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10-24-2019 Letters and Commentary

Watch out for the ghoulies Have you ever noticed that many ghoulies, zombies and other scary persona speak with British accents? That’s been my observation. Motion-sensitive Halloween displays have British accents. What’s with that? Are all zombies British? Or do they become British when they become zombies? Would French zombies speak in English accents? These are vexing questions. I know one thing for sure Montreal zombies don’t speak with English accents! Any English zombies in Montreal will have to learn to speak with French accents if they ever expect to order a meal! This is, of course, a spoof. But consider what our Halloween celebrations reveal about our understanding of true spiritual evil and those beings that, rather than being inventions of Hollywood or of creative toy designers, are real – and very, very dangerous. You know when it’s a really bad time to meet the real demons? When you meet them in the Lake of Fire. That sounds harsh, but our dance with the lighter side of Halloween may lead to a dance of death if we never deal with the reality of our eternal state without Christ. In Mathew 25:41 Jesus warns, “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” (NASB) Also, Revelation 20:15, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (NASB) Now that’s scary stuff! But Jesus, in His death and resurrection provides the solution. In Hebrews 2:14-15 we discover, “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (NASB) So, don’t be afraid of those British zombies. Be afraid of coming judgment without Christ.

Social Security covers disabled children Children are our future — we share our knowledge and talent with them — we pass on our values to them knowing they will share those gifts. Social Security safeguards children all year long, but we’d like to take this opportunity to share information about our programs that provide direct support to children. The latest information available says that in 2018 the Social Security program distributed about $2.7 billion each month to benefit about 4.1 million children on average each month because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. Those dollars help to provide the necessities of life for family members and help make it possible for those children to complete high school. When a working parent becomes disabled or dies, Social Security benefits help stabilize the family’s financial future. Children with disabilities are among our most vulnerable citizens. The Social Security Administration is dedicated to helping those with qualifying disabilities and their families through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which is separate from the Social Security program. To qualify for SSI: The child must have a physical or mental condition, or a combination of conditions, resulting in “marked and severe functional limitations.” This means that the condition(s) must severely limit your child’s activities; and the child’s condition(s) must be severe, last for at least 12 months, or be expected to result in death. If the parents of the child or children have more income or resources than are allowed, then the child or children will not qualify for SSI. You can read more about children’s benefits at Social Security and SSI also covers many chronic illnesses and conditions. The Compassionate Allowances program is a way to quickly identify people with diseases and other medical conditions that, by definition, meet the standards for disability benefits under the Social Security and SSI programs. Thousands of children receive SSI benefits because they have one of the conditions on the Compassionate Allowances list at Keep in mind, Social Security and SSI are two very distinct and separate programs, and eligibility for each is different. Visit to learn more about all we do to care for children. Social Security is with you and your children throughout your life’s journey, securing today and tomorrow. If you know a family who needs our help, please share these resources with them. 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

THE POT STAMPEDE IS ON… I heard my first marijuana ad on the radio Monday, and saw my first on television this past weekend. Of course, the advertisers are pledging customer service, legal compliance, and jobs. The good news is that people are willing to invest in your town. The real good news is that more people are willing to invest in your town, if the town fathers and mothers voted to allow marijuana operations. If the town mothers and fathers nixed the idea (opted out) this past year or so, they may be soon rethinking the benefits of marijuana use and production as a tax revenue producer. Especially when the marijuana operation is attracting their citizens to a business outside town limits when it could have been just as easily located in one of the vacant buildings on their own main street. When the moving dust settles, there could be communities with 2 or 3 marijuana business operations. The way things are shaking out, in a year or two the smaller towns may see some of those operations close. In the bigger towns, it may take more competition and a little more time, but the customer base will reach a saturation point that will mean closure for some businesses. We’ve seen it happen with malls soaking up local business and manpower and then the big corner stores move on to greener pastures, leaving the local mall owner with empty buildings (just like on your main street) and expired tax incentives. And just when your home town has what it wants in marijuana business your congressman will introduce a bill in Washington to decriminalize marijuana and add federal sales taxes to the product. That’s just like the “sin taxes” on alcohol and tobacco. All the above means we are a long way from getting our minds around the use and value of marijuana as a commodity available to all (at a price). The building and opening stampede has just started, it remains to be seen where it will eventually, but inevitably, end up.

OXYMORON… if ever there was a holiday oxymoron, it is wishing someone a Happy Halloween. Kids run door-to-door, yelling Trick or Treat, as they raise their goody bag (pumpkin or Harding’s plastic grocery sack). The young (and future) goblins are usually masked as a super hero, pretty princess, the President (from Nixon to Trump), various homemade concoctions of hobos, monsters, and long dead beauties. This is the only day of the year that you can walk into your local bank with a mask on and not create a robbery alarm. It is also the only night of the year you can run across the street in the middle of the block. The old refrain Trick or Treat has lost much of its meaning. Mostly the kids are interested in a treat and if denied one may run home crying. In the old days (mine), the threat of a trick meant waxing the basement windows and blowing out the candles in the jack-o-lantern. In the small town we lived in 35 years ago, devil’s night was celebrated the night before Halloween, probably a halfhearted attempt to keep the devilry in one place and was easy to clean up. The four corners downtown were roped off. Within the devil square all screaming, yelling, shaving cream, perfume and other such weapons were allowed. Local police and volunteers manned the ring, while dodging missiles of Jello in paper bags and squirts of shaving cream. When the event was shut down, the fire department hosed off the abandoned food items and all the kids went home to bed… probably dreaming of new weaponry for next year. It wasn’t always that way, I think. Hallowe’en was Hallowed Eve, the night before All Souls Day, according to Google …Halloween or Hallowe’en, also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in several countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs, and all the faithful departed. Meanwhile there are plenty of safe and fun activities near home. See the Halloween Page in this week’s issue for listings of activities.

Honoring all who served

Yankee Air Museum in Belleville, Michigan is giving free admission to veterans and their families on Veterans Day, Monday, November 11, 2019.

The museum is usually closed on Mondays, but for this day only the museum will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for veterans and their families.

Yankee Air Museum is located at 47884 D Street in Belleville. For more information on the museum, visit

Loves the Tri-City Record

Dear Editor,

Love the newspaper! Thanks for all your efforts to keep it going. You’re truly a gem in the local newspaper business.

Kathy Hayes, Dowagiac

Two Rivers Coalition 11th Annual Meeting

Dear Karl Bayer,

There are other ecosystems besides beautiful forests, pristine lakes, and clear rivers here in our little corner of paradise. We also have prairie fens, coastal plain marshes, and drowned river valleys, to name just a few. Come learn about some of these fascinating and unique local ecosystems at the Two Rivers Coalition (TRC) annual meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7.

The TRC 11th Annual Meeting will take place at the Van Buren Conference Center in Lawrence MI, located at 490 S. Paw Paw Street. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for enjoying home-made desserts, browsing table displays from local environmental groups, and bidding on silent auction items donated by local artists. Free sample packets of native flower seeds will be given to the first 100 attendees, courtesy of Cardno Native Plant Nursery.

The main program begins at 7:00 p.m. and will include a review of TRC projects throughout the year such as macroinvertebrate sampling, river clean-ups, and E. coli testing with sniffer dogs. Also, there will be an update for paddlers about the very successful Paw Paw River Water Trail. The keynote presentation will follow, given by Ryan Postema, Executive Director of Chikaming Open Lands, and is titled, “Rare and Unique Ecosystems of Southwest Michigan”.

This meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7 is free and open to the public. TRC is a volunteer, non-profit environmental organization concerned with the health of the Black River and Paw Paw River watersheds. For more information, please go to and/or find us on Facebook: @TwoRiversCoalition.

Thank You,

Kristopher Martin

Associate Planner

Southwest Michigan Planning Commission

South-county groups forgive $1.5 million in medical debt for over 1,000 local families

Harbor Country Mission, a nonprofit organization, and Lake Street Community Church in Bridgman along with I CAN Cafe in New Buffalo have raised enough money to clear more than $1.5 million in medical debt for more than 1,000 Michigan families in Berrien, Van Buren and Cass counties. “Our joint project is intended to ease the burden of excessive medical bills, which is the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcy,” stated Dave Heyn, Executive Director of Harbor Country Mission at a recent meeting of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners.

The three organizations have worked with RIP Medical Debt, a New York-based charity, to erase medical debt for more than 1,500 Michigan individuals or families in southwest Michigan.

Because RIP Medical Debt acquires debt for a fraction of the value, the organizations are able to pay $15,000 to abolish $1.5 million in medical debt. “More than $100 billion in unpaid medical debt every year has an adverse impact on debtor patients, physicians and hospitals. And, more than 52 percent of Americans have a medical collection action on their credit reports.” added David Yardley, Director of Development for Harbor Country Mission.

“RIP is proud to stand with Harbor Country Mission on this important project to relieve a minimum of $1.5 million of medical debt in Berrien, Van Buren, and Cass counties,” says RIP Medical Debt, Director of Development Scott Gannon Patton. RIP Medical Debt’s mission is to empower donors to forgive the billions in oppressive medical debt at pennies on the dollar.

Pastor Dalton Stanage of Lake Street Community Church sees how medical debt hurts his church members’ health: “When you’re already in debt because of your health care, you let chronic illnesses go until it’s an emergency, people don’t go to the doctor, they don’t get their medications filled. Too many people are just one medical emergency away from a bankruptcy.”

As soon as the debt is purchased, the debtors will receive a letter in the mail letting them know their debt has been forgiven.

Composting leaves is better choice over burning

One of the best autumn activities in Michigan is an outing to view the brilliant color show put on by yellow beeches, red maples, and bronze oaks as they prepare for cool weather. Once the show is over, homeowners begin the work of raking leaves.

Many people burn leaves to dispose of them. Cities and townships often prohibit this, however, and debris burning is recognized as the number one cause of wildfires in Michigan. In 2018, debris burning caused 98 fires responded to by our wildland firefighters.

“Debris fires started with leaves, grass clippings, and other light materials are difficult to manage and can be disrupted by wind,” said State Fire Supervisor Dan Laux. “They can quickly grow out of control and threaten people’s homes and forest lands.”

An easier and safer solution is composting. Composting involves scooping leaves into a pile or containing them in a bin and leaving them to naturally decompose. Veggie scraps, coffee grounds and eggshells can also be added, cutting down on kitchen waste. Just don’t add items like meat scraps that can smell bad and attract pests.

“Composting is an easy way to take care of fall leaves and has the added benefit of cutting down on smoke and airborne particles that can aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions,” said Jenifer Dixon, an air quality specialist at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

Composting also provides rich fertilizer for gardens and landscape plants. Bins can be purchased or constructed out of low-cost materials such as discarded pallets.

If a compost pile isn’t ideal, you can also use a lawn mower to shred leaves and compost them in place where they will fertilize the grass. You can also mulch perennial beds with shredded leaves or till them right into garden soil.

Residents who choose to burn should visit or check local regulations to see if a permit is required. Also recommended is to check the daily fire danger rating and use proper fire safety etiquette: Never leave a fire unattended, keep a shovel nearby, and have a water source ready.

Intentional structure burning is restricted to fire departments for training

The rules and regulations governing the intentional burning of structures such as old barns and homes are very explicit. These rules apply to structures still standing and in good condition as well as those already on the ground, such as when a storm or flood causes excess construction debris to be present. The intentional burning of any structure is only allowable for fire suppression training.

All fire suppression training must conform to the guidelines established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard on Live Fire Training Evolutions (NFPA 1403). NFPA 1403 provides guidelines for preparing a structure for live fire training. Additionally, prior to a training burn, a fire department must take care to choose an acceptable location, contact residents that may be affected by smoke or odor, choose an acceptable accelerant, and remove asbestos.

There is a thought that open burning of structures is preferable to demolition. This is not the case. In any circumstance where a structure is being removed, the proper notification and removal of regulated materials, such as asbestos, must be completed before any other action is taken.

For more information on open burning rules in the state, go to

Water professionals urge investment in water reliability

As the annual national observance of “Imagine a Day Without Water” was held on Oct. 23, Michigan Section/ American Water Works Association (MI/AWWA) asks businesses and residents to support more investment in aging water infrastructure. Although Michigan is surrounded by the largest freshwater source in the world – now at record-high levels – it’s hard to imagine living a day without water, but some communities have had to do so when systems break down.

The state and national observance aimed to shine attention on the value of clean, reliable water and its crucial role in our lives and economy. MI/AWWA joins states across the country working to make an impact on the future of water policy and individual water use.

“Fixing and upgrading those systems not only will ensure a reliable flow of water, but will also boost the economy,” explains Bonnifer Ballard, executive director of MI/AWWA. “Every $1 spent to improve infrastructure generates $6 in economic activity.”

Water systems are called the “invisible infrastructure” when compared to crumbling roads that command attention when cars are damaged by potholes. The cost to make needed repairs and upgrade Michigan’s water delivery systems over the next 25 years will top $1 trillion.

Already, an average of 700 water main breaks occur in the U.S. every day, or approximately 237,600 costly disruptions for businesses, homes and industry each year. In Michigan, most water comes through pipes and treatment plants that are 50 to 100 years old, many past their original life spans.

Michigan uses as much water each day as flows over Niagara Falls in four hours.

In Southeast Michigan, the Great Lakes Water Authority delivers water to nearly four million people every day through more than 800 miles of pipes. The average family of four in the U.S. consumes about 300 gallons of water daily – 109,000 gallons a year – according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Of all the water consumed in the U.S., 46 percent is used to manufacture products. For example, it takes 39,000 gallons of water to manufacture a single automobile.

“Clean and dependable water is the lifeblood of our health, economy and recreation and it shouldn’t be taken for granted,” says Ballard. “‘Imagine a Day Without Water’ is a time to remind us to reinvest in our most valuable resource.”

Michigan Section, American Water Works Association is a vital community of nearly 1,500 water professionals in Michigan leading the advancement of water knowledge and improving the value and quality of water in our lives. AWWA is the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource.

Number of licensed teen drivers on the rise

More than 60% of teens got their driver’s license before the age of 18, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. An 11% increase since 2012.

The new report reveals a changing trend in teen licensure from when the Foundation first evaluated the issue in 2012. At the time, the country was just emerging from a recession and many young people cited their family’s inability to afford the high cost of driving as a reason why they did not obtain their license sooner.

“The trend for teens to acquire their driver’s license has changed over the past 10 years,” said Adrienne Woodland, spokesperson, AAA-The Auto Club Group. “Many are getting licensed before the age of 18, which means more of

Generation Z is learning to drive under the protection of state graduated driver licensing programs and parental supervision.”

The new AAA Foundation study surveyed young adults ages 18-24 to determine when they obtained their license and found that nationally, 40.8% got their license at or before age 16 and 60.3% got their license before the age of 18.

Other findings show: Only half (49.8%) of teens in large cities obtain their license before the age of 18, compared with nearly two-thirds of those in less urbanized areas.

Teens living in the Midwest tend to be licensed at younger ages – 55% at or before age 16 and 70% before age 18. While only one-third (32.2%) of teens living in the West and fewer than a quarter (22.3%) of teens in the Northeast reported getting their license at or before age 16, only 56% (Northeast) and 48% (West) did so before age 18.

Past AAA Foundation research found that for every mile driven, new teen drivers ages 16-17 years old are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash. All states have in place graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems for teen drivers ages 16 and 17 to help them gradually learn the rules of the road under less risky conditions.

The programs require minimum holding periods and practice requirements for teens with learner’s permits, followed by restricted licenses that limit driving at night or with peer passengers.

“The fact that more teens are starting to drive at an age when they can gradually learn the necessary skills to be safe behind the wheel is great news for all drivers,” said Woodland. “Past trends of waiting until you turn 18 to be licensed was a cause for concern. Many of these young drivers were getting behind the wheel with minimal knowledge or support, putting themselves and others at risk.”

A previous AAA Foundation study found that drivers first licensed at age 18 are more likely to be involved in a crash resulting in injuries during their first year of solo driving than new drivers licensed at any other age. Nearly 28% of the young adults in the AAA Foundation survey reported waiting until they were 18 or older to get their license. Reasons young adults cited for delaying licensure included: Nervous about driving (68.4%); they could do everything they needed without driving (52.6%); driving was too expensive (33.3%); too busy to get a license (28.9%); family members did not have time to help them get their license (20.5%).

“It is imperative that all new drivers practice driving with a skilled coach through a variety of routes and in different weather conditions before heading out on their own,” continued Woodland. “Novice drivers shouldn’t let the first time that they drive in the rain or on the freeway be at a time when they’re alone.”

By setting parameters, new drivers can greatly minimize their risk of a crash. AAA recommends that regardless of their age when first learning to drive, new drivers should remember to “R.E.A.D the road”: R = Right speed, for right now: Always mind the speed limit and reduce your speed when traveling in adverse weather conditions. E = Eyes up, brain on: Always scan the road to anticipate dangers ahead. Eliminate distractions and keep your mind focused on the task of driving. A = Anticipate their next move: Be aware of other drivers on the road. Anticipate their next move and always have a plan to respond. D = Huge DONUT of space around your vehicle: Keep large amounts of space to the front and sides of your vehicle. has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teach new drivers the rules of the road. The online AAA StartSmart program also offers great resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges. Novice drivers preparing for the responsibility of driving alone should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills.


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