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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

August 18, 2014
Associated Press

The Ann Arbor News. Aug. 10.

Michigan Stadium: Nuisance neighbor or world-class entertainer?

The University of Michigan athletic department added two international sporting events to Michigan Stadium's growing resume in 2014.

More than 100,000 fans battled a snowstorm and bitter cold conditions in January to see the Red Wings and Maple Leafs in the sixth annual NHL Winter Classic. This past weekend, an even larger crowd invaded Ann Arbor to cheer on European soccer powerhouses Real Madrid and Manchester United.

The opportunity afforded by the U-M athletic department's decision to open the gates of its facilities to host these non-traditional events is well evident and serves as a welcome shot in the arm for many businesses in the Ann Arbor region.

Economic gain may be the end goal, but having the opportunity to play host to these events should be a badge of honor for Ann Arborites.

While residents living in the shadow of the Big House must tolerate the inconvenience of fans invading their town, these big-ticket exhibitions put our Midwestern college town in a spotlight typically reserved for the likes of major markets such as Chicago, Detroit and New York.

When ground was broken for Michigan stadium 90 years ago, few would have dreamed the massive hole dug into the south side of the city would become an international venue.

We applaud the athletic department's recent efforts to utilize the university's brand and athletic facilities to identify and secure these events. Every idea for a crowd-drawing event might not be the perfect fit for the Big House, but we look forward to seeing our college town on the national stage outside of Saturday afternoons in the fall once again.

At the same time, we're concerned about the overall reach of the athletics program.

The block-M might be approaching the limit of how far it can push its power in the community and university leaders appear to be taking note.

University President Mark Schlissel recently expressed the desire for a balance between academics and athletics programming and the Board of Regents has hinted at concerns over the commercialization of the athletics department.

Pursuing decisions without engaging the community, such as in the case of the installation of the contentious billboard on Stadium Boulevard, shows a disregard for community concerns.

We encourage the athletics department and university leaders to use caution in future decisions that have a direct impact on the city and its residents and prove that they can continue their role as a neighborly host.

_____

Grand Haven Tribune. Aug. 13.

More safety needed for our waters

The Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities contains more than 60 pages of rules and regulations that apply to Michigan boaters.

One section is devoted to boats pulling skiers, and the handbook notes that one person in the boat must be a designated spotter, watching the skier, tuber or wakeboarder at all times and alerting the driver to what's happening behind the boat. This allows the driver to concentrate on everything ahead of him or her.

What isn't addressed in the handbook, or anywhere else that we could find, are rules regarding personal watercraft following boats pulling towables.

Personal watercraft — Jet Skis, Sea-Doos and the like — are fast, easily maneuverable and a ton of fun. They're especially popular among young drivers, who relish the thrill of the wind in their hair and the water splashing in their face.

One popular activity among personal watercraft pilots is to search out a boat throwing out a big wake and to crisscross back and forth behind that boat, jumping the waves.

That's fine, until that boat is pulling a skier, a tuber or a wakeboarder.

In those situations, personal watercraft should back off.

That's common sense, right? But go spend a Saturday afternoon on a busy lake anywhere in West Michigan and you're almost guaranteed to see Sea-Doos launching off the waves of a boat pulling a wakeboarder or a tuber.

The problem is, when that skier falls, he or she stops, and the personal watercraft continues to move forward at 30 miles per hour.

That's a recipe for disaster.

Each year, we hear of tragedies that occur on the water. Anything we can do to help avoid another tragedy is worth the effort.

We feel our state's lawmakers should make it illegal for personal watercraft to ride too closely behind boats pulling a passenger on any sort of device.

We live in the Great Lakes State. Let's do all we can to keep those lakes as safe as possible for those who enjoy them.

_____

The Detroit News. Aug. 14.

Keep corporations home with tax reform

Walgreens has decided it will not relocate its corporate headquarters from the United States to Switzerland by acquiring a Swiss drugstore chain. The company would have saved money in the move, but, as a storefront retailer, risked alienating customers.

Walgreens deserves credit for staying put, but it is an outlier against the recent trend of corporations seeking competitive advantage by headquartering outside the U.S. Other mammoth companies — including many pharmaceuticals — have exploited similar opportunities abroad to avoid America's cumbersome corporate tax code.

The Illinois-based Walgreens could have saved up to one-third of its total tax bill by moving the headquarters to Switzerland.

Don't expect other companies to bypass those savings. In a global economy, counting on the better nature of corporations is no substitute for rational tax policy.

Companies that purport to be U.S. based should pay U.S. taxes, of course. But those taxes should be fair. Instead of weighing measures to punish corporations that take advantage of these so-called tax inversions, the better approach is to finally overhaul an uncompetitive corporate tax code.

President Barack Obama came into office touting the need to reform corporate taxes, and there's little disagreement in Congress. Retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Camp has even done the legwork by creating a new, feasible blueprint for reform.

And yet it hasn't happened. Meanwhile, corporations are starting to give up and pack up — at least on paper.

Any new code must lower the 35 percent corporate tax rate, which is the highest in the industrialized world. Companies can find rates that are half that or lower in countries such as Ireland and England.

The U.S. must also stop taxing foreign profits. This is one of only six OECD countries that taxes income earned outside its borders. If a company has already paid taxes on income earned in another nation, it should not be required to pay an additional U.S. tax on that same profit. That provides a disincentive for corporations to bring that money back.

Another helpful step would be making research and development tax credits permanent, to encourage further production and technological advances.

Instead of attacking the flaws in the tax code, President Obama has shifted to trying to stop corporations from relocating with punitive measures. The Treasury Department is exploring what the president can due through administrative action to halt tax inversions.

The IRS has targeted Delphi, which moved its headquarters to the U.K. after being born and based in Michigan, arguing it must pay taxes as a domestic corporation.

But trapping companies in the U.S., forcing them to operate under an onerous and costly tax code, ignores the reason corporations exist in the first place — to make money for shareholders and products for customers.

They have a fiduciary responsibility to operate as efficiently as possible. The U.S. tax code works against that objective.

The wave of tax inversions should be a wake-up call for the president and Congress. Some corporations will follow Walgreens lead and place citizenship over profits. But they shouldn't have to. Washington should keep them home by lifting the tax burden.

_____

Petoskey News-Review. Aug. 8.

Legislature should amend state's civil rights law before year's end

The election is over and so, too, is the infighting among Republicans trying to win over conservative voters.

Now, the legislature should confront the issues it failed to resolve before campaign season took hold a couple months ago.

Dedicating more money to improve Michigan's roads is certainly a top priority, but when state lawmakers return to Lansing it's time to make the proposed changes to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act that GOP leaders seem to be cautiously supporting.

Authored in 1976 by Melvin Larsen, a onetime chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and state House member from 1973-78, and Daisy Elliott, a former Democratic state representative from Detroit, the law prohibits discrimination based on a person's religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status.

In 2012, Democratic state Sen. Rebekah Warren, of Ann Arbor, proposed amending the law to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. A year later, our very own state Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey, came forward with public support for the change.

"There's been a lot of talk lately about LGBT legislation, but hate and discrimination aren't just gay or lesbian issues; they are human rights issues," Foster said in June 2013 when he became the lead Republican openly supporting the change. "What I've heard from people is that probably nine out of 10 Michiganders believe this is already protected, when in fact it's not under Michigan law."

Foster has since received praise from gay rights groups and activists along with equal amounts of criticism from conservative leaders locally and statewide for his stance. His public support for the amendment was one of the main reasons tea party activists supported Foster's opponent, Lee Chatfield, in Tuesday's Republican primary. Foster was the only incumbent state lawmaker in Michigan not to win his or her primary race.

Earlier this year, the proposed Elliott-Larsen amendment gained more steam as Republican Gov. Rick Snyder urged the GOP-controlled legislature to begin the discussion. State House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, has said he doesn't want to send a message of intolerance, but that lawmakers must balance individual and religious rights in making their decision.

With Foster and Bolger, who will reach his term limit in the House at the end of this year, leaving the legislature, now is the time for Republican leadership to act.

The issue isn't as complex as many GOP lawmakers want to make it. They seem to be speaking out of both sides of their mouth when they say discrimination in any form is wrong, but that such a change to the law infringes on religious liberties.

Public polls indicate 75 percent of the state's residents side with Foster on the issue. Many business leaders, including the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance, have offered formal support for the change.

It's time for GOP leaders to stop with the political posturing and bring this law into the 21st century.

 
 

 

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