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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

December 18, 2017

The Detroit News. December 13, 2017

Let’s move past prevailing wage

Along with the descent of winter, it’s definitely petition drive season in Michigan. Case in point: Two separate initiatives are warring over the future of the prevailing wage law. As we’ve argued for years, residents (and lawmakers) should throw their support behind repealing it.

Prevailing wage, which has been Michigan law since 1965, requires workers be paid union-rate wages and benefits on state-financed construction projects, even if they aren’t in a union. This drives up costs for these projects, thus negatively impacting taxpayers who pick up the inflated check.

The Protecting Michigan Taxpayers ballot committee, funded largely by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, has submitted more than 380,000 signatures for a repeal of the plan. The measure will head to the Legislature if approved by the Board of State Canvassers.

The counter-petition effort, the Construction Workers Fair Wage Act, seeks to preserve prevailing wage for state-funded construction projects. And several other groups are trying to convince lawmakers not to take up the repeal. The organizers want lawmakers to sign off on the competing measures going before voters next year, and let state residents decide the measure’s fate.

Gov. Rick Snyder has maintained his opposition to repealing prevailing wage, arguing that it could discourage interest in the skilled trades, which he has promoted, given the thousands of jobs going unfilled in Michigan.

Yet many of his Republican counterparts in the Legislature, including leadership, have voiced their support for repeal to ease the taxpayer burden and higher price tag for government projects. Legislators could do away with the law without Snyder’s signature by approving the repeal initiative when it reaches them, which would take only a simple majority.

If they don’t act within the 40-day window, the measure would go to the general election ballot in November 2018.

Jeff Wiggins, state director for ABC and head of the repeal committee, is pleased with the progress to toss prevailing wage.

“I’m glad to see the other side has as much confidence in us getting the votes as we do,” he said.

Union-supported contractor groups and other organizers for the counter petition have 180 days to collect more than 250,000 signatures.

Mike Jackson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, argues prevailing wage is basically a minimum wage for construction workers and that “lowering wages leads to lower-skilled workers and more mistakes.”

But Jarrett Skorup, policy analyst with the Mackinac Center, recently observed in our pages, “Michigan’s (prevailing wage) law is the most stringent in the nation, setting arbitrary — and often absurd — prices for schools, roads, parks, libraries, and other public construction projects.”

A study by the Anderson Economic Group found that from 2002 to 2012 the prevailing wage law cost taxpayers an average $224 million per year on construction projects for K-12 districts, community colleges and public universities.

That’s a lot of money that could go toward other schools and projects. The Legislature should repeal prevailing wage.

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The Mining Journal. December 13, 2017

Underpass debate drives attendance in township sessions

Local municipal meetings aren’t always packed.

In fact, they usually aren’t packed.

Residents sometimes can watch those meetings on TV, or read about them in The Mining Journal, but they don’t always attend them in person for various reasons: lack of interest in the subject matter, prior commitments, etc.

It was good to see the community’s involvement at a Dec. 5 Marquette Township Board meeting.

The topic was a proposed $2.5 million non-motorized underpass tunnel on U.S. 41, which would provide passage beneath five lanes of the highway, increase pedestrian safety and connectivity, and be a boost to the region’s economy and recreational opportunities.

About $2.4 million in conditional funding is available for the project, with fundraising efforts bringing about $80,000 in private donations so far.

Many people who attended the Dec. 5 meeting lamented the lack of safe areas for pedestrians, bicyclists and snowmobilers to cross the busy highway.

As most people know, walking, bicycling and snowmobiling are popular Upper Peninsula pursuits.

Terry Gottlieb, city of Marquette resident and president of the Noquemanon Trail Network, said the NTN pledged $10,000 for the project, noting the underpass would be good for local recreationists and safer for motorists driving over the underpass as well.

The show of support for the project impressed board Trustee Dave Wiegand. He said that judging from the number of people who said they’re behind the project, it indicated to him the underpass can be finished at no cost to Marquette Township.

Completing such an undertaking with so many benefits and not dipping into taxpayer dollars sounds like a good deal to us.

The township has a year to collect the remaining $125,000 for the underpass. If community support continues, we are confident that goal can be reached.

And people getting involved in local government undoubtedly will have contributed to that goal.

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Times Herald (Port Huron). December 13, 2017

WSGR is a good match for RESA

We can’t say we miss WSGR, the St. Clair County Community College radio station, but we’re hopeful that the St. Clair County Regional Educational Services Agency can return it to the airwaves. The college unplugged the station last week after 43 years on the air.

Sentimentality aside, it was the right thing for the college to do. The college ended its broadcast curriculum three years earlier but kept the radio station going as a sort of club. It was not, however, a club for college students. With little interest from students, community volunteers kept the signal going out the final months of the station’s life.

SC4 — and RESA’s vocational programs — need to focus on degrees and programs that lead to good jobs and good wages for its graduates. That means building on the programs that lead to good careers, as SC4 continues to do with its nursing and health services curriculums, and needs to drop things that no longer make sense.

We hate to wreck the illusion that your favorite radio disc jockey is sitting in a darkened studio, spinning vinyl records and picking songs just for you. WKRP in Cincinnati went off the air in 1982. Dr. Johnny Fever has been replaced by contractor who is probably living in another state and programming music for a dozen different stations around the country.

Jobs for TV and radio announcers have been in decline for decades. They are expected to fall another 11 percent in the next 10 years. On-air radio station employees, on average, are paid less than $30,000 a year. It is not a great career to aspire to.

Moreover, the station was costing the college money that could be put to better use elsewhere. Along with paying a station manager and spending for maintenance and technology upgrades, WSGR was not a good ongoing investment for the college. Unplugging it was a fiscally responsible decision. Its alumni and volunteers may reasonably lament its demise. Their nostalgia doesn’t justify its ongoing cost.

At RESA, though, the radio station is proposed to be a part of the technical education center’s digital media technology curriculum. The radio station would complement what students are learning about audio and video recording and editing, digital imaging, design, multimedia production and videography. In other words, it would be part of students’ educations in new media and a path to their futures in a new digital media landscape.

The transfer of the radio station’s license from the college to RESA is not a done deal. The Federal Communications Commission has to approve the exchange. RESA still has decisions to make about how the radio station will be put together and how it will operate.

Fans and alumni of WSGR should endorse the transfer and support RESA’s efforts to revive the station.

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Petoskey News-Review. December 15, 2017

Be safe on the roads this holiday season

The holiday season is in full swing and that means many things: Shopping, decorating, and gatherings with family and friends among many other activities.

Often these holiday gatherings might include enjoying an adult beverage.

We certainly can see the appeal of sipping a glass of wine with friends in front of a warm fireplace, or some “enhanced” egg nog with loved ones while singing Christmas carols around the living room piano, and, for many, a New Year’s celebration wouldn’t be complete without a toast with some bubbly at midnight.

With that in mind — we know it’s not a new message, but its one worth repeating — we want to remind everyone to simply be safe and smart when it comes to getting behind the wheel if you’ve indulged in some “holiday cheer.”

We know its a chorus you’ve probably heard as many times over the years around the holidays as “Jingle Bells,” but its a song that still needs to be sung.

Year-round, driving while intoxicated or impaired driving continue to be among the most common misdemeanor offenses we see in our weekly court roundups.

The Michigan State Police reported from 6 p.m. on Dec. 23 to 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 26, 2016 six people died in five crashes in Michigan. Two of those crashes involved alcohol. In the same report, state police reported that 11 people died in nine crashes on Michigan Road from 6 p.m. Dec. 30, 2016 to 11:59 p.m., Jan 2, 2017. At least four of those crashes involved alcohol.

According to the report, since 1972, on average, 13 people die on Michigan Roads for each of the three day periods surrounding both the Christmas and New Year holidays. (The report didn’t provide an average on how many of those are alcohol related).

On a more local level, another Michigan State Police report showed for all of 2016, there were 46 alcohol related crashes in Emmet County resulting in one fatality and 24 people being injured. In Charlevoix County, for all of 2016, 25 alcohol-related crashes were reported in 2016 resulting one death and nine people being injured.

While the human toll associated with these crashes is, of course the most important factor, there’s also all of the headaches that come with a drunken driving arrest and or conviction to consider as well.

With all that in mind, we simply want to encourage everyone to be safe on the roads this holiday season. No one wants to spend the a holiday in jail, in the hospital or making funeral arrangements.

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