Economy
6:42 am
Thu July 21, 2011

Job growth stalls, state unemployment rises in June

Ep_jhu Flickr

Job creation has been dragging for most of this year in the state and across the country. That helped push Michigan’s unemployment rate slightly higher to 10.5 percent in June.

There were 8,000 more unemployed people in Michigan last month – a total of 496,000 thousand people looking for work. The unemployment rate was inching downward as people found jobs in high-tech business services, health care, and manufacturing.

Bruce Weaver of the state Bureau of Labor Market Information says all that stalled in February.

“It appears that job levels have flattened out in the state and that’s across the board.”

The number of hours worked and payroll earnings also fell. The rate of unemployment and under-employment is 19.6 percent. That number counts part-timers who would like to work full-time, and former job seekers who got discouraged and quit looking.

Environment
6:34 am
Thu July 21, 2011

White Lake gets federal funding for restoration

An inland lake in west Michigan is getting a boost from the federal government to help clean up pollution and restore wildlife habitats.

It’s one of many places along the Great Lakes shoreline where cleanups are needed.

Programs to clean up White Lake, north of Muskegon, have been awarded more than $2 million for restoration. The money will be used to help clean toxins and reestablish habitat for fish and wildlife.

Patty Birkholz, director of the Office of the Great Lakes says damage done by years of pollution from the manufacturing industry is not beyond repair. 

“That’s true, it’s not. But it’s taken a huge investment on the part of the federal government, on the part of the state government, but also a lot of work by the local people.”

Birkholz says Michigan has more “Areas of Concern” near the Great Lakes than any of the other Great Lakes states. She says it’s important for the state to rehabilitate waterways that were damaged by the, quote, ‘sins of our fathers.’

Teachers
5:45 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

New law dramatically alters teacher tenure (audio)

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder recently signed a package of bills that reshapes teacher tenure in Michigan. The bills remove seniority protections and make it easier to fire teachers who have been identified as “ineffective”.

Michigan Public Radio Networks’ Lansing bureau chief, Rick Pluta talks about what this means for teachers and how state leaders plan to implement the new law.

 

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Economy
5:00 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Oakland County: Fannie, Freddie dodging taxes

Oakland County Treasurer Andrew Meisner says homes like this one, sold in foreclosure by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are costing the state millions in lost tax revenues.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

There’s a David-and-Goliath story about to play out in federal court in Detroit.

Oakland County Treasurer Andrew Meisner says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are illegally dodging millions of dollars in taxes. The government-backed mortgage giants were created by the federal government, but they were spun off decades ago as hybrid enterprises with a policy mission and a profit motive. 

Just where Fannie and Freddie sit on the public-private spectrum is the central issue of the court case. And the court fight could be a bellwether for similar battles in other states. 

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Politics
3:40 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Plan to close water park has Detroiters burning up

chandlerparkonline.com

With temperatures stuck in the 90s, patrons of Detroit’s only water park say they’re livid about plans to shut it down.

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano says closing the Family Aquatic Center at Chandler Park would save a million dollars the county needs to balance the budget.

Nanga Chungag is 12 years old. She takes swimming lessons at the park and says closing it would be terrible for her, and her city:

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Transportation
2:40 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Airport shuttle service to double number of trips with new route

Jerry Wong Flickr

A new airport shuttle between East Lansing and Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Interstate 96 will make twice the number of trips this fall. The new Michigan Flyer route will stop in East Lansing, Brighton/Howell, Ann Arbor and both airport terminals. If the federal government awards Michigan Flyer with the 1-point-5 million dollars it asked for, the route will be self-sustaining after the first year.

Ody Norkin is vice president of Michigan Flyer. He says the goal is for airport shuttles to run hourly.

"People come home to Detroit Metro Airport they don’t want to wait two hours especially if they’re in Washtenaw or Livingston only a half-hour or 45 minutes away from the airport," he said. "They’re not going to wait for the shuttle if we are operating only two to two-and-a-half hours."

Norkin says the new route will be successful based on current usage.

"We have a very high end product with brand new motor coaches that are attracting not only those who can’t drive or can’t afford to drive but also those who own vehicles and choose to set them aside either for environmental reasons or just because we’re so convenient.," Norkin said.

Prices on the new route will likely be the same as their southern route along I-94.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Election 2012
2:17 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

A conversation with Pete Hoekstra on "their" decision to run

Pete Hoekstra and his wife Diane at the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival when he ran for governor in 2010. He lost the Republican nomination to Governor Rick Snyder.
facebook.com/petehoekstra

Former U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra says he and his family are prepared to challenge Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2012.

“We get a new majority in place in the US Senate we can start changing and reversing those policies. And that’s what I want to be a part of.”

After 18 years in Congress, Hoekstra retired from his rather secure seat representing a conservative district along the Lake Michigan shore. He had hopes of become Michigan’s new Governor. But he placed second in the Republican primary behind current Governor Rick Snyder.

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Election 2012
1:28 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Hoekstra's decision to run based on two words

Pete Hoekstra appearing on Fox News Sunday.

Debt ceiling.

That's according to a piece on MLive.com by Susan Demas. Demas is a political analyst for Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS).

From MLive:

So why did Hoekstra decide to run against Stabenow after all?

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Auto/Economy
12:40 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

UAW chief to push for bigger profit-sharing checks

In a 2007 photo from left, Bob King (current UAW President) is with Ron Gettelfinger, (former UAW President), Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company, and Alan Mulally, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company.
Ford Motor Company

DETROIT (AP) - The head of the United Auto Workers union says if his members agree to profit-sharing instead of pay raises from Detroit's automakers, the companies will have to write bigger checks than they do now.

UAW workers at General Motors got $4,300 profit-sharing checks this year, while Ford paid out $5,000 and Chrysler paid $750.

President Bob King has told The Associated Press that profit-sharing or other flexible methods of compensation will be discussed when the union formally begins contract talks with the Big Three next week.

Yet King, who has preached cooperation with the companies over confrontation, said that while he wants workers to be fairly compensated, he also wants deals that keep down the companies' fixed costs so they are competitive with foreign-based automakers.

Energy
12:01 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

DTE plans to operate Fermi 2 nuclear power plant through 2045

DTE's Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station on the shore of Lake Erie.
NRC

DTE Energy plans to submit an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that would allow the company to operate the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant through 2045.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The utility’s license to operate Fermi 2 expires in 2025 and the application, if approved, would allow DTE Energy to operate it for an addition 20 years.

Fermi 2 began commercial operation in 1988. The renewal is in addition to the utility’s request to the NRC for a new nuclear power facility located at the Fermi site. DTE filed that application in 2008, but the licenses has not been issued yet.

Environment
11:17 am
Wed July 20, 2011

Homeowners who claim land was polluted by Dow must go it alone

Dow Chemical's headquarters in Midland.
wikimedia commons

Back in 2003, more than 150 homeowners got together to file a class action lawsuit against Dow Chemical in Midland.

The homeowners claimed that their property values had dropped because of dioxin pollution released by Dow.

Now, a judge in Saginaw has ruled that the homeowners do not have class-action standing in the lawsuit. If they want to sue Dow for their loss, the homeowners will now have to file individual lawsuits.

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Commentary
10:51 am
Wed July 20, 2011

Election 2012: Hoekstra is in

Pete Hoekstra has decided to run for the U.S. Senate after all, and that’s good news for Michigan. That doesn’t mean I am endorsing Hoekstra, either in the Republican primary next August, or in the general election against Debbie Stabenow in November, 2012.

What I am saying is that he is a legitimate contender with the qualifications to be a member of the United States Senate.

In America, there’s always been a school of thought that says it is better to elect to high office men and women who have no experience whatsoever. The notion is that they will come in with fresh views, and are less likely to be co-opted by a corrupt system.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a fresh outlook. However, I really don’t want my house rewired by an amateur electrician who has never done it before, but may have some fresh ideas on how to connect things. And if I ever need a heart bypass operation, I’d rather not have a surgeon who has never operated before.

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Education
10:21 am
Wed July 20, 2011

Heat wave causes school closures in Detroit

user: NonOther flickr.com

Many students attending summer school in Detroit will have the day off today.

From the Associated Press:

Detroit's school district says it's closing more than 70 schools in the afternoon that don't have air conditioning as a heat wave continues.

The Detroit Public Schools made the announcement Wednesday morning.

The district says power outages also forced the closure of three schools Wednesday. And heat and mechanical problems closed two others.

A DPS spokesmen said more than half of the school district's summer population of 38,000 will be affected. The district has also opened 13 cooling centers.

News Roundup
8:39 am
Wed July 20, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, July 20th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Hoekstra In

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra announced this morning that he is launching a campaign for Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow’s seat in 2012. Earlier this year, Hoekstra announced that he wouldn’t run but, in a statement released this morning, he says, “After a good deal of reflection, I've decided that I cannot sit on the sidelines while the President and U.S. Senate mortgage our children and grandchildren's future.  For these reasons, I have made the decision to file the appropriate paperwork to build an organization and begin a campaign for the U.S. Senate.”

Snyder Signs Teacher Tenure Law

Governor Rick Snyder signed a measure yesterday that will make it easier for school districts to fire teachers in classrooms where students are struggling. Rick Pluta reports:

It also eliminates discipline and layoff rules as a subject of collective bargaining with teachers unions. The governor says seniority is an outdated system for deciding which teachers are laid off first, and where they should work. School employee unions say the new law will remove critical job protections and lead to districts getting rid of veteran teachers for financial rather than academic reasons. A commission will make specific recommendations to the Legislature next year on how to measure teacher performance. The new rules will take effect at the beginning of the school year that begins in the fall of 2012.

Median Income Drops

The median income for Michigan households has dropped by more than $9,000 over the past decade, Jennifer Guerra reports. “Michigan’s median household income in 2009 was $45,255, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. When adjusted for inflation, the median income in 2000 was $54,651, according to the Bureau's Supplemental Survey,” Guerra explains. Only one other state, Hawaii, has seen a bigger loss in income.

Political Roundup
7:54 am
Wed July 20, 2011

The week in state politics

State Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Ifmuth Flickr

Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry joins us to take a look at the week in state politics. On tap for this morning: Governor Snyder pushes for a more immigrant-friendly Michigan, the Governor signs new teacher tenure legislation into law, and former West Michigan Congrssman Pete Hoekstra changes his mind and decides he will run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 election.

Election 2012
7:41 am
Wed July 20, 2011

Hoekstra decides to run for Senate

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra
Republican Conference Flickr

Update 7/20/11 7:32 a.m.:

A press release has been sent out this morning announcing that former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra will file paperwork to establish a campaign for the U.S. Senate. After announcing earlier this year that he wouldn't run, Hoekstra has decided to make a bid for Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow's seat in the 2012 election. An election website has already been set up for Hoekstra's campaign.

Hoekstra released the following statement:

"Over the last couple of years, the spending in Washington has spun out of control.  Michigan needs a U.S. Senator who will cut spending without raising taxes and help create jobs.  Replacing Debbie Stabenow means we'll be one step closer to the economic recovery our state's working families deserve.

After a good deal of reflection, I've decided that I cannot sit on the sidelines while the President and U.S. Senate mortgage our children and grandchildren's future.  For these reasons, I have made the decision to file the appropriate paperwork to build an organization and begin a campaign for the U.S. Senate.  An official campaign announcement will be forthcoming in the months ahead."

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Politics
6:09 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Macomb County to Kilpatrick: We want our money back

Kwame Kilpatrick

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick faces federal charges that he ran the city’s water department like an organized crime syndicate.

Now, one county served by the water department wants some of that money back. From the Detroit Free Press:

Macomb County wants $25.5 million from former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his former aide, his former contractor friend and former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department saying they schemed to overcharge the county for a work on a collapsed sewer line in Sterling Heights.

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Politics
6:06 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Congressman Hansen Clark talks federal budget and debt ceiling (audio)

A CBS poll on Monday shows 66% of Americans want an approach to balancing the federal budget that includes both spending cuts and tax increases.

Michigan Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke talks about his concerns regarding the battle in Washington DC over the debt ceiling and budget negotiations. He says consumer debt is the real problem.

In the interview Clarke says:

"It's the personal debt that's crushing Americans and preventing our economy from rebounding."

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Great Lakes
5:50 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

More details emerge about capsized boat in Lake Michigan

The boat "WingNuts" capsized in Lake Michigan.
screen grab from raw video

More details have emerged about the deaths of two sailors participating in the Chicago-to-Mackinac race. A teenager was one of the six crew members who survived when the boat capsized during a storm.

From the Detroit Free Press:

C.J. Cummings was one of eight sailors tossed into the waves of a storm at 12:20 a.m. Monday. About 5:30 a.m., the phone rang with word that C.J. was OK and on shore at Charlevoix, along with his teenage friend sailing with the group.

"Hey, Dad," were the first words Chip Cummings heard from his son.

"Typical teenager," the relieved father said Monday, taking a deep breath. "Yeah, it was quite a rough ride."

The captain, Mark Morley, 51, and his girlfriend, Suzanne Bickel, 41, both of Saginaw, drowned.

Organizers of the Chicago-to-Mackinac race say they've never experienced a fatality in the race's 103 year history until Monday.

The Free Press reports the survivors were C.J. Cummings, 16; John Dent, 50; Stan Dent, 51; Peter Morley, 47; Stewart Morley, 15, and Lee Purcell, 46.

Morley and Bickel were found under the capsized boat strapped in. Tethers are often used in storms so crew don't get tossed from the boat. If the boat capsizes, crew members can cut the lines. Bickel and Morley's tethers were tangled, according to one rescue diver.

ABC News 7 in Chicago has this raw video of the capsized boat:

Politics
5:10 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Snyder signs tenure changes into law

Changes to teacher tenure rules in Michigan are coming after Governor Snyder signs a new bill.
user frank juarez Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that will make it easier for school districts to fire teachers in classrooms where students are struggling. It also eliminates discipline and layoff rules as a subject of collective bargaining with teachers unions. 

The governor says seniority is an outdated system for deciding which teachers are laid off first, and where they should work.

"We need a performance-based system that recognizes the very best that teachers can deliver and gives them good recognition and reward for those opportunities and that's what this is all about," said Snyder. "It's about moving forward and stop looking at a broken world of the past."

School employee unions say the new law will remove critical job protections and lead to districts getting rid of veteran teachers for financial rather than academic reasons.

Louise Somalski, with the American Federation of Teachers, says the new law takes away teachers’ rights to bargain for job protections as school districts face growing financial pressures.

"I’m afraid that when it comes right down to it, there so tight on money at the local school district level because funding has been cut, that the most-experienced teachers are going to be let go – and we want the most-experienced teachers with the kids and it's going to hurt the students in the long run."

A commission will make specific recommendations to the Legislature next year on how to measure teacher performance.

The new rules will take effect at the beginning of the school year that begins in the fall of 2012.

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