- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Detroit News. October 20, 2016

Our choices in Wayne County.

It is unfortunate that of the 15 Wayne County commissioners, only four face an opponent in the Nov. 8 election. This is the worst elective body in Metro Detroit and the only way to make it better is through the ballot box.

It’s also too bad that of those four competitive districts, two feature the only two Republicans on the commission.

But here are our choices for Wayne County Commission:

Both Terry Marecki of Livonia in the 9th District and Joe Barone of Plymouth in the 10th District should be returned, as they have worked against the odds to bring fiscal discipline to a gluttonous commission.

The commission would be much improved if voters picked John Steininger over incumbent Tim Killeen in the 1st District. Steininger is chief executive of Grosse Pointe Moving and Storage in Detroit and a former chairman of the Grosse Pointe school board. He understands municipal finances and would bring a strong ethic of fiscal responsibility to the board.

In the 15th District, we choose Patrick O’Connell over incumbent Joe Palamara, who works full-time as a Lansing lobbyist while also holding down what is supposed to be a full-time commissioner position. O’Connell is an insurance agent and former small businessman who serves on the Ecorse planning commission.

Wayne County Circuit Court

Eight candidates are running for four positions on the 3rd Circuit Court.

Our choices are Matt Evans of Livonia, Regina Thomas of Harper Woods, Brian Morrow of Northville and Melissa Anne Cox of Livonia.

Evans runs his own law firm representing indigent criminal defendants. That experience should add perspective to a court with such a high percentage of defendants who require court-appointed representation. Evans recognizes that too many cases are being settled in Wayne County due to expediency, which does not serve well the cause of justice.

Thomas has deep experience representing juveniles in both criminal and civil cases, and has served as an assistant county prosecutor. She’s a supporter of specialty courts to handle drug crimes, juvenile offenses and the needs of veterans. She, too, is concerned that expediency is driving the operation of the court.

Morrow is an experienced attorney handling both civil and criminal cases and has served for the past 12 years as deputy chief of the juvenile division for the Wayne County prosecutor. He developed the Teen Court, a juvenile diversion program. He also has taught criminal law.

Cox is a private practice attorney who works mainly in Wayne Circuit Court. She has both civil and criminal experience. Cox has worked to establish both drug abuse and mental health specialty courts. She also is the assistant city attorney for Westland.

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Port Huron Times Herald. October 20, 2016

Tax Act already glutted with exemptions.

You know two things that are absolute certainties: Death and taxes.

You may be surprised to learn that the second is not as inevitable as we have always assumed. The Michigan Legislature is working to fix that, but in a wrong and startling way.

Michigan has 275 Masonic lodges. According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, property taxes are far from inevitable for 30 of them. At the local level, for those 30 lodges, someone decided they should not pay property taxes.

A bill passed by the state Senate on Wednesday would exempt the other 245 Masonic lodges from property taxes as well. The measure passed 31 to 6 and was sent to the House. Supporters of the legislation say that Masons are nonprofit charities that do many things for their communities and some of them have a hard time paying their property taxes.

Many other taxpayers are nice, charitable people who do good things for their communities. And many would rather not pay property taxes.

Another bill in Lansing would exempt sportsmen’s clubs from property taxes if their premises are open to the public for charitable purposes for 55 or more days per year. Like Masonic lodges, property taxes are not universally inevitable for sportsmen’s clubs. Some pay property taxes and some, because a local official at one point or another confused “nonprofit” with “charitable” or was just being nice, decided they fell within the state’s already overbroad list of exemptions.

Many sportsmen’s clubs, including several in the Blue Water Area, provide invaluable services to their communities beyond the benefits they provide their members. Local clubs, for instance, provide free facilities for law enforcement training, host free children’s festivals, collect food and money for the needy.

But some operators of commercial shooting ranges do the same things. Many businesses give back in myriad ways, donate to worthwhile causes and work to make our communities better.

There are already too many favorites - iron mines, certain industrial parks, commercial forests and privately owned but ostensibly nonprofit institutions like hospitals and colleges - in the state’s General Property Tax Act.

Lawmakers should not add more.

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Lansing State Journal. October 20, 2016

Byrum, Deary endorsed for MSU.

Michigan State University is a point of pride for Greater Lansing. It is a major employer and economic driver of the region. And its future is important for the over 50,000 students who study through its programs each year; as well as the people who benefit from the university’s research, medical expertise, outreach, arts and entertainment, sports and more.

Simply put: MSU’s fortunes affect us all.

There are major issues facing the university in the coming years - from how to control rising tuition costs to the likelihood of having to hire a new president.

That’s why particular attention should be paid to the election of MSU trustees. You’ll find the race low on the ballot, but it requires your informed vote.

After interviewing three of four candidates for the two MSU trustees seats, the LSJ Editorial Board endorses incumbent Democrat Dianne Byrum and newcomer William Deary, a Republican, for the eight-year terms.

First elected as an MSU trustee in 2008, Byrum’s name is synonymous with public service in mid-Michigan. She served in the Michigan Legislature (both the House and Senate) from 1991-2006 after beginning her public service career on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners in the early 1980s.

The MSU alumna recognizes the strain increasing tuition costs put on Michigan families. She must work with her fellow trustees and state legislators to limit college debt through increased financial aid and state funding.

When asked about hiring a replacement for popular MSU President LouAnna Simon, Byrum said, “We need someone who understands MSU’s culture and the mission of a land grant university.”

She also noted the university needs a president with passion “who likes students and want to engage.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Deary, a small business owner and MSU alumnus, is keenly focused on the university’s finances - from the rising cost of tuition to the number of out-of-state students MSU accepts.

In proposing a tuition freeze for in-state students, Deary said he’s taken MSU’s budget apart to determine cost by individual college.

He maintains better “managing” of the university would counter-balance a tuition freeze and preserve the world-class education MSU delivers. We welcome a trustee who’s willing to do his homework and suggest new ideas.

We’d caution Deary not to be overly focused on numbers alone. MSU had a $1.2 billion general fund budget for 2015-16. Yet the impact of the learning, research and innovation it sparks cannot be reduced to line items in a budget.

Deary’s desire to see students benefit from the same college opportunities he had gives him an advantage.

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Petoskey News-Review. October 21, 2016

County heading in right direction.

All but one of the seven seats on the Emmet County Board of Commissioners will changeover next year following a statewide local government upheaval trend this election season.

According to a recent article published by Michigan State University’s Capital News Service, 21 percent (or more than 130) county commissioner seats throughout Michigan will be filled by different people next year - and that’s just from elections decided in the August primaries. Almost 150 more incumbent commissioners face challengers in the Nov. 8 election.

While voters have voiced their support for change, the challenge is now for those newly elected commissioners to get up to speed and do so quickly.

In Emmet County, staff members are leading a series of educational sessions, which are open to the public but designed to educate all incoming commissioners and those who are on the ballot in next month’s election. The idea is to inform the new board members as to how county government works so that they can better serve in their roles once they assume their positions next year.

The role of a publicly elected official is not supposed to be as complicated as it may seem. The system is set up so that most any citizen can become a city council member or county commissioner. Elected officials are tasked with setting policies for whichever local unit of government they serve. They are stewards of taxpayer dollars there to give direction to hired staff.

In order to do that effectively, those who are elected need to understand how local units of government work. They are not there to manage staff, for example. That’s the job of the chief executive staff member, who works for the board. But locally elected officials are tasked with approving or rejecting proposals made by the staff and with their votes, those elected representatives direct staff members where to focus their time and spend the public’s money.

Of course, there’s more to learn about government operations than just that. But the idea is that there are minimal prerequisites to becoming a publicly elected officials.

It’s encouraging that Emmet County staff members are proactively working with new board members to educate them in terms of what departments exist and what staff members roles are. When the new board members take their seats in 2017, there will still be a learning curve, but in large part thanks to these educational sessions they hopefully will be a step ahead.

The county board and staff members are conducting several meetings this fall and through the end of the year with topics ranging from operations at the Pellston Regional Airport to public works and parks and recreation. Though designed for the elected officials to learn about the county, these meetings are an opportunity for local residents to gain a better understanding, too.

‘Our View’ represents the opinion of the News-Review editorial board: Ryan Bentley, Doug Caldwell, Jeremy McBain, Christy Lyons, Jillian Fellows, Steve Zucker and Craig Currier.

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