Politics & Government
12:06 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

The week in Michigan politics

Credit Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Week in Michigan Politics interview for 7/9/14

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss Michigan's ruling on how juvenile lifers will not get a chance at parole, pay raises for city leaders in bankrupt Detroit, and what role Michigan could play in housing undocumented minors crossing the Mexico border.

Politics & Government
11:43 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Activist groups complain that Michigan Legislature circumvents petition drives, elections

The group "Keep Michigan Wolves Protected" gathers signatures.
Credit Keep Michigan Wolves Protected / Facebook

A coalition of activist groups is trying to make an issue of the Legislature passing laws to bypass petition drives and ballot measures.

The groups say Republicans at the state Capitol have circumvented voters on questions including the emergency manager law, the minimum wage, and wolf hunting. In each of those cases, the Legislature passed laws that ran contrary to the results of an election or a petition drive.

Danielle Atkinson is with the campaign to increase the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. She says the Legislature acted legally, but violated the spirit of the Michigan Constitution’s power to use the ballot to initiate or challenge laws.

“This is not what the drafters of the state constitution intended when they gave people the right to petition their government.”

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Opinion
10:32 am
Wed July 9, 2014

MI Supreme Court's ruling on juvenile lifers is stupid, expensive and will be overturned

There is a long-established principle that whenever state law conflicts with a federal law, the federal law prevails. That’s been established by a long string of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, plus a little event called the Civil War.  

This is why, for example, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes could rule that the pensions of Detroit city workers and retirees could be cut, even though Michigan’s state constitution says they can’t be. Federal bankruptcy law prevails.

If this weren’t the case, it would mean that anything Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court did could be overruled by any state legislature, and our nation would become no more than a collection of 50 countries united in name only.

That’s something we all learned in civics class -- which makes the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision yesterday on life sentences for minors completely baffling.

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to automatically sentence juveniles to life without the possibility of parole. However, some politicians who want to be seen as tough on crime, claimed this decision was not retroactive.

And yesterday, in a four to three vote, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with them. The justices ruled that minors who were sentenced in Michigan to life without the possibility of parole still have no chance of a hearing – if they were sentenced before the nation’s highest court’s ruling.

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Education
10:22 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Michigan's superintendent predicts institutions will lose authority to create charter schools

A classroom.
Credit user LizMarie_AK / Wikimedia Commons

The statement comes a day after state Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan said he’s ready to use his authority to revoke that ability from charter school authorizers. That’s if they fail to meet new standards for transparency set by state education officials.

Flanagan says he met with authorizers in February about issues involving charters. He says he’s not convinced all of them will be able to meet the new, tougher standards.

“If I had to guess, just because of the candor at the February meeting, there’s probably some that we won’t extend their ability,” Flanagan said Tuesday. “But I don’t want to pre-judge that too much. That’s only hearing the anecdotal stuff.”

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Detroit officials get pay raises

Credit State of Michigan / Michigan.gov

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has given the city’s leaders a pay raise.

Orr signed an order hiking city appointees and elected officials’ pay by 5% on June 30th. It went into effect July 1.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan seemed genuinely surprised to hear that news on Tuesday.

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Politics & Government
11:32 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Duggan: We'll start seizing drug houses

Mike Duggan
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is expanding his program to seize houses that violate the city’s nuisance abatement laws—and this time, he’s going after drug houses.

On Tuesday, Duggan announced an initiative to seize and auction off homes that have been raided twice for drug activity.

Duggan says more than 300 homeowners have already been put on notice—and that starting next week, their neighbors will start getting notices in the form of postcards, too.

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Environment & Science
6:03 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Environmental groups say another Enbridge pipeline could be disaster in waiting

Environment groups fear the possibility of another big oil spill, this time in Lakes Michigan and Huron.
Credit U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A "who's who" of environmental groups say a 67-year-old pipeline in the straits of Mackinac  could be a serious threat to the Great Lakes.

The pipeline is owned by Enbridge.  

Howard Learner is head of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

"It's an old aging pipeline," says Learner.  "We can't afford to have happen in the Great Lakes what happened with the Enbridge pipeline and the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.  You know, it's already been a couple of years and we are still cleaning it up.  "

In 2010, more than a million gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River after an Enbridge pipeline rupture.

Lerner's group, along with 16 other major environmental groups in Michigan, have sent a letter requesting an urgent meeting with Governor Snyder about the pipeline.

Learner says Enbridge may not be maintaining the pipeline properly, including not installing enough supports for the pipeline. 

And he says the company may be sending oil through it under too much pressure, but there's no way to know until the state forces the company to disclose the information.

There's also a question whether state  regulations written more than 60 years ago meet current standards.

*Correction - A previous version of this story said "more than a million barrels of oil spilled." It was more than a million gallons. Story corrected above.

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Politics & Government
5:02 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Some Michiganders protest against unaccompanied minors coming here

Dozens of Vassar residents and people from out of town gathered in front of city hall Monday evening.
Credit Michelle Huan / Michigan Radio

Things got pretty heated in Vassar this week. But there's also a ton of misinformation out there.

Some of the chaos at the U.S. and Mexican border has made its way to Michigan.

About 75 protesters turned out last night in in the tiny, mid-Michigan town of Vassar, population roughly 2,600. 

That's where a juvenile center is in talks to potentially house some of the unaccompanied minors flooding into this country from Central America.

Michigan Radio's Kate Wells sent us this field report. 

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Breaking
4:46 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Michigan Supreme Court rules juvenile lifers not entitled to re-sentencing hearings

Credit user FatMandy / flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court says felons sentenced as juveniles to life without parole won’t get new sentences.

That’s despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says it’s cruel and unusual punishment.

The question was whether the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller vs. Alabama applies retroactively in Michigan to more than 300 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life without parole, or if it only applies to future cases.

A four-to-three majority on the state Supreme Court says it would present too many financial and logistical barriers to go back and find lost witnesses and evidence for new sentencing hearings.

The Miller decision says mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional because they don’t take into account each child’s circumstances.

States have split on how to handle the Miller decision, which suggests the issue could yet be headed back one day to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stateside
4:32 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

College tuition is expected to rise in Michigan

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Everyone who writes a tuition payment check has one question: Is tuition going up?

Jake Neher, Lansing reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network said that tuition is going up all over the state.

There is a limit to the increase at 3.2%, otherwise institutions will lose state aid.

“Most major universities, other than U of M and MSU, are going right up to that cap in this year’s tuition increases,” Neher said.

Neher said budget leaders and the Legislature may not be too happy about the increase, given that the governor just signed the largest increase in state aid for higher education in years.

The new budget increases higher education spending by about 5.9%.

Neher added that Michigan State University is using a two-tier tuition increase. Tuition for juniors and seniors will go up more than freshmen and sophomores. Neher said that MSU did this because it costs more money to educate seniors.

Funding for the Michigan Tuition Grant Program will also increase 5.9%. This affects students who are in financial need who want to go to private colleges. 

*Listen to full interview above. 

Stateside
4:21 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

A new board game that explores Mackinac Island

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The board game is actually five games in one.

There is a new board game called “Mackinac Island Treasure Hunt.” It was created to get people thinking more about Michigan's natural beauty and historical treasures.

Jim Muratski, co- creator with Barbara Overdier, said they came up with the idea when they were in the woods thinking to themselves, “what’s a good way to have other people see what’s happening out here?”

“I think people are used to just visiting the downtown part of Mackinac Island and not really getting out into the state park area, which we find pretty fascinating,” Muratski said.

The board game is actually five games in one. There is a card game, a nature hike board game, a cooperative scavenger hunt game, a memory game, and a treasure hunt game.

More information on the board game is available here

*Listen to full interview above. 

Stateside
4:19 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

The Cell Block 7 Prison Museum catalogs the prison's history

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It's been known for decades as the world's largest walled prison - the State Prison of Southern Michigan in Jackson.

Now some of the very colorful stories from that prison and from Jackson are told in the new Cell Block 7 Prison Museum. It's a joint venture of the Ella Sharp Museum and the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The museum is renting part of cell block seven, which still houses inmates.

MLive’s Leanne Smith said the museum covers the history of the prison, the inmates, wardens, and guards since 1838.

“It is an actual cell block,” Smith said. “You walk in and there is no doubt as to where you are.”

*Listen to full interview above. 

Stateside
2:30 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

"He Plays A Harp" A West Michigan Mom's story of her son with CP

Credit robertafking.com

Noah's mother, Roberta King, is from West Michigan.

His name was Noah. He was born with cerebral palsy. When he was 17, he lost his battle against infections that had ravaged his lungs.

Noah's mother, Roberta King, is from West Michigan. She has shared the story of her son's life in her new memoir He Plays A Harp.

“It’s a joy to me to bring him to people that never knew him. And I think through that I feel a little less of the loss,” King said.

The story starts with the Noah’s conscious decision to die and then walks through his parent’s journey in dealing with the loss.

“A lot of parents experience the birth of their children. And, gratefully, not a lot experience their death,” King said. “I wanted people to know what that was like to walk your child from one place to another.”

*Listen to full show above. 

Economy
2:22 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Oil, coal approaching "Kodak moment" says analyst

Large-scale oil projects are becoming too costly, says oil industry analyst
Credit Adee Braun / Changing Gears

An analyst who tracks the fossil fuels industry says natural economic and political trends will make the fight against global warming easier than many people predict.  

Phllip Verleger runs PKVerleger, LLC, which provides economic consulting to firms, governments, and individuals on energy and commodity markets.

Verleger thinks global oil use will plummet much faster than most people believe, for three main reasons.

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Stateside
1:47 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Why were 30 million pounds of tart cherries left to rot on the ground?

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Radio

Get this, 75% of the nation's tart cherries are grown in Michigan, most of that in the northwest Lower Peninsula.

But every year the industry that brings us cherry pies and the Traverse City Cherry Festival faces restrictions set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ron French, the Senior Writer for Bridge Magazine, said because so many tart cherries are grown in such a small area, the weather can greatly affect the crop. So the USDA puts a limit on the percentage of Michigan's tart cherry crop that can be sold so prices don't swing too dramatically.

“The result of that is that in some years as much as one half or more in cherries produced in Michigan is left rotting on the ground,” French said.

Most growers favor restrictions, but one food processing company in Elk Rapids is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

French said Elk Rapids is hoping to remove the restrictions on cherries completely.

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Law
12:30 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Music duo Insane Clown Posse loses gang lawsuit

Fans of the band Insane Clown Posse, known as Juggalos and identified by their grease facepaint, have been accused by the FBI of gang activity.
Credit Jen Sadler / flickr

DETROIT - A judge has dismissed a lawsuit aimed at scrubbing an FBI report that describes fans of the rap-metal duo Insane Clown Posse as a loosely organized gang.

Detroit federal Judge Robert Cleland says the government isn't responsible for acts by local police agencies that use the 2011 report.

Fans of Insane Clown Posse are known as Juggalos. The FBI report labels the Juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang," although that description isn't part of the most recent national report on gangs.

Juggalos say their reputations have suffered because they have jewelry or tattoos with the group's symbol, a man running with a hatchet.

The lawsuit was dismissed last week. The Insane Clown Posse is Joseph Bruce, known as Violent J, and Joseph Utsler, known as Shaggy 2 Dope.

Auto
12:01 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Ann Arbor latest city to tangle with Uber, Lyft

Screen for getting a ride on Uber or Lyft
Credit Flickr

The app-based, taxi-like services UberX  and Lyft are in talks with the city of Ann Arbor - after the city sent the companies a "cease and desist" letter. 

This is just the latest of many legal tangles across the country for the companies, which are operating in a new grey area of transportation-for-hire. 

The companies say they are "rideshare services."  State and local transportation officials call them "transportation network companies," but insist that many of the regulations applying to traditional taxis also apply to these new services.

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Stateside
11:48 am
Tue July 8, 2014

What will get "millennials" into the voting booth?

Credit Theresa Thompson / Flickr

“With our generation and having Twitter and Facebook, we are blasted with a lot of the 24 hour news cycle

The curtain is closing on baby boomers, as the so-called "millennial generation" is taking up a larger share of the electorate. This voting block surpasses seniors who are eligible to vote.

But many millennials are not politically engaged.

“We feel that as one voice, as a younger person, we don’t have a lot of say in politics and I think that also drives their decision to remain out of the discussion as well,” said Connor Walby, a millennial and the campaign manager for State Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey.

Walby also said the negative messages in politics that are seen on social media affect millennials' decision to vote as well.

“With our generation and having Twitter and Facebook, we are blasted with a lot of the 24 hour news cycle. And with that you also get a lot of the negative news coverage,” Walby said.  “I think a lot of our generation is pretty sick and tired of some of the policies that have been put in place and they are just sick of the politicians and the political atmosphere in general.”

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Health
11:15 am
Tue July 8, 2014

Detroit, Flint get $9 million for doctor training

Credit User apoxapox / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit and Flint areas are getting nearly $9 million to help train new primary care providers.

Most of the money announced Monday goes to the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority for training in family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology. Flint's Hamilton Community Health Network is getting $900,000 for family medicine training.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the money is part of $83.4 million in Affordable Care Act funding to support primary care residency programs nationwide. Overall, it will help train more than 550 doctors during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Opinion
10:54 am
Tue July 8, 2014

Her feisty character and other reasons to remember Michigan's only First Lady

Patricia Hill Burnett, who was famous back in the 1970s as sort of the quintessential Republican feminist, will be 94 in a few months.

She is still defiantly pro-Equal Rights Amendment, pro-choice, and on economic issues, Republican to the core.

She was runner-up to Miss America 72 years ago, and went on to become both Michigan’s unofficial state portrait painter and the woman who started the state chapter of NOW, the National Organization for Women.

Comfortably wealthy, she always dresses and talks, as Detroit News columnist Laura Berman says today, “like a local, more highly educated version of Zsa Zsa Gabor.”

I went to see her earlier this year when she was recovering from a brief illness, and she told me that she felt sad that many young women did not want to be called feminists any more.

She was also sad that younger women didn’t know anything about Betty Ford.

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