By Bill Diem

One of the things that Rep. Jack Bergman does well is keep his district up-to-date with federal programs that can help. Two big ones recently are federal support for better Internet connections in rural America, and improving water and sewage in communities of less than 10,000.

I suppose that someone is already on top of this question in Newberry. The village must solve the problem of bad water and old, old pipes that leak. It’s not just that people complain about the status quo. The fact is that the old infrastructure, offering expensive but poor service, is a reason to live outside the village, and not in it. In order to have clean access to water, residents are transporting potable drinking water through Portable Water Storage Tanks.

Newberry would be stronger if it offers benefits not available in the township.

In the old days, Newberry offered the commercial center. Today, urban sprawl has big stores and insurance agents and hotels and restaurants hither and yon. America is not too good about zoning. Even in France, which is very zoned, rich capitalists have a way of getting projects approved that don’t meet the zoning rules.

Still, France has lots of countryside snuggling up to the edge of densely populated cities. The big Paris parks like the Bois de Boulogne are as beloved and protected as New York’s Central Park, and the forests that used to be the king’s hunting grounds are still mostly forests and not used car lots.

I think that having a powerful internet connection could be a perk of village life, or something like free Wi-Fi anywhere along Newberry Avenue. A good water and wastewater system should be healthier and cheaper than a well and a septic tank, and that should be a reason for people to look for a place in town instead of the country. And I want all this to happen, even though many people, including myself, put up with the negative aspects of rural housing because the positive aspects of living amongst nature are overwhelming. At least until I get too old.

Anyway, the latest letter from Rep. Bergman’s communications chief James Hogge (231-944-7633) talks about the Department of Agriculture’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program making funds available to rural America. And for more information, Hogge notes that details about getting some federal money can be had by contacting Rick Anderson, Acting State Director of Michigan’s Rural Development office at 3001 Coolidge Road, East Lansing, MI  48823 (517-324-5190).

I am glad that Rep. Bergman has been a solid supporter of this program, but did you notice that it is another deal where people are relying on the federal government? Any money Newberry would get could come from the federal budget, from taxes that people pay.

Just so that it is clear, Rep. Bergman, a Republican, favors taxes that support federal government programs like clean water in Newberry.

Then we have Democrats like President Joe Biden, who wants to spend $1.9 trillion on U.S. infrastructure, to be paid for by taxes on corporations like Amazon that don’t pay any now, and on people making more than $400,000 a year. So Bergman and Biden both have the same ideas – federal taxes should pay for some local things – they just don’t agree on what to buy and how to pay for it.

So I am a little miffed at the 50 Republican Senators who say they won’t support any new taxes to pay for infrastructure. It’s not that they don’t support some taxes. They do. Rep. Bergman is as Tea-Party a Republican as they come, he voted against President Trump’s unbalanced budget, although he voted for Trump almost every other time, including to back him up on Trump not losing the election.

On infrastructure, this country is now a giant Newberry, with vulnerable bridges and roads and airports and ports and electricity and cyberconnections. It is no time to be old-fashioned. It is like when FDR took over in 1933: Time for some big projects. In the U.P., people like their Social Security checks, and memories of the Civilian Conservation Corps still circulate with smiles. Luce County might vote Republican, but people don’t stick their heads in the sand.