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."

Read more
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.

Read more
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."

Read more
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.

Read more
Mail
2:55 pm
Sun December 4, 2011

Postal Service will announce changes

Change is 'a-coming to mail delivery
freefoto.com

Financial problems are mounting at the U.S. Postal Service, and that's going to have repercussions on Americans' daily lives. For one thing, you won't be able to assume - or even hope - that a stamped letter will arrive at its destination the next day.   

That's because the Postal Service is looking for ways to save money, even as it awaits possible assistance from Congress.

Read more
Homelessness
1:17 pm
Sun December 4, 2011

10-year project aims to end homelessness

Verne Barry Place provides apartments for homeless people with special needs in Grand Rapids
Campaign to End Homelessness website

The state is half-way through a ten year project called Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness. The project focuses on “housing first” or “rapid re-housing.” (That means reducing the amount of time people spend in shelters and trying to quickly find them permanent housing.)

Last year the state helped 40,000 people find stable housing.

Janet Irrer is the state’s homeless programs manager. She says housing first is a more humane way to help people make changes in their lives.

“You can’t deal with life in a shelter,” she says. “You can’t reach self-sufficiency there.”

The state is required to focus on housing first programs in order to get federal funding. Irrer says housing first programs are less expensive to run and help the state save money.

Military
4:29 pm
Sat December 3, 2011

Michigan Guard members get ready to depart

More than 150 Michigan Army National Guard members are preparing to head to Fort Bliss, Texas, for additional training before leaving for a one-year deployment to Kuwait.   

The 1462nd Transportation Company will be sent off by family and friends Saturday at Parker Middle School in Howell. The soldiers will serve in Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.   

More than 1,150 Michigan National Guard soldiers and airmen are deployed across the globe in support of the war on terrorism, nearly five percent of the entire state force.   

More than 95 percent remain in Michigan to respond to a state emergency, including a terrorist event.

Science/Medicine
4:01 pm
Sat December 3, 2011

U of M study reveals something surprising about people waiting for a liver transplant

(courtesy of the Alpha 1 foundation)

University of Michigan researchers says many people waiting for a liver transplant want more of a say in their care. Nearly half are willing to make a potentially life risking decision.   

Last month, there were 16,000 people in the United States waiting for a new liver. One out of five is expected to die while waiting.  

But University of Michigan researchers say they were surprised to find 42 percent of people waiting for a liver transplant were unwilling to accept anything less than an ideal organ, even if doing so could cost them their lives.

“I think the interpretation would be they felt they would be able to work on their health via their diet, lifestyle, etc…and were not willing to take the gamble of a high risk organ," says Michael Volk, an assistant professor in U-M’s Department of Internal Medicine.  

Volk says transplant surgeons should take more time to educate patients about relative risks and benefits of ‘lower quality’ organ transplants.  

The U of M study appears in the journal Liver Transplantation.

Flint
12:19 pm
Sat December 3, 2011

Flint's emergency manager fires seven city staffers, cuts pay for mayor, city council

Flint emergency manager Mike Brown (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint emergency manager Mike Brown started the job on Thursday. Friday, he dropped the hammer.  

The Flint Journal reports Brown fired seven total level city employees. He also cut the pay of the mayor and city council and canceled future city council meetings.   

Brown was appointed Flint's emergency manager earlier this week by Governor Snyder. A state review of Flint's finances determined that the city faced a 'financial emergency'.   

Flint is millions of dollars in debt.    

Late Friday, Flint mayor Dayne Walling issued a statement praising his four appointees removed by Brown: "It was an honor for them to choose to serve with me through very difficult times and, on behalf of the Flint community, I thank them for their service."

Commentary
8:30 am
Sat December 3, 2011

A Dramatic week in Michigan politics and government

This was the week in which Flint finally got an emergency manager, and the week when it began to seem inevitable that Detroit would get one. It was a week when it seemed apparent that the legislature is about to open the state up to unlimited charter schools.

The auto industry seems to be doing better, even as the weather turns worse, and the governor unveiled a major message on talent that was aimed at preparing us for the jobs of the future.

Read more
Offbeat
8:00 am
Sat December 3, 2011

The holiday season by the numbers

A welcome sign in Santa Claus, Indiana
user Andrew 94 Flickr

We here at Michigan Radio know that nothing conjures the holiday spirit quite like numerical data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Bureau recently released a set of seasonaly-inspired  facts and figures.

Here are some numbers from their list:

  • Place names associated with the holiday season include North Pole, Alaska (population 2,117); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,481); Santa Claus, Ga. (165); Noel, Mo. (1,832); and — if you know about reindeer — the village of Rudolph, Wis. (439) and Dasher, Ga. (912). There is Snowflake, Ariz. (5,590) and a dozen places named Holly, including Holly Springs, Miss. (7,699) and Mount Holly, N.C. (13,656).
  • $27.2 billion---Retail sales by the nation’s department stores in December 2010. This represented a 44 percent jump from the previous month (when retail sales, many holiday-related, registered $18.8 billion). No other month-to-month increase in department store sales last year was as large.
  • 21,891---The number of electronic shopping and mail-order houses in business in 2009. These businesses, which employed 320,721 workers, are a popular source of holiday gifts
  • $983 million---The value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and September 2011. China was the leading country of origin for such items. Similarly, China was the leading foreign source of artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States ($79.7 million worth) during the same period.
  • 88---Number of establishments around the country that primarily manufactured dolls and stuffed toys in 2009. California led the nation with 15 locations.
  • 50 percent---Proportion of the nation’s spuds produced in Idaho and Washington in 2010. Potato latkes are always a crowd pleaser during Hanukkah.
  • $1.5 billion---The value of product shipments of candles in 2009 by the nation’s manufacturers. Many of these candles are lit during Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations.
  • More than 312 million---The nation’s projected population as we ring in the New Year.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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