Detroit News. April 29, 2021.
Editorial: Don’t hold vaccinated hostage
We’ve asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to tell us when and how she would go about lifting the heavy restrictions Michigan has lived under for more than a year. The governor finally laid out some metrics Thursday, and that’s a start.
But the targets are too hard to reach and will take the restrictions too far into the future. Linking a relaxation of dictates to the percentage of vaccinated residents will have the effect of punishing those who’ve gotten their COVID shots and “done their part” by denying them a return to normal life.
The vaccinated should not be held hostage to the negligence of those who are avoiding readily available vaccines. As long as vaccines are plentiful, that’s the only metric that matters.
As Whitmer acknowledged at her press conference, the issue in Michigan is becoming one of demand, rather than supply. Appointments statewide are going unfilled, even as hospitals, pharmacies and clinics are offering walk-in options and other perks.
We get that these vaccines are new and were developed quickly, and that’s led to a lot of hesitancy. Plus, anti-vaxxers existed long before the coronavirus. Some of the reluctance will likely decline over time as concerned residents talk to family members or neighbors who’ve had the vaccine.
Whitmer’s “MI Vacc to Normal” would start easing restrictions once 4.5 million residents, or 55% of the adults, receive their first dose. Two weeks after that target is reached, office work would once again be allowed. Currently, about 48% have had their first dose.
Other incremental objectives translate to stepped-up freedoms, but the state is clinging to its epidemic power until a 70% vaccination benchmark is reached.
That’s likely many months off — if it can be reached at all.
James Hohman, fiscal policy director at the Mackinac Center, noted it’s helpful to have targets in place, even though he thinks they were misguided.
“It’s better than arbitrary control with no clear end in sight,” Hohman observed.
As many states are lifting restrictions altogether and putting responsibility into citizens’ hands, this continued top-down approach will keep Michigan an outlier.
Whitmer also claimed she had gotten input from GOP lawmakers. They disagree with that assessment and say conversations were ongoing but far from complete, which doesn’t bode well for a return to democratic governing.
We’ve lived through a full year of complicated COVID charts and “FAQs” telling us what we can and can’t do. The governor needs to set free those who’ve been vaccinated while continuing to press everyone else to get the shots.
Alpena News. May 1, 2021.
Editorial: Lawmakers should publicly disclose conflicts
Michigan and only two other states — Idaho and New Jersey — have no statutory requirements for state lawmakers to disclose their occupations, business associations, property, or income to the public, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
That has to change.
Multiple efforts in the Michigan Legislature to require disclosure have failed over the years. The current proposal has been watered down so lawmakers would only have to disclose information to a panel of other lawmakers — not the public.
That’s not good enough.
We entrust legislators with tremendous power.
They decide who benefits from billions of dollars in state money and several billions more in federal money doled out by the state. They decide how much of our paycheck goes to the Michigan Treasury, which businesses benefit from tax break incentives, and numerous other policies affecting everything from our health and safety to how our kids learn.
We should know whether the decisions those lawmakers make benefit them or us. And we can only know that if we know the scope of their business and how they fill their wallets.
Lawmakers, do the right thing. If you’re truly in this for public service, make yourselves accountable to the public.
Mandate disclosure, and then abide by those mandates.
Traverse City Record-Eagle. May 2, 2021.
Editorial: Doing the right thing shouldn’t be temporary
Doing the right thing simply can’t be a temporary change of direction for state regulators.
We were heartened to hear the director of Michigan’s task force in charge of addressing PFAS groundwater pollution declare her agency would upend its current practices and, at least for now, prioritize notification of at-risk residents who live near three potential contamination sites.
Last week MPART Executive Director Abigail Hendershott said residents whose water wells draw from the ground near former or active airport sites spread across the state would be notified of potential contamination, and their well water tested for PFAS about a year ahead of what state policies and procedures now require.
The change is an injection of common sense into a bureaucratic process that prioritizes procedural dogma over the health of Michiganders. Existing rules allow officials to follow an agonizingly slow process that places communication with and comfort of suspected polluters above notifying nearby residents who may be consuming and using contaminated well water.
That’s not just a hunch, it’s fact.
And we only know details of the flawed system because we witnessed it unfold in our community. It’s a debacle that echoes the mishandling of the Flint water system, an episode that allowed residents there to consume lead-laced water for months before they were told.
This time, state regulators spent eight months writing letters to Traverse City airport officials about PFAS contamination emanating from beneath the aviation facility before they notified nearby homeowners whose water wells had already been flagged as at-risk for contamination.
Those misplaced priorities meant residents in 18 homes continued drinking, cooking with and bathing in PFAS-laced water for eight months longer than necessary. In the months since a Record-Eagle reporter broke news of the delay related to contamination beneath East Bay Township, we learned state regulators had employed similar procedures at other contamination sites in the past, allowing Michiganders elsewhere to obliviously consume tainted water.
To make matters worse, state regulators tried to explain away their obvious missteps with grotesque claims that somehow the impacted residents were kept in the dark about potential PFAS contamination in their drinking water in an effort to prevent panic.
Neither their bureaucratic buttocks covering or the misguided process they attempted to protect pass a smell test.
The temporary change Hendershott announced last week is exactly the kind of common sense approach we called for months ago.
She said regulators will contact residents near suspected contamination sites and collect water samples from their homes.
The agency’s simple pivot leaves us wondering why such a quick process to ensure the health and safety of people near contamination sites wasn’t already the default procedure? Further, it leaves us confused about why state leaders seem reluctant to make the change immediate and permanent for all current and future contamination sites?
After witnessing months of handwringing by state regulators and leaders whose misguided policies now are in the spotlight, we are hopeful their temporary discomfort will result in long-term change.
And we expect that change will finally place the health of Michiganders above the comfort of polluters.