Changing Gears
8:00 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Ishpeming: Where iron ore built a city (Part 3 - with photos)

The Empire Pit began production in 1963.
Photo courtesy of Cliffs Natural Resources

Our Changing Gears project is on the road, bringing you stories of towns where one company still affects everybody’s lives. Today we head north, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. That’s where North America’s biggest supplier of iron ore has been blasting the earth, and creating jobs, for more than 160 years. 

Our destination is the city of Ishpeming. It’s small.  Basically, you can’t throw a rock here without hitting a miner.

Take Steve Carlson. After high school, he worked 37 years for the mines.

Read more
Politics
11:53 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Detroit Police Chief says killings are up

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says overall crime is down in the city. But he acknowledges that’s overshadowed by a recent spike in homicides, almost all of them shootings.

Detroit recorded 172 homicides in the first half of this year. That’s up 15% over last year.

Read more
Politics
11:49 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Snyder tours Detroit neighborhood, promotes new bridge crossing

Governor Snyder addresses the media after touring the Delray neighborhood in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor will benefit Michigan’s economy, but should also benefit the community that hosts it.

Snyder toured Detroit’s Delray neighborhood with community leaders today Tuesday. Delray is the proposed site of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

Snyder says the trade crossing would boost international trade and benefit the whole state—but it should also benefit Delray.

Read more
Newsmaker Interviews
6:11 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Republican Congressman Huizenga and debt ceiling crisis

Congressman Bill Huizenga represents Michigan's 2nd District.
US Congress

President Obama and Congress have yet to find a solution to the nation’s debt crisis. Last night, President Obama and Speaker Boehner separately addressed the nation. They gave their explanations of why a deal hasn’t yet been reached. 

Republican Congressman of Michigan, Bill Huizenga talks with us about debt ceiling debates in Washington and what his concerns are moving forward.

Politics
6:09 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

State opens contract negotiations with employees

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration and state employee unions have begun a new round of contract negotiations.

The Snyder administration has set a big savings target -- $265 million - or an average of about $6,000 per state worker.

Jan Winter is the governor’s lead negotiator. She says saving $265 million in employee costs will be tough.

“Go the table, work as hard as you can. A lot of things can happen and we’re counting on working out good deals here.”

Winter says one idea is to ask state employees to pay more for their benefits.

“One of the things that we have looked at, clearly, moving to something like an 80/20 split on a health plan would mean well over $100 million in gross savings. We have a lot of ideas, and we’re hopeful the unions have lots of ideas, too.”

Cindy Estrada is the lead negotiator for UAW Local Six Thousand, the biggest state employee union.

She says workers are also looking to fix the state’s budget troubles.

“We want to create a Michigan, a state that in 10 years to come is more efficient, has better quality for the citizens that receive those services, and I think we can do that – if workers and management get together and we look for new solutions and we be really creative and stick to the commitment that we’re going to make structural changes, we can get there, definitely.

But Estrada says the savings should not come out of state employees’ benefits or paychecks since they’ve given up nearly $4 billion in concessions over the past decade.

The unions say state government could find big savings if it reduced the number of managers and outside contracts.

Civil Rights
5:13 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Justice Department agrees to help Michigan Muslim group

user: modenadude flicker.com

The Justice Department has expressed an interest in helping a Muslim civil rights advocacy group in Michigan. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is concerned the Pittsfield Township community may influence the approval of a neighborhood Muslim school. The Michigan Islamic Academy in Ann Arbor wants to move to a new building in Pittsfield to accommodate its growing student population. In a meeting last month, some people spoke against the Muslim school. C-A-I-R asked the Justice Department to monitor the next meeting on August 4.

Lena Masri is the staff attorney representing the Michigan Islamic Academy. She says some comments were blatantly racist.

"Comments against Muslims, Islam and the operation of a Muslim school in their backyard, but also concerns such as traffic and noise and light – concerns regarding issues that are non-issues," Masri said.

The Pittsfield Township Planning Commission did not return calls for comment.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Election 2012
3:03 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

McCulloch drops bid for the U.S. Senate

John McCulloch ended his bid for the U.S. Senate 11 days after he started it.
John McCulloch

Now that a candidate with a lot of name recognition has entered the race to unseat Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 election, a candidate with little name recognition has dropped out.

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch announced he is withdrawing from the race (he entered the race just 11 days ago) and endorsing Republican Pete Hoekstra's bid.

From the Associated Press:

Hoekstra initially said he wouldn't run, but jumped in five days after McCulloch said he was entering the race to unseat Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow.

Hoekstra accepted McCulloch's endorsement Tuesday at Oakland County GOP Headquarters in Bloomfield Township. County Clerk Bill Bullard and Sheriff Mike Bouchard also endorsed Hoekstra.

Last week, The Associated Press reported Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson switched his endorsement from McCulloch to Hoekstra since McCulloch wasn't running.

Other Republicans still in the race include former Kent County Judge Randy Hekman and Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy.

Veterans
2:47 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

U.S. gives $1.59 million for Michigan vets programs

Money awarded to help homeless veterans.
user anonymonous Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is giving $1.59 million for programs helping homeless Michigan veterans and their families.

Department Secretary Eric Shinseki said Tuesday that two Michigan nonprofit agencies will help about 545 homeless veteran families.

The program is called Supportive Services for Veteran Families, and the nationwide initiative is awarding about $60 million to 85 agencies in 40 states and the District of Columbia.

The government is giving $999,559 to Southwest Counseling Solutions in Detroit and $590,928 to the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency in Wyandotte.

Under the program, the agencies will be able to provide a range of services to eligible very low-income veterans and their families. That can include some financial aid for rent, utilities, deposits and moving costs.

Economy
1:10 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

List of Post Offices in Michigan being studied for closure

The USPS says customer habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office.
DeWitt Clinton Flickr

UPDATE  1:45pm

The leader of thousands of rural mail employees says she’s worried about a U.S. Post Office proposal that could close many small town post offices.  The national postal officials say they need to make cuts to reduce red ink.  The postal service lost eight billion dollars last year.  

Cindy Opalek is the president of the Michigan Rural Letter Carriers Association.   She says closing small town post offices will hurt rural communities. 

“The people who work there get a little more connected…a little more bonded with the people that they serve.   That will be a shame if they lose that.    Does the (U.S.) Post Office care?   I couldn’t tell you." 

ORIGINAL POST: 1:05pm

The U.S. Postal Service has released a list of 62 Post Offices in Michigan that they're studying for closure.

The potential closures could affect smaller cities like Kingsford, Baron City, and North Star. And they could also affect bigger cities like Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Lansing.

In a statement, Postmaster General Patrick Donahue said closed offices could be replaced by "expanded access locations" - similar to how some pharmacies are now located in your grocery store:

“Today, more than 35 percent of the Postal Service’s retail revenue comes from expanded access locations such as grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores, retail chains, self-service kiosks, ATMs and usps.com, open 24/7. Our customer’s habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business.”

The U.S. Postal Service currently operates 32,000 retail offices (the largest retail network in the country). It's studying the potential closure of 3,700 offices.

The USPS suffered $8.5 billion in losses in 2010.

Is your city on this list? How would you feel if your local post office was closed?

Read more
Economy
12:21 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Michigan businesses to receive boost from new public-private program

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to announce details of a public-private grant program aimed at small to medium sized businesses.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.

One hundred thirty million will be available to Michigan businesses as part of a new grant program. The money is the first of the Small Business Association’s Impact Investment Initiative. The goal is to help grow and create jobs through public-private partnerships. The InvestMichigan! fund is a partnership between the SBA, Dow Chemical Company and state funds.

Karen Mills is with the SBA. She says Michigan was the perfect place to start the program.

“Michigan has great assets. It has one of the highest engineers per capita for any state. It has a well-trained workforce, it has great universities and it has extraordinary entrepreneurs,” Mills said.

The program will distribute 1-point-5-billion-dollars to businesses nationwide throughout the next five years.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

ORIGINAL POST: 12:21 p.m.

Details on a public-private grant program aimed at helping small to medium sized businesses in Michigan will be announced during a press call at 1 p.m. today.

Governor Snyder will discuss the new program along with Karen Mills of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Company, State Treasurer Andy Dillon, and Kelly Williams of Credit Suisse's Customized Fund Investment Group.

Andrew Dodson of Booth Mid-Michigan reports that Dow Chemical's investment in the program is expected to facilitate investment from the federal and state government:

According to a source close to the information, the program's impact will be "quite substantial." Dow Chemical is expected to provide funds and help facilitate bringing federal and state funds to bear upon local markets."It's meant for businesses who need financing, but can't get loans or financing right now," the source said.InvestMichigan! is a group with a series of funds focused on growing the next generation of Michigan companies, according to its website, and is one of the partners involved in today's announcement. It's federal counterpart, ImpactAmerica, is also involved.

Amelia Carpenter in the Michigan Radio Newsroom will be on the call and will have more for us later.

Economy
11:00 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Talks fall through to buy 30 Borders stores

A deal to sell the leases and assets of 30 Borders Book stores to Books-a-Million has fallen through.
Ruthanne Reid Flickr

NEW YORK (AP) - Bookstore chain Books-A-Million Inc. says its last-minute talks to buy the leases and assets of 30 Borders bookstores out of bankruptcy have fallen through.

Borders Group Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in February, received court approval last week to liquidate its 399 stores. The chain said at the time it was talking to Books-A-Million about buying 30 store leases and inventory.

But Books-A-Million said Tuesday those talks were unsuccessful.

A group led by liquidation firms Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group are now holding going-out-of-business stores at all Borders stores.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Books-A-Million operates 231 stores in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Borders is based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Commentary
10:49 am
Tue July 26, 2011

The UAW and the Changing Auto Industry

Most of us understand that the auto industry isn’t what it used to be. Especially, what we think of as the domestic auto industry. For one thing, it is much smaller, both in terms of market share and in number of people employed. Some time ago, the national media stopped using the term “the big three.“

Now, they mostly call them the “Detroit Three.” Technically, it would be more accurate to say, “the Detroit Two, and the Detroit-based subsidiary of an Italian firm.”  And one of the two, aka General Motors, sells more Buicks in China nowadays than in America.

Read more
sports
10:26 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Back to work for the Detroit Lions

user: 46137 flickr.com

The longest lockout in the history of the National Football League is over.   Now, what may be the shortest free agency period in NFL history is about to begin.   The Detroit Lions are expected to be busy during the whirlwind of player trades and signings during the next few days.  

Lions team president Tom Lewand released this statement yesterday on the deal agreed to by the players and owners.  

“First and foremost, we are happy for our fans because all they ever wanted was for us to play football and, thankfully, that’s what we are getting ready to do. This agreement is a big win for NFL football and for all NFL fans because it helps secure the long-term health of our game.

“It is a fair deal for players and teams. We will be able to grow the game and appropriately share that growth with our players as partners. It is a deal that places a high priority on player safety and on the integrity of our game.

The Lions released this timetable detailing the off the field and on the field schedule between now and the kickoff of the fall 2011 season.

Read more
Environment
10:12 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Life on the Kalamazoo River: One year after the spill (part 1)

Last July, a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy burst, spilling more than 843,000 gallons of oil from the Alberta tar sands into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. This photo was taken on July 19, 2011 - oil still remains in the creek and the river.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Workers are still trying to clean up thick tar sands oil that’s settled at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. It’s been one year since more than 840,000 gallons leaked from a broken pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy.  Life for those near the accident site has not returned to normal yet.

“See those clumpies?”

Read more
Politics
10:06 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Feds suspend Flint's energy grants

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The federal government will suspend two energy grants in the city of Flint because of the potential misuse of funds.

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Energy are investigating stimulus funded grants dating back to 2009, according to the Flint Journal.

Flint Mayor Dane Walling said his office is cooperating with the probe and has launched investigations of their own into the energy grant programs:

Read more
Politics
9:04 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Courts say same-sex partners do not have custody rights

The state Supreme Court has refused to take the case of a lesbian woman who wants the right to visit the children she helped raise with her ex-partner.

The court’s decision lets stand a lower court ruling that same-sex partners do not have custody rights in Michigan.

Renee Harmon and Tammy Davis were together for 19 years, and during that time started a family together. Davis served as the biological mother via artificial insemination to their three children. After the relationship broke up, Harmon was denied visitation and sued for parenting time.

Michigan does not recognize same-sex relationships - nor does it allow unmarried couples to adopt.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Harmon lacked the legal standing to sue.

The state Supreme Court allowed that decision to stand by refusing to take the case.

The court divided on party lines in its decision. Republican majority voted not to take the case. Democrats said the court should.

In her dissent to the order, Justice Marilyn Kelly wrote the case raises so many questions regarding the state constitution and parents’ rights that it “cries out for a ruling from the state’s highest court.”

Read more
Changing Gears
8:40 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Road Trip: Decatur, The Heart of Illinois Agribusiness (Part 2)

Corn being grown across the street from Archer Daniels Midland Co. headquarters in Decatur.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

Our Changing Gears road trip continues. Yesterday, I was in Kohler, Wisconsin. Today, I went down state in Illinois to Decatur.

Driving south from Chicago, it only takes about 25 miles to hit the corn fields. For the next 150 miles to Decatur, it’s a sea of yellow corn tassels, a head tall.

Read more
Auto
7:44 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Profits at Ford drop but beat Wall Street expectations

Toolshed4 Flickr

Ford Motor Company announced its second-quarter earnings this morning. And, although profits dropped slightly, the automaker did beat analysts' expectations. The Associated Press reports:

The company earned $2.4 billion, or 59 cents per share, down 8 percent from $2.6 billion, or 61 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2010. It was Ford's ninth straight quarterly profit. Worldwide sales rose, but the company spent more on materials and product development.

Revenue rose 13 percent to $35.5 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet had forecast revenue of $32.15 billion. Without one-time items, including $110 million for employee reductions, Ford would have earned $2.9 billion, or 65 cents per share. That beat analysts' forecast of 60 cents per share. Ford paid off $2.6 billion in debt during the quarter.

Election 2012
6:56 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Kildee considering run for Congress

Dan Kildee says he is considering a run for his Uncle Dale Kildee's Congressional seat.
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

With U.S. Representative Dale Kildee announcing his plans to retire after next year, his nephew, Dan Kildee, says he is seriously considering a run for Congress. Dan Kildee is the President and CEO of the Center for Community Progress, and a former Genesee County treasurer. He also ran for Governor early last year before dropping out of the Democratic race.

The Associated Press reports that Kildee told the AP yesterday that, “running for Congress ‘has been on my mind for some time.’ He says he plans to announce his decision soon.”

Congressman Dale Kildee announced his retirement earlier this month. He has spent 18 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, a total of 47 years, as a Democratic Congressman representing the area around Flint.

State Law
6:32 am
Tue July 26, 2011

State attorney general files charges under state’s new human trafficking law

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in Lansing on Inauguration Day. (Jan. 1st, 2011)
Covair Owner Flickr

The state attorney general’s office has filed the first charges under the Michigan’s updated law against human trafficking. A man is accused of forcing two teen-aged girls in Detroit to become prostitutes.

The man is charged with two counts of inviting teen-aged girls to parties and then forcing them to work as prostitutes, collecting all of the money, beating them for not earning enough, and sexually assaulting them himself. The attorney general’s new Human Trafficking Unit is trying to extradite him from California.

A study done last year for the Michigan Women’s Foundation found as many as 160 cases a month of girls being sold online or through escort services in Michigan. The study did not track how often teen-aged girls and boys are offered on the streets or in hotel rooms. But human trafficking is becoming more common across the country.

The Michigan Women’s Foundation says the new charges and penalties are useful – but the state should also have a “safe harbor” law that ensures people forced to become prostitutes are treated as victims and not as criminals.

Pages