Politics
4:32 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Michigan Forward challenges Public Act 4

Michigan Forward Chairman and CEO Brandon Jessup.

Michigan's emergency manager law was strengthened this year with Public Act 4 which gave emergency managers more sweeping powers.

PA 4 is now facing a number of court challenges.

The group Michigan Forward is gathering signature to put the law to a voter referendum on the November 2012 ballot. As of now they have 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.

Politics
3:38 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Michigan Republicans: Ignore the apportionment commission, draw your own boundaries

A fierce partisan battle among Oakland County politicians played out in front of a state House panel at the state Capitol today.

Democrats tried and failed to block a Republican effort to let the GOP-led Oakland County Commission redraw its own district lines.

The district map was already adopted earlier this year by a bipartisan apportionment commission, and it was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Democrats called the action to redraw the map a brazen effort by Republicans to undo a county commission map they don’t like.

Oakland County Commissioner David Woodward is a Democrat opposed to the bill.

“That this is being brought up, introduced after the rendered decisions, speaks of partisan overreach, specifically, Republican Party overreach - an attempt in this body to undo a process that has already run its course,” said Woodward.

The Oakland apportionment commission has a Democratic majority, while the Oakland County Commission is led by Republicans.

The bill would also reduce the number of county commissioners.

Republicans say the bill is designed to save taxpayers money.

Education
2:56 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Detroit students show small gains on national standardized test

Detroit students scored better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Students in Detroit Public Schools showed slight improvements in the latest round of a benchmark standardized test.

But Detroit students still posted the worst scores of any district in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.

The NAEP exam tests fourth and eighth-graders in reading and math. When Detroit students took the test for the first time in 2009, they produced the worst scores in the test’s history.

In 2011:

·        Math, 4th grade: proficiency up from 31% to 34%

·        Math, 8th grade: proficiency up from 22% to 29%

·        Reading, 4th grade: proficiency up from 27% to 31%

·        Reading, 8th grade: proficiency up from 41% to 43%

Some experts question whether the posted gains are even statistically significant. But Detroit schools’ emergency manager Roy Roberts says the important thing is a positive trend.

“Detroit had the highest gains of any city in any subject in mathematics,” Roberts says. “Detroit also exceeded the state in gains in reading.”

“Like the budget deficit, it will not be eliminated overnight. But we have demonstrated real progress.”

Roberts says the biggest thing hindering Detroit students’ academic performance has been “instability” in the district.

He says the district will announce in January how many more schools to close, charter, or move to the Education Achievement System, a new statewide district for the lowest-performing schools.

Arts/Culture
2:08 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Michigan born actor, Harry Morgan dies at 96

Publicity photo of some M*A*S*H cast members in 1975 (the year Morgan joined the show. Alan Alda (left), Mike Farrell (center) and Harry Morgan (right).
wikimedia commons

Actor Harry Morgan, most famous for his role as Col. Sherman Potter on the hit television show M*A*S*H, died today at 96.

Morgan was born as "Harry Bratsburg" in 1915 in Detroit.

His father, Henry Bratsburg, worked for the Rickenbacker Motor Company. The family later moved to Muskegon, Michigan.

Before discovering acting, Morgan was studying to become a lawyer. While he was a junior in Muskegon High School, Morgan won the statewide debating championship at an event in Ann Arbor's Hill Auditorium.

After dropping out of the University of Chicago for financial reasons, Morgan worked for  an office supply company in Muskegon. The company sent Morgan to Washington D.C. where he discovered acting in a civic theater. The rest is history.

You can hear more about Morgan's life from Morgan himself:

History
1:34 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Number of Pearl Harbor veterans dwindling, one from Hart, Michigan remembers

Rescuing a survivor near the USS West Virginia during the raid on Pearl Harbor.
U.S. Navy

People around the country are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor today.

It was December 7, 1941 when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the island of Oahu.

Many of the surviving veterans of that battle are now in their late 80s to 90s. The New York Times reports that 7,000 survivors were on hand at the USS Arizona Memorial for the 50th anniversary. For the 70th anniversary, they're expecting 125 survivors.

The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association announced today that they're disbanding. From the Times:

“We had no choice,” said William H. Eckel, 89, who was once the director of the Fourth Division of the survivors’ association, interviewed by telephone from Texas. “Wives and family members have been trying to keep it operating, but they just can’t do it. People are winding up in nursing homes and intensive care places.”

The Muskegon Chronicle has a nice feature story today on a Pearl Harbor survivor from Hart, Michigan.

Buck Beadle is 91. He's a retired Oceana County Sheriff's deputy. Beadle was aboard the USS Hull on the morning of the attack.

From the Chronicle:

As Beadle remembers it, the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, dawned warm and sunny in Pearl Harbor, like “any other day” in tropical Honolulu, Hawaii. He and the other 220 men aboard the USS Hull were “relaxing, lying on our bunks and reading the newspaper” when all hell broke loose.

“It was scary at first,” Beadle says. “We didn’t know what was going on. But when we heard those four-barrel machine guns going, that told you something was radically wrong.”

After the attack, the U.S. declared war on Japan and Beadle spent four years at sea on the USS Hull.

He's being honored today at a gathering at the Oceana County Historical and Genealogical Society where some of his photographs are on display.

Politics
11:24 am
Wed December 7, 2011

The Week in State Politics

Aflyingpsychofly Flickr

It's Wednesday - which means it's the day we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going on in state politics. And, in today's conversation, it's all about the possibility of Detroit coming under a state-appointed emergency manager. We take a look at where things stand in the city's financial review, what a group that wants to repeal the emergency manager law is up to, and we also chat about the letter that Congressman John Conyers' sent to the U.S. Justice Department that is asking Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the constitutionality of the emergency manager law.

Education
11:16 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Detroit schools report progress on math, reading

Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Public Schools district says its students are making improvements on math and reading testing.

The state's largest district on Wednesday released details of its students' performance on National Assessment of Educational Progress testing. Detroit says it was one of six urban districts nationwide to show improvements in 2011.

The district says scores for its students trended up in all grade levels and both subjects. Still, for example, 66 percent of fourth graders scored at a below basic level for math and 71 percent of eighth graders were at a below basic level.

The district's emergency manager Roy Roberts says he's pleased with the progress.

In 2009, Detroit students ranked the lowest in the nation of participants on the National Assessment of Educational Progress math test.

Commentary
10:30 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Can Detroit avoid an emergency manager?

So, does Detroit really need an Emergency Manager? Can the city’s elected leaders somehow get the job done? This much we know: The governor has ordered a preliminary review of  the city’s finances. There have been major signs of trouble for years.

Now, the city is running a large budget deficit, and the mayor says that as it now stands, the city will run out of cash by April.

Read more
Changing Gears
9:27 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Can technology breathe new life into the Midwest's old iron?

The industrial Midwest might not be the industrial Midwest if it weren’t for the iron-rich regions of northern Minnesota and Michigan. These iron ranges have long supplied domestic steelmakers, depleting the highest quality ore along the way. Now, a plant in Minnesota is testing a process to dramatically upgrade the low-grade ore that remains.

To understand why this matters, keep in mind how steelmaking has changed.  The old recipe for steel calls for iron ore, coke and a blast furnace.  But now, more than half of American steel is made in electric arc furnaces, which use electricity to melt scrap steel into new steel.

You can find those ingredients in your own kitchen or garage.

Read more
Politics
9:23 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Levin says Congress must extend payroll tax break

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, (D) Michigan
Courtesy of the office of U.S. Senator Carl Levin

Senator Carl Levin says Congress needs to pass an extension of the payroll tax break that’s set to expire at the end of the month.   

Levin says the cut in the taxes collected to pay for Social Security saved the average worker about $1,000 in taxes during the past year.

“If we do not extend this payroll tax reduction," says Levin, "we’re going to find 160 million people with a tax increase on January 1.”   

Republicans are balking at extending the tax break. They want Democrats to agree to budget cuts to make up for the loss of money for the Social Security system.  

Democrats want to pay for the tax cut with a surcharge on the very wealthy.  

A final deal is not expected until next week.

News Roundup
8:51 am
Wed December 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

More subpoenas issued in Wayne County probe

The FBI has issued more subpoenas in their investigation into Wayne County government. The FBI's investigation was launched last October following an uproar over a $200,000 severance payment given to former Wayne County development director Turkia Mullin.

The Detroit Free Press reports the latest subpoenas are seeking the following information:

- Records for the county's purchase of the Guardian Building, an Art Deco masterpiece that officials spent tens of millions of dollars renovating before moving in 2009.

- Contract and payment documents involving Destination Marketing Group, a Plymouth-based tourism marketing firm that had a county contract to talk to at-risk teens about mental illness.

 -Contracts and e-mails related to the county's dealings with three vendors of Health Choice, the county's health insurance program for small employers and working people.

Snyder says he was bullied after signing anti-bullying bill

After signing the state's first anti-bullying legislation into law yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder reflected on how he was bullied in school. More from the Muskegon Chronicle:

Gov. Rick Snyder is famously “one tough nerd,” but he said Tuesday that wasn't always the case.

“I was a victim of bullying,” Snyder said just after signing into law a plan requiring schools to develop anti-bullying policies, surrounded by families of children who took their lives after being harassed.

“While I didn't experience it to the same degree as these families, I was bullied because I was a nerd. I was beaten up in elementary school and middle school. I was pushed around in high school and even in college.”

Coolant leak cause of Volt battery fires?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Chevy Volt battery fires after some of their test vehicles caught fire weeks after crash tests. Now a source says the Volt's coolant system was likely the cause of these delayed fires.

From the Associated Press:

The liquid solution that cools the Chevrolet Volt's batteries is the likely cause of fires that broke out inside the electric car after government crash tests, a person briefed on the matter said...

The coolant did not catch fire, but crystallized and created an electrical short that apparently sparked the fires, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the findings are not final.

Recently, GM's CEO Daniel Akerson said the company would buy back Volts from any owners who think the cars are unsafe.

Station News
6:00 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Michigan Radio Listener Survey

At Michigan Radio, our goal is simple - to best serve the communities and audiences that are within our coverage area, as well as those who are able to access our programming content using the many new digital tools that are now available.

With all of this abundant technology, however, we haven't lost sight of the relationship that forms between our station and you, our listener.  Below is a link to a brief survey that we asking you to fill out.

It will only take 7-10 minutes of your time, and we believe the results will be very important in our ongoing efforts to better understand the needs of our audience.

The survey is focused on the types of relationships that you desire with us, and how we can best fulfill your needs.  We realize this is an especially busy time of the year, but our goal is to hit the ground running in 2012, and this survey is an important piece of our planning for the coming year.

Just click the link below to take the survey, and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. 

Michigan Radio Listener Survey

Thanks in advance for your time and your thoughts, and best wishes for safe, happy holidays.

Auto/Economy
7:22 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Southgate couple plans to defy eviction, "occupy" their home

Robert and Debbie Henry
via Occupy Detroit

A Metro Detroit family says they’ll stay in their home, despite threats of eviction. Their action is part of a new initiative coordinated by the national “Occupy” movement.

Rob and Debbie Henry live in the Detroit suburb of Southgate. They got a mortgage loan modification after Debbie had a stroke and lost her job.

The Henrys thought they were following the terms of that process. But a confusing series of events ensued that included their loan being sold to Fannie Mae without their knowledge.

Read more
detroit
5:44 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Detroit councilman urges colleagues to set austerity example

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem wants to slash the council's budget by a third, and get rid of perks like free cars.

A Detroit City Council member is pushing his colleagues to cut the council’s budget by 30 percent. The move comes the same day the state initiated a financial review process that could end in the appointment of an emergency manager for the city.

The Detroit City Council’s budget is more than $13 million, and includes perks like city-issued cars and cell phones for council members.

Gary Brown is the Council President Pro Tem. He says like other city employees, he only pays ten percent of his health care costs. Brown’s proposal calls for upping that employee contribution to 30 percent. He says that’s a change the entire city workforce needs to accept.

"And the message, if we don’t show leadership on this issue, is that we’re asking our employees to do something we’re not willing to do," Brown said.

Brown made a similar proposal last month that went nowhere. This time he’s introduced a resolution that will get an up-or-down vote next week.

Politics
4:58 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Michigan lawmakers search for ways to keep poor residents warm

user dominic's pics / Flickr

At the state Capitol, the debate continues over how to ensure there’s money available to help thousands of low-income families that need help paying their heating bills this winter. The need for a solution is becoming more urgent as temperatures start to dip below freezing, and the Legislature is a week away from starting its winter break.

Senator Mike Nofs chairs the Senate Energy and Technology Committee. He said a solution will be in place before the Legislature begins its holiday break next week.

Read more
Politics
4:53 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

7 things to know about Michigan's emergency manager law

Joe Harris, the emergency manager in Benton Harbor, says the only authority local officials have after an EM is appointed by the state, "is the authority that's provided to them or is given to them by the emergency manager."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

When a city or a school district in Michigan runs out of money, the state can appoint an emergency manager to take over the responsibilities of locally elected officials. An emergency manger’s powers are broad—made even more so this year – and are designed to help EMs balance the books and return governance to locally elected officials as quickly as possible.

Today, there are four cities and one school district under the control of an emergency manager:

  • Benton Harbor
  • Ecorse
  • Flint
  • Pontiac
  • Detroit Public Schools

This is the second time around for Flint, which had an “emergency financial manager” from 2002-2006. The cities of Detroit and Inkster and Benton Harbor Public Schools could soon be added to this list.

Read more
Politics
4:20 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Michigan Governor Snyder signs anti-bullying legislation

Update 4:20 p.m.

The Governor's Office sent this press release after Governor Snyder signed the anti-bullying bill:

Michigan will become the 48th state to require schools to develop and enforce policies to protect students from harassment, intimidation and physical violence under anti-bullying legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder today.

The governor called on lawmakers to pass the legislation as part of the education reform plan he proposed in April, saying students need to feel safe in the classroom so they can focus on learning.

“This legislation sends a clear message that bullying is wrong in all its forms and will not be tolerated,” Snyder said. “No child should feel intimidated or afraid to come to school.”

The governor said having a clear policy in place will give teachers and administrators the tools they need to deal with bullies, but he added that parents can help by ensuring their own children do not engage in or encourage others to bully.

House Bill 4163, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Potvin, is known as “Matt’s Safe School Law” in honor of Matt Epling, a Michigan teen who ended his life in 2002 after enduring severe bullying.  The legislation gives schools six months to develop clear anti-bullying policies so they will be in place by the start of the 2012-2013 school year.  The bill is now Public Act 241 of 2011.

A detailed description of the bill’s requirements may be found online at www.legislature.mi.gov.

3:50 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed the law that requires schools to adopt anti-bullying policies. Family members of children who committed suicide looked on as the governor signed the measure. Until today, Michigan was one of three states that did not have an anti-bullying law.

Politics
3:54 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Michigan Senate commitee approves update to funeral protest law

Protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church often stage protests at military funerals
user csuspect Flickr

Michigan lawmakers are working  to fine-tune a law intended to protect both freedom of speech and the dignity of military funerals.

The Grand Rapids Press reports:

The bill on Tuesday cleared the Senate's Military and Veterans Affairs Committee by a 3-0 margin, with two Democratic senators absent.

The original law came in response to members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which has staged controversial protests at military funerals. Church members assert that military deaths are God’s punishment for tolerance of gays.

Michigan’s law keeps such protesters at least 500 feet from a funeral ceremony, but lawmakers have said other people could have been affected – such as a person parked near a funeral home with an an anti-war bumper sticker on their car, or someone mowing their lawn near a cemetery.

The new version of the bill which cleared the House would make it clear that the actions must be intended to intimidate, threaten, or harass people attending a funeral, service, viewing, procession, or burial.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that the law is in accordance with a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Westboro members' rights to conduct their controversial protests.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
3:20 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Congressman John Conyers seeks review of Michigan’s emergency manager law

Congressman John Conyers represents Michigan's 14th District.

Gov. Rick Snyder's administration has placed the city of Flint under an Emergency Manager. Meanwhile, financial reviews are underway for the cities of Inkster and Detroit.

On December 1, Democratic Congressman John Conyers sent a letter to the Justice Department, requesting an immediate review of Michigan’s emergency manager law, arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

Congressman Conyers spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

Militia investigation
2:25 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

FBI report sheds light on Hutaree Militia

Photo taken from Hutaree website

DETROIT (AP) - The FBI says the strange name of a southern Michigan militia was made up and has no meaning.

Eight people accused of belonging to Hutaree (hoo-TAR'-ee) face trial in February. A defense lawyer wants to know the names of informants who infiltrated the group. A 2008 FBI report that requested an investigation was filed in court this week as part of the request.

The report says Hutaree was a name created as a joke by a son of leader David Stone. The government claims members were scheming to kill a police officer, then attack the funeral. One pleaded guilty Monday to a weapons charge.

The report first detailed by the Detroit Free Press quotes Stone as saying the government creates disasters so the public will thank it for restoring order.

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