Commentary
11:26 am
Tue December 6, 2011

Help with heating bills

Every winter, people in Michigan die because they can’t afford to pay their heating bills, and the utilities shut their power off.

Sometimes, they just freeze to death. Most of the time, however, they die in house fires caused by desperate attempts to get some sort of heat, such as using a portable stove.

An entire family died a few years ago when the father attempted to use fire to thaw out frozen pipes so they could get some water. Instead, he burned the house down.

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Environment
10:43 am
Tue December 6, 2011

Black bears moving south

A hungry black bear left its paw print in a frame of Terry Klein's beehive.
Photo by Terry Klein

Black bears have been doing well in northern Michigan for a while. There are somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 bears in the state, mostly in the U.P. and the northern lower peninsula, but in recent years, bears have been on the move.

Some people are already getting a little closer to bears than they’d like to.

“There’s one coming up to inspect...”

Terry Klein is a commercial beekeeper and he’s checking on the hives in his backyard.

“These are in good shape if they’re that far down and there’s that much honey on them,” said Klein.

He lives in St. Charles. It’s about 20 miles southwest of Saginaw.

“This spring is the most recent fun we had with the bear, if you want to call it that.”

Klein had 20 hives set up near the Saginaw-Midland county line. Only two of them survived the winter. And those last two hives were the ones the bear decided to eat. He left behind a calling card.

“There was one very definite paw print in one of the frames that had fallen or got knocked out of the hive, and there were several other frames that you could see claw marks.”

Bears do love honey, but they also love to eat the bee larvae. So they can devour the entire hive.

Black bears are not just wandering into the Saginaw area. They’ve been showing up all over southern Michigan.

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Arts/Culture
10:14 am
Tue December 6, 2011

ArtPrize adds $100,000 juried award for 2012 event

"Nessie" floats in the Grand River during the 2009 ArtPrize. More prize money is being added to next year's contest.
Steven Depolo Flickr

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - The annual ArtPrize contest in Grand Rapids is getting a new $100,000 juried award and trimming how much money the top two publicly picked winners each get.

Organizers on Tuesday announced the creation of the ArtPrize Juried Grand Prize for the 2012 event, which is scheduled for Sept. 19 to Oct. 7. The new award makes the total prize money for the 2012 event $550,000, up from nearly $500,000 in 2011.

Next year, the artist winning the public voting will get $200,000 instead of the $250,000 that was awarded in 2011. The prize for second place will be $75,000, down from $100,000. Prizes for other juried awards will be $20,000.

Artist and venue registration for the fourth annual ArtPrize event will be announced later.

News Roundup
9:36 am
Tue December 6, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Financial review begins today for Detroit

State auditors will start to comb over Detroit's financial books today.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon announced the state review last Friday. He said the "preliminary financial review" does not necessarily mean the state will appoint an emergency manager for the city. A state-appointed emergency manager could strip power from Detroit city council and the mayor. The EM could also void union contracts under state law.

The pressure is on for city leaders to get concessions from labor unions:

From the Detroit Free Press:

With time running out and hopes pinned on deep concessions from labor unions, Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown said the city soon must enter into a consent agreement, a pact between the state and city that would authorize the council and Mayor Dave Bing to make sweeping budget cuts and eventually impose a contract on labor unions.

Governor Snyder will sign anti-bullying legislation today

The anti-bullying bill that passed the legislature gives school districts six months to develop anti-bullying policies. From the Grand Rapids Press:

“The Governor is pleased that both chambers and aisles came together and are sending him a strong and comprehensive anti-bullying bill that's the right thing for Michigan's students, schools and communities,” spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said last week after the Senate voted 34-2 to approve a measure that originated in the House.

“He believes it's more than time for Michigan to provide a safe environment for all students and to join all the other states with laws on the books. And that bullying at any time, under any circumstances, is wrong-- period.”

Pontiac firefighters protest planned closings

Firefighters from Pontiac are expected to picket today to protest cuts to their department. From the Detroit Free Press:

Pontiac firefighters are picketing outside Waterford Township’s town hall and fire department today in opposition to a proposal to shutter the Pontiac Fire Department and contract services with Waterford Township.

A portion of Pontiac’s 57 firefighters are expected to walk a picket line through 7 p.m. today, said firefighter and paramedic Kenneth Estell, trustee with Pontiac Firefighters Union Local 376.

Politics
1:01 am
Tue December 6, 2011

Occupy movement changing focus in Michigan

Occupy protesters stand outside Flint city hall (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Across Michigan and the rest of the country today, Occupy Wall Street groups plan to symbolically ‘occupy’ homes on the brink of foreclosure. Meanwhile, Occupy activists in Flint are launching a campaign they say will have lasting influence on their city.    

Occupy Flint members are organizing a campaign to put a question on the ballot next year that would start the charter revision process. Flint is under the oversight of an emergency manager. A state review panel decided the city’s multi-million dollar deficit created a ‘financial emergency’.   

Michael Burton is with the Occupy Flint group. He said residents must correct the city’s systemic problems, so Flint will be ready for life ‘after’ the emergency manager’s job is done. 

"That is just the small changes we hope…to affect in order to start making positive changes…and get the city of Flint back up to speed," said Burton.   

Burton said Occupy Flint does not have any specific changes it plans to recommend to the city charter. The group only hopes to get the conversation started.

Politics
5:50 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Detroit's cash crunch: Report highlights role of debt and legacy costs

user Urban Adventures Flickr

A recent report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan highlights a sometimes overlooked part of Detroit’s current fiscal crisis: the city’s debt and legacy costs.

According to the report, Detroit has about $14 billion in liabilities (though about $5.2 billion of that is for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, and thus shared with its suburban customers).

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Politics
5:03 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Panel to make recommendations on Michigan's liquor laws

user sfgamchick Flickr

A board that’s advising Governor Rick Snyder on the state’s liquor laws is close to making recommendations on how Michigan’s alcohol rules should be altered.

Meanwhile, advocates that want to keep Michigan’s current regulations say they’re concerned about the potential changes. Among them is the possibility that the state will boost the number of liquor licenses it issues.

Harriett Dean is with the Clinton Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.

“The worry is that they will allow for increased density of liquor licenses in a community, they’ll remove the 500 feet from a church or from a school current existing law, and that will increase exposure to young people to alcohol, as well as for adults too,” said Dean.

But Andy Deloney, who chairs the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, says the advisory board does not choose which recommendations become laws.

“That’s up to the governor to decide, that’s not up to this committee to decide,” Deloney said. “The governor wanted these committees to be created and to do this work, and it’s up to him to decide when and how and which recommendations he wants to go along with.”

Politics
5:02 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Flint city officials react 'positively' to emergency manager actions

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder last week appointed an emergency manager to the City of Flint.

Michael Brown got to work immediately, firing seven city staffers - four of whom were mayoral appointees. He also cut pay for the Mayor and City Council.

Here to talk about how city officials and citizens are reacting to the fast action is Bill Ballenger, Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

 

Arts/Culture
4:55 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Aretha Franklin wants to find the next great opera star

User bazylek100 Flickr

Calling all opera singers: Aretha Franklin wants to hear from you.

The Queen of Soul says she wants to find the next Jessye Norman or Barbara Hendricks:

"Some of the older classical singers have retired and they’re not singing anymore, and I’d like to see some younger singers come along and take their place."

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Courts
4:31 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Computer glitch leads to challenge before Michigan Supreme Court

Joe Gratz / flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear a case tomorrow where an African-American man claims he was denied a fair trial because of a computer error. The error caused fewer jury notices to go to households in African-American neighborhoods.  

Ramon Bryant is challenging his convictions on charges of criminal sexual conduct, stealing $90, and possession of marijuana. Bryant says he was denied a trial before a jury of his peers that is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.

The question is whether the unintentional exclusion of African-Americans from the jury pool entitles Bryant to a new trial with a new jury. A computer error caused fewer jury notices to be sent to ZIP codes in Kent County with higher minority populations.

Bradley Hall is with the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan. He says the law requires juries be a “fair cross-section” of the community.

"Excluding of a minority population from jury service does not create a fair and reasonable representation of the community," said Hall. “"So it sort of happened by happenstance but there's no question it's systematic."

The prosecutor argues the mistake was accidental, and that there are other explanations as to why so few African Americans reported for jury duty.

Michigan's Attorney General says Bryant's conviction should stand. The AG's office contends the jury chosen made its decision based on the evidence.

Politics
3:48 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Michigan residents lose confidence in Snyder, survey shows

A graph showing some of the findings from the Fall 2011 State of the State survey
MSU Institute for Public Policy and Social Research

Governor Rick Snyder's approval continues to flag among Michigan residents. This according to survey results released today from Michigan State University.

Michigan State University’s ‘State of the State’ poll shows only about one in five residents give the governor an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ rating.  Snyder’s approval rating was about double that when he took office.

Mlive.com reports:

The Fall 2011 State of the State survey conducted by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University found that only 19.3 percent of Michigan residents surveyed rated the governor's performance as excellent or good, continuing a decline in popularity from 44.5 percent just after his election to 31.5 percent in the Spring, 2011 survey.

Charles Ballard is the director of the State of the State survey.   He said Snyder’s support among his Republican base is eroding.

“The percentage of the Republicans who gave either an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’  to Governor Snyder was cut in half.  From the mid-60’s to the low 30’s…that’s a really big drop,” said Ballard. 

Ballard said part of the reason for the decline may be tied to the bitter fight over building a new international bridge in Detroit. 

"Many of those ads specifically said not very nice things about Governor Snyder himself," explained Ballard. "That's very unusual because usually you don’t expect ‘attack ads’ until you are fully within a reelection campaign."

The survey also shows that Michiganders are not pleased with the president or Congress.

A press release from MSU says:

President Obama’s positive reviews dropped as well. The president’s “excellent” or “good” grades fell from 44.5 percent this past spring to 40.5 percent in the latest phone interviews with 807 Michigan residents from Sept. 15 to Nov. 8.

The survey carried a margin of error of 3.45 percent.

The U.S. Congress, too, suffered from low marks among survey respondents. “Congress received
very poor ratings,” [Survey Director Charles] Ballard said. Less than 1 percent of the survey’s respondents awarded Congress an “excellent” or “good” mark. A striking 57.4 percent gave Congress “poor” grades.

Commentary
2:29 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Troy Mayor Facebook FAIL

One of the things I do is help get undergraduate students ready for the job market. Since we became an e-mail society, I’ve had to repeatedly advise students to make sure they use appropriate e-mail names, especially for professional use.

Johndoe@hotmail.com is appropriate. Boopsie, Dominator and Babycakes are not. Those are, in fact, all ones that I have actually seen on class resumes. In the last five years, we’ve had to talk to students about Facebook. Pictures of yourself pole dancing, drinking or smoking marijuana are not a good idea if you want to get a job.

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Schools
1:53 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

2 schools in Traverse City locked down

Update 1:53 p.m.

Police in the Traverse City area have located the person described as suicidal.

From the Grand Traverse Sheriff's Office:

Grand Traverse Sheriff's deputies located Shahbaht Anderson at a residence in Grawn.  The  shotgun was also located at the residence.  Deputies took Anderson into custody  without incident on a warrant out of Leelanau County on an unrelated charge.  Anderson will be lodged at the Leelanau County jail.

The Grand Traverse Sheriff's Department is continuing their investigation into the incident which occurred in Blair Township and will forward the report  to the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor's Office for review when completed.

10:41 p.m.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Two schools in Traverse City are locked down as police look for a person described as suicidal.

The Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department says the person was in the area of Blair Elementary School on Monday morning. The department says there's no direct link between the person and the
school.

But as a precaution, officials moved Blair Elementary's students and staff to Traverse City East and West Middle Schools.

In a phone message to parents, school officials say Blair and Traverse City West are locked down.

 

*Clarification - The Associated Press reports the police say "there's no direct link between the person and the school." But Peter Payette of Interlochen Public Radio reports that "school officials say the man was related to a student at the middle school. "

Education
1:21 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Charter school expansion up for possible vote

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

More charter schools may soon be allowed to open in Michigan. The state House is expected to vote this week on a measure that would get rid of the cap on the number of university-sponsored charter schools in the state.

State Representative Tom McMillin chairs the House Education Committee. He said it’s important for lawmakers to approve the changes before they leave for a winter break.

“I want to unchain as many kids as I can from failing schools,” said McMillin. “And the sooner we put in place how that can be done, the more that people who are interested in filling that need that desperate need, will be able to start planning and putting it in process so they don’t lose a year, you know so they can do it quicker.”

But Peter Spadafore disagrees. Spadafore is with the Michigan Association of School Boards, which opposes the proposed changes. He said most of the testimony lawmakers heard was from representatives of high-performing charter schools.

“But what’s not being talked about is that one third of failing schools in the state of Michigan are charter schools, and one third of all charter schools are on the bottom 20 percent of the Michigan Department of Education’s list of persistently low-achieving schools,” Spadafore said.

Spadafore said the proposal should include requirements that all charter schools perform well as a condition of staying open.

Supporters of the measure say parents and students –especially in neighborhoods with low-performing public schools – deserve more options.

Environment
12:58 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

State firefighters spent total of 22 weeks battling blazes in Texas

A firefighter from California extinguishes a smoldering tree at Camp Bullis, TX, on Friday, September 12, 2011. Michigan sent DNR staff to help fight fires in one of the worst wildfire seasons in Texas' history.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan G. Wilson-Crow USDA

A good part of the drought-ridden state of Texas was on fire this past year. USA Today reports this spring, firefighters battled "seven of the 10 largest wildfires in state history."

A total of 40 staff members from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have helped battle the blazes in Texas since mid-June. The MDNR said the last of the crews returned home on November 18. The MDNR also sent four tractor/plows to Texas.

From a MDNR press release:

"Fighting wildfires is dangerous, which is why we are happy to report that all of the Michigan DNR staff returned unharmed," says Scott Heather, section manager for the Resource Protection and Cooperative Programs of the Michigan DNR. "Additionally, the State of Texas will reimburse the department for all of the costs associated with having the staff and equipment down there for 22 weeks."

Heather says final accounting hasn't been done yet, but he estimates the state spent around $200,000 to $250,000 on crew and equipment to battle the fires in Texas.

State officials say this was the longest period of time they've sent staff and equipment to another state to fight fires. Michigan firefighters battled two of the largest fires in Texas, "the Bastrop County Complex and the 101 Ranch, saving many homes."

Religion
11:40 am
Mon December 5, 2011

Detroit Catholics: Archdiocese plans could "abandon" city

Last week, the Detroit Archdiocese said it will likely close nine churches and consolidate dozens more starting next year.

The six-county Detroit Archdiocese, like many across the country, is dealing with a priest shortage and declining membership in many churches.

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Politics
11:35 am
Mon December 5, 2011

Troy Mayor apologizes for slight to gay community

Troy's Mayor apologized for a Facebook comment she made last June.
Janice Daniels

Last June, Janice Daniels reacted to the state of New York legalizing gay marriage. According to detroit.cbs.local.com, she wrote on her Facebook page:

“I  think I’m going to throw away my I love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married.”

Daniels is the newly-elected Mayor of Troy, and now she's facing protests from students of Troy High School at 3 p.m. today.

Daniels apologized for the comment on the Charlie Langton show this morning.

“I absolutely do regret it, I shouldn’t have used such language, and while I do believe marriage should be between one man and one woman, it was inappropriate to use that language...For me to have said it, it was a poke in the eye and it was inappropriate and I do apologize.

“It was meant to be a joke, just a funny, just a poke, just a silly thing.”

Daniels' comment came to light when Josh Schirle of Ferndale launched a Facebook page opposing the Troy Mayor.

From the detroit.cbs.local.com:

Schirle spearheaded today’s planned protest, telling WWJ Newsradio he was appalled by her post. Oakland County’s Troy, notably, is only a few miles away from Ferndale, considered one of Michigan’s most active gay, lesbian, and transgendered communities.

“There is nothing dignified about the words that she said, whether that’s her viewpoint or not, that’s hate. I don’t think anyone thinks hate is acceptable,” said Schirle.

Of the protesters, Daniels said, "I hope they will forgive me."

News Roundup
10:12 am
Mon December 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Extension of unemployment benefits

Congress might debate whether to extend unemployment benefits this week. It's a decision that could impact tens of thousands of Michigan residents.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Unless Congress acts to continue extended unemployment benefits, it could be a grim holiday season for nearly 160,000 Michiganders.

An end to the extended benefits would immediately impact 61,000 state residents who are getting this federal aid after exhausting their 26 weeks of state-funded assistance.

Another 98,743 people who are receiving state benefits would no longer get additional help if they are still jobless after 26 weeks.

Experts worry about future of U.S. battery manufacturing

Some experts worry about the longevity of battery manufacturing in the U.S. In Michigan, battery manufacturing is seen as a new economy in the state. The companies have enjoyed investments from private and government entities. But can this type of green manufacturing compete? The Wall Street Journal reports on the current state of some battery manufacturers:

So far, the results have been disappointing. Some high-profile battery makers have stumbled, burdened by high manufacturing costs, strong competition from Asian rivals and a slower-than-expected rollout of electric vehicles. Now the companies are responding by cutting costs, scaling back production and trying to tap other markets, such as large-scale storage for the electricity grid.

State plans to consolidate office space for workers

State officials are hoping to save money by moving workers out of leased offices and into state-owned buildings. According to the Detroit Free Press:

In the last 10 years, the state has shed close to 20% of its workers, but hasn't made similar reductions in its office space. What's more, use of laptops, cell phones and other mobile technology means far fewer state employees need their own office space.

The paper reports leases cost the state around $90 million a year.

Education
6:44 am
Mon December 5, 2011

LGBTQ teens in Ann Arbor lead the anti-bullying movement

Riot Youth is an Ann Arbor-based group that supports and advocates for LGBTQ teens. For those who don't know, that's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning.

Four years ago the group surveyed students in Ann Arbor schools about bullying and sexual orientation. Using the results of that survey, and drawing on their own experiences, the teens wrote a play about bullying that they perform in schools across the state.   

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Laura Wernick, an advisor with the group, and Leo Thornton, a 10th grade student and Riot Youth board member.

Thornton, who identifies as transgender, said the group has been a life-saver. "I found Riot Youth and I realized there were not just other transgender people—there's a spectrum of other identities within the queer community, and that we all can come together and just be ourselves."

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Music Interviews
4:29 pm
Sun December 4, 2011

Mayer Hawthorne: A Motor City Kid Looks To The Future

Mayer Hawthorne's latest album is called How Do You Do.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sun December 4, 2011 2:32 pm

At 32, neo-soul singer and multi-instrumentalist Mayer Hawthorne isn't quite old enough to remember the classic days of Motown, but the Michigan native says he did absorb some of the music's aesthetic growing up, thanks to his father.

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