12-26-2019 Letters and Commentary

There needs to be change & it starts locally

Dear Karl,

As the 2019 year is coming to an end, I like many Americans, am thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and looking back sadly at the past year’s national political upheaval. No matter ones political leanings, one must think that there needs to be change. In my humble opinion change starts on the local level.

It is unfortunate that many only feel their vote counts during the federal elections, and so don’t take much interest in local politics. Many people feel excluded from the system. Often they don’t feel they get a fair chance to become part of the “system” in order to participate and contribute. Often the “system” seems predisposed to allow only certain people in. An example happened a while back when Coloma Township choose my successor as Trustee. A small committee made a recommendation to the board from the several applicants who were never given a chance to present themselves to the whole Board for consideration. In all my 30 years of political experience in Coloma Township, I never saw such a closed method employed. It was disrespectful to all the applicants.

The coming year is an election year for most local political offices. In every township every office is “up for grabs”. In most all cases, the November general election is really decided at the partisan primary election in August. Our area is heavy to Republican so the primary election narrows the candidate field down to one per office who will then usually be unchallenged in the November election on that party’s ballot.

I wish more “newbies” would become part of the political process on a local level. I started when I was 37, and have tried to be involved for the past 30 years, because I believed I had something to offer and contribute. I suspect many people think I am one of the old coots that has had too much input and control over the years. In many ways I agree. Most boards that I know of have a majority of people well over 50 or 60 years old. Old often means experience. It can also mean lack of new ideas and long on old ways of thought. Old often means having been in office too long. Long office holders start to think that they have “power” and “control” in their “kingdom”. In my opinion, there should be regular electoral turnover on local boards to maintain good government. If not, maybe there should be term limits to keep old people from mummifying in political position!

NO political office holder should consider that they have “power”. What they have is statutory RESPONSIBILITY. The responsibility is to perform the duties of their office according to the law and to fulfill their oath of office to the people of their community. When someone starts to think that they have power, then they have been in office too long. No potential candidate should thus think that once elected they have power– they really only have responsibility!

Important dates are coming up. Early May is the filing deadline for petitions for township offices for the August Primary. Remember, the primary is really where the November election is decided on most local levels. So, in the next few weeks I would hope that people start seriously thinking about running for local offices. Look inward and realize that you do have something to offer. I encourage younger people in their 30s and 40s to get involved now! Many offices do not have onerous time responsibilities and duties. Your investment of time won’t be that great, but the return on investment in helping to keep good local government is immense. Don’t just think about it, act on it. New blood is needed.

On a personal basis, many might have wondered why I “retired” so unexpectedly from “politics”. The reasons are greater than the Editor would likely let me have space for, but let me say that the turning point was when I got disgusted when I felt integrity seemed to have lost out to politics. I was so angry seeing a young lady’s dreams become political and bureaucratic fodder that I had to leave. I was so angry my wife thought I might have a stroke the day I resigned. Some may think I should have stayed on and fought, and in hindsight I think they are right.

Many have asked whether or not I will run for office again. Honestly, I’m still on the fence and will need a lot of encouragement. This old timer would be happy to see younger people with more energy, fresher ideas, and fire in the belly come along and take over. All I really have to offer are institutional experience, my promise of integrity, and my promise that I would work apolitically and in strict accord with the laws for the benefit of the township. At my age, I’m afraid my filter has become dislodged. Many people might not appreciate my candor, directness, and commitment to transparency in government if I do run. But, I’d sure be glad to help some newbies work to be elected regardless of my future.

Sincerely,

Matt Moser

Sen. Stabenow applauds National Expansion of MSU Mental Health Initiative for Farmers

(Press Release) U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, earlier in December applauded a new national initiative to help farmers manage stress and mental health issues. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is partnering with Farm Credit, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the National Farmers Union, to expand their innovative farm stress management program.

“One in five people are affected by mental health issues, and our farmers are no exception,” said Senator Stabenow. “From volatile weather to economic instability, farmers deal with uniquely stressful situations that affect their livelihoods and families. Farmers in Michigan and across the country will benefit from MSU’s expertise to help farmers manage their stress and improve their mental health.”

In order to help agricultural producers cope with stressful events, MSU Extension developed a unique farm stress program for farmers, farm families, organizations and others who interact directly with farmers. Through online and in-person trainings, the participants will learn to recognize signs of distress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, reduce stigma related to mental health issues, and connect farmers with resources.

“Farmers endure tremendous risks on our behalf,” said Jeff Dwyer, director of Michigan State University Extension. “Those who work in agriculture are at the mercy of variables beyond their control—weather, trade wars and pest outbreaks are just a few of the obstacles that create stress among those who feed and clothe us. We combined the expertise of experts in behavioral health and agriculture to develop tools that will encourage people to seek help before it’s too late. There is no simple solution, but we believe this can make a difference.”

Families that receive child support and cash assistance soon to get up to $200 a month

(Press Release) Michigan residents who receive child support in addition to cash assistance through the Family Independence Program (FIP) will soon see more money they can use to buy food, clothing and other items for their children under a change in Michigan’s fiscal year 2020 budget.

The budget signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer includes $946,000 to support child support pass-through payments of up to $200 a month for qualifying households that receive assistance through FIP. This relatively modest investment will have a substantial return for Michigan, with an estimated 2,700 families receiving an additional $2.5 million in child support.

Currently, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) keeps child support payments that would be paid to parents who receive FIP. This collected money is paid to the federal and state government to offset FIP expenses. However, federal law permits states to “pass through” up to $200 a month of child support to families with two or more children and up to $100 to families with one child.

“Providing greater opportunities for families to succeed is one of MDHHS’s top priorities,” said Erin Frisch, MDHHS chief deputy director for opportunity. “This change accomplishes that and is a win for families that receive child support and their communities. In addition to helping families, providing this additional financial support stimulates the economies of communities where parents live, as they will soon have more to spend on groceries, clothes, and other essentials of living.”

Sending child support to the families rather than keeping it increases participation and cooperation with Michigan’s Child Support program because the paying parents know that a portion of what they pay will go to the family, versus going to the government. The parent or guardian who receives the child support is also more likely to help the program establish and enforce child support orders.

Before 2012, Michigan provided a pass-through payment of $50 to parents receiving FIP. This was eliminated due to budget constraints.

“Michigan should be commended for helping more families get the support they need and deserve for their children,” said Vicki Turetsky, head of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2009 to 2017 and now a consultant. “In states across the country, we have seen that when these dollars are made available to families, the families have more income and noncustodial parents pay more child support and agree more readily to establish paternity and support orders. Child protection complaints even go down. The child support paid by parents matters to their children. Research finds over and over again that children who receive child support do better in school, for example.”

Families receiving FIP will receive the pass-through only if the parent who owes child support pays it. Additionally, if the paying parent pays less than $100, the family will only receive the amount he or she pays.

Pass-through child support payments will begin in January. Letters will be mailed to all affected FIP recipients notifying them of the change.

Driver’s licenses for all would make far-reaching economic, community impacts in Michigan

(Press Release) A report released December 19 from the Michigan League for Public Policy highlights the economic impact of restoring driver’s licenses for undocumented Michiganders, including $100 million in new revenue over 10 years as a result of expanding access to driver’s licenses.

State law allowed undocumented residents to receive driver’s licenses until 2008, and the new information from the League reinforces the far-reaching benefits of renewing that policy. The Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom and the Economy) legislation would allow state driver’s licenses for all residents, and the bills were introduced in November by Sens. Stephanie Chang and Winnie Brinks and Reps. Alex Garza and Rachel Hood.

“The economic impact is important, but what we’re really talking about here is belonging. We’re talking about parents being able to take their kids to the doctor, to visit grandma, to get to school events. We’re talking about the fact that everyone living in Michigan should have an identity,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

If the Drive SAFE bills pass, an estimated 55,000 Michigan residents would pass driver’s tests and become licensed, leading to 20,000 vehicle purchases. Fees, registration and taxes from those two factors alone would result in $12 million in annual recurring revenue for the state. This does not take into account the positive impacts on local economies.

“Access to a driver’s license affects the amount of money people earn and spend. It’s imperfect, but it’s a fact: Being a Michigander often means being dependent on cars. When people can get to and from their jobs, they’re able to work more hours and earn more money. They’re able to expand the number of places they can shop and increas