Letters 04-25-2016

Taking Our Trees Seconds ago this pine tree was alive. Well, Mr. Cook — our County Road Commission head —and Peninsula Township government … by not weighing in (I guess it’s not your problem or responsibility to communicate with residents), you allowed the County Road Commission to bulldoze down huge swaths of lakeside trees in order to increase the bike lane. This can’t be happening. I have no clue why they would cut trees down that help block snow from creating drifts on Peninsula Drive and help keep the beach area intact. Plus, they are not increasing the width of the road when they repave. I just don’t get it. This is amateur hour at county and township government...

Government Service Unrewarded I served the federal government for XX years with the [agency], [doing XX]. I also worked in the private sector, [doing XX]. When I retired, I was surprised to learn my Social Security benefit would be $XXX less per month than my colleagues and neighbors who had never worked for the federal government. This is all because of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) under the Social Security law...

Which Greased Palm Now that “Chicago values” have utterly corrupted the executive and judicial branches of our federal government, this November We the Plebeians shall either vote to right the governing integrity of the United States constitution’s twin pillars of limited government and separation of powers or turn and step collectively onto the blood soaked road to serfdom...

The Political Mess And Challenge As citizens we are faced with a real challenge. The media and the political candidates have taken over a year to attack those whom they are opposing. The unfavorable ratings of those who may be nominated are above 50 percent. That should be no surprise, considering the length of time given to bloodying one another with opinions that have little relationship to truth. The polling companies, which confess they are not reliable, make everything a game of winning...

CORRECTIONS In last week’s issue we had photos with the incorrect stories on page five. The dance photo should have accompanied the story about grants to nonprofits. The image of Crooked Tree Arts Center Petoskey should have accompanied the story about the ArtPrize exhibit at CTAC.

We also reported the incorrect day for the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City. The correct date is Sat., May 28.

We apologize for these errors.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

2 Degrees and counting

Random Thoughts Robert Downes 2 Degrees & Counting
Was the monster storm that terrorized two-thirds of the United
States last week a sign of global climate change? Hawaii was swept by
40-foot waves, it snowed in San Diego, 70 mph winds buzzed Texas, and
of course, snow ensued here in the Midwest -- lots of it.
Monday, December 7, 2009

One way to end the war forever: tax it

Random Thoughts Robert Downes “Any tax is a discouragement and therefore a regulation so far as it goes.”
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

One idea that went nowhere recently was a proposal by two
legislators to slap a new tax on the wealthy to finance the war in
Monday, November 30, 2009

Our new direction

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Our New Direction
There’s growing support in the trade magazines these days for the idea of newspapers taking a step back from the Internet.
Heresy? Not when you consider that 105 American newspapers went out of business in the first seven months of this year and more than 10,000 newsroom jobs were lost. Newspapers are fighting for their lives and it’s starting to slowly dawn on publishers that giving the news away for free online is a strategy for extinction.
Monday, November 23, 2009

The death of Jake

Random Thoughts Robert Downes The Death of Jake
There’s a lot of pain and emotion in Bart Arrigo’s voice as he tells the story of the court-ordered destruction of his pet dog, Jake.
“The officials of Kalkaska County had no care or remorse -- they destroyed a wonderful animal... an injustice was done,” he says, echoing the sadness of anyone who’s ever lost a pet.
Jake, a 14-month-old Great Dane, made the mistake of biting a friend’s child in the face last August. Bart, who owns an excavating company in Kalkaska, had just returned from boating that day with his girlfriend and their neighbor friends. They were sitting around a fire, having a good time, when 10-year-old Cory was bitten on the cheek by Jake.
Monday, November 16, 2009

Singing for their supper

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Singing for Their Supper

“The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it.”
-- David Bowie, 2002

Some of the best musicians in Northern Michigan have packed up their guitars and left town in recent months in the hope of making it big somewhere else.
The migration began last year when Mark Camp (The Dopes, Rusty Blaides) moved to Austin, Texas, the music capital of the Southwest. This fall, singer-songwriter Mike Moran moved to San Diego. Two weeks ago, Jeff “Jabo” Bihlman (The Bihlman Bros.) held a farewell party at his home in Interlochen, days before moving to Las Vegas to seek a career in the film and TV industry. And last weekend, Ryan Whyte Maloney (Indulge) stopped by his old hometown to play an acoustic set at The Loading Dock, prior to signing a contract in Nashville.
Monday, November 9, 2009

Book round-up

Books Robert Downes Book Round-Up
What’s new from local authors
By Robert Downes 11/9/09

Books about Northern Michigan topped the mailbag at the Express this fall as a number of authors explored fictional territory that is ‘close to home.’ Here’s a round-up of what’s new on bookstore shelves:

Echoes of L’Arbre Croche by Donald A. Johnston is a re-write of a 1917 mystery novel called The Indian Drum.
L’Arbre Croche is French for Cross Village -- once a large town of Ottawa Indians, as well as Pottawatomies and the Chippewa. As the book notes, every time someone dies out on Lake Michigan, an Indian drum sounds in the village to mark their passage.
Monday, November 9, 2009

Random Thoughts: More cultural stuff? Not so fast...

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts: More cultural stuff? Not so fast...
Robert Downes 11/9/09

The big entertainment news in Traverse City this month involves the possibility of East Lansing’s Wharton Center of Performing Arts taking over the management of our City Opera House.
Drawing on the creative power and resources of Michigan State University, the Wharton Center earns rave reviews from theater-goers for bringing Broadway
musicals such as Wicked to East Lansing, along with dozens of musical acts and comedians each year.
It sounds like a slam-dunk good idea when you look at their roster of upcoming performances by the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Jeff
Foxworthy, Wilco and The Lion King. Negotiations are underway to see what Wharton can do for the City Opera House, with a proposal to be presented to the TC City Commission later this month.
Still, the philistine in me says we should think this over, lest we “toss the baby with the bathwater.”
Monday, November 9, 2009

Journey to Iraq

Features Robert Downes Journey to Iraq
Average citizen Bill Murphy reached out to victims of the war

By Robert Downes • Photos by Bill Murphy 11/9/09

Bill Murphy is not a soldier, a missionary or a diplomat; he is, in fact, a specialist in decorative painting who lives in a condo just west of Traverse City. But when he was offered a chance to lend a hand in one of the most devastated regions of Iraq as an ordinary citizen, he leapt at the opportunity.
Last spring, Bill joined members of a relief group called Iraqi Health Now to help transport a 40-foot container of medical supplies and water filters to Basra, a city in the southern part of Iraq that has been ruined by years of warfare.
He accompanied Haider Alsaedy, a native Iraqi who now lives in Kalamazoo. Back in the 1990s, Haider had spent eight years in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia, fleeing the wrath of dictator Saddam Hussein. Sixteen years after leaving his home town, Haider returned to find the infrastructure of Basra destroyed, with the streets full of garbage and sewage. The marshes around town had been drained and the local hospitals lacked the most basic supplies -- patients were even sharing syringes. There was little electricity and no clean water anywhere in the region.
Monday, November 2, 2009

Random Thoughts: Untying the knots of justice

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 11/2/09
Untying the Knots of Injustice
We get a lot of requests to investigate stories of the “she said, he said” variety here at the Express. Often, these are a result of a perceived failure of the local courts and the feeling that justice has been denied.
Custody battles, disputes with builders, issues over getting fired, anger over court decisions and claims of harassment by the cops... these are typical of the requests we receive at the Express on a weekly basis. Many requests involve knotty issues that could take days or weeks to unravel, if ever.
Sometimes, people feel they’ve gotten the runaround by the law, or they’ve taken their problem along with an eight-page summary all the way to Michigan’s attorney general, where it is most likely sitting in a file cabinet or a waste basket.
Some people with grievances have taken no legal action at all, but are “planning” to sue a shady builder or the boss who fired them unfairly. These callers often feel that a newspaper article listing all of the injustices against them will somehow fix the problem, or at least offer the satisfaction of sticking it to the person who did them wrong.
Monday, November 2, 2009

She‘s biking to build

Features Robert Downes She’s Biking to Build
Kristine Perria will cycle across the country for Habitat for Humanity

By Robert Downes 11/2/09

Pedaling across the nation to raise funds for affordable housing is the goal of Kristine Perria, a student at the University of Michigan who is combining her love of cycling with an interest in social justice.
“On June 18t I will be setting off from Boston on a cross-country bike trip
Monday, October 26, 2009

Barbara Faith Jordan

Music Robert Downes Barbara Faith Jordan Brings out her Best
By Robert Downes 10/26/09

Barbara Faith Jordan has been a bright light on the Northern Michigan acoustic music scene for nearly a decade, performing thoughtful songs with a message at coffeehouses, folk festivals and concert venues throughout the region.
Next week, friends and fans will hear the latest from Barbara when she releases her new CD, Passages at the City Opera House in Traverse City at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 1. Here, Barbara talks about her new CD and musical journey:

NE: Is this your first CD?
Faith Jordan: No, I put my first CD out in 1997. It’s no longer available, but was called “Harvest” and was a collection of original inspirational music.
Monday, October 26, 2009

Random Thoughts: Charter puts porn ahead of citizenship

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 10/26/09
Charter Puts Porn Ahead of Citizenship
“Spank that Booty: Sultry ladies with a lot of junk in their trunk.” That was one show airing on Charter Communications‘ “Juicy” Channel 895 last week. Or you could watch Extreme Euro Kink 3 - “Getting freaky with a frisky foreign fox.”
Fair enough, there’s a demand for that kind of programming and who doesn’t like a “frisky foreign fox”?
But many civic-minded citizens in Traverse City are outraged over Charter’s plan to dump four long-standing public access channels into the digital 990s this December. As it happens, this is just on the other side of Charter‘s porn offerings.
Those public access channels include Up North 2, NMC 13, TCAPS 98, and the local government meetings on Government 99.
These channels are indispensable for people who can‘t make it to government meetings at the Traverse City Commission or the board meetings of Elmwood, Garfield and East Bay townships. They also provide a TV avenue for non-commercial free speech in our community, such as the broadcast of lectures, athletic events and concerts. I myself was honored to appear on Up North 2 recently in a forum on the future of newspapers. Public access “the people‘s“ small slice of the TV media pie.
Monday, October 19, 2009

The thump of Bump

Music Robert Downes the thump of BUMP

Detroit rockers get a bounce from new CD & film

By Robert Downes 10/19/09

Check out Bump’s stage set-up and you’ll have to agree with their claim of being one of the hardest-working bands in America. In addition to a touring schedule that has covered 600 shows in 35 states, Bump packs enough electronic gear onstage to give a Radio Shack manager the giggles, with a spaghetti tangle of wires and sequencers augmenting their guitar-driven sound.
The current lineup includes Yorg on keys and guitar, Chris Sterr on guitar, Clint Carpenter on drums and sequencing and Bryce Carroll-Coe on bass. All four join in the vocals and the band prides itself on its harmonies, “progressive tones” and art-rock approach.
With a new CD and the thrill of performing in a new film, the band rolls into Northern Michigan this week with a show at the Loading Dock in TC this Friday, Oct. 23. Here’s the latest on the band:
Monday, October 19, 2009

Random Thoughts: Motor City Shrink Wrap

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts: Motor City Shrink Wrap
Robert Downes 10/19/09

Motor City Shrink Wrap
These days, Detroit is the Incredible Shrinking City.
Back in the 1930s, when my grandmother lived there, Detroit was known as the “City of Trees” for its towering elms and forested boulevards. Although those trees were killed off in the ’60s and ’70s by Dutch elm disease, new fields and forests are taking root amid the ruin of the city.
Writing in a recent issue of Newsweek, Bill McGraw of the Detroit Free Press reported that Detroit has lost half its population since the 1950s. And, although its city limits encompass 138 square miles, “experts estimate that about 40 square miles are empty.”
That trend is increasing.
Monday, October 12, 2009

Random Thoughts: Death of a gym

Random Thoughts Robert Downes Random Thoughts
Robert Downes 10/12/09
Death of a Gym

When a gym fails, it can be like the death of an old friend to its members. Such is the case at the Fitness Center, which closed its doors last week after 23 years on 8th Street in Traverse City.
Gyms have grown in importance over the past generation. They’re a place to socialize and unwind; a place to break up the black ice of stress in your head and get motivated to take on the challenges of the next day. Gyms are about much more than getting in shape -- they’re about getting your life together and staying sane in what sometimes seems to be a crazy world.