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 · Other Opinions · Modest cuts to school aid...
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Modest cuts to school aid put students first

Howard Walker - May 16th, 2011
Modest cuts to school aid put students first
By Howard Walker
As the chair of the School Aid budget in the Senate, I take very seriously
the impact that proposed budget cuts will have on schools. Our young
people are the future of our state, and we must ensure that when they
graduate, they have the tools and knowledge necessary to succeed in the
21st century economy.
The School Aid budget for Fiscal Year 2011-2012 totals in excess of $12
billion, which is more than 25 percent of the total state budget. This
fact alone proves that education funding is a top priority for Republicans
and Democrats alike.
Although the proposed Senate budget reduces the per-pupil foundation
allowance by $340, a reduction of roughly 4 percent, when you compare this
with reductions in other areas of the budget, it is quite modest. For
example, universities will see 15 percent less aid from the state, the
Department of Corrections will see a little more than 5 percent less
funding, and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development must
function with 6 percent less.
Obviously we would like to reduce the cut to education further, and we may
be able to do so if additional revenue is projected with our May Consensus
Revenue Estimating Conference. However, it is important to note that we
are working to give school districts the tools to alleviate the pressures
that any cut would have.
For example, the Legislature is reviewing legislation to help control
health care costs for school districts, which when combined with school
employee salaries and retirement costs makes up on average more than 80
percent of a school district’s budget. Shockingly, some districts pay
upwards of $24,000 per employee for health care! Any savings realized
within health care will directly benefit local school districts.
We are also looking at possible changes to the retirement system for
teachers. In 1997, the Michigan Legislature changed retirement for all
state employees, including legislators. Everyone hired by the state or
elected to a state office after 1997 receives a defined contribution
plan, more commonly known as a 401K plan. However, because of strong
opposition from teachers unions, teachers were exempted from this
change, and as a result, they still receive a defined benefit plan
(traditional pension).
The cost to districts for that pension plan plus the cost to fund
guaranteed school retiree health care continues to soar. Next year, school
districts will see the rate they must contribute increase from about 20
percent of an employee’s gross pay to more than 24 percent for most
employees—an increase of 20 percent in one year! So, for every dollar
spent on school employees’ salaries and health care, an additional 24
cents is spent on retirement and retiree health care; this is
unsustainable. Reasonably addressing health care and retirement costs is
just one of the things that can be done to save local districts money and
minimize the impact of reductions in state aid.
As someone who is married to a retired teacher, I certainly understand the
hard work and dedication most teachers give to their students. No one
wants to deny a teacher a decent living and adequate benefits. But a
school district’s number-one priority should be educating kids and putting
students first, not putting an adult’s pay and benefits first. If all
school employees would give a little, whether it be in the form of less
costly health insurance plans or small reductions in pay, a few employees
(many of them younger teachers) wouldn’t have to give 100 percent in the
form of layoffs, and the services that our schools provide could likely
continue unaffected.
Our budget process is far from completed, but I assure you that we are
working to put a budget in place well before our school districts must
pass their budgets. I look forward to working with my colleagues and
stakeholders to pass a balanced budget and put reasonable reforms into
place that address the stresses on our local school districts.

Senator Howard Walker is the chair of the Senate Appropriations
Subcommittee on K-12, School Aid and Education. He serves the citizens
of the 37th Senate District.
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