- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

The Flint Journal. Dec. 14.

Shrink Carriage Town historic district to expedite revitalization

The Carriage Town neighborhood in the heart of Flint is a unique and significant part of this city’s rich history, and revitalizing the area makes sense in the grand scheme of a Flint comeback.

Carriage Town is more than 100 years old and was once the center of Flint’s early carriage-making industry, making it one of Flint’s oldest neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, parts of the venerable district are overcome with rampant blight, and while preserving the historical integrity of parts of Carriage Town makes sense, we agree with a new report that suggests shrinking the boundaries of the historic district by about 10 blocks would expedite progress.

As it stands, Carriage Town property owners need the permission of Flint’s Historic District Commission before construction, renovation, demolition or movement of structures can occur. The historically recognized district lies north of the Flint River between Fifth Avenue, Saginaw Street, Atwood Stadium and Begole Street.

Shrinking the boundaries would remove unnecessary hurdles to development. Too often, individuals can get caught up in the mindset that “if it’s old, it’s worth saving,” and that simply isn’t always the case.

Many of the vacant houses in the portion slated for removal from the historic district are beyond reasonable repairs. In some cases, making historically appropriate improvements or restorations requires extra costs to the property owner and maintaining the architectural integrity of the structure just isn’t a realistic goal for every home in the district.

There are properties in the district that are worth preserving - such as the American Indian burial ground - and we urge supporters to lead the way on getting historic designations for those areas on a case-by-case basis.

As for Atwood University, which is also within the portion slated for removal from the district, we urge Kettering University - it’s new owner - to continue pushing for improvements at and around the iconic Flint landmark. Kettering has already proved itself to be a superior steward of the stadium, and we hope that continues well into the future.

Carriage Town’s history should be preserved, but it should be done in a way that doesn’t impede the possibility of new development or blight elimination in the neighborhood.

As a community, we need to balance keeping what is worth saving with letting go of the past and embracing what is possible.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). Dec. 14.

U.P. projects good use of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board recently recommended five Marquette County development projects for funding, among a dozen Upper Peninsula projects and four acquisitions totaling nearly $2.4 million.

Statewide, the board recommended 69 projects and acquisitions totaling $24.7 million, which will now be reviewed by the state Legislature and sent to the governor for his signature. Acquisition grants totaled $18.2 million and project development grants $6.5 million.

We’re pleased with the announcement and are wholly supportive of the trust fund, which puts money from interest earned on the proceeds from development of publicly-owned minerals toward public acquisition of lands for resource protection and outdoor recreation and public outdoor recreation development projects.

The five latest projects recommended for funding in Marquette County totaled $240,000 and included Lions Field trailhead and park improvements in Chocolay Township, a Malton Road non-motorized trail in the city of Ishpeming, Grouse Enhancement Management System trailhead sites in south Marquette County, interpretive signs for the Iron Ore Heritage Trail and pathway connections and trailhead amenities at Schwemwood Park in Marquette Township.

These projects are all worthy of funding and some - like the Iron Ore Heritage Trail associated improvements - continue work begun years ago to create the 48-mile trail showcasing the area’s mining history. The trail continues to grow in popularity.

The grouse improvement funds will help the Michigan Department of Natural Resources further work on one of its most recent initiatives, which involves setting up several GEMS hunter trails in Michigan.

Over the years, there have been trust fund grants approved for all of Michigan’s 83 counties and Marquette County has seen many improvements from the funding. This year is no exception.

We look forward to seeing work begin on these projects with their completion aiding the area in providing greater recreation opportunities for residents and visitors to the region alike.

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The Alpena News. Dec. 15.

Politics, not science, driving Obama’s climate agenda

During a visit to California earlier this year, President Barack Obama linked the lengthy drought there to climate change. “A changing climate means that weather-related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms, floods are potentially going to be costlier and they’re going to be harsher,” he said.

But scientists, led by those in the federal government, say climate change had nothing to do with the Golden State drought. A report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lays the blame on natural variations in the weather - not climate change.

In fact, NOAA’s Martin Hoerling suggested the drought may be an argument against accepting some climate change predictions. Weather events in California for three winters are “not the conditions that climate change models say would happen,” he noted.

Will Obama heed the scientists he is so fond of claiming support his climate change agenda? Don’t bet on it - because for Obama, it is the politics that are really settled.

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The Detroit News. Dec. 15.

Give the Great Lakes a boost

The U.S. Senate should pass the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2014, a critical piece of legislation that keeps Great Lakes renewal efforts moving ahead.

The act authorizes $300 million annually for five years to support a relatively new restoration program that has already proven its worth. The House has already signed off.

Over the past five years, the initiative has invested more than $1.6 billion to restore the Lakes by cleaning up toxic pollutants, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, fighting invasive species, and reducing run-off from cities and farms.

Jordan Lubetkin, of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, says his group is happy with the proposed allocation of $300 million, especially because earlier this year some members of Congress tried to reduce the amount.

The Great Lakes are among Michigan’s most valuable assets, as well as the nation’s.

The economic numbers speak for themselves. Michigan ranks fourth in the nation in the percentage of jobs associated with industries related to water, at 718,700. The Great Lakes states benefit from and contribute to the national economy through a $7 billion fishing industry.

Also, the Great Lakes provide more than 1.5 million jobs to U.S citizens with more than $62 billion in wages. The most recent tourism figures, of which the Great Lakes are a critical element, show that in 2012 about 3.8 million visitors were attracted to the state and they spent $1.1 billion.

Initiatives funded by the act protect drinking water, clean up toxic pollution and keep beaches safe for swimming for the more than 30 million people in the region.

In the long run, the cost of not funding the programs now will be much greater, as pollution and other problems escalate. The act creates jobs and economic benefits.

Todd Ambs, campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, says the bill strengthens federal Great Lakes restoration efforts.

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is producing results in communities across the region, but more needs to be done,” he says.

While the act authorizes the $300 million for the initiative, Congress must still include it in next year’s spending plan. It’s a worthwhile investment for a resource so vital to the entire nation.

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