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Archive | Voices and Views

Even the Mayor goes to jail

 

 

Yes, he ignorantly drove his 4-wheeler down Main Street, not realizing it needed to be tagged by the Red Flannel Festival for insurance purposes. After a conversation with the Chief of Police, Roger Parent, it was decided by the Keystone Cops—Leon Avery and Mark Fankhauser—that I was not above the long arm of the law! A big thanks to Russ Durst for bailing me out. And thanks to RFF President Michele Andres for legalizing my vehicle. Maybe, with everyone’s help, I can play within the rules at next year’s 75th Red Flannel Festival.

It was a great day for everyone, a sea of red up and down Main Street, including an Amish Furniture store on South Main Street that had record sales. And some would say that it (the day) is about the RFF and their so-called financial empire, and that the city merchants don’t benefit that much. Last Saturday’s sales was an eye-opener for this merchant.

A world of thanks to all the worker bees, generous sponsors and donors for a great Red Flannel Festival.

 

Humbly,

Your mayor, Bob Truesdale

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To the residents of Cedar Springs and Solon Township,

By now, you should have received a survey from the Library Board regarding services and a new building. We apologize if we have missed or overlooked any of you. There are extra surveys at the library for you to come in and fill out. We value your opinions and greatly appreciate your time in completing them.

As a reminder, the Library Board is asking you to fill out the surveys and return them to the library either by mail to 43 W. Cherry Street, Cedar Springs, MI 49319, or drop if off at the library, or in the book return dropbox. We would appreciate receiving the surveys no later than October 1. We will then compile the collected information and submit it to our recently formed building committee.

We thank you for your time and opinions.

Sincerely,

Earla Jean Alber, Cedar Springs

Library Board Chair

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What you need to know about Congress right now

V-Lee-HamiltonBy Lee H. Hamilton

Deeply unpopular and flagrantly unproductive, Congress is on its August recess right now. It won’t return until Sept. 9, after a five-week recess, leaving itself just a few days to settle issues like raising the debt ceiling and passing a federal budget. Here are some things you should know about where it stands at this stage of the game:

— Few, if any, Congresses can match this one for futility. It managed to help out some communities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and to reach a deal on presidential nominations, but mostly it can’t get things done — whatever your politics. The repeal of Obamacare, action on climate change, a “grand bargain” on our fiscal problems, education and tax reform, creating jobs, strengthening gun laws… the list of dropped balls is long, although there is still hope for immigration reform, if just barely. A few weeks ago Speaker John Boehner told Americans not to judge Congress by how many laws it passes, but by how many it repeals. It hasn’t succeeded on either count.

— The budget process is a mess. It’s been years since Congress put together a budget according to its regular order, but even by its recent low standards this year has been chaotic. None of the appropriations bills needed for the government to continue running after Sept. 30 has been enacted. “It is common for Congress to leave big budget fights until the last minute,” the Wall Street Journal’s Janet Hook wrote as Congress left town, “but the budgeting process now seems so adrift that even congressional veterans find it hard to see a resolution.” Passing a budget is the most basic function of government, and Congress can’t manage it.

— Members of Congress do not like to compromise. The parties are more divided ideologically than they’ve been for many decades, with one side fiercely hostile to government and the other convinced that government can accomplish good things. Neither side can get things done on its own. That’s pretty much the definition of when responsible lawmakers step forward to build a consensus. Yet in this Congress, either they don’t know how or they’re not interested. A glimmer of hope does exist, as more members respond to polls showing Americans believe it’s more important for the parties to compromise than to stick to their positions. They may not be able to come to agreement, but some of them are talking about how willing they are to reach across the aisle.

— Even so, it’s worth noticing that one of the congressional parties is extraordinarily difficult to lead at the moment. The Republicans are fractured and squabbling over their future direction. This makes me sympathize with the formidable task the Republican leadership confronts.

— Hardly anyone out there thinks Congress is doing a good job — it’s consistently below 20 percent approval ratings — and most people think it’s too partisan. Yet members aren’t very concerned. They’ve become quite skilled at running against Washington, even though they are Washington. And they count on the fact that few voters hold their own member of Congress responsible for its shortcomings, however unpopular Congress as a whole has become.

— As lobbyists descend in swarms on Capitol Hill, they hold more power than ever. They rain cash, twist arms, and even draft bills — all the things that powerful congressional leaders used to do. The NRA’s defeat of legislation strengthening background checks for gun purchases, in the face of overwhelming public sentiment after Newtown, was nothing less than an impressive display of political clout and an example of how influential lobbyists and special interests have become. Perhaps this is why a good number of my former colleagues have made a tidy living for themselves by becoming lobbyists.

— Finally, all of this contributes to the emerging themes for the 2014 congressional campaign. Candidates will clearly run against the mess in Washington, and a good number of them, though not all, will talk regularly about the need to be bipartisan. The big question for 2015 will be whether the successful ones can translate their talk into legislation to help move the country forward.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years. Now on Facebook you can find information about our educational resources and programs, and you can share your thoughts 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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Student loan bill a difficult but necessary step

By Sen. Carl Levin

 

The Senate recently faced a very difficult choice. When a July 1 deadline passed, the interest rate on federal student loans was set to double. American students and parents who worry every single day about whether they can afford college cannot be burdened with such an enormous rate hike. The Senate approved legislation to temporarily resolve this crisis, but left the door open to future rate increases. I voted in favor of this legislation, but I also favor action to avert future rate increases.

The cost of tuition at public four-year colleges is up more than 15 percent since 2009. Student loan debt has reached historic proportions. And yet we allowed the rate on new federally subsidized student loans to double, to 6.8 percent, as of July 1. If we had allowed this rate increase to continue, we would have subtracted thousands of dollars from the wallets of American students and their families or, worse, pushed college beyond the financial means of some families who already wonder whether they can afford to give their kids the education they need and deserve.

The bipartisan legislation we passed in late July will provide relief. But it is far from perfect. It switches these interest rates for these critical student loans from fixed rates to floating rates with caps that are far too high. This opens the door to rising interest in the future that students and their families simply cannot afford.

The student debt problem, which for many families is a student debt crisis, requires a carefully considered long-term solution. I am hopeful that such a solution will eventually emerge. But this legislation is not it.

That is why I supported an amendment offered by my colleagues, Sen. Jack Reed and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and another amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would have mitigated some of the long-term damage of this legislation. Even though we did not adopt those amendments, I supported this bill for the simple reason that it removes the immediate burden facing America’s students and their families.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Sen. Tom Harkin, has pledged to try to fix the likely spiking interest rates facing students when a higher education bill comes up next year. I will strongly support that effort.

We in the Senate had a choice. But America’s college students do not – they have no choice but to pay the ever-rising cost of a college education, not if they want the skills and knowledge that hold the promise of a better life. They have no choice but to live with the decisions we make in the Senate, and that’s why I supported this legislation to avoid a doubling of student loan interest rates that our families simply can’t afford.

Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.

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New high school parking lot

As I drove in to the newly repaved High School today, I felt so grateful for the generosity of our community in making this happen. The passage of the sinking fund in 2012 allowed this major improvement to become a reality. This summer, the school was able to use these dollars to resurface the high school gym as well as improve the overall flow of traffic at the high school. We were able to add more parking spaces and eliminate the potholes too numerous to count. Without the support of voters in passing the sinking fund, this would not be possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Brook Nichols, school board President

 

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Social Security and you

Spouses have a significant benefit

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

Social Security can be an important financial asset for married couples when the time comes to apply for retirement benefits. In many cases, one spouse may have earned significantly more than the other, or have worked for a longer span of years. Or it could be that one spouse stayed home to do the work of raising the children or caring for elderly family members while the other focused on a career.

Regardless of your situation, Social Security will look at all possibilities to make sure both spouses receive the maximum benefit possible.

Even if you have not paid Social Security taxes, it’s likely you’ll be eligible to receive benefits on your spouse’s record. If you did work and pay into Social Security, we will check eligibility based on your work record and your spouse’s to see which amount is higher.

You can apply for spouses benefits the same way that you apply for benefits on your own record. You can apply for reduced benefits as early as age 62, or for 100 percent of your full retirement benefits at your “full retirement age.” You can find your full retirement age, based on your birth year, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/ageincrease.htm.

The benefit amount you can receive as a spouse, if you have reached your full retirement age, can be as much as one-half of your spouse’s full benefit. If you opt for early retirement, your benefit may be as little as a third of your spouse’s full benefit amount.

If your spouse has already reached full retirement age but continues to work, your spouse can apply for retirement benefits and request to have the payments suspended until as late as age 70. This would allow the worker to earn delayed retirement credits that will mean higher payments later, but would allow you to receive your spouse’s benefit.

You can also apply for spouse benefits based on the earnings record of an ex-spouse or deceased spouse if you were married for at least 10 years. Spouses can consider a number of options and variables. We make it easier to navigate them. A good place to start is by visiting our benefits planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners. Take note of the “Benefits As A Spouse” section.

If you are ready to apply for benefits, the fastest, easiest, and most convenient way is to apply online! You can do so at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.

Whether you receive benefits on a spouse’s record or your own, rest assured we will make sure you get the highest benefit we can pay you. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

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

 

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Catastrophic Auto Insurance rates rise

From the Insurance Institute of Michigan

 

Fireworks aren’t the only thing going up this week. An insurance assessment to reimburse insurance companies for catastrophic injuries resulting from auto crashes increased 6 percent on July 1.

The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) assessment, which covers unlimited lifetime medical costs for those injured in auto accidents, rose $11, from the $175 to $186 starting July 1, 2013.
“Just like health insurance, the cost to provide unlimited, lifetime care and medical treatment for those injured in auto crashes is rising at a staggering rate.  In 2012, the cost neared the $1 billion mark,” said Pete Kuhnmuench, Executive Director, Insurance Institute of Michigan.

Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system is unique in that it provides unlimited medical benefits for motorists injured in auto accidents.  Michigan is the only state in the country with such a high medical benefit mandate. The MCCA was created in 1978 to reimburse auto insurance companies for injury claims that exceed a certain threshold, which will be $530,000 on July 1. The MCCA then assesses all auto insurance companies to cover the costs of those catastrophic claims. The assessment is reflected in the premiums paid by Michigan policyholders.

The MCCA is required by state law to assess carriers the amount it is expected to pay for those injured in auto accidents during the upcoming year. The MCCA evaluates expectations for medical cost inflation, economic conditions, investment returns and number of claims. It is adjusted for fund surpluses or deficiencies from earlier assessments. Currently, the MCCA faces an estimated $2 billion deficit, which represents $300 per insured car. Of the $186 assessment, $29.19 is designated to recoup part of the deficit.

In 2012, the MCCA paid out $947 million, primarily for closed-head injuries, paraplegia, quadriplegia and burns. Since 1978, when the fund began, more than 29,474 claims have been reported, which will cost an estimated $83 billion over the life of the injured motorists.

Each year, an increasing number of individuals are receiving benefits from catastrophic auto accidents. Payments to full-time family or agency attendant and residential care providers comprise 60 percent of the claim payments.

The liability of the MCCA falls upon auto insurance companies in Michigan, according to Kuhnmuench. Five of those insurance companies that write over 40 percent of the state’s auto insurance serve on its Board of Directors. Those member companies are appointed by the Director of the Department of Insurance and Financial Services.  The Director serves as an ex-officio member. Information on the MCCA, including claim payment statistics, audit reports, financial statements and answers to frequently asked questions is available at www.michigancatastrophic.com.

IIM is a government affairs and public information association representing property/casualty insurance companies and related organizations operating in Michigan.   IIM member companies provide insurance to 74 percent of the automobile and 65 percent of the homeowners markets in Michigan. For more information about insurance, visit the website, www.iiminfo.org.

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From your Mayor’s Desk

Like you, who have come to me, after your stop at City Hall I am also concerned about our blight in the city right of ways, especially West Muskegon Street, the gateway to our downtown merchants. I am referring to the weeds growing three inches above the curb and tree limbs from recent wind storms. I am told that this will not be picked up until late fall, so, please don’t feel bad folks, as even hound dog Bob can’t you any answers—other than we didn’t budget any monies for weed pulling. I am also told that running a city is nothing like running a business, and I guess I can see that. For, as a businessman, I buy the truck, I pay $75 to fill the gas tank and I pay wages to the driver, so it only makes sense to have my driver stop and correct the problem when driving by the blight. I also realize that in our present system of procedures that the few minutes of cleaning up the blight would need to be charged back to that city vehicle. It sure sounds like something that came out of Washington D.C.

My wife is convinced that with your help, we can change our city’s image on every front, so over the next few months she needs your help to find that proud city employee, including the police department, fire fighters, office personnel, DPW, etc. who goes the extra mile to make our city a nicer place to be. Register that person and the good deed, at the Amish Warehouse, 141 S. Main St. She will have a $50 gift certificate, to a restaurant of your choice, for the top entry. Thank you for your prayers and support. Stop by and see me on Mondays at Cedar Springs City Hall from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Bob Truesdale, Mayor

Cedar Springs

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Medical update from your mayor

At a recent annual physical, it has been determined that I do not have leprosy or any other contagious diseases. So now, anyone, even city employees can feel free to talk with me at any time, and at any place, about anything that is troubling you. It is no secret, if Cedar Springs is going to be what it once was, it will take everyone working together. City planners, city council, city employees and all you good tax payers who pay the bills. I will have office hours at City Hall each Monday from 2-5pm. Stop in and see me!

 

Your mayor for an all new Cedar Springs. 

Thank you for your prayers and support, 

Bob Truesdale

Address: 141 S. Main St.

Phone: 696-3991

Fax: 696-2150

e-mail: awarehouse@att.net

Facebook: Bob Truesdale

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Strong families survive, and Social Security helps

V-SS-VonTilBy: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

June is National Family Month – a great time to reflect on family and how to make it stronger. As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reminds us, strong families share many valuable qualities: trust, commitment, communication, growth, affection, fun, and love.

Strong families are more likely to grow through a crisis, allowing the difficult experience to bring them even closer together.

In the unfortunate event of a family member’s death, Social Security is there to help. In addition to the emotional difficulty family members experience, there is often a financial burden as well, especially if the family’s main wage earner dies. In such cases, Social Security survivor’s benefits will help.

Did you know that nearly every child in America could get Social Security survivors benefits if a working parent dies? Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program. Although many people think Social Security is just a retirement program, Social Security also provides survivors insurance benefits for workers and their families.

Family members who may be able to receive survivors benefits include a widow or widower, unmarried children up to age 19 and still in high school, and under certain circumstances, stepchildren, grandchildren, step grandchildren, adopted children, and dependent parents.

To learn more about survivors benefits, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/survivors.htm.

 

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

 

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