Isabella Prosecutor Awarded for Advocacy

By Amanda Harrison
A ceremony in Mount Pleasant marked the end of Victims Rights Awareness Week Friday.
During the ceremony Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick was awarded the 2012 Crime Victim Advocate of the Year Award presented by the Michigan Crime Victim Foundation.
Burdick said although he’s grateful for the recognition, Victim’s Rights Awareness Week is not about him but the victims.
Burdick stresses that victims have a wide range of rights that sometimes they’re not aware of.
“They have not only statutory rights but constitutional rights, to be informed of the process, to have a say in the process, to be present at court hearings, to have their voices heard and again because the system can be intimidating sometimes it’s really important that they know that and we try to get them to know that upfront to get them to participate again in what is sometimes an arduous journey that they have to take.”
Burdick said the legal process may be daunting but with the support of a legal team victims can get through it. 

Lawmakers concerned about prison budget cuts

Last month, the Michigan Department of Corrections eliminated perimeter guards from 27 prisons to trim the state budget.
Prison officials say the change is working well, but some lawmakers are still concerned…
Until recently, Michigan prisons had guards patrolling their perimeters 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
But that changed April 1, when perimeter guards were eliminated, saving over 12 million dollars per year.
Russ Marlan is a spokesman for the Department of Corrections. He said the perimeter guards have been replaced by technology…
“Yes, over the last several years we’ve installed cameras that can see virtually the entire perimeter at most of our prisons. We’ve electrified our fences, we have lights, motion sensors.”
Marlan said perimeter guards have also been replaced by periodic, random patrols from local and state law enforcement. He said wardens report being comfortable with their current staffing levels.
Some people, however, are still concerned about the elimination of perimeter guards.
State Representative Frank Foster is among them…
“I am more confident now that they’ve been able to lend the State Police to help out, but, you know, I want every protocol and procedure and every precaution deemed necessary to be implemented. And sometimes that’s not always cost effective. I understand that.”
Foster has been trying to legislatively restore funding for perimeter guards, however, those efforts have, so far, been unsuccessful. 

State notifies families they can re-apply for cash assistance

By Rick Pluta
Thousands of families in Michigan cut off from welfare benefits will get a notice soon in the mail telling them they may still qualify for cash assistance. 
The letter said families that lost benefits because they hit a five-year federal limit can re-apply because they might still qualify under state law. That’s according to a judge’s ruling last month after welfare advocates sued the state. 
Unlike, the federal time limit, Michigan’s does not count months where an adult stayed home to care for a disabled child, parent, or some other family member. 
David Ackerly is with the state Department of Human Services. 
“Roughly 13 thousand is the number of cases we’re talking about and all those people will get a letter and if, somehow, the letter misses them, we are using other sources of information to comply with that court order.”
Ackerly said that includes a posting on the department’s website and legal notices in newspapers across the state. At the same time, the state is appealing the judge’s ruling.
Copyright 2010, MPRN

Industrial tax rewrite expected to move forward

By Rick Pluta
The effort to phase out Michigan’s tax on industrial equipment is expected to clear a major hurdle this week as a state Senate committee wraps up hearings on the plan. 
A vote in the full Senate could come as soon as this week. Manufacturers say Michigan’s tax on industrial equipment is a drag on the state’s economic recovery. Manufacturing remains the dominant sector of the Michigan economy. The Senate plan would eliminate the tax on industrial equipment by 2022. But local governments rely on that revenue to pay for everything from police and fire to parks and libraries. Communities with a lot of factories would be hit hardest by the loss of tax revenue. Local officials complain the phase-out plan does not guarantee they’ll recover all the lost revenue, which would force cuts to services or force local tax hikes to make up the difference. 
Copyright 2010, MPRN

Sacred Heart Academy denies homosexual speaker from graduation

By Consuelo McAboy
It’s that time of the year where high school students around the nation are saying their goodbyes and preparing for the next chapter of their lives.
But, one Mount Pleasant high school does not know if it will have a speaker at graduation or a principal next year.
Sacred Heart Academy in Mt Pleasant invited alumnus Dominic Sheahan-Stahl to speak at the school’s graduation ceremony on May 20th.
Sheahan-Stahl’s younger brother is a graduate this year in the Catholic School.
Soon after discovering that Sheahan-Stahl is gay, the Catholic Diocese told the academy to revoke the invitation.
Sacred Heart principal, Denny Starnes delivered an emotional speech to faculty, students and the community Friday, making it very clear that he did not agree with the decision from the diocese.
“This is my community. Of course I’m going to have a different feeling about this whole issue, about a young man that I’ve known since he was ‘Mikey’ across the street.”
Sheahan-Stahl was also a part of the speech via Skype. He said his graduation speech would have had nothing to do with his sexual orientation.
“My speech has never had any gay issues in it. It’s never been anything about my loving of another man. It has nothing to do with that.”
As a result of the ruling from the diocese, Academy principal, Starnes said he plans to resign.
Alumni student, Sheahan-Stahl said he is shocked by the principal’s resignation.
“I was shocked. I am not on here to ruin anybody’s life, to get anybody fired, anything like that. We’re all human, we all make mistakes. He apologized, I forgave him five minutes after the decision was made. I don’t agree with him being fired, but I’m thankful for his support.”
After the event, I spoke with Cristina Supuleda. She is a parent and said that she sent her son to a Catholic school to uphold her religious beliefs.
“I’m gonna speak for myself, If I choose to be Catholic freely I’m gonna follow the teachings. I’m going to be faithful. I’m going to be congruent. The catholic church is not against the people, but the lifestyle that some homosexuals are spreading, that lifestyle is not good for humanity, it’s not good for people.”
I also spoke with Sheahan-Stahl’s brother, Willi who is part of the academy’s graduating class. He said he appreciated the principal’s speech.
“I felt a lot of compassion for him. I felt like it took a lot of guts for him to stand up and show what he believes.”
After being asked to speak at commencement again, Dominic Sheahan-Stahl declined. He said he is satisfied with the situation and would say just one thing to the diocese if he got the chance…
“I would say that growing up in a Catholic school and going to church two times a week every week for 19 years of my life, I was taught God is love, and right now, I’m being told that God only loves certain people and not me.”
As of now, the academy has not booked another speaker for graduation.   
The Saginaw Diocese released a statement that said they were unaware of the decision to invite and rescind the invitation to the alumni student.
More information about the Saginaw Diocese can be found here.

Flint Charter School Loses Authorization

By Amanda Harrison 
Over 400 Flint area students will be searching for a new school this summer.
That, after Center Academy of Flint had its charter revoked by Central Michigan University because of poor performance.
Cindy Shumacher is the executive director of CMU’s Center for Charter Schools. 
She said it will be up to the parents to find their kids a new school. 
“There are other schools in the area, other charter schools in the area, there is approximately, there are three charter schools within three miles of Center Academy. And there is actually one charter school that is within walking distance, just a block or two away from Center Academy.” 
Shumacher said CMU will be working with the Michigan Association of Public School Academy to provide families with additional information on other schools. 
Copyright 2010, MPRN

Board of State Canvassers deadlocks on whether referendum goes to ballot

By Rick Pluta

“Shame! Shame! Shame! …”

Those are shouts from the crowd as a state elections panel deadlocked on whether to put a referendum challenge to the emergency manager law on the November ballot. Both Republicans on the four-person bipartisan panel said opponents of the campaign successfully raised questions about whether the petitions were printed in the wrong font size. Democrats voted to put the question on the ballot. The deadlock means the question does not go to voters.  
Herb Sanders is the attorney for the Stand Up for Democracy campaign. He said the next stop is the Michigan Court of Appeals.

“You know that some people put party lines over justice and democracy, so nothing surprises me at this point. But I am not deterred. I am determined.” Said Sanders.

Sanders said the petition is technically correct, and the board’s decision deprives the 203 thousand people who signed the petitions of their right to challenge a law they don’t like.

Copyright 2010, MPRN