Lansing State Journal. July 5, 2018

East Lansing needs income tax, vote yes on August 7

East Lansing's City Council is going back to voters August 7 for another try at adopting a city income tax. This time, the proposal has a finite timeline and specific purposes.

If passed, the tax would provide an additional $5 million per year to the city to be used toward road and sidewalk improvements, police and fire budgets and helping offset pension and retiree health care costs.

East Lansing sorely needs this added revenue.

The city currently operates on a $140 million annual budget; however the city is currently underfunded for nearly $200 million in total pension and retiree health care liabilities - an amount that must be chipped away year after year.

And with the challenge of having a significant chunk of your city owned by Michigan State University, East Lansing must find alternative ways to generate tax revenue from those who use the city's amenities but currently do not pay for them.

There are 22 cities in Michigan that levy an income tax from Detroit to Grand Rapids and right here in Lansing.

The August 7 ballot proposal is similar, yet also includes a new 12-year designation to help put fears at ease about adopting an income tax in perpetuity.

Money generated from the East Lansing income tax would be used specifically to address pension liabilities (60, police and fire needs (20%) and infrastructure including streets and sidewalks (20%) - similar to what other cities are already doing.

Last November, the city council proposed a 1% income tax for residents and 0.5% income tax for non-residents who work in East Lansing, along with a decrease in property taxes in an attempt to raise revenue while more equally distributing the tax burden. That proposal was rejected by 53% of city voters.

Former MSU President Lou Anna Simon fought the earlier proposal, even offering $20 million in lieu of taxes to prevent a vote on the issue. The deal ultimately did not come to fruition.

With Simon gone and Interim President John Engler not taking a position as of yet, it could be more likely to pass. And a city-commissioned survey conducted by Lansing-based firm Epic MRA found 51-58% of respondents are generally be in favor of an income tax.

East Lansing voters, your city needs this additional revenue. Vote yes for the income tax proposal.

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Times Herald (Port Huron). July 5, 2018

Lead test results are worrying

We hope the St. Clair County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will tell us more about the lead testing in the neighborhoods near Mueller Brass in Port Huron.

What they've told us already is devastating enough. The DEQ, in its ongoing testing of air and soil around the plant, has found yards contaminated with lead levels orders of magnitude higher than what is considered safe. The health department, after blood tests of more than 700 people in the area found 5 percent whose burden exceeded the 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood action level. Some carried as much as 50 micrograms.

Those 34 people have been notified of their test results and will be given more precise testing and treatment.

Those whose levels were below the action standard were not notified of their test results. We think that is unfortunate. Any reassurance that a family receives that it is safe and healthy would not be wasted.

But what we're curious about is the geography and history of the people whose tests found elevated levels. The DEQ has told the community that its most contaminated soil samples came from areas east and north of Mueller's factory. But it also has said that it is not entirely certain why airborne lead levels in the area have increased in recent months. In other words, it is not certain that Mueller Brass is the source of the contamination and, if it is, why it is showing up now.

Lead is used in some brass alloys, but smokestack lead is usually mitigated by simple and effective air pollution controls. But lead also comes from many other sources, which Michigan seems to be getting an unwanted education in. It is used in a variety of industrial processes, was once widely used in paints, had to be banned from gasoline, is often found in older plumbing, is used for things like fishing tackle and occurs naturally in some places.

That is why additional information about the test results could help neighbors better understand what is happening to them, their health, their futures and their real estate investments. Knowing who was contaminated, where their homes are, how old the victims and their homes are, and how long they've lived in the area can help them understand the risk and maybe better gauge where it is coming from.

Because maybe the lead is not coming from Mueller Brass. Or maybe not all of it is coming from Mueller.

And those are things everyone needs to know if the problem is going to be cleaned up. We're sure the DEQ, the health department and Mueller Brass are working to create as complete a picture of this problem as possible.

For those who live in the investigation, more information earlier can ease some of the fear and trauma.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). July 5, 2018

Report possible threats to help stop mass killings

The news last week that a gunman attacked journalists at a Maryland newspaper and killed five people was disconcerting to say the least. We know firsthand that people take things that are printed in a newspaper personally. We receive threats on occasion telling us if we run an item in the court report about them that there will be a price to pay. We don't create the issue that causes the item to appear in the court report, we just publish the result of the criminal activity. There is a simple answer to this problem for perpetrators and that is don't do the crime and we won't have to report on it.

The news last week that a gunman attacked journalists at a Maryland newspaper and killed five people was disconcerting to say the least. We know firsthand that people take things that are printed in a newspaper personally. We receive threats on occasion telling us if we run an item in the court report about them that there will be a price to pay. We don't create the issue that causes the item to appear in the court report, we just publish the result of the criminal activity. There is a simple answer to this problem for perpetrators and that is don't do the crime and we won't have to report on it.

The fact that it happened at a newspaper makes it more personal for us, but it is no worse than school shootings or shootings at a concert, a movie theater or any other venue. We need to have more emphasis put on mental health related issues in our country. We need to identify the problems that drive people to take these extreme measures before they actually commit the heinous act. More civility in our country is something we all need to work toward.

We encourage all people to pay attention to what is happening around them. If you hear someone make a threat toward a person or business, please contact authorities and let them determine if the threat is real or not. Better to err on the side of safety than find yourself saying after the fact that you didn't think the person was serious. We also want parents to talk with their kids to find out what is happening in schools so potential problems can be averted. You must be proactive in initiating the conversation with kids and ask them specific questions to see if they have concerns at school.

In some previous shootings, information was discovered that if reported and properly addressed could have stopped the tragedy from happening.

Let's all be proactive and try to prevent future events like the shooting in Maryland from happening.

Improve your situational awareness and reach out to get help for people who look like they are distressed and in need of help.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. July 1, 2018

Don't let reveling ruin our natural places

It's as simple as removing shoes when entering a friend's home, but for some reason throngs of visitors to the Grand Traverse region don't see fit to pick up after themselves.

Most who flock to northern Michigan's breathtaking natural places take thoughtful steps to "leave no trace" as they enjoy the outdoors, some even plying miles of beach and forest, picking up any bit of trash that crosses their path.

Yet left and right there is abundant evidence of those less committed to preserving our natural resources.

We've all seen it, the beachgoing family that leaves behind food wrappers and drink bottles or the sandbar revelers who set their empty cigarette butts and beer cans adrift. Those thousands of small piles of refuse discarded into our pristine natural areas adds up to one big threat.

Few could forget the mountain of garbage left behind by National Cherry Festival revelers a few years ago on West End Beach. Or the hundreds of cans, bottles, wrappers, cellphones and other detritus deposited on the Torch Lake sandbar following a massive Fourth of July party in 2015.

But those relatively infrequent massive dumps likely aren't as big a threat as the day-to-day dumping that adds up to a big trash problem.

Much more common are flippant nicks that threaten to doom our natural resources to slow death by 1,000 cuts. Behaviors like the 200 balloons ignorantly released into the air by children attending a summer camp near South Haven.

Probably more concerning than the balloon littering itself — an event that rained rubber refuse in our backyard — was the organizers' apparent ignorance of the detrimental lesson they conveyed to hundreds of children.

"We had no clue what's going on with the beachfront and the environment," said Abraham Frank, the camp's manager.

Unfortunately, that less-than-perceptive perception of the woes facing the Great Lakes isn't rare.

Researchers from Rhode Island Institute of Technology estimate a total of about 22 million pounds of new plastic trash makes its way into the Great Lakes each year. Lake Michigan is the worst impacted. Those studies indicate enough plastic bottles to fill about 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools are discarded into the lake that wraps its arms around the Grand Traverse region and provides the lifeblood for countless communities.

We have no hope of reversing those numbers if everyone isn't committed to setting positive examples for the next generation.

Because whether you're a tourist, native or anywhere between, we all have a stake in preserving this place we all so cherish.___