Politics
12:23 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Wayne County's Ficano says no more severance payments, promises investigation

"There were mistakes in process. "There were mistakes in paperwork. … And at the end of the day, there were mistakes in judgment."

So says the assistant executive for Wayne County Alan Helmkamp in the Detroit News.

Helmkamp was talking about the decision to award Turkia Mullin a $200,000 severance payment when she transferred to a new job in the county.

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported, Mullin received the severance payment last August when she transferred from her job as Wayne County’s economic developer (salary $200,000) to become the CEO of Wayne County's Detroit Metropolitan Airport (salary $250,000).

Mullin and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced last Friday that Mullin would return the money, but questions from Wayne County commissioners remained.

Ficano promised the commissioners that there would be no such payments in the future.

From the Detroit News:

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano promised county commissioners that he won't allow another severance like the $200,000 paid to the former economic development czar Turkia Mullin.

Ficano said he accepts responsibility for the controversial payout and said he is "launching an internal review."

"You have my full commitment that the review will be expeditious, and that I will put protections in place so that this situation isn't repeated," Ficano said.

Commentary
10:51 am
Tue October 4, 2011

Detroit sports teams doing well, what about Michigan politics?

If I were a politician and had something embarrassing I knew I would have to reveal, I know exactly when I would do it.

I’d wait to see if the Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees tonight, and if they do, I’d immediately make my confession.

Why is that? Because almost no one would notice. Everything in life is a matter of timing, and we can handle only so much news at once. Here’s something baffling about that.

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Politics
10:29 am
Tue October 4, 2011

Overflow crowd for hearings on no-fault auto insurance changes

Reports from Lansing:  Three overflow rooms have been opened in the House office building to fit the huge crowd there to hear testimony about proposed changes to the no-fault Personal Injury Protection auto insurance.

News Roundup
9:03 am
Tue October 4, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Ford and the UAW reach a tentative 4-year deal

Details will be discussed later this morning. Ford will hold a live stream of their press conference at 9 a.m. and the UAW will talk to reporters at 11:30 a.m.

The Associated Press reports that "the deal is expected to swap annual pay raises for profit sharing checks and will include commitments from Ford for thousands of new union jobs." Union leaders will meet later today to decide whether to recommend the agreement to 41,000 Ford union members.

Trial for "underwear bomber" starts today

The trial for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "underwear bomber" begins today in Detroit with jury selection. The Associated Press reports on the stakes in the case:

The case seems matter-of-fact but carries high stakes. The failed attack was the first act of terrorism in the U.S. during the Obama administration, and it could have implications in the debate over whether terrorism suspects should be tried in civilian or military courts.

Tigers Win!

The Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees last night in game three of their American League playoff. Detroit has taken a 2-1 lead in the best of 5 series.

From ESPN:

Delmon Young hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh off Rafael Soriano and the Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, pushing the Yankees to the brink of elimination.Their hopes ride Tuesday night on A.J. Burnett, the $82.5 million pitcher who was so unreliable this season that he wasn't supposed to get a start in this series. A rainstorm changed all that when Game 1 was suspended Friday, forcing both teams to alter their pitching plans.

Auto/Economy
7:56 am
Tue October 4, 2011

Ford and UAW to announce contract deal

John Fleming, Ford executive vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, and Marty Mulloy, Ford vice president, Labor Affairs, hosting a news conference to discuss the latest developments with the UAW agreement.
screen grab fordahead.com

Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract.

Details of the agreement have not been released, but at 9:00 am this morning, Ford executives John Fleming and Marty Mulloy will discuss the deal at the company's Dearborn headquarters. Then at 11:30 am, UAW President Bob King and Vice President Jimmy Settles will present their view of the agreement at a press conference.

The UAW and Ford began contract talks for a new national labor agreement on July 29th and have been in eight consecutive days of intense negotiations on economic and job issues.

General Motors workers ratified a new four-year agreement with the UAW last week and talks at Chrysler are ongoing.

The Ford deal is expected to swap annual pay raises for profit sharing checks and will include commitments from Ford for thousands of new union jobs.

Local union leaders from around the nation will also meet this morning in Detroit to vote on whether they'll recommend the deal to Ford's 41,000 union members.

Lansing
12:12 am
Tue October 4, 2011

Fast Track or Prudent Pace?

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing city council is facing November deadlines to act on a pair of high dollar agreements.   But at least one council member complains they are not getting all the information they need about the deals.  

The Lansing city council scheduled time last night to discuss a proposed tax deal involving the capital city’s airport and a land swap deal with a local college. But both discussions were cut short because of a lack of information.  

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Auto/Economy
11:42 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Coalition wants Michigan incentives for electric vehicle charging stations

An electric vehicle charging station at a cafe in Grand Rapids that was purchased through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A coalition of businesses, non-profits and environmental groups are working to get more electric vehicle charging stations located in Michigan.

The group “Built by Michigan” is asking voters to petition Governor Rick Snyder to create incentives for installing charging stations. It’s also pushing for the state to buy more electric vehicles and tougher regulations requiring “clean fuel standards”.

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Crime
8:43 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Michigan State Police scaling down posts

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan State Police says it is implementing a new ‘regional’ plan that will result in more troopers on the road.   The new ‘regional’ plan was announced in March.   The idea behind scaling back, from 62 state police posts to just 29, is to give the state police more flexibility. 

The changes will also mean more members of the command staff will be on the road supervising state troopers.   Lt. Colonel Gary Gorski says it’s a change that hopefully will be noticed. 

Flint
8:28 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Flint looking at ways to prevent crime

A banner hanging at last night's public meeting on gun violence in Flint
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Citizens of Flint are talking about ways to reduce their city’s violent crime rate.    It’s all part of a special series of public meetings on crime prevention.   

Flint recently topped a list of the nation’s cities with the worst violent crime rates.    Gun violence is a chief problem.    Police say 90% of Flint’s homicides involve firearms.  

Donna Gallo was among dozens of Flint residents at a special public meeting on violent crime last night.  

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Politics
5:58 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Former Michigan lawmaker: No-fault insurance bill attempts to circumvent voters

Toby Oxborrow Flickr

A state House panel will begin public hearings tomorrow (Tuesday) on whether Michigan should make some big changes to the mandatory no fault auto insurance law.

The controversial proposal would let drivers choose their level of coverage.

The proposal also includes a $50,000 appropriation to implement the law in such a way as to make it referendum-proof.

Former state Representative Jim Howell says that money is in the bill to prevent voters from overturning the measure on the ballot.

"You know, I saw that appropriation, I knew what was going on with it. Very honestly – unless some of the current representatives have read about it some place, or heard it in the media, they wouldn’t have any clue," said Howell.

Howell said he thinks term limits prevent new lawmakers from understanding the content of a major proposal such as the no fault elimination bills.

Howell said they probably don’t remember that voters rejected similar changes to no fault insurance by a significant margin in the early 1990s.

The former Republican lawmaker will testify against the proposal tomorrow (Tuesday).

Transportation
5:38 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Michigan close to buying rail line for higher-speed travel

The state is close to finishing a deal with a freight rail company to buy a 140 mile stretch of track between Detroit and Chicago.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

The state is very close to finalizing a deal to buy almost 140 miles of railway that would complete a high-speed connection for passengers traveling between Detroit and Chicago.

The state could announce a bargain with the Norfolk Southern Railroad as soon as this week.

The cost will be about one million dollars per mile of rail. Most of the money will come from the federal government.

Hugh McDiarmid is with the Michigan Environmental Council, one of the groups supporting the project. He said the rail line could be the first leg of an eventual statewide rapid transit network.

"Right now, someone from Traverse City would have to drive down to Kalamazoo or Detroit or something to hop a train to Chicago and that’s not very convenient," said McDiarmid. "But this is moving us a little bit closer to the day when hopefully we’ll connecting Traverse City to Detroit; we’ll be connecting Kalamazoo to Traverse City to Chicago."

Once the purchase is wrapped up, the state will go to work on upgrades that will allow trains to travel at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. The Kalmazoo-to-Chicago stretch is already upgraded.

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Science/Medicine
5:10 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

State adds "bubble boy disease" to newborn screening panel

The state of Michigan will now screen newborns for Severe Combined Immunodificiency.
Stevenfruitsmaak wikimedia commons

The state of Michigan is now screening newborn babies for a deadly disorder that affects the immune system.

Severe Combined Immunodeficiency – or SCID – is often called “bubble boy disease.” It became widely known after a Texas boy lived with the illness for 12 years, most of it in a sterile bubble to avoid infections.

The disorder affects one in every 50,000 children. If it’s left untreated, the disease usually kills children before their first birthday. But bone marrow transplants in the early months of life can allow children to live into their 20s and sometimes much longer.

The Michigan Department of Community Health says six other states already screen for the disorder.

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Politics
4:27 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Detroit braces for impact of welfare cap

People looking for help with rent, utilities and other monthly bills crowded a resource fair Union Grace Baptist Church in Detroit over the weekend.

Many of them faced their first month without cash assistance from the state. A four-year welfare benefit cap kicks in this month.

One such person is Tamika Thomas. She says she’s been getting assistance on-and-off for four years, using it to pay the bills while she goes to school.

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Politics
4:08 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Stabenow pushes for action on trade violations

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says it’s time to get tough with countries that flout international trade rules.

She’s pushing a three-part legislative package, the American Competitiveness Plan, that aims to crack down on those countries.

Stabenow singles out China as the worst offender when it comes to manipulating international trade rules to its advantage. But the U.S. government has generally been reluctant to take action.

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Politics
2:36 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Michigan AFL-CIO elects new leader after 12 years

DETROIT (AP) - Karla Swift is the new president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, succeeding Mark Gaffney who led the labor group for 12 years.

Swift is described as a lifelong trade unionist and a leader in the United Auto Workers. Delegates at the state convention in Detroit on Monday chose her and new secretary-treasurer Daryl Newman.

National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says Swift and Newman will "bring energy, fresh ideas and focus." The Michigan AFL-CIO is affiliated with unions that represent roughly 350,000 active members and nearly as many retirees.

Swift says Michigan's "job crisis" is her top priority. She says she'll fiercely defend the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining. Gaffney did not run for re-election as AFL-CIO leader.

Arts/Culture
1:52 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

My part of the country: Michigan on the Page

A shot of cherry blossoms in Leelanau County.
User farlane Flickr

Well, summer's over.

Over the course of the last six months, Michigan on the Page has talked with a number of Michigan writers about who, what, why, and most importantly where they write about.

And we heard from writers who work in Southeast Michigan (Christopher T. Leland) and writers who live in Western Michigan (Patricia Clark, Marc Sheehan).

Today, we hear from novelist and short story writer Phillip Sterling about a novel about Michigan which is important to him, one that takes place in Northern Michigan, in Leelanau County.

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Environment
12:31 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Michigan company seeks permits for new copper mine in UP

A nugget that is a mixture of copper, domeykite, and algodonite from the Mohawk Mine in Keweenaw County, Michigan. The AP reports that a Canadian company wants to open a new mine in the UP.
user Alchemist-hp wikimedia commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A company is applying for state permits to construct a copper and silver mine in Michigan's far western Upper Peninsula.

Orvana Minerals Co., a subsidiary of a Canadian company, is proposing to build a mine near Lake Superior in Gogebic County. Orvana is targeting 798 million pounds of copper and 3.5 million
ounces of silver.

Company president Bill Williams says the mine would operate about 14 years and have about 250 people on the payroll.

Orvana will need 13 permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, including one to build and operate the mine. The others would deal with issues such as air quality, wastewater discharges and wetlands development.

DEQ officials say the mine will have to meet strict environmental standards to qualify for the permits.

School closing
11:54 am
Mon October 3, 2011

Students sent home after possible school threat

CANTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Students were being sent home early at Plymouth-Canton Community Schools' high schools after police say a note containing a possible threat was found.

Police in Wayne County's Canton Township said in a statement that a "note indicating possible retaliation" was found before the start of classes at the suburban Detroit high school complex. Details of the note containing the "possible threat" weren't released by police.

Police say the high schools went into semi-lockdown and students were being sent home out of an abundance of caution. An investigation was under way.

The district announced the early dismissal for students at the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park on its website.

Politics
10:57 am
Mon October 3, 2011

Best government money can buy?

Once upon a time, I was in a social studies class in eighth grade, and we were studying how our system of government works. We were told that in America, we had free elections.

Candidates ran for various offices, and in each case the people decided which had the best ideas and seemed to be the best qualified. We then voted, and the candidate who convinced the most people they were the best man or, occasionally, woman, won.

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Arts/Culture
10:09 am
Mon October 3, 2011

Detroit Symphony's new season starts this weekend

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra rehearses on stage
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s new season officially starts this weekend.

DSO executive vice president Paul Hogle says ticket sales for the orchestra’s 2011-12 season are going pretty well as of right now. That's good news for an organization that lost around $1.8 million last year due to a six-month musician’s strike.

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