Traffic stop policy makes sense
Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney Carol Siemon made waves last week by announcing that her office will no longer authorize criminal charges that result from vehicle searches conducted during traffic stops, except under very limited circumstances. Siemon’s new policy is driven by data that shows people of color in Ingham County are disproportionately subjected to “pretextual” stops for minor traffic infractions, such as broken tail lights or tinted windows, and more frequently searched and arrested for reasons unrelated to the initial stop. Though controversial, we think her decision will help reduce racial disparities in enforcement of the law. Siemon implemented the new policy over fierce objections from area police agencies, who claimed they weren’t consulted before the policy was announced. It turns out she did consult them but didn’t agree with their concerns and moved ahead with the new policy anyway. We’re not surprised that the people who unfairly target people of color now object to Siemon’s effort to rein them in. We also note that some communities are doing away with traffic enforcement by armed police officers altogether, opting instead to deploy unarmed personnel on the theory that fewer violent confrontations will occur and fewer people of color will lose their lives while getting pulled over for a minor traffic violation. We support Siemon’s new policy because, in this case, ending racially biased policing practices serves the greater good and because it allows exceptions in cases where the traffic stop was necessary to protect public safety or if the police had a separate investigatory reason for the stop.
Get vaxxed, get paid?
Ingham County Commissioner Mark Grebner has introduced a proposal to pay county residents $200 if they get their COVID-19 vaccination. While his idea is well meaning, we’re against it, mostly because we’ve reached our limit of tolerance for those who still refuse to get vaccinated because it impinges on their “freedom” and other such nonsense. Most anti-vaxxers are so entrenched in their delusions that a few hundred bucks won’t mean anything to them anyway. At the same time, at least some of the remaining unvaccinated are low-income residents who have had trouble with transportation, child care or other barriers to getting their shot; those whose vaccine hesitancy is founded in historic medical abuses of people of color; and immigrants for whom language barriers and cultural differences can be an obstacle to understanding and obtaining their vaccination. We think it’s better for the county to invest additional resources in expanded outreach to these populations, rather than rewarding the mindless anti-vaxx intransigents.
No vaxx, no job?
Following announcements by three of Michigan’s largest hospital systems — Henry Ford, Beaumont and Spectrum — that they will require their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or lose their jobs, we now look to our local healthcare providers to do the right thing and follow suit. Neither Sparrow Health System nor McLaren Greater Lansing has yet imposed a vaccine requirement on their employees. We urge them to do so. Given the continued dangers posed by COVID-19, a hospital is the last place you should have to worry about contracting a deadly disease from the very people who are supposed to help you get well. Combined with the emergence of the far more contagious Delta variant, it is clearly in the best interest of the community for both hospitals to ensure that their staff, volunteers and vendors are vaccinated. Failing to do so undermines public confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and further fuels the sort of anti-vaxx gibberish that is giving new life to the pandemic and putting us all at risk. Moreover, except for those with bonafide religious or medical reasons, for trained medical personnel to refuse the vaccine falls somewhere between ignorance and professional negligence. It turns the idea that medical providers have an obligation to “first, do no harm” completely upside down. We think it’s only a matter of time before Sparrow and McLaren fall in line, but the sooner they adopt and implement a vaccine mandate, the sooner they will preserve their own credibility and reaffirm their commitment to quality care for all.
New voting plan implodes
We were disappointed to see the proposal for Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in Lansing come off the rails due to questions about the legality of RCV elections under Michigan law. According to the state Bureau of Elections, RCV conflicts with state election law in myriad ways that make it untenable for the proposal to move forward at this time. Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum also weighed in, noting that the county’s current voting machines are incapable of processing RCV ballots. A significant investment will be required to bring them up to speed. We’re a bit surprised that a ballot proposal to amend Lansing’s City Charter to allow RCV advanced to the City Council floor without these concerns coming to light, which suggests a lack of due diligence on the part of RCV advocates. Nonetheless, the concerns raised by Clerk Byrum and the state appear to be legitimate. There is only one way to resolve them: amend state law. We still believe RCV offers a compelling model for choosing our elected officials that will increase voter participation and save money in the long run by eliminating the need for primary elections. Therefore, we call on state lawmakers to update Michigan’s election laws to accommodate RCV for communities that choose to adopt it.