Politics
11:09 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Spoof of Clint Eastwood Chrysler ad takes swipe at Romney

Second City's "Clint Eastwood."
YouTube

As Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark pointed out this morning, the stakes have been raised for Michigan's upcoming Republican presidential primary now that Rick Santorum pulled off a three state sweep last night.

The Republican candidates will be campaigning hard to win the state's 16 electoral votes.

For Mitt Romney, he might again face questions about his stance on GM and Chrysler's bailout.

In November of 2008, he wrote an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times with the headline "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" in which he argues the automakers should go through a managed bankruptcy.

Now, comedians from Chicago's Second City club have created a spoof of the Clint Eastwood Chrysler ad taking a shot at Romney at the end. In it, their version of Eastwood says:

"I've seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. And sometimes it's best to lie down and watch from the couch. You can't win 'em all, right?"

Here's the Second City spoof:

Romney has maintained that the Obama Administration eventually adopted his call for a managed bankruptcy. The Washington Post took closer look at Romney's stance on the auto bailouts. They concluded:

Romney is correct when he says he has been consistent on the question of bailouts for the auto industry, but he pushes the envelope when he suggests the Obama administration, after wasting billions, ultimately reached the same conclusion. By most accounts, Romney’s approach would not have been viable in the depths of the economic crisis.

So what do you think. Will Romney's stance on the auto bailouts help him, or hurt him in Michigan's Republican primary?

Commentary
10:55 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Prison Blues

Michigan is one of only a handful of states that spends more on prisons than it does on higher education. This is a disgrace, and isn’t doing very much for either our budget or our future.

The reasons for this are both complex and simple. The societal reasons are complex, of course, and have been addressed at length by people more knowledgeable than I.

The technical reasons are far simpler.  Thirty years ago, there were only about 13,000 inmates in Michigan prisons. Five years ago, the figure had ballooned to more than 51,000.

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News Roundup
8:54 am
Wed February 8, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Presidential Candidates Turn Focus on Michigan

After Rick Santorum’s sweep of last night’s primary and caucuses in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, the candidates running to become the next Republican presidential nominee are setting their sights on Michigan. The state holds the nation’s next primary, along with Arizona, on February 28th (Maine holds its caucus this Saturday). Mitt Romney’s campaign has announced that the former Massachusetts Governor will speak at Ford Field in Detroit four days before the primary and Santorum told a cable TV news program this morning that his campaign will “plant our flag” in the mitten-state. Meanwhile, President Obama was in Michigan on January 27th speaking about college affordability on the University of Michigan campus.

Foreclosure Settlement

Michigan is expected to reap a half billion dollars from a settlement between 40 states and five of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders, Steve Carmody reports. From Carmody:

Michigan has been among the hardest hit states in the foreclosure crisis. The settlement will help homeowners who were in foreclosure between 2008 and 2011. Bank of America, Ally Financial, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup are the banks in the settlement. The deal will settle complaints the mortgage lenders wrongly foreclosed on borrowers and forged documents. Part of the deal involves helping homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth, to refinance their mortgages. The exact size of the national settlement is unclear.

Increased Sales Tax?

Michigan voters may soon decide whether the state should scrap the nineteen-cents-per-gallon tax on gas at the pump in favor of a sales tax increase of 1 percent. “The change would help generate more money for transportation funding. A proposal to put the question to voters is gaining momentum with some legislative leaders. That change would require a constitutional amendment and put the question to voters on the ballot. Republican state Senator Howard Walker sponsored the measure. He said if taxpayers are asked to pay more to fix the state’s roads, they should have a voice,” Laura Weber reports. Governor Snyder says the state needs more than one billion dollars in additional transportation funding to fix the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.

State Legislature
7:36 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Michigan bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks

Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Legislation introduced in the Michigan House would generally prohibit doctors from performing abortions after a woman's 20th week of pregnancy.

The legislation introduced last week by Republican Rep. Eileen Kowall of Oakland County's White Lake Township is similar to laws approved in a handful of other states in the past few years. Supporters say the proposals are based on the premise that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, a claim that opponents dispute.

Opponents also say the proposals are a departure from Roe v. Wade, which lets states limit abortions in cases where there's a viable chance the fetus could survive outside of the womb. That's generally considered to be 22 and 24 weeks.

The Michigan proposal would provide exceptions for when the mother's life is at risk.

Election 2012
6:57 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Santorum’s three-state sweep means Michigan’s primary is relevant

Headlines across the country are proclaiming big news from last night’s primary and caucuses in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. Headlines like Santorum revives his campaign with wins and Santorum’s Sweep Shakes up Race make it clear: Rick Santorum had a pretty darn good Tuesday night. The former U.S. Senator won all three states in play.

Although, no delegates were assigned, Santorum has something else: momentum. “Together, the three states voting Tuesday will eventually award 128 delegates. But Missouri was a ‘beauty contest’ with no delegates at stake, while Minnesota and Colorado were nonbinding events with delegates to be chosen this spring. At stake Tuesday night was the prestige of winning. And Santorum nailed down three upsets to restore an air of viability to his candidacy,” the Washington Post explains. The Post continues:

Santorum’s wins across the Midwest Tuesday could bestow new legitimacy on his insurgent efforts and boost his fundraising in the critical period before nextmonth’s major contests. Santorum now appears to pose a more serious threat not only to Romney, but also to Gingrich, who had been positioning himself as the logical alternative to Romney.

 

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Politics
11:17 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

New law guarantees bonds for troubled school districts

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has signed legislation he says will let financially-strapped school districts guarantee their bond payments—using state school aid funds.

The legislation applies to all school districts with deficit elimination plans or emergency managers. But it was written with the Detroit Public Schools in mind.

Detroit State Representative Fred Durhal, who sponsored the bill, says the new law should help set bondholders’ minds at ease.

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Religion
6:56 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Sikh temple vandalized--but were Muslims the intended target?

Images of the vandalism at the Sterling Heights Sikh temple
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund saldef.org

Vandals targeted a Sikh house of worship in suburban Detroit this week. But there are signs they intended to target Muslims.

According to the Sikh Society of Michigan, the Sikh temple (known as a Gurdwara) in Sterling Heights has been under construction for several years, without any incidents or controversy.

That changed when someone vandalized the building sometime on Sunday night.

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Human Trafficking
5:50 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Helping victims of human trafficking

user: isabel bolinn / flickr

We continue our series on human trafficking.

Identifying victims of this crime can be difficult. But as Amy Allen tells us, there are signs we can watch out for.

Allen is a victim and witness specialist from Homeland Security Investigations. She is stationed in Michigan and travels locally and abroad to help victims of human trafficking.

Economy
5:43 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Michigan to share in mortgage industry settlement of foreclosure complaints

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 The state of Michigan is expected to reap a half billion dollars from a settlement between 40 states and five of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders.  

Michigan has been among the hardest hit states in the foreclosure crisis. The settlement will help homeowners who were in foreclosure between 2008 and 2011.

Bank of America, Ally Financial,  Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup are the banks in the settlement.   The deal will settle complaints the mortgage lenders wrongly foreclosed on borrowers and forged documents.

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Politics
5:15 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Congressman Mike Rogers on worldwide threats

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers on NBC's 'Meet the Press' in 2011. Rogers represents Michigan’s 8th District.
Congressman's website.

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers represents Michigan’s 8th district. He also serves as the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Recently, he held the annual Open Hearing on Worldwide Threats Facing the U.S. Congressman Rogers spoke to Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

Politics
4:37 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Michigan counties could scrap their road commissions under new legislation

Under legislation passed today, County Commissions in Michigan can decided whether or not to keep their Road Commissions.
Ingham County

Legislation that would allow counties to scrap their road commissions is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder.

Once the governor signs the bills, it would be up to county commissions to decide whether to get rid of their road commissions, and take over their responsibilities.

The bills cleared the state House today along largely party-line votes.

State Representative Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) voted against the measures.

She says it would be too easy for county commissions to divert money currently used for plowing and repairs to other purposes.

“I have sincere concerns about what will happen if the county road commissions are absolved into the county board and what will happen to those road funds,” said Byrum. “Currently, they’re designated to be used on roads but, I just - I have some serious concerns.”

But State Representative Dale Zorn (R-Ida) says county commissions won’t abolish their road commissions unless it makes financial sense.

“Because that, I believe it will work in some counties. In some counties, it won’t be as advantageous for them to do,” explained Zorn. “It really depends on how much money is being paid in the cost of administrative services.”

Road commissioners say the legislation puts too much local politics into road management.

Politics
4:18 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Lawmakers working to replace Michigan's gas tax with a sales tax increase

Paying less at the pump, but more in the store. Michigan voters may decide whether to replace the state's gas tax with an increase in the sales tax this fall.
user orinzebest Flickr

Voters may soon decide whether Michigan should scrap the 19-cents-per-gallon tax on gas at the pump in favor of a sales tax increase of 1 percent.

The change would help generate more money for transportation funding.

A proposal to put the question to voters is gaining momentum with some legislative leaders.

That change would require a constitutional amendment and put the question to voters on the ballot.

Republican state Senator Howard Walker sponsored the measure. He said if taxpayers are asked to pay more to fix the state’s roads, they should have a voice.

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Auto/Economy
3:15 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Chrysler CEO Marchionne announces early bonuses

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne praised workers, saying "It took an incredible team effort to bring about such remarkable results, and you should be proud."
wikimedia commons

Last week, we reported an Associated Press estimate that predicted a $1,500 profit-sharing bonus for Chryslers hourly employees based on the automaker's earnings figures contractual obligations with workers.

Now an email from Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne to UAW members posted by the Detroit News suggests the bonuses will go out early.

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Transportation
2:17 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Amtrak gets green light for higher train speeds in Michigan and Indiana

At one point, Amtrak trains were ordered to speeds of 25 m.p.h. on parts of the Wolverine line.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

Maximum train speeds on Amtrak's Wolverine and Blue Water lines can increase to 110 m.p.h. on an 80 mile stretch of track between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana.

Amtrak and MDOT officials say the higher speed is the fastest allowed outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak's Acela Express train, which travels between Boston and Washington D.C., can reach speeds up to 150 m.p.h.

Approval was given after successful testing of a "positive train control safety system" installed on the tracks.

From an Amtrak and MDOT press release:

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Politics
1:33 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Michigan lawmakers continue votes to trim judges

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers are continuing votes aimed at reducing the number of probate, district and circuit court judgeships statewide through attrition.

The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a series of bills that would make some of the reductions. The measures return to the House.

Overall, the Legislature plans to trim an estimated 36 judgeships statewide. That includes legislation already signed by Gov. Rick Snyder that eliminates eight judgeships across the state.

Lawmakers originally had sought to reduce about 45 judgeships. The plan largely follows recommendations made last year by the State Court Administrative Office.

Science/Medicine
12:34 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

MSU expanding reach of medical research

A view of the recently constructed Secchia Center, MSU's headquarters for the College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids
user JohnE777 Flickr

Michigan State University’s Human Medicine program is expanding its research facilities far away from East Lansing.

Last month, MSU announced its buying the old Grand Rapids Press building.  This week, developers say they hope to turn an old newspaper building in Flint into a home for MSU medical researchers.

Aron Sousa is an associate dean at the MSU College of Human Medicine.  He says expansions in Grand Rapids and Flint, as well as Midland and Traverse City, reflect the communities’ needs.

“Both the college [of Human Medicine] and the university want to be more active across the state.  We’re the land grant school for the state of Michigan.  We take that mission and that history seriously," says Sousa. 

 MSU is ending some medical programs in Kalamazoo and Saginaw, to make way for new medical schools at Western and Central Michigan Universities.

Election 2012
12:22 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Mitt Romney to speak at the Detroit Economic Club

Mitt Romney is scheduled to speak at the Detroit Economic Club.
David Markland Flickr

The Detroit Economic Club says Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney plans to address the group a few days before Michigan's primary.

The club says in a posting on its website that Romney is scheduled to appear at a midday event Feb. 24 at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel.

Michigan's presidential primary is Feb. 28.

The club says a limited number of tickets will be available to attend the Michigan native's speech. Details are posted on the club's website.

Auto/Economy
12:01 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Michigan pickle business grows into former Detroit manufacturing plant

Cucumber production for pickling in the Midwest.
USDA

The misshapen map above is from a 2011 USDA report, but it gives you the idea.

Pickles are big business in Michigan. With cucumber farmers located near pickling processing facilities, the state is the largest pickle producer in the country.

Rene Wisely of the Detroit News reports that Michigan is followed by Florida and North Carolina in pickle production.

Wisely reported on the expansion of Detroit and Brooklyn based specialty pickle maker McClure's. The company plans to move into an old manufacturing plant in Detroit:

After searching Troy, Clawson and even New York City, where Bob is based, they found it in Detroit at a former American Axle plant.

They begin setting up their new 20,000-square-foot leased home in a week or so, more than quadrupling their size.

"This extra space will help in many ways, right down to our glass jars," Joe McClure said. "I can place an order for more glass jars, which will save costs because the bigger the order, the smaller the price. We didn't have enough storage to do that before."

Wisely writes that McClure's has come long way from its beginnings in a 1,100 square foot space in Ann Arbor. The company has 25 employees and made $1.6 million in revenues last year.

Commentary
10:52 am
Tue February 7, 2012

Moroun & Stamper, Losing Credibility

When I heard the first news flashes about the Michigan Court of appeals ruling yesterday, it appeared briefly that the Ambassador Bridge company had won. Indeed, the court said Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards was wrong to rule that Matty Moroun, the bridge’s owner, and Dan Stamper, his top employee, had to stay in jail until they lived up to an agreement with the state.

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Environment
10:36 am
Tue February 7, 2012

Living with Michigan's wolves

Michigan's gray wolf population is estimated to be 687 animals. The recovery goal for the population is between 250-300 wolves.
Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS

Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes were recently taken off the endangered species list. Now, the state of Michigan is responsible for managing the wolf population.

Michael Nelson is a professor of environmental ethics at Michigan State University. He’s an author of a new report on people’s attitudes about wolves in Michigan. His report is based on a statewide telephone survey conducted in 2010. 

Nelson says they asked people throughout the state how they felt about the following four statements (on a five point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree):

  1. "I enjoy knowing wolves exist in Michigan."
  2. "I would be likely to purchase a license to hunt or trap wolves."
  3. "The decision to hunt wolves should be made by public vote."
  4. "Wolves should only be hunted if biologists believe the wolf population can sustain a hunt."

Michael Nelson says overall, Michiganders tend to value wolves.

"Generally, we found out that people enjoy knowing there are wolves in Michigan. This varies from place to place. We also found out that in general, the people of Michigan really support wildlife biology, wildlife science as an important way to make decisions about wolves."

But he says people’s feelings about wolves change based on where they live in the state.

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