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Can the media hold politicians accountable?


Lee Hamilton

Lee Hamilton

By Lee H. Hamilton, Center on Representative Government

If you watched Donald Trump’s recent press conference, you may have overlooked a telling and worrisome moment. A CNN reporter tried to ask the president-elect about the extent of his ties to Russian officials. “No! Not you. No! Your organization is terrible,” responded Mr. Trump, and moved on to the next question.
The fact that a politician would seek to sidestep an uncomfortable question isn’t unusual. What should cause concern is what happened next: Nothing. The press corps moved on, without protesting or taking up CNN’s line of questioning and pushing for an answer.
Why do I find this disquieting? Because journalists play a crucial role in our representative democracy’s health. Citizens cannot act responsibly if they’re kept in the dark about public affairs. And it’s the media’s role to make sure that does not happen.

Its performance in recent years, however, has not been reassuring. Before the election, how much were you reading or seeing about the depth and intensity of the frustrations in large swaths of the country that enabled Mr. Trump’s victory? Sure, there’s plenty of news coverage of politics. But it’s just that—coverage of politics, polls, personalities, and campaigns, and much less on the substance of policy issues or what’s at stake for the country as they’re debated.

At the same time, politicians have become adept at manipulating the media. President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump have held very few open news conferences. We are losing important ways and means of holding politicians accountable.
Nor are citizens helping. In the modern media universe, they seek the media that confirms their views and get along with only the information they want to believe.

This is worrisome. But even worse would be a press that doesn’t push on regardless. I want to see media coverage of public affairs that’s dogged, skeptical and aggressive, that investigates actions of government and politicians, that checks facts, calls candidates and office-holders to account, and flags misstatements, half-truths, and outright lies. I want the media to be very tough on politicians and candidates and not let them get away with the evasions and manipulations they find increasingly easy to practice.
Democracy works only with accountability and is strengthened by strict accountability of elected and appointed officials to the people of the country. Without citizens insisting on it and the media demanding it, our system of representative government is in peril.

Lee Hamilton is a Senior Advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government; a Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and a Professor of Practice, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

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Three ways to plan ahead for the 2017 tax season


(BPT) – With the tax season approaching, now is the time to start thinking about creating a strategy to help maximize tax refunds in the year ahead. From the passage of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act to the increase in health insurance penalties, here are a few items to keep in mind before the IRS begins accepting tax returns.

1. Donating to charity, making an extra student loan payment or contributing to an IRA can lower your adjusted gross and taxable income.

If you are a taxpayer that itemizes your deductions, donating to a qualified charity by Dec. 31 and saving the necessary documentation can lower your taxable income. Taxpayers can also deduct up to $2,500 of interest paid on their student loans each year, even if the payment is voluntary. For those contributing to their IRA, taxpayers can deduct up to $5,000, and have until April 16, 2016 to make contributions.

2. Your health insurance penalty will increase if you are uninsured and do not sign up by Jan. 31.

The per-person flat fee penalty for not having health insurance has increased more than 630 percent since it was first implemented in 2014.

Taxpayers will now have to pay a penalty of $695 per uncovered adult, plus $347.50 per uncovered child up to a maximum of $2,085 or 2.5 percent of their household income over the filing threshold, whichever is greater. That means a family of four earning $60,000 would pay a penalty of more than $2,000.

According to H&R Block’s estimates, taxpayers without insurance in 2015 paid an average penalty of $401. This was a 125 percent increase from 2014, when the average penalty was $178.

There are some cases where an uninsured taxpayer may qualify for an exemption from the penalty, but the only way to completely avoid it in 2017 is to enroll and stay covered under a qualified insurance plan.

3. If you claim the earned income tax credit (EITC) or additional child tax credit (ACTC), your refund will be delayed until at least Feb. 15.

The passage of the PATH Act now requires the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to hold the entire refund for returns claiming the EITC and ACTC until at least Feb. 15, depending on when the return is filed.

The IRS estimates approximately one in five EITC payments are made through fraudulent filings or confusion due to the complexity in claiming the benefit. Employers are now required to send employee W-2s to the IRS by Jan. 31 to allow the IRS additional time to help prevent identity theft and fraud.

The IRS will begin releasing funds on Feb. 15, but taxpayers may not see the funds deposited into their banking accounts immediately. This law could affect approximately up to 30 million taxpayers who claim these tax credits.

If you are one of the 30 million taxpayers who claim these credits and are worried about a delayed refund, visit a local H&R Block professional to see how they might be able to help. For more information, visit hrblock.com/PATH.

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Ensley Real Estate moves into downtown location

Patrick and Laura Ensley, of Ensley Team Real Estate

Patrick and Laura Ensley, of Ensley Team Real Estate

Patrick and Laura Ensley, of Ensley Team Real Estate, are excited to announce their new location, 71 N. Main, in Cedar Springs. (They are in the building formerly occupied by Geekworx.) They will hold a ribbon cutting and open house on Thursday, March 2, at 5:30 p.m., with light refreshments and snacks as people tour their new building.

Both Patrick and Laura were born and raised in the area, and established their real estate team in 2008. Laura said it’s their drive that gives them an edge over the competition. “We are a high energy team that loves to help our clients with every aspect of their real estate needs,” she explained. Their greatest reward is getting their clients the best deal possible. “Negotiating deals is in our blood. It’s what makes us tick.”

Patrick and Laura are also passionate about giving back to the community. They are both on the board of the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, and are also involved with the “Best Prom Ever,” a charity that puts on proms for special needs children.

The Ensleys love West Michigan and are passionate about selling the great lifestyle the state has to offer. To check out how they can help you, give them a call at (616) 696-SOLD or stop by 71 N. Main Monday through Friday, from 9-5 p.m.

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Five tips for financial fitness in 2017

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

(Family Features) If a commitment to improving finances is among your resolutions for 2017, you’re not alone.

A survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) shows that more than two-thirds of U.S. adults will make a financial resolution this year.

However, one out of three Americans said their financial quality of life is worse than they expect, as saving money and debt concerns top the list of stressors. Additionally, almost two-thirds of respondents experienced a financial setback in 2016, with transportation issues, housing repairs and medical care cited as the leading causes. For the nearly 50 percent of those who admit they’re living paycheck to paycheck, significant unplanned expenses can add up.

“To be successful with your financial resolutions in 2017, set thoughtful, realistic goals,” said Paul Golden, spokesperson for NEFE. “If your goal is to build an emergency savings, start with a small amount like $500 dollars to show yourself you actually can achieve that mark then set the bar higher. It’s not uncommon to be hit with an unexpected expense, so be prepared.”

These five tips can help get you on the path toward tackling your financial goals:

1. Get debt under control. Take a hard look at what you owe. If there are warning signs of too much debt, take action. Set a goal to reduce your debt next year by 5-10 percent. That might mean reducing impulse shopping, which six out of 10 people admit to doing, and 80 percent regret the purchases later. When you face temptation, walk away for at least 30 minutes to make sure you still want the item.

2. Start saving now. Ideally, you should have six to nine months of income set aside, but achieving a small goal can provide a sense of security and reduce stress. The rules of retirement have changed: Review your long-term savings and ensure they are appropriate and on target.

3. Shop for better services. Make a game out of shopping providers to find the best value in the services you use. How long has it been since you shopped your insurance policies? Is there any chance you can save money on your cell phone, internet or utilities? Visit current providers and ask, “What’s the best deal?” Be sure to understand your policies and services so that you are comparing fairly and accurately.

4. Understand what’s behind your financial decisions. If you’ve ever wondered why you feel good about spending money on vacations but avoid saving for retirement, the answer may lie in your unique values and how they influence your financial decision-making. Take the LifeValues Quiz at SmartAboutMoney.org.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Recruit a “financial buddy” and share your resolutions with a trusted family member or friend who can provide support in helping you meet your financial goals. Find someone who will hold you accountable and set a good example for you to follow.

For more help getting your finances in order, visit SmartAboutMoney.org.

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Spectrum Health Wins 2016 Foster G. McGaw Prize


Finalists from Dallas, Los Angeles and Toledo, Ohio, also honored

In recognition of its cutting-edge programs and services to reach the underserved residents of Western Michigan, Spectrum Health is awarded the 2016 Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service and will receive $100,000 for programs creating healthier and stronger communities.

As one of the most revered community service awards in healthcare, the Foster G. McGaw Prize is sponsored by the Baxter International Foundation, the American Hospital Association (AHA) and its non-profit affiliate Health Research & Educational Trust. First awarded in 1986, the annual prize recognizes the achievements of hospitals and health systems and inspires strong partnerships that significantly improve the health and well-being of their communities.

Spectrum Health is a non-profit, integrated health system in Western Michigan providing a full continuum of care. Its community outreach arm, known as Healthier Communities, responds to the most pressing needs by formulating innovative programs to address specific health challenges and then collaborating with other organizations to address them.

“Since 1997, Spectrum Health Healthier Communities has built the infrastructure, resources, community-based programs and services to reach the people who need care the most,” said John O’Brien, chair of the Foster G. McGaw Prize Committee. “Through impactful alliances with community organizations, Spectrum Health has shown incredible perseverance, patience and a vision to dramatically improve the health of individuals in their communities and reduce healthcare costs.”

“We are honored to be recognized by the Baxter International Foundation and the American Hospital Association for our work to empower vulnerable populations and increase access to care,” said Richard C. Breon, Spectrum Health President & CEO. “The Foster G. McGaw Prize represents significant national recognition of our mission to improve the health of the communities we serve. The award also recognizes the power of collaboration. Healthier Communities is successful due to dozens of community partners coming together to carry out this challenging yet tremendously rewarding work.”

Spectrum Health Healthier Communities’ three areas of focus include maternal and infant health, children’s health and preventing and managing chronic disease through such initiatives as:

*Strong Beginnings Program – Eight area agencies work together to improve maternal-child health and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes. The program, which offers outreach, case management, education, mental health services and a fatherhood program, has helped to significantly reduce the infant mortality rate in Kent County.

*Community Partnerships for Wellness and Access to Healthy Food – Programs specifically tailored to children and minority populations offer health screenings, coaching, fitness and nutritional support. In addition, four independent community agencies collaborate to provide healthy foods to underserved and impoverished individuals.

*School Health Advocacy Program – A partnership with seven local school districts serving nearly 29,000 students to provide first aid, medication administration, tracking/facilitating immunizations, care for chronic health conditions and communicable disease prevention. In less populated areas, telemedicine services are provided.

*Core Health Program – A chronic disease management program for underserved individuals, reaching more than 2,500 community members to date, that has demonstrated a measurable impact by achieving the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim goals – a framework that describes an approach to optimizing health system performance.

Through programs like the Foster G. McGaw Prize, the Baxter International Foundation continues to recognize and celebrate health organizations that support an integrated approach to better and more easily accessible care.

“The Foster G. McGaw Prize recognizes healthcare organizations that serve as role models for taking a synergistic approach to improve the health of the people in their communities. This year’s winner and finalists offer wide-ranging programs to meet the needs of their vulnerable populations,” said Stacey Eisen, president of the Baxter International Foundation and vice president, global communications at Baxter. “Through involved leadership, dedicated staff and community collaboration, they significantly improve the lives of the patients they serve and the communities in which they operate.”

2016 Finalists

Three Foster G. McGaw finalists also were recognized for their significant community health programs and will each receive $10,000. These finalists include:

*Children’s HealthSM, the leading pediatric health system in North Texas, for its unique approach in using a cross-sector coalition to improve the health and well-being of children in the community.

*ProMedica in Toledo, Ohio, for establishing numerous community health programs for low-income residents, including collaborative approaches to tackling hunger and peer abuse.

*White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., for its dedicated prevention programs, including healthy eating and interventions for pregnant and post-partum women, as well as advancing a health careers program to ensure sustainable health among all members of the community.

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Pavelka signs with Spring Arbor


Congratulations to Cedar Springs senior Jameson Pavelka on signing his national letter of intent to play basketball next year at NAIA member school Spring Arbor University. Jameson is pictured with his parents Julee and Eric, as well as the Spring Arbor Head Coach Ryan Cottingham.

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Lady Red Hawks take first at Wyoming


Cedar Springs cheer again dominated the mat on Saturday, January 14, at the Wyoming Invitational, with all three teams taking home first place.

The morning started with Cedar Springs Middle taking the lead at the end of round 2 with the score of 99.62 and holding the lead in round 3 with a score of 257.7. This gave them a total score of 352.32 and secured their first place finish.

Cedar Springs JV took the mat in a fight for another first place finish against four other JV teams. They took the lead in Round 1 of the competition with a score of 188.4. Round 2 gained them an additional 149.86 points, and gave them a subtotal of 338.6 and more than a 40-point lead going into the next round. They scored 249.6 in Round 3, bringing their score to 587.6, and securing their first place finish.

The Varsity team took the mat competing against six other teams and a fight to bring home another first place finish. In Round 1 they earned a score of 227.9 points, taking the lead with less than a 2-point difference. They kept their lead in Round 2, with an additional 224.08 point, bringing their subtotal to 451.98 and a difference between first and second place of more than 20 points. Round 3 earned them a score of 309.3, for a total score of 761.28—the girls’ highest scores of the season and a 40-point lead over the second place team.

Cedar Springs JV and Varsity will be at West Catholic Friday January 20th at 5 p.m. and on January 25, Cedar Springs will host the next conference meet at Cedar Springs High school at 6 p.m.

Come out and show your support for these coaches and athletes as they fight their way to conference champs!

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Red Hawk wrestlers win against FHN


Red Hawk Varsity Ryan Ringler was a champion and MVP of the Warren Woods Tower tournament on the southeast side of the state. Photo by B. Chong.

Red Hawk Varsity Ryan Ringler was a champion and MVP of the Warren Woods Tower tournament on the southeast side of the state. Photo by B. Chong.

Take fourth at Warren Woods invite

By Barbra Chong

On Wednesday, January 12, Cedar Springs High School hosted an OK White Conference Dual against the Forest Hills Northern Huskies. The Red Hawks claimed another victory against the Huskies with a final score 51-26. Our current team OK White record is 2-2. 119 lb Kaedrian Dines, 125 lb Aaron Smith, 135 lb Jordan Ringler, 140 lb Jacob Galinis, 152 lb Lucus Pienton, 160lb Xavier Anderson, 171 lb Ryan Ringler, 189 lb Nate Patin and Heavy Weight Patrick Depiazza all won their matches. JV went undefeated with 125 Patrick Fliearman, 152 Zak Schmid and 215 Caleb Baty winning their matches.

Saturday, January 14, the Red Hawks traveled to Warren Woods Tower for their Clash of the Champions Invite. The southeast side of the state is known for their tough competitors; 18 area teams came to compete. Final team standings are Warren Woods Tower with the Championship and score of 205; Holt finished 2nd with a score of 187; Marysville finished 3rd with a score of 173; and Cedar Springs finished 4th with a score of 169.5. Final individual standings are as follows: 171 lb Ryan Ringler went undefeated and took home a Championship title as well as the Most Outstanding Wrestler award. Patrick Depiazza also went undefeated and claimed a Championship title. 145 lb Lucus Pienton and 135 Jordan Ringler each took 3rd Place; 140 lb Jacob Galinis took 4th Place; 125 lb Aaron Smith and 130 lb Jordan Andrus took 5th Place and 135 lb Anthony Brew took 6th Place.

“We travelled over 150 miles to introduce ourselves to the wrestlers of Metro Detroit. We impressed them with our style and earned their respect with our grit and determination. The tournament style was unique and was run very smoothly by WWT. The Red Hawks represented our team and our community, like the true gentleman they were raised to be,” said Head Coach Nick Emery.

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Wrestlers raise money for Rickers

WMP wrestler Luke Egan in his #RickerStrong singlet.  Luke took home a Championship for Brison and Preston Ricker last weekend.

WMP wrestler Luke Egan in his #RickerStrong singlet.  Luke took home a Championship for Brison and Preston Ricker last weekend.

WMP finish in top four

West Michigan Pursuit traveled to Central Montcalm and Orchardview this past weekend. The Swarm of Central Montcalm hosted a 50/50 raffle to benefit the Ricker family. The raffle raised a total of $1,300 to donate to the Rickers. WMP and Cedar Springs Wrestling have also been busy selling Wrestling for a Cause t-shirts to help benefit the Rickers. Saranac Youth Wrestling also donated $150 towards this wonderful cause.

WMP had 20 grapplers enter to compete and 16 finish in the top four. 59 lb, Mason Hendrick, 9/10 age group took 4th Place. In third place was 170/195 lb Aidan Dowdell, 13/14 age group; 72 lb Tyler Parmeter, 7/8 age group; and 158 lb Maston Wood, 11/12 age group. In second place was 61 lb Quinten Cassiday, 7/8 age group; and 52 lb Kaleb Pautke, 7/8 age group.

Champions of the day were 70 lb Carter Castillo, 7/8 age group; 67 lb Chayson Eberspeaker 7/8 age group; 67 lb Luke Egan, 9/10 age group; 59 lb Landon Foss, 9/10 age group (Orchardview); 64 lb Drew Moro, 7/8 age group; 80 lb Blake Peasley, 9/10 age group; 75 lb Isaiah Sostenes, 9/10 age group; 59 lb Josh Vasquez, 9/10 age group; 55 lb Kellen Weckesser, 7/8 age group and 49 lb Blake Werkema, 4/6 age group.

“When you are in the sport for so long, you have your ‘wrestling family’ on the weekends. Support for this family has been coming from several other wrestling programs. It makes me proud to be a part such an amazing group of caring people,” said Head Coach Dave Andrus.

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CS Youth wrestlers take second in pins

(L to R) Logan Troupe and Ben Brunner both had a good day wrestling at Central Montcalm. Photo by J. Troupe.

(L to R) Logan Troupe and Ben Brunner both had a good day wrestling at Central Montcalm. Photo by J. Troupe.

By Jacquie Troupe

Twenty CSYWC wrestlers and their families joined 387 other grapplers in a great day of competition at Central Montcalm HS. The team had 47 wins and 31 losses, placed 4th in match points with 154 and took 2nd place in pins and tech falls with 27. Way to go Red Hawks! (West Michigan Pursuit was 1st with 34!)

“The whole team wrestled with a lot of heart this weekend and we couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Coach Scott. “They improve every week and we are really looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Fastest pins were had by Ben Brunner with :19 & :29; Jonathan Libera with :21; Deegan Pike :26 & :58; Elijah Artecki with :26 & :58; Logan Troupe with :48; Blake Falan with :59; and Trevor Marsman with 1:00. Hudson Crystal led the team with 27 match points; Blake Falan had 21; Carter Falan had 18; Dawson Pike had 15; and Chasyn Winchel had 13.

In the 2010-2012 division 43lb class, Dawson Pike placed 4th after 4 matches. In the 52lb class, Tucker Crystal placed 1st after 3 matches with 2 pins in total time of 3:55. In the 58lb class, Chasyn Winchel placed 3rd after 3 matches. In the 55lb class, Jaxon Fitzgerald placed 4th after 3 matches.

In the 2008-2009 division 64lb class, Blake Falan placed 4th after 6 matches with 3 pins in a total time of 4:58.

In the 2006-2007 division 80lb class, Hudson Crystal placed 3rd after 5 matches with 1 pin, 1 TF4 & 1 Maj. In the 100lb class Elijah Artecki placed true 2nd after 4 matches with 3 pins in a total time of 2:41. In the 110 class, Dakota Winchel placed 4th after 4 matches. In the 150lb class Wyatt Cooper placed 1st after 2 pins in a total time of 2:40.

In the 2004-2005 division 100lb class, Ben Brunner placed 2nd after 6 matches, with 4 pins in a total time of 3:54, and had the fastest pin for the team with :19. Also in the 100lb class, Logan Troupe placed 3rd after 4 matches. In the 105lb class, Carter Falan placed 2nd after 3 matches.

In the 2002-2003 division 85lb class Trevor Marsman placed 2nd after 4 matches with 2 pins in a total time of 2:14. In the 95lb class Andrew Van Gesssel placed 2nd after 2 matches.

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