Commentary
10:50 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Commentary: Making foster care better for kids

Recently, I served as the master of ceremonies at the Council on American Islamic Relations annual banquet in Dearborn.

There, I met a family that had suffered an injustice at the hands of our state so terrible it was hard to believe it wasn’t a movie. Ahmed and Rehab Amer were Arab-Americans living a quiet life in suburban Detroit. But in nineteen eighty-five, their two-year-old son died after falling in the bathtub. The state immediately took their other kids away and charged Rehab, their mom, with negligence.

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Station News
10:48 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Outages expected on Michigan Radio's WFUM signal this afternoon

Starting at 11 a.m. this morning, Michigan Radio's WFUM signal, 91.1 FM in Flint, will experience some outages throughout the morning and afternoon. The tower in Flint is undergoing maintenance.

Changing Gears
10:17 am
Wed April 25, 2012

The Midwest economy is getting better. Will the transformation continue?

Grand Valley State University is building its new business school on the site of a former factory.
Dustin Dwyer Changing Gears

The data is in, and the Midwest economy seems to be on the path of recovery. Our long, regional nightmare still isn’t over for many workers, but there are plenty of signs for optimism. Businesses are hiring, productivity has increased.*

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Politics
9:32 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Detroit City Council member: I've received death threats after consent deal vote

Detroit City Council member Saunteel Jenkins.

People in public life are in the spotlight, and are often the target of people's vitriol when they make unpopular decisions.

It's no different in Detroit.

Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins told WWJ she's received death threats after her vote to approve a consent agreement with the state earlier this month.

From WWJ:

“I’ve received some threats, yes,” said Jenkins. ”It’s especially unnerving when in addition to threats, people are picketing at your private home.”

Jenkins said it’s all over her “yes” vote supporting the consent agreement. While things haven’t escalated to violence, Jenkins has had to ask for police protection at least once...

Jenkins said when she ran for a seat on City Council, she had no idea how difficult it would be.

“I had no idea, but I keep saying, you can’t complain when you get what you asked for. I asked for this, but I had no idea. I knew it would be rough, but I didn’t know it would be this rough,” she said.

Jenkins told WWJ that other council members have also received threats - she didn't identify their names.

News Roundup
8:29 am
Wed April 25, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Gov. Snyder to Hold Online Town Hall

Governor Snyder is set to hold another virtual town hall meeting this afternoon in Lansing. Questions can be posted to the governor’s website, to his Facebook page www.facebook.com/rickformichigan or on twitter by sending messages to @OneToughNerd and using the hashtag #AskGovSnyder. The Governor last held a town hall meeting in March to discuss Detroit's financial crisis. You can watch the town hall, beginning this afternoon at 12:15 p.m., at www.livestream.com/snyderlive.

Residents Question Lansing Budget

City residents are questioning how Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero plans to spend money from a recent property tax hike. Steve Carmody reports:

The tax hike was approved last year. Many voters expected the money would be spent to hire back dozens of police officers and firefighters laid off in recent years. But Mayor Bernero's plan calls for bringing back just seven public safety officers. Bernero says he’d like to hire more cops, but the city can’t afford it. Some Lansing city council members complain the mayor wants to spend money on rehabbing a building for the police department. That's money they say could be spent hiring police officers. The city council has until the middle of May to approve or change the mayor’s budget proposal.

Federal Money for MSU’s Rare Isotope Project

Michigan’s Democratic Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow say a Senate subcommittee has significantly increased the recommended annual funding for a planned $600 million physics research facility at Michigan State University, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Michigan Democrats said Tuesday that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water has budgeted $30 million in the 2013 fiscal year for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. That's up from $22 million that President Barack Obama recommended Feb. 13 in his budget proposal. About $55 million in funding was stipulated by the original agreement. Michigan State won a national competition to land the project in December 2008, and design work is under way. Levin and Stabenow say construction of the facility will create about 5,000 construction jobs, with 400 permanent jobs after completion.

Politics
7:42 am
Wed April 25, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

This week we take a look at the politics behind Detroit's financial crisis
JS Fauxtaugraphy Flickr

Every Wednesday, we talk with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about the week in state politics. This morning we take a deeper look at the politics behind Detroit's financial crisis. Mayor Dave Bing's office presented the Detroit City Council with an austere budget this week that would cut some 2500 city jobs and slash $250 million from the city's budget. We ask: will such a drastic budget actually get passed by the July 1st deadline?

Politics
7:12 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Michigan Air National Guard Bases may not be losing jobs

U.S. Air Force personnel from 110th Air Lift Wing boarding a C-130 prior to their departure in support of the Operation Readiness Training, Air National Guard base, Battle Creek, Mich., June 6, 2011.
(courtesy of the Michigan Guard)

HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Sander Levin says he's hopeful that a Pentagon decision to add 24 C-130 air transport planes will offset sharp job cuts planned at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recommended Tuesday that the military budget the Air National Guard planes and the 2,200 personnel needed to support them.

Levin says the announcement "is a positive step in the battle for equitable treatment of the guard." The Royal Oak Democrat says he'll press to see that the C-130s are based at Selfridge, 20 miles northeast of Detroit in Macomb County's Harrison Township.

The Obama administration budget for fiscal year 2013 now calls for cutting a net 450 part-time and 200 full-time jobs at Selfridge with the relocation of two-dozen A-10 Thunderbolt II air-to-ground attack aircraft.

Economy
7:06 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Carmakers In China Rev Up As Industry Shifts East

China is now the world's largest market for cars, and the Auto China 2012 car show is now taking place in Beijing. Here, the Denza electric car, a joint creation by Daimler and Chinese manufacturer BYD, is unveiled Monday.
AP

Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 6:24 pm

The Beijing auto show runs this week in what is now the world's largest car market, and a crucial one for Detroit companies.

General Motors just announced it will open 600 more dealerships in China, where it sells more cars than it does in the U.S. Last week, Ford announced construction of its fourth Chinese assembly plant.

For longtime American auto executives in China, witnessing the shift in the global auto industry is dramatic.

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Lansing
10:23 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Lansing's mayor defends budget plan

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero speaks at a public forum on his FY 2013 budget plan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

City residents are questioning how Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero plans to spend money from a recent property tax hike.

The tax hike was approved last year. Many voters expected the money would be spent to hire back dozens of police officers and firefighters laid off in recent years. But Mayor Bernero's plan calls for bringing back just seven public safety officers.

Bernero says he’d like to hire more cops, but the city can’t afford it.

"I’m not going to hire people that I’ve got to turn around and fire tomorrow. I’m not going to do it," says Bernero.

Some Lansing city council members complain the mayor wants to spend money on rehabbing a building for the police department. That's money they say could be spent hiring police officers.

Brian Jeffries is the Lansing City Council president. He wants more money spent on rehiring laid off police officers and firefighters.

"We thought we’d get more police out there.  That’s what we thought.   We thought we’d get more fire personnel out there," says Jeffries, "Basically all we’re being told is this is just going to back stop any future losses.”

The city council has until the middle of May to approve or change the mayor’s budget proposal. The council will hold its own public hearing tonight.

Science/Medicine
6:34 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Michigan State University physics project gets a boost

(courtesy of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams)

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow say a Senate subcommittee has significantly increased the recommended annual funding for a planned $600 million physics research facility at Michigan State University.

The Michigan Democrats said Tuesday that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water has budgeted $30 million in the 2013 fiscal year for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

That's up from $22 million that President Barack Obama recommended Feb. 13 in his budget proposal. About $55 million in funding was stipulated by the original agreement.

Michigan State won a national competition to land the project in December 2008, and design work is under way.

Levin and Stabenow say construction of the facility will create about 5,000 construction jobs, with 400 permanent jobs after completion.

Arts
6:23 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts facing financial problems

Art displayed at the repopening of the UICA back in July 2011.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The head of Michigan’s largest contemporary arts center has stepped down as part of a plan to stabilize the museum’s finances. The Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids is also cutting its hours.

The UICA’s board of directors voted on the restructuring plan this week to try to stabilize what they call a “declining financial situation”. But the board will not discuss details of the budget or the restructuring plan publicly.

Board President Kathryn Chaplow says the board has reached out to a small group of “major donors” to help with some immediate funding.

“It’s very rare for people to go through something like this. But with the way people step up its just overwhelming and its humbling. The UICA isn’t going anywhere,” Chaplow said.

The UICA’s executive director Jeff Meeuwsen has agreed to step down as part of the plan. He will stay on as a temporary consultant for up to 90 days. 

Chaplow says she hopes the cut in hours will be temporary. And she says the board will be seeking a new director.

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Politics
6:05 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Federal task force examining violence and children wraps up in Detroit

A federal task force looking into the effects of violence on children held its final meeting in Detroit Tuesday.

It was the last of four task force meetings held as part of US Attorney General Eric Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative.

The task force heard from experts who said exposure to violence during childhood has lifelong consequences. And many of those children end up in the criminal justice system themselves.

Robert Listenbee, Chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. He says there are proven ways to help kids who end up in the system.

“We know that, in the juvenile justice system, diversion programs that take low-level offenders that are at low risk of re-offending out of the system early rather than mixing them with high-risk offenders…we know that those things work," Listenbee said. "But we’re not using them very well.”

Listenbee says violence is a “virus” that should be treated like a public health problem.

But many experts and members of the public testified about how pervasive violence has become the social norm in many communities—both rural and urban. And it’s leaving a generation of traumatized children in its wake.

That was the case for Lawnya Sherrod. She used to be a gang member in Detroit. Now she helps kids who want to transition out of that life.

“This is what I see every day, all day," said Sherrod. "I step out, I hear gunshots. It’s common. Hearing gunshots is like hearing the school bell ring.”

The task force will outline their findings and suggestions to combat the problem in a report later this year.

Politics
5:55 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Ambassador Bridge referendum effort is a challenge to Governor Snyder

Jim Wallace flickr.com

It’s no secret the Ambassador Bridge’s owners don’t want the state to build a new bridge between Detroit and Canada.

Now, the Detroit International Bridge Company is trying another tactic to make sure that doesn’t happen: a ballot referendum.

The Bridge Company has proposed language that would require state lawmakers to put any proposed international crossing up for a popular vote first.

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Environment
5:44 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Island added to Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

Maumee Bay wetlands in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.
user notorius4life wikimedia commons

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge was established in 2001 and it includes shoreline, wetlands, and shoals along 48 miles of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie.

The refuge system has now added a 30-acre island to the system.

From the Associated Press:

Officials say Sugar Island is part of conservation area surrounding the southern end of Grosse Ile in the Detroit River. It's located in Wayne County's Grosse Ile Township.

The island once was a destination for picnicking and had other attractions. It's near Boblo Island, which once was home to a well-known amusement park.

Sugar Island was bought by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding and it's now part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The refuge includes roughly 5,700 acres along 48 miles of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie.

Politics
4:50 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Michigan Senate adds exemption to workplace smoking ban

user RyAwesome fotopedia

The state Senate has amended a budget bill to add a new exception to Michigan’s workplace smoking ban.

The Senate version of the human services budget would prohibit spending money to enforce the smoking ban against an annual charity cigar dinner in Traverse City and other events like it.

Republican state Senator Howard Walker sponsored the budget amendment.

"It has to do with non-profits that have been in business for over 10 years for their charity which will help some of the needy folks in the community,” Walker said.

Specifically, the amendment would allow the Father Fred Foundation cigar dinner to go forward without running the risk of a citation.

Organizers have been trying to find away around the smoking ban since 2010.

Right now, the only exceptions to the smoking ban are the casinos in Detroit and on tribal land.

Anti-smoking groups oppose the exception.

Arts
4:08 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Michigan poets Roethke, Hayden featured on new U.S. stamp

Photo courtesy of U.S.P.S.

The U.S. Postal Service is paying homage to the world of poetry with ten new commemorative stamps.

Two Michigan poets will be featured on the new Forever stamps: Theodore Roethke, a Saginaw native and Pulitzer Prize winning poet; and Robert Hayden, a Detroit poet, and the first black poet laureate of the United States.

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Medicine
3:51 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Health care group wants to reopen parts of Cheboygan Memorial Hospital

Cheyboygan Memorial Hospital

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (AP) - A spokesman for McLaren Health Care Corp. says the health care system has to go before a bankruptcy court judge before it can reopen the emergency room and most outpatient services at Cheboygan Memorial Hospital in northern Michigan.

Kevin Tompkins said Tuesday that Flint-based McLaren has reached an agreement with the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services - a first step in reopening portions of Cheboygan Memorial.

McLaren could go before the bankruptcy court next week. If approved, the reopening process and hiring of staff will start immediately.

The hospital closed unexpectedly April 3 after a sale to McLaren fell through. The Michigan Nurses Association said Monday night that McLaren has formed a partnership with Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey to obtain tentative federal approval.

Politics
3:44 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

"Fracking" debate comes to Lansing

A gas drilling rig in Appalachia.
User Meridithw Wikimedia Commons

Michigan politicians are beginning to wrestle with an issue that's proven to be contentious in other parts of the country.

"Fracking" or hydraulic fracturing is a controversial method of extracting natural gas by pumping water, sand and chemicals into deep underground wells. Both opponents and advocates of the process have started taking action in the state legislature.

The Associated Press writes that "House Democrats on Wednesday plan to discuss a bill that would regulate [fracking]," while "the House's natural gas subcommittee released a report Tuesday encouraging more natural gas production."

An official from Gov. Rick Snyder's administration says the governor is reviewing both the bill and the report.

Some exploratory drilling has already occurred in Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

Take a look at the video below to see an animated view of the fracking process:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
2:02 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Michigan grad student takes on "Dean of the House," U.S. Rep. Dingell

Daniel Marcin campaigning in Ann Arbor
Marcin's Facebook page

Michigan's Rep. John Dingell,  the longest serving member in the U.S. Congress, is running for his 30th term---his first came during the Eisenhower administration back in 1955. But as WNYC's the Takeaway tells us, he is facing an extra hurdle that he hasn't seen for a decade: A primary challenger.

Daniel Marcin is a Ph.D. student in economics at the University of Michigan and he is currently campaigning to get on the ballot for the state's 12th District, pitting himself against Dingell in the August 7 Democratic primary.

Marcin spoke to the Takeaway, saying he's not overly concerned with taking on such a long-standing incumbent:

"This election for me is not about experience," he said. "This election is about ideas. And John Dingell has failed to deliver on environmental action. He's failed to deliver on same-sex marriage and he's failed to deliver on sound economics."

You can listen to the full interview below:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Weather
1:45 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Elevated fire danger in lower Michigan today

USDA

Today's high winds and dry weather are making conditions right for fire.

The National Weather Service's office in Grand Rapids issued a bulletin today warning of "Elevated Fire Danger Today":

Fire danger across all of Lower Michigan will be quite elevated today due to the very dry air in place, and with wind gusts to 40 mph expected to develop today.

If a wildfire was to start today, it would be expected to spread very quickly due to the dry and windy conditions.

So far, the warm dry conditions this year have led to 160 wildfires in Michigan, compared to 36 last year, according to the Michigan DNR.

The Weather Service offers tips to keep wildfires from starting and urge people to call 911 if one is spotted.

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