Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Detroit News. Sept. 22, 2021.

Editorial: Courts should check Whitmer’s fundraising scam

Mackinac Island — Michigan Republicans are mounting a court challenge against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s move to blow past campaign fundraising laws and raise unlimited funds for next year’s reelection bid. It’s a welcome lawsuit.

The governor is engaged in a scam aimed at giving her an unearned advantage in the 2022 race. She is exploiting a Michigan law that allows a candidate facing a recall election to ignore fundraising limits.

Although recall Whitmer petitions have been approved by the state Board of Canvassers, there is no evidence an actual recall campaign is underway.

That means the governor will have the $3.4 million she’s raised via the recall loophole to fight off her Republican challenger. In total, she’s raised $8.6 million.

Republicans are arriving on Mackinac Island for their biennial policy conference this weekend. Overcoming Whitmer’s fundraising head start will be part of the conversation.

Whitmer’s tactic is disingenuous and flies in the face of her public comments about limiting the influence of money, particularly from interests outside Michigan, in politics.

Challengers to the governor can only raise a maximum of $7,150 from individual donors. Five donors have already contributed $250,000 each to Whitmer.

Incumbents enjoy a natural advantage in fundraising. Whitmer is enhancing that edge with her suspect recall claim.

Whitmer’s campaign spokesman called the GOP lawsuit “totally baseless, ludicrous and frivolous.”

Those words more perfectly apply to the governor’s ginned up recall claim.

Her end-around the law should be checked by the courts. Whitmer should be forced to demonstrate that opponents are actually spending money to recall her from office, and that she’s spending the extra funds she’s raising to counter that threat. She should not be allowed to simply dump the contributions into her general campaign account.

Campaign finance laws are designed to guard against moneyed interests buying elections.

They’ve had spotty success in accomplishing that mission, in large part because politicians such as Whitmer work so hard to undermine them.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. Sept. 24, 2021.

Editorial: West side bear didn’t need to die

It’s not the end any of us wanted.

We, along with many of our neighbors, were crestfallen Thursday afternoon when we learned officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources had decided to euthanize a bear that has become a neighborhood fixture along Traverse City’s west side.

It is an awful end. A potentially preventable end.

The lumbering birdfeeder bandit rose into our collective attention in 2020 when he began partaking in a smorgasbord of low-hanging food in residential areas in Traverse City and Garfield Township. He frequented trash bins and backyard birdfeeders for months last year, successfully evading efforts by DNR biologists to trap and relocate him.

And for months, officials requested everyone remove the bruin’s incentive to plod into close proximity with humans by taking down birdfeeders and keeping trash bins inaccessible. Cutting off that low-hanging food supply often encourages bears to return to natural foraging habits in areas that reduce their contact with humans.

Eventually, clever DNR staffers lured the 400-pound Yogi into a trap in April by using the bird seed — a meal to which the bear had become woefully accustomed. They then relocated him to a spot about 90 miles from Traverse City.

Surely, the width of the mitten would keep the bear safely away from the temptation of suburban life in Traverse City.

Unfortunately, the draw of the city proved too much for the bear, and he quickly returned to the area — tracking data shows he was back in Grand Traverse County by mid-May.

He found what he was looking for — lots of bird feeders and trash bins to raid.

By Thursday, when the DNR trapped the hulking bear for a second time, he had grown both in girth and boldness. He now was about 500 pounds, according to information released by the DNR. He also had all but lost natural aversion to human contact and commotion — behavior captured in dozens of photos and videos posted to social media by west side residents.

DNR officials said the bear’s persistence and boldness simply became too significant a risk to public safety, they were forced to euthanize him.

This is a frustrating end. An unnecessary end.

Humans contributed to this mature bear’s death by simply not following bear-aware protocols to eliminate enticements that would keep him in the neighborhood. If we all followed best practices DNR officials spent the past year pleading with us to abide by, this bear may have simply gone back to the thick woods of the Boardman or Platte river valleys.

There is a chance this magnificent bear would’ve met his end in an unfortunate interaction with humans anyway — on a highway or by taking up residence in a neighborhood in confrontation with humans.

But we humans sure didn’t do our part in giving him a fighting chance.

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Alpena News. Sept. 25, 2021.

Editorial: Let’s return to Snyder-era budget timeline

We’ll make no statement here on the content of the state budgets under former Gov. Rick Snyder, but we wish the Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could keep the budget timelines Snyder and former legislative leaders kept throughout his tenure.

The state budget runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 every year. But that doesn’t line up with many of the local governments that receive state funding, causing numerous problems.

Schools, especially, struggle under the state’s budget timeline. By law, school boards have to approve budgets by June 30 every year for new budgets that begin on July 1.

Since the overwhelming majority of their revenue is based on per-student payments from the state, school boards have to approve budgets based on little more than guesses. Every summer, they have no idea exactly how many students they’ll have, or how many they’ll get paid for, until fall student counts.

And, if the Legislature and governor haven’t yet inked a budget deal, schools have no idea how much the state will pay them per student.

So schools have to budget in the blind for three months, even though they have to spend money in that time to hire teachers, buy equipment and books, maintain schools, and everything else.

Many local governments face similar struggles.

Every budget Snyder signed was finalized early, usually in plenty of time for schools and local governments to make at least more educated guesses about their own budgets, which means they could spend taxpayer money more wisely.

We need to get back to that. Though this year’s School Aid Fund was finalized in the summer, the rest of the budget wasn’t finalized until this week, with less than two weeks until the budget was due.

We understand Snyder, a Republican, benefitted from a Legislature controlled by his party throughout his tenure. Whitmer, a Democrat, has far more negotiations to work through the Legislature still controlled by Republicans. Two of her three budgets have also happened in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, with loads of federal money flowing through state coffers, further complicating budget talks.

We appreciate that Whitmer and lawmakers finalized the School Aid Fund budget this summer, giving schools a better sense of what this school year will look like.

But early budgets should be the norm. Snyder showed it could happen.

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