Fink meets with constituents at the brewery. Logan Washburn | Collegian
Fink meets with con­stituents at the brewery. Logan Washburn | Collegian

Rep. Andrew Fink spoke about vaccine man­dates, power outages, and other topics at a town hall event on Aug. 25 at Hillsdale Brewing Company.

Fink took ques­tions from a crowd of around fifteen con­stituents on a variety of topics, ranging from local to national issues. A non-profit group, Amer­icans for Pros­perity, spon­sored the event. The group said this is because they agree with many of Fink’s positions.

“We work with what we call ‘Policy Cham­pions.’ They’re leg­is­lators who are philo­soph­i­cally aligned with a lot of our posi­tions, and Rep­re­sen­tative Fink just happens to be one of those leg­is­lators,” said Diana Prichard, com­munity engagement director for Amer­icans for Pros­perity in Michigan. “You’ve seen that he’s very thoughtful in his posi­tions, he engages with his col­leagues in a respectful way, he’s very genuine in his engagement with his constituents.”

“What do you think about the vaccine mandates?”

“As a general rule, I think that employers, if they really want people vac­ci­nated, should put their energy into explaining why, and not giving people an ulti­matum that increases skep­ticism of the vaccine. If they really think it’s important, they could be doing a better job of explaining it.”

“You’re a veteran. What do you think of the sit­u­ation in Afghanistan?”

“I think it’s rea­sonable to say that the time has come to end our engagement there, at least on any sig­nif­icant scale. It is unfor­tunate that the same gov­ernment we dis­placed is coming back in. But mainly, it seems like a lot of avoidable mis­takes in the last couple of weeks. I really don’t think it’s too much arm­chair quar­ter­backing to say that some of these major muscle move­ments like closing Bagram Air Force Base and relying on the Kabul airport to withdraw, have not been explained by the admin­is­tration– by Pres­ident Biden and his team– at all.”

“What are your thoughts on the economy? Specif­i­cally wind tur­bines, power outages, and Con­sumers Energy?”

“The wind turbine issue is a matter of great con­tro­versy, because a lot of people are skep­tical of them as an energy source– I share some of that skep­ticism. Some people are really offended by looking at them, and some people say, ‘I want to have a wind turbine on my property, and it’s my property.’ So I don’t really think that there’s a really neat, cute thing to say about them except that all of those factors are real, and people really see them in dif­ferent ways. As far as the power outages go, I do think that one of the expla­na­tions for the monopoly system we have now, is that we trade flex­i­bility for reli­a­bility. So when a munic­i­pality makes a deal with an energy provider and essen­tially gives them a monopoly in a given area, the expec­tation is that the power is going to be there. So I do think that it’s always appro­priate to hold the energy providers’ feet to the fire, because regardless of whether they’re actually a gov­ern­mental entity or simply given monopoly powers, holding their feet to the fire is per­fectly rea­sonable.” He con­tinued, “On the eco­nomic front, I really just think that we don’t have– either at the state or federal level– an admin­is­tration that pri­or­i­tizes inno­vation, entre­pre­neurship, and citizen-led recovery. Until we do, we’re going to take longer than we should.”

“What do you think the leg­is­lature can do to help the economy?”

“There are ways in which we hope that our budget is going to impact this, including some of the restric­tions on how the admin­is­tration can spend some money. This is not the biggest eco­nomic issue, but it’s an easy one to grasp. Our budget drafts require the Sec­retary of State be open for walk-in ser­vices. That’s important to the average citizen, but if you’re a business that has fleets, they’re going through a crisis. Truck fleets, or delivery vehicles, or lawn-mowing com­panies, everyone who’s got a half-dozen or more vehicles in their fleet are very stressed about the slowness of the Sec­retary of State. That kind of step, putting some guardrails on spending the money, is probably the most effective thing we can do. We can con­tinue to pass policy bills, but unfor­tu­nately, our gov­ernor has – without good reason– vetoed a lot of good policies like refunding property taxes or license fees that were paid. That would  be helpful to put some money back into the pocket of small business owners who were denied the ben­efits of the busi­nesses they own according to the government’s deci­sions in the last 18 months. There’s no reason for the gov­ernor to con­tin­ually veto those things. We’re going to keep making the case, and I hope she sees the light. Hearing from more of her con­stituents would help.”

“Why is it important to host this type of event with constituents?”

“I can’t do my job as well without talking fre­quently to as many dif­ferent con­stituents as I can. Hearing from all of the people in my dis­trict allows me to under­stand what is important to my dis­trict, and how to take what I think is effective policy and then marry it to the pri­or­ities of my dis­trict. When I go to Lansing, I can have a more informed con­ver­sation with my col­leagues there, and I can bring infor­mation in the same way back to my dis­trict once I’ve talked to folks in Lansing, and I under­stand where my peers are on an issue, or a method of pol­i­cy­making, or what have you.”

“I can’t say it’s too big of a place to feel like I can’t connect with people on a local, indi­vidual level.”

“What is the main message you hope to com­mu­nicate by meeting with your constituents?”

“It is some­thing that I’ve been empha­sizing a lot lately, and I talk to a lot of people who I think are sym­pa­thetic to my general policy pref­er­ences. It’s good for me to talk to those people, and it’s good for them to contact me and make sure that I am doing what I said I would do when I cam­paigned for this job. But I also think that if you’re a con­ser­v­ative, you should never forget that you’re the governor’s con­stituent too. You’re Senator Peters’ con­stituent, you’re Senator Stebenow’s con­stituent. You’re Jocelyn Benson’s con­stituent, and you’re Dana Nessel’s con­stituent. They should hear from you. They should know that the echo chambers they try to live in every day– that’s the point of me getting out here, to make sure I’m not in an echo chamber, and try to meet more people of all walks of life. They need to be hearing from people of all walks of life too. We should never give up on getting that message across. When the peoples’ voice is made loud enough, then even the most hardened state cen­tralized planner has to hear it in our system.”