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Archive | Voices and Views

Michigan Press Association: Government control of what you know

 

Michigan House introduces second bill in attempt to remove public notices from newspapers

By Doug Caldwell, Michigan Press Association

Earlier this week, the Michigan House of Representatives began their 99th session. The first bill introduced deals with an important issue…rolling back Michigan’s income tax. The second bill introduced by Rep. Rob Verheulen, R-Walker, is a replica of the bill introduced in the last two sessions by former Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, that would remove ALL public notice from newspapers.

The members of the Michigan Press Association find it disconcerting that subverting citizens’ rights to access information about what their government is doing is one of the first issues introduced for this legislature.

In this era of unscrupulous hacking by foreign entities it seems that depositing all the information about government activity including things like zoning, millage increases, and government takeover of personal property to the websites of the government themselves is risky at best and possibly unethical at worst.

Our Founding Fathers were so concerned and distrustful of government power that they took extraordinary measures to ensure transparency and accountability. The checks and balances provided for in the Constitution that we learned about in civics class are one such measure. A second and equally important measure is the three-legged stool of governmental accountability, the first leg of which is the proper notice of upcoming government meetings and actions. The second leg is the requirement that governments hold open meetings so that officials can be held accountable for their actions. The third leg is the Freedom of Information Act so that all people have access to government records.

These three “legs” of transparency and accountability are critical to the health of an informed democracy, and the first “leg” is under attack by some misguided government officials. Good public notice must be provided in a forum independent of the agency required to give the public notice. If not, unscrupulous officials can hide or confuse actions from the public.

These notices need to be accessible to all members of the community regardless of financial status or technical abilities. And they must also be archived in a permanent format to prevent revisions to the historical record.

Notices placed on a government website fail all these requirements. Does the entire community have the access and skills to know how and where to find this information on the Internet? No, it’s highly unlikely even in the most affluent communities. Would placing these notices on a government website save money? Very unlikely if all aspects are accounted for because the process requires staff to upload and maintain the records; websites require regular maintenance; and security is questionable at best. These failings are further compounded by a lack of independent oversight.

The Internet can be a valuable adjunct in helping keep the public informed. That is why most newspapers now post notices on their websites at no additional charge. However, government notices must be handled like the permanent legal documents they are. Newspapers have done this for hundreds of years at minimal cost. Hiding these notices on an obscure government website fails the public and contributes to the erosion of trust in government.

Our Founding Fathers would strongly disapprove. We urge you to contact your state representative and let them know you do too.

Doug Caldwell is the president of the Michigan Press Association. If you have any questions about this issue, contact lisa@michiganpress.org or call Lisa at 313-247-9859.

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Michigan should end civil asset forfeiture

 

Require a criminal conviction before taking people’s property

By Jarrett Skorup, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Lansing began 2017 on the right foot by enacting a law to make it easier for people to try to recover property seized through civil asset forfeiture, but the state should end the practice altogether.

Last week, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the ACLU of Michigan issued a joint press release applauding the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder for passing and signing into law House Bill 4629. The new law removes the requirement that a person pay a bond equivalent to 10 percent of the value of their property seized through civil asset forfeiture if they want to try to get it back.

“This new law will further protect the constitutional rights of citizens,” said Jarrett Skorup, a policy analyst at the Mackinac Center. “But Michigan needs to do more. Twelve states require law enforcement to get a criminal conviction before forfeiting property and two – New Mexico and Nebraska – have banned civil forfeiture altogether.”

Skorup spoke with ABC 12 this week about the case of a Genesee County man whose property was seized by a Saginaw County detective in 2014.

“All we know is the police never pressed charges against him, never convicted him, yet they ended up with over $20,000 in cash and some of his property, and that should raise a lot of eyebrows for people,” Skorup said.

Now, a Saginaw County deputy is suing over the matter, saying the sheriff’s department retaliated against him after reporting the seized money was used for confidential informant drug buys.

Since 2015, the State of Michigan has passed several reforms to limit how police may seize property. The standard of evidence required to take property is now higher, and the process is more transparent.

“Previously, if they wanted to forfeit someone’s stuff, it was based on a very low standard of evidence, and they’ve raised that a little bit higher,” Skorup told WSJM. “However, they still aren’t requiring that someone be convicted of a crime in order to take their stuff and forfeit it over to the state.”

Skorup added that a number of incoming legislators are interested in further reforming Michigan’s civil forfeiture laws.

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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 PostScripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

* We only print positive letters about candidates one week prior to the election.

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Our positive change is a hot mess

 

When our new administration began nearly three years ago, I was open to change and trusted our board of education to choose a new leader for our kids, teachers and staff of Cedar Springs Public Schools. Initially, I felt this change in leadership could take our district to a new level. Shortly after, however, I began to notice changes in how our staff members interacted with and presented themselves to others. Previously confident and comfortable, our educators were now apprehensive and spoke with reservation. Programs intended to better prepare our kids for their futures (such as 6th grade advanced math) have been discontinued and no one seems to have any answers about why that occurred. Field trips which served to spark curiosity and critical thinking skills have been eliminated in favor of more technology. Instead of learning being on the incline, it has been on the decline.

Parent communication about the aforementioned changes has only come after inquiring, and in the administration’s efforts to “make it right” we are inundated with multiple emails from multiple sources all speaking about the same thing. Proactive communication has become reactive, and the staff I have spoken to feel they have been left to figure things out on their own with no support from administration.

The positive change I was excited to see nearly three years ago is better described as a hot mess. In order to fix the communication problem and drive academics forward, collaboration is imperative. Last week 97 educators made an impassioned plea in favor of unity and showed us that collectively they feel Ted Sabinas and Mistie Bowser will help reunite and move this district forward. This expression of unity, unlike any we’ve seen in recent years, should serve as a wakeup call for anyone still undecided. I urge you to vote Ted and Mistie into the two open seats on our board of education, and let the healing begin.

Fran and Drew Brandimore, Solon Township

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Vote for a person of high integrity

 

I am writing to endorse Heidi Reed as a member of the Cedar Springs school board. I have had many business transactions with Heidi Reed over the past several years and always found her to be a person of high integrity. Heidi never makes a decision without researching all the pertinent facts.

Anything that Heidi Reed has an interest in becomes a passion with her.

Heidi understands the need for a well-educated population and would work tirelessly to improve the graduation rates in the district.

Heidi Reed would be an excellent addition to the school board and would be totally committed to serving the district.

Karen A. Carbonelli, Spencer Township

Associate Broker, Greenridge Realty

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Preserve work being done on behalf of all students

 

There are 2 people who’ve been advocates for students with no other agenda: Joe Marckini and Heidi Reed. Vote for them on November 8 to preserve the work being done on behalf of all students in our district.

Joe Marckini has seen his two daughters graduate from Cedar Springs Public Schools and go on to be successful in college and beyond. Joe knows what a wonderful staff and community it takes to provide for a successful education for our students. As a sheet metal construction worker, Joe understands that all students need to be prepared for their future, whatever their interests may be. He’s a school board member who asks staff and students for their opinions and wants them to be a part of the educational process. Marckini is a school board member who wants to ensure that there is equality for all students. Incumbent Joe Marckini loves this district and this community. He is positive about the all the advancements of the district. He keeps a close eye on finances, policy and opportunities for students. For these reasons and more, I am voting for Joe Marckini, a man with integrity, passion and courage to lead the way.

Heidi (Zank) Reed is a Cedar Springs native who has advocated on behalf of all students, including special needs students. She has taken the time to cheer on and personally thank the excellent teachers and support staff of this great district. She is a believer in Cedar Springs Public Schools and has seen her own children and others thrive as students. As a long-time businesswoman in Cedar Springs, she has proven her service to others in this community. Heidi Reed has been actively engaged in school board meetings and advocacy for staff and students alike. She understands the role of the school board and how it will serve to lead the district forward. Please join me and so many others in voting for Heidi Reed, a community-centered, collaborative leader focused on kids first.

Grayson Claiborne, Solon Township

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Don’t let “We are teachers” letter fall on deaf ears

Don’t let “We are teachers” letter fall on deaf ears

The letter that appeared in the Post last week signed by 97 current and recently departed staff members gave me chills. The educators listed span across the district in all grade levels, all subjects and all buildings. Everyone in this community can find at least one educator on that list whose opinion they value. Uniting and coming forward to express their support of the two candidates they feel would best represent our staff and students was a real leap of faith. After two-plus years of virtual silence while the community has been begging for answers, the people we entrust our children with day-in and day-out have spoken. It was well written, entirely positive, and accurately displayed (with profound emotion) the love they have for our community, our schools and our children. This is a larger display of unity than any of us have seen in recent years, and it’s our responsibility to listen. Please read between the lines. They are loudly and clearly giving us what we’ve been asking for and we cannot let it fall on deaf ears. Vote Sabinas and Bowser on November 8, and unite this community in moving forward.

Tami Elliston, Algoma Township

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Candidates will not hide behind “policy”

 

The past couple of years I have become actively involved in our board meetings and learning about the choices we are making at the leadership level within our district. As a parent, I am concerned about my children’s education. I have watched many valuable programs that were once in existence disappear. They were great programs that worked to support our children like Habits of Mind, Red Hawk Kids Club, Cognitive Coaches and advanced math to name a few. We had become the best-kept secret in Kent County for education; Cedar Springs was leading the way. It makes me sad to see the shift. Changes take place every day; I am not afraid of change if done with good intent, respect, leadership and purpose.

As we prepare for the November 8 election, I want a positive change for our students, staff and community and that is why I am supporting Ted Sabinas and Mistie Bowser. They have the kid’s best interest at heart and are willing to lead and collaborate to make the best decisions for our district and our children. They both are collaborative, curious and discerning to ensure we make the best decisions for our district. They know what a good leader is and are committed to demonstrating those qualities as Board of Education members. They will be willing to listen at the board meetings and answer questions, they will be involved in the schools and they will not hide behind “policy.” I am looking forward to seeing positive leadership at the top again. I know that is what Ted and Mistie will bring to the school board and our community! Please vote yes to Sabinas and Bowser on November 8th.

Heidi Greenland, Nelson Township

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Support candidates who support direction of district

 

I am a lifelong resident of Cedar Springs who currently has two students attending Cedar Springs Public Schools. If you haven’t had a chance to read last week’s Post editorials, please do. Several community members felt the need to take the time to write editorials to share their stories about who they felt would best serve on the school board. Those letters speak loudly.

I am personally very thankful for the progress our district has made under Dr. Vanduyn’s direction; she has brought professionalism and fiscal accountability to our district. The programs and services she has implemented for our students have been many: a new health and dental clinic; a new teacher chosen K-12 math curriculum; Responsive Classrooms; Okay2Say program; and a school resource officer, just to name a few. She’s also helping our teachers. Just recently medical costs were lowered for the district with the same coverage for the teachers; professional development is now being appropriately tracked through the HR department, which helps the teachers with certifications; and budgeting has been moved to the buildings, which gives the teachers more of a voice in how funds are being used. She’s doing a great job for the sake of our students and our teachers. I urge you to vote for the two candidates who have voiced support for the current direction the district is headed—Marckini and Reed.

Kerri Hanes, Cedar Springs

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Help and support teachers

 

To Citizens of Cedar Springs,

School leadership is the process of enlisting and guiding the talents, energies of teachers, students and parents toward achieving common educational goals. The number one job of the superintendent is to lead learning. How have the CS Board and Dr. VanDuyn demonstrated and supported clear learning goals? To accomplish these tasks, it is imperative to work with teachers and students. School performance benefits from a collaborative approach to leadership, which includes sharing findings, failures, and concerns. Relationship building with our educators is essential to effective educational leadership, and it is vital to acknowledge, and support the roles and contributions of all. Effective leadership will create an educational environment in which opportunities for positive change are present and supported throughout the organization. What collaboration has occurred? How have the BOE and superintendent connected with our teachers—the most vital group impacting student learning? Culture is the underground stream of norms, values, beliefs, traditions, and rituals that have built up over time as people work together, solve problems, and confront challenges. This set of informal expectations and values shapes how people think, feel, and act in schools. This highly enduring web of influence binds the school together and makes it special. It is up to school leaders—superintendents, school BOE, together with staff to help identify, shape, and maintain a strong positive student-focused school culture. Without a supportive culture, reforms will wither, and student learning will suffer. Many folks have shared that our student and staff cultures are struggling. This is the clear job of the Superintendent and the BOE. They set the tone, drive and create positive culture. What clear perimeters have been determined for supporting a change in CSPS culture? Based on the number of people—57 in the last year and the 97 signatures of staff who are supporting a clear change for Cedar Springs—it would seem obvious to all that our culture is broken. In honor of those that have left and the teachers that are indirectly asking for help and support, vote yes for Ted and Mistie on November 8th.

Jennifer Harper, Concerned Mom, 

Algoma Township

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