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February 6, 2001

Letters to the Editor

Plush, perks, power
      I wonder if the (so-called) leaders of this country ever gave thought of the good they could have done.
      Two years of kissing the Blarney Stone, spending millions of dollars, telling us of all the good things they are going to do for us, and very seldom do. Some of those millions could be spent on a cure for cancer and many other diseases, but no, it goes for plush, perks and power.
      Ed Johnson
      Borrowing or stealing?
      I am concerned about our lawmakers in Lansing voting themselves such a big raise or any raise at all before they pay their honest debts.
      When Mr. Milliken was governor, he "borrowed" $3 million from the school personnel's retirement fund and at the same time "borrowed" $2 million from the police retirement fund to balance the budget. But it was never paid back. When does that become stealing?
      We, the retired school personnel, were considering increasing our benefits when this happened. We have never been able to do that with the money that was left.
      We have to work 30 years to get full pension benefits but I believe our lawmakers only have to work 10 years. You may correct me on that if I am wrong.
      Emogene Meredith
      Traverse City
      Step back, reassess
      I am writing in response to the Commission On Aging article printed in the Jan. 24 Record-Eagle, "Local Commissions on Aging pan idea of funding cuts."
      The number one concern of the Kalkaska County Commission On Aging is meeting the needs of the seniors of Kalkaska County.
      Over the last few years there have been many changes as to how funding was allocated from the state and there have not been increases enough to keep up with the growing demands.
      Some grants have been replaced by purchase of service. Medicaid Waiver monies are now included and private pay companies are now competing.
      Sometimes we need to take a step back and reassess where we are, how we got there, and where we are going.
      COA directors and AAA representatives have been meeting to discuss the changes and exchange ideas. There have been no definite solutions as of this date. With the cooperation of AAA and the input of the 10 county directors, we must make sure we are utilizing our allocated monies with the best possible results for everyone involved.
      Carrol Cort
      South Boardman
      Carrol Cort is director of the Kalkaska County Commission On Aging
      Grow up or grow out
      There is one major problem that our city faces: Growth. Inevitably, Traverse City will grow as its population and tourism grows. So, what we must decide upon is where it will grow. Will it grow up, or out? I would say up.
      If Traverse City is going to expand outward, the effect will be terrible! We will have full blown urban and suburban sprawl, judging by how fast we are growing already. This sprawl will invade our scenic vistas and tranquil farmland that we all love and treasure. What we really should do is have a sort of "green belt," a ring of farmland or nature preserve that rings around a set limit for city/suburb growth. This would keep Traverse City and its suburbs from sprawling and ruining the former countryside. This tactic was used by many cities, including London, and proved to be very successful. But it must be done soon if it is to help Traverse City.
      However, if something like that is going to happen, the city will have to grow up. I don't mean skyscrapers kind of "up," but I think that we can sacrifice enough so that we can have at least five-story buildings if that's what it takes to prevent sprawl. If we curb this before it get any worse, our land, animals, nature and farms will be saved. We must decide now. Which is it? up, or out?
      Adam Wills Begley
      Traverse City
      Adam Begley is a sixth-grader at Central Grade School.
      Can't be trusted
      President-elect George W. Bush's choice of John Ashcroft to be US attorney general - an official whose responsibilities include enforcing our nation's environmental laws - could hardly be more out of step with mainstream America.
      Ashcroft introduced legislation to undercut efforts to limit emissions of man-made greenhouse gases. He voted to roll back clean water protections and prevent the EPA from enforcing arsenic standards for drinking water. He voted to allow chemical manufacturers to avoid compliance with community "right to know" laws so they would not have to report on emissions of some toxic pollution. He even voted to allow mining companies to dump cyanide and other mining waste on large areas of public lands next to mining sites.
      How can we trust this man to enforce environmental protections that most Americans support when he has tried to undermine those protections?
      Deborah Gayle Underwood
      Traverse City
      Improve lives of poor
      The tax stories in the Jan. 28 issue were an excellent introduction to understanding any tax legislation coming up on the state or federal level. The survey found that state tax cuts during the last decade brought something to almost every taxpayer, but, not surprisingly, the rich fared better than the poor did. One interesting statistic: A Michigan family of four would be taxed if its household income reached $12,800, whereas the federal tax begins at $18,550, the federal poverty level. Granted that the federal poverty level may be skewed upward by a few high-income states. You still have to wonder how a family of four in Michigan can live within an income of $12,800, let alone pay any income taxes.
      Yes, there is an inadequate patchwork of programs to help the poor, earned by considerable effort in learning about them, applying, proving and reproving eligibility, but it is difficult to pull out by climbing the low-wage ladder, especially if there are additional hurdles, such as requiring mothers to work rather than be with their children.
      An improving economy is more helpful than tax breaks or subsidies if it does indeed "lift all boats" enough. Some say that to provide jobs you need the big earners, the innovative, the risk-takers. But I believe that a tax plan, together with government support or regulation of public services like education, health care, housing and transportation, should emphasize improving the position of poor families so they can reach their potential and become strong contributors, energetic and creative. This can provide much of the consumer demand for a buoyant economy as well as an educated and versatile labor force - and even a good many managers and entrepreneurs.
      June L. Barth
      Traverse City
      Mental health funding
      To be apprehensive about the imminent loss of funds for supporting the programs of mental health agencies, as reported Jan. 19 in the Record-Eagle is justified ("Local agencies may face cutbacks.") Potentially evil outcomes in the form of program and staff reductions with resulting client deprivations would undoubtedly follow.
      Counseling and encouraging Medicaid-eligible clients to augment minimal incomes through health-promoting work experience would be diminished. To do so would simultaneously provoke loss of benefits to both the individual client and the agency. No conscientious staff would want to be placed in such an untenable position. It is a fact that compensation for this kind of work experience is usually minimal but could be sufficiently disqualifying under irrational rules.
      It is reasonable to inquire as to which additional restrictions would be imposed by funding cutbacks. Would subsidies for housing, where such programs exist, or unthinkably, funding support for essential medications which help to restore stability be curtailed? Efforts at remediation and recovery could unalterably be defeated.
      The arcane, intricacies of mental health care funding in support of agencies responsible for client programs, particularly where those vulnerable clients are living at subsistence levels, does little to bolster confidence that diminished supportive efforts will accomplish the goal of health among the disabled population.
      Are rules under which funding is allowed capable of responding to demand as reflected in the need for services? The bottom line must be the health of the threatened client population which, in turn, is based on the economic health of supportive agencies.
      Do systems for service become so bound by funding idiosyncrasies that efficiency in providing mental health services is compromised? The usefulness of such services which require flexibility is imperative.
      Legislation and legislators can do better in modifying rules which interfere with such flexibility.
      Frank Tosiello
      Traverse City