Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · Signs of the Times
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Signs of the Times

Robert Downes - February 9th, 2009
Residents of Boyne City were sad to see their local newspaper go under two weeks ago. The Citizen-Journal ended its 128-year run with a two-sentence farewell on page three. Like, how lame can you get?
The Elk Rapids Town Meeting also bit the dust. Both papers were owned by Up North Publishing, which in turn, is owned by the Journal Register Company of Pennsylvania.
Such are the perils of corporate newspaper ownership.
A common practice for newspaper corporations is to buy up other papers with borrowed money. Then, the corporation hollows out the paper, replacing local reporters with wire copy and cutting employees and features to drive up profits. When the paper‘s bottom line looks rosy, the corporation sells the paper to another corporation, which starts the process all over again.
Sound familiar?
But the news-corps have finally stubbed their toes with this practice, and for some, the prognosis may be fatal. Many of these chains are insanely over their heads in debt at a time when auto and real estate ads have vanished, along with classifieds.
This isn‘t necessarily what has happened with the Citizen-Journal or the Town Meeting, which were small town weeklies. But it‘s certainly a trend for mainstream dailies, and you can see this dynamic at work at the Record-Eagle, which has dropped columnists covering business, dining, drama, the outdoors and book beats in recent months.
Fans of websites such as twitter.com/themediaisdying are gloating that these are the end-days of newspapers, which will be replaced by online bloggers, Twitter activists and the like. God help us.
Meanwhile, newspapers are hellbent on committing suicide with website schemes that are pursued with the delusional fervor of alchemists trying to turn lead into gold.
But fear not; one media critic who agrees that the web model for sustaining newspapers is “idiotic,“ claims that the press may be saved by adopting the iPod model.
If people are willing to pay .99 cents for an iPod song download, perhaps they will also pay for “iNews“ downloads from their local newspaper. The alternative would be getting shut out of the paper‘s website.
I hope that the iPod model gets more consideration by newspapers, because that may be the only way to pay for the reporters who cover city commission meetings, school boards, and the hijinx in Lansing.
P.S. There‘s hope for Boyne City: an independent publisher is considering a plan to revive the Citizen-Journal...

A Vision for Division
It was refreshing to see local bicycle activists touting the Grand Vision study as if it were Holy Writ at last week‘s Traverse City Commission meeting.
Here in TC, we‘ve grown accustomed to studies being undertaken at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars and then getting tossed when it‘s time to, say, build a roundabout in town, or upgrade a traffic artery.
But members of TART Trails and the Michigan Land Use Institute are militant in their support of the Grand Vision recommendations, which were crafted through the input of thousands of local residents.
They‘d like to see Division Street remade as a safer, slower, pedestrian-and-bicycle-friendly route. Currently, the MDOT has plans to simply “mill and fill“ the road‘s surface this summer and then “maybe“ upgrade Division five years from now.
That‘s not good enough for backers of the Grand Vision. Division Street needs to stop “dividing“ our town with a dangerous highway that‘s virtually impossible for pedestrians or cyclists to cross (not to mention the hell of thousands of employees trying to drive out of Munson or Building 50 each day). Perhaps we can use the recommendations of the Grand Vision to get MDOT behind a plan to transform Division Street into an asset for Traverse City, rather than an ongoing disaster.

Word has it there‘s a trend for homeless people to take up residence in abandoned homes. Some banks are even turning a blind eye to the squatters because, in some cases, they‘re fixing up foreclosed homes and keeping them from being vandalized.
And who knows? Perhaps today‘s squatter will be tomorrow‘s home-buyer. It sure beats living in your car.
While the bright guys in Washington try to figure a way out of the mortgage crisis, it could be the problem will eventually work its way out through some sort of urban homesteading scheme.
The concept of urban homesteading is as old as Rome, but the term came about in the 1970s when squatters started fixing up hundreds of abandoned houses in the ruined inner cities of Detroit, L.A., and New York.
“Here in New York City, the government took over tens of thousands of buildings for unpaid taxes, and then simply let them sit, for decades,“ writes journalist Barry Bearak in an article on inner city homesteading. “The idea behind homesteading is not seizing another’s property, but putting unused property to use in a housing emergency.“
Needless to say, not everyone is happy with the idea of squatters taking over foreclosed homes. A press release from a PR group in southern California warns that you‘d better start “playing it safe“ around empty houses.
“These unoccupied homes have created a hotbed for vagrants, criminal activity and opportunists,“ warns real estate agent Rafael Dagnesses. “Whether happening upon a dangerous occupant, weapons and/or drugs, foreclosures can create innumerable hazards to the health and well-being of entire neighborhoods. Danger can lurk anywhere, not only in the roughest of neighborhoods.“
There‘s a deep irony here, because California is the state which was energized by the homeless migrants of the 1930s Dustbowl and Depression, as depicted in The Grapes of Wrath.
In that book, poor, homeless persons from Oklahoma and Kansas were also depicted as being “dangerous“ vagrants inclined toward criminal activity and opportunism.
Who knows? Perhaps the author of this warning had parents or grandparents who were among those desperate migrants.
So, let‘s not succumb to kneejerk reactions that our fellow Americans are “dangerous“ simply because they‘ve hit a patch of hard luck. That poor family squatting in an abandoned home could be where you‘re at someday too.

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