Environment & Science
3:47 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Michigan business group opposes new mandate for renewable energy

user vaxomatic flickr

Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce officials said today they opposed a ballot initiative aimed at creating a new renewable electric energy standard for the state, according to MLive. The state is currently working toward a standard that calls for generating 10 percent of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

The ballot initiative seeks to bump up that mandate to 25 percent by 2025. From MLive:

Chamber officials said any changes to Michigan’s renewable energy standard should wait until the current standard has been fully evaluated in three years.

“Michigan is already on an intelligent and affordable clean energy path because of the 2008 energy law, which passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, said Chamber president and CEO Sandy K. Baruah in a statement.

The Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs campaign is still seeking to collect enough signatures to get the proposal on the November ballot.

Last week, during a segment for the Environment Report, James Clift, Policy Director for the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), said Michigan currently gets around 3.5 percent of its energy from renewable resources.

The MEC supports the ballot initiative. Clift said a new standard would continue the progress made after the 2015 standard is met (adding about 1.5 to 2 percent of renewable energy each year).

"The Michigan Environmental Council commissioned a report last year looking at the nine oldest coal plants in Michigan, said Clift. "That report found that Michigan residents have health care costs and damages of about $1.5 billion a year – just from those nine oldest coal plants. So, transitioning away from coal to clean more renewable energy, we hope will put a significant dent in those health costs that we are currently occurring. "

Utility companies oppose increasing the renewable electric energy standard saying such a standard should not be set by amending the state constitution, which the ballot proposal calls for.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark spoke with Brad Williams of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce about the issue:

"We’re looking at this as a protection of the constitution," said Williams. "There are legislators who can serve their full fourteen years in Lansing without having a good grasp of energy policy. And, so, to ask voters to make this decision and embed it into the constitution really isn’t fair to voters."

Politics
2:36 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

McCotter to run as write in candidate

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter.
U.S. Congress

U.S. Rep Thaddeus McCotter (R- Livonia) will run in the August primary as a write-in candidate after the state found he did not have enough signature to be on the ballot. McCotter is seeking a sixth term in Congress. His campaign delivered 2,000 signatures, but more than half of them were found to be invalid. The Michigan Attorney General's office is investigating for potential election fraud.

Update 2:36 p.m.

The Detroit News reports all but 244 of the 2,000 signatures turned in by the McCotter campaign were invalid:

A review by The Detroit News of the petition signatures found full copies of a sheet of signatures that were photocopied once and in some cases two times and mixed in with the 136-page stack of signatures. In some cases, a different petition circulator's name was signed to the duplicate copy.

The overt copying is "frankly unheard of," said Chris Thomas, Michigan's director of elections, as he thumbed through the stack of petitions. "It's amazing when you sit and look, and it starts to dwell on you what they've done."

The Michigan Information & Research Service tweeted that prospective write-in candidate, David Trott, will not run against McCotter:

David Trott says he backs Thad #McCotter, won't run b/c the "timing is not right for me or my family."

Earlier today, the Detroit News wrote about the lone Republican left on the August primary ballot for Michigan's 11th Congressional District.

60-year-old Kerry Bentivolio a veteran and a "public school teacher who raises reindeer." He said he's running because he's angry about the federal government's excessive debt.

Since he became the only clear GOP candidate on the ballot, his head has been "spinning a little bit" with all the newfound attention. "I'm just an average guy that wanted to stand up and say this is not fair and this isn't right," said Bentivolio, who calls himself a strict conservative inspired by the tea party and liberty movements. With McCotter off the ballot, "the average guy gets a voice and gets a lucky break," he said. "I'm going to take advantage."

12:32 p.m.

According to the Detroit News, U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter says he thinks faulty petition signatures that will make him ineligible to qualify for an upcoming primary ballot were the result of deception by a trusted member of his staff.

From the News:

"At some point, for something like this to happen, I do feel like someone … lied to me," [McCotter] said on [WJR-AM's "The Frank Beckmann Show"]

McCotter told Beckmann it's possible someone was plotting against him, but more likely it was someone making an error while trying to help the campaign. He filed the petitions under the belief all signatures were valid.

10:30 a.m.

MPRN's Rick Pluta reports the Michigan Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s office are investigating possible election fraud related to the McCotter petitions. The Secretary of State’s office says many of the petitions submitted by the McCotter campaign appear to be photocopies.

7:52 a.m.

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter says in a column in today's Detroit News that he will run as a write-in candidate in the August primary.

McCotter says his campaign's review of the signatures gathered to put him on the primary ballot for re-election confirms the state's finding that he did not have enough.

McCotter's campaign delivered 2,000 signatures so he could run again in the 11th district, but more than half of them were found to be invalid.

He says he will ask the Board of State Canvassers to refer the invalid signatures to the Attorney General's office for investigation.

In a press release this morning, McCotter said:

“I feel like George Bailey after Uncle Billy admitted he lost the money.  Like George Bailey, knowing my misplaced trust has negatively impacted so many people is heartrending.  Unlike George Bailey, I am not tempted to jump off a bridge.

Read more
Business
1:42 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Protecting your social media privacy (from your boss)

State lawmakers are discussing whether to limit employers' ability to demand passwords to social media sites.

A bill would bar companies from asking employees or job applicants to hand over passwords to their Twitter, Facebook or other accounts.

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Transportation
1:15 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Canadian rail workers might be forced back to work

user Eja2k wikimedia commons

The Canadian Parliament is close to passing a bill to force striking railway workers in Canada back to work.  The Canadian Pacific rail strike threatens to disrupt the flow of many key auto parts into the U.S. The legislation would require workers to return to the job later this week.  The Canadian Teamsters union plans to protest this afternoon at the nation's capital in Ottawa.

Arts & Culture
11:12 am
Tue May 29, 2012

On Memorial Day, veterans help shape our understanding of their experiences

Arlington National Cemetery
user Ed Yourdon Flikr

This Memorial Day, Michigan Radio spoke with veterans who have served overseas about how today’s veterans might be remembered.

Brandon Van Wagoner of Flint served in the Navy from 2004 to 2008, including two deployments to Iraq.

He thinks it's still too soon to know how his generation of service members will be remembered on Memorial Day.

“I really think the way we're actually going to see the Middle Eastern combatants isn't going to be completely formed or shaped until later on,” he says.

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Environment & Science
10:49 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Michigan Senate scraps DEQ permit for beach grooming

Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Let’s say you own a beach house. You might want to pull out some plants or mow them or smooth out the sand to make it look nice.

At the moment, if you want to do any of these things, you need a permit from both the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Maggie Cox is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She says her department has to make sure everyone can walk on the beaches, and she says sensitive wetlands need to be protected.

"Your property line is down to the water’s edge – but the state also holds in trust for the public the land up to ordinary high water mark."

Last week, the Michigan Senate passed legislation that would eliminate the state permit for beach maintenance.

Several environmental groups are opposed to that.  (You can check out this Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council brochure on beach grooming.)

The DEQ’s Maggie Cox says her agency will still have oversight of beach maintenance in wetland areas.

"In areas that are mostly sand or mostly rock, you no longer have to get a permit from the department. But in areas that are wet or coastal wetlands, made up mostly of bulrush or other vegetation, you’re going to have to still come to the department and the Army Corps for a permit."

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Environment & Science
10:29 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Fungus attacks spruce trees in Michigan

A seedling with dead terminal buds due to a Phomopsis canker on the main stem below the dying buds.
MSU Extension

The landscape of Michigan's Lower Peninsula has been changing over the decades. Some of the changes are intentional... some accidental...and some are simply a mystery.

In the 1960's and 70's, Dutch elm disease left tree-lined streets naked.

These last few years saw the Emerald Ash borer leave its trail of destruction across the state. And now Michigan's spruce and pine trees are in decline.

Bert Cregg is an associate professor of horticulture and forestry at Michigan State University.

He says one culprit is called Phomopsis. It's a fungus that has been around for a long time. It used to affect just seedlings and smaller trees. But now it's killing larger trees, too. And scientists don't know why.

"Is this an environmental set of conditions? Is there something going on with the pathogen itself? So there's really lots more questions than answers at this point, other than we're seeing a lot of trees starting to decline."

Cregg says the Phomopsis fungus is primarily affecting blue, white and Norway spruce used for landscaping. Those trees are not native to Michigan.

He says it progressively kills branches... and eventually the whole tree.

Cregg says a couple of things can be done. He says if you spot dead branches, you should prune them ... and get rid of lower limbs to help with air circulation.

He also says if you're planting spruce trees... don't group them closely together, because that makes them more vulnerable to fungus.

And if you're not sure what's going on with your tree: call an expert.

"So if you can get a sample into our diagnostics lab, or another tree care provider that knows what they're looking at. If it can be identified as Phomopsis, then there is a possibility of treating with a fungicide."

You might also be noticing branch dieback on pine trees along roadways and in state forests. Cregg says any number of things could be causing that... including a type of blight or insects... or maybe just normal variations in weather affecting tree growth. They just don't know yet.

Politics
10:20 am
Tue May 29, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Mackinac Policy Conference kicks off today

The annual Mackinac Policy Conference gets underway today on Mackinac Island. The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and has been taking place since 1981. It's a place where policy makers, politicians, and business and thought leaders get together to discuss ideas and policies that could shape Michigan's future.

Conference organizers hope to "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market" at this year's conference.

If you feel compelled to tweet about the event this week, the hashtag for the conference is #mpc12.

Michigan Governor Snyder will deliver welcoming comments today at 3:30 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta will bring us updates from the conference. You can also watch online coverage of the event sponsored by Detroit Public Television.

Update on wildfires in the Upper Peninsula

The AP reports that the 3,400-acre Pine Creek North wildfire in Schoolcraft County is mostly contained:

Officials say some crews are leaving the area as mop-up operations continue. Firefighters on Tuesday planned to patrol the perimeter of the fire looking for hot spots.

The wildfire was ignited by lightning and first reported on May 21.

However, the Duck Lake Fire continues to burn. More from CNN wire services:

The Duck Lake Fire has burned more than 22,000 acres and is still going despite recent rains, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported on its website.The state agency estimated Monday the blaze is about 51% contained, thanks to progress made by firefighters in maintaining a firm perimeter.

Moving up income tax cut called a "gimmick"

The Michigan House of Representatives will begin taking up plans today to move a planned income tax cut up by a few months.

The tax rate will drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent next January. The Associated Press reports Michigan House Republicans want to start the tax cut in October 2012.

House Republican Speaker Jase Bolger wants to return $90 million from a budget surplus to taxpayers. The tax rate would drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent.

The Michigan League for Human Services says the move is an election-year gimmick. It says the money would be better spent offering preschool or dental care to low-income children.

Democrats say tax changes passed last year by GOP lawmakers will require that individuals pay $1.4 billion more in taxes next year. They say the $90 million cut is insufficient.

Commentary
10:09 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Commentary: Mackinac Conference

If you were going to stage a revolution and wanted to arrest the entire political and business leadership of our state, you might want to start by seizing Mackinac Island this week.

That’s because the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual Mackinac Policy Conference. It will feature speeches by national headliners, such as public intellectuals Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria.

Read more
Politics
6:30 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Debate on moving up a state income tax cut begins today

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan House plans to begin consideration of measures moving up an income tax cut from January to October and increasing how much income someone can earn before taxes kick in.

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Politics
6:26 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Annual Mackinac Island conference starts today

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is scheduled to make opening remarks as the Detroit Regional Chamber begins its annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The conference regularly draws more than 1,000 business and government leaders for three days of discussions about the Michigan economy, education and other issues. It starts Tuesday.

This year's program will focus on how Michigan can improve its global competitiveness through innovation and collaboration.

Politics
3:45 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

On Memorial Day in Detroit, a "funeral for democracy"

A coffin representing democracy at the Galilee Baptist Church in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Some voting rights advocates say Michigan’s emergency manager law represents “the death of democracy” in the state.

So they symbolically laid democracy to rest at mock a funeral service in Detroit Monday.

The “funeral” included music and eulogies of sorts--all delivered from behind an American flag-draped coffin. A real hearse waited outside to take the coffin away.

Some might see this kind of display as a bit much. But organizers insist it’s totally appropriate, given what they see as a relentless assault on voting rights in Michigan.

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Economy
2:20 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

Michigan's economy showing signs of improvement, but there are "headwinds" coming

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A Comerica Bank economist says Michigan's economy is making a comeback.   But clouds could be on the horizon.

Read more
Politics
12:57 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

Benton Township alleges Benton Harbor emergency manager defaulted on debt

Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris at a town hall meeting last summer.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

When Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris took over the City of Benton Harbor two years ago, the city owed money to a bunch of different agencies; the library, the public schools, and the IRS, for example. Harris has made huge progress in paying off that old debt.

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Memorial Day
12:00 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

A great day for a parade

Young parade goers watch as Dearborn's Memorial day parade passes by.
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Many communities across Michigan celebrated Memorial Day with a parade.

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Health
11:32 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Young children should be supervised around water

Jesus Solana Flickr

Drowning is the leading cause of injury related death among children less than 4 years of age.  That's according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control.

Angela Minicuci is with the Michigan Department of Community Health.  She says young children should be supervised around all sources of water both inside and outside of the house:

Read more
Memorial Day
9:49 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War

Tony Gramer and other Vietnam War vets take turns walking around the war memorial at Dearborn city hall
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The federal government this year will observe the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War.

Many Vietnam veterans feel they have been overlooked or disrespected.

A group of Vietnam veterans took part in Memorial Day observances today in Dearborn.   Tony Gramer served in Vietnam in 1968.    He’s glad to see the recognition.

“Better late than never,” says Gramer,  “I think it’s the right thing to do.  I feel that all the veterans deserve it.”

The federal government is asking businesses and other groups to organize events commemorating the Vietnam War for the next 13 years, culminating with the 50th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. 

Commentary
9:00 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Commentary: Live well and validate the sacrifice our veterans made

My guess is that a lot of  people these days are a little shaky about what Memorial Day is all about,  except perhaps in families that have military service in their background.   I think most of us know that it has something to do with honoring the nation’s  war dead. Though I imagine that the numbers of people visiting  cemeteries is probably a pretty small minority. More people decorated veterans’  graves when I was a child.

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Investigative
7:30 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Money Talks: Political spending hiding in the file cabinet

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Broadcasters are fighting a new rule to disclose more about who’s buying political ads. The Federal Communications Commission wants TV stations to post information about the political ads they air on a government website.

That will make it a lot easier to find out what groups are spending money to influence voters.

Recently, I met Rich Robinson in the parking lot of his office in Lansing. He was taking me on a little trip.

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Arts & Culture
5:00 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Ann Arbor goes mainstream, debuts "Cinetopia International Film Festival"

The Michigan Theater
user andypiper Flickr

Ann Arbor will be hosting its first-ever Cinetopia International Film Festival this week.

Russ Collins, executive director of the Michigan Theater, says festival organizers expect about 5,000 attendees this weekend.

Over the four-day festival, 35 mainstream films will be screened primarily in the Michigan and State Theaters.

Collins notes that this festival is different from the longstanding Ann Arbor Film Festival because that event's focus is on experimental films.

"The Cinetopia International Film Festival is a festival that celebrates the feature length, story-based films that you're going to see at festivals like Toronto and Sundance," Collins says.

The festival opens Thursday night with a party and screening of Tod Louiso's "Hello I Must Be Going" and continues with Sundance-acclaimed films like "I Am Not a Hipster."

"It seems like our ambient interest in cinema and the ability of our town to host festivals and special events would make Ann Arbor an exceptionally good place to do a film festival of a large scale," says Collins,

There are high hopes for this pilot event. Festival organizers plan to expand the event into an 11-day festival for Ann Arbor and Detroit.

- Julia Alix Smith-Eppsteiner, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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