Detroit News. Jan. 20, 2021.
Editorial: Free Kilpatrick should start new life elsewhere
Seven years in prison might be considered adequate punishment for a public corruption conviction. That’s what former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick served before his sentence was commuted Wednesday by President Donald Trump in his last hours in office.
Losing that much of your life, and spending so much time away from your family, is hardly a wrist-slap.
Still, there’s a sense that once again Kilpatrick, a lifelong con man, has gamed the system and avoided full accountability for his deeds.
Kilpatrick, 50, leaves his federal cell 21 years early without having admitted to the crimes for which he was convicted; without expressing regret for anything other than that he was imprisoned; and without accounting for the money he stole from the taxpayers of Detroit.
All of those factors, and that Kilpatrick did not cooperate with federal prosecutors during the corruption probe, contributed to his unusually long sentence of 28 years. It tied the longest term ever handed down by a federal judge for a similar charge.
Kilpatrick was found guilty of skimming millions of dollars from city contracts in a scheme that involved his longtime friend, Bobby Ferguson, who was given a 21-year sentence. Trump did not commute Ferguson’s sentence, so he remains locked up while his partner in crime walks free.
The former mayor, who was elected in 2002 and served until he was charged in 2008, passed on a plea deal that would have offered him a much shorter sentence in return for a confession and restoration of the stolen money.
With the pardon, Kilpatrick in effect gets the lesser sentence that would have come with the plea deal, without having to meet the conditions of the proffered bargain.
Investigators who worked on the case believe the former mayor and Ferguson stole as much as $75 million, and still have millions hidden that Kilpatrick quite possibly still can access.
He still has not paid more than $11 million in fines and restitution to various entities. It’s unlikely those expecting payment will ever see that money.
Those who view Kilpatrick as a victim, targeted by the federal government because he was a powerful, young Black man should remember the damage Kilpatrick did to the city and those around him.
A generation of promising young leaders who might have served the community into the future was wiped out, with many in the Kilpatrick circle also going to jail.
Kilpatrick’s self-dealing contributed to Detroit’s fall into bankruptcy, which led to city workers losing hard-earned pay, benefits and pensions.
He was a scourge on the city of Detroit. And while Mayor Mike Duggan had curious praise Wednesday for a man who did so much harm, there’s no place for him here.
Kilpatrick says his life is changed by his jail time and renewed faith, and we hope that’s true. Living an honest, productive life in the service of others would be tangible evidence of his redemption.
But welcoming him back to Detroit as a prodigal son would saddle the city with a constant reminder of that painful era, and a distraction to the ongoing good work to fulfill the promises Kilpatrick once made, promises he couldn’t keep because of his preoccupation with enriching himself.
The Mining Journal. Jan. 23 2021.
Editorial: Safety, patience key as area, state, nation are at critical pandemic juncture
COVID-19 deaths and cases have been surging throughout the nation this month. And small communities in the Upper Peninsula are no exception.
For example, Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft Health Department reported on Wednesday that in Alger County, there has been an 80% increase in new cases from Jan. 6 through Tuesday compared with the previous two-week period.
Officials said these cases are tied to gatherings without masks, a lack of distancing, and some who have broken isolation or quarantine guidelines.
We are well aware of the “quarantine fatigue” many people are experiencing at this point. It’s been challenging to comply with all the changes and guidelines that came so quickly and have lasted so long.
However, with vaccines being administered and a more infectious variant circulating in Michigan, this is hardly the time to stop these measures, as LMAS officials noted.
“While much attention and hope has turned to the beginning rollout of the vaccine for COVID-19, it is important that we not lose sight that the coronavirus is still in our communities and continues to spread,” officials said. “LMAS District Health Department calls on all of our residents and visitors in Luce, Mackinac, Alger and Schoolcraft counties to not give up on the necessary protocols to protect each other, including the proper wearing of masks, staying home when you don’t feel well and not gathering with those not in your immediate household.”
Furthermore, a sobering statistic highlights the urgency of following public health protocols and getting a vaccine: more than 400,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19.
To further bring the magnitude of this loss into perspective, the current total of American COVID-19 deaths now surpasses the number of Americans killed in World War II. The average daily death rate reported for some weeks this month was over 3,300, exceeding the number of Americans killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, the New York Times reported.
But each and every one of the 400,000-plus people who have died from COVID-19 had a name, a face, a life, a story, a family. As of early December, more than half of Americans — 54% — said they knew someone who had been hospitalized or died from COVID-19, a Pew Research Center survey reported.
And with all the loss and heartbreak that have filled our daily lives for many months, it’s clear that much work remains to be done — by individuals, as well as leaders at local, state and federal levels — to combat this pandemic.
So we urge you, please do anything and everything in your power to fight this virus and save lives. There are many things you can do: wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands, get a vaccine if you’re able, encourage others to engage in safe practices and get a vaccine, and reach out to your local, state and federal leaders if you have questions, concerns or input related to the pandemic.
And please, don’t give up. You could save a life.
Traverse City Record-Eagle. Jan. 24, 2021.
Editorial: Clous’ behavior was an affront to our democratic process
At a moment when discourse in our nation seems to have reached an all-time low, along came Ron Clous and his rifle.
We, and probably many of the constituents Clous serves as a Grand Traverse County commissioner, had to do a double-take Jan. 20 as the elected official left view of his webcam during a livestreamed meeting and returned toting a gun. His actions — no words attached — were clearly a response to Keli MacIntosh, a county resident, as she implored the board to make a public gesture to distance itself from the Proud Boys, a far-right group whose members participated in the mob violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
In an adjacent screen, viewers watched as board Chairman Rob Hentschel caught an eyeful of Clous’ display and flung himself back in his chair for a good laugh.
Worse, both men were on the clock, doing the people’s business (duties for which they recently granted themselves a 72 percent raise). They were being asked to publicly denounce a group whose members played a role in an attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a group that has been called “extremist” by the FBI and labeled a hate group by multiple civil rights organizations.
Instead of taking the chance to condemn extremist behavior and beliefs, the two commissioners condoned, if not joined it with their actions.
Clous and Hentschel failed us at a time when they are paid to listen to our county residents’ concerns and weigh these opinions before making decisions on their behalf.
At best, Clous’ petulant, sophomoric, potentially threatening gesture was a wholesale dereliction of his duty as an elected representative. At worst, he violated the First Amendment rights of at least one of the people he was elected to serve by behaving in a manner that would intimidate her, discourage her from speaking freely in a petition to her government to redress a grievance.
Adding salt to a now-festering wound, neither man saw fit to address the error. Or apologize. In fact, Hentschel seemed to miss the point altogether, and continued to defend Clous’ behavior for days following the dismal display.
Hentschel instead recast the swelling wound caused by his comrade as some sort of “liberal” overreaction. When asked how he thinks people will perceive Clous’ actions supported by his affirmation, he replied “It says, ‘If you’re going to start trouble, don’t start it here.’”
Exactly which “here” is Hentschel talking about? The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners?
This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s an issue of American democratic values. And any elected representative who doesn’t understand the damage inflicted on our democratic processes by Clous’ behavior should step aside, because she or he is unfit to serve our community or any other.
At no point would we, or any well-thinking American, find it appropriate for an elected official to wield a gun in response to someone who criticizes her or his governance. That simply isn’t appropriate conduct from anyone selected to hold public office.
For his complete and utter failure to uphold the values represented in his oath of office, Ron Clous faces an up swell calls for his immediate resignation. And for his gross lack of appropriate leadership, both during and after Clous’ petulance, Rob Hentschel has received similarly stiff backlash.
And we can’t help but agree with the throngs of their constituents seeking their ouster.
The conduct of our elected leaders while carrying out the duties of their office simply isn’t a partisan issue. We expect they will set aside inclinations toward immaturity and self-interested partisan posturing for just a few hours each week to serve their constituents.
That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
Nor does it appear to be something Clous or Hentschel will deliver.