Politics
3:18 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Grand Rapids Mayor asking Congress to pass President Obama’s American Jobs Act

Steven Depolo Creative Commons

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says the $450 billion jobs bill is “crucial” for Michigan. His comments are part of a campaign to get Congress to act on the American Jobs Act.

 “We know we have to be strong and stand on our own but we also know that we’re not able to keep up with infrastructure needs in our community,” Heartwell said during a White House press conference Friday.

Obama has been urging Congress to pass the jobs bill “right away” since he sent the bill to Congress two week ago. But so far, Congress hasn’t taken any real action on it.

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Economy
3:10 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Flint rally to give voice to the poor, offer skill shares

Michigan's four-year lifetime limit on welfare cash assistance begins Saturday, Oct. 1.
Publicbroadcasting.net

About 41,000 Michiganders will be affected by the loss of cash-assistance benefits starting Saturday, including 1,500 Genesee County families.

Nayyirah Shariff is with Community Action Brigade in Flint,  a nonprofit group created to help people on public assistance.

The group is holding a rally from noon until 2 p.m. Saturday at Flint City Hall.

Shariff says the event will provide an open microphone for people to explain what the loss of benefits will mean to them – or someone they know.

Shariff says it’s also an opportunity to trade knowledge and expertise.

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Lansing
3:09 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Are city officials close to rolling the dice on a casino in Lansing?

Media reports claim the city of Lansing is talking with a native American tribe about opening a casino in the capital city.  

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Politics
2:28 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Governor Snyder calls for review of Flint's finances, emergency manager next?

The Flint Municipal Center. State appointed officials will review the city's finances.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 2:28 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett spoke with Mayor Dane Walling this afternoon. She asked Walling to give us a snapshot of where the city's finances are at now.

"The city of Flint has ongoing challenges with long-term operating deficits and also recurring questions about month to month cash availability," he said.

"The fact is, in recent months we've made continued positive progress.

The deficits in the audit will be approximately $12 million all funds combined. That's significantly down from the upwards of $20 million projections that had been done recently.

The cash flow is much stronger than it was prior to receiving the support of the state for the fiscal stabilization bond.

We're healthier than we were, so we're moving in the right direction, but we continue to have audited operating fund deficits, and to address the longer term challenges with post employment benefits  and liabilities there," said Walling.

Hulett asked Walling about his message to voters about the job he's doing in Flint and about the timing of the state review (Walling is up for re-election, and the review will be completed right before voters head to the polls). Walling said he thinks voters understand the complications he faces as the Mayor of Flint, and he looks forward to the results of the state review team.

1:49 p.m.

The city of Flint has been facing financial trouble for some time. Now state officials want an official review of the city's finances.

Governor Synder has appointed an eight member panel to review the city's bottom line. The financial review is the first step in a process created under the state's emergency manager law. Governor Snyder has said he hopes an emergency manager is not needed in Flint.

Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports that Governor Snyder is calling for a quick review:

Snyder wants the team to report back to him in half the time allowed under the law. Review teams are given 60 days, but Snyder has asked Flint's financial review team to report its findings within 30 days, Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.

"He does want it sooner," she said. "That was on the recommendation from the state treasurer."

Here are the eight members appointed to review Flint's finances (from the Flint Journal):

  • Laura Argyle, VP of finance and CFO for the Midland Center for the Arts
  • Gene Dennis, former president and CEO of Universal Systems
  • Darnell Earley, Saginaw City Manager
  • Robert L. Emerson, former state budget director
  • Roger Fraser, Deputy State Treasurer
  • Fred Headen, Director of the Michigan Dept. of Treasury’s Local Gov't Services Bureau
  • Doug Ringler, Director of the Office of Internal Audit Services in the Department of Technology, Management and Budget
  • Brom Stibitz, senior policy adviser in the Michigan Department of Treasury
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Politics
2:24 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Partisan-weary voters get new, online option

Americans Elect has been certified to be on the Michigan ballot for the 2012 presidential election. The online group says it's nonpartisan and will let voters decide the platform and issues.
americanselect.org

A new political party has been certified to be on the Michigan ballot for the 2012 presidential election. It says it doesn’t have a candidate, platform or issues.

Americans Elect says voters are ready for a new type of politics – one that doesn’t involve Republicans or Democrats.

The nonprofit organization will hold a non-partisan nominating convention for the presidency – online.

Americans Elect CEO Elliott Ackerman says any registered voter can be a delegate.

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Terrorism
12:45 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

Could the death of an Al Qaida leader affect a trial starting soon in Detroit?

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

The death of a prominent Al Qaida leader is not expected to have a big effect on jury selection in the case of an alleged terrorist in Detroit next week.   

A U.S. drone attack today in Yemen killed US-born radical Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who allegedly inspired ‘underwear bomber’  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.    He’s accused of trying to blowup a Detroit-bound airplane on Christmas day, 2009, with a bomb hidden in his underwear. 

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Politics
11:39 am
Fri September 30, 2011

Mark Gaffney: Worried About the Workers

On Monday, Mark Gaffney, who has been president of the state AFL-CIO for a dozen years, will turn over the job to Karla Swift, a longtime staffer for the United Auto Workers union.

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Environment
11:12 am
Fri September 30, 2011

Storms bring high waves, winds to western Michigan

Big waves on Lake Michigan in 2007.
screen grab from YouTube video

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) - The National Weather Service says storms brought high waves and strong winds to Lake Michigan and along the western Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

The weather service says waves between 12 and 18 feet were expected Friday. A storm warning was in effect for part of the day.

The Grand Rapids Press reports a 21-foot wave was recorded by a buoy in the middle of Lake Michigan west of Holland.

Winds gusting up to 60 mph were reported. Strong winds were expected around Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

High winds and waves moved in Thursday. The Muskegon Chronicle reports the S.S. Badger car ferry wasn't expected to be in service Friday between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis., due to the weather. Ferry service was expected to resume Saturday.

News Roundup
9:25 am
Fri September 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Snyder wrapping up in Asia, highlights mining in the U.P. as one business opportunity

Governor Rick Snyder is wrapping up his trip in Asia with a visit to Seoul, South Korea. Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports the governor is expected to sign an agreement with the Governor of  Gyeonggi Province. The agreement states that Michigan and the province will work together to establish trade.

Of his visit to China, Snyder said he was surprised by the positive response he received from businesses. "Many of them are seriously looking at Michigan already as a good place to do business," Snyder said. He pointed to mining copper or other deposits in the U.P. as one business opportunity for Chinese companies.

Welfare recipients file class action lawsuit against state

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that places tighter limits on cash assistance benefits to the poor. It puts a four-year lifetime cap on cash assistance payments from the state.

For some, that cap starts tomorrow (October 1).

Some recipients facing the cap have filed a class action lawsuit. From the Detroit News:

The lawsuit, filed against Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, said immediate intervention is needed to prevent more than 25,000 parents and children from losing benefits. The welfare recipients from Saginaw, Genesee and Macomb counties asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation Sept. 6 and said the state would offer exemptions to those with disabilities that prevent them from working.

Cost of new cars higher as a result of price fixing? The U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division announced that several Japanese executives have plead guilty in a price-fixing scheme: 

Furukawa Electric Co. Ltd., a supplier of automotive wire harnesses and related products, headquartered in Tokyo, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $200 million fine for its role in a criminal price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy involving the sale of parts to automobile manufacturers...  Three executives, who are Japanese nationals, have also agreed to plead guilty and to serve prison time in the United States ranging from a year and a day to 18 months. 

DOJ officials say these are the first charges "as a result of its ongoing international cartel investigation of price fixing and bid rigging in the auto parts industry."

Politics
7:17 am
Fri September 30, 2011

Travelogue: Governor Snyder's Trip to China (with photos)

I'm on assignment in China following Governor Snyder's trade mission, and I'm sharing my thoughts as I travel. Feel free to write me back in the comments below.

Nearing the end - Friday, September 30

The Governor's trade mission is coming to an end, and so is my trip to China.

I won't miss the smog and pollution, either in Shanghai (bad) or Beijing (worse).

But it has truly been too short a trip to get more than a glimpse of everything that is happening with China's economy, its auto industry, and its cultural and population shifts.

Frank Langfitt in Shanghai and Louisa Lim in Beijing surely have two of the biggest, most exciting beats in public radio.  This fly-in reporter leaves the country in their incredibly capable hands.

Adventure travel

My adventures with taxis continued.

I am starting to take this a little personally.

Arriving back in Shanghai from Beijing, I got in the long queue to get a taxi to my downtown Pudong hotel.

I decided I'd be a discerning and demanding customer this time around.  I rejected several taxis that had no seat belt in the back.  But when I found a taxi that was suitably equipped, and showed the driver the address to which I wanted to be taken, he shook his head, and drove up to grab the fellow who was behind me in the line.

The next taxi cab driver whose cab had seat belts did the same thing.  I asked  the airport employee who was in charge of the queue to help, but he spoke no English.  Nor did the first ten or so people in line.

Paying it forward

Finally, however, an angel arrived at the queue.  Deserine Lim, fluent English-speaker and rescuer of helpless American travelers.  She looked at my hotel address and explained that the taxi drivers didn't want me because it was too close, and they wanted a bigger fare.  Ouch.

Then, without my even thinking to ask, she suggested I split a cab with her.  She'd drop me off at my hotel, and continue on to her destination.

I'm not a Tennessee Williams fan for nothing.  I, too, have always relied on the kindness of strangers.  I got in the cab gratefully.

My rescuer is a native of Singapore, she told me, visiting Shanghai just for a day on business.  But she knows the town well, and told me what shops to go to near my hotel, what restaurants to haunt.  We discussed American politics.

When we arrived at my hotel, I paid the fare, and since it was clear her favor to me was going to cost her, both in terms of time and money, I tried to give her some money to cover the extra distance.

She adamantly refused to take it.

So, I shall have to content myself with paying it forward some day.

Ms. Lim is Assistant General Manager of OSIM, a global provider of personal, health and convenience products headquartered in Singapore.  OSIM is a co-owner of Brookstone, a company that provides such products in the U.S.

Thanks, Deserine.  You're a peach.

Next stops before home

Next stop for me:  Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where I'll visit the Joint Institute between SJTU and the University of Michigan.

I also plan to go to a shopping mall with my SJTU interpreter, Paul (Kang Yiping) to ask people about transportation issues.

Then, another interview with a Ford China official, to learn more about the company's strategy to ride the next wave of demand for vehicles in the country.

And tomorrow morning, I'll be on a non-stop flight from Shanghai to Detroit.

They say the jet lag is a lot worse coming back.

Michigan Radio, don't call me.  I'll call you.

Arrived in Beijing - Wednesday, September 28:

I am in Beijing.

I arrived on the fourth consecutive day of a smog health advisory in the city.  Children are not supposed to play outdoors, and people with chronic health conditions are being urged to stay inside. Even if you are healthy, the smog is very irritating to your eyes and throat.

Michigan has never seemed cleaner. Even the worst Ozone Action Day in Michigan in August can't hold a candle to this.

Shanghai was windy while I was there earlier in the week. We need a good strong breeze to get this stuff out of the city, so people can breathe.

The Chinese government knows it has a potential crisis on its hands, as more people move into the cities, and more of them purchase cars.  That's why the government adopted a five year plan to vastly increase the number of electric cars in China.

The big problem with that is infrastructure.

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Arts/Culture
7:00 am
Fri September 30, 2011

North Woods: Old movie theaters get new lease on life

The Vista Theater "was the place to be" when it opened in Negaunee in the 1920s.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

We wrap up our Stories from the North Woods series with a look at how cities and towns from Detroit to Marquette are bringing new life to their old movie palaces. 

The Vista Theater as community theater

When the Vista Theater opened in Negaunee in the 1920s, the Upper Peninsula town was booming. Alfred Keefer says the Vista "was the theater to be at, and they would fill this house up on movie nights."

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Sports Commentary
6:30 am
Fri September 30, 2011

Good times for Detroit's sports teams

The Detroit Tigers are in the playoffs, and the Lions are 3-0.
Keith Allison Flickr

Once in a while something happens that is so unusual, even those who don’t normally pay attention have to stop and take notice.

Haley’s Comet, for example, only comes along once every 75 years.

A leap year only comes around every four years.  And Lindsey Lohan goes to jail – no, wait, that happens every week. 

Well, this week, Detroit sports fans got Haley’s Comet, a leap year, and a clean and sober Lindsay Lohan all wrapped into one:  The Tigers clinched the American League Central Division, and even more shockingly, the Lions won their third straight game. 

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Business
6:49 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

New airport director gets $200,000 severance deal from prior county post

Turkia Mullin became the director of Detroit Metro Airport in August 2011, leaving her post as Wayne County economic development director. She received a $200,000 severance package in the switch from one county position to another.
Californiaaviation.org

A Wayne County Commissioner says he was unaware of a six-figure severance deal given to the new head of Detroit Metro Airport.

Turkia Mullin left her $200,000-a-year job as Wayne County’s economic developer so she could run the airport for $250,000 annually.

She also got a $200,000 severance check.

Bernard Parker is a Wayne County Commissioner who’s also a member of the airport authority.

Parker says Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano chose Mullin. Parker says he didn’t know about the severance deal.

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Arts/Culture
6:26 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Votes are in: ArtPrize "top ten" announced today

"Rain" by Ann Arbor artist Lynda Cole 'is a kinetic sculpture using 7600 squares of silver leaf on polyester film. The squares are suspended within a 10 ft. cube of space and move with ambient air current.'
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

From ArtPrize's website today:

Here are the ArtPrize 2011 Top Ten in alphabetical order. Voting on the top ten will begin at 7:00 PM Thursday, September 29, and continue through 11:59 PM on Wednesday, October 5. The first place winner and the order of the Top Ten will be announced at 6:30 PM on Thursday, October 6 at DeVos Performance Hall. Tickets are available at the ArtPrize HUB at 41 Sheldon.

Laura Alexander
The Tempest II

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Politics
5:41 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

What can we learn from Snyder's trade misson to Asia?

Shanghai, China
user: Jakob Montrasio / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder this week embarked on a trade mission to Asia. He’ll be visiting China, Japan, and South Korea. This is the first visit to China by a  Michigan Governor since the Engler administration. Here to talk about the what Michigan can gain from a relationship with China is Tom Watkins, Former State Superintendent who is currently a business and educational consultant in the US and China.

 

Trade Mission
5:25 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Michigan Governor Snyder pleased with results of his first trade mission

Governor Rick Snyder said he will return to China in the next year, after completing his first trade mission in that country.

In the meantime, he said there’s a lot of follow-up to do in Michigan, to develop brand-new relationships with Chinese business leaders.

Governor Snyder spent a day in Beijing, the Chinese capital, and a day in Shanghai, the country’s international commerce center.

He said he was pleasantly surprised at how interested Chinese business leaders seem in closer business ties with Michigan. He said one possibility is getting Chinese mining companies, who want to expand overseas, to take a look at mining copper and other deposits in the U.P.

"It’s another export from our state, and the main thing is we do it in an environmentally conscious way and we put in the structure to do that," said Snyder.

Governor Snyder also highlighted his new “Global Michigan Initiative,” which he says should help create jobs in the state.

The initiative is designed to encourage talented immigrants to settle in Michigan.

The Global Michigan Initiative began two months ago.

While speaking in Shanghai, Snyder said the initiative will expand over the next few years to include cultural programs, more trade missions, and a visa program.

"There are a number of states that are unfortunately discouraging immigration, and I believe it should be the opposite, and the empirical support is there by encouraging immigration you actually create jobs for people in your community," said Snyder. " It’s a job creator."

The Governor is now on his way to South Korea, after a two-day stay in China.

This is Snyder’s first trade mission, and he says it was easier to make a pitch for the state’s positive business environment than he expected.

That’s because some of the Chinese business leaders he met with had already done some homework on Michigan.

"The most pleasant surprise was just the positive response of people in China and businesses in particular, that many of them are seriously looking at Michigan already as a good place to do business, and I was happy to see that they mentioned tax reform is a good reason for them to come, having a balanced budget is a major item," said Snyder.

The Governor will be in Seoul next, where he will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Governor of  Gyeonggi Province. The agreement states that Michigan and the Province will work together to establish trade.

Snyder will return to Michigan on Saturday.

Politics
5:06 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

State will institute furloughs in lieu of concessions

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration has ordered that 367 unfilled jobs with the state remain vacant. The order comes as a result of no bargaining agreement with state worker unions to cut costs.

The governor’s administration will order state workers to take four unpaid vacation days in the coming fiscal year.

Some say the furlough days won’t save the state as much money as expected.

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Science/Medicine
4:57 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

A new call for organ donors in Michigan

The pictures and stories of donor & tissue donors and recipients were on display on the state capitol grounds today in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There’s a new push underway to get more Michiganders to sign up as future organ donors.  

Michigan ranks 44th in the percentage of adults who are registered organ donors.   

Richard Pietroski says that’s not good enough.  He’s the chief executive officer of Gift of Life Michigan.   Pietroski says the 3 thousand critically ill Michiganders waiting for an organ or tissue transplant have to wait longer than they should.  

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Politics
4:52 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Political Roundup with Debbie Dingell and Ken Sikkema

Michigan State Capitol.
user: Matt Katzenberger / Flickr

So far, this session of the Michigan legislature has been busy. Governor Snyder is expected to sign legislation that creates a state ban on dilation and extraction abortions despite there already being a federal ban. We’ve seen a proposal to block foreign laws from being used in Michigan. And there’s a proposal that would allow Michigan companies to produce incandescent light bulbs. That’s despite a federal ban and despite the fact that no Michigan companies currently produce incandescent light bulbs.

Culture
4:36 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Census releases numbers on the black population in the U.S.

The black or African American population as a percent of a county's population in 2010.
U.S. Census Bureau

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its report "The Black Population: 2010."

The 2010 Census found that 14 percent of the U.S. population identified themselves as black, "either alone or in combination with one or more other races."

From a U.S. Census Bureau press release:

Of the total U.S. population of 308.7 million on April 1, 2010, 38.9 million people, or 13 percent, identified as black alone. In addition, 3.1 million people, or 1 percent, reported as black in combination with one or more other races. Together, these two groups comprise the black alone-or-in-combination population and totaled 42.0 million.

Detroit has highest concentration of blacks living in an urban area

Census officials report that of the major cities in the U.S. (cities with 100,000 people in them or more), Detroit had the highest percentage of people identifying as black, or black in combination with other races, at 84 percent.

Here are the top ten:

  1. Detroit, Michigan (84.3 percent)
  2. Jackson, Mississippi (80.1 percent)
  3. Miami Gardens, Florida (77.9 percent)
  4. Birmingham, Alabama (74.0 percent)
  5. Baltimore, Maryland (65.1 percent)
  6. Memphis, Tennessee (64.1 percent)
  7. New Orleans, Louisiana (61.2 percent)
  8. Flint, Michigan (59.5 percent)
  9. Montgomery, Alabama (57.4 percent)
  10. Savannah, Georgia (56.7 percent)
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