Can good triumph over evil in our day-to-day living?

This story is almost too hard to believe.  Teenager has a dad who stole money from and old lady and the kid feels responsibility to make it right and he does.  I hope this kid's dad learns something.  This story touched me.

Is it time to end the war on drugs?

I just spotted this video mash-up on the New York Times about the war on drugs.  It makes a point about all the money spent on stopping illegal drugs.  Notice Ron Paul, Gov. Anthony Cuomo and others.  What about the countries where drugs are legalized with some control put on them for how and where they are consumed?  Has it affected the problem?

Is the Detroit news media racially biased in its coverage of murders?

Print off this column by the Detroit News' Nolan Finley and pull it out at the dinner table or at the coffee

shop and throw out the question of why murders of white people in the Detroit-area get more coverage than the murders of African Americans.  Is it racism?

Finley raises the question straight up when he writes about the murder of a prominent white woman in the Grosse Pointes and all the continuing coverage that it gets and then looks at the lack of coverage of a 12-year-old black girl who was murdered by a stray bullet.

He makes the point that the suburb right next to Detroit where the white woman was killed had had only one murder in the past two decades and in the city of Detroit, there's almost one every day.  Is it a question of desensitazation to loss of life in the city?  

Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors, is becoming a killing field

Flint, Michigan, once a desired destination for shopping, culture and business is devolving into a killing zone where it's not safe to be a young person anymore.  Check this story from the Flint Journal about the toll of shootings within just a couple of hours. 

A time is within memory when just about anybody could find a job in Flint at one of the auto plants or a parts supplier.  It was the birthplace of GM and the home of Buick. 

Now it seems more and more ungovernable and unsafe.  Any hope for reversing this trend?  Where are all the guns coming from.

Muskegon Sheriff's Deputy gives gripping account of fatal shooting of a bank robber

You see stuff like this on television all the time, but very seldom do you get to view a running gun battle with bank robbers through the eyes of a police officer.  Read this account from the Muskegon Chronicle about Muskegon County Sheriff Lt. Shane Brown and see what it's like.  It's gripping and it shows how dangerous the job can really be.

How much trust can you put in local crime statistics?

There's a big niff-naw going on over Vice President Joe Biden's use of crime statistics for the city of Flint and it raises questions of accuracy about such statistics generally.  He was in the city earlier this month to promote a bill in Congress for more funding for local cops and firefighters.  

He quoted these stats for Flint, according to the Flint Journal:

Biden cited these statistics, provided by the city of Flint:
• 2008: 91 rapes and 35 murders
• 2010: 229 rapes and 65 murders

But those numbers clash with the statistics reported by other law enforcement agencies.

• 2008: 103 rapes and 32 murders
• 2010: 92 rapes and 53 murders

Michigan State Police:
• 2008: 102 rapes and 32 murders
• 2010: 81 rapes and 51 murders

POLICY ISSUE: Should public sex offender registry laws be changed to reflect new evidence?

Our state--Michigan--has a public sex offender registry where it lists on the web where it lists everybody who commits a sex offense.  It gives their name, where they live and the law they violated to get them on the list.

The idea is to make neighborhoods safer by making people more aware of who lives around them.  Is it working?

Check this column by Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press who reports on a study which shows that instead of reducing them, it has actually resulted in sex offenders committing additional crimes.  When publicly-outed, these offenders take the attitude, the study reports, that they have nothing to lose by re-offending.  

Should Michigan's legislators re-examine the public registry and how it's used?  Is this study sufficient evidence that it's making the problem worse and not better?

What percentage of your city's police department actually goes out and patrols the streets?

What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Detroit?  Crime?  That's probably the answer for a lot of people, including the one's who live there.

Check out this Detroit Free Press column by Stephen Henderson this morning about how only half of Detroit's cops are actually on patrol duty and then what half of those folks do?

Does that raise questions about your city and what percentage of your cops are actually on the streets and in the neighborhoods?  It should.  Who would have the answers?  City council members might be a good start.

Check this: In Michigan, prescription drug abuse kills more than heroin and cocaine combined

In Michigan, more residents now die from prescription drug abuse than from heroin and cocaine combined, a federal registry shows. In 2009, the latest year data are available, 457 Michiganders died of overdoses from one or more prescription drugs, up from 409 deaths the year before.


In Michigan, the drugs that are killing more young people and others are found in the medicine chest in the form of prescription drugs, according to this story from today's Detroit Free Press.

Reason for this is their availability, according to the Free Press story.  More prescriptions are being written in Michigan with young people having access to them in their parent's or grandparent's medicine cabinets. 

The stats for our state are amazing and scary.  What's the answer? 

How safe are the manhole covers and sewer grates in your city?

The city of Flint, the birth place of General Motors, seems to be on the front lines of another cultural shift, an epidemic of thieves taking its manhole covers and sewer grates, according to this story on  Apparently these basic pieces of municipal infrastructure have real value when sold to a scrap metal dealer.

City workers are trying to bolt them down and city political leaders are working to slap the hands of scrap metal dealers who buy them.

What about your city and its manhole covers and sewer grates?  Are they targets for local thieves?  Can you imagine life without manole covers?


Who is to blame for Flint being the "murder capital" of the United States?

I read this story from yesterday's Flint Journal about the city being named the murder capital of the country?  As a person who grew up in Bay City just up the road from Flint, I'm sad to see such a great city reach the point where it appears to be ungovernable and incredibly dangerous.

The story about the annual report from last year's FBI Uniform Crime Reports states:

For 2010, Flint recorded more than 2,400 violent crimes, the most per capita of any city more than 100,000. 

 According to the FBI, Flint had 53 murders, 92 rapes, 670 robberies and 1,597 aggrevated assaults.

 The 53 murders is a different figure than the city has — 65 homicides.

Flint is the birthplace of General Motors and when I was a kid, it was a center for culture, jobs and philantrophy.  It was dotted with car plants and the place that the Buick called home. 
Now, it's a suffering city where the toll will leave a legacy for generations. 
How'd this happen?  Who's to blame?  Republicans?  Democrats?  Churches?  How can it be reversed?  Is there precedent for city's making this kind of turn-around?


Is a Sunday newspaper worth two bucks?

Grpress How many of you still get a Sunday paper?  Do you have it delivered or do you buy it over-the-counter?

Today, when we got out of church, we stopped for a sandwich at a Subway with a gas station next door where I plunked down two bucks for a copy of the Grand Rapids Press.  What got into me?  Just think of how many dollars I would have to have in a savings account for a year to earn the purchase price.

So what did I get for my money?  In this post, I will itemize what I find useful as I read it, including ads and coupons.  How about you?  Do you get back from the paper what you pay for it?  I will post and publish as I read.  Here goes: 

  • Column by the GR Press editor Paul Keep about the paper's future on the web.  I'm reading it now.  He writes about how his paper is transitioning from a paper first product to a web first product.  Wow.  I'm impressed.  This means that his paper will feed a 24-hour news cycle where you can tap into stories as they happen.  Can this work?  What do you think?
  • Editorial about getting illegal firearms off the streets of Grand Rapids.  One important fact from the editorial mentions that the average time from a firearm being stolen to used in a crime is 13 years.  Also noted in the piece is the paper's series of stories last week that detailed the trail of local guns from the time they were stolen to when they were used in a crime.  I'd like to read those.
  • Story highlighting pictures of a young woman who once had been a model and then got into the local drug scene.  It's a page one banner story that jumps to the next page and seems to have little reason for existence other than mention of a drug study show an increase in use among the area's youth particularly high school seniors. 
  • A pull-out TV booklet listing all the television shows in the local area.  This seems to be a good thing and has some value.
  • Coupons are not in the paper I purchased with the exception of a sheet of coupons from Steak and Shake with pictures of burgers, fries and shakes that would make any cardiologist smiles.  Tastes good though, I'm sure.
  • Small town news from nearby communities described on the page as Ada to Zeeland.  It's a bunch of bits and pieces of small city and township stuff that you would find in a typical local shopper. 

Did I waste two bucks?  Probably.  It was my contribution to the news industry in this part of Michigan. 

It had some interesting facts about the local area here and there.  But, it was light on any depth and skipped many local units and levels of government that need journalistic oversight. 

I will be checking their website though to see if there's more.


Is there anything to be learned from the corruption in the city of Detroit?

I read this story about former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick with sadness.  The Detroit Free Press tells about how the disgraced former head of the Motor City took big bribes from a contractor doing business with the city. 

The story tells about FBI evidence against Kilpatrick and against his father and one former staffer. 

What protections and accountability mechanisms exist to detect these criminal acts and how often does it happen in other cities in Michigan and around the country?

The citizenry of our state need to be thankful to the Free Press for asserting their journalistic responsibilities.  But with the immense weakening of the news media, how much of this blows right by reporters?

California says no to using Michigan's Standish prison

The state of Calfornia, according to the Wall Street Journal, has turned down Michigan's offer to house an overflow of its prisoners in our state's soon-to-be-shuttered prison in Standish.

Michigan's Department of Corrections apparently was asking too much to house California's prisoners and could find a better deal in other states.

What does this mean for the federal government's interest in using the Standish prison to house Guantanamo prisoners who are being held for their role or suspected role in terrorist activities?

What was state of Michigan's involvement in the life of 9-year-old Shylae Thomas of Flint?

Read the Flint Journal's story about the life and death of 9-year-old Shylae Thomas and then ask yourself a question.

What involvement did the state of Michigan have in the life and death of this little girl who died from medical neglect, malnutrition and dehydration and then was found dead stuffed in a storage unit?

Keep in mind that our state has a large and reasonably sophisticated child protection unit. We also have a state ombudsman charged with investigating troublesome cases especially those with a bad outcome like a death.

There are all kinds of questions that should be answered like:

  • Had any complaints about potential abuse or neglect been made to the local department of social services?
  • Had any child protection or other workers investigated her condition by visiting her and her home?
  • Is the Michigan Office of Children's Ombudsman reviewing the state's involvement with her case?
  • If they are will they make their findings and recommendations public?

What happened that allowed somebody so vulnerable to fall through the cracks of the safety net we are supposed to have for at-risk kids?

We all should be demanding and expecting answers.

Lansing City Council candidates need to explain southside business development efforts

LogansquareNext week will be the primary election for four Lansing(MI) City Council positions. 

For the southside of Lansing, this is a key election.  Voters will be choosing city leaders who will play a key role in deciding its future.

This part of town seems to be suffering from the brunt of community perceptions that it's a lost cause populated by poor blacks and other minorities who have little hope for the future.

The perception barely touches the reality.  Sure, there are low income people here.  But, it's a middle-income area populated by a diverse group of  people.

It's suffering from a lack of attention, both in the neighborhoods and along its business strips.  Economic development seems centered around dollar stores, fast food, and that seems to be it.

Note the photo to the left of the southside's Logan Square.  It used to be a hotbed of shopping and economic activity.  It has deteriorated into an almost nothingness which further adds to the image of the area.  This is where the City Council and the selection of its members enters the picture.

Two positions will be filled by voters in the whole city and two by voters in the wards, including the southside. 

The two main candidates for the southside, incumbent Bill Matt and challenger A'Lynne Robinson have both said they will be strong advocates for business development in our area.  And, they leave it at that. No specifics.  The city of Lansing has an economic development agency.

Continue reading "Lansing City Council candidates need to explain southside business development efforts" »

Michigan is not a child-friendly state, according to the Detroit Free Press

Michigan is not a child-friendly state for kids like Isaac Lethbridge who was murdered while being part of the state's foster care system.

There has been a steady line-up of very young kids in Michigan who have been murdered by their parents or their care providers.  They have all been under watch of the state's child welfare system in some manner.  And, along the way something was missed and their lives were taken.

Read this package of stories and the editorial from the Detroit Free Press which deserves the Pulitizer prize for its role in shining light on our state's child welfare system and showing the holes in the safety-net where these kids fall to their death.

Then if you're bothered and you feel there needs to be some answers .  .  .

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Continue reading "Michigan is not a child-friendly state, according to the Detroit Free Press" »

Morning read: What's your reaction to 15-year-old Detroiter murdering young Iraq vet

Check the comments at the end of this story about the 15-year-old Detroiter who murdered a 24-year-old Iraq vet who had just cashed a tax refund. 

When I worked as a staffer in the Michigan Legislature, this type of story in this morning's Detroit Free Press would draw little attention.  The white suburbanites would shake their heads and make some anti-Detroit remark that usually had a racial tinge.  Lawmakers from Detroit seemed to never talk about it.

In my opinion, the Detroit Free Press would be doing a public service to cover this story like a blanket.  It's time to understand the reasons a 15-year-old could take a life so easily. 

What needs to be done to make it better?

Technorati Tags: , , ,

A challenge: Find Michigan Office of Children's Ombudsman on state website

Here's another reason I wouldn't vote to re-elect Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm:

I wonder what Jakob Nielsen, the usability expert would say about the efforts which her administration led.

An example, go to the state government website and try to find the Michigan Office for Children's Ombudsman. If you can find it, how long does it take you? 

What if you wanted to make a referral to this state agency about a child you suspected of being abused or neglected and that the state was not doing its job?  Could you easily find the info from the homepage?

Technorati Tags: , , , ,