Environment & Science
5:31 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Appeals court says no drilling in Pigeon River forest

Pigeon River State Forest
Credit michigan.gov

The Michigan Court of Appeals says state regulators were correct to deny a drilling permit to developers who want to put oil wells on private land surrounded by a state forest.

The developers said the state should either grant the permit, or compensate them for their lost investment. They want to put 11 wells on private property surrounded by the Pigeon River Country State Forest in northern lower Michigan. The state Department of Environmental Quality said the wells were either in designated no-drill zones, or were too close to water.

“The takeaway from this decision is that you can’t drill an oil well just any old place in the state of Michigan,” said DEQ spokesman Brad Wurful. “There are some areas that are off limits.”

And the decision says since that was clear up front, the developers don’t get a payback from the state.

“What the court said was, everybody knew this beforehand going into this and it was clear,” Wurful said. “Nobody got surprised here. They simply wanted to do something that was not allowed and the court upheld that. We’re pretty pleased with the decision, obviously.”

The developers can file a new permit request with plans to use different technology, like directional drilling. They can also take their case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Stateside
5:20 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

The Civil Rights Act, 50 years later

Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act
Credit Wikimedia Commons

“Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our nation whole.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act outlawed discrimination against African Americans and women.

Leslee Fritz, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, joined Stateside to reflect on this moment in history and its connections to Michigan.

“It really is the foundational act of so much of the law that we rely on today,” Fritz said.

Fritz said John F. Kennedy really began the process, and Johnson saw it through. The Civil Rights Act led to the Voting Rights Act the following year, as well as the Fair Housing Act, and the Americans with Disability Act.

When the act became law, it was right in the middle of Freedom Summer, the effort to register black voters in Mississippi. Fritz said that the University of Michigan provided the largest number of volunteers for that effort.

Fritz added that Michigan has a proud history of being very progressive. There are a number of people who played key roles, both in the activist effort as well in the legal efforts to get the Civil Rights Act passed. Michigan voters in 1963 approved a new state constitution that set up the first civil rights commission in American history.

“We should be proud of that legacy and frankly, we should be doing a better job today of living up to it,” Fritz said. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

- Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom. 

Stateside
5:08 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Forget the Bahamas. Michigan is one of the best places to SCUBA dive

Credit Sonja Stark / Flickr

When it comes to great places to SCUBA dive, lots of people immediately think of the waters of the Caribbean or Mexico, with lots of amazing underwater life, beautiful coral, gentle warm water.

But there’s a hardy group of SCUBA divers who point to Michigan as one of the best places to dive.

In the Caribbean, you’re looking at coral and fish. But lakes have great shipwrecks that are over 150 years old.

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Stateside
4:33 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

A look at the history of the KKK in Michigan

KKK Picnic July 4, Baraga State Park, Michigan. Dated on back, 1923.
Credit user: Wystan / Flickr

The 90th anniversary of a Ku Klux Klan rally in Jackson, Michigan is approaching.

On July 4, 1924, 100,000 KKK members marched in a two-mile-long procession.

Joellen Vinyard, a professor of history at Eastern Michigan University, joined Stateside to talk about the history of the Klan in Michigan.

Vinyard said Michigan was fertile ground for Klan recruiters in the early 20th century. As the auto industry grew, white and black southerners traveled north for jobs. Immigrants also came into the state looking for jobs, and most of them were Catholic.

“The Klan in Michigan was as anti-Catholic as it was anti-black,” Vinyard said.

Vinyard said the Klan’s stated aim was to “keep America safe for Americans,” and its members viewed Catholics as a threat to democracy and the Protestant way of life they believed American was based on.

She added that Klan members were not ashamed to be affiliated with the group. Many marched without their hoods. Coca-Cola even openly sponsored one of their rallies.

However, as the country moved into the Great Depression, the Klan began to lose popularity. Scandals were unveiled, funding was being mismanaged, and people began to feel betrayed by some of their own.

Vinyard says we need to study the history of the Klan and understand who they were. 

“The Klan in Michigan in the '20s, it was a grassroots movement. It’s a reflection of democracy in action,” she said. 

*Listen to the full story above. 

–Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.

Stateside
4:32 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Road-funding trouble in D.C. could be bad for Michigan

Credit Wikimedia Commons

There was much anger and disappointment last month when state lawmakers failed to figure out a way to fund badly needed road repairs before leaving for their summer break.

And now there's road funding trouble ahead in Washington, D.C. Federal gas taxes go into the Federal Highway Trust Fund. The money is handed out to states in the form of road construction payments.

Michigan gets more than $1 billion a year from the trust fund. But that could come to a screeching halt before the summer is out.

Mlive's Jonathon Oosting wrote that the fund is running low due to declining fuel tax revenue, and could be fully depleted by late August or September.

“The federal government is already making plans to scale back payments to states such as Michigan, if Congress doesn’t figure out a way to replenish this fund,” Oosting said.

The fund is not collecting as much money as it used to from gas taxes, as people are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, or opting out of driving in favor of public transportation.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Arts & Culture
4:07 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Michigan History Foundation to get $1 million grant

Credit Michigan Historical Center

A $1 million grant is going to the Michigan History Foundation.

It's from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and will help the Michigan Historical Museum revamp its 25-year-old exhibits.

But the grant is also meant to focus on racial equity. The money will be used for the museum's "Sharing Michigan's Untold Stories" project. Some of that will include stories of the indigenous tribes who where here before the Europeans came. 

Sandra Clark directs the Michigan Historical Center. She is working to incorporate diverse stories and voices into the museum.

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Politics & Government
1:40 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Outside groups already spending big in Michigan's U.S. Senate and governor's races

Even though outside groups are hoping to sway Michigan voters in November with their political ads, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network's Rich Robinson says the benefit of such early TV ad spending is questionable for candidates and their supporters.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Nearly $18 million has been spent so far this year on political TV ads in Michigan’s U. S. Senate and governor’s races. Most of the money has been coming from national Republican, Democratic, conservative and liberal groups.

Rich Robinson is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He analyzed TV ad buys by political groups in a half dozen television markets in Michigan. 

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Stateside
12:01 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Where do auto museums flourish? Surprisingly, not in Michigan

All F1 Car story in Automobiles Museum of Turin
Credit Wikimedia Commons

There are many different auto museums – some dedicated to displaying cars with unique engineering and designs, and others dedicated to displaying the automobile’s impact on society.

Michigan's auto museums have had little success. Flint’s "Autoworld" theme park closed two years after opening, and the Walter P. Chrysler Museum closed its doors recently.

Europe has had a different experience.

Autostadt, which means “auto city” in German, is in Wolfsburg, Germany. It averages about two million visitors per year. BMW and Porsche also have notable museums in Germany.

Why do auto museums in Europe succeed, while those in the auto capital of the world have not?

“Europeans seem to have such a deep bond with their vehicles,” says Paul Eisenstein, publisher of  The Detroit Bureau. “They are seemingly more interested in the mechanicals and what have you. They have a tendency to be drawn to automotive exhibits, museums, parks, and everything at a much greater rate than Americans are.”

*Listen to our interview with Eisenstein at 3 p.m. today. We'll post the audio for that interview here around 4:30 p.m. 

Stateside
11:49 am
Wed July 2, 2014

"Autoworld" opened its doors in Flint 30 years ago

1913 Studebaker Type 35 Model AA, Autoworld Brussels
Credit Wikimedia Commons

30 years ago, "Autoworld" opened its doors on July 4, 1984 in Flint, Michigan.

It was an indoor theme park and museum dedicated to preserving and spreading automotive achievements.  

Bill Shea, editor and reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, said that the attraction wasn’t that popular and visitors were confused about what Autoworld was.

Was it supposed to be a museum or a theme park?

This led people to ask why a group of people invested $80 million into the endeavor.

Organizers hoped Autoworld would revitalize the inner city of Flint, develop Michigan’s tourism industry, and preserve the automotive history in the city.

But, in 1987, the attraction closed its doors permanently. Here's a video of them imploding the building from ABC News:

*You can hear our interview with Bill Shea today at 3 p.m. We'll add the interview to this post at 4:30 p.m.

Opinion
10:57 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Terri Lynn Land was a good secretary of state, but she isn't up to date on issues

Okay, here’s today’s political trivia test: What do the following people have in common? 

Bob Griffin, Marvin Esch, Jack Lousma, Jim Dunn, Phil Ruppe, Ronna Romney, Bill Schuette, Rocky Raczkowski, Jack Hoogendyk, Spencer Abraham, Mike Bouchard, and Pete Hoekstra. That’s the complete list of Michigan Republicans nominated to run statewide for the U.S. Senate in the last 40 years. 
They have something else in common, too: Every one lost. How many Republicans won election to the Senate over the same period? Only one: Spencer Abraham, who won in 1994. Six years later, he was a loser, too.
That’s an incredible record of frustration. Twelve out of 13 losses. That’s especially strange, given that the GOP has held the governorship for most of that time, and the Legislature.
If you are 31 or younger, you weren’t even born the last time Democrats controlled the state Senate.

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Environment & Science
10:33 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Politics, profits delay action on arsenic in drinking water

Wendy Brennan, center, outside her home with husband Peter, daughter Caitlyn and granddaughter Madelyn Begin.
Amy Temple The Center for Public Integrity

Arsenic is nearly synonymous with poison. But most people don't realize that they consume small amounts of it in the food they eat and the water they drink.

Recent research suggests even small levels of arsenic may be harmful. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been prepared to say since 2008 that arsenic is 17 times more toxic as a carcinogen than the agency now reports.

Women are especially vulnerable. EPA scientists have concluded that if 100,000 women consumed the legal limit of arsenic each day, 730 of them eventually would get lung or bladder cancer.

The EPA, however, hasn’t been able to make its findings official, an action that could trigger stricter drinking water standards. The roadblock: a single paragraph inserted into a committee report by a member of Congress, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found.

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Politics & Government
10:25 am
Wed July 2, 2014

The week in Michigan politics

Credit user aunt owwee / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss how Michigan businesses will be affected by the US Supreme Court ruling that corporations don't have to include contraceptive coverage for employees for religious reasons, what the state is doing to prevent more felons from being home health care workers for Medicaid patients, and the new budget bill for the state.

The week in Michigan politics interview for 7/2/14

Michigan's Silent Poison (Part 3)
8:30 am
Wed July 2, 2014

There's arsenic in Michigan's well water, but not a lot of people are talking about it

Drilling a water well in Michigan.
Bushen Well Drilling. Facebook

Michigan's Silent Poison Part III

Parts of southeast Michigan – especially in the Thumb – have higher than average levels of arsenic in the groundwater.

Arsenic can cause cancer. It’s been linked to bladder, lung and kidney cancer, and other serious health effects.

If you’re on city water, there’s a federal regulation that limits the amount of arsenic in it, but if you’re on a private well, it’s up to you to find out whether there’s too much arsenic in your water.

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Transportation
6:08 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Highway Trust Fund shortage threatens road work in Michigan

The Federal Highway Trust Fund is important because it helps pay for state and local transportation projects. But the trust fund is facing a shortfall.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Transportation officials in Michigan are hearing from their federal counterparts this week about a funding shortage that may affect next year’s orange barrel season.

The problem is fuel efficient cars, at least partially. More fuel efficient cars mean less gas revenue flowing into the Federal Highway Trust Fund.  The federal gas tax rate has remained at the same level for two decades.  

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Business
5:00 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Food trucks will soon roll into downtown Battle Creek

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Battle Creek is the latest Michigan city to welcome food trucks to its downtown.

The city commission voted last night to lift a longtime ban on food trucks.  Starting later this month, the city will start handing out permits to up to seven food truck vendors to set up shop in a specific zone in downtown Battle Creek.  

Supporters say food trucks will add much-needed vitality and variety to Battle Creek’s downtown.

Downtown business owners are not happy. They fear the food trucks will hurt struggling downtown restaurants.

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Auto
5:24 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Fiat Chrysler continues U.S. sales increase streak

Credit Atlanta Jeep Ram Dodge

Fiat Chrysler continued its climb back to health in June.  It was the 51st month in a row the automaker increased its U.S. year-over-year sales.

The long streak of sales gains is being led by the Jeep and RAM brands. 

Jeep sales rose 28% compared to last June, and RAM sales were up 14%.

"In spite of two fewer selling days in June versus a year ago, we were able to increase our sales 9% and post our strongest June sales in seven years," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for Chrysler.

The automaker remains weak in terms of small and midsize car sales.  The Dodge Dart has performed well under expectations, selling only 7,225 in June. 

But the company has higher hopes for the new Chrysler 200, which began shipping to dealers in late spring.

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Education
5:15 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Superintendents blast education budget

Credit Thetoad / Flickr

As Michigan schools begin their new budget year this week, some local superintendents are urging lawmakers to return from their summer break to boost education funding.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a new education budget last week that boosts funding for all public schools by at least $50 per student. But Forest Hills Schools Superintendent Dan Behm says districts face new costs that wipe out that minimum increase.

Read more
Stateside
5:14 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Schools ordered to return to the MEAP test; teachers feel unprepared and disrespected

Credit Wikimedia Commons

When Gov. Rick Snyder signed Michigan's school aid budget last week, that act officially threw a big curve ball to teachers.

The budget included a provision ordering the Michigan Department of Education to produce and administer a MEAP test in the next school year, not the Smarter Balanced Assessment test they'd been planning to use –the test based on the Common Core standards that the state has been using.

If this all sounds confusing, try being a teacher in Michigan.

MLive’s Brian Smith has been talking with teachers about how they feel about the MEAP being back on.

“A lot of these teachers that I talked to are really just frustrated by the fact that now they just have a couple of months to prepare for a test they still haven’t seen,” Smith says.

He says the problem is that the MEAP hasn’t really been under active development, making sure the test is aligned with the state's content standards and the Common Core. So the test will have to be restructured.

Smith says in his report that all of the back-and-forth on the state's assessment test has left teachers feeling disrespected.

“They feel like their voices are not being heard in this conversation,” Smith says. “They’re not being included in the talk about how we are testing our kids and when we are testing our kids, and what that test is going to look like.”

*Listen to the full story above. 

Stateside
5:14 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

The polar vortex is over, but the "mosquito vortex" is here

A female mosquito.
Credit Wikipedia

We wrestled with the polar vortex all winter long. Now it looks like we could be wrestling with a mosquito vortex all summer long.

Ned Walker is a professor of entomology, microbiology, and molecular genetics at Michigan State University.

Walker anticipates a bad mosquito season this summer. Right now in lower Michigan, for a variety of ecological factors, we have three varieties of mosquitoes flying around at the same time.

The first species is the spring mosquito, a consequence of the polar vortex. They live in woodland pools that were formed by melted snow and spring rains.

“Our mosquitos are cold-hardy; they are used to the northern conditions,” Walker says.

The second species is the flood plain mosquito, which hatches after heavy rainfall in the spring.

The third is the summer flood water mosquito. Their larvae live in places that stay wet from a half-inch of rain or more after seven to 10 days.

Walker says there are about 60 different types of mosquitos in Michigan. 

*Listen to full interview above.

Politics & Government
5:05 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Snyder: Prison food contract troubles are “unacceptable”

Maggots were found in the meal area at a prison in Jackson recently.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Governor Rick Snyder says a deal with a private contractor to provide food for state prisons could be terminated if there are future problems with the company. Aramark Food Services was awarded the $145 million, three-year contract last December. But the arrangement has been beset by problems since then.

Aramark has been fined by the state for unapproved menu changes and running out of food. Also, 70 Aramark employees are banned from state prisons for inappropriate relationships with prisoners.

Most recently, maggots were found in the meal area at a prison in Jackson.

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