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Archive | Voices and Views

Legislators need to represent the people

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.


 

Dear Editor,

Since our legislators don’t seem to consider our roads a priority, I suggest that instead of worrying about drawing new voting districts lines, the legislators should pass a new law that all Michigan residents be represented by the first letter of their last name. Alphabetically—imagine that. We, as Michigan residents, would be represented instead of money and politics being represented.

Anybody?

Sincerely, 

Betty Towns, City of Cedar Springs

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We just want our stuff back

 

To the Grave Robbers:  Elmwood Cemetary- Cedar Springs

How dare you take our shepherds hook and lantern that had about $8.00 worth of coins in it. We put those items on his final resting place and you had the nerve to go there and take them off his grave. Do you know that he served 20 years in the Navy just so you could have your freedom. So how do you show your respect? You steal items his family and friends had placed there in remembrance of him. We just want our stuff back. We know you have probably already spent the money and are enjoying the other items at your house. We just hope you know that the coins were from his Navy buddies, who put them there to show their respect and honor to him. This will haunt you for the rest of your life.

From the family of Terrance A Gage II

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Replacing your Social Security Card? Know before you go

 

By: Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Keeping your Social Security number card in a safe place is vital to protecting you against identity theft. Never keep it in your purse or wallet—this is the most common way people lose their card.

Getting a replacement Social Security number card is free, but you will have to provide the proper documents to get a new one. When replacing your card, you will need original or certified copies of documents, which include:

Proof of citizenship:
If you have not already established your U.S. citizenship with us, we need to see proof of U.S. citizenship. We can accept only certain documents as proof of U.S. citizenship, like your U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport.

Identity:

We can accept only certain documents as proof of identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information (date of birth or age), and preferably, a recent photograph. For example, as proof of identity, we must see your:

  • U.S. driver’s license;
  • State-issued non-driver identification card; or
  • U.S. passport.

If you do not have one of these documents, or you cannot get a replacement for one of them within ten days, we will ask to see other documents, including a(n):

  • Employee identification card;
  • School identification card;
  • Health insurance card (not Medicare card); or
  • U.S. military identification card.

What’s more important than having your card is knowing your Social Security number. This is how we identify you, tally your wages correctly, and how we eventually issue you accurate retirement benefits. You might not even need your card for identification purposes if you know and consistently use your correct number.

For more information about replacing a lost or stolen Social Security number card, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

Stephanie Holland is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St, Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov   

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We need both insiders and outsiders in Congress 

 

By Lee H. Hamilton

Members of Congress get categorized in all sorts of ways. They’re liberal or conservative; Republican or Democrat; interested in domestic affairs or specialists in foreign policy.

There’s one important category, though, that I never hear discussed: whether a member wants to be an inside player or an outside player. Yet where members fall on the continuum helps to shape the institution of Congress.

Insiders focus on making the institution work. They give fewer speeches on the floor, issue fewer press releases, and spend less time considering how to play the public relations game or how to raise money. Instead, they put in long, tedious hours on developing legislation, attending hearings, listening to experts, exploring policy options, and working on building consensus. They’re the ones who do the necessary work of legislating.

Outsiders pass through the institution of Congress, but many of them are using Congress — and especially the House of Representatives — as a stepping-stone to another office: the Senate, a governorship, the presidency.

On Capitol Hill, these people behave very differently from insiders. They raise money aggressively, put a lot of effort into developing a public persona, and are consumed with public relations. They travel a lot. They churn out press releases and speak on the floor on every topic they can find something to deliver an opinion about. They miss votes more frequently than insiders, and often do not attend committee hearings. They’re often impatient with House and Senate traditions, and are impatient with the democratic process.

I want to be clear that I’m not judging which kind of member is more valuable. I may prefer to spend my time with insiders, but both are needed to make the system work. You have to have members reaching out to the broader public, talking about the big issues and engaging Americans in the issues of the day. And you need people on the inside who are dedicated to resolving those issues by attending to the legislation that will make this possible.

The truth is, Congress wouldn’t work if everyone were an outside player. The process is tedious, and outsiders have little patience for it. Yet if everyone were an insider, the country would be deprived of the dialogue, debate, and sheer spectacle that give Americans a sense of stake and participation in the policy-making process.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University; Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and 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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Who Belongs Behind Bars? 

 

Report Looks At Safely Reducing MI Prison Population

By Mona Shand, Michigan News Connection

Reviewing the policies surrounding who belongs in prison and for how long could help the state save hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a new report from the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending.

Reviewing the policies surrounding who belongs in prison and for how long could help the state save hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a new report from the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending.

More people in prison doesn’t mean more crime, but it does mean the state needs to rethink its policies, according to a new report which looks at ways to reduce the state’s $2 billion annual prison spending.

Barbara Levine, associate director for research and policy for the Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, which put out the report, said crime rates have been falling steadily for several years, and yet the state’s incarceration rate keeps rising, with 44,000 Michiganders now in state prisons.

“Decades of longer sentences, lower parole rates and the elimination of any form of sentence-reduction credits for good conduct or program participation has put Michigan out of sync with the rest of the country,” Levine said.

While some critics believe adjusting sentencing guidelines would compromise public safety, Levine said research has shown that longer sentences do not have an impact on a convict’s likelihood to reoffend. She said the strategies outlined in the report would save the state $250 million per year and cut the number of prisoners by 10,000 over five years.

Levine said the money saved would allow the state to address some of the issues that prevent crime and improve the quality of life for all Michiganders.

“More re-entry support for parolees,” she said. “More access to treatment for mental illness and substance abuse. More access to jobs, education, transportation, and decent housing in high incarceration communities.”

The full report is online at SmartJusticeforMI.org.

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Why run for office? 

 

V-Lee-HamiltonBy Lee H. Hamilton

I spend a fair amount of time talking to students and other young people about Congress and politics in general, and I’ve noticed something. It used to be that I’d regularly get asked how one runs for office. Nowadays, I rarely do.

A lot of young people are repelled by politics; they’ve lost faith in the system just as many other Americans have. But look. If you don’t have people who are willing to run for office, you don’t have a representative democracy. As the leading edge of the Millennial generation reaches the age where running for office is a realistic possibility, I hope they’ll consider a few things.

First, it’s hard to find a more challenging job. The number, complexity, and diversity of the problems we face are astounding. As a politician, your work is never done; your to-do list is always full. It’s intellectually as challenging an occupation as anything I can imagine.

Second, I don’t know of another profession that puts you in touch with more people of more different types, ages, and views. You meet—and, if you’re serious, really engage with—liberals and conservatives, voters rich and poor, religious believers and secular humanists alike. This is one of the great attractions of the job: the splendid array of individuals and convictions that you encounter in politics.

Finally, and perhaps most important, the work can be immensely satisfying. Whatever level you’re running at, whether it’s for the school board or for President, you’re doing it to try to make things work.

My first year in Congress, in 1965, I voted for Medicare. I’d had no role in drafting it. I played no substantive part in its passage. Yet, I still remember that vote, and I still derive deep satisfaction from it. Because I know that I voted for legislation that has helped millions of people, and will continue to do so into the future. That’s the thing about holding public office: you have a chance to contribute to the direction and success of a free society. In the scheme of things, this chance isn’t given to all that many people.

There is no America without democracy, no democracy without politics, and no politics without elected politicians. There are a lot of exciting, challenging and satisfying professions out there, but here’s what I tell young people: I consider politics chief among them.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University; Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and 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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Congress says, “War Powers? What War Powers?” 

V-Lee-Hamilton

By Lee H. Hamilton

A few weeks ago, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia made a small splash in the press when he took Congress to task for failing to authorize our nation’s ongoing war against Islamic militants. “The silence of Congress in the midst of this war is cowardly and shameful,” he said. “[T]his Congress, the very body that is so quick to argue against President Obama’s use of executive power… allows an executive war to go on undeclared, unapproved, undefined and unchecked.”

It has been three months since President Obama sent his proposal for an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” focused on ISIS to Capitol Hill. It has gone nowhere.

This is mind-boggling. On the most important question government faces—military intervention overseas—Congress seems unable to stir itself to hammer out an agreement with the President. You can blame the President for this or you can blame Congress—each side comes in for its fair share—but inaction only expands the power of the President, leaving him to make hugely consequential decisions by himself. It’s a shocking dereliction of duty on Capitol Hill.

This is going to be a long and difficult conflict. It raises tough questions about the scope of the President’s powers, the duration of those powers, the definition and identity of the enemy, the extent of the field of battle, and America’s fundamental role in the world. The decision to apply American lives and resources to such a war is momentous, and, as a country, we need to know how far we’re willing to commit ourselves.

If we are going to send U.S. forces into dangerous places, they need to go in with the public backing that comes from a formal authorization hammered out in Congress. Both the President and Congress are dragging their feet on this, but that only helps the President, not the country. It leaves him—and most likely his successor—with dangerously broad authority to use military force without restriction, in perpetuity. This is not how a democracy like ours should operate.

The American people are beginning to understand all this. They overwhelmingly believe that Congress needs to weigh in on the government’s war-making powers. Yet, that seems to mean nothing to Washington. “Cowardly and shameful,” Sen. Kaine said. That pretty much sums it up.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University; Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and 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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Business owners: fix your potholes

 

I would like to suggest to local business owners and managers that they get together and do something about the potholes in their parking lots before they lose a lot of business. Menards happens to have pothole patch on sale this week! Only $9.99 for a 50 lb bag. I’m sure you can find something similar locally if driving to Grand Rapids is an inconvenience. I know some of my friends are avoiding some businesses completely for fear of damaging their cars. If you are waiting for the property owner to take care of it, you might be in for a long wait unfortunately.

Helen Hoornstra, City of Cedar Springs

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The difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day

 

By Maj. Nicholas J. Sabula, Defense Media Activity

Fort George G. Meade, Md. (AFNS)—There are lots of reminders out there that Memorial Day is about more than a day off or barbecue. It’s also about more than thanking everyone who served or waving flags. The truth is, many people confuse this day with Veterans Day.

This day is about one thing—our fallen warriors.

Congress officially set Memorial Day as the last Monday in May. How ironic that we mark the start of our summer season of fun with the day devoted to the memory of those who perished in the fight for the principles of freedom.

Why is Memorial Day so important? Here are some thoughts:

One thing I think people tend to gloss over with this day—these people died for freedom. While the semantics of how they died, why they died or where they died can become blurred by those seeking to minimize their sacrifice, the reality is that they died in serving the very country that allows for freedoms to belittle these heroes.

They gave of themselves, paying the ultimate sacrifice. This is the day for a grateful nation to remember their service and what it represented.

I think of the power in the memories we hold to the actions taken that were long forgotten by others.

I think of Marine Corps Maj. Megan McClung, who died while serving in Iraq. She embodied her personal catch-phrase of “Be bold, be brief, be gone.”

I think of our Medal of Honor recipients, who all remind us that the recognition is not for them, but for their comrades who are no longer with us.

The greatest honor we can bestow is remembering their gift. For me, experiences have shaped how meaningful the day is.

Long, long ago, I served as a member of the honor guard, covering a three-state region of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. Our team was incredible in the manner in which we would drive for hours to the location, then suddenly put our game face on in preparation for a funeral. Except it wasn’t a game to us.

The crisp folds in our nation’s flag, the sharp salute and presentation to the family on behalf of a grateful nation, and the 21-gun salute that shattered the silence was only shared with sobs and strong hearts during that instance.

We honored their passing; but also gave reverence to their important honorable service to this nation.

Though the M-1 Garand rifle was heavy and the snow would be knee-deep at certain locations, we never lost cadence, never lost focus. Whether a bitter -40 degrees or a sweltering 100 degrees, they would become part of this day we now hold as a federal holiday.

Since then, I have been shaped by additional experiences of loss. Whether saluting a hero’s flag-draped coffin as it’s carried onto a C-17 Globemaster III for their journey home, or experiencing the grief of learning of the loss of colleagues, it’s never easy when it hits you.

It really struck home about four and a half years ago, while in Afghanistan.

I’m not going to go into the details, but I will say that personally witnessing the death of a comrade when there’s nothing you could do stays with you forever. I don’t talk about it much, but it’s why the day is so important to me.

This day is for them and for those who served among them. For me, this day is also a time to reflect on all the sacrifice our military family as a whole has made.

Sgt. 1st Class Shannon’s family back home will never be the same; they are now a Gold Star family. His Army unit felt his loss. While our military and our country continue on, Memorial Day is a reminder that he and all the heroes we have lost mattered.

Service and sacrifice. This is my day to reflect on those I’ve encountered and those I never will. This is a day to simply remember.

This article was originally published on May 23, 2014, at www.af.mil.

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The Way Forward for Congress 

 

V-Lee-Hamilton-webBy Lee H. Hamilton

There have been encouraging signs on Capitol Hill of late that Congress’s long slide into irrelevance may be slowing.

Agreements on Medicare reimbursements and on Iran, No Child Left Behind, Pacific trade and other issues in various committees led last month to a chorus of relieved approval both in Washington and in the press. Just as important, the amendment process—at least in the Senate—is once again functioning as it’s supposed to.

But let’s not go overboard. Major challenges lie immediately ahead, chief among them how Congress handles the budget. If Congress finds that it likes feeling productive, then I’ve got some suggestions for turning these first, tentative steps into full-blown progress.

First, it needs to remember that our founders placed Congress first in the constitutional firmament. It has been far too timid. As has been noted, “Congress today is a reactive body, taking its cues from the President: sometimes in deference to him, sometimes in opposition to him, occasionally in agreement with him—but always in reference to him.” That’s not the definition of a co-equal branch of government.

Second, Congress needs to return to good process. This is not a panacea, but it enhances the prospect of getting things right. Returning in both houses to the so-called “regular order” of committee hearings and amendments would do wonders for restoring transparency, encouraging fact-finding, hearing all sides, weighing options, and finding agreement.

Third, members need to understand that their conduct has a direct impact on Americans’ trust in Congress. Too many have a constricted view of what it means to serve. They understand their responsibility to represent their constituents, but apparently feel little or no responsibility to get legislation enacted into law or to make the country work. This approach fails the ultimate test of the legislative process, which is to find remedies to the nation’s challenges.

Finally, Congress should heed the lesson of these past few months and re-energize its commitment to negotiation and compromise. There’s room in politics for elected leaders who do not back down on their principles, but these politicians can’t be allowed to dominate the process. If they do, the legislative process deadlocks and representative government becomes impossible. Skillful legislators know how to honor their firmly held principles while still finding common ground.

The progress we’ve seen of late on Capitol Hill is proof that these legislators exist. May their ranks increase.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University; Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and 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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