AUTO
8:02 am
Wed August 17, 2011

UAW: Ford talks ahead of schedule, strike vote set

Pobrecito33 Flickr

The United Auto Workers' lead negotiator with Ford Motor Co. says talks with the Dearborn-based automaker are ahead of schedule and says the union is asking its locals to hold routine strike authorization votes by Sept. 2.

Jimmy Settles tells the Detroit Free Press the votes are "nothing unusual" and are a normal part of every contract cycle with Ford.

Settles and UAW President Bob King announced the decision to hold a strike authorization vote Tuesday at a UAW meeting in Chicago. The union started negotiations with Ford late last month to replace a four-year contract that expires Sept. 14.

Contracts also are up at General Motors Co. and Chrysler, of which Fiat is the majority owner.

Economy
7:10 am
Wed August 17, 2011

Report: MI teens are doing better, young children are worse off

Teen deaths are on the decline in Michigan. That’s according to an annual report that compares indicators on the wellbeing of children.

According to the report, Michigan ranks better than the national average for the death rate among teens. Jane Zehnder-Merrell is the “Kids Count” project director at the Michigan League for Human Services. She says teens are getting into fewer fatal car accidents. But she says Michigan is experiencing a national trend toward more teen murders. 

“It’s troubling to see that as we push down one rate another rates starts going up; the homicide rate. Suicide rate has remained relatively stable, but we may see increases in that as well with the stress.”

There has been a 64 percent increase in the child poverty rate in Michigan over the past decade, according to the report.

Zehnder-Merrell says increases in unemployment and home foreclosures affect the wellbeing of children.

 “Very stressful, very difficult times for families, even though in Michigan I think part of it too is we’re used to having a lot more people living a middleclass life and having access to housing and good jobs and good health insurance, and the world is changing.”

Zehnder-Merrell says many budget and program cuts and made in the Legislature have exacerbated child poverty issues. That includes a proposed four-year cap on cash assistance that is set for a final vote when lawmakers return to Lansing next week.

Environment
8:01 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Planning underway for another cleanup of the Tittabawassee River

Few people turned out for a public hearing on the cleanup plan last night in Saginaw.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A major cleanup project along the Tittabawassee River is moving into its final planning stages. It’s a project that presents several challenges.   

Dioxin contamination has been the subject of many cleanup projects in the Tittabawassee River. This new project will focus on other dangerous chemicals, like arsenic, dumped into the river in the past.

Read more
Politics
6:00 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Thousands turn out for Detroit job fair

Thousands of people waited for hours just to get inside Wayne County Community College Tuesday, where employers were ready to take names and resumes.

The job fair was part of a nationwide tour hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus. It’s meant to draw attention to unemployment among African Americans.

Read more
Politics
5:50 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Detroit legislator, Muslim groups call proposed state law "polarizing" and "racist"

Rashida Tlaib

The only Muslim in the Michigan state legislature says a bill that targets “foreign laws” is xenophobic political pandering, and offensive to the Muslim community.

Detroit State Representative Rashida Tlaib blasted the bill that aims to “restrict the application of foreign laws.”

Read more
Politics
5:45 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

A Conversation with State Representative Jeff Irwin

Democratic State Representative Jeff irwin
housedems.com

The Michigan legislature returns from break next week. While they will be faced with a new set of issues when they return, at least one legislator is critical of the work that’s been done so far.

Every week we interview lawmakers about what's happening in our state and the nation. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White today talks with Freshman Democratic State Representative Jeff Irwin about the state budget, working with the legislature and what we can expect in the coming months.

Read more
Election 2012
5:15 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Michigan Republican leaders push for early primary

Balloons drop at the Republican Convention in 2008.
Nick Busse Flickr

Republican leaders in the state Senate say they will push for a February 28th closed presidential primary date.

That’s one week earlier than the National Republican Party rules allow. National GOP rules state that only four states are allowed to hold primaries before Super Tuesday in March without penalty.

Michigan is not one of those states. Penalties could include having convention delegates stripped.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says they plan to stick with a primary on February 28th.

“Michigan is going to be really relevant in the decision making process because of this date, but I don’t think we’re doing anything outlandish that would cause the national committee to be upset with us.”

The Michigan Republican Party has not specified a desired primary date. The party is leaving the primary date decision up to lawmakers.

The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, Robert Schostak, says he is not too concerned with being penalized for the decision:

“The penalties are somewhat unclear. They haven’t been determined by the committee in finality. But if we would be penalized by losing delegates and we were trading that for relevancy, my sense is that the Legislature and the state committee that would be ultimately deciding on this are okay with it.”

Both the Republican and Democratic parties in Michigan were penalized in 2008 for holding an early primary. The parties were stripped of half their convention delegates.

The primary election is estimated to cost $10 million. Taxpayers would foot the bill.

Environment
4:30 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Victory for Lake Erie watersnakes

Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs gets chomped on by a Lake Erie watersnake. The snakes were removed from the Endangered Species List by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
screen grab from YouTube video

What do a Lake Erie watersnake, a bald eagle, and an American alligator have in common?

They've all rebounded from the threat of extinction and no longer require the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

The only place these snakes are found in the world is on the western edge of Lake Erie in Canada and Ohio.

The snakes were listed as threatened in 1999 because of habitat loss and because humans often killed them.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the tide has turned for the watersnake. The Service published a rule in the Federal Register today delisting the species. From a USFWS press release:

Recovery criteria include a combined population of at least 5,555 snakes on the U.S. islands, sustained for six years, and protection of key habitat.

Through continued habitat protection and public education, the Lake Erie watersnake population grew to about 11,980 in 2009, and has exceeded the minimum recovery level since 2002. About 300 acres of inland habitat and 11 miles of shoreline have been protected for the snake since it was listed.

Back in 2005, reporter Rebecca Williams traveled down to the islands in Lake Erie to witness researchers taking their annual snake census - aka "Nerodeo" - "that’s Nerodia, the snake’s scientific name, and rodeo, as in cowboy roundup.":

The snake biologists don’t just look under rocks. They dive into the lake for snakes. They sneak up on piles of snakes and then grab the whole writhing mass.

The snakes bite. The researchers' arms are covered in snakebites. The bites aren't life threatening, but they're really, really bloody. And then it comes to the job at hand. The biologists are going to force the snakes' stomach contents out. They call it "barfing the snakes."

And what were they barfing up? Mostly round gobies - an invasive species. So here is a case where native species are taking a bite out of an invasive species' population.

The Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe did an episode on the job of a Lake Erie watersnake researcher in 2006 (the snakes poop, pee, bite, and release a musky smell when they're caught).

You can watch Rowe drop to his knees and get chomped on by a Lake Erie watersnake at about 6:20 in this video:

The snakes are still listed as endangered by the state of Ohio, so killing them is still illegal under state law... no matter how much they bite you.

Politics
3:11 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Crowd demands Michigan Congressman Fred Upton talk jobs (video)

A woman at the community forum in Kalamazoo with Congressman Fred Upton demands that he talk about jobs.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith went to Kalamazoo yesterday to report on a community forum with Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph).

Upton was invited by the Kalamazoo County Advocates for Senior Issues and he discussed the economy, health care, and social security with the group.

But as Smith reported the "crowd of 200 people also demanded he talk about what he’s doing to create jobs and improve the economy. Several interrupted and shouted at Upton. Those doing the interrupting asked him about the economy."

Here's some video of that forum. Upton attempts to talk about the information on his chart, but he's interrupted:

Politics
2:33 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Union groups protest outside Republican congressman's office

Members of the American Federation of Goverment Employees, Communications Workers of America and other groups picket outside Michigan Republican Congressman Tim Walberg's office in Jackson
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

About two dozen union members demonstrated outside the Jackson office of Republican congressman Tim Walberg. The protest was as much about the 2012 election as it was about the budget fight in Washington.   

Some passing motorists honked their horns, showing solidarity with protesters outside Congressman Tim Walberg’s office. The protesters, like teacher’s assistant Glenda Wells, say Walberg has sided too often with special business interests at the expense of working men and women. 

 “He says he’s for the  people…then he needs to prove it.” 
 

Education
2:25 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Pilot program offers free meals in Detroit Public Schools

A new pilot program will offer all Detroit Public Schools students free breakfast, lunch and snacks starting this fall. Michigan is one of three states selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture program.

Kisha Verdusco is spokeswoman for the Detroit Public Schools.

"The plan is to roll this out nationally across the country. We are among the first, and more states will be added each year, and in the year 2014 to 2015 the entire nation will have this program."

Other Michigan school districts can qualify for the program if 40 percent of their students are from low income families.

Read more
Auto/Economy
2:15 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Growing West Michigan auto-supplier hiring big, again

Gentex’s rear-view mirror display is one of it's newer technologies that's in demand. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is considering federal regulations that would require all new vehicles to have back-up camera displays by 2014.
Gentex Corporation

Zeeland-based Gentex Corporation is the world’s largest supplier of auto-dimming review mirrors. The company has hired 1,200 people in the last two years. Now it’s looking to hire another 1,100 people in the next five years. That’s a 65 percent increase in its workforce since 2008.

Read more
Economy
1:21 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Creating a master plan for Ecorse

Ecorse has received $40,000 in private grants to help the city develop a master plan for its future. The city is under state control because of its deficit. Partners like the Michigan Municipal League, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and C.S. Mott Foundation are investing in the project called Envision Ecorse.

Joyce Parker is the emergency manager for Ecorse.  

"Part of what we would like to do is, as we move forward towards eliminating the deficit and getting the city stabilized, to work with elected officials and the community to sustain that success."

Parker says some of the money will help develop a plan for the city’s greenways. The planning project could serve as a model for other cities under emergency managers.

Read more
Politics
12:04 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Effort to recall Governor Snyder continues to face uphill battle

Protesters in Lansing calling for a recall of Governor Rick Snyder.

It's never been done before - a successful statewide recall of a sitting governor in Michigan.

To put a statewide recall on a ballot, 1 in 7 registered voters in Michigan would have to sign a petition.

It's a daunting task and, as we've been reporting here at Michigan Radio, the Committee to recall Governor Rick Snyder did not collect enough signatures to get a recall on the November ballot.

It's something political commentator Jack Lessenberry called "impossible" last April.

I called up Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, to talk about the challenging logistics of a statewide recall effort and about what the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder is doing now.

You can listen to our conversation here:

The committee essentially needs around 807,000 valid signatures within a 90-day period to get on a ballot.

The committee collected around 310,00 signatures for the months of May, June, and July - short of the target for the November ballot.

So now the committee is rolling the goal posts forward.

Read more
Commentary
11:15 am
Tue August 16, 2011

Sense of Decency

Back in the nineteen-seventies, Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Swainson, a former governor, was accused of having accepted a bribe. He was acquitted of that, but convicted of perjury.

There are plenty of people, including his biographer, Lawrence Glazer, who think Swainson was actually innocent of anything other than bad judgment and trying to be his own attorney.

But after the verdict, Swainson didn’t spend his life whining to the press about the injustice of it all.

The former governor, an authentic war hero who had his legs blown off in the Second World War, resigned from the court, lost his law license, did his time, and disappeared into obscurity.

Years later, he worked hard and diligently at rehabilitating himself, and became a highly respected head of the Michigan Historical Commission before he died in nineteen ninety-four.

I mention all this because I thought of him yesterday, when splashed across the papers were long stories about a self-justifying interview disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick gave on an AM radio station yesterday morning.

Kilpatrick, you may remember, just got out of prison for violating probation. He is facing a new trial on a vast array of corruption charges that could send him to federal prison for thirty years.

Nobody disputes that his lies cost his impoverished city nine million dollars, or that he still owes nearly a million in court-ordered restitution. Nevertheless, the press feel compelled to give him a forum to criticize the present mayor, an indisputably honest man.

Read more
Economy
11:07 am
Tue August 16, 2011

"For the People" Jobs Fair comes to Detroit

Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, announcing the jobs fair and town hall meeting on YouTube
screen grab from YouTube video

The Congressional Black Caucus' five-city "For the People" Jobs Fair is on its second stop in Detroit today. The fair kicked off in Cleveland last week and will end in Los Angeles at the end of the month.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will head over to the fair at the downtown campus of Wayne County Community College and give us an update.

Read more
Environment
10:28 am
Tue August 16, 2011

Deconstructing Detroit

This 1930's bungalow in Southwest Detroit is being deconstructed. But first, the team has to clear the home of everything inside.
Photo by Rebecca Williams

Nearly a quarter of the homes in Detroit are empty. That’s more than 79,000 vacant homes, according to the last Census.

Of those, Mayor Dave Bing’s office considers 12,000 to be dangerous. They’re burned out, or falling apart. They attract squatters and drug dealers. So the city is paying contractors to demolish them.

But another group of people says some of these homes don’t have to be demolished. They can be taken apart board by board... and the materials can be salvaged.

Read more
News Roundup
9:10 am
Tue August 16, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, August 16th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Fewer Schools Meet Federal Standards

The number of schools in Michigan meeting federal "Adequate Yearly Progress" goals dropped in the last academic year. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports:

Fewer schools in Michigan met federal benchmarks for students’ academic progress this year, and state officials blame the slide on higher standards required by the federal government. Schools need to meet something called “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Failure to do so for multiple years can result in sanctions, including replacing school staff and principals, or closing a school. For the 2010-11 school year, 79 percent of public schools in Michigan made adequate progress. That’s down from 86 percent the year before.

Federal Pilot Program in DPS

All kindergarten through 12th grade students in the Detroit Public Schools will get free breakfast, lunch and snacks starting this fall semester under a federal pilot program. The Associated Press reports:

The district announced the program Tuesday, saying the goal is to "ensure all children receive healthy meals, regardless of income." Most Detroit schoolchildren also meet income rules for free lunch.

The district says the free meals are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Community Eligibility Option Program. Michigan is one of three states selected to participate in the pilot program for the 2011-12 school year.

Customer Satisfaction Declines in Detroit Autos

Customers were less satisfied with some Detroit car brands this year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. “Satisfaction declined from last year for Chrysler, Lincoln and Buick. Claus Fornell, founder of the index, says the decline is especially worrisome because satisfaction with most Asian brands rose. He says Detroit could be in trouble again if the trend continues. Not all Detroit car brands declined.  Satisfaction with Ford, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, and Jeep cars rose this year,” Tracy Samilton reports.

Read more
Crime
12:31 am
Tue August 16, 2011

As shootings haunt Detroit, "Folks are starting to think they're on their own"

Raphael Johnson
thedetroit300.org

15 people were shot in about 24 hours this past weekend in Detroit. 7 of them died.

The bloody day has police and city officials scurrying to find ways to combat surging gun violence.

Overall, violent crime is down in Detroit this year. But that’s been overshadowed by a spike in homicides—more than 220 already. That’s almost one every day. The vast majority are shootings, and most of the victims and perpetrators are young men.

Two Detroit residents active in community policing agree the violence stems fundamental problems in the city’s broken communities.

Read more
Politics
7:25 pm
Mon August 15, 2011

Upton calls work to reduce long-term spending “an enormous task”

People who couldn't fit inside the forum (the building capacity was 200 people) tried to listen to Upton just outside the window. Eventually they began chanting and the windows were closed.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) discussed the U.S. economy, health care reform, and the future of Social Security at a forum in Kalamazoo Monday.

Upton is one of twelve lawmakers selected to serve on a special Congressional committee. That committee will try to determine a compromise on long-term spending to help reduce the federal deficit.

Upton says the federal debt is “unsustainable”. He says the way to fix it is to get the economy moving so more people can get a job.

Read more

Pages