Politics
11:52 am
Mon September 19, 2011

Granholm's New Book, A Governor's Story

When I first heard that former Governor Jennifer Granholm was writing a book focused on her time in office, I was puzzled.

John Engler, a political powerhouse who substantially remade Michigan, wrote no such book. Neither did Jim Blanchard or Soapy Williams or Bill Milliken. They all had governorships far more successful than Granholm’s, in large part for economic reasons beyond her control. Nor, according to the polls, are Michiganders still enraptured with their first female governor’s every word.

So why would she write this book? I was set straight by a longtime titan of the state Democratic Party. “Jacky boy, this book isn’t going to sell in Michigan. It isn’t written for us. This book was written to solidify her reputation with the New York and Washington media, so she can keep her MSNBC commenting job.” And, he added, to present her version of history to the world.

Well, I always was a trifle naïve. So I decided to read the book, called “A Governor’s Story,” and subtitled “The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future.” Somewhat bizarrely, it lists her husband, the erstwhile “first gentleman” as co-author, though it is written entirely in the first person. Early on, it becomes clear that a more accurate title might have been “Alone,” or more simply, “Me.”

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Politics
10:42 am
Mon September 19, 2011

Michigan roads need billions more to remain "useable"

A bipartisan legislative workgroup has determined that keeping Michigan's roads useable will require an additional $1.4 billion a year.

In 10 years, that number grows to an estimated $2.6 billion.

Business and infrastructure groups have been pressuring the Michigan Legislature for years without success to come up with a way to raise more money for fixing and maintaining roads and bridges.

Representative Rick Olson says Michigan needs to more than double what it spends to maintain streets and highways:

“Well I think the bottom line of this study is, unless we spend this kind of money we’re either going to need to reconcile ourselves to poorer roads, or we’re going to need to be willing to pay even more in the future.”

 Olson says raising the gas tax would not go far enough in raising revenue to pay for roads. He says a larger and more permanent solution will need to be found to generate revenue. Olson and his Democratic counterpart have submitted their report to state House leadership.

 

What's Working
8:58 am
Mon September 19, 2011

Creating safer routes to schools

Governor Snyder wants us to get healthier. The Governor delivered a health address last week and part of his plan revolves around getting Michigan's kids healthier. During his speech, the Governor mentioned the "Safe Routes to Schools" initiative.

As part of our weekly "What's Working" series, we speak today with David Hornak, Principal of Horizon Elementary schools in Holt, Michigan. Hornak has enacted the "Safe Routes to Schools" program at his school.

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News Roundup
8:48 am
Mon September 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, September 19th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Health Care Reform Coming to Lansing

Draft versions of Governor Snyder’s health care reform plan will be presented to state lawmakers this week. Rick Pluta reports:

Snyder has asked lawmakers to adopt major portions of his health reform plans before their Thanksgiving break. Republicans are wary of requiring insurance companies to cover childhood autism treatments, a government database of children’s health statistics, and adopting mandates in the federal Affordable Care Act, such as health coverage exchanges. The governor says an exchange that would allow people and businesses to comparison shop for health coverage is a good idea no matter the fate of the federal health reforms.

Update: CMU Contract Negotiations

Central Michigan University and its faculty are waiting for a report from a fact-finder appointed by a state agency that could help settle their contract dispute, the Associated Press reports. “A report is likely sometime in late October or early November. Members of the Central Michigan University Faculty Association went on strike on Aug. 22, which was the first day of classes for the fall semester. A judge ordered faculty members back to work but they are still allowed to demonstrate on campus. The faculty group says its previous contract expired June 30 with disputes continuing over wages and other issues,” the AP explains.

Granholm Says 'No' to More Time in Office

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm says she will not run again for office. From the Detroit Free Press:

"No, no and no." That was the response from former Gov. Jennifer Granholm when asked whether she might run for office again in 2012, 2014 or beyond. "I served for 12 years in public office, and I'm thoroughly enjoying post-government life," Granholm told the Free Press.

Granholm and her husband, Dan Mulhern, are the co-authors of the new book “A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future."

State Legislature
6:27 am
Mon September 19, 2011

Snyder health reform bills to go to Legislature this week

Draft versions of Governor Rick Snyder’s health care reform plan are to be presented this week to state lawmakers. Governor Snyder has asked lawmakers to adopt major portions of  his health reform plans before their Thanksgiving break.

The governor faces a lot of skepticism from GOP leaders because there are so many mandates in the plan. House Speaker Jase Bolger says he’s going to carefully examine the details.

“But I think the time to enact something is still quite a ways off.”

Bolger and other Republicans are wary of requiring insurance companies to cover childhood autism treatments, a government database of children’s health statistics, as well as adopting mandates in the federal Affordable Care Act, such as health coverage exchanges.

“The reason I would look at exchanges is with what the federal government has done and it would be reluctantly and it would only be if we have to.”

The fact that many Republicans are skeptical of the mandates in the Snyder health agenda could force the Republican governor to turn to Democrats for support. Representative Rick Hammel is the state House Democratic leader.

“In general, I think the message was very good, you know, pro-action, positive stuff, intervention, I like all those things – and investment in seniors and veterans programs, I like all those things, but let’s look at the legislation to see where it is.”

House Speaker Bolger says he wants to wait for courts to rule on the challenges to the federal law. The governor says an exchange that would allow people and businesses to comparison shop for health coverage is a good idea no matter the fate of the federal health reforms.

Investigative
6:00 am
Mon September 19, 2011

A city 'reinventing' itself with less money from the state

The Michigan legislature and the governor are working to make Michigan a more business-friendly state by changing the tax structure.  But, while businesses are benefiting from already passed tax reductions --and anticipate more--  the change is costing communities. 

I went to one city to see how it was handling those changes.

When I visited, it was a beautiful day in downtown Monroe.  The city is situated on the River Raisin in the southeast corner of the state, right on Lake Erie.  It’s just 19 miles north of Toledo, Ohio.

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Education
4:34 pm
Sun September 18, 2011

CMU, university faculty await fact-finding report

user gomich Flickr

Central Michigan University and its faculty are waiting for a report from a fact-finder appointed by a state agency that could help settle their contract dispute.

Meetings with the fact-finder wrapped up last week. A report is likely sometime in late October or early November.

Members of the Central Michigan University Faculty Association went on strike for most of Aug. 22, which was the first day of classes for the fall semester. A judge ordered faculty members back to work but they are still allowed to demonstrate on campus.

Science/Medicine
2:53 pm
Sun September 18, 2011

Actually, that's not corn

Corn
Flickr/Vampire Bear

A pilot with the Monroe County sheriff's office spotted many marijuana plants Saturday while flying over two corn fields in Milan Township, 60 miles west of Detroit.

Deputies counted 55 mature plants worth at least $25,000. The discovery is under investigation.

Federal drug agents from Toledo, Ohio, are also part of the case.

Historic Preservation
1:18 pm
Sun September 18, 2011

People voice their concerns about historic preservation

Developers used tax credits to redevelop a former mental hospital in Traverse City

The state is holding a series of workshops to get the public’s feedback about historic preservation. A meeting is planned in Traverse City on September 21 and in Detroit on October 12. Another meeting will take place in Lansing in January.

People have already attended workshops in Kalamazoo and Midland. Their biggest concern so far is the lack of funding for preservation programs.

Laura Ashlee is with The State Historic Preservation Office.

“As part of the governor’s restructuring of taxes in Michigan for businesses he eliminated the tax credits for historic preservation. There will be a new program, we believe, and we’re going to work with the governor to implement that program.”

Ashlee says historic preservation also makes economic sense. She says people are employed when working on restorations. She also says historic buildings attract people and businesses to that area. 

The State Historic Preservation Office is in the process of writing its plan for the next five years. And the public’s feedback will help shape its plan.

Science/Medicine
4:01 pm
Sat September 17, 2011

Pharmacists want to help Michiganders dispose of old prescription drugs

What's in your medicine cabinet?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s pharmacists are encouraging people to clean out their medicine cabinets.    

Paul Jensen is the president of the Michigan Pharmacists Association. He says  old, out of date, unused prescription drugs are increasingly being abused by teenagers.  

“The majority of people who abuse a medication…a prescription medication…it comes from somebody they know.   Quite often out of the medicine cabinet in their own home."

Michigan pharmacies collected more than a thousand pounds of prescription drugs in the first year of their ‘drug disposal’ program. Jensen is hopeful that amount will increase this year.

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Environment
2:01 pm
Sat September 17, 2011

Lansing is expanding its 'single stream' recycling pilot programs

One of Lansing's new recycling trucks dumps the contents of a recycling cart.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Lansing is expanding a  pilot recycling program. The ‘single stream’ recycling program means businesses and individuals don’t  have to separate bottles, newspapers and other recyclables. 

Chad Gamble is Lansing’s Public Works director. He says making recycling easier means more things will be recycled, and the more that's recycled the less the program costs the city.  

“There are several cities statewide that are doing ‘single stream’ collection in varying degrees.  But I think we are truly one of the leaders…branching out into the commercial recycling…the cart (residential) recycling for families and the public recycling.  And so, I’m very excited to pilot these programs." 

Gamble says city leaders are evaluating the ‘single stream’ recycling program and may eventually expand it to the entire city.

Environment
1:30 pm
Sat September 17, 2011

Reactor shut down after cooling system issue

The Palisades Nuclear Plant in southwestern Michigan has been shut down due to a loss of water in a cooling system. WWMT-TV reports the facility in Covert Township was shut down just before 3 p.m. Friday.

The lowest of four emergency classification levels was declared. The classification means plant workers were notified and were resolving the problem. Officials say the shutdown poses no risk to the public and that no radioactive materials were released.

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection was held at the Van Buren County plant last month after a water pump component failed. The plant is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation.

Transportation
1:10 pm
Sat September 17, 2011

State budget woes mean fewer federal funds to help fix MI's roads

Orange barrels along I94 in Jackson County
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Road work in Michigan has become more quick fixes than long-term repairs as the state balances the scope of construction projects with the dwindling funds necessary to carry them out. A five-year report shows transportation officials expect a drop of more than $700 million annually from what's being spent now in highway program funds beginning October 1st and stretching into the 2015 fiscal year.

The report points to a drop in state revenue and predictions that Michigan will not be able to put up enough matching money to secure all available federal aid for transportation projects.

Michigan's Five-Year Transportation Program invests just over $6 billion into highway and other programs. But upward of $160 million more in state revenue is needed each fiscal year to match all available federal aid.

Education
12:57 pm
Sat September 17, 2011

Adrian College to improve gender equity in sports

Villa Julie College women's soccer
Flickr/go mustangs

Adrian College has agreed to changes after federal investigators found the small, liberal arts school has discriminated against female student athletes. The Detroit Free Press reports Saturday that the U.S. Department of Education cited the southern Michigan school for 11 violations of gender-equity rules.

Among the changes the school must make: add at least one more women's sport, build a women's locker room in its multipurpose stadium and increase pay for coaches of women's sports.

School spokeswoman Jennifer Compton says the school "has maintained the highest commitment to equality and respect for gender equity" during its 152-year history. She says the college believes it offers "a quality higher educational experience to all students."

The agreement caps a three-year investigation into Title IX violations at the school.

Auto/Economy
8:47 am
Sat September 17, 2011

GM, UAW agree to new contract

General Motors headquarters in Detroit
Andrea_44 Flickr

General Motors Co. and the United Auto Workers, sobered by the government bailout and bankruptcy at the automaker just two years ago, reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract without the public acrimony or strikes that have plagued the talks in the past.

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Politics
6:50 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Detroit Mayor, transit unions trade blame for bus crisis

Officials from Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s office say a union work slowdown is to blame for the city’s worsening bus service.

Dozens of people lined up to speak at a Detroit City Council hearing on that subject Friday. Riders complained about severely overcrowded buses that arrive up to three hours late.

Union leaders deny taking part in a work slowdown. They say they’ve been struggling for more than a year with a shortage of mechanics, which got even worse about a month ago when the Mayor cut overtime.

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Auto/Economy
5:09 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Bill signing revives plans for Detroit patent office

Congress passed the "America Invents Act." President Obama signed it into law today. The Act could lead to a satellite patent office in Detroit.
user wallyg Flickr

Patent legislation that had a big push from Michigan’s research universities and the Detroit automakers has been signed into law.

The “America Invents Act” promises to speed up the patent process, and help reduce a backlog of some 700,000 patent applications in Washington D.C.

Part of that includes opening a satellite patent office in Detroit and two other locations.  

"It really puts the patent office in one of the invention centers of the nation, which is the Detroit area," said Steve Forrest, vice president for research at the University of Michigan.

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Offbeat
2:52 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

PBS's Jim Lehrer brings us back to his "bus crier" days

Jim Lehrer is best known for hosting the nightly news program PBS NewsHour.

Lehrer has been with PBS since the early 1970s and helped develop the news program with Robert MacNeil in 1975.

But the man is also known as a bus enthusiast. Who knew?

He recently showed off his "bus crier" skills from his days as a ticket agent in the 1950s to ABC News:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Good thing he's not a "news crier."

Economy
2:16 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Health care building boom: Does another hospital in Oakland county make sense?

L. Brooks Patterson addressing the Oakland County Commission. He says new healthcare facilities will help add jobs in the county. But what about the costs to taxpayers?
screen grab of Oakland Co. video

New health care jobs have been a big area of growth in an economy struggling to create any jobs at all.

It's no wonder communities are working to attract new health care investments.

Marketplace's Gregory Warner produced a piece on what he calls L. Brooks Patterson's mission: "to rescue Oakland County by creating a medical mecca."

Patterson thinks a new hospital complex will bring in 3,000 jobs. He's seeking approval to build the McLaren Health Care Village in Oakland County.

But as Warner makes clear in his piece, people question whether the new hospital is needed.

And some economists say building redundant hospitals increases health care costs and taxes for all of us.

It's a point that makes Patterson a little hot around the collar.

You can listen to Warner's piece here:

And here is an animation by Warner and Adam Cole that helps explain the health care boom across the country:

Oh The Jobs (Debt?) You'll Create! from Marketplace on Vimeo.

Economy
2:01 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Red Cross contract talks to resume Saturday

The American Red Cross regional blood center in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Contract talks are scheduled this weekend for two American Red Cross unions.  A strike last week idled Red Cross workers in 65 Michigan counties.  

Last week’s two-day walkout ended after union leaders said they received assurances that this weekend’s planned contract talks would be "serious" in nature.  But the unions also scheduled a new strike deadline for next Wednesday. That irked some officials with the American Red Cross.  

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