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Stateside
10:56 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Duggan’s results in 6 months not going unnoticed

Credit Mike Duggan

There seems to be little doubt that Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is making his mark.

His bulldog nature and savvy political instincts have combined to make Mike Duggan a force to be reckoned with, even as he serves under a state-appointed emergency manager.

Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes reviewed Duggan's progress in his first six months. He said that people should not expect that he change the world in 6 months. What’s important here is the process and the direction.

“The direction is positive and bipartisan, and he’s clearly repaired relationships with city council,” he said.

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Michigan's Silent Poison
10:16 am
Fri July 4, 2014

What researchers are finding out about low-level exposure to arsenic

New research suggests low levels of arsenic in drinking water may impact your health.
Credit jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

This week, the Environment Report is taking a look at Michigan’s silent poison — arsenic.

Federal standards allow public drinking water supplies to have arsenic levels of up to 10 parts per billion (ppb), but these standards do not apply to private well owners (that's left up to the well owner to determine).

And in counties throughout Michigan, some wells have much higher levels of arsenic than this "maximum contaminant level" set by the EPA.

Higher levels of arsenic in drinking water have been linked to skin cancer, lung cancer, and bladder cancer, among others.

But are lower levels of arsenic a threat to human health?

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Stateside
9:49 am
Fri July 4, 2014

One week until deadline to vote on Detroit's bankruptcy settlement. Where do things stand?

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The clock is ticking.

Detroit's bankruptcy settlement has gotten through the State Legislature and the private foundations. Now it's all up to 32,000 city employees and retirees.

They're being asked to say "yes" to having their pensions cut, and promising not to sue the city.

In return, the pension cuts will not be as severe as they would be under what's become known as the Grand Bargain.

Michigan Radio's Detroit reporter Sarah Cwiek joined us on Stateside. She explained the transparency issue surrounding the voting process, what the different classifications of retirees mean, and what we should keep our eyes on, during next week leading up to the July 11th deadline.

*Listen to full interview above.

Offbeat
8:31 am
Fri July 4, 2014

The search begins for Michigan's official Christmas tree

It may only be July, but Michigan has already begun its search for this year's official Christmas tree.

People can nominate their picks for trees that could fit the bill.

Usually 10 to 15 trees are nominated, and the one that's chosen must be easy to access.

But the process isn't a quick one.

The search begins in the summer to allow enough time to prepare, choose, harvest, and transport the tree to the Capitol.

Lauren Leeds is a spokeswoman for the state. She says cutting down these trees often also helps the surrounding area.

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Stateside
8:30 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Outside groups outspend Michigan candidates on campaign TV ads

Credit User: Keith Ivey / flickr

A new report finds that for every dollar spent by a Michigan candidate in campaign ads, outside groups have spent $3.50.

Looking at it another way: of the $18 million spent on campaign TV ads over the first half of this year, outside groups paid for $14 million of that.

Rich Robinson, executive director of the campaign spending watchdog group Michigan Campaign Finance Network, talked about the consequences of outside money in Michigan political campaigns.

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Michigan's Silent Poison (Part 5)
8:30 am
Fri July 4, 2014

One congressman has kept us in the dark about the health risks of arsenic

Rep. Michael Simpson, R-Idaho, delayed the U.S. EPA's health assessment on arsenic.
Credit wikimedia commons

Michigan's Silent Poison Part V

Arsenic occurs naturally, and Michigan is one of a handful of states with unusually high arsenic concentrations in groundwater.

Arsenic was also used in insecticides for many years and it's still being used in some weed killers.

David Heath is a senior reporter at the Center for Public Integrity, and he investigated why a health assessment on arsenic from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been delayed.

Why does this health assessment matter?

Heath said when the EPA first wants to determine how dangerous a toxic chemical is, they first do the science. These assessments can take a long time and the arsenic assessment has been going on for more than a decade.

"It's not until they have done the science to figure out exactly how dangerous a chemical is that they can really take action on it," Heath said. "So it really does come down to 'this is how they protect your health.'"

A single member of Congress, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, was able to intentionally delay the EPA's health assessment for years.

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Politics & Government
10:46 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

After rejecting consent agreement, Lincoln Park gets an emergency manager

Credit Andrew Jameson

Governor Snyder has named Brad Coulter as emergency manager for the city of Lincoln Park.

Coulter will take a leave of absence from his job as a consultant with O’Keefe & Associates, a firm specializing in turnaround restructuring and corporate finance services, to try and balance the downriver Detroit suburb’s books.

Lincoln Park’s mayor and city council asked the Michigan Department of Treasury to review its finances last year.

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Stateside
5:20 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

University of Michigan professor uncovers surprising history of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

U of M School of Music, Theater and Dance Professor Scott Piper and pianist Michael Carpenter at Stamps Auditorium, performing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Credit Courtesy of Mark Clague

It’s one of the most stirring and glorious melodies ever sung – and it can be one of the easiest tunes to sing badly.

But did you know that our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” started out as an English club song? And it has officially been the national anthem for less than a century?

Mark Clague is a musicologist with the University of Michigan. He’s been working on a project, “Poets and Patriots: A Tuneful History of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’” 

Today, he shared some of that history with us.

* Listen to the full interview above. 

This segment originally aired on February 12, 2014.

Prisons
5:02 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Problems pile up for Jackson-area prison as state puts it under quarantine

150 inmates are sick with stomach flu at the Parnall Correctional Facility - the same prison where maggots were found in on the cafeteria food line last week.
Credit Matt / Flickr

Problems keep piling up at Parnall Correctional Facility near Jackson.

Last week, maggots were found on the serving line in the prison's cafeteria.

Over the weekend, inmates started getting sick with a stomach virus.

And the problems have gotten worse. Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan says the number of sick prisoners is now up to 150, and the prison's been put under quarantine.

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Environment & Science
5:01 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

State approves oil well permit for Scio Township

An oil well.
Credit morguefile

The state has approved a permit for a controversial exploratory oil well in Scio Township close to Ann Arbor.

The approval came despite fierce opposition from residents and Scio Township's board of trustees.

Adam Wygant is with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

He says because of the public comments, the state took two months to study the application - much longer than the 24 days it normally takes to approve a permit for an exploratory oil well.

Wygant says oil wells tend to be less disruptive than people fear, and often, they get used to them.

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Weekly Political Roundup
4:27 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Weekly Political Roundup: Outside money targets campaign ads in Michigan

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

    

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

We’re still about a month out from the primaries and four months out from the general election. Yet, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network this week reports that $18 million have already been spent in the Michigan gubernatorial and senate races. And such of this money is coming from outside groups.

Is it surprising that this much outside money is coming into Michigan so early or is this election politics as usual?

Health
4:21 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

State efforts to combat West Nile have reduced cases

West Nile is a virus transmitted by mosquitos. The virus often causes no symptoms in infected humans, but in some cases serious illness and death can occur.
Credit Centers for Disease Control

Michigan is making progress against West Nile.

600 people were infected with West Nile in 2002 when the mosquito-borne virus first appeared.

Last year, there were only 34 cases.

Angela Minicuci is with the state Department of Community Health.

She says many cities now regularly flush out the stagnant pools of water where mosquitos that carry West Nile  breed.

She says individual homeowners' efforts are also contributing to fewer cases.

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Education
4:15 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Cooley Law School plans faculty and staff cuts after low enrollment

Credit Cooley Law School

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School is battling low student enrollment with faculty and staff cuts.

The Michigan-based law school said it needs to reduce expenses. That means it will also not enroll incoming first-semester students at its Ann Arbor campus this fall.

It hasn't yet determined just how many people it will let go.

That decision will come after the school does a systemwide review of all programs and facilities throughout its five campuses. Low enrollment, according to the university, is to blame. 

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Stateside
1:07 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Why this Detroit-area man refuses to say nice things about his city

One of the photos archived on Dickson's blog. This graffiti, in Dickson's word, "does a pretty solid job depicting the city’s main roads."
Credit James David Dickson / Down I-94: a blog about Detroit

"Say Nice Things About Detroit."

That cheery slogan was first launched in the '70s by Emily Gail. She had a shop in downtown Detroit when it was the murder capital of the country, and she grabbed a lot of attention with that slogan.

Now it’s been revived, as Detroit has been under the spotlight of bankruptcy and the "Grand Bargain."

James David Dickson, a commentary editor at the Detroit News, believes the chirpy slogan isn't helping anyone in Detroit or the city itself. His opinion piece "Why I refused to say nice things about Detroit" was on the Detroit News blog.

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Opinion
11:21 am
Thu July 3, 2014

When it comes to representation in the Legislature and Congress, Michigan voters are still not equal

 

Tomorrow we will happily celebrate the Fourth of July, both because we see it as the anniversary of American Independence and maybe especially because this year it comes with a three-day weekend.

Actually, what we are commemorating is not really true independence; that came at the end of the Revolutionary War. What this day marks is the signing of the Declaration on Independence, the best-remembered line of which is, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Well, as you probably know, the men who wrote that document didn’t believe that as we do now. For one thing, they were all men. Women didn’t even get to vote for more than a hundred years.

Races other than whites weren’t equal, nor were the landless poor. But we like to think that isn’t the case anymore. After all, we have a black president, and may soon have a female one.

But when it comes to representation in the Legislature and Congress, Michigan voters are still not equal.

Legislative seats have to be roughly equal in terms of population. Congressional districts, exactly so. They redraw the boundaries every ten years. But politicians do the drawing, and last time, Republicans were in complete control of the process. That enabled them to give themselves total advantage.

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Environment & Science
10:45 am
Thu July 3, 2014

What should we do about the arsenic in our food? Experts say vary your diet, research ongoing

A rice farm in California. These test plots are being used by rice farmers to find ways to limit the amount of arsenic getting into rice.
FDA

All this week, we’ve been talking about the potential for elevated levels of arsenic in groundwater in Michigan.

The upshot of our reports:

  1. Arsenic levels in Michigan’s groundwater can be high.
  2. Arsenic is bad for you.
  3. Scientists are finding health effects at lower exposure levels.
  4. If you’re on a well, test it for arsenic.
  5. If the levels are high, you should consider doing something about it.

This one chart published by the Center for Public Integrity shows you why (the blue bar is arsenic):

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Michigan's Silent Poison (Part 4)
8:30 am
Thu July 3, 2014

These places in Michigan are still working on getting arsenic out of their drinking water

Sue Cherry, the director of Maple Tree Montessori Academy, said the school installed a reverse osmosis system to take out the arsenic. However, that system didn't meet EPA standards. The kids are told not to drink the water from the sinks.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

There’s no way to tell if arsenic is in your water without testing it. Arsenic has no taste and no smell.

Certain parts of Michigan have higher than average levels of arsenic in groundwater. That’s especially true in the Thumb region and a few other counties in southeast Michigan. And that can be a problem if you’re on a private well.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Aramark contract "up in the air" after more maggots found in prison food

Credit wikimedia commons

Aramark Correctional Services, the private company that provides food to Michigan prisons, is in trouble again.

Inmates at the Charles Egeler Reception & Guidance Center in Jackson found maggots while peeling potatoes Tuesday morning.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan says the warden was notified, and quickly moved to dispose of all the potatoes.

The kitchen was then thoroughly bleached. No resulting health problems have been reported.

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Environment & Science
5:31 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Appeals court says no drilling in Pigeon River forest

Pigeon River State Forest
Credit michigan.gov

The Michigan Court of Appeals says state regulators were correct to deny a drilling permit to developers who want to put oil wells on private land surrounded by a state forest.

The developers said the state should either grant the permit, or compensate them for their lost investment. They want to put 11 wells on private property surrounded by the Pigeon River Country State Forest in northern lower Michigan. The state Department of Environmental Quality said the wells were either in designated no-drill zones, or were too close to water.

“The takeaway from this decision is that you can’t drill an oil well just any old place in the state of Michigan,” said DEQ spokesman Brad Wurful. “There are some areas that are off limits.”

And the decision says since that was clear up front, the developers don’t get a payback from the state.

“What the court said was, everybody knew this beforehand going into this and it was clear,” Wurful said. “Nobody got surprised here. They simply wanted to do something that was not allowed and the court upheld that. We’re pretty pleased with the decision, obviously.”

The developers can file a new permit request with plans to use different technology, like directional drilling. They can also take their case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Stateside
5:20 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

The Civil Rights Act, 50 years later

Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act
Credit Wikimedia Commons

“Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our nation whole.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act outlawed discrimination against African Americans and women.

Leslee Fritz, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, joined Stateside to reflect on this moment in history and its connections to Michigan.

“It really is the foundational act of so much of the law that we rely on today,” Fritz said.

Fritz said John F. Kennedy really began the process, and Johnson saw it through. The Civil Rights Act led to the Voting Rights Act the following year, as well as the Fair Housing Act, and the Americans with Disability Act.

When the act became law, it was right in the middle of Freedom Summer, the effort to register black voters in Mississippi. Fritz said that the University of Michigan provided the largest number of volunteers for that effort.

Fritz added that Michigan has a proud history of being very progressive. There are a number of people who played key roles, both in the activist effort as well in the legal efforts to get the Civil Rights Act passed. Michigan voters in 1963 approved a new state constitution that set up the first civil rights commission in American history.

“We should be proud of that legacy and frankly, we should be doing a better job today of living up to it,” Fritz said. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

- Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom. 

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