Economy
9:11 pm
Sat May 5, 2012

'Dejected': Some unemployed give up the hunt

People wait at a job fair in New York City's Queens borough on Thursday. While millions of out-of-work Americans continue to seek employment, others have given up looking.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 4, 2012 3:35 pm

The unemployment rate slipped a notch to 8.1 percent in April, but not because employers went on a hiring spree.

Instead, the jobless rate appeared to improve because fewer people were applying for positions. Last month, the civilian labor force shrank by 342,000 people.

Economists say many of those workforce dropouts were "discouraged" workers who moved to the sidelines after months, even years, of trying to nail down jobs.

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Business
4:01 pm
Sat May 5, 2012

Crop insurance now a top priority for many hard hit Michigan farmers

Many Michigan farmers are spending this May focusing on their insurance needs.

The sporadic spring freezes and frosts that followed the unusually mild winter devastated Michigan’s apple, cherry and peach crops.     Most farmers have access to some form of crop insurance.   But according to the Michigan Farm Bureau, the insurance only covers about 60 to 70 percent of the loss.

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Flint
2:16 pm
Sat May 5, 2012

What's in a name? What if that name is Flint?

(Courtesy of MINBCNEWS.com)

FLINT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A committee is studying whether Flint Township should change its name to drop the reference to Flint.

Some residents believe the community's reputation suffers when people don't make a distinction between the township and the city of Flint. The city is known for a high crime rate and chronically poor finances. A state-appointed emergency manager runs Flint.

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Transportation
10:07 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Detroit Bus Company revs up for cinco de mayo "test run"

Detroit Bus Company via facebook

Starting this weekend, there’s a new transit option for people looking to get around downtown Detroit.

A new, private bus company is looking to fill in some of the gaps in Detroit’s battered transit system.

The Detroit Bus Company will run a route linking the city’s central neighborhoods and Southwest Detroit on Saturday. Historically, that relatively small area hasn’t been linked very well by traditional public transit.

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Politics
9:54 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Detroit City Clerk: Budget cuts "don't make sense," would compromise elections

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Detroit’s City Clerk says budget cuts would compromise her ability to run elections.

Janice Winfrey took her case to the Detroit City Council Friday.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing wants to cut the election department's budget by 25%, from $7.4 million to $5 million.

Bing says that’s part of across-the-board cuts that need to happen as the city grapples with state mandates to reduce its deficit--outlined in the consent agreement between the city and state.

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It's Just Politics
5:48 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Dingell goes for 30; Snyder for Veep; U.P. secession; and an intra-party GOP fight

Flickr
Contemplative Imaging

Too busy to check in on all of the political news happening this week in Michigan? Or, maybe you just weren't able to fill your political appetite this week. Well, don't fret! Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta and I spent some time this afternoon taking a look at the week-that-was in Michigan politics in an extended edition of It's Just Politics.

On tap for this Friday:

  • A Florida political analyst sparks speculation about a possible Mitt Romney/Rick Snyder GOP presidential ticket
  • A group of unhappy Yoopers talks U.P. secession
  • Southeast Michigan Rep. John Dingell announces he'll run for a record 30th term in the U.S. House of Representatives
  • After a lot of "will he or won't he" talk, former Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz says he will not run as a Democrat in November against incumbent Rep. Tim Walberg
  • State Democrats caucus tomorrow to pick their presidential nominee and we ask: will it be President Barack Obama or President Barack Obama? (Our money is on President Barack Obama)
History
5:25 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Past and present Democratic caucuses

In Michigan, President Obama is expected to be confirmed as the democratic candidate.
YouTube

Michigan Democrats hold their caucuses on Saturday May 5th. President Obama is expected to be confirmed as the democratic candidate.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry talks with Jennifer White about past and present Democratic caucuses.

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Environment
5:12 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

As fracking debate continues in Michigan, Obama weighs in

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has created no shortage of controversy recently. And as Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported last week, debate over this controversial method of extracting oil and gas from deep inside shale deposits has made its way to the Michigan statehouse.

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It's Just Politics
3:25 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Up in smoke: The hazy politics of pot in Michigan

It's Just Politics: May 4th, 2012
Eggrole Flickr

In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and I take on the politics of pot. It's a hazy situation and an issue that's getting chronic attention in the state (okay, okay, enough with the drug innuendo).

Where things stand

In 2008 voters – by a pretty large margin - voted to make medical marijuana legal in the state. But, the law is confusing. Not only is there the fact that it’s still illegal under federal law, there are also questions about if and how dispensaries should be regulated; the medical conditions for which  medical marijuana should be prescribed; the size and location of marijuana plants that one is allowed to grow... I could go on and on.

Pluta: Exactly… there are more questions than answers when it comes to this law because it is so vague. So, this week, we’ve seen some measures to add clarity to the law. But, because this law was a voter-initiated and approved law, to  change it, any measure has to have a three fourths majority in both the state House and Senate. Something that’s not in this package is dispensaries – that’s in court right now, but some lawmakers don’t want to wait for a state Supreme Court ruling. They say dispensaries could cure some problems – especially what to do when someone who is legally growing marijuana has more weed than they can use. 

Clark: So, just this week state Representative Mike Callton introduced a measure to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries. But, Callton says he was against the medical marijuana law that passed in 2008.

Collton: “…I think what voters passed is nuts, just crazy insane.”

Pluta: So, why is he introducing this then?

Clark: That is, indeed the question.

Pluta: Callton and some others say it would be better for dispensaries to buy up, or otherwise take possession of, surplus pot instead of having it sold illegally on the street. There’s a division, though. Some Republicans basically consider dispensaries legalized dope dens.

Clark: So, that’s a debate that will take place probably this summer on dispensaries. What’s moving right now would require in-person doctor’s visits to get a medical marijuana card, a picture I.D., and police access to medical marijuana records.

Pluta: Medical marijuana advocates say some of this goes too far. In a couple of instances, it reverses what voters approved in the medical marijuana law and, so, they’re trying again. There is a petition drive in the field to put a question on the ballot to make Michigan a legalized marijuana state.  We’ll see if they can get enough signatures.

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Politics
3:08 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Unnamed air carrier shows interest in Detroit's City Airport

A runway map of Detroit's City Airport
faa.gov

Detroit's Coleman A. Young International Airport, also called City Airport, might soon be seeing passengers for the first time since 2000.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Jason Watt, general manager of the Coleman A. Young International Airport, told the City Council on Thursday that the city has a letter of intent from a carrier interested in re-establishing scheduled passenger travel. He would not publicly identify the company.

The facility is still open for private pilots and cargo carriers, the Free Press reports, but prior to Thursday's anonymous show if interest, the airport's future wasn't looking particularly bright as city officials work to scale down Detroit's budget.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Sports
2:51 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Kentucky Derby betting giving a boost to Michigan's ailing horse racing tracks

Bodemeister is the early line favorite for this Saturday's Kentucky Derby
(courtesy of Churchill Downs)

Saturday is expected to be the busiest day of the year at Michigan’s four horse racing tracks.

The tracks usually see a big boost in simulcast betting from the Kentucky Derby.

Brett Boyd is president of the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association.    He says Michigan’s ailing horse racing industry relies more and more on the money wagered on the three races.

“This weekend we really hoping the folks come out to one of those four facilities…wager on the Derby…have some fun and make some money,” says Boyd.

Michigan’s horse race tracks have dwindled from 8 to 4 in recent years.   Industry officials blame competition from casinos and other types of gambling, including online gaming.

Brett Boyd hopes the state legislature will change state law to make the tracks more competitive.  Otherwise, he expects two more Michigan horse race tracks may soon close.

 

Flint
2:36 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Flint EM lays out public safety plan, city police and fire unions want more

Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown outlines his public safety plan for the city, while behind him represents from the Michigan State Police and other agencies look on.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint Emergency Manager Mike Brown says the city plans to work more with the state police, as well as local and federal prosecutors, to fight the city’s crime problem.

The plan calls for establishing Flint not only as a ‘safe city’ in reality, but also in people’s perception.

Using outside law enforcement help is a short term part of the plan.   Long term, Brown says the city needs to raise millions of dollars in new revenue to hire more police officers and firefighters.

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Weather
2:00 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Drain Commissioner: Overnight rains led to 100 year-flood event around Flint

WDIV interviewed a trucker stranded by the flooding near Flint.
screenshot from WDIV video

The National Weather Service said a minimum of 5.25 inches of rain fell in parts of Genesee County overnight. We're following how the floods are impacting the area.

Update 2:00 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody was in Flint today. He reports the overnight storms "also knocked out power to thousands of Flint residents... and most of the city’s downtown traffic signals."

The power outage led to the closure of Flint City Hall.

Consumers Energy says thousands are without power in the area. From the Flint Journal:

3,600 customers are without power in the county today -- more than 2,100 in Swartz Creek and more than 1,400 in Flint.

Consumers spokeswoman Debra Dodd said it could be as late as 10 p.m. before service is fully restored.

"We has really bad thunderstorms that did quite a bit of damage," Dodd said.

12:30 p.m.

We got ahold of Genessee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright.

"The Swartz Creek is well out of its banks, near record levels, and it itself is flooding I-75 and I-69. So there's no traffic on I-75 and I-69 near their junction. So as you can imagine that's created a very bad traffic jam on top of the flooding situation," said Wright.

Wright said the Thread Creek, another tributary in the Grand Blanc area, was hit just about as bad.

He says the Flint River will hit flood stage of 13.3 feet at about 1:30 p.m. and they don't expect much relief until that flood stage is reached and waters recede.

Wright said they have crews out looking to see where they can relieve any plugged drain openings.

In the Flint area, the rains exceeded the capacity of the drainage systems and the rivers themselves.

Here's the raw interview:

11:54 a.m.

WDIV interviewed this trucker by phone as a helicopter flew overhead filming him.

The trucker was moving a load of potatoes southbound on I-75 near Flint and was stopped by rising flood waters.

He said he was initially 300 to 400 feet away from the water as safety officials began moving traffic off the highway. As this trucker was backing up, his truck quit, and there he sat.

Here's a link to WDIV's raw interview.

11:44 a.m.

"100-year floods," as they're known, mark a water level that expected to be seen once, or less than once, every 100 years on average.

It's a level that Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said happened today.

Ron Fonger of the Flint Journal quoted Wright:

"When you get water rising over roads, you've exceeded a 100-year rain event," county Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said this morning.

The National Weather Service said today that 5.4 inches of rain fell overnight, almost twice as much as the area usually gets in the entire month of May.

The Journal has photos of the flooding.

Fonger reports that "I-69 from Bristol Road to Hammerberg Road and I-75 from Bristol to M-21" are closed.

Fonger spoke with residents in Grand Blanc Township where floodwaters "were so high that boats were brought in to help evacuate people."

Sarah Kleparek, 31, came home from work around 2:30 a.m. and everything thing seemed OK. But an hour an half later she said she heard car alarms start going off and when she looked outside the water was already up to her windows on her car.

Around 7 a.m. this morning, she was able to quickly pull a bag together and evacuated her apartment after firefighters came with a boat.

"It was just so fast," Kleparek said.

We're working to reach Drain Commissioner Wright for comment. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody will have more on this story later today.

Arts/Culture
10:59 am
Fri May 4, 2012

Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island celebrates 125 years

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, before and after.
Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, where Mark Twain once lectured, five U.S. presidents have stayed, and a place that has been named a National Historic Landmark, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

The hotel opened for the first time in 1887, and it starts this year's season today with a series of special events marking the milestone.

In July, the AP reports there will be a party with a 125-foot birthday cake for guests to enjoy (I'm guessing that's not 125 feet tall).

Here's a grand ole' 1944 Metro Goldwyn Mayer video on Mackinac Island in which narrator James Fitzpatrick calls the Grand Hotel "that romantic institution justifiably called the grandest of grand hotels."

Commentary
10:48 am
Fri May 4, 2012

Commentary: John Dingell runs again

The tail fins on cars were just starting to take off the first time he ran. The nation had about half as many people as it does now.

Neither of his opponents this year had yet been born. For that matter, neither had Governor Snyder or President Obama.

John F. Kennedy was a freshman senator, General Motors was the world’s most powerful corporation, and nobody had ever seen a Japanese car. We are talking 1955, when, a few days after Christmas, a few thousand voters showed up for a special election, and sent a geeky-looking 29-year-old lawyer to Congress.

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News Roundup
9:12 am
Fri May 4, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 2nd
Brother O'Mara Flickr

National unemployment numbers released this morning

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment numbers this morning. The unemployment rate "was little changed at 8.1 percent."

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 115,000 for the month of April.

As Mark Memmott at NPR's Two-Way blog points out, "the economy needs to add more than 115,000 jobs a month to bring down the unemployment rate." So why the decline?

Mostly because the size of the "civilian labor force" shrank by 342,000 people, to 154.4 million. And the labor force "participation rate" edged down to 63.6 percent from 63.8 percent.

Assesing Michigan's fruit crop, worst in history

The fruit crop in Michigan got bitten by the bizarre weather. High temperatures in March brought the blossoms out, and freezes and frosts in April killed emerging buds.

More from the AP:

Farmers and extension agents say the one-two punch has all but wiped out the tart cherry crop, while other orchard fruits such as sweet cherries, apples, pears and peaches have suffered extensive damage. Juice grapes are another casualty.

Fifty-four-year-old David Rabe of Oceana County says he's been farming nearly all his life and has never seen it this bad. Only his asparagus may survive.

Flooding after rains move through the state

The flooding has caused problems for drivers this morning. Some roads in the Detroit and Flint areas have been closed.

The AP reports that both directions of I-75 at I-696 in suburban Detroit were closed today as the morning rush hour period approached.

A flash flood warning was issued for the Flint area, including Genesee and Shiawassee, counties due to the storm.

The National Weather Service has issued flood advisories, watches and warnings for parts of Michigan's Lower Peninsula following the storms.

More from the Flint Journal:

Hit with more than 5 inches of rain overnight, the county's creeks, streams and drains are swelling as residents cope with their own localized flooding this morning.

The National Weather Service said today that 5.4 inches of rain fell overnight, almost twice as much as the area usually gets in the entire month of May.

"It's bad everywhere," said county Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright. "The whole county got hit pretty well."

The 5.4 inches of rain recorded at Bishop overnight surpassed the total, normal monthly rainfall total for a typical month of May -- 3 inches.

Offbeat
9:09 am
Fri May 4, 2012

"Stemfest 2012" t-shirts hot selling item for Holland's Tulip Time

There are some tulip blooms left at Window on the Waterfront Park in Holland.
Andrea Smith

Organizers of Holland’s Tulip Time festival are having a little fun with the fact the usual draw - million of blooming tulips - will be missing this year.

In Holland, you hear some worries about it almost every year. But this year it was especially bad.

“The weather’s been so warm. When tulips were blooming on St. Patrick’s Day we all looked at each other and said 'we’ll have nothing by the festival.”

Luckily there are some tulip blooms left; about 30-percent Auwerda estimates.

 “The locals have always called it a stemfest when there’s not a lot of tulips. And so we thought, let’s just do a little tongue in check and have a little fun with it.”

They made official “Stemfest 2012” t-shirts and buttons. Demand was so high for the original 300 stemfest t-shirts, they had to stop taking online orders shortly after they hit the shelves Thursday. 

Auwerda says they’ve reordered the shirts. They're expected to restock Tuesday, but she can't promise they'll have enough to sell online. (I read other businesses are selling unofficial versions.) 

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Arts
7:00 am
Fri May 4, 2012

Immigrant memoir project

Student Ridha Al-Wishah, professor Ron Stockton, and student Maryann Rafka
Kyle Norris

Seven years ago, political science professor Ron Stockton was mentoring a student from Poland who was struggling with a writing assignment. So Stockton told her to imagine she was writing a letter to her great-grandchildren describing her life here as an immigrant. The student loved the idea, got super excited, and spread the word about Stockton’s technique.  

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Auto/Economy
10:15 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Fast-charging charging system could reduce "range anxiety" for electric cars

Ford Motor Company has teamed up with seven other car companies to develop a faster method of recharging electric cars.

Fast-charging could help reduce the problem of what some call "range anxiety." 

One drawback of an electric car is how long it takes to recharge the battery - up to 7 hours for some electric cars. And if you push the car to its range limit you risk being stranded; that causes range anxiety. 

Mike Tinskey is associate director of vehicle electrification at Ford. He says it's hoped that eventually, "We can get to a point when we can charge just as quick as you can fuel up a conventional car with gasoline."

The new system isn't that fast, but it's a lot faster than charging on a 120 or 240 volt outlet. 

It will take about 20 minutes to get an 80% charge on a depleted electric car battery .

Other companies involved in developing the new system are Audi, BMW N.A., Chrysler, Daimler, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen ...

Lansing
9:36 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Tribe votes in favor of Lansing casino project

An artist's conception of what the proposed casino would look like

A majority of Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians members have voted in favor of their tribe building a casino in downtown Lansing.

The vote clears the way for what is sure to be bigger challenges to the casino project.  

Tribal leaders had predicted the outcome of the referendum from the start.    The voting started last month when the tribe mailed ballots to more than 14 thousand tribal members.

In the end, more than 39 hundred Sault Ste Marie tribe members voted in favor of the Lansing casino project.    23 hundred members voted against it.

Roger Martin is the tribe’s spokesman.    He says the next phase of the project will involve paperwork.

“The hope is the have the land purchase completed and the application to take the land into trust by the Department of the Interior by Summer,” says Martin.

The federal government must agree to take the land into trust for the tribe so it can be used for gaming. 

Other tribes that operate casinos near Lansing, as well as Governor Snyder,  oppose a casino in the capital city.  Legal challenges to the project are expected.

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero issued a statement thanking the tribe for its affirmative vote.

"I am more convinced than ever that this is the right project at the right time with the right partners.  The Lansing Kewadin casino will create thousands of good jobs, fully-fund college scholarships for Lansing public school children, and generate hundreds of millions in new economic activity for the Lansing region." Bernero said in his statement."

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