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Michigan’s environment, public perception, and the evidence

I had the privilege of working on hundreds of environmental projects in the U.S. and beyond for 40 years, and I’m amazed that what I experienced in those 4 decades is so different from the gloom and doom I read and hear in the public arena. I won’t call it “fake news”, but it’s certainly a different reality than what I witnessed firsthand.

Michigan and America’s waters are cleaner today than they’ve been in over a hundred years, not just my personal experience, but what the evidence demonstrates. Storm water is now managed in ways that were unimaginable a generation ago, meaning the water’s a lot cleaner by the time it gets to the Detroit River, streams, and lakes. Today’s Detroit River is a robust habitat—game fish, falcons, shoreline wildlife. Some wastewater treatment plants, including plants in Michigan, discharge water that’s cleaner than the receiving stream, actually improving the quality of the receiving waters. The sewage overflows that were frequent in Detroit and many other big metropolises are far less common, and less impacting when they occur.

New hazardous waste sites are rare (my old “moon suit” is long retired), and the old sites are rapidly being closed. Renewable energy is in the mainstream. Few remember the dark palls that often engulfed the City when coal furnaces were in every home.

When I was a Downriver boy, I never saw a hawk or a salamander. Now, they are plentiful, even in urban settings, a signal the environment is much healthier. With advances in detecting chemicals at very low levels (like finding one grain of sand in a trillion grain—10 foot long, 10 foot wide, 10 foot tall—sandhill), we may think the environment is in worse shape, but one grain doesn’t mean it’s dangerous.

The cleanest environments are in the politically messy, freer-market democracies, not in command and control states—look it up. We can, and should, keep improving the environment, but we shouldn't ignore the evidence. “The sky is falling” crowd is loud, but wrong. America’s environment, by almost every metric, is better than in over a century.

Thomas M. Doran, fellow

The Engineering Society of Detroit

Term limits need to change or go

The Metropolitan Affairs Coalition agrees with Nolan Finley that choosing inexperience over experience is no way to run our state ("Got experience? Michigan says get out of office," July 5). In fact, we suspect that many voters who support term limits think that government should be run more like a business. Then perhaps our elected leaders should have the option of staying on the job long enough to learn the ropes, gain knowledge, and climb the ladder based on their success.

You would not seek out novices – those starting from scratch – to manufacture your car, remove your appendix, or invest your money. So why do we want to limit the experience of those running our state, with all of its complexities and human consequences? Perhaps we should reconsider the idea of elections as term limits, and allow our legislators the opportunity to stay long enough to grow into good stewards of the public trust and sound policy makers. It creates a constant vacuum of knowledge, relationships and institutional memory when effective lawmakers who finally “get it” are shown the door.

The Metropolitan Affairs Coalition, a group of business, labor, government and education leaders from across Southeast Michigan, share your misgivings and have adopted a position to eliminate or vastly lengthen term limits for legislative office in Michigan. MAC believes that experienced leadership is critical to effective government, and should be valued. Voters should have the right to keep qualified and competent lawmakers in office.

Kathleen Lomako, president

Metropolitan Affairs Coalition

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