- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

The Detroit News. December 6, 2016

Carson must return HUD to its mission.

Michigan gets another friend in the Trump cabinet with the nomination of Dr. Ben Carson as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The priority for the neurosurgeon must be extracting the federal agency from local planning departments.

Carson grew up in Detroit and cites his experience living in the city’s public housing projects for spurring his interest in running HUD.

Although little in his background other than that would seem to qualify him for helping set housing policy, he has been one of President-elect Donald Trump’s staunchest loyalists since abandoning his own quest for the presidency.

What Carson needs to know about HUD is that the agency has strayed far from its original mission of urban redevelopment and helping Americans find adequate shelter.

HUD today sees its role as using the leverage of federal funds to force local communities to embrace its vision of a Utopian society created by forcing people of different incomes, races and ethnicities to live together.

That drive accelerated under the Obama administration, which is pushing through the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, perhaps the most intrusive measure of the Obama presidency. Public comment on the rule was last month, and Republicans dropped an attempt to kill it in the budget bill. It is among the many regulations President Obama hopes to put in place before he leaves office.

AFFH would force any community that accepts HUD dollars to change its zoning codes and build high-density low income housing to serve so-called underrepresented groups.

It is a broad rewriting of the Fair Housing Act, and a distortion of its intent.

The rule puts the core principle of local control at risk. Critics claim it opens the door to federal interference in such routine local decisions as the siting of schools and the mapping of transportation routes. Compliance will bury communities in paperwork.

Local officials will have to fill out the AFFH assessment tool, designed to determine whether minorities are living too closely together and too far away from the best schools, shopping, transportation, etc.

If so, towns will be forced to change zoning regulations and build more low-income housing close to those amenities. If not enough underrepresented residents live in a community, by HUD’s estimate, the agency could force aggressive steps to attract them.

It’s social engineering at its worse. And it is incredibly naive in its faith in the government to create a more harmonious society by forcing people to live together.

What it will do is cede more local decision-making to Washington while cities and towns will be left to deal with the costs and headaches.

This is what Ben Carson will find, if he’s confirmed, when he takes over HUD. His priority should be scrapping AFFH and other overly intrusive regulations and focus the agency on helping cities rebuild themselves by their own blueprint and assuring all Americans can find safe and affordable housing, without dictating the address.

___

Grand Haven Tribune. December 8, 2016

The recount that should never have happened.

As you probably know, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein called for recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Her intent, she says, is to verify the accuracy of the votes. She also makes unsubstantiated claims that the votes were susceptible to computer hacking.

Had the recounts shown that Donald Trump did not carry those three states, counter to what has been verified by election bureaus in those states, there is no way it will benefit Stein. She received about 1 percent of the vote in all three states on Nov. 8.

The beneficiary of any changed outcome would have been Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. But she didn’t ask for the recount.

On Tuesday, a Michigan court sided with a Republican-pushed appeal of the recount, saying that the Green Party candidate’s poor showing disqualifies her from seeking a second look at the votes.

Meanwhile, the fate of a statewide recount push in Pennsylvania must wait at least until Friday, when a federal judge has scheduled a hearing, according to an Associated Press report.

President-elect Trump narrowly defeated Clinton in both states and Wisconsin, which started its recount last week.

The Michigan Court of Appeals said Stein has no standing to have the votes recounted. The court said she finished fourth in the election and doesn’t qualify as an “aggrieved” candidate, at least not under Michigan law, and the court ordered the state election board to reject her recount petition.

Attorney General Bill Schuette said Tuesday night that the decision means the recount “must stop.” But Stein’s attorney, Mark Brewer, insisted the recount isn’t over.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered an immediate statewide recount of the 4.8 million ballots cast in Michigan last month. Ottawa County’s recounting began Tuesday.

But on Wednesday night, Goldsmith reversed his order, tying his new decision to Tuesday’s state court ruling that found Stein had no legal standing to request the recount in Michigan. Earlier Wednesday, the Michigan elections board said the recount would end if Goldsmith extinguished his earlier order.

Also on Tuesday, a Republican-controlled committee in the state Legislature approved a measure that would require candidates who lose by more than 5 percentage points to pay 100 percent of the estimated recount cost. The bill would apply to Stein, though Democrats questioned the legality of changing the rules “in the middle of the game.”

While we agree with that measure going forward, you can’t change the rules and then send a bill for something that happened under the old rules. So, sorry if the cost of the recount - less what Stein is already on the hook for - falls on the government tab (read, taxpayers), but that’s the way it is.

However, it should never have happened. We hope lawmakers figure this one out before it happens again. Only a candidate who could be aggrieved (or benefit from it) should be able to call for a recount.

In the meantime, next month, Donald Trump will become president of the United States. That’s how our elections work. It’s time for all of us to accept it and move forward.

___

Lansing State Journal. December 6, 2016

A victory for common sense.

Pensions and retiree health care liabilities are major issues facing the state of Michigan, its municipalities and school districts. The funding gaps are severe in some cases. The status quo will not adequately address the challenges ahead.

Change must happen.

Yet that change must happen with full transparency, with time for debate and input from the people most affected by the proposed changes.

After introducing a package of bills in the lame duck session, Republican leadership now has backed off its plan to push them through before the end of the 2015-16 legislative session.

That is the right move. Thank you for listening, legislators.

Listening to the public employees - from teachers to firefighters to police officers - who have been vocal in recent weeks about the proposed changes.

A reduction in health care benefits would be a blow to some retirees. A change in the way school employees’ pensions are funded could put at risk funding for the current system.

Listening to state government experts who say a holistic approach is what’s needed to address $11 billion in unfunded retiree health care costs and $4 billion in unfunded pension debt for local governments statewide.

“We’ve got enough time to address the whole three big buckets of fiscal sustainability (legacy costs, efficiency of services and income),” said Michigan Treasurer Nick Khouri.

“Where you run into problems is when you try to pull one of the three buckets out and try to address that (alone) . You really have to look at the big picture.”

Khouri is right. And the Legislature has time.

The state’s balance of power - Republican Senate, Republican House and Republican governor - is unchanged after November’s election. Those controlling the agenda now control it in the next legislative session, too.

And these issues aren’t going away.

Data from non-partisan experts will be critical. So, too, will be the willingness of all sides to see potential solutions beyond their singular viewpoints. In a time of increased partisanship and acrimonious dialogue, Michigan’s leaders - elected and otherwise - must start anew in 2017 with the intent to work together.

Even when they are at odds, they must work to deliver a sustainable answer to the pension and retiree health care problems that have been allowed to languish for far too long.

There will be sacrifice. There must be compromise. Waiting until the 2017-18 legislative session is a positive step in acknowledging the complexity of the issue and the value of legislators listening to the people they are elected to serve.

___

Petoskey News-Review. December 9, 2016

Anti-bullying efforts set back by heated political campaign.

Since the election we have seen an increasing in bullying-type behaviors across the country.

Sadly, several of these incidents are taking place in and around schools, with children demeaning other children of different races or religion. It is hard not to ignore that many of these incidents were inspired by the political discourse in this country over the past several months.

Between Nov. 9 and Nov. 14, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected 437 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment. Most of the reports involved anti-immigrant incidents (136 such reports). K-12 schools were the highest reported venue of harassment (99) and universities were third highest (67) after businesses (76), showing that heated rhetoric heard during debates and throughout the election cycle has trickled down into classrooms across the country in incidents of post-election bullying.

An online survey that was administered to more than 10,000 K-12 educators across the country was released by the Southern Poverty Law Center on Monday and the results show educators feel the election has had a negative impact on schools and students. According to the survey, 90 percent of educators report that school climate has been negatively affected. Eight in 10 reported heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students, including immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and LGBT students. Half said that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they’d supported.

The stress and examples of inappropriate behavior this election has given our students - in Petoskey and throughout the country - is absurd. Thankfully, the election is over.

As Petoskey school board member Frank Lamberti said in a recent board meeting, “I’m just glad the elections, in general, are over. It’s not just this Trump-Hillary thing, it’s all these politicians. It’s put bullying back 10 years.”

As a nation we need to find a way to be better examples for our students and, because of what has happened in this last election cycle, all of our political leaders of every political party need to be the leaders in providing good examples. It would be incredibly helpful if the new president-elect Donald Trump and his defeated challenger Hillary Clinton came out together and denounced, in the strongest terms, bullying and racists and/or bigoted statements said on their behalf. From there they need to be examples to the rest of us on how to behave with our fellow Americans, rather than examples of how to behave like children fighting on a playground.

We are not going to hold our breath that will happen, though, as our president-elect can’t even stop from having toddler-like meltdowns on Twitter almost daily.

Instead, much of the responsibility falls on our shoulders to speak and behave in ways we want our children to mirror. The golden rule - treat others as you would have them treat you - knows no political bounds. If we practice it daily and apologize quickly when we don’t, we’re already on our way to reversing this recent trend.___

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