- Associated Press - Monday, October 21, 2019

The Detroit News. October 15, 2019

Don’t blindside drivers with state parks pass

Legislation introduced in the Michigan House would make state park vehicle passes mandatory, unless drivers opted out. Michigan’s state parks and recreations areas are a tremendous resource, but this is a sneaky way to boost funding for their upkeep.

If state parks are in need of additional money, lawmakers need to find an honest way to fund them rather than turning what is now purely optional for drivers into a default tax increase.

Drivers have the option to purchase the state parks pass - the recreation passport - for $11 when they register or renew the registration on their vehicles. This is a handy way to purchase the pass and has boosted revenue for state parks, whose sole funding sources are camping fees and recreation passports.



Since the passes became available during vehicle registration in 2011, participation has escalated, rising from 24% in its first year to a projected 35% participation in 2019, says Ron Olson, chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division. Funds from passes have increased to roughly $30 million today from $19 million in 2012.

Making the park pass available at registration is a great idea, but blindsiding drivers isn’t the right move.

The legislation would amend Michigan’s vehicle code, converting that optional purchase into a fee required of all applicants unless they specifically elect not to pay.

While the bill would offer motorists the opportunity to opt out, it isn’t very upfront about it.

Under the proposed legislation, the vehicle registration application form would have the fee clearly printed with a description:

“$10.00 - Annual authorization to use this vehicle for unlimited entry into all Michigan state parks and recreation areas and DNR-operated state boating access sites. (Check the box below to select that option.)”

Nowhere on the form, however, would it explicitly inform drivers that they can opt out except for the text next to an additional box that reads, “I elect not to pay this $10.00 fee.”

We are all for supporting state parks, but this law would turn state park passes into an involuntary and potentially unwelcome subscription.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch, defends his proposal by saying other states have tried similar measures and found them successful.

“Our state parks are in need of serious money for maintenance and improvements,” Howell told Michigan Radio.

Legislators, however, should not coerce drivers into buying passes.

Trying to convince people that a state parks pass is worth $10 is fine. In fact, more residents should take advantage of this deal. But the DNR, in conjunction with the Secretary of State’s Office, should promote sales of the passes in an above-board fashion through marketing and advertising.

There’s nothing wrong with having a conversation about better supporting our parks. But if legislators want to do that, they should be honest and levy a tax.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). October 15, 2019

Cambensy on right side of Great Lakes construction effort

A Michigan State House resolution authored and introduced by state Rep. Sara Cambensy urging Uncle Sam to support Great Lakes infrastructure and specifically Soo Locks reconstruction certainly has our support, especially given the toxicity of governance in Washington and the necessity of robust federal support.

House Resolution 160 implores Congress and other federal agencies to “provide greater support for ports, harbors and critical Great Lakes infrastructure, including the Soo Locks reconstruction project.” It was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Commerce and Tourism late last week.

In a press release, Cambensy, D-Marquette, voiced pleasure that the measure was moving through the legislative process, which is part of a comprehensive effort to formally call on the federal government to adopt the Great Lakes 2020 Agenda and take meaningful action to protect the health, economy and ecology of Michigan and the Great Lakes region.

“I appreciate my colleague’s bipartisan unanimous support of this resolution, and their commitment to ensuring the Soo Locks remain strong and viable going forward. It is impossible to overstate the critical importance of the Locks for the regional and national economy. I look forward to continuing to advocate on this issue in the days and weeks ahead,” Cambensy said in the release.

The numbers here are nothing less than mind boggling. Because 100% of iron ore mined in the U.S. - worth $500 billion annually - passes through the Soo Locks, the facility is of paramount importance. The locks handle 68 million tons of commerce each year and save industries around $2.7 billion in transportation costs. Furthermore, according to an economic report cited in the release, if the locks were ever forced to close, it would cause $160 million in decreased economic development within 30 days and the loss of 11 million jobs within six months.

If the locks were to close, 100% of North American auto production would stop within weeks of a closure and the nation’s gross domestic product would decrease by $1.3 trillion.

Both the state and federal governments have committed funds to constructing a new lock but no actual brick-and-mortar work has been undertaken.

The Soo Locks project is one that’s been discussed, and discussed, for decades. It’s time Washington ponied up the money to do the job.

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Lansing State Journal. October 18, 2019

Michael McKissic, founder of Mikey 23: ‘It’s not how you fall down, it’s how you get back up

LANSING - Aug. 1, 2015 could have marked the end of joy in the lives of Michael and Sherry McKissic and their family.

The sun could have slipped behind a permanent cloud.

But after the unsolved shooting death of their 23-year-old son, Mikey, the grieving couple and their three other children found a way to move ahead.

They started Mikey 23 Foundation, named after Michael ‘Mikey’ McKissic II. It helps young people learn skilled trades while repairing buildings that would otherwise be torn down.

The younger McKissic had planned to continue the family construction business.

“What drives me as a father is to keep his memory alive,” Michael McKissic said. “Yes, he was murdered, but we’re not going to take the tragedy and dwell upon it. We’re going to turn it into a positive.”

Help for parolees

The nonprofit is moving into a new phase. Next week McKissic and a crew of workers will begin to work on a fire-damaged fourplex in Lansing’s Baker-Donora neighborhood, the third damaged home Mikey 23 has rescued.

The plan is to eventually offer housing to four to eight parolees while they are learning a construction trade.

McKissic has already received letters from two inmates who want to come to work for the foundation.

He said he understands what they face.

Not only did his father, Lonnie, who founded McKissic Construction, hire former offenders, McKissic himself is one.

He was arrested in 1986 for selling cocaine and spent a total of seven years in prison. Prosecutors said he was trying to take over the trade of his older brother, Lonnie, Jr., who remains in prison.

After his release, McKissic said, he had his parents, a job in his father’s construction business, and his Islamic faith to keep him on a straight path.

He wants to help others who don’t have that support.

“I know that people need help. We as a society, we look down on them,” he said.

Connected to leaders

McKissic is using his connections to get donated building materials. He’s also connected to Lansing leaders.

Last month, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon and Lansing Mayor Andy Schor attended a march he organized aimed at stopping violence. He knows both former Police Chief Mike Yankowski and the new one, Daryl Green.

Derrick Quinney, Ingham County Register of Deeds and man with a background in labor unions, said he’s interested in the project, particularly to fill the demand for skilled trade workers. He’s volunteered as a mentor.

“I see opportunities in the building trades, and Mikey 23 is certainly an avenue to promote and get young people involved,” he said.

In August, the nonprofit received the biggest donation in its history: $24,000 from 100 Women Who Care. It also suffered its biggest setback around the same time.

New appliances, tile, paint, tools and other items were stolen from a house that’s nearing completion, in all about $11,000 worth. Insurance covered a portion and donations to replace tools and appliances have come in.

A house on Stirling Avenue, donated to the foundation, will go up for sale soon. The proceeds will be used to pay the workers and to increase a reward fund for information leading to the conviction of Mikey’s killer from $10,000 to $15,000. The rest will help finance the fourplex project.

Since its founding, the foundation had taught building trade skills to 34 young men and one woman. Many of the young people were Mikey’s friends.

To date, 11 have committed to earning apprentice certification through the program. A paid apprenticeship take 4,000 hours or about two years.

Friends with Mikey

Tommie Miller is one of the workers. He went to Sexton High School with Mikey.

Mikey was “smart, funny and generous - a great guy,” he said.

Miller attended Lansing Community College and worked minimum wage jobs before working as an assistant manager at Menard’s.

Contractor Michael McKissic started a foundation, named Mikey 23 after his son was shot to death in 2015. His family’s construction business helps youth start on a career path in construction after dealing with the tragedies in their lives. The donated, fire damaged home will help fund the next project Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019.Buy Photo

Contractor Michael McKissic started a foundation, named Mikey 23 after his son was shot to death in 2015. His family’s construction business helps youth start on a career path in construction after dealing with the tragedies in their lives. The donated, fire damaged home will help fund the next project Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. (Photo: Robert Killips ‘ Lansing State Journal)

He went to work with the foundation because he wanted to stop talking about building materials that he sold at Menard’s and start working with them.

Miller said he’s grown more confident with the program. He hopes to buy, improve and flip houses.

“I want to eventually build my own house,” Miller said. “Hopefully, I will teach others.”

McKissic said he wants to give parolees the same hope.

While he didn’t hide his history of incarceration, he said, he didn’t talk about it much either.

Now he will.

“They need to know how somebody did that walk already,” he said. “…One of the things I’ve learned in my life’s journey. It’s not how you fall down, it’s how you get back up.”

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