06-28-2018 Letters and Commentary

More than a librarian!

Dear Editor,

Mrs. Vawter has been an educator in the Watervliet Public Schools for over 30 years. In her role as Paraprofessional and Elementary School Librarian, she has touched and impacted the lives of thousands of Watervliet students.

I have witnessed this impact myself over the last three decades, as countless people ranging in ages from 5 to 35 continue to approach her when she is out in public. It always starts the same, “Mrs. Vawter, Mrs. Vawter!” with an excited hand wave and gestures and she always responds to them by name and with genuine fondness and empathy for their wellbeing.

And caring passionately about her students and their progress is what Diane Vawter brought to the WPS EVERY day, ALL day! This passion (which is not taught) along with her copious skill sets in reading, writing, grammar and penmanship played a critical role in the educational foundation of so many successful WPS students.

About 20 years ago I was talking with the late Dan Stack (Coloma Elementary Principal & close friend) about kids and learning disabilities. I asked him what methods and techniques that he found to be successful. He responded, “Bill, in my 30-plus years of Public Education, the one factor that has always held true, is this. If it becomes important enough to a kid, they will find a way! That is our challenge as parents and educators – How do we make it important enough to the kids?”

Well, it has been important to Diane Vawter! Important enough that she spent countless UNPAID summer days preparing her library for the coming year. Important enough that she challenged kids to read, showed them it was cool to be smart and speak well, and turned them on to the lifetime of opportunity and enjoyment that strong reading skills provide.

Way more than a librarian! Worth way more than the cost of her salary! And since June 7, she has been enjoying a well-deserved retirement. She will still be my sister-in-law, but she will not be WPS’s Elementary School Librarian any more. It has now become very IMPORTANT to WPS to find another one. Wish us luck, but in the meantime… Mrs. Vawter, Mrs. Vawter!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!


Bill Spaulding

President of BOE – Watervliet Public Schools

Treatment of migrant families

Dear Editor,

I’ve never been more sickened by anything in my life than by what our government is doing to migrant families at our southern border. Screaming toddlers put in cages like animals, a nursing baby taken right from her mother’s breast, siblings forbidden to hug each other for comfort. Our government is terrorizing children in concentration camps.

Are these migrants “illegal”? Have they broken the law? No, and no. You apply for asylum by turning yourself in at the border. Those are the rules we made, and they’re following them.

As a Catholic Christian, I’m pleased that my church’s leaders have unequivocally condemned what our government is doing to families at the border. The U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference declared it “immoral.” One bishop has recommended denying Communion to anyone who participates in enforcing this government policy. New York’s Cardinal Dolan publicly told U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that there’s “no Bible passage” to justify family separation—in stern repudiation of Sessions’ claim that there was. Prominent Jesuit Father James Martin has called this psychological torture of children “evil.”

(Sessions’ own church, United Methodist Church, has formally charged him with “child abuse.”)

Father Martin said this past Father’s Day, “Please remember all the fathers in Central America who are fleeing poverty and persecution in search of a safe life for their families. This is why parents come to the border with their children… because they love them.” Like Joseph loved his son, Jesus, and fled with him and Mary to a foreign land for their safety. To all my fellow Christians: remember that your Savior was a brown-skinned child refugee running for his life. Jesus said: “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me… Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” (Matthew 25: 35-46)

Before you trot out any justifications for what the government is doing, listen again to Father Martin: “The next time you are tempted to blame migrants for anything, ask yourself what you would do if your family were facing gang violence, persecution, famine, poverty or warfare. Would you have the guts to become a migrant or a refugee?” I don’t believe cowards and bullies who hurt children or support hurting children or rationalize hurting children would have the guts to do anything remotely noble or sacrificial for their families. They’re the lowest of the low.

And that’s where America is falling: to new lows every day, down a moral slope to the point of no return.

Jennifer Tomshack, St. Joseph

Hartford school board needs better communication

Dear Editor,

This letter is in regard to the report by Jon Bisnett of the May 17 Hartford School Board meeting. Mr. Bisnett reported a “fair degree of discord” following contract approvals of various administrators, including a 2-year contract extension for the district superintendent. The discord focused on questions and comments by current Board Secretary Jason Meachum. According to Mr. Bisnett, school board members criticized Mr. Meachum for his questions and commentary pertaining to the various contracts.

Mr. Meachum is a long standing resident with deep ties to the community. His service to the Hartford School Board should be judged by the voters, not by other members of the board. It’s apparent to me there is not enough communication between the Superintendent, the Board President and the other board members. Jason is right in his request for more open communication. The Board President’s job is to chair the meeting, not criticize other board members. Perhaps Ben Chambers should review his own code of ethics.

Bill Austin, Hartford

Don’t call the police regarding a phone scam

Dear Editor,

Always appreciate your heads up concerning current scams preying on the public.  I have to comment, however, when you inform your readers to notify your local police when you receive a call that is obviously a scam, the police don’t want to deal with it.

This last spring there were many calls coming in to my phone claiming they were the IRS and I needed to call a certain number to discuss my account or I was due to pay a large fine.  Needless to say the IRS will notify you by mail if there is a problem with your tax account, they will not call you.

When I received this call I notified my local police department (Coloma Twp.) and was told by them there was nothing they could do, that the call probably was initiated from an overseas country.  So, there was five minutes of my life I won’t get back.


Dennis Bachman


Tri-City Record font size

Dear Editor,

I would think that most of your subscribers are elderly who would most likely have some vision problems, therefore find it difficult to read the Tri-City Record. The 10pt font size is too small. The fact that the paragraphs run together and the print being so light presents a real problem. I realize you are limited for space, do not want to have to print an additional page. Have you honestly tried to read it yourself? The print becomes a blur after a very short time trying to read the paper.

I supposedly have 20-20 vision, have a real problem reading it. I am seriously considering canceling my subscription.

For consideration: Font size at least a 12. At least have a space between paragraphs to help us get back to the last line we had read. Darker print or at least alternate between paragraphs to help get back to where we were.

You may consider asking your subscribers for suggestions or their thoughts.

Hope I am not stepping on toes!

Ron Hagenbarth

United Way “Christmas in June” food drive raises 20,000 items for 33 area pantries

Fifty-one local businesses participated in the second annual United Way of Southwest Michigan “Christmas in June” food drive.

Every year, food pantries across Southwest Michigan are fully stocked in the winter months thanks to generous holiday donations—but when summer comes, donations are few and pantry shelves become sparse. This can leave low-income, hard-working families with limited options during this time of year. So, for the second year in a row, United Way of Southwest Michigan asked local businesses to participate in this event to stock local food pantries with items to get them through the warmer months.

This year, 51 businesses in Berrien and Cass counties participated in “Christmas in June,” collecting more than 20,000 items that were delivered to 33 area pantries—and bringing much-needed cheer to local families and those in the community who serve them. There was a big jump in participation in the event this year: Last June, 34 organizations collected 15,000 items for 22 area pantries.

“It’s clear that we need to continue working together to combat food insecurity year-round,” said Charlotte Becker, director of annual campaign at United Way of Southwest Michigan. “When we come together and work as a community, we all win—and this event is an opportunity for everyone to make a real difference in people’s lives.”

“Christmas in June” is part of a worldwide United Way “Day of Action” effort, held on and around June 21, during which tens of thousands of people across the globe volunteer with local United Ways to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community.

Senate approves auto insurance reforms

State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker on June 8 applauded Senate passage of several reforms to the state’s no-fault auto insurance system.

“Residents are tired of high premiums,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Michigan drivers pay the highest premiums in the country, and that is a direct result of the current system. While some promote the program’s success, it is clear that something needs to be done to address the exorbitant costs.”

Michigan is one of 12 states that currently operate under a no-fault system of automobile insurance.

Under the current system, a driver’s own insurance company covers all accident-related medical expenses and lost wages regardless of who caused the accident. Because of this, all motorists in the state are legally required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which pays for an individual’s medical expenses resulting from injuries sustained in an auto accident.

“The legislation approved by the Senate includes a $400,000 cap for personal injury protection for people who have never paid into Michigan’s no-fault system,” Schuitmaker said. “This would reduce costs and bring Michigan more in line with neighboring states. There is no reason for Michiganders to be covering unlimited PIP claims for out-of-state residents.”

There are, however, many reasons for Michigan’s high rates. Michigan’s unique uncapped benefits, fraud and increasing health care costs are just a few examples.

Senate Bill 1014 would address the rampant fraudulent activity within the system by creating the Michigan Automobile Insurance Fraud Authority within the attorney general’s office. The authority’s primary operation would be investigating insurance fraud, which according to the Insurance Institute of Michigan is estimated to be about $400 million per year.

The bill would also make changes to attendant care, setting limits on the amount that could be paid to family and household members to help protect against inflated costs. Coverage for the first 56 hours of attendant care provided in a week would be limited to a reasonable and customary amount, and coverage of care in excess of 56 hours would be limited to $15 an hour.

Included in the package is legislation that would allow Michigan residents age 65 or older the option to choose a capped auto-insurance policy. SB 787 would set the cap at $50,000 and personal insurance or Medicare would cover remaining medical expenses from an automobile accident after the $50,000 limit is reached. Seniors who opted for the limited coverage would see their catastrophic claims assessment drastically reduced.

Seniors would also have the option to remain in the current no-fault system.

“Michigan has the highest average annual premium in the nation at $2,394, while the national average is $1,318,” Schuitmaker said. “We need to work to close that gap and do better for hardworking Michigan taxpayers.”

SBs 787 and 1014 have been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Believe the instruments As a teen I dreamed of learning to fly, so when I asked my parents for permission to take lessons and they agreed to let me do it, I was elated. Warrington Airport, just north of Philadelphia, on Route 309 is where the lessons took place. Taking off was simple. Landing was another thing. Proper trim, air speed and rate of descent became even more critical. Some of the lessons involved putting on a “hood”. The hood was like a horse blinder for the trainee (me). With the hood on I could see nothing but the instruments. I couldn’t look out the window to see the horizon or get an idea of how high we were, or visually know the plane’s “attitude”, how it was situated relative to the ground. A little freaky, but by then we had gone over coordinated turns, slips, stalls and other important stuff, all of which can be determined from the instruments. The idea was not to rely on your senses, but to trust the instruments. Believe and understand the instruments because in an airplane your senses can be deceiving. The instruments tell you the truth about your situation. The Bible is a spiritual instrument that also tells us the truth about our situation when our spiritual senses may be deceiving. From it we learn the truth about our stand relative to God. We learn how to respond to life’s issues and challenges, and we learn how to avoid bad landings. Calibration checks are normal for airplane instruments. A calibration check for the Bible is its prophetic accuracy. About 300 accurate prophecies about Jesus Christ alone demonstrate the credibility of the instrument. As it says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Believe the instrument. It is accurate and will help us fly right.

Three common ways your Social Security payment can grow after retirement You made the choice and now you are happily retired. You filed online for your Social Security benefits. They arrive each month in the correct amount exactly as expected. But, did you ever wonder if your Social Security check could increase? Once you begin receiving benefits, there are three common ways benefit checks can increase: a cost of living adjustment (COLA); additional work; or an adjustment at full retirement age if you received reduced benefits and exceeded the earnings limit. The COLA is the most commonly known increase for Social Security payments. We annually announce a COLA, and there’s usually an increase in the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit amount people receive each month. By law, federal benefit rates increase when the cost of living rises, as measured by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). More than 66 million Americans saw a 2.0 percent increase in their Social Security and SSI benefits in 2018. For more information on the 2018 COLA, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola. Social Security uses your highest thirty-five years of earnings to figure your benefit amount when you sign up for benefits. If you work after you begin receiving benefits, your additional earnings may increase your payment. If you had fewer than 35 years of earnings when we figured your benefit, you will replace a zero earnings year with new earnings. If you had 35 years or more, we will check to see if your new year of earnings is higher than the lowest of the 35 years (after considering indexing). We check additional earnings each year you work while receiving Social Security. If an increase is due, we send a notice and pay a one-time check for the increase and your continuing payment will be higher. Maybe you chose to receive reduced Social Security retirement benefits while continuing to work. You made the choice to take benefits early, but at a reduced rate. If you exceeded the allowable earnings limit and had some of your benefits withheld, we will adjust your benefit once you reach full retirement age. We will refigure your payment to credit you for any months you did not receive payments. Your monthly benefit will increase based on the crediting months you receive. You can find additional information about working and your benefit at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10077.pdf. Retirement just got more interesting since you learned about potential increases to monthly payments. Social Security has been securing your today and tomorrow for more than 80 years with information and tools to help you achieve a successful retirement. 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.

CHILD ABUSE… The past couple week’s political grandstanding at the expense of children caught up in the illegal immigration imbroglio is child abuse, pure and simple. Politicians and the national media piled on. The media gleefully replayed ad infinitum a recording of kids crying for their mother. Politicians pointed their fingers at the “other party” for doing nothing. There is no question of placing children of incarcerated suspected felons in some sort of protective custody. There is no alternative when clearly the child has nowhere to go with a trusted family member. The only alternative for the immigration and naturalization service is to incarcerate children with their parents which is totally unacceptable. The only short-term solution is for border patrols to immediately return illegal immigrant families to the other side of the border. If there is any silver lining to the human suffering, it will be the USA may finally come together and resolve its crisis of illegal immigration. This is another opportunity for a leader to emerge and bring our do-nothing representatives to the hill and hammer out some agreements to serve the country. There’s a very good letter to the editor on this page that paints a bleak picture of this entire mess.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA… Even with political differences, Americans come together as a nation to celebrate the birthday of our great country on the Fourth of July. Even when the birthday falls in the middle of the week, the party goes on. You can bet Wednesday, July 4th will be a noisy one. Actually the party starts early for some, as is the case in Watervliet; that celebration starts this weekend on Friday night. The Watervliet Business Association is sponsor and organizer of a huge 3-day celebration which includes the traditional fireworks and parades, plus much more. Hats off to the WBA and all its volunteers and sponsors for a spectacular show, see the event schedule and all the pictures of the Firecracker contestants on Pages 8 & 9. Look me up on the sidewalks this weekend if you still need duck race tickets for the big race on Sunday. First place is $1,000!


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