4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, May 15, 1996
Edited and managed by LAURIE MAYK ERIN MARSH
students at the * Editor in Chief PAUL SERILLA
University of Michigan '4Opinion Page Editors 4
A I Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the
420 Maynard Street majority of the Dailys editorial board. All other articles, letters and
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 cartoons (10 not iiecessarilyteflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
T he front-heavy Republican primary
schedule has left Sen. Bob Dole (R-
Kansas) as the clear Republican presiden-
tial nominee long before the convention.
As a result, rather than having to face pri-
mary opponents, he now has time to con-
front President Clinton head-on. Although
a confrontation like this would be expect-
ed in August, it does not ordinarily occur
in May. It has the potential to be disas-
trous. Clearly this is the case with Sen.
Dole's proposal to repeal the gas tax ini-
tially imposed by Clinton in 1993. His pro-
posal is ill-conceived, prompted by blatant
political motives and exemplifies politics
at its worst - and the potential hazards it
poses to Americans.
The current 4.3 cent per gallon federal
gasoline tax was enacted as part of
President Clinton's 1993 deficit reduction
package. Clinton's intent was to help reach
a balanced budget while attempting to
inhibit consumers' use of the scarce
resource. But the double-digit increases in
gas prices over the past four months have
left many people bewildered and angry.
Enter Dole with his proposal to rescind the
gas tax for this election year - netting a
few votes in the process. He has made
Dole must not tie minimum wage to gas tax
numerous statements with ominous over-
tones, suggesting that oil companies col-
luded in order to increase gas prices. That
makes for great politics, since many peo-
ple view oil companies with great skepti-
cism and do not hesitate to blame them for
the increase. But Dole's implication is
Many factors have caused the recent
price increases. First, the long, cold winter
unexpectedly drove up oil consumption. At
the same time, talks between the United
Nations and Iraq about removing the oil
embargo raised speculation about an
increase in oil supply. When talks between
the two failed, prices rose.
Second, global oil production decreased
due to weather-related problems in the
North Sea and Mexico. Both of these events
caused a drop in supply and, subsequently,
an increase in prices.
There are problems involved with
repealing the tax. Most analysts believe
such a -repeal would have little effect on
gas prices. There are simply too many fac-
tors involved in gasoline price-setting for
the elimination of the tax to have any tan-
gible effect. The second problem is how to
pay for it - with the Republican Congress
having to shut down the government twice
in the past year and drastically downsizing
government, there simply is not much to
The potential costs of a gas-tax repeal
are significant, and they demonstrate the
contradictory nature of the Republicans'
stand. Over the past year, the Republicans
have been unanimous in their call for bal-
anced budgets and fiscal responsibility. Yet
repealing the gas tax has quite the opposite
effect. Indeed, Sen. Dole has traditionally
been quite a strong supporter of the gas
tax. In 1982 and 1990 he led successful
efforts to raise the gas tax by 5 cents per
gallon to reduce the budget deficit.
Dole's sudden stance change on the gas
tax is clearly politically motivated. ThO
change is riskier because his promise of
lower gas prices may never come, while
the budget deficit may continue to grow.
Dole has cornered the President by saying
he would tie the gas-tax bill to one raising
the minimum wage, an issue which has
bipartisan - and the President's - sup-
port. By tying the two bills together, it
becomes more difficult for Clinton to veto.
This is unfortunate, because the mini-
mum-wage bill is important legislation
that should receive consideration on its
own. Clinton now says he may consider a
"temporary" repeal of the gas tax he put in
place, to avoid facing a minimum-wage
Dole's underhanded tactics allow him
to gain political points while forcing
Clinton into an uncomfortable position.
There are three months remaining in this
legislative session. Hopefully, Dole an6
Clinton can accomplish positive legisla-
tion in that time frame and leave the fall
for the campaigning and politicking.
'U' must open hearings in Matlock case
U niversity officials are once again attempting to circumvent the state's Open Meetings
Act - this time in the highly visible case of John Matlock and the University's
Department of Public Safety.
Matlock and two DPS officers engaged in a physical dispute at a basketball contest in
mid-February. The controversy has been epidemic since. The state police implicated the
University in an obstruction of justice suit for calling in the state to investigate, and then
requesting that they discontinue the investigation. Underlying themes of racism and dis-
crimination have added to the tension. Although the University has taken positive steps
and made some wise choices in dealing with the Matlock case so far, officials are demon-
strating poor judgment in the decision to close the hearings of the two DPS officers
The officers' attorney, Michael Vincent, vehemently opposed the closed hearing on
the grounds that it "implies that the officers did something wrong." This is an incomplete
and invalid argument for open hearings - a hearing's purpose is not to imply guilt or
innocence. A closed hearing is not wrong because it "implies" guilt - it is wrong
because it is unjust and illegal. An open hearing would better serve all parties in terms of
establishing justice and in reaching a valid verdict - it would allow a publicly accessi-
ble forum for interrogation to confirm or deny the officers' innocence.
After yesterday's postponement, the hearing is scheduled to proceed under the juris-
diction of the University Police Grievance Committee. The committee has vaguely
labeled the procedure a "disciplinary interview," a non-specific title that leaves a pletho-
ra of questions as to the actual content of the process. Members of the University com-
munity may also wonder how the Police Grievance Committee is qualified to take any
disciplinary action in this case. While the committee is composed of distinguished indi-
viduals, it comprises neither a judge nor a jury. Proper legal jurisdiction has no equiva-
lent, no matter how prestigious the committee.
In yesterday's press release, all requests for an open hearing were denied by the DPS
Oversight Committee on the grounds that - among other reasons - it would threat-
en the officers'reputation. The guidelines set by the OMA are not optional - the only
way the University can legally close the hearing is if the officers request that it be
The University administration has attempted to skirt the OMA on too many occasions
for this recent infraction to pass unnoticed. Too much is at stake for the University to veil
the issue with closed hearings. The University community, the DPS officers and John
Matlock deserve a legal, open hearing before a judge and jury. Anything less is unac-
ceptable, and jeopardizes due process and the proper handling of this already controver-
Parental responsibility laws misplace blame
n a case that garnered national attention, Anthony and Susan Provenzino of St. ClaP
IShores were found guilty last Thursday of failing to control their 16-year-old son, Alex.
This ruling under the city's Parental Responsibility Act reinforces the opinion that parents
must keep a tight leash on their children or face being charged with a crime they did not
commit. More troubling is that this case may open the floodgates for the passage of similar
acts nationwide, taking the blame away from juveniles who commit crimes.
Alex Provenzino's first encounter with the law came in May 1995, for committing
three burglaries worth $3,500 from his family's church. He was arrested again in June
for assaulting his father and another time in September on burglaries and drug charges.
For his crimes, he is serving a one-year sentence at a youth camp near Saginaw.
St. Clair Shores' Parental Responsibility Act* was passed into law in 1994. The cite
along with several other local communities and states nationwide, has adopted such
laws to deter juvenile crime. This case received much attention because it was one of
the first times parents were actually charged under such a law.
No one disputes that Alex was out of control. At issue is whether the Provenzinos
acted appropriately in dealing with their delinquent son and his actions. The prosecutor
in the case charged that the parents ignored the obvious signs of Alex's behavior and,
when finally confronted with his crimes, did nothing to ensure that they would not hap-
pen again. Alex's parents claim to have tried to get their son help, but believed he did
not want help, and there is only so much a parent can do. Prosecutor Robert Ihrie's main
intent was to show the jury that the Provenzinos never forced their son into counseling.
The defense countered by saying they repeatedly offered, but Alex, 6-foot-2, 1$
pounds, stated, "I'm not going. What are you going to do? Drag me into the car kicking
and screaming?" The Provenzinos also said they expected the juvenile justice system to
do more than give Alex a slap on the wrist after he was first arrested.
The Parental Responsibility Act ignores two realities. The first is that good parents
sometimes have bad children. While a parent certainly needs to take the lion's share of
responsibility for a child's upbringing, peer pressure cannot be ignored. The
Provenzinos are not bad parents. They have three other crime-free children and have
never had any run-ins with the law before this trial.
Second, a law that holds one accountable for another's crime is unconstitutional. The
prosecutor cepeatedly said he was charging the Provenzinos for their lack of parenting, b*
the case arose out of Alex's wrongdoing. It is unacceptable that the Provenzinos be held
accountable for their son's actions. Also, the law is too vague for parents to know what is
legal and what is not. With this gray area, police and prosecutors can second-guess
parental decisions parental responsibility laws are a quick fix. Society must not look for
easy, ineffectual and illegal solutions to complex problems such as juvenile crime.