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06-11-2020 Letters and Commentary

Police department policy changes needed

Editor: During a speech in July, 2017, attended by front line police officers, Donald Trump, President of the United States said, “please don’t be too nice…” during suspect arrests. It appears that Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin and three of his associates took that message to heart when they arrested George Floyd the last week in May. After restraining and cuffing Mr. Floyd, multiple video recordings of the incident indicate he was unarmed, under control, and was not a threat to these officers or anyone in the vicinity. Several questions come to mind regarding what followed: Is there an actual arrest process that allows multiple officers to press a suspect into the pavement, with one kneeling on his neck? When Mr. Floyd began to say he could not breathe, why did the fourth officer not intervene? Upon the victim becoming unresponsive, why did this application of restraint continue for more than two minutes? All four officers have now been arrested. Derek Chauvin is charged with second degree murder and second degree manslaughter. The other three are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. The commission of a crime of this magnitude is tragic, senseless, and an assault on human decency. This murder of yet another unarmed African-American individual undermines faith in the proper functioning of police forces throughout this country. President Trump should use this opportunity to call for police department policy changes across America to stop the use of lethal force on our citizens. However, I won’t hold my breath until that happens. (We vote in November!) Cynthia Miller Benton Harbor

Hagar Township reopens offices

Hagar Township will reopen the Hagar Township Hall offices to the public for normal Township services on Monday, June 22. Regular office hours will resume: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.; Wednesday 3-7 p.m.; and Friday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m. Township Assessor, Building Inspector, and Supervisor are available by appointment only at this time. Please call 269-849-0455 or email hagarclerk@- to arrange an appointment. Hagar Township Hall is located at 3900 Riverside Road, Benton Harbor. All individuals entering the hall will be required to observe social distancing of six feet and are additionally required to wear a mask.

Great Outdoors Month

Communing with nature is a wonderful experience, and one of the affects from the coronavirus pandemic no one predicted has been the ability for many to reconnect with nature. People have been putting down their phones, tablets and computers and disconnecting from the virtual world to instead plug in to what is happening outdoors in the real world. A simple walk around the block for fresh air has become a daily encounter with a neighbor you never knew — polite waves have turned into generous smiles and caring conversations. Perhaps for the first time you have discovered plants or wildlife that you never noticed in your neighborhood or backyard — what once was unknown and neglected is now cared for and nurtured.

Nature has a way of changing us for the better. Science tells us that simply spending 20 minutes in nature is enough to lower our stress levels. I can’t think of a better time than now for natural stress relief. As it turns out, June is National Great Outdoors Month. What better time than now to enjoy all our state has to offer? Consider what Michigan is home to: Four Great Lakes, 11,000 inland lakes, 36,000 miles of rivers and streams, over 20 million acres of forests, four national parks, 103 state parks and recreation areas, 1,300 miles of designated bike trails, more than 600 campgrounds, and dark sky parks for stargazing (including one in Southwest Michigan). It is hard to believe that when this all started, it was still winter. Now, as we quickly approach the start of summer, I encourage you to take advantage of Southwest Michigan’s natural beauty. Go outside and enjoy all that God has blessed us with.

As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing

Our small businesses are eager to welcome you back

After three months of strict social distancing measures, coronavirus cases in Michigan are thankfully trending in the right direction. Small businesses – including restaurants and bars – are starting to reopen, which have really suffered throughout this pandemic. With the help of the Paycheck Protection Program and commonsense reforms to this successful relief fund that I strongly supported, small business owners are eager to safely reopen their doors, rehire their employees, and welcome back their customers after an unexpected hiatus. Here in Southwest Michigan alone, we have so many extraordinary small businesses and restaurants that are getting back up and running, and I know they are ready to continue serving our communities and their longtime patrons. Our small businesses have long been the backbone of our communities, and now more than ever, they need our support. With summertime in full swing, I certainly hope you will have a chance to safely enjoy Michigan’s safe reopening. I encourage you to support your favorite places as we all look to get back on our feet and return to some semblance of normalcy. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or by visiting my website: 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).

Lawsuit update and knowing your options

Many people across Southwest Michigan have contacted me regarding legal matters including the latest on the legislature’s lawsuit with the governor as well as their rights pertaining to individual lawsuits. Given the time sensitive nature of this suit, we had requested it be heard by the Michigan Supreme Court right away rather than consuming more time in a lower court. Last week on June 4, the Supreme Court voted not to fast-track the case by a 4-3 margin. It will now head to the Michigan Court of Appeals and if the legislature wins there, it will be sent to the Supreme Court for a final determination. As your state representative, I cannot give you any sort of legal advice. That said if you’re looking for free legal advice pertaining to the Governor’s COVID-19 response, you can contact legal aid of West Michigan at (269) 344-8113, attorney Patrick Wright at (989) 430-3912 or contacting the Mackinac Center for Public Policy at (989) 631-0900 or on the web at I remain committed to staying available throughout this time as we slowly start transitioning back to normal. If you have any questions and do not know who to contact, please reach out to my office at or (517) 373-0839 so my staff and I can get you connected with the resources you need.

What’s the question?

Jesus rocked the boat again. He disciples almost reprimanded Him when, getting back from an errand, they found Jesus talking with a woman – a Samaritan woman at that! What was He thinking? Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans, and for a man to speak to a woman in public was considered inappropriate at best! But here He was doing both! That account is in John 4. Then there was the Roman centurion who requested that Jesus heal a servant that the soldier particularly liked. He was a gentile, and realized that Jesus, as a Jew, could not enter his house. So he requested that Jesus just say the word and his servant would be healed. What did Jesus do? He commended that gentile “oppressor”, occupying, soldier for his faith, telling the Jews present that He had not found such great faith in any of them! That account is in Matthew 8. Jesus broke down useless cultural barriers. He acted as if they were not there. Then there are Jesus’ last instructions before His ascension, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth.” There are those Samaritans again, and He even mentions all those other gentile nations! To the ends of the earth! That doesn’t exclude anyone – does it? It doesn’t seclude anyone, marginalize anyone, lord it over anyone, disrespect anyone, allow for hate of anyone, or dehumanize anyone. All are valuable because all are loved by God – even those we may oppose at times. Early on, Jesus shared the scope of His task: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” No one is left out. That hasn’t changed. So, what’s the question? Jesus Christ is the answer.

Social Security and protecting elders from scams

June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Month. Throughout the month, government agencies, businesses, and organizations sponsor events to unite communities, seniors, caregivers, governments, and the private sector to prevent the mistreatment of and violence against older people. Scammers often target older people. They use fear to pressure people into providing personal information or money. In times like the current pandemic when people are particularly vulnerable, scammers will pretend to be government employees, often from Social Security, to gain people’s trust to steal their money and personal information. The most effective way to defeat scammers is by knowing how to identify scams then hanging up or ignoring the calls. What you can do if you get a Social Security scam phone call: Hang up, report it to our law enforcement office at, and tell your family and friends about it! We’re telling as many people as we can that government agencies will never: Tell you that your Social Security number has been suspended. Tell you about crimes committed in your name, or offer to resolve identity theft or a benefit problem in exchange for payment. Request a specific means of debt repayment, like a retail gift card, prepaid debit card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash. Insist on secrecy about a legal problem, or tell you to make up stories to tell family, friends, or store employees. Scammers continue to develop new ways to mislead you. They might use the names of Social Security officials and tell you to look them up on our public websites (where they learned the names themselves). Or, they might email you official-looking documents with a letterhead that looks like it’s from Social Security or Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Don’t believe them! Social Security will NEVER email you attachments that have your personal information in them. If you ever owe money to Social Security, the agency will mail you a letter, explaining your payment options and your appeal rights. If you get a call about a Social Security problem, be very cautious. If you do not have ongoing business with the agency, or if the caller mentions suspending your Social Security number or makes other threats, the call is likely a scam. Ignore it, hang up, and report it to us at We are working to stop the scams and educate people to avoid becoming victims. 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

WE CAN BEAT THIS… Slowly but surely it appears the USA has made the necessary adjustments to keep the pandemic COVID-19 from decimating our population. From phase 1, which virtually closed down most businesses, canceled events, suspended public services other than those considered essential, to phase 5 which opened most retail stores, increased ban of allowable groups from 10 to 100, including restaurants with some limitations on indoor recreation such as movies. Sadly, the good news affecting most of us does little to assuage the grief of those losing beloved family and friends. Over one hundred thousand died from COVID-19 in the USA and millions of confirmed cases worldwide. The upshot is the light at the end of the tunnel is in view, and with the diligence of those medical and public servants, all ready to meet the viral enemy head on, we will meet the future more prepared than ever before. We can beat the enemy virus and its cohorts fear, panic, and misinformation, with humanity, information and trust.

Tick bite prevention As the weather gets warmer, the tick population activity in Berrien County begins to increase. As residents spend more time outside, the Berrien County Health Department would like to remind people, especially those spending time outdoors and children at summer or day-camps, to protect themselves from tick-borne illnesses by taking a few precautionary steps. Ticks can carry illnesses such as Lyme disease, the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States. In Michigan, there is hundreds of Lyme disease cases reported each year, with the most exposures occurring in the Upper Peninsula and along Michigan’s western shoreline, including Berrien County. The number of Lyme disease cases has slowly increased over the years in Michigan. Ticks are typically found in wooded or brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter. Prompt recognition and treatment is essential to prevent serious illness and death. Residents can prevent tick bites by doing the following: Avoid tick-infested areas; use insect repellent; spray repellent containing DEET or Permethrin on clothes and on exposed skin; bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you; perform daily tick checks. Always check for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. For more information about diseases carried by ticks, please visit or


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