- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

Lansing State Journal. May 19.

Balance safety with booster efforts

Area athletic booster groups are scrambling this spring to cope with Ingham County’s beefed up enforcement of health rules at their game-side concessions stands.

There’s a fine line to be walked here. Curtailing concessions likely means reducing revenue that boosters raise to help defray costs of equipment, uniforms and, in some cases, pay-to-participate fees for needy students. Yet, how could anyone support looking the other way if food isn’t being handled and prepared safely?

Ingham County officials acknowledged in a recent LSJ report that they had been lenient in enforcing safe food handling requirements at school athletic concessions.

Yet while improving enforcement, they observed such unsafe practices as not tracking the freshness date on raw ground beef. They found well-meaning boosters were cooking food such as chili at home and bringing it to athletic venues for sale. They found food being prepared in locations with no hand-washing equipment, even though portable sinks exist for just such circumstances.

Cracking down on volunteers who are trying to support student activities may seem harsh, but basic food safety measures such as hand-washing rules and keeping both raw and cooked foods at safe temperatures simply must be followed. For the sake of public health, these things can’t be optional.

Booster groups are volunteer efforts, but don’t face more demanding responsibilities. County officials began requiring licensing on May 1. Those who aren’t licensed can use pre-packaged items. That’s reasonable.

Booster concessions are an effective source of revenue. In some districts, $20,000 or more worth of food and drinks are sold each year. Where extra equipment is needed, perhaps civic minded business owners might step in to sponsor a purchase or boosters might consider a one-time fundraising activity to raise the money they need.

Meanwhile the Legislature may consider changing state law to exempt such groups from some licensing requirements if they offer a limited menu of low-risk items and have been reviewed by a local health department.

Following safety procedures shouldn’t be the death knell for booster groups. At the same time, worries about how these groups will meet standards shouldn’t cause the county to return to lenient enforcement. Good intentions and safety must co-exist.


The Mining Journal (Marquette). May 21.

Soo Film Festival a positive growth step for area

A little bit of Hollywood is coming to the Upper Peninsula this summer by way of the Soo Film Festival.

Set for Aug. 1-2 in the famous Soo Theatre, the event will welcome Great Lakes films and filmmakers in a two-day event, bringing movies back to downtown Sault Ste. Marie, according to a written statement from event organizers.

The festival has issued an open call for entries. All genres and non-fiction are accepted in feature and shorts categories Organizers have set a June 5 deadline and no entry fee is required. The films chosen will be announced the first week of July.

Soo Film Festival will take place in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, in the historic Soo Theatre. Shuttered for several years, the theater is in a revival, hosting opera, plays, and concerts, as well as music and dance education.

Although it remains to be seen how the event itself will go, this is exactly the kind of development we love to see in Upper Peninsula communities.

We wish organizers the best of luck and look forward to the results.


The Holland Sentinel. May 18.

A citizens’ agenda for Michigan

What politicians consider important and what voters think is important are often two different things. It’s good to dig a little deeper from time to time to understand the public’s real priorities.

That’s what the centrist think tank The Center for Michigan did in producing “Michigan Speaks,” its effort to articulate a people’s agenda for the 2014 state elections. Repeating a similar initiative it conducted before the 2010 state ballot, the Center interviewed a mix of 5,500 Michigan residents in 150 “community conversation” meetings, two telephone polls and an online survey to find out what they considered the most urgent state issues. The top issues didn’t include tax cuts, the minimum wage, same-sex marriage or similar hot-button topics politicians like to talk about. Instead, four issues stood out of both broad and deep concern: fixing Michigan’s roads and infrastructure, improving educational performance, improving college affordability and intensifying the fight against poverty. All were rated as “urgent” priorities by at least 70 percent of the people interviewed.

When it comes to state finances in general, there’s no public consensus - about a third of Michiganders favor tax cuts, roughly a third want tax increases and the remaining third would like to keep things the way they are. However, the Center for Michigan found a clear mandate (71 percent in community conversations) for upgrading roads and infrastructure, with more than half saying they would be willing to pay more taxes to get the job done.

- Road funding is an issue where politicians sorely misjudged the public mood, and now they’re racing to catch up. Legislators thought they’d serve up voters an election-year tax cut to win their favor; instead, they found out voters wanted real road and highway improvement. Now Michigan legislators are in the unfamiliar position of trying to outdo each other in raising revenue in an election year.

- Improving education is a familiar and unsurprising theme, and it remains at or near the top of the agenda for most Michiganders, with 81 percent of Center for Michigan respondents identifying improving K-12 performance and 79 percent ranking raising high school completion rates as urgent priorities. What stood out more was the high percentage (78 percent of participants in the community conversations) who called college affordability - a topic not at the top of most politicians’ agendas if it’s there at all - an urgent issue. (Ninety-five percent of participants said it was at least a medium priority.)

Maybe not enough legislators realize Michigan ranks 45th in the country in college affordability and the average Michigan college graduate has more than $27,000 in student loan debt. College affordability is an issue that hits hard at the middle class and threatens the basic goal of every parent of helping their children succeed and advance in life. We think politicians ignore this issue at their own peril.

- When it comes to fighting poverty, the Center found Michigan residents deeply divided about how to do it but united in their view that it’s a key issue (70 percent of community conversation participants rated it an urgent). Ethnic minorities, part-time workers, the unemployed and low-income workers all rated poverty as a top issue, but with 1.6 million Michiganders below the poverty line, almost everyone knows people affected by it.

As the Center notes, these aren’t the only four issues Michigan voters care deeply about. Topics such as the minimum wage, cutting taxes and streamlining government regulations evoked strong sentiments in conversations and polls, but yielded deeply divided opinions and no public mandate. Respondents were also divided on how to address the questions they considered most pressing, but “Michigan Speaks” is designed as an agenda for discussion rather than a prescriptive policy statement. Instead of trying to curry favor with small segments of the electorate by stressing narrow “wedge” issues, we hope candidates talk seriously about the questions a great majority of state voters care about.


Grand Haven Tribune. May 20.

Racism has no place in NBA or here

The recent comments made by Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, pertaining to “black people” were disturbing and concerning - to say the least.

Fortunately, the league dealt with Sterling’s racist outburst in a very firm and timely manner by implementing a lifetime ban and forcing him to sell the team.

How can someone in his position be so ignorant to say such things? On second thought, how can someone in any position think, let alone verbalize, such things about other human beings?

It happens throughout our society at many different levels, and that needs to change.

When things of this nature involving people at such high levels happen, other things begin to surface. In this case, it was the news that Sterling was in line to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP. What? How is that possible?

It’s called money - and lots of it.

Sterling is a billionaire who has a long track record of discrimination issues. But apparently, if you contribute to an organization that supports the very people you are discriminating against, it can more easily be overlooked and swept under the rug as long as those donations continue to roll in.

But it will never go away, and Sterling is a shining example of that.

Unfortunately, these same kind of issues can happen right here in Northwest Ottawa County. Unlike Sterling’s high-profile rant, which was splashed across the airwaves for weeks, we as a community don’t often hear about the racist comments, and nothing is done to resolve the problem.

As a community, we must do our part to keep unacceptable acts like this from happening, and do our part to be a more diverse and welcoming community.

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