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 · Features · How a pedophile slipped through...
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How a pedophile slipped through the cracks

Anne Stanton - March 9th, 2009
How a pedophile slipped through the cracks
Anne Stanton 3/9/09

Last week, Northern Express reported on how a respite worker for the Northwest Child Guidance Center had sexually assaulted a number of boys before he was finally caught and convicted. Yet this guy was trouble—the police knew, the courts knew, and Child Protective Services knew. So how did he get hired? This article explores the answer.

What are the chances that another serial pedophile like Robert Becker could get a job with the local school district or a nonprofit in town?
Actually, pretty good.
That’s because a lot of schools and nonprofits still rely on the same kind of background check that failed in the case of Robert Becker, a serial pedophile who is now in prison for sexually assaulting a young teen boy six years ago and nearly killing a police officer. [See the complete story in last week’s issue: www.northernexpress.com.]
As reported last week, Becker had been hired as a respite worker by Northwest Michigan Child Protective Services. Over a period of one year to 18 months, he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy, while threatening to do the same to his two younger brothers if he ever told anyone. The victim finally confided in a counselor, leading to Becker’s conviction. The victim sued the successor to the Child Guidance Center alleging that Child Guidance failed to do an adequate background check. The case was settled out of court last fall for an undisclosed sum.
But it wasn’t only the Child Guidance Center that thought Becker’s record was “clean.” So did the Traverse City Area Public Schools and the Traverse Bay Area ISD, which had also employed Becker.

That’s because the standard background check isn’t fail-proof. Here’s what many schools and nonprofits do and why it’s not enough:
• Require that a volunteer self-report any arrests or convictions. Problem: People can and do lie.
• Consult the state and national sex offender registries. Problem: If a pedophile has only been accused of a sex crime, but never convicted, he won’t appear on the registry.
• Obtain an ICHAT report from the Michigan State Police. Problem: The report reflects convictions only. It does not contain any arrest reports that do not culminate with a conviction (unless it’s a current and open investigation).
• Check with the FBI for fingerprints to determine if there have been any arrests. Problem: Anyone whose arrest did not result in a conviction can file a petition with the court to have his or her fingerprint records or DNA information expunged from the public record.
The victim’s attorney, Blake Ringsmuth, contended that the Child Guidance Center should have also made the extra effort to check Becker’s record with local police and courts.
“We argued that this guy, Becker, had lived in Grand Traverse County all of his life, and all of his bad acts occurred right here. Even a passing inquiry to local agencies would have revealed a number of criminal activities, not the least of which was inappropriate contact with children,” he said.
“When we got involved in this case, all we did was file a FOIA with the Michigan State Police just like anyone else could. And we got reams of information, reams of criminal activity that the local police had on Becker. It was as simple as that. Boom! When the officials at Child Guidance were asked about it, they kind of shrugged as if to say, ‘Why would we do that?’”

A police report, of course, is not necessarily true as it may include unfounded allegations. And a person who is deemed innocent—or has never been charged—should not be treated in the same way as a convicted criminal, said Carol Stocking, the 86th District Court administrator, who oversees hundreds of cases a year.
“In this country, you are still innocent until proven guilty. Just because someone is charged, doesn’t make him a criminal. There’s a real danger in assuming that. I think we all know someone who’s been unfairly charged with a crime, but was later cleared,” she said.
Ringsmith countered that a pattern of sexual assault accusations against a child needs to be taken seriously even if there never has been a conviction. That’s because pedophiles typically target troubled youth, whose testimony is dubious to juries and police. In Becker’s case, it always came down to his word against the word of his victims—kids who had a history of lying or stealing or just plain getting into trouble.
“We’re not talking about the legal presumption of innocence to put someone in jail. We’re talking about whether to give someone like Becker a job that involves children. There is no way that should happen. Handing Becker a job as a respite worker is like giving him a seat at the buffet table.”

Getting a background check from Child Protective Services is free—the person whose background is getting checked must ask for it. Obtaining a police report is also easy and cheap and requires filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Michigan State Police. Anyone can do it. It might help to first contact the local police department to help with the wording or to provide case numbers.
Beyond filing an FOIA, it’s also easy and inexpensive to call the district court and circuit court to determine if charges have ever been filed against a particular person. The 13th Circuit Court records are online and free to access; the 86th District Court has a public terminal. Detailed records and transcripts, however, are expensive.
All this takes time and money, but the Becker case reflects the cost of not going the extra mile. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan routinely checks with local police and courts, believing that it must do everything it can to protect children.
If a nonprofit is truly ambitious about screening for pedophilia, there are also tests available. Previous screening tests were banned in Michigan because of civil rights challenges, but a new test—the Diana screen—is now available and can detect individuals with a sexual penchant for children. The screen is not perfect with a 50 percent false positive and the test can be beaten. But it’s still useful, said John Ulrich, a therapist who administers the test.
“Say you have 100 people who take it and 10 score as a potential pedophile. Let’s say, upon further investigation five were okay and five of them weren’t. If you didn’t do the Diana screen, you wouldn’t have caught any of them,” he said.
Each screening test would cost about $300 to administer and score—a big expense for small agencies with tight budgets, said Susan McQuaid, volunteer director for United Way.
Susan McQuaid, director of volunteers for the United Way, said her agency currently does not file FOIA requests with the local police or call the local courts. Instead it relies on the standard background check described above.
“But cases like this are frightening enough, we have to consider how to best protect our clients—not only children, but the elderly as well,” she said. “The United Way is here to recruit and connect to support volunteerism in Northern Michigan. Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done when you have to deal with judgment calls and background checks of sexual offenders.”
The family of the victim believes we need the muscle of law to protect children. The Garcia family of Traverse City is lobbying legislators for a new law—Michael’s Law—to require an arrest history be done on anyone who works closely with children.

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