- Associated Press - Monday, May 20, 2019

Detroit News. May 18, 2019

Lansing take note, parents want better schools

Michigan faces competing challenges that deserve lawmakers’ attention, from fixing the roads to reducing outrageous auto insurance rates. Parents in the state believe that improving schools is even more important, however, and that should serve as a wake-up call to elected leaders.

A poll released this week by school reform advocacy group Education Trust-Midwest found that boosting the quality of education in Michigan is the highest priority for parents here.

And lawmakers should take that to heart. Just like repairing pothole-riddled roads, there are concrete reforms the state should harness that could place Michigan’s students on better footing.

Most interesting in this poll is how parents overwhelming support measures that elected officials and other education leaders have either dismissed or downplayed.

“Over the past several years, widespread reporting on the quality of education in Michigan has helped raise public awareness of the challenges that we face,” stated Education Trust-Midwest Executive Director Amber Arellano. “To get better, Michigan needs to adopt evidence-based practices and improvement-oriented systems of support for educators.”

In Michigan, that’s easier said than done.

The poll, conducted earlier this year by EPIC-MRA, surveyed 600 parents of varying races and incomes.

Some of the highlights from the survey:

“Nearly two-thirds of all parents would support a ‘proposal to provide more state and local funding than average for school districts that serve students with the greatest need, including high rates of low-income and minority students.’”

“Three-quarters of parents support using data on student learning as a significant factor in evaluating teacher performance, as either ‘the only factor,’ ‘a major factor,’ or ‘one of several factors.’ This includes 77 percent of white parents and 74 percent of black parents, and 61 percent of respondents who are members of a labor union.”

“Parents support transparency and accountability for performance. When asked, 84 percent of parents support the concept of an A-F letter grading system for schools. The idea of an A-F accountability system enjoys the most support among black parents (93 percent), Republican parents (90 percent) and non-black parents of color (88 percent).”

Michigan now has an A-F grading system in place, passed late last year after a long debate. Yet state school officials are doing everything they can to ignore the law - even though such grading systems have proven very popular in other states that use them. And Michigan’s parents clearly want the same.

Similarly, the state had a robust teacher evaluation law in place - that included student data as a central factor in grading teachers. But before the law could fully take effect, Republican lawmakers this year dumbed-down the framework, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently approved the change.

A poll can only go so far. Parents who feel this strongly about reforms they want to see should pick up the phone or head to Lansing and let their lawmakers know exactly what they want. Otherwise, nothing is going to change.


The Mining Journal (Marquette). May 19, 2019

So far, a spaceport at Sawyer airport seems like good idea

Is K.I. Sawyer going to turn into Cape Canaveral?

Probably not quite, but there is an effort underway to establish spaceport operations and command center facilities in northern Michigan, and Sawyer is in the running.

Involved in the effort is the Michigan Launch Initiative, a public-private partnership that was organized by the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association and is backed by a private investment group.

Aside from Sawyer, the group is looking at several sites in the region including Chippewa County Airport, the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda and sites in Rogers City and Alpena.

Local officials on Monday heard about the site selection process from Gavin Brown, executive director of the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association.

Northern Michigan’s proposed spaceport would focus on low-Earth-orbit, or LEO, satellite launches. It would send satellites into polar orbit, rather than the equatorial orbit that is better reached by more southerly launch sites. Brown said there’s a growing demand for LEO satellite launches, with more than 80,000 launches projected to occur over the next 12 years, so that means business should look good in the coming years.

Right off the bat, we’ll say it’s hard to find anything really wrong with the possibility of Sawyer becoming a site for these types of operations.

First of all, according to the most recent figures, the project could cost up to around $120 million. But, on the plus side, the spaceport is estimated to generate about $250 million in revenue its first year of operation, with growth projected to be in the $750 million to $850 million range in the years following.

It appears, for now at least, that the group isn’t seeking any local investments or financial assurances in the form of tax breaks or the like. That may become part of the picture later, and we’ll certainly have to look at how all that shakes out, but currently this sounds like a pretty good economic situation for Marquette County if Sawyer is chosen.

“This truly is an economic vehicle that will contribute,” Brown said in a Journal story on the matter. “It’s almost like an annuity program, because once you start launching, it’s not like these satellites stay up for 30 to 40 years; they last about six to eight years and then you have to keep launching.”

Oh, and then there’s the point that about 1,000 jobs would be created with this spaceport.

Here in the Upper Peninsula, that type of employment is needed, particularly if these positions are high-paying ones that contribute to a stronger regional economy for a long period of time.

On top of the economics side of things, project organizers are keeping the environment in mind. They want the Michigan facility to be the first “green” spaceport in the world.

“We’re going to be environmentally friendly, we’re going to have biofuels, we’re going to make it a carbon-neutral facility as much as possible,” Brown said.

By tailoring construction of the facility to be specific to LEO launches, as opposed to launching vehicles needed for deep space exploration or manned flights, the northern Michigan spaceport would carve out a unique niche of the market, ensuring its position remains strong across the launch facility industry.

This could be the start of something big and out of this world, if you will. At this point in time, the plan sounds like a good one. But as always, we’ll keep watch for those finer details.


Traverse City Record-Eagle. May 17, 2019

Indictment should be the beginning of a long hard look

The Issue:

- House Representative Larry Inman was indicted in federal court this week on three charges: attempted extortion, bribery and lying to an FBI agent.

Our View:

- The indictment leaves us with more questions than answers in what we hope is the start of a deeper Legislative investigation.

Public trust is a cherished and fragile thing. Without it, our government would come to a standstill. We must trust that those we elect to represent us carry through on their promise to do the job with integrity and honesty.

That 104th District Representative Larry Inman was indicted is week on charges of attempted extortion, bribery and lying to an FBI agent socked that trust in the ribs, leaving us reeling like everyone else.

We’re a naturally critical breed, not prone to unconditional trust. We question; we verify; we press. We’re particularly watchful of our public servants who make the rules and collect taxes.

But we also don’t jump to conclusions, especially when in comes to criminal proceedings where we operate on the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

The burden of proof in a grand jury trail is lighter - proof of probable cause. In criminal proceedings, the prosecutor has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the charges against Inman, our representative since 2014 and a long-familiar face in Traverse City politics.

The first charge - attempted extortion - carries a possible 20 years in prison. The second charge - bribery - carried a possible 10-year sentence. The third, the lying, could be 5 additional years.

Inman stands accused of sending several incriminating texts June 3-5 to a union rep from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights and the group’s lobbyist. The texts - casual, complete with smiley faces - revolve around a then-upcoming vote on the repeal of the prevailing wage law. The law, originally enacted in 1965, allowed the Wage and Hour Division to establish wage and fringe benefit rates for construction workers on state projects. Construction groups wanted the law preserved, and the union’s PAC made a $6,000 political contribution to Inman before the vote.

The first text to the union rep asks “where are the rest of the trades on checks?” and alludes to an agreement of 12 legislators to get $30,000 each. The text goes on reference the close vote, the pressure and the tea party influence, and suggests “at least doubling” what had been given before the vote.

“People will not go down for $5,000 in the end,” it said.

Roughly, the same text goes to the lobbyist the next day. Then there are two follow up texts to the union rep - the last soliciting a meeting at a breakfast event with a “hope you can make it :) and see if there are any checks you can get, thanks!”

The repeal won by a close vote: 56 to 53, with Inman voting to repeal.

The exchange leaves us with many questions including, who is the 12-person voting block, and are more indictments on the way? Was this the first time a solicitation has been made?

Inman has voted opposite his party before, and often pressed for action on local issues.

We remember a last-minute intercession during the lame-duck $1.3 billion supplemental spending plan when he asked for - and got - a $700,000 Michigan Enhancement Grant for TCAPS during their MDE appeal that they didn’t end up needing.

In context, Inman’s race for his final term was close - so close that it was hard to call on election night until the absentee votes were counted and Inman had edged out Democratic challenger Dan O’Neil just 19,709 to 19,070 votes.

Inman has already been removed from his committee assignments. That’s a good first start.

That’s what an indictment is - a start that signals the beginning of a long look at our political machine - and the people and organizations pressing the buttons.


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