- Associated Press - Monday, May 2, 2016

Traverse City Record Eagle . May 1, 2016

It’s time to stop the Waukesha water proposal.

The last thing Michiganders need is another water-related scandal, especially the kind that could be prevented by a simple, abrupt declaration from Gov. Rick Snyder.

So why does the Great Lakes State’s leader seem so reluctant to put his foot down on behalf of his constituents to stop a proposal to draw water from Lake Michigan to supply a city outside the Great Lakes Basin?

It’s the kind of strong decisive action necessary to, at least in part, cleanse his administration’s tainted record on water issues. Moreover it is the kind of strong representation Michiganders should expect from their state’s leader.

There are a few issues where there simply isn’t any room for political wrangling, backroom dealing or niceties - and protecting the water in the Great Lakes is one of them.

Snyder and his staff have been eerily silent since January when Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources forwarded them a proposal pushed by Waukesha, Wisconsin, to divert millions of gallons of water each day from Lake Michigan.

The request is the first proposed exception to a deal struck in 2008 by leaders of all states and Canadian provinces whose borders include Great Lakes shoreline. That pact - the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact - prohibits anyone from carting, shipping, piping or otherwise diverting water from the Great Lakes unless they are situated within the basin. The deal does, however, include a loophole Waukesha officials hope to exploit wherein municipalities near the basin’s rim may lobby for an exception to the hard-and-fast rule.

Apparently, at least in the legislative world, every hard-and-fast rule must include a gap, a loophole, a back door, a trap door or some otherwise slippery slope open to interpretation and manipulation.

Those requests must be vetted by officials in their state of origin and then are forwarded to the other Great Lakes leaders for approval. But a single governor - including Snyder - has the power to veto any proposal.

It’s certainly not that we don’t recognize the plight of Waukesha, a city that has for some time struggled to find a clean water source to replace radium-contaminated wells that now supply its households. But a $200 million project to suck millions of gallons of water from Lake Michigan each day is a slippery slope neither the Great Lakes, nor the people who call the region home can afford to navigate.

Several conservation groups within the Great Lakes Basin have criticized Waukesha’s proposal, indicating that the city could find other water sources and the proposed daily withdrawl would create a regional water system designed to spur growth, not fulfill a basic need.

“Based on our review and analysis, one problem with the request is that several communities outside the Basin in Waukesha County already have adequate water and don’t need it,” said Jim Olson, President of For Love of Water, a Traverse City-based Great Lakes law and policy center in a March statement. “The other problem is that the amount of water that would be diverted is based on indefinite and uncertain assumptions that at the end of the day are to support a build-out of sprawl and development in 2050.”

And recent moves by Wisconsin officials to amend their request give the appearance that someone, somewhere in the Great Lakes Compact states is considering approving the diversion. On Wednesday, Waukesha officials posted amended proposal documents to their website that slightly reduce the area they intended the pipeline to serve - reducing their estimated daily draw from 10.1 million gallons to about 8.7 million gallons.

The Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal Sentinel reports those revisions were “proposed by Great Lakes officials.”

Those officials are expected to meet during a webinar Monday to review the revised documents. And either governors or their representatives from the eight Great Lakes states are expected to meet June 13 in Chicago to vote on the project.

Snyder could save everyone involved six weeks of horse trading and political wrangling with one simple word: no.___

The Detroit News. April 26, 2016

Line up to save Detroit’s kids.

Detroit’s children face a lead problem of a different kind. Too much of it is entering their bodies in the form of bullets fired by adults who seem to be intentionally targeting and often killing them.

That’s the opinion of Police Chief James Craig, who told an interviewer he doesn’t believe the young victims of a recent rash of shootings are collateral damage, but rather are the intended targets of the attacks. The chief says the shooters knew their guns were pointed at children and pulled the trigger anyway.

Three children have been shot in this fashion in the past month; two have died. On Easter morning, 3-year-old A’Naiya Montgomery was killed when a hail of bullets were fired into her Detroit home. Just over a week ago, Miracle Murray, age 6 months, was killed when a gunman swept her front yard with bullets; a 24-year-old man was wounded. This weekend, a father teaching his 4-year-old son to ride a bike was shot and killed and the boy was wounded in a drive-by shooting.

It is a particularly evil strain of violence that targets children. And it didn’t just start. Last Christmas, two young girls were shot, one fatally, when a fight between two women ended with a home being pumped full of bullets. The list of children whose lives have been taken by violence in Detroit is long, and stretches way back.

But it’s time to end it with a sustained and massive community mobilization. That’s what Craig proposed this week, and Detroiters and those who care about Detroit must rally behind him.

The chief is asking for ministers and community groups to join him in a grass-roots effort that combines stepped-up policing and initiatives by citizens to help identify those who are committing the violence so that they can be brought to justice.

Craig wants community groups to do more intervention work with young people, ministers to keep the issue in front of their congregations and cops to put an intense emphasis on combatting illegal guns and those who use them.

What the chief didn’t talk much about was gangs, but they are a very real piece of this crisis. All three of the most recent child shootings occurred in an area of the city’s west side, and all bear the marks of gang retributions. Detroit officials must step up efforts with federal law enforcement authorities to wipe out the city’s extensive network of drug gangs.

Craig says the community approach he envisions has worked in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, where he did previous stints. But it only works, he says, if the community fully buys in.

Already, the typical Detroit turf wars are surfacing. The Rev. Charles Williams III proclaimed Craig should join the community, not the other way around. That sort of nonsense from Williams has never been helpful, and it surely won’t work to keep Detroit’s children alive.

Detroiters must stop fighting each other and unite to fight this extreme threat to their kids. Craig should not have to beg people to protect this city’s kids.

Everyone must turn their anger, frustration and grief into a positive response to this unacceptable epidemic.___

Lansing State Journal. May 1, 2016

End ignorance and bigotry in Greater Lansing.

Ignorance is not an excuse for discrimination. Lack of knowledge about others’ cultures or religions can’t be used as a defense for bigotry.

We are a diverse nation, becoming more diverse every day. The United States has long embraced its “melting pot” moniker - most of us with ancestors “who came from somewhere else.”

As America becomes less and less homogenous, it’s imperative Americans educate themselves on diversity - of religion, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Greater Lansing has long been a welcoming environment for diverse people groups. In late December, the Lansing City Council unanimously voted to be a “Welcoming City,” joining 10 other communities in Michigan.

That vote is largely symbolic, however, if individual citizens continue to judge people based on how they look or the religion they practice.

Professor Mohammad Hassan Khalil, as head of Michigan State University’s Muslim studies program, is among those using education to break down barriers.

“Islam, Radicalism and Islamophobia,” a new one-credit class, exposes students to the Muslim faith and its tenets. It also emphasizes the distinction between the majority of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims and the tiny, albeit powerful and headline-grabbing radical faction known as ISIS.

Because fear and ignorance do crazy things to people.

Crimes against Muslims tripled in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., according to California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

Muslims were the most targeted religious group for hate or bias crimes in Michigan in 2014 with 18 victims, according to figures from the Michigan State Police.

These measurable forms of discrimination only scratch the surface for minority people groups.

The off-color comments made within earshot and suspicious glances cast as they go through airport security or board your plane can take an exacting toll on Muslim Americans and immigrants alike.

Suspicions should always be based in facts. And the facts of the matter are you can’t judge a book by its cover; nor a person by the ethnicity of his name or extent of her wardrobe.

Greater Lansing has helped resettle more than 20,000 refugees from all over the world in the past 30 years.

MSU had more than 5,300 international students enrolled in the fall 2015 semester.

Mid-Michigan is a better place to live and work because of its diversity. Let’s make a point to learn about how we’re different and how we’re alike.

And then let’s respect both.___

Times Herald (Port Huron). April 28, 2016

Bill would raise taxes on disabled veterans.

It sounds like a small thing - just $10 million in the thousands of millions that Michigan’s state and local governments collect in taxes every year.

But we think it’s hugely outrageous.

Michigan law exempts disabled veterans from paying property taxes. That seems more than fair. Men and women who sacrificed their ability to work and bring home a pay check in defense of our country should get a break on those taxes and more.

A bill pending the Michigan Legislature would change that. House Bill 5169 would amend the General Property Tax Act to remove that exemption for disabled veterans.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Earl Poleski of Jackson, at the same time would expand the homestead property tax credit for disabled veterans to remove the income and household resources limits that apply to other taxpayers. The effect of that would be that disabled veterans would automatically qualify for the maximum property tax credit of $1,200.

They’d get a refund check in the mail every spring after filing their state income tax returns.

But they’d be writing checks, too, for their winter and summer property taxes that go to local and county governments, to schools, and to the state school aid fund.

The House Fiscal Agency has done the arithmetic.

The changes would cost the state treasury about $6 million in additional homestead property tax credits to disabled veterans each year, but it would gain about $3.5 million for the school aid fund. Local taxing authorities would gain about $12.5 million in new property tax revenue.

Add it up: Disabled veterans would pay $16 million in new taxes in exchange for $6 million in credits. The agency estimates that about $1,000 in new taxes on each disabled veteran.

That’s an outrage.

The General Property Tax Act has a number of other exemptions, like state facilities and nonprofit housing complexes for the disabled or elderly.

But it also includes exemptions for things like iron mines, certain industrial parks, commercial forests and privately owned but ostensibly nonprofit institutions like hospitals and colleges.

Before they add to the burdens of disabled veterans, lawmakers should start by questioning those other property tax exemptions.___

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