- Associated Press - Monday, June 6, 2016

The Detroit News. June 2, 2016

Michigan can lead auto industry 2.0.

One of the messages coming through loud and clear at this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference is how critical it is for Michigan to capitalize on the economic and business opportunities at its feet. Nowhere is that opportunity more prevalent than in the auto industry’s future of mobility and connected vehicles.

The state can lead this new industry, which includes not just new automotive development but huge strides in software, a reshaped national infrastructure and a significant interest in the booming sharing economy.

Now the state and business community must continue to support and encourage what this new industry requires to keep Detroit the hub of auto.

The Legislature last week introduced a bipartisan package of bills that would update 2013 laws to permit autonomous cars on public roads without anyone at the wheel. Tight formations of “smart” commercial trucks could also travel in unison at coordinated speeds.

The legislation would also allow Detroit’s Big Three - General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automotive, and Ford Motor Co. - as well as other auto manufacturers to run their own networks of on-demand autonomous vehicles.

It’s a smart package that will help automakers test and research the new technology, and its timing is right.

It shows the state’s political community takes Michigan’s reliance on - and opportunities with - the future auto industry as seriously as it should, and that it’s willing to stay ahead of the curve.

Gov. Rick Snyder this week unveiled “Planet M,” a new campaign to elevate Michigan as the hub of mobility innovations and ideally lead to greater business investment and jobs in the state.

As the federal government begins making investments in new infrastructure to house autonomous and connected vehicles, Michigan must play a critical role. That will require collaboration between automakers and local and state governments.

“This is going to be a true public-private partnership,” said Sen. Gary Peters, who has taken a lead role in pushing Michigan’s potential at the national level. “We have to work together.”

Detroit’s Big Three and other manufacturers with a Detroit presence have all recently entered partnerships to merge their skills with outside leaders in technology and innovation.

Earlier this year, General Motors invested $500 million in ride-sharing company Lyft. The company also just completed its acquisition of Cruise Automation, a San Francisco startup. Toyota also announced an investment in Uber, Lyft’s larger and more profitable rival.

Fiat Chrysler is partnering with Google to test self-driving technology in the recently rebranded Pacifica minivans. And that news coincided with Google’s announcement it will open a 53,000-square-foot development center in Novi for self-driving cars.

Ford also announced an $182 million investment to fund and collaborate on software development with San Francisco-based Pivotal. Bill Ford, the company’s chairman, said he wants to see Detroit become “mobility central.”

The only problem standing in the way of this region capturing the reshaped auto industry is talent availability. Manufacturers, suppliers and even dealerships are having trouble finding people with the skills necessary for these high-tech, in-demand jobs. Software engineers, who typically flock to Silicon Valley, can almost write their own salary if interested in a Detroit job.

But automotive executives, business leaders and lawmakers remain hopeful Michigan can be just as central to the next generation auto industry as Henry Ford and Detroit were to its very foundation. And with the right investments and support, it can.

___

Traverse City Record-Eagle. June 3, 2016

Prince’s OD highlights the local drug problem.

Every drug overdose is ugly. The best possible outcome is survival. The worst is death.

Iconic pop star Prince died April 21 of an accidental self-administered overdose of the powerful painkiller fentanyl, the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Minnesota said Thursday. Authorities aren’t sure how or where the 57-year-old musician obtained the synthetic opiate.

The death of any superstar gets plenty of scrutiny, no matter what the cause. Celebrity drug overdoses in particular seem to capture the attention of a huge audience.

But local tragedies involving opioids, including heroin and prescription drugs, deserve just as much public attention. And they are occurring with startling regularity across northwest Lower Michigan.

Area law enforcement officers in recent months have used the drug naloxone to reverse several suspected heroin overdoses. Even before local law officers began carrying naloxone, area medical personnel were using it to save lives. The outcomes in many of those cases have been heroic - people survived the moment.

The devastating long-term effects of drug abuse, however, rarely end with a dose of naloxone. Addiction is a powerful force, against which even support-filled communities struggle with limited success.

Authorities in Traverse City are well aware that opioid abuse is a problem northwest Lower Michigan. Efforts to combat drug overdose in the region are twofold. Local services centered on addiction treatment aim to help addicts stop using. And the Traverse Narcotics Team, a multi-jurisdictional task force coordinated by the Michigan State Police, works to cut off supplies of illegal drugs.

Despite those efforts, overdoses continue to plague the Grand Traverse area and most every region in the nation.

People around the globe are mourning the loss of Prince. Perhaps the spotlight on his death will raise awareness of opioid abuse in our own backyard.

___

Times Herald (Port Huron). May 31, 2016

Good local government needs open discussion.

St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Michael West’s ruling in Kelly Fiscelli’s Open Meetings Act case should send a clear and compelling message to public officials throughout the Blue Water Area and perhaps statewide.

Fiscelli, who was thrown out as Cottrellville Township supervisor in a recall election, attempted to rely on an old-standby defense: She claimed she didn’t know what she was doing was wrong.

Cottrellville, like many local governments, has adopted a policy of allowing members of the public three minutes to comment at board of trustees meetings.

We continue to believe such policies are a mistake and get in the way of good governance. When a member of the public brings a concern to a township board meeting, city council meeting or school board, that body should allow the citizen time to explain his issue and should allow the board time to hear it. Boards that have such policies do it to restrict the abuses of gadflies, but end up unreasonably diminishing the effectiveness of government for everyone.

And Cottrellville Township had a gadfly problem. Then Fiscelli demonstrated why artificial time limits are a poor, weak-kneed tool to deal with it.

Fiscelli was accused of cutting short the three-minute public comment periods of three people. She argued that she didn’t know that cutting them off was a violation of the Open Meetings Act. She also explained that she stopped one speaker because he was involved in personal attacks against board members.

West, in his ruling, points out that Fiscelli reacted that way only when the speakers were criticizing her. When others were taking a different board member to task, she did and said nothing.

She may not have known it was a violation of state law, but she had to have known it was wrong. Any fifth-grader would have recognized that it was an unfair and deliberate abuse of her authority to quash the speech of only those with whom she disagreed.

The Open Meetings Act does more than guarantee that the public’s business is done in the full daylight of a public forum. It also intends that the discussion of public issues be done fully, fairly and with everyone who has something to contribute. Using the chairman’s gavel to hear only what you wish to hear is exactly as bad as sneaking off to make decisions out of the public eye.

___

The Mining Journal (Marquette). May 31, 2016

Ballast provision should not weaken lakes protections.

A bill that’s making its way through Congress that has a lot of people expressing alarm, has us alarmed.

The measure was layered as an amendment into a massive defense spending package and received little notice outside of the environmental and shipping communities. It addresses how ships handle ballast, water they carry in varying amounts for stability, depending on cargo and the seas the ship finds itself in.

This ballast water, which ocean-going ships have discharged once in quieter waters, can be loaded with a wide variety of nasty things including fish, plants and even viruses, the Associated Press reported last week. Some multiply rapidly, out-compete native species for food and spread disease.

The long-term debate has focused on how extensively ship operators should be required to treat ballast water to kill as many organisms as possible before the water is released.

AP noted the EPA in 2013 required vessel operators to limit the number of live organisms in ballast water, based on international standards adopted by the Coast Guard the previous year.

It also required oceangoing vessels to exchange their ballast water at sea, or rinse the tanks with saltwater if empty to kill freshwater creatures that may lurk inside.

Then, the U.S Court of Appeals late last year ordered the EPA to toughen the rules, saying treatment methods such as filtration, ultraviolet light and chlorine application could further reduce the number of surviving organisms.

That order will be nullified if the new amendment is enacted, opponents say. Proponents, meanwhile, counter that one standard that matches the best available technology for ballast treatment, is needed and that the amendment will make uniform treatment standards across the board.

No one disputes that invasive species - zebra and quagga mussels come to mind but there are certainly more - have done much damage to the Great Lakes and its fishery. We are frankly worried about any bill of this type that the shipping industry backs as strongly as this one.

We view any bill that weakens controls on ballast water as a bad idea.

Period.

If this particular bill in its final form does that, it should be removed from the legislation.

Period.


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