The Alpena News. Dec. 3, 2020

Thank you, Allor, for protecting transparency

Government transparency won a small battle on Wednesday when the state House postponed a final vote on legislation that would remove public notices from newspapers. The final vote was delayed because it was clear the bills couldn’t garner the votes needed to pass.

Among those who opposed the measure was state Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, who represents Northeast Michigan.

To that, we say thank you, representative, for standing up for transparency.

Currently, when a government has information to provide the public –about upcoming public hearings, ordinance changes, and the like –the government is required to post such notices in local newspapers, which not only share that information with their readers but also permanently preserve that information in their archives.

The proposed legislation would instead allow governments to post those notices on their websites.

We and other newspapers have serious concerns about such a change. Take a look at almost any government website, and you’ll see outdated meeting minutes, old budgets, and the like, because governments don’t always stay on top of their online presence for various reasons. We worry the same could happen with public notices, and important information could fail to get to taxpayers.

Despite this week’s decision to delay the vote, state House Speaker Lee Chatfield and other advocates of this bill seem determined to move forward and are working behind the scenes to get the votes they need.

We hope opponents, including Allor, hold strong, and government transparency is protected.


The Mining Journal (Marquette). Dec. 3, 2020

As long winter approaches, safety first in virus battle

Upper Peninsula residents know what a long winter feels like, better than most. Unfortunately, if we don’t remain steadfast in curbing the coronavirus outbreak, this could be one of our longest winters in history.

A top Michigan health official said Tuesday she was cautiously optimistic that more residents took steps to combat the surging coronavirus last month, citing declining case rates, but warned that the spread remains significant and the effect of Thanksgiving will not be known for two to three weeks, as reported by The Associated Press.

Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive and an adviser to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, urged people who traveled for the holiday to stay away from others for 14 days.

Whitmer said it was too early to say if her administration will extend a three-week order that prevents high schools from offering in-person instruction, prohibits dine-in service at restaurants and closes various entertainment businesses. The restrictions are due to end on Tuesday.

Michigan’s seven-day case average of 6,815 is down from 7,370 two weeks ago, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The rate of tests coming back positive, 12.5%, is up from 11.8%. The average daily death count is 95 — an increase from 60 on Nov. 17 — and the highest since early May.

The state health department reported 190 deaths on Tuesday, including 160 over the most recent 24-hour period. Deaths are a lagging indicator since it takes time for people to get sick and die.

“We’re cautiously optimistic. Based on what we are seeing, more people started doing the right thing towards the beginning of November. That means wearing masks, not gathering and maintaining 6 feet of distance from others,” Khaldun said. She added that officials will look at trends in the wake of Thanksgiving.

“Too many people traveled for Thanksgiving, and we will see the numbers increase very likely because of it,” Whitmer said. “That will coincide with the next big holiday, Christmas. Too many people are considering traveling and I reiterate — please don’t.”

It has been stated before, but it’s worth mentioning again — refraining from holiday gatherings this year is the best way to ensure that in future years, there won’t be empty chairs at the table. We are all exhausted with 2020, but we must continue to do our part to alter the current course of this pandemic. During this holiday season, by all means — support local businesses and restaurants, but do so safely.


Traverse City Record-Eagle. Dec. 6, 2020

We can’t sit on the sidelines as toxic algae invades

All of our small, individual actions add up.

If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s that we are not helpless. That our collective actions, in those times when we move together we can at least alter the course of events that otherwise would be beyond our control.

Unfortunately, there are frighteningly few issues upon which we seem to be able to move in unison. But in those places where we at least share similar values, Michiganders have shown they can move mountains.

Maybe that’s why we are hopeful for the future of our lakes. It’s nearly impossible to find someone in our region who doesn’t like, value, cherish, or, most often, love our lakes. They are the places that drew us to this home, and pull us back if we leave.

It hurts us all when our lakes suffer.

And they are suffering.

More frequent blooms of toxic algae in northern Michigan inland lakes during the past few years is unsettling to say the least. Most of us probably perceived those bursts of blue-green algae that turn our freshwater lakes toxic as something sequestered to the lower Midwest, and more shallow, warm bodies of water. After all, the most publicized outbreaks during the past decade have been ones that tainted Lake Erie and caused officials in Toledo, Ohio to shut off pumps that draw drinking water from the lake.

The blooms can sicken or kill both people and pets, and render parts of lakes inaccessible because of associated health risks.

Yet, here we are, ending a year filled with unforeseen events, learning about yet another development we once believed wouldn’t arrive in our back yard. But at least when it comes to the health of our lakes, we aren’t helpless.

All three factors scientists say contribute to the blue-green algae’s march north — climate change, invasive species and septic runoff — are in some way or another affected by us. And it’s likely we could move the needle to circumvent or slow progression of at least some of those ingredients for the looming toxic storm.

Let’s face it, climate change is a problem of near unimaginable scope, yet we all have our role to play in combating it. Our lakes are warming, along with our climate, and they will become warmer, more welcoming to this awful algae problem. Likewise, invasive mussels are in many of our lakes, and will persist, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help slow their spread to new places by taking precautions like cleaning boats carefully.

That third ingredient in the toxic algae mix on the other hand is one loud, unified messages from us all could address quickly.

Septic leakage and fertilizer runoff into lakes has a profound impact on algae blooms, toxic or otherwise. And Michigan’s nonexistent regulatory oversight on septic systems — we live in the only state in the nation without statewide septic regulations — has become a disaster in the works.

We simply can’t rely on luck to keep unmaintained and deteriorating septic systems from seeping sewage into our lakes. And until we are willing to do something about it, together, problems like toxic algae will continue as a growing wound we inflict on our beloved lakes.

This year has shown us time and again we can address massive problems if we find common ground and work together.

Facing this problem, the health of our lakes, because above all, our affection for them is the one thing we all seem to be able to agree upon.