- Associated Press - Monday, October 16, 2017

The Detroit News. October 12, 2017

Cities shouldn’t tax our pop

Michigan lawmakers are making sure your soda is safe. (Your what? Your pop.) Following attempts by local governments in nearby cities to tax sugary beverages, the House and Senate have passed a ban on local governments putting such measures in place.

It’s up to Gov. Rick Snyder now to sign the legislation. This should be a no-brainer.

The Michigan Constitution prohibits a state sales tax from being applied to groceries. This bill would close any loopholes local governments might be able to work around to tax beverages.

There’s a reason groceries are prohibited from being taxed already; taxes on food and beverages hurt families, particularly lower-income families, the hardest. Researchers argue a sales tax on grocery items is among the most regressive of taxes as the majority of the cost is borne by low-income families.

The Tax Foundation estimates that families with incomes of about $100,000 annually suffered half the harm from these taxes as poor families making about $20,000 annually.

And the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C., estimates food and beverage taxes are “four to five times as high for poorer families as for upper income families.”

Local governments in Philadelphia and Cook County, Illinois, have enacted taxes similar to the infamous tax former Mayor Michael Bloomberg imposed on New York City.

But residents in Cook County are on the brink of rescinding the 1-cent-per-fluid-ounce tax imposed on sodas sold in their region due to its wild unpopularity.

In Philadelphia, PepsiCo said it’s seen a 43 percent drop in business, which will soon lead it to lay off 80 to 100 area employees - almost a quarter of the total employees for that region. Similarly, Canada Dry gave employees notice they would be laid off.

Additionally, the city hasn’t seen the projected revenue come in. Philadelphia estimated the beverage tax would amass about $92 million annually. After failing to create the expected revenue in the first six months of 2017, the city readjusted its expectations to half that: $46 million for the year.

Shoppers are also simply crossing county lines to buy cheaper soda, harming Philadelphia residents two-fold.

About half the revenue from the tax is being put toward education, always an admirable goal. But residents - particularly low-income residents - shouldn’t be squeezed at every turn to find those funds.

These taxes are often marketed as healthy eating campaigns. But such attempts to regulate residents’ health always fall flat. Additionally, soda sales have and will continue to decrease as consumers are naturally becoming more health-conscious.

No localities in Michigan are currently considering such a tax, so this bill will have no immediate effect except to protect groceries from additional levies - a clear directive established in the state’s constitution.

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Midland Daily News. October 12, 2017

Mary Adams makes a difference

There are different ways to make a difference in your community.

Mary Adams of Midland has decided to give her time.

The longtime volunteer director of Area 30 for Special Olympics Michigan has been at her unpaid position for 31 years. She spends more than 20 hours per week trying to make the lives of athletes, and their friends and relatives, a little bit more special.

In those years, she has made countless friendships and affected the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people.

Under Adams‘ leadership, Area 30 has grown to serve more than 170 athletes in 14 different sports. When she joined the program in 1980, it had only 100 athletes in three sports.

Adams didn’t plan on making a big difference in her community. A co-worker at The Dow Chemical Co. told Adams about a classified ad she saw in the newspaper asking for volunteers to help at a Special Olympics track and field competition.

“This would be fun,” Adams said.

So she volunteered. Six years later, Adams became the area director of the program.

Adams has received recognition in the past. She is a member of both the Special Olympics Michigan Hall of Fame and the Midland County Sports Hall of Fame. While working for Dow, she received the Dow Chemical USA President’s Community Service Award.

We don’t need to give her more honors. She doesn’t volunteer to receive recognition.

But we want to publicly thank her for her generosity. And, we want to point out the ways that any individual in our community, maybe not rich, or powerful or overly talented, can make a difference.

In 1980, Mary Adams took the first step toward being a volunteer. That first move was the beginning of a better Midland.

We wish there were more of us in our community like her.

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Times Herald (Port Huron). October 11, 2017

Drug area designation can only help us

St. Clair County’s designation as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area does not mean it is the den of drug iniquity. In fact, one of the criterion for getting the designation is probably something county voters and law enforcement officers should be proud of.

One of the factors that Office of National Drug Control Policy considers is if the community is itself seriously confronting the problem: Whether “State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies have committed resources to respond to the drug trafficking problem in the area, thereby indicating a determination to respond aggressively to the problem.”

In other words, voters increasing funding for the county drug task force is paying off not only with a safer community but also with additional new federal resources to help address the problems created by illegal drugs and the people who sell them.

An aggressive local response is one of four factors. The other three acknowledge that St. Clair County does have significant illegal drug issues. Those factors include whether the area is a significant center of illegal drug production, manufacture, important or distribution.

The coincidence of geography that made Port Huron and St. Clair County one of the most important transportation hubs in North America means that not only do all the freighters, trucks, trains and pipelines pass through here, so also do too many of the illicit drugs going both ways across the U.S.-Canada border.

There are pluses to being a border community. Being a nexus of drug trafficking is not one of them.

Because of that border, there can’t be a complete response without committing federal resources to the fight and that is what the HIDTA designation makes possible. Those resources can be both physical, in the form of equipment and personnel, and less tangible but equally important in the form of intelligence and training.

St. Clair County’s joins 10 other Michigan counties with the HIDTA designation. In Southeast Michigan, those include Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Saginaw and Genesee counties. Four more counties in southwest lower Michigan also are HIDTA areas.

The designation is not exactly something to brag about, to be sure, but any help is welcome.

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Petoskey News-Review. October 13, 2017

Childhood obesity is a problem we need to address

There is a health problem facing the children in Northern Michigan schools that too often gets ignored. But it is a problem that impacts about one in five schooled-aged children between the ages of 6-19 - childhood obesity.

The number has tripled since the 1970s.

Obesity is defined as having excess body fat, whereas overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water or a combination of those factors.

Many different factors contribute to childhood obesity, including genetics, metabolism, eating habits, physical activity behaviors, environmental factors and social and individual psychology.

In Michigan, 32.6 percent of children ages 0-17 are overweight or obese, compared to a national average of 31.3 percent, a National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation study discovered.

This creates problems for the children beyond just health issues.

As noted in a recent Petoskey News-Review, “In addition, to the short and long-term health consequences, overweight or obese children are also more likely to have lower academic achievements and score poorly in math than their non-overweight peers, the National Institute for Health Care Management said.”

According to that same story, a Michigan State University Extension report indicated that, weight bias is another problem associated with obesity in children. Weight bias refers to negative attitude, beliefs and discrimination directed toward overweight or obese children and adolescents. Those attitudes and beliefs play out in forms of teasing, bullying and exclusion from activities.

Weight bias negatively impacts physical health and could actually reinforce behaviors that contribute to obesity, such as binge-eating and avoidance of physical activity.

But there is help in combating this issue in the community and one of the organizations working to combat this health problem is the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, according to Erica Van Dam, family and community health supervisor at the health department.

One such way is through the Safe Routes to School program, which is a national program that believes in the importance and joy of safe walking and biking to school. The program provides ways for communities to get started on safe ways of transportation to schools and highlight how creating walkable and bike-able places “enhance an entire community’s quality of life.”

Another program is the Smarter Lunchroom Movement, dedicated to providing schools with the knowledge, motivation and resources needed “to build a lunchroom environment that makes healthy food choices the easy choice.”

Van Dam also said a number of area school districts have also shown interest in farm-to-school initiatives, while the health department also offers various nutritional education opportunities within the classroom setting.

“It’s not just conducting lessons on what’s healthy and what’s not,” Van Dam said in a recent Petoskey News-Review story. “We’re doing cooking demonstrations and teaching different skills so when they (children) get home from school they can make their own snack in a healthier way.”

She added, “Public transportation ends up playing an important role in obesity. Having access to healthy foods, having more farmers markets and how do we make it more available. Having SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) available at the market, there’s a lot of things we can do.”

We encourage the community to take part in these health department programs and take steps to help our children and our future become healthier both physically and mentally.

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