Repealing Michigan Helmet Law (Society’s Slideshow)

When learning to ride a bicycle, many people were cautioned that they should wear a helmet when riding. Bicycle safety course specialists will tell those enrolled that a person can sustain a closed-head injury even at the average bicycle speed over flat ground of 15 m.p.h. Flying over the handlebars is always an option that no one can control, they warn.

Despite this, the Michigan House of Representatives is considering passing a bill that would repeal Michigan’s helmet law for motorcyclists. The proposed remedy for the concern of added medical costs is to require people who ride motorcycles to purchase $20,000 in medical coverage in case of an accident. Lawmakers also believe that this will attract people to Michigan who previously avoided the state due to its helmet law.

Anyone who has ridden a motorcycle can tell you that they are able to travel a great deal faster than 15 m.p.h. owing to their integrated gasoline motor. Anyone who has been in a motorcycle crash can tell you that you get a whole lot more than a scraped knee as a result.

Most doctors will tell you that the people who die as a result of a crash impose little additional cost to our beleaguered health care system. The people who survive are a bit different of a story.

One such case was an individual who was wearing a helmet and a protective jacket from which the individual removed the protective steel plating along the spine of the jacket. This person was involved in a crash with an SUV, and now is a paraplegic and blind. This person needs lifetime medical care pursuant to this crash, and draws benefits from insurance companies and Medicaid alike.

If a crash like this can happen with a helmet present and spinal protection absent, I shudder to think of the possibilities when someone goes out riding with neither a helmet nor exterior spinal protection.

Repeal of the helmet law is a mistake. Insurance rates for Michigan will soar even higher, and will most likely send us to the number one slot in the national rankings. (Michigan was second to Louisiana in 2010 according to the New York Times.) Taxpayers will also be forced to absorb the cost for the medical care of those who think that it is their right to splatter their brains all over the pavement. These individuals fail to take into account the potential for survival of a helmetless crash.

The $20,000 medical coverage policy is laughable for this very same reason. These days, it costs a person $10,000 to visit an emergency room with what they believe to be appendicitis but turns out to be an overactive gall bladder. $20,000 is going to be nowhere near enough to cover lifetime care of someone who has been turned into a pants-pooping vegetable after a particularly heinous helmetless crash.

This is where the court systems will become mired with civil cases stemming from motorcyclists with a god complex. Admittedly, these people are a stark minority of motorcyclists. However, there they are, weaving crazily in and out of traffic, doing upwards of 100 m.p.h. on freeways, and passing two semis by riding between the two.

It is these individuals who will cause the most misery for Michganders everywhere. Not only will their families not admit that the person might have even been a little bit at fault for the accident, they will seek damages against a driver who calculated that they could make the Michigan left before the oncoming motorcycle arrived. Little did the driver known that the motorcycle was doing 90 in a 45 m.p.h. zone.

Whether or not the driver in this case is considered to be at fault is not the point. The point is that this person will be forced to take time out of their schedule, possibly even take time off work which they can’t afford, all to deal with the case of the knucklehead juggernaut. They will have to spend their own money on defense attorneys, and could quite possibly be forced to pay damages to the injured.

It is also illogical to claim that those who live in other states that don’t have helmet laws purposely avoid our state because of its helmet law. If they did, then they would have to avoid nearly half of the states in this country.

According to the  Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 20 states have a helmet law for all riders. Another 27 have age restrictions for going without a helmet. Perhaps it is the adults in these 27 states that politicians are worried about not showing up, but is it really worth risking an increase in federal court cases to get those extra people?

Michigan’s tourism is not suffering for lack of people wishing to not wear a helmet during the three months of the year when it’s nice enough to do so. It is lacking because job growth has stagnated, and businesses are moving to other states where they can make some cash.

If Michigan politicians want to get tourism back on track, perhaps they should focus on creating an educational system that produces the types of individuals that our technologically-driven society demands. That might mean not cutting business use property taxes (gasp), repealing Proposal A so schools can finance themselves (Gasp), and forcing all businesses to pay taxes (GASP!) with a simplified tax code that minimizes paperwork similar to how Ohio has their tax system set up.

All these things would certainly be preferable to bowing to the will of a minority of motorcyclists who wish to feel the wind in their hair without considering the consequences of their open hair meeting the open road. Let’s get Michigan back on track without increasing the likelihood of more closed-head injuries.

The Same Old Education Song (Society’s Slideshow)

Legislators across the nation and here in Michigan all love to sing the same ‘ol education song. I’m sure you’ve heard the lyrics before.

It goes a little like this:

Let’s raise the standards for students while we take away the means for educators to meet them.

Let’s require that all students take the ACT and then moan when the students who are not serious about attending college do poorly on the test.

Let’s throw out collective bargaining agreements and require teachers to pay more for insurance, make less money and have the right to “Teach for Less.”

Any teacher will tell you that teaching for less does not sound like an appealing prospect.

Michigan Legislature is considering a bill that would forbid teachers from contributing to their union dues electronically. It would also severely limit their ability to collectively bargain for things like higher wages, better benefits, and better retirement plans.

This asinine idea must stem from brains are rotted from being too long out of school and spoiled from too many years of high-paying government jobs. This effectively tells Michigan teachers that they are not worth the salaries, benefits and retirement plans they demand. Whenever you tell an employee he’s not worth his salary, usually he will find a place where his talents are appreciated.

The result of such misguided legislation will be no different. It will serve to drive the best educators out of the state in search of school districts that are willing to pay top dollar for top talent. Once the top talent has migrated to other states, all that will be left are ineffective educators who will work as little as possible for the measly sum that they will be paid.

Of course, there will be some who will bust their tails for their respective districts. However, once they find out how little they are being paid in comparison to teachers in other states, they will follow their predecessors right across the state line never to return.

Out of all the ways one might think of to reform education, paying teachers less and requiring them to perform more should be dead last on the list. Cutting school budgets for things like technology and books should be just above this idea on the list.

Instead, politicians should be looking for a way to improve education through investing in it. Unfortunately for big business, that may mean requiring all of them to pay taxes here, and re-evaluating individual property tax structure. It could also mean raising the individual income tax rate by one percent across the board, which would more than pay for our current deficit and leave us with a healthy reserve.

The politicians we have in office need to wake up and smell the slate board. The reason many schools are lagging in adding a technological aspect to the curriculum is that they simply do not have enough money to put enough computers in every classroom for every student.

The reason that many schools are lacking in meeting expected AYP measurements is because they can’t afford to replace horribly outdated and equally worse for wear textbooks. The reason ACT scores have dropped across the state is because for some students, college is not the best option.

However, our legislature chooses to ignore these facts, and instead chooses to point fingers at the teachers. Surely it’s the teachers’ fault that certain parents could care less about their students’ education. Surely, it’s the teachers’ fault that one in every four children is living in poverty and can’t afford basic school supplies. Surely it’s the teachers’ fault that every time money is needed for anything in this state, the education budget gets thrown right under the bus.

In order to attract businesses with job opportunities to this state, we need qualified people to fill them. In order to get our economy going, we need people with jobs to spend money so businesses will need to hire more people.

Most of all, we need our legislature to quit targeting teachers for blame and sanctions every time a situation even remotely tied to the education system affects its overall outcome.

Write your local legislator and tell them to stop targeting teachers and start investing in the future of our state. Or better yet, just vote them out of office.

Right to Work=Right to Jerk Employees Around (Society’s Slideshow)

Michigan politicians are currently batting around an idea to bring jobs to our state. This idea involves creating right to work legislation in Michigan, which will only serve to undermine collective bargaining, break unions, and do absolutely nothing to bring us the jobs we so desperately need for the 11% of the population who is officially unemployed.

In order to understand the dynamics of right to work legislation, one must understand what right to work means. It does not refer to one’s right to seek employment on the open market. Everyone in this country has that right.

Right to work refers to legislation that states people who are represented by a union do not have to pay union dues except on a voluntary basis. This is somewhat akin to a city government deciding to make paying taxes optional. The likely outcome is that more people will opt out than pay the piper.

Unions require a decent amount of manpower to reach collective agreements. Union dues help ameliorate the cost of this business, vis-a-vis paying lawyers to execute the contracts and compensating people for their time spent in negotiations.

If unions are no longer allowed to collect dues, there will be a glut of freeloaders who will take advantage of the union’s representation. The union cannot exclude people from a collective bargaining agreement because they don’t contribute union dues. Therefore, the incentive to pay the dues is nearly non-existent.

Without these dues, collective bargaining efforts may wind up lacking the substance necessary to protect the wages, benefits, and retirement plans of the collective. This will inexorably lead to the demise of the union. No one wants to be represented by an entity that repeatedly fails to deliver on promises made.

Once the union is broken, employers will be left with little incentive to follow due process for releasing employees, increase employee wages, maintain current health benefits, or provide a retirement plan. It has been proven that union employees typically earn 10 to 40 percent more than their non-union employees in the same business. They also tend to have better health benefits and retirement plans as negotiated by their unions.

Removing the collective bargaining tools used for so many decades has no proven effect on job growth. A business owner in a unionized industry may be more inclined to set up shop in a place where they don’t have to negotiate with a union. However, this very same employer will only be regulated by at will employment laws. This means that they can fire anyone for any reason, or no reason, that is not proscribed by federal law.

Last time I checked, the ability to fire anyone for any reason or no reason does not contribute to job growth. It does contribute to employee fear or retribution in the form of a pink slip for speaking up about poor or unsafe working conditions or the fact that they haven’t had a raise in five years.

Right to work legislation will not bring any new jobs to Michigan. Instead, it  ensures that workers will be deprived of due process in termination proceedings and allow corporations to lower wages, reduce or remove benefits, and undermine a worker’s ability to save for retirement. It will also serve to prevent effective collective bargaining between employers and unions which will lead to the ultimate demise of unions that we read about in our history textbooks.

Be sure to write your Michigan Senator and Representative and tell them they are dead wrong about the potential positive outcomes contained in right to work legislation.


To Tax or not to Tax? A question for the Michigan Supreme Court (Society’s Slideshow)

Wednesday, September 7 marked the day that the Michigan Supreme Court hears arguments about Governor Rick Snyder’s law that makes it possible for the state to tax retiree pensions. The AARP a and other groups representing retirees raised concerns regarding the law’s consitutionality when the law was first passed.

The Michigan Constitution states that public pensions cannot be “diminished or impaired.” Previous to this law, they  considered a contractual obligation by both public and private sectors exempt from taxes. This measure is the cornerstone of Snyder’s attempt to bankroll a $1.7 billion tax cut for businesses in the form of eliminating the Michigan Business Tax.

The constitutionality of the law is further called into question because it exempts certain income levels from paying the tax, and requires others to only pay on a portion of their total pension income. Still others have to pay different rates based on the year they were born. The Michigan Constitution specifically bans taxes that are “graduated as to rate or base.”

Snyder is performing a combination of an end run followed by a hail mary by taking this issue directly to the Michigan Supreme Court. The end run is accomplished by preventing senior citizen advocacy groups from bringing suit against the State of Michigan. The hail mary is accomplished by throwing the law at the Michigan Supreme Court and seeing whether he achieves his goal of taxing people until they die.

The very fact that Snyder is asking the Supreme Court to rule on this issue before a lawsuit can be filed indicates that he believes that he might lose in a fair fight. The last thing that Snyder wants is for retiree groups to get their lawyers together to draft a complaint that makes sense to the justices.

Instead, he has chosen the pathway of the preemptive strike. Don’t let them see what’s coming before it’s already there.

Eliminating taxes for businesses in Michigan will do nothing to cure the economy in Michigan. It will not increase consumer confidence and get them out spending again. Therefore, businesses will have no reason to take on more employees. The money saved from not paying taxes will wind up in the pockets of entrepreneurs across the state.

This entire charade may wind up being a huge publicity stunt. If Snyder gets the verdict he wants, he will trumpet his foresight and ingenuity. If he doesn’t he will bemoan that the decision does not meet his definition of “shared sacrifice.” I’m sure that will lead to other “austerity measures” in trying to balance the state budget and attract more jobs to this state.

A more effective approach at the outset would have been to impose a single flat tax for all businesses. No loopholes, no special considerations. Businesses must pay their taxes, end of story.

A simple 1% increase in the state income tax would have been enough to eliminate the deficit and create a budget surplus. However, instead of “raising taxes,” Governor Snyder seems to truly believe he is “not raising taxes” by creating new ones and eliminating the Earned Income Credit which mostly benefits poor people by lowering their taxes.

It has become clear that Snyder and his contemporaries are on a mission to make sure that the only people contributing to “shared sacrifice” will be the people who can least afford it. Whatever the effect of his grand scheme to bring jobs to Michigan, you can believe it will be spun to make him look the saint when he is actually the sinner.

Improving Michigan Schools? New Michigan Legislation is Introduced…(Society’s Slideshow)

 A seven-bill education package was introduced to the Michigan legislature as a way for parents to leverage more power in the school district. Parents should have a say in the education of their children. They are the ones who pay the taxes that make public schools possible. What ever happened to the PTA?

However, rather than make rules allowing parents greater access to and control over the school board or creating community think tanks composed of parents in various school districts, the bill takes a completely different path.

If approved, this bill will lift the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in Michigan and lifts the cap on the number of cyber charter schools that can open and the number of students they can enroll.

It will also allow parents to convert a private school to a charter school, allow private school and home-schooled students to receive services from their home districts, and require districts to enroll students who opt for schools of choice from other districts up to maximum capacity, among other things.

The Detroit Free Press noted  on September 8 that Jim Groener, president of the National Charter School Institute, stated “that the more competition there is in education, the better the results will be” according to the writer’s words.

I guess I must have missed something during my years of teacher education. I don’t remember a single class on educational competition or methods schools use to lure students away from their home districts.

We were certainly taught that private schools, home schooling, and charter schools all draw students for varying reasons. We were taught that private schools and charter schools generally were non-union and therefore devoid of collective bargaining rights.

We were also taught that all schools have an educational mission t the level best they can be. We were never taught that schools were in bloodthirsty competition with each other.

Yet here we are, trying to pit private, home-schooled, and charter schools against the public schools. Not only that, but we are also trying to pit public schools against their own districts, and against each other.

There is no evidence that suggests that charter schools perform any better than their public school counterparts. However, this bill would allow parents to convert any public school they desired to a charter, provided that 51% of parents and/or teachers agree. This will devastate certain school districts, as it will remove an entire school’s worth of cash flow from that district’s budget.

Now is the time to whip out the calculator and multiply the number of students in a given school by the amount of cash that school receives per pupil. Using Detroit schools as an example, $7,500 per pupil times we’ll say 1,000 students in a high school will equal $75,000 the district loses in funding. It’s not going to take very long for poorer districts like Detroit to bleed out enough cash to go bankrupt.

If this bill passes, you might be sending your children to Wal-Mart Charter Schools or Dow Chemical Learning Institute before too long. I think that it’s safe to say that if that happens, you can count on a different type of curriculum all together.

Instead of learning about how Theodore Roosevelt went to bat for the little guy during the Progressive Era, they might learn the Roosevelt flew in the face of laissez-faire economics by creating costly governmental regulatory commissions like the FDA and the USDA.

Instead of learning that Franklin Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps to create jobs and revive America’s Depression-era economy, they might learn that FDR implemented socialist practices by allowing the government to control what was once controlled by the private sector. They might also learn he created several unsustainable entitlement programs that cost the government billions like Social Security and unemployment benefits.

Parents should go about affecting change in school districts the way it used to be done before American Idol and the Real Housewives of (insert city or state here) came about by involving themselves in Parent Teacher Associations and Parent Teacher Organizations. In districts where they don’t exist, they should be started.

Parents used to be much more actively involved in their students’ education. As a rule, some are more that others. It is not possible for every parent to be as involved as the next, but the argument here is that parent participation in the past was much greater than today’s involvement.

Many parents went to school board meetings. They went to conferences to see how their student was doing, and in some cases how that student might do better. They volunteered at schools, and were genuinely concerned with their students’ futures.

Certainly, parents today are concerned with their students’ future. Otherwise, the  Michigan legislature would not go to such lengths to make sure they get more control.

However, it is patently pathetic that parents need the Michigan legislature to do their jobs for them. Rather than voting for a new school board, calling a teacher with a concern, helping their students with homework, or otherwise actively involving themselves in education, they will now depend on legal leverage to force privatization of public schools.

All the laws our legislature can send down the pike will not replace active parent involvement in the schools. If any only if satisfactory responses cannot be gleaned from the schools and their respective school boards should the action be taken any further.

Parents who are truly concerned with education should write their representatives and urge them not to take Michigan down the pathway to privatization. Otherwise, our students may one day be learning that once upon a time, you could go to school for free.

An Interview with Ty Stone

Ty Stone has been described as “a powerhouse singer in an unprettified package.” This Detroit native has been earning lots of fans due to his raw talent, lyrics that hit home, and likeable personality. Music has always been a big part of Ty Stone’s life, but it took a little help from Kid Rock to take it to a whole new level. A good friend of Ty’s was able to slip Kid Rock a demo during a Piston’s game, and not long after, Ty found himself hanging with Kid Rock, touring, and putting out a new album on Top Dog/Atlantic Records. Ty’s story inspires, and he deserves his success. See him perform live on September 17th at Mi Fest ’11 in Brooklyn, MI. Noize got the chance to ask Ty a few questions and learn more about him…


Photo Credit: Lisa Carpenter

When you are looking for new music to listen to, how do you go about finding it? What have you been listening to lately?

Honestly I get turned on to most of my new music from friends whose opinion I trust. My boy Doop will send me YouTube Links more of the time. Lately I’ve been listening to all the good things on Country Radio. Just trying to keep up with the Hatfields.

I love the story about how your friend, Sam Wood, helped to introduce you to Kid Rock by slipping him a CD at a Piston’s game. When Sam first told you that he did this, did you think anything would come of it? How did you react when Sam told you what he had accomplished at the game?

It’s funny.  I never thought anything would come of it.  I was excited that an idol of mine became aware that I existed, but I never expected to hear anything from that.  When I found out it he was interested in working with me, I almost died.  I’ll never forget that morning as long as I live.

What was it like to perform at a place as big as Ford Field?

Pretty much totally incredible.  It’s the true Rockstar dream experience in your hometown.  Experiences like that are what drive you to continue to work and fight regardless of the obstacles.

What’s your favorite venue to play at in Michigan so far?

Love to play the Park Bar downtown, and I really enjoyed playing Comerica, Ford Field, Pine Knob, The Palace and Joe Louis Arena.  Also enjoy the State Theatre.  Still hoping to play the FOX.

Do you have a favorite song to perform? 

I like to sing Blessed St Anthony.  It’s like throwing a Sucker Punch, and it’s always good when one of those connects.  😉

What’s your favorite Kid Rock song?

Jackson, Mississippi. That’s a truly Badass song

I read that you’re a fan of Adam Duritz and would like to work with him. Have you had any luck getting ahold of him? Any interesting collaborations in the works?

Still haven’t had any luck alerting him to my existence, but I’ll keep trying if you guys do too!  😉  I wanna work with Blake Shelton now. I’m about ready to go on the Voice.

OK, I will! Congrats, the Voice is a great show. Who are your biggest supporters?

My fans, my fiance Val, My Mom Dad and Sister, Tonya…My team, Ken Madson, Sam Wood and Don Duprie and of course Kid Rock.

Congratulations on your engagement. Planning a wedding is hard work. Can you share any of the details with us such as whether you are going to have a small or large wedding?

We’re just starting to plan things and we’re going to keep it under wraps I’m afraid…  Top Secret stuff!

I also read that you like to travel. What are some of the favorite place you have been? Where would you like to go?

I’ve been all over Europe.  That is something that every American should do.  it really changes your outlook on a lot of things.  I’d really like to go to Hawaii and Alaska someday.  I gotta book some shows up there.

How’s it feel to have a new album out? I bet you are beyond excited about it! Where can we get it?

You can get it right now on  I’m always excited for people to get ahold of my music and share it with their friends.  It’s the joy in my life!

Thanks for your time Ty. See you at MI Fest!