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Friday, October 22, 2010

Updated: U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow tells Michigan Tech students new energy will bring jobs

By Michele Bourdieu

HOUGHTON -- U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow emphasized jobs that new energy technology would bring to Michigan and fielded questions from Michigan Tech University students during a brief visit to campus Thursday evening, Oct. 21. The visit was arranged in conjunction with her appearances at a fundraising breakfast for Gary McDowell, First District Democratic Congressional candidate, and a private meeting on small business legislation with local Smart Zone business leaders this morning, Oct. 22, in Houghton.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow addresses Michigan Tech University students and welcomes their questions in the Minerals and Materials Building on the Michigan Tech campus Thursday evening, Oct. 21. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

"I don't think there's anybody who has looked after students more than Sen. Stabenow," said Michigan Tech University President Glenn Mroz, introducing the Senator to the students as a staunch supporter of Michigan Tech. "She is from Michigan, she is for Michigan, she is for you."

After greeting some distinguished visitors in the audience, including State Senator Mike Prusi (D-Marquette) and Dale Tahtinen, Michigan Tech University vice president for governmental relations, Stabenow spoke first about competition in today's post-industrial, technologically innovative global economy.

"We literally are competing with people around the world," she said.

After reviewing the effects of the economic crisis and loss of thousands of jobs in 2008, Stabenow talked about the Recovery Act, or Stimulus, under the Obama administration, and how Michigan has benefited from it. One aspect of it is the 30 percent manufacturing tax cut for companies that focus on wind, solar, electric vehicles and other new technologies -- which led to job creation for Michigan companies taking advantage of that tax cut. Michigan also received 1.3 billion of the 2 billion dollars set aside nationally for electric vehicle battery manufacturing partnered with businesses.

"Now we have at least 16 companies (helped by research going on in universities) that are developing parts for electric vehicles," Stabenow said.

While the good news is Michigan is not depending on other countries to support their industry but is now able to compete globally, she added, "the bad news is that we were losing jobs 1000 at a time and now they're coming back 100 at a time."

For students graduating in a few years, the job prospects should be getting better, Stabenow added. She explained how another aspect of the stimulus was the change to direct student loans -- without the banks -- which has increased the number of federal grants and student loans and allowed more people to go to college. At the same time, federal research grants are being budgeted to help universities, and Michigan Tech benefits from these every year.

She noted, as an example, that research "to protect our troops in the field" is done here at Michigan Tech.

Stabenow mentioned also new legislation to support small businesses with loans and new tax cuts -- the subject of her visit to the local Smart Zone business incubator today.

"The toughest situation right now is for a small business to get started -- to go to the bank and get capital for a loan -- because of what happened on Wall Street," she said.

"Even in the auto industry, most jobs in Michigan are in small business," Stabenow said. "They are suppliers."

Stabenow reminded the students of the important health care reform bill that allows young people to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26. They don't have to be in school or living with parents. The age 26 is the only criterion.

"The idea is to help somebody who's gotten out of school, trying to get started," she explained.

Stabenow also mentioned the fact that in three years, when this health care reform is fully implemented, there would be a Web site for health care exchanges where people can go to buy insurance at cheaper rates with better coverage.

Stabenow's "passion": the Great Lakes

Finally, Stabenow said she wanted to talk about her passion -- the Great Lakes. She first asked how many of the students were originally from Michigan.

"So the Great Lakes are in your DNA, right? They're in mine," she said to those with raised hands. "Protecting the Great Lakes is not just a slogan. It's very much what we're about. It's a huge natural resource. It really represents who we are. It's also an economic resource for us in many, many ways."

Stabenow said she was very involved in efforts to protect the Great Lakes, including working with the Army Corps of Engineers to deal with the challenge of the Asian Carp. She noted she is leading a legislative initiative to re-route the waters so that there will be a permanent hydrological separation between the (infested) rivers and the Great Lakes to keep this invasive species out of the Lakes.

"In my judgment protecting our waters is incredibly important, and it's also a major priority with me," Stabenow said.

In a brief interview about her work in defending the Great Lakes, Stabenow told Keweenaw Now she had first, in 2001, helped achieve a temporary oil drilling ban in Michigan (under former Gov. Engler) and in 2005 authored the current ban on U.S. offshore oil and gas drilling in all the Great Lakes.

To our question on the sulfide mining being pursued by Rio Tinto - Kennecott near Lake Superior, Stabenow replied she was not involved in the issue but was aware of it.

"I think there's a lot of legitimate questions that have been raised (about the sulfide mining) and I'm listening to what people are saying," Stabenow said. "The state needs to be aggressively protecting our natural resources."

Keweenaw Now also asked Stabenow her opinion of Virg Bernero, mayor of Lansing and Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

"I think Virg is terrific!" she answered. "I live in Lansing. He's created jobs, and I think he'd be a great governor."

Stabenow fields students' questions

Questions from the students ranged from the "Cash for Clunkers," which the Senator sponsored, to electric and diesel cars, nuclear energy, and fast trains.

Update: Following her presentation and question-answer session, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow chats with students from Michigan Tech's EcoCAR team -- Jason Socha, team leader, and Jamie Kleinendorst, outreach coordinator -- who presented her with a special "EcoCAR" t-shirt in appreciation of her visit.*

Concerning the "Cash for Clunkers," Stabenow said it kicked in just in time to help auto sales and put money in the pockets of consumers, allowing them to buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle. It also brought about 60,000 people back to work.

"From an economic standpoint, it was a complete winner," she said.

Stabenow admitted one of the problems of the program was that older engine parts had to be destroyed, although other parts of the vehicle could be recycled. If it were to be done again, as a long-term program, she added, it would have to be focused on a much higher fuel efficiency.

She said legislation is being proposed for the next session in November to encourage electric and natural gas vehicles. It also proposes setting up 15 areas in the country as models for infrastructure needed for the electric car.

One student asked if there is any tax incentive for people to buy diesel cars, which are cleaner than gasoline cars and get better mileage.

Stabenow said it was only the electric vehicles that have the $7500 tax cut, but research is being done on diesel and Chrysler is taking the lead on that, while GM has made a business decision to make the electric car.

In reply to a question whether the electric car is really environmentally better, considering the cost of electricity and pollution from power plants, Stabenow said one idea is that the electric vehicle would be charged at night, during low-peak times, which might even allow electric vehicle owners to sell electricity back to the grid. The other very important piece of the question is how to produce electricity with cleaner energy.

"That piece is the piece that we have been trying to get done with a comprehensive energy policy in D.C.," Stabenow said.

As an alternative to cars, Kevin Vayko of Almont, Mich., a Michigan Tech senior in environmental engineering, said he had recently been in France for a few months and was impressed by the high-speed trains. He asked the Senator if there were plans for high-speed rail transportation in the U.S.

Kevin Vayko of Almont, Mich., a senior in environmental engineering, poses for a photo with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow after her presentation at Michigan Tech on Thursday, Oct. 21. Vayko asked the Senator a question on high-speed rail development.

Stabenow replied it was beginning -- with a project to put an East-West high-speed rail line between Detroit and Chicago.

Concerning nuclear power, Stabenow mentioned DTE Energy's plant in Monroe, Mich., (Fermi 2) and their plans for a second one, for which they are now going through a permitting process. She said the community there is very supportive of it.**

Noting the "trade-offs," Stabenow said the challenge on the nuclear front is the waste, while the positive side is zero emissions and better technology, including recyclable parts.

"I think it has to be part of the mix," she said. "I'm really an 'all of the above' person. Right now about 70 percent of our energy in Michigan comes from coal; and from an environmental standpoint -- and for jobs -- we need to move away from that, but we're not going to move away completely when we have such a big footprint on coal."

Stabenow also mentioned biomass -- fuel from wood products -- now being produced in the U.P. She said what she finds exciting, as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is that new renewable energy offers both innovation and jobs while helping us become independent of oil -- a national security issue -- as well as cleaning up the environment and attacking global warming.

"The next great vehicle or clean energy process may be created by somebody in this room, so as far as I'm concerned we have only our own talent and ingenuity and curiosity," Stabenow told the students. "We've been the innovators, and we need to be innovators in a global economy."

Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz thanked Stabenow for her visit and reminded the students of the importance of voting in the coming Nov. 2 election.

Michigan Tech University President Glenn Mroz thanks U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow for her visit and reminds students of the importance of voting.

"What you do when you vote does matter," Mroz told the students. "If you vote, you do matter."

The Senator also mentioned she was looking forward to coming back to see the snow statues at Michigan Tech's Winter Carnival, one of her favorite events.

Editor's Notes:

Learn about Michigan Tech's participation in the EcoCAR challenge on their Web site.

** See Eartha Jane Melzer's Feb. 17, 2009, article, "Cancer questions grow around Fermi nuclear plant," in the Michigan Messenger. The Fermi 2 plant recently had its designation as a Clean Corporate Citi­zen renewed by the state for three years: See Southeast Michigan Business and Industry News: "Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Plant Gets Redesignation." See also the Oct. 20, 2010, article mentioning workers at the plant: "Fermi refueling to start next week."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Trees, Erik Koskinen Band to perform at Omega House benefit Oct. 23

CALUMET -- "Hunter's Moon," the Fourth Annual Omega House Benefit Concert and Silent Auction, will take place at the Calumet Theatre at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 23. This year’s concert highlights two artists with local ties -- Lindsay Tomasic and Trees and The Erik Koskinen Band. The silent auction features wonderful items donated by regional artists and businesses.

Ticket prices are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and students with a valid student ID. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Theatre box office -- 337-2610.

Lindsay Tomasic and Jesse Fitzpatrick, two of the three members of Trees, grew up in the Keweenaw and started performing as teens in Copper Country venues. Lindsay now lives and works out of Los Angeles where she writes, performs and records at her studio, Datolite Recordings. Lindsay and Jesse will be joined by Dave Pearlman on his pedal steel and dobro.

Erik Koskinen, based in the Twin Cities, also was raised in the Copper Country and credits attending bluegrass and country music festivals as a child in helping to develop his own blues and country rock sound. He eventually moved to Minneapolis, where he formed his current band, The Erik Koskinen Band.

Both groups will have copies of their newly released CDs available for sale.

All proceeds of the "Hunter’s Moon" Benefit Concert and Silent Auction will benefit Omega House, the only hospice home in the Upper Peninsula.

For more information about the Benefit Concert, call Sandy Lewin at Omega House -- 906-482-4438.

Is new road for Kennecott truly "public"?

Editor's Note: Catherine Parker of Marquette read the following statement during the public comment period of the Marquette County Road Commission meeting on Oct. 18, 2010, in Ishpeming. After receiving this and other public comments at this meeting, the majority of which were in opposition to a new "public" road (to replace Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company's formerly proposed Woodland Road, to which federal agencies objected because of potential impacts on wetlands and streams) the Commission approved Road Commission Engineer-Manager James Iwanicki's recommendation to pursue construction of a "public" road intended for hauling ore from the Kennecott Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill for processing.

By Catherine Parker

In the US Army Corps of Engineers’ analysis of the Woodland Road application, it is pointed out that "Permit applicants may not bias permit application reviews by making substantial resource commitments in advance of permit decisions. This is one of the basic tenets of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), outlined in their regulations in Section 1506.1."*

An Agenda Supplement to the September 13, 2010 meeting of the Marquette City Commission contains the following statement:

"Recently Jim Iwanicki from the Marquette County Road Commission contacted City staff to request the City’s support of a new north-south road, located west of the previously-recommended Woodland Road."

Consequently, a letter was drafted and signed by the mayor, dated September 14, requesting that the Road Commission develop this road.

A week earlier, the Marquette County Commission discussed a request from the Marquette County Road Commission to develop a new all-season primary County Road. During the meeting, Commissioner Corkin suggested that Kennecott had already committed financial resources to the new North-South Road proposal. In his words:

"I guess I would suggest to the board that we put a request in to the road commission to make application for this Woodland Road as a public road, and which obviously would be paid for by Kennecott Minerals, but it would be a public road..."

Now back up even further, to July 6, to a letter written to Jon Cherry, of Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company, in which Mr. Iwanicki says:

"I have had several meetings with people from your company to discuss what the process is for the Road Commission to take on a road as a public road."

Has Kennecott, or any other private entity, made financial commitments in advance of a new permitting process? If so, they, and other participating parties, are once again in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.*

(Michigan) House Bill 4961, passed on May 6, 2010, contains provisions for private-public partnerships relating to creation and operation of public transportation facilities, or infrastructure. And yet it firmly states that "A public transportation facility shall be publicly owned and shall be dedicated to the public use as a public transportation facility…"

Our city, county and township officials are proposing to build a major road through the wilderness, a corridor to the isolated and unpopulated northern regions of Marquette County, for the benefit of a few private entities, primarily Kennecott. The Army Corps of Engineers’ analysis of the Woodland Road permit application points out that Kennecott is projecting 12,000-18,000 trips per year for their ore transport trucks, while logging trucks would make around 1,700 trips annually. It is difficult to imagine private citizens, tourists included, competing with those numbers. This road would not be "dedicated to the public use."

The public does not need this road, nor can they afford it.

During the June 30, 2010 Road Funding Forum for Marquette County, we were told that our local road commission is in dire financial straits. A few figures:

61% of MCRC (Marquette County Road Commission) roads need repairs, including 188 miles of primary roads at a cost of $83 million. Plus 192 miles of local roads need repair at a cost of $77 million.

52 of MCRC 94 bridges need work! 25 are structurally deficient with a cost to replace them of $19 million. 27 are functionally obsolete and a cost to upgrade them is $21 million.

MCRC has $200 million in unmet needs and only an $11 million annual budget.

Kennecott projected that the original Woodland Road would create 12 on-going maintenance jobs. The new North-South road is to be maintained by the County, which has seen a decline in full-time employees from a high of 106 in 2001 to a current figure of only 49. We do not have the personnel necessary to take care of an additional road.

Why not use our meager resources to repair and maintain the roads we already have?

Again, the public does not need this road.

* Click here to see NEPA Regulation 1506.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finlandia Gallery to present "Path of Particles" exhibit by Natsu

HANCOCK -- "Path of Particles," an exhibit of sculpture by New York artist Natsu, is featured at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, from Oct. 21 to Nov. 20, 2010.

New York artist Natsu is now featured at the Finlandia University Gallery in the Finnish American Heritage Center. She will speak at a reception in the gallery at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21. (Photos courtesy Finlandia University)

An opening reception for the exhibit will take place at the gallery from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 21. Natsu will speak at 7:15 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Sparkling, complex, and organic are words that only begin to describe the metaphysical bead sculptures of artist Natsu. Using small plastic beads that are strung together and woven in a labor-intensive process, Natsu creates sculptures that explore the origins, structure, and existence of the universe -- with a view to both the scientific and the mythological.

Natsu, Path of Particles (detail), 2010. Plastic beads and brass wire, 72 x 108 x 108 inches. (Photo © Teru Onishi)

For Natsu, the process of creating her artwork is infused with meaning.

"Beads are like atoms, the basis on which the entire world is formed," she says. "My repetitive primitive act in the creating process, stringing beads and weaving them with my hands into a complex web structure, creates an infinite pattern symbolizing the cycle of the world."

Natsu’s work probes the dualities of our world, from the harmony of the physical and the ethereal to the tension between natural and human-made objects.

"I follow the rhythmic, nearly-unconscious motion of my hands. It resembles natural growth -- as atoms (beads) arrange themselves -- or instinctual behavior, like a bird weaving its nest. My handmade, labor-intensive process of creation transforms time into art."

Natsu likens her creative process to an act of contemplation or prayer.

"Through my creation, I purify myself and trace and experience the mysterious workings of the universe little by little," she notes. "I am stringing and weaving my prayer, memories, and moments."

Natsu, Path of Particles, 2010. Plastic beads and brass wire, 72 x 108 x 108 inches. (Photo © Teru Onishi)

Born and educated in Japan , Natsu now lives in New York City. She completed a bachelor of fine arts at the Joshibi University of Art and Design, Tokyo. Her work has been exhibited widely in New York and Japan.

Natsu has also participated in many artist residency programs, including the Artist Alliance Inc. LES-RSP Residency Program, New York; the Swing Space Residency of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), New York; and the Emerge8 Program, Aljira, Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, New Jersey.

Natsu is working with Finlandia University International School of Art and Design students this week, through Friday, Oct. 22.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 12 noon to 4 p.m., or by appointment. Please call 906-487-7500 for more information.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mike Lahti Calls on Casperson to Support Hire Michigan First to create more jobs for U.P. workers

HANCOCK -- State Senate candidate Mike Lahti has called on his opponent, Tom Casperson, to put U.P. workers first by supporting Hire Michigan First, a plan that has been held up in the state Senate for more than a year. Joined by Mark Massicotte, co-owner of L’Anse Manufacturing, Lahti also unveiled his H.I.R.E. Plan to create jobs in Michigan.

"As a small businessman and investor I know the challenges that our communities face in this economy, and I know firsthand how important it is when we can bring new businesses into a town and create new jobs," said Lahti. "State government needs to do more to help investors and entrepreneurs bring their businesses, factories and shops to Michigan so that we can get our friends and family members back to work. It’s time for the state Senate to put families and workers ahead of politics and pass the Hire Michigan First legislation, and I challenge my opponent to support this common-sense plan as well."

The H.I.R.E. Plan stands for the following:
  • Hire Michigan First: Make sure state tax incentives go to companies that are creating Michigan jobs, and eliminate state contracts and end tax breaks for businesses that outsource jobs or hire illegal workers.
  • Incentives: Provide incentives to help companies like L’Anse Manufacturing and CertainTeed Ceilings expand and retain jobs in Michigan and attract new businesses to locate here.
  • Renewable Energy: Invest in and promote renewable energy such as wind, solar and biofuel that builds on our manufacturing experience and forestry industry to create jobs now for Michigan workers.
  • Employment: Reduce bureaucratic red tape to make the state more competitive and make it easier for small businesses to get credit to create more jobs.
"L’Anse Manufacturing has been operating successfully for more than 30 years, but if we are to keep providing good jobs here in the Upper Peninsula we need the state to work harder and do more to help small businesses like ours," said Mark Massicotte, co-owner of L’Anse Manufacturing. "We need a better business climate that includes tax breaks and incentives to keep jobs here in our communities for Michigan workers, and to attract new businesses in growing industries. Mike Lahti helped bring new businesses and jobs to Hancock, and he worked closely with our company to help us succeed. He’s the right person to fight to get the state on track and working better with small businesses like ours."

As a state Representative, Mike Lahti voted for Hire Michigan First, a program to give businesses incentives to hire Michigan workers and to end state contracts and tax credits for businesses that outsource jobs or hire illegal workers. He has also voted to support the Small Business Incentive Credit to encourage private investment in small businesses so they can expand and create more jobs. Lahti supports providing tax incentives to industries or businesses to retain jobs and encourage development, including the $3.1 million state tax credit that was awarded to CertainTeed Ceilings Corp. in L'Anse last year to expand its existing facilities, and efforts to support L’Anse Manufacturing. Lahti also voted to require background checks on all companies that receive state tax incentives.

"If the voters elect me to the State Senate, I am ready to hit the ground running with a plan in place to create jobs and help small businesses grow," said Lahti. "I’ll fight to keep workers and job creation at the top of the Senate’s priorities so that common-sense jobs legislation does not get bogged down in political partisanship again."

Mike Lahti is a small business owner and job creator in the U.P. As an insurance agent and real estate developer, he has worked in his community on projects that have built and restored buildings, revitalized downtown and created new businesses. Lahti is a lifelong resident of Hancock and currently serves in the Michigan House of Representatives.

For more information, visit

Cyclocross racing returns to Keweenaw

Tim Kostner, left, and Nevin Brownell participate in a previous cyclocross event. (Photos © and courtesy Chris Schmidt)

HOUGHTON, COPPER HARBOR -- Fast-paced cyclocross action returns to the Keweenaw October 23 and 24. The fourth annual Keweenaw Cup, organized by Houghton’s Red Jacket Cycling Team, with support from the Copper Harbor Trails Club, will see as many as 100 racers lining up for two days of racing: Saturday, Oct. 23, in the Downtown Hoedown in downtown Copper Harbor, and Sunday, Oct. 24, in Top of the World Smackdown at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge in Copper Harbor.*

Christina Bennett, left, and Amy Michaels head down a challenging cyclocross trail.

Weekend champions in each of five classes will be awarded the illustrious Keweenaw Cup. The races are open to everyone of all ages and all abilities on any kind of bike. No experience required! Typically 30 minutes to one hour in duration, cyclocross events are timed races held on short courses (1 - 1.5 miles) and include surfaces ranging from pavement and dirt roads to singletrack and grass. Obstacles ranging from wooden barriers, logs, sand pits, mud bogs, and unrideable hills add to the challenge -- and make mounting and dismounting an integral part of the race.

Nicole Alexander lifts her bike over one of the Keweenaw Cup obstacles.

Anything is possible in the Keweenaw weather-wise -- and the race will go one regardless of what it decides to do.

Though it may sound intimidating to the uninitiated, the festival-like atmosphere that surrounds every cyclocross race -- with clamoring cowbells and cheering spectators -- make it a unique sporting event and, for many, the highlight of the cycling season. The short courses ensure that there are nearly always racers in sight, and that the cyclists are never out of earshot of an encouraging word.

The $20 entry fee for Saturday’s afternoon race includes a pasta dinner at the Mariner North as well as music by the Black Justin Plichta. Dinner tickets will be available at the Mariner North on Saturday for non-racers. Entry for Sunday’s race is $10. Room discounts to racers are available at the Mariner North and other Copper Harbor motels. All proceeds from the weekend’s events will benefit the Copper Harbor Trails Club.

The Keweenaw Cup will mark the fourth weekend of racing in this year’s UPCROSS Points Series, a 7-race series of cyclocross events organized by Marquette’s KMK Cycling Club and the Copper Country’s Red Jacket Cycling Team and the Range Mountain Bike Club of Ishpeming. The series attracts racers each week from across Michigan, Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota from late September through mid-November.**

*See further details on the Keweenaw Cup at

**Further details on the UPCROSS points series are available at

Questions? E-mail Chris Schmidt:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Portage Library to host Suzuki performance Oct. 19

The Portage Lake District Library will host "Big Violins for Little People" from 10:15 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19.

Children are invited to a musical introduction to the cello with Copper Country Suzuki Association instructor Maggie Twining and her students. Find out what makes these big instruments so much fun for little people! Children will have an opportunity to try out these instruments afterwards as part of a musical "petting zoo."

Everyone is welcome to attend and library presentations are free. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bernero accepts proposal from Detroit clergy for Gubernatorial Debate Oct. 21

DETROIT -- A group of Detroit clergy members has set a time and place for a governor’s debate and invited both gubernatorial candidates to participate -- Virg Bernero immediately accepted. The Detroit debate is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 21 and the public is invited.

In accepting the offer, Bernero released this statement:

"I'll be there. The strength of the state is dependent on a vibrant Detroit. It speaks volumes that my opponent doesn't want to give people more opportunities to compare my specific, concrete economic plan with his corporate buzzwords and happy talk."