Detroit News. March 9, 2021.
Editorial: Free Michigan from autocratic rule
Michigan’s official state of emergency ended in October when the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional because Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended it several times without the approval of the Legislature. But has anyone noticed?
Instead of going to lawmakers and making a case for renewing the emergency declaration, Whitmer mined the law to find an end-around. She discovered it in provisions that allow the Michigan health department and other agencies to issue the same orders without an emergency declaration.
The court’s scuttling of Whitmer’s authority actually made things worse. The epidemic powers under the Health Department are more vague than either of the emergency laws the governor had formerly employed. As long as the health director has good reason to fear a health threat, he or she has wide ability to limit gatherings, including closing down restaurants and schools.
Today marks one-year since the emergency was declared. And while COVID-19 continues to take lives in Michigan, the emergency orders have outlived their initial justification of slashing the death rate and keeping hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
Deaths from the virus are sharply falling. Hospitals throughout the state are handling their caseloads without strain. Vaccinations are rolling out at a steady pace, with President Joe Biden predicting by the end of spring anyone who wants an inoculation should be able to get one.
And yet still no indication of when Whitmer will relinquish her extraordinary powers.
Over the past 12 months, Michigan residents have lived under varying degrees of restrictions on their civil liberties, depending on the governor’s whims. Her orders have often been arbitrary — kayaking and canoeing OK, motor boating not OK — and applied without defending their logic.
Communication is vital during a crisis, yet Whitmer erected a wall of silence, as if the pandemic relieved her of the obligation for transparency and accountability. Her administration is sitting on Freedom of Information Act requests, including for data on nursing home deaths and the details of former Health Director Robert Gordon’s recent payoff. She limits questions at her press conferences to a few hand-picked reporters and dodges tough inquiries.
When challenged, her response is “science and data.” But the data is far from conclusive that her among the harshest-in-the-nation shutdowns produced better results than those posted by states that took a lighter hand.
Shutdowns may have played a role in reducing transmission of the virus, however, they don’t appear to be the determining factor nationwide in how states fared.
Whitmer’s policymaking has been marked by a stubbornness to pause and reassess. Despite pleading from patient advocates and lawmakers, she stuck with the practice of requiring that nursing homes accept COVID-positive patients longer than the handful of other states, including New York, with similar mandates.
One year is long enough for autocratic rule and the suspension of the checks and balances of regular-order governing. Emergency powers are intended by law to be temporary. They are supposed to go away as the crisis ebbs.
The COVID-19 crisis is ebbing in Michigan. With vaccines going into more arms every day, there is no justification for the governor to continue wielding unilateral power.
Michigan residents and businesses can handle things from here without the heavy hand of the governor on their shoulders.
Traverse City Record-Eagle. March 12, 2021.
Editorial: Fixing PFAS notification process isn’t debatable
Analysis paralysis seems to have its grip on state environmental policymakers.
And the inaction places more Michiganders’ health in danger.
Two weeks have passed since the Record-Eagle turned a spotlight toward state and local officials’ failure to place the health of East Bay Township residents ahead of scientific dogma.
To refresh everyone’s memory, a reporter recently found records that show state and local officials had flagged about 20 homes near Traverse City’s airport they believed were at risk of exposure to PFAS chemicals through private water wells. Those same officials wrote letters and emails to one another about the danger to people who live nearby for eight months before they told residents who live in those homes they may be drinking contaminated water.
When confronted with the blunder, the officials hid behind a grotesque form of scientific gaslighting as they explained why they withheld information about the potential contamination. Their most persistent defense for keeping people in the dark: they didn’t want to cause panic.
In hindsight, the risk of a short period of angst seems downright palatable when compared to eight unnecessary months of cooking with, showering in, and drinking contaminated water.
We were encouraged to learn the fumble, and potential process reform were on the agenda for a meeting of the Citizen’s Advisory Workgroup for the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team — that’s the team in the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy in charge of responding to PFAS contamination sites.
But our hope quickly gave way to disappointment this week when the group met. It’s clear many members of the advisory group believe the flawed process incorrectly placed scientific process above affected people’s health. Yet, the department’s leaders, instead of simply making immediate changes to correct an obvious problem, they sent the issue to a subcommittee of the advisory group.
We’re left wondering what there is to discuss? Why can’t state officials simply install a rule that guarantees the first people to know about potential groundwater contamination are the ones who might be drinking it?
There simply isn’t any defending a system that would place people who may be drinking contaminated water last on the priority list of folks to inform.
Yet, that’s how the system worked in this case, and it’s the system that, for reasons that defy common sense, remains in place today.
We appreciate the citizens’ advisory council’s efforts, and the time members devote to PFAS-related issues in our state.
But state leaders’ unwillingness to simply and swiftly correct and prevent such an obvious and damaging process is unfathomable.
Unfortunately, it appears leaders responsible for protecting Michiganders have once again prioritized process above people.
Marquette Mining Journal. March 9, 2021.
Editorial: Bergman on right track in joining bipartisan group
Some weeks ago, the office of U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, announced the retired U.S. Marine Corps general had joined a bipartisan group dedicated to, among other things, creating a more efficient and better-working government in support of military members and their families.
Under what might be considered normal circumstances, this kind of boilerplate move might have largely flown under the radar. Historically speaking, elected officials join and leave such informal organizations all the time.
But in today’s hyper-partisan atmosphere, it’s worth noting here, especially given a pair of poor decisions from Bergman recently that were anything but bipartisan.
According to a Bergman press release, the For Country Caucus is comprised of a group of military veterans serving in Congress who strive to create a Congress that is less polarized, more efficient, and is trusted by Americans.
The press release noted an impressive track record compiled by the group in the last Congress. Of course, the hope is that the good work will continue in the new Congress.
We hope so, too, and trust that the Watersmeet Republican, who served our nation honorably in uniform for 40 years, will fully embrace not only the group’s stated purpose but its bipartisan underpinnings.
Bergman, regrettably, allowed himself to become caught up in the nonsense that followed the Nov. 3 presidential election, voting to join the absurd Texas lawsuit seeking to toss out votes and declining to certify the electoral results.
Judging from the sharp reaction we’ve seen from voters, we suspect the representative may pay a political price for that lack of vision at some point.
But for today, we applaud his decision to associate himself with this group. It’s a positive step in the absolute right direction.