Arts/Culture
5:01 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Food truck craze coming to Grand Rapids?

'What the Truck' food truck wants to operate in the City of Grand Rapids. Normally food trucks aren't allowed to set-up in Grand Rapids except for certain special events.
Steven Depolo Creative Commons

City planners in Grand Rapids are debating whether food trucks should be allowed in the city. Food trucks are becoming more popular thanks in part to TV shows like “The Great Food Truck Race”.

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Politics
4:40 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Michigan Legislature OKs domestic partner benefit ban

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature have approved a bill aimed at blocking the offering of taxpayer-paid health insurance to domestic partners living with
some public employees.

The main bill in the package passed by 63-45 vote Thursday in the House. It's headed to Gov. Rick Snyder for consideration.

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Politics
4:33 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Political Roundup with Ken Sikkema and Debbie Dingell

user: mattileo/flickr

With the legislature set to go on winter break next week, there's a flurry of activity at the state capitol. 

In this week's political roundup we look at the state senate bill, which makes major changes to worker’s compensation, the bill to restrict public employers from offering live in and same sex partner benefits, and news about the emergency manager law.

Offbeat
2:35 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Out of tune: a roundup of 9 campaign song gaffes

Kid Rock in his "Born Free" video. Republican Presidential hopeful has adopted the song as his campaign ballad.
screen grab from YouTube video

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is sticking to his Michigan roots, at least in his choice of campaign song.

Romney has chosen "Born Free" by Detroit-area rocker Kid Rock to serve as the theme music for his bid for the Republican nomination.

While a post on Kid Rock's website seems to give at least tacit approval to Romney's use of the song, things don't always go so smoothly for candidates when choosing their soundtracks.

Michigan Radio has put together a list of controversies, disputes, and gaffes related to campaign songs:

  1. In what might be deemed a classic of campaign song missteps, Bruce Springsteen was none too happy when Ronald Reagan praised "Born in the U.S.A" during his 1984 campaign, as told by CNN.
  2. Earlier this year, Rolling Stone reported that Republican primary contender Michelle Bachmann drew the ire of Tom Petty for using his song "American Girl" to tout her patriotism and her position as the only woman in the Republican field.
  3. Apparently, Bachmann didn't learn anything from President George W. Bush who was scolded by Petty back in 2000 for using "I Won't Back Down" without permission.
  4. A post from mentalfloss.com reports that in 2008, John McCain had a heap of campaign song troubles, receiving cease and desist requests from John Mellencamp, Boston, Foo Fighters, and Jackson Browne in response to his use of their songs.
  5. McCain's running-mate Sarah Palin also took heat for using "Barracuda" by Heart as her intro music at the Republican National Convention. As Rolling Stone reports, a press release from the band said the song was written as "a scathing rant against the soulless, corporate nature of the music business, particularly for women" and that the band found "irony in Republican strategists' choice to make use of it there."
  6. In a more creative, but no less artist-angering effort, Bob Dole rewrote the lyrics to the 1960's Sam & Dave hit "Soul Man,"  to create the eponymous "Dole Man," before being threatened by the song's rights-holders (again from mentalfloss.com)
  7. Not to be accused of partisanship, however, Sam Moore of the above mentioned duo took issue with Barack Obama's use of the group's song "Hold On, I'm Comin.'" As Mother Jones reports, Moore was nonplussed by the politicization of a song about "gettin girls."
  8. While not technically a campaign song per se, Herman Cain became the punch-line of more than a few jokes (many of them made by the Daily Show's John Stewart) for quoting the theme song of the Pokemon movie during his speeches.
  9. If the above stories show that misuse of music by political candidates is an increasingly-common occurrence, then at least, as the Washington Post reports, Charlie Christ had the decency to record a video apology to David Byrne of the Talking Heads for his unauthorized use of the song "Road to Nowhere."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Courts
1:26 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court to hear case on MSU harrassment policy

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether Michigan State University can continue to enforce its rule against harassing its employees as they do their jobs.

Jared Rapp confronted and yelled at a university employee in an MSU parking garage after he found a ticket on his car.

The employee felt threatened and called the campus police.

The employee sat in his car waiting for the police to arrive while Rapp hovered outside the vehicle and snapped pictures with his mobile phone.

Rapp was charged with a misdemeanor and was later convicted of violating a university rule against interfering with MSU employees.

A judge reversed the conviction. He said the rule is so vague it would be hard for a reasonable person to know if they broke the rule.

The rule has been upheld by the state Court of Appeals, though, and the prosecutor hopes the Michigan Supreme Court will do the same.

Commentary
12:32 pm
Thu December 8, 2011

Snyder urges Detroit’s leaders to enter into a consent agreement

Native Detroiter Harry Morgan died yesterday. What makes me feel old is that while the rest of the world remembers him fondly for his role in MASH, I think of him as Officer Bill Gannon from Dragnet.

That was the show made famous by the iconic line “Just the facts, ma’am.‘ Which, by the way, nobody ever actually said on the show, any more than Humphrey Bogart said “Play it Again, Sam,” in Casablanca. Those are enduring cultural myths.

There’s another, more dangerous myth out there in Detroit today, a myth apparently shared by the mayor and city council.

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Politics
11:58 am
Thu December 8, 2011

State moving to retool emergency manager law in wake of challenge

A group known as "Michigan Forward" is collecting signatures in an effort to repeal Public Act 4, the state's emergency manager law.

If they collect enough signatures, the question of whether or not to keep the emergency manager law would be put on the November 2012 ballot:

As we reported yesterday,

As of now [Michigan Forward has] over 155,000 signatures. They need 161,304 signatures or more.

If they're able to collect those signatures and the petition is approved, the emergency manager law will be suspended until the 2012 election.

Now there's news that some in state leadership are thinking of retooling Public Act 4 in the face of this challenge.

House Speaker Jase Bolger is quoted in the Detroit Free Press that he is "concerned about the chaos that could ensue if the emergency manager law is suspended and so should every citizen of Michigan."

From the Free Press:

State officials are working on legislation to replace the state’s emergency manager law, which could be suspended early next year as a result of a ballot initiative, Treasurer Andy Dillon said today.

“I think we’ll have a pretty confused situation if the law gets held in suspension,” Dillon said in a telephone interview with the Detroit Free Press.

Dillon said his office has sent a list of improvements he’d like to see to the emergency manager law, Public Act 4, and officials in the Legislature confirmed today they are working with the governor’s office on a possible replacement.

“We will continue to discuss this issue with the governor and our partners in the Senate and take appropriate action if and when necessary,” Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger said in a statement.

Auto/Economy
11:45 am
Thu December 8, 2011

UAW local voting on strike authorization

United Auto Workers members are voting on whether to authorize a strike at General Motors’ Lansing Delta Township plant.   The vote centers on several workplace issues.   

The Delta Township plant produces the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.  Tracy Handler is an analyst with IHS Global Insight.    She says if UAW members strike at the Lansing plant, the effect would not be immediate on GM.   

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Politics
11:29 am
Thu December 8, 2011

Legislators move to restrict live-in and same-sex partner benefits

It appears a measure to forbid public employers from offering live-in and same-sex partner benefits will soon be on its way to Governor Rick Snyder.

The measure was adopted yesterday by the state Senate.

It would affect state and local governments, as well as school districts, and community colleges, but not public universities.

State Senator Rebekah Warren is a Democrat who voted against the measure. She says the ban would make it harder for Michigan’s public employers to compete for the best workers.

“Our best and most-successful companies have already figured out that by creating diverse workforces and making sure health insurance is provided for their employees, they get the best environment. We’re tying the hands of our local governments and public employers if we don’t give them the same tools,” said Warren.

Republicans say public employers that offer live-in partner benefits violate the intent of the voter-approved amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Politics
11:20 am
Thu December 8, 2011

Court will hear exchange student discrimination case

The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to decide whether the Michigan High School Athletic Association discriminated against a former exchange student from South Korea.

The MHSAA said he was only eligible to play one year of high school football and denied him permission to be a member of the Hudson High School varsity team.

The rule is meant to stop schools from recruiting exchange students to build championship teams.

The state Department of Civil Rights sued the high school athletic association for discrimination based on race and national origin.

*Correction - an earlier version of this story stated the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. The text and title have been corrected in this version.

Education
11:16 am
Thu December 8, 2011

U-M to Make Gender Neutral Housing More Accessible

The University of Michigan student assembly wants to make it easier for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students to live together. It’s part of a movement called gender neutral housing.

The student organization wants to see a gender neutral housing option on next year’s on-campus housing application. It would allow students to be contacted by the LGBT student resource center, and partnered with a roommate they feel comfortable with.

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Environment
10:24 am
Thu December 8, 2011

Legislative mistake and a court decision put low-income heating fund in jeopardy

Michigan lawmakers are debating this week how to help low-income families pay their heating bills. It’s turned into an urgent problem because of federal budget cuts... and a court decision that has tied up millions of dollars. Here’s how it works: there’s a program called the Low-Income Energy Efficiency Fund. If you get your power from DTE or Consumers Energy, you pay into that fund when you pay your energy bills... somewhere between one and two dollars a month. There’s been about $90 million dollars in that fund annually.

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Environment
9:50 am
Thu December 8, 2011

New DNR advisory council weighted toward timber interests

There’s a shakeup in managing Michigan’s forests.

A new advisory council is heavily weighted with voices from the timber industry, and there will be more emphasis on developing forest products to boost the state’s economy.

Governor Rick Snyder says there’s a lot of potential to use natural resources to bring in more revenue.

The head of the Department of Natural Resources has just appointed a new ten member forest advisory council. Eight of the ten members are connected to the timber industry.

The new council will focus on developing logging and lumber, pulp and paper, and biofuels. An existing forest management advisory group includes other interests such as wildlife, recreation and conservation as well as logging.

Marvin Roberson with the Sierra Club says those other voices largely will be gone from the new council.

“I think this is going to mean a lack of management for natural conservation values and an increase in management for timber-only values,” said Roberson.

The DNR also is reorganizing its forestry division so that come January it will no longer deal with oil, gas and minerals or recreation on state forestland.

-Bob Allen for The Environment Report

News Roundup
9:14 am
Thu December 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Legislators to challenge Michigan redistricting in court

The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus is expected to announce a lawsuit today challenging some of the new political boundaries drawn up and approved by the state Legislature and Governor.

From the Associated Press:

A press conference has been scheduled for Thursday at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People office in Detroit.

The lawsuit's primary emphasis will be state House districts, according to Democratic Rep. Thomas Stallworth III of Detroit.

Democrats are upset that maps approved by the Republican-led Legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder would force incumbent state lawmakers from Detroit to run against each other in 2012.

It was not clear late Wednesday how or if the suit might address districts representing Michigan in the U.S. House.

Proposal to limit abortion coverage moving forward

Laura Weber reports a Senate panel cleared a proposal to restrict access to health care coverage for abortion procedures.

It would require individuals or employers to pay higher premiums to include abortion coverage in their health care plans.

Critics say women do not plan an abortion, so the proposal effectively strips their coverage.

Weber reports "there is no plan in the Senate to approve the abortion insurance proposal before lawmakers begin a winter break next week."

Detroit Police union leaders step down as negotiations heat up

Just as leaders from the city of Detroit are demanding more concessions from city union workers, two leaders from the Detroit Police Officers Association have announced they're retiring.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The Detroit Police Officers Association is planning to replace its leadership after the top two officials stepped down abruptly Tuesday, shocking colleagues as Mayor Dave Bing steps up his demand that police accept 10% wage cuts.

Union President Marty Bandemer and Vice President Cheryl Smith plan to retire officially at the end of the year after ending discussions with the Bing administration over concessions that police officers strongly oppose.

Autism
4:00 am
Thu December 8, 2011

Autistic kids practice social skills at the bowling alley

Kids with autism struggle with reading non-verbal cues, like facial expressions. They also have a tough time knowing the right words to say. That’s why there are social skills clubs for kids with autism.

One such club meets regularly at Bel-Mark Lanes in Ann Arbor. There are three different groups based on age, and this particular group includes kids in junior high and high school.

After a little bowling, and cheering each other on, everybody heads back to a side room.

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu December 8, 2011

Michigan's home prices are stabilizing

A new report says home prices in Michigan, and the rest of the country, are stabilizing.   

During the recession, home prices swung wildly.  First plunging down, then bobbing up as government incentives spurred buying.  

Alex Villacorta is with Clear Capital.   He says their data shows home prices in Michigan remained relatively flat over the past six months.   Villacorta expects 2012 will bring slight growth in Michigan home prices.  Though he cautions, in cities like Detroit, home prices are still going to be very low.   

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Politics
6:32 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Proposal to limit abortion coverage heads to full Senate

A proposal to limit access to health care coverage for abortion procedures has cleared a state Senate panel. The proposal would require employers or individuals purchasing health care plans to pay higher premiums if they want to include abortion coverage.         

Critics say it’s important for insurance companies to offer abortion coverage because no one plans for unintended pregnancies or unforeseen medical issues.

"Nobody expects to have an unintended pregnancy and I think nobody who has a wanted pregnancy expects that something is going to go wrong," said  Shelli Weisberg of the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the measure. "But the problem with this is it’s taken away something that women already have. From a moral standpoint – it’s taken away comprehensive coverage when women most need it.”

There is no plan in the Senate to approve the abortion insurance proposal before lawmakers begin a winter break next week.

Politics
5:33 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Mitt Romney picks Kid Rock's "Born Free" as campaign theme song

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney went back to his Michigan roots to choose a campaign theme song.

“Born Free” by Michigan native Kid Rock has been chosen as Romney's official campaign theme. A Romney staffer confirmed the music selection with Michigan Radio this afternoon.

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Business
5:19 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Retailers call for enforcement of Internet sales tax

Michigan store owners say shoppers who don’t pay sales tax on Internet purchases are cheating the state and themselves.                                

There’s already a state law that requires a six percent sales tax on online purchases.

Shoppers are supposed to keep track of what they buy and pay the tax on next year’s tax return.

But there’s no real enforcement.

Jim Hallan is president of the Michigan Retailers Association.

He says the state’s brick-and-mortar stores can’t compete and he says that hurts everybody.

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Investigative
5:14 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Fire destroys 8 Detroit buses

A fire at a Detroit bus facility destroyed eight newer buses Wednesday morning.

The fire was more bad news for a city that’s been struggling with a fleet of broken buses. Many passengers have complained about hours-long waits at bus stops.

Steve Serkaian  is the city’s communications director.

He says the fire started under a bus in a storage bay.

Serkaian denies reports that the facility’s sprinkler system didn’t work.

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