Auto/Economy
10:40 am
Thu December 1, 2011

Optimism, pent-up demand, drive November auto sales

Chrysler sold 19,739 RAM pickup trucks in November
Chrysler

Car companies report their November sales today.

Chrysler’s sales rose 45 percent compared to the same month last year.  The big jump comes from three of the company's five U.S. brands.

Chrysler brand sales rose 92 percent, largely due to higher demand for the 200 and 300 sedan.  Jeep sales rose 50 percent from last November.  Dodge sales increased 43 percent.

Fiat 500 sales in the U.S.  continue to fall far short of expectations. Fiat sold 1,618 of the minicars in November. RAM truck sales rose seven percent.

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Commentary
9:10 am
Thu December 1, 2011

Playing politics with charter schools

It seems pretty clear that Republicans are intent on ramming through legislation that will result in a vast expansion of Michigan charter schools. Up to now, there has been a limit on how many could be authorized. Charter schools had to be sanctioned by universities, and no university could charter more than 150 of them.

Yesterday, the House Education Committee approved a bill  removing that cap. New committee chair Tom McMillan pretty much gaveled down any attempt by minority Democrats to amend the bill, with one minor exception.

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News Roundup
8:38 am
Thu December 1, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Several dozen Catholic parishes in Detroit might close

After a "year-long, parish-based pastoral and strategic planning process," the Archdiocese of Detroit revealed a plan for a smaller footprint in Detroit.

From an Archdiocese of Detroit statement:

  • Within five years, nine parishes are proposed to close.
  • In addition to the above, 60 parishes are proposed to merge down to 21, resulting in 39 fewer parishes.

The Detroit Free Press reports Detroit was one of the first archdioceses to close churches back in 1989. From the Freep:

In the last 10 years alone, about 40 parishes have closed or merged because of the priest shortage and changing demographics in Detroit and its inner-ring suburbs, reducing the number of parishes diocese-wide from 310 to 270.

Detroit unions to offer up their cost-saving ideas

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has been calling for concessions from Detroit's unions along with layoffs to fix the city's budget problems.

Today, unions in the city are expected to go before city council with their ideas.

From the Detroit News:

The city's 48 employee unions thus far have resisted Mayor Dave Bing's call for givebacks to help the city stave off a possible state takeover. Several deadlines imposed by Bing have come and gone...

A coalition of union leaders met Wednesday morning to hammer out ideas for the council to consider. Leaders will present options for cheaper health care and suggest alternatives to Bing's proposed 10 percent wage cut, according to a union leader familiar with the plan.

Governor Snyder heads to Delta College to deliver special message

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to help workers get the skills employers need in today's job market. Rick Pluta reports Snyder is looking for ways to bring down Michigan’s persistently high unemployment rate. Pluta says the Governor "will deliver his fifth special message of the year today where he is expected to outline a strategy to better match the skills workers have to positions that are available right now."

Politics
7:16 am
Thu December 1, 2011

Stun gun legislation working its way through Michigan legislature

Under legislation being considered in the Michigan legislature, individuals licensed to carry handguns could also carry a stun gun.
user jennuine captures Flickr

Stun guns might become another allowable concealed weapon in Michigan.

The Michigan Senate passed a measure that lifts a ban on stun guns last October. A similar measure is working its way through the Michigan House. From USA Today:

A measure working its way through the Michigan Legislature would make the state the nation's 45th to allow residents to carry stun guns as a means of self-defense. Wisconsin became the 44th on Nov. 1.

Stun guns, which shoot prongs carrying an electrical charge to temporarily incapacitate the person they strike, have been blamed in lawsuits for some deaths, but proponents insist they are far less dangerous than handguns.

agriculture
7:36 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Family run farms concerned about proposed changes to federal child labor regulations

“Youth working on the farm is as old as farms,” said Craig Anderson, Agriculture Labor and Safety Services division manager at Michigan Farm Bureau. Anderson grew up on a farm in northern Michiagn.

“I started operating equipment at the age of 6 with a wiggle hoe – hoeing strawberries,” Anderson said.

The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing changes to child labor regulations. If the new rules are adopted kids under age 16 would not be able to touch a wiggle hoe because the weeding machine is gas powered. He says in rural areas working on a farm is a great job for a teenager and sometimes the only job around.

“You not only are going to exclude the family structure but you’re also going to exclude the rural structure. Where that farm employment is the first stepping stone to be able to do anything from purchasing your first bike all the way up to purchasing your first car and saving for college.”

The proposed changes would also prohibit children under age 16 from working with most farms animals. Anderson says the changes would hurt smaller farms that still rely on family members to do a lot of the work. The department of labor is accepting feedback on the changes through Thursday.

Politics
5:33 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Lawmakers put forward plan to help families keep heat on

Gord McKenna flickr

Low-income households that have trouble paying for utilities could soon get help from the state to keep the heat on through the winter. Republicans in the state House have introduced a proposal to tap into one-time federal funds to help pay for home heating assistance.

Funding for home-heating assistance was hit hard this year. Michigan’s home-heating funds were frozen because of a state Court of Appeals decision. At the same time, the federal government reduced home-heating payments to states.

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courts
5:21 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Court upholds parole, over sentencing judge's objections

s_falkow flickr

The state Court of Appeals has upheld the parole of a convicted murderer over the objections of the judge who sent him to prison. 

Phillip Paquette was convicted of stabbing a man to death at a party in the summer of 1994. Paquette maintains to this day he is innocent and acted in self defense. While in prison, Paquette committed a string of infractions, but the pattern of misconduct ended in 2004.

Paquette became eligible for parole last year, and the Michigan Parole Board granted his request to be released.

The judge that sentenced Paquette objected, citing Paquette’s record of misconduct and insistence that he’s innocent. 

Paquette took his case all the way to the state Supreme Court – which returned the case to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals noted Paquette went six years without a violation, and has expressed sorrow for the killing. The appeals court reversed the judge and said Paquette is to be paroled.

Politics
5:03 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Governor Snyder to outline Michigan workforce training plans

Gov. Rick Snyder
Tiberius Images / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his fifth special message of the year tomorrow at Delta College near Saginaw, where he is expected to outline a strategy to better match the skills workers have to positions that are available right now.

The governor is looking for ways to bring down Michigan’s persistently high unemployment rate.

More than one in 10 working-age people in Michigan are out of work and actively seeking jobs. Governor Snyder says one big problem is too few people with skills that match positions that are available in fields like welding and software design.

Sara Wurfel is the governor’s press secretary, and she says the governor believes employers will respond if workers pick up new, in-demand skills. 

“(The governor) believes the number one most-important recourse Michigan has is its talent, its people, and the skills and the background that they bring.”

The governor is expected to say the state and educators need to do a better job of identifying employment trends and the skills businesses will be looking for. Snyder’s predecessor, Governor Jennifer Granholm, also made job training a high priority.

Religion
4:39 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Detroit Archdiocese takes next step in streamlining plans

A group advising the Detroit Archdiocese about reorganizing parishes will submit its recommendations to the Archbishop Wednesday evening.

The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council is made up mostly of laypeople. The group was tasked with creating a plan to close or merge parishes throughout southeast Michigan.

In a letter to Catholic parishoners across the Archdiocese, the Council’s chairman explains their recommendations are based on suggestions from parish groups

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Politics
4:21 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

A conversation with Michael Brown, Flint's new emergency manager

Michael Brown was appointed as Flint's emergency manager.

Governor Rick Snyder yesterday named Michael Brown emergency manager for the city of Flint.

Brown is very familiar with Flint. He served as Flint’s temporary mayor when former mayor Don Williamson abruptly resigned. 

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Mr. Brown about his new appointment.

 

Politics
4:03 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

What's next for Occupy Detroit? Some members push voter registration

The Occupy Detroit encampment in Grand Circus Park was dismantled earlier this month
user: detdan / flickr.com

While the Occupy Detroit movement has vacated Grand Circus Park for the winter, they are not slowing down in getting their message out, and as the Huffington Post Detroit reports, they are trying out new avenues to make an impact.

The Huffpost's Kate Abbey-Lambertz writes:

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Arts/Culture
2:55 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

A.V. Club Ann Arbor closes after roughly 3 months in business

The Ann Arbor A.V. Club has folded. The local entertainment arm of the popular satirical newspaper “The Onion” made its debut in September and employed three full time workers.

Bobby Mitchell and his company Bopper Media handled all aspects of the Ann Arbor Onion and A.V. Club franchise - from printing to distribution and ad sales. Mitchell did not want to be recorded for an interview, but he did confirm that the November 24th issue was the last one he’d be publishing. He wouldn’t say more except to say “lawyers” were involved. He also added that there's a slight possibility The Onion corporate might want to take over the Ann Arbor A.V. Club and publish it.

Curtis Sullivan was very surprised to hear the news. Sullivan co-owns the comic store Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor. He says, unlike other free, entertainment weeklies, copies of the Onion’s used to fly off the shelves at his store:

"We almost never have leftovers of the Onion! And I hear people talking about, 'did you read The Onion?' I don’t know, you don’t really hear that as much about other things."

Sullivan himself is a huge fan of The Onion - so much so he even signed up for a full year of advertisements with the local A.V. Club, something he never does:

"I’m not very excited about print advertising as a business owner generally. When they approached us, it was like, this is great, we’ll do it! I thought it would be a perfect match."

Instead, Sullivan's Vault of Midnight ad only got to run once before the publication folded.

Offbeat
2:48 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Dear News Director, why do you hate Christmas?

Vincent Duffy

I always enjoy the holiday related updates I get from friends and relatives at this time of year. Some send old fashioned Christmas cards, others send elaborate newsletters highlighting the successes (usually) of each family member from the previous year, and still others just send a quick email or Facebook post to say they’re thinking about me.

It’s also the time of year when I’m frequently accused by listeners of being a soldier in the war against Christmas.

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Politics
2:41 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Kwame Kilpatrick: "I've forgiven myself," even if others won't

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick gave a speech about “second chances,” to a large crowd of students at Eastern Michigan University last night.  Kilpatrick was invited by a student group.

William Caldwall is a junior at EMU.  He protested outside the event with a sign that read “Actions Speak Louder than Words.”

Caldwell says he believes in second chances, but feels Kilpatrick isn’t making a true effort to redeem himself.  He notes Kilpatrick owes the city of Detroit hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Sports
2:32 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

UM's Brady Hoke named Big Ten "Coach of the Year"

Brady Hoke awaits the media at his first press conference as Michigan's head coach earlier this year.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan's first-year head football coach was given Big Ten "Coach of the Year" honors by other conference coaches and by members of the media.

Hoke led the Wolverines to a 10-2 season overall, including a win against rival Ohio State.

From MGoBlue.com:

The Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday (Nov. 30) that University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke was chosen as the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year, as selected by conference coaches, and the Dave McClain Coach of the Year, as picked by the media.

Hoke is the sixth first-year coach to earn the McClain Coach of the Year award, which dates back to 1972 and is named for the former Wisconsin coach. This is the inaugural awarding of the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year honor, which pays tribute to Ohio State's Woody Hayes and Michigan's Bo Schembechler.

MGoBlue.com reports Hoke joins former Michigan coach Fielding Yost as the only coaches in Michigan's history to win at least 10 games in their first season as head coach.

energy
2:18 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Investigation shows event at Palisades Nuclear Plant was of "substantial safety significance"

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant sits close to the Lake Michigan shoreline near South Haven.
Excelon Nuclear

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says a week-long shut-down of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in September was of "substantial safety significance." The plant is located in South Haven about 55 miles southwest of Grand Rapids.

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Auto/Economy
1:36 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Time for a little bubbly? Analysts say car sales get a Black Friday boost

Analysts say car sales are climbing.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

It could be time to crack open a modestly-priced bottle of champagne.

Analysts say, like the recent good news about retail purchases, November auto sales "may have run at the fastest pace in more than two years."

From Bloomberg News:

Light-vehicle deliveries in November, to be released Thursday, may have run at a 13.4 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, the average of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That would top the 12.3 million pace of a year earlier and October's 13.3 million rate, which was the best month since sales were helped by "cash for clunkers" in August 2009...

"November was a good retail environment for consumers overall," Erich Merkle, Ford's sales analyst, said . Consumers have been "sitting on the sidelines for quite some time. Black Friday provided that reason to get out there."

The head of Toyota's U.S. sales unit said there's a lot of pent up demand among consumers, "it's starting to push industry sales regardless of whether the economy is flat or going up."

Politics
12:36 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Michigan House panel OKs bill to allow more charter schools

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A proposal designed to allow more charter schools or public school academies in Michigan has taken a step forward.

The Republican-led House Education Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would end some numerical and geographical limits on charter schools. The bill passed by an 11-6, mostly party line vote and advances to the House floor.

The measure narrowly passed the Republican-led Senate in October.

The state has roughly 250 charter schools. Supporters say more should be allowed to boost educational options in public schools.

Politics
11:48 am
Wed November 30, 2011

State faces backlog of 20,000 medical marijuana cards

bobdoran Flickr

An official from Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said an equipment malfunction led to a backlog in printing around 20,000 cards for medical marijuana patients, according to the Saginaw News.

The newspaper reports the backlog goes back to medical marijuana applications received since last July.

Celeste Clarkson, compliance section manager with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs spoke at a seminar on medical marijuana enforcement in Saginaw Township.

From the Saginaw News:

The state has continued to print up to 800 cards a day for medical marijuana patients and caregivers, but the volume of applications has approaches 1,500 a day. Once an application has been approved, the state has five days to print a card under state rules.

The state is reviewing how best to catch up on the backlog, she said...

The state has received nearly 200,000 medical marijuana applications through the end of October with 120,597 active patients, according to state figures.

The state has 45,531 active caregiver registry card users. A caregiver must have one card for each patient and may have no more than five patients. A caregiver can provide no more than 12 marijuana plants for each patients.

The state has denied 14,288 applications, she said. Those denied may reapply.

Commentary
11:34 am
Wed November 30, 2011

Is a four year cap of welfare benefits costing more than it saves?

Earlier this year, the legislature passed a new law that cuts people off cash welfare benefits forever after four years.

That’s not necessarily four years in a row. That means you are limited to 48 months of benefits, lifetime, even if you have three little kids, say, and have no other means of support.

There are a few temporary and special hardship special exemptions, but the bottom line is that about 40,000 people, three-quarters of whom are children, have been cut off.

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