Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

police officer directing traffic
Flickr user lincolnblues / Flickr

The Grand Rapids City Commission tomorrow will vote on whether to hire an outside consultant to study if its police force is racially biased when pulling over drivers.

A similar study conducted in 2004 found no systemic bias in Grand Rapids. But after the riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, people who spoke at community meetings still felt racial targeting was a problem in Grand Rapids. 

That's why city leaders are recommending a second study based on more current data. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder is optimistic that Michigan’s budget plan for next year should be wrapped up in the next week or two. 

Time is running short. The state legislature is only has a few weeks until it is scheduled to adjourn for much of the summer and there is still a lot left to do.

The state senate is expected to tackle funding for Detroit public schools this week. Last week, the state house passed a $617 million package that Democrats complain does more to protect the interests of charter school operators than students.

State Rep. Andy Schor's second-grade son was suspended for bringing a Swiss Army knife to school.
ppdiaporama / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Legislation in the state Senate would relax Michigan's "zero tolerance" approach to discipline in public schools.

State Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, introduced the bills. He says he has personal experience with the current policies.

"The pencil sharpener was broken in my son's classroom when he was in second grade, so he took my Swiss Army knife, which he shouldn't have done, but he brought it in to sharpen his pencil and another student said, you know, 'Ms. So-and-so, Ryan's got a knife,’ and he got suspended for it," Schor said.

Lars Plougmann

A citizen’s group took Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey to court Friday, in an effort to get a proposed city ordinance on the ballot.

The ordinance would require the Detroit clerk to publicly post real-time election results.

Tom Barrow is president of the group Citizens for Detroit’s Future, which spearheaded the drive to make the ordinance city law.

Barrow says the group gathered more than enough certified petition signatures, and did everything by the book according to the city charter and state law.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. - The chairman of a legislative committee investigating Flint's water crisis says it will take longer than initially projected to produce a report with recommendations.

Republican Sen. Jim Stamas of Midland had hoped to issue findings by now. But he announced Friday that discussions continue, and the report will be issued "in the future."

Gov. Rick Snyder at the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference
Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

Zoe Clark from It's Just Politics is at the Mackinac Policy Conference and there's been no shortage of news at what many would consider to be the Super Bowl for political junkies. Clark joined Stateside to discuss what hasn't been discussed that much over the last few days:  The city of Flint and the water crisis that continues there.

Governor Snyder at the Mackinac Policy Conference in 2014
flickr user A Healthier Michigan / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference wrapped up this morning. There was a lot of buzz up on Mackinac Island about an EPIC-MRA poll which finds Governor Snyder's disapproval rating is 52%.

Stateside 6.3.2016

Jun 3, 2016

Today, we speak with a melanoma survivor who wants others to learn from his experience. And, we learn about rising suicide rates among young people.

The Michigan House of Representatives.
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan state House narrowly passed a bill to bail out Detroit Public Schools tonight. But critics complain the plan does more for charter schools than Detroit kids.

The main bill in the package passed by a razor-thin margin, 55 to 53 votes.    

The legislation would allocate more than $600 million for the district, including $150 million to help transition Detroit schools to a new district.  

The school system has been under state control for the past seven years. 

House Speaker Kevin Cotter says the plan will help the district succeed.

Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

In day two of the Mackinac Policy Conference, Governor Rick Snyder seems to be in full "RPA mode." That's "relentless positive action."

 

“You get a sense among folks here that the Governor is somewhat weakened and trying to find his way back,” said Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes, who is at the conference.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The cost of the state’s day-to-day response to the Flint water crisis could soon rise sharply.

It cost of the state of Michigan $29,300 a day to provide water resources to Flint residents in May. But that number may nearly quadruple, to $117,400, if and when the federal government ends its support.

The federal government has been picking up roughly 75% of the cost of emergency supplies and home testing. The president’s federal emergency declaration is set to expire August 14.

A 10-cent fee on grocery bags passed in Washtenaw County intends to incentivize the use of reusable bags and reduce waste.
faythe1 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Beginning on Earth Day next year (April 22, 2017), Washtenaw County residents might have to bring their own bags to grocery stores to avoid a 10-cent-per-bag fee approved by the county’s board of commissioners on Wednesday in a 6-2 vote.

The fee applies to all paper and plastic bags that grocery stores provide consumers at the checkout aisle.

But the new ordinance might never be implemented.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver admits pressure is building on the city to make a decision about hooking up to the new KWA water pipeline.

Flint’s water crisis is a tangential result of emergency managers' decisions to save money by switching the city off of Detroit water and on to the new pipeline from Lake Huron, and to use Flint River water in the interim.

Weaver says she still needs answers to basic questions.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State legislative leaders are still trying to reach a deal on a bailout for Detroit Public Schools.

All the action on the bill took place behind closed doors Wednesday, with few specifics leaking out.

The $600 million package reportedly includes $150 million in new start-up funding.

But House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, is upset that Democrats and Detroit lawmakers have had no role in crafting the plan.

Signatures were still coming in as the MI Legalize campaign dropped off boxes of petitions at the state election office.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Supporters of legalizing marijuana in Michigan dropped off more than 350,000 petition signatures at the Secretary of State’s office today. That would be enough to put the issue on the November ballot.  

But there is a question whether the signatures were gathered within the time allowed.

“Michigan law allows you to petition beyond 180 days,” says Jeffery Hank, executive director of MI Legalize. “The current law just deals with how do you verify those signatures that are beyond 180 days.  We believe we have done everything we could to try to do that.”

Stateside 6.1.2016

Jun 1, 2016

Today on Stateside, we discuss how sometimes doing right by your kids means flipping conventional wisdom on its head.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Activists trying to ban fracking in Michigan are asking a court to give them more time to put the issue on the ballot.

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique which uses water and chemicals to crack ancient rock formations, releasing oil and natural gas. Opponents claim fracking is damaging to the environment. 

The petition campaign has fallen far short of collecting enough signatures to let voters decide whether to ban hydraulic fracturing.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Next week, Flint city officials plan to sit down with contractors interested in replacing lead service lines.

The city would like to remove 15,000 service lines, but for now they only have enough money to replace about 400.

Mayor Karen Weaver admits her “Fast Start” program has been slow to reach its second phase, partly because the sity wants to give smaller, local contractors a better chance to win contracts.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

If you can't make it to the island, you can watch what's happening at the Mackinac Policy Conference on Detroit Public Television's live stream.

See below, or go here to find the stream:

The chamber in Michigan's State Capitol.
CedarBendDrive/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

When creating new public policies, lawmakers seek to answer the age-old question: “What’s the harm?”

Some governments are aiming to answer that question with “Nudge Units” that gather insight on public behavior before implementing new policies, ideally avoiding future disasters like the Flint water crisis.

Simon Brass / Flickr

Michigan is closing one of its 32 prisons to save $22 million in the next fiscal year.

The Pugsley Correctional Facility in Grand Traverse County will close in September. The minimum security prison has more than 1,300 beds and 230 employees. It’s been open since 1956.

The corrections department made the announcement Tuesday, a day before a legislative committee is expected to endorse the closure in the next state budget.

The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference starts later today.

A year ago, I would have assumed the election would be center stage. A few months ago, I thought everyone might be talking about infrastructure and Flint. But instead, it’s education.

Detroit is the big elephant filling the Grand Hotel.

The Speaker of the House indicates he and his minions won’t show up on the island unless and until they finish a deal on saving Detroit Public Schools.

Education has indeed become center stage, and not only in Detroit.

The week after Memorial Day is when Michigan’s political and business leaders pack up and head north to Mackinac Island for the annual Detroit Regional Chamber Policy Conference.

Mackinac is a major political event where political fundraisers are as ubiquitous as horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, and complimentary cocktails.

Dwight Burdette / wikimedia commons

Two politicians whose districts include Inkster say the state should forgive the $36 million debt of the city's dissolved school district.

State officials dissolved Inkster Public Schools in 2013 after deciding it had no viable plan to get back in the black.   

Representative Julie Plawecki says the students are doing well in neighboring districts, "however, Inkster still has this debt that they will pay on for years to come, and at the end they're left with nothing, not the land, not the schools, nothing."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A report obtained by a newspaper says replacing water pipes due to the lead-tainted crisis in Flint could be at least twice the price of previous estimates.

The Detroit Free Press reports  that engineering company Rowe Professional Services told the state that the average cost for replacing a service water line through a completed pilot project was $7,500.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality previously estimated it would cost $4,000, but the company's report said costs could be higher if average permit fees of $2,400 per site are included.

Stateside 5.27.2016

May 27, 2016

Today, we talk to a couple of Detroit Reacts activists at the Venice Biennale. Also, leaded water may be bad for you, but not so much for your garden.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This Memorial Day weekend, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is encouraging city residents to wash their cars and water their grass.

It’s not about sprucing up the city.  It’s about flushing the city’s lead tainted drinking water.

Federal, state and local officials have been asking Flint residents this month to run faucets full blast for five minutes a day for two weeks.  The state is picking up the tab for the extra water use. 

Weaver says it’s not too late for city residents to get involved.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan National Guardsmen are no longer handing out water at Flint fire stations. The last one shut down today.

Demand remains so high that Flint Fire Station No. 3 ran out of water hours before its scheduled noon closing as a water distribution site.   

Taniesha Williams came away empty-handed when she stopped by the station around 10 a.m.

“It’s not right and it’s not fair. We really need help,” Williams said as she walked away.    

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

The U.S. Justice Department, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton have asked Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to shut down its internal investigations into the Flint water crisis.

They say those internal administrative investigations may have damaged their criminal investigations. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A state oversight board is giving the Flint City Council its power back.

The council’s powers have been limited since the Gov. Rick Snyder appointed an emergency manager to run Flint back in 2011. For much of the past four years, the nine City Council members have had little real authority at City Hall.

But today, the Receivership Transition Advisory Board repealed order  No. 3, which reinstates the powers afforded to the City Council by Flint’s city charter.

Council President Kerry Nelson says the board can now be an equal partner with the mayor at City Hall.

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