Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Detroit News. Oct 16, 2021.

Editorial: No reason to continue travel ban with Canada

Since the beginning of the pandemic, our border with Canada has remained closed to non-essential travelers. The Biden administration has kept delaying the opening, and now says it will be in early November. If there’s a good reason not to do it now, we’d like to hear it.

The administration didn’t initially set a firm date, which was worrisome, but on Friday said it would happen Nov. 8.

Canada eased travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans more than two months ago, yet we haven’t returned the favor. This isn’t the way to treat a close ally and trading partner.

Given Michigan’s large shared border with Canada, this state is especially impacted. The restrictions have hurt not only economically, but they’ve prevented friends and family from visiting one another, too.

The U.S. seems more concerned about a consistent approach than one that takes an individual country’s record into account. It plans to open the land border with Mexico at the same time as Canada, and to allow fully vaccinated international air travelers into the country as well.

A targeted plan would be smarter. Currently, only two-thirds of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated. In Canada, more than 88% of eligible citizens are fully vaccinated.

On the other hand, Mexico reports a vaccination rate of 53%. There’s more cause for concern with the southern border, and Canada shouldn’t have to pay the price.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have pleaded with Biden officials to open the Canadian border much sooner.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, says the Biden administration has made Canadians and Americans on the northern border pay a disproportionate price. Huizenga co-chairs the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group and says more needs to be done to ease travel.

“For over a year and a half, northern border communities and Canadian-American families have had to live with overly burdensome restrictions that divided them because of the Biden administration’s inability to stem the tide of people illegally entering the United States along our Southern border,” he said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also thinks the easing of restrictions is necessary.

“I’m pleased that President Biden has put forward a public plan that will safely reopen northern land ports of entry to vaccinated travelers,” Peters said. “There is no question travel restrictions at our Northern Border have caused significant disruptions and challenges for Michigan’s cross-border communities and binational families.”

A July letter signed by a bipartisan group of 75 members of Congress warned the Biden administration that keeping the border with Canada largely closed would lead to the loss of 1.1 million jobs and $175 billion by the end of the year.

We’re getting close to the year’s end, and it’s past time for the U.S. to open the border with Canada.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. Oct. 17, 2021.

Editorial: Make ARP spending thoughtful, transparent

An open cookie jar is a tempting thing.

And nearly every local government official in Michigan is situated face-to-face with just such a perceived bounty. Thanks to a gush of federal cash from a number of past and upcoming stimulus bills, tens of millions in aid payments are destined for local coffers.

That’s where the temptation comes in.

The now-arriving budgetary sugar rush has a few strings attached — it can cover public health-related costs, addressing negative economic impacts, replacing lost public sector revenue, premium pay for essential workers, and for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Those are somewhat loose categories, and some government leaders already are struggling to interpret the few strings attached to the first payments — half of American Recovery Plan Act money was dispatched in May.

Most are taking it slow, and many have made promises of vigorous public processes to seek input before spending the windfall. Leelanau County officials received more than 100 suggestions from the community on how to spend the millions they will receive. All things considered it seems like common sense to seek guidance from the folks who pay the bills, instead of spending money on consultants and vendors to tell us where to send checks.

Some of the worst, most ethically corrupt plans for spending those cash infusions have been hatched through processes that seem devoid of taxpayer consultation.

Take, for instance, Green Lake Township elected officials’ now-interrupted plan to pay themselves tens of thousands in pandemic “hazard” pay. That plan now is on hold, but called for absurd payments to elected township board members — under the scheme they voted to approve, some board members would’ve received payments 10 times larger than their firefighters and EMTs would’ve received.

The township office and board room probably presented some new hazards and obstacles during the pandemic (frequent hand sanitizer use can cause some pretty chapped hands). But we can’t imagine elected officials faced hardships that eclipse the ones their frontline workers experienced.

We simply can’t overstate the temptation that arrives with those mountains of federal money. Some likely will subscribe to spending that will pad their own pockets. Others will see the money as easy-come, easy-go and write frivolous checks.

If our elected representatives struggle for targets for those cash missiles, we suggest the first place they begin is with the massive, unpaid infrastructure debt situated beneath our feet in every municipality.

That’s why discussions of how to spend the bounty must be both transparent and thoughtful.

People writing checks today, elected officials who face that tempting, wide-open cookie jar, are accruing debt our children will pay.

Those checks had better count.

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The (Marquette) Mining Journal. Oct. 16, 2021.

Editorial: Solving area’s housing problems a laudable goal for new committee

Ask any young family, Northern Michigan University student or single parent looking for a place to live in the greater Marquette area, “How’s that coming?” you’re likely to get a sharp, negative response.

That’s because this area suffers from a lack of affordable housing. The problem is neither new nor easily solvable.

But finally, officialdom in the form of the Lake Superior Community Partnership has apparently recognized that something, in a broad kind of way, needs to be done.

The Partnership is heading up what’s being called the Marquette County Intergovernmental Housing Task Force. The goal, according to LSCP CEO Sarah Lucas, is to “formalize participation in a collaborative group in order to advance local housing efforts regionally and statewide.”

The city of Marquette, which already has an Ad-Hoc Housing Committee looking at some of the same issues, signed on this week. It’s hoped other municipalities will follow suit.

“I think this is a common-sense move that we’re making here in collaboration with the LSCP and other local governments,” Commissioner Evan Bonsall said at Tuesday’s city commission meeting. “It’s right in line with the (Ad-Hoc) Housing Committee’s recommendations, and we’re hopefully going to find some regional as well as some local solutions to the affordability crisis that we’re facing right now.”

Central among the basic problems, as we see it, is the simple economics behind housing development: The profit margins are much higher in upscale construction than in building affordable units.

If you’re a housing developer with money to spend, what would you do? That’s why a broad approach that involves local units of government is needed.

Marquette Mayor Pro Tem Jenn Hill said housing is a countywide issue. We couldn’t agree more.

“We’ve been working on the local task force within the city, but this is truly a regional and countywide issue,” she said this week. “I’m really glad that we are coming together to work together, and it’s going to take time and all of us coming up with good ideas. I really appreciated this.”

We’re going to watch this effort closely and hope it produces more than talk and/or reports that go on shelves to gather dust.

This is a real issue in our area that needs real solutions. We applaud the Partnership and the city of Marquette for getting out front on it. But others in the area need to join.

We trust that will happen.

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