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

agriculture
5:55 am
Sat December 3, 2011

Winter farmer’s market kicks off today in Kalamazoo

Jane Doughnut Creative Commons

Carl Rizzuto sells his own sausage and meatballs at the summer farmer’s market in Kalamazoo. He tried coordinating a winter market ten years ago but he says there wasn’t enough interest. Now he says business is so good during the summer market vendors agreed a the Kalamazoo Winter Market would be worth the effort.

Read more
Politics
6:14 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

Organizers step up petition effort to repeal emergency manager law

PA 4 opponents rally in Detroit Friday
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Organizers behind a petition drive to repeal Michigan’s emergency manager law say they’re launching an all-out blitz for signatures.

Their campaign ramps ups just as the state starts the process that could lead to an emergency manager in Detroit.

Opponents of Public Act Four say it violates the Michigan and U.S. Constitutions by removing local elected officials from power. They also say it’s being used disproportionately to disenfranchise African American voters.

Read more
Environment
5:20 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

Consumers Energy scraps plans to build coal plant near Bay City

The J.R. Whiting Generating Complex, a coal plant in Erie, MI.
Photo courtesy of Consumers Energy's flickr page

Consumers Energy has canceled its plans to build a coal plant near Bay City. The $2 billion plant would have created 1,800 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs.

Jeff Holyfield, a spokesman for Consumers Energy, says there two main reasons for the cancelation:

  1. Customer demand is down "about 5 or 6 percent. Holyfield says they "don’t expect that demand to reach pre-recession marks until sometime late in 2012."
  2. Natural gas prices are cheap, which Holyfield says makes a "new coal-fired power plant less economically attractive."

Holyfield says Consumers Energy invested about $25 million in the now scrapped coal plan.

The utility will also suspend operations at seven of its smaller coal-fired units across the state by 2015, and focus on two new wind farms it’s developing: one in west Michigan's Mason County, the other in Tuscola County in the thumb.

Consumers continues its $1.6 billion investment at its five largest coal-fired units to meet environmental regulations, which Holyfield says will create about 2,000 jobs in the state.

Politics
5:10 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

Michigan legal activists push for improved indigent defense

Ken Mayer flickr

A state commission heard testimony today that inadequate legal representation for poor defendants results in wrongful convictions and unfair sentences. Commissioners were also told that failing to invest in indigent defense costs taxpayers money.

Peter Cunningham is with the Michigan Campaign for Justice. He said the poor economy is no excuse for failing to fix the system.

Read more
Politics
5:06 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

State officials launching preliminary review of Detroit's finances

The state of Michigan will conduct a preliminary review of Detroit's finances.
user andrea_44 Flickr

State Treasurer Andy Dillon announced today the state's intention to launch a preliminary review of Detroit's finances. The review will commence next Tuesday, according to Dillon's office. This post is being updated with information as it comes in.

Update 5:06 p.m.

MPRN's Laura Weber reports that State Treasurer Andy Dillon said he does not see bankruptcy as an option for Detroit.

“I don’t see that in the near-term, no, because if you look at the revenues coming into the general fund, it’s a fixable issue for the city,” said Dillon. “Now the longer-term debt may present an issue that we’ll have to figure out how to tackle down the road.”

Dillon said this is the first step in a review of Detroit’s finances and does not guarantee the city will be taken over by the state, but he said because Detroit is running out of money quickly, a review is time sensitive.

3:15 pm

Mayor Dave Bing released this statement on the state's preliminary financial review a few moments ago:

"While unfortunate, this decision by Governor Snyder is not unexpected.  We believe we have the right plan to address the City's fiscal crisis and we will continue to work with City Council, our unions and other stakeholders to achieve the necessary cuts and concessions, including pension, healthcare and work rule reform. I'm confident with yesterday's demonstration of solidarity and shared commitment that we will continue to make progress.  We are committed to full cooperation with the Governor's fiscal team, who has had full access to the City's financial information and plan for months."

Update 2:49 p.m.

You can see a list of reasons why Michigan State Treasurer Andy Dillon feels a preliminary review of Detroit's finances is in order. Dillon released a "Detroit Informational Memorandum."

In it, Dillion cites that Detroit has run deficits exceeding $100 million dating back to 2005.

Annual debt service requirements in Detroit for 2010 exceeded $539 million, according to the memo.

2:15 p.m.

A day after Detroit Mayor Bing stood with other city leaders to try to head off an impending state review of the city's finances, the Governor's office announces the review:

From MPRN's Rick Pluta:

State Treasurer Andy Dillon says the state will send in teams to review the finances of Detroit and Inkster. It is the first step in the process to name emergency managers to run the cities.  But Dillon says his hope is that early intervention will help avoid that. Detroit city leaders including Mayor Dave Bing have spoken out against a state review.

In a letter to Mayor Bing and City Council President Charles Pugh, State Treasurer Andy Dillon cited the mayor and city council's ongoing inability to work cooperatively to financially manage the city; Detroit's recurring operating deficits; and the likelihood that the city will run out of cash in the spring.

Shots - Health Blog
3:42 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

Working moms multitask, and stress, more than dads

A Kansas City family prepares a meal together. A new study finds that working mothers log more hours — and get more stressed — than working fathers while multitasking at home. (This family wasn't part of the research.)
Allison Long MCT /Landov

Originally published on Fri December 2, 2011 11:09 am

A new study in the December issue of the American Sociological Review comes up with some findings that lots of women may feel they already know too much about: Working mothers spend significantly more time multitasking at home than working dads. And those mothers aren't happy about it.

Read more
Politics
3:09 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

Inkster moves closer to emergency manager

City of Inkster

The state took a big step today towards making Inkster the next Michigan city to fall under the oversight of an emergency manager.   

Governor Snyder has appointed a seven-member review team to delve deep into Inkster’s city finances. A preliminary review has already found the city is in ‘probable financial stress’.      

The city has struggled to deal with a multi-million dollar deficit. This week, the city laid off 20 percent of its police officers and the police chief announced he’s leaving too.  

Read more
Education
1:55 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

Southwest Michigan school district lays off all teachers; most support staff

Galien closed its elementary building in 2004. The school district hopes to sell it for $290,000 to help pay off debt.
Galien Township Schools

This week a small school district in southwest Michigan laid off all but four employees because of major budget problems. 122 students at Galien Township Schools will have to enroll at new schools next semester. Included in the layoffs were 10 teachers, 10 support staff, 4 bus drivers, and 2 kitchen workers. The only ones who remain are the superintendent, the business manager, a secretary and a custodian.

The Galien district consists mostly of farmland 3 miles away from the Michigan-Indiana border in Berrien County. The number of students there has gone down for several years. The school board closed the high school in 2004. Those students transferred to other districts. In January, kindergarteners through eighth graders will do the same.

“I’m sad for this community,” Superintendet Tim Allard said, “I’m sad for these employees who have been here so much longer than I have." Allard just came on as the district’s superintendent in September. 

Read more
Changing Gears
1:51 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

Need tips to help get through the recession? Get Midwest money help from CNN's experts

CNN's Ali Velshi and Christine Romans review your questions.
Changing Gears

The recession has played havoc with personal finances all over the Midwest, whether you’re starting from scratch, or trying to stretch your budget to get through these hard times.

It can be hard to get good advice on what to do.

Rest easy. We’re offering some Midwest Money help.

Two of the country’s leading experts on personal finance issues — CNN’s Ali Velshi and Christine Romans– are teaming up with Changing Gears to provide some answers.

Each week, Ali and Christine tackle pressing financial dilemmas on their CNN program, Your Money, and they’ve compiled their tips in the new book, How to Speak Money: The Language and the Knowledge That You Need Now.

Here’s your chance for Midwest Money advice.

Send us anything that’s on your mind, from retirement, to job hunting, to your mortgage and more.

We’ll pose your questions to Ali and Christine, and publish their answers every day during the week of Dec. 19. And, if they pick a question that you sent in, you’ll get an autographed copy of their new book.

Post your questions here.

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