- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

The Detroit News. Mar. 10, 2016

Keep U.S., Canada ties strong.

Justin Trudeau’s attendance at a White House state dinner, the first by a Canadian prime minister in 19 years, is a good time to reflect on the importance of the relationship between the two North American neighbors. The U.S. and Canada share much more than a border.

The two nations also share common values, cultures and interests, perhaps as closely as any two countries in the world.

On trade, security and energy issues, the interests of Canada and the U.S. are inextricably linked, and President Barack Obama should be working to strengthen those bonds in ongoing discussions with Trudeau.

Canada is not only America’s largest trading partner, but because we occupy the same continent it is also the country it relies on most to assure mutual security. David Inserra and Nicolas Loris of the Heritage Foundation offer a four-point priority list for building better cooperation with Canada.

First, the analysts recommend making cross-border travel and trade simpler and more secure. As Detroiters know, before the September 11 terrorist attacks moving from Detroit to Canada and back was an effortless enterprise. Detroit’s automakers in particular enjoyed a seamless link between their facilities in the United States and those in Canada.

Terrorism fears changed that, perhaps too much. Inserra and Loris recommend “looking to further expand entry and exit information sharing, expanding pre-clearance and trusted traveler and trader programs, and using bodies like the Regulatory Cooperation Council to further minimize regulatory barriers to trade.”

The obsession with immigration and border security in the current presidential campaign has at times even extended to Canada. But for the sake of the U.S. economy, making the line between the two countries less bright is the soundest path to growth.

Allowing energy markets to flourish is also on the list. The Obama administration irked Canadian authorities by derailing the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring petroleum from the Alberta oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Canada holds a key to U.S. energy security. The vast Canadian reserves, combined with the newly unlocked supplies from fracking in the United States, make a U.S./Canada energy partnership extremely potent. Policies to jointly encourage energy development and relief from export bans could permanently alter the politics of worldwide energy production.

Terrorism at home is an increasing concern of both countries. Intelligence cooperation should be expanded. The countries should work together to counter the recruitment and indoctrination of home-grown terrorists. And it is vital they cooperate in vetting refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Finally, Obama should seek to work with Trudeau to increase Canada’s commitment to fighting ISIS and other terror groups abroad. While Trudeau has pledged Canada will “do its part” in combatting ISIS, he is still intent on withdrawing its warplanes from the region.

The two nations have always fought side by side in international conflicts. A strong Canadian presence in this struggle is essential.

U.S. ties to Canada are strong, and should be made stronger. Trudeau’s visit should be seen as a start toward achieving that goal.___

The Port Huron Times Herald. Mar. 10, 2016

Good people who do nothing should go to jail.

St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kelly sentenced Andrew and Hilery Maison to life in prison for the murder, torture and abuse of 5-year-old Mackenzie Maison and torture and abuse of her little sister Makayla. If you can read his pre-sentencing statement without your heart in your throat, you’re not human:

“One would like to believe that tragedies such as this rarely occur. Unfortunately, this has not been my experience.

“Mackenzie Maison joins the names of two other child victims whose cases I have presided over - Prhaze Galvan and Arianna Swinson.

“All three murdered by parents and step-parents whose monstrous acts defy explanation or understanding.

“What puzzles me is how, in a community so dedicated to combating child abuse and neglect, these conditions go undetected until it is too late.

“Obviously, those directly at fault shield them from the outside world. They are too young for school and are not brought to a doctor’s attention. However, family and friends have to know what is going on. Too many people, good people, choose not to get involved and turn a blind eye to reality.

“It is said that ‘all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.’

“What happened to Mackenzie and to her sister Makayla was evil. Those who saw and chose to do nothing are, in my mind, equally responsible for this crime. They must share the blame.”

Unfortunately for Mackenzie, Makayla, Prhaze and Arianna, Kelly was able to sentence only the Maisons on Thursday. Michigan law doesn’t hold those who saw and chose to do nothing liable for their deaths. Our state isn’t unique; laws regarding who is obligated to report child abuse and torture vary from state to state.

In the more enlightened - just 18 of them - every adult is legally required to look out for Mackenzie and Makayla, and can go to prison for failing to report what the Maisons did to them.

Michigan lawmakers need to make protecting our most vulnerable children a priority. Michigan law needs to put everyone on notice that evil must not triumph again in our state. Good people who do nothing while children die must pay for their crime.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the DHHS hot line at (855) 444-3911.___

Battle Creek Enquirer. Mar. 10, 2016

Holding kids back.

Ample research tells us that students who haven’t met grade-level standards can’t be “fixed” by forcing them to repeat a grade, but it’s a notion that won’t die in state legislatures - including Michigan’s.

A state Senate panel on Tuesday took a step in the right direction, significantly modifying a House bill that would flunk Michigan students who can’t read at proficient levels by the end of third grade.

The revision of House Bill 4822 substantially reduces the chances that students could be held back from the fourth grade. It would remove the mandate if students tested proficient in other areas; it would create a “good cause” exemption allowing parents to request the child advance; it makes allowances for students new the district; it gives administrators and teachers more discretion.

But it begs a question: Why mandate retention at all?

“Anyone who knows how to read and puts some time into it will learn there is no point in using retention,” wrote Nancy Baley, a retired teacher and graduate of Central Michigan University who writes about education policy. “It’s harmful to children.”

Baley was writing in response to the House bill, passed in October. She cited a report by the National Association of School Psychologists, among other sources, that found that grade retention is at best an ineffective strategy and at worst harmful to students.

Another study by University of Notre Dame sociologist Megan Andrew , published in September 2014, mined data including 37,000 children across the United States to find comparable examples of students who were held back and those who weren’t to study those differences. Her findings: Kids who repeat a year between kindergarten and fifth grade are 60 percent less likely to graduate high school than kids with similar backgrounds, and even 60 percent less likely to graduate high school than siblings in the same family.

To its credit, the Legislature is spot-on to explore options for improving reading proficiency in the third grade. The’s bill’s provisions for early intervention and literacy coaches are laudable. The focus on testing and retention, however, is dead wrong.

What might lawmakers pursue instead? How about reducing class sizes, investing more heavily in pre-schools, getting educators out of the practice of teaching to standardized tests, allocating money to alternative interventions such as summer schools - which, incidentally, would be far less expensive than having large numbers of children repeating grades.

And, of course, underlying many of challenges facing our public schools is the number of children coming from impoverished homes and communities. It’s no secret that children enduring emotional challenges at home, which include food insecurity, fare poorly in the classroom. The Legislature could arguably do more to improvement education outcomes in that arena than any other.

Bottom line, mandatory retention laws simply don’t work. It’s good that senators are responding to critics of the original bill. A better response would be to pursue strategies known to succeed.___

Traverse City Record-Eagle. Mar. 11, 2016

Road millage renewal deserves smooth ride.

One short jaunt behind the wheel in Grand Traverse County should be enough to convince even the most tax-averse voter to support the county road commission’s bid for a road millage renewal.

The necessity of such support is no more evident than during spring breakup in northern Michigan, an annual transition punctuated by the dull, but jaw-jarring, thud of abundant tire-eating potholes.

Drivers traversing Grand Traverse County’s vast network of paved roads with any frequency become accustomed to playing a game of asphalt slalom - dodging cracks and holes left and right, trying desperately to avoid the repair bills so often triggered by a trip through one of those hazards.

But those with short memories may not recall a time in the not-so-distant past when conditions were worse.

Taxpayers, who in 2013 approved the 1-mill levy by a paper-thin margin of 112 votes, have spent the past few years enjoying intermittent stretches of smooth asphalt in areas where crumbling roads once offered about as much navigability as the surface of Mars.

The best stretches often were downright inhospitable while the worst boasted cavernous craters that could swallow small cars.

More than $13 million raised since the tax took effect - about $4.4 million per year - has been split between the Grand Traverse County Road Commission and a handful of other local governments that are responsible for maintaining roads.

That money made an almost immediate and noticeable impact on the quality of roads in the county. The crews quickly began chipping away at a laundry list of projects to repair and repave the county’s worst roadways. Road Commission manager Jim Cook said by the time the millage’s first life cycle ends in December, the special tax will have paid to bring between 60 and 80 miles of Grand Traverse County roads up to snuff.

The progress in just three years made a significant dent in the some of the region’s worst roads - raising the percentage of pavement rated as good or fair condition from 34 to 54 percent between 2013 and 2015. But the work is far from complete.

Cook cited the improvements and future plans when he asked to Grand Traverse County commissioners to approve the ballot language during a Wednesday meeting. The board voted 5-2 to let voters decide whether to continue the 1-mill tax for another four years.

The two dissenting commissioners, Dan Lathrop and Christine Maxbauer, both questioned the need to continue collecting the tax. Lathrop cited money - as much as $1.5 million - the road commission expects to receive in 2017 thanks to a $1.2 billion road funding bill passed by legislators last year.

Cook responded by explaining that the extra money will allow the road commission to leverage millions more in matching state and federal grants for larger projects, multiplying the millage’s return on investment for local taxpayers.

And Maxbauer questioned the millage’s benefit to city residents like herself.

The “what’s in it for me?” argument is misplaced in a conversation about how to fund needed repairs to infrastructure nearly everyone uses on a daily basis. Name a city resident who parks their vehicle at the city limits and walks to errands in the county.

Not to mention the fact city road projects receive about $750,000 each year from the tax.

There’s no doubt such questions will provide a bumpy ride for the millage renewal effort during the next eight months.

But nobody should expect a free ride when it comes to paying for road repairs, that is unless it’s a commute riddled with potholes.___

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

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