Economy
9:48 am
Thu February 24, 2011

Consumers Energy posts profit in 2010

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Consumers Energy has been busy this week reconnecting tens of thousands of customers who lost power during last Sunday's ice & snow storm.  So it could be argued the utility was due some good news.  Today CMS Energy announced the Jackson-based utility profits increased last year.   

Read more
Economy
9:06 am
Thu February 24, 2011

Sales of foreclosed homes slowed in 2010 in Michigan

Fewer homebuyers were interested in buying a previously foreclosed home in Michigan last year. The result is an increasingly high number of bank-owned homes just sitting on the real estate market.  

Just under 41 thousand formerly foreclosed homes sold last year in Michigan.  That’s down by a third compared to 2009 and 2008.  The prices paid for those homes also dropped.

Read more
Auto/Economy
9:01 am
Thu February 24, 2011

GM has a very good year

GM's Headquarters in downtown Detroit. The newly formed company made $4.7 billion in profits last year.
user paul (dex) Flickr

General Motors says it earned $510 million in the fourth quarter and $4.7 billion last year as it continued an impressive comeback from bankruptcy.

It was the company's first profitable year since 2004 and GM's best performance since making $6 billion in 1999 during the pickup truck and SUV boom.

GM says fourth-quarter net income was fueled by strong sales in China and the U.S. as the global auto market began to recover. GM says net income per share was 31 cents, including $400 million in charges mainly for preferred stock dividends and for buying preferred stock from the U.S. government.

The quarterly profit was less than the two previous quarters. GM says expenses were higher because it launched two new vehicles. Revenue for the quarter was $36.9 billion.

Politics
5:58 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Report: 35 "Hate Groups" in Michigan

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified 35 "hate groups" in Michigan.
Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report today on hate groups in the U.S.

They say there are now more than 1,000 such groups around the country, the first time the SPLC has seen the number of "hate groups" top 1,000 since it started counting them in the 1980s.

From the SPLC press release:

Several factors fueled the growth: resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the lagging economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at minorities and the government.

A hate group is defined by the SPLC as a group that has "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

The SPLC lists 35 "hate groups" in Michigan on their map.

Read more
Politics
4:40 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Detroit leaders brace for new Emergency Financial Manager rules

Carlos Lowry Flickr

Detroit city leaders are bracing for what most see as the inevitable passage of a state law giving more powers to Emergency Financial Managers.

Detroit’s Lansing lobbyist, Ken Cole, briefed the City Council about the package of bills Wednesday, as the State House voted to approve them.

Ken Cole told the Council he thinks the legislation is meant to work in tandem with Governor Snyder’s proposed budget.

Cole described that budget’s impact on Detroit as “bludgeoning.” Among other cuts, it would lose $178 million in state revenue sharing.

But Cole says the Council shouldn't focus on not stopping the EMF legislation.  He says there’s little hope of that in the Republican-dominated state legislature. 

“Because in the words of the former late state senator David Holmes of Detroit, ain’t no substitute for votes. You either got ‘em or you don’t. Make no mistake, wedon't.”

Detroit City Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. agrees that some political gamesmanship is in play when it comes to emergency financial managers.

“I think part of what is going on here, part of the approach of the Snyder administration is to try to leverage cities to do what they need to do to fix themselves financially. Or face the risk of somebody coming in and doing it for you.”

Cockrel and Cole say Detroit officials should focus on amending aspects of the legislation they really don’t like.

That includes a provision that would let firms, as well as individuals, act as emergency financial managers. Cockrel says that would be “crazy.”

Environment
4:32 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Enviros say sewer plan stinks

Kate Boicourt IAN

Environmental advocates are criticizing a plan to scale back pollution controls for the sewer system that serves metro Detroit.

Officials with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department say population loss and the poor economy have forced them to revisit plans to build a massive underground tunnel along the Rouge River.

The tunnel would store untreated and partially treated sewage so that it wouldn’t get dumped into the river during rainstorms. Officials with DWSD say they still plan to build it, but it would be considerably smaller, and construction would be pushed back about a decade.

But critics say the public should be skeptical. James Clift of the Michigan Environmental Council says DWSD has consistently failed to deliver on promises of a cleaner system.

“Why should we believe you this time? We’ve had decades of permits being issued, and non-compliance from this system.”

Officials with the sewer system say their plan is affordable, and within Detroit’s ability to fund. And they say that will avoid delays tied to the city’s economic recovery.

There is a public hearing on the proposal tonight at 7:00 at U of M-Dearborn.

Read more
Environment
4:31 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

44,000 Consumers Energy customers still in the dark

User anotherpioneer Flickr

The ice storm was Sunday, but it may tomorrow or Friday before the last Consumers Energy customer who lost power will get their electricity restored.   195,000 thousand CMS utility customers lost power after the storm that dumped a half foot or more of snow and ice on Michigan at the beginning of the week. 

About 44,000 are still without power, says  Garrick Rochow, vice president of energy delivery for the utility:

Read more
Politics
4:24 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Protesters march again at state capitol

Corvair Owner Flickr

Protesters were in Lansing again today to speak out against several proposals in the Republican-controlled state Legislature that they say will strip unions of the rights. That includes a measure approved by the state House that would give more control to emergency financial managers appointed to run cities and townships, or school districts. The state Senate is considering a similar measure.

Nick Ciaramintaro is with the union AFL-CIO of Michigan. He told lawmakers that more power for emergency financial managers means less democracy for local governments. 

Read more
Crime
4:17 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Charges in Michigan State Police corruption probe

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Two Michigan State Police lieutenants have been charged with more than 30 counts of corruption. The officers are accused of stealing property during home searches. Authorities say stolen items include televisions, computers, cell phones and drugs. 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the officers also worked with a Monroe County civilian to profit off of auctions of seized property. 

Read more
Arts/Culture
4:09 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Town halls examine Michigan's endangered film incentives

Luca Nonato Flickr

There are a pair of town hall meetings happening tomorrow night regarding the Michigan film industry tax incentive program, which Governor Snyder’s budget caps at 25 million dollars.

The purpose of the town halls is to communicate to Michigan’s citizens, legislators, and governor why exactly the state’s film incentive program should be preserved.

Read more
budgets
4:02 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Grand Rapids city, schools, search for new ways to save money

Eric DeLong says teaming up to purchase office supplies could save both entities money, "We both use a whole lot of paper."
pawpaw67 Creative Commons

Grand Rapids city and school district officials have met regularly for more than a decade to come up with ways to share services and facilities to benefit one another. Now, state budget concerns are pressuring them to look even harder for those cost-saving solutions.

Read more
Politics
3:33 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Governor Snyder talks cuts on public radio call-in program

Then candidate Rick Snyder at the Michigan Republican State Convention in 2010.
Bill Rice Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder was interviewed this afternoon by NPR's Talk of the Nation.

He was asked questions by the hosts and by listeners. You can listen to the entire interview here:

Read more
Economy
3:13 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Some Blue Cross rates to rise; hikes not as steep as requested

The Michigan Attorney General's office negotiated lower price hikes for individual policy holders.
echealthinsurance.com

Some Michiganders who buy their own health insurance will pay more for their policies beginning in May.

But the price hikes aren’t as steep as they could have been.

Blue Cross Blue Shield had planned premium increases of as much as 21 percent.

But the Michigan Attorney General intervened.

“Through negotiations we were able to slash that in most cases by about 60 percent, so the increases ended up being about 60 million dollars smaller just in the first year alone,” says John Selleck, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

Politics
3:10 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Gaddafi forces maintain their hold on Tripoli

Protesters in the Netherlands show support for anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya.
Roel Wijnants Flickr

NPR is reporting that pro-Gaddafi forces are maintaining control of Tripoli as protests and violence continues:

"Thousands of people were fleeing Libya on Wednesday as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi reportedly continued a crackdown on protesters in the capital. Rogue elements of the police and army aligned with the anti-government opposition appeared to be in firm control of parts of the east."

Read more
Auto/Economy
2:14 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

GM expected to announce $5 billion profit for 2010

A view from the General Motors headquaters in Detroit.
user santoshkrishnan creative commons

General Motors is expected to formally announce its first ‘full-year profit’ since 2004 on Thursday. It was just two years ago General Motors had to seek bankruptcy protection.    Now, the automaker is expected to announce a 5 billion dollar profit for 2010.

Aaron Bragman is an automotive analyst with IHS Global Insight.  He gives a big part of the credit to the federal government for helping GM through bankruptcy. 

“I don’t think we’d be in the place where we’re at right now if the government had not intervened and actually funded their bankruptcy.  We’d be in a very different place.”

 Bragman says 2011 might be another good year for GM, because of rising gasoline prices. 

 “Chevy is bringing several small vehicles to market.  The new Spark is on the horizon.  The new (Sonic) is coming this year.   So we’re actually seeing a lot of these small cars coming…and now we’re seeing a market force that may actually drive people to go an buy them.”

Bragman says high gasoline prices may hurt Chrysler, because it doesn’t have as many high- mileage vehicles to offer car buyers.

Environment
2:07 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

EPA establishes new standards for boilers and incinerators

Joe Gratz Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency has established new clean air standards for incinerators and boilers. From the EPA's press release:

"In response to federal court orders requiring the issuance of final standards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing final Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators that achieve significant public health protections through reductions in toxic air emissions, including mercury and soot, but cut the cost of implementation by about 50 percent from an earlier proposal issued last year."

"Mercury, soot, lead and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to developmental disabilities in children, as well as cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death in Americans. These standards will avoid between 2,600-6,600 premature deaths, prevent 4,100 heart attacks and avert 42,000 asthma attacks per year in 2014."

An Associated Press article has some background on criticisms that may have prompted the move.

"Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have harshly criticized the EPA recently over the costs of a whole host of regulations, including the first-ever rules to control the gases blamed for global warming. At least a half-dozen bills have been introduced this year to block or curtail agency regulations, and House Republicans succeeded last week in attaching numerous anti-EPA measures to a bill aimed at funding the government for the rest of this fiscal year."

Read more
Politics
1:48 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

"Kill the Bill!" A second day of labor protests at the state capitol

under the state capitol dome
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

"Kill the Bill....Kill the Bill" shouted hundreds of municipal labor union members as protests continued for a second day at the state Capitol in Lansing. Hundreds of unionized firefighters and police officers marched on the Capitol.

They are calling on the Legislature to reject a bill that would repeal the requirement that puts local government labor disputes into binding arbitration.

Local government officials say binding arbitration leads to expensive settlements.  Unionized workers say binding arbitration is a fair way to settle disputes, and its a concession unions made in return for giving up the right to strike.   Jason Sneft is a firefighter from the city of Jackson. 

“This is probably step in a long couple years of many steps of trying to eliminate union actions.”

Drivers honked their horns in support as uniformed firefighters and police officers lined both sides of the street in front of the Capitol. The binding arbitration measure is not scheduled for a vote yet.

The House is expected to vote on another bill that would give state-appointed local emergency financial managers the power to discard union contracts.

Economy
1:05 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Allen Park to lay off entire fire department

All 25 members of the Allen Park fire department have been told to expect pink slips.
flickr

There may soon be no firefighters available in Allen Park.

The city council has voted to lay off the entire fire department.

A movie studio-deal gone bad is getting some of the blame for Allen Park’s financial troubles.

The Detroit suburb bought an old Visteon facility in 2008 for almost $25 million, banking on a plan to lease the property to Unity Studios.

The deal flopped  and now Allen Park is broke.

Last night, the city council announced all 25 of the city’s firefighters, plus its interim chief will be getting pink slips.

Read more
Commentary
12:30 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

State of Detroit

You may think I am a little crazy, but while I was listening to  Mayor Dave Bing’s State of the City address last night, what kept running through my head was an ancient rock and roll song.

An early hit called Chantilly Lace, by a now half-forgotten artist called the Big Bopper, whose main claim to fame is dying in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly more than half a century ago.

Read more
Economy
9:57 am
Wed February 23, 2011

Rising gas prices & Michigan's economy

A Comerica Bank economist says rising gasoline prices shouldn’t hurt Michigan’s economic progress…too much. Unrest in the Middle East is forcing global crude oil prices to rise, which is pushing up gas prices in Michigan and elsewhere.    

Read more

Pages