Politics
5:36 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Romney in Michigan, delivers speech on the economy

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney at Lansing Community College today.
WKAR

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney gave a speech at Lansing Community College on the economy.

The New York Times blog "The Caucus" Ashley Parker writes that Romney cast the presidential election as a choice between the past and the future:

“President Obama chose to apply liberal ideas of the past to a 21st century America,” Mr. Romney said. “Liberal policies didn’t work back then, they haven’t worked during these last four years, and they will not work in the future. New Democrats had abandoned those policies, but President Obama resurrected them, with the predictable results.”

Standing in front of a backdrop a [sic] six flags — two Michigan state flags, and four American flags, one of which bore a steel border meant to invoke manufacturing strength — Mr. Romney seemed to prefer the “New Democrat” policies of President Bill Clinton, whom he touted as counterpoint to Mr. Obama.

Romney said “Americans are tired of living on the edge, tired about wondering about what kind of country they’re going to leave their children. They’re tired of being tired. This wasn’t what we expected from President Obama. He promised change and hope, and he said we could do anything we wanted together. But rhetoric met reality and reality won.”

Here's the text of Romney's speech.

And here's some reaction from those who came to see Romney speak at Lansing Community College today:

Romney supporter Harry Kost of Lansing says he liked the candidate’s remarks about business creation.

(He’s) Gonna make it easier for businesses to start and then not be taxed to death in that.  And I think he’s going to give us the chance to have more people go to work,” said Kost.

Kost also agrees with Romney about ending so-called ‘Obamacare’ and building a U.S./Canada oil pipeline.

Norma Jean Wiley voted for Newt Gingrich in the Michigan primary.  But the Hillsdale County resident says Governor Romney is growing on her.

“The more that I see of him, I can see that he has a more human, conservative side that I appreciate,” said Wiley.

She feels he has “a good plan for the future.”

Lynn Taylor of Ann Arbor says she plans to follow the details of Romney policies as they take shape.  For now, she is solidly behind the republican.

“He promised he’d end Obamacare and that’s important to me.  And he will fix it.  He said he would do a partnership with the government and the private industry, so I thought that was good,” said Taylor.

Taylor says she thinks Romney is committed to innovation and moving forward.

In a speech in Ohio yesterday, Romney brought up his position on the auto bailouts, going so far as to take credit for the U.S. auto industry's comeback.

It was a topic that The Caucus' Parker says he did not mention once in his speech today.

He did, however, make sure to say that he would “help usher in a revival in American manufacturing.”

“I’m convinced, if we take an entirely new direction in energy and in trade policy and in labor policy, we’re going to see more manufacturing jobs come back to America than those that have left America,” Mr. Romney said. “I am absolutely convinced of this. This is real. With the right policies and the right leadership we can see a resurgence in American manufacturing.”

Environment & Science
4:43 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Huron Mountain Club files federal lawsuit against Upper Peninsula mine

A private club in the Upper Peninsula has filed suit to stop the construction of a new mine in Marquette County.  It’s the first federal lawsuit to attempt to stop the project. 

The nickel and copper mine, owned by Kennecott Eagle Minerals, has received permits from the state.  But the Huron Mountain Club says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to sign off too.

The club owns nearly 20,000 acres of forest downstream from the mine on the Salmon Trout River.

The lawsuit says sulfuric acid produced by sulfide mining could pollute the river, and the club is "horror-struck" by the prospect of the watershed collapsing because part of the mine will be dug directly underneath it.

The lawsuit also says the federal government needs to consider the potential for damage to Eagle Rock, a site near the entrance to the mine that is sacred to American Indians.

The mine has been under construction since 2010.

Attorney for the Huron Mountain Club Rick Addison expects Kennecott will argue that it is too late to bring up this issue, but he says it was the company’s decision to build the mine without the necessary permits.

"The lateness argument has no resonance to me, it’s simply the last refuge of the environmental scoundrel," said Addison.

In a written statement, Kennecott says the mine has been extensively reviewed and already survived multiple legal challenges.

Politics
4:42 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Gov. signs law allowing Tasers to be carried

People with concealed pistol permits in Michigan will soon be able to carry Tasers. Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill into law today.

The rules will be the same as those that apply to people authorized to carry firearms in Michigan. 

"They will have to get the same training," said state Senator Rick Jones, who  sponsored the legislation. "It's a minimum of eight hours that tells a license holder when they can fire their device, and when they cannot. A Taser will be treated like a handgun under Michigan law, so nobody can play with them."

Here is a video of then-state Rep. Jones getting shot by a Taser during a House committee hearing:

More than a quarter-million people in Michigan have concealed pistol licenses. Michigan joins 44 other states that allow people to carry Tasers in public.

Offbeat
4:19 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Michigan teen from Ishpeming makes prom dress out of Starburst wrappers

Ishpeming teen Diane McNease's Starburst prom dress.
WLUC-TV YouTube

I remember making little chains out of Starburst wrappers when I was a kid, but building an entire garment with them?

That's what Diane McNease of Ishpeming High School has done.

WLUC-TV produced a short piece on McNease and her dress. Here it is (I like the host's reaction to the lead of the story):

McNease definitely has some artistic flair. She said she strung wrappers in the dress below the corset to "give the illusion that the dress is, kind of like, falling apart."

She said friends donated around 18,000 wrappers for the corset, matching hair bands, and purse. It took her around 5 months to make.

More evidence that young kids today are far from slackers. We stopped after stringing 10 Starburst wrappers together.

Politics
3:19 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Michigan lawmakers discussing drug testing for welfare recipients

John Andrews of MASACA testifies before the State House Committee on Families, Children and Seniors
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

State lawmakers are taking testimony on legislation to require some state welfare recipients to undergo drug testing.

Michigan tried before to require drug testing of welfare recipients.    That law mandated random drug testing.    But the courts stopped that program a decade ago.

Read more
Environment & Science
2:36 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

University of Michigan gets $1.3M from feds for nuclear energy research

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan is getting $1.3 million in federal money to help train and educate the next generation of leaders in the nation's nuclear industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday announced the money in research grants, fellowships and scholarships. They're part of the department's Nuclear Energy University Program and Integrated University Program that will support nuclear energy research and development efforts.

Part of the money for the Ann Arbor school will go to a research project aimed at developing new and advanced reactor designs and technologies.

Funding is going to 46 colleges and universities nationwide.

Arts & Culture
1:47 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

A pitch for graduating students - following your passion is key

Ernie Caviani lives in Ann Arbor. He's a piano tuner and technician. He has been tuning pianos for 45 years.
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

It's graduation season across the country, and students are deciding what they want to do with their lives.

Seventy-one-year-old Ernie Caviani is a piano tuner and technician. He says following your passion is key.

Michigan Radio producer Mercedes Mejia has this audio postcard.

Ernie Caviani: This A is vibrating at 220 beats per second. This A is supposed to vibrate, if it matches it at 440, it’s just twice as much.

In my lifetime I’ve tuned a little over 30,000 pianos.

Read more
Lansing
12:38 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Lansing City Council delays budget vote

The Lansing City Council is taking more time to review next year’s budget plan.

Council has delayed its vote on the budget from May 14th to May 21st.

Councilwoman Carol Wood says there are “holes” in the mayor’s budget plan.

“Those holes have not been plugged. All we’re being told is they might be filled," says Wood,  "And I can’t pass in good conscience for the taxpayers of the city of Lansing. I can’t pass a budget that way.”

Politics
12:04 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

PHOTO: Romney in Michigan: Stage is set

The stage for Romney's speech at Lansing Community College.
Rick Pluta MPRN

Rick Pluta of MPRN sent along this photo. The stage is set for Mitt Romney's speech this afternoon at Lansing Community College.

He's set to talk around 12:30 p.m.

Commentary
11:53 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Commentary: Joe Schwarz's decision not to run for Congress

For weeks, former Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz seriously considered running for the job again, this time as a Democrat. He talked to me about that several times.

He was actually very close to actually getting in the race, for a congressional district that stretched along Michigan’s southern border, from Monroe in the east to Jackson. But then last week, Schwarz finally decided against it. I had been convinced he would run, and as a journalist, thought it a fascinating prospect.

Read more
Politics
11:49 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Mitt Romney pulls into Michigan, working to polish bailout stance

The Romney bus pulls into Michigan.
Rick Pluta MPRN

Mitt Romney's bus pulled into Michigan today as he prepares to give a policy speech this afternoon at Lansing Community College.

The fact that Romney is here is a sign that the Romney camp feels Michigan is a battleground state, but as MPRN's Rick Pluta points out, a "Republican nominee has not won Michigan in 24 years."

Romney is banking on his ties to the state. He was born in Michigan and his father, George Romney, served as governor in the 1960s.

Now to solve a nagging problem for Romney in Michigan.

In 2008, Romney wrote a New York Times op-ed piece that carried the headline "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

Yesterday in a speech in Ohio, Romney took credit for saving the auto industry.

Romney has continually said that President Obama ended up taking his advice on how to manage the ailing U.S. auto industry.

But the Associated Press reports that Romney took it a step further in yesterday's speech "by saying he deserves credit for its ultimate turnaround."

The course Romney advocated differed greatly from the one that was ultimately taken. GM and Chrysler went into bankruptcy on the strength of a massive bailout that Romney opposed. Neither Republican President George W. Bush nor Democratic President Barack Obama believed the automakers would have survived without that backup from taxpayers.

Romney opposed taxpayer help.

The Detroit Free Press reports that "the bailout of the Detroit-based automobile industry is expected to be a dominant issue today."

Romney got "two Pinocchio's" in a Washington Post "The  Fact Checker" piece when they looked at whether he's been consistent in his stance on the auto bailout.

Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has endorsed Romney. Snyder is expected to introduce him today at Lansing Community College.

We'll have more on Romney's speech later today.

Environment & Science
10:23 am
Tue May 8, 2012

"No Sale, No Fracking"

Anti-fracking protesters stand outside of Constitutional Hall in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

People opposed to a natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing protested outside a state office building in Lansing this morning. 

The state is auctioning off oil and gas mineral rights leases for more 100 thousand acres of public land.

The protesters chanted as energy industry and state government officials entered the building where the auction of oil and gas mineral rights leases was taking place.

The protesters worry drillers will use horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract natural gas in Michigan, potentially contaminating drinking water and causing other environmental problems.

LuAnne Cozma is an anti-fracking activist.  She says state regulations are geared to help the industry, not to protect the people of Michigan.
 
“The gas is drilled…the more gas flows…the more money flows into the (state government) coffers…and that is why we don’t trust the whole process," says Cozma.

The protesters are circulating petitions to put an Anti-fracking question on the November ballot.

Environment & Science
8:55 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Michigan DNR puts oil and gas drilling rights on the auction block

A map of the counties where drilling rights are up for auction today.
DNR

Starting at 9am this morning, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will hold an auction to lease state-owned drilling rights for oil and natural gas. 

The state is offering drilling rights on more than 108,000 acres in 23 counties.  These auctions are usually held twice a year.  The minimum bid is $12 dollars an acre.

Mary Uptigrove is the acting manager of the DNR’s Minerals Management Section.  She says acquiring drilling rights is the first step in exploring for oil and gas.

“The lease is just a proprietary right that’s administered by our department. It does not give them the right to actually start drilling a well.  They have to seek other approvals from the Department of Environmental Quality for the drilling permit.”

The leases last five years, and the companies have the option to extend them.

Uptigrove says industry groups usually nominate parcels for the auction.  The state gets 1/6 of the royalties of any oil or gas that comes out of the ground.  That money is used to maintain state and local parks and to buy land.

Maryann Lesert lives near the Yankee Springs Recreation Area in Barry County. 

She’s worried the auction will lead to drilling under the park land... especially a kind of drilling for natural gas called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. (To learn more, check out this recent article by Michigan Radio's Lester Graham about the benefits and risks of fracking)

“It’s beautiful land, it has beautiful bodies of water and the environmental and water impact threats from fracking are of great concern.”

Read more
Politics
8:38 am
Tue May 8, 2012

In this morning's news...

Romney in Michigan today

Mitt Romney is making his first visit to Michigan today since he narrowly won the Republican Presidential primary here last February. He's going to deliver a policy address at Lansing Community College. More from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta:

Romney’s expected to focus on the economy in his speech, and suggest President Obama’s policies have slowed the pace of the nation’s, and Michigan’s, economic recovery.

The appearance certainly suggests the Romney campaign considers Michigan an attainable prize. Michigan has not gone for the Republican presidential nominee since 1988.

Yesterday, Romney gave a speech in Ohio in which he took credit for the revival of the auto industry.

Rethinking Detroit's neighborhoods

The Detroit Works project is the name of Mayor Bing's revitalization plan. The Detroit Free Press reports the team is getting closer to putting forward a set of recommendations for the city. The recommendations could include urban farms, gardens, and reforestation in parts of a city with a little more than 20 square miles of vacant land:

The team is expected to produce a final report by late summer, offering options for residents and civic leaders to consider rather than strict recommendations about what should happen where.

"There is room for a broad spectrum of interventions to be played out," said Toni Griffin, a City College of New York professor of urban planning who co-chairs the Detroit Works technical team developing the list of options.

Karla Henderson, Bing's group executive for planning and facilities, said the mayor and his aides are looking forward to receiving the report from the planning team.

Michigan voters head to the polls today

Voters will head to the polls today to decide a variety of issues for their communities. Many communities will decide whether or not to tax themselves more to pay for school improvements, or, as Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported, to help pay for a "sludge dryer":

Not everything on the ballots involves schools. The issue in Delhi Township, near Lansing, is sludge. Or more accurately, what to do with it. The township is asking voters to approve a surcharge on their water bills to pay for a sludge dryer.   Supporters say the dryer would turn human waste into bio-fuel. Opponents say it’s just a waste of money.

Transportation
6:00 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Some in Grand Rapids suburbs want out of bus system

Rapid Central Station in downtown Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Today some people in the Cities of Granville and Walker will begin collecting signatures to get their cities out of the partnership that runs the bus system in metro Grand Rapids. It’s called The Rapid.

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance says it's not against bus transportation in general, but feels the system is wasting tax dollars. The grassroots organization with volunteer staff tries to keeps tabs on taxpayer dollars in local government.

Read more
Economy
8:41 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

EMU to offer housing incentives with "Live Ypsi"

EMU hopes to spur homeownership in Ypsilanti through its "Live Ypsi" program.
ellenm1 flickr

Eastern Michigan University plans to offer its employees incentives to become homeowners in Ypsilanti. Details of the "Live Ypsi" program are still being finalized. But Leigh Greden says university employees could qualify for five to 10-thousand dollars in loans for down payments or rehab work. "And if the employee continues to be employed by Eastern Michigan, and continues to live in that home, we will forgive 20 percent of the loan per year for five years," said Greden. "And then at the end, all of the loan will have been forgiven." Greden says the idea is to stabilize neighborhoods near the university. The DTE Energy Foundation and Washtenaw County are both kicking in money for the program, and Greden says negotiations are under way with a third organization as well.  The concept is modeled after the "live Midtown" program in Detroit. 

Crime
7:57 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

Saluting Michigan's fallen police officers

Law enforcement officers salute during a ceremony at the state capital honoring police officers who died in the line of duty.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The haunting sounds of bagpipes echoed in the halls of the state capital this evening.

Police officers from across the state gathered inside the capital rotunda for the 19th annual  Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service.

The ceremoney honored a half dozen police officers from Michigan or with ties to Michigan who died in the line of duty last year.   Nationwide, 163 law enforcement officers were killed on the job last year.  Already this year, 2 Michigan law enforcement officers have died on the job. 

“The loss of these officers is a testament to the dangers and realities of police work," says Colonel Kristie Kibbey Etue,  the director of the Michigan State Police. 

National Police Week begins May 13th. 

Environment & Science
5:48 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

State poised to lease oil and gas rights for public lands

Protesters are expected Tuesday morning outside of a planned auction of oil and natural gas lease rights on public land.

Lease rights on more than 100 thousand acres of public land will be available in the auction in Lansing.

Mary Uptigrove is the acting manager of the Minerals Management Section of the Department of Natural Resources.    She says much of the land on the auction list is there by the request of the drilling industry.

“They may know…areas where… current development is occurring….and they want to explore for additional development,” says Uptigrove. 

Read more
Crime
3:05 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

Feds say Highland Park's Davis created fake non-profit for spending sprees

Highland Park School Board member and union activist Robert Davis was indicted last month on charges of theft by federal prosecutors.

They accused Davis of stealing more than $125,000 from the ailing Highland Park school district.

Today, more details emerged from the indictment.

Robert Snell of the Detroit News reports on "newly unsealed federal court records" the paper obtained.

The records allege Davis controlled a bogus nonprofit group, "Citizens United to Save Highland Park Schools." The feds say Davis used the group's bank account for "an $84,000 spending spree at car dealerships, hotels, bars, restaurants and a custom-clothing store."

From The Detroit News:

The financial information was included in an FBI search warrant affidavit requesting permission to raid Davis' home in Highland Park last year.

The affidavit does not specify which car dealerships were patronized. But Davis paid a St. Clair Shores dealership $21,450 for a used silver Mercedes-Benz CLK320 coupe in May 2009, according to the Secretary of State.

That's at the height of the time Davis was stealing money from the school district, according to federal prosecutors.

The sixteen-count indictment says Davis stole the school district's money between 2004 and 2010. If convicted, he faces the possibility of 10 years in prison on each of the counts of the indictment.

Davis made headlines before the indictment was made public by successfully winning a court battle against the state's financial review teams for violating the Open Meetings Act.

Davis has maintained his innocence and his lawyer did not offer a comment on the newly unsealed records, telling the News he had not seen them yet.

Arts & Culture
2:20 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

DIA millage request a step closer in Oakland County

Part of the Diego Rivera mural "Detroit Industry" at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
DIA

The Detroit Institute of Arts is looking for new revenue streams.

The DIA is owned by the struggling city of Detroit and hopes to get a millage proposal in front of voters in Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties this August.

Wayne and Macomb county commissioners voted to create county arts authorities. The county arts authorities would be responsible for drafting the millage request that would go before voters.

Now, Oakland County has taken a step toward creating a county arts authority.

More from the Detroit News:

A committee of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners agreed Monday to send a millage request from the Detroit Institute of Arts to a vote by the full commission.

The general government committee's 6-4 approval means the measure will go before the full 25-member commission at its next meeting May 17. At that point, it will be voting on whether to create a five-member county arts authority responsible for crafting language that would appear on the August ballot.

Macomb and Wayne counties have each approved an arts authority.

If the renowned arts museum cannot raise the revenue, the museum could go into what the executive vice president of the DIA called a "controlled shutdown."

Annmarie Erickson, executive vice president of the DIA, says the  museum is operating at "bare-bone levels." She says if they can’t secure more money, the museum will go into what she calls a “controlled shutdown”:

"We will lose hours, we will probably lose most of our programming, we will certainly lose visitor amenities. Special exhibits like the very popular "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus" - we would no longer be able to afford those."

Erickson said the revenue raised by the millage would be temporary. It would give the museum more time to raise private funds to build its endowment.

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