02-13-2020 Letters and Commentary

Prayer linked to faith Billy Graham, when asked if he would do things any differently if he were to do it over again responded, “Yes, if I were to do it over again, I would spend more time in meditation and prayer, just telling the Lord how much I love Him, and adore Him.” Of all things that he might do differently, that surprised me. Maybe it shouldn’t have. Once, when Jesus was teaching His disciples about prayer, it went like this: “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1, NIV) He then went on, describing a Judge who repeatedly refused to give a certain widow any legal help. But she was persistent, and finally that judge took action in her favor, not for justice sake, but only because she was tiring him out. Then Jesus makes this observation. “Listen to what the unjust judges says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (vv6-8). God is not like the judge in the account. He will not delay justice at the right time. But that last question is surprising “…when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” The rhetorical answer is, “Not much.” As time approaches the end, society will almost totally drift away from the true God. Faith and prayer are vitally linked. Without faith, prayer stops or is powerless. Prayer becomes a “litmus test” of faith. Billy Graham was definitely a man of faith and prayer. Looking back, he greatly valued time with God. But if prayer is missing in our lives, so probably is faith.

Thanks for the Valentine’s story

Dear Editor, This is a sincere “thank you” for the special Valentine messages front page feature in this week’s issue [Feb. 6] which shared the stories of three local couples. Teresa Smithers did an excellent job of note-taking and remembering what Bill and I talked about – probably another example of youthful memory at work! All three stories were wonderful and a tribute to the sanctity and duration of marriages that last through the years. Thank you! Sincerely, Julie Smith, Coloma

Church food pantry benefits from Wesco matching funds program

Dear Editor, Once again the Living Water Food Pantry at Watervliet Free Methodist Church has received a generous check from Wesco to help us with the mission of providing food assistance to those in need. As part of their Giving Mission, the Wesco chain of convenience stores has a long heritage of giving back to the communities they serve. During the fall months of 2020, Living Water Food Pantry was chosen as the non-profit organization benefiting from their matching funds program. Donations collected in containers on the counters from customers at the Watervliet and Coloma Wesco stores were matched by Wesco. We recently received a check totaling $4,064.28 from this generous program. The congregation and staff would like to thank the community for their support as well as Wesco for choosing to assist this ministry. Living Water Food Pantry, located at 7734 Paw Paw Ave. in Watervliet, is open every Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for families who are in need of food assistance. We reach across many counties having no restrictions with age or income status. Watervliet Free Methodist Church Living Water Food Pantry staff

Treasury protecting taxpayers from losing refunds

Some Michigan taxpayers who file a state income tax return may receive a letter from the Michigan Department of Treasury asking for more information to confirm their identity. The letters are a result of the state Treasury Department’s efforts to protect individuals from cybercriminals, who attempt to file state income tax returns on behalf of unsuspecting taxpayers and steal refunds. After a taxpayer confirms his or her identity by taking a short online quiz or submitting paperwork, the tax refund will be issued. A phone option is available as an alternative to the online quiz.

“We are making progress in the fight against tax-related identity theft,” said Deputy State Treasurer Glenn White, who oversees Treasury’s Tax Administration programs. “If you receive one of these letters, please follow the instructions carefully. Your security is important to us. We take every measure we can to protect the taxpayer, including asking for additional information about your tax return.”

Taxpayers who have been recent victims of identity theft are asked to report their circumstances to the state Treasury Department. Reporting identity theft helps thwart cybercriminals who attempt to file returns and steal state tax refunds. Since 2016, the state Treasury Department’s increased security measures protected more than 5,000 taxpayers who confirmed their identity was stolen and used to request state of Michigan income tax refunds. This prevented more than $19.5 million from being distributed to scammers. To learn more about identity theft, go to www.michigan.gov/identitytheft. For more information about state income taxes, go to www.michigan.gov/incometax.

Record high water levels to continue in 2020

(Press Release) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, announces that January 2020 water levels were higher on all lakes than they were in January 2019, and are expected to continue that trend into the spring and summer. According to Corps records, lakes Michigan and Huron both set new record high January levels, previously set in 1987. Lake Superior set new record high January levels previously set in 1986. Lake St. Clair tied its record high level set in January 1986. “It is likely that water levels on lakes Michigan and Huron will set new monthly mean record high levels over the next six months,” said John Allis, chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office, Detroit District. “This sets the stage for coastal impacts and damages in 2020 similar to, or worse than, what was experienced last year.” The Corps urges those impacted by the high water levels of 2019 to prepare for similar or higher levels again in 2020. The most recent six-month forecast of Great Lakes water levels shows water levels continuing to be well above average and near record high levels over this period. The Detroit District monitors and forecasts Great Lakes’ water levels and provides the data and analysis on their Website www.lre.usace.army.mil. Several natural factors contribute to the record high lake levels. Persistent wet conditions across the Great Lakes basin continue to drive high water levels. Many cities across the basin set records in 2019 for the wettest period on record. The warmer than normal temperatures in January led to greater runoff and reduced evaporation across much of the Great Lakes basin.

Late winter and spring is a period of seasonal rise on all of the Great Lakes due to increased rainfall and runoff. Water levels typically peak in the summer or early fall. Significant erosion continues in many locations as water levels remain extremely high. Strong storm systems and resulting large waves have led to substantial erosion along much of the Great Lakes coastline. To find more information about Great Lakes high water visit this link: https://www.lre.usace.army.mil/About/Great-Lakes-High-Water/ which includes information about how to protect property and investments along the coast and related Corps programs and authorities.

On the President’s State of the Union Last week, the country watched President Trump deliver his 2020 State of the Union address. I was pleased the President called for increased funding for health care research and for $50 million for childhood cancers. These priorities will help as we continue our work on Cures 2.0, an important idea to increase access to life-saving cures and a top priority in 2020. Like several of my colleagues, we’re ready to work with anyone who is focused on creating solutions and doing what is right. The best highlights of the address were the distinguished guests – like Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee and his great-grandson – who make us all proud. The worst was the partisan behavior that doesn’t reflect our better angels. We can do better. We need to start bringing this country back together. At the address I wore a purple tie in unity with the Problem Solver’s Caucus to highlight the fact that there are not red issues or blue issues. Rather, both parties need to come together to solve the issues that are facing all Americans. It is time we all work together because if not now, when? And if not us, who? To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or sign up for my weekly newsletter by visiting my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

HAPPY VALENTINES’ DAY… Here’s hoping you can spend it with your heart’s delight. Many thanks to all the participants and sponsors of our annual Valentine’s Love Letter contest and to our new tricityrecord.com cutest couple photo contest. It had 49 photo entries with five couples receiving over 100 online votes. See the stories in this week’s issue for all the details.

PRIMARY ELECTION MORASS… Meanwhile, some folks were confused by the campaigning and the Iowa caucus voting last week. The ballot counting process was delayed several days due to a computer error. I guess we don’t need the Russians to meddle, just a $3 million computer program to do it for them. Mayor Pete Buttigieg finished in a dead heat with Bernie Sanders. By the time the ballots got counted, nobody cared as the candidates had already struck their tents and hoofed over to the New Hampshire primary held there Tuesday. Already the top finishing candidates’ spin doctors claimed victory, while the rest of the pack said… it doesn’t matter. The real test is Super Tuesday. Super Tuesday is March 3, with 14 states hosting primary elections. Participating states in 2020: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont. Illinois is March 17 and Indiana is May 5. Michigan’s primary election will take place on Tuesday, March 10, as one of several states voting the week after Super Tuesday in the Democratic Party presidential primaries for the 2020 presidential election. The Michigan primary is an open primary, with the state awarding 147 delegates, of which 125 are pledged delegates allocated on the basis of the results of the primary. The 2020 Democratic National Convention is an event in which delegates of the United States Democratic Party will choose the party’s nominees for president and vice president in the 2020 United States presidential election. The convention is scheduled to be held from July 13–16, 2020, at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

HUMDINGER? The real humdinger might be the Republican Convention. While we might pick President Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, there’s a Republican precedent dating back to Abe Lincoln’s first nomination. There were other nominees with more votes, but none had enough to win them the nomination. What Honest Abe had was all the second place votes. There was so much acrimony among the delegates that they would never accept any of the front runners, but they would accept Lincoln. The rest is history. The 2020 Republican National Convention will be held from August 24 to 27, 2020, at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Governor’s budget plan ignores local roads Last week, the governor’s budget director addressed a joint hearing of the Senate and House appropriations committees to unveil the administration’s recommended budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and as chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee on universities and community colleges, I attended the hearing. The governor’s presentation is the first step in the annual budget process, and I will be working closely with my colleagues as we begin to go over the governor’s proposal and determine how it fits with Senate priorities, including roads and infrastructure, K-12 and higher education, and protecting our natural resources. However, I am concerned about the governor’s plan for our roads. Her recent action to begin the process of bonding to borrow money for road projects is misguided and won’t come without significant costs in the form of long-term debt payments. It is estimated that the $3.5 billion in bonds the governor is pursuing will end up costing our state more than $5 billion. It is worth mentioning that former governors, Engler and Granholm, bonded for roads during their terms, and we are still paying millions every year for those decades-old decisions — and the roads are still terrible. If that isn’t bad enough, perhaps worse is the fact that this borrowed money cannot be used for local roads; the money is restricted only for interstates, U.S. highways and “M” designated roads. On top of that, the governor’s budget proposal does not include any plan for local road funding. Though we can’t stop the governor’s bonding maneuver, I am hopeful we will be able to approve a real, long-term roads plan. Despite our differences, we have an opportunity to put the past behind us and work together. I look forward to the budget process and hope we can overcome the challenges of last year to produce a budget that is fair, balanced and on time.

The success of Nurse-Family Partnership Earlier this month, I recognized former Berrien County Health Department Health Officer, Mike Mortimore, and Medical Director, Dr. Rick Johansen, at the Nurse-Family Partnership’s advocacy day in Lansing. Mr. Mortimore and Dr. Johansen are responsible for launching the first Nurse-Family Partnership program in the State of Michigan. In the late 1990s, Berrien County was experiencing some of the worst infant mortality rates throughout the state, not to mention the nearly eight-fold mortality disparity between black and white babies in the county. High rates of poverty, teen pregnancy, and poor maternal health outcomes compounded the issue.

Armed with the local data to support the need for an innovative program, Mike and Dr. Johansen worked tirelessly to share information with elected officials, seek funding from a variety of foundations for support, and turn the community conversation from problems to solutions. After submitting countless grant applications, meeting with legislators and leaders from around the state, and building community buy-in through local health-focused coalitions, in the year 2000, Berrien County Health Department finally had the funding and local support to launch the first Nurse-Family Partnership program in Michigan. Within a few short years, it was clear the positive impact that Nurse-Family Partnership was having within the county – health outcomes for both babies and mothers improved, the racial disparity gap in infant mortality began to shrink, and the families who graduated from the program were thriving. Since its inception twenty years ago, the NFP program has expanded in Michigan beyond Berrien County to now ten counties and served thousands of families on their path to optimal health, economic self-sufficiency, advanced education, and overall quality of life improvement. I’m incredibly proud of Berrien County for being a trailblazer, and for all of the good work they’ve done to improve health outcomes right here in our community and state. If I can ever be of assistance to you, you can reach me via email at PaulineWendzel@house.mi.gov or by phone at 517-373-1403. You can also visit my website at www.RepWendzel.com.

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