Detroit News. April 22, 2021.

Editorial: Lockdowns come with high costs

We are pleased that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is not choosing to close down the state in response to the latest wave of the coronavirus — a response she’s opted for during past surges. Shuttering large swaths of the economy is costly on many fronts, and has long-lasting impacts.

A new report released by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, authored by University of Michigan-Flint economist Chris Douglas, estimates that Michigan lost more than 64,000 jobs during the state’s second lockdown, starting last November. During the so-called “pause to save lives,” indoor dining was banned through Feb. 1. Other businesses, such as theaters and bowling alleys, as well as high schools and colleges were also closed for weeks.

Since this lockdown hit the hospitality industry especially hard, Douglas focused on the effects on restaurants and bars. In Michigan, an estimated 3,000 restaurants have closed since the beginning of the pandemic, taking with them thousands of jobs. Women and minorities are disproportionately impacted.

The study found Michigan’s job losses were much steeper than neighboring states, thanks in large part to its tight restrictions. Jobs at eateries and bars fell 23% from October 2020 to January 2021, according to the report — a direct result of the shutdown order.

These findings mirror an earlier report from the Anderson Economic Group, which examined the economic hit following the second lockdown. That report found the leisure and hospitality industries lost nearly 60,000 jobs between November and December, yet the retail industry, which was allowed to remain open, saw an increase of jobs during that time frame.

Other Midwest states, including Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana, that avoided bans on indoor dining experienced much smaller industry employment losses of 5% or less.

“We can clearly see that the costs of the shutdowns have been devastating,” said Douglas in a statement. “Unfortunately, the shutdown did not appear to provide any noticeable benefits that could justify the massive costs to the jobs and livelihoods of Michigan’s citizens.”

Douglas also took a look at the data surrounding the effectiveness of the lockdowns on preventing deaths from the virus. He found “little statistical relationship between lockdown severity and declining COVID-19 deaths.” Other neighboring states fared about the same as Michigan in terms of virus cases, even though they had much looser mandates in place.

This meshes with a recent Associated Press report that found similar COVID outcomes in Florida and California, despite disparate strategies for responding to the virus.

Yet Douglas identified a strong statistical link between shutdowns and unemployment.

In his conclusion, Douglas writes: “Economic shutdowns provide massive, concentrated costs on those businesses and individuals impacted by these restrictions. Many businesses who were mandated to close will never reopen. Many individuals who worked in the affected industries consequently will have a difficult time finding a new job.”

Governors like Whitmer want to appear they are being proactive in fighting COVID, but they must take the evidence into account to ensure they aren’t doing more harm than good.

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(Marquette) Mining Journal. April 19, 2021.

Editorial: Lakefront property is expensive but city should buy

Mark Twain is credited with noting, approximately, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”

Although it’s not entirely clear in what context the esteemed author and humorist made the statement, it’s hard to argue with its accuracy.

The same must be said for waterfront property. When it comes available, buy it as there is nothing more desirable than sandy beaches punctuated by rocks, grass tufts and, of course, waves.

The Marquette City Commission may be following that general guideline in mulling the purchase of a small tract of Lake Superior shoreline just off Lakeshore Boulevard.

The familiar property in question is 702 N. Lakeshore Blvd., at the corner of Lakeshore and Hewitt Avenue. A Mining Journal story stated the property, which is currently owned by the Robert T. Anthony Trust, is one of the few private residences left on the lake side of the road.

Raising eyebrows, however, is the asking price for the 6,727-square foot tract: $350,000 even though the appraised value is $115,000 less at $235,000.

Officials have made clear that while specific plans for the property have not been discussed, the city wants to purchase it with the full intent of preserving it for public use.

This land has been in private hands for a long time. Now comes an opportunity for the city to purchase it — but at an inflated price.

We think the city should swallow hard and write the check. Who knows when — or even if — the property will ever again be available to purchase.

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Alpena News. April 19, 2021.

Editorial: We need court cost reform

A Michigan Court of Appeals ruling that an Alpena County defendant must pay for the state’s costs in administering his court case is now precedent.

By publishing their opinion, the appellate justices said their ruling that Travis Johnson must pay $1,200 in court costs can be used as case law when attorneys make future arguments about defendants’ obligation to repay the courts for convicting them.

We don’t begrudge the justices for their opinion. They just followed what the Legislature had written.

But we agree with Johnson’s attorneys’ argument that charging defendants court costs can incentivize courts to convict so they can recoup their expenses.

We also believe the problem goes beyond that. Crime and poverty go hand-in-hand, and charging defendants for the cost of putting them in jail or prison (where they can’t earn a living, anyway) can put them or their family further behind on their bills, which could only encourage more crime. Sometimes, defendants end up back in jail for failing to pay court costs, thereby creating new court costs and a vicious cycle that keeps people behind bars.

Society has decided criminal justice a worthwhile endeavor to keep our streets safe. We have to be willing to pay for it.

The Legislature has discussed court financing reforms for years, but have made little headway.

We encourage lawmakers to finally enact changes to the way we fund our courts, to take it off the backs of the impoverished, which only makes society worse.

END