Detroit News. Jan. 5, 2021.

Editorial: Don’t deny citizens a second chance

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer got it very nearly right this week in terms of criminal justice reform. The governor signed a package of bills aimed at keeping those who present no threat to public safety out of jail.

The legislation, stemming from a task force she appointed, reduces a number of traffic crimes to civil infractions and reduces parole and probation for any defendants, among other cases. They are smart reforms aimed at reducing recidivism and keeping one-time mistakes from ruining lives. The governor deserves credit for making it happen.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

But she fumbled the ball on another key reform that would have allowed first offenders to have their drunken driving convictions expunged.

The governor signaled she won’t sign the bill, which in effect kills it through a pocket veto and without an explanation of her objections.

Lawmakers sent her the bill with strong bipartisan support. It passed the House on a 96-8 vote and a 32-5 vote in the Senate.

That level of consensus backing should have swayed the governor, who has faced legitimate criticism for disregarding the will of the Legislature on a number of issues.

Beyond that, it was a good bill that fit well into her own overall criminal justice reform agenda.

Its aim was to not let a single offense, never repeated, haunt an individual’s future.

It would have allowed a one-time offender who took steps to change his or her behavior to petition a judge to set aside a drunken driving conviction. Clearing the record would aid in gaining employment, as well as lifting other barriers such a case might present.

The conviction would not entirely disappear. Police would still have access to the record for guidance should a subsequent drunken driving arrest occur. A second conviction would not be eligible for expungement.

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, one of the sponsors, said the governor’s pocket veto risks “abandoning a very significant portion of our population who needed mercy, needed compassion because of this issue.”

He’s right. Drunken driving is a very serious offense. It’s also one a number of people make and learn from. Once the fines are paid and corrective steps taken, there should be room for a second chance.

Redemption should be a key piece of Michigan’s Corrections system. This bill would have furthered that cause. Whitmer should reconsider her decision to not give it her signature.

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The Mining Journal. Jan. 5, 2021.

Editorial: Donating blood is a critical act

As the holiday season wanes and we all find ourselves with maybe a bit more time on our hands, it’s time to think of how we can give back to our communities while filling our mid-winter days.

There are many ways to give back and make a difference locally, such as volunteering, contributing to a food pantry or helping a neighbor.

These are all worthy and important ways to contribute to your community, but here, we ask our readers to consider donating the life-saving gift of blood if they are able to, as this donation could make all the difference for a friend, neighbor or fellow Yooper.

While it’s always needed, donating blood is particularly critical at this juncture, as just last week, the Upper Peninsula Regional Blood Center reported on its Facebook page that there was a severe blood shortage across the Upper Peninsula.

“This blood shortage impacts 13 U.P. hospitals and the safety of patients,” a Facebook post from the center reads. “Healthy, eligible donors are needed now to donate to help patients counting on lifesaving blood.”

And your choice to donate can make all the difference in an emergency or medical crisis.

“The blood supply can change in the blink of an eye,” the Facebook post from the center stated. “A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood.”

For those who are concerned about donating amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials say “blood donation is considered an essential act and is safe to do at this time,” as blood is “an essential part of health care and the need for blood is constant,” according to the Upper Peninsula Regional Blood Center’s website.

“It is encouraged that all healthy, eligible donors consider donating during this time,” blood center officials said on the website. “We are taking additional precautionary measures to help protect you and our staff.”

For those who are inspired to donate, there are there are several blood drives coming up across the Upper Peninsula and appointments are also available at the U.P. Regional Blood Center, which is located at 427 W. College Ave., Marquette.

To make an appointment or learn more, call the U.P. Regional Blood Center at 906-449-1450 or 1-800-491-4483.

Updates, more information and a list of U.P. blood drives is also available at https://www.facebook.com/pg/UPRBC906/events/?ref=page_internal.

So we urge you, please consider giving blood if you are able to. You could save a life.

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Alpena News. Jan. 9, 2021.

Editorial: Web connection should be a 2021 priority

Reporters here at The Alpena News last week completed an exhaustive series on the availability of broadband technology across the region.

The series was both insightful and frightening, in that it revealed that, as a region, we are woefully behind other areas of the country for new technology use.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 6,700 homes in the four-county area of Alpena, Alcona, Presque Isle, and Montmorency counties lack the infrastructure for an internet connection that is reliable or fast enough for today’s world.

Specifically, the share of residents who lack a dependable connection is 8% in Alpena County, 38% in Alcona County, 33% in Presque Isle County, and 40% in Montmorency County.

Thankfully, there is some help on the way.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in late October announced a $3.5 million grant to Allband Multimedia to develop a fixed wireless network to connect 3,678 people, 64 farms, 54 businesses, four educational facilities, and a post office to high-speed broadband internet across Alpena, Alcona, and Iosco counties.

And, while we celebrate that announcement, it is but a Band-Aid to a problem that really needs a tourniquet.

At a time when students have to do their class assignments through the internet and more doctors’ visits occur over the internet, having a critical broadband supply is more important than ever.

Developing a reliable internet network for everyone should be a high priority of government leaders in 2021.

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