10-15-2020 Letters and Commentary

REAL NEWS SELLS NEWSPAPERS… Too often (perhaps to get my goat), someone will say, “You just printed that to sell papers.” Invariably, the table gets turned when I reply, “Yes.” The sordid truth of the matter is that without the “news” there would be no Tri-City Record… if there were a product at all, it would be like the countless other throwaways, jammed with ads from who knows where. It is the news that makes the Tri-City Record a newspaper. You buy it for the news, not the advertising. In accepting the challenge to publish a NEWSpaper, the Tri-City Record also accepts a responsibility to publish ALL the news in a TRUTHFUL and RESPONSIBLE way. That’s where folks get confused about printing the news and selling newspapers. We print all the news we can get in each week. We can’t print what we don’t know about; can’t print lies, half-truths, innuendo, or fiction. We do sell newspapers by printing news of the tri-cities. We can always use some help with that mission with folks calling in with news stories and photos and ideas for stories and photos. And the most help would be folks calling in with breaking news stories such as fires and accidents; special government meetings and such. Call 463-6397 during business hours; or my cell phone anytime, 876-1327. I’m proud of the Tri-City Record and the contribution it makes to the Tri-City community (the paper coined the good name that now identifies Coloma, Hartford, and Watervliet).

SOUND FAMILIER? The above is a Karl’s Kolumn from October 2003. If I had a crystal ball back then and wrote about Fake News, COVID-19, a country divided nearly 50-50 on just about any issue, my readers would call me a liar. Even so, most newspapers, large and small, endeavor to print the real news.

Plan, practice your family’s fire escape plan As we settle into fall and look ahead to the winter months, many Southwest Michiganders are preparing — or in some cases have already started — to heat their homes with fireplaces and woodstoves. There’s nothing quite like a nice, warm fire to cozy up to when it’s cold outside. In addition to being a great source of heat, wood burning stoves and fireplaces are also quite economical compared to oil, propane or electric. But, heating a home with firewood also presents dangers that must be taken seriously. That’s why I recently hosted a virtual town hall event with state Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer and Niles’ Fire Marshal Lieutenant Rory Iwaniuk in observance of national Fire Prevention Week. The annual event is observed every October, with the goal of raising awareness about fire safety to help ensure families have a fire safety plan and are prepared for the unexpected. Regardless of whether your family has a fireplace, every home should have a fire escape plan. Here are some key tips to consider when making your family’s plan: Draw and review your home’s floor plan, including all doors and windows; locate two ways out of each room; ensure egress points are not blocked; choose a meeting place outside the home. As important as having a fire escape plan is practicing the plan. Schedule a time for a family fire drill; test smoke alarms and practice the plan to ensure everyone knows what to do in case of a fire emergency. MI Prevention, a statewide fire safety campaign set up through the State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Fire Services and Michigan’s fire safety organizations, offers loads of free information, including videos and downloadable tip sheets, on how to prepare for and respond to fire when one breaks out. To get started, visit www.michigan.gov/miprevention. My thanks to all who tuned in to the town hall. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by emailing senklasata@senate.mich igan.gov or calling (517) 373-6960.

Don’t mess with the Great Lakes Here in Southwest Michigan, the Great Lakes are truly our most cherished national treasure. As the country’s largest source of fresh water, they generate millions of dollars in economic activity, create thousands of jobs, and sustain diverse underwater ecosystems. The Great Lakes also power Michigan’s flourishing tourism industry that attracts millions of visitors annually to our great state. That’s why I’ve long fought to preserve their beauty by preventing the storage of nuclear waste anywhere near the Great Lakes, keeping dangerous pollutants out of our water, and funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – the largest investment in the health of the Great Lakes in nearly two decades.

More recently, I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues in urging the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to fund the Brandon Road Lock and Dam construction project, which will keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and support our world-class fishing industry. Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, protecting the Great Lakes has long been a top priority for me. As your voice in Congress, I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to preserve their beauty for generations to come and strongly proclaim: “Don’t mess with the Great Lakes!”

Protecting our police is always good policy Last month I introduced a bipartisan bill package that would protect first responders and other Michiganders from “doxing”. Doxing is a form of harassment that involves publishing private information about a person – such as his or her address and phone number – on the internet with malicious intent. As anti-police groups and anarchists continue to riot, loot and vandalize communities across America, our country has seen an uptick in doxing of members of law enforcement and public figures. People with malicious intent are looking up the personal information of police officers, such as their addresses, and widely sharing it on social media to organize protests at the steps of their homes. That is absolutely traumatizing, and I can’t even begin to imagine what the families of first responders and other public figures are experiencing. These cowardly acts have been most prevalent in the ongoing Portland, Oregon riots, where the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has reported dozens of law enforcement officials have been doxed. The measure would enhance penalties for those who are convicted of doxing, including a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days imprisonment or a $500 fine for the first offense, and a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison if the victim is severely harmed. The safety of our law enforcement members and their families is paramount, especially in times where tensions are high, and a larger target is on their backs. This is a proactive measure to ensure every Michigan resident and their loved ones are protected from having their private information publicized. We must crack down on those who are responsible for using private information with a malicious intent. The legislation, House Bills 6205-6206, are currently in the House Judiciary Committee for consideration. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212, via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ RepBethGriffin.

Getting our sea legs They must have just invented instant mashed potatoes when I was six years old. Or at least they hadn’t yet perfected them. When instant mashed potatoes were served for dinner on the ship named the “Buckner”, it was too much for me. The rolling Atlantic, the sliding dinner plates, and the paste called instant mashed potatoes combined to send me to the rail to feed the fish. I definitely had not yet gotten my sea legs on that adventurous, rough ride to New York from Germany. What are sea legs? Sea legs allow a person to move with the ship to stay steady while everything else is moving in all directions. It helps overcome motion sickness, and keep a person steady on a moving deck. We need sea legs for more than just rough ocean crossings. We need sea legs for life. Not just for moving decks, but for rocking foundations. The kind of sea legs we need for life are the sea legs called faith in God and confidence in His goodness, justice and truth. A song, “The Solid Rock” contains the phrase “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.” In times of storm, our confidence in God can anchor our souls and keep us from despair, replacing it with hope, replacing fear with peace. Faith in God, however, besides being a decision of the soul and mind, is like sea legs – learned. Faith is learned two ways. By hearing and by experience. Abraham, by decision “believed God” and it was “counted to him as righteousness”. He heard God’s promise and decided to believe. The practical outworking of his belief came when he held his son Isaac in his arms. It took time and experiences to learn that God was indeed “El Shaddai”, the LORD God Almighty, for whom nothing is impossible. We too can learn that.

Twp. supervisor write-in candidate endorsement

Dear Watervliet Township Voters,

Many of you have asked me to run as a write-in candidate for supervisor since Dan’s passing. While I wish to stay on as trustee for the township, I do not wish to be supervisor.

Both Rich Quinn and Joe Stepich have an interest in becoming your supervisor. I applaud Rich for attending almost every township board meeting. That in itself shows that he has a deep feeling for what goes on in our township. However, I feel that Joe has more experience and knowledge in the workings of township government.

Therefore, I am endorsing Joe and I would urge all of you who were willing to vote for me to write in Joe Stepich for your next supervisor.

Bob Wallace, Watervliet Township

Write-in candidate for Watervliet Township Supervisor

Editor,

It’s with a heavy heart that I am announcing my candidacy to be a write-in for Watervliet Township Supervisor as a result of the passing of Dan Hutchins, my friend, mentor for the past 12 years, and a great Supervisor who is a role model for anyone in this position.

Continuity in Township government is important. Therefore, it’s important that a new Supervisor have up to date knowledge and experience in the township’s issues and governance. As a Trustee for 12 years, I have this background. I have served on the Planning Commission, he Wastewater Treatment Plant Board, the Watervliet Joint Fire Board, the Brownfield Authority Board and have worked on a variety of township projects, including sewer upgrades, ambulance service and Airport Park.

The Supervisor position requires being accessible to township residents, listening to them and working with them to resolve their issues. Further, the Supervisor should have a vision of the township’s future, be straightforward in expressing his position on issues and doing what he believes is in the best interest of the township. If elected I will do my best to do these.

I would appreciate your consideration of me when you vote. In any event, however, please vote.

Joe Stepich, Watervliet Township

Jamie Balkin for Coloma City Commissioner

Dear Editor,

Recently green and white signs have popped up around the City of Coloma encouraging voters to vote for Jamie Balkin for one of the City Commission seats open in the November election. I am sure those who do not know me are wondering who is Jamie Balkin. Why is she running for City Commission? What will she bring to the position?

Who am I? A lifelong resident of the Coloma area, I graduated from Lake Michigan Catholic. Then I went on to Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN where I earned my degree. My professional career included 18 years with Cornerstone Alliance followed by my current position with Wightman. I made the decision to raise my family right here.

The small-town charm that kept me close to home is now something others are discovering they want as well. That is one of the reasons I am interested in the City Commission position. Our area can be the type of destination for young families, and retirees, we can build the type of place where kids and grandkids can be together in a safe environment.

Why am I running? It is simple. I am running for office to work with people to make this a better place. I will listen, learn, and work hard for you, the residents of Coloma. I want to give back to the community that I call home. I can bring a lot to the role thanks to my professional work experiences. I have seen amazing results when everyone is willing to work together for the better of the community. I want that for my City.

What will I bring to the position? A few of the key attributes that I bring to the position include a true willingness to work together, being a hard worker, a get things done attitude, and much more. Those attributes along with my strong communications and marketing skills will be a tremendous asset to the Coloma City Commission.

Vote for Jamie Balkin for Coloma City Commission with your absentee ballot or at the polls on November 3rd.

Jamie Balkin, Coloma

Books that can change historical perceptions

Dear Editor,

After watching the brawl in Cleveland (otherwise known as the first Presidential Debate of 2020 and perhaps the last) it pushed me – no required me, to pass on what I think would be something beneficial to all who have not yet voted. The process is somewhat arduous but I believe eye opening,

Here are my thoughts. I think anyone who has not voted or even those who have should read three very important, contemporary and eye opening books.

The three are:

  1. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly about three African-American women who in the 40s, 50s and 60s at NASA worked on the mathematics of getting America into space after the stark reality of being beaten there by the Russians. This is a book everyone should read and be required reading by all high school students.

  2. 1493 by Charles G. Mann which explains how the beginnings of global trade gave birth to “globalism”. It is a convincing explanation of why our world is the way it is and how we got there. “1493” refers to the year after Columbus stumbled into Hispaniola.

  3. Caste / the Origins of our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson. This is one of the darkest books of history I have ever read and was exhausted when finished. However it has made me look at our own history in a different light. This was not the “re-writing” of history but a defining of a history glossed over. I told a friend the day I penned this letter that after reading this book, I would be presumptuous to say I could ever walk in a black person’s footsteps.

I challenge your readers to read these books and say their historical perceptions did not change.

Robert Becker, Watervliet

Historic expungement reforms signed by Gov.

(Press Release) After more than a year of hard work, stakeholder meetings, and multiple House and Senate Committee hearings, bipartisan legislation aimed at making Michigan a national leader in expungement policy has been signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“This common-sense legislation is about doing the right thing,” said Rep. Pauline Wendzel, a primary sponsor who helped shepherd the bill through the House and Senate. “Removing barriers so every Michigander can rise to their full potential and support their families is one of the most important things we can do as a state. After a year of hard work, we came together, Republicans and Democrats, and delivered real and meaningful criminal justice reforms to the people of Michigan.”

Rep. Wendzel continued: “This historic legislation is arguably one of the most important legislative packages passed in the last decade. By allowing hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents who made a mistake and paid their debt to society to have low-level offenses removed from their record, we’re opening the door to new and better career, educational, and housing opportunities. This not only reduces recidivism, but it helps our community and our economy grow in a safe and healthy manner.”

Data from the University of Michigan has revealed three key findings as it relates to the expungement or set-asides of criminal records. First, of those legally eligible for expungement, just 6.5% obtain it within five years of becoming eligible. Second, those who do obtain expungement have extremely low subsequent crime rates. This finding defuses a common public-safety objection to expungement laws. Third, those who obtain expungement experience a sharp increase in their wage and employment trajectories; on average, within two years, wages go up by 25% versus the pre-expungement trajectory, an effect mostly driven by unemployed people finding jobs and under-employed people finding steadier and higher-paying jobs.

“In Michigan, we’re working together to reform a broken system and make our criminal justice system more fair for all of our residents,” Rep. Wendzel said. “I’m proud to have supported bipartisan reforms to our civil asset forfeiture procedures, reforms to our juvenile justice system, reforms to mandatory minimum sentencing, reforms to our licensing requirements, and so much more. In an era of hyper-partisanship, we truly are working together in Michigan to improve the lives of the people we serve.”

Racism & Justice community forums

Editor,

Berrien County ALPACT and the Interfaith Action group of SWMi are planning a series of community forums focusing on “Racism and Justice—Where do we go from here?”

We are having several sessions in this order:

Education, 10/13/2020, Moderator Rita Seay and Charmae Sanders

Criminal Justice, 10/27/2020, Moderator Elvin Gonzalez

Law Enforcement, 11/10/2020, Moderators Randy Miller & Charmae Sanders

All panels will take place on Zoom from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. They are free and open to the public.

The panelists from key institutions and agencies in our area will be asked to respond to three questions:

What has your agency done to respond to racism and disparities in (their area of specialty, i.e., education, etc.) in SW Michigan?

What does your agency plan to do in the next 6 months in this regard?

Where do agencies, groups and the community need to come together to address gaps in access or outcome in your field?

To register for the Forums, RSVP to: alpactsouthwest@gmail.com.

Thank you for your help.

Audrey Lester/Secretary

Berrien County ALPACT

Pauline Wendzel votes against extended unemployment benefits

(Press Release) On Oct. 7, 2020, 79th District State Representative Pauline Wendzel voted against hearing a bill to extend Michigan’s unemployment insurance benefits for those who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill, HB 4894, would have extended Michigan unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks, to ensure that Michigan families who have faced job loss in the wake of the pandemic are able to get by during these uncertain times.

“Too many working families are in crisis right now,” said Chokwe Pitchford, the Democrat facing Pauline Wendzel on the ballot in November. “These times are not normal, and we need to step up our response. Instead, Pauline Wendzel voted against even holding a hearing on a bill that could make a real difference for struggling families. This is why I’m running for State Representative, to be a leader who listens to the needs of our community and works across the aisle to get results. The time is past for party-line partisans like Pauline Wendzel.”

President Obama endorses Chokwe Pitchford for State Representative

(Press Release) Chokwe (“shō-kway”) Pitchford has received the endorsement of former President Barack Obama in his race for 79th district State Representative. “As a former state legislator himself, President Obama recognizes the importance of electing strong leaders at the state level,” said Pitchford. “It is quite an honor to receive the president’s endorsement and know that he believes in our campaign. We stand with him in our fight to reduce prescription drug prices, to expand unions, apprenticeships and career and technical education programs, and to improve economic stability for every working family in our district and throughout Michigan. This distinction will only fuel our fire to win and give the people of the 79th district the representation they deserve.”

“There is so much at stake this cycle and we are excited to join forces with President Obama to highlight the amazing candidates like Chokwe Pitchford running in must-watch races for their state legislatures,” said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. “As the country faces a prolonged public health crisis and with redistricting around the corner, it’s never been more important to elect Democrats to state legislatures. We stand united and will do everything we can to elect candidates like Chokwe Pitchford who will stand up for Democratic values and fight for their communities.”

President Obama’s endorsement follows other recent high profile endorsements for the Pitchford Campaign, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Pitchford is also endorsed by Voters Not Politicians, Let America Vote, Michigan AFL-CIO, UAW Region 1-D, Michigan Education Association, the Michigan Black Caucus, and dozens of other labor and community groups.

To learn more about Chokwe Pitchford, his platform, why the race is critical to expanding Democratic power in Michigan, and to support Pitchford’s campaign, voters can visit his website at https://Chokwefor79th.org.

MDARD announces grant opportunity for rural areas

(Press Release) The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is now accepting proposals for the Rural Development Fund grants, a competitive grant program aimed at promoting the sustainability of land-based industries and supporting infrastructure that benefits rural communities in Michigan.

The Rural Development Fund grants are available for projects addressing expansion and sustainability of land-based industries; worker training related to land-based industries; and energy, transportation, housing, communications, water, and wastewater infrastructure to benefit rural communities and micropolitan statistical areas (defined by the U.S. Department of Management and Budget as an area/county with at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but fewer than 50,000 population). Specific projects for consideration may include projects that lead to the expansion and location of meat and poultry processing facilities, if in an eligible area.

Land-based industries include food and agriculture; forestry; mining; oil and gas production; and tourism. Eligible counties include those with a population no greater than 60,000 residents or micropolitan statistical areas. For a complete list of eligible counties, visit www.michigan.gov/mdardgrants.

The proposals will be evaluated through a competitive process. The maximum limit on project grant fund requests is $100,000. The total allotment of funding for the current year is approximately $1,400,000. All proposals require at least a 30% cash match. Applicants for grant funds will be asked to describe how the project will impact and produce measurable outcomes for rural communities.

Those interested in applying for the grant program should visit www.michigan.gov/mdardgrants to view the application and program guidelines.

Any additional communications concerning this Request for Proposal should be sent to mda-grants@michigan.gov. Proposals must be received at the email above no later than 3 p.m. (EST) on Nov. 19, 2020. Proposals received after 3 p.m. will not be considered.

The Rural Development Fund grants are funded by the Nonferrous Metallic Minerals Extraction Severance Tax. The Rural Development Fund was created under PA 411 of 2012. Revenue from the severance tax is in accordance with PA 410 of 2012.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is well qualified for the Supreme Court

Editor,

On September 26, President Trump nominated U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Besides her numerous favorable recommendations and glowing reviews from her former students, Judge Barrett is eminently qualified for the position. She currently serves as a federal judge, she has a long track record of teaching law, and she has served as a law clerk at the Supreme Court.

Most importantly, Judge Barrett has a record showing her support for the rule of law: judges rule based on the laws created by the people and their elected representatives, not writing laws based on their personal subjective whims.

She was confirmed to her current position in 2017 by a bipartisan U.S Senate vote of 55 to 43. At 48, Judge Barrett would be the youngest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Amy and her husband Jesse have seven children, including two children adopted from Haiti and a son with Down syndrome.

She graduated from Rhodes College in Tennessee with an English degree, and completed her juris doctorate with highest honors from Notre Dame Law School. She served as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and D.C. Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman. She taught law at Notre Dame Law School for 15 years.

Judge Barrett has faced three abortion cases. She joined a dissent to uphold Indiana’s laws banning targeted abortions on children with disabilities and ensuring the dignified disposition of fetal remains.

She joined an opinion urging the Supreme Court to reconsider Hill v. Colorado, which restricts the free speech rights of sidewalk counselors at abortion facilities. She voted for the full 7th Circuit to rehear a challenge to an Indiana law requiring parental notification before a minor girl can get an abortion.

In her private life, she had served as a board member at South Bend’s Trinity School at Greenlawn, and served on her church’s pastoral council. During her 2017 confirmation hearings, her faith became the focus of ridiculous attacks, including a famous line from Senator Diane Feinstein: “The dogma lives loudly within you.”

During her confirmation announcement, Judge Barrett described her judicial philosophy as following the rule of law. The only excuse for opposing Judge Barrett’s nomination is that she won’t do whatever the abortion industry expects her to do—like her predecessor did, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Chris Gast

Director of Communication/Education

RTL.org

Social Security announces new online video hearings

(Press Release) The Social Security Administration announced a new service for people awaiting a hearing decision. In addition to telephone hearings, Social Security will offer the opportunity for an online video hearing using the Microsoft Teams platform beginning this fall. This new free service will allow applicants and their representatives to participate in the hearing from anywhere they have access to a camera-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer. This stable and secure online platform allows the Social Security judge to see and interact with applicants and their representatives just like an in-person hearing, while maintaining privacy of the claimant’s information. Other hearing experts, such as medical or vocational experts, may participate as well.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of finding new ways to serve the public,” said Commissioner of Social Security Andrew Saul. “For over a decade, the agency has used video hearings to get applicants their hearing decisions sooner. This advancement builds on that effort, making it easier and more convenient to attend a hearing remotely, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. To continue to ensure all participants’ safety, we expect online video hearings and telephone hearings will be the only two hearing options for the foreseeable future.”

Social Security has been conducting appeal hearings with Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) via telephone only since March, while offices remain closed to the public to protect the health and safety of the public and employees. The agency’s ALJs have held more than 180,000 telephone hearings since March, allowing the agency to continue to deliver critical customer service.

For the new online video hearings, whether the device is a laptop, smartphone, or tablet on either iPhone or Android, people will experience a clear picture and audio of the ALJ and their representative during their hearing.

For updates on the implementation and expansion of this new hearing service, and other Social Security information, please visit the agency’s COVID-19 web page at www.socialsecurity.gov/coronavirus/.

Empower kids to say no to drinking & cannabis

Dear Editor,

October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. By communicating with kids about how cannabis affects the developing brain, parents and educators can help keep kids substance-free.

In 2019, nearly twelve percent of eighth grade students reported using marijuana in the past year and almost seven percent used marijuana in the past thirty days. That’s why Responsibility.org launched a new digital module as part of their longstanding, science-based underage drinking prevention program, Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix. Holding honest, fact-based conversations with kids is the most important way to keep them substance-free, and digital programs like Ask, Listen, Learn provide important resources to parents and educators.

Kids are faced with tough decisions every day. By holding these conversations, we can increase their knowledge of the developing brain and empower them to make healthy decisions which includes saying no to underage drinking and cannabis use.

Chris Swonger

President & CEO

Distilled Spirits Council of the US and Responsibility.org

Arlington, VA

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