Detroit
7:39 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Mayor Bing: City government is broken

Bernt Rostad Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing addressed his city’s dire financial straits last night in a televised speech in which he said, “simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and city government is broken.”

“To avoid running out of money by spring, Bing says the city needs to do a whole range of things almost at once. They include increased health care and pension contributions for everyone, including retirees; and 10-percent wage cuts rather than furlough days for current employees. Bing says that needs to include the city’s public safety officers. Those departments eat up about 60% of Detroit’s budget. He adds the city needs to privatize some services—including public lighting, and to some extent its dysfunctional bus system,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

Cwiek was at the mayor’s address and says, “many think it’s only a matter of time before Detroit gets an emergency manager—and some, including Detroit City Council members, think the lack of specifics and deadlines in Bing’s speech made that even more likely.”

This morning, The Detroit Free Press had headlines that included an editorial titled, "Not good enough, Mr. Mayor," and a column by Stephen Henderson, "Numbers don't add up anywhere near city's needs."

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Culture of class
7:30 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Investing in early childhood education

2-year-old Ashley Belbot sits on her mom's lap during a weekly Early Head Start home visit. Early Head Start at Michigan Family Resources (the Head Start agency in Kent County, MI) is a home-based program; not all are.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

When Governor Rick Snyder talks about education in the state, he doesn’t talk in terms of K-12 but rather P-20 education. He describes it as pre-natal through post-graduate.

Early education increasingly considered key to future success

Susan Neuman is a Professor of Educational Studies at the University of Michigan. She served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education from 2001-2003. (You can read more about her work in early childhood development here.)

Neuman says she can measure an achievement gap between children as early as 9 months. She says birth through age three turns out to be pretty crucial for a child’s future. “This is when brain development is increasing at an enormous rate,” Nueman said. “This is when language development is spurting this is when cognitive development and this is when our belief in ourselves is developing.”

Nueman says the best early childhood education programs are those that strengthen a parent’s ability to become their child’s best teacher in those first years of life.

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Environment
5:00 am
Thu November 17, 2011

U.S. House bill would weaken Michigan's invasive species law

The invasive sea lamprey preys on all species of Great Lakes fish.
USFWS

Michigan’s fight to control invasive species in the Great Lakes could be weakened by a bill passed by the U.S. House this week.

Michigan put a ballast water law into effect in 2007 to keep ships from releasing new invasive species into the Great Lakes.

But the standard would be lowered by a Coast Guard funding bill that’s on its way to the U.S. Senate.

Patty Birkholz is director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes. She says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard had plenty of time to come up with recommendations, but failed to do so.

Now, Birkholz  says, Michigan has the most to lose.

"We know the dangers that we're under with invasive species, both from water and land, and we have to protect ourselves even if the federal government won't standup to the invasive threat out there," Birkholz says.

Birkholz says no new invasive species have been found since Michigan tightened its ballast water standards.

The U.S. House bill also allows the SS Badger car ferry in Ludington to continue dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan. The operator says it can’t yet afford to convert to natural gas.

Auto/Economy
12:01 am
Thu November 17, 2011

If you want safest car, choose the hybrid version of it

A highway safety group says people are 25% less likely to be injured in a crash in a hybrid car, than in the non-hybrid version of that car.

Matt Moore is with the Highway Loss Data Institute.  He says it’s possible  people in the hybrid cars might be driving slower, to maximize their gas mileage.

But he thinks the explanation more likely involves simple physics, because the smaller and lighter vehicle in a crash will absorb most of the impact.  

"Hybrids tend to be heavier," says Moore.  "On average, they’re about 10% heavier than their non-hybrid counterparts, and we believe that extra weight gives them an advantage when they’re in crashes."

On the other hand, hybrids are not safer for pedestrians.  Moore says hybrid cars are more likely to be involved in pedestrian accidents than non-hybrid cars.  That’s probably because hybrids that run in electric-only mode are very quiet, and people are more likely to walk out in front of them.

Politics
10:17 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Bing outlines dire financial picture for Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the city is on the verge of a financial calamity. But he insists that with tough choices all around, it can still avoid a state takeover.

Bing’s televised speech on city finances Wednesday night had a blunt message: “Simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and city government is broken.”

To avoid running out of money by spring, Bing says the city needs to do a whole range of things almost at once.

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Politics
6:14 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing: I don't want emergency manager

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is addressing residents tonight about the city's financial troubles. And he answered one looming question right off the bat:

“Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I don’t want an emergency manager making decisions for my city,” Bing said.

He said his administration has eliminated 2,000 positions since he took office, but more needs to be done to keep the city out of receivership.

“I refuse to sugar-coat the situation or kick the can down the road, expecting someone else to fix our problems,” the mayor said.

Bing also said he won't allow the city's police and fire departments to be gutted. "I will not allow criminals free reign over our city," Bing said - but in the next breath added that officers and firefighters need to accept the same 10 percent pay cut other city employees have had to swallow.

Here's a link to the report the mayor's office commissioned that shows the city could run out of cash by spring.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will have more details on Bing's speech tomorrow on Morning Edition.

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Auto/Economy
5:59 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Toledo Jeep plant gets big investment as Jeep goes global

2011 Jeep Liberty
Chrysler Group Flickr

Chrysler plans to invest $1.7 billion dollars in a new Jeep program, that will first roll out a replacement for the current Jeep Liberty. 

The new Jeep is intended for a global market.    

The investment includes a $500 million re-tooling of the Jeep Liberty Assembly plant in Toledo. 

The investment means 1,100 new jobs at the Jeep Assembly Plant starting in 2013.  

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says the new Jeep should help tap growing overseas markets, like China, the world’s largest car market.  He says the Jeep brand is already taking off in Europe.

"I have similar expectations for Jeep especially in the eastern part of Europe – Russia," Marchionne told a group of reporters after a press conference at the plant.   "It  (Jeep) is best brand that Chrysler owns, by far."

The new SUV could still bear the Liberty name.  Marchionne says there could be at least one other "top-hat" built onto the new platform, and eventually, the plant could build up to four different models of Jeeps.  

The new Jeep will combine a Fiat chassis, or underlying platform with a Chrysler design and engine.

Economy
5:48 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court OKs foreclosure practice that lower court found violated state law

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Consumer advocates are disappointed by a Michigan Supreme Court decision.   

The high court today reversed an appeals court decision which found the mortgage industry violated state law by using a national group to file foreclosure notices in Michigan.  

The lower court found the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, didn't have an interest in the mortgage and thus was not allowed to file the foreclosure paperwork.   

Lorray Brown is with the Michigan Poverty Law Program. Brown said the Supreme Court used "tortured" legal analysis to avoid following the strict wording of the law.   

“I think this is a clear case of strict statutory construction and the statute says what it says," said Brown.   

An attorney for the Michigan Bankers Association praised the  court’s decision. Attorney James Breay said it prevents the voiding of thousands of home foreclosures in Michigan.  

This decision will avoid…the possibility of a ruling that could otherwise have created chaos in Michigan’s residential mortgage market," said Breay.    

MERS is facing other legal challenges, including a potential class action suit involving Michigan counties that accuse MERS of not paying taxes on property transfers.

Politics
5:21 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Advocates: Michigan Legislature should act before people left cold

Federal home heating assistance levels are being cut. Advocates say the state needs to step in.
user dominic's pics Flickr

The federal government has proposed dramatic cuts to home-heating assistance.

Susan Sherer, CEO of the Heat and Warmth Fund, said that cut for Michigan could be as much as $120 million.

“By removing $120 million that was available last year to serve customers, most certainly people are literally going to be left out in the cold,” said Sherer.

Advocates for the poor say the state Legislature needs to make sure people in low-income households do not have their heat turned off this winter.

Scott Dzurka is with the Michigan Association of United Ways, which is part of a coalition of groups pushing for heating assistance funding.

“Our interest is making sure that the residents and families in the state of Michigan are warm this winter season,” said Dzurka.

Dzurka said the state Legislature needs to ensure home-heating assistance will be available before lawmakers leave for a winter break in December.

The state fund for home heating assistance is also caught up in a court fight and cannot be touched. State lawmakers are trying to come up with a plan.

Auto/Economy
5:13 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Thousands in poverty come to “Project Connect” in Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo resident Vicki Sayman (left) gets her hair cut at Project Connect Wednesday. Sayman is on disability. In addition to the new hairdo, she also got help finding a way to get her dentures and a broken pair of glasses fixed.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Hundreds of volunteers in neon yellow t-shirts handed out winter coats and hats, helped answer specific questions and enroll people in dozens of assistance programs that already exist.

48-year old George McCree lives in Kalamazoo, but he doesn’t have a permanent job or home right now. He got help finding temporary shelter at the Project Connect event last May. That inspired him to start volunteering at a soup kitchen in town.

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Environment
4:40 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

EPA revises estimate for oil collected in Enbridge pipeline break

Enbridge's broken pipeline. When this part of oil pipeline 6b burst near Talmadge Creek in July 2010, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of gallons of diluted bitumen oil spilled into the creek and into the Kalamazoo River.
NTSB

There’s a new estimate of the amount of oil that’s been sucked out of the  Kalamazoo River.  And it’s higher than the amount of oil Enbridge Energy claims leaked from its pipeline 16 months ago.  

Enbridge Energy claims a little more than 843 thousand gallons of crude oil leaked from its pipeline near Marshall in July, 2010. But the Environmental Protection Agency says it has recovered more than 1.1 million gallons of oil from the Kalamazoo River during the 16 month cleanup. The EPA says it’s still investigating how much oil leaked from Enbridge’s pipeline.  

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Auto/Economy
4:22 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Obama calls for 54.5 mpg fuel efficiency by 2025

user a.saliga Flickr

The Obama Administration plans to nearly double the fuel efficiency requirements for light-duty vehicles by 2025. 

The administration says requiring an average of 54.5 mpg will help drivers save money, reduce U.S. dependence on oil and keep the environment cleaner.

Sean McAlinden is chief economist with the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

He says the plan calls for too much, too soon and could be bad for the still-recovering auto industry.

"The same government that did so much to save our domestic industry is laying the groundwork for destroying the industry again, destroying its market, by forcing it to build cars that  people can't afford and may not even want."

McAlinden expects the new standards will increase the cost of a vehicle by so much that people will simply keep their old cars longer. He says drivers already keep their cars for an average of 11 years.

He says it would make more sense to aim for around 42 mpg by 2025.

Auto/Economy
2:56 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Michigan's unemployment rate ticks downward

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta reports, "the combination of a slight increase in jobs and a lot of people who quit looking for work led to Michigan's unemployment to drop by half a percentage point last month to 10.6 percent."

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Michigan’s unemployment rate is moving in the right direction again, dropping half a percentage point during October to 10.6%, the state’s Department of Technology, Management & Budget reported today.

But the state’s labor markets remain far from healthy. The jobless rate decline in October was due mainly to fewer unemployed people actively seeking employment, said Rick Waclawek, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. Such “discouraged” workers are no longer counted in the calculation of the unemployment rate.

Politics
2:39 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Report: Michigan and other states raising taxes on the poor

Michigan did not fall on the list of states taxing two parent families of four with incomes below the poverty line.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The report was put out by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Its authors write there is "significant room for improvement" in how states tax low-income families. Some of it is inevitable, they write, since states are facing "the most difficult fiscal conditions in decades.":

But a few states have moved significantly backward in this area, raising taxes on low-income working families in order to finance tax cuts that benefit corporations and wealthy individuals.  Michigan, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, for example, have scaled back their EITCs [Earned Income Tax Credits] over the last two years while cutting business taxes, taxes on the wealthiest families, or both.

The Associated Press' Kathy Barks Hoffman wrote about the report. She writes that Michigan's low-income families will lose around $260 million annually next year, while businesses will be getting "a $1.1 billion tax break starting in January and a $1.7 billion tax break the year after":

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder originally wanted to eliminate the state Earned Income Tax Credit, but agreed to reduce it from 20 percent of the federal credit to 6 percent for tax year 2012. He said earlier this year that the state needed to make cuts to balance the budget and noted no cuts were being made in Medicaid programs providing health care to low-income working families. He also has said the business tax cuts will create employment opportunities.

Politics
12:10 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Mayor to speak about Detroit's bleak finances

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will talk about the city's finances tonight at 6 p.m.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is planning to discuss the city's fiscal crisis and problems with its transportation and lighting systems.

The address to residents is scheduled for Wednesday evening at the Northwest Activities Center.

Bing recently said Detroit's continued financial struggles may require the intervention of an emergency financial manager and he would consider filling that role if asked by the governor. He's said the city faces a $150 million "cash shortage" by the end of the first quarter of 2012.

The mayor said in April that Detroit faced a possible state takeover if the city couldn't make improvements to its finances. A state law passed in March gives state-appointed financial managers more power when fixing the finances of municipalities and school districts.

Politics
11:43 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Michigan appeals court allows blurted confession

The state Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial in the case of a man charged with murder during a robbery gone awry.

The court says a detective investigating the case did not violate the man’s Fifth Amendment rights by continuing a conversation after the defendant invoked his right to remain silent.

The detective stopped asking questions once Kadeem Dennis White invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, but the detective continued to try to engage White in a conversation.

During that brief conversation, White blurted out that he never intended to shoot the victim.

The prosecution tried to use that admission against White in court, but the judge ordered the statements could not be used. The court of appeals reversed that decision, and said White knowingly waived his right to remain silent when he spoke to the investigator.

It was a two-to-one split decision by the appeals panel.

One dissenting judge argued that continuing to try to engage White in a conversation was the functional equivalent of an interrogation that should have stopped once the defendant said he would remain silent.

The defense could appeal the case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Crime
10:36 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Video surveillance leads to drug smuggler arrest

COTTRELLVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Federal authorities say they caught a suspected marijuana smuggler after a boat from Canada was spotted on video surveillance making a brief stop in Michigan.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement Wednesday that the bust was made Friday.

The agency says the boat was spotted entering U.S. waters on the St. Clair River and landed in St. Clair County's Cottrellville Township, about 40 miles northeast of Detroit. Border Patrol agents then spotted and stopped a van seen leaving the area.

Inside the van they found a hockey bag containing more than 33 pounds of marijuana. One arrest was made.

Federal authorities have video surveillance in operation along the St. Clair River to help monitor water traffic between Canada and the U.S.

Commentary
10:28 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Needed: Protection for The Great Lakes

In Lansing last week, the legislature put the finishing touches on a bill to prevent the various departments of our state government from issuing regulations stronger than federal ones.

That may sound a little odd, so let me explain. Let’s say we wanted to have clean water standards higher than those Washington requires. That ought to make sense. We are surrounded by the Great Lakes, which account for most of the fresh water in the entire Western Hemisphere. Preserving them is essential to our survival.

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Politics
8:00 am
Wed November 16, 2011

The Week in State Politics

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
aflyingpsychofly Flickr

Every Wednesday we take a look at what's happening this week in state politics with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry. On tap for today: Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is scheduled to address the financial crisis in his city this evening, the state House punts on creating a state-run health care exchange, and Democrats in Lansing release a jobs plan.

Culture of Class
7:00 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Military service and the upwardly mobile

A family tradition of military service. Trevor Schewe (left) served in the Coast Guard. His brother Ryan (center) served in the Air Force. And his Dad Steve (right) served in the Army.
courtesy of Trevor Schewe

The country has been at war for the last decade, but less than one percent of the U.S. population has been on active military duty in that time.

That’s a stark difference from World War II, when just about everyone had a relative serving overseas.

As part of our series on socioeconomic class, we wanted to find out who joins the military these days and why. And we wanted to know whether their service to our country can help them get ahead in life.

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