Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

Kalkaska County Commissioners passed a resolution to become a "second amendment sanctuary" Thursday. 

Dan Wanschura

Elections were held across Michigan on Tuesday, and school bonds were on many ballots.

Unofficial election results show that school bonds in Ludington and Leland passed, but a $47.8 million proposal for Benzie County Central Schools narrowly failed by 114 votes, or just under 2 percentage points. Another proposal in Kingsley Area Schools overwhelmingly failed with 73 percent of voters saying ‘no.’


Today on Stateside, Vice President Mike Pence comes to Detroit to whip up support for the new North American trade deal, even as automakers nervously eye President Trump's threatened tariffs. Plus, student robotics team from around the world descend on Detroit this week for the 2019 FIRST Robotics Championship.

Max Johnston

Michigan schools have one of the highest rates of chronic absenteeism in the country -- that’s students that miss at least 10 percent of the school year.


However, Birch Street Elementary school in Kalkaska has found a way to keep kids in school by helping them inside and outside of the classroom.

Sieting loses recall election in landslide

May 9, 2018
Aaron Selbig

The president of the village of Kalkaska has been removed from office.

Jeff Sieting made headlines a year ago when some of his anti-Muslim social media posts went viral. On Facebook, Sieting compared Islam to “a flesh-eating bacteria,” and called for nuclear weapons to be used on Muslim cities.

A recall effort began soon after the posts came to light, and yesterday, Kalkaska voters chose a new leader to replace Sieting.

Kalkaska activists ready to recall Sieting

Aug 31, 2017
Dan Wanschura

A group of Kalkaska residents says their community supports a recall of village president Jeff Sieting.

Kalkaska for Peace formed after posts on Sieting’s Facebook page went viral in June. In one post, Sieting compared Islam to “a flesh-eating bacteria,” and called for nuclear weapons to be used on Muslim cities.

“We were very concerned about the type of publicity that Kalkaska was receiving, and we wanted to do something about it,” says organizer Elizabeth Dunham.

Controversy and protest erupted in the small Northern Michigan village of Kalkaska last week, centering on anti-Muslim Facebook posts written and shared by village President Jeff Sieting.

Last Friday, about 100 protestors gathered to demand Sieting's resignation.

Dan Wanschura


Last night, hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Kalkaska. Two groups stood on either side of U.S. 131 near the National Trout Memorial. The protest was over Facebook posts made by Kalkaska village president, Jeff Sieting.

Protesters plan to gather in Kalkaska Friday to speak out against Islamophobic Facebook posts made by the village president.

Jeff Sieting frequently posts content on his Facebook page directed against Muslims, immigrants and liberals.

Village of Kalkaska

The Michigan Supreme Court says Kalkaska Village will have to pay nearly $200,000 to a former employee.

Former clerk Virginia Thomas sued when the village council stopped paying her health benefits in 2014. Thomas said a 20-year-old letter promised lifetime health benefits for her and three other employees. A jury and the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in Thomas’s favor, and the state Supreme Court upheld those rulings this week.

Grand Traverse County Easling Pool

The cost of paying benefits to retired government workers is skyrocketing and taxpayers in northern Michigan are footing the bill. The burden is forcing cities, townships and counties to get creative in how they deal with it.


In the village of Kalkaska, four former employees are suing over the village's decision to stop paying for their health care.


School leaders challenge 'gag order' with lawsuit

Jan 28, 2016
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio


Local government leaders and school officials in Michigan are challenging a new state elections law in federal court.

The law limits how local government and education officials can talk about local ballot questions, banning them from using public funds to send informational communications about ballot questions – via mass mailings, radio, television, or recorded phone messages - 60 days before an election.

An 18-year-old murder case was not resolved this week, as Kalkaska residents had hoped. A jury could not come to a decision in the case against Jason Ryan for the 1996 rape and murder of 68-year-old widow Geraldine Montgomery.

So now, after Kalkaska has endured two long trials, the community is heading for a third.

A jury was not able to agree whether Ryan is guilty of the crime after a nearly two-week trial. The prosecutor has said he will try again. Ryan, 36, is said to have been staying down the street from Montgomery’s home at the time of the murder.

Tom Carr

Jamie Lee Peterson is being set free after serving 16 years of a life sentence for the rape and murder of a Kalkaska woman in 1996. His conviction was overturned last month, based on new DNA evidence.

He was released from state prison today and will move to a halfway house downstate on Monday.

Tom Carr

Jamie Peterson returned Wednesday to the same courtroom where he was sentenced to life in prison 16 years ago. Now, a judge is deciding whether he will get a new trial for the rape and murder he was convicted of in 1998.

DNA from the crime now points to a new suspect. Attorney Caitlin Plummer says that helps show Peterson falsely confessed and should get a new trial.

"The new DNA of course casts even more doubt on the already problematic confessions," she says. "It was one thing for the jury to credit them at the first trial. It's quite another now."

MLaw Newsroom

A University of Michigan law group is seeking the release of a man convicted of a 1990s murder in Kalkaska.

Jamie Lee Peterson has served 17 years of his life sentence for the 1996 rape and murder of Geraldine Montgomery, a widow who lived alone.

DNA from the case was said to be inconclusive at the time, but new methods of analysis were applied last year, says Caitlin Plummer, an attorney with the Michigan Innocence Clinic.


This story continues our summer series looking back over the last 50 years in northern Michigan as we celebrate IPR’s birthday.

Few events reverberated as loudly as a decision made in Kalkaska in 1993. Then, as now, public schools were making cuts to get by. But Kalkaska decided it would be better to close early than do without band, buses and art. The decision sparked dramatic change in the way schools are funded in Michigan.


School districts across Michigan are making cuts again as lean times continue for public education.

Yet this week also marks the anniversary of a revolution in education that started in Kalkaska. Twenty years ago, Kalkaska Public Schools started their summer vacation in March. It was a protest against cutting more programs to stay open.

The decision led to dramatic change in the way schools are funded in Michigan. But now there’s a feeling that schools are back where they started.