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 · The Volvo Volcano
. . . .

The Volvo Volcano

Anne Stanton - January 3rd, 2011
The Volvo Volcano: Couple watches their car go up in
flames, but gets no sympathy from Volvo
By Anne Stanton
On the warm fall evening of September 21, James Weston Lynne and
Jamaica Lynne Weston were driving on East Silver Lake Road to a
meeting in their 1996 850 Volvo wagon.
“I was driving and Jamaica looked over, and saw thick brown smoke
coming up between my legs. Within the next 10 seconds, we pulled over
to the side of the road, and we jumped out of the car,” James said.
The couple leaped out of the car and watched as the flames engulfed
the seats and began shooting out of the open sunroof like a fiery
volcano. James, who had grabbed his cell phone, started taking photos
and video of the fiery spectacle.
To their amazement, the empty and burning car began driving backward
up a hill like a beheaded chicken. James thinks the fire tripped the
starter wiring, causing the starter motor to electrically power the
car. He knew he didn’t leave it running because the key was in his
pocket. Within about 15 minutes the car was a burned out metal hulk.
“It was just sort of unbelievable. All we could say was it was a scene
out of a movie. How surreal and ironic that we are aspiring filmmakers
and this terrible movie was taking place in front of us. We were
awestruck in disbelief because it was so bizarre,” James said.

There’s a good chance the wire on the seat heaters shorted out and
started the fire since Volvo issued a recall for that model and year
in 2003, James said.
But a company spokesman, Don Johnston, said Volvo will not give the
couple any money to replace the car, worth about $2,500. The company’s
responsibility ended with the recall that was “launched” in January of
“They were the fifth owner of the car and they should have done some
research to see if the car had any recalls. I’m not sure where our
responsibility ends when we do everything the way we’re supposed to
do,” said Johnston, adding that the company doesn’t reimburse any car
owner that has failed to get a recall done.
Johnston said the couple was at fault for failing to check with the
dealer or the National Highway Safety Administration to see if there
had been recalls issued on their model and year. Additionally, Carfax
showed there were four prior owners and the car had been in three
accidents before the fire. Johnston said the couple had never taken
the car to a Volvo dealer which could have alerted them about the
“A car, being a very complicated piece of machinery, is not a casual
purchase. … Especially today with all the Internet has to offer, it’s
not hard to find information about products,” he explained.
Johnston also said there is no conclusive proof that the heated seats
caused the fire, pointing to other items found by an
inspector—clothes, a water bottle, a glass jar, books, magazines, and
“an electronic device” in the back seat. With more than 216,000 miles
on the car, there might have been something stuck under the front seat
that spontaneously burst into flames, Johnston said. The inspector
cited nothing under the seat in his report.

The couple wishes that Volvo had made more of an effort to get the
word out. The company only did one mailing on the recall in December
of 2003, according to Johnston.
“For them to blame us seems really harsh. We didn’t do anything to
cause this,” said Jamaica.
James said he had always believed that Volvo stood for safety and for
customer satisfaction. He now thinks it should take responsibility for
its faulty product and compensate them $2,500 for the car. They hired
an attorney to write Volvo a letter to plead their case.
James said that they did take the car twice to Traverse Motors, a
Volvo dealer, for an unscheduled oil change, but did not hear of the
recall. Perhaps Volvo dealers should routinely tell Volvo owners of
recalls, even if the car is in only for an oil change, he suggested.
Although it’s true the car had been in previous accidents, they were
minor. And there was nothing under the seat, and certainly nothing
flammable. They didn’t use the seat heaters because they never worked.
 “We love seat warmers and wished they did work.”
The couple didn’t have collision insurance on the car; even if they
had, it’s doubtful whether an insurance company would replace it
because the recall defect had not been fixed, said Joe Sarafa, a
Traverse City attorney.
“If there is a recall that wasn’t performed, and it’s the cause of an
accident, many insurance companies will deny the claim. The reality is
they want you to sue the manufacturer and leave them out of it,”
Sarafa said.
To make matters worse, the couple didn’t realize the tow company would
charge them for storing their wrecked vehicle. By the time they went
to retrieve it after a week, the tow company said they owed $500 for
storage and the clerk was rude. The bill was marked down when the
couple signed over the car, Jamaica said.

The couple, which owns a fledgling film production company, lacks the
money to replace the car and is now getting around Traverse City on a
rusty tandem bicycle. They philosophically like the idea of biking
because it’s good for them and the environment, but they had the
option of a car when towing film equipment.
Sue Ferrick of Pennsylvania triggered the Volvo 850 recall after
Action News did a report of her 1997 wagon going up in flames in
December of 2002. According to comments on an Internet website, she
barely made it out of the car alive.
Ferrick said she signed an agreement to not speak to the media after
she accepted a replacement car from Volvo. Before that point, Ferrick
was very outspoken in an Action News report, which pressured Volvo to
issue a recall.
That recall of 1996 and 1997 models has likely saved cars and lives,
but it didn’t help John Simkiss, also of Pennsylvania. He had a 1994
Volvo 850, which burned up the same month and year as Ferrick’s car—in
December of 2002. He had started the car to warm it up in the
driveway, and then returned inside the house to get something.
“On the way out, I ran into my wife who had just come home. The horn
went off in our car. We went outside to see what was going on, and saw
the car was on fire. I had left it running, wipers, defrost, front and
back on. I turned the corner, and the car was engulfed in flames. It
was the most shocking thing I saw in my life,” he said.
“It went from being a car to being an inferno in just a few minutes.
In just 30 seconds it was completely engulfed in flames. It was
shooting 40 feet into the air. It burned our trees, the back of the
Infinity that was next to it. Serial explosions as the tires popped.
It was snowing so hard, big giant flakes coming down, and that’s the
reason, I think, the house didn’t catch on fire. All my neighbors came
to watch the car burn and prayed it wouldn’t catch it (the home) on
The company couldn’t blame Simkiss for not getting the car fixed under
a recall. Instead, the company contended there was only 50% certainty
that the seat heater caused the fire. “Maybe it was a forest fire
nearby that started it or someone smoking in the car,” Simkiss said

Simkiss was reimbursed $4,000 by his insurance company for half the
value of the car. His insurance company, in turn, sued Volvo. “The
manufacturer doesn’t want to admit the defect,” he said.
Simkiss said that Volvo has not included his model year in the recall.
He wrote on the website that Volvo refused to expand the recall to
1994 models because the incidents are less frequent than in other
models, in part, and “because they don’t think there’s a great risk
for personal injury because they’ve found there’s enough time to leave
the car before the seat catches fire.”
Johnston said he was not aware of the company having said that and
doesn’t specifically know why the recall wasn’t expanded to 1994 and
1995 Volvo 850 models. “I do know that if NHTSA (National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration) believed, after looking at our data and
comparing it with their data, along with their concerns, if there was
a need to go further back, they would have asked us to include other
model years. Now whether there was a different seat heater system in
prior years or later years, I don’t know,” he explained.
Simkiss said he sympathizes with a company’s reluctance to issue a
recall for earlier models, in part, because it pushes up the price of
all the cars. Perhaps it’s a moot point, with few 1994 Volvos still on
the road, many of which no longer belong to the original owners. But
there is a pattern of fires, and he thinks the company should broaden
the recall, he said.
“Fires are bad. It’s almost like an exploding car. If I were driving
at a high speed, I don’t know if I would have had time to pull over.”
James said he just created a blog about the experience on
volvoonfire.blogspot.com ; the domain is “Volvo on Fire.” And, of
course, as a film guy, he’s planning to make a micro-documentary to
post on it.

If you own a car, particularly if you are the second owner and
unlikely to have received a recall notice, check out the website of
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for recall or
defect information. Also, call your dealer and ask if there have been
any recall problems. The dealer will fix them for free.

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