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Archive | Voices and Views

Happy with school superintendent

 

As a follow up to Lyle Perry, Jr.’s comment last week, Superintendent VanDuyn’s letter in the post was outstanding! I am very excited and hopeful about the direction I see her taking our school district. It was also very encouraging to hear the school board members voice their support of Dr. VanDuyn and all she is accomplishing at this week’s school board meeting. As a parent with four children in the district I would also like to thank Dr. VanDuyn, the administrators, teachers, and support staff for the way the lock down situation was handled on Monday. I think you all did a great job, thank you for keeping our kids safe!

Jenny Skelonc, Sand Lake

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Inspiring Letter

 

Dear Editor,

The letter in the Post from Cedar Springs School Superintendent Laura VanDuyn is outstanding! Progress achieved and plans made for the future are reassuring and inspiring!

Lyle Perry, Jr., Cedar Springs

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Shame on you

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.


 

 

To the person or persons who took a tote from the Cedar Springs United Methodist church on Tuesday morning, October 6:

I want you to know just what you took. This tote was filled with health kits which were being sent for distribution to people who are victims of natural disasters or are refugees fleeing war. These combs, wash cloths, towels, toothbrushes, soap and nail care items were purchased with nickels, dimes and dollars contributed by children during Vactation Bible School and church members who supported them. They were expressing their concern for other children and their families who have nothing yet seek to regain their personal dignity. You did not steal from us – you have taken from folks who are really in desperate need. Think about it!

Ann Scott, Missions Team Chariperson

Cedar Springs United Methodist Church

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We face real challenges to representative democracy

By Lee H. Hamilton

People who care about the United States’ place in the world often fret about challenges to representative democracy from other countries. I’d contend that the more formidable challenge comes not from abroad, but from within.

For starters, it’s hard to make American representative democracy work. Our country is large, growing, and diverse, and we rely on a bewildering array of branches and units of government to run it. The system rests on the consent of a public that often wants mutually contradictory things — to shrink the deficit, for instance, but without cuts in defense spending or entitlements and no additional taxes.

Two of our basic governing institutions, Congress and the presidency, are not at the top of their game. Congress has adopted some unfortunate political and procedural habits: it governs by crisis, fails repeatedly to follow time-tested procedures that ensure accountability and fairness, panders to wealthy contributors, and too often erupts in excessive partisanship. Meanwhile, the President presides over a bloated executive branch that has too many decision makers and bases to touch, lacks accountability, and desperately needs better, more effective management.

The decades-long march toward increased presidential power at the expense of the legislative branch severely undercuts our constitutional system and raises the question of how far down this road can we go and still have representative democracy.

We face other challenges as well. Too much money is threatening the core values of representative democracy. And too many Americans have become passive and disengaged from politics and policy; representative democracy is not a spectator sport.

Yet, our political system forms the core of American strength. It enshrines fundamental power in a body elected by the broad mass of the people, and is based solidly on the participation and consent of the governed. Allowed to work properly, it is the system most likely to produce policy that reflects a consensus among the governed. Above all, it has the capacity to correct itself and move on.

In other words, we don’t need to reinvent our system, but rather use its abundant strengths to find our way through our problems and emerge stronger on the other side.

It is not written in the stars that representative government will always prosper and prevail. It needs the active involvement of all of us, from ordinary voters to the president. Each of us must do our part.

Lee Hamilton was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. He writes regularly about Congress and what individuals can do to make our representative democracy work better. His columns are part of the educational mission of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, where he is director. Visit www.centeroncongress.org or go to Facebook to express your views about Congress, civic education, and the citizen’s role in representative democracy. “Like” us on Facebook at “Center on Congress at Indiana University.”

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What do we mean by “Representative Government”? 

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By Lee H. Hamilton

With a presidential election year fast approaching, we’re in for a lot of public talk about the state of American democracy. Much of that discussion will be insightful and thought-provoking, but there’s a good chance you’ll also find a lot of it vague and hard to pin down.

There’s a reason for this. Even our political leaders, the people who are most familiar with the system’s workings, have a hard time describing it.

In fact, they even have a hard time labeling it. Ours is not actually a pure democracy: it’s more accurate to say that we live in a “representative democracy” – that is, the people don’t themselves make decisions, but delegate that authority to their elected representatives. In this sense, we really live in a republic, a word you don’t often hear from the podium.

Perhaps the best way to start thinking about what American representative democracy really means is to recall the Pledge of Allegiance, which is an oath to the Republic that our flag symbolizes, and in particular to an ideal: that our nation will strive for liberty and justice for all. Plenty of well-meaning people, in the heat of the political moment, seize on one or the other of those twin poles to support their agenda — they insist upon liberty or they demand justice. The Pledge, however, makes it clear that these core principles are inseparable.

Still, they are ideals. They’re not sufficient to define a representative democracy.

Indeed, no single feature does. One of our core tenets holds that the people are sovereign — that we give our consent to be governed through regular participation in the elections that decide who will represent us. Yet elections in and of themselves don’t define our republic, either; there are plenty of countries around the world whose elections are used to distort democracy.

So the rule of law is also key, and along with it the notion that everyone ought to be subject to equal justice under the law. The separation of powers among the different branches of government creates a balance designed to protect the people from overweening power. The rights guaranteed by our Constitution ensure that the rights of minorities of all kinds are safe.

The big challenge in all this is to set up the structures and practices that protect and defend these beliefs. The courts, legislative bodies and executive branches at the federal, state and local level are an example of this, along with a system of checks and balances that promotes accountability and transparency. So are the freedoms we often take for granted: under our Constitution, we do not put to a vote whether to continue protecting freedom of religion or the right to express unpopular sentiments or publish news that challenges those in power.

While representative democracy rests on a core set of principles, it remains a constantly evolving concept. At the beginning, ours was limited: our Founders began with an inspiring set of beliefs about how a nation ought to govern itself, but they also ignored women and chose to set aside the question of slavery. This was a democracy of white males of a certain age who owned property. Representative democracy by its nature is always a work in progress; we never really get the balance between liberty and justice exactly right.

This is worth remembering at the moment, when the problems we confront seem so overwhelming and our institutions are under so much strain. The problems they have to resolve—the outsized role of money in politics, excessive partisanship, the sheer complexity of the policy challenges we face—are daunting, but that doesn’t mean representative government itself should be called into question.

In fact, it is our great strength. It protects against arbitrary authority, strives for justice, hears our varied and conflicting opinions before it acts, and moderates tensions among competing interests. It works in a measured fashion that tends—over time—to encourage policymakers to find consensus. It is the form of government that, when allowed to work properly, is most likely to lead to wise policy, firmly rooted in the consent of the ordinary people on whose shoulders it rests.

Lee Hamilton was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. He writes regularly about Congress and what individuals can do to make our representative democracy work better. His columns are part of the educational mission of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, where he is director. www.centeroncongress.org

 

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Thank you

Post Script 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.


 

I would like to say thank you to the stranger that stopped and helped my daughter and I when we fell on the White Pine Trail, on Friday, August 21, 2015. We are both doing well and should heal pretty quickly. Thank you so much.

Trisha Dart, Cedar Springs

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Social Security tips

 

By Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Labor Day isn’t your only reward for hard work

On Labor Day, many Americans enjoy a long weekend to commemorate the hard work they do the rest of the year, as well as those who support working people. With barbecues and ballgames, beach trips and fireworks, this annual holiday often marks the unofficial end of summer. Established in 1882, Labor Day has become a timeless American tradition that many look forward to all summer.

Labor Day also reminds us that all our hard work is paying off in more ways than one. If you work 10 years, and receive four credits each year for a total of 40 credits, you’ll enjoy the security of Social Security retirement benefits. Remember, those years don’t have to be consecutive. You can check your Social Security Statement and make sure you have enough credits by opening a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

The best way to see what those benefits might be is to visit Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. The Retirement Estimator is an easy way to get an instant, personalized estimate of future retirement benefits. The Estimator uses your actual earnings history to compute a benefit estimate.

In the past, applying for benefits could be laborious, requiring you to drive to a Social Security office, wait, and fill out paperwork. Now, you can visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline to apply online for retirement benefits.

In most cases, after you submit your online application electronically, that’s it. There are no additional forms to sign or paperwork to complete. In rare cases, we’ll need additional information, and a representative will contact you.

Labor Day might mean something a little different once you’re retired. Spend a few moments considering what your hard work has earned in the form of Social Security protection for you, your family, and working people everywhere.

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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Library votes for city to own new library

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.


 

 

I recently attended a special meeting of the Cedar Springs Library Board where they voted unanimously to request that the City own the new library after it is built. I am grateful for the board’s diligence, vision, and faith that not only would our community recognize the value of a new library but actively embrace it. I am also grateful for the considerable supports the CBDT has provided both financially and in creative problem solving. As a member of the City Council, I am looking forward to partnering with both the Library Board and the CBDT as we move toward construction. This process has been a testimony to the countless people who have patiently and tenaciously strived to realize a dream for this community that now spans decades. I am confident that our new library will be an asset to this community for generations to come. I truly believe the most important gift we can give our children is access to knowledge. This library exemplifies that gift. I want to thank all those involved for putting in the hard work to make this happen.

Sincerely,

Pam Conley, City of Cedar Springs

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On Voting … and not 

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By Lee H. Hamilton

The campaigning for next year’s elections is starting to draw more attention, and with it comes a focus on voters and their mood. Which is all well and good, but it leaves out of the equation one large bloc of citizens: people who are eligible to vote, but don’t.

They give a multitude of reasons: they’re too busy, or voting takes too much time, or they’re turned off by politics and the money game. Sometimes they’re ill or disabled. Sometimes they ran into ID requirements that stymied them.

Although there are plenty of policy-makers whose chief concern is to protect the integrity of the ballot and reduce fraud, others are deeply worried about falling rates of voter participation. They’re concerned because voting doesn’t just put office-holders in place and push policy in one direction or another. It also affirms the electoral system. The vigor of our system depends on the vote of each citizen.

So what do we do about it?

Generally speaking, Democrats have emphasized making ballot access easier; Republicans have focused on ballot integrity. Both need to be addressed. The vigor of our system depends on the vote of each citizen. We have to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.

We also need to modernize the system. Ours is fragile and uneven. We’ve already had one presidential election decided by courts on a question of failed infrastructure. More embarrassing cases will certainly occur.

And the days are long past when it was okay to place election administration in the hands of partisan state or local politicians. It’s time for election management across the country to be in non-partisan hands.

The aim of reforming the system is to make voting convenient, efficient, and pleasant, to make sure the mechanics work as they ought, and to ensure that disputes are handled fairly. State governments, not localities, should be responsible for the accuracy and quality of voter lists.

Finally, there’s the question of voter ID. It’s legitimate to ensure that a person presenting himself or herself at the voting site is the same one named on the voting list. But requiring an ID needs to be accompanied by aggressive efforts to find voters and provide free access to the voting booth. Instead, a lot of states that have instituted ID requirements have dismissed the idea that this imposes a responsibility to reach out to voters and make IDs available to those who can’t afford it. They’re subverting representative democracy.

Lee Hamilton was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. He writes regularly about Congress and what individuals can do to make our representative democracy work better. His columns are part of the educational mission of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, where he is director. www.centeroncongress.org

 

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“In-kind services”

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.

 

Dear Editor,

In answer to Kathy Bremmer’s letter regarding to Cedar Springs’ “in-kind services” contributed to the Red Flannel Festival. To keep it short and sweet: a few years before the Red Flannel Festival/Cedar Springs blow-up took place, all the Festival policing and cleanup was furnished, free of charge, by the Village/City. It was the municipality’s part in the production of the celebration.

The Festival benefits the City and the City benefits the Festival. The Red Flannel history includes them BOTH and because the city is a beneficiary of the event it is appropriate that they should make a contribution to the celebration.

Dorothy Bishop, 

Past Director of the Red Flannel Festival and 

68-year resident of Cedar Springs and environs.  

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