Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Stateside 9.29.2016

Sep 29, 2016

Today we hear from the editors of two conservative papers that have broken long traditions of endorsing the Republican candidate for president. And, we learn about the business side of Motown's worldwide success.

Flickr user Keith Kissel / Flickr user Gage Skidmore / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Detroit News broke its 143-year tradition today of endorsing the Republican candidate for president by endorsing Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Congressman Moolenaar said this approval comes at a good time, following the release of a study this month that showed almost twice as many of Flint’s water lines may need to be replaced than originally thought.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio


It’s been over a year since the water crisis in Flint became international news.

On Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives approved $170 million to go towards replacing lead water pipe lines in Flint.

The Flint funding amendment to the Water Resources Development Act was co-sponsored by Congressman Dan Kildee, D-Flint, and Congressman John Moolenaar, R-Midland.

To fight the system, ignore it and innovate now

Sep 29, 2016

The Next Idea

Recently, a bright young colleague of mine alerted me to a meeting of the minds at a top technology institution. The event was to be a discussion of breakthrough research and innovative ideas that are flying under the radar. So I joined the online conference just in time to hear a web feed of CIA computer analyst turned whistleblower Edward Snowden giving a rather unremarkable account of the authoritarian state of things here in the land of the free.

A crew replacing a lead service line in Flint.
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Congress is closer to giving Flint tens of millions of dollars to fix its lead-tainted tap water system.

Before it left town on Wednesday, the U.S. House approved a water infrastructure spending bill. The bill was amended yesterday to include $170 million for Flint.

The House approved its version of the Water Resources Development Act by a vote of 284 to 141.

Wayne County / via Wayne County

The structural condition of an unfinished county jail in downtown Detroit will be assessed as part of plans to complete the project.

Wayne County officials expect the assessment to be completed by late November.

An estimated $151 million has been spent for acquisition and design of the jail along Gratiot Avenue. Work stopped in 2013 due to the project's cost going over what was budgeted.

The uncompleted project costs the County about $1.29 million each month in bond interest and other costs like security and storage, according to a County spokesperson.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Looks like we've got another tug of war between Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette.

At stake? Whether failing schools within the new Detroit Public Schools Community District can be shut down at the end of this school year.

Today, Attorney General Bill Schuette issued his legal opinion on the matter and Rick Pluta, Michigan Radio’s Lansing Bureau Chief, joined us to explain what went down.

Image of the U.S. Capitol
user EFF Photos / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan congressmen helped craft a funding solution for Flint’s water crisis that might avert a federal government shutdown.

Democrats are opposing a continuing budget resolution unless money to replace Flint’s pipes is included.   Without the resolution, the federal government would shut down at the end of the month.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

The U.S. Senate rejected a spending bill on Tuesday to keep the government running through December 9.

A majority of Democrats voted "no" because the bill didn't contain money to help Flint.

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Doug Tribou talk about the impact that could have on the upcoming election. They also discuss Donald Trump's Michigan references in the first presidential debate and calls to reduce recidivism from Hillary Clinton and Gov. Rick Snyder.

Stateside 9.27.2016

Sep 27, 2016

Trump and Clinton talked about race last night. Today, we hear from two politically involved black women about what they heard and what they liked. And, we discuss why groups representing Michigan farmers say we need the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.  

State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State government has been distracted by the water contamination crisis it created in Flint, by the financial problems in Detroit schools, and the day-to-day issues that are just a natural part of running a huge operation in a large state. One issue that’s been set aside often – the proverbial “kicking the can down the road” – is underfunded pension plans and health care costs for retirees.

At the state level, Governor Snyder implemented a plan early in his first term to chip away at the problem. At the local level, most cities have been struggling with cutting services and just paying the bills. The idea of trying to catch up on putting more money into pension plans or setting aside money for growing retiree health care costs don’t seem to be as pressing. The result: A looming financial disaster for many cities and counties.

A crew replacing a lead service line in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update: 9/28/2016 2:50 p.m.

There appears to be a compromise on funding for Flint that would avoid a potential partial shutdown of the government.  House Republicans say they will allow a vote on U.S. Representative Dan Kildee's amendment to the Water Resources Development Act, providing $170 million to help Flint deal with a lead-tainted water system.

U.S. Senator Gary issued the following statement:

“The people of Flint have waited far too long for Congress to act and finally help put them on the road to recovery. House Republican leadership refused to even go on record supporting Flint as recently as Monday, and I am pleased that under pressure from Senate and House Democrats they are now indicating some willingness to help Flint. I will continue pushing to pass our carefully crafted, fully paid-for agreement that passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support as part of WRDA or another legislative vehicle. I have said that Congress can and should help both flooding victims and Flint residents, and I cannot support a government funding bill that prioritizes one state’s emergency over another’s.”


Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted against a bill to keep the federal government funded through December 9, sending the bill to defeat.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow said the bill included $500 million to help victims of flooding in Louisiana, while ignoring residents of Flint, whose water was tainted with lead two years ago.  

Rick Pluta, Michigan Radio/lawrence.house.gov


The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was held last night. A large segment of the debate was about racial healing in the United States.   

Both candidates have been pursuing African-American and Latino voters.

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence and Linda Lee Tarver, co-chair of the Trump-Pence Michigan African American Advisory Committee, joined us today to take a look back at last night’s debate.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says she won’t “get in the mud” with city council members accusing her of acting like “a dictator”.

Council members say they won’t take up any of the mayor’s proposals for 30 days, as a protest to her recent unilateral decisions.

Weaver questions the council’s actions.

“If you want to hold up the city, if you think that’s in the best interest of the people, then that’s on you,” says Weaver. “I’ve got to stay focused on doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Trump says Ford leaving America, but company fires back

Sep 27, 2016
"For Republicans who have not distanced themselves from Trump, it may be too late," Demas told us.
flickr user Gage Skidmore / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

During last night's presidential debate, Donald Trump's opening statement included his remark that Michigan is losing thousands of jobs and that Ford is leaving Michigan for other countries like Mexico. 

“So Ford is leaving. You see that their small car division [is] leaving. Thousands of jobs leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio. They’re all leaving. And we can’t allow it to happen anymore,” he said.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A dispute between Flint’s mayor and city council over who’ll pick up the city’s trash is headed back to court.

For months, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has been at odds with a majority of the city council over trash pick-up. She wants to hire a new company. The council wants the old one to continue.

Last week, Mayor Karen Weaver hired a new company, Rizzo Environmental Services, to empty Flint trash cans. It started Monday. 

Stateside 9.26.2016

Sep 26, 2016

Today, we discuss why the state's unregulated septic system could be a problem. And, we hear the former emergency manager of Benton Harbor explain why the strategy doesn't work for school districts.

donkey and elephant standing on american flag
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump face off in their first presidential debate tonight.

One Michigan group hopes to hear the candidates discuss “family economic” issues.

It’s like November in September as absentee ballots in Michigan are in the mail and, for some, voting has already begun.

If history is any guide, about a quarter of Michigan voters will vote using an absentee ballot, even though some will probably lie to do it because not everyone can legally cast an absentee ballot in Michigan.

A Tesla electronic car at a charging station
Austin Kirk / creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

This Week in Review, Jack and I look at a lawsuit in which Michigan and 20 other states seek to block a new federal rule that expands overtime eligibility for white-collar workers.

We also discuss a bill that would require more transparency from state lawmakers, and electronic car maker Tesla's lawsuit against the state of Michigan.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A year after Flint's tap water was exposed as a source of dangerous levels of lead, residents are still grappling with the man-made public health crisis.

  A year ago Saturday, doctors discovered high amounts of the toxin in children and warned against using the Flint River water. Local health officials declared an emergency and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder confirmed there were "serious issues."

  In addition criminal investigations, the crisis has sparked congressional hearings, lawsuits and scrutiny of lead testing across the country.

Stateside 9.23.2016

Sep 23, 2016

Today, in the next rendition of Songs from Studio East, we hear ancient Ethiopian music with a modern twist. And, we learn about headwraps, including why people wear them and what's behind the politics of dress.

Citizens at a public event last year expressed some concern about making Battle Creek a military target. But more were interested in the potential jobs the missile complex may deliver.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

All of the Michigan congressional delegation -- with the exception of Congressman Justin Amash -- signed a letter urging the Missile Defense Agency to locate interceptor missiles at Fort Custer near Battle Creek.

Amash said he didn’t sign the letter because it emphasized economic reasons rather than military ones. He basically said those decisions should be based on military necessity. Fort Custer is one of three final sites being considered. The other two are Camp Ravenna in Ohio and Fort Drum in New York.

These interceptor missiles are called the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system- GMD for short. They’re designed to intercept incoming nuclear missiles. However, the problem is that the GMD system is flawed. The L.A. Times reported during tests the interceptors failed to destroy their targets six out of eleven times. That’s a dismal record when the job is to intercept nuclear missiles from North Korea, or Russia, or another hostile country. Despite the failure rate, the manufacturer got a $2 billion bonus.

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Bill Schuette


It's time for another political roundup with Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas​.

Attorney General Bill Schuette joined a lawsuit this week to try to block an overtime pay rule that came out of Washington.

It would require businesses to pay overtime to salary workers who earn less than $47,500 a year. That’s up from about $24,000.

According to Sikkema, “Any of these federal regulations that deal with pay, whether it’s minimum wage or whether it’s overtime pay, are going to be looked at skeptically by Republicans. [Schuette] is not the only one.”

Garbage truck in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint city council is asking a judge for an injunction to stop the city’s mayor from cancelling a contract with the city’s trash hauler.

Capitol Building, Washington D.C.
Bobby Mikul / Flickr creative commons

Congress has to ensure the federal government is funded past September 30 by its October recess. But Flint's ongoing water crisis is standing in the way of Republicans and Democrats coming to an agreement. 

NPR's Ailsa Chang reports that Democrats in Congress want money to help Flint, Michigan to be included in a government aid bill for Louisiana and other states dealing with flood relief. 

Stateside 9.22.2016

Sep 23, 2016

Today, we discuss what really happened at Kinross prison on September 10 -- was it a riot, a disturbance? And, we hear about a Detroit graffiti case and the blurred line between political speech and crime.

Researchers at Virginia Tech received samples of Flint water (both clear and discolored) from residents. Dr. Edwards and his team there were among the first to call attention to lead contamination in Flint's water.
Flint Water Study / Facebook

Governor Rick Snyder is boosting the position of Michigan chief medical executive to his official inner circle. The governor says he wants to streamline how critical public health information reaches him. That was one of the problems identified by a task force that looked into how the Flint water crisis occurred.

In the-not-too-distant past, chief medical executive in the Snyder administration was a part-time job. Now, the governor is elevating it to a cabinet-level position reporting directly to him.

The former Hudson's site, prime real estate along Woodward in the heart of downtown Detroit, has been a city-owned underground parking garage since the Hudson's building was demolished in 1998.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A state Senate committee gave its unanimous approval this week to a package of state tax incentives that could allow developers to capture state sales and income taxes to help pay for large development projects in Michigan.

This "brownfield legislation" is something that developers like Dan Gilbert are pushing hard for as the package goes to the full Senate for consideration. Brownfield sites are often abandoned industrial sites that would require a significant clean-up and a major financial investment. 

How would this legislation work? And since it appears to be a case of "picking winners and losers," is this something Gov. Rick Snyder will support? 

MDOC Spokesperson Chris Gautz told us that while it was “a very serious situation,” the events of September 10 at Kinross Correctional Facility don’t meet the definition of a “riot.”
flickr user Thomas Hawk / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0


On September 10, there was an uprising at Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, it’s the most serious incident inside a Michigan prison anyone can recall since the 1981 riot at what was then called Southern Michigan Prison in Jackson.