 49th District includes Flushing, Swartz Creek, Mt. Morris City and Township, Flint Township and much of Flint. The seat is available because the current 49th District representative, Phil Phelps, is being term-limited out after the legislatively-mandated maximum of three two-year terms, though Phelps has served only five years. Phelps, also a Democrat, originally was voted into the seat in a 2013 special election after Jim Ananich, the previous 49th district representative, was elected to the Michigan State Senate. The district has a population of about 83,000, is 52 percent female, 67 percent white and 27 percent black, according to Wikipedia. The position pays a yearly salary of $72,000.
Here are the answers we received from Lashaya Darisaw.
1. What have been the most significant commitments and activities of your recent life experience, and in what ways do those activities suggest your potential contributions to the 49th district constituents?
My first and foremost commitment is to my thirteen-year-old daughter. It’s my duty as a single parent to instill the importance of community in her, and give her the tools to empower herself and her environment. Since she was four years old, we’ve volunteered our time together through a variety of social service agencies. When the Flint Water Crisis hit, she developed a fierce commitment to justice and ensuring that the voice of her generation was heard.
My job as the Flint organizer for Michigan United is a great source of pride to me. I love my job, and every day is an opportunity to fight for equality, equity, and justice. I am committed to improving the lives of everyday people, and demonstrating to my daughter and my community that together, our voices do create change. I haven’t waited for an elected position to make a substantial impact- it’s about being proactive, rather than reactive. Residents of the 49th District deserve a representative who has a history of standing up for their civil liberties and democracy.
2. How important do you feel your role in the Flint water crisis would be to you as the 49th District representative? And on a related note, how do you think it will might matter to those living in the district outside the city of Flint?
When elected “representatives” locked out citizens and refused to answer questions- or even acknowledge the existence of a crisis- I was there, advocating for a community that they attempted to silence. The lack of democracy is straining the State of Michigan, and the broken system is failing its people, and denying working-class families access to their American Dream. The impact and advocacy that I had during the water crisis will continue to be seen if I am elected. People are tired of politics-as-usual, how officials are benefiting only themselves and their immediate circles instead of representing their constituents. These issues bleed into every district, including my own.
3. What would be your top three legislative priorities?
Government Transparency and Oversight
We are a government for the people. My own office will commit to transparency, and demand it of others. Specifically, the FOIA laws in Michigan need to be updated so citizens can be informed of actions taken by their representative.
Infrastructure & Green Technology
Michigan has a golden opportunity to lead the country in developing renewable energy. Getting to the forefront of this business surge would mean tens of thousands of jobs for Michiganders, and a brighter, healthier future for our children.
Healthcare as a Right
America is lagging behind other countries’ social programs. Healthcare is a human right and should be treated as such. Many individuals end up in hospitals because they could not afford simple preventative care. Constituents deserve a healthcare system that is not profit-driven, and no person should die because of their inability to pay.
4. How would you describe your anticipated “governing philosophy” and/or style? How would you counter trends of extreme partisanship and vanishing decorum? How do your aims in this regard connect to the flourishing or salvaging of our democracy?
Politicians that are driven by community and positive change have no issues uniting people towards goals that matter. I know that everyday residents care about the wellbeing of others, and fear for their and their childrens’ futures. I spend every day talking to and organizing these people. When commonly-felt issues are at the front of a platform, that platform succeeds. I currently work on aiding local democracies and engaging youth; spreading the message that their voices and lives matter. I will continue these policies and activities if elected.
5. What do you anticipate being the greatest likely challenges of this position, should you be elected?
As a state representative, I precipitate a lot of pushback from other government officials who are not accustomed to challenging the status quo, but rather used to benefitting from it. However, we must work together for the benefit of our constituents, whose needs are dynamic and constantly changing. The residents of the 49th district deserve a representative who has earned their trust and respect.