If you want to know what a politician’s values are, follow the money. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed 2024 budget demonstrates that her administration values families. It will provide a robust safety net for Michigan families, while supporting economic opportunities to promote independence.
By default, health is the most important consideration of every family. If any member is ill, then every member is affected. The proposed budget understands that simple fact and expands healthcare for all Michigan citizens, particularly in pre- and postpartum medical care. If you have an infant or child with developmental delays or a handicap, this budget will provide comprehensive help by expanding access to existing healthcare services, such as Early On. Noteworthy is that the recommendations support or improve existing services, raising the likelihood that most of the increases will be used to provide needed services rather than supporting a new bureaucracy.
The recommendations for the child welfare system begins to address long overdue needs. It increases payments for foster and adoptive families and juvenile guardians by a substantial 8%. There’s more support needed to address the critical need for qualified child protection workers, including prevention workers, investigators and foster care workers. Still, supporting improvements to the system rather than increasing oversight demonstrates that this administration’s goal is to support children and families. There is plenty of oversight in the system now. What is needed are services to children and families.
Families who are willing to care for foster children provide their time and often their own money to support them. Those families also are prey to the same issues common to all, illness, job loss, accidents, a car that breaks down. This budget adds support for families willing to provide short-term respite care for foster families. This is a practical solution to a system that needs to encourage more people to open their homes to children in need.
The best way to protect children is to support families. Whitmer’s proposed budget begins to address many stubborn problems that have been neglected for decades. That’s great news for our state.
Major ice storms can be a truly miserable experience, especially for the unfortunate souls whose electric service gets wiped out for an extended period. Just ask the more than half-million Consumers Energy and DTE customers who lost power in the wake of the catastrophic ice storm that hammered southern Michigan two weeks ago. The last time the Lansing area experienced such a frozen fiasco was in late December 2013, when Mother Nature layered enough ice on power lines and tree limbs to knock out electric service to more than 38,000 Lansing Board of Water & Light customers.
The BWL learned some tough lessons during that storm and wisely embarked on a robust, sustained tree-trimming program aimed at significantly reducing power outages during hyper-nasty weather. The effort appears to be working. Although Greater Lansing got a lesser load of ice than Jackson, Kalamazoo and other points south during the recent storm, only a handful of BWL customers lost power and their service was quickly restored.
Not so much for Consumers and DTE. More than a week after the storm, both investor-owned utilities still had scores of increasingly angry customers demanding the restoration of their electricity. Piling on the misery, March came in like a lion this past weekend, dropping almost a foot of snow in some areas of southeast Michigan and leaving another 200,000 DTE customers in the dark.
The BWL has caught a lot of flak in recent years over the aggressive nature of its tree-trimming activities, but we think the benefits of more reliable electric service outweigh the aesthetic compromises that must be made to achieve it. With climate change driving more frequent and increasingly severe weather events, Consumers and DTE will be wise to emulate the BWL’s example.
Mayor Andy Schor’s announcement in 2020 that the former Lansing City Market would be transformed into a shuffleboard-based social club and food court was met with some skepticism, if not outright derision. Even though there are successful examples of similar establishments elsewhere, not everyone was convinced it would be a good fit for Lansing or the best reuse of the empty facility on the downtown riverfront.
One thing already is clear: Six weeks after its grand opening, the new joint’s eclectic mix of food, adult beverages and entertainment is drawing crowds — and rave reviews. It’s also validating Mayor Schor’s vision for repurposing the structure in a way that attracts students, young professionals, families and oldsters alike, while adding energy to the surrounding riverfront enhancements completed by the city and its partners in recent years.
It also closes the final chapter in the storied history of the Lansing City Market. While we understand the nostalgia-laden angst over the demise of the city’s original farmers market, it’s time to flip the script. Instead of a centralized market in the downtown area, Greater Lansing now enjoys an assortment of neighborhood and municipal markets that make locally grown fresh produce available across the region.
In any case, we can’t wait for warmer weather and the chance to kick back on the Lansing Shuffleboard & Social Club’s outdoor patio, where we’ll be soaking up the riverine scene and digging some Caribbean-inspired barbeque, vegan Italian fare or another tasty choice from one of the club’s five restaurants. We might even try our hand at shuffleboard. Hope to see you there!
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