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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

August 27, 2018

The Detroit News. August 22, 2018

Coal’s fate is sealed; Trump can’t change it

Right on cue, predictions of widespread death and environmental ruin sprang from the Trump administration’s decision this week to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. But the reality is that whether the rules stayed or went, coal power is on a downward spiral.

The economics of burning coal to produce electricity no longer make sense.

That’s why coal power production has been rapidly declining and was on the wane even before President Barack Obama unveiled his strategy in 2015 for making coal obsolete.

U.S. coal production declined to 713 billion tons in 2017, from 1.2 trillion tons in 2007. Coal today accounts for 30.7 percent of the nation’s energy portfolio, and was surpassed last year by natural gas (31 percent).

While the federal government estimates that coal will still provide 22 percent of the nation’s power by mid-century, industry projections put the figure at 16 percent or less.

The reason is simple: burning natural gas is cheaper — and cleaner.

New production techniques, including fracking, has made natural gas a less expensive and plentiful source of power.

So the nation’s major energy companies are replacing aging coal plants with modern gas facilities that not only save money, but emit much less pollution.

The new $1 billion gas plant planned by DTE in the Thumb should generate 50 to 60 percent less greenhouse gases than the coal-fired plant it replaces.

In addition, the cost of producing energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar are also dropping.

Four of the nation’s top 16 utility companies have no coal burning plants, and another seven have set a timetable for replacing coal facilities with natural gas and renewable energy sources.

Power companies are investing billions to convert from coal to cleaner sources of energy.

They are not going to reverse those investments simply because President Donald Trump will now allow states to set policy on energy production. They’re too far down the road, and the risk is too high that a new administration will change course on coal policy yet again.

Coal is no longer competitive in the marketplace.

And that is a more certain factor in its ultimate demise than any regulations Washington could produce.

Trump can’t save coal or the jobs of coal miners with a stroke of his pen. Energy economics have already decided coal’s fate.

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Lansing State Journal. August 24, 2018

Lansing schools’ zero suspensions are affecting a culture change

There were no students expelled from the Lansing School District in the 2017-18 school year.

Zero.

Let that sink in.

In the 2013-14 school year, administrators expelled 107 students for a variety of offenses - from fights to possession of banned items such as weapons.

Why the dramatic turnaround? Lansing educators have altered their approach to discipline. And a state law, which took effect last year, allows schools greater flexibility in meting out discipline.

This is good news for Lansing’s 11,000 schoolchildren. The best place for them to be is in school, learning and preparing to be contributing members of society.

Investing in troubled children through its Aim High mentoring program, district officials are sending a clear message to students: You have value and we will work with you to be successful.

Meet the Williams brother. Through mentorship, they’ve made a pathway toward maturity. Lansing State Journal

Providing educators with more latitude on how to handle their students shows we trust them to know what’s best for individual students.

Connecting students with outside programs such as The Turning Point of Lansing is also having a dramatic effect.

That said, behavioral issues haven’t evaporated. In the past school year, more than 1,500 students within the Lansing School District were suspended at least once. That’s one in eight students. At Sexton High School, it was one in four students. At Pattengill Academy: one in three.

While incident reports don’t necessarily lead to suspensions, district data show the three most-reported incident violations are insubordination, persistent misconduct and disorderly behavior. Violations such as weapons, sexual harassment and alcohol or drugs rank much lower.

Yet, it’s a delicate balance between keeping disruptive students in school versus providing a safe, conducive learning environment for all students. That’s where the investment comes in.

The Lansing district is in the midst of a self-proclaimed culture shift.

Karlin Tichenor, who leads the district’s Office of School Culture, said today’s students have myriad challenges that require educators “to respond more holistically and creatively . before we expect to educate them.”

This holistic and creative approach is evident in the district’s Pathway Promise, which combines specialized programs and greater financial support to prepare students for the brightest future possible. Building renovations and updates signal to students the community as a whole is invested in their future.

The Lansing Promise is the culmination of that approach, providing each successful graduate two years of free tuition to Lansing Community College, or the equivalent dollar amount toward coursework at Michigan State University or Olivet College.

Having zero students expelled helps ensure more achieve that promise - which is a good sign for Lansing’s future.

Achieving it is a work in progress.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). August 24, 2018

Snyder on right track with high-speed internet proposal

Although the more cynical among us might opine it’s too little, too late, we like the fact that Gov. Rick Snyder is working right up until his state employment expires at the end of December. And after all is said and done, an initiative he rolled out late last week on broadband access might very well end up being among his administration’s longest lasting and most important plans.

Choosing an educational setting — the Escanaba High School — Snyder unveiled the Michigan Broadband Road Map, a move that aims to provide universal access to broadband, high speed internet to all of the state of Michigan.

“As technology continues to rapidly change and evolve, having access to fast, reliable internet is now a necessity for everyday life,” Snyder said in a press release. “There are many regions of Michigan where internet is inaccessible or ineffective, and this plan works to make broadband internet available to Michigan residents in every corner of the state.”

Many of the places that are not serviced by broadband internet are in the Upper Peninsula, typically rural venues that aren’t currently serviced by a broadband provider. Overall, Michigan ranks 30th in the nation for broadband availability. More than 350,000 households lack access to high-speed internet service. Another two million households only have access to a single, terrestrial internet service provider. Snyder’s office says there is approximately $2.5 billion in potential economic opportunities available for these regions if that gap is reduced.

There are lots of unanswered questions, of course, a construction timeline and specific funding sources, for example. But that said, it’s an important step in what we believe is the right direction. It’ll be interesting to see if the next governor takes the broadband ball and runs with it.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. August 22, 2018

Designate new tax to fill the holes and gaps

Did you pay your use tax this year when you filed your state tax return?

Crunch the numbers on all that sales tax you didn’t pay on your novelty woolen socks or specialty throw pillows from a specialized website in a far-off place, and send it to the state?

Nobody did.

But everybody now will pay their 6 percent sales tax for every online purchase from out-of-state retailers that do $100,000 in sales or 200-plus transactions in Michigan.

Michigan’s Treasury Department says this will bring in $203 million in its first year and close to $250 million in 2021.

The change becomes official Oct. 1, leaving just one more question: what will our legislators do with all our new money?

The bickering already has begun.

It’s a tug of war with heavyweight issues on either side: roads versus schools.

Both desperately need work.

Our pockmarked and potholed roads can send your teeth crashing into your skull and your car limping to the shop. We can see the problem every day on our commutes. But beyond the day-to-day hassle of driving on bad roads, it’s the deteriorating infrastructure that we don’t see that eventually becomes a grave safety issue.

We also see the numbers in the gaps in our school system, and in our poor performance compared to other states in our nation. The per-pupil fund allowance for Traverse City Area Public Schools for the 2017-18 school year was at $7,631 compared to the basic allowance of $8,289, depriving the 10,000-student district of more than $6.5 million, officials said, and the general state of our education system . needs fixing.

Proponents of each say they’re entitled to the money for different reasons.

We say, why not share it? Come to a practical agreement and designate a way forward.

Entitlement bickering only stalls the process ... and if it stalls too long, that money could end up in a general fund. We all know what happens when our tax return spends too long in our checking accounts — it drips and drabs into the day-to-day overruns until it finally disappears, leaving the big projects undone.

We call on our infrastructure and education proponents to come up with a solution so our legislators can act quickly, and we the people of this state can realize the benefit in both of these high-need areas.

This — our hard-earned taxpayer dollars — is new money for the state and needs to be used to solve the state’s more pressing problems.

We know this is subjective territory. But we also know that our legislature needs to keep the money out of entitlement squabbling, out of the general fund and liquid enough to fill the gaps — be they in the roads or in the schools or elsewhere.

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