05-11-2017 Letters and Commentary


Our mother is the perfect mother

Dear Editor,

Life is now about watching the birds out the front window; our mother marks down in a notebook the day each type of bird arrives in the spring. Today the beautiful orange-colored Oriole made an appearance, swooshing down to land right in front of us! A love of nature was instilled in us at a very young age as we watched for fox or deer in the woods. Appreciation of our great Lake Michigan was one of our first lessons so we went to the beach as much as we could.

Mom worked in town instead of on the farm where we lived; she has always been a forward moving woman ahead of her time. She went to Stephens College at the age of 16 traveling on a train to Missouri.

We were encouraged and taught to stand out on our own and do the things that made us happy. When “life” isn’t going so well she reaffirms us by saying “Rise above it!” An up-beat personality, energy, intelligence, and beauty are the things we admire in our mom. Being a leader in women’s organizations, singing in the church choir for over 50 years, and praying for her daughters every morning when she opens her eyes have kept her bright spirit alive. Now at the marvelous age of 93, life is different when she watches for the birds or a deer in the woods but it is still beautiful for her and her two daughters who have been loved unconditionally. She wants to be remembered for being kind and I’m sure she will be. Without a doubt, our mother Betty Lull is the perfect mother for us and we are very blessed.

Mary Cooper and Jamie Walter

My amazing mom

Dear Editor,

Early on Mom taught me to work hard and treat others as you would like to be treated. As I grew up, Mom worked several jobs to ensure that I had a good home, clothes to wear and food on the table. This may sound like a typical home scenario but Mom did not have to pick me but she did. I was fortunate; I was adopted when I was a little over one year old.

Mom has always been there no matter what the circumstance or situation. Mom’s strong religious beliefs have been unrelenting throughout her lifetime, often providing comfort and hope to those around her.

Mom is still going strong at 97-years-old. She lives alone taking care of her own home and still does seamstress work for friends. I have truly been blessed by this lady, my remarkable “MOM,” Alice Mann.

Jim Mann, Watervliet

WHS Post Prom event successful; thanks to generosity

Dear Editor,

We would like to thank the following people and businesses for their generous donations to our Post Prom event that was held April 30 at the YMCA in St. Joseph. Each Watervliet High School junior and senior received a gift or gift card and some were lucky enough to walk out with a 32-inch TV, mini fridge, or a microwave all possible from your donations.

A huge “THANK YOU” goes out to the following: Lions Club of Watervliet, Best Buy, Cool Tan, Tom VanNiel, Watervliet Township, The Super Book,  Berrien County Parks, Easy Street, Mr. and Mrs. Alton Wendzel, Arnt Asphalt, Paw Paw Lake Rotary Club, James Keech, Walmart, Coloma Harding’s, DiMaggio’s, Randy’s BP, Mr. and Mrs. Geoff Geisler, Frosty Boy, Silver Beach Pizza, The Mark III, Duffield & Pastrick Funeral Home, Mr. and Mrs. Ken Bannen, Lane Automotive, Wightman & Associates, Sharon Yoder Insurance,  Mr. and Mrs. John Griffith, Horizon Bank, Celebration Cinema, Sparkle Car Wash, Honors Credit Union, Knights of Columbus, Barb Schofield, Pri Mart Watervliet, Bainbridge Beverage Company/Jollay Orchards, Hutchins Funeral Home, Steve Pline, Brandi Huyser, Tri-City Record, Coloma Pizza Hut, Watervliet Athletic Boosters, B&B Outlet, Back on the Rack, Don Young Insurance, Lake Michigan Hills Golf Course, Orchard Hill Landfill, Lifestyle Chiropractic, Paw Paw Lake Golf Course, Pepsi, John and Carrie Brigham, Point Blank, Advantage Installation, Watervliet Fire Dept., Coloma Motor Sports, H & R Block, Jimmy Johns of Benton Harbor, YMCA, Chemical Bank, Kraklau’s Repair, Mike & Julie Modelewski, Shell Gas Station Watervliet, Jen Scott, TJ’s Sports Bar & Grill, The Loma.

Also, a special thank you to the following chaperones for being there “all night” to make sure this night was a fun and safe night: Tara Matthews, Mary Andres, Tina Tucker, Bob Shafer, Scott Hobson, Ronda Lee, Lerita Fellows, Don Higginbottom, Wendy Stainbrook, Rosemary Prillwitz, Shay Buckley, Michelle Marshall, thank you all again for a great night of fun and memories.

Karla Liles and Deanna Shafer

Post Prom Chairmen

Upton health care vote was a failure of compassion and reason

Dear Editor,

On Thursday, May 4, House Republicans passed a truly awful health care repeal and replace bill. Public polls indicate that approval numbers are very low ranging from 17% (March Quinnipiac poll) to 37% (April Washington Post/ABC News poll). It is strongly opposed by every major health care organization, including the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many others.

Hardly anyone likes what the bill contains except House Republicans and Donald Trump! They held a celebration at the White House following their immoral vote and all participants in photos posted on the internet looked satisfied and happy.

How can the majority representation of this country be so out of tune with the vast majority of the population as well as the medical professionals? The answer can only be money! This measure backs off the levies on the very rich that supported expansion of Medicaid and coverage for low-income citizens. I am sure all who voted yes are anticipating increased campaign contributions should the bill become law.

And what of those who could lose health coverage if this atrocity comes to fruition? Well it is back to emergency room coverage that pre-dated the ACA. You do nothing until it is critical and then suffer the consequences.

Mr. Upton, you had your chance to demonstrate reason and compassion, but you failed. You held an initial position against the measure, but in the end sold out to a meaningless amendment that experts say will not modify the ill effects of the bill. Your hands are just as bloody as those of the right-wing extremists who claim health care for the less fortunate is simply a bad investment.

Melissa Clapper, Benton Harbor

Representative Upton is “Putting Lipstick on a Pig”

Dear Editor,

The recent health care reform efforts of Congressman Upton are confusing and inconsistent. He was certainly more consistent in his efforts to repeal Obamacare prior to 2017, when calls for repeal were as frequent, straight-forward and non-binding, as they were unlikely. But now he finds himself in a position to significantly influence attempts to improve our health care system, and his response is to propose hastily crafted legislation that raises more questions than answers.

Instead of digging in, and taking the time needed to contribute to effective and cost-saving improvements in our health care system, he appears willing propose cosmetic changes to policy for the sake of declaring short-term political victory. The effects of these efforts may have helped to get the latest version of the American Health Care Act through the U.S. House of Representatives, but will also clearly hurt many of the people Upton represents here in southwest Michigan.

I am resident of Congressman Upton’s district, but also a physician and someone who has had the opportunity to inform and shape national health care policy. So, I am especially frustrated by Representative Upton’s maneuvers this week. These hasty and partisan attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare have been jammed through the House without support of any physicians’ groups, hospital associations, or other credible health policy experts. In fact, with its passage today, this effort has moved forward without the benefits of any estimates of long-term costs implications or numbers of people who will lose affordable coverage.

While the debate in the past few days has been about the acceptability of various gaps in coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions, there are other significant problems with this bill. The legal name for Obamacare is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and it’s the ‘Patient Protection’ aspects of the law that are under attack across the board. Coverage of pre-conditions is worth fighting for, which Congressman Upton has at least recognized with a token gesture. But, we also have to fight to protect people by ensuring that “essential health benefits” are not waived by states. Coverage of these benefits is critical to all people’s health, as they include emergency services, maternity care, hospitalizations, and preventive services such as the opioid addiction counseling. (Mr. Upton’s response to the opioid addiction epidemic is helpful, but that makes his lack of support for essential health benefits all the more confounding.) These services are of course all things that should be included in any insurance product, otherwise we are giving insurers a license to sell junk and just shifting the burden back to taxpayers and health care providers.

Of course, the latest policy language is pitched as something that will lower cost of premiums. Well, junk should cost less. And failure to recognize that these costs will be paid for later by ethical health care providers and all good taxpayers is just a deception. Those are the folk who will ultimately pay for these services when the people who need them are short-changed by Mr. Upton and the Republican Party’s incoherent policy.

Matt Longjohn, MD MPH

Upton flips and votes for disastrous Republican health care bill

Dear Editor,

On Wednesday, May 4, Congressman Fred Upton betrayed the people of Southwest Michigan. After initially opposing the disastrous Republican health care bill, he flipped and voted to pass the bill in the House of Representatives.

Upton’s stated reason for changing his position was that he offered an amendment that added $8 billion over five years to help states provide high-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions who would lose the protection provided them by the Affordable Care Act.

Upton’s amendment was described by the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) as an “$8 billion giveaway to insurance companies that won’t help the majority of those with pre-existing conditions.” The Center for Budget and Policy priorities listed three major problems with the amendment: 1) $8 billion falls far short of what is needed to make high-risk pools work; 2) The money doesn’t do anything about the other major problems the bill would cause for people with existing health conditions; and 3) States would get EXTRA money for dropping protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The bill that Upton voted for is a cruel assault on the health of middle and low income Americans. This bill would result in the loss of health insurance for more than 20 million people, would greatly increase the cost of health insurance for older and poorer individuals and those living in rural areas, would allow insurance companies to once again put lifetime limits on health insurance benefits, would greatly reduce protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and would eliminate the requirement that health insurance policies cover basic medical benefits like outpatient care, hospitalization, emergency room visits, and prescription drugs.

At the same time that the bill would cause great harm to millions of Americans, the Republican scheme would provide billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals. The majority of the bill’s tax cuts would go to those people who make more than $1 million a year.

The Republican bill is strongly opposed by the AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Hospital Association, and the March of Dimes.

Fred Upton voted for this horrible bill. He is clearly more concerned about supporting his party than he is about supporting his constituents.

Dr. Larry Feldman, Lakeside

Berrien County ranked in bottom third of Michigan counties in child well-being

Berrien County ranked 56th for child well-being by county according to the 2017 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book released last week by the Michigan League for Public Policy, putting it in the bottom third of Michigan’s 83 counties. Coupled with a recent report that 37% of the households in Berrien County are struggling to afford basic needs, the need for local government and philanthropic organizations to put child well-being at the top of their agendas has become urgent.

“No Michigan child should be experiencing poverty, hunger, abuse or neglect, regardless of where they are born and grow up, their race or ethnicity, or their family’s economic standing,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The Michigan League for Public Policy has been compiling and releasing the annual Kids Count in Michigan Data Book for 25 years to analyze and evaluate the well-being of children in Michigan and its counties. The 2017 book primarily compares data from 2008 to 2015, analyzing 15 key indicators across four domains.

Comparing counties from 2008-2015, 72 counties saw their child poverty rate increase, 79 counties saw an increase in the percent of kids receiving free and reduced-price lunch, and 58 counties saw the rate of confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect go up. Statewide, more than 1 in 5 (22%) of Michigan children lived in poverty in 2015, a 15% rate increase since 2008, the last full year of the Great Recession.

“Although a slow recovery is ongoing across the United States, the severity of the recession in 2008 continues to afflict low-income people, especially close to home,” stated Janet Cocciarelli, Executive Director of The Pokagon Fund. “The Fund has put the alleviation of poverty in its service area as a key long-term strategic goal. Our focus isn’t just to aid the chronically poor. We are also strategizing how best to help the working poor, and the “new poor” – those individuals in Harbor Country who are now facing poverty due to the long record of unemployment or who struggle to raise a family on minimum wage. In Michigan, 62% of jobs pay less than $20 per hour, with two-thirds of those paying less than $15 per hour. It’s hard to get ahead if you aren’t earning a livable wage,” she added.

“When compared with the 2017 ALICE report recently released by the Michigan Association of United Ways, the statistics on need within Berrien County are daunting,” said Miss Cocciarelli.

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living for the county (the ALICE Threshold, or AT). Combined, the number of poverty and ALICE households equals the total population struggling to afford basic needs, and consequently, are forced to make difficult choices such as skipping preventative health care, accredited child care or car insurance to pay for basic needs.

In Berrien County, there are a total of 64,279 households. Of that total, 37% fall within that category. The United Way ALICE Report uses standardized measurements to quantify the cost of a basic household budget in each Michigan county and to show how many households are struggling to afford it.

Miss Cocciarelli observed that, “the future doesn’t offer much hope if you believe the Bureau of Labor Statistics job projections for 2015 to 2024 for Michigan. According to the Bureau, 63% of new jobs will pay less than $15 per hour, and a mere 7% will require any work experience. With regards to education, 49% of new jobs will not require a high school diploma, 34% will require only a high school diploma, while 9% will require an associate degree or post-secondary non-degree award. Most surprisingly, only 9% will require a bachelor’s degree.”

Another factor contributing to instability of local households is the lack of liquid assets. Few families in Berrien County own liquid assets such as a savings account, 401(k) plan, or rental income that can be used to help cover unexpected expenses.

Of total Berrien County households in 2015, less than 30% owned liquid assets. In Harbor Country, families are struggling for economic viability including affordable housing, job opportunities and availability of community resources (defined as the percent of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool, percent of adults who vote, and total number of residents covered by health insurance).

To address these issues, advocates are demanding equal access to affordable child care, greater strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect, and governmental action to put more money in the pockets of ALICE families. Affirming the support of The Pokagon Fund for action to improve the lives of children and families in the areas served by the Fund, Cocciarelli stated that, “The Pokagon Fund is committed to partnering with local organizations to find long-term viable solutions.”

The Pokagon Fund is a non-profit, private foundation supported by revenue from the Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, Michigan. The Fund’s mission is to enhance the lives of residents of Southwest Michigan through the financial support of projects aimed at supporting education, alleviating poverty and increasing community vitality.

Access Social Security online resources when you travel

Social Security is here for you when you’re traveling, whether it’s just a state away or when you’re abroad. When you open a personal and secure my Social Security account, you can access it on your terms. We put you in control of your finances and your future.

With my Social Security, you can: Request a replacement Social Security or Medicare card if you meet certain requirements; Check the status of your application or appeal; See your lifetime earnings on your Social Security Statement; Get a benefit verification letter stating that you receive retirement, disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Medicare benefits, or you never received Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare, or you received benefits in the past, but do not currently receive them (the letter will include the date your benefits stopped and how much you received that year), or you applied for benefits but haven’t received an answer yet.

Visit my Social Security to see what other personalized features are available to you at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

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

Shadows of things past

We’ve heard the phrase, “shadows of things to come.” That’s when something may be predictive of future events, as in, “We should have realized that the way he treated his brother was just a shadow of things to come.”

Sometimes, however, there are also shadows of things past. Archeology is like that when it reveals facts about the past that we discover by exploring the artifacts of history. That exploration usually involves digging up sites that could have historic significance. A recent article in May 2017 “Decision” magazine, published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, makes it clear that Biblical archeology is alive and well, and continues to affirm Biblical accounts by dynamically adding to our understanding of Biblical events and places.

The article by Charles Chandler, “Magdala Dig Makes Archeological History,” is subtitled “Synagogue dating to the time of Jesus’ ministry unearthed in Mary Magdalene’s hometown.” It describes an accidental discovery of a synagogue site where Jesus probably spoke.

To quote Chandler’s article: “…author and radio host Eric Metaxes of the Colson Center’s BreakPoint commentary wrote that ‘Magdala is one of the top three archeological finds in recent years…’ ‘The find at Magdala is yet another reminder of the historical nature of the Christian faith,’ Metaxas wrote. ‘The Christian story of the Word made flesh, who lived and died as one of us and rose on the third day may sound mythic, but it happened in actual history. As the evidence from places like Magdala attest, the Gospel accounts faithfully reflect this history.’”

The Megadala discoveries demonstrate the dependable truth of Biblical history. They add to the shadows of the reality of things past as do so many other archeological discoveries. These demonstrate that we can have confidence in the Biblical account without apology or embarrassment.

REMEMBER YOUR MOM THIS SUNDAY… Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14.  Make sure to tell your mom how much you love her.

Check out the Best Mom features on Page 8 for some last minute gift ideas. Even though it may be too late to enter the Best Mom letter contest, write her the letter anyways. That’s what counts.

TRI-CITIES BEST… Wow, the ball fields are full of kids and cars. Please be careful around the many ball fields and parks this spring. Our best are there playing.

I extend a tip of the tri-city topper to the organizers and sponsors of the summer recreation programs in our hometowns. Their contribution to the health of our children is immeasurable.  Also, plaudits to our schools, cities, and townships for providing the grounds for the kids to play on.

FRIDAY NIGHTS AT THE RACES… Deserving a Record salute are the good folks at the Hartford Speedway. Led by Tim and Leah Dibble, they work nearly year round to bring exciting dirt track car racing to the Tri-City area. It’s fun to watch the races and see so many local folks enjoying an evening out in the Tri-Cities.

The track opens this Friday. Stop by and enjoy the fun!

UNHEALTHY HEALTH PLAN… After much wrangling and compromises, the Republican Congress passed a health care bill last week that is intended to replace Obamacare. Of course the health care bill must also pass in the Republican Senate as well. From many indications, Senators have their own version (opinion) of a replacement health care plan. After a few months of politicking and cajoling and posing for the T.V. cameras, a bill that replaces the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) might be signed by President Trump. Why should anyone worry, it’s a done deal. Right? After all, they are all Republicans. Won’t they unite and vote for what is right for the country?

Already the national media is saying the new health plan will benefit the rich and take away health coverage for the poor. Isn’t that the Republican (big business) mantra… let the citizens pay their own way. And if they can’t, too bad.

Strange the Senators and Congressman are working so hard to repeal and replace the national health plan; they don’t have to worry about any healthcare… they have their own plan, and for their spouses and kids.

NOT THE PRIZE PATROL… Herb Taylor dropped off a copy of a check from Publishers Clearing House last week for $7,897.00.

Unlike the T.V. commercials, he didn’t deliver it with a bunch of balloons and a big band. Actually, the check was made out to him and was drawn on the Prosperity Bank of Bellaire, Texas.

The accompanying letter congratulated Herb on being a second place winner in the 100 million dollars super cash giveaway sponsored by Readers Digest, Mega Millions and Multi-state Lottery Associations.

It added, the total amount to be claimed for your win is five hundred fifty thousand. The letter further states the enclosed check is part of the winning amount.

Please contact your claim manager without delay before depositing this check at your financial institution and for further information on this prize.

The clincher, says Herb, is the admonition to not disclose the transaction or security code to anyone as required by law.

Herb didn’t deposit the check. He called Publishers Clearing House who advised him the check was a fraud. How it works, Herb says, is the check would bounce when he deposited it. Then the scammer would use the information from his bank to clear out his account.

The bottom line, as Herb would say, is you never get anything for nothing.

As I was writing this Monday, I got a call from ‘Darcie” at the United States Postal Service asking if I knew about special mailing incentives.

I didn’t tell Darcie I was familiar with postal services as I write them a check for several hundred dollars every week for postage. It was obvious Darcie didn’t have a clue I was a customer already. She seemed relieved when I hung up on her.

I did call the Postmaster at Watervliet in the off chance she had someone making ‘sales calls.’ “I’ve not heard of such a thing,” Wendy said, “it certainly didn’t come from here.”

Then there was a warning from a police agency recently about scammers calling seeking donations for local police departments and services. They advised not to make any donation unless you were sure of the person seeking it and knew the organization it would benefit.

Just when I was wrapping up these words of wisdom, the fax machine kicked out an important message from a “funding group.” They were happy to inform me I had a pre-approved loan and all I had to do was call them to discuss my finance options.

Always sounds good until we get to the part about repayment.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it most always is.


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