Politics
1:35 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Taking a "pure-politics" look at the week's news...

Matthileo Flickr

Rick Pluta and I have been talking state politics on Fridays and today we take a look at Michigan's presidential primary, former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra's controversial TV ad, and Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal.

Michigan Matters

This was a huge week for Rick Santorum which, in turn, meant it was a big week for Michigan politicos. Michigan and Arizona hold the nation’s next primaries on February 28 (Maine holds a caucus tomorrow). That means the Republican candidates will be looking to Michigan for their next win. On Wednesday, Santorum told MSNBC that, “we think Michigan is a great place for us to plant our flag and talk about jobs and manufacturing.” For Santorum, his campaign needs to continue the momentum before Super Tuesday (on March 6) to be considered a serious threat to Romney. Romney, meanwhile, needs a win in Michigan to stop Santorum's momentum. Newt Gingrich will be hoping for a win in Michigan, although it’s unlikely after Tuesday night’s results, and Ron Paul will hope for a decent showing in the mitten state.

“Will Romney win? That sure seems to be where the smart money goes. But are there opportunities to make sure it’s not a [Romney] domination? That opportunity does seem to exist,” Pluta explains. Pluta and I recently explored what some of those opportunities are.

The Super Bowl ad that had many saying, "huh?"

We couldn’t talk about the week’s political news without mentioning the controversy that continues over Republican Senatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra’s campaign ad that premiered last Sunday in which an Asian woman speaks in broken English. The ad was called “racially insensitive” and “xenophobic” and it’s even been parodied by the website FunnyOrDie.com. Now, the Hoekstra campaign is out with another ad, this time it doesn’t mention China. And, one of Hoekstra’s opponents in the Republican Senatorial primary, Clark Durant, premiered an ad of his own. “Durant saw an opportunity, decided not to wait to run his first ad of the campaign… and it’s a lot more positive [than the Hoekstra ad] and… the subtle message is, ‘we’re better than this,’” Pluta notes.

A kinder, gentler budget

Finally, Pluta and I take a look at the politics behind the budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 that was unveiled by the Governor yesterday at the state Capitol. Unlike last year, this year the budget is, “very, very different… It is a much kinder, gentler budget.”

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Environment
12:30 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

New Michigan hunting program for kids under 10 to start this year

A Deer Blind.
Charles Dawley flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan's new hunting program for children will start this year, with licenses on sale starting March 1.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Friday that the Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved the program aimed at introducing children under the age of 10 to hunting and fishing.

It's called the Mentored Youth Hunting program.

A recent law eliminated the minimum hunting age, allowing kids under 10 to hunt with an adult who's at least 21 years old. Under the rules for the new youth program, the adult must have previous hunting experience and possess a valid Michigan hunting license.

A Mentored Youth Hunting license will cost $7.50. Details about hunting rules are posted on the DNR's website.

Politics
11:48 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Marijuana law should have been on Detroit ballot

USFWS

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled this morning that a judge ruled incorrectly when he upheld the Detroit Election Commission's decision to block a 2010 ballot measure.

The ballot measure would have allowed voters to decide on reducing penalties for people 21 or older who possessed less than an ounce of marijuana on private property in Detroit.

Detroit officials didn't allow the proposal to go forward because they said it would conflict with state drug laws

More from the Detroit Free Press:

A 2-1 majority of the appeals panel said city officials did not have the authority to make that determination.

“It was outside the authority of (city officials) to consider the substance and effect of the initiative and defendants have a clear legal duty to place the matter on the ballot,” the court wrote.

In the majority were judges Henry Saad and Elizabeth Gleicher. Dissenting was Judge Jane Markey.

The Associated Press reports the appeals court acknowledged that marijuana possession still would be illegal under Michigan law even if Detroiters had passed the ordinance.

Commentary
10:34 am
Fri February 10, 2012

The Governor and the Budget

Yesterday, while everyone was focusing on the details of  Governor Snyder’s budget proposal, I was struck instead by something Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley said about it.

The state needs to “resist the temptation to go back to the old way because the old way did not serve us well.” And it’s impossible to disagree with that, whatever your politics or ideology.

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Changing Gears
10:25 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Infographic: Midwest Migration

Meg Cramer Changing Gears

Over the last few weeks, we have been hearing from those who have left the region to settle in other parts of the country and the world. We’ve been mapping the migration and documenting the experiences of these Midwestern exiles. We heard from close to 200 people.

Auto/Economy
9:31 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Feds investigate door fires in 2007 Camrys, RAV-4s

Federal safety regulators are investigating reports of fires in the driver's side doors of 2007 Toyota Camry sedans and RAV-4 crossover SUVs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the problem could affect 830,000 vehicles.

The safety agency says in documents on its website that the fires appear to start in the power window switch on the door. Six fires have been reported to the agency. No one has been hurt.

The Camry is the top-selling car in the U.S., and the RAV-4 also is a consistent top seller for Toyota. The probe also includes the Solara, which is a coupe version of the Camry.

The investigation was opened Monday. It could lead to a recall, but there isn't one yet.

Investigation
7:51 am
Fri February 10, 2012

UM releases internal review on child pornography possession case, statement issued

The University of Michigan Health System.
UM

The University of Michigan has released its internal review on the allegations of child pornography possession by Stephen Jensen - a medical resident of the Pediatric Emergency Department at the UM Hospital.

University officials have been accused of waiting too long to report the incident to officials.

The review found that the initial investigation into the allegations "was insufficient and improper." 

A resident reported the potential crime to a lead university attorney who caused the resident "distress and a feeling that she should not have come forward with the report."

The report found that others in the UM Health System assumed that lead attorney took control of the investigation and awaited direction from that office, and that a "review of the computer by Health System personnel was insufficient and would have been enhanced if law enforcement had been involved to lead the investigation."

The attorney is no longer at the University of Michigan.

The review states:

University management accepts responsibility for the delay in reporting the crime, an unacceptable handling of the reporting and necessary investigation of the concern regarding child pornography. We conclude that the assertion of improper control of the investigation by the attorney and reliance on her conclusions by others were the root cause for the delay and improper handling of the initial report. The case should have been forwarded to the Department of Public Safety in May.

UM President, Mary Sue Coleman just released this statement:

Statement from President Mary Sue Coleman Feb. 10, 2012

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Sports Commentary
7:36 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Reflecting on Super Bowl XLVI

It’s been five days since the Super Bowl, just enough time to give us a little perspective. Was it a football game? A concert? A competition for the Clio Award? Or some bizarrely American combination of all three?

Let’s start with the least important: The football game. You might have caught bits of it, squeezed between the ads and the show. Those were the people who ran really fast and wore clothes. For the Super Bowl’s first 30 years, most of the games were boring blowouts. I suspect even the players can’t recall the scores. But the halftime shows and the ads were hard to forget, and often featured a member of the Jackson family having his hair ignited or her wardrobe mysteriously malfunction.

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State Budget
7:06 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Snyder budget focuses on student performance

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Rick Snyder calls for a slight boost in spending in his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year – with more money for police, schools, and universities. The governor says this year’s spending plan is built on tough decisions made last year.

Snyder was flanked by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley and Budget Director John Nixon as he took a seat in front of a packed house. He presented his budget plans to a joint meeting of the House and Senate appropriations committees. The governor started out with a short history lesson, reminding lawmakers of how things have changed since his budget presentation from a year ago. “It was a mess,” Calley said.

In 2011, the governor called for taxing pensions; taking $400 million dollars from the School Aid Fund to help pay for universities –  which still saw a cut in funding – and concessions from public employees. “We had to address a billion and a half dollar deficit. We addressed that. We had to ask for shared sacrifice from many people, a lot of difficult decisions and I appreciate a lot of understanding by a lot of people,” Snyder said.

This year, the economy has improved, and so has revenue. The governor called for modest increases to money for schools and universities – much of it linked to improving student performance. Local governments could also see more if they find ways to become more efficient.

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Economy
6:55 am
Fri February 10, 2012

Michigan expects to get $790M in foreclosure deal

Michigan says it expects to get $790 million as part of a landmark $25 billion settlement with the nation's top mortgage lenders.

The office of Michigan's attorney general announced Thursday that the estimate is up from the about $500 million it said Tuesday was expected for joining the settlement. The deal was reached over foreclosure abuses that occurred after the housing bubble burst.

Officials say 49 states joined the settlement with five of the nation's biggest lenders. The deal will reduce loans for a fraction of those Americans who owe more than their homes are worth. It will also send checks to others who were improperly foreclosed upon.

State Budget
6:04 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

A conversation with Governor Snyder about his budget proposal

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
Governor Rick Snyder's website

Governor Rick Snyder spoke to Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White about his budget proposal for fiscal year 2013.

In the proposal are some funding increases for education, public safety and infrastructure.

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Politics
5:19 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

The politics behind Governor Snyder's budget

Michigan State Capitol Building
User: mattileo/flickr

Governor Rick Snyder today presented his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2013, which begins this October.  He calls for modest increases in K-12 education, state police, and cities.

Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service joined Michigan Radio's Jennifer White to talk about the governor’s budget proposal.

There were no big spending cuts or structural changes. Sikkema is not surprised.

“We did big things last year. Now let’s just solidify them and continue in the direction we’re going in,” says Sikkema.

The Governor has proposed a public safety initiative that includes a 16 percent funding boost for the Michigan State Police, an additional $15 million in “law enforcement enhancement,” and about $5 million for youth employment program in high crime areas.

Michigan has numerous cities with high crime rates.  Demas says, “Now that we do have some more money in the surplus, it’s probably not a surprise that this was an area that we went to.”

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Politics
4:28 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

Hoekstra yanks controversial ad

Republican U.S Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra is changing his campaign ad strategy - after a storm of criticism and mockery over a television ad deemed by many as insulting to Asians.

The ad depicted a young Asian woman riding a bicycle on a dirt road among rice paddies.  Speaking in broken English, the actress refers to Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow as "Debbie Spend it Now."  

A website featuring the ad was also taken down from the internet. A new Hoekstra ad makes no mention of the China ad, but does take on the criticism.

"In  spite of what the media says," says the ad, "this race is really our chance to tell Washington to 'spend it not.' Not on Obamacare. Not on a failed stimulus. Not on a Solyndra." Solyndra is a solar panel manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy after receiving federal loans.

Hoekstra's rival for the Republican nomination, Clark Durant, condemned the original China ad as demeaning and hypocritical.

Arts/Culture
3:55 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

Artpod: When science meets art

Watershed Monotype 05 Leslie Sobel

Today's Artpod features a story where science and art intersect. 

At a lot of colleges and universities, the sciences are housed on one part of campus, the arts on another. But the two sides will have a chance to meet this week when the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan opens its first art gallery.

Sara Adlerstein is a research scientist at SNRE, artist, and curator for the new Art & Environment gallery.  When it comes to environmental issues, she says scientists need to be able to communicate with people outside their field.

"If you’re not able to communicate to the general public, then your work is not all that relevant," explains Adlerstein. "So I’ve been exploring to do that through art; I think art speaks to the heart. With an image you can communicate directly to the heart and make people think about how to educate themselves if they’re interested in the issues."

She hopes the new gallery will show scientists and students that charts and pie graphs aren’t the only way to share their research.

Leslie Sobel will be the first artist featured in the new gallery. She'll be displaying her "Watershed Moment" series, which Sobel says was inspired by vintage survey maps of the Mississippi River and current satellite images of the River from when it flooded last spring.

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Politics
3:39 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

Ficano announces ethics reforms in wake of FBI probe

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has announced changes in how the county deals with ethical issues. The county is under a federal corruption investigation into cronyism and influence peddling.

The Wayne County Executive’s troubles began when it was learned Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s new boss was given a $200,000 severance package when she left another county job.

The FBI is looking into that payout. It’s also investigating allegations of special deals with contractors and political pressure on employees to support Ficano.

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State budget
11:58 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Governor's budget: small increases for schools, roads, cities; more for police

Screen shot from Michigan State Senate TV Live.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has proposed a $48.2 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts in October. The proposed budget has modest increases for cities, K-12 and higher education, and roads. State police would get a larger increase. There are no major tax reforms in the budget.

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Commentary
10:48 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Michigan's Presidential Primary Sweepstakes

Three days ago, it seemed that Michigan’s presidential primary would be regarded as kind of a sleepy afterthought. Mitt Romney’s campaign was once again relentlessly sailing on, after having demolished Newt Gingrich in Florida.

Since this was Romney’s birthplace, and had voted for him enthusiastically four years ago, he seemed unlikely to be seriously challenged here. Nor was he apt to get much momentum out of victory in a state where his father was an iconic governor years ago.

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Midwest Migration
10:44 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Returning to the region after weathering the recession

Name: Kelly Nieman Anderson
Midwest Home: Ann Arbor, MI

Kelly and her husband moved to Mexico City in 2008 to keep him working in the auto industry. They returned to Ann Arbor in 2010. She shared her thoughts about what she missed while she was away and some lessons she learned in Mexico with Changing Gears' Midwest Migration project.

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Education
10:30 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Report: Michigan students falling behind their peers nationally in math, reading

According to the report, Michigan now ranks near the bottom in most subjects and grades.
user jdurham morgueFile

A new report shows Michigan students over the past decade have fallen far behind their peers in other states when it comes to math and reading.

The "What Our Students Deserve" report by the nonprofit Education Trust-Midwest compares National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores in reading and math for fourth and eighth graders around the country.

According to the report, Michigan now ranks near the bottom in most subjects and grades.

Amber Arellano, executive director of Education Trust-Midwest, says Michigan students have been stuck in the same place for the past decade, while students in other states have been improving.

She says it's like a marathon, where She likens it to a marathon:

"We can see the other runners in this race, they’re all going much faster and much farther than our kids are."

Michigan's African American students ranked last in 4th grade reading among the 45 states reporting in 2011.

But Arellano says it’s not just low-income, urban or minority children who are struggling. White students in Michigan ranked 13th in the country for 4th grade math in 2003. Last year, they were 45th in the country.

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Economy
9:56 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Job Fair to be held Friday for Michigan veterans

U.S. Army

The unemployment rate has been high since the recession hit in 2008, but it's been especially high for young veterans in Michigan. According to the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in Lansing:

A study conducted by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress reports that nearly 30% of 9/11 era veterans are unemployed in the state of Michigan.  This is nearly 3 times the national average of 11.5%.  The state of Michigan unfortunately tops the list of veterans out of work.

Numbers like these are the reason behind tomorrow's job fair. The Great Lakes Army Recruiting Battalion and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation have partnered on the first ever Great Lakes Veterans Job Fair:

The job fair is open to veterans from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm at VFW Post 345, located at 27345 Schoolcraft Rd. in Redford Township.  This job fair is focused on veterans, but no job-seekers will be turned away. For more information on the Veteran’s Job Fair, please call the U.S. Army’s Great Lakes Recruiting Battalion Public Affairs Office at 517-887-5782.

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