03-19-2020 Letters and Commentary

Corrections In the March 12, 2020 issue of Tri-City Record, an error was made on Page 12 in the continuation of the Blossomtime story from the front page. The photo identified as Mr. Coloma Ian Ishmael was incorrect. Tri-City Record is sorry for any inconvenience or confusion this error may have caused.

Blossomtime pageants postponed

Dear Blossomtime Friends, As a Festival that has been creating joy for more than 114 years, we value the trust you place in us every day with your children and we appreciate your community support. As our country works to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we support and respect Lake Michigan College’s decision to close the college and the Mendel Center. At this time, the Mr. Blossomtime Contest/Showcase of Queens and Miss Blossomtime will be [has been] postponed temporarily for the weekend of March 15 and March 16 to help keep you and your loved ones safe. The Blossomtime Festival takes our responsibilities seriously and please do know a plan of action will be coming soon with an alternate date and more information. Anna Abdelnour, President Blossomtime Festival Board of Directors

Bipartisan legislation to help Great Lakes communities address rising water levels, shoreline erosion

(Press Release) U.S. Senators Gary Peters of Michigan and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to provide support for local communities facing rising water levels, coastal erosion, and flooding that have put homes and property at risk, and caused millions of dollars in damages. The Great Lakes are expected to hit record high-water levels this year, and communities in Michigan and Wisconsin are facing serious shoreline erosion challenges that have destroyed homes and beaches and have even forced residents to relocate. Peters’ and Johnson’s bipartisan bill would establish loans that local governments could access to help mitigate the impact of rising water levels, coastal erosion and other damage caused by natural disasters in a more cost-effective way. Studies have shown that resilience and mitigation spending saves taxpayers more than $6 for every dollar invested. U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow from Michigan and James Lankford from Oklahoma cosponsored the legislation. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved the legislation. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration. The Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act of 2020 would allow FEMA to help states establish revolving loan funds that could be used by local governments to carry out mitigation projects that reduce natural disaster risk, including shoreline erosion and rising water levels. Unlike existing FEMA grants, these low-interest loans would allow local governments to invest in resiliency and mitigation projects that help reduce loss of life and property, the cost of insurance, and disaster recovery payments. These loans would reach the communities more quickly than FEMA’s traditional grants and provide local communities with capital necessary to invest in more resilient infrastructure. The Army Corps of Engineers expects the Great Lakes to hit record-high water levels in the coming months, which intensify the impacts of high winds and contribute to shoreline erosion. Along the Great Lakes, rising water levels have already flooded campgrounds and streets, caused boating problems due to submerged structures, and destroyed several beaches and homes. These disasters often cause long-term economic, social, and environmental effects for states and communities, including deaths, injuries, property destruction, and an increased burden on taxpayers. Currently FEMA programs are unable to provide assistance for projects related to sustained high water levels and long-term shoreline erosion. This bill would ensure that communities facing these hazards are eligible for loans to fund such mitigation projects.

Then there was silence

Walking Cripple Creek’s deserted main street back in 1971, I had an acute awareness of human history. It was almost like sensing invisible faces staring back from empty, dark shadows in the places of business that once saw many customers in this ghost town’s heyday. It was easy to imagine playful children accompanying their parents along the wooden sidewalks as if they had never left Cripple Creek behind a hundred years before. But now, in reality, there was only silence, the wind in the bright sky, the hot dust, and an occasional shred of curtain waving out an empty window frame. Google Earth takes us to the site of another more distant ghost town – Ephesus, Turkey, a ghost town with a much longer history. Thousands of people once packed the amphitheater still there today, chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” as they tried to shout away the gospel of Jesus Christ that had come and had challenged their favorite goddess worship. Their voices have long faded into the surrounding hills. Now there is silence. Again, the winds the only witness, the ancient faces have become dust. But the most important part of these ghost towns is not the structures or the changed appearance. It’s the people. The voices of the people are missing. Nothing remains of the laughing children, nor of the thousands of Ephesians. All are silent. Yet, according to the Bible they will all see resurrection. And so will we. Jesus once said, “…a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:27-29, NIV) With Christ as our Lord and Savior we needn’t fear that day – check out 1-800-NEED HIM, or PeaceWithGod.net. Find new hope in Him.

COVID-19 tips

News regarding the COVID-19 or “Coronavirus” has been evolving rapidly over the past week. I can report that as of now, there are currently 54 reported cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, with 0 in the Southwest Michigan area as of March 17. Food services are the primary concern I have heard from around the community. Here are some helpful tips to help ensure you have all the information and resources needed at this time: At 3:00 p.m. on Monday, restaurants and bars were mandated to shut down for dine-in customers. That said, most restaurants will continue operation by utilizing their drive-thru windows. It may be useful to get a list of restaurants in your community that will still provide drive-thru services. For students and families that rely on school lunches, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved a waiver submitted by the Michigan Department of Education to set up school lunch pick-ups until our schools re-open. Contact local schools to figure out if they have a plan in place and when they will be able to implement it. Contact local pantries and churches to see what services they are providing at this time. Lastly, simply checking in on a neighbor can go a long way in ensuring the general health and safety of our community. If your someone is not comfortable talking face to face, even a quick phone call can go a long way. As your Representative, I remain committed to staying available throughout this time of uncertainty. If you do not know who to contact, please contact my office at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov or (517) 373-0839 so my staff and I can get you connected with the resources you need.

Cracking down on price gouging in times of emergency

We are living in extraordinary times — unprecedented times, in fact. As we enter this new normal in the age of coronavirus, most people are adjusting and adapting. Most people have taken the advice of our medical professionals and elected leaders and are being smart about our social interactions and are staying home. The reality of the situation, with the speed with which all of this is happening, and the unknown of how long it is going to go on, is that there are going to be times when we need to go out to resupply. The fear and panic have caused many to bulk purchase essentials, like toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, and sanitizer, leaving many more others searching and out of luck. While this behavior is unfortunate, even worse has been the price gouging that has followed. The state’s attorney general’s office has fielded dozens of consumer complaints of businesses jacking up the prices of these common essentials.

That is why I am joining a bipartisan effort in the Senate to crack down on price gouging during times of declared emergency, including health crises, weather events and other manmade and natural disasters. The proposed legislation, which I have co-sponsored, would prohibit businesses from raising prices on goods by 10% or more of what they would ordinarily cost. I look forward to getting the legislation introduced, passed and signed very quickly. The governor, too, has taken action against price gougers in an executive order issued over the weekend. Her order prohibits people and businesses from selling products for more than 20% higher than normal and from reselling, items purchased from a retailer, at grossly higher prices. While the governor’s order is in effect through April 13, our proposed legislation would put these strict price gouging protections into law. In times of crisis, perhaps more than ever, it is important that each of us does our part to be responsible members of the community and to help each other when possible. For all of the latest on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, please follow Michigan.gov/Coronavirus. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov. Stay safe.

Together, we will overcome the coronavirus

I know folks are scared and frustrated about the coronavirus outbreak. We need to work together if we are going to find a solution, and I am going to be available and working with everyone who is willing to put in effort to solve this crisis. Last week, the U.S. House took an important step and passed the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act. We need to break this cycle, and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is a step to helping us do just that. The legislation provides funding for food and other necessities to help children who are away from school but depend on school meals. It also provides funding for paid leave for workers because if you are sick, you need to stay home. The deal also includes widespread testing at no cost to patients. I would encourage folks to visit www.coronavirus.gov for ways to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, including washing your hands, cleaning frequently touched objects, avoiding contact with the sick, and staying home if you are sick. We need to remember we’re in this together, and if we continue to focus on solutions – not politics or blame – we will overcome this crisis, just as we have always done. 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).

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