- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

Lansing State Journal. Oct. 21.

Wildlife advocates and hunting rights activists need to hear from voters

Proposals 1 and 2 on the statewide ballot continue the ongoing disagreement between wildlife advocates and hunting rights advocates that began when gray wolves were taken off the endangered species list. Both are referendums on bills passed by the Legislature that made wolf hunting possible, first by making wolves game species and then by giving the Natural Resources Commission the ability to name game species.

A subsequent initiated statute supported by hunting rights advocates was passed by the Legislature and would make these referendums moot by reaffirming control through the NRC. Still, wildlife advocates say they plan to go to court to make constitutional arguments against the Scientific and Professional Wildlife Management Act.

With the issue still simmering, both sides want voters to make their choice known.

In August, the LSJ Editorial Board had urged lawmakers not to pass the initiated statute but to send it to the voters. There have been three statewide petition drives mounted by one side or the other. The vote may be informational only, but marking the ballot will settle the question of what a majority of Michiganders want and, perhaps, let the state move on.

A “yes” vote supports the hunting rights arguments on Proposals 1 and 2.

A “no” vote supports the pro-wildlife arguments to protect gray wolves.

Make your voices heard.

_____

Grand Haven Tribune. Oct. 17.

Take the profit out of human trafficking

One of the fastest growing crimes in the United States, and one of the most despicable, is human trafficking.

Michigan lawmakers have now made that “business” much less profitable.

Last month, the state House gave overwhelming approval to a bill that would provide for the forfeiture of property in connection with a conviction for a human trafficking crime. House Bill 5233 chokes off the profits involved in the sex slave and forced labor industry by making it difficult for the criminals to retain their real estate or personal property if convicted of organizing or participating in the crime.

Don’t think it’s not going on around here. The Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force says, “Whether in the smallest town, rural areas, medium-sized cities, villages, big cities - there is nowhere in Michigan that has not been touched by this issue.”

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that occurs on an international, national and local scale.

According to the 2103 report from the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking, quantifying how much of it is going on in this state is difficult due to a lack of uniform data reporting and the nature of the crime itself. “But we do know that it continues to be a growing problem in our state,” the report says. “In a recent survey, the state’s domestic violence and sexual assault programs, together with the programs focused solely on human trafficking, reported serving over 300 known human trafficking cases in the past two years. Most experts believe that this figure is on the low end and that there are likely many more trafficking victims in Michigan.”

The bill, introduced in the state House by Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Wixom, was also overwhelmingly supported by the state Senate earlier this month. It was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder as part of a 21-bill package that includes stiffer criminal penalties for “Johns” soliciting sex from minors and eliminating the statute of limitations for exploiting children to bring charges against suspected adult traffickers.

We congratulate state lawmakers for quickly making laws that take away the properties of despicable criminals who prey on vulnerable youth.

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Petoskey News-Review. Oct. 17.

Put a stop to robo-calls

Most of us have experienced it.

You are home, relaxing, maybe getting ready to sit down with your family at the dinner table, and the phone rings. Instead of a person on the other end of the line, you hear a recorded voice of some politician running for election. Slightly annoyed, you hang up.

Just as you sit back down, the phone rings again. And once again, it’s a recorded voice spouting some political jargon. You hang up again. Sit down, again. Then the phone rings, again.

It’s bad enough during election season that many homes have to endure so many political telephone calls from candidates - or, more commonly, campaign workers - asking for support, donations or even asking you to take part in a poll. But, add calls from robots with recorded messages from candidates to the mix and it becomes infuriating. And it only gets worse as we get closer to the election - there are people within this newspaper that have had five to six calls like this in one evening.

The News-Review fully supports and defends anyone’s right to free speech and we fully understand there are free speech rights at work here for candidates trying to get out there message. But, free speech does not trump our rights to peace within the confines of our own homes.

Endless political telephone calls each night go far from free speech to badgering people. But, many times there is not much people can do about it. The National Do Not Call list does not prevent political organizations and survey companies from calling you, and they use this to their advantage.

Adding to the problem are these automated calls, also called robo-calls. When we receive a telephone call from a human at a political organization, it is very easy to tell the person on the other end of the line to remove you from their calling list, and they generally do. However, when it is just a recording on the other end of the line, getting yourself removed from that calling list becomes difficult.

We would like to suggest to politicians, if you really want to appeal to voters, don’t partake in robo-calls, or, if you are elected, do something to make it easier for people to be removed from these calling lists.

We suggest the following changes for a politician that really wants to appeal to the public:

- Make it a law that at the beginning of any automated political call, the organizations sponsoring the call must be identified and information is given on how they can be removed from the calling list. Do not wait until the end of the call to give the information.

- Expand the National Do Not Call registry to include political calls.

Considering the impact these two suggestions could have on political campaigns and politicians, we are not confident they will be championed by any politician in the near future. But, it’s nice to have hope.

Perhaps someday we can enjoy a quiet fall evening at home around the dinner table, without the sound of a telephone constantly ringing.

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The Holland Sentinel. Oct. 16.

DNR effort may be only chance to buy dune lands for public

The 310 acres of undeveloped dune land north of the Kalamazoo River has been the holy grail of West Michigan conservationists for years. Now the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is mounting an effort to acquire 150 acres of that land to create an unbroken stretch of publicly owned Lake Michigan shoreline from Saugatuck Dunes State Park to Oval Beach. It’s an effort we endorse, though we fear it may be too little and too late.

The DNR has applied to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for $500,000 to kick-start a campaign to raise an additional $9.5 million in private contributions to buy the land from property owner Aubrey McClendon. We hope the effort is successful because the McClendon property is a unique treasure. There is nothing like the property, with its Lake Michigan beachfront and rare and sensitive intercoastal dunes, in private hands anywhere in West Michigan, and if the property is developed it is unlikely it will ever be available to the public again. Acquiring land from McClendon would allow the DNR to extend Saugatuck Dunes State Park southward and create a 4-mile stretch of publicly owned lakefront. “It could be the crown jewel of the state park system and be an economic driver for the area,” said Vaughn Maatman, executive director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan.

But we worry that the effort may be too late. McClendon’s plans to develop upscale housing on part of the property has been known for years. Another state agency, the Department of Environmental Quality, has given McClendon’s Singapore Dunes LLC permission to cut a road through the property; that road has been graded, but is not yet paved. If and when that happens, and if and when the first home sites are sold, the opportunity to preserve the land will be lost. The trust fund board will not rule on the DNR’s application until December, and private fund-raising would take months, at best.

And while $10 million sounds like a lot of money, it’s not much for 150 acres of waterfront land. It cost $22.1 million for a public-private consortium to buy the 173 acres McClendon owned south of the Kalamazoo River (now the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area) from McClendon in 2011, and that land wasn’t developable. Neither do we know if the Oklahoma tycoon is even interested in selling. The entire 310-acre property was listed for sale for $40 million in 2013 but has since been taken off the market; the real estate broker representing McClendon recently said, “We’re going to re-evaluate where we are.”

Finally, we’d like to ask one thing of the DNR: If the department is successful in acquiring the land, please make at least part of it easily accessible. We understand the environment is sensitive and conservationists don’t want the land to look like Holland State Park or Oval Beach. Neither do we, but we don’t believe this beautiful stretch of dune land should be off-limits to a large percentage of the population either. Saugatuck Dunes State Park is one of the great natural spaces in Michigan, but it is not easy for the elderly, the disabled and families with small children to enjoy it. We don’t think that a small parking lot and a boardwalk or staircase is incompatible with environmental preservation.


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