The Herald-Palladium from Saint Joseph, Michigan on September 22, 2011 · A4
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The Herald-Palladium from Saint Joseph, Michigan · A4

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Saint Joseph, Michigan
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Thursday, September 22, 2011
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A4
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A4 - THURSDAY, September 22, 2011 OPINION The Herald-Palladium DAVID HOLGATE DAVE BROWN Publisher Managing Editor STEVE JEWELL TED HARTZELL News Editor Local News Editor DALE BREWER Editorial Page Editor In our opinion Loan lawsuit Stevensville is on weak footing in 1st Source dispute Consider this hypothetical situation: If a bank's automated teller machine mistakenly spit out a $10,000 withdrawal instead of $100, would the recipient lawfully have a claim to the extra money? Of course not. It is clearly the bank's money, and we suspect the bank would soon be knocking on that man's door to collect the extra money. If in the meantime he spent the money - something we highly advise against! - the bank wouldn't come calling. The police would. Now let's apply the same reasoning to the situation involving the village of Stevensville and 1st Source Bank. The bank has sued the village, seeking repayment of the balance ($776,199) of a nearly $1 million loan that Stevensville took out in 2006. Stevensville says it is not legally obligated to repay the money, claiming that it didn't have authority under Michigan law to even obtain the loan in the first place, and that 1st Source erred by loaning out the money. We admit that we have no legal expertise on this matter. The village may or may not have a legal leg to stand on. That's for federal court to sort out. Regardless of the legal wrangling, that doesn't hide the fact Stevensville is on thin moral footing, though it is also possible the entire exercise is merely part of its negotiating strategy to seek more favorable terms with the bank. But if you take the village's position at face value, it doesn't matter that Todd Gardner was village manager at the time the loan was obtained, or that Gardner during his tenure embezzled more than $270,000 - and that he now sits in federal prison. It doesn't matter that the village used much of the money for bad real estate investments that tanked when the housing market collapsed. None of that hides the fact that the Village Council - including some members who remain on the council - gave Gardner, the village's legally appointed representative, approval to take out the loan. Now, in lieu of a long-term payment plan with 1st Source to put this ugly situation behind it, the village is using taxpayer dollars to pay attorneys to fight the matter in court. We wonder how much that bill will come to. One could reasonably argue that the earlier example of the man getting $10,000 from the ATM machine isn't exactly analogous to Stevens-ville's situation. It is true that the village matter is more complicated, in the legal sense. Just as it is true that the village has suffered several strokes of bad luck - along with showing extremely poor judgment - since Gardner was hired. It is extremely unfortunate that all of this occurred, and we don't doubt that council members were well-intentioned throughout. But consider this. The man in the ATM example never sought the money in the first place. It just fell into his lap, and that's when his moral compass went astray. In contrast, Stevensville DID seek out the money - money that everyone at the time understood was to repaid - and now is arguing for a legal judgment in its favor because its finances have since fallen into disarray. The logic is difficult to swallow. Village Council members should seek every avenue to resume talks to settle the lawsuit now before it spends anymore taxpayer dollars on legal fees for such a morally suspect case. Letters Hypocrisy is on display in anti-Sharia law push Editor, Linda Horjus, whose letter regarding HB4769 was printed in Sept. 19 edition of the paper, is yet another person who has fallen victim to the fear-mongering of the extremists (which is not a small minority) on the right. She believes that HB4769 is a bill that will prevent Sharia law from being enforced by Michigan courts. Her belief is based upon a misunderstanding of what Sharia law actually is. What's more, her fear of different religious principles being foisted upon Americans exposes the hypocrisy of those on the religious right (from whence this fear comes). Though some Muslim theocracies use Sharia law as their legal system, Sharia law is not a foreign law, as understood by this bill. Sharia law is based upon the Qur'an and upon tradition based upon the life of Muhammad. It is no different in principle from what could be described as Christian law While the proposed bill, if passed, would prevent a Sharia law-based law of a foreign country from being enforced in Michigan courts, it would not prevent a Sharia law-based contract entered into by two consenting adults from being enforced in Michigan courts any more than it would prevent a Christian law-based contract from being enforced. If Americans want to incorporate Sharia law into the American legal system, this bill would not apply in any way whatsoever. Regarding the hypocrisy of those on the religious right, it is completely hypocritical to believe that one religion's laws should not be enforced and not another's. Those on the religious right in this country have no problem with foisting Christian laws upon the nation. Christian fundamentalists in this country are just as intolerant as Islamic fundamentalists in other countries -they've just been held somewhat at bay by some very good laws. Someone who had some good things to say (and presumably who Linda Horjus believes in) said the following: "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your .10 TEA O? NOT TO TEA? THAT l THE (JUKTION 1 J brother's eye" (Matthew 7:5). Those on the religious right need to look at what they are doing before they start preaching fear about people of different religions wanting to impose their religious beliefs on a nation that supposedly enjoys religious freedom. Only when those on the religious right stop imposing their beliefs on Americans will I take serious anything they have to say. Justin Bowen St. Joseph A sweet act of kindness; let's hear more stories Editor, The letter on Monday from Shirley Sater-Roberts about "paying it forward," or as she put it "one blessing passed on," is the key to real success in this community. Imagine if everyone here helped one other person with an unexpected kindness. Imagine if everyone performed an intentional act of kindness once a day. We are blessed with myriad volunteers who do the right things for the right reasons to make good things happen for their families, friends, neighbors and strangers in our community. Many of them work in groups like United Way, Champions for Change and in churches, just to name a few. And clearly, confirmed by Shirley's letter and others, individuals here are creating positive change through simple acts of kindness. One man I know frequently buys breakfast for the person in line behind him at drive -throughs; a woman I know tapes coupons directly on products in stores so someone else will get money off on something they're buying; a farmer friend of mine often drops off generous baskets of his harvest at my house. The challenge is simple: Take a look at yourself, and decide what you have to share with someone else. Then, when the time is right, ask that person to do the same for someone else. Imagine the ripple effect of creating positive change one person at a time, and passing it on. We all have talents, skills and gifts to share. I am not suggesting that we give away our lives; just that we look at what we're good at, and share it kindly. Margaret Mead said: "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Thank you, Shirley, for taking the time to share a kindness with the rest of us. I'd really like to hear more from H-P readers ... there's nothing like encouragement to get a good thing going. Kathy Zerler St. Joseph So Parker thinks most Republicans are dumb? Editor, Kathleen Parker's opinion piece on Monday, "Who's dumber, folksy Republicans or elitist Democrats?", represents a rare divergence from her usual cheerleading for Republi- Obama debt plan going nowhere Liberals are elated that President Obama is finally primed for a fight. Conservatives are happy to take up the chant of "class warfare." I'm thoroughly depressed. First, although the president's plan does little to change the already low odds of success for the new congressional su-percommittee, it underscores the near-impossibility of dealing seriously with the debt before the election. Second and more broadly, it signals the fail- ry if ure of the central promise of the Obama presidency: that the Ruth forces of reason, Marcus pragmatism and persuasion can combine to thwart the ordinary laws of political physics. From the moment of his emergence at the 2004 Democratic convention, Obama evoked the common concerns of purple America to rebut the notion that political self-preservation always trumps national interest. He contended that the country was capable of rising above politics as a zero-sum "yes we can" inevitably became "not so fast." His pledge to end the partisan bickering and gamesmanship in Washington resulted in even more of the same. And his dead-on-arrival debt plan represents the most vivid manifestation of that predictable reality. The plan is fine as far as it goes, which will be: not very. It features tax increases for the wealthy that the president knows are a non-starter with Republicans. It retreats from entitlement reforms that he was previously willing to accept, notwithstanding unhappiness among his base. It cuts more than the supercommittee is required to achieve but not nearly enough to get the long-term debt under control. You could look at all this and accuse Obama of campaigning instead of governing, of once again engaging in the can-kicking he had sworn to stop. I don't think that's fair. As the president discovered, it's impossible to dance with people determined to stomp on your toes - indeed, with people convinced that stomping on your toes, to the extent they can get away with it, is their route to re-election. Had Republicans demonstrated some willingness to deviate from their no-new-taxes orthodoxy, some recognition of the basic budgetary arithmetic that requires a balance of spending cuts and tax increases to get the debt under control, I'd be willing to bash the president for cravenly catering to the base. But Obama's previous overtures of reasonableness - raise the Medicare eligibility age, lower Social Security benefits by changing the inflation formula - have yielded nothing but Republican rebuffs. If he is now practicing politics as usual, holding back some of what he might be willing to yield in a negotiation that will probably never come, it's hard to fault him. And, yet, how sad a spectacle it was to see the president stooping to the kind of cynical accounting gimmicks he once bragged about eschewing. Back when he delivered his first budget, the president crowed that he was not engaged in the usual "dishonest accounting" - for example, not including the expected cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Less than three years later, he was padding his promised debt reduction by $1 trillion - by including supposed "savings" from war costs that he knows will not be incurred. So much for business as usual. Likewise, the president awarded himself credit for another $866 billion in "savings" for letting the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy expire - as he has proposed since the last campaign. I support recycling but this is ridiculous. The story of Obama's presidency is not a simple narrative of naive president rudely awakened to the evil ways of Washington. Obama is no rube. His advisers are experienced Washington hands. They did not expect to prance into office and cuddle up with Republican lambs. Rather, the Obama team erred in two ways. It underestimated the ferocity of GOP opposition - health care and the debt ceiling being the two leading examples. And it mistimed its own combination of conciliation and line-drawing. On the debt front, the White House contends it was correct not to build on the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction plan when the presidentially appointed commission reported last year. Acting then, before House Republicans produced their more extreme budget plan, would have been doomed to failure, the White House argues. So where are we now? With Obama seeking barely half the debt reduction of Simpson-Bowles. With a plan that calls for far less in the way of new taxes. And that is going nowhere. With a president elected on the promise of hope and change - and running for a second term having learned how difficult that is to achieve. mgton I us is a columnist for The Wash-Her email address is: ruthmar- com. Write us Here's how to submit a letter to the editor: E-mail: lettersTheH-P.com Regular mail: Editorial Page Editor, The Herald-Palladium, P.O. Box 128, St. Joseph, Ml 49085 Fax: 269-429-4398 All letters should include a daytime telephone number and street address for verification. The Herald-Palladium reserves the right to edit letters for length, style, grammar, inappropriate content and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published. The full policy on letters to the editor can be read on our Web site, www.TheH-P.com can policy, ideology and candidates. Within the piece, she remarks that, "Many (Republicans) are willing to dumb themselves down to win the support of the party's base." Really? So it's her view that "the base" of the Republican Party is ... well ... "dumb." In her view Republican leaders need to talk to the base in terms that say, children would understand. Yet, she thinks it's just fine in a democracy to let the uninformed dictate policy. Maybe in a later column she can explain why it is beneficial to have uninformed people electing incurious others who are afraid to deliver the truth to their constituents. Michael Thomas Sawyer Another opinion Europe's problems goes beyond debt As difficult as it has been for the United States to deal with the housing bubble, financial crisis, unemployment, two wars and the stresses of an aging population, we have one giant advantage. We have an effective constitutional structure to address our problems. The issue is persuading political leaders to muster the will to act. Europe has much bigger problems. The economic woes of Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal - and the crisis over the euro, the single currency in Europe - have revealed deep flaws in Europe's political structure. As Stanford University's Jack Rakove pointed out in "Europe's Floundering Fathers" in 2003, the union remains "more a treaty among nation-states than a constitution for a common people." It has no authority to tax, no independent source of revenue, and no authority over diplomacy. ... The question today is: Will the current crisis cause Europe to fall apart, with the end of the euro, restoration of individual currencies and each country toughing it out on its own with harsh austerity measures at a time of Depression-level declines in output and employment? Or will it cause Europe to remedy the flaws of the current structure? - The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee

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