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- October 25th, 2010
Eight bad years #1
Will someone tell me what I am missing or not forgetting? Gas over $4
a gallon, businesses closing, jobs lost, veterans’ health care
pathetic, and very little or no sense of leadership.
I remember that situation as being Bush/Cheney’s eight years in office with
Washington out of control. Then President Obama inherited this ongoing
mess. No, there is no magic switch on the wall to turn off the mess
that was created by the prior
administration, it takes time. It takes working together, something it
seems the Republicans aren’t interested in doing.
Never before in this country has there ever been the time for the need
to do as the late John F. Kennedy asked America to do: “Ask not what
your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
In this case it’s vote Democratic!

Wendy Kerry • via email

Eight bad years #2
Vote for Republicans November 2. We have had a Democrat governor the
last eight years and have seen job losses that are breath-taking.
I will vote Republican because it is a vote for lower taxes, job
creation and fiscal responsibility. Our state budget is having a huge
crisis with huge deficits. A Republican victory will mean a reformed
tax system, less bureaucracy, and a more attractive environment for
business that will lead to jobs.
We have a 13% unemployment rate which is the second worst in the
nation. Are you ready for real change? Vote Republican November 2!

Adrian Poulisse • Frankfort

Tort reform no cure
I enjoy reading your Random Thoughts columns, and Northern Express in
general, when I visit Leelanau each summer. Unfortunately, your
recent column on health care reform contained a large mistake.
Although you lamented the absence of tort reform measures in the
national health care reform law, restrictions on lawsuits have little
or no potential to reduce health care costs. The evidence is
overwhelming and keeps growing.
My home state of Texas adopted extensive tort reforms in 2003. Since
then, lawsuit frequency and payouts have both dropped by half, and
doctors’ liability insurance premiums have plummeted. The effect on
health care spending? Nil. Health care costs continue to rise as
The same appears to be true in Florida, which also restricts
malpractice lawsuits severely. An article published in the Fort Myers
News-Press in September with the following observations: “In the six
years since Florida put limits on damages in medical malpractice
lawsuits, insurance premiums and lawsuits have dropped. But physicians
— including those in Lee County — continue ordering billions of
dollars worth of extra tests.” Lee County averaged 35 lawsuits per
year in the early 2000s but only 18 per year since 2004, the year tort
reforms took effect.
Looking at the U.S. as a whole, recent articles published in
peer-reviewed journals find that lawsuit restrictions have little
impact on the frequency with which doctors order expensive tests and
treatments. Here’s a summary of the findings of an article that
appeared a little over a month ago in Health Affairs. Studying 35
clinical specialties to learn whether malpractice liability reforms
would reduce health care costs, the authors “found that estimated
savings resulting from a 10 percent decline in medical malpractice
premiums would be less than 1 percent of total medical care costs in
every specialty. These savings ... suggest that the presumed impact of
tort reform on health care costs may be overstated.”
Why do so many Americans think lawsuit restrictions can save health
care dollars when the evidence just isn’t there? Because doctors,
hospitals, insurers, and the GOP keep repeating the message. Their
reasons for misleading voters are simple. First, providers would
rather blame lawyers for high health care costs than shoulder the
blame themselves or (gasp!) actually see spending on health care fall.
Reduced spending would mean less money for them, after all. Second,
being sued is unpleasant (as is suing, by the way), and it’s cheaper
to buy legislation that protects providers from liability for mistakes
than it is to pay for mistakes or fix defective delivery systems.
There are many problems with the health care reform law, but the
failure to include tort reforms is not one of them.

Charles Silver • Austin TX & Leelanau County

Support TCL&P
“Power to the people” is not true. The mantra for the proponents of
Proposal 1 & 2 over the fate of Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P),
has already done the opposite of what it claims to do, creating two
classes of customers just by being a ballot issue: those who have a
vote, and those who don‘t.
Everyone deserves a vote, but 25% of TCL&P customers do not live
inside the city limits. In fact, 34% of the total electricity
distributed by TCL&P goes to customers living in parts of five
surrounding townships, but their influence suddenly doesn’t count in
these city ballot proposals.
The number of disenfranchised customers rises considerably when you
count the numerous business owners inside the city limits who reside
outside them; sorry, no vote for them either.
On Nov. 2, you (some of you anyway) have a choice. Keep what was wise
to do for 30 years, or burden an already too-busy city commission,
manager, and treasurer, to take control of TCL&P’s management and
budget; which is three times the size of the city’s budget.
A “yes” vote, forces those most skilled, experienced and in tune with
the big picture, to hand over the reins of TCL&P to the city
commission; expecting them to be up to speed regarding how to manage,
plan, finance, engineer, administer, hold public meetings, etc... for
TCL&P, in addition to all they do as commissioners.
This makes absolutely no sense.
TCL&P has always provided accountability, transparency and public
comment input as prescribed by law. While biomass discussions began
more than 8 years ago, some got involved late in the game, tensions
ensued and people disagreed. That happens. We disagree sometimes, but
when name-calling and false characterizations take center stage:
(“bums,“ “liars,“ “you can’t trust them,“ “they’re operating in a
vacuum”), serious debate of the issues is impossible. TCL&P was even
vilified for being charitable.
Traverse City carefully drafted Chapter 18 of your city charter
between 1977-1979, addressing the complexities of safely managing and
operating a public utility, and the long-range strategic planning
necessary to ensure stability with the aspects you care most about:
1) fast response to power outages, 2) reliable overall service, and 3)
low rates.
Reject the hype and hypocrisy of Proposals 1& 2 by voting “NO.” Keep
it away from the political wind vane.

Bradford A. Purcell • TC

Feed-in feedback
In response to a letter from Valerie Gibbs of the Oct. 11 edition.
I can certainly understand Ms. Gibbs’ frustration with Traverse City
Light and Power. However, an item in her letter begs some attention.
It is true that non-profits like the Michigan Land Use Institute
(MLUI) could create a revenue stream by participating in a group that
develops a renewable energy project made feasible by a feed-in tariff
(FIT) -- a policy that MLUI and my organization have been pushing
TCL&P to adopt.
But so could the Father Fred Foundation, or Big Brothers - Big
Sisters, or the Women’s Resource Center, The Watershed Center, NMEAC,
or your neighborhood elementary school. The plan we co-authored would
have room for about 60 different projects.
Any non-profit could create an extra revenue stream if TCL&P
cooperated, by implementing what we call the ‘Minnesota Flip’ business
model, again made feasible by a well designed feed-in tariff program
implemented by a thoughtful utility.
Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) are new to Michigan. As with anything new, the
subject requires some effort to understand. But, without question, if
TCL&P really wants to jumpstart a renewable energy program that met
their stated goals of local generation, local job creation, local
business development, local energy dollars staying local, and smaller
carbon footprint, a FIT program can’t be beat. They could even design
the program to give priority to schools and non-profits that are the
real social fabric that makes us a great community.
Visit www.TC to learn more about this fantastic opportunity
that is on the doorstep of our community. Or even come to the Grand
Vision Energy Speaker Series event on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Olsen
Center at NMC to hear for yourself from a national FIT expert what
opportunity lies within a Feed-in Tariff. Then decide if you would
like to help us bring a FIT to TC.

Tom Karas • Michigan Energy Alternatives Project

A good FIT
The Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI) has worked to stop new coal
plants in Michigan since 2004. We don’t “just say no,” however; we
push for better solutions: energy efficiency and renewable energy that
brings jobs and move us away from a fossil fuel economy.
So we were perplexed by Valerie Gibbs’ assertion that our advocacy for
feed-in tariffs (FITs) is a secret, moneymaking plot. Our March 2010
white paper, 20-20 by 2020: A Clear Vision for Clean Energy
Prosperity, proposes that TCL&P use FITs to allow anyone—individuals,
businesses, non-profits, schools—to invest in and profit from their
own local renewable energy projects.
FITs are a terrific way to increase our region’s local clean energy
generation. They keep energy dollars and jobs here, improve our local
tax base, create new income for lenders and investor, and boost our
local economy.
We are concerned that Traverse City’s Proposal 1 will make adoption
of innovative, badly needed policies like FITs, ramped-up energy
efficiency programs and other new policy ideas more difficult to
install. The idea of a city council not only riding herd on a complex,
24/7 utility operation—complete with today’s increasingly overblown
political rhetoric—and keeping up with today’s, tumultuous energy
policy and technology landscape is far-fetched. Even the TCL&P
board—citizens and experts who focus sharply on energy almost
daily—has a hard time keeping up.
While the current board structure is certainly not perfect, we’re far
better off sticking with it, rather than creating big learning-curves
and additional bureaucratic layers when the energy world is moving at
lightning speed toward a new, still-undefined model. Proposition 1
would make it harder for TCL&P to be a clean energy leader.
Community-based energy planning is essential, but mixing that process
with electoral politics is not.

Brian Beauchamp • Energy Policy Specialist, MLUI

Unrealistic proposal
As a businessperson and someone who supports pro-environment policy, I
have looked long and hard at the actions of the Traverse City Light &
Power Board and the ballot proposal for November. The Michigan Land
Use Institute has done excellent reporting on this, viewable on their
web site.
Oversight of an energy utility involves a thorough understanding of
the industry and its regulations. Proposal 1 would expect city
commissioners to do that. It’s just not realistic. Energy planning
involves looking 20 or 30 years out and should not be subject to
politicians’ two-year election cycles. If you don’t like the actions
of the board, continue to voice your concerns – it worked! But please
vote no on Proposal 1. Proposal 1 is not the answer – it’s bad

Beth Holmes-Bozung • TC

Vote no on Prop 1
If you put the politics and pettiness aside, it’s pretty simple:
• When my electricity didn’t work at 11 p.m., Sunday night in
February; TCL&P was there within an hour to fix it.
• When the community said they didn’t want biomass; TCL&P didn’t pursue it.
• When we need new Christmas lights for downtown, grants in times of
need, or want free wifi on the open space; it’s TCL&P we call upon.
• My electricity rates have NOT increased nearly as much as my friends
who live outside the TCL&P service area.
• TCL&P encourages me and tells me how to conserve energy more than
any other organization in town – ironic, isn’t it?
If proposal 1 passes, then TCL&P will likely be sold to another
utility company. We will have no say in rates. We’ll lose voting
power on where our energy comes from. We’ll lose many community
grants that we are fortunate to receive. Do you think a board member
of a larger utility will email you back or meet with you for local
comment like TCL&P does? Not likely.
I can’t understand why anyone wants to change a locally owned utility
that’s working pretty well the way it is. I applaud TCL&P and am
proud to be in their service area.

Dr. Marci Bultemeier • TC

Vote for...

Dear readers: The Express has received dozens of candidate endorsement
letters -- far more than we have room to print, and often containing
the same message. Following are representative samples:

I am a certified addiction counselor and a certified criminal justice
professional. I would like to encourage all of you to support Mike
Stepka in his bid to serve the people as the new judge for the 86th
District Court. I have personally known Mike for 13 years and believe
he will be fair, firm and most of all, respectful, to the individuals
who appear before him. He has given countless hours of selfless
service to those less fortunate in our community and knows that “tough
on crime” is not necessarily “smart on crime.” Our community has a
wide variety of services which are alternatives to incarceration that
are PROVEN to reduce crime, recidivism, and save taxpayer dollars.
Let‘s elect the person who will use them... Mike Stepka

Greg Stone • TC

I greatly respect Kevin Elsenheimer for taking the high road away from
attack ad politics. He believes the 86th District Court race should be
non-partisan and forthright. That’s why his campaign hasn’t sought or
accepted direct political organization endorsements and has spent no
money raised for partisan political purposes. A political rarity,
he’s widely known for doing what’s right -- regardless.
Seek out the truth. Do what’s right. Elect Kevin Elsenheimer 86th
District Judge.

Rev. Harry C. Dorman

Guesswork has been taken out of the upcoming probate court election:
Marian Kromkowski is the clear choice. A judge must first be an
attorney but, once on the bench cease to be an advocate. Typically,
voters cannot predict how a candidate will make that transition;
however, Marian Kromkowski, in her work as a mediator and referee
has, unlike her opponent, already made hundreds of impartial
recommendations and decisions.
Having practiced law in Flint for 20 years before serving another 13
as a District Court Judge, I recognize the rare opportunity we have to
ensure that the best prepared person is elected..

Artie Lancaster • 67th District Court Judge (retired) • Northport

A vote for Larry Nelson, Leelanau County Probate Judge, is a vote for
integrity. His professional demeanor, wisdom, and courtroom experience
are the qualifications needed. I’ve known Larry Nelson over 30 years
as a County Commissioner and two year Chairmanship. His knowledge of
the law is necessary for Probate Court and the overflow from District
and Circuit Courts when necessary. A vote for Larry Nelson is a vote
for excellence.

James A. & Ede Meyer,
Elmwood Township

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