Politics & Government

Politics & Government
5:43 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

State lawmakers to talk cash-strapped schools, marijuana, traffic fines

Credit user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

The state Legislature returns briefly from its summer break Wednesday for its only scheduled session day in July.

No full floor votes are expected in either the House or the Senate. But a number of legislative panels will meet to discuss a wide variety of issues.

The state Senate Government Operations Committee is expected to approve two high-profile medical marijuana bills. House Bill 4271 would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Michigan. House Bill 5104 would allow patients to use edible and other non-smokable forms of marijuana.

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Stateside
5:09 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Congressman Conyers says Detroit's water shut off is a human rights issue

Detroit's vigorous effort to collect some $90 million in unpaid water bills has resulted in water being shut off to thousands.

That's drawn angry attention from the United Nations and Congressman John Conyers. He calls this a human rights issue.

Conyers believes that the causes of this crisis include the economic problems with the country, deindustrialization, higher unemployment rates, population decline, and the number of families who cannot afford water.

“We want assurances that households won’t have their water cut off because they cannot afford to pay it, because water is a human right,” Conyers said.

Conyers said that when he advocates to keep water on in every household, he is not including the people who can afford water and simply are not paying the bill. He said 44% of households in Detroit live below the poverty line. These are the ones who need water.

“This is not an appeal for them to get free water. I think everyone that gets water should get a bill and should be held accountable for it,” Conyers said.

Conyers said the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is thinking of increasing shutoffs to 3,000 a week to help recoup financial losses.

He added that increasing shutoffs as a way to reducing the debt is counter-productive. If a disease breakout occurs because of lack of water, the city will end up with a health bill that will exceed the amount of money that is owed.

He wrote a letter to the president, asking for help from the Hardest Hit Fund.

The fund was set up in 2010 to provide targeted aid to states that were hit the hardest by the recession.

Conyers noted that Michigan has drawn down 41% of its total "Hardest Hit" allocation of more than $498 million.

Conyers said he would like to see the money used to on repairs and upkeep of the water pipes.

Conyers said he received an indirect response from the administration saying the Governor, the state treasury department, and others need to present a united proposal for the funds.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Politics and Culture
5:06 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Stateside for Tuesday, July 15, 2014

 Today on Stateside:

  • Michigan's legislators will be back in Lansing tomorrow. The day will bring committee meetings including attention to a pair of bills dealing with medical marijuana.
  • Congressman Conyers says that Detroit’s water shutoff crisis is a human rights issue.
  • The proposed Rover Pipeline would carry natural gas through about 180 miles of Michigan. Some of it would track the very same route as the controversial Enbridge 6B oil pipeline that was recently replaced.
  • DetCon1, a science fiction and fantasy literary convention will be in Detroit July 17-20.
  • Grab your surf board and hit….Lake Michigan??
  • There are Jobs that are going begging in Michigan, but the skilled workers are nowhere to be found.
  • Can Europe offer the U.S. a model for how to operate prisons?

*Listen to full show above. 

Stateside
4:50 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Lawmakers are back in session for one day, taking up medical marijuana changes

Credit www.misenategop.com

Michigan's Senators are taking a break from their summer break.

They'll be back in Lansing tomorrow.

The day will bring meetings of several committees and the full Senate might take a vote on a pair of bills dealing with medical marijuana and how to get it.

Jake Neher is the Lansing reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

He said the first bill will allow local communities to say whether or not they want medical marijuana dispensaries and how to regulate them.

The second bill will change the state's medical marijuana act to allow patients to use edible and other non-smokeable forms of medical marijuana.

Neher said that the Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville originally was not interest in expanding the medical marijuana act, but after months of speaking with communities, he changed his mind.

The bills will be voted on in committee, but not in the full Senate.

Neher said there won’t be any movement towards fixing roads. They will look at trying to set up an early warning system for deficit school districts. Another bill being looked at tomorrow would ease driver responsibility fees.

*Listen to full show above. 

Politics & Government
5:09 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Michigan files tax liens against CIA

Credit Joy Weese Moll / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Treasury is going after the CIA for unpaid taxes. At least, that’s what newly uncovered documents would suggest.

Three tax liens were evidently filed by the Michigan Department of Treasury against the CIA between February 2012 and March of this year. They claim the agency did not pay state income taxes on behalf of an undisclosed number of CIA employees working in the state.

The documents were first reported by the Lansing State Journal.

Many questions still surround the tax assessments. Under state law, treasury officials cannot speak publicly about individual tax cases. The CIA would not talk on the record about the liens.

Stateside
4:38 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Stateside for Monday, July 14, 2014

Today on Stateside:

  • The Detroit Water Brigade is helping those whose water has been shut off.
  • A Michigan abolitionist was a crucial part of the Underground Railroad.
  • How do the people of Jackson, Michigan feel about the new Cell Block 7 Prison Museum?
  • The World Cup is over. A lot of teams had die-hard soccer fans in Rio. In Detroit, Michigan, there's another intense fan group. They support the Detroit City Futbol Club's minor-league team, Le Rouge. 
  • Lawmakers are on “summer break.” But what does that mean? And what work is being done?
  • Underwater construction of spawning reefs is happening in the St. Clair River to attract more lake sturgeon, walleye, and lake whitefish.

*Listen to full show above. 

Politics & Government
10:52 am
Mon July 14, 2014

You get what you pay when hiring private company for Michigan prisons: embarrassing failures

I’d like to start the week with a thought that some will consider heresy: sometimes, privatization just doesn’t work.

There are some functions and responsibilities that government handles better.

American is gung-ho for privatization these days, both to save money, and because government at all levels has become something we love to hate. Thanks to years of being told that government is bad, corrupt, expensive and inefficient, we are happy to reduce its size.

Well, we may not be quite ready to hand the nuclear arsenal over to an assets management firm, but apart from that, anything goes. And frankly, there are some things that probably should be privatized.

Garbage collection, for example.

But Michigan decided last year to privatize food service in our prisons, and so far, it has been a highly embarrassing failure.

The Detroit Free Press used the state Freedom of Information Act to find out what’s happened since the state contracted with a private food services company, Aramark Correctional Services of Pennsylvania.

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Politics & Government
10:06 am
Sat July 12, 2014

The week in review: Art, oil, schools and money

Credit Julie Falk / Flickr

Week in Review interview for 7/12/14

This Week in Review, while Emily Fox sits in for Rina Miller, she and Jack Lessenberry discuss how selling works from the Detroit Institute of Arts wouldn't make financial sense in helping with the city's bankruptcy, the threat of an oil spill under the Straits of Mackinac, and money problems with Flint Community Schools.

Politics & Government
8:00 am
Sat July 12, 2014

Is building deconstruction viable on a large scale? Project suggests it just might be

Workers deconstructing a home.
Credit via SER Metro

Wayne County officials say a large project proves that building deconstruction is becoming a viable alternative to demolition.

Deconstruction is the process of carefully taking apart abandoned properties, and salvaging as many materials from them as possible.

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Newsmaker Interview
8:07 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Congressman Kildee says some Central American refugees will likely come to Michigan

Dan Kildee is a Democrat representing Michigan’s 5th Congressional district which includes Bay City, Saginaw, and Flint.
Credit Steve Carmody

In recent weeks we’ve been hearing about the surge of undocumented minors from Central America crossing into the U.S. Some call it a humanitarian crisis while others look at it as the result of a failed immigration policy. 

Wolverine Human Services has applied to be a sub-contractor to house these children at their facility in Vassar.

Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee talk about where things stand right now. 

"I think there is some degree of likelihood that Wolverine will be providing some shelter for these young unaccompanied minors that have made their way to our border," said Kildee.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Government
2:52 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Listen to the call-in show with Mark Schauer, Democratic candidate for Michigan governor

Mark Schauer
Credit www.markschauer.com

This morning, Democratic candidate for Michigan Governor Mark Schauer joined us on a statewide call-in show.

Here’s a shot of the team getting ready for the show in the WKAR studio:

Schauer answered questions about his plans for education, the city of Detroit, retiree pensions, road funding and more during the hour-long program.

If you missed it, you can listen to it here:

The "Michigan Calling" program with Mark Schauer.

It's Just Politics
2:05 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Signed a petition to oppose Asian carp? You actually signed a petition to allow wolf hunting

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

This week, pretty much unnoticed, the deadline came and went for opponents to file challenges to petitions filed by the Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management campaign to initiate a law. This is part of the ongoing political battle over wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula.

The CPWM petition drive would create a new version of the law to allow wolf hunting, and it would take future decisions on designating game animals and put it with the state Natural Resources Commission instead of the Legislature.

Now, not everyone may recognize that petition campaign. But, if you signed a petition to oppose Asian carp in the Great Lakes, you signed a petition to allow wolf hunting in the UP. If you signed a petition to allow active duty military personnel to get free hunting and fishing licenses, you signed a petition to allow wolf hunting.

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Politics & Government
10:26 am
Fri July 11, 2014

Thwarted once, UAW tries different tack in Chattanooga

An assembly workers at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tennessee factory. The factory builds the VW Passat.
Credit Volkswagen

It hasn't been a good two years for the UAW.

In late 2012, Governor Snyder signed a law making Michigan - the birthplace of the UAW - a so-called right-to-work state.  The new law allows people in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying union dues. 

Then, in February of 2014, the union lost a key vote to organize more than 1,500 blue-collar employees at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant.

UAW leaders appeared confident, at first, that the vote would go their way.

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Politics & Government
6:35 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

$5 million from JP Morgan will help aspiring Detroit homeowners buy, rehab homes

Credit via buildingdetroit.org

The JP Morgan Chase Foundation is giving $5 million to a grant fund that will help Detroiters buy and rehab homes.

It’s part of the global mega-bank’s pledge to donate $100 million to Detroit-boosting causes over the next five years.

JP Morgan has actually given the money to Liberty Bank’s non-profit community development bank. To start with, the program will apply only to some homes up for sale on Detroit’s online auction site, buildingdetroit.org.

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Stateside
6:29 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Governor's race: where it stands now

How accurate are current polls that show Snyder and Schauer neck and neck?
Credit Facebook

Tomorr0w morning at 9:00 a.m. on Michigan Radio, it's your chance to ask questions of Mark Schauer, the Democrat who wants to be your next governor.

Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark, co-hosts of Michigan Radio’s It’s Just Politics joined Stateside today to talk about where this race for governor stands right now.

Pluta discussed what issues Mark Schauer and Governor Snyder are focused now.  He said the governor is focusing on the state's economic recovery and the fact that overall trend is improving. Schauer will likely focus on topics such as charter schools, and policies surrounding abortion coverage. 

Clark added that the issue with the Schauer campaign is the lack of excitement to get out the vote among Democrats. Also, Pluta pointed out that Schauer still needed to work on public identification.

Check out our Facebook page for details on the number to call in tomorrow morning.

* Listen to the interview above.

Stateside
6:26 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Stateside for Thursday, July 10, 2014

  Today on Stateside:

·         In just three years, the number of Michigan cities and school districts run by state-appointed emergency managers has ballooned, from six to 17. We took a close look at Michigan emergency manager law.

·         Mark Schauer is the Democrat who wants to be your next governor. Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark, the co-hosts of Michigan Radio’s It’s Just Politics were here on Stateside to tell us more.

·         A new appraisal of the Detroit Institute of Arts collection has found the works could be worth between $2.7 billion and $4.6 billion! That's a big difference from the $866 million value that Christie's put on the collection last fall. Detroit News’ Daniel Howes explained what the implication is.

·         How Northern Michigan water is an inspiration for writers.

·         The latest "report card" on jobs in America points to a country continuing to recover from the Great Recession. We had a labor economist from University of Michigan to tell us what he saw in the June labor report.

·         We wrap up our week-long review of the new $53 billion state budget. Today: the money for "law and order."

*Listen to full show above.

Stateside
6:25 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

DIA collection valued up to $4.6 billion as voting approaches home stretch

Credit Flickr

A new appraisal of the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection has found the works could be worth between $2.7 billion and $4.6 billion dollars. That's a big difference from the $867 million value that Christie's put on the collection last fall.

Detroit News Business columnist Daniel Howes joined us to tell us what he saw in the evaluations.

Howes clarified that the $867 million valuation by Christie’s only looked at 5% of the DIA’s collection, whereas the new appraisal evaluated its entire collection. He also pointed out the caveat attached to the big $4.6 billion number: “If you try to sell big chunks of the collection at the same time, you likely press the prices dramatically.”

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Stateside
5:58 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Michigan state budget increased from last year to maintain law and order

A state police budget bill was approved for adding another helicopter.
Credit not_Aaron / flickr

Today we wind up our week-long review of the new $53 billion state budget with a look at the money for "law and order."

Detroit Free Press Lansing reporter Kathy Gray was with us today.

Gray said that the new budget would have some more money to fight crime than last year. According to Gray, here are some of the things that the "law and order" money will fund:

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Politics & Government
5:57 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Detroit is shutting off water to delinquent customers. But is everyone getting the same treatment?

In Detroit, controversy is raging over one of the few things the bankrupt city has in abundance: water.

So far this year, Detroit has shut off for 17,000 customers as it tries to collect millions in overdue bills.

But many residents are upset with how the city is going about it—and question whether some are getting special treatment.

“Here we are, giving out water…and we still owe on the water bill”

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Weekly Political Roundup
4:59 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

How Lansing is responding to charter school investigation

Credit user alkruse24 / Flickr

    

A recent investigation by the Detroit Free Press suggested major issues with charter schools in the state. The investigation pointed to poor financial practices, conflicts of interest, and lack of transparency by charter schools and authorizers.

Now, State Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan says some charter authorizers may lose their authority to open additional schools.

Joining us now to talk about this are Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Zoe Clark with Michigan Radio’s It’s Just Politics.

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