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WHMI 93.5 FM Radio Station for Livingston County Michigan with News, Traffic, and Weather Service for Howell and Brighton

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    Community members filled a courtroom at the historic Livingston County Courthouse in downtown Howell Wednesday for a town hall meeting regarding 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan. The meeting was organized by State Senator Joe Hune of Fowlerville and State Representatives Lana Theis of Brighton Township and Hank Vaupel of Handy Township. The three officials sought input from residents on how Judge Brennan has “damaged” their lives, but were willing to hear positive testimony as well. The testimonies were overwhelmingly negative. Unadilla Township Supervisor Linda Walker was among those that testified. Walker has been an attorney for 36 years and says she’s never had a problem with any Livingston County judge except for Brennan. Walker says her ex-husband had been harassing her in various ways so she came before Brennan to request a personal protection order. With her ex-husband in the courtroom as well, Walker says Brennan turned to her and said, “You’re not really afraid of him, you’re just here because you’re an attorney and you can take advantage of him.” Walker says her ex-husband later came to her office and held her at gunpoint, threatening to kill her. Walker filed several motions to have Brennan recused from the case, none of which were ever granted. Resident Julie Chambers also had a negative experience with the judge, who terminated Chambers’ PPO against her ex-husband. Chambers says Brennan ordered she give her personal handgun to her ex-husband, despite the fact that Chambers had obtained it prior to their marriage. Chambers was among several others that say Brennan is part of a much larger scope in a broken court system, calling it a "good ol' boys club". Mike Bambas, whose assault and battery case came before Brennan, also called for a complete overhaul of the court system. Bambas says Brennan threatened him and his attorney, later admitting she was biased, would tell witnesses not to answer or would answer for them, and threatened to deny his motions if he pursued the case. In his claims, Bambas called out other local judges for upholding Brennan’s orders despite knowing she had been operating without judicial authority. Hune feels the best thing Brennan could do is to resign, but says he and his colleagues don’t see that happening. He says testimony from citizens will be turned over to the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission and the Supreme Court Administrator’s Office, although both of those agencies have said it would be inadmissible as legal evidence. However, it may be used in a possible impeachment process that Representative Theis is working on in the Legislature. The JTC in June filed a complaint against Brennan alleging various counts of improper conduct and will conduct a hearing October 1st. The JTC will then submit their recommendation to the Supreme Court, which will then make their own determination of guilt or innocence. Brennan is also the subject of a separate criminal investigation by Michigan State Police. Speaking to those attending the hearing Hune said, "All of these things are taking too dang long. We’re keeping the pressure on... all of your comments aren’t on deaf ears." (DK/JK)

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    A fundraising event Friday in Brighton will feature a world-renowned exotic car collection to benefit families of seriously ill kids. Cool Cars for Kids will be held at the Lingenfelter Collection from 4 to 8pm. Tickets are $50 each and will include food, entertainment, and a variety of beautiful exotic cars all to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities Detroit. The Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home for families of seriously ill children. The homes provide support, meals and lodging at a location close to their children. Officials say it allows the focus to remain on the health of the child, rather than grocery shopping, cleaning or cooking meals. Chrissy Cooper is the Marketing and Development Director for Ronald McDonald House Charities Detroit. She says they’re doing something new this year and allowing car enthusiasts to display their vehicle on the Collection floor for a $100 fee. You’ll find complete details about Cool Cars for Kids through the link below. (JK)

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    A local lawmaker is reaffirming commitment to mental health care reform across the state. Republican State Representative Hank Vaupel of Handy Township currently chairs the House Health Policy Committee. He also served as the co-chair of the House CARES or Community, Access, Resources, Education and Safety Task Force in 2017. The group has been leading efforts to improve access and strengthen care for people facing mental health challenges. The task force ultimately issued findings and recommendations in a report and is now working to implement change. Vaupel says it will be ongoing and this is a situation they will probably never totally solve but they are trying to shrink the issues to deal with and trying to help the people involved. Vaupel says mental health is a huge issue that affects everybody, stressing this is not going to be just another report that sits around gathering dust. Since the task force report was issued, Vaupel says bills reforming mental health services in Michigan have been introduced and are working their way through legislative process this session. Vaupel says there are over 30 bills that have been written and are somewhere in the legislative system- noting quite a few have been passed through the House and are pending in the Senate. Vaupel says at least 23 different areas are addressed in the budget toward reform efforts, with funding appropriated for treatment services and specialty courts they’ve found to be effective but need to be broader based, adding some things are also being done to change sentencing guidelines. Vaupel commented that jail is where the biggest population is treated for mental health issues and that’s probably the worst place to do it, as it’s not really helping people deal with their medical or mental problems. The task force report is attached. (JM)

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    A lawsuit is back at the county level alleging lengthy contamination from the Milford Proving Grounds. The lawsuit, which represents several dozen Brighton Township residents, alleges contamination of the plaintiffs’ groundwater and that GM committed fraud by concealing its knowledge of the contamination. The suit had initially been filed in Livingston County Circuit Court, but was later moved to U.S. District Court in Detroit after GM asserted that the claims were covered under its 2009 bankruptcy. That’s when the plaintiffs’ attorney, Alexander Memmen, filed an amended complaint based solely on state law, which has resulted in a decision to return the case to the circuit court level. A status conference on the lawsuit is now set for September 25th in front of Judge Michael Hatty. Compensation is being sought for property damage and personal injury caused by GM’s alleged pollution and for the cost of obtaining drinkable water. GM maintains the suit has no merit as salt deposits naturally occur in the area, adding that salt usage at the Milford Proving Grounds has been significantly reduced. Memmen tells WHMI the contamination dates back to at least 1985 and GM has literally been pouring tons of salt onto its property. He says the contamination has spread to nearby wells and the salt levels are way above the state and federal threshold considered safe for human consumption. (JK)

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    Legislation that would rename an 8th District Post Office in honor of a well-known World War II Veteran from Howell has passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The House on Thursday unanimously passed legislation introduced by Congressman Mike Bishop that would designate the United States Post Office at 325 South Michigan Avenue the “Sergeant Donald Burgett Post Office Building”. Burgett, an Army paratrooper, participated in the opening operations of the Normandy Invasion. He passed away on March 23rd of 2017 at the age of 91. In a speech before colleagues in the House of Representatives Bishop said, “Sergeant Burgett was a great American and national hero.” Bishop thanked the House for their approval, also taking time to urge the Senate to quickly approve the legislation to “recognize the life of Sergeant Burgett and ensure his legacy lives on in our community for future generations.” Burgett was a member of the 101st Airborne, A Company, and fought throughout the European theater, including Normandy on D-Day, the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden, and Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. He returned to the United States and lived almost his entire adult life in Howell. He published four books, including Currahee!, published in 1967 and endorsed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In addition to his writing, he was also an active member of several veterans’ organizations including the VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and the Military Order of the Cootie. He was a local builder, and loved spending time outdoors.

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    A special event was held to honor those who have dedicated their time for a greater cause over the past year. Volunteer Livingston held their annual Cheers to Volunteers “thank you” event at Mt. Brighton, Thursday night. Roughly 100 people were treated to dinner as a sign of gratitude for their help with helping those who need it most. Volunteer Livingston is a program of the Livingston County United Way that has matched up thousands of people to various organizations and non-profits since its inception in 2002. Along with the meal, those in attendance were also treated to a special dance presentation from Special Ministries. Program Coordinator Diane Duncan said many of the volunteers they’ve matched up have shared how rewarding the work is for themselves, and that it far outweighs what they ever thought. United Way Executive Director Nancy Rosso was the event. Rosso said there’s a program that needs help for almost any interest a volunteer might have. She said the program has been increasingly successful with seniors as they have more time to share in retirement. Those in between jobs can also use it as a way to bolster their resume. For more information, including links to the many organizations in the county that need help, visit www.volunteerlivingston.org. (MK)

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    An independent candidate for Congress is running on a platform that includes limiting money in politics and abolishing the income tax. At 26 years old, Cooper Nye is the youngest candidate running for the U.S. House in Michigan. Nye is campaigning for the 11th District, which covers parts of Wayne and Oakland Counties, including South Lyon, Milford, and New Hudson. A lifelong resident of the district, Nye is a graduate of Michigan State University where he studied political theory and international relations. He said it was spending his last 3 years in Washington D.C. that inspired him to run. Nye told WHMI that after working in public relations and policy, he woke up to the popularity of outsider candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. He felt that people had become fed up with the two parties and that they don’t feel like their elected officials are serving them. While Nye considers himself a conservative and says he is aligned with a lot of those principles, he also says the Republican Party right now “really stinks” and that he doesn’t want to join them at this stage. As an independent, he is running on a platform he believes many residents can get behind. His big goal if elected is to limit money in politics. Nye says he wants to put the power of votes back into the people rather than special interest groups and political leaders with deep pocketed donors. He stated that his campaign is being funded solely from individual donations and that he is not taking money from PACs or unions. Nye also has ideas on abolishing the income tax. To make up for it he suggests a national sales tax of 15 to 18% so that consumption is taxed and not income. His idea includes tax vouchers or rebates for residents living near or below the poverty so that it does not become too much of a regressive tax policy. Nye’s opponents in District 11 include Democrat Haley Stevens and Republican Lena Epstein. (Photo- coopforcongress.com) (MK)

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    The 17th Annual Hearse Fest in Hell this Saturday is technically canceled, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen anyway. The event typically features food, vendors and a parade of hearses. This year marked a chance to break the Guinness World Record for the most hearses in procession. Although the novelty event draws thousands, it also causes massive traffic problems for residents and others traveling through the tiny hamlet, further generating complaints from a nearby lake community. Putnam Township maintains event organizers were told last year that they needed a permit to host the event but failed to do so. Organizers dispute that but have technically “cancelled” the event. However, there is no way to actually stop people from coming. The event website states “there is no official event happening but come see the hearses or drive one to Hell. Township ordinance requires a permit for any event with 750 people or more. A ticket could be issued to event organizers, which would result in a $100 fine for the first violation. Treasurer Pat Carney says the amount of traffic makes it nearly impossible for residents in the area to get around, which also raises safety concerns. Carney says the township will enforce its ordinance to the best of its ability. He stresses they are not trying to ruin anyone’s fun but the problems need to be addressed and potential changes made in order for the event to ultimately continue. A traffic control order has been approved by the Livingston County Road Commission that will be in effect today, Saturday and Sunday and temporarily prohibits parking on Patterson Lake Road. No stopping, standing or parking signs will be put up on Patterson Lake Road from Kelly Road to a point just east of Silver Hill Road. Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy tells WHMI he’s disappointed event organizers did not get the appropriate permits, adding the whole idea behind doing so is to make sure the event is as safe as possible. He says the Sheriff’s Office will have a presence at the event and will tow vehicles if necessary, although that is not something they want to do. Attempts by WHMI to reach event organizers were unsuccessful. Facebook photo. (JM)

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    A local business has been recognized for its decade-long commitment to helping an area nonprofit organization. LACASA Center recently awarded Jim Gilligan, owner of Snedicor’s Green Earth Cleaners, with a recognition plaque honoring the 10th anniversary of hosting Cinderella’s Closet. Gilligan, who is Snedicor’s Chief Operating Officer, first began hosting the charity event in 2008. Cinderella’s Closet is an eco-friendly, pop-up shop that offers gently-loved party dresses for high school girls at affordable prices. All dresses are just $25 and proceeds provide help for victims and survivors of interpersonal violence at LACASA Center. Gilligan said “The support of LACASA is an example of one of the many long-term relationships Snedicor’s has maintained. Child abuse, family violence and rape are acts that defy understanding, yet they exist right here in Livingston County. It is a privilege and an honor to help victims and survivors create new lives and build new futures.” Snedicor’s transforms its business operations at the Brighton store each year during prom and homecoming season so area girls can find dresses at affordable prices. LACASA Community Education Director, Nicole Matthews-Creech, said they are grateful to Gilligan and his team for allowing them to, “take over their space, create window displays, set up dressing rooms, and transform their reception area—not once, but twice a year.” The Snedicor’s Brighton location continues to host the final days of Cinderella’s Closet’s homecoming boutique today from 3-8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Pictured from left) Pat Roberts, Cassie Glover, Jim Gilligan, Nicole Matthews-Creech, Cheri Bertoncin, and Gayle Gutknecht. (JK)

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    A man has been sent to trial on charges in connection with a deadly, wrong-way crash that killed two people on US-23. 75-year-old Edwin Brown of Chelsea waived his preliminary exam last week to two counts of second degree murder and two counts of operating while intoxicated causing death. His case now goes to Washtenaw County Trial Court, where a pre-trial hearing is set for October 18th. The crash occurred on southbound US-23 near Six Mile Road in Northfield Township the afternoon of April 8th. In total, four cars were involved in the crash and four people were hospitalized. 51-year-old Debbie Pinson of Broadview Heights, Ohio and 56-year-old Cathy Kretzschmer of Olmsted Township, Ohio were both killed. The charges follow an investigation by troopers at the Michigan State Police Brighton Post. Brown remains lodged in the Washtenaw County Jail under a $250,000 bond. (JK)

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    A local dentistry that provides compassionate care to those in need celebrated its 10th anniversary this week. VINA Dental Clinic held its celebration party in Brighton Thursday at Oaken Transformations Sculpture and Poetry Walk. Dr. Fredric Bonine is one of the founders of VINA, which was created with a goal to provide basic dental care to under-served and uninsured residents in Livingston County. At the clinic’s celebration, Bonine shared the values that VINA has held since its inception, which are laid out in the acronym: Vision, Integrity, Need, and Action. Bonine says he and VINA’s staff use those values for guidance when providing care to their patients. Many of the patients seen at VINA have not had dental care in a number of years, due to their inability to afford the cost of routine dental care. Bonine says their patients come from “all walks of life”, serving as a dental home to over 2,000 people in the community. Dianne McCormick, Director/Health Officer for the Livingston County Health Department, says about 10,000 local residents qualify for VINA’s services. Since 2008, VINA has provided approximately $5 million worth of dental care and 18,000 appointments. Reflecting on the last ten years, Bonine says that’s one of VINA’s greatest achievements, in addition to garnering national recognition from the American Dental Association’s Golden Apple Award. The Golden Apple is the association’s highest honor, and is given out once a year to an outstanding group in recognition of providing public outreach in dentistry. Bonine attributes much of VINA’s success to the community, as the clinic relies heavily on donations and volunteers to operate. Professional volunteers provide nearly half of the 150-200 one-hour dental appointments each month. (DK)

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    Livingston County Democrats are alleging local veterans are being cheated out of millage services. Voters approved a county-wide millage for veterans’ services in August of 2016. Democratic Party Chair Judy Daubenmier says that the county has failed to live up to the promises made to veterans when they asked voters to approve the millage. She alleges commissioners have failed to oversee implementation of the millage, and have allowed the Veterans Services Committee, whose members they appoint, to stymie attempts to implement more programs and services, including more benefit counselors, mental health services and outreach. She tells WHMI that she surprised at a county commission meeting last week when Veteran Services Committee Chairman Hansel Keene said they only had a balance of $80,000 at the end of the fiscal year. But Daubenmier says a look at their records shows they more like $1 million yet to be spent. Keene was also one of three committee members who recently went before the county commission asking that they reject a request to hire a full-time coordinator for the veterans treatment court, despite the fact the committee had previously approved the hire. Democrats maintain the millage brought in $1,035,190 during 2017 for Livingston County Veterans’ Services, but the agency spent only $430,792 that year, just 41.5% of what taxpayers shelled out. This year, she says the millage brought in $1,018,000, but the agency plans to spend less than $501,000 this year, based on budget reports dated September 10th. It was also recently learned that the Veterans Services Committee had fired its newest Director, Adam Smiddy, who served in the role since July 2017. No explanation has been given for that decision and neither Keene nor County Commission Chairman Don Parker have responded to requests for comment. (JK)

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    A local high school will be the beneficiary of a new program that connects computer science professionals with teachers. Brighton High School is one of 21 schools statewide to bring hands-on computer science education to students through the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools, or TEALS, program. The program will pair professionals from across the technology industry with Brighton High School teachers in a team-teaching environment. Talent and Economic Development Director Roger Curtis said that with roughly 270,000 I-T and computer science jobs opening in the state through 2024, this is a great opportunity to train students with the skills they need for a career in these fields. Since its founding in 2009, over 37,000 students have received training through TEALS. Among their goals, is to train minorities and young women for these careers, as they are currently underrepresented in the tech fields. (MK)

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    An annual event focused on fire safety and fun will be held next month in Brighton. The Brighton Area Fire Authority will host its annual open house at the main station on Grand River in downtown Brighton on Sunday, October 14th from 10am-3pm. Kids will get a chance to meet local firefighters, learn about fire safety and enter to win prizes, including a fire truck ride and prize basket. There will also be a sign-up for a CPR class, child car seat installation and smoke alarm checks. Live demonstrations will be happening throughout the day along with different activities including a chance to try on firefighting gear, practice how to use a fire extinguisher and face painting. Details are available through the link below. (JK)

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    Genoa Township residents are being reminded of upcoming changes when it comes to trash collection among other issues of interest. Township newsletters typically go out with tax bills but the content is reviewed with the Board of Trustees prior. The October publication was the subject of discussion at a recent board meeting. Input from the board was sought on what could potentially be added, as well as any other information pertinent, noting the November General Election is coming up and there are some precinct polling location changes. One main goal is to make sure everyone is informed about changes with upcoming refuse collection and disposal. Supervisor Bill Rogers that’s always difficult transition, noting many residents have already been through one and it’s never perfect. With the current state of the recycling industry, Rogers tells WHMI they are also trying to educate residents on what can and cannot be recycled they can accommodate everyone. Recycling markets are dwindling and there is a need for those who recycle to do so properly to eliminate contamination of loads. Otherwise, the recyclables just end up in landfills. Rogers says one big change that residents will likely embrace is bulk pick-up. That service is now included every few weeks in the new contract and there are no additional fees. Currently, there is a sticker system for large items and additional fees for items after that. Complete information can be found on the Genoa Township website. That link is provided. (JM)

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    A man has been bound over to stand trial in connection with a break-in at the Scorpions Motorcycle Club in Lyon Township. 40-year-old Kinley Rae-Thomas Kelm will be arraigned September 26th in Oakland County Circuit Court on charges of breaking and entering with intent, larceny of firearms, being a felon in possession of a firearm and two counts of felony firearms for the incident on September 22nd of 2017. That’s when police say a fire was intentionally set and severely damaged the Scorpions Motorcycle Club headquarters building on Milford Road. A Bobcat belonging to a fence company working a project at the nearby War Dog Memorial was reportedly stolen, driven to the motorcycle club and used to crash through the clubhouse wall and move a large safe. Club members identified Kelm as a suspect in the break-in after noticing him in downtown South Lyon at a fundraiser, wearing a shirt that was from a locker inside the clubhouse. When questioned, Kelm reportedly said he was an out of state club member. While the B&E charges were authorized against Kelm, no charges were filed in connection with the fire that occurred the same night as the break-in. The official cause of the blaze was ruled arson by investigators. (JK)

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    A former Brighton woman who claimed to have cancer and took donations from an online fundraising account has entered a plea. 34-year-old Candace Ann Streng appeared in Livingston County Circuit Court Friday and pleaded guilty to a charge of False Pretenses of $20,000 or More. In exchange for her plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a count of Use of a Computer to Commit a Crime. The charges were the result of the Brighton Police Department’s investigation into allegations that Streng falsely claimed to have Stage 4 breast cancer and was collecting donations to help with her medical expenses. Several fundraisers were held for Streng over the past year with friends rallying by her side. Police in January began looking into a GoFundMe account called “Candace Kicks Cancer”, which had been set up for Streng. Police say the evidence indicated the account was fraudulently used to accept donations based on Streng’s false cancer claims. GoFundMe records show 399 people donated money totaling $31,645 before the account was deactivated. GoFundMe banned Streng and worked with the Brighton Police Department to refund donors. As part of her plea, Streng was required to make a payment on Friday of $19,368.04 toward the total amount she owes in restitution, which is $51,024.04. Streng will be sentenced October 4th. (DK)

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    Livingston County residents and others across the state are being urged to use caution when making charitable donations in the wake of Hurricane Florence. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office is urging caution with donations to Hurricane Florence recovery charities but also when considering purchasing used cars in the days and weeks immediately following the storm hitting the eastern seaboard. The Office advises consumers to do research before donating and be aware of the organizations they are giving too. Flood damaged vehicles could also end up in Michigan, so individuals should be on the lookout for vehicles with tell-tale signs of being submerged in water. Ultimately, citizens are advised to use their best judgment and if in doubt, don't donate. The Office has established an online searchable database for charities to assist individuals in making wise decisions regarding which charitable donations to support. More information can be found in the attached press release. (JM)

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    The Brighton City Council has formally recognized a past Livingston County court official for her efforts in promoting and organizing a recent all-day forum in Brighton on the opiate crisis. At a recent meeting, former 53rd District Court Administrator Francine Zysk was presented with a mayoral proclamation from the city for her efforts in combating the increasing problem of drug abuse, particularly opioids. Opioids is a class of drugs including heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine. Zysk says she was motivated to do something about the opiate problem when she became alarmed about the influx of prescriptions coming in to people in the court system for various offenses. The all-day forum she organized with the help of Brighton Police, which was held on Aug. 31st, attracted over 100 people. The forum highlighted the increasing problem of opioid use locally and in the US, with the goal of increasing public awareness about the opioid epidemic. The proclamation states, in part, "Be it resolved that the Brighton City Council, on behalf of its citizens, does hereby recognize Francine Zysk for her outstanding efforts and dedication to helping fight the opioid epidemic.” Zysk says she is grateful for the opportunity to increase awareness about the opioid epidemic and thanked Brighton City Police for their help in putting on the forum. The proclamation was signed by Mayor Jim Muzzin and read aloud at the Sept. 6th City Council meeting. Zysk was accompanied by Deputy Police Chief Craig Flood, who she says was invaluable in helping her organize the program. The Project Opiate forum featured experts in the field and former NFL player Randy Grimes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who helps former professional athletes in their recovery from drug addiction. Zysk left her county post in August and is now employed by Total Court Services, which is organizing an opiate program in four counties, including Livingston County, which starts in November. The Brighton mayoral proclamation is below. (TT)

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    Another area high school has decided to stop crowning homecoming queens to promote a more inclusive environment. A Chelsea High School Student Council letter says the school decided to stop the "outdated" tradition because of its competitive and stereotypical nature. The change follows the high school's 2016-2017 #WhyYouMatter campaign, which highlighted contributions by students and staff. Student Council members believed the homecoming queen tradition clashed with the project's message. The school will instead hand out a new excellence award, which will be open to students regardless of gender. Valerie Johnson is an English teacher and a Student Council adviser. She says the new award will consider students' academic, social and emotional attributes. The excellence award will be revealed at the school's homecoming football game September 21st. Meanwhile, Pinckney High School is also bucking the long-standing tradition and looking to promote a more inclusive environment by transitioning away from electing a Homecoming “King and Queen” and instead choosing student representatives that most embody what it means to be a Pinckney Pirate. The new election format will be implemented this year, with Pinckney’s Homecoming set for September 29th. (JM)

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