Politics
5:11 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

House approves state worker retirement contribution

Michigan state workers may soon be required to contribute four percent of their salaries into their retirement benefit plans, or choose to convert their retirement benefits to a 401-K plan.

That’s according to a bill approved by the state House.

Democratic state Representative Brandon Dillon said the proposal puts the health and wellness of future retirees at risk.

"We should be looking at ways to expand access to health care, whether in the public or private sector, and the reality is this bill is going to make people’s health care and the ability to get treatment essentially based on the stock market, which we know in the past 10 years has been pretty tough, and I just don’t think that’s the right direction to go," said Dillon.

State employees currently contribute three percent of their salaries to their retirement benefits plans.

Republicans say the current retirement plan is not financially sustainable with too many retirement obligations going into the future.

Politics
4:36 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Highland Park schools move a step closer to emergency manager

Highland Park schools could be Michigan’s second school district to get an emergency manager. The state moved a step closer to that scenario today.

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed a 10-member team to comb through the troubled school district’s finances – and maybe help it avoid a state takeover.

A preliminary review of Highland Park Schools’ books wrapped up late this summer. It found “probable financial stress,” with recurring deficits, and a current deficit of more than 15 percent of the district’s general fund revenues. The state schools chief recommended the second review.

The review team has 30 days to report its findings to the governor.

Right now Benton Harbor, Ecorse and Pontiac – along with Detroit Public Schools – are under emergency managers. A secondary review of Flint’s finances just got under way.

Politics
4:23 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Political Roundup: The State of the Legislature

Michigan Municipal League

This session of the legislature is winding down and we want to take a look at what we can expect between now and the end of the year.

Susan Demas, political analyst at Michigan Information and Research Service, says we'll probably see changes to workers compensation, a push to do the no-fault insurance reforms, election reform and maybe we'll see the debate over a new Detroit River bridge come up once again.

Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, says Gov. Snyder has been "pretty silent" about some high profile issues, such as the repeal of the motorcycle helmet law.

Transportation
2:17 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Detroit International Bridge Company found in contempt of court

The Ambassador Bridge. The Michigan Department of Transportation and the owners of the bridge are having conflicts over new construction connecting the bridge to local roads and highways.
Jim Wallace Flickr

A Judge has found the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge in contempt of court.

Update 2:17 p.m.

Here's an update from the Associated Press with reaction from the Ambassador Bridge owners:

DETROIT (AP) - The company that owns the Ambassador Bridge says a judge is wrong to find it in contempt for failing to finish work on a project linking the U.S.-Canada span with two Detroit interstates.

Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards will wait until Jan. 12 to order a penalty, but he wants bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Maroun at that hearing.

Detroit International Bridge Company says piers have been properly built and more work will be completed by January. It says it will appeal the judge's contempt order announced Thursday.

The state of Michigan sued the company after it failed to meet a deadline to finish its part of a $230 million project to improve traffic at the bridge linking Detroit and Ontario.

Read more
Economy
1:58 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Poverty growing, changing around the Midwest

A report released today shows poverty is on the rise in Midwestern suburbs.
Mike McCaffrey flickr

Stereotypes of people living in poverty are persistent.

But Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution says these stereotypes are becoming less accurate.

A report released today by the Institution shows poverty is growing and affecting many it didn’t touch before.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Concentrated poverty rose in Midwestern cities, but the number of people living in very poor neighborhoods is rising faster in the suburbs.
  • Poverty still affects communities of color in the inner cities. But, over the last decade poverty has grown among the number of well-educated white people living outside cities.
  • In the last decade concentrations of poverty have crept back up. That's where 40 percent of the people in a particular neighborhood live below the federal poverty line. These kinds of concentrations were on the decline up until 2000.
  • These concentrations of poverty almost doubled in the Midwest over the last decade. 

See more highlights, and read the entire report, at the Brookings Institution website.

Inform our coverage: How has the growth in poverty touched your life?

Commentary
10:56 am
Thu November 3, 2011

The Bullying Wars: What's Up With the Anti-Bullying Bill?

Michigan is one of only a handful of states without a specific law making school bullying a crime. The governor wants an anti-bullying law. Various other groups do too.

This is, make no mistake, a serious issue. According to the Senate Fiscal agency, bullying has accounted for at least ten suicides in the last ten years, plus more that were likely unreported.

So yesterday, the state senate passed such a law.

But nobody, absolutely nobody, is celebrating.

Read more
News Roundup
9:33 am
Thu November 3, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit Mayor Bing says city might need emergency manager

In an interview with the Detroit News, Mayor Bing said the city is facing a coming budget crises, and if it comes down to the city being run by an emergency manager, he'd consider the job.

More from the Detroit News:

Mayor Dave Bing on Wednesday said Detroit is quickly running out of cash and may require the intervention of an emergency manager, a role he is seriously considering if the governor asks.

The mayor, in an interview Wednesday, said he is troubled by a confidential Ernst & Young financial report that shows the city could run out of money by February and the fact that employee unions have not been willing to come to the table to renegotiate their contracts.

Bing said he's "got to have a heart-to-heart" talk with himself because he's already overworked and rarely sees his family, but "tough decisions need to be made."

"I'm giving that serious thought," said Bing, who is more than two years into his first term. "With an emergency manager it gives you, I think, authority and leverage to do some of the things that need to be done.

 Michigan recovery second fastest, but outlook pessimistic  The state is on a path to recovery, but it's not necessarily a rosy path.  The Detroit News reports: 

Michigan's economy is recovering from the recession at the second-fastest pace in the U.S., lifted by reviving carmakers and local manufacturers, according to a new index of state growth.

The home of Motown was topped only by North Dakota, where an oil boom is raising incomes at the nation's quickest rate... [according to] the new Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States Index...

"In a slow recovery like you have today, it doesn't take all that much growth to stand out," said Mark Vitner, an economist who works for Wells Fargo & Co. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller took a look at Michigan's seemingly mixed economic messages. She spoke with Bob Tomarelli, an analyst with IHS who said:

"So while they are getting a nice short-term burst that’s adding to payrolls and creating some jobs, or at least bringing some jobs back, it is not expected to keep up at that pace, and in the long run is actually expected to decline."

Anti-bullying measure passes Senate

The Michigan Senate passed an anti-bullying measure yesterday. More from Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network:

All school districts in Michigan may soon be required to adopt anti-bullying policies to help protect students from ridicule, humiliation and physical threats.

An anti-bullying bill approved by the state Senate would not, however, protect students from bullying done by teachers, school employees or parents.

The measure also does not protect students from cyber-bullying on home computers, nor does it list the traits or characteristics that are protected from bullying— such as gender, race or sexual orientation.

Politics
1:01 am
Thu November 3, 2011

Local elections take place next week as fewer tax dollars flow to Michigan's cities and towns

City hall in Jackson, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Jackson, like other Michigan cities, will hold an election next week. And like in other cities, those elected will face the reality of how they will choose to spend a declining amount of tax dollars.  

Both candidates for mayor of Jackson are realtors. And both bring a ‘realtor’s optimism’ when they talk about their city’s future. 

Read more
Economy
1:01 am
Thu November 3, 2011

Michigan home sale prices are rising

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan home sale prices increased by more than 6 percent in the last three months. But home prices are not rising everywhere.  

Alex Villacorta is with Clear Capital. He said Michigan’s average home sale prices are still 65 percent below their peak of a few years ago, before the recession.  But Villacorta said prices are finally moving in the right direction. 

Read more
Economy
9:46 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Marathon offers to buy out homeowners

Linda Chernowas says she has health problems related to living in her polluted industrial neighborhood. But she says Marathon's offer isn't enough for her to get a comparable house elsewhere.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Michigan’s only oil refinery is offering to buy out homeowners near its Detroit facility as it wraps up a major expansion project. The company is offering a minimum of $40,000, plus half a house’s appraised value. There’s also money to help people with moving expenses, and some other bonuses.

Read more
Auto/Economy
5:49 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

House approves helmet law repeal; future of bill uncertain

Motorcycle riders travelling without helmets.
Turtlemom4bacon Flickr

The state House has approved a measure to repeal Michigan’s motorcycle helmet requirement for riders who are at least 21 and have two years experience.

Opponents of the helmet law have been trying to get rid of it since it was adopted in 1976.

State Representative Paul Opsemmer supports the repeal. He said Michigan has a stricter helmet law than any neighboring state and that has had an effect on tourism.

Read more
Politics
5:30 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Michigan Senate committee approves film incentive measure

A new film-incentives program would give money to film and video game companies under a proposal approved by the state Senate.

Republicans have been looking for a new way to attract film companies to Michigan.

A tax-credit program created by Governor Jennifer Granholm was largely unpopular with the GOP.

Republican state Senator Mike Kowall says he a grant-based system for funding the film industry could still attract big-name productions to Michigan.  

He says the amount of money the state appropriates for the film industry may become a contentious issue down the road. But he says it’s important to get a system in place now that will keep the film industry interested in Michigan.

 “When you go down into these studios and you see not only how many people are there but the caliber and they’re from Michigan – they’re Michigan kids, they’re people that maybe moved to California and had the opportunity to move back and they grabbed it, said Kowall.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville has said he would like to see as much as $100 million budgeted for the film incentives program.

If the Legislature approves the new incentive program, lawmakers will still have to decide how much money to budget for the film industry. The state Senate is expected to vote on the film-incentive program proposal tomorrow.

Politics
5:15 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Michigan Senate approves anti-bullying bill

Update 5:15 p.m.

All school districts in Michigan may soon be required to adopt anti-bullying policies to help protect students from ridicule, humiliation and physical threats.

An anti-bullying bill approved by the state Senate would not, however, protect students from bullying done by teachers, school employees or parents.

The measure also does not protect students from cyber-bullying on home computers, nor does it list the traits or characteristics that are protected from bullying— such as gender, race or sexual orientation.

Read more
Newspapers
5:11 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Booth papers, MLive.com form new company, cut home delivery

Dan Gaydou announces the formation of a new company, MLive Media Group
MLive.com

According to a press release by Booth Newspapers Publisher Dan Gaydou, Booth Newspapers and MLive.com will now operate as one consolidated company, MLive Media Group.

Distribution and administrative operations will move to Advance Central Services Michigan, a newly formed subsidiary company.

The restructuring will most likely mean job cuts as the organization increases its focus on digital content.

From the announcement on MLive.com:

Many of our newspaper employees will have a place in the MLive Media Group and will still work in your local community at the MLive Media Group office. Many others will have a place at Advance Central Services Michigan. While we believe these changes will create growth opportunities for our current employees, the reality is they will also lead to reductions in our work force. We will provide as much notice and consideration to our employees as possible. We’ll strive throughout this process to treat all our employees with the professionalism and respect they deserve.

Gaydou says MLive Media Group will open new offices and hire people to produce content for its online products and its newspapers. Employees affected by the layoffs will be able to apply for those jobs.

Home delivery will be reduced to three days a week for the following newspapers, with daily content available in an online format.

  • The Grand Rapids Press
  • The Kalamazoo Gazette
  • The Muskegon Chronicle
  • The Jackson Citizen Patriot

Other Booth newspapers including the Flint Journal, Saginaw News, Bay City Times, and AnnArbor.com will also move under the MLive Media Group name but delivery changes at those papers are not expected.

John Klein Wilson - Michigan Radio newsroom

Politics
5:06 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Michigan House approves workers compensation overhaul

The Michigan House of Representatives passed changes to the state's worker-compensation system.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The state House has approved an overhaul of Michigan’s worker-compensation system. That system is supposed to pay benefits to people injured on the job.

Business groups and Republicans say an overhaul of the system is needed to reduce insurance rates paid by employers, and get people back to work more quickly – even if it’s a job that pays less.

They say a leaner and less-expensive system is still needed to make the state more employer-friendly.

Representative Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford) sponsored the bill.

“We’re not talking about someone driving 50 miles looking for a lawn-mowing job. But we do ask, if you’re on work comp that if you’re able to go back even in a marginal job to get back on some earning capacity to go ahead and do it,” said Jacobsen.

State Representative Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) opposed the overhaul.

She says it will reduce benefits for injured workers and force some of them to take lower-paying jobs before they are fully healed:

“What we do here matters to people and to families every day. This particular bill will be hurting families, workers, and the very people we came here to protect,” said Barnett.

Democrats also say the changes are not needed because Michigan’s unemployment coverage rates have gone down in 12 of the past 16 years.

They say the changes could become harder for employees to file claims or receive benefits they deserve.

Politics
4:25 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Wayne County Auditor will probe payroll, contract questions

The Wayne County Commission’s Auditor General will look into some persistent questions about county contracts and payment practices.

Willie Mayo says the audit will dig into two primary issues. One is how the county’s payroll process works—and whether there are safeguards to prevent some county appointees from getting big payouts.

Read more
Economy
2:00 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Mixed economic messages: It's all about perspective

automotiveauto.info

If the constant stream of what seems like contradictory economic news leaves you feeling confused, join the club.

Headline No. 1: “Midwest economy slows.”

No. 2: “Michigan surpasses 48 states in growth.”

And No. 3: “Michigan has fourth-highest number of layoffs.”

These are all true stories about the third quarter.

Bob Tomarelli is an analyst with IHS. He says the stories just reflect different aspects of the economy.

“It is doing better," Tomarelli says. "It is recovering at a decent pace, a very quick pace. But things are still not great because it was hit so very hard.”

Tomarelli says most of the 100,000 jobs added in the third quarter were in professional business services and manufacturing. But he says that boost is probably temporary.

So while they are getting a nice short-term burst that’s adding to payrolls and creating some jobs, or at least bringing some jobs back, it is not expected to keep up at that pace, and in the long run is actually expected to decline.”

Most of Michigan’s 29,000 layoffs were in government and financial sectors.

courts
12:06 pm
Wed November 2, 2011

Macomb Co. to pay settlement to man wrongfully convicted of rape

Jeffrey Moldowan spent a dozen years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
Michigan Department of Corrections

Macomb County will pay a $150,000 settlement to a man who was wrongfully convicted of beating and raping his former girlfriend.

A lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Moldowan was set to go to trial today. Moldowan spent a dozen years in prison for the crime before a jury acquitted him in a second trial.

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.

Pages