WSW: Democrat Hopes To Go From Designing Video Games To Crafting Legislation

Aug 2, 2018

Thomas Whitener
Credit Gordon Evans / WMUK

Thomas Whitener says his experience as a video game designer will help him if he is elected to the state House. The Democrat says he wants to make sure the rules we have to live by in Michigan are fair for everyone.


Whitener says his job is writing sets of rules that are large and complex to make sure they are fair for everyone who plays the game. He says the idea is designing systems that work. Whitener is one of three Democrats on the ballot in the 61st state House district which includes the city of Portage, as well as Oshtemo, Prairie Ronde, Schoolcraft and Texas Townships. The winner of the Democratic primary will challenge Republican Representative Brandt Iden in November.

Education

Whitener says the system for funding education in Michigan needs to change. He says allocating dollars based on how many students are enrolled leads to disparity. Whitener says part of the problem is shifting state funds from public schools to for-profit charter schools. He says the public school system won’t work for everyone. But Whitener says state funding should not go to charter schools.

Water Contamination

The response to the discovery of PFASes in Parchment’s water system has been “impressive,” according to Whitener. But he says it’s alarming that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality had a report warning about the dangers of the chemicals for six years before it was made public. Whitener says the state needs a system that puts detection in place, and allows a pro-active response rather than reacting to crises.

Marijuana

Whitener says he believes voters should approve the ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. He says he is not a marijuana user, but did in the past. Whitener says prohibitions have historically been used to further suppress oppressed people. He says marijuana has medical uses, and approving it will open up new revenue streams for the state.

Blue Wave ?

As Democrats hope to make gains this November, Whitener says there is definitely more enthusiasm. But he says a political wave is not some mystical force. Whitener says it requires hard work by candidates appealing to voters. He says it also requires voters who are engaged in issues.

Discussion of other issues can be heard in the web version of the interview.

Environment

Whitener favors shutting down the Line 5 Pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. He says the state needs to transition to reliance on renewable energy. But Whitener says the state has to do that in a way that prevents harm to workers in the oil and gas industry.

Roads

Whitener says Michigan should be seeking more advanced materials to build roads that last longer. He says that would create savings in the long-term, but it may require more money from the state upfront.

Auto Insurance

On the subject of Michigan’s highest in the nation rates for car insurance, Whitener says the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Fund should be audited. He says the state should only end the lifetime benefits for people seriously injured in auto accidents if it is absolutely necessary.

Guns

Whitener, who grew up in North Carolina, describes himself as a life-long hunter, competitive shooter and responsible gun owner. He favors background checks and “red flag” laws to remove guns in potentially dangerous situations.

Redistricting

The interview was recorded just before the Michigan Supreme Court approved putting the proposal to change how district lines are drawn on the November ballot. Whitener says voters should approve the initiative.