The Alpena News. Sept. 3.
Stop the flow from Islamic State terrorists
Islamic State terrorists are a greater threat than al-Qaida ever was. That is because they possess several advantages al-Qaida never enjoyed.
First is that the Islamic State has conquered a vast swath of territory in Iraq and Syria.
Second is that the Islamic State seems to have an excellent recruiting network. Hundreds of "foreign fighters," including some Americans, are among its troops.
Third, the Islamic State has more money than its leaders know how to spend, at least for now. The Islamic State is raking in an estimated $2 million a day from sales of Iraqi oil, again from conquered areas.
That leads to the question of who is buying oil from terrorists who really do threaten civilization itself. It also brings up the question of what President Barack Obama's administration is doing about that.
Obama insists his administration has restored respect for the U.S. among other nations. And the president is famous for using economic sanctions against our enemies.
Then why are Islamic State leaders able to sell $2 million worth of oil a day to anyone? U.S. officials already should have done something to keep that from happening.
The Ann Arbor News. Aug. 31.
Not in my backyard — Who deserves control of Michigan's natural resources?
Signs declaring "Deny the Mine" pepper the storefronts of downtown Chelsea. The signs are one of the efforts residents of the small western Washtenaw town are using in an attempt to put the brakes on a proposed sand and gravel mine on a 189-acre site just north of the city's downtown.
The proposal, currently tabled by the Lyndon Township Planning Commission as it gathers more information, drew hundreds of residents to public meetings earlier this year. Over in Scio Township, a similar battle is being waged between residents and West Bay Exploration company over exploratory oil drilling. In response, township officials have issued a moratorium to West Bay and residents are pushing for further legal action by Scio Township and Washtenaw County.
The fight over the extraction of natural resources is not a new one in the Ann Arbor region. Many of the locations where Washtenaw County residents currently live, work, and play today were once tapped by logging, mining, drilling and land developers, and those plans met with varying degrees of opposition.
Last week, Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, introduced Senate Bill 1026, which would drastically amend the natural resources and environmental protection act of 1994. Many opponents of such drilling and mining projects are calling for the revision of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.
We share the concern about the recent efforts by various resource companies to tap into Michigan's natural resources, many of which do come with inherent risks to other natural resources and the quality of life of neighboring residents. At the same time, we believe the rights of land owners to pursue the use of their property as they see fit is a safeguarded right.
In Chelsea, the site of the proposed mine may be a reasonable choice if geological studies indicated such; however, the disruption of the immediate community through the day-to-day operations such as the trucking of the material is inevitable. Seeking solutions to address those affiliated concerns rather than the site of the mine could result in both sides giving easement.
As Michigan's citizens and lawmakers consider these efforts, we caution against flip-flop lawmaking. Instead, we encourage the establishment of regulations that maintain access Michigan's valuable natural resources while raising the bar for environmental protection and impact on quality of life for residents of both rural and urban areas.
Detroit Free Press. Sept. 5.
Fledgling emergency school district hasn't earned right to expand
We were cautiously supportive when Gov. Rick Snyder established a statewide school district to take control of 15 of Detroit's most troubled schools, and no one should be surprised that the process of turning those schools around has proved slow and difficult.
It's supposed to be difficult. And expensive. And fraught with fits and starts; nowhere is the path from educational nadir to excellence linear.
But a series of missteps by the fledgling Educational Achievement Authority has badly undermined hope that the district can deliver for the kids in its schools. Meanwhile, the Snyder administration's ambitious plans for expanding the state-run district have continued unabated.
It's time for lawmakers to put on the brakes, though. If the governor wants to stick wih the EAA model for school turnaround in Michigan, he had better get its house in order, and deliver far more on proof of concept before growing it any larger.
Things seemed to have reached a real low earlier this summer when the EAA's first chancellor, John Covington, abruptly resigned after an undistinguished tenure notable mostly for lavish spending on travel.
But the state-run district sustained another self-inflicted wound last weekend, when it mailed parents in suburban school districts adjoining Detroit letters indicating that their children had been "assigned" to one of the EAA's troubled schools. They weren't, of course — students in Pleasant Ridge, Grosse Pointe, Ferndale, Southfield and other communities attend schools outside the EAA's purview; the district lacks the authority to shift students into its jurisdiction. The EAA has since apologized for what officials have called a "confusing" message.
The EAA's recruitment tactics are inexcusable, but maybe predictable: Like buildings in the surrounding Detroit Public Schools district, EAA schools have been hemorrhaging students, a problem that destabilizes budgets tied to enrollment. In the Wild West environment created by the combination of school choice and proliferating charter schools, the EAA has become just one more overzealous marketer.
But besides wasting taxpayer money (How many suburban parents are eager to enroll their kids in Detroit schools the state has explicitly singled out as the most chronically challenged?), the EAA's letters exacerbated suspicions that the state-run district's ultimate ambition is to cannibalize and supplant locally run school districts.
Scarcely three years since its inception, it's probably premature to declare the EAA a failed experiment. It's hard for the authority's critics to make the case that students in EAA schools are worse off than before Lansing took the reins. The longer school day and extended school year adopted by those schools should be given sufficient time to boost student achievement.
That said, we cannot fathom why the governor and some of his legislative allies are impatient to expand the authority's geographical reach or endow it with the authority to charter new schools. We agree with Oakland Schools Superintendent Vickie Markavitch, who likens plans to expand the EAA to "building a new I-94" at a time when Michigan should be repairing and maintaining its existing highways.
Snyder has made increasing the state-run EAA's capacity to take control of troubled schools all over Michigan one of his top priorities, but legislation to expand the authority has deservedly stalled in the state Senate after winning the narrowest possible approval in the House. Timid incumbent legislators are unlikely to revisit the issue before November's election, but many educators and parents fear a renewed initiative by pro-charter zealots in the Legislature's lame-duck session.
That would be a disservice to Michigan's schoolchildren. The Free Press' exhaustive reporting on the uneven performance of charter schools has made it clear that the state needs to establish and enforce standards of accountability before empowering anyone to authorize new ones.
And it's impossible to make the case for expanding the EAA until it has established a sustained record of improved student achievement, and responsible educational administration, in the 15 schools it supervises today.
Traverse City Record-Eagle. Sept. 4.
Multiple-day option for hikers, paddlers ideal
National Lakeshore officials have apparently gotten the hiking, biking, kayaking, camping bug; outdoor types hope there's no cure.
Their latest proposal looks like the best one yet.
Park officials are working on a hiking trail and parallel paddling trail along the park's shore that would allow hikers and boaters to see the park up close and camp along the way.
The trail, called the Bay to Bay Trail, would run from Good Harbor Bay to Platte Bay.
The intent is to "provide an opportunity for a multiple-day hike and camping experience or paddle and camping experience across the park that is not just a loop," said Kevin Skerl, Sleeping Bear's chief of natural resources.
The park's geography — about 32 miles long as the crow flies but only six to eight miles wide at its widest point — makes overnight or multiple-day hikes or paddles a challenge for those who want to immerse themselves in the experience over more than a few hours.
Right now there are few options for those who want to spend as much time as they can without going around in circles. The new trail is tailored for just those people.
The Bay to Bay Trail could run about 30 miles along the shore from Good Harbor Bay to Platte Bay and offer camp sites along the way.
Hikers and paddlers alike could do an overnight or even multiple-day trek with someplace to stop and camp.
Beryl Skrocki, the owner of Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak in Empire, said she thinks there's plenty of demand for a camping and paddling experience.
She said there aren't many places to camp along the Lakeshore "and considering it's a national lakeshore, that seems like an important part of it."
Park officials are seeking public input until Sept. 15. Those interested can submit comments at parkplanning.nps.gov/baytobaytrail. They can also review ideas from University of Michigan students on the National Park Service's website.
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