Detroit News. September 30, 2023.
Editorial: Give voters chance to improve U-M, MSU and WSU
Transparency and consistently competent governance are among the improvements Michigan’s three major universities need to help the state meet its pressing need for a more talented and highly skilled workforce.
Both issues are addressed in proposals offered by state Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, to change the way regents and trustees are selected at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michigan State University, and to bring them fully under the Open Meetings Act.
Governance issues have periodically plagued the three schools, which are the only ones among the state’s 15 public universities with elected boards. Regents and trustees are nominated by political parties and appear on the statewide ballot for eight-year terms.
The ballot box has proven to be an inconsistent method of seating quality boards to oversee schools that combined manage more than $7 billion a year in spending. Along with being educational institutions counted on to provide the talent to grow Michigan’s economy, the colleges are big businesses, operating hospitals, research labs and real estate portfolios.
They need leaders up to the challenge.
McBroom is asking the Legislature to put two proposals on the November 2024 ballot. The first would replace the elected boards with members appointed by the governor and subject to the consent of the Senate.
In theory, this would assure higher caliber board members are selected to meet specific needs faced by each school, rather than elected through a haphazard political process.
“Too often, the candidates nominated for university boards by both parties are more interested in free football and basketball tickets than they are in how the schools are governed,” McBroom says.
“They often lack the qualifications needed to do these very important jobs.”
All three of the universities have in recent years faced challenges that have stressed the capabilities of their boards. Michigan State most notably has bungled the handling of several incidents of sexual impropriety, including the serial molestation case of Dr. Larry Nassar, which resulted in a $500 million settlement with his victims.
The University of Michigan Regents faced similar criticism involving accusations from hundreds of former athletes against a deceased sports doctor.
And at Wayne State University, half of the board sued the other half for holding secret meetings.
By contrast, the appointed boards at the remaining 12 public universities have rarely been involved in such controversies.
As a companion proposal, McBroom is asking that voters get the opportunity to bring more transparency to the universities, which currently are not subject to the same public access rules as other government entities.
That special status stems from a 1999 Michigan Supreme Court ruling, that cited the autonomous governance of the schools.
McBroom’s proposal would change the state constitution to bring universities fully under the open meetings law and the Freedom of Information Act.
These are good steps toward standardizing university governance in Michigan and getting better performance from the schools, along with making them more accountable.
To get them on the ballot, McBroom needs the support of two-thirds of both the House and the Senate.
That’s a high bar. But the changes are necessary to elevate the performance of these three vital institutions.
Traverse City Record-Eagle. September 28, 2023.
Editorial: Attorney general’s comments hurt process
We don’t begrudge Michigan’s attorney general her private opinions on any subject.
But when you are the state’s top attorney, publicly slamming juries and suspects who’ve been tried and found not guilty fundamentally erodes the very institution you represent.
It also feels like sour grapes since it is Nessel’s team’s responsibility to prove the charges they bring, beyond a reasonable doubt.
We understand the attorney general is heavily invested in wanting a guilty verdict. But it’s extremely rare for an official at her level to criticize a jury’s findings after a trial is done.
It’s a rare occurrence because it can undermine our legal system.
After a month-long trial, the 18-member jury (six members dismissed randomly) found Eric Molitor, and brothers Michael and William Null not guilty of providing material support for a terrorist act and a weapons charge. This was the last of the kidnap plot cases, with just five of 10 guilty verdicts won in state or federal trials.
Nessel called the not-guilty verdict “perplexing, confusing but terrifying,” said the jury was seemingly “not so concerned” about the kidnap plot, and chalked it up to a “very right-leaning county” — negating both her team’s responsibility and the civic duty shown by the jury, judge and process.
An official at her level should accept the jury’s ruling with dignity. She should also accept responsibility for her department’s failure to convince the jury of the evidence instead of passing on the responsibility for the outcome to a perceived political slant of any given community.
In another case, blanket comments about the “brainwashed” 16 Republican suspects in a fake elector scheme also may undercut the attorney general’s actions against them.
Putting “innocent until proven guilty” baseline justice aside, a motion to dismiss the case has been filed so the attorney general’s office will need to prove an intent to cheat or deceive — now made harder by her characterization of the suspects as people who “legit” and “genuinely” believe that former President Donald Trump won the state. She also mulled aloud about the odds in bringing these cases in Ingham County, “a very, very Democratic-leaning county.”
It is imperative that political-tamper-free justice be served in all cases, especially those dealing with election fraud — unless we want free and fair elections to fail — something the nation can ill-afford.
Nessel made her comments, captured on video by The Detroit News, on Sept. 18 to a group called “Protectors of Equality in Government”
The irony doesn’t escape us; the frustration with equality is extending it to people who don’t agree with us.
But that’s when it is most important.
Iron Mountain Daily News. September 29, 2023.
Editorial: State reminds public of COVID-19 testing options available
As fall season begins, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services encourages Michiganders to get free COVID-19 at-home tests through the federal government’s COVID-19 tests website as well as providing additional information about state-specific testing resources.
As of Monday, all U.S. residents are able to go to COVIDTests.gov to sign up to receive up to four free at-home tests per household delivered via the U.S. Postal Service, according to a MDHHS news release.
For Michiganders who are thinking about plans for on-site testing, Michigan.gov/COVIDTest remains in place to assist in locating a testing location.
MDHHS also continues to partner with libraries across the state to provide free at-home COVID-19 tests. Go to https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/contain-covid/test/library-partnership-for-at-home-test for a list of participating libraries; Dickinson County and Crystal Falls libraries are on the list.
Private health insurers are no longer required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests; however, information is available regarding eligibility and options for individuals with private insurance and Medicare. Under federal law, Medicaid and MIChild participants can obtain free at-home and laboratory COVID-19 tests through Sept. 30, 2024. Residents should check with their insurer for the most up-to-date information for specific plans.
“Testing continues to be a critical tool in managing the spread of COVID-19 and we encourage Michigan families to take advantage of the available free COVID tests to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to our loved ones and neighbors,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive. “It is important to test for COVID but to also consider other respiratory diseases, like RSV and influenza, as we head into fall and winter when these respiratory diseases spread most easily. Please stay home if you are sick, even if you have a negative COVID test.”
MDHHS encourages Michigan families to have a COVID plan that works for them. This may include keeping a supply of COVID-19 over-the-counter tests and well-fitting masks at home, getting the updated COVID-19 vaccine and speaking to a health care provider about eligibility for therapeutics that reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 disease for those who test positive.
For more information about MDHHS-sponsored testing, go to Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.