Politics
3:18 pm
Sat October 15, 2011

Debate begins over potential Michigan budget cash

It turns out Michigan's state government might have brought in more money from taxes and fees than previously expected in the fiscal year that ended September 30th. That likely will set up a battle this fall over what to do with
the cash, which could total $285 million or more.

Democrats, outnumbered in the Michigan Legislature, say any extra money should be committed first to public schools and education programs that are dealing with budget cuts in the fiscal year that started this month.

Republicans, including those in Governor Rick Snyder's administration, are hesitant to commit to any spending before they have a clearer picture of state revenues.

Snyder's budget office is expected to close the books on the recently completed 2010-11 fiscal year in December.

Politics
5:57 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

"Occupy" movement comes to Detroit

Protestors in New York City have occupied Zuccotti Park for 28 days.
david_shankbone flickr

Hundreds of people of all ages turned out in downtown Detroit for an event they’re billing “Occupy Detroit.” It’s part of a movement that started on Wall Street and has spread across the country.

"It’s to wake up," said Dobey Gavin of Detroit. "With the trickle-down economics, it just don’t work no more in America."

Richard Black is an Army veteran from Warren. He says he’s never come out to protest, but he’s fed up. Especially with politicians.

"I don’t believe that they work for the people any longer, I think they work for whoever pays them," he said. "And it’s got to stop. It’s got to stop."

Protestors plan to meet at 7 p.m. to talk about goals for the movement in Detroit.

Some of the protestors plan to pitch tents and take up residence in Grand Circus Park, near the stadiums and theater district.

Politics
5:51 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Ficano: 2 suspended over controversial payout

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Two Wayne County appointees have been suspended over the $200,000 payout to a former economic development chief.

County Executive Bob Ficano says proper protocols were not followed when Turkia Mullin was awarded the “severance” payment when she voluntarily left her county job.

"I’m holding those who made errors in judgment accountable for their actions," Ficano said. "Mistakes have consequences."

Deputy Executive Azzam Elder and the county’s head lawyer, Marianne Talon, have been suspended without pay for 30 days. Tim Taylor, the county's former human resources director, was also sanctioned. Taylor is retired, but had a part-time contract with the county. That contract has been terminated.

Ficano says the county should never have paid a severance to an appointee who left voluntarily. That’s despite the fact that he initially defended the payment.

County officials say Turkia Mullin will return the money.

Politics
4:02 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Governor visits U of M, touts pro-immigration stance

Governor Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he considers himself "probably the most aggressive pro-immigration governor in the country." Snyder says Michigan should work to attract immigrants with advanced degrees, especially in biomedical sciences and high-tech industries.

He reminded students, researchers and educators at University of Michigan today that some of the state’s most successful businesses – such as Meijer and Dow – were founded by immigrants.

“We tend to forget they’re Michigan names. Dow was a Canadian emigrant and Meijers was a Dutch emigrant. And now they’re household words that we consider them Michiganders,” said Snyder.

State Demographer Ken Darga says one of the big reasons Michigan was the only state to lose population in the past decade is because of a failure to attract immigrants.

Meanwhile, there are several Republican proposals in the Legislature aimed at enacting regulations to discourage illegal immigration.

Snyder also stated that too many college graduates in Michigan are leaving the state to pursue careers. He says part of that is because there are not enough jobs available for young workers. He says revitalizing urban areas will help reverse the so-called “brain drain.”

“It’s absolutely critical for Detroit to begin on the path to be a great city again because many of our young people are looking for that urban environment. And there are good things going on in Detroit. They’re good enough going on today that I like to ask young people – and you might appreciate this – I say ‘Do you want to be another yuppie in Chicago, or do you want to stay and make a difference in Detroit?’” said Snyder.

*Correction - an earlier version of this story was titled "Governor visits U of M, touts anti-immigration stance." He was highlighting his "pro-immigration" stance. The headline has been changed.

Auto/Economy
3:59 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Obama: Free trade agreements will boost US auto industry

President Barack Obama addresses an audience of auto workers at the GM Orion Assembly Plant, as South Korean president Lee Myung-bak (wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap) looks on.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 In southeast Michigan today, President Obama said free trade agreements passed this week by Congress will lead to more jobs and more economic opportunities.   

Obama and South Korean president Lee Myung-bak toured GM’s Orion assembly plant.   Obama says the new South Korea trade agreement should boost U.S. auto sales in Asia. 

Environment
2:06 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Report says farm runoff declining near Great Lakes

DETROIT (AP) - A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers are cutting back significantly on the amount of soil and nutrients eroding from fields to the Great Lakes and neighboring waterways.    

The study estimates that methods such as no-till cultivation have cut in half the volume of sediments entering rivers and streams in the region, while phosphorus and nitrogen runoff are down by more than one-third.

Nutrients from farms and municipal waste treatment plants are believed to be one cause of rampant algae growth in the Great Lakes in recent years.

The study is based on a survey of farmers between 2003 and 2006.

Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation says the report shows progress is being made, but says more must be done to fix the algae problem.

Commentary
12:01 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Michigan Student Dropout Rates, Schools as Communities

We’ve been spending a lot of time lately trying to figure out how to fix our schools, which don’t seem to be working. Some people think the best solution is to essentially abandon the public schools, and turn things over to various sets of for-profit charter schools.

Others are dubious about that, even though it is clear that the public schools aren‘t working for a lot of kids.

Well, I was someplace earlier this week where they are trying something different, and it may be worth thinking about here. I was in Toledo, Ohio, just a long fly ball from the Michigan border.

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public transportation
11:44 am
Fri October 14, 2011

Amtrak reports record riders and revenue in Michigan

The Wolverine train pulls into the Ann Arbor station. More than 500,000 passengers rode the 'Wolverine' line between Pontiac/Detroit and Chicago, an increase of nearly percent from the same period a year ago. Wolverine is the most popular in Michigan.
smaedli Creative Commons

Amtrak trains in Michigan had a record number of riders and revenue for the fiscal year that ended last month. Michigan Department of Transportation spokeswoman Janet Foran says Amtrak riders have increased steadily since 2008 when gas prices spiked over $4 per gallon.

Nearly 800,000 people rode one of three passenger train lines in the state bringing in close to $28 million in ticket revenue “It goes to show that people like to have transportation choices,” Foran said.

The record numbers come despite major slow-downs over the summer on the most popular line from Detroit to Chicago.

The biggest ridership increase was on the line that runs from Port Huron through East Lansing to Chicago.

Foran says the summer months and the upcoming holiday season are the busiest times for train riders.

Auto/Economy
10:13 am
Fri October 14, 2011

Lansing's credit rating is downgraded

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Lansing's credit rating. The city's rating has gone from Aa2, Moody's third-highest rating, to A1, its fifth highest. City finance director Jerry Ambrose says the downgrade impacts the interest rate Lansing would pay to borrow money.

News Roundup
7:03 am
Fri October 14, 2011

In this morning's news ...

A pair of presidents to tour Lake Orion GM plant

President Obama will be in southeast Michigan today to promote a new  free trade agreement with South Korea. President Obama is scheduled to tour General Motor’s assembly plant in Lake Orion. South Korea’s president will accompany Obama.  Congress this week approved a new free trade agreement with South Korea.  South Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy.

Governor orders review of indigent legal defense system

Governor Snyder has ordered a review of how Michigan ensures that people charged with crimes are properly represented in court – even when they cannot afford to pay an attorney. The state's criminal justice system is often ranked among the worst in the country because it does not guarantee poor people get a proper defense.

Unlimited injury benefits may end

Michigan's House Insurance Committee Thursday approved a bill that would get rid of unlimited medical coverage to drivers in serious car accidents. The state's insurance commissioner says the move could help make auto insurance more affordable for the 20% of Michigan drivers who carry no coverage. Critics say the limits will leave some people unable to pay for catastrophic care. They also claim coverage wouldn't cost much less than it does now. The proposal now moves to the House floor.

Auto/Economy
1:01 am
Fri October 14, 2011

President Obama visits Michigan today

President Barack Obama
White House

President Obama will be in southeast Michigan today to promote a new  free trade agreement with South Korea.  President Obama is scheduled to tour General Motor’s assembly plant in Lake Orion.   South Korea’s president will accompany Obama. 

Congress this week approved a new free trade agreement with South Korea.  South Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy.  

The free trade pact is the largest such deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in the mid-90’s. 

Ford in China
12:19 am
Fri October 14, 2011

Ford and the case of the Chinese official's hat

Want to know the real reason Ford isn’t one of the biggest car companies in China right now? 

Hats. 

That's right. David McKee says it’s because of hats. Here’s the story. 

In 1992, Ford Motor Company sent McKee to China to head a Ford components company. At the time, very few ordinary Chinese owned cars. Cars were a perk for bureaucrats. 

Read more
courts
5:10 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Snyder orders review of indigent defense

Joe Gratz flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has ordered a review of how Michigan ensures that people charged with crimes are properly represented in court – even when they cannot afford to pay an attorney.

The state's criminal justice system is often ranked among the worst in the country because it does not guarantee poor people get a proper defense. It's long been criticized for a patchwork of standards where every county pays for and handles its own indigent defense system. Too often, court-appointed defense attorneys are poorly trained, inexperienced, and too overworked to do a good job of representing their clients, says Shelli Weisberg of the American Civil Liberties Union:

“It depends on what county you live in as to whether you’re going to get good representation if you’re in the criminal justice system, and that’s just not fair.”

Weisberg says that means there are people in jail and prison who should not be and, in some cases, people who committed crimes remain free.

The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the state four years ago. The ACLU wants a judge to declare Michigan is violating the state and federal constitutions by denying defendants adequate legal counsel.

public transportation
4:57 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Federal grants fund 11 public transportation projects in Michigan

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority got money to buy clean diesel buses with hybrid-electric components to increase bus service on the busy Washtenaw Ave. corridor.
fabi k Creative Commons

Nine public transportation systems in Michigan have won competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grants announced Thursday total nearly $44 million.

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Politics
3:35 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

No-fault insurance changes passed by House committee

Update 3:35 p.m.

A state House committee has approved major changes to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance.

The legislation would cap medical fees and restrict the kind of care people who are badly hurt in car accidents could get.

As it is now, if someone is catastrophically injured in a car accident, no-fault Personal Injury Protection pays for all necessary medical and rehabilitation expenses.

It’s unlimited, lifetime benefits if necessary.

This new bill would limit medical fees, and it would give motorists the choice to purchase $500,000, $1 million, or $5 million worth of coverage.

After that, you’re on your own.

Read more
Lansing
3:05 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Davenport University drops bid for Lansing's Oliver Towers

The blighted Oliver Towers complex in Lansing, Michigan.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Davenport University says the process of acquiring an empty apartment complex in Lansing has gotten too ‘political’.    So Davenport is dropping its bid for the ‘Oliver Towers’.   

Davenport offered to swap its current downtown campus for the property just north of the state capital building, where it planned to build a new college campus.   But the Lansing City Council stalled the deal, to consider a competing offer from Lansing Community College.     

Davenport University President Richard Pappas says the deal is now off the table. 

Read more
Sports
2:07 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

President Obama to attend MSU basketball game played on aircraft carrier

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will host the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic on Veteran's Day.
Specialist 2nd Class Joel Carlson United States Navy

President Barack Obama will attend a basketball game between Michigan State University and North Carolina. The game will be held on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Veteran's Day (11-11-11).

The game is being branded as the "Quicken Loans Carrier Classic" and it's billed as the "first ever carrier to host a Division 1 college basketball game."

From the Washington Post:

Obama is expected to lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in honor of Veterans Day and then travel to San Diego for the game.

“This Veterans Day, President Obama will honor our nation’s veterans by laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery and then by traveling to San Diego, California, to attend the Carrier Classic on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson,” the White House said in a statement. “He looks forward to a great game between Michigan State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”

The nuclear powered aircraft carrier is famed for being the carrier from which Osama bin Laden's body was buried at sea. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

transit
12:28 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Massive cuts coming to Detroit-area bus service

Mysid Wikipedia

Southeast Michigan’s regional bus system is getting ready to make massive cuts to its service.

Declining tax revenues due to drops in property values, fewer federal dollars, and the SMART system’s inability to win concessions from its unions are the reasons behind the cuts.

The system is looking at a 22 percent cut to its service, affecting 30 of its 53 routes.

"Certainly this is a tragedy," said SMART’s Beth Gibbons. "It’s not going to be easy for the thousands of people who depend on our service every day to get to work and to school."

Public hearings on the proposed cuts are scheduled for the first week of November. The changes could take effect as early as December 12.

About 40,000 people a day ride SMART busses.

Economy
11:59 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Levin calls for end of offshore corporate tax breaks

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, (D)-Mich.
Jeffry Simms Flickr

A U.S. Senate report says a 2004 tax break let American companies bring back billions of dollars in offshore earnings at a very low tax rate.

Senator Carl Levin of Michigan says companies including Coca-Cola, IBM and Pfizer got a windfall, but didn’t live up to their promises:

"There was no way to make sure that when they brought the money back they would use it for what they use it for – which was to create jobs and have more R&D – research and development,” Levin says.

Instead, Levin says the companies cut jobs and research, while executive pay went up.

He says if Washington repeats the offshore tax break, the treasury will lose up to $80 billion over ten years.

Other companies that took the repatriating tax break include Altria, Bristol-Myers Squibb, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Oracle, and Procter & Gamble.

Politics
11:56 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Judge issues temporary injunction stopping Rep. Paul Scott recall

Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) urges lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to approve the Teacher Quality Package
Rep. Paul Scott's office

A judge in Ingham County has issued a temporary injunction which stops a recall effort against State Representative Paul Scott.   

Republican Paul Scott was targeted for recall by the Michigan Education Association. Scott is a supporter of cutting K-12 education funding and legislation which targets teachers unions. 

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