Politics
11:37 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Video: A visit with Michigan militia members

A Michigan militia member speaking with Rina Miller.
Pete Tombers

Here's a video we produced back in February of 2010.

It gives us a quick look at a militia in Michigan and helps us understand why people participate in militias.

Running themes for participating are a distrust of the government and being ready should society break down.

One member says, "I'm worried about the damage that government interference has done to the economy. How much of your tax dollars are sent to other countries? Countries that people can't even pronounce, so I think you need to narrow taxation down to exactly what's spelled out in the Constitution."

Interviews by Rina Miller and video by Pete Tombers. Michigan Radio's multimedia producer Mercedes Mejia produced the video.

Militia
11:25 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Guilty plea set next week in Michigan militia probe

Joshua Clough following his arrest.
U.S. Marshals Service

DETROIT (AP) - One of nine people charged in an investigation of a southern Michigan militia apparently has agreed to plead guilty next week.

Records show Joshua Clough of Lenawee County is due in federal court next Tuesday to change his plea, three months before trial. He's accused of conspiring to rebel against the government among other charges, but it's not clear what's in his deal with prosecutors. No details were filed.

It would be the first guilty plea since charges were filed against nine people in spring 2010. Trial for the others is set for February.

Messages seeking comment were left Wednesday with Clough's attorney and a prosecutor.

The government claims members of Hutaree were scheming to kill a police officer, then attack law enforcement.

Commentary
11:15 am
Wed November 2, 2011

A New Detroit River Bridge: The Situation in Delray

For a brief moment, a couple weeks ago, it looked like things might finally be moving on the governor’s plan to build a new Detroit River bridge a plan heavily supported by business.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville seemed to have  enough votes to move the bridge bills out of the economic development committee and on to the full senate.

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Offbeat
11:10 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Squirrel blamed in Grand Rapids for power outage

A red squirrel in Michigan.
Steve Burt Flickr

Colder weather means squirrels are looking for indoor homes and places to cache their food. Some are more aggressive in establishing their indoor domiciles than others.

From the Associated Press:

Officials at Consumers Energy are blaming a squirrel for knocking out electrical service to about 10,000 customers yesterday in the Grand Rapids area. The critter managed to get into a piece of equipment at a substation, briefly knocking out power.

Changing Gears
9:06 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Empty Series: The economic and social cost of emptiness (Part 1)

It's been estimated that 27 percent of the buildings in Detroit are vacant. Some experts say that figure has been improving of late.
Tim Beckett Flickr

This week, Changing Gears kicks off a look at Empty across our region. During November, we’ll be looking at empty buildings, empty property — and how we can fill things up again.

In the first part of our series, I explore the economic and social cost of emptiness.

Things may be better in some neighborhoods, but problems still abound.

The numbers

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Politics
7:54 am
Wed November 2, 2011

The Week in State Politics

State Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Ifmuth Flickr

Every Wednesday we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going on in state politics. This morning, we take a look at whether improved rail service can lead to a healthier state economy, what to watch for in next Tuesday's election, and the latest happenings in Pontiac, where that city's emergency manager has fired some department heads.

We are having a technical problem with the audio link above. Please use the link below:

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School Closure
7:37 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Police stand-off closes a Grand Rapids school

Grand Rapids Public Schools has closed Southwest Community Campus school today because of a police stand-off underway in the neighborhood near the school.

Police are looking for a man who they consider a "person of interest" in connection with the fatal shooting of a woman.

That incident happened around six o’clock this morning. Police have blocked off some streets near the school.

The shooting is not related to the school at all, but administrators are closing the school because the neighborhood may not be safe for students to travel through it, according to John Helmholdt, spokesman for the Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Environment
11:40 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Federal judge rejects proposed settlement for Saugatuck Dunes

This story has been updated: An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested that development was prohibited on all 300 acres of the property. The story below has been updated to make the requirement for special permits more clear.

A federal judge has thrown out a proposed legal settlement between Saugatuck Township and a private developer looking to build near Lake Michigan coastal dunes.

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Battle Creek
10:59 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Battle Creek city commissioners approve health care exemption

Battle Creek is opting out of a new state law that requires local government employees pay more for their health insurance. And it’s not alone. The Michigan Municipal League says about a third of the cities it surveyed plan to exempt themselves from the law requiring an 80/20 split on health insurance costs.   

The law allows a temporary opt out. And there are many reasons.  

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Politics
9:32 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Detroit Police want gunshot-sensing technology

Detroit Police say a technology known as “Shot Spotter” would help the department’s battle against gun violence.                                                     

The department wants to use $2.6 million in federal money to pilot the gunshot-sensing technology system.

Police Chief Ralph Godbee says it would be an invaluable tool in locating shots fired, and deploying officers quickly.

But City Council members, who must approve the project, were skeptical. Councilman Gary Brown questions Shot Spotter’s effectiveness—especially since it won’t include video.

“According to the Department of Justice, this is an expensive piece of equipment for…the value that you get out of it,” Brown says.

Brown also suggested the department doesn’t have enough manpower to respond to all detected gunshots.

The Council delayed a vote on the issue until next week.

Politics
9:14 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Protesters target DTE Energy

Many people are worried about a long, cold winter ahead for low-income people who could face utility shutoffs.

That’s particularly true in Detroit, where dozens of people protested about the issue in front of DTE Energy headquarters.

The protesters want DTE to end utility shutoffs in the winter months, and create a rate structure that better accommodates the elderly, disabled, and poor.

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October U.S. auto sales
5:54 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

October U.S. auto sales up, especially at Chrysler

U.S. auto sales rose again last month, as pent-up demand for cars continues to overcome low consumer confidence in the economy. 

Chrysler’s sales increase was especially strong, as customers continue to return to the smallest of the Detroit Three car companies. 

The company's sales rose 27 percent over October last year. 

It was also the 19th straight month of sales increases for Chrysler.  

Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com says Chrysler finally has new products to sell, like the new Jeep Compass, which outsold its predecessor by 566 percent. 

Krebs says Chrysler is also running good ads for its cars, like the instantly iconic Superbowl ad starring Eminem and the Chrysler 200.

"And it’s caused people to at least know that the company still exists," says Krebs, "when many people did not think the company would survive after its bankruptcy, and it’s catching the attention of buyers."

Nissan sales rose 18 percent, while sales declined nearly 8 percent at Toyota and 1 percent at Honda.  Both companies are recovering from inventory shortfalls related to the tsunami in Japan last spring.

Politics
5:42 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

State to look at merging Saugatuck, Douglas and Saugatuck Twp

Travis Randolph's group collected more than the 250 signatures needed to submit to the State Boundary Commission. The group will submit the petitions Wednesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A group of citizens will hand over hundreds of signatures Wednesday to petition the State of Michigan to allow three West Michigan communities to merge.

Travis Randolph lives in Saugatuck Township. He chairs the Consolidated Government Committee that’s asking the state to consider merging the township with the Cities of Saugatuck and Douglas. Together, the three local units of government serve a little more 5,000 people.

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Politics
4:57 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

A conversation with State Representative Paul Scott

A week from today, Michigan voters head to the polls for a number of millage and mayoral elections. In Genesee County, there will also be a recall for Republican State Representative, Paul Scott. He serves as chairman of the House Education Committee.

In this interview, Michigan Radio's Jennifer White asks Rep. Scott why he thinks he has been targeted for recall and what he plans to do over the next week to try and keep his seat.

Education
4:37 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Fact finder sides with CMU administration in dispute over salary and benefits

A state-appointed fact finder has issued a report on the dispute between the Central Michigan University Faculty Association and the administration.
CMU

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association held a strike on the first day of classes last August. The union said the CMU administration was not bargaining on their new contract in good faith.

A judge ordered the striking faculty members back to work and a state appointed fact finder heard both sides of the grievances in early September.

Now that fact finder, Barry Goldman, has let issued a report siding with the CMU administration on salary and benefit issues, according to Lindsay Knake of the Saginaw News.

More from the Saginaw News:

With salary adjustments, Goldman acknowledged in the report CMU has $228 million in unrestricted net assets, but said the university cannot be as generous with the funds as it appears.

“The CMU proposal of a zero increase in the first year and modest increases in subsequent years is not an unreasonable offer, all things considered. Circumstances are bad and getting worse. It would be extremely unwise for CMU to eat its seed corn,” Goldman’s statement said.

The administration’s offer includes a wage freeze for one year with increases equal to 4 percentage points over three years.

Golman also said the faculty should accept the health care plan being offered by the administration. His findings are non-binding, according to the Saginaw News.

Environment
3:54 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Two Michigan pollution hotspots show signs of improvement

Great Lakes Areas of Concern
EPA website

Two of Michigan's "Areas of Concern," heavily polluted sites around the Great Lakes region, have seen recent progress in terms of cleanup. This according to state environmental regulators.

The Associated Press reports:

The U.S. and Canada designated 43 toxic hot spots in the region in the late 1980s. Among them are Muskegon Lake and the Upper Peninsula's Deer Lake.

Among the problems that put Deer Lake on the list were deformities or reproductive problems for wildlife. Another was excessive algae.

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Detroit
3:47 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Judge dismisses Tamara Greene lawsuit

Federal district court judge Gerald Rosen has dismissed a case brought by the family of Tamara Greene against the city of Detroit and former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Greene was killed in a shooting in Detroit back in 2003. Her family sued the city and Kilpatrick for sabotaging Tamara Greene's murder investigation.

There had been rumors that Greene danced at a party at the mayor's residence in 2002. It was never proven that the party happened.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Schapka, the city lawyer on the case, had urged Rosen to dismiss the lawsuit, saying years of litigation, dozens of sworn depositions, 10,000 pages of Detroit police and fire documents and more than 11 million pages of police computer files dating from Greene’s death failed to substantiate the party rumor or prove that Kilpatrick or others obstructed Greene’s murder probe.

Two federal magistrates waded through 626,638 text messages retrieved from city-issued pagers during the period surrounding the party and Greene’s death, but only 36 had any relevance to the lawsuit and none shed any light on the killing or the murder investigation, the city said.

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Transportation
2:27 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Governor Snyder touts higher speed Rail for Michigan

The 135 miles of rail line from Dearborn to Kalamazoo will be owned by the state of Michigan. The state is purchasing the line from Norfolk Southern Railway with the help of federal stimulus money. Once completed, the upgraded line will increase speeds.
user Want2Know Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder met with lawmakers, federal officials and the railroad industry yesterday to talk about the future of rail transportation in our state.

Rick Pluta is the State Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He was at the Michigan Rail Summit and he joined me to talk more about this.

So Rick, what did the Governor say?

Rick Pluta: Rebecca, the governor is a big fan of rail service. He says it's a big part of the future of the state.

This is what he had to say to this rail summit:

"This isn't about a piece of rail in Michigan. This is about being the centerpiece of a broader logistical connection that goes all the way from St. Louis to Chicago to Detroit and I would like to see it continue on to Toronto and to Montreal."

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Auto/Economy
2:01 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Old General Motors facility sold to industrial contractor

The Associated Press reports that an industrial contractor has bought a former General Motors facility in Pontiac with plans to use the 6-acre property for an expansion.

More from a Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust press release:

An industrial contracting company has purchased the former GM ACG Penske facility on Oakland Avenue, with plans to expand its business at the six-acre property.

The RACER Trust sold the property, which includes a 32,000-square-foot building with multiple truck bays, to Lee Contracting, headquartered across the street from the ACG Penske facility, at 675 Oakland Ave.

Lee Contracting Founder and President Ed Lee said he plans to expand his more than 200-employee company, and the former ACG Penske property provides a perfect fit. “This was a great opportunity to build upon our business right here in Michigan,” he said. “Having this great site right across from our current facility provides us with a base to continue expanding the business.”

Lee Contracting is a single-source contractor specializing in complete turnkey solutions for industrial and manufacturing clients.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Politics
12:23 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Michigan rethinking car limit for food stamp clients

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says a state agency is reassessing whether cars and trucks should be counted as assets for people receiving food stamps.

The state Department of Human Services last month began telling applicants with assets of more than $5,000 in bank accounts, second homes or vehicles with market values of more than $15,000 they'd no longer be eligible for assistance.

The Michigan League for Human Services says many people applying for food stamps are recently unemployed and requesting help for the first time.

Applicants say they need their cars to get to school or job interviews so they can get back on their feet financially.

Snyder told reporters Tuesday that criticism of the vehicle limit is a "valid issue" and that DHS officials are reviewing the policy.

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