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..

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Cameron Brunet-Koch and Tim Nelson

College Leaders talk learner success, college preparedness

- August 11th, 2014  

Think students and parents have a lot on their minds entering a new school year? Cameron Brunet-Koch is the president of Petoskey’s North Central Michigan College (NCMC). Tim Nelson is president of Traverse City’s Northwestern Michigan College (NMC). The duo met at NMC a few weeks back to ponder the issues big and small facing them, their institutions, and their communities.

EXPRESS: Are the traditional incoming students you’re seeing prepared for college?

NELSON: Remediation is still a huge issue in this whole country. The statistics in the state of Michigan used to be 65 percent needed remediation in math and 35 percent in English. That’s declined some, but it’s still significant. We recognize we have people underprepared, and it’s not just high school students; our average student age is 27. Unless someone is using algebra or math in their jobs or lives, they won’t place into it [when they arrive at college], and the same for writing. High school writing curriculum is focused mainly on fiction, where college is more about nonfiction. It’s a national issue.

BRUNET-KOCH: I think we need to form better partnerships with our K-12 partners for a seamless transition. That is something we can work on together as opposed to this being a K-12 problem or a college problem.

The problem is that students aren’t prepared for the rigors of a college curriculum, and that might mean an intensive boot camp before college that focuses heavily on core subjects [is needed].

EXPRESS: What are you seeing for enrollment this fall, both in terms of overall student pop and also program/track trends?

BRUNET-KOCH: We will be down again but not as far down as we have been. We built our budget based on a five percent decrease and now it looks like three to four percent. You never want to be down, but it’s always better to be down less than budgeted for. We’re hoping in next year or two our numbers will really level off. We are also hoping with the start of our new CNC Fab Lab, that program will be filled to capacity.

NELSON: We budgeted for two percent down. Our traditional student population is actually up in the ten percent range, so what is down are those people who either left and found a job or left and are staying somewhere else. We’re seeing continued growth in nursing, maritime, and we have five new engineering technology programs that are becoming filled up. We also have growth in our water studies program.

EXPRESS: What would you do if you were superintendent of a K-12 school district?

BRUNET-KOCH: That’s very challenging to respond to. I don’t think I have enough information to know or know all the parts of their job well enough. I know as a college president I can say it’s not just a matter of the product they provide; the product is a result of societal influences. Just in my area alone, the schools are so different from each other, given the communities in which they’re placed and the resources available.

NELSON: I don’t disagree. If I look at any school large or small, they are trying to do their best, and I can say every superintendent is wanting student success across the board. But the larger ones might have opportunities structured around sharing and leveraging resources within their community. We’ve done some things with the ISD [Traverse Bay Intermediate School District] and TCAPS [Traverse City Area Public Schools] like sharing an information technology person and sharing an early college person and establishing that new program with them. And how do you share physical resources?

But the larger issue is taking education from a public good to a private good; how do we get all our communities to understand the importance of having an educated population? If communities and regions and states and countries don’t invest in education they’ll be at a disadvantage for the future. In other countries, people believe it [education] is the most important thing to achieve success. How do we get back to that here?

EXPRESS: Do you feel your schools are underappreciated for their reputations and contributions to the economy and community?

NELSON: I would say no. I think at least NMC has a reputation and recognition in the community. I run into alumni all the time who say it was the most valuable education they had in their life. We have alums who include the creative director at Google, doctors, lawyers…but we need to do a better job of explaining who we are. We change; we’re not what we were ten years ago and not what we were 20 years ago. We need to do a better job communicating that. But we do a community perception survey every three years, and we’re consistently in the 90 percent plus, doing what they want and doing it well.

BRUNET-KOCH: I would agree. At North Central we are very fortunate that we have a fine reputation in our community and we are valued. The college has done an adequate job of telling our story, but perhaps we have not been as proactive in talking about the value added to the community, whether that be just having educational opportunities, training, workforce dev, the cultural experiences...all the benefits of having a college in the community. It lifts everyone up. So maybe we’re leaving some appreciation on the table. It’s definitely not ‘what you did yesterday,’ it’s today and ‘what will you do for me tomorrow.’

EXPRESS: What do you respect most about each other?

BRUNET-KOCH: I can tell you without a doubt, it’s Tim’s intelligence and vision. He’s doing extrordinary things. He’s always been the one who would raise issues among other [college] presidents and put us on our toes. [Turning to Nelson] You’ve always done that. He’s a very smart man.

NELSON: Everyone has a skill set and an orientation, but first she’s really focused on learner success. And also looking at how an organization is put together. She’s able to make sure the people and pieces are in the right places.

EXPRESS: If three of the region’s top issues are keeping young professionals here, affordable housing, and diversifying our economy, how do your organizations dovetail with those issues?

BRUNET-KOCH: Of course it’s always about a strong and diversified economy, but I think our number one issue for the whole region is developing talent, so this area has employees to hire and so there will be jobs here and the talented will stay.

NELSON: We’re an economic, social and talent development agency. I make choices looking through those lenses, and those are interdependent. Our ultimate job is to provide the skills, experiences, and value to help individuals create social and economic wealth in their lifetimes. And our job is to understand the other resources in the community and leverage those resources to reach those ends.

EXPRESS: What’s your pledge for this school year? This year, I pledge to…

BRUNET-KOCH: Tim alluded to it. So I pledge to be very intentional with my actions and decisions that impact student success. If we can figure out how to retain students so they continue to pursue their goals, we will have solved our completion problem and we will have made tremendous progress with learner success. That’s what I hope for.

NELSON: We have an opening conference every fall and spring [for faculty and staff]. When I came here, my first one, I said ‘we’re not going to change our mantra every year.’ I said ‘we’re going to continue our journey and keep learning at the center of it all.’ As long as I’m here, that’s what we’re going to do, and learning has many different forms….training, a course for self enrichment, learning music through our radio station, fourth graders in the Dennos Museum… so at every opening conference it’s the beginning and end. This only happens because we have people at the college who believe it and spend their lives doing it.

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