Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Traverse City Record-Eagle. February 16, 2024.

Editorial: Jail diversion corrects the systems

A young man overdoses, and is so far gone that six doses of Narcan are required to bring him back to life.

That night, the 21-year-old cried for hours because “he wanted to stop and didn’t know how,” his parents said.

He is caught with meth the next day by a deputy who recognizes him as the young man who almost died the night before.

If insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result, then many of the systems designed to rehabilitate aren’t mentally sound.

Locking up nonviolent offenders with mental and substance use disorders neither uses resources wisely nor is it moral. That’s why it’s imperative that the responders who deal with life’s hard cases have options — and the wherewithal and support to use them.

Jail diversion, which formally started in the last few years, is built on a startlingly simple foundation — use what we know about human behavior to prevent or limit incarceration. To go to the root of the problem – the diagnosis, the addiction used to mask the diagnosis, the lack of life skills and accountability – with a caring navigator.

Locally, this is late in coming – in 1996 Michigan’s Mental Health Code required community mental health to “provide services designed to divert persons with serious mental illness, serious emotional disturbance, or developmental disability from possible jail incarceration when appropriate.”

Our program just started.

We understand that getting a functional jail diversion off the ground takes a massive amount of caring and coordination. It takes money and people. It takes rigorous and transparent data collection and accountability every step of the way.

But the short-term investment seems to yield results, in both human and financial terms.

U.S incarcerates more people per capita than any other country. Numbers-wise, only China incarcerates more than our 1.2 million prisoners with a population four times our size, according to the New York Law Journal.

Recidivism rates also shock: Nearly half (44 percent) of those released from prison return in a year, and 70 percent are back within five years.

Jail diversion rates appear to be better, even though data is slow in coming and statistics are limited.

A 2012 study of Michigan mental health courts showed that 6.3 percent of participants who successfully completed the diversion program were charged with a new offense, compared with 16.5 percent of those who did not, the Journal article read.

In Grand Traverse County, where we officially started jail diversion in 2021-2022, 108 people with criminal charges or who were at risk for incarceration completed the program through probation and parole in 2023. Of those, 24 re-violated and several have since re-entered jail diversion.

Some may go through jail diversion programs as many as four times, a local expert said.

Florida, the first state that invested in jail diversion 30 years ago, was able to close a Miami prison, saving millions.

Getting to the bottom of mental health and substance use is a time-intensive practice, but it can work – and it can take people out of the washing machine-churn of the correctional system, for good.

That is what the system was built for, to correct.

Now we need to correct our systems by making these programs as healthy as possible.


Detroit News. February 17, 2024.

Editorial: Changed relationship will hurt autoworkers

Those autoworkers down south who are being courted by Shawn Fain should pay close attention to the message sent by Ford Motor Co. last week.

Chief Executive Jim Farley, talking to the Wolfe Research Auto Conference in New York, said in light of the prolonged strike last fall by the United Auto Workers, the automaker will “have to think carefully” about where it builds future vehicles.

“Our reliance on the UAW turned out to be we were the first truck plant to be shut down,” Farley said, noting Ford had previously decided to build all of its highly profitable pickups in the U.S. with union labor. “Really our relationship has changed. It’s been a watershed moment for the company.”

Listen up Volkswagen workers in Tennessee, Toyota workers in Kentucky, Nissan workers in Mississippi and autoworkers everywhere UAW President Fain is waving the historic contract he wrested from the Detroit Three to end the strike.

His gangster-style negotiating tactics may win higher wages and benefits, but they ultimately kill jobs.

The same week Farley indicated Ford is rethinking its commitment to the UAW, the company’s chief operating officer for the EV division, Marin Gjaja, warned of the “colossal thereat” China presents to domestic electric vehicle makers.

He warned China is rapidly emerging as a low-cost EV manufacturer and its potential to dominate the market is real.

“So, we better get fit now and better get going on EVs, or we don’t have a future,” Gjaja said.

Getting fit means, in part, cutting costs.

Take the statements from Farley and Gjaja together and it’s fair warning that Ford, and other automakers will be looking to build EVs where they can be built most efficiently.

Cost isn’t the only factor. The UAW strike against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, as Farley noted, changed what had been almost a partnership between the automakers and the union into a far more confrontational and unpredictable association.

The new world of automotive manufacturing requires a cooperative and flexible workforce. That’s not the direction Fain is taking the UAW.

“Maybe Ford doesn’t need to move factories to find the cheapest labor on Earth,” Fain said in response to Farley’s remarks. “Maybe it needs to recommit to American workers and find a CEO who’s interested in the future of this country’s auto industry.”


Alpena News. February 13, 2024.

Editorial: Engage with lawmakers on budget

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked lawmakers for an $80.7 billion state budget for 2025, kicking off the appropriations process in Lansing that has to wrap up by the Oct. 1 start of the state’s fiscal year.

The governor’s proposal is about $2 billion less than the current budget, which was propped up by federal stimulus funds meant to help offset losses from the coronavirus pandemic.

Whitmer’s budget would guarantee free preschool through community college for Michiganders, invest hundreds of millions in business subsidies, and send more to K-12 schools for every student they enroll.

Now, lawmakers will take Whitmer’s proposal and add and remove things to make it the 2025 spending plan in their own image and try to craft it into bills to send to the governor’s desk by this fall. Hopefully, they’ll get it done by June, so schools can start their fiscal years on July 1 knowing exactly how much per-pupil revenue they’ll get from the state.

You, dear Northeast Michiganders, need to be part of that process.

The budget is how Lansing turns policy ideas into action and how lawmakers lay out their priorities.

Everyday Michiganders — including you, dear reader — should have a say in what those priorities are.

So we urge each of you to reach out to your representatives in Lansing — state Rep. Cam Cavitt can be reached at 517-373-0833 and state Sen. Michelle Hoitenga can be reached at 517-373-7946 — and tell them how you think your tax money should be spent.