Readers' voice

Letter to the editor:
    You may have noticed a Veterans Service millage will be on the ballot next week.  It is a tenth of a mill and from the county administration office it is estimated to generate about $330,000, minus some exclusion of several community development groups.
    I’ve had a good number of people ask me about it since I have some connection already to veteran services in Van Buren County, I sit on the Soldiers and Sailors relief fund board.  Although I was instrumental in requesting a millage be considered to make our Veteran Service office funded by dedicated county revenue instead of grants, I can't say I've had a lot of input regarding this millage request.
    For a little history, several years ago veterans in the county, myself included, approached the county administration with concerns over the instability of the Veteran Service Office (VSO) in Van Buren County.  What was a concern from the beginning was this office being grant funded, making this function still somewhat unstable.  To their credit the administration has moved to more fully support this function by moving away from part time personnel performing this function, which were shared with other counties, to a full time person and a permanent office not dependent on grants for funding.  While some grants have been and will in the future be sought for other support, the VSO office is not dependent on them for survival.
    Regarding the present millage proposal I do wish to relate some things I hope will help you make your decision.  During our work in establishing a permanent VSO we learned how some other counties work.  A neighboring county with a somewhat less veteran population has a tax based budget around $180,000.  The amount the proposed millage will generate is quite large in comparison.  The tenth of a mill proposed was determined by the county administration with no input from myself or others that I am aware of and was not specifically requested by me or others involved.  I and others have inquired as to specifically what this millage will be used for but only very general answers have been given.  One verbal proposal was to hire a department manager at about $100,000.  Our current VSO works under a management job description but doesn't cost the county anywhere near that amount.  In-fact we have a Veterans Service Office (VSO) and NOT a County Department of Veterans Affairs like other counties in Michigan
    We have also inquired as to what will happen to any surplus if each year the $300,000 or so isn't used.  No specifics were provided.  I admit I don't know what the county charter allows for transfer of funds for other uses in such cases.  It is proposed that the current millage supporting the Soldiers and Sailors relief fund, which generates about $80,000 annually, will be replaced by the new millage for a net gain of about $220,000 annually.  If an Administrator is hired at $100,000 the balance will remain for veteran's services for a net gain of about $40,000.  Again these are estimates as I understand things.  
    So that brings me to my advice on this millage.  The point is I don't have specific advice because there isn't yet, at least I haven't seen any, a specific plan for the money.  I wish I could answer the questions posed to me, but I don't speak for the county and I don't have specific information to pass along.  A millage can be placed on the November election for a lesser amount.  So, vote as you think wise.  I will say,  I have some reservations.
    Thanks,
    Robert Adams
    Paw Paw

•••

Dear Editor:
    In the February 21st edition of The Courier-Leader, I read the letter written by Paw Paw Public School (PPPS) Superintendent Reo regarding the school’s nickname/mascot/logo.  I read the letter again in the school’s Paw Paw Pride & Progress publication.  I read it twice because I’ve learned that by reading the work of thoughtful and articulate authors, I might learn something. I might become a better writer myself.  I might change my mind about something.  I might feel pride in the perseverance of a leader who bears the burden of a decision they have made.
    In the days that have followed the publication of Mr. Reo’s letter, I have had the occasion to read multiple social media posts forwarded to me by others.  Some of those posting have made derogatory comments about Superintendent Reo, including profanity-laced diatribes wherein Mr. Reo’s character is impugned.  Others have gone as far as to make threats of physical violence against Mr. Reo and to encourage violence against him by others.  Threatening violence in this manner is repugnant and illegal, but it will not intimidate Rick Reo.  Still others opine that a prior position of the school board, that this matter would not be brought up again unless and until school funding is jeopardized, precludes Mr. Reo’s stated intention regarding the school’s nickname.  
    It is clear that many such postings were written by people who had not bothered to read Mr. Reo’s letter, because none of their vitriol addressed Mr. Reo’s measured and reasonable articulation of his position.  They jumped to the outcome, and thus to the comfort of their outrage, without reading the rationale for Mr. Reo’s position.
    Derogatory, threatening, profane and personal attacks diminish credibility.  Holding forth the position that, unless and until funding is jeopardized, change is not appropriate, is not principled.  If the decision is based on an honorable stand, then to capitulate based on money is egregious.  That was never a righteous position to take.
    We have six children.  Four of them have graduated from PPPS and two are in Paw Paw High School now.  We send them to PPPS because of good teachers, excellent facilities, sound academic offerings, and leaders like Superintendent Reo and members of the school board.  We do not send them to PPPS because of, or in spite of, the school nickname/logo/mascot.  
    My wife and I are both proud graduates of Lawrence High School (LHS).  I graduated nearly 40 years ago.  The LHS mascot, albeit one that causes no consternation, is the Tiger.  If LHS changed the mascot, even to something as ridiculous as the LHS Turnips, it would have no impact on my life.
    Leadership is an art not easily mastered; few among us are artists.  Read Mr. Reo’s letter. And then read it again.  Learn what his position is on the matter, how he came to it, and how it has evolved over time. Appreciate leadership when you see it, even if you don’t agree with a particular position or outcome.  There is nothing easier than being critical of the one who bears the burden of the decision, especially when the only burden we bear is that of attacking them for making it.
    I have always respected Rick Reo.  I respect him more now.
    Lest I offend family and friends – Go Tigers!
    Michael W. McCaw
    Mattawan

•••

Letter to the editor,
    Antwerp Township residents who reside outside the Village of Lawton, Village of Mattawan, and Village of Paw Paw will have two proposed millages on their March ballot.
    One, a renewal, placed by the Van Buren County Commissioners requested by the Van Buren County Road Commission. The second, a new request, by the Antwerp Township Board of Trustees.
    The renewal for Van Buren County is a county-wide proposal, and Antwerp Township’s is specific to the residents of Antwerp Township. This millage, specific to Antwerp Township, can be used only for road maintenance and improvements within Antwerp Township.
    The renewal by Van Buren County of .97 mills has been in place since 1978. The new request by Antwerp Township is for 1 mill.
    As a former Supervisor of Antwerp Township and a resident of the Township, I have seen first-hand the results of Van Buren County Road Commission operations. Voters have refused several open checkbook requests by this organization and have made it clear that they want results before they will send more money.
    While I have not attended either Van Buren County Road Commission or Antwerp Township public information meetings, history tends to repeat itself. Van Buren County Road Commission will not have a plan in place to address the needs of Antwerp Township or county roads. The voters have clearly sent massages to the County Road Commission in the past that we want transparency, accountability, and most importantly - change!
    I feel confident the Antwerp Township Board of Trustees will lay out a plan of tax dollars spent on roads throughout Antwerp Township. They will be transparent and accountable and only spend the funds received for road maintenance and improvements of the requested millage.
    I will be voting YES on Antwerp Township’s road millage proposal.
    Arlen R. Winther
    Mattawan

•••

Dear Editor,
    I attended the Paw Paw Public Schools’ mascot forum Tuesday and was very pleased to see constructive discussion dominate and not shouting, heckling or abusive behavior.
    On this subject, I encourage all to put aside our “keep it” or “change it” stance to ask ourselves this: Were any of us actually seeking or providing educational information for the betterment of our schools, community and students - or - were we simply seeking personal belief affirmation and agreement for ourselves? Were we just pushing a decision that’s best for our personal egos and desires over what’s best for students, best for the greater good and health of our district, community and neighbors - socially and economically?  I was hopeful that we, who attended, were thinking first and foremost about all of our students, not ourselves.
    And, after I listened to all the comments by teachers, parents, residents and school personnel, I do believe many were doing just that.
    To paraphrase a recent quote: A mascot name can be a symbol of pride, but it should not be the source of pride. A school and community of people that have understanding and respect for all people should be the source of pride. Our children’s school should have and enjoy a symbol that reflects that for all students.
    My children do not, nor did any past family members  attend Redskin Public Schools. They attend(ed) PAW PAW Public Schools. They live in Paw Paw. That is from what I want their points of pride to springboard. Be Paw Paw Proud (not symbol proud).
    No one wants to battle about this over and over, but it will continue without change. It will never just go away. It was made clear in the meeting that despite many still gripping onto the “outsiders are to blame for this” argument, it isn’t just an ”outsider” issue. It is a school, student and community issue that affects those “inside and outside” of this zip code and accrues many expenses - social and economic.
    Thank you to PPPS administration, staff and school board for your leadership and willingness to tackle this once again, knowing that inevitable rhetoric, troubling hollers for recall/firing and in-person and virtual verbal abuse will always come with it - no matter which decision is made.  To take this on shows who you are putting first - The Students!
    Sincerely,
    Michelle Gronau
    PPPS mom
    Paw Paw community member

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32280 E. Red Arrow Hwy. • P.O. Box 129
Paw Paw, MI 49079
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