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.

Politics
5:04 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

State officials want Feds to pass Balanced Budget Amendment

Matthileo Flickr

State officials want Feds to pass Balanced Budget Amendment

Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger wants Congress to approve an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require the federal government to pass a balanced budget every year. 

Bolger sent a letter encouraging approval of the Balanced Budget Amendment so states could work to ratify the amendment as well.

Three-quarters of states would have to approve the amendment to get it into the constitution.

Bolger says lawmakers in the federal government need to be fiscally responsible.  

“I hope they understand what the citizens of our state want, and that is that responsibility.”

Bolger says Michigan approves a balanced budget every year.

“As we’ve shown, it’s possible to balance a budget by facing fiscal reality, and our own government needs to face reality. I’m very concerned about the future of our kids, grandkids, and with the way our federal government is going, even our great-grandkids, and the debt that’s being passed onto them that they’ll be saddled with.”

Bolger says he thinks he could persuade Democrats in the state to ratify the amendment, which would require supermajorities. But Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says Bolger is using a partisan issue to flirt with a run to unseat U-S Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Bolger denies any interest in leaving Lansing for Washington D.C.

Auto/Economy
4:40 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Median household incomes in Michigan are shrinking

Michigan's median household income dropped over the past decade.
Photo by penywise morgueFile

The median income for Michigan households has dropped by more than $9,000 over the past decade. Only one other state, Hawaii, has seen a bigger loss in income.

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Environment
4:39 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Current beach closures and advisories around Michigan

There are 15 beach closings or advisories around the state.
user andrea_44 Flickr

When bacteria levels get high, county health departments close the beaches. The latest news of a beach closure is on Lake St. Clair:

A week after the Macomb County Health Department gave the all-clear message to swimmers at Memorial Park Beach in St. Clair Shores, the beach has again been deemed unsafe for swimming.

The department issued a no-swimming advisory today for the beach because of high E. coli levels

Blossom Heath in St. Clair Shores remains under the no-swimming advisory because of its E. coli levels, as it has been since May 26.

County health departments issue the warnings and closures, and the state keeps track of them.

The Michigan BeachGuard System has a map with red flags marking closures and advisories.

Currently, there are 15 advisories or closures at public beaches around the state - that's 15 out of 1,211 public beaches.

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Business
3:26 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Michigan high-tech start-ups get funding

Andrew Magill Flickr

Michigan Smartzones and Ann Arbor SPARK helped eight high-tech start-up companies get money to help accelerate their businesses. The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund program matched 1-point-8-million-dollars in outside investments with hopes that the companies create jobs and stimulate the economy. They have invested more than 13-point-4-million-dollars in 62 Michigan companies to date.

Skipp Simms manages the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund at SPARK. He says the program has made great use of state capital.

"It’s 21st century jobs fund money and we think that it certainly is one of the programs that is already delivering some pretty significant returns to the state on this economic development type investment," Simms said.

The Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund is in its third year.

The eight companies getting funding are:

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Investigative
3:15 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

AP: Club promises inquiry into fatal boat race mishap

The sponsor of a boat race from Chicago to Mackinac Island says it will investigate the capsizing of a sailing vessel that caused the deaths of two crew members during a storm in northern Lake Michigan.

Race chairman Greg Freeman said Tuesday that the Chicago Yacht Club commodore will establish a review board. Speaking online with reporters, he said the club wants to understand what happened and look for ways to improve safety guidelines.

The 35-foot boat WingNuts from Saginaw overturned during fierce gusts around midnight Sunday about 13 miles off Charlevoix.

Fifty-one-year-old skipper Mark Morley and 40-year-old crew member Suzanne Bickel died. A rival boat rescued the other six crew members.

Freeman says the storm arose after the race was well under way, so postponing it wasn't an option.

Environment
2:48 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Giving policymakers a bird's eye view

LightHawk volunteer Bob Keller donates his Cessna and flight time for environmental causes.
Photo by David Sommerstein

Environmental issues can be tough to convey to the public – and to policymakers – because they’re landscape-scale. Flying high above, say, a forest, a factory, or a wetlands complex can give better perspective. But few environmental groups can afford to pay for private flights. For 30 years, the not-for-profit group LightHawk has been bringing together volunteer pilots and environmental causes. David Sommerstein took to the skies and sent us this report:

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Politics
2:07 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Polls say voters optimistic about economy, negative about some politicians

The Lansing-based polling firm, EPIC-MRA, released a couple of polls today. 600 "likely Michigan voters" responded for each one (margin of error is +/- 4%)

One poll indicates that more voters are optimistic about the economy. From the Associated Press:

40%...  say the state economy has bottomed out and is starting to improve, while a third say it has
bottomed out but isn't getting any better...

In May 2010, when Michigan's jobless rate was 2.5 percentage points higher than now, only 35% said the economy was starting to improve.

The other polls show Senator Debbie Stabenow's (D-MI) and Governor Rick Snyder's (R-MI) negative job ratings.

57% gave Governor Snyder a negative job rating.

51% gave Senator Stabenow a negative job rating.

From the Associated Press:

The poll released Tuesday says 38 percent gave the Democrat a positive job rating and 11 percent were undecided...

Stabenow's favorability rating was at 47 percent. Her unfavorable rating was 35 percent and 17 percent were undecided.

Senator Stabenow faces re-election in 2012. So far, the candidates who have lined up for the Republican nomination to challenge her are:

  • John McCulloch - Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner
  • Randy Hekman - Former West Michigan judge Randy Hekman
  • Peter Konetchy - northern Michigan businessman
  • Chad Dewey - a businessman who is a "self-described constitutional conservative."

Former Former Republican Congressman and gubernatorial candidate, Pete Hoekstra, is reconsidering his decision not to run against Senator Stabenow.

Read more

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