A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials
the Associated Press
Jan. 22, 2018
The Detroit News. January 18, 2018
Time's up for MSU's Lou Anna Simon
"Play it straight" is how President Lou Anna Simon says she advised her Michigan State University staff to handle allegations of sexual misconduct against a MSU physician. But Simon has not played it straight herself, choosing instead to pull a curtain over questions of culpability by university officials in the serial molestation of young girls and women at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar.
As such, Simon has lost credibility and the confidence of many MSU stakeholders. She should step down or be removed by the board of trustees.
Nassar's victims, already betrayed by a physician they trusted to ease their pain, should not be let down a second time by a university president more interested in shielding the school from legal liability than finding the truth.
The confluence this week of the heartbreaking testimony of 101 of Nassar's victims and a detailed report from The Detroit News blowing holes in MSU's claims of total ignorance of the doctor's wrongdoing raises the outrage level to a point that can no longer be ignored.
President Simon is not complicit in enabling Nassar's horrors — it's hard to know what she knew and when she knew it. But she should be held responsible for bottling up the investigation into who at MSU may be culpable in brushing aside complaints and allowing his abuses to continue.
The urgency of action on the part of MSU was driven home in the most poignant way this week, as Nassar's victims stood bravely in a Lansing courtroom and one after another shared their wrenching stories of abuse. Many said they tried to tell their parents, their coaches and trainers, other MSU doctors and even police, but were disbelieved, shamed, brushed off or bullied into silence.
The News' reporting identified 14 MSU staffers who in some fashion were made aware of the girls' complaints, but either did not act, or acted instead to protect Nassar.
The group includes Simon, who was briefed about a 2014 Title IX complaint against Nassar, but allowed him to keep seeing the patients referred to him by the MSU gymnastics program for another nearly two years. How many young women might have been spared had Simon suspended Nassar pending the outcome of the investigation?
That's one of the many questions Attorney General Bill Schuette should ask. But he seems curiously uninterested in determining who knew what and when inside the MSU administration and athletic and osteopathic medicine programs.
Schuette's indifference borders on dereliction of duty, the same charge he leveled against state workers who failed to act to protect citizens in the Flint water crisis. How is the Michigan State case different? And how does it differ from Penn State University, where a university president, vice president and athletic director were criminally convicted for not protecting boys from abuse on their campus by a former assistant football coach?
Schuette, who is running for governor, must step beyond any political calculations and do his job before he can make a legitimate claim to the next one he seeks.
Likewise, the elected members of the MSU board of trustees have not fulfilled the watchdog role voters entrusted to them, choosing instead to close ranks around Simon and the university administration and athletics program.
The elected board members failed miserably in meeting their responsibility to hold the administration accountable. Their names are: Brian Breslin, Joel Ferguson, Dianne Byrum, Melanie Foster, Dan Kelly, Brian Mosallam, Mitch Lyons and George Perles.
The trustees were not sent to MSU by voters to schmooze in fancy suites at football games. They have an oversight role, and have been too weak to fulfill it.
Both Simon and the board are complicit in fostering the canard that an outside attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, had done an independent investigation and found no evidence on the part of MSU officials of Nassar's criminal behavior. In reality, Fitzgerald was not hired to do a thorough investigation, and never did one. His contract with the university is to shield it from liability in the civil cases, not to expose its failures.
The pretense that Fitzgerald cleared MSU amounts to a cover-up.
This week we heard a volume of tragic stories from the victims of Nassar, some now raising families of their own. We have heard in court the damage his abuse has done to them. What we haven't heard is whether MSU could have done anything to protect them.
Answering that question starts with President Simon. Many of those who were alerted to the abuse, according to The News' reporting, are still on staff at MSU.
Simon has shown no indication she is willing to determine for herself if they had a chance to stop Nassar, but failed.
Simon should go voluntarily, and the board must install a new president committed to full transparency, one who can begin the process of restoring MSU's integrity and reputation.
The voices calling for Simon's resignation are growing, and include both the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Legislature, the MSU student newspaper and the hometown Lansing State Journal.
We add our voice.
For two decades MSU handed over innocent, trusting girls and young women to a sexual predator. There is growing evidence Nassar might have been stopped, had the early complaints raised by his victims been taken seriously.
Justice for those who suffered Nassar's assaults demands a full and unobstructed accounting from MSU.
Traverse City Record-Eagle. January 18, 2018
Build infrastructure to guide kayakers
Traverse City's move to build kayak access points along the Boardman River promises smoother sailing for a thriving recreation thoroughfare.
City commissioners this week supported a plan to designate an official river trail to connect the south end of Boardman Lake with the river mouth in Grand Traverse Bay.
The water trail, of course, already exists. It's called the Boardman River, and it was there long before the city that grew up around it.
Action at the city level will focus not on the river itself, but on access points — those tender slivers of nature that separate water from land — and signage to guide paddlers to those access points least likely to cause environmental harm. Commissioners should protect the river's banks by constructing that infrastructure.
They shouldn't leave the important decision of where to enter the water to the hundreds of paddlers who will shove their boats into the waterway this summer.
The city's best path forward is to establish, mark and maintain designated put-in and take-out spots for paddlers. Failure to do so could lead to spreading erosion in places where it could be difficult to repair.
If the city builds proper facilities for paddlers to put in their craft, some argue, more paddlers will flock to make use them. There is truth in that argument. But ignoring the growing influx of kayak traffic along the river won't make it go away.
Kayaks on the river in summer are as common as snowflakes in a blizzard. Paddle traffic has been increasing along the in-town portion of the river, partly because water lovers have discovered the short-commute joy of paddling through downtown, but also because several watercraft rental businesses have sprung up to support growing demand.
Michigan waters are open to the public. The public is finding increasing delight in paddling over the river and through the lake. Water traffic will continue building, with or without proper facilities to support the influx.
Rather than allow the crowd to decide where to launch, where to step, where to create muddy gateways between water and land, the city should offer a guiding hand and create official launch areas to concentrate the traffic where it will do the least harm to our natural resources.
Times Herald (Port Huron). January 17, 2018
Rush to cut taxes may have a cost
The law of unintended consequences could have unintended benefits for Michigan taxpayers. The Congress passed and the president signed the Republican tax reform bill, they accidentally gave the state of Michigan a $1.5 billion windfall by making more of Michiganders' income taxable.
When taxpayers fill out their Michigan income tax forms, they calculate the tax owed based on the number of exemptions claimed on their federal income taxes. But the GOP tax plan eliminates the personal exemption, effectively raising every Michigan filer's taxable income by $4,050.
But this is an election year, and state lawmakers were not going to raise taxes — even if they could blame them on someone else in Washington, D.C. Gov. Rick Snyder proposed a simple fix — instead of basing the number of exemptions on what taxpayers claim on the federal form, put the exemption check boxes on the state form and restore the personal exemption that way.
That is, by the way, Port Huron's city income tax form works. Exemptions are not linked to the number on the federal form.
But because it is an election year, that was not good enough for the Legislature. Lawmakers keep growing the personal exemption beyond the initial $4,050 problem. Competing proposals could have it grow to up to $5,000 by 2021 if the Senate gets its way or $4,800 if a House plan prevails. House Republicans have thrown in a $100 tax credit for senior citizens and another proposal would hand out a child care tax credit.
They are Republican plans but Democrats seem willing to go along.
They should. We should get to keep our money.
Except Lansing won't get to keep its other promises if it goes broke. We still haven't figured out where the $600 million in general fund dollars for road repairs is coming from. The federal tax cut windfall is probably the only one Lansing was going to see any time soon. Analysts don't expect much growth in state tax revenues.
All that makes giving up $300 million or more in tax cuts risky.
Snyder consistently has acted like one of those old-style Republicans who dislike fiscal irresponsibility even more than they dislike taxes. He has opposed and vetoed his party colleagues' spend-thrifty ways. That ended Wednesday, though, when lawmakers were able to overturn one of his vetoes for the first time, approving a tax break for car buyers that Snyder said the state couldn't afford.
Snyder said, "Changing the tax code without a plan to pay for it challenges the conservative fiscal responsibility of the past seven years." The consequences, he warned, could imperil the state's economic comeback.
The Holland Sentinel. January 13, 2018
Newspapers under threat from new tariff
The viability of local newspapers, including the one that you are reading now, is being challenged by an unnecessary tariff on the import of newsprint from Canada — the paper used to print this newspaper and others across Michigan.
Simply put, Michigan's newspapers cannot absorb the additional financial burden that this tax — based on a dubious complaint from a single paper mill — is sure to create.
The new import tax begins on Tuesday and will add almost 10 percent to the cost of newsprint for GateHouse Michigan, which publishes The Holland Sentinel, Ionia Sentinel-Standard, The Sturgis Journal, The Daily Reporter (Coldwater), The Daily Telegram (Adrian), The Monroe News, The Cheboygan Daily Tribune, The Evening News (Sault Ste. Marie) and dozens of weekly newspapers. In addition we are the printer for many more newspapers across the state.
The additional cost for newsprint will add up to millions of dollars for this company's Michigan operations alone.
If fully implemented, the resulting hardship could lead to the loss of thousands of jobs in the newspaper industry. We are at an important juncture right now, and our role of getting real news to you on a daily basis matters more than ever.
A credible news source that has a vested interest in community-based news and information is the bedrock to our principles as a free nation.
Michigan is home to more than 350 local newspapers and hundreds of related websites — many of which provide the only meaningful news coverage in small communities. We live here and work here and care about this place we call home.
We are local businesses. We are Michigan. We are you.
Readers rely on newspapers to provide credible information about what matters most to them — news about local people, local government, local happenings, local businesses and important public notices that can affect a community.
Newspapers and newspaper associations are uniting against newsprint tariffs. This is not only a print industry concern, but it also could ultimately affect other business segments in the U.S. that rely on paper products.
A free press is more important than ever, and newspapers have always been at the forefront of serving our communities. We remain steadfast in our commitment to doing so, and we could use your help to ensure that we can continue delivering papers to you.
Please help us protect the future of newspapers by contacting the Department of Commerce, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. Gary Peters or your local U.S. Congress representative and letting them know that you oppose the proposed newsprint trade tariff.
Here's a list of local representatives and senators on the national and state level and how to reach them:
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga
State Sen. Arlan Meekhof
State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker
State Rep. Daniela Garcia
State Rep. Jim Lilly
State Rep. Mary Whiteford