Letters

Letters 05-23-2016

Examine The Priorities Are you disgusted about closing schools, crumbling roads and bridges, and cuts everywhere? Investigate funding priorities of legislators. In 1985 at the request of President Reagan, Grover Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). For 30 years Norquist asked every federal and state candidate and incumbent to sign the pledge to vote against any increase in taxes. The cost of living has risen significantly since 1985; think houses, cars, health care, college, etc...

Make TC A Community For Children Let’s be that town that invests in children actively getting themselves to school in all of our neighborhoods. Let’s be that town that supports active, healthy, ready-to-learn children in all of our neighborhoods...

Where Are Real Christian Politicians? As a practicing Christian, I was very disappointed with the Rev. Dr. William C. Myers statements concerning the current presidential primaries (May 8). Instead of using the opportunity to share the message of Christ, he focused on Old Testament prophecies. Christ gave us a new commandment: to love one another...

Not A Great Plant Pick As outreach specialist for the Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network and a citizen concerned about the health of our region’s natural areas, I was disappointed by the recent “Listen to the Local Experts” feature. When asked for their “best native plant pick,” three of the four garden centers referenced non-native plants including myrtle, which is incredibly invasive...

Truth About Plants Your feature, “listen to the local experts” contains an error that is not helpful for the birds and butterflies that try to live in northwest Michigan. Myrtle is not a native plant. The plant is also known as vinca and periwinkle...

Ask the Real Plant Experts This letter is written to express my serious concern about a recent “Listen To Your Local Experts” article where local nurseries suggested their favorite native plant. Three of the four suggested non-native plants and one suggested is an invasive and cause of serious damage to Michigan native plants in the woods. The article is both sad and alarming...

My Plant Picks In last week’s featured article “Listen to the Local Experts,” I was shocked at the responses from the local “experts” to the question about best native plant pick. Of the four “experts” two were completely wrong and one acknowledged that their pick, gingko tree, was from East Asia, only one responded with an excellent native plant, the serviceberry tree...

NOTE: Thank you to TC-based Eagle Eye Drone Service for the cover photo, taken high over Sixth Street in Traverse City.

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · 20 years in the...
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20 years in the rear-view

Robert Downes - November 15th, 2010
20 years in the rear-view
Less than six months from now, Northern Express Weekly will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the paper.
We’ll trot out the old story of how my friend George and I launched the Express in my kitchen on Mission Peninsula with an investment on par with what you’d pay for a 10-year-old used car, and reminisce about the glory days. But mostly I think we’ll dwell on the past decade of the paper, since the first half of our adventure has grown rather mossy in the memory.
In fact, my own experience writing this column for the past 19 years keeps coming back to the story of Rip Van Winkle. It’s a story that’s far out of step with the legends of our times -- those of “Jersey Shore” or “The Biggest Loser,” but it bears repeating.
Rip Van Winkle was a young Dutch slacker in the Catskill Mountains back in the late 1700s who preferred goofing off and socializing to hard work. One day he went out for a walk and heard the sound of thunder in the mountains. He encountered the ghosts of explorer Henry Hudson and his lost crew playing a game of 9 pins down in a spooky hollow. Rip took a drink of their ale, fell under their spell, and slept for 20 years.
When he awoke, Rip found that the whole world had changed, and not for the better. Progress, Rip decided, was not always a good thing.
You find a similar story in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Return of the King,” in which the hobbits return to their homeland of the Shire after many adventures, only to find that industrialization, deforestation, strip mining and a version of urban sprawl have taken root, threatening to wreck their beloved home. The hobbits‘ last challenge is to drive out the sinister forces of modernity to make things ‘right’ again.
Both stories are parables about getting old and the sensation that the world has taken a wrong turn somewhere while we were dozing.
Perhaps we all get fixated on how the world ‘should’ be forever and ever when we’re in our early teens, and when the damn thing refuses to cooperate as the years roll by, we assume the world has gone to hell. For me, the ideal world will always be a sunny day on a dirt road in rural Michigan in 1967 -- plenty of jobs available, only 3.5 billion people on earth with room for everyone, and nothing but limitless potential waiting around the next corner.
So I‘ve found echoes of Rip’s antique legend in my own experience writing this column all these years, including the sound of distant thunder.
My very first column, written in 1992, involved a visit to Detroit’s Cass Corridor, where I interviewed an inner-city activist who was outraged over a plan to get rid of America’s welfare system.
Talk about an antique legend: what would people do without a safety net? he wondered. People living down in Detroit didn’t have jobs, or even a way to reach them out in the suburbs. How would they survive without welfare?
Funny how that same question seems so relevant today in the Great Recession, when tens of millions depend on the mercy of Congress to appropriate the next round of unemployment benefits.
I’ve had favorite themes in Random Thoughts through the years: the danger of outsourcing, for instance, and opposing NAFTA and the subsequent free trade agreements that have funneled jobs overseas. In the past 20 years we‘ve seen much of America‘s industry shuttled to Asia and south of the border, as in the case of Ford‘s new $3 billion plant in Mexico and GM‘s planned investment of $3.7 billion there at the expense of American workers. According to Bloomberg.com, those Mexican auto workers will earn just $26 per day to build the cars that we will buy, despite our own ruin. Add to that another favorite complaint heard here through the years: the folly of buying foreign-made stuff from the big box stores, or shopping over the Internet, putting ourselves out of our jobs, one dollar at a time.
Fortunately, enough of us are like-minded here in Northern Michigan to save our corner of America from the wreckage of modern times. We’ve bought local, supported our independent shops and restaurants, and have made our downtowns a labor of love, with the result being a region unlike any you’ll find in the entire country, if not the world.
It’s that independent spirit which has also kept Northern Express afloat all these years. You may have noticed that the so-called “newspaper apocalypse” of the ‘00s hasn’t touched our paper. In fact, we’re thriving, in large part because we never had any support from the corporate world to begin with. Our success has been entirely due to people who still remember what’s ‘right’ with the world -- local, independent, and reflecting a love of their communities. In fact, we‘re one of the last independent newspapers in Michigan, and probably the largest.
More on that later, when we celebrate our big 2-0 on May 1, 2011.
 
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