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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

December 24, 2018

Times-Herald(Port Huron). December 20, 2018

Cities sue to block strict lead rule.

Would Flint have poisoned itself without the state’s help? It’s hard to say; maybe we will know when all the criminal and civil trials have completed their slow but fine grind through the court system.

But other cities, including Detroit, want judicial permission to keep feeding lead to their residents.

As promised by Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan now has the most stringent rules in the nation for lead and copper contamination of drinking water. That was driven by the Flint water fiasco and his administration’s role in it.

Because there is no safe level of lead in drinking water, Michigan is the first state to mandate that all lead service lines between water mains and customers be replaced, to prohibit replacing only part of a lead service line except in an emergency, and to require water utilities to pay for new lines.

For municipalities with large — and sometimes unknown — numbers of such outdated and dangerous lead pipes, the new rule is a daunting and unfunded mandate. Tens of millions has been spent in Flint removing toxic lead service lines. Requiring Detroit to do the same would require many more millions of dollars.

But what is the alternative? Leave those lead-lined time bombs buried in Detroit families’ front yards and hope the next blunder doesn’t unleash another public health emergency, this time in Michigan’s largest city?

Detroit isn’t alone. It and more than 50 other cities, from Rochester to Rogers City and Clare to Clawson, are suing to overturn the new standard. Detroit is lobbying other municipalities and water systems to sign on.

It’s about the cost. We understand that. We also know that the long-term cost of futures dimmed by childhood lead exposure is incalculably larger.

The lawsuit might not even be necessary. The lame duck Legislature, before it leaves Lansing this week and ends its frenzy of malfeasance, may have already legalized harming children and families with lead-tainted drinking water.

It passed a bill prohibiting Michigan from adopting regulations more stringent than federal standards, which we assume would apply here. But the governor hasn’t signed it yet. He has vetoed similar legislation in the past, and it seems irrational and improbable that he would sign a law again connecting his name and Flint.

And the legislation includes an out. Michigan can protect its citizens better than other states if regulators establish a “clear and convincing need to adopt the more stringent rule.”

There is no safe level for lead in drinking water. That, and the young, growing minds of Michigan’s future, is a clear and convincing need.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). December 22, 2018

NMU goes extra mile in awarding winter commencement degree.

Steven Donley didn’t plan to attend Northern Michigan University’s Dec. 15 commencement to receive his master’s degree in business administration, only so that two graduating seniors he supervises at the Best Buy in Marquette Township could enjoy the morning off to participate in the ceremony.

Upon hearing about his gesture, NMU administrators decided to bring graduation to him at the store the Thursday before commencement.

They surprised Donley by setting up an NMU backdrop, outfitting him in a cap and gown, conducting a master’s hooding ceremony and presenting him with a diploma.

“I wasn’t expecting this at all,” Donley said in a news release. “It makes me feel pretty special that they would go to this effort, but that’s the kind of support you get from Northern. I’m so glad I made the choice to enroll there.”

The store was an appropriate makeshift location for the festivities. When Donley presented his MBA portfolio to the NMU College of Business, it included a proposed marketing plan for Best Buy.

“At that point in time, I was just looking to learn more about my employer and see how I might advance in my career,” said Donley, who is a front-end supervisor overseeing customer service functions. “My plan focused mainly on the Best Buy corporate website and how it could be improved to be more competitive.

“For example, recommending other accessories to customers shopping online for TVs. I shared my plan with my supervisor and general manager, then told corporate about it and was invited to Best Buy headquarters last August to meet with the CEO and other executives.”

Donley’s colleagues helped to maintain the surprise. He was in a back room at the store when NMU President Fritz Erickson, College of Business Interim Dean Carol Johnson and professor Gary Brunswick arrived in their academic regalia. Donley emerged from the room in response to a ruse request for customer assistance and was pleasantly surprised to discover the real reason he was summoned.

Donley’s gesture to his co-workers is certainly admirable, but it’s really great to see the response NMU staff had after hearing about it. We were glad to hear this story, and we would like to commend both Donley and the NMU administrators. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.

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Traverse City Record. December 22, 2018

Laughlin retires, but his culinary legacy lives on.

Great Lakes Culinary Institute director Fred Laughlin retired this month. He took over Northwestern Michigan College’s culinary program in 1992 and led it through the end of 2018.

His leadership will be missed — but his legacy will live on as he enjoys retirement.

Laughlin built NMC’s program into a hospitality industry powerhouse that today has 125 students enrolled in its associate degree and certificate programs. That’s a long way from the 15 students who were enrolled in NMC’s hospitality program before his arrival.

The school today offers hands-on training, hard work through example and a commitment to treating students like family.

Students get much of that hands-on training in four training kitchens and the 90-seat Lobdell’s teaching restaurant. Those facilities are at the college’s Great Lakes campus, also home to NMC’s Great Lakes Maritime Academy. Laughlin said the move to the new facility in 2004 was a vital turning point for the culinary program.

The Great Lakes Culinary Institute is one of only a small number of colleges accredited by the American Culinary Foundation, the premier professional chef’s organization of North America.

Graduates of the institute have taken the skills they learned from Laughlin and his crew and spread out across Traverse City, northwest Lower Michigan, the entire state and beyond. Laughlin’s influence shows up on tables in establishments of all shapes and sizes, where it delights diners with fresh and exciting flavors.

“I think a cornerstone of any industry is a strong, qualified workforce,” said Laughlin.

Laughlin came to Traverse City after establishing his culinary roots at a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado; teaching history at a high school in Maine; and working as chef instructor at Paul Smith’s College near Lake Placid, New York.

Laughlin helped teach hundreds of students interested turning basic ingredients into finished meals. He helped them become skilled chefs.

The institute and its graduates certainly have contributed to Traverse City’s growing reputation as a foodie town. Kitchen creativity helps build strong restaurants.

“Traverse City is constantly on the food map,” Laughlin said. “We have extremely talented chefs in the area, breweries, wineries, distilleries. Restaurants in Traverse City can hold their own with any anywhere.”

Laughlin’s 26 years of teaching in NMC kitchens helped nurture Traverse City’s extraordinary food scene.

The Great Lakes Culinary Institute is a pillar of local food culture. It will continue to educate chefs.

But Laughlin’s decades-long efforts will not be forgotten.

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