What's Working
9:59 am
Mon November 28, 2011

Michigan's State Park System

The Michigan State Park System won the gold medal award this year for the top state park system in the nation. People use the parks for swimming and boating during the summer, and hunting and downhill skiing during the winter, among a host of other activities.  We wanted to find out more about how the parks system affects our lives.  So, as part of our series, "What's Working," we called Ron Olson, the Chief of Parks and Recreation.

Lansing
9:25 am
Mon November 28, 2011

How often should the Lansing city council meet?

The Lansing city council discusses an issue during one of their 50 city charter required meetings this year
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 The Lansing City Council will talk about the benefits of meeting less often tonight.  

The city charter requires the council to meet 50 times a year.  City Clerk Chris Swope says, with that schedule, the council is wasting money.   

“It’s not just a matter of that cost but…we should be more efficient. People shouldn’t have to watch 50 times a year to keep an eye on what the city council is doing," says Swope.   

Swope proposes reducing the current city council meeting schedule from 50 required meetings to 26 meetings each year.  

News Roundup
9:15 am
Mon November 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit Public Schools face fines for truancy

For the 2012-2011 school year, Detroit Public Schools had an attendance record that fell below 75 percent for 46 days, according to the Detroit News. School districts that fall below 75 percent face fines.

More from the Detroit News:

State officials are weighing how much to penalize Detroit Public Schools for persistent truancy, a problem that could cost the financially troubled district up to $25.9 million, according to documents obtained by The Detroit News.

In the past school year, attendance at DPS fell below the state minimum of 75 percent on 46 days. The district says it is bracing for a loss of  the full amount, though the Michigan Department of Education expects a much lower final figure.

Low attendance naturally leads to poorer performing schools.

 

Cash assistance cut-off

Some Michigan families will find out today and tomorrow whether they're cut off from state cash assistance. A new state law puts a four-year cap on cash assistance.  Rick Pluta reports "the state Department of Human Services is holding two days of “rocket docket” hearings. People challenging their cutoff are expected to show up first thing in the morning, and wait their turn to make their case to a magistrate and a caseworker. They will be told before they leave whether they still qualify."

There are expected to be some protests outside of some DHS offices today.

Snow Wednesday

Snow is coming this week, according to the National Weather Service. Rain is expected to turn to snow late Tuesday night, early Wednesday morning. The Detroit Free Press quotes NWS Hydro Meteorological Technician Debra Elliott:

“It looks like, for the most part, 1 to 3 inches of snow will be possible west of U.S. 23, and east of U.S. 23, we’re looking for less than an inch of accumulation,” Elliott said, adding that the snow could affect Wednesday’s morning commute. “That could be a little bit of a mess for people, especially on the west side of 23.”

Flint
8:16 am
Mon November 28, 2011

Naming of Flint Emergency Manager may be near

People opposed to placing Flint under the control of an emergency manager let their feelings known
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Governor Snyder this week may name an Emergency Manager for the city of Flint.   

 It’s been nearly three weeks since the governor agreed with a state review team’s finding that the city of Flint is in a fiscal crisis.    That finding opened the door to the governor appointing an emergency manager to oversee Flint city government.    

The city is struggling with millions of dollars of debt and a declining tax base.   The time for the city to file a court challenge to the finding expired over the weekend. 

Read more
Arts/Culture
8:00 am
Mon November 28, 2011

NEA grant used to create "free to low-fee" legal service for artists

user imedagoze Flickr

The National Endowment for the Arts recently awarded $340,000 to Michigan arts groups.

This round of grants went to support events like the International Jazz Festival in Detroit, and the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo. You can see a full list here.

The advocacy group ArtServe Michigan got a $25,000 grant to create a new program to help artists navigate the law. Cezanne Charles is with ArtServe, and she says the nonprofit plans to hold workshops next year about intellectual property rights, how to start an LLC, even how to buy a building:

"In a lot of states that we’ve talked to, this is not something that artists can regularly do. But in our unique state, this is something that a lot of artists are doing and a lot of creative businesses are doing."

The Lawyers for a Creative Economy program will provide free consultations and lawyer referrals, as well as legal services to artists on a sliding scale or pro bono basis.

Investigative
7:00 am
Mon November 28, 2011

Legislators want data before changing auto no-fault

user H.L.I.T. Flickr

Michigan legislators are looking at changing the state’s mandatory auto no-fault insurance.  But some of the legislators say the information they need from insurance companies to make an informed decision has not been available to them.  Regulators say legislators and the public wouldn’t be able to understand the information even if it were made available.

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Science/Medicine
8:35 pm
Sun November 27, 2011

New clinic hopes to save patients money and provide better health care

Spectrum Health's Level I Trauma Center is located in Butterworth Hospital's emergency department in Grand Rapids.
Spectrum Health

Spectrum Health is launching a new clinic in Grand Rapids to target people who visit its emergency rooms more than 10 times a year.

Doctor Corey Waller identified the problem while working in Spectrum Health's emergency rooms. The non-profit health system says there were 950 of these high-frequency visitors in 2008. That’s an average of 21 times per person. Combined, their visits cost at least $40 million a year.

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Arts/Culture
9:41 pm
Sat November 26, 2011

Cindy Van Andel, wife of Amway Chairman, dies at age 57

Amway Chairman Steve Van Andel, and his wife Cindy at Davenport University's Excellence in Business Awards in 2010.
Davenportweb / Creative Commons Davenport University

Amway Chairman Steve Van Andel issued a brief statement Saturday night:

"I am saddened by the loss of my loving wife Cindy Van Andel. She passed away Friday evening after a brief illness. Cindy has been my friend, confidant and partner for almost 33 years of marriage. She was a warm and caring person who could light up an entire room just by her smile. Her heart went out to all she met and she will be greatly missed."

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Volunteering
12:00 pm
Sat November 26, 2011

Michigan wants YOU to volunteer

Thanksgiving day volunteers in NYC
Flickr notladj

About 2.3 million people volunteer in Michigan each year. But the state wants even more people to lend a helping hand.

Paula Kaiser VanDam is the executive director of the Michigan Community Service Commission. Even though the holidays are a time when people are feeling especially generous, Kaiser VanDam hopes people will share their time and their selves throughout the year.

“There are volunteer opportunities all year long and we hope people would consider that kind of giving as well.”

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Arts/Culture
12:13 am
Sat November 26, 2011

Frederik Meijer dies at age 91

 

Frederik Meijer, the Chairman Emeritus of Meijer grocery stores has died at the age of 91.

Meijer Corp. owns more than 150 stores in Michigan and around the Midwest.

He also helped establish the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, MI.

Meijer and his wife Lena were major philanthropists in Western Michigan. One organization to receive a major gift was Grand Valley State University, which named its public broadcast center after him.

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Arts/Culture
6:12 pm
Fri November 25, 2011

MSU's Broad Art Museum to open April 21, 2012

Construction at the Broad Art Museum
Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

The long-awaited Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University has officially set its opening date: April 21, 2012.

But there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done;  the Zaha Hadid-designed building is still under construction, exhibits still need to be planned, and positions need to be filled.

But Min Jung Kim, the museum's deputy director, is confident it will all be ready for the museum’s grand opening. She says the whole process of creating a museum from scratch is exciting:

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Politics
5:50 pm
Fri November 25, 2011

Michigan's charitable tax credit expires Dec. 31

Michigan's charitable tax credit allows taxpayers to essentially double their contributions to certain nonprofits
user Penywise morguefile

Nonprofits across Michigan are doing their annual end-of-year holiday push for financial donations. This will be the last time donors will be able to take advantage of a charitable tax credit.

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Arts/Culture
4:10 pm
Fri November 25, 2011

“Buy nothing” day a hit in Grand Rapids park

Celia Perez leads a crochet circle at the 'buy nothing' event in Grand Rapids on Black Friday. 'There's so much stuff in the world - why not just make your own gifts?'
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

In sharp contrast to the chaos at many shopping centers during Black Friday, Occupy Grand Rapids held an event today encouraging people to buy nothing.

“This isn’t the way that Christmas has to be, you know?”

Mandi Creveling lined up clothes, books, kids toys and electronics in neat rows on top of a blue tarp. All of it is up for grabs at the “really free market”. She’s been organizing free markets in Grand Rapids for about 5 years. It’s like a flea market, but where everything is free.

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Detroit
12:03 pm
Fri November 25, 2011

Business leaders react to Detroit mayor's corporate tax proposal

Detroit Regional Chamber President Sandy Baruah
Detroit Regional Chamber

Business leaders in Detroit say they have a little more clarity now on Mayor Dave Bing’s proposal to boost the city’s corporate tax rate.

Bing wants to nearly double the tax – to one-point-nine percent – on C-Corporations. Those are companies that are incorporated. They tend to be larger businesses.

Sandy Baruah is the president of the Detroit Regional Chamber. He says C-Corps also tend to be the businesses that have been doing a lot of recent hiring in Detroit.

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Homelessness
10:00 am
Fri November 25, 2011

Holidays can be stressful for homeless kids

Cyn, Rebecca, Shanika, Nicole
Ozone House website

The holidays often highlight family and special meals. But those can be delicate issues for some people, including homeless kids.  Pam Cornell-Allen is Associate Director of Ozone House, a non-profit that helps homeless youth in Washtenaw County. She says the holidays focus on a sense of family, and that can be a tender subject for homeless kids.

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Your Story
9:07 am
Fri November 25, 2011

Your Story: Once an abandoned liquor store, now a brewery

Barry Van Dyke outside what will soon be the Harmony Brewing Company
courtesy of Barry Van Dyke

Jack’s Liquor Store was never a beautiful building, even before it closed down and stood empty for more than 10 years. It was a dingy, generic convenience store on a corner. In May 2010, 33-year-old Grand Rapids resident Barry Van Dyke and two siblings bought it anyway.

The store sits on the border of the Uptown and Eastown neighborhoods in Grand Rapids. Eastown has been known as a diverse, vibrant business district and the Van Dyke’s wanted to capitalize on the energy and traffic. They plan to open a brewery in the space soon, Harmony Brewery. But converting the formerly empty building has not been easy.

The Van Dykes came into the project with redevelopment experience. Together, with their father, they own a local property management company called Bear Manor. They’ve bought, fixed up, and rented or sold 13 residential and three commercial properties in Grand Rapids, mostly in the Uptown neighborhood.

These 16 buildings are just a dent in the at least 1,078 buildings the city of Grand Rapids has documented as abandoned. Barry Van Dyke isn’t surprised there are so many. He says the thing most people don’t realize about renovating empty places is how long it takes.

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Arts/Culture
4:21 pm
Thu November 24, 2011

In Detroit, a Thanksgiving tradition continues

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and that means it’s time for a parade in downtown Detroit.

As the annual  parade proceeded into the heart of downtown this Thanksgiving, newspaper headlines reminded people that the city stands of the verge of bankruptcy.

But, there are also bright spots. The city's downtown is showing signs of revitalization. And the parade itself is a reminder of many grand traditions in Detroit's history.

The parade is a family tradition for man, including cousins McKenzie Holly and Mariah Bursey.

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Politics
10:33 am
Thu November 24, 2011

Michigan families will find out soon if they're cut from cash assistance

About a thousand Michigan families will find out on Monday or Tuesday whether they will be cut off of cash assistance welfare benefits for hitting a four-year cap.

The state Department of Human Services is holding two days of “rocket docket” hearings.

People challenging their cutoff are expected to show up first thing in the morning, and wait their turn to make their case to a magistrate and a caseworker.

They will be told before they leave whether they still qualify.

Gilda Jacobs directs the Michigan League for Human Services, which opposes the policy. 

“I guess it’s kind of letting people know right away to try to reduce their anxiety, but it’s going to be creating a lot more panic and anxiety if folks find out they’re going to reach that hard cap,” said Jacobs.

The director of the Department of Human Services says the “rocket docket” is meant to end drawn-out appeals.

 Unions are planning to stage protests at some DHS offices.

Offbeat
7:00 am
Thu November 24, 2011

Preserving the classic Thanksgiving turkey

John Harnois raises Narragansett turkeys, one of the so-called heritage breeds. He also raises a few Bourbon Reds, another heritage breed.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

In honor of Thanksgiving... we're revisiting a Michigan farmer who raises heritage turkeys.

Those are turkeys that have a little bit of a wilder history. Some farmers are trying to keep these older turkey breeds from going extinct.

John Harnois has a yard full of turkeys. He says he knows his turkeys so well, he can speak their language.

"The turkeys pip, they bark, they gobble."

These turkeys are mostly males. They're trying to look all big and macho as they strut around in front of the hens. These birds are the Narragansett breed.

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Arts/Culture
9:36 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

Holland Rescue Mission throws record-breaking Thanksgiving Banquet

More than 1,300 people pack into Hope College's field house Wednesday night for the Great Thanksgiving Banquet.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Nearly 500 volunteers served a hot meal to more than 1,300 people in need Wednesday night. That’s a record for the Holland Rescue Mission which has held the annual dinner for nearly 20 years. The non-profit runs a number of programs to help lift people from poverty.

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