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Archive | Voices and Views

Election reform is about more than simply fraud

Lee Hamilton

By Lee Hamilton

A dozen years ago, the preface to a report on federal election reform began with these words: “Polls indicate that many Americans lack confidence in the electoral system, but the political parties are so divided that serious electoral reform is unlikely without a strong bipartisan voice.”

I can find no part of that sentence that’s not still true. Americans still lack confidence in the electoral system. The political parties are still divided. Serious electoral reform remains unlikely. Perhaps the only change is that the commission issuing the report was co-chaired by a Democrat and a Republican—former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker — who genuinely tried to find a bipartisan approach to our election system’s problems.

Since then, we’ve careened into a pitched political battle on the issue.

At one level, I’m baffled by the lack of progress. I sat on that commission, and what seemed obvious to us then seems even more obvious today. Voting is the most basic step a representative democracy asks of us. We do three things when we vote: we select the officials we want running the government; we suggest the direction of government policy; and we reaffirm our belief and our stake in representative democracy. You can’t get more important than that. So why do we remain in an endless national standoff on how to fix our elections?

The answer, of course, is that in politically divided times, changes to elections are seen through partisan eyes.

This is disappointing, because right now there should be plenty of room for agreement. We face genuine challenges to our electoral system that even the most partisan of Democrats and Republicans could come together on: aging machines, long lines at the polls, cyber attacks by hostile entities, foreign interference, inadequately trained voting officials, voter lists that are not up to date… It’s a long list.

But where the two sides fall apart is on the most basic of questions: how readily do we give access to the voting booth? I’ll lay my cards on the table. I believe in wider access. Creating a Congress and an overall government that are more representative of the American people rests on expanding the electorate and beating back the barriers to voting.

The more people who vote, the better the chance to strengthen the political center formed by moderates and pragmatists. The lower voter turnout becomes, the more sway held by the most ideologically intense voters, who reward the most polarizing candidates, and the more likely deep resentments are created among those citizens denied the right to vote.

This is not to dismiss concerns about voter fraud. We do need to make sure that the person arriving to vote at a polling site is the same one who’s named on the voter list. And we’re headed in that direction. The number of states requiring a voter ID has increased dramatically over the last couple of decades—today about 50 percent of American voters live in states that require a voter to produce an ID before casting his or her ballot.

Yet the ambivalence many of us feel about this is understandable. We want to ensure there’s no fraud, but at the same time we are aware that stringent ID requirements disenfranchise a lot of people who may have trouble acquiring an ID: they don’t have a driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate. So the requirements can be an effective way to block minority groups or others from voting. And there’s this political reality: many of those who call the loudest for restrictive ID laws are targeting groups that they think will vote against them.

Though we want to ensure that only those people eligible to vote are actually voting, we also want to ensure that all those who are eligible to vote find it convenient to do so. There’s a lot of work to be done on that front, at every level of government. The entire system needs top-to-bottom review and strengthening. And so far, I see no evidence that we as a nation are taking this need seriously.

Lee Hamilton is a Senior Advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government.  He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

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Early school start takes bite out of Michigan’s tourism industry

 

Seventy-five percent of voters think local voters should decide school start date

From the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association

The Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association released the results of a new survey this week finding that 75 percent of Michigan voters believe voters should get to decide if their schools start before Labor Day.

“As a record number of schools start before Labor Day, both the tourism industry and families are feeling the pinch,” Deanna Richeson, president/CEO of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association (MLTA) said. “The landslide results of this survey show both a steady support for post-Labor Day school start and a clear indication that voters want to have a say in the decision-making process.”

Recognizing the importance of July and August to the tourism industry, the Michigan Legislature passed a law requiring schools to start after the Labor Day weekend beginning in the 2000-2001 school year. A report issued by the Anderson Economic Group found that in just two short years, hotel revenue levels had increased over $20 million. The tourism industry has benefited significantly as families seized the opportunity to vacation in the warmer August weather.

Since 2006, the Michigan Department of Education has issued an increasing number of waivers allowing schools to start before Labor Day. This year 99 school districts plus 24 intermediate school districts—each of which encompasses multiple school districts—were granted waivers, with many schools back in session by mid-August.

“Voters deserve to have a voice on something that impacts both our children and families and the tourism industry—a vital segment of Michigan’s economy,” Richeson said. “The tourism economy is hit hard as families are forced to cut their summer vacations short, and families miss the opportunity to build lasting memories.”

Kent Wood, director of government relations for the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance, supports starting schools after Labor Day because of the positive economic impact for tourism-centered industries in Northern Michigan and across the state.

“As a region, we have seen an increase in thousands of additional room nights, and millions of dollars in additional room revenues. One area noticed a 116 percent increase over a ten-year period since the law’s enactment—a period of time which includes the challenging recession years,” Wood said.

The survey conducted in August of likely Michigan voters clearly shows that Michigan voters support a post Labor Day school start, and they want to have a voice in that decision-making process.

Seventy percent support the law requiring that all public-school districts start after Labor Day; and seventy five percent support giving the voter, not the school board, local control over when their schools should start.

“Parents are the true local control when it comes to their kids’ education, and whether to start before or after Labor Day,” Richeson said. “It is clear voters want and deserve to have their voices heard on this issue.”

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Standing up to protect those with lung disease

 

On behalf of the American Lung Association in Michigan, I thank Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters for standing up and protecting healthcare for the Michiganders living with lung disease.

The Senate’s healthcare bill would have harmed the millions of Americans who need healthcare as part of their daily battle against lung diseases, including asthma, COPD and lung cancer, and Senators Stabenow and Peters were right to vote against it.

We are hopeful that now the Senate can work together in a bipartisan way to improve our nation’s healthcare system and ensure that all Americans have quality and affordable healthcare.

Mistie Bowser, Courtland Township

Chair of West Michigan Regional Leadership Board

American Lung Association in Michigan

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Pull together for our kids

Post Scripts NOTICE: The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Writers are limited to one letter per month. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to Post Scripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.


 

Pull together for our kids

So I went to the school board meeting last week and have to say, I left there deeply saddened. What happened to a community that pulls together to help each other? Not a single one of us can say that we have never done anything wrong or made a poor choice. That’s why God gives us forgiveness and compassion. We need to put aside whatever wrongs we each think happened and pull together as a community for our kids! We need to move forward with caring hearts instead of tearing each other down. It was so sad to sit there through that meeting and hear everyone talking against each other. You could literally feel the line of tension between each side. There should not be any sides—only all of us working together for the betterment of our children!

Sue Norton, Cedar Springs

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Response to “Reader disappointed in story choice”

Post Scripts Notice: The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Writers are limited to one letter per month. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to Post Scripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.


I too was at the last board of education meeting. I admire your dedication to family in supporting the position of a relative on the board, however there are a few statements you made that I don’t believe are accurate. One only needs to look through recent issues of the Post to see several articles about our students’ accomplishments. One article in the last 7 months bringing awareness to our community that our teachers are STILL working under fear and intimidation does not constitute a pattern. I would also argue that the ‘slanted viewpoint from the vocal minority’ is not accurate. The board meeting I attended was standing room only, and ended with a standing ovation from an overwhelming majority when Trustee Sabinas filed a formal complaint against Dr. VanDuyn. The Cedar Springs Post has a responsibility to this community to report ALL news, even if it’s something you don’t want to see. I don’t want to see our teachers publicly beg for help from the board of education month after month for over two years, yet here we are and it is STILL happening. So while we ALL would like to see news full of sunshine and rainbows, it’s difficult to admire the drapes when the house is on fire.

Tami Elliston, Cedar Springs

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Bill Schuette: Treat, don’t punish, causes of opioid addiction

 

In 2015, we lost 963 Michigan residents to car accidents. And we lost 1,981 to overdoses.

Heroin is available in every town in Michigan and can be purchased for less than the price of a few snacks at the gas station.

I’ve sat down with the victims in this crisis. I’ve looked them in the eye and heard their stories. I’ve heard the pain in their voices and recognized their guilty and broken spirits. For many in the grips of this addiction, it’s not even about feeling good anymore, it’s about not feeling bad.

What will it take for us to provide help, and not punishment, for those struggling with addiction? Our children are dying and government isn’t paying enough attention to what really needs to be done.

We need an attack from all angles.

In April, the State of Michigan received $16 million from the Trump administration to combat opioid addiction. Eighty-percent of the funds will go toward treatment, and 20% will go toward preventative measures. I have also asked the Legislature to direct the nearly $1 million from a settlement with a pharmaceutical company I recently negotiated to proven high-quality education and awareness programs about opioid addiction.

These dollars need to go toward:

A multi-faceted public awareness campaign: We can’t stop addiction just through treatment, we need education programs in place from elementary school to high school and in our health care facilities to make sure that there is no question on how damaging opioids are to the human body and mind.

Resources for addicts and families: Michigan has a piecemeal approach that spans across various state departments and doesn’t give those struggling or their families a central place to turn for help and resources. This doesn’t work. The State of Michigan needs a resource for families on how to get help for addiction available 24-7 online and by phone with a toll-free 1-800 number.

Aggressive law enforcement efforts: I announced this week that my new Opioid Trafficking and Interdiction Unit, designed to catch those moving heroin and other opioid-based drugs across our state, is up and running. My team is working with local, state and federal law enforcement to go after both the heroin traffickers and the overprescribing doctors that are flooding our cities and towns with readily available, deadly drugs.

This isn’t about catching those with a single dose of heroin struggling in the grips of addiction, it’s about getting the high-dollar distributor that supplies hundreds of people with a quick and potentially deadly high.

Strong treatment plans: We need to combat opioid addiction with intensive inpatient and outpatient treatment programs that follow regimented and proven techniques to rid a person of addiction.

Sending addicts to jail without a program to help them overcome their addiction doesn’t end the cycle, it makes the pull that much stronger when they leave. Whether it’s the proven results of Narcotics Anonymous, or another recognized program, we need to refocus our efforts to reach those incarcerated to make sure they can re-enter our communities without their addiction and with a plan for the future.

We can’t arrest our way out of this problem. We need to take a hard, but compassionate look at what we are doing to prevent and treat addiction before it can hurt more of us.

Bill Schuette is attorney general of Michigan.

This column originally ran in the Detroit Free Press on June 1, 2017. Reprinted with permission. http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/06/02/bill-schuette-treat-dont-punish-causes-opioid-addiction/363204001/

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Congress needs to reassert itself on use of force 

Lee Hamilton

By Lee H. Hamilton

The Trump Administration, like its predecessors, has shown an apparent appetite for the use of force overseas. The “mother of all bombs” dropped on Syrian troops, saber-rattling toward North Korea, proposed deployments of U.S. forces in 10 or more countries — all of this suggests a growing comfort with the idea of putting our troops in dangerous places.

But the decision to send troops overseas requires clear eyes, hard questions and specific answers. If we are sending our military abroad, our objectives and exit strategies need to be nailed down. Are we engaging in nation- or empire-building? Do we risk being locked into protracted, unending conflicts? Are we inflating the dangers to our national security, as when we falsely asserted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction?

And when we do intervene, are we avoiding or increasing the suffering of the local people whom we’re trying to help? No use of force should go forward without reciprocity — that is to say, capable, committed local leaders who fight corruption and try to provide good governance and protect the values we cherish and promote.

The use of force ultimately comes down to the president — or the president and his top advisors — making the decision. Too often this happens without sufficient dialogue, consultation, or robust debate beyond the White House. In particular, the people who have to do the fighting and bear the costs need to have a major voice in the use of force, and the best way to ensure that is with the involvement of the Congress, along with the media, courts, civil society, and even the international community.

There are obviously cases where the president needs flexibility. But if we’re to put our troops in harm’s way, he also needs independent advice and to answer tough questions. I don’t see any alternative but the strict, robust and sustained involvement of the Congress.

Deciding on the use of force is the most grave and consequential decision government makes. It is of such import that it should not be made by the president alone, but should be shared with the Congress. Presidents should not get broad authority to use force without limit on geography, objectives, or types of forces. The Founding Fathers had it right: the president is commander in chief; Congress has the authority to declare war. Power over the use of force needs to be shared.

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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Reader disappointed in story choice

 

I was present at the last Cedar Springs School board meeting. I am so sorry, sad, and disappointed that the Cedar Springs Post chose to focus on one negative slanted viewpoint from the vocal minority at the latest meeting. It seems to be a pattern with the Post.

Some delightful first graders who were directed by their wonderful teacher sang and folk-danced. The robotics team with their robot was spectacular! The staff that presented the new Orange Frog program based on happiness were excited and proud to further this program at Cedar Springs Schools.

There are so many positive happenings that are being overlooked by the Post. It would be so good to hear about these instead of rehashing old agendas.

I look forward to seeing the positive changes continuing for CSPS.

Lynne Zank, Nelson Township

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Objection to an article update

 

Regarding the article published on May 4, 2017 about my husband Richard Webb (Man sentenced on child exploitation charges). It is lamentable that I am burdened to write to you again. This season in our life has caused immense suffering for my husband, me, and our 13-year old son. Was it really necessary to continue to drag our family and business through the mud? What happened to journalistic integrity?

If you actually want to tell our story I would be glad to share it with the community. If you are genuinely interested in the family and the truth behind this story I would be glad to talk about it. I believe I can speak with some authority on this subject. I am a survivor of child sexual assault. I am also a “preacher’s kid” that came of age in the church as the daughter of two pastors and missionaries. My mother holds a PhD in Christian Counseling. One of her favorite sayings is “Never assume. Assumptions make asses out of people.”

I said it before and I will say it again, “I want The Cedar Springs Post and its readers to understand that God is with us no matter what the situation or trial we face in life. I recommend everyone watch and see what our Almighty God is going to do!”

Once again you have my permission to publish this letter online and in print. In fact I encourage it.

Thank you,

Sherrie Webb, Nelson Township

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Grave robbers

The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Writers are limited to one letter per month. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to Post Scripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

 


 

Grave robbers

I don’t understand why people have to go to cemeteries to take things off of gravesites. You see I went Friday morning (April 28) and put a flower basket on our son’s gravesite. Then in the afternoon the family went out to the cemetery and the flower basket was gone. It would be nice if you could find it in your heart to bring it back. After all, he served his country just so you could be free. But I just hope that you enjoy the basket and remember how and where you got it.

Judy Gage and the family of Terry Gage II

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