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Archive | Voices and Views

An unsightly mess

 

Shaner Ave. (Nelson Township) between 17 and 18 Mile Roads has recently been turned into an unsightly mess. The mess is not only in the ditches along the road, but also left on the properties of current residents. Consumers Energy and the Kent County Road Commission came through with heavy equipment and cut a long wide path of trees and brush. This ugly defacing of Shaner was done most recklessly and without regard for the properties on which their work was done. Several property owners have lost large trees, which now lay on their properties in large hunks or piles. Heavy equipment was used to mow down brush and topple trees. In some of the areas where work was done, a lot of debris was left. Tree trunks and uprooted trees lay on the wide swath of loose and lumpy mounds of water-soaked soil that was also dug up. Pieces of shredded brush lay on the narrow shoulder of the road, being a hazard for bikers, walker, and joggers. Ditches were damaged where the heavy equipment went on and off the road, which will result in water backing up into residents’ yards when it rains, if the ditches aren’t repaired. This all was done to accommodate the development project, White Pine Ridge, now in progress on Shaner and 18 Mile Roads. We residents on Shaner appear to have to deal with the ugly side of progress at work. In the beginning, Nelson Township officials appeared to believe that the condominium development would give something back to the community. So far it has only been costly for the Township, particularly in attorney’s fees. This is only the beginning of many adverse effects that the development will have on residents along Shaner and 18 Mile Roads. I ask: will it be progress or progressive devastation to a peaceful quiet and uncrowded rural community?

Mary Stidham, Nelson Township

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Veterans are coming

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.

 


 

That’s right folks, we hope that after much red tape, it looks like the red, white, and blue will be coming to live in good old Cedar Springs. One of our problems was a code that wanted two parking spaces for each of the residents. Problem solved by WEFA president Fred Cini. If they should own cars, they have written permission to park on the WEFA paved parking lot. And would you believe it, he even asked if any would be employable. What a guy! He represents what Cedar Springs is all about. It also appears “just maybe” the planning commission will accept a copy of our original site plan, which would save us over $5,000.

You are invited on Saturday, April 29, to a preview of what can happen at the facility (the old Amish Warehouse Store, corner of Main and Beech) from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00, and you will see what those monies were spent on: a new pool table, shuffle board table, and air hockey table. Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of area people, we were donated a new $1,600 bow flex machine; a beautiful electronic organ; a large electronic read out treadmill; plus a nearly new foosball table. And a big thank you to all you folks that wanted to donate to the already full game room area. Every Veteran and their families should be at the May 2nd Planning Commission meeting at 7:00 p.m.

Bob Truesdale, Cedar Springs

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What you can teach your grandchild about Social Security

V-Teach-your-grandchild-about-SS

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

One of the greatest gifts you can give a grandchild is the gift of financial literacy. Helping them save money early in life and showing them how to make wise spending decisions goes a long way toward a bright financial future. As they get older, they may want to save for special purchases or their college education. You can encourage them when they get their first job to begin saving for the future, including their retirement.

Planning for the Future with my Social Security

When you celebrate their graduation from high school, you can also remind them to set up a my Social Security account. They need to be age 18 or older, have a U. S. mailing address and a valid email address, and have a Social Security number. Even though their retirement is many years away, you can explain the importance of reviewing their earnings record each year since Social Security uses the record of earnings to compute their future benefits. As they start their first major job and begin saving, they’ll be able to monitor the growth of the estimates of benefits available to them. You can access my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Share How Social Security Works

You can share your knowledge about Social Security with your young savers by explaining how the program works and how it has worked for you. About 96 percent of all Americans are covered by Social Security. Nearly all working people pay Social Security taxes and about 61 million receive monthly Social Security benefits. Encourage them to watch our Social Security 101 video at www.socialsecurity.gov/multimedia/webinars/social_security_101.html.

Share Your Retirement Stories

Social Security replaces about 40 percent of an average worker’s income, but financial planners suggest that most retirees need about 70 percent to live comfortably in retirement. Americans need more than Social Security to achieve that comfortable retirement. They need private pensions, savings, and investments. That means starting to save early and monitoring your Social Security record for accuracy. The best place anyone of any age can visit for quick, easy information about Social Security is www.socialsecurity.gov.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov 

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Give Michigan drivers relief from high auto insurance premiums

 

Michigan drivers pay above-average prices for auto insurance.

Michigan drivers pay above-average prices for auto insurance.

By Michael Van Beek and Matt Coffey, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

A new legislative session kicked off in January, and once again, there’s talk in Lansing about reforming auto insurance in Michigan. This is a perennial issue: Since 2001, legislators have introduced 340 bills about auto insurance regulations, according to MichiganVotes.org. But like drivers in the Indy 500, lawmakers keep going around in circles without getting anywhere. This pattern needs to stop and policymakers should fix the problem.

The interest in reforming auto insurance stems from a well-known fact: Michiganders have the regrettable privilege of paying some of the highest premiums in the country. According to research from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average annual premium in Michigan was $1,351 in 2014, second only to New Jersey and Louisiana and 37 percent more than the national average.

Bad drivers aren’t to blame for Michigan’s abnormally high auto insurance premiums. After all, Michiganders can navigate the most miserable conditions, thanks to our winter wonderland. When a snowflake falls in Atlanta, on the other hand, there are ditches full of cars and highways are backed up for miles.

What is to blame, however, are Michigan’s unique auto insurance laws. The state’s no-fault approach is similar to that of just 11 other states, and no other state forces all drivers to buy unlimited personal injury protection.

Michigan’s current auto insurance system was created in 1973, and a solid case can be made that it has been, by and large, a failed experiment. For instance, the no-fault system—which gives insurance benefits to anyone injured in an auto accident regardless of who was to blame—was meant to reduce litigation. Since the law guarantees insurance benefits for all accident victims, the theory goes, there should be fewer lawsuits, reducing costs for both insurance companies and the courts.

That’s not what’s happened in practice. Michigan still allows an accident victim to sue an at-fault driver if a certain threshold for injuries is met. The Michigan Supreme Court has interpreted the law in a way that lowers this threshold—effectively undoing what no-fault set out to achieve. The result is that Michigan drivers pay a hefty premium for no-fault protection but don’t really benefit from it. Not surprisingly, Michigan ranks as one of the most litigious states in the nation, according to the Pacific Research Institute.

The failed no-fault system is only half the problem. Requiring insurers to provide unlimited PIP is even more problematic. It’s easy to figure out how this approach contributes to astronomical insurance premiums, why it’s rife with abuse and why no other state uses it.

With no limit on what insurers must cover, anyone injured in an auto accident can seek and “afford” the most expensive treatment possible. What’s worse: While private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid have fee schedules that limit what medical providers can charge, there are no schedules for what they can charge for services they provide to accident victims. That’s why it’s common for hospitals to charge auto insurers significantly more than they charge medical insurers or Medicaid and Medicare for exactly the same service.

The generous benefits available through Michigan’s unlimited PIP system, as might be expected, attract those who see an opportunity for profit. For instance, unlimited PIP covers paying a caregiver to serve accident victims in their own homes. There are very few limitations on who can provide this care and, again, there is no fee schedule. As a result, family members of accident victims can and do bill auto insurers for 24 hours of care each day at hourly rates as high as $30. That works out to be a nice six-figure salary. While it is unlikely that this is the norm for those providing home-based care, the opportunity for abuse is clear.

Considering these problems with Michigan’s auto insurance system, one might wonder why nothing has changed. After all, each lawmaker has thousands of constituents who are harmed by these steep premiums. The answer to this riddle is what economists call “concentrated benefits and diffuse costs.” The status quo provides concentrated benefits to medical providers, attorneys and accident victims, and they will spend significant resources lobbying the Legislature to protect these benefits. The costs, meanwhile, are diffuse, paid by drivers all across the state. Diverse and unorganized, drivers’ voices are easily drowned out by the loud, coordinated and well-funded voices of those who defend the status quo.

It’s time to admit that our no-fault auto insurance system has largely failed. As a result of court rulings, it has strayed from its original purpose and its promised benefits have not materialized. For the sake of Michigan drivers, policymakers need to overhaul it and make our state competitive again.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. The Mackinac Center assists policy makers, scholars, business people, the media and the public by providing objective analysis of Michigan issues. Visit them online at www.mackinac.org.

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Sunshine Week celebrates the public’s right to know

 

N-Sunshine-weekBy MIZELL STEWART III, Gannett/USA TODAY Network

Rita Ward had a question: Why did a weekly listing of causes of death suddenly stop appearing in the local newspaper?

It turned out the health department in Vanderburgh County, Indiana, halted its practice of providing causes of death to the Evansville Courier & Press. When Ward and a reporter for the newspaper asked why those records were no longer available, the department cited an Indiana law intended to protect citizens against identity theft.

“I truly do believe printing the cause of death is important,” Ward told the Courier & Press in a 2012 interview. “Maybe a reader might see a neighbor who died of colon cancer and make the decision to have their first overdue colonoscopy. It can be a first step toward a change for the better. It can touch a reader. It’s personal. That’s why it is important.”

V-SunshineWeekWard and the newspaper sued for access to the information under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act. They lost two lower-court rulings before the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the records, focused on the decedent’s name, age and cause of death, should continue to be made available to the public. In their ruling, the judges underscored “the importance of open and transparent government to the health of our body politic” and held that “the public interest outweighs the private.”

The court’s explicit link between government transparency and the welfare of citizens underpins Sunshine Week, a national, non-partisan effort to highlight the critical role of open government and freedom of information at the local, state and federal levels. The March 12-18 celebration is led by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Gridiron Club and Foundation.

Now, more than ever, Americans are urged to recognize the importance of open government to a robust democracy. Access to meetings, minutes and records of our elected and appointed representatives is a key element of the constitutional right to petition the government for redress of grievances. It is not strictly for the benefit of the news media.
In addition to ordinary citizens such as Rita Ward, access to government information helps citizen’s groups hold public officials accountable through firsthand observation of their actions. Access also enables historians to accurately describe past events and gives individuals critical information about public safety in the neighborhoods where they live.

The National Park Service, fulfilling a request under the Freedom of Information Act, provided aerial photographs that showed a sharp contrast between crowds on the National Mall for the inauguration of President Trump and those who turned out for the first inauguration of President Obama.

Despite public statements by Trump and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that crowds for Trump dwarfed those of Obama, the photos—not the words of government officials—told the full story.

In addition to state laws in Indiana and across the country, the Freedom of Information Act gives citizens the right to obtain information from the federal government—information that your tax dollars paid to collect. In addition, more and more local governments are leveraging technology to make public information, from traffic data to public transit schedules, even more accessible and more useful to citizens.

This week and every week, take a moment to consider what your life would be like if government officials operated in total secrecy and restricted your access to information. Support organizations fighting against those in power who seek to weaken open government protections. Join with fellow citizens in seeking disclosure. When you want information from a police department, local government or school board, ask for it.

Just like Rita Ward learned in the Indiana death records case, you have the right to know.

Mizell Stewart III is president of the American Society of News Editors and Vice President/News Operations for Gannett and the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MizellStewart.

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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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