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Friday, June 12, 2009

Michigan candidate stresses important role of Secretary of State

By Michele Bourdieu

HOUGHTON -- Relating a story about her own experience as a poll worker in Detroit during the historic November 2008 election -- trying to assist a young woman unable to vote for the first time because she was registered in a different precinct on the other side of the city, when polls were about to close -- Jocelyn Benson, author and law professor, introduced herself to Houghton County Democrats at their June 3 meeting as a 2010 candidate for Michigan Secretary of State.

Jocelyn Benson, professor of law at Wayne State University and candidate for Michigan Secretary of State, addresses Houghton County Democrats at their June meeting in the Super 8 Motel in Houghton. (Photo © 2009 Keweenaw Now.)

"The laws should not be set up to block people from voting, period," Benson said. "That's what that young woman experienced."

"If we don't have access to the vote, then nothing else matters," Benson said. "If we can't choose who's making the laws, then what is democracy?"

Houghton was the last stop on Benson's statewide, 83-county, grassroots tour to announce her campaign to run for an office that, though statewide, is not included in the state primary elections (Candidates for Michigan Secretary of State are nominated at party conventions). After a long drive from below the Mackinac Bridge, Benson arrived just in time for a taste of the potluck dinner before giving an energetic talk that immediately captured the attention and admiration of Democrats attending the meeting in the Super 8 Motel.

"I'm impressed," said Anton Pintar, Houghton County Commissioner for District 3. "She has the perfect background for Secretary of State."

A Professor of Law at Wayne State University, Benson became a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University and received her law degree from Harvard University, where she became the Voting Rights Policy Coordinator of the Harvard Civil Rights Project and worked on passage of the federal Help America Vote Act.

Benson mentioned her experience working for the Southern Poverty Law Center as an investigative journalist studying hate groups. Living in Alabama, Benson said, she developed a commitment to continuing the work that had been done to defend our democracy and a commitment to do whatever she could to assure that the vote was accessible to everyone.

After that experience, Benson decided to work on legislation that would protect access to the vote.

"And then the 2000 election happened," she said.

Secretary of State decisions affect election results

Benson recalled how Florida's Secretary of State made small decisions, like removing people from the rolls and certifying an election before a full recount had happened. Benson said these were decisions that led to the election of George W. Bush in a way that many people believed was inaccurate.

"In my view it's the Secretary of State's job to make sure that that election reflects the will of the voters," Benson noted, "but in Florida we didn't see that."

In 2004 Benson worked with the Democratic National Committee to set up a national voter protection program -- putting about 17,000 people in the polls on election day to make sure the law was followed. Then Ohio happened, she said.

Ohio's Secretary of State put more electronic voting machines in rural areas than in Cleveland, where most voters vote Democratic, causing the city voters to wait in long lines. Again, she explained, small decisions by the Secretary of State affected the outcome, which many people still think may not have reflected the will of Ohio voters.

Benson contrasted these decisions with the positive innovation made by a former Michigan Secretary of State, Richard Austin -- the "motor voter" law that allows voter registration through the Michigan driver's license.

"That was his idea," she said, "and it became a national policy. So Michigan historically has been a state that's led the way. It's been a state that people have looked to for ideas."

Benson said Michigan is at a turning point where it needs to be an innovator again.

"And so I'm running for Secretary of State so we that we can make that office an innovator again," Benson said.

For her new book, Democracy and the Secretary: the Crucial Role of State Secretaries of State in Promoting Democracy, Benson said she interviewed innovative, inspiring secretaries of state -- both Democrats and Republicans -- around the country, learning much about how they used their office to improve elections. Benson began writing the book, she said, because she wanted to show how important the office of Secretary of State is for democracy.

Benson mentioned how Ohio's Secretary of State spoke out in September 2008 against false rumors that people facing foreclosure would be blocked from voting (which would be illegal), while Michigan's Secretary of State failed to do the same to cancel similar rumors in Michigan. Benson noted this incident was a turning point in her decision to run for the office.

"Voters need to know that their Secretary of State is a friend, is an ally, is on their side and is fighting for them," Benson said. "I'm running because I want to make sure that that office is accessible to everyone across the state, is responsive to everyone across the state and is accountable to every single voter and citizen in the state."

Local Dems "very impressed" by Benson

Benson answered several questions from the audience on such topics as registration laws, potential registration on election day, student voting, electronic voting and poll-worker training.

Jocelyn Benson chats with members of the audience after her presentation at the Houghton County Democrats' June meeting. Pictured with her are, from left, Brian Hoduski, Houghton County Democrats co-chair; Rick Kasprzak, newly appointed office manager for the Houghton County Democrats; and Joanne Kyle, seasonal visitor, visiting her sister, Janet Gregorich, in Painesdale. (Photo © 2009 Keweenaw Now.)

Brian Hoduski, Houghton County Democrats co-chair, mentioned the lack of poll-worker training that led to local voters being turned away during the last election for not having an I.D. (Some poll workers were unaware that the I.D. was not a requirement).

Rick Kasprzak of Calumet confirmed that a sign about an I.D. requirement in Calumet on the last election day led to voters being turned away. He asked what could be done in such an instance on election day.

Benson said the Secretary of State's office would have a hotline people could call and comment cards in every precinct to report violations of the law. She would also insist on a uniform standard of training to inform all poll workers of the law.

Several people attending the meeting echoed Anton Pintar's positive reaction to Benson's talk.

"I was very impressed," said Ann Pace of Hancock. "When she was asked a question she gave very detailed, direct and thoughtful answers."

Janet Gregorich of Painesdale described Benson as "extremely enthusiastic" and having "great ideas."

Gregorich's sister, Joanne Kyle, a seasonal visitor to the area, mentioned Benson's emphasis on the importance of the office of Secretary of State.

"I think it's as important as every other elected official in every state, especially because of the voting issues we've had," Kyle said. "We lost Ohio and Florida because of the Secretary of State's incompetence."

Benson's talk was "excellent," according to Barbara Manninen of Hancock.

"She made that office come alive," Manninen said. "It was like a tree full of ripe fruit. She has such a commitment."

Huduski said he was excited to hear Benson was coming to Houghton because he had seen her on the T.V. program, "Off the Record" and was impressed.

"It's important that we send someone to the State Democratic Convention to nominate her," he added.

Hoduski pointed out that Secretary of State is one of only four statewide offices. Of the other three -- Attorney General, Governor and Lieutenant Governor, only the latter two are listed on the primary ballot. Both Secretary of State and Attorney General are nominated in state party conventions.

For more information about Jocelyn Benson and her campaign, visit her Web site.

"River of Words" art on exhibit at Youth Gallery, Community Arts Center

HANCOCK -- Environmental and nature art by K-12 students from around Michigan is currently on display in the Youth Gallery of the Copper Country Community Art Center (CCCAC) in Hancock.

"River of Beavers" by John Xuecheng Fan from Wines Elementary in Ann Arbor, Mich. Click on photo for larger version. (Photos courtesy Copper Country Community Arts Center)

The art in this exhibit represents a wide range of entries to the River of Words Poetry and Art contest, a national Library of Congress and River of Words project coordinated at the state level by the CCCAC staff. Each year, in affiliation with The Library of Congress Center for the Book, River of Words conducts a free international poetry and art contest for youth on the theme of watersheds. The contest is designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place they live and to express, through poetry and art, what they discover.

"Fish" by Annie Huang of Wines Elementary, Ann Arbor, Mich.

According to Cynthia Coté, CCCAC director, "The entries hanging in the gallery demonstrate the creativity and natural aspirations of young people toward an integrated life with nature."

The River of Words exhibit will be on display though July 3. The Community Arts Center is located at 126 Quincy Street, Hancock. For more information call 482-2333 or e-mail

MTU partners with IBM in Global Rail Innovation Center, Beijing

By Jennifer Donovan, MTU public relations director

HOUGHTON -- When IBM set its sights on becoming an international rail transportation leader, one of the first university partners they turned to was Michigan Tech. Michigan Tech's Rail Transportation Program is an emerging player educating future leaders for the rail industry.

On Friday, June 12, 2009, as IBM unveils plans for its Global Rail Innovation Center in Beijing, Pasi Lautala, director of the Rail Transportation Program, and graduate student Shane Ferrell will represent Michigan Tech.

"Countries worldwide are recognizing the importance of rail transportation and are accelerating their efforts to develop 21st-century rail systems," said Lautala. "With its Global Rail Innovation Center, IBM is modeling a new way of thinking, one that is not bound by national borders. Michigan Tech is honored that IBM has recognized our leadership in rail-related research and education and has invited us to participate in such a groundbreaking effort."

Read the rest of this article in the June 12, 2009, issue of Tech Today ...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pine Mountain Festival to present "Cole Porter Revue" June 19 at Calumet Theatre

HANCOCK -- "Suave, urbane, risqué, a carnation in the lapel and a wry grin" -- that’s Cole Porter, according to Jerry DePuit, the director of Pine Mountain Music Festival’s "Cole Porter Revue" which will play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 19, at the Calumet Theatre in Calumet. Tickets are $20 and are available at the Calumet Theatre Box Office, the Rozsa Center Box Office and at the door.

Jerry DePuit, director of Pine Mountain Music Festival’s "Cole Porter Revue," to be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 19, at the Calumet Theatre. (Photo courtesy Pine Mountain Music Festival)

This will be one of the first events in the Festival’s 2009 season and promises to be a crowd-pleaser.

"Bursting out of the Roaring 20s, Cole Porter took Broadway by storm and elevated musical theater to new heights of sophistication for three decades," says DePuit.

The audience will be treated to 40 of Porter’s greatest hits in an evening that is elegant, fun and maybe a bit naughty -- and definitely very social.

The singers will be the six Resident Opera Artists hired for this season by the Festival. They were selected through nationwide auditions from a pool of over 400 applicants. Joshua Major, artistic director of the Festival, says, "This year’s artists are among the most talented we have ever had, and should bring a lot of pleasure to everyone."

The Pine Mountain Music Festival presents a season of opera, classical and jazz music in June-July in the Dickinson County area, the Marquette area, the Keweenaw Peninsula and other smaller towns in the Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin. Headquartered in Hancock, Michigan, it is supported by donations, ticket sales and grants. Visit the web at, or call 1-877-746-3999 for tickets or 888-309-7861 for more information.

MTU physicists make a splash with rain discovery

By Jennifer Donovan, MTU public relations director

HOUGHTON -- It's conventional wisdom in atmospheric science circles: large raindrops fall faster than smaller drops because they're bigger and heavier. And no raindrop can fall faster than its "terminal speed"-- its speed when the downward force of gravity is exactly the same as the upward air resistance.

Now two physicists from Michigan Tech University and colleagues at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National University of Mexico) have discovered that it ain't necessarily so.

Some smaller raindrops can fall faster than bigger ones. In fact, they can fall faster than their terminal speed. In other words, they can fall faster than drops of that size and weight are supposed to be able to fall.

And that could mean that the weatherman has been overestimating how much it rains.

Read more in the June 11, 2009, issue of Tech Today ...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Household "Electronics Recycling" to be available June 13 in Hancock

HANCOCK -- The public will have an opportunity to recycle outdated or non-working household electronics from 9 a.m. to noon this Saturday, June 13, at the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (540 Depot St., a block south of eastbound US 41) in Hancock.

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) will collect unwanted household items such as the following: computers and accessories, microwave ovens, stereos, TVs and monitors, DVD players, VCRs, cordless phones and electronic ballasts (all 10 cents/lb.), fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent bulbs (50 cents each), alkaline batteries (85 cents/lb.), rechargeable batteries and cell phones with batteries (free).

For more details, see and click on the RSVP "Electronics Recycling" link or call Barb Maronen at the health department (482-7382). There will also be collections on July 11 in Baraga and Ontonagon Counties (details TBA) that are open to all western U.P. residents.

If you have still-usable electronic items to donate, check with local thrift shops (Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul). Reusing is even better than recycling!

While Michigan Tech's Center for Science and Environmental Outreach is helping to publicize this "Electronics Recycling," please note that Michigan Tech-owned electronics are recycled through the University's e-waste program.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Library Summer Reading Program begins June 13

HOUGHTON -- Opening day activities and registration for the Portage Lake District Library’s "Be Creative at Your Library" Summer Reading Program begin from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 13.

Kids are invited to make art outdoors, weather permitting; and indoors everyone can create his or her own ice cream sundae in the community room. In addition, balloon artist John Gershenson will make balloon creations for kids.

Registration will continue throughout the eight week program. Participants will receive a book bag when they register, and prizes will be awarded as they progress through their reading lists. The Summer Reading Program is open to all ages, children through adults; and reading logs may include books, magazines, audio books, reading to young children or being read to. The Summer Reading Program ends on Saturday, August 8.

Throughout the summer, the library will host programs and offer weekly Storytimes and projects. Look for listings of programs and events in the library, in the media and at the library's Web site.

Everyone is invited to join the fun and be creative at the Portage Lake District Library!

Houghton's 8th Annual Spring Art, Music Festival to be June 13 on Shelden Ave.

Ceramic artists Dennis Sotala of Copper Harbor and his wife Leslie sell their pottery at the 2008 Art and Music Festival on the Houghton waterfront. This year the festival location is changed: Artists and organizations will have booths and musicians will perform in a two-block area of Shelden Avenue in downtown Houghton. (File photo © Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- The Copper Country Community Arts Center (CCCAC) and the City of Houghton present the 8th annual Houghton Spring Art and Music Festival from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 13. This year the new location will be along Shelden Avenue, downtown Houghton.

Andrea Puzakulich of Distant Drum exhibits her unique fashion designs and her recent artwork at the 2008 Art and Music Festival in Houghton. (File photo © Keweenaw Now)

The festival’s outstanding features include about 30 artist booths and demos, free family art activities, CCCAC Extreme Bake Sale, prizes from downtown businesses and an awesome music line up. Food will be on site with T’s Taste of Chicago.

Rhythm 203 performs a variety of folk music and songs during the 2008 Art and Music Festival. Pictured, from left, are Norm Kendall, Randy Seppala, Sue Ellen Kingsley and Phyllis Fredendall. (Photo © and courtesy Adam Johnson. Reprinted with permission.)

The Music Line Up is as follows:
Noon -- The Outlaws
1:20 p.m. -- Uncle Pete's Allstar BBQ Blues Band
2:50 p.m. -- Orphans Torch
4:10 p.m. -- Joshua Davis and Joe Wilson from Steppin' In It
5:30 p.m. -- Squeaky Clean Cretins
7 p.m. -- P.J. Olsson and Rock Camp

This year also features a "Frog Hop" activity. We’ve received generous prizes and support from The Library, Down Wind Sports, Wicker and Willow, The Edge, The Lunch Bag, Good Times Music, The Blue Iris and Silver Rae Bead Studio. Stop by the Arts Center booth during the festival to pick up a Frog Hop card to take to our supporting businesses and receive a frog stamp. Fill up your card with all eight stamps and return it to the Arts Center booth to be placed in a drawing for prizes. Participants must be 18+ and present to win and will be announced before the final performance.

Photographer Harvey Desnick of Kearsarge exhibits his wildflower photos during the 2008 Art and Music Festival. Desnick recently published a book of his photos, Keweenaw Wildflowers Blooming Seasons. (File photo © Keweenaw Now)

Speaking of the final performance, this year's headlining act will be P.J. Olsson, who will be performing with over twelve young musicians ages fifteen and under as well as a hip-hop dance team. Participants are in P.J.'s "Rock Camp 2009." Visit their website for details.

During the 2008 Art and Music Festival, Rudiger Escobar, board member of the Copper Country Guatemala Accompaniment Project (CCGAP) provides information about the organization at one of several booths sponsored by local groups. This year also watch for a booth of the newly formed conservation group, Stewards of Bete Grise Preserve. Their volunteers will be selling t-shirts, hats and bags with the organization's logo. (File photo © Keweenaw Now)

Thank you to sponsors Brockit Inc., Brassard Media and MTEC Smart Zone!

Questions? Call the Copper Country Community Arts Center at 482-2333 or e-mail

Health Care forum to be June 13 in Houghton

HOUGHTON -- As Michigan's growing health care crisis continues to worsen, citizens are joining health care experts at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, at a forum on "Finding Solutions to the Health Care Crisis." The forum will be held at the Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in the BHK Child Development Center (Head Start building) in Houghton.

At the event, panelists will lay out national and statewide health care problems and solutions and then will call on citizens to take action for health care reform and to advocate for a public choice plan that would offer all Michigan families access to health care coverage. The forum is free and open to the public.

Panelists include the following: Dr. Richard Imm, Western U.P. Health Care Access Coalition; Rev. Robert White, United Methodist Church Keweenaw Parish; Dr. Fredi de Yampert, president, League of Women Voters of the Copper County and co- dean, Finlandia University College of Health Science; Barbara McLean, Finlandia University visiting assistant professor of Psychology/Human Services, who recently returned from a trip to study Finland’s health care system. Also attending will be State Representative Mike Lahti (D-Hancock).

The BHK Child Development Center is at 700 Park Ave., north of Econo Foods in Houghton. Use the Waterworks Drive entrance and parking lot on the north side of the building.

This event is sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Upper Peninsula, Child Care Providers Together Michigan, Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, League of Women Voters of the Copper Country, Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network, Western Upper Peninsula Health Access Coalition and the United Methodist Church Keweenaw Parish.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Updated: Nominations sought for Heart and Hands award

HANCOCK -- Do you know anyone who has given of Heart and Hands in the service of peace, justice or the environment in our local community? Please consider nominating this person (or couple) for this year’s Heart and Hands of the Keweenaw Award. The nomination form only takes a moment to fill out, and the recognition will mean a lot to a deserving individual!

The winners of this award will be honored during a 4th of July Celebration in Hancock. They will have their names engraved on the beautiful wooden sculpture (pictured here) and will be given $1000 to be designated to the non-profit charity of their choice. Nominations are due June 22, 2009, so get your nomination in as soon as possible! Nomination forms can be obtained from Terry Kinzel at 482-6827 or via e-mail at

Nominations should include a description of how the candidate has had a significant impact on the Keweenaw community in the area of peace, justice, human needs and/or environmental stewardship. Please be specific about what form their contribution or involvement has taken. Again, for more information, contact Terry Kinzel at 482-6827 or

Editor's Note: Keweenaw Now's editor, Michele Bourdieu, was honored to receive the 2008 Heart and Hands of the Keweenaw Award. Save the Wild UP, a non-profit environmental group in Marquette, concerned with the potential dangers of sulfide and uranium mining proposals for the Upper Peninsula, was pleased to receive our $1000 designation.

Previous recipients of this award, whose names appear on the sculpture, are Dana Richter, 1999; Viola Brown and the late Robert Brown, 2000; the late Robert Linn, 2001; Chuck Harris, 2002; Linda Rulison, 2003; Carolyn Peterson, 2004; Vern Simula, 2005; Shalini Suryanarayana, 2006; Barbara Kendall, 2007.