Weekly Political Roundup
5:37 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Could the same-sex marriage debate impact the 2014 election?

Weekly Political Roundup interview 3/27/2014

This week, host Jennifer White discusses the latest developments in same-sex marriages in Michigan and their impact on the 2014 elections. She is joined by Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Michigan Inside Politics.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. On Saturday, more than 300 couples rushed to speak their vows before the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on Judge Friedman’s ruling until further deliberation. Yesterday, Gov. Rick Snyder stated that while the marriages performed over the weekend were legal, they cannot be officially recognized by the state due to the current law.

Ken Sikkema indicates that while it may be politically challenging for Gov. Snyder, his position will be to comply with the law.

“I think at the end of the day, his position is going to be, as it is today, ‘I’m going to comply with the law,' whatever the law is, finally resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court."

Meanwhile, Susan Demas mentions that although Attorney General Bill Schuette has been vocal about his opposition to same-sex marriage, he did not address the issue in his campaign reelection announcement last week.

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Law
5:17 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Proposal in state House calls for closing boys juvenile detention center

Thetoad Flickr

A state-run juvenile detention center is slated to be closed under a plan before the Michigan House Appropriations Committee.

Closing the Maxey Boys Training School in Livingston County would save about $8 million.

State Representative Peter MacGregor, R-Cannon Twp., chairs the budget subcommittee which recommended the closure.

"The state facility runs at about roughly a 40% capacity at Maxey, and I just believe that this is an inefficient use of public tax dollars," he said.

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Environment & Science
4:39 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Oil spills into Lake Michigan from BP refinery in Indiana

Cleanup crews work to deploy a containment boom along the Lake Michigan shoreline near the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind., March 25, 2014, to recover crude oil discharged from the refinery.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Parker Wood U.S. Coast Guard

This post was updated as we waited for an estimate on how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan from the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Now that an estimate has been released, we'll continue to follow this story in other posts.

Update: Thursday, March 27, 4:39 p.m.

BP has revised its estimate of how much oil spilled Monday. It now says 15-39 barrels leaked from the Whiting Refinery. That's about 630-1,638 gallons.

Petty Officer Jeremy Thomas is with the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety unit in Chicago.

He says a small crew has been removing the oil manually. He says the cleanup efforts are going well.

“That involves either a gloved hand or a shovel or rake or some sort of hand powered tool to remove the oil from the shoreline,” Thomas said.

Thomas says federal agencies are waiting for weather conditions to improve before assessing if there’s any heavy tar sands oil on the lake bottom.

“There’s nothing that leads us to believe that there’s any down there but we want to rule it out because of course we want to make sure the environment’s safe and healthy and clean,” Thomas said.

It’s not clear what exactly caused the spill or how long cleanup will take.

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 7:21 p.m.

BP released a statement about an hour ago saying they are still estimating the amount of oil that was spilled and assessing whether more work will need to be done. From their statement:

Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill. They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.

Monitoring continues in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

Update: Tuesday, March 26, 4:37 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Chicago Tribune environmental reporter Michael Hawthorne this afternoon about the spill. You can listen to the full interview here.

Hawthorne told us about the history of the Whiting refinery. It's one of the oldest refineries in the country.

"We don't know yet just how much oil was released from the refinery into Lake Michigan a couple of days ago. Some people were suggesting, at least off the record from the company, were suggesting that it was about 10 barrels - 12 barrels, not a lot in relative terms," said Hawthorne.

"And given the amount of pollution that's already going into the lake from that part of northwest Indiana, how much affect it had on the lake, at least in the eyes of environmental regulators is fairly minimal."

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Stateside
4:38 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Daniel Howes on "old" GM, "new" GM, and Mary Barra

Next week will bring a big test for new GM CEO Mary Barra.

She will present herself to Congress for a two-day grilling over the ever-growing ignition switch crisis, a problem that GM says is linked to 12 deaths.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes thinks Barra has a whole lot of heavy lifting to do to get this "new" GM out of the shadow of the missteps of the "old" GM. He joined us today for our weekly check-in.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
4:37 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

It's been spring for a week, but the weather says otherwise

It's officially spring but we're still getting snow.
LisaW123 Flickr

So here we are, a week in to spring.  And what did we get this week as a present from Mother Nature?

That's right: snow. And cold.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Maczko, who is based in Grand Rapids, joined us today to discuss when the weather will finally warm up.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
4:31 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

University of Michigan student-led group encourages young girls to pursue math and science

FEMMES volunteers.
umich.edu/~femmesum/

We recently had a discussion on Stateside that explored the question: Why are there not more women in the STEM and Computer Science programs?

After that program, we got an eye-catching email from University of Michigan student Carrie Johnson. She's in the Chemical Biology Ph.D. program, and she is a part of a student-led group called FEMMES, which stands for Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science.

When we heard how these students are reaching out to encourage and inspire other women, including holding free Saturday and after-school programs for girls in 4th through 6th grade, we knew we wanted to share their story with you.

Carrie Johnson and Abigail Garrity, a Ph.D. candidate in the Neuroscience Program at Michigan and co-president of FEMMES, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
4:31 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Michigan author Laura Kasischke discusses her latest novel

Michigan writer Laura Kasischke.
Wikipedia

You wake up on Christmas morning a bit hung over from too much spiked eggnog the night before. You woke up much later than you'd meant to and you try to shake off a lingering nightmare. You've got a houseful of guests to cook for, a moody teenage daughter sulking in her bedroom and there is a snowstorm to end all snowstorms howling outside.

Welcome to the world of Holly Judge. She's a wife, a mother, and a frustrated poet. And she's one of the central characters in the latest novel from Michigan author Laura Kasischke.  It's a psychological thriller called Mind of Winter.

Laura Kasischke joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
4:19 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

How will climate change affect Michigan tourism?

A "Pure Michigan" advertisement.
Pure Michigan YouTube

When you think "Michigan," you have to think tourism. It's big business for the Mitten.

The now-famous "Pure Michigan" commercials are airing on network TV for the first time.

Pure Michigan advertising attracted more than four million out-of-state visitors last year. But how will our warming climate impact what those visitors might be able to do and enjoy when they come to Michigan?

Sarah Nicholls is an associate professor of tourism at Michigan State University, and Jim MacInnes is President and CEO of Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. They joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
4:18 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

The deadline to buy insurance draws closer

It's time to purchase insurance or face a fine.
user striatic Flickr

We are closing in on the deadline to purchase health insurance or face a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. Erin Knott is the Michigan Director of Enroll America, a non-profit, non-partisan group trying to get people enrolled in health insurance.

Erin joined us today to discuss the upcoming deadline. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Environment & Science
4:16 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Study planned on adapting to changing water levels

NOAA

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan is planning a wide-ranging study of how people in the Great Lakes region can adapt to changing water levels.

Don Scavia of the university's Graham Sustainability Institute announced the study Thursday in Ann Arbor at the conclusion of a seminar on the topic for scientists, policymakers and advocates.

It will be modeled after a broad analysis that university experts conducted last year on the natural gas extraction process known as "fracking."

Great Lakes levels fluctuate with the seasons and over longer periods. They've risen substantially in the past year after a sustained low period, but it's uncertain how long the comeback will continue.

Scavia says that shoreline property owners, communities and businesses need to accept that lake levels will not remain stable and make necessary adjustments.

Arts & Culture
1:25 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Timeline: The complicated relationship between the DIA and the city of Detroit

The Detroit Institute of Arts in 1927, and the museum now.
DIA/Flickr

Even before Detroit officially filed for bankruptcy last July, many Michiganders and outsiders feared for the future of the Detroit Institute of Arts – the city’s so-called "crown jewel."

With the city in financial turmoil, the newly appointed emergency manager of Detroit started a catalog of city assets. Many feared the DIA's status as a city asset would mean part of the museum’s collection could be sold off to satisfy creditors.

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Economy
12:11 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Here's a short list of the 8 Detroit creditors who will win and lose the most

Courtesy of Bridge Magazine

Long before Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr rolled out his proposal in February for paying back the city’s creditors, bankruptcy experts knew the pain would not be spread evenly.

Because so much of the city’s debt – nearly $6 billion owed to pay back loans for the city’s sprawling water and sewer department – cannot be reduced in bankruptcy court, the creditors feeling the brunt of the cuts are retirees and city employees.

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Politics & Government
11:53 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Democrats ask for recognition of recent gay marriages in Michigan

The Rev. Bill Freeman signs marriage licenses and performs cermonies at Harbor Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Muskegon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan's congressional Democrats are asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for federal recognition of the more than 300 same-sex marriages performed in the state this past weekend. The letter is signed by Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, and Reps. John Dingell, Sander Levin, Gary Peters and Dan Kildee.

A judge ruled last Friday that Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, but the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals put a hold on further same-sex weddings while it deliberates the Michigan marriage case.

Yesterday, Gov. Snyder said the marriages performed over the weekend in Michigan are legal, but they cannot be officially recognized by the state because of current law. Here's what he said:

In January, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the government would honor same-sex marriages in Utah in a case very similar to Michigan's. The Justice Department so far has said it's monitoring the situation in Michigan.

Opinion
10:47 am
Thu March 27, 2014

All the cuts to news gathering should scare us

Newspapers, even big-city newspapers, are in a sorry state these days.

Thanks largely to the Internet, their circulation and advertising revenue has been in free fall, with the result that they have far less staff than they once did.

There are also fewer papers than there used to be.

Washtenaw County, outside of Ann Arbor, is home to a collection of fascinating and picturesque little towns like Manchester, Saline, Dexter, and Chelsea. Each had its own thriving weekly newspaper: The Saline Reporter, Dexter Leader, and Chelsea Standard.

Years ago I did some consulting for the local company that owned those papers and learned that no matter how physically close these places might be, the good people of Chelsea did not want Dexter news in their paper, and vice-versa.

Times are different now.

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Education
10:39 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Education Achievement Authority still faces uphill fight

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Gov. Snyder read to schoolkids during a tour of Detroit schools last year. Duncan called the EAA "the future of education."
Credit Jake Neher / MPRN

The state Legislature could soon give Gov. Snyder something he’s wanted for a long time: a bill that would clear the way for the controversial Education Achievement Authority to expand.

The Senate is now considering a bill passed by the House that would, among other things, allow the EAA to expand beyond Detroit. The state-run district for the lowest-performing schools is the governor’s signature education initiative.

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The Environment Report
9:05 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Wilderness Proposals Increasingly Divisive On Capitol Hill

Good Harbor Bay is one of five zones of the national lakeshore that are now officially federally protected wilderness areas.
Linda Stephan

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 5:40 pm

Fifty years ago, Congress set out to guarantee future generations would always have access to America’s great outdoors in its most natural state. But several recent requests for wilderness protections have been languishing on Capitol Hill.  

In the past five years, just one new wilderness bill made it to law. This new law guarantees 35 miles of northern Lake Michigan shoreline will be forever left wild.

Good Harbor Bay

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Law
7:26 am
Thu March 27, 2014

State Senate says minors shouldn't be charged as prostitutes

New bill would not charge child sex workers with prostitution.
Credit FBI / Wikimedia

The Michigan Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would make it illegal to charge minors with prostitution. 

"Right now, when children who are victims of sex trafficking in Michigan are found, they’re frequently criminalized," says Bridgette Carr of the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic. "We don’t have a path for them to be treated as victims of sexual abuse, rather than criminals."

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Auto
6:55 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

New videos feature GM CEO Mary Barra on the delayed recall

GM CEO Mary Barra, right, at customer engagement center.
General Motors

GM released four additional videos featuring CEO Mary Barra to try to answer the most common questions customers have about an ignition switch recall that was delayed for nearly 10 years.

The most pressing question is probably: "Is it safe to drive my car?"

GM has recalled more than 1.5 million late-model Cobalts, HHRs, Pontiac Solstices, Saturn Skys and Saturn Ions.

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Law
6:31 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Mich. Supreme Court suspends Wayne Co. Judge McCree

The Michigan Supreme Court says a Wayne County judge should be removed from office. It says Wade McCree faces a six-year suspension if voters reelect him in November, and ordered him to pay $11,645.17 in costs.

You might remember Wade McCree's name from a now-infamous quote he gave to a TV reporter about texting a shirtless picture of himself to a sheriff’s office worker.

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Politics & Government
5:04 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Gay couples in Michigan go from elation to a state of limbo

Rick Pluta

That's the status of same-sex couples in Michigan who had hoped to marry after last Friday's ruling from federal judge Bernard Friedman, a ruling that struck down Michigan's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

More than 300 couples rushed to speak their vows on Saturday before the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of Judge Friedman's ruling until appeals proceedings conclude.

And now we have heard from Gov. Rick Snyder about those couples. He said the state will not recognize those marriages.

MLive writer Jonathon Oosting joined us today.

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