- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

Jackson Citizen Patriot. Dec. 4.

MiDeal math doesn’t add up in price Jackson is paying for road salt

The state of Michigan owes the city of Jackson an explanation.

That, or it should allow the city opt of the MiDeal Purchasing Program, a collaborative buying initiative that should - at least in theory - save municipalities money.

MiDeal, run through the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget, allows Michigan municipalities and schools to band together to leverage buying power for items such as office supplies, vehicles or road salt. Members of the MiDeal program can opt in or out each spring.

The city’s previous experiences with MiDeal have been mostly positive, but that hasn’t been the case this year.

Salt prices for MiDeal participants range anywhere from about $45 a ton to upwards of $80 a ton. The city of Jackson’s price is among the highest at $80.22 a ton, which is a 75 percent increase over the $45.98 per ton paid last year.

Both city and county officials had anticipated some increase in road salt this year due to last season’s harsh winter, which depleted salt supplies thereby driving up costs.

But that doesn’t explain the wide disparity in pricing via the MiDeal program, or why some municipalities that buy direct from suppliers appear to be getting much better deals. Jackson County, for example, which buys from the Detroit Salt Co., will pay $56.18 a ton, or 21 percent over the $46 it paid last season.

City leaders have sought answers and/or relief from MiDeal, but without success. “The city of Jackson requested to be allowed to withdraw from the program … (and) was denied over and over again,” City Attorney Bethany Smith wrote in a letter to the state Attorney General’s office.

Jackson is among other municipalities that have raised concerns about the salt prices through MiDeal, and a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office has said the situation is under review.

In the interim, the city of Jackson was forced to shell out about $250,000 - more than $70,000 over budget - for road salt.

We understand prices fluctuate due to supply and demand, but still the math doesn’t appear to add up. We hope the Attorney General’s office can provide some much-needed answers.

_____

The Mining Journal (Marquette). Dec. 4.

Deer harvest about as bad as it has ever been

To just about nobody’s surprise, the recently concluded firearm deer season produced one of the smallest harvests in the Upper Peninsula in many years.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials estimate the harvest was down by about 40 percent to 45 percent from last year, which was not a bumper year, either.

This preliminary estimate was based on deer checked in at DNR stations across the region. Some check stations reported an even bigger drop from the 10-year average deer registration, such as the Marquette office that was about 60 percent below the 10-year average.

Another early estimate of the deer kill is generated by the count of deer hauled south across the Mackinac Bridge, where there was a 47 percent drop this year from 2013.

DNR officials and hunters alike expected a decrease in the harvest this year, based on the severe winters of 2012-13 and 2013-14. Last winter was especially tough on the herd, because in addition to coming on the heels of the previous bad winter it started early, never let up and lingered well into April.

Compounding the problem this year was heavy snowfalls just prior to the Nov. 15 opening of the firearm season, with some areas of northern Marquette County receiving at least 4 feet of snow.

The deep snow kept many hunters away from their normal hunting grounds, as well as sent deer in many northern portions of the U.P. heading for their winter habitat.

The way this winter is starting out, hunters could be in for an even dimmer outlook for the 2015 season.

What this has taught us is that Mother Nature has a much bigger impact on the U.P. deer herd than hunters or regulations, although there are probably some adjustments to hunting rules and habitat management that could be made to try and assist the herd.

And remember, hunters who would like to get some fresh venison for the winter still have opportunities to do so with the muzzleloading season starting Friday and running through Dec. 14 and the late archery season continuing through Jan. 1.

_____

The Alpena News. Dec. 3.

Amateurs making military decisions? Bad idea

As leaks from the Pentagon grow in the wake of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s decision to step down, it becomes apparent part of the problem has been White House micromanaging of the military.

President Barack Obama is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He has the authority to tell generals and admirals, not to mention secretaries of defense, to do whatever he wants. Our system of government insists on civilian control of the military.

But experience has shown that while civilians ought to have the last word on the armed forces, allowing amateurs to make many military decisions is a bad idea. Armed conflicts are not political maneuvers. Bad choices mean people die needlessly and the nation’s security is put at risk.

Obama and his aides already have been criticized by Hagel’s immediate predecessors, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta. Whether Hagel will go public with more revelations is yet to be seen.

But it is known he left under pressure from the White House, perhaps because he, like Panetta and Gates, made his displeasure with the president’s management style too clear.

U.S. armed forces have scored impressive victories during the past few years. But there also have been failures, as in that involving Islamic State terrorists. Without any input from Hagel, it is apparent some of those problems have been because military professionals’ advice was not followed.

If Obama continues to ignore the professionals, dire consequences may result.

_____

The Detroit News. Dec. 3.

Keep working to lower insurance rates

Rates of auto theft in Detroit are dropping. That’s good news for residents and businesses in a city with the highest auto insurance rates in the country.

If auto thefts were the only determinant of auto insurance rates, premiums for Detroit residents would decrease substantially based on the improved statistics. But with other factors at play - including no-fault insurance laws - astronomically high rates will remain, and deter those looking to move or set up a business in the city.

Auto theft in Detroit is 20 percent lower than it was last year at this time. In 2005, there were 20,000 auto thefts in the city. That number so far this year is just above 9,000. That’s definitely an improvement, and if the trend continues, the theft portion of premiums in Detroit could decrease drastically, according to the Insurance Institute of Michigan.

But the crime rates are still high compared to other big cities, and insurance premiums take all catastrophic events into account, not just theft. Detroiters pay 165 percent more than the national average for auto insurance, which amounts to many thousands of dollars per year per policy.

“People don’t understand why it’s so much more,” said Lori Conarton at the institute. “And it is a problem for attracting people to come here.”

Carjackings in particular pose a double threat to car security and, more importantly, personal safety. Though they’ve decreased, the number is still higher in Detroit than any other big city in the U.S.

Last year carjackings were down significantly to 701 from 1,231 in 2012. In 2014 there have been more than 480, showing continued improvement. But that’s still three times higher than New York City’s rate, which despite the predominance of mass transit, has more cars than Detroit.

Much credit is due to the increased effectiveness of the police department the past year under Chief James Craig. The department also previously centralized carjacking investigations and worked with the FBI on them. Another main factor contributing to Detroit’s still high rate of auto insurance is Michigan’s no-fault insurance law. The law requires all parties in a reported accident to claim responsibility for injuries and medical claims. That includes unlimited, lifetime medical coverage.

Detroiters report a higher number of medical claims than residents of other communities, pushing up the city insurance rate. Fraud in these medical claims is also abnormally high. Questionable medical claims from accidents in Detroit jumped 124 percent between 2009 and 2011.

It’s also estimated that 60 percent of Detroit drivers illegally don’t have auto insurance, due in part because of its high cost. That shifts the cost burden of uninsured motorists who get in accidents onto drivers with insurance. And with rates so high, many residents simply register their cars at parents’ or other relatives’ homes in nearby suburbs where policies are less expensive. That creates an even smaller pool of actual registered Detroit drivers, which again drives up cost.

The state Legislature should pursue insurance reform, along with a bill that would create a lower-cost option for low-income enrollees. It should also pursue a fee schedule that would outline standard costs for medical claims and help prevent fraud.

These reforms and increased security on Detroit’s streets would do much to reduce insurance rates in the city, but fewer car thefts are a good start and should provide at least some relief.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide