The Environment Report
11:17 am
Thu July 24, 2014

After 4 years, major cleanup on the Kalamazoo River coming to a close

Workers assess damage at Enbridge oil spill site in 2010. The major aspects of the cleanup are expected to be wrapped up this summer.
EPA

It's been four years since the Enbridge pipeline Line 6B broke, creating the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. More than a million gallons of tar sands oil have been cleaned up from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. This summer, crews are dredging areas of Morrow Lake.

Steve Hamilton is a professor of ecosystem ecology at the Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University. He’s served as an independent scientific advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency throughout the cleanup. I talked with him for today's Environment Report.

A few years ago, right in the heart of the cleanup, an EPA official said the agency was "writing the book" on how to remove tar sands oil from the bottom of a river.

Hamilton agrees: "First, before it even got to the bottom, we learned that in the first year, it stuck to surfaces of plants and debris that made a tarry mess that largely had to be manually removed." 

He says it was the removal of the submerged oil that made the cleanup last as long as it has.

"It is so incredibly difficult to remove submerged oil from a complex river, extending over nearly 40 miles."

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Opinion
11:05 am
Thu July 24, 2014

These three female candidates could be some of the most interesting leaders in Michigan

Unless you’ve been trapped in a coal mine, you may have noticed that this is an election year.

We’re less than two weeks from Michigan’s statewide primary. Once we get through that, we may have a few weeks before the airwaves are again dominated by commercials for various candidates for various offices.

I’ve been telling you about some of these, and I expect to be talking more about them before November. But I was thinking that three of the most potentially interesting leaders in the state are not on the ballot this year.

They are all women, all young, charismatic, intelligent, competent and highly educated. They also all happen to be Democrats, but that is almost a coincidence. 

Republicans have some rising women leaders as well, two of whom, Lisa Posthumus Lyons and Tonya Schuitmaker, are running for reelection to the Legislature.

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Arts & Culture
7:05 am
Thu July 24, 2014

Re-thinking creativity's role in education

One analyst says we need to think about manufacturing and creativity as two things that go hand in hand.
Credit Flickr user Wystan/creative commons

It’s probably pretty stressful being a high school principal, for all kinds of reasons.

But Eric Alburtus, principal of Portage Central High School, spends a big chunk of his time worrying about the arts. He’s specifically worried about the kind of human beings our schools are producing, when kids must fulfill heavy requirements in math and science, yet they barely have a chance to study music, choir, theater, or the visual arts.

(For a more complete look at the state’s requirements, click here.)

What's at stake if kids in Michigan don't study the arts?

Alburtus says arts classes give kids a chance to discover new worlds and different ways of thinking and creating.

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All Things Considered
5:19 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

The struggles of Muskegon Heights school district

Credit user alkruse24 / Flickr

Two years ago, Muskegon Heights made history by becoming the first school district in Michigan to convert entirely to a charter district, and turn the operation of its schools over to a for-profit company. 

This week, Michigan Radio's Dustin Dwyer and Lindsey Smith take an in depth look at the changes in the Muskegon Heights School district and what that could that mean for other troubled districts in the state in a new State of Opportunity documentary called Tiger Pride.

Why focus on Muskegon Heights? How does it impact other struggling school districts in Michigan?

Dwyer and Smith joined us today to give us a preview of the documentary. 

Tune in tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm to hear Tiger Pride

Courts
5:16 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Washtenaw judge dismisses lawsuit to block oil drilling project

An oil well.
Credit morguefile

A judge in Washtenaw County today dismissed a lawsuit to prevent oil drilling in Scio Township, near Ann Arbor.

Citizens for Oil-Free Backyards wants to stop West Bay Exploration from drilling. So it sued the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for what it calls an "unfair and faulty" permitting process.

But the judge ruled that he had no jurisdiction over the case. He said Ingham County is the appropriate court.

Arthur Siegal represents the non-profit group. He said West Bay could start drilling within a week.

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Stateside
4:32 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Why Coleman Young was not the cause of Detroit's bankruptcy

Coleman A. Young, 1981
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Coleman A. Young was Mayor of Detroit from 1974 to 1994. He was Detroit's first black Mayor.

Even though it's been more than 20 years since he was Mayor and over 16 years since he died, there's a common narrative that Young was the cause of Detroit's financial ruin.

But is that really true?

Larry Gabriel from Bridge Magazine and Stephen Henderson from the Detroit Free Press joined Stateside to answer this question.

Henderson said you cannot get a bigger reaction from someone by saying any name other than Coleman Young.

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Stateside
4:32 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Michigan Democrats call foul play on Republican spying

Spy glasses wearer checks his specs in the bathroom.
Credit Michigan Democratic Party / YouTube

By now you've probably heard the chuckling, the snickering and Democratic growling over that pair of young Republican "operatives."

The ones who turned up at a Mark Schauer fundraiser at a private home in Bloomfield Hills.

One of the pair wore fake glasses with a tiny video camera built into the frame.

It might have gone undetected but for the fact the memory card of their "Secret Squirrel" mission somehow turned up on the floor of a union hall in Farmington Hills two weeks later.

Democrats immediately posted the eight-minute video, wherein we learned little more than the facts that Natalie Collins, the Republican staffer who wore the glasses, doesn't like having her photo taken when she's eating pineapple and she didn't think much of the artwork at the home.

Have a look at the video of the training sessions with Republican would-be spies. Video released by the Michigan Democratic Party.

Democrats cried "foul, dirty tricks!" And Republicans shrugged and said, well, everyone does it.

Michigan Radio's It's Just Politics team of Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta shared their thoughts with Stateside.

*Listen to the full interview with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta above. 

Stateside
4:30 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

"Stand-Up Paddling" growing quickly on Michigan's waters

Credit Wikimedia Commons

All summer we’ve been exploring different ways to enjoy our Michigan waters.

We’ve discovered great snorkeling, scuba diving, and even surfing. And now we can add SUP, Stand Up Paddling, to the list.

Brody Welte, a Michigan native, is based in San Diego and is the head of Paddlefit. He’s become a national leader in Stand-Up Paddling.

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Politics & Government
1:54 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Israeli and Palestinian supporters demonstrate in Michigan

An overflow crowd jammed a Southfield synagogue last night to show support for Israel in its latest conflict with Hamas.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Several thousand people turned out Wednesday night at a Southfield synagogue to show support for Israel in its current conflict in Gaza.

“We stand with Israel,” shouted one speaker.  

The overflow crowd cheered for local people with family members serving in the Israeli army in Gaza.

Speakers blamed Hamas for the conflict, which has cost nearly a thousand lives in the past few weeks.

“We feel for the victims on both sides. We want it to end. But we want Israel to be secure,” says Allan Gale, with the Jewish Community Relations Council.

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Politics & Government
1:45 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Don't like the water shut-offs in Detroit? Now you can pay someone's overdue water bill

The water shutoffs in Detroit have been suspended, but you can still help some Detroiters pay their bills.
Credit Maegan Tintari / Flickr

The only time Kristy Tillman could fit in an interview was on her lunch break. That's because of the insane number of reporters emailing her.   

“We never expected the press to get so big! We’re just like, oh man. So we decided we’re going to probably limit the time on that today, so we can get real work done.”

All those reporters want to talk with her about the website she and friend threw online this past Thursday.

It's called Turn on Detroit's Water

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Stateside
11:24 am
Wed July 23, 2014

President of GVSU looks back on the clean-up of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Credit ARLIS Reference / Flickr

We've just marked the 25th anniversary of one of the most catastrophic man-made environmental disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

It was just after midnight on March 24, 1989 when the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound. 11 million gallons of crude oil gushed into the pristine waters.

The clean-up effort was staggering. Among those called to help was U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Thomas Haas. He was a chemist and an expert in hazmat cleanup. Twenty-five years later, that Lt. Commander is the president of Grand Valley State University.

“We had to figure out what clean meant,” Haas said.

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Stateside
11:18 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Demolish or Restore? How should Detroit handle blight?

Abandoned Packard Automobile Factory, Detroit
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Blight is one of the biggest challenges facing Detroit.

Should we tear down and start fresh? Or selectively look at the properties and see what can be preserved?

According to a report from the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, 78,506 building in the city are decayed or at risk of decaying.

That’s 30% of the cities structures.

It will cost $850 million to demolish the blighted homes and commercial buildings. Clearing industrial sites could cost a billion dollars more.

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Stateside
11:13 am
Wed July 23, 2014

The fight to increase Michigan's minimum wage is not over

Credit user: Al / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder signed a new minimum wage law in May that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.40 to $9.25 an hour by 2018.

But the fight is not over.

Raise Michigan, a group of unions, nonprofits and liberal advocacy groups, wants to put forth a ballot initiative that will ask voters to amend the law and raise minimum wage eventually to $10.10 an hour.

Chris Gautz is the Capitol Correspondent for Crain’s Detroit Business. He joined Cynthia on Stateside today to talk about the group’s plans to meet at the Capitol this Thursday with the Board of State Canvassers.

Read his article in Crain’s Detroit Business here.

*Listen to the full interview with Chris Gautz above.

Politics & Government
11:06 am
Wed July 23, 2014

This U.S. District Judge turns 90 today, and he has no plans to stop hearing cases

This audio is pending
​ 

35 years ago this spring, President Jimmy Carter nominated Detroit attorney Avern Cohn to be a federal judge.

High-tech meant IBM selectric typewriters back then.

Detroit had nearly twice its current population. The World Wide Web wouldn’t exist for more than a decade, and President Obama was a teenager still in high school.

Today, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn turns 90. And he’ll spend the day, as usual, in federal court, where he still hears cases, full time.

“I get great satisfaction out of this,” he told me when I talked to him last week. “I’m happy. Every day is different. You are always learning something new. It is a job that keeps you young.”

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Culture
10:49 am
Wed July 23, 2014

For Detroit's 313th Birthday, pictures of revival

Orchestra Hall in Detroit sat vacant for almost 20 years before renovation started in the 1970s. An iconic building saved from ruin.
Credit screen grab / http://detroiturbex.com/

DEE-twah

The French word for "strait" (détroit) was how it all started in 1701.

A French explorer founded Fort Pontchartrain on the "straits" - the water between Lake Huron and Lake Erie - on July 24, 1701.

It didn't become incorporated as a city until 1806, and the city grew from there.

This population graph shows the timing of the rise and decline of the city:

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Education
10:05 am
Wed July 23, 2014

What do you want to see in a standardized state test for Michigan students?

Credit Biologycorner / Creative Commons

Michigan students have been taking the same standardized test for decades. It’s known as the MEAP.

But this year the MEAP test will be completely re-done and students will take it in the spring instead of the fall. After next year, it’s not clear what test students will take.

The state was all set to switch over from the MEAP to a test called “Smarter Balanced.” But state lawmakers balked at the idea, because the test aligned to the controversial common core standards.

Lawmakers wanted the state to stick with the MEAP.

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9:32 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Detroit kids go to camp to do things they can't do in the city

Lead in text: 
I spent this past Monday with about 100 elementary school students at Camp Burt Shurly, a 250-acre campground near Chelsea. The week-long, overnight camp is run by the Detroit Public School district.
This week on State of Opportunity, we're going to summer camp! I spent this past Monday with about 100 elementary school students at Camp Burt Shurly, a 250-acre campground near Chelsea. The week-long, overnight camp is run by the Detroit Public School district. Each Sunday a new set of campers arrives by bus.
Law
6:47 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Detroit retirees said "yes" to the city's bankruptcy restructuring plan. What's next?

Detroit retirees voted overwhelmingly to approve emergency manager Kevyn Orr's plan of adjustment.

That plan includes the unprecedented "grand bargain"--a mixture of public and private funds that will minimize cuts to city pensions, while protecting the Detroit Institute of Arts' assets from other city creditors.

But retirees aren't the only group of creditors who voted on the plan. Other groups did as well--and not all voted "yes."

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Politics & Government
5:41 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Snyder: Pensioner approval of grand bargain sets Detroit up for faster recovery

One of the aims of the "grand bargain" is to protect artwork at the DIA from liquidation.
Credit Maia C/Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder is praising Detroit pensioners for approving the city’s bankruptcy restructuring plan.

The so-called “grand bargain” is designed to prevent deep cuts to retirement benefits and protect city-owned artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Snyder says the vote this week makes it more likely the city will emerge from bankruptcy soon.

“I really appreciate retirees taking that positive vote because it was hard,” he told reporters Tuesday at an appearance in Detroit.

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Environment & Science
4:26 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Scientists find algae bloom near Maumee River

When tiny microscopic plants (top photo) bloom out of control, it's called an 'algal bloom' (bottom photo).
Credit NOAA.gov

Scientists are working to identify an algae bloom near the Maumee River. It's a yearly event that occurs during the warm summer months.

Researchers at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory confirmed that the cyanobacteria bloom has been intensifying over the last week.

Also known as blue-green algae, it can be harmful to the aquatic environment and to people. People shouldn't swim in a bloom- it can cause skin rashes or even severe stomach problems.

Tim Davis is a research biologist with the lab. 

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