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Saturday Shorts: Yes, roads have gotten worse

The Detroit News

This shouldn't come as startling news to Southeast Michigan residents but the results of a study by SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, concludes regional roads have gotten worse.

Each year, as required by law, SEMCOG works with local road agencies to evaluate the condition of the major highways in the seven-county Southeast Michigan area.

The figures speak for themselves.

Of the nearly 4,500 miles of major roads that were evaluated this summer, more than 1,900 miles need to be rebuilt, an increase of more than 500 miles compared to two years ago, when these same roads were last evaluated. Another 1,900 miles are in need of preventive maintenance to keep them from also slipping into poor condition. Only 650 miles — or 14 percent — are considered to be in good condition.

The numbers confirm what most drivers should be aware of: Michigan needs to increase its road funding. The proposed $1 billion increase in the road tax, approved by the state Senate, would be a good start.

Move cautiously on bodycams

Pending legislation could make Michigan the first state to require all law enforcement personnel to wear a body video camera.

The bipartisan proposal was introduced by Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, and would supposedly help provide a clear record of all police interactions with the public. The bill requires officers who carry a firearm in the line of duty to wear a camera. The officer would be permitted to turn the camera off during personal time, such as lunch.

Amid the continuing debate about how to avoid the violence that occurred in Ferguson, Mo., when an African-American teen was shot by a white police officer, law enforcement groups have been studying the use of body cameras.

McMillin's bill is attractive, but lawmakers need to study it carefully. One concern is addressed: The $1,000 cost of the cameras along with their maintenance and data storage expenses would be covered by the state.

Privacy issues for police and citizens are also discussed in the bill, but they must be thoroughly reviewed. Use of the devices may be uncomfortable to victims of crimes. Also, safeguards must be established to make sure the data collected isn't misused.

Keep Michigan on track for top 10 spot

While Michigan has a long way to go to regain its stature as a top 10 business friendly state, it is moving in the right direction, a recent survey indicates.

The 2014 Economic Competitiveness Benchmarking Report by Business Leaders for Michigan has the state moving from almost dead last up to the middle of the pack when compared to the business climate of other states. Getting rid of the Michigan Business Tax is one major reason for the improvement.

Michigan was a top 10 state in the 1990s. But since the recession, the state has been struggling.

Returning to the top 10 is a reachable goal that will pay dividends. According to the report, a top 10 ranking would bring in, on average, 150,000 more jobs, add $12,000 more to each worker's income and produce $16,000 more gross domestic product per person.

Michigan needs to keep moving toward that top 10 objective.