08-27-2020 Letters and Commentary

CLOSING OF “OLD” LIBRARY COULD RENEW INTEREST OF VIKING KING… The removal of the Hartford Public Library in the Webster House to its new digs in the Art and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center might stir interest in its stone foundation. It could be local historians might be moved to inspect the cut stone foundation for signs of Norsemen artifacts.

Of course, the move this week reawakened my fantasy of a Viking Chief trekking through the Hartford Valley 1,000 years ago. Unfortunately, he dies there and his fellow Vikings hollowed out a giant boulder and lay him to rest inside.

Then in 1884 stonecutters discover the hollowed boulder with a few bits of bone, leather and a sword just a few miles north of the village. They bring the “curiosities” to town and then go back to their stone cutting. Ultimately, the tomb ends up as part of the foundation of the Hartford Library.

The following is my Karl’s Kolumn written after Roy Davis mentioned the incident in his Paw Paw River Journal…

As Paw Paw River Journal author Roy Davis can attest, his retelling of the story of the human remains and sword being found inside a rock tomb near Hartford has always intrigued me. (Tri-City Record, 9-11-05)

Since first reading Roy’s story in an earlier River Journal many years ago, I’ve always thought of bones in the tomb as that of a Viking. The Native Americans of North America, particularly in these climes, were woodland folk with complex and well-established burial rituals that didn’t include stone tombs.

There are many instances of Viking (Norsemen) artifacts being found across North America, from the eastern seaboard where whole villages have been unearthed (including tombs) to Minnesota where tools, containers and coins have been discovered. There is even an extensive excavation and collection of finds in central Michigan.

So, it takes little imagination to suppose that such a tomb could have been found in Hartford. Pity the finders in 1884 didn’t stop what they were doing (cutting stone for a house) and call in the experts to take a look. Instead of conjecture and daydreaming of what might have been; there could have been more than a line or two in the Hartford Day Spring.

Still, it’s a wonderful story to imagine a Viking drawing his last breath along the shores of the Paw Paw River.

He would have been a powerful adventurer that braved the pre-Columbian wilderness to travel thousands of miles across seas, land, and rivers. The weak and timid never made it far from their birthplace.

This Viking was a warrior of some import; as a sign of respect and awe, his sword was buried with him.

More than likely, he was a chief, perhaps a king, in his own right; after all, he was buried in a stone tomb.

And he was not alone, this Viking chief/king. There was a band of followers with him. They carved a stone tomb and (maybe) moved on.

By the way… I seem to recall from Roy that the house being built became the Hartford Public Library in more recent years. Already historic in its own right, wouldn’t it be amazing if there were still some trace of the stone tomb in the building’s foundation?

OK2SAY still OK to use in new era of learning As students and teachers are returning to school, a good resource to remind everyone about is OK2SAY — a free, confidential service that allows anyone to report tips on potential harm or crime that may be directed at students, teachers and schools. Despite the disruption that COVID-19 is causing our educational system, OK2SAY remains an important resource for student and school safety. While many schools and homes have security measures in place, we should stay vigilant and teach our children to say something when they see something, which is what OK2SAY is all about. When tragedies occur, odds are someone knew something beforehand that could have helped with prevention. But either because they were scared or didn’t know where to go or who to talk to, it was not reported. OK2SAY solves that problem through a comprehensive communication system, where tips about threatening behavior are shared between students, parents, school personnel, mental health professionals and law enforcement officials. The top five categories reported in 2019 were suicide threats, bullying, drugs, other (e.g., anxiety, stress, depression, harassment), and self-harm. Anyone can submit a confidential tip, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by: calling: 8-555-OK2SAY (855-565-2729); texting: 652729 (OK2SAY); Emailing: OK2SAY@mi.gov; visiting OK2SAY.com; downloading the OK2SAY mobile application for iOS or Android. The attorney general’s office, which manages the program, offers free resources for K-12 students, parents, guardians and community leaders. For more information, visit OK2SAY.com. As a state senator, former educator and mother, nothing is more important to me than keeping our children safe. That’s why I support OK2SAY. It is a simple and easy-to-use tool that helps protect those we hold most dear. And as always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov.

Republicans and Democrats can still work together Over the past week, my friend Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and I have participated in a number of events to discuss the importance of bipartisanship and civility in our political discourse. In our conversations, we have emphasized that Democrats and Republicans can still work together to tackle the big issues facing our nation. Frankly too many in Washington look for a fight first and a solution second, resorting to vitriolic rhetoric and mean-spirited language. That’s not how it should be. Solving problems must be our top priority whether it COVID-19 relief, aid to our schools, or support for our small businesses as we look to restore our way of life. From my many conversations with folks across Southwest Michigan, they want to see Congress deliver real results for their families and actually get things done – not contribute to the partisan gridlock that grinds our gears and delays our progress. A vibrant democratic republic depends on vigorous debate – but also recognizes the importance of compromise and coming together to work on the big issues. As your voice in Congress, I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move our country forward and build a better future for the next generation of Americans. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or 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).

Protecting the Great Lakes This past weekend, I was able to spend my Saturday morning fishing with local veterans and charter boat captains on Lake Michigan as part of the Southwest Michigan Steelheaders 4th annual Trolling with the Troops event. We swapped fish stories, jokes, and had an all-around great morning being out on the water fighting king salmon. Everyone who visits Pure Michigan can clearly see that our state is home to some of the most precious natural resources in the world. As your voice in Lansing, it’s my job to ensure that we have smart safeguards in place to protect our natural resources and the thousands of jobs right here in Southwest Michigan that depend on them. Earlier this term, I introduced legislation that passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. My bill quickly gained the support of local charter boat captains and local units of government who understand how important our recreational fishery is to Southwest Michigan’s economy. The bill package is quite simple – it protects our Great Lakes and the thousands of jobs right here in Southwest Michigan that depend on a vibrant fishery. My legislation protects game fish, such as trout and salmon; it regulates the commercial gear used to harvest fish from the Great Lakes; and it establishes penalties that will protect our sport fishing industry. As the legislature continues working on behalf of the people we serve, I will continue doing everything I can to protect our Great Lakes and fisheries so that this event is around for years to come. I look forward to helping next year’s fifth annual Trolling with the Troops being the largest and most successful event yet. 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.

Social Security in plain language Some of the terms and acronyms people use when they talk about Social Security can be a little confusing. We’re here to help you understand all you need to know. We strive to explain your benefits using easy-to-understand, plain language. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to communicate clearly in a way “the public can understand and use.” This can be particularly challenging when talking about complicated programs like Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare. If there’s a technical term or acronym that you don’t know, you can easily find the meaning in our online glossary at www.ssa.gov/agency/glossary. Everyone uses shorter versions of words nowadays. We do too. Social Security’s acronyms function as shorthand in conversations about our programs and services. If you’re nearing retirement, you may want to know what PIA (primary insurance amount), FRA (full retirement age), and DRCs (delayed retirement credits) mean. These terms describe your benefit amount — based on when you decide to take it. If you take your retirement benefit at FRA, you’ll receive the full PIA (amount payable for a retired worker who starts benefits at full retirement age). So, FRA is an age and PIA is an amount. Once you receive benefits, you get a COLA most years. A COLA is a Cost-of-Living Adjustment, and that will usually mean a little extra money in your monthly benefit. What about DRCs? Delayed retirement credits are the incremental increases added to the PIA if you delay taking retirement benefits beyond your full retirement age. If you wait to begin benefits beyond FRA — say, at age 68 or even 70 — your benefit increases. If one of those terms or acronyms comes up in conversation, you can be the one to supply the definition using our online glossary. Sometimes learning the terminology can deepen your understanding of how Social Security works for you.

Discoveries along the path I like hiking. There are always interesting things to see and experience. One of my more memorable hikes was from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim along the Kaibab Trail. Although sometimes brutal, especially the switchbacks on the way up the South Rim side, we made it. The hike took two days. We camped at Bright Angel Ranch at the bottom of the canyon overnight. Then, upon completion of our trek, rather than walking back, we decided to fly back. We found a local airport on the South Rim. That flight, in itself, was an amazing and beautiful adventure! Not your normal hike! Walks used to be called “constitutionals”, apparently because walking allows time to reflect and gain your “constitution” for the day. Oh well, that wasn’t the Grand Canyon! Along the way we met a grandfather and grandson on the trail. Life is about the people you meet, and these two were an encouragement as they together pushed through the pain of the pathway. In Luke 24 we encounter another pair on a hike, a hike from Jerusalem to a nearby town, Emmaus. Jesus’ crucifixion had just occurred and these two were confused. Then the resurrected Jesus joined them, apparently from an adjoining pathway. It would become an enlightening journey as Jesus challenged them to better understanding the Word of God and to stronger faith. We have a similar challenge now. We may not have all the explanations at this time as to what is happening on our pathway, but as we meet Jesus in our travels we can be encouraged about His presence in new ways we had not discovered until now. It may take new conversations with Him (prayer), and new input, (Bible reading – try Psalms and John). Meet Him on the switchbacks and the hike gets less discouraging, and the adventure gains new meaning.

Republicans and Democrats can still work together

Over the past week, my friend Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and I have participated in a number of events to discuss the importance of bipartisanship and civility in our political discourse. In our conversations, we have emphasized that Democrats and Republicans can still work together to tackle the big issues facing our nation.

Frankly too many in Washington look for a fight first and a solution second, resorting to vitriolic rhetoric and mean-spirited language. That’s not how it should be. Solving problems must be our top priority whether it COVID-19 relief, aid to our schools, or support for our small businesses as we look to restore our way of life.

From my many conversations with folks across Southwest Michigan, they want to see Congress deliver real results for their families and actually get things done – not contribute to the partisan gridlock that grinds our gears and delays our progress.

A vibrant democratic republic depends on vigorous debate – but also recognizes the importance of compromise and coming together to work on the big issues. As your voice in Congress, I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move our country forward and build a better future for the next generation of Americans.

To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or 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).

Community comes together for return to school

Dear Editor,

With less than a month until school starts, we are still working hard to plan and prepare for the new school year.

At Coloma Community Schools, our team has been working daily developing plans, and gathering input from the community and parents to help understand how to best serve our students.

Preparing for the return to school has not been an easy task, but it has involved the work of many—including administrators, the Board of Education, our teacher’s union, community members, and neighboring school districts. To that end, I would like to thank this community for offering unwavering support, guidance and feedback for our return to school and plans for the 2020-21 school year. We are in this together and the decisions we make impact thousands in our community.

As of now, our district is still planning for in-person learning for the fall. We are prepared for the first day of school, and will stagger students in the building during our first week as a “phase-in” of the district. Our top concern is always the health and safety of our school community.

The Berrien County Health Department has been helpful in the planning and development that went into our return to school plan and will provide important direction into the fall. As of now, the Health Department has advised we reopen our doors, though information and recommendations can change daily, and the district will respond to any changes as needed.

In the process of planning for the 2020-21 school year, we gathered survey feedback from parents, hosted weekly video updates, livestreamed a virtual town hall with an open question and answer forum, provided a resource center on our website and offered real-time updates across various mediums online and through direct mail. All the feedback we received helpful in our plan development.

As a team member in the district for 20 years, I have never seen every aspect of education challenged as it is now. This has been a unique time for us all. Many still have questions, and we will continue to do our best to answer them promptly. All timely information can be found on our website at CCS.Coloma.org in the top left corner under “Safe Return to School.”

Thank you to all who have helped us in this unprecedented time. We appreciate the continued patience and support as we ease back into learning. We are eager to get started but know there are bound to be obstacles along the way. Despite these challenges, we are prepared for what lies ahead. I am confident this school year will be a success, and our community will remain stronger than ever.

Dave Ehlers

Superintendent at Coloma Community Schools

Stay alert especially around school zones and neighborhoods

(Press Release) As Michigan students begin the school year – in one form or another, virtual or classroom – AAA is urging motorists to slow down and stay alert in both neighborhoods and school zones.

Normally drivers would expect to see increased foot traffic in school zones, sidewalks and crosswalks, but this year will be completely different, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a mix of in-school and remote learning, motorists could find increased pedestrian traffic in neighborhoods as many students transition to remote and virtual learning options.

“Back to school season looks a little different this year, but it’s still important for motorists to be vigilant and keep safety top of mind,” said Adrienne Woodland, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Traditional school zone activity could move closer to home for many and we are urging drivers to remain alert and expect increased foot and bicycle traffic at all times throughout the day.”

Tips for drivers

Slow down and be vigilant in school zones. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

Expect children in neighborhoods throughout the day. With more students learning from home, whether through homeschooling or virtual learning, children may be playing outside or taking a recess break throughout the day. Treat neighborhoods as school zones by reducing your speed and watching for children near the road.

Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.

Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. And children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between parked cars.

Watch for bicycles. Children on bicycles are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist. If your child rides a bicycle to school or around the neighborhood, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.

Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at https://teendriving.aaa.com/MI/.

Enhanced notification service now available for crime victims in Michigan

(Press Release) The Michigan Division of Victim Services with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has launched an enhanced version of Michigan Victim Information and Notification Everyday (MI-VINE) that expands access to critical services for crime victims in Michigan.

MI-VINE has been serving victims since 1999 and has continued to evolve through advancements in technology. The enhanced MI-VINE service offers users innovative functionality, an improved user experience and expanded access to victim services. A key feature is the MI-VINE Service Provider Directory, which allows users to seek assistance and connect directly with both local and national victim service providers.

“Expanding and enhancing access to services is critical in our work to provide one voice for victims of crime in Michigan,” said Debi Cain, executive director of the Michigan Division of Victim Services. “These advancements help ensure crime victims and their families receive timely and potentially life-saving notifications surrounding the custody status of offenders in a user-friendly and victim-centered way.”

MI-VINE has long played a key role in keeping victims in Michigan safe through the power of information. During 2019: 256,511 Michiganders registered to use MI-VINE’s services; 443,090 notifications were provided to MI-VINE users through outbound calls, emails, text messages and TTY, a device used to communicate with hearing or speech impaired individuals; 5,591,525 offender searches were conducted using the MI-VINE website and mobile applications.

An entirely free service provided by Appriss Insights, VINE is the nation’s leading victim notification network and provides crime victims and concerned citizens access to timely and reliable offender custody information through a toll-free telephone number, website or mobile application. Users may also register to receive automated notifications relating to changes in custody status via telephone, email or text message.

Josh Bruner, executive vice president of Victim Services at Appriss Insights, added: “Appriss is pleased to introduce this new suite of VINE features and benefits to victims throughout the state of Michigan. Users are now able to benefit from a more streamlined experience, and we are thrilled to increase accessibility to victim-centered services that will help guide them on their road to healing, peace and recovery.”

Appriss has been serving victims since 1994. Michigan is the 21st state in the country to implement the enhanced VINE service since its rollout in May 2017. To learn more about the enhanced MI-VINE service, visit Michigan.gov/MIVINE.