SW Michigan Today: Wednesday, August 15

Aug 15, 2018

Data from Kent County shows elevated rates of testicular cancer near wells that contain PFASes, a billboard by I-94 near Paw Paw is an apparent protest of Paw Paw schools’ calling its sports teams the Redskins, Cindy Bauer (formerly Gamrat) sues the legislature again, and more.

(Kalamazoo Gazette) A billboard by I-94 near Paw Paw is an apparent protest of Paw Paw schools’ calling its sports teams the Redskins. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the billboard, which can be seen from the eastbound side of I-94 near Paw Paw calls the term offensive and says it should be avoided. A group called Michigan Coalition Against Racism in Sports Media says it placed the ad. Paw Paw’s school board voted to keep the name the group is protesting at a contentious meeting last year.  

Ramona Park Beach on Long Lake in Portage has reopened for swimming. The beach had closed due to high bacteria levels, but the Kalamazoo County health department says it’s now safe for swimming.

(Detroit News) A man who has been in prison for nearly 15 years on a murder conviction has been exonerated. The Detroit News reports that 36-year-old Aaron Salter is set to be released today (Wednesday). A witness identified Salter as the shooter in a 2003 murder in Detroit. A court sentenced him to life in prison without parole, a decision later upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals. But the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office recently found that the witness misidentified Salter. It found no other evidence to link him to the crime. Under the law, the state might owe Salter as much as $700,000 for his wrongful conviction.

(Gongwer) (UPDATE - Schuette has selected Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus as his running mate.) State Senator Margaret O'Brien of Portage is reportedly on Bill Schuette's list of potential running mates. The Republican candidate for governor will announce his pick for lieutenant-governor Wednesday in Grand Rapids. Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus and former GOP congresswoman Candice Miller are also said to be on Schuette's short list. Schuette faces Democrat Gretchen Whitmer in November. O'Brien is in a close rematch with Democrat Sean McCann in the 20th State Senate District that includes Kalamazoo.

(MPRN) The Michigan Department of Corrections says it will close the Ojibway Correctional Facility in December. This is the second facility to close this year due to a falling prisoner populations in the state. Ojibway is located in the far western upper peninsula, just a few miles away from the Wisconsin border. It employs about 2-hundred people-- and is one of the largest employers in the county. A D-O-C spokesperson says he hopes many of the employees will be able to transfer to another facility elsewhere in the state.

(Gongwer) Former state representative Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell is suing the legislature again. Gamrat, who now uses her maiden name Bauer, accuses Republican leaders in the State House of trying to "sabotage" her work as a legislator. Bauer was expelled by the House in 2015 after an attempted cover-up of an affair with former representative Todd Courser. Criminal charges against Bauer were later dismissed. Courser, who's also suing, still faces trial on some charges.

(Kalamazoo Gazette) They drew lots Tuesday to break a tie in the race for supervisor of Kalamazoo County's Ross Township. But the contest may not be over. Supervisor Gary Moore drew the winning lot yesterday after he and write-in challenger Robert Baker both got 547 votes in the election last week. Baker ran on a platform opposing ordinances allowing medical marijuana businesses in the township. Although he lost the drawing required by state law in tied elections, Baker says he plans to ask for a recount.

(UPDATE - Portage officials say the Ramona Park beach has reopened as new tests show that E.coli bacteria levels have fallen to safe levels.) The swimming beach at Ramona Park in Portage is closed because of high bacteria levels. Kalamazoo County health officials announced the advisory Tuesday after tests found elevated levels of E.coli bacteria in the water. They say the beach will remain off limits for swimming until further tests show that bacteria levels have dropped. THe beach at Long Lake is one of nine around the state that were closed this week because of E.coli contamination.

(MLive) Results of a study of cancer rates and exposure to chemicals called PFASes in Kent County are inconclusive. State and local agencies say they will conduct blood tests of people living near the former Wolverine Worldwide tannery in Rockford. The study found no "consistent" increase in cancer cases in the area. But rates of prostate cancer were higher than expected. PFASes have been linked to several diseases, including cancer. High levels of the chemicals have been found in drinking water in Parchment, Richland, and other communities around the state. Officials say they hope the blood tests will help answers questions about the effects of exposure to PFAS.

(MPRN) Larry Nassar’s attempt to have a new judge consider his appeal in Ingham County has been denied. Nassar is the former Michigan State University sports doctor who sexually assaulted his patients for years. Nassar wants to be resentenced by a different judge. He says Judge Rosemarie Aquilina was not fair and impartial when she sentenced him to up to 175 years in prison. But a spokewoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says, “This motion filed by Mr. Nassar is just an attempt to revictimize the young women that he harmed for so many years.” Nassar's attorneys didn't respond to requests for comment. They can appeal the ruling or have Aquilina decide if Nassar should be resentenced.

(MPRN) The state is going back to court to fight for a ban on straight-ticket voting. Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that ended the longstanding practice in 2016. But a federal judge said the ban is unconstitutional because it discriminates against African-American voters, who tend to support Democrats. The law was widely supported by Republicans who said it encourages more informed voting. But attorney Mark Brewer, who represents the group that filed the lawsuit challenging the ban, says the judge’s ruling was clear and that the appeal has no merit.

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