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Politics
1:00 am
Tue October 18, 2011

Controversy over Wayne County severance not going away

The controversy over a lucrative payout to one of Wayne County’s top appointees does not look like it will end anytime soon. Wayne County Commissioners plan to question officials about the $200,000 severance this week.

"I’m not going to assume this is a frequent occurrence, but I am going to say that we’re going to ask all the right questions, and find out every single one that’s ever been done," said Commissioner Gary Woronchak.

Turkia Mullin was awarded the “severance” payment when she voluntarily left her county job to head the county airport authority.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced last week that he suspended two aides and fired a contract employee for the payout. He also apologized to county residents.

Yesterday, about two dozen activists reportedly protested outside the Wayne County offices, demanding a state investigation.

Politics
5:06 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Bridge project could move committees this week

The Ambassador Bridge in Detroit
J. Stephen Conn flickr

State Senate Republican leaders hope to have a floor vote as soon as this week on building a new publicly owned bridge between Detroit and Canada. The proposal has struggled for support as many rank-and-file Republicans remain skeptical the bridge is a good deal for taxpayers despite Canada's promise to pay all the construction costs.

Republican state Senator Dave Hildenbrand supports the bridge, but said the campaigns against the bridge muddied the discussion and made the project harder to approve.

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Arts/Culture
4:44 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Detroit Symphony offers $20 tickets to city residents

Detroit residents can now see any DSO classical or jazz concert this season for $20.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Good news for classical music fans who live in Detroit. Detroit residents can now buy tickets to any Detroit Symphony Orchestra classical or jazz concert this season for $20.

Paul Hogle is executive vice president of the DSO. He says the new Detroit Rush Initiative is one way the orchestra can "connect more deeply" to the city. 

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Politics
4:43 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Snyder: Infant mortality rates reflect overall health in state

Governor Rick Snyder says the state should be more concerned with bringing down infant mortality rates in Michigan. Infant mortality rates have gotten worse in Michigan in the past three years. He says infant mortality rates reflect the overall health of a state.

“We’ve got this up on our dashboard. On the state dashboard, not just the health and wellness dashboard, because this is something we really need to do a better job on that is an important indicator of how well our state is. And more important, we’re talking about real lives,” Snyder said, speaking this morning at an infant mortality awareness summit in Ypsilanti.

Michigan has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation (nearly eight deaths per 1000 live births) and ranks 37th among the states. The national rate is nearly seven deaths per 1000 births.

Snyder has had some pushback recently from lawmakers who do not like the governor’s health proposals – which include body-mass-index reporting and banning smoking on state park beaches.

Snyder said he thinks he will be able to sway skeptical lawmakers:

“Well they’re all in the pipeline, they’ll come along in terms of looking at those types of issues, because health and wellness is a big issue.”

Snyder said he does not think there needs to be anything done legislatively to help drive the rate of infant deaths down in the state, but he said state officials and medical science leaders need to get together to come up with a plan to reduce the rate of infant deaths.

Medicare Fraud
2:53 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Medicare yanks licenses in Detroit and other cities, gives them right back

A review conducted by the Associated press found that regulators working to eliminate Medicare fraud (estimated at between $60-90 billion a year) often suspend Medicare provider licenses only to reinstate them in short order following appeals hearings.

More from the Associated Press:

The review also found government officials don't attend the hearings.

Federal prosecutors say the speedy reinstatements are a missed chance to stop taxpayer dollars from going to bogus companies that in many cases wind up under indictment. Prosecutors say some providers have collected tens of thousands of dollars even after conviction.

Officials revoked the licenses of 3,702 medical equipment companies in fraud hot spots in South Florida, Los Angeles, Baton Rouge, La., Houston, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Detroit between 2006 and 2009. About 37 percent were reinstated.

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Economy
2:47 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Boost in September home sales in Metro Detroit

Metro Detroit saw a boost in the number of home sales and home prices last month.

The Detroit Free Press reports the September increase came from an active summer selling season:

Sales rose 8.2% in September from 4,222 to 4,568 in metro Detroit, according to Farmington Hills-based multiple listing service Realcomp. The data includes sales from Livingston, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Median prices rose 10% from $68,000 last month to $74,900.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported earlier this month about positive home sale numbers around the state, but housing analyst Alex Villacorta with Clear Capitol expected a decline this winter.

Politics
2:13 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Michigan to get $46.7 million for transportation projects

Gov. Rick Snyder says he and Detroit's mayor will head a task force to try and get a southeast Michigan transportation authority off the ground.
State of Michigan

Michigan will get close $46.7 million for 16 transportation projects across the state. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Dearborn today, where he announced the funding.

Governor Rick Snyder says he and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will also head up a task force to try and break through a decades-old effort to create a regional transportation authority for southeast Michigan. Snyder says he wants to see quick action, "because we have a legacy here of planning too long and not acting enough.”

Right now, separate bus systems serve Detroit and the suburbs. Both systems face major budget troubles. DDOT, the system that serves Detroit, has cut routes, and riders have complained about hours-long waits. Meanwhile, the suburban system, SMART, just announced massive service cuts.

"I am hopeful in a short period of time we will have a solution or more than one option in terms of how we're going to deal with that problem," said Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

Part of that solution will come in the form of help from the federal government, which has pledged $6 million for the city to purchase new busses. Bing says he's also hoping for concessions from the union that represents the city's bus drivers.

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Changing Gears
12:49 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Obama, werewolves and silver…er…magic bullets

Curtis Sullivan says silver bullets are for killing werewolves.
Kate Davidson

While we’re on the subject of magic bullets, please indulge this brief sidebar.

Schisms happen.  There was once a tremendous split between the (now) Roman Catholic Church and the (now) Eastern Orthodox Church.  Today there’s also a Great Schism in the bullet world.

Namely, between those who say magic bullet and those who say silver bullet — both parties referring to an economic quick fix.

On one side, you have President Obama, who may be the highest profile proponent of the term silver bullet. While pitching his jobs plan to a recent joint session of Congress he said, “It should not be nor will it be the last plan of action we propose. What’s guided us from the start of this crisis hasn’t been the search for a silver bullet. It’s been a commitment to stay at it, to be persistent, to keep trying every new idea that works.”

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Changing Gears
12:11 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

A very brief history of the Midwest magic bullet (Part 1)

Memorabilia from the now defunct AutoWorld in Flint.

History is full of the search for magic bullets, those quick tickets to jobs and economic prosperity. Cities across our region have put great hopes and resources into magic bullets.

Some have soared; many have backfired.

This week, we’re bringing you stories of magic bullets past and present. We start with this look back.

Magic bullets are kind of like imaginary friends. We all have them in our past, but most people deny they exist.

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Commentary
11:08 am
Mon October 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Where does it go from here?

I drove into downtown Traverse City on Saturday afternoon, and to my surprise, found an Occupy Wall Street demonstration occupying both sides of Front Street, the town’s main drag.

Well, it was actually called an “Occupy Traverse City,” demonstration. The protestors, who numbered perhaps fifty or sixty, seemed more cheerful than angry. The weather was brisk but pleasant; it was a nice day to be outside.

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Economy
10:25 am
Mon October 17, 2011

Consumers Energy natural gas users will spend less this winter

Blue Flame Gas inc.

Consumers Energy says its natural gas customers will be paying less this winter to heat their homes.  

Dan Bishop is a Consumers spokesman.   He says more plentiful supplies are leading to a 3 percent cut in natural gas prices.   

“In recent years there’s been a large amount of new natural gas discoveries in the United States and in Canada.  And that extra increase of supply has really put downward pressure on prices," says Bishop.  

What's Working
7:00 am
Mon October 17, 2011

Job training in the kitchen for at-risk youth

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.

Food Gatherers, a Southeast Michigan food bank, offers a job training program for youth ages 17 to 24.

Some participants are currently managing a mental illness, others have children or are primary caregivers for younger siblings—all are at risk for homelessness.

Christina Shockley, host of Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition, speaks with Mary Schlitt, director of development for Food Gatherers.

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Auto/Economy
6:10 pm
Sun October 16, 2011

Ford's largest local union approves contract

Workers at Ford's largest local union have approved a new labor contract with the company.

Ford and the UAW reached a tentative agreement on the contract earlier this month but it must be ratified by Ford's 41,000 UAW workers.

The union says 62 percent of the more than 5,000 workers at Local 600 in Dearborn favored the agreement.

Lansing
1:01 am
Sun October 16, 2011

Tax deal may lead to expansion at Lansing's Capital Region International Airport

Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Plans to turn Lansing’s airport into an ‘aerotropolis’ may soar or fall to earth this week.   

The Lansing City Council on Monday will discuss a deal to split tax revenues at Capital Region International Airport with a local township.   If the tax deal is approved, it could spur business investment at the mid-Michigan airport. 

Robert Selig is the executive director the Capital Region Airport Authority.  He says the airport will use the tax deal as part of its application for state tax credits to create an ‘aerotropolis’.   

“We’re trying to put together a marketing package that we can go nationally with to recruit businesses…that are in logistics, air cargo, distribution…and encourage them to locate in mid-Michigan and expand their businesses here," says Selig.   

Selig says the airport only has a few weeks to get its application submitted for those state tax credits.

Arts/Culture
4:01 pm
Sat October 15, 2011

Michigan's fall foliage season reaches its peak

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Michigan’s fall foliage tourism business has been enjoying an unusually good fall season.    Clear skies and warm temperatures have been keeping the leaves on the trees longer and tourists coming.   

David Lorenz is with Travel Michigan.   He says the state’s travel website has seen an uptick in people visiting in recent weeks.  

"That’s probably also a sign that people are recognizing ….they were hearing good news about fall colors this year  and they wanted to get out and enjoy it," says Lorenz.  

Politics
3:18 pm
Sat October 15, 2011

Debate begins over potential Michigan budget cash

It turns out Michigan's state government might have brought in more money from taxes and fees than previously expected in the fiscal year that ended September 30th. That likely will set up a battle this fall over what to do with
the cash, which could total $285 million or more.

Democrats, outnumbered in the Michigan Legislature, say any extra money should be committed first to public schools and education programs that are dealing with budget cuts in the fiscal year that started this month.

Republicans, including those in Governor Rick Snyder's administration, are hesitant to commit to any spending before they have a clearer picture of state revenues.

Snyder's budget office is expected to close the books on the recently completed 2010-11 fiscal year in December.

Politics
5:57 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

"Occupy" movement comes to Detroit

Protestors in New York City have occupied Zuccotti Park for 28 days.
david_shankbone flickr

Hundreds of people of all ages turned out in downtown Detroit for an event they’re billing “Occupy Detroit.” It’s part of a movement that started on Wall Street and has spread across the country.

"It’s to wake up," said Dobey Gavin of Detroit. "With the trickle-down economics, it just don’t work no more in America."

Richard Black is an Army veteran from Warren. He says he’s never come out to protest, but he’s fed up. Especially with politicians.

"I don’t believe that they work for the people any longer, I think they work for whoever pays them," he said. "And it’s got to stop. It’s got to stop."

Protestors plan to meet at 7 p.m. to talk about goals for the movement in Detroit.

Some of the protestors plan to pitch tents and take up residence in Grand Circus Park, near the stadiums and theater district.

Politics
5:51 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Ficano: 2 suspended over controversial payout

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Two Wayne County appointees have been suspended over the $200,000 payout to a former economic development chief.

County Executive Bob Ficano says proper protocols were not followed when Turkia Mullin was awarded the “severance” payment when she voluntarily left her county job.

"I’m holding those who made errors in judgment accountable for their actions," Ficano said. "Mistakes have consequences."

Deputy Executive Azzam Elder and the county’s head lawyer, Marianne Talon, have been suspended without pay for 30 days. Tim Taylor, the county's former human resources director, was also sanctioned. Taylor is retired, but had a part-time contract with the county. That contract has been terminated.

Ficano says the county should never have paid a severance to an appointee who left voluntarily. That’s despite the fact that he initially defended the payment.

County officials say Turkia Mullin will return the money.

Politics
4:02 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Governor visits U of M, touts pro-immigration stance

Governor Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he considers himself "probably the most aggressive pro-immigration governor in the country." Snyder says Michigan should work to attract immigrants with advanced degrees, especially in biomedical sciences and high-tech industries.

He reminded students, researchers and educators at University of Michigan today that some of the state’s most successful businesses – such as Meijer and Dow – were founded by immigrants.

“We tend to forget they’re Michigan names. Dow was a Canadian emigrant and Meijers was a Dutch emigrant. And now they’re household words that we consider them Michiganders,” said Snyder.

State Demographer Ken Darga says one of the big reasons Michigan was the only state to lose population in the past decade is because of a failure to attract immigrants.

Meanwhile, there are several Republican proposals in the Legislature aimed at enacting regulations to discourage illegal immigration.

Snyder also stated that too many college graduates in Michigan are leaving the state to pursue careers. He says part of that is because there are not enough jobs available for young workers. He says revitalizing urban areas will help reverse the so-called “brain drain.”

“It’s absolutely critical for Detroit to begin on the path to be a great city again because many of our young people are looking for that urban environment. And there are good things going on in Detroit. They’re good enough going on today that I like to ask young people – and you might appreciate this – I say ‘Do you want to be another yuppie in Chicago, or do you want to stay and make a difference in Detroit?’” said Snyder.

*Correction - an earlier version of this story was titled "Governor visits U of M, touts anti-immigration stance." He was highlighting his "pro-immigration" stance. The headline has been changed.

Auto/Economy
3:59 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Obama: Free trade agreements will boost US auto industry

President Barack Obama addresses an audience of auto workers at the GM Orion Assembly Plant, as South Korean president Lee Myung-bak (wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap) looks on.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 In southeast Michigan today, President Obama said free trade agreements passed this week by Congress will lead to more jobs and more economic opportunities.   

Obama and South Korean president Lee Myung-bak toured GM’s Orion assembly plant.   Obama says the new South Korea trade agreement should boost U.S. auto sales in Asia. 

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