This week, FOX 17 is sitting down with each of the four candidates vying to be the next mayor of Grand Rapids, to find out where they stand on issues facing the city and why they ultimately chose to run.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- He's a retired engineer who has never held political office, but now John George is one of four candidates vying to be the next mayor of Grand Rapids.
While George might be a virtual unknown to many voters, he's managed to make a name for himself based on one particular issue: removing fluoride from the city's water.
“Obviously the reason I got into this, I did a lot of research into fluoride and realized that what they thought they were doing in 1945 using 1945 science is really no longer applicable today," George told FOX 17.
"I went before the current city mayor and commission and was basically ignored.”
But George contends the fluoride issue is far from what he's all about, quickly pointing to his website packed with policy statements on several issues ranging from trash collection to climate change.
“This is my way to communicate with people and let them know who I am. Two of the other candidates have track records," he said.
“I guess I could just put my hat in the ring and do what they do--which is basically nothing--give a few speeches and hope people like my face or whatever and want to vote for me. But I want to give people a good indicator of who I am.”
George, a self-described libertarian, also takes on an issue that FOX 17 has covered extensively: reforming civil asset forfeiture laws.
“I think if more people knew what it was, they would agree with me, it’s just not right," he said. "It's another issue, it shows people my opinion that there should be limits on government."
When it comes to police-community relations, George said the city's on the right track implementing new policing policy and using officer body cameras.
Similar to his competitor Robert Dean, George contends the biggest issue facing the city, aside from fluoride, is addressing the city's unfunded liabilities and legacy costs. Current commissioner and mayoral candidate Rosalynn Bliss has countered those claims repeatedly, saying they simply aren't true and that the city is on 'stable' financial grounds after years of hard work.
“I’m in this for the good of this city, mainly health-wise because fluoride is a health issue, but (voters) should also realize I’m not a one issue candidate.”
George told FOX 17 his campaign has kept a low profile, largely due to the fact he said he's refused to take donations to avoid being 'beholden' to anyone. Campaign finance records from the Kent County Clerk's Office show George has raised just over $200, all of which came from his own money.
Compared to other candidates, current commissioner Rosalynn Bliss has raised more than $90,000, former city commissioner Robert Dean has raised more than $16,000.
"I have been offered backing but I’ve refused it and that hurts me because I can’t get yard signs, I’m not doing robo calls," he said. "I’m really not doing this for me, this is not the first step on my long political career, I mean this is it.”
The primary mayoral race is set for Aug. 4. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote they will become the city’s next mayor. If not, the top two vote-getters will compete in a run-off election in November.