Environment
10:55 am
Thu July 21, 2011

Congress proposes big cuts for Great Lakes projects

Photo by Arthur Cooper

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee just passed a bill that contains some pretty major cuts to Great Lakes funding.

There are a couple of things being targeted:

One is Great Lakes restoration money. That’s being used to clean up pollution, restore habitat and fight invasive species. That pot of money is facing a 17 percent cut.

There are also much bigger cuts aimed at a program that helps cities upgrade their sewage treatment plants... and keep the sewage from overflowing into rivers and lakes. That program’s getting cut by 55 percent.

Jeff Skelding directs the Healing our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. He calls the bill a huge step backward.

“And let me be crystal clear on the following point: gutting clean water programs will not save the country money. In fact, it will cost us more.”

He says problems like sewage contamination on beaches and invasive species are getting worse.

The bill could come up for a full House vote as early as this weekend.

Commentary
10:37 am
Thu July 21, 2011

Why Borders Mattered

I was in my early twenties before I discovered Borders’, which then had been open for two or three years. The sensation when I first walked in was what I felt when I first visited the Library of Congress.

Overwhelming excitement, and despair. How could I ever possibly read all the books worth reading? You would need lifetimes to do it. Yet, here, at least, I could visit a sort of cathedral of the mind.

I remember how excited I was in my early thirties when Border’s opened its second store a stone’s throw from my first house in the Detroit suburbs. Another Borders, right here!  I think I understood how people in Appalachia felt when the Tennessee Valley Authority brought them electricity, back in the nineteen-thirties.

I will soon be sixty, and before that, Borders will be gone. A last-ditch attempt to save the bookstores failed last week, when the creditors concluded they’d probably do better with just a straight liquidation than they might if the latest venture to save them failed.

There are all sorts of theories about why Borders couldn’t be saved. Some said e-readers, some said the Internet. Some say the stores expanded too fast and moved beyond their core competence of selling books. One man said he knew Borders would die the day he found himself buying skin moisturizer there.

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Changing Gears
9:28 am
Thu July 21, 2011

Growing the region's clean economy

Algal Scientific's demo project at an Ohio landfill.
Photo courtesy of Geoff Horst

The clean economy is touted as a future economic driver of the region. But a new report shows that while Ohio and Illinois have added jobs to the clean economy, Michigan is the only state to have lost them. Changing Gears visited one scientist in Plymouth, Mich., who’s trying to nudge that number back up.

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News Roundup
9:06 am
Thu July 21, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, July 21st

Heat, Humidity Continues

It’s official, the Detroit News reports: Michigan is in the middle of a heat wave. From the News:

The National Weather Service declares a heat wave when there are five or more consecutive days of 90-degree weather or three or more consecutive days of 95-degree temperatures. Today is expected to top out at a sweltering 100 degrees with high humidity. It is the fifth straight day of at least 90-degree temperatures. The heat and humidity will combine to make it feel like 110 degrees outside…  The 100 degree high would set a record.

Changes to Binding Arbitration

A local government's ability to pay will be the top factor for an arbitrator to consider when settling labor disputes involving police and fire departments under terms of legislation signed yesterday by Governor Snyder, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The legislation… will speed up arbitration in some cases by requiring the process to be completed within 180 days. The expenses of arbitration would be split between the local government and the union involved. Snyder says making a community's ability to pay the top priority could help prevent "drastic cuts" that could lead to layoffs of public safety personnel. Michigan has relied on binding arbitration to help resolve public safety personnel labor disputes for decades.

Jobless Rate Rises Slightly

Michigan’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 10.5 percent in June. There were 8,000 more unemployed people in Michigan last month – a total of 496,000 people looking for work. When part-timers, people who would like to work full-time, and those who got discouraged and stopped looking for work are counted, the rate of unemployment and under-employment was 19.6 percent.

Election 2012
7:58 am
Thu July 21, 2011

Romney outraises Obama in 2nd quarter in MI

Former Republican Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney outraised President Obama in Michigan in this year's second quarter.
Gage Skidmore Flickr

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney outraised his GOP competitors and President Obama in Michigan during the second quarter of this year, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Romney raised $884,124 in the quarter that ended June 30th, while President Obama raised $393,428. Romney is a Michigan native whose father, George W. Romney, was Michigan’s 43rd Governor.

Republicans trailing behind Romney were Texas Congressman Ron Paul with $46,106; former Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty with $22,450; businessman Hermain Cain with $16,100; Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann with $10,185; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich with $9,775; former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum with $1,650; and former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson with $1,500.

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Economy
6:42 am
Thu July 21, 2011

Job growth stalls, state unemployment rises in June

Ep_jhu Flickr

Job creation has been dragging for most of this year in the state and across the country. That helped push Michigan’s unemployment rate slightly higher to 10.5 percent in June.

There were 8,000 more unemployed people in Michigan last month – a total of 496,000 thousand people looking for work. The unemployment rate was inching downward as people found jobs in high-tech business services, health care, and manufacturing.

Bruce Weaver of the state Bureau of Labor Market Information says all that stalled in February.

“It appears that job levels have flattened out in the state and that’s across the board.”

The number of hours worked and payroll earnings also fell. The rate of unemployment and under-employment is 19.6 percent. That number counts part-timers who would like to work full-time, and former job seekers who got discouraged and quit looking.

Environment
6:34 am
Thu July 21, 2011

White Lake gets federal funding for restoration

An inland lake in west Michigan is getting a boost from the federal government to help clean up pollution and restore wildlife habitats.

It’s one of many places along the Great Lakes shoreline where cleanups are needed.

Programs to clean up White Lake, north of Muskegon, have been awarded more than $2 million for restoration. The money will be used to help clean toxins and reestablish habitat for fish and wildlife.

Patty Birkholz, director of the Office of the Great Lakes says damage done by years of pollution from the manufacturing industry is not beyond repair. 

“That’s true, it’s not. But it’s taken a huge investment on the part of the federal government, on the part of the state government, but also a lot of work by the local people.”

Birkholz says Michigan has more “Areas of Concern” near the Great Lakes than any of the other Great Lakes states. She says it’s important for the state to rehabilitate waterways that were damaged by the, quote, ‘sins of our fathers.’

Teachers
5:45 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

New law dramatically alters teacher tenure (audio)

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder recently signed a package of bills that reshapes teacher tenure in Michigan. The bills remove seniority protections and make it easier to fire teachers who have been identified as “ineffective”.

Michigan Public Radio Networks’ Lansing bureau chief, Rick Pluta talks about what this means for teachers and how state leaders plan to implement the new law.

 

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Economy
5:00 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Oakland County: Fannie, Freddie dodging taxes

Oakland County Treasurer Andrew Meisner says homes like this one, sold in foreclosure by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are costing the state millions in lost tax revenues.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

There’s a David-and-Goliath story about to play out in federal court in Detroit.

Oakland County Treasurer Andrew Meisner says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are illegally dodging millions of dollars in taxes. The government-backed mortgage giants were created by the federal government, but they were spun off decades ago as hybrid enterprises with a policy mission and a profit motive. 

Just where Fannie and Freddie sit on the public-private spectrum is the central issue of the court case. And the court fight could be a bellwether for similar battles in other states. 

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Politics
3:40 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Plan to close water park has Detroiters burning up

chandlerparkonline.com

With temperatures stuck in the 90s, patrons of Detroit’s only water park say they’re livid about plans to shut it down.

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano says closing the Family Aquatic Center at Chandler Park would save a million dollars the county needs to balance the budget.

Nanga Chungag is 12 years old. She takes swimming lessons at the park and says closing it would be terrible for her, and her city:

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Transportation
2:40 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

Airport shuttle service to double number of trips with new route

Jerry Wong Flickr

A new airport shuttle between East Lansing and Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Interstate 96 will make twice the number of trips this fall. The new Michigan Flyer route will stop in East Lansing, Brighton/Howell, Ann Arbor and both airport terminals. If the federal government awards Michigan Flyer with the 1-point-5 million dollars it asked for, the route will be self-sustaining after the first year.

Ody Norkin is vice president of Michigan Flyer. He says the goal is for airport shuttles to run hourly.

"People come home to Detroit Metro Airport they don’t want to wait two hours especially if they’re in Washtenaw or Livingston only a half-hour or 45 minutes away from the airport," he said. "They’re not going to wait for the shuttle if we are operating only two to two-and-a-half hours."

Norkin says the new route will be successful based on current usage.

"We have a very high end product with brand new motor coaches that are attracting not only those who can’t drive or can’t afford to drive but also those who own vehicles and choose to set them aside either for environmental reasons or just because we’re so convenient.," Norkin said.

Prices on the new route will likely be the same as their southern route along I-94.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Election 2012
2:17 pm
Wed July 20, 2011

A conversation with Pete Hoekstra on "their" decision to run

Pete Hoekstra and his wife Diane at the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival when he ran for governor in 2010. He lost the Republican nomination to Governor Rick Snyder.
facebook.com/petehoekstra

Former U.S. Congressman Pete Hoekstra says he and his family are prepared to challenge Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2012.

“We get a new majority in place in the US Senate we can start changing and reversing those policies. And that’s what I want to be a part of.”

After 18 years in Congress, Hoekstra retired from his rather secure seat representing a conservative district along the Lake Michigan shore. He had hopes of become Michigan’s new Governor. But he placed second in the Republican primary behind current Governor Rick Snyder.

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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.

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