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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Potential state senate candidate, North Woods Conservancy founders speak to Houghton County Dems

By Michele Bourdieu

Chris LaMarche, right, of Gladstone, speaks to Houghton County Democrats at their March 5 meeting in Houghton. LaMarche, 22, hopes to run against State Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) in the November midterm election. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- Houghton County Democrats heard from two energetic speakers at their March meeting last week -- first, 22-year-old Christopher (Chris) LaMarche, a new potential candidate to oppose Republican State Sen. Tom Casperson next November, and second, John Griffith of North Woods Conservancy (NWC). The first asked Dems for political support, the other for donations to help pay off a debt that has resulted from NWC's purchasing Keweenaw lands for environmental preservation and public access.

Chris LaMarche, potential State Senate candidate, cites priorities for change

LaMarche, 22, of Gladstone, an Eagle Scout, born and raised in the Upper Peninsula, introduced himself and his Dad, Gary LaMarche, who told the group Chris had just recently made the decision to run for the Michigan State Senate. Chris is about to graduate from Michigan State University with majors in microbiology and genetics and a minor in science policy.

In this videoclip, Chris tells the Houghton County Dems he has decided to run for office because he wants to raise his children in the U.P. and he sees a need in Michigan for investment in education, respect for labor rights and protection of the environment.

At the March 5, 2014, meeting of the Houghton County Democratic Party, Chris LaMarche gives a brief summary of his reasons for wanting to run for political office. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

Chris LaMarche told Keweenaw Now he opposes the philosophy of those he calls "the 2010 class" -- Republicans and Tea Party candidates, including Casperson, who were elected in 2010 -- a philosophy intended to help businesses and keep taxes down for the wealthy.

"My philosophy is not that we have to tax the rich to the point where they get in trouble but that (the state) needs to give more tax cuts to the middle class," Chris said.

Noting he is from Casperson's home region, Chris said another objection he has to the 138th District Senator is his failure to do anything to improve roads.

"Tom Casperson is chair of our Transportation Committee, and he hasn't been able to fix the roads up here," the young challenger added.

In this video Clip, Chris LaMarche talks about his interest in politics, his recent opportunity to work with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, to meet President Obama for the signing of the Farm Bill, and more ...

Chris LaMarche gives a few details about his background and interest in politics. He notes he may be running in the Aug. 5, 2014, Democratic Primary against another candidate.

Brian Rendel of the Houghton County Dems mentioned at the meeting that a second Democratic candidate for Casperson's senate seat, Chris Germaine of Delta County, may be coming soon to speak to the group.

Potential candidates for the November midterm election must register by April 22, 2014.

Later in the meeting Chris LaMarche spoke with Houghton County Democratic Party members about his support of unions. He also welcomed their suggestions for his campaign.

Chris LaMarche exchanges views on support of unions with Houghton County Democrats. He notes both his parents -- Gary and Laura LaMarche -- are union members.

Chris LaMarche was among 15 Michigan State University students to receive the honor of participating in the William A. Demmer Scholars Program, which helps students experience the public policy decision-making that concerns preserving natural resources in North America. The program allowed Chris to work as an intern on the Farm Bill with Sen. Debbie Stabenow and the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in Washington, D.C., last summer.*

Local Democrats at the meeting had positive comments about the new young candidate.

"It was great to hear a candidate state -- among his top priorities -- a concern for environmental quality," said Houghton County Democratic Party member Ann Pace of Hancock.

Janet Gregorich, Houghton County Democratic Party vice-chair, saw Chris's youth as an advantage.

"I am glad to see a young person so interested to be involved in the political system and be willing to run for state senate," Gregorich said. "Chris seems to have the education and knows some issues for our district. Hope he can get the youth interested and out to vote."

Rick Kasprzak, Houghton County Democratic Party co-chair, noted any candidate is welcome to speak to the group.

"It is exciting to see a young person inspired to run for office," Kasprzak said. "I believe Chris has potential as a candidate and I like his priorities. However, it is too early in the process to make a clear choice. It appears we will have a choice of 'Chrises' as Mr. LaMarche appears to have a primary opponent in Chris Germaine. Mr. Germaine will have the opportunity to speak to our membership as well and make his case for why he should be our choice."

John Griffith outlines North Woods Conservancy's successes, needs

At the March 5 Houghton County Democrats' meeting, John Griffith of North Woods Conservancy (NWC) displays photos of Keweenaw sites NWC has purchased, with the help of grants and donations, for preservation and public access.

The second guest speaker at the Houghton County Dems' March 5 meeting, John Griffith of Allouez Township and Calumet -- co-founder with his wife, Jane Griffith, of North Woods Conservancy -- offered an enthusiastic history of NWC. He summarized how the couple came to found NWC, a 501(c)3 non-profit land trust and to invest their time, money and energy for the past 20 plus years in their dream of saving special Keweenaw sites of beauty, biodiversity and non-invasive recreation potential for environmental protection and public access.

In this video clip, John Griffith relates how it all started:

At the March 5, 2014, Houghton County Democratic Party meeting, John Griffith describes how he and his wife, Jane Griffith, founded the North Woods Conservancy in 1992 to save land on the Keweenaw Peninsula.

John Griffith gave an overview of how he and Jane successfully wrote government grants and collected donations to save such places as the Keweenaw County Gratiot River Park, Dore Woods, Merganser Pond, Gratiot River North, Seven-Mile Point and Conglomerate Falls -- as their mission statement says, "for the benefit of native biological diversity, science and education, and public enjoyment."

In this video clip, John shows photos of some of the NWC properties and describes their unique features:

John Griffith of North Woods Conservancy displays photos of properties the conservancy has purchased for environmental protection and public access in the Keweenaw Peninsula and explains why these places are worth preserving.

The NWC properties -- totaling 1,000 acres and two miles of lakeshore -- were purchased with funding from annual memberships, donations, state and federal grants, partnerships, member loans, and bank loans.

Now the conservancy is trying to pay off its debt with a fundraising campaign -- asking donors to give $10 a month, or 33 cents a day, in order to pay a monthly mortgage of $5000. Smaller and larger donations are also welcome.

John Griffith shows Houghton County Democrats a poster explaining North Woods Conservancy's current fundraising campaign to pay off their debt for preserving unique properties on the south shore of Lake Superior in Keweenaw County.

"This is ... part of why I'm a Democrat," John told the Houghton County Dems. "I believe in conservation, in science, in information, in public access, in wildlife, and education -- school kids can go there, long-term studies for Michigan Tech (are done) at some of these properties."**

Along with Jane Griffith, John requested also that anyone in the audience concerned about wildlife sign the petition for a referendum against the recent Michigan wolf hunt legislation, which allowed the Natural Resources Commission to designate the wolf as a game species and led to the limited wolf harvest, involving three areas in the U.P., last fall:

John Griffith of North Woods Conservancy explains, from a biologist's point of view, why a wolf hunt goes against good science and asks for signatures on the petition for a referendum on the recent Michigan wolf hunt legislation.***

Chris LaMarche, who said he is a hunter himself as well as a fisherman, asked about his views on the wolf hunt legislation supported by State Sen. Tom Casperson, said he believes any such hunt should be based on science.

"I would be in favor of postponing another hunt until more studies have been done to determine the effects on the environment and species populations," he said.

Houghton Dems Co-chair Rick Kasprzak commented positively on John Griffith's presentation.

"John Griffith and his wife Jane are obviously passionate about their conservation efforts," Kasprzak noted. "I felt his stirring presentation really hit home for many of our members, and I believe he may have inspired us to get involved in some way with his endeavors. Naturally protection of our most precious resource, our surroundings, is something a majority of our members strongly support and consider a top priority. The fact the Griffiths are preserving these very special areas in such a way as to continue to keep them available to the public is especially appealing to me."

Editor's Notes:

* Learn more about potential State Senate candidate Christopher LaMarche by visiting his Facebook page.

** To learn more about North Woods Conservancy visit

*** The petition with more than 229,000 signatures for a referendum on Michigan's wolf hunt was handed in this week. Click here for an update from Keep Michigan Wolves Protected.

Ski Club reports Maasto Hiihto Trails safe for moon-fire-ski TONIGHT, March 15

HANCOCK -- Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club’s monthly moon-fire-ski is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. TONIGHT, March 15, at Maasto Hiihto Trails.

"As promised, KNSC has checked the trail conditions at Maasto Hiihto to see if they would allow for a fun, safe moonlight ski to the fire by the creek tonight -- and yes, the trails are indeed safe and ski conditions are surprisingly good," says KNSC's Sandy Aronson.

The official/guided start is from the chalet, but skiers may start from Tomasi trailhead if they wish. The fire will be located at the Glide 'N Gorge soup station, which is between the bottom of Sisu hill and the Middle Bridge.

This morning the city side, gorge, and Australia/Mud Lake Loop trails were dragged and tracks reset. Churning Rapids will be left ungroomed, i.e., skier groomed.

"I skied this morning on ungroomed, dragged, and tracked trails and found that the ungroomed trails were just fine, dragged trails were great, and tracks only were ok as they were somewhat icy on the bottom so not such good grip," Aronson adds. "On a side note, ungroomed snow was silent while the groomed snow was noisy and abrasive. Also, wind was super cold yet the sun warm! Quite a study in contrast out on the trails today."

KNSC's John Diebel reports the Fairgrounds chalet will be open this weekend for people to use for lunch and changing, but the water lines remain frozen and the toilets are out of service.

"Due to the very high expense of thawing out such a long supply line and the limited time left in the season the water line is expected to remain out of service for the remainder of the ski season. Plan accordingly," Diebel notes.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Calumet artists to exhibit work at Flatlanders Gallery in Blissfield, Mich., March 15

"Winter Stop," woodcut reduction by Tom Rudd and Margo McCafferty. (Photos courtesy Tom Rudd)

CALUMET -- Artists Margo McCafferty and Tom Rudd of Calumet will be in Blissfield, Mich. (near Toledo, Ohio) this Saturday, March 15, to install and open a show at Flatlanders Gallery (and sculpture supply).

"Creek Chub," mixed mediums, by Tom Rudd.

Flatlanders is east of Blissfield on US 223. The building  is surrounded by many sculptures, heaps of snow-covered stone and a sign that says "Last chance for Art in Michigan."

A reception will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday March 15, at Flatlanders.

"Sheep's House," drawing on Herculene, by Margo McCafferty.

"We will be there along with our art and stories of the north," says Rudd. "We are excited to see old friends and new. Please join us -- there will be goodies and a plastic cuppa."

For more information call Flatlanders at 517-486-4591 or Tom Rudd at 906-369-4087.

Piano concert to feature works by Sibelius March 15

HANCOCK -- A program of solo piano works by world-famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius will be performed by Minnesota based musician Gail Olszewski at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 15, at Finlandia University’s Finnish American Heritage Center.

Olszewski has been heard in solo and chamber recitals on piano, fortepiano, harpsichord, organ, harmonium, celesta and synthesizer in the United States, Canada, Europe, Central America and Australia. She has performed in concert with many singers in the U.S. and Canada.

The concert is only $5 per person, with admission payable at the door. For more information about the concert, call (906) 487-7549 or (906) 487-7302.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Portage Library invites kids to puppet-making, poetry workshops Mar. 15, 22, 29 and Apr. 12

HOUGHTON -- Calling all junketeers! Children in grades 1-6 are invited to use recyclable materials and just plain ol’ junk to build cool puppets and have fun writing poems about them at the Portage Lake District Library.

Puppet-making workshops will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, March 15, 22 and 29. Plenty of recyclable supplies and all manner of tape, glue, staplers, string, and dowels will be on hand for the construction. Children are also encouraged to bring their own clean junk with them to the workshops.

On Saturday, March 22, Michigan Tech graduate student Jennifer Pelto will introduce the poetry unit while kids continue to work on their puppets. She will read poems that will get the gears turning as kids begin to interact with and think about their own puppets. Kids will have time to write poems that describe the characters they are creating.

On Saturday, March 29, Michigan Tech student Melissa Michaelson will discuss the impact that throwing things away has on the environment. She will show slides of a display of 600 plastic water bottles she created to illustrate how many bottles of water people consume in less that one-half second. Children will also have time to finish their puppets and poems.

On Saturday, April 12, kids who participated in this workshop will perform at noon in a puppet show and poetry reading at the Copper Country Mall for the annual Kiwanis Family Fun Day event. There will be a cast party afterwards at the library, and puppets and poems will be on display in the library during April for National Poetry Month.

This event is offered by the Copper Country Reading Council in partnership with Michigan River of Words and the Portage Lake District Library.

Library programs are free, and everyone is invited. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 and ask for Chris.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Calumet Theatre to host Klezmer music program March 14

Poster for "An Evening of Klezmer Music with Yale Strom and Hot Pstromi" courtesy Calumet Theatre.

CALUMET -- Klezmer musicians Hot Pstromi will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 14, at the Calumet Theatre. The trio, led by Yale Strom, present ROMANIA RUMENYE -- a mix of Klezmer, Balkan, and Yiddish music.

Yale Strom on violin and Elizabeth Schwartz, vocals, with Peter Stan on accordion provide a memorable musical experience. Strom, a leading artist-ethnographer, collects and researches music in Romania and is one of the foremost authorities on Klezmer music and its connection to Roma (Gypsy) music.*

Klezmer music, for those not familiar with it, is folk music of the Jews of Eastern Europe (think Fiddler on the Roof). Itinerant Klezmer groups provided music at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs -- and still do. It is centuries old and draws on the music of Russia, Poland, Roma (Gypsy) and other places where Jews lived. When Jews immigrated to America, massively from 1880 to 1924, Klezmer was influenced by jazz and vice versa. A Klezmer revival which began in the 1970s has made the energetic music more popular around the world.

Composers Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copeland, Gustav Mahler, Dmitri Shostakovich, and George Gershwin were influenced by Klezmer. Some say the opening of Rhapsody in Blue acknowledged the klezmer clarinet. The swing jazz of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw may have derived from Klezmer. Jazz and Klezmer have been blended by jazz musicians John Zorn and Don Byron and recently found there way into Ska.

In the past 25 years, there have been three local performances of Klezmer music. The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band performed at the Calumet Theatre as part of the 75th Anniversary celebration of Temple Jacob. Several years ago the Calumet Theatre booked
the Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Band from Cleveland; and the Klezmer Conservatory from Boston, led by Klezmer aficionado Hankus Netsky, filled the Rozsa Center not too long ago.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Calumet Theatre Box Office inside the theatre today, Wednesday, March 12, and Thursday, March 13, from noon to 5 p.m., and Friday from noon through the concert intermission. Phone (906) 337-2610 or visit for more information.

This concert is sponsored by Temple Jacob and supported by a grant from the Ravitz Foundation Michigan Small Jewish Communities' Initiative of the Michigan Jewish Conference, a program of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

* Click here to listen to a sample of Klezmer music by Yale Strom and Hot Pstromi.

Rep. Scott Dianda seeks to protect landline telephone service, urges health care cost transparency

LANSING -- State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) recently expressed his concern on two issues affecting Upper Peninsula residents, especially senior citizens. One is his opposition to the passage of Senate Bill 636, which could jeopardize landline telephone service; the other is his House Resolution 314 on health care cost transparency.

Dianda opposes Senate Bill that could jeopardize landline telephone service

State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) was disappointed by the passage of Senate Bill 636, which could put landline telephone service in jeopardy across Michigan. Seniors who use medical alert devices -- most of which currently work only through landline services -- are in danger of losing this life-saving tool.

"This bill could be devastating to the countless U.P. residents who rely on landlines to communicate," Dianda said. "I guess Republicans who voted for this bill have never tried to make a cell phone call in the U.P."

House Democrats say this does not take into account emergency situations such as a power outage, when cell phones cannot be charged and VoIP devices cannot be powered. Furthermore, reliable wireless and broadband options are not available in every part of Michigan, which would make the use of landline telephone communication a necessity -- especially in the case of an emergency.

Either way, studies have shown that landline services are much more reliable regarding 9-1-1 and emergency calls.

"This bill does not take into account the safety of rural residents who cannot rely on cell phone reception," Dianda said. "It does not make sense to replace a system that is tried, tested and successful with one that could leave people without access to communication."

It is more expensive for service providers to install, replace and maintain copper wiring for landline services than it is to move to a newer technology such as wireless or VoIP. If passed, this bill would allow companies to remove already established copper wiring connection if they petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) successfully, leaving many in both rural and urban areas with no possibility of traditional landline services. Residents could appeal this, but at the expense of a mountain of paperwork.

"With the passage of this bill, Republicans are going to force people to go up against the decisions of the federal government and the FCC," Dianda said. "This bill allows phone companies to profit at the expense of Michigan citizens."*

Dianda resolution aims for healthcare cost transparency

State Representative Dianda recently introduced House Resolution 314 (HR 314) encouraging the United States Congress to pass a law that would expand Medicare claims data availability and improve medical care.

"Most of us don’t actually know how much our health care costs because not all insurance companies send us a copy of the bill listing the charges," said Dianda. "Since we can’t compare costs we don’t know if we’re getting the best price or even the best care. Medicare is one of the biggest payers of health care costs, so if claims data are available, we would have a better view of the health care marketplace and could make educated decisions on costs and quality."

At present, this Medicare claims information is inaccessible. Federal law allows certain health care reporting entities, known as "Qualified Entities" (QEs), to prepare reports on health care performance measures using Medicare claims data. These QEs can freely disseminate their reports, but they are restricted from selling or otherwise providing the claims data to others. Legislation in Congress -- the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014 -- would remove this restriction and allow QEs to provide or sell Medicare claims data to health care providers, health insurance companies and others to assist them in quality improvement activities.

"Having this claims data is an important first step toward increasing health care price transparency, improving quality and lowering costs," said Dianda. "My resolution encourages Congress to pass this legislation immediately."

HR 314 was referred to the House Committee on Health Policy.**

* (Updated) Click here for information on SB 0636.
** Click here to read about HR 314.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Genealogical Society to meet TONIGHT, March 11, at Portage Library

HOUGHTON -- The Houghton-Keweenaw County Genealogical Society will meet at 7 p.m. TONIGHT, Tuesday, March 11, at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton.

The meeting will feature a presentation on and discussion of immigration and naturalization records, with an emphasis on local records. The meeting is open to the public.

For further information call 483-2149 or email

Portage Library Wellness Series to host presentation on milk March 13

HOUGHTON -- The Portage Lake District Library will host its monthly program in the Natural Health and Wellness series from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 13.

Shelby Laubhan, owner of Jai Yen Wellness: Eco-Holistic Health Coaching and Retreats, will present "Milk. It Does a Body Good." But, she asks, does it do YOUR BODY good? Skim, 2 percent or whole? Pasteurized or raw? Dairy-free or lactose-free? Explore the ins and outs of Mother Nature’s perfect food, and find out what may be right for you.

Laubhan is a professional EcoHolistic Health Coach. She helps clients create a healthier and happier life, have more energy, and permanently reach health and life goals that include weight loss and stress management.

The Natural Health and Wellness series is held on the second Thursday of each month. All library programs are free, and everyone is welcome. For more information, please call the library at 482-4570 or visit

Register now for Hand-Stitched Photo Book class at Community Arts Center

Hand-stiched photo book. (Image courtesy Copper Country Community Arts Center)

HANCOCK -- Today, March 11, is the last day to register with a discount for the Hand-Stitched Photo Book class to be offered from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, at the Copper Country Community Arts Center. The final day to register is March 18.

In this class with paper artist Debra Charlesworth, students will create a hand-stitched book that is perfect for holding square photographs, your personal memories, or act as an artist’s journal. Learn how to create a book with spacers so it will be able to accommodate dimensional materials. As a bonus, this book will also fit inside the clam-shell box made in next month’s class.

Fee: $35 if registered and paid by March 11; after March 11, $45. Deadline to register is March 18.

The Copper Country Community Arts Center is located at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock. Call 906-482-2333 for more information.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Nordic Film Series to present Finnish film about three women March 13

HANCOCK -- On Thursday, March 13, the Nordic Film Series screening at Finlandia University’s Finnish American Heritage Center will feature Stars Above, a deep and beautiful, yet humorous film about three generations of a Finnish family.

Showings are at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. and are open to the public. Donations are appreciated.

Stars Above (Tähtitaivas talon yllä) follows the stories of three women from the same family in three different decades. The main characters -- Saima, Tuulikki and Salla -- live in the same country house. Saima´s story takes place in wartime 1942, when Finland fought against Soviet Union; Tuulikki´s story occurs in 1978; and Salla’s story is in the present day. Each woman is between 30 and 40 years old during her segment of the film.

In the film, the women’s stories overlap, and gradually the individual fates of the women, scattered across decades, form a whole picture.

The film is about one hour and 40 minutes and is in Finnish with English subtitles.

The Finnish American Heritage Center is located at 435 Quincy Street in Hancock. For more information, call (906) 487-7302.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Levin, Stabenow hail final passage of bill to preserve Sleeping Bear wilderness land

Sleeping Bear Dunes. (File photo courtesy Sen. Carl Levin's office)

WASHINGTON, DC --  On March 4, 2014, Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow welcomed final House passage of a bill they introduced to protect more than 30,000 acres of wilderness at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, located along the northwest coast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan in Leelanau County and Benzie County.

The Dunes rise more than 400 feet above Lake Michigan. This National Lakeshore includes 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and numerous inland lakes and streams.

House passage of S.23, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act, which Levin and Stabenow introduced in 2013, sends the bill to President Obama for his signature. The Senate passed the bill in June 2013.

"Final passage of this legislation is good news for all of us who cherish the matchless beauty and the ecological importance of Sleeping Bear Dunes," Levin said. "The local community has worked long and hard to preserve this valuable wilderness while ensuring that visitors can access and appreciate it, and I am pleased that the House has followed the Senate to preserve this important part of Michigan’s heritage."

The legislation culminates 13 years of efforts by the local community, the National Park Service and Congress to update the lakeshore’s general management plan and protect the park’s unique natural habitat from harmful development while enabling public access to its beaches, trails and streams.

"I’m glad the House has joined us in recognizing the importance of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This designation will protect their breathtaking beauty for generations to come," Stabenow said. "The Dunes bring 1.2 million visitors a year to Michigan from across the country. By designating this wilderness land, we are helping promote one of our state's top Pure Michigan tourist attractions and protecting an integral part of our Great Lakes."