- Associated Press - Monday, January 8, 2018

The Detroit News. January 6, 2018

AG should move ahead on MSU probe

The state attorney general’s office is engaged in an extensive review of whether the serial molestation of girls and young women associated with the Michigan State University gymnastics program merits further investigation into who at the college knew what, and when.

That’s a welcome development in a case that appeared at risk of fading away without those essential questions being answered.

Attorney General Bill Schuette previously led the prosecution of Larry Nassar, the MSU physician accused of assaulting scores of girls who came to see him for treatment of sports related injuries over the course of more than 20 years.

Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison on a child pornography conviction. And he’s pleaded guilty to 10 rape charges brought by female gymnasts.

But so far, the investigation has stopped with Nassar’s criminal activities. Whether negligence by MSU officials enabled the assaults to go on for so long has not been explored by either the university or law enforcement officials.

Schuette is now weighing whether there is cause to probe further. We’d urge him to do so.

From what is publicly known, it’s hard to see how the attorney general and his staff can come to any conclusion other than to investigate whether MSU officials are culpable.

The university, under the leadership of President Lou Anna Simon and a pliant board of trustees, has been stubbornly resistant to finding out whether MSU officials may have ignored complaints from victims about Nassar’s treatment practices.

MSU tried to pass off the work of a high-profile law firm as an independent investigation, but a look at the contract the university signed with the attorneys makes it clear their role is to mitigate MSU’s legal exposure.

The college faces 150 federal lawsuits from Nassar’s alleged victims. MSU is only concerned with limiting its liability, not holding to account those on its payroll who may have been negligent.

At least seven girls claim they told coaches, MSU staff and the police about what Nassar had done to them between 1997 and 2015. Yet no action was taken to stop him.

MSU first suspended and then allowed its gymnastics coach, Kathy Klages, to retire. Some of the gymnasts say the coach scoffed at them when they raised complaints about Nassar.

Likewise, Nassar’s boss, Dr. William Strample, clearly had enough information that something was amiss to send the doctor a letter urging him to change his tactics.

That seems a good starting point for an investigation by the attorney general. As would interviewing the women and girls who say they were molested by Nassar. Criminal investigators have not sat down with the alleged victims to find out who they may have told about Nassar’s behavior.

It is encouraging that Schuette is reconsidering an MSU investigation. A similar situation at Penn State University involving young boys who were molested on campus by a former football coach resulted in criminal charges against several university officials, including the president and athletic director.

The similarities between PSU and MSU are too striking to ignore.

We continue to urge the attorney general to break through the MSU cover-up and determine how a sexual predator of the magnitude of Larry Nassar found a safe haven on the campus for so long to carry out his disgusting attacks.

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Lansing State Journal. January 1, 2018

2018 Headlines to hope for

As we look back at Greater Lansing news this past year - the good, the bad and otherwise - we can’t help but think of the headlines we didn’t see. Here are the headlines we hope for in 2018:

‘MSU rebuilds reputation with transparency, new policies to keep students safe’

Michigan State University was in the national spotlight much of 2017 as the sexual assault allegations against former doctor Larry Nassar mounted. More than 120 women and young girls have come forward to law enforcement and in November Nassar pleaded guilty, in part, he said, to allow the women and community to begin healing.

That healing must extend to MSU, which has been under scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault cases beyond Nassar. There were allegations against football players, lawsuits against the university by both victims and alleged abusers. As 2017 came to a close, MSU’s muted responses and lack of leadership led the LSJ Editorial Board to call for the resignation of President Lou Anna Simon.

LSJ Editorial: Lou Anna Simon must resign as Michigan State president

Our most fervent hope for 2018 is to witness the leadership that has been lacking, and for MSU - with great transparency - to overhaul its system and institute new policies to keep students safe.

‘State Legislature finally adds LGBT protections to Elliott-Larsen Act’

Despite attempts at legislation dating back to 1983, today it remains legal in Michigan for employers and landlords - among others - to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. This is unacceptable, and it is far past time for action.

In June 2015, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalized gay marriages across the country. That was a watershed moment in the fight for equal rights - a fight that’s far from over. Michigan should be a leader in denouncing all forms of discrimination.

LSJ Editorial: Redefining ‘sex’ is good for LGBT protection

Michigan legislators, especially those here in Greater Lansing, must lead a charge that finally gets LGBT protections added to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

‘The ‘new’ Grand River Avenue in East Lansing is grand indeed’

City Center, Park District, City Center II, East Village .

The list of projects that have dragged on, been delayed and were outright cancelled has stymied residents and visitors to East Lansing for the past 15 years. Why would a municipality allow abandoned buildings to stand as the gateway to the city?

LSJ Editorial: East Lansing development delays get old fast

Progress was finally made in 2017, and a picture of the ‘new’ Grand River Avenue is forming. Center City is underway, transforming the midpoint of the city into a 12-story building with apartments and commercial shops on the first floor - including a small-scale Target with groceries.

And the buildings on the blighted corner known as the Park District have finally been leveled. Anything in this area is an improvement, however with these and other projects along Grand River Avenue, the city begins to fulfill its promise to look grand indeed.

‘Lansing poised to welcome second hotel to downtown’

Downtown Lansing could finally see a second, or even third, hotel this year - following the end of a deal that locked the city into having only one hotel since 1985.

LSJ Editorial: End of hotel deal a new opportunity for city

Implications are enormous, and downtown stakeholders already are stepping up to help the city seize on this opportunity. Leadership from the Lansing City Council, Lansing Economic Area Partnership, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau are publicly promoting the opportunity and residents and business owners downtown seem to be on board.

Another hotel downtown means greater events potential, more visitors to local businesses and becoming a destination city like Detroit or Grand Rapids.

‘Voter turnout skyrockets as residents engage in local and state elections’

Traditionally voter turnout in the region has been low and rarely, if ever, meets the national average. Lately the trend has shifted as more people are becoming engaged, especially in local and state issues.

2015 saw voter turnout of 13%, the lowest in the region since 2007. In 2016, a presidential year, turnout of 70% was good but still below 2012 turnout, and barely over the national average. In 2017, 20% turnout - up from 12% four years prior - is much more promising.

LSJ Editorial: Worst decision you can make is not to vote

Let’s continue the positive trend - elections determine the future of our cities, state and nation. In 2018, voters in Greater Lansing will help elect a new governor, consider whether to legalize recreational marijuana and determine the fate of local millages.

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Times Herald (Port Huron). January 4, 2018

Macy’s loss is evolution, not the end

Nobody misses the 16 coal dealers that operated in the city of Port Huron in 1950. The carriage makers and horse liveries of a generation earlier certainly fall into the same category.

We have mixed feelings, though, about the closing of the Macy’s department store at Birchwood Mall. The company announced Wednesday that the store will be closing in March. Forty-four people will be losing their jobs; for them, our feelings are not mixed. We regret every job lost. Macy’s was an important part of Birchwood Mall, a vital part of the local retail mix and sort of icon for some of the best fashions available.

The closure is another hard knock against Birchwood Mall, where the Sears store closed almost two year ago. The mix at the mall continues to evolve. A year ago, we did an inventory of the mall and Birchwood was doing well and better than many other regional malls. Other retail headlines this week include, for instance, include the news that the best days of sprawling Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights may be in the past. Community officials there are looking at ways to repurpose the land and buildings for future needs.

That is what is happening: The future.

It isn’t that Lakeside or Birchwood or Macy’s is doing anything wrong. And it isn’t necessarily the fault of shoppers, whose feet and needs aren’t taking them to enclosed malls, to large department stores, to traditional brick-and-mortar stores less and less often.

Shoppers and the retail environment evolve together. We stopped buying coal from coal dealers. Our frustrations with selections, hours and service at traditional downtown merchants spawned regional mega-malls a generation ago. Big box stores followed the traffic to the suburbs, making it harder for local store owners who answered with superior service. When the internet delivered unlimited selection and unlimited store hours to our homes, malls evolved into places where we go for exercise on very cold days.

Macy’s, in announcing the store closing Wednesday, reminded us to keep shopping its website and using its app. The future will lead us somewhere else.

The good news is that retailing remains healthy and evolving in the Blue Water Area.

Young entrepreneurs Maggie and Nathaniel Bottenfield are taking what made the Exquisite Corpse Coffee Shop special and making it better. Laura Lyon started her fashion business online but now offers style, variety and great service at the Papaya Branch Boutique downtown. The Gander Mountain sporting goods store in Fort Gratiot is reopening under the flag of new owners.

Port Huron and Fort Gratiot’s retail corridors and healthy and vibrant - and changing. Change is good.

Smart, savvy businesses change to continue to attract customers by giving them what they want, where and how they want it.

___

Traverse City Record-Eagle. January 4, 2018

Attendance isn’t optional in our state government

Showing up is an important part of just about every job, but it’s downright imperative for elected representatives.

It’s pretty difficult to vie for constituents’ interest if those who voters select for public office don’t plant themselves in legislative chairs for the duration of each session. After all, don’t we send them to Lansing, pay their salaries and shoulder the costs of their benefits to fight for our communities’ unique interests?

Thankfully, those who occupy seats in state government elected by Grand Traverse region voters offer a bit of a silver lining in a recent attendance report compiled by MichiganVotes.org, a subsidiary of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan think tank.

The breakdown shows the lawmakers who serve on behalf of voters in the Grand Traverse region logged perfect attendance for roll-call votes in 2017.

That same report shows other lawmakers in Lansing missed a combined 1,153 roll-call votes last year. The database compiled by the organization shows eight legislators - six state senators and two representatives - each missed more than 50 votes during 2017.

The absenteeism should be infuriating to constituents in districts represented by officials who didn’t weigh in as many as 25 percent of issues addressed by the state’s two legislative chambers. The organization that maintains the database - which stretches back 17 years - is careful to point out that the numbers are raw and don’t account for illness or the litany of other factors that could pull a lawmaker from the floor for a vote or two.

Still, no lawmaker should, in good conscience, feel comfortable leaving an empty seat for 144 roll call votes as state Sen. Coleman Young II did in 2017, according to the report. Young likely traded time in Lansing for days running his campaign for Detroit mayor. And his constituents may be in for a similar showing in 2018 as Young vies to replace recently-retired U.S. Rep. John Conyers.

The void wasn’t one-sided, either. More than a handful of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle missed more than a dozen votes.

Since when is attendance at any job, particularly a well-paid elected one optional?

Such disregard for constituents’ interests should be the centerpiece of any future campaigns, no matter toward which end of the political spectrum a candidate leans.

Because, as most taxpayers learned at an early age, the first step toward keeping your job is showing up.

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