Friday, December 21, 2012

Scott Dianda, sworn in as 110th District State Rep, outlines priorities

By Michele Bourdieu

Hancock Mayor Bill Laitila, left, administers the oath of office to newly elected 110th District State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), accompanied by his wife, Debbie, during a Dec. 8, 2012, ceremony and celebration at Michigan Tech University. (Photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- While his official term does not begin until the Michigan House of Representatives meets in January, newly elected Michigan 110th District Rep. Scott Dianda has wasted no time since his election in November to the House seat held by Republican Matt Huuki for the past two years. Dianda has been meeting with constituents, listening to their concerns and presenting his own priorities for the future of Michigan -- and especially for the future of the seven counties he represents in the Western Upper Peninsula.*

Dianda recently spoke to two very different audiences. On Dec. 6, 2012, he addressed members of the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce and on Dec. 8 he was officially sworn in as a state representative during a ceremony attended mostly by his Democratic supporters. Jack LaSalle, Dianda's campaign manager, introduced Dianda, his wife Debbie and Hancock Mayor Bill Laitila, who administered the oath of office.

Here is a video clip of the swearing-in ceremony, held at Michigan Tech University:

Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), newly elected State Representative for Michigan's 110th District, accompanied by his wife, Debbie, is sworn in to his office in a ceremony at Michigan Technological University on Dec. 8, 2012. William Laitila, Mayor of Hancock, Mich., administers the oath of office. Dianda thanks the audience of supporters for their work during the campaign and mentions education as his top priority for the future of Michigan and his district. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Dianda outlines priorities for business growth at Chamber of Commerce meeting

"We have to do it together," Dianda told Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce members at their Dec. 6 "Eggs and Issues" breakfast meeting, outlining his hopes for the future through education, technology, agriculture and improved transportation to attract new business and industry to the Western Upper Peninsula.

In this video clip Dianda speaks about his Calumet family roots and his confidence in this area's potential for future growth:

Scott Dianda, newly elected Michigan 110th District State Representative, addresses members of the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce at their "Eggs and Issues" breakfast meeting on Dec. 6, 2012. Dianda outlines his priorities and ideas for attracting new business to the seven counties he represents in the Western Upper Peninsula.

Dianda mentioned the need for dredging the Keweenaw Waterway (aka Portage Ship Canal) to facilitate commercial transport by water.

The Keweenaw Waterway was last dredged in 1994. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers Web site, it is due for dredging soon, but this work has been backlogged for lack of funding.**

Keweenaw Now asked Noel Urban, director of Michigan Tech's Center for Water and Society and professor of environmental engineering, about the environmental impacts of dredging the Keweenaw Waterway, especially since several public beaches are located on it. In his research, Urban specializes in water quality, including sediment contamination.

"There are mine tailings throughout the whole of the waterway, and dredging will re-suspend those fine, copper-rich particles," Urban explained.

Urban said the water would be turbid for a while after the dredge but he wasn't sure whether that would impact the beaches.

"Just from the copper there aren't really health issues for humans," Urban added. "There may be some implications for wildlife. It's primarily the aquatic invertebrates that would be affected."

One issue in the Ripley area is a plume of hydrocarbons at the bottom of the canal, he said

"The EPA and DEQ are now trying to figure out how best to clean it up," Urban said. "If one were to dredge that and stir that up over a large area it could spread the problem."

These are oil-related products, denser than water, that have a relatively small impact while on the bottom; but they are probably carcinogenic and toxic to aquatic organisms that come in contact with them, Urban explained.

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers Web site, "The Keweenaw Waterway Confined Disposal Facility has adequate capacity for at least the next 25 years of dredging."**

Dianda told Keweenaw Now the Keweenaw Waterway is presently only used by the Ranger (the passenger boat that takes visitors to Isle Royale), pleasure craft and a once-a-year delivery of salt for the roads; and it has potential for shipping manufactured products, which would attract business and create jobs.

"I want to be sure we're sticking to the federal schedule for dredging the canal, making sure that's a viable waterway," Dianda said, "but I also want to make sure that we're doing things correctly and not hurting anything."

Dianda noted he plans to work with US Senators Levin and Stabenow and Congressman Dan Benishek on the dredging issue.

During the Chamber meeting, Dianda also spoke about local government control and government efficiency:

At the Dec. 6, 2012, meeting of the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce, Scott Dianda, recently elected Michigan State Representative for the 110th District, speaks about local government control and his own experience traveling in various parts of the state.

During a question and answer session, Steve Karpiak, Osceola Township supervisor, asked about property taxes for small local units of government and about road issues. Dianda, who has worked for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) said he was aware of the urgent need for funding maintenance of roads and bridges. He also expressed concern about the impacts of salt on the roads in the U.P.

Following his presentation, Representative Elect Scott Dianda fields questions from members of the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce. In this video clip he discusses the problems with roads in the U.P., the need for rail to take some of the burden off the roads and the need for funding. Steve Karpiak, Osceola Township supervisor, expresses concerns about the stamp sand used on the roads and the fact that the DEQ no longer allows re-use of it because of toxicity.

Others in the audience asked Dianda for his views on welfare fraud, funding "Pure Michigan" for tourism, and the latest legislation on ATVs.

Glenn Anderson, Hancock city manager, asked Dianda what his position is on allowing ATVs to use major trunk lines, including crossing bridges such as the Portage Lift Bridge.

The pending Senate Bill 1020 would allow ORV/ATV ("4-wheeler") vehicles to cross the bridge on the roadway.***

According to Anderson, the City of Houghton recently passed an ordinance to allow ATVs to cross the bridge from the Houghton side. The Hancock City Council has not taken any official position but they are supportive of the bill.

"I'm hoping the bill passes," Anderson told Keweenaw Now.

The ATV trails end on each side of the bridge, so there is a gap. At present, ATVs can cross the bridge from the Hancock side only with an escort. Anderson pointed out that ATVs can now go the same speed as the traffic on the bridge and might actually cause more of a hazard with an escort, requiring them to go more slowly than the 25 m.p.h. speed limit.

Scott Dianda answers questions from members of the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce at their Dec. 6 meeting in Houghton. Glenn Anderson, Hancock city manager, third from left at table in background, asked about new pending legislation on ATVs and on the mining severance tax.

Dianda said he is supportive of allowing ATVs to cross the bridge.

"As far as the bridge crossing goes, I think they should be able in the summertime to go across there with a 4-wheeler (if they have a 5- or 6-foot red flag on the back)," Dianda said. "We can't have a tourism area where they can't cross and get on this island."

Dianda also fielded questions on the current legislation for a mining severance tax and on eliminating personal property taxes. Here is an excerpt from the discussion on taxes:

Scott Dianda answers questions on the mining severance tax and personal property taxes. Gov. Snyder signed recent legislation on both of these yesterday, Dec. 20, 2012.

Dianda said he was in favor of the original severance tax that gave 100 percent of revenue to the local units of government, schools, etc.-- who would normally benefit from the property taxes that the severance tax would replace -- but he is concerned now that the tax is 65 percent local revenue and 35 percent to a state fund. He said he hoped the Governor would be fair since the UP has only four votes (in the House) compared to 106 for the Lower Peninsula.****

In his talk with Chamber of Commerce members, Dianda expressed his wish to stay in communication with them. He has publicly posted his cell phone number and invited constituents to contact him. While his official State House of Representatives Web site will not be available until the January session, Dianda can be reached at (906) 369-3338 or by email at


* The 110th District includes these counties: Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Marquette (partial), and Ontonagon.

** Click here to see the US Army Corps of Engineers Web page on the Keweenaw Waterway.

*** Click here for SB 1020.

****The mining severance tax (HB 6007-6012) was passed by both houses of the Michigan Legislature this month and was approved by Gov. Snyder on Dec. 20, 2012. Click here to access these bills, now referred to as PA 410 of 2012. Click here for an article on Gov. Snyder's approval of this severance tax legislation and also the personal property tax bill. Click here for the article on bills Gov. Snyder signed on Dec. 20, 2012.

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