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Opinion issues of 2020

The elections: Yes, all of them. By far, the single most galvanizing topic of the year from local readers on The Sentinel’s opinion page was the presidential election. From how people viewed the President Donald Trump’s day-to-day performance, to his oversight of the response to COVID-19, to allegations of incompetence from conservatives and liberals alike about Trump and his opponent Joe Biden (the eventual winner), the letters rarely were civilized or gracious. It reflected much of the divisions nationwide and overshadowed down-ballot races as well. Assumptions, conclusions and projections were not solely for the top names on the ticket: other important races, including the congressional races for U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga and Fred Upton and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, were wrangled into the briny deep of mudslinging.

COVID-19: We grieved as we read heartbreaking letters from those who lost loved ones to the coronavirus pandemic. We empathized with the frustration when we heard from frontline health care workers seeking support and understanding from the public. We felt the tangible anger from those writers who felt that the state’s restrictions went too far and infringed on civil liberties. We saw disputes upon disputes on how communities should have responded, where the line was on personal responsibility and enough data referencing to qualify the entire readership for the International Mathematical Olympiad. This was the community’s way of trying to work out with itself how it would grapple with this devastating pandemic and, despite a lot of vitriol, it provided catharsis for many.

Race and racism: When protests erupted nationwide over the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, so too, did the submissions erupt on the opinion page. Calls for holding police to stronger accountability standards were met with voices of support for local police departments. Not much common ground was found on the issue, with most writers talking at or over one another, rather than to one another. Racial issues often are uncomfortable conversations the community has with itself — and sensitivities run high. The hurts, suspicions and assumptions run deep and the community will not come together overnight, however, we are hopeful that we will see more productive opinions on race and race relations in the new year.

Park Township Airport: As goes many issues in Park Township, the fate of the 83-year-old airport was full of drama, accusations and histrionics that made the issue front and center in early 2020. Dominating the opinion page were letters supporting and pooh poohing a proposed millage that would have generated $1 million-plus over 10 years to help with operating expenses. Those in support of the measure said the historical value of the property, along with a strong contingent of regional pilots and programming warranted the community’s support. Those against the measure cited mounting costs as a result of poor maintenance over the years — coupled with the property being enjoyable to a niche market — meant the millage was not the best use of taxpayer dollars. The millage failed and now township must navigate the property’s future.

Climate change: This topic, although a frequent flier on the opinion page, was often drowned out by the aforementioned other top issues readers discussed this year. However, climate change made its way into a lot of letters that featured other topics, such as political/election preferences and comparisons to the COVID-19 pandemic response. One thing is for sure, this topic is poised to feature prominently on the opinion page next year, as weather, climate, natural disasters and other environmental concerns continue to happen.

— The Holland Sentinel

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