I would like to respond to Robert Downes comments regarding Proposal 4 (Random Thoughts, Oct. 17). I appreciate Mr. Downes giving both sides of the I argument, but I would like to clarify the position in favor of Proposal 4.
I am concerned with his statement: ... Hollywood bookkeeping that will surely squirrel the funds down a drainhole in the states hospitals and health industry. Proposal 4 does provide legislative and public oversight of how the tobacco settlement funds are spent. Proposal 4 requires the Auditor General to conduct an annual accountability report to ensure that funding allocated by the Healthy Michigan Amendment is spent as intended. By doing the audit, taxpayers will know that special interest groups did not raid the funds, and the funds in fact went to health care and smoking prevention as promised.
Im not sure exactly what Mr. Downes means by Hollywood bookkeeping, but it is important to remember that our hospitals in northern Michigan are not-for-profit organizations with a mission to improve the health of the communities they serve. This means that any excess revenue is put back into serving the health needs of the community. This excess revenue or margin is less than two percent for northern Michigan hospitals on average. In addition to operating under very slim margins, northern Michigan hospitals provided over $32 million in charity and uncompensated care in 2000. Our local hospitals are governed by a volunteer board of community members who are committed to serve as stewards of good health. Is Mr. Downes suggesting that our own community members cannot be trusted with spending tobacco settlement funds on smoking prevention, cessation and treatment programs to improve the health of our friends and neighbors in northern Michigan? If so, thats an unfair characterization.
Vote YES on Proposal 4. Its only right!
Elizabeth Gertz Executive
Director, North Central Council
Michigan Health & Hospital Assoc.
Say no to Proposal 4
Recently our government class held the first mock election for the concerning issues which will be voted on, on November 5th. When voting, we realized that Proposal 02-4 did not say anything about taking away the Merit Scholarship from students who have passed the MEAP test.
Currently the ballot states how the money will go towards nonprofit hospitals, licensed nursing homes, licensed hospices, school-linked health centers, to fund programs to reduce tobacco use and to the elder Prescription Drug Program.
We really feel this is important to our state, and the idea of giving money to people with cancer is a wonderful idea. However, there are many holes in how this proposal is currently worded. It does not state how the students will be reimbursed for the Merit Scholarship, if this proposal is passed.
If you had not heard anything about Proposal 02-4 before you voted on November 5, how would you vote? You would most likely vote to help cancer patients, correct? So would we. However, you did not know that you are taking away $2,500 from high school students who are relying on this money to help fund their college educations.
We are sure many, if not all, students who have already passed this standardized test, would join us in saying please vote NO on Proposal 02-4 until this proposal gives an alternative source for the Merit Scholarship.
Elicia Davis, Christine Kennett
Union City High Union City, MI
Recently, a group of concerned citizens and county officials who worked hard to ensure the protection of the wetlands of Antrim County, received a huge blow as the Antrim County Board of Commissioners voted to rescind the Antrim County Wetlands Protection Ordinance.
The Wetlands Ordinance, which was originally adopted in December of 2001, has been hailed as precedent-setting among the environmental community and has earned the attention and respect of citizens throughout Michigan.
Wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate. According to the EPA, more than half of all of the wetlands of the lower 48 states have been destroyed. Wetlands play a critical role in regulating the movement of water within watersheds, as well as in the global water cycle. They are crucial in controlling floods and fish stocks, and filtering impurities out of our drinking water. They serve as habitat for countless species of plants and wildlife and are absolutely imperative for a healthy environment.
At issue here are 37 acres of wetlands in Antrim County at the Elk Rapids Preserve, which were filled by developers before proper permits were obtained. This was the result of the DEQ failing to enforce environmental protection laws and adhere to the Clean Water Act. The developers are now attempting to obtain the proper permits, however the damage has already been done. A total restoration of the wetlands is the only acceptable solution. The wetlands are currently under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Monica Evans Traverse Sierra Club
Vote for open space
Peninsula Townships Proposal 2 (PDR), a millage for open space, farmland, and view preservation, stands out among government programs. It stands out because it works and because it makes a difference to the Old Mission Peninsulas future. Everyone benefits from this fair and voluntary resolution to one of the biggest problems surrounding growth and development in our region... how to retain the character of our community without infringing on the property rights of landowners.
Peninsula Townships current easement program has exceeded all expectations to protect farmland and acres preserved. The Township has lost only one farm to development since the programs inception in 1994.
The community benefits from PDR are numerous. The benefit of reduced traffic alone is tremendous. MDOT tells us that each new house brings over 10 additional car trips each day from occupants and service people. The 600-800 houses current zoning would allow on the acreage means 6,000 - 8,000 additional trips each day. And, if rezoning occurred on these farms as it is in Bear Creek and Elmwood townships, the same acres could easily bring 30,000-40,000 trips each day! Additionally, by retaining the scenic beauty, we also affect our quality of life while keeping our home values strong.
Benefits to farming and farmers are also significant. Land is appraised at its value for farm use only, and again at its value for development. PDR pays the farmer the difference between the two. When we do this, farmers can keep farming and even buy new farms which may have been developed, and the land is preserved forever.
Further, PDR is not a subsidy. Unlike a subsidy, a temporary arrangement where a farmer receives government support for one season for a crop, PDR is a fair business transaction. The farmer gives up something concrete (the development rights to the farmland) for fair, appraised compensation. The effect is permanent. The land does not change back to the original state after the payments are completed.
To the average property owner in the Township, the cost of the millage increase for this proposal is approximately $130. A worthwhile investment, and a cost that can be written off your Federal income taxes. If we fail to pass this proposal, studies indicate we will likely pay more in future taxes to fund the cost of added services. To calculate your own exact tax cost, visit our web site at www.oldmission.com/pdr. Remember, a Yes vote on Peninsula Townships Proposal 2 replaces the current tax with the new tax, totaling 2.0 mills.
We are again on the verge of losing farms as we did in the past. We can choose to pay a relatively small amount now to keep this community unique, or we can wait and watch and loose the things which define the wonderful and rare qualities of our community.
Vote Yes for PDR! It works.
John Wunsch Mission Peninsula
We need BATA
On November 5, the Bay Area Transportation Authority asks voters to support a millage increase. BATA would use the new funds to extend fixed-route bus service into the rural areas of Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties. It would also start planning to convert buses from diesel fuel to cleaner and quieter hybrid-electric power. These benefits would cost the average homeowner about $1 a month more than today. This is a clear opportunity to prepare for a vibrant and prosperous future for the Grand Traverse region. Why? Because BATA provides more than bus rides. It provides access to opportunity. For many area residents the young and the elderly, people with disabilities, and those without cars BATA allows them to fully live their lives. BATA takes riders to the door of economic and social opportunity. They ride to school or work, to the doctor or the store, to the house of a friend or family member. BATAs role will grow more vital in coming years. Michigans senior citizen population, for instance, will increase more than 50 percent by 2025, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. BATA will allow the elderly to remain active, independent members of our communities. And, as thousands more people make northern Michigan home, excellent transit will help tame congestion and curb sprawl. BATA also is a sometimes-overlooked economic engine. Most people riding transit either are going somewhere to make money or going somewhere to spend it. Lastly, BATA saves tax dollars. Just like investing in a good home pays dividends, so does investing in BATA. The regions residents have a choice: Spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build new and wider roads or provide money-saving transportation choices, including options for walking, biking, riding transit, and making shorter car trips. On November 5, please make a good choice for our region.
Michigan Land Use Institute