The Detroit News. January 18, 2017
A modest agenda from the governor
Gov. Rick Snyder delivered what can best be described as a survey State of the State address this week, touching briefly on a variety of accomplishments and remaining challenges, but going deep on none.
The speech was absent any new major initiatives. The governor instead seems content focusing on fine-tuning and expanding the programs he’s already put in place. That reflects the reality that he is in the second half of his second term, and time is running short for putting in place substantive projects that he won’t be around to guide to completion.
And while it defies the tradition of State of the State addresses, which are typically filled with pie-in-the-sky proposals that have little chance of materializing, it is the right approach - with some exceptions.
Snyder established his priorities early in his tenure, and they remain pretty much the same in this year’s agenda outline. He will continue to stress worker training. Some 90,000 good paying jobs are going unfilled in the state for lack of trained workers. In Detroit, contractors are having to pay fines because they can’t find enough skilled city workers to meet the city’s residency requirement on major projects.
The governor will also keep pushing public pension reform legislation, which failed in the lame duck session last year. This time, he says he will bring all of the stakeholders together to craft a plan that has maximum support. It’s a smarter choice than trying to push through hurry-up legislation.
And he touted the success of Healthy Michigan, the Medicaid expansion he enacted under Obamacare. That program is threatened by Congress’s move to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Snyder pledged to fight for its continuation, and will need the help of other governors who are in a similar position.
The stay-the-course strategy is appropriate for these final two years, except in the areas of infrastructure and education. Snyder mentioned both those subjects Tuesday night, but did not offer specifics plans.
Infrastructure is top-of-mind after the giant sinkhole opened in Fraser last fall, damaging homes. The repair will cost $100 million, and the prediction is that others will collapse throughout the region as aging pipes give way.
A Snyder task force pegs the infrastructure need at $80 billion over the next 20 years. Where will that money come from? Snyder should provide answers next month in his budget introduction.
He talked far more briefly about the Flint water crisis than he did a year ago, noting the progress made in improving water quality. But as Snyder said, the city still has considerable needs that must be met. Like most other subjects, Snyder gave education just a few lines in the speech. It merits more.
By most other measures - economic growth, job creation, government efficiency, etc. - Snyder has made the state better during his first six years. The same can’t be said of education.
Michigan remains a bottom 10 state in education performance, and still lacks a comprehensive strategy for implementing effective reforms. The governor’s education task force will release a report on the status of education in Michigan early next month. Hopefully it will contain meaningful suggestions.
But a lack of ideas has never been the problem. There has not been the political will to champion them. Snyder must be that champion in his final two years. He must finally break through the wall of resistance from special interests and put in place reforms that have worked in other states. That would cement his legacy.
Times Herald (Port Huron). January 18, 2017
Allen Road roundabout should stay postponed
The St. Clair County Road Commission has put off building a roundabout at Lapeer and Allen roads until next year. We think that is a good start.
The road commission has postponed the construction of the roundabout because it has three high-priority bridges on Marine City Highway that it needs to replace this year. We think the road commission is always going to have bridge projects that are a higher priority than the proposed roundabout for Lapeer and Allen roads. We still are not persuaded that the Lapeer-Allen intersection needs improvement.
About 10,000 vehicles go through the intersection on an average day, and almost all of it is through traffic that stays on Lapeer Road. On a busy day, fewer than 3,000 vehicles use Allen Road - and that is only during the school year. Without Indian Woods Elementary School traffic, Allen Road traffic counts are cut by half in the summer.
It just does not make any sense to slow all the Lapeer Road traffic with a roundabout for a minor improvement in flow for Allen Road users. A traffic signal at the corner would be worse, inconveniencing more drivers with a pointless stop to wait for cross traffic that isn’t coming.
Fixing the bridges on Marine City Highway addresses a real issue: Weight restrictions that restrict commercial traffic.
Gov. Rick Snyder, in his state of the state address Tuesday evening, reiterated that Michigan faces billions of dollars in unmet infrastructure needs, not just for roads and bridges. We have to be a big skeptical of all that, since most of the arithmetic is coming from groups such as the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association. MITA spends hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Lansing and donating to legislators’ political campaigns with the unabashed goal of getting more construction contracts for its members.
It’s not the same motive, but the same logic drives the road commission’s wish to build the Lapeer-Allen roundabout. A road project isn’t automatically good just because a grant take out of someone else’s pocket will pay for it.
Every state has infrastructure issues. One of them has bridges - like the ones on Marine City Highway - that need fixing more than Allen Road needs a roundabout.
The Alpena News. January 20, 2017
Hillman boys basketball on a memorable run
Sports fans love to talk about streaks; those streaks are held in high regard. Whether individual or team, ask a fan of a particular sport and they likely can tell you the most significant streak in that sport.
Well in Northeast Michigan there are two streaks going right now by the same team that have reached significant importance. Following Wednesday’s win over Whittemore-Prescott, the Hillman boys basketball team now has a 38-game home winning streak and following Thursday’s win on the road at Rogers City, it also has a 49-game North Star League winning streak. Both of those streaks will be tested next on Tuesday when the Tigers host Fairview.
When you look at the home winning streak you have to remember, teams generally only play 10 home games a year so you have to go back more than three seasons to find the last time Hillman boys lost on their home floor. And to not lose a conference game in over 48 games is perhaps an even more amazing streak.
We cover lots of teams in Northeast Michigan, most that are opponents of the Tigers, so we don’t root for any particular team. But we do want to point out how special Hillman’s streaks are and that like the rest of their opponents, we’ll be keeping an eye on their progress.
Petoskey News-Review. January 19, 2017
An online archives all can enjoy
The News-Review and Petoskey’s Greenwood Cemetery recently partnered to create an online archives of newspapers that will be available on Greenwood’s website, www.gwood.us.
The partnership is a fantastic answer to a question News-Review leaders long have been asking themselves - what do we do with all this historical material?
The News-Review recently turned over about 10 carloads of its archival material - such as bound volumes and microfilmed copies of newspapers, photos and clip files - to the cemetery, which will use them to expand on its online offerings of local historical materials.
As the papers, binders and files continued mounting in the News-Review’s office, storage space was growing limited and we were looking for the right solution to the problem. This partnership with Greenwood came at the right time so that these items could be collected, sorted and organized for eventual public access.
Because of its nonprofit status, Greenwood has the ability to seek grants and other sources of funding to pay for archiving of this type. Greenwood officials, too, say the winter is a slower time and staff members are more likely to do such work during these months.
Without the proper space to store these materials at the News-Review, too, there was concern that their condition would deteriorate over time. Greenwood is working with its partners to find the right space for their storage to ensure they remain intact.
We couldn’t be happier about this arrangement.
Greenwood already has used paper and microfilmed newspaper copies made available by the Petoskey District Library and Little Traverse Historical Society to develop its online collection. It incorporates issues of the News-Review as well as past publications such as the Petoskey City Record, Emmet County Independent and Emmet County Graphic. Online issue availability currently extends from the mid-1870s into the 2010s, with some gaps in eras such as the 1920s and ‘30s.
Along with the potential to find higher-quality copies of issues than were previously available, Greenwood officials said the News-Review’s recent contribution will allow the cemetery to create an online archive using individual clippings. The newspaper provided files from the 1960s into the 2000s, indexed by subject, as well as past photos.
Greenwood is an excellent organization to partner with and its staff and systems provide the right need at the right time to turn items being stored in our basement and closets into an online archive of newspapers going back over time.
We’re thrilled and hope you are, too.
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