Mark Brush

Reporter/Producer

Mark is a senior reporter/producer at Michigan Radio where he's been working to develop the station's online news content since 2010.

From 2000 to 2006, he worked as the technical director and senior producer for Michigan Radio's regional environmental news service known as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

From 2006 to 2010, as the unit's co-manager and senior producer, Mark helped transition the GLRC into an award-winning national news service known as The Environment Report. The service was heard on more that 130 stations around the country including WBEZ in Chicago, WAMU in Washington D.C., KUOW in Seattle, and KWMU in St. Louis.

Mark is a graduate of the University of Michigan ('00 MS in Environmental Policy and Planning & '91 BA in Political Science) and has been "a board certified public radio junkie" since 1992. He discovered public radio on his commutes to work in his trusty 1984 VW Rabbit. Much of Mark's storytelling philosophy was influenced through his close work with veteran CBC "réalisateur" David Candow.

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Arts & Culture
11:42 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Banjos will be banned at this year's Water Hill Music Festival in Ann Arbor

Five-string banjos, four-string, SIX string... it doesn't matter. They will all be banned.
user WolfgangW Wikimedia Commons

A collective sigh of relief was heard today in Ann Arbor when the organizers of the Water Hill Music Festival announced a ban on banjo playing during this year's fest.

From the Water Hill Music Fest:

Today Water Hill Music Fest organizers received a petition with over 500 signatures urging a ban on banjos at the festival.  

Read more
Politics & Government
9:25 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Students wait for tickets to see President Obama speak in Ann Arbor tomorrow

Students wait in line this morning for tickets to see President Obama speak.
Megha Satyanarayana Michigan Radio

President Obama will fly to Michigan tomorrow aboard Air Force One. He's scheduled to deliver a speech on raising the national minimum wage at around 3 p.m. on the campus of the University of Michigan in the Intramural Sports Building.

The event is open to those with tickets and the media.

Students on the campus of the University of Michigan started lining up last night for tickets. They had to wait overnight with their sleeping bags as the Michigan Union just started distributing tickets at 9 a.m. this morning.

MLive's Ben Freed spoke with students in line last night who told him that seeing the president speak is a "pretty unique opportunity." Janie Brown, Freed writes, was one of the first in line:

“I came down here to get food at about four and then I decided to just set up out here so that I wouldn’t get shafted and not get a ticket,” [Brown said]... 

“The last thing I waited this long for was the midnight showing of the last Harry Potter movie. I showed up more than 15 hours early for that and I was in full costume,” she said.

“But that was in daylight, and for a Harry Potter movie. Hopefully this is a bit more impressive.”

The president's last visit to Michigan was on Feb. 7, 2014 when he signed the Farm Bill into law on the campus of Michigan State University. This will be Obama's third trip to U of M while president. The Ann Arbor News' Kellie Woodhouse points out that no other president has visited more while in office.

Health
5:01 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Last day to enroll for health-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act

Today is the day.

If you don’t sign up for health-care coverage by midnight tonight, you might not be able to get coverage until next year. And if you choose not to get covered, you might get dinged on your 2014 taxes –also known as the "individual shared responsibility payment."

If you can afford health coverage, but you decide to do without, here's how much you might have to pay:

  • In 2014, it's 1% of your yearly income or $95 per person, whichever is higher.
  • In 2015, it’s 2% of your yearly income or $325 per person, whichever is higher.
  • In 2016 and later years, it’s 2.5% of your yearly income or $695 per person, whichever is higher. 
  • After 2016, the fee is adjusted for inflation.

To avoid any potential fees, you need to sign up by tonight.

There are exceptions.

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Environment & Science
12:44 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

No more oil in latest survey of BP oil spill in Lake Michigan

A shoreline assessment team made up of representatives from the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and BP surveys a beach area near the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind., March 30, 2014.
Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf Coast Guard

The Coast Guard says crews didn't find any more oil during the latest search of the Lake Michigan shore following last week's spill at BP's northwestern Indiana refinery.

Last Monday, BP's oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana south of Chicago spilled crude oil into Lake Michigan. The company estimates the spill to be somewhere between 630 and 1,638 gallons. The oil made its way into the lake through a malfunction in the refinery's cooling system. 

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Environment & Science
4:39 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Oil spills into Lake Michigan from BP refinery in Indiana

Cleanup crews work to deploy a containment boom along the Lake Michigan shoreline near the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind., March 25, 2014, to recover crude oil discharged from the refinery.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Parker Wood U.S. Coast Guard

This post was updated as we waited for an estimate on how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Now that an estimate has been released, we'll continue to follow this story in other posts.

Update: Thursday, March 27, 4:39 p.m.

BP has revised its estimate of how much oil spilled Monday. It now says 15-39 barrels leaked from the Whiting Refinery. That's about 630-1,638 gallons.

Petty Officer Jeremy Thomas is with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety unit in Chicago.

He says a small crew has been removing the oil manually. He says the cleanup efforts are going well.

“That involves either a gloved hand or a shovel or rake or some sort of hand powered tool to remove the oil from the shoreline,” Thomas said.

Thomas says federal agencies are waiting for weather conditions to improve before assessing if there’s any heavy tar sands oil on the lake bottom.

“There’s nothing that leads us to believe that there’s any down there but we want to rule it out because of course we want to make sure the environment’s safe and healthy and clean,” Thomas said.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the spill or how long cleanup will take.

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 7:21 p.m.

BP released a statement about an hour ago saying they are still estimating the amount of oil that was spilled and assessing whether more work will need to be done. From their statement:

Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill. They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.

Monitoring continues in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 4:37 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Chicago Tribune environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne this afternoon about the spill. You can listen to the full interview here.

Hawthorne told us about the history of the Whiting refinery. It's one of the oldest refineries in the country.

"We don't know yet just how much oil was released from the refinery into Lake Michigan a couple of days ago. Some people were suggesting, at least off the record from the company, were suggesting that it was about 10 barrels - 12 barrels, not a lot in relative terms," said Hawthorne.

"And given the amount of pollution that's already going into the lake from that part of northwest Indiana, how much affect it had on the lake, at least in the eyes of environmental regulators is fairly minimal."

Read more
Transportation
10:34 am
Wed March 26, 2014

This map will show you where Michigan's big road construction projects will be

MDOT construction projects in Michigan's lower peninsula
MDOT

Orange construction barrels are a sure sign of spring in the upper Midwest.

To find where the larger road construction projects will take place in Michigan, you can download this map from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The map is updated each year to help motorists locate major MDOT road and bridge projects across the state. Printed versions are available at MDOT Transportation Service Centers and region offices, as well as at all Welcome Centers. Printed versions will be available in the UP sometime in April.

This map, of course, won't show what local road crews are up to. They'll have their hands full with all the potholes left behind by this brutal winter. 

Some of those crews are more challenged than others:

Read more
Sports
1:52 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Detroit seeks proposals for former Tiger Stadium site

The site of the former Tiger Stadium in 2011.
user wyliepoon Wikimedia Commons

A baseball diamond is still there, but not much else. 

Now Detroit’s Economic Development Corporation wants to see proposals to redevelop the former site of Tiger Stadium.

The EDC wants to establish a new headquarters for a Detroit youth sports league, Detroit PAL, along with three zones for mixed-use development at the site in the Corktown neighborhood.

The proposed plan should also have a youth baseball diamond “in the same area as many legendary baseball stars played.”

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Arts & Culture
1:26 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

'The Nutcracker' will get a makeover in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Ballet performers.
Clark Art Photography Grand Rapids Ballet Facebook

Chris Van Allsburg, known for his book "The Polar Express" will design the new production for the Grand Rapids Ballet, and the set will be built by designer Eugene Lee, known for his work on SNL.

More from the Grand Rapids Press:

A $2.5 million fundraising campaign, in part, is providing for the 42-year-old company's first entirely new production of "The Nutcracker" in three decades…

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Politics & Government
2:52 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Gov. Snyder declares financial emergency in Royal Oak Township

The red pin shows the location of Royal Oak Township.
screenshot Google Maps

Now that Gov. Rick Synder has confirmed that a “financial emergency” exists in the Detroit suburb, Royal Oak Township officials have seven days to decide how to move forward.

Under the state’s emergency manager law, known as the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act, there are four options the township can choose:

  • a consent agreement,
  • an emergency manager,
  • neutral evaluation,
  • or Chapter 9 bankruptcy

From the governor’s office:

On January 30th, Governor Snyder determined that a financial emergency exists in Royal Oak Township after reviewing a report from an independent financial review team. Following a hearing township officials requested, as allowed under PA 436, State Treasurer Kevin Clinton recommended that the governor confirm his determination of a financial emergency.

State officials say the township board has until 5 p.m. on Wed., March 26  to make a choice on how to move forward.

Sports
12:24 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

President Obama picks Michigan State to win men's NCAA tourney

Obama making his picks on ESPN
screen shot ESPN.com

President Obama, known as the first basketball fan in the White House, filled out his brackets for the NCAA men's basketball tournament yesterday.

He picked Michigan State to win it all.

"It's been awhile since Izzo won one," he said.

From ESPN.com:

Read more
Offbeat
12:48 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

'Pick a perfect March Madness bracket, win $1 billion,' say people seeking attention

Update 11:48 a.m.

This is the week that "the-people-seeking-attention" are really cashing in on their bet.

They're betting that you won't pick a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket, but you will give them all kinds of personal information to take a shot at it. 

As Carl Bialik from the lauded Five-Thirty-Eight blog puts it:

No sum of money can beat the math.

(See how statisticians calculate the odds in the original post below.)

ESPN.com's Rick Reilly figures the company sponsoring the contest stands to make a lot of money by gaining "as many as 15 million new sales leads with the registration process alone on this thing."

"You can't buy that kind of PR," [the guy] says. "We love this."

Reilly sat down with the rich guy backing the bet, who isn't too worried about someone picking a perfect bracket. He knows the odds, and he's known how to play them to his advantage all his life:

[The guy] loves making bets that tilt toward his wallet. When his three kids were growing up, he paid them their allowance in dimes. That's because he had a 10-cent slot machine in the house. "By the end of the night," he says, "I'd have most of my money back."

Original post, January 21, 2014

You're more likely to get struck by lightning, but what the heck.

The odds of you picking a perfect NCAA bracket vary.

Some say it's 1 in 9.2 quintillion.

In his video, Jeff Bergen of DePaul University says there's a 1 in 128 billion chance of picking a perfect bracket. He says the odds are a smidge better given that you would  follow the rankings.

The organizers of the contest say the odds are better – 1 in 4.3 billion. (There's no indication of how those odds were calculated.)

If you pick a perfect bracket, they'll give you a billion dollars. More specifically, they'll give you $25 million a year for 40 years, or a one-time payment of $500 million.

So there isn't much in it for you, but there's a lot of free publicity for them. You'll see them in your Facebook feed, or on the Google.

Environment & Science
5:48 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Isle Royale wolf that crossed ice bridge was shot with pellet gun

"Isabelle" on the icy shoreline of Isle Royale before she crossed to the mainland.
Isle Royale Wolf Moose Study

A wolf that fled from Isle Royale National Park over an ice bridge was found dead on the Minnesota mainland last month.

Researchers were unsure how the wolf died at the time, but a necropsy found that the five-year-old female wolf was shot with a pellet gun.

Lee Berquist of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has more:

Read more
Health
12:52 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Giant, inflatable colon coming to Ann Arbor area mall

The broad view of the giant colon.
Credit American Cancer Society

That one got our attention too.

The press release from the University of Michigan News Service starts with "here's your chance:"

The University of Michigan Health System will partner with the American Cancer Society to bring a 32-foot-long, 14-foot-high giant replica of the colon to Briarwood Mall, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 22, to raise awareness  of colorectal cancer.

What does such a thing look like? We asked for a few photos.

U of M physicians will also be on hand to answer any questions visitors might have.

Read more
Environment & Science
9:29 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Obama makes Sleeping Bear Dunes wilderness

Part of the shoreline in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
user rkramer62 Flickr

EMPIRE, Mich. (AP) - President Barack Obama has signed a bill designating 32,557 acres of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as protected federal wilderness, the final step for a proposal that has been debated locally for more than a decade.

The measure cleared the U.S. House in March and the Senate last June. The White House says Obama signed it Thursday.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes federal park is headquartered at Empire along Lake Michigan in the northern Lower Peninsula. It's famed for towering sand dunes, some of which rise hundreds of feet above the shoreline.

The area is the first land to receive wilderness status from Congress in five years. About 1.4 million people visited the lakeshore in 2011, pumping about $120 million into the local economy.

Education
2:05 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Michigan's lowest-performing schools will get $16,757,681 from U.S. Dept. of Ed.

Chalkboard eraser.
user John Phelan wikimedia commons

The money comes from the Department's School Improvement Grants program. 

Ten states received grants, and Michigan was second to Texas in the amount given. Texas will get $46.7 million through the SIG program.

More from the Department of Education's press release:

Read more
Weather
12:28 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Record set for ice cover on Lake Michigan, not on Great Lakes

Lake Michigan as photographed by a NOAA satellite on March 8, 2014.
NOAA

My neighbors and I officially had our last "pond hockey" game over the weekend. We moved everything off the ice as things started to melt.

So the ice in the region has reached its peak, right? No one thinks we're going to be hit with another prolonged polar vortex, do they? 

Let's hope not.

With the most frigid part of this winter over, let's look at the record books for ice cover on the Great Lakes.

Here's what we know.

Read more
Law
3:24 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Trial ends in Michigan gay marriage case, now we wait for the judge's decision

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The fate of Michigan's constitutional ban on gay marriage now rests with federal Judge Bernard Friedman.

After nine days of argument, the trial of Deboer v. Snyder ended this morning.

The highly anticipated federal trial began last Tuesday, Feb. 25, and now Judge Friedman says he will weigh all the evidence before making his decision.

He’s expected to take a couple of weeks to review the case.

Read more
Economy
12:30 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Shinola city clocks unveiled in Detroit

The clock outside of Cobo Center.
Curbed Detroit video screen shot

Shinola makes handcrafted wristwatches in Detroit, and now they're donating four clocks for display in the city.

Today they unveiled one of the Shinola City Clocks at Cobo Center. Other clocks are also located at Eastern Market, Midtown and the College for Creative Studies, according to the Detroit News:

The other three clocks, which also went up Friday, are at Eastern Market’s Shed 3, in Midtown at a future dog park at Cass and West Canfield, and at Shinola’s headquarters at the College for Creative Studies.

Here's a video from Curbed Detroit showing the clock and its second hand at work.

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Environment & Science
3:11 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Great Lakes ice levels approaching record set in 1979

Great Lakes ice levels as of March 4th, 2014. The blue areas show open water.
Credit NOAA

The last time I posted on this (on Feb. 26), the ice levels on the Great Lakes had dropped off.

There had been a slight warm-up and some strong winds that had opened up the water.

But it's been cold since then, and the ice levels have increased on the Great Lakes. Here's a graphic showing you where the ice levels stand as of yesterday. The blue areas show the open water:

As I mentioned in my previous post, ice formation on the lakes is dynamic – constantly changing.

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Economy
2:58 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

The average Michigan family needs $52,330 a year to 'make ends meet'

The MLPP's estimate of monthly expenses.
MLPP

That's for a two-parent family with two kids and where the two parents are working.

Peter Ruark and Cameron Merrill compiled the numbers for the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Their report states that "making ends meet" means just covering the bare necessities.

If you and your partner have two kids, and you make $52,330 a year, the authors say you have just enough to cover your expenses for things like housing, food, healthcare, clothing, child care, transportation, and taxes.

It's equal to each person making $12.85 an hour at a full-time job. 

That's just one living situation the MLPP report looks at. It also breaks down the amount you would need to earn each year to "make ends meet" if you were:

  • single - $21,570
  • a single parent with two kids - $44,164
  • a two-parent family with two kids and you are both working - $52,330
  • a two-parent family with two kids and only one parent is working - $26,720

(They assume child care is not needed in a two-parent family with only one person working.) 

They also broke down the difference in need based on where you live in Michigan. Scroll over the interactive map below to see their wage estimates for each county.

Read more

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