Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

WATCH: Flint water hearings

Mar 15, 2016
YouTube / House Oversight Committee

Ex-Flint mayor Dayne Walling and former emergency manager Darnell Earley testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington, D.C., earlier today. While no longer live, you can watch this morning's hearing below. For text highlights, follow the conversation through the Twitter hashtag #FlintMR. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

WASHINGTON (AP) - The state-appointed emergency manager who oversaw Flint, Michigan, when the city's water source was switched to the Flint River says he relied on state and federal experts, but the experts failed him and Flint.

  Darnell Earley says in prepared testimony for a House hearing Tuesday that he was overwhelmed by challenges facing the impoverished city and relied on experts from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to advise him.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint could get some additional federal money to help it recover from its water crisis.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro met with Mayor Karen Weaver and Congressman Dan Kildee in Flint today.

Castro says they talked about giving Flint additional Community Development block grant funds.

“We believe there is merit to that package, and would like to work with them to pencil in exactly what that would look like,” says Castro.

  • For Sunshine Week: Jane Briggs-Bunting of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government explains the importance of laws like the Freedom of Information Act.
  • March Madness is here: How will Michigan do as an underdog? Does MSU have enough to win a national title? Michigan Radio’s sport commentator John U.
Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

It is well-documented that the state of Michigan is one of the worst states when it comes to transparency and openness in government. Now, with the Flint water crisis, the issue has been brought to the forefront.

To kick off Sunshine Week, a celebration of Americans' access to public information, Stateside welcomed Jane Briggs-Bunting, the president of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government, to the show.

Remember that time when there was just nothing better than being a Republican governor? When it was almost a given that the next Republican candidate for president would come from the current or former GOP Gubernatorial ranks?

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

People in Flint say they have questions they want answered at this week’s congressional hearings into the city’s water crisis.

Starting Tuesday, former emergency manager Darnell Earley, former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and Gov. Rick Snyder are scheduled to testify before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform committee.  

Current and former officials with the Environmental Protection Agency are also scheduled to appear before the committee.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says she has a list of questions.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Some high-level decision-makers behind the Flint water crisis will answer to Congress this week.

The House Oversight and Government Reform committee has hearings scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The head of a national mayor’s organization says he expects to use Flint as an example of the need for federal investment in local infrastructure when the next president takes office.

Tom Cochran is the CEO of the United States Conference of Mayors. He was part of a delegation in Flint last week to discuss ways to help the city rebound from its water crisis.

Cochran says the problem extends beyond Flint. 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz website

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A U.S. House committee chairman leading hearings on the Flint water crisis sparked by lead contamination has visited the city.

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the oversight panel, met with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver Saturday at the Flint water plant. He also attended a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency open house.

Chaffetz says the "system totally failed and people need to be held accountable."

Weaver says she's pleased by his visit and urges passage of a federal aid package for Flint.

  • Changing our clocks can be a nuisance, yet we put up with it twice a year when we "fall back" and "spring forward." No more, say some Michigan lawmakers. 
  • Today is the day of the funeral of former First Lady Nancy Regan. She will rest next to her husband at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
People upset about the safety and quality of Flint's tap water packed a public meeting last January.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A lot of lawsuits have been filed over the water debacle in Flint, where it was discovered that residents have been exposed to lead-contaminated water.

There might also be a connection to several cases of Legionnaire’s disease that took nine lives.

According to Wayne State University law professor Noah Hall, this wave of lawsuits is just the first of many.

In an African-American city, black clout wanes

Mar 10, 2016
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Stately, stout Charles Williams II takes the microphone in an old church auditorium on Detroit’s west side and convenes the Saturday rally with a familiar war cry.

“No justice!” Rev. Williams shouts, stopping conversations and focusing attention on the front of a smallish room.

“No peace!” yell back some 65 people.

Arab American Institute

Arab American voters seem to have played a vital role in handing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders an upset victory in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary.

The results show Sanders won in handily in many precincts with large Arab-American populations, particularly in the city of Dearborn.

flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Republican state lawmakers are fast-tracking a bill making it harder to put issues on the statewide ballot.

The legislation would set a hard 180-day limit for collecting petition signatures. Right now, campaigns can argue that older signatures are valid and should be counted.

Senate Bill 776 passed on a party-line vote.

Republicans say it makes the law more clear.

“Everybody knows it’s going to be within those 180 days,” said state Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.

Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The state Legislature will kick off hearings on the Flint water crisis next week.

The first hearing on Tuesday morning will focus on a report from the Michigan auditor general that looked into decisions that led to the crisis.

  

Republican state Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, is the chair of the joint legislative committee.

Michigan roads
user nirbhao / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A  new commission would help decide how to spend $165 million Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed for infrastructure fixes in Michigan.

On Thursday Snyder signed an executive order to create the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission.

The commission will be tasked with identifying long-term strategies and needs when it comes to Michigan's transportation, water and sewer, energy and communications systems.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

In his column for The Detroit News today, Daniel Howes argues that the “presidential circus” is misreading the auto comeback in Michigan.

He begins with a quote from Republican front-runner Donald Trump, claiming he’ll have Michigan’s support because “we’re going to get the auto industry back.”

What does that say about the national narrative and political beliefs about Michigan and the auto industry?

“That they’re not paying attention,” Howes answers flatly.

Some Michigan election precincts ran out of ballots

Mar 9, 2016
Rusty Clark / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

It's not known yet exactly how many Michigan election precincts ran short of ballots during Tuesday's primary.

Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams thinks it's a small number.

"Michigan has 4,800 precincts," Woodhams said. "At this point we're aware of a dozen or so precincts that ran low."

Woodhams said it's also not clear which party's ballots ran out.

"Anecdotally, it seems some precincts were low with Republican ballots, and other precincts were low with Democratic ballots," said Woodhams. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s so much confusion about Flint’s water and sewer rates that the city is suspending mailing bills to the city’s residents.

During the past year, there’s been almost as much happening to Flint’s water and sewer bills as the city’s water pipes.

A judge last year ordered the city to roll back a 2011 and also ruled the current rates were OK.  

The city is trying to collect on some old delinquent accounts. 

  • Democratic U.S. Senator Gary Peters has two big projects on his plate in an effort to strengthen protections for the Great Lakes and provide funding for the city of Flint in the wake of the water crisis.
  • The new emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools says time is running out for lawmakers to approve a bailout. Michigan Radio’s Jake Neher reports.
  • University of Michigan medical historian Dr.
Donald Trump in Warren and Bernie Sanders in Traverse City.
Photos by Jake Neher from MPRN (left), Todd Church from Flickr / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The official vote totals are still not quite finalized, but it was a shocking – some are saying historic – night for the Democrats in the Michigan Primary. Donald Trump continued to hold serve on the Republican side, winning the Great Lakes State by a comfortable margin, but it was Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ win over Hillary Clinton that dominated the headlines on Wednesday morning.

Gavel made from dollar bill
Glenn Sapaden / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation that opens the door for raising Michigan judges' pay after 15 years of stagnant judicial salaries.

Judges' salaries haven't increased because their pay is currently tied to Supreme Court justices, who haven't seen a raise in years.

Snyder's office says the measure signed Tuesday would allow regular salary evaluations for trial court and Court of Appeals judges.

The change won't affect Supreme Court justices' pay.

Gary Peters
User: Gary Peters / Facebook

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D) has two big projects on his plate in an effort to strengthen protections for the Great Lakes and provide funding for the city of Flint in the wake of the water crisis.

The U.S. Senate recently gave unanimous approval to a funding bill that includes important protections for the Great Lakes. The bill re-authorizes the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is the federal agency that oversees pipelines.

This Week in Michigan Politics, Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry and I talk about what Donald Trump's victory in Michigan says about our state's Republican Party, the future of John Kasich's Republican presidential campaign, and how Bernie Sanders' win was "one of the biggest upsets in state history", among other things. 


The Michigan Capitol in Lansing.
Matt Katzenberger / flickr.com

While most people watched the big presidential primary races in Michigan, Grand Rapids voters, and voters in Allegan and Lapeer counties ,filled empty seats in the Michigan House of Representatives.

In Grand Rapids, a vacancy in the 75th District was left when Brandon Dillon resigned last summer to become the Democratic Party chairman in Michigan.

In that district, Democrat David LaGrand beat out Republican Blake Edmonds. LaGrand is a business owner, a lawyer, and Grand Rapids school board member.

Bernie Sanders speaking in Traverse City, Michigan.
Todd Church / Flickr

Bernie Sanders pulled off an upset win over rival Hillary Clinton in Michigan's Democratic primary.

Polls going into Tuesday indicated that Clinton had a double-digit lead over Sanders -- so much for the polls.

Sanders took 49.9% of the vote. Clinton took 48.2%. 

Sign in Flint, Michigan.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Flint polling places needed more ballots due to an unusually high turnout in a city that has been in the spotlight because of contaminated water.

Flint Clerk Inez Brown says it's the first time in her 20 years in office that she's had to send more ballots during the day of an election. She tells The Flint Journal that turnout Tuesday is "unprecedented," especially among voters who want to vote in the Democratic primary.

State OKs oil drilling permit for Southfield church

Mar 8, 2016
wikipedia http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has granted a controversial permit to drill oil on church-owned property in Southfield.

Traverse City-based Jordan Development Co. applied for the permit to drill an exploratory oil well on 1.5 acres of land leased from the Word of Faith International Christian Center.

The city opposes the drilling. Some residents say it will lower property values, increase emissions and pose a risk of contamination.

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