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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

October 8, 2018

The Detroit News. October 3, 2018

Water safety must be top priority

The state of Michigan has taken several proactive steps this week to address the safety of its water — and waterways. In a state so dependent on the Great Lakes, this is especially important.

After the bungling of the Flint water crisis, state and federal officials learned the huge ramifications of the government not doing enough to protect its citizens.

Any potential environmental risk must be taken extremely seriously, and dealt with in a timely fashion.

Reports of the chemical contaminant PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) around Michigan have recently sparked concern. So it’s good that Gov. Rick Snyder is making sure the state is ready to address the problem.

On Tuesday, Snyder ordered state and local agencies to put together a readiness plan for when contamination is discovered, as a precaution and a supplement to other action already underway.

The new Michigan PFAS Action Response Team will “work diligently to help communities respond to PFAS contamination that threatens public health and safety,” according to a statement from Snyder.

“Michigan is leading the nation in addressing this emerging contaminant,” Snyder said. Under this directive, Michigan will have a readiness plan in place to ensure a timely and successful response to PFAS threats.”

PFAS, chemicals used in manufacturing, firefighting and household supplies, made headlines earlier this summer after several Kalamazoo-area communities had high levels of the chemicals in the water supply. The level found there was more than 20 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s health recommendation.

The state immediately stepped in and told residents to move to bottled water until a solution could be found.

The Detroit News has reported that Michigan has 35 contamination sites, including Lake St. Clair and the Clinton River in Macomb County.

The directive will ensure that the Department of Health and Human Services will work with state emergency management coordinators and local public health department directors to develop the readiness plan.

Similarly, the federal government is getting more involved. The EPA plans to hold a roundtable in Kalamazoo on Friday with state and local leaders on PFAS contamination in drinking water. Members of the Michigan congressional delegation plan to attend.

And news Wednesday that Canadian oil company Enbridge has said it will pay for construction of a roughly four-mile tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac should alleviate long held concerns about the reliability and safety of its Line 5 pipeline.

The deal would “provide permanent protection for our Great Lakes,” said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether.

Negotiations are still ongoing, but Enbridge has made an initial agreement with Snyder’s administration.

These are both positive developments that should help avoid health disasters for Michiganians for years to come.

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Times Herald(Port Huron). October 4, 2018

Legalizing pot comes with costs

Most forecasters expect a majority of voters to say yes to Proposal 1 on the November ballot.

Like Eric Lupher, we wish voters would stop to think about the consequences first.

Lupher is president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, an independent, non-partisan that has worked to improve Michigan government since 1916. The Citizens Research Council does not take positions on ballot issues, but it does warn that Proposal 1 will not be without costs.

“Although Proposal 1 is couched in individual liberty, Michigan voters also should consider the social consequences of this proposal,” Lupher said. “Like alcohol and tobacco usage, greater accessibility of marijuana will create new costs for public safety and criminal justice, public health, and mental health providers.”

If Proposal 1 passes, Michigan would become the 10th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults.

The state would collect its 6 percent sales tax on marijuana and a new 10 percent excise tax. Some estimates peg annual tax revenues at $135 million. The first problem with the estimate is that, as other states now know, pot sellers and buyers have no compunctions about operating outside the law. A 16 percent tax bite means underground sales will continue.

Second, none of that $135 million is earmarked for dealing with the problems legalization will cause, ranging from physical and mental health affects to increased drugged driving.

And as we’ve seen with ostensible medical marijuana, the marijuana black market will persist with all its negative effects, including the robberies, kidnaps and murders that have shaken Blue Water Area communities in the decade since medical marijuana was approved by voters. Illicit drug dealers will continue to be illicit drug dealers, and they play a more dangerous game than your corner beer store.

That money will go into the state’s general fund, along with savings from the Department of Corrections, law enforcement and the courts. The number of annual arrests, the CRC says, for marijuana possession exceeds those for all violent crimes combined. Research suggests there are racial and socioeconomic disparities in arrest rates as well; legalizing marijuana would make the criminal justice system more fair for minorities and the disadvantaged.

Marijuana use and possession would continue to be illegal under federal law, and employers would still be allowed to prohibit marijuana use by their employers. Recent federal court decisions, though, cloud those issues. Some federal judges, for instance, have upheld firings for failed drug tests while others have not.

Proposal 1 probably will pass in November. That does not mean it should.

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Petoskey News-Review. October 5, 2018

Teen vaping presents some concerning statistics to inhale

Even as statistics show fewer U.S. teens smoking cigarettes than in decades past, public health officials in Northern Michigan and elsewhere are raising red flags about the interest some youth are showing in another method of nicotine ingestion.

Their chosen activity, vaping, involves use of a hand-held device to convert liquid products — often containing the addictive stimulant nicotine along with an array of flavorings — into an inhalable aerosol form. Vaping devices — sometimes referred to as e-cigarettes — vary widely in appearance, with some bearing resemblances to traditional cigarettes, pens or computer flash drives.

Some area school and health officials noted concerns associated with the vaping trend among youth for a News-Review story last spring. Days later, vaping was the focus at a Petoskey forum event, where educators and public health and law enforcement representatives pointed out some potential health risks and the relative ease by which the activity can be concealed.

Based on the details shared at those points, along with recently released results from a local student survey which covered vaping, we hope teens and their parents take the alarm being raised to heart.

The survey, administered annually to students in grades 7, 9 and 11 in school districts around Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties, for years has asked participants about their use histories with substances such as tobacco, alcohol and marijuana and added vaping to the mix for the first time in 2017-18. SAFE in Northern Michigan — a collaboration of community leaders in sectors such as health, police, education, faith-based, business, parents and health care — announced findings from the 2017-18 survey in September.

Data showed that during the 30-day time frame leading up to the survey, 23.7 percent of Antrim County high-school youths had vaped, with 24.7 percent of those in Emmet County and 35.2 percent in Charlevoix County noting that they had done so. With federal law setting a minimum age of 18 to purchase vaping products, the survey found that it’s common for teens to borrow the devices from someone older.

Susan Pulaski, who serves as SAFE project coordinator and also as community health coordinator for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, said she found the share of students who’d vaped to be “very high” and those statistics “really concerning.”

Nationally, in 2017 survey findings reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 11.7 percent of U.S. high-school students reported that they’d used e-cigarettes in the 30-days prior to being surveyed.

As vaping products became more common in the marketplace during the past decade or so, advocates touted several perceived advantages of e-cigarettes as compared to traditional smoking, such as vaping’s odorless nature, the absence of secondhand smoke associated with it and perhaps an opportunity for cigarette smokers to abandon that habit by gradually weaning themselves away from nicotine. School and health officials have noted that students may find the wide range of flavors for “vape juice” appealing, along with “tricks” — the practice of exhaling vapor into certain patterns or designs such as the “dragon.”

Earlier this year, though, Health Department of Northwest Michigan medical director Dr. Joshua Meyerson disputed some of the harm-reduction cases made for vaping, and noted concerns about the youth-oriented approaches used to market some of the associated products.

“That’s been the ploy of manufacturers,” Meyerson told the News-Review. “They are marketing them that way and marketing more toward our youth and younger population, but they are not safe. Nicotine is very highly addictive, it (nicotine) can be harmful to developing brains especially in our youth as they are still maturing. Their neurological system is still maturing and nicotine can cause alterations in that.”

Meyerson, who has a medical background in pediatrics, also noted that various vaping products contain other constituents and known liquid carcinogens, volatile organic compounds and other things that should not be inhaled.

Locally, we see signs that school and health officials are taking the vaping trend among youth with an appropriate level of seriousness. From the standpoint of school discipline, middle- and high-school students in the Petoskey district face possible suspensions for their first offense if caught vaping. In addition to last spring’s forum aimed at building awareness among parents and other community members, other educational efforts are in the works. Pulaski said SAFE will consider the recent survey findings as it works to develop messages about the issue for youth and share them through a mix of media.

We hope parents also take time to educate themselves about the vaping trend, and look for ways to engage their teens in meaningful conversations about the issue. When parents pursue such dialogue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of U.S. Surgeon General encourage them to take steps such as learning the facts, being patient and ready to listen, finding the right moment to start the conversation and being prepared to answer any questions from a teen on the topic. A tip sheet for parents and further details are available online at e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov.

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The Mining Journal. October 3, 2018

Creative conversations can stir economy

There are many ways Marquette can set itself apart and promote the area to the rest of the world.

There is, of course, its remote outdoor beauty, with Lake Superior, rugged terrain and wilderness areas concentrated in the region.

The city of Marquette has many buildings of architectural interest, such as the old City Hall, the former orphanage that now is Grandview Marquette and St. Peter Cathedral.

The city also is home to Northern Michigan University.

However, those are extrinsic things of interest. Marquette can distinguish itself further by focusing on the intrinsic things that make it a special place to live.

One of these ways is fostering local creative communities so they have a place to thrive and grow.

The “Seat at the Table” series is a good start.

The series brings together local creative community volunteers of different artistic disciplines to the Ampersand Coworking Space, a spot that recently opened along West Washington Street. The events are spearheaded by Evolve MQT, which operates with the Marquette Chamber of Commerce to promote economic growth for the creative class.

Participants share with each other their successes and challenges. For example, musicians Dylan Trost and Walt Lindala talked about their experiences at a recent Seat at the Table gathering. During that session, Trost said he is supported when surrounded by other artists who are dong what they like to do.

Like-minded individuals, whether it be in the arts, business, sports or other arena, can foster each other since they have common interests and experiences. Their discussions likely are to be much fruitful than if they speaking with, say, members of a government commission or civic group.

They might try to understand the creative community, but they don’t have the shared experiences.

Long-term goals for Evolve MQT include gathering information to help it better understand the needs of the creative community and its economy.

The local economy, after all, has multiple components, and art should be one of those components — through art galleries, public sculptures and concerts at places such as the Peter White Public Library, Kaufman Auditorium and the Presque Isle Bandshell.

Practicing their art, of course, will benefit the artists creatively, but if they can find ways to make more money with their passions, that will stir the economy. If their art brings in people from in and around the region, that will bring in dollars to the community as a whole as well.

It’s an aesthetic thing too. As a tourist, would you rather sit outside and eat lunch in a blah downtown, or one where you can see flower planters or a colorful mural on the side of a building, and listen to street musicians?

Most people would find the latter scenario the more enriching of the two.

Art makes a community more vibrant, and if it can boost the economy, even better.

That’s why we want to see the Seat at the Table conversations continue. Everyone benefits.

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