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Stop botching Detroit public meetings

It was encouraging to learn that the Detroit City Council had called a public hearing inviting Marathon Petroleum Corp. to clarify to citizens its stomach-churning odor release in February. As a member of the community closest and downwind of the refinery in Detroit, we rarely have the opportunity to hear directly from Marathon if you are not a member of the designated community panel that meets with the corporation.

With that in mind, it was extremely disappointing and surreal to learn that the Detroit City Council had canceled a second highly anticipated Marathon Petroleum public hearing scheduled on April 30.

As citizens filed into the 13th floor auditorium of the Coleman Young Municipal Center, eager to speak out about the horrific impact of Marathon’s pollution, an agitated Council President Brenda Jones said there was a legal meeting notice snafu and there would be no hearing. Then she admonished us to stay calm because she was in no mood to deal with negative feedback.

Instead of a legal hearing, we would get a non-binding, off-the-record town hall meeting. That meant the four City Council members present would not be able to ask Marathon about its massive, stomach-churning odor release in February. Instead, Marathon was allowed to share a PowerPoint presentation about its good neighbor policies and “decreasing” chemical emission releases in Detroit 48217, the most polluted ZIP code in Michigan.

It was a déjà vu moment for some of us sitting in the audience. On March 12, citizens also ventured downtown to a canceled City Council hearing on Marathon’s February odor release. The excuse given was Marathon somehow was not aware of the public hearing. One citizen lamented to me that the two failed Marathon meetings had cost her $30 in parking fees and missed days of work.

When it comes to Marathon, there is a pattern of poorly planned meetings by the city of Detroit.

In 2016, when Detroit 48217 residents were in an uproar over Marathon’s application to release an additional 22 tons of sulfur dioxide into the community, the Detroit City Council called for a public hearing at Patton Park. The problem: The only members who attended were Council President Brenda Jones, council members Scott Benson and Raquel Castaneda-Lopez. Again, council members could not voice their opinions on the highly contested increase because a majority of the body, or quorum, was not present.

The refinery is 100% of our misery and discomfort and it is the facility most complained about to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality from residents in my community. All one needs to do is drive by the refinery to get a dose of the stinky air we breathe throughout the year.

More important, we face grave health issues in our community. In 2012, the Michigan Department of Health revealed Detroit 48217 and three nearby ZIP codes in southwest Detroit had significantly higher cancers rates of the lung and bronchus compared to the rest of the state beyond Wayne County.

When Marathon is called to answer questions about how it impacts our health and welfare and the city of Detroit can’t properly schedule a meeting, citizens pay the price for the ineptitude. We deserve answers from Marathon when there is a refinery upset or permit revision, and the city of Detroit must ensure public meetings occur in a timely and legal manner to protect our health and welfare.

Emma Lockridge

Detroit

Michigan officials must stop Health Insurance Tax

A recent article (“Medicare, Social Security face shaky fiscal futures,“ April 22) on Medicare’s fiscal future failed to mention a more immediate threat to the financial security of Michigan seniors: the Health Insurance Tax (HIT).

As an 83-year-old retired teacher with a bad gut and a bad heart, I count on Michigan’s elected officials to stand up for Medicare.

Instead, Congress is stalling on two critical bills (H.R. 1398 and S. 172) that would suspend the HIT and stop Medicare Advantage premiums from rising nearly $250 annually per senior.

Unless Rep. John Moolenaar and Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters step up, seniors like me will have to make hard choices between health insurance and other needs. Washington needs to understand that senior health care isn’t a game.

Richard Jackson, Sand Lake

member, Better Medicare Alliance Protect Our Care Senior Task Force

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