Newaygo County Dems Meet January 9
The Newaygo County Democratic Party and Friends will ring in the New Year on Monday, January 9 for their first meeting of 2023. The meeting will take place at the White Cloud Library meeting room. The doors will open at 6 p.m. for a meet and greet, with the meeting to begin at 6:30 p.m. There will also be a virtual option, and the link will be available closer to the meeting date.
For information about the meetings, contact via email: qNewaygoCountyDemocrats@gmail.com. Follow on Facebook@Newaygo County Democratic Party, and visit the website at www.NewaygoCoDems.org.
From our friends at NCEC:
The Public Comment period for the upcoming Hardy Dam spillway work ends on January 1.
The proposed reconstruction includes destruction of an unnamed, prime cold water stream at the site, along with other environmental impacts to area wetlands and forests.
“Public Comments from area residents can have an impact on how Consumers Energy will remedy the destruction of woodlands that has already occurred, and the remediation of destroyed wetlands,” stated Sally Wagoner of the Newaygo County Environmental Coalition (NCEC).
Ms. Wagoner continued, “Public Comments must be very specific as far as residents’ concerns. When the issues are specific in the Comments, they must be considered by EGLE (Michigan’s Environment, Great Lakes & Energy Department) who issues the permit, and addressed by Consumers Energy.”
NCEC has identified three areas with local environmental groups that are being impacted by the spillway reconstruction, and what residents need to ask regarding remediation by Consumers Energy as part of the total project.
Community members are encouraged to include these specific concerns in their Public Comments:
1) The spillway project has already involved the deforestation of dozens of acres of pristine woodlands in the construction zone. The impact on wildlife and natural ecosystems has been devastating. Consumers Energy needs to provide a reforestation plan that would include the entire perimeter of the new spillway and all other affected areas.
2) The project has already involved the destruction of a very popular and scenic 4-mile loop hiking trail that meandered through the now destroyed forest. This was known as Hardy Rustic Trail, and was enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors for decades. A replacement nature trail system needs to be constructed and maintained by Consumers Energy, including passive environmental education through educational signage, to mitigate the loss of this public trail asset as a condition of receiving a permit.
3) The project will also involve the destruction of a prime cold water stream at the site. Consumers Energy needs to provide a comprehensive plan for repair and restoration of the stream, its banks and surrounding wetlands affected as a condition of receiving a permit.
4) All environmental and habitat remediation must involve community input, as well as consultation and actual work by local native habitat restoration experts with historically successful projects, utilizing our local workforce. Remediation must also include consultation, education, input and project work by regional Indigenous and Tribal members with expertise and traditional knowledge in healthy regional habitats and their restoration. Remediation must also include collaboration with local environmental and recreational organizations as well as civic departments with the intent to engage with and provide educational opportunities and activities with community members, schools and youth. This collaboration will create positive relations with CE and inspire environmental care.
To submit your comments, copy and paste the above four concerns into the Comment Box at:
More information about the reconstruction project can be found at that site by clicking on the Details and Documents tabs. Or you can send your comments via email to Abigail Richmond: RichmondA3@michigan.gov.
According to Ms. Richmond, the Environmental Quality Analyst for this project and Public Comment at EGLE, feedback from the community is taken very seriously. Specific concerns about any environmental, recreational and financial impact of the Spillway Project will be taken back to Consumers Energy and must be addressed by them.
Due to the holidays ahead, comments that arrive a short time after January 1 will still be taken into consideration.
For more information about the proposed reconstruction of the spillway, contact Sally Wagoner at email@example.com.
The Newaygo County Environmental Coalition is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to support the beauty and sustainability of our local shared environment through information, education and advocacy. Follow Newaygo County Environmental Coalition on Facebook @NCEC2, and view more information at www.nc-ec.org.
N3- Scott VanSingel has been what is now a rarity in public service. An elected official who focuses on legislating, votes his conscience and isn’t swayed by the allure of popularity that can be achieved simply by echoing the conspiracy du jour. While many speak of reaching across the aisle it too often remains restricted to verbiage rather than action. Scott not only reached across the aisle, he reached across the community often meeting with groups and individuals who may not have shared his party affiliation nor his conservative views but knew he was a legislator who listened.
N3 caught up with the soon-to-be-ex State Representative to pose a few questions as he concludes his third and final term.
How does it feel to be leaving a job you’ve held for 6 years?
It was the fastest 6 years of my life. I was able to accomplish around 80% of the goals I had set, but I still feel like I’m leaving with unfinished business and was so close to getting some of my last priorities across the finish line. I’m leaving with a few regrets, but overall, a sense of accomplishment.
What will you miss about it?
The sense of fulfillment. With every vote we potentially had the opportunity to impact, for better or worse, the lives of 10 million people. Being able to shape these policies as one of 148 legislators and witness firsthand the positive impacts they have on people’s lives gives me a feeling of satisfaction I will likely never be able to replicate again in my life.
Biggest challenge during your incumbency?
Misinformation. The constant bombardment of extremely biased “news” sources and outright propaganda made it difficult to work on real issues. Especially in my last two years in office, we constantly received calls and emails about outrageous conspiracies and people demanded to know what I would do about them. Out of fear, so many people have stopped listening to reason and when we would try to explain the truth, many lashed out in anger.
What do you feel was your biggest accomplishment while in office?
Two things. First, for my district, I would say obtaining the funding for the Newaygo County Fairgrounds renovation. This is something our community will enjoy for generations to come.
For the state as a whole, I was personally asked by Governor Snyder in 2017 to share my ideas for reforming the teacher pension system. The Republican House and Senate had presented a plan which would close the system, but potentially cost $20B or more. I sat down with the governor and presented my ideas on how to stabilize the retirement system, while protecting retirees at the same time. He agreed with my ideas, and they were eventually incorporated into a revised bill and signed into law. The reforms will save the state billions of dollars over the long term.
Who were your mentors when you got to Lansing and why?
While I did not work face to face with him very often, Governor Snyder was an inspiration to me as he couldn’t care less about partisan politics and weighed each issue on its own merits. I tried to do the same as a legislator. My first-term roommates in Lansing also provided some wise counsel including Senator Arlan Meekhof, Rep Triston Cole, and Rep Jim Lilly. We had great conversations each night after work and each of them were pragmatic and effective legislators.
You’ve been a part of the whole Lansing Legislative Life for three terms. How do you see it now that you’re leaving?
There were some pleasant surprises. We are conditioned to think that there is a daily battle of good vs. evil occurring in the legislative process and all those on the opposite side of our political beliefs hate America. I very quickly learned this is not at all the case. People from diverse backgrounds from all over the state ran for office because they want to make their communities better. The overwhelming majority of the people I served with are incredibly decent and honest men and women.
One of the disappointments was that keeping majority and winning elections is extremely important. So important in fact, that people are willing to say and do anything it takes to win. Far too often, good policy was set aside and we were forced to vote on ridiculous bills that were pandering to our bases or designed to make the other side look bad. This is probably the biggest shortfall I see in our political process and don’t have a simple answer on how to fix it.
Finally, I am disappointed to see that there is a growing anti-intellectual bias in the political process. One of the low points I experienced was giving a presentation on the science and physics behind electrical vehicles. Afterwards, all of my findings were immediately dismissed by the caucus, and it felt like I was going to be burned at the stake for heresy. One caucus member even got in my face and shouted at me. It will be extremely difficult to solve problems in the future if this trend continues to grow.
You are a long time conservative Republican and yet faced some hostility from those within your party. Care to comment on this?
This is perhaps my biggest surprise. I’m an evangelical Christian, small business owner, avid outdoorsman, NRA life member, and a social conservative. These beliefs are the very definition of a traditional Republican. As a result, I thought most of the attacks would come from the far left, however, most of the attacks I endured came from people on my side of the aisle who generally believe the same things I do. The key to winning elections is to build your base which historically was done by having better ideas than the opposition. In recent years, there has been an effort to purge anyone from the party who has a remotely dissenting point of view. This is a recipe for failure and we have already seen the results of this in the 2022 elections.
Is the political system as broken as many say?
No. Currently we have a very diverse group of people who serve in elected office who for the most part are honest and caring individuals who want what is best for their district and their state. I do see some alarming trends though. The short term limits Michigan enacted has resulted in us rapidly burning through the crop of qualified candidates and we are seeing more and more candidates in their early 20’s with very little life experience. I do believe the passage of Proposal 1 will help this. The other alarming trend I see is that both parties have embraced extremism and it is increasingly difficult for pragmatic legislators to get through the primary process. Some of those elected recently at the state level are downright dangerous and if we ever get to the point that they are the majority of the governing body, the entire system will collapse.
Do you feel party loyalty has taken priority over governing?
There has always been a push to follow the party as maintaining majority is vital to governing. I have seen this worsen in recent years, however, I don’t feel the push was coming from party leaders, but more led by far-right and far-left primary voters who demand absolute loyalty to the party rather than thoughtful deliberation of each issue.
What would you do differently knowing then what you know now?
I can’t say I would change much about my style or voting record, but I would be much more careful about who I trust. I was disappointed to see colleagues fighting for leadership spots who would say or do whatever it takes to reach a position of power. Some who I considered friends worked against me behind closed doors and I should not have been so trusting. I also would not have trusted our outgoing Speaker as he was probably the worst example of this.
If asked what advice might you give to your successor?
“Good policy makes good politics.” Focus on fixing the issues the people in your community care about and the votes will be there when election time comes around. Too many of my colleagues agonized over bills that were meant to manipulate or scare our constituents, rather than working on substantive issues. If you fix the real-world problems, you can be much bolder in voting your conscience on all the other bills as you will have earned the trust of those who elected you.
What are your plans going forward?
This is the only question I don’t have an answer for as of yet. I have several areas of interest including higher education, natural resources, transportation, and energy. I would like to obtain a role as an advocate in one of these areas, but I am open minded and eagerly awaiting where the Lord leads me next.
Well done, Mr. VanSingel. Well done indeed.
Lessons from a Cactus
By Marsha Reeves
One of the most powerful teachings we hear from traditional wisdom carriers in ‘Indian Country’ is that humans are basically pitiful creatures. We have no fangs, claws, sharp vision, super hearing or even fur or feathers to keep us warm. Therefore, the rest of creation has been instructed to help us out. Many of the old stories are about how we have been taught by various members of other species how to fish, hunt, build houses, and find food and medicines. We are also taught that Creation didn’t just happen once, but that it’s ongoing and we are a part of it.
I’m pretty sure my cactus taught me something important.
The last couple of years have been seriously busy for me and sometimes I haven’t taken the best care of our houseplants. Honestly, most everything outside of the cactus plants, who don’t need much from humans, has died. The beautiful flowering cactus here had seriously outgrown its pot and needed a new one, to the point that the roots were breaking the old pot to pieces. I knew I needed to remedy that and kept making small steps toward fixing it. I found a new pot that should work, had the potting soil ready to go and then got a virus or was recovering slowly from a virus, or was busy with the health issues of others until one day I realized that the cactus was DYING! Leaves were withering and falling off, the whole thing was drooping until half of it just fell off onto the floor!
That definitely pushed it to the top of my priority list. When I finally got what was left of the root ball into the new pot, I saw that the root was a lot smaller than it had been before the disaster. It had become about the size that the old pot used to be, and the part of the plant that was growing from that root was healthy and beautiful.
It has since settled into the new pot, started growing again and even produced some blossoms this fall! But it got me thinking.
The climate scientists that were ignored and ridiculed for the last couple of decades have been proven accurate beyond anything we ever imagined. Things are unfolding exactly as predicted, with wildfires, floods, and fearsome storms occurring with regularity now. Now those same scientists are saying that we only have nine years to turn things around if we want humans to be able to continue to live on this planet. There’s no more time to dink around waiting for government to fix this. We are on our own. Each and every one of us needs to do everything we can to stop this train wreck from happening if we want our grandkids to be able to live here, and Mars isn’t really an option yet.
That cactus diminished itself by half to continue to live where it was planted.
Americans, including those of us in West Michigan, on average consume 5 times our share of the earth’s resources. We have only 4.5 % of the world’s population, yet we consume 20% of earth’s resources. We are like the cactus trying to maintain our lifestyles way out of proportion to what is even close to our fair share.
Humans have the blessing of being one of Creation’s smarter creatures in many ways, despite being pretty foolish a lot of the time. We can figure out how to burn fewer fossil fuels, live with a lot less stuff and be happy at the same time, some of this by going back to old ways of doing things. We can be smarter with the use of our personal resources, like darning sweaters instead of buying new ones, buying food from local farmers instead of from halfway around the world, growing gardens, or even putting more insulation in the attic instead of taking the grandkids to Disney World, giving them a better chance at having their own grandkids instead of a few weeks of thrill.
That cactus was smart! It cut its resource use in half in order to save its life and continue blooming. I hope we can be as smart as that cactus.
True Musical Artists
Concert success result of talent, hard work.
Story and photos by Tara Hefferan
Newaygo Bands held the annual Winter Concert Wednesday night at Newaygo High School. This popular community event had family and friends filling the Cafetorium to standing room capacity well in advance of the 6:30 PM show time.
Setting a festive atmosphere, the Newaygo Jazz Band played both before and between the stage performances, kicking off the night with a “funky” version of “Deck the Halls.” Director of Bands Branden Listh officially opened the concert by welcoming the audience, inviting them to enjoy the night’s musical journey, and thanking them for their support of both the students and program.
Assistant Band Director Megan Funk then introduced the 6th Grade Band, noting that just a few months ago these students were picking up their instruments for the first time, but now they were able to put on their first performance. This is a remarkable achievement. Led by Ms. Funk, these young musicians played seven short pieces, including a mix of traditional songs and folk songs.
Next up was the combined 7th/8th grade band, conducted by Mr. Listh, who invited both the band and the audience to take a deep breath to shake out any nerves. Then, the music began with a rousing rendition of “Rockin’ on the Housetop.” This was followed by two other pieces that kept the crowd entertained.
The headline performance was last, given by the high school’s Newaygo Symphonic Band. Mr. Listh shared that the Symphonic Band began practicing as soon as marching band season ended in early November. They are preparing for upcoming events, including Solo and Ensemble in February and High School Festival in March.
Looking sharp in formal black dresses and crisp tuxedos, the Symphonic Band performed “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)” first. It was a powerful and enjoyable Christmas tune that highlighted the band’s many talented musicians, including oboist Amarice Marvin, who was a featured soloist. This was followed by the energetic song “Celtic Carol” that had the crowd dancing in their seats. Here, Sophia Wilder was featured as a soloist on the piccolo.
The Winter Concert was a great success, showcasing the local talent and hard work of Newaygo’s students. The progression of performances—from novice to experienced—made evident all the learning that happens between middle and high school. With community and school support, Newaygo Bands produces true musical artists.
By Doug Harmon
What do you do two weeks before Christmas? You go driving around looking at Christmas lights.
My hat is off to the dozens and dozens of great light displays that we got to see on our annual road trip in Newaygo and Oceana Counties. Jolly Old Saint Nick welcomes you at one location. A road trip is never complete without food so my Christmas celebrating associates, Holly, Tim and Shirley loaded in the car and we started the trip at High Tower Restaurant. This backcountry eatery never disappoints and after our tummies were full, it was dark enough and we were ready to explore.
We had a destination in mind for the ultimate viewing that we had heard about. The Deater Family Christmas Light Show. The Deater family is known in the area for their involvement in lighting and sound production. They have taken their expertise and produced a wonderful light show in their front yard. Located on Garfield road south of Hesperia, very easy to find, for those of you who prefer landmark directions, the old Pine Point Road, past Taylor Bridge Store. The property has two driveways which allows you to pull in turn your car lights off and sit in your car and enjoy the show.
A new show starts at the top of the hour and lasts 45 minutes. Lights are choreographed to great music selection from past to present, old standards and great Christmas Movies. Speakers are set up outside but we tuned our car radio to 93.1 and enjoyed all of the music selections. Occasionally a youngster would slip out and run over to the candy cane box for a free sweet treat. I slipped out of the car when I noticed Tim Deater standing in the back line of cars enjoying everyone enjoying the light show. He told me they have been doing lights of this magnitude for about three years now. Many cars a night come through along with some small bus loads of people. We were amazed, entertained and enjoyed the show.
For more info you can check it out on Facebook, Deater Family Christmas Light Show. I invite you to drive over and check it out, be careful it might bring the kid in you out!
N3-When not seeking out outdoor light shows or assisting in annual turtle rescue efforts, occasional N3 contributor Doug Harmon can be found manning the mike for Fremont Packer sporting events or knocking down some serious riffs as a member of the internationally acclaimed Braunschweiger Blues Band
Wow, what a weekend we have coming up in the Near North. We selected a quartet of events we thought our readers might find interesting
Let’s talk about parades. As we have said many times before no one puts on a parade like Fremont and the one coming up Friday night is a doozy. The Illumination Parade kicks off the town’s Christmas Stroll and brings Santa to his Vets Park headquarters. The streets will be lined up early so you may want to get to your spot a bit before the 6pm start. From there the downtown merchants will be offering specials and a buzz of Christmas related activities will continue until 8pm. And hey, if you didn’t get in a horse drawn wagon ride last week in Newaygo you have another shot after the parade and what better way to get everyone in the spirit of the season?
Understand we might even get a little snow for the occasion.
Stage Door Players will be once again stoking our love for community theater this weekend as they present Pygmalion, known by many as the non-singing version of My Fair Lady.
Side note: Years ago a friend had gotten hired by a theater organization to direct My Fair Lady and she made the suggestion of switching the male and female roles. Of course the organizers said no but wow, what an interesting concept.
7pm shows on Friday and Saturday and a 2:30pm Sunday matinee.
Feeling festive? Want to express a little Christmas creativity in a fun setting?
The Eleven-Seventeen Lounge is hosting one of those Wine & Canvas events and you can spend a relaxing evening channeling your inner Van Gogh while perhaps sipping on a Syrah or maybe a Merlot.. By evening’s end you will be bringing home your own personalized painting with a decidedly Christmas theme. Saturday 6-9pm.
And tell me, what is it about listening to a really good choir that seems to stir the soul?
If you have been a regular attendee of the annual Christmas Concerts put on by the River Country Community Choir you might already be lined up at the Grant Fine Arts Center to nail down some prime seats for the Sunday evening performance. If, on the other hand,you have never been to one? Make plans to attend this musical Christmas present to the community. The concert is free but there will be a collection taken to benefit Love INC so pony up folks. After all it’s the season of giving right?
Here’s a link to our story about the prep for Sunday.
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