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A roundup of recent editorials in Michigan newspapers

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The Detroit News. March 17.

Reviving Fort Wayne is good for Detroit

The state is stepping in to help preserve and develop historic Fort Wayne, a long underused and now deteriorating 96-acre site in southwest Detroit. This is a worthy investment.

HR&A Advisors Inc. was hired for $235,000 by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to come up with a plan to keep the fort's historic nature while finding some other uses. There are a wide range of possible developments, from housing, office and industrial to turning it into a tourist attraction.

Officials have high hopes for the fort.

"There may well be an opportunity to do something very special with the Fort Wayne site, considering its history and location," says Dave Murray, deputy press secretary to Gov. Rick Snyder. "The firm can study the area and tell us what would be feasible, looking at things we might not even have considered."

It is good use of state dollars to revive what otherwise could turn into just another blighted area. The condition of Fort Wayne has gradually deteriorated, with 39 buildings decaying while grass grows on the roofs of others.

The fort has too much historic value to languish on the brink of collapse. Volunteers with the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition have done an admirable job of painting, repairing and cleaning the site, but only a few buildings are actually being used.

The site is on the federal National Register of Historic Places. So to let it deteriorate would be an insult to all of those who served there over the past 175 years.

HR&A was hired through an economically sound competitive bid process and the New York-based firm has an excellent track record. The company specializes in drafting strategies for turning around public spaces. It claims as its successes the popular High Line in Manhattan, which is a greenway built on a former elevated rail line. The company also was involved in London's 2012 Olympic Park, and helped plan the overhaul of a portion of downtown Cincinnati.

The fort's location is another plus. It will be next to the planned Detroit River bridge to Windsor. The bridge's customs plaza will be across the street from Fort Wayne.

Consequently, the fort will have plenty of exposure to the public and easy access. It will be in plain view of those driving back and forth between Canada and the United States, attracting both walk-in visitors as well as those who see it and make a point to return.

The state's involvement in rehabilitating Fort Wayne should guarantee a higher, more efficient level of success for the project.

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Midland Daily News. March 18.

Borland's decision makes for interesting play

Chris Borland shocked the NFL community when he announced he is retiring from professional football.

He is 24. He had a spectacular rookie season last year with the San Francisco 49ers. He most assuredly is giving up big money (think millions and millions). He most assuredly is giving up the lifestyle that goes along with big money and fame.

Borland believes his health is worth a lot more than all that. He told ESPN he is giving it all up because he doesn't want to risk his future health, specifically noting what potential head trauma might bring later on.

"From what I've researched and what I've experienced, I don't think it's worth the risk," Borland said in the interview. "I feel largely the same, as sharp as I've ever been. For me, it's wanting to be proactive. I'm concerned that if you wait till you have symptoms, it's too late."

Borland deserves a load of respect and high fives for overcoming the lure of fame and fortune in favor of health. And this guy's smarts most likely will lead him into another promising career.

But, with the decision, some now wonder what this means to the future of the NFL and professional football.

Sure, there are hundreds of football players waiting to take his place.

But will more players follow suit? Will the NFL be forced to take more safety measures? Will parents hold back their children from participating in football programs, if they already haven't?

After Borland's announcement, the NFL league stressed that "football has never been safer," noting progress with rule changes, tackling techniques, equipment, protocols and medical care.

It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out in the near future and years to come.

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Detroit Free Press. March 17.

Rat cake? Even prisoners deserve better

We were relatively disgusted when the sins of Michigan's prison food vendor included maggots in the food prep area, and employees smuggling drugs into correctional facilities and having sex with inmates.

So the latest revelation about Aramark Correctional Services — that an Aramark employee instructed an inmate kitchen worker to serve prisoners rodent-eaten cake — well, we're struggling to find the right words. Horrifying? Appalling? Reflex-gagging?

The liberal organization Progress Michigan used the state Freedom of Information Act to obtain e-mails sent among state corrections officials detailing what we've dubbed "the rat-cake incident," which took place last summer at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility in St. Louis.

The Aramark worker reportedly told the inmate to cut the sides off the rodent-chewed cake, and cover the damage with frosting, a wretched bit of culinary improv that has us retching. Honestly, we may never eat cake again. That employee was fired over the incident, which prison officials rightly realized was a big deal — "I'm heading into work now to assess the mood of the population and address any situation concerns," one corrections official wrote after being notified about what had happened.

No one got sick, but that's not the point.

Outsourcing the state's prison food operation — a $145-million, three-year contract — saved taxpayers about $12 million a year and eliminated 370 state jobs.

For foes of privatization, this is the worst-case scenario: State jobs cut, replaced by a vendor whose services are cheap but woefully inadequate — a savings in cost, but a loss in quality.

The way this contract was awarded leaves us uneasy — Aramark's first bid was rejected because it didn't meet the state's 5 percent cost-savings threshold, but Republican state lawmakers asked the Department of Management, Technology and Budget to re-review the contract. That analysis found errors in the first review, and declared that Aramark's bid met the savings requirement.

After a Free Press investigation exposed the first round of Aramark problems last summer, the state fined the company. Gov. Rick Snyder appointed a contract monitor to examine issues, "possibly on both sides," and ensure sufficient training, a spokesman said Tuesday, adding that Snyder believes there have been improvements.

Let's be completely honest: The only reason this contract hasn't become a major scandal for the Snyder administration is because the rodent-eaten food from kitchens infested with maggots is being served to prisoners. For some folks, there's an instinctive belief that prisoners don't deserve humane treatment, that committing a crime forfeits one's humanity.

Let's be honest about this, too: There are some really awful people in prison. Rapists, murderers, armed robbers, people who've done really terrible things. And yet they still deserve better than rat-eaten food.

And in no small part, that's because we deserve better. It's a cliché that one can judge a society by how it treats its least — but that doesn't mean it's not true.

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