storm hits Michigan
3:39 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

This is Michigan. And this is what we do. (Dig out after storms).

Scott Denny Flickr

The state's three main airports report business has returned almost to normal, after crews spent the evening clearing runways of snow and ice.  Up to ten inches fell overnight.  In many cases, that was more snow than fell during the so-dubbed "Snowpocalypse," a few weeks ago. 

Detroit Metro Airport spokesman Mike Conway says the big problem last night was the roadways leading to the airport.  He says it took a long time for taxis to return from outlying suburbs, and there was congestion as cars and taxis lined up outside terminals.

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Education
2:25 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

DPS plans "draconian" cuts to eliminate deficit

The Michigan Department of Education has ordered the DPS to implement a drastic deficit elimination plan
User mrd00dman Flickr

The state Department of Education has ordered the Detroit Public Schools to implement a drastic deficit elimination plan.

The plan includes closing half the district’s remaining schools within two years, and increasing some class sizes to 60 students by next school year. It would also create "regional" prinicpals rather than school principals, and cut transportation services for most students.

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Politics
12:04 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Unions to fight proposed state laws

As protests in Wisconsin continue, leaders of Michigan labor unions fight proposals in the Michigan Legislature
Mark Danielson Flickr

Leaders of Michigan labor unions are fighting proposals in the Michigan Legislature that they say would hurt collective bargaining rights. The Associated Press reports:

The Michigan AFL-CIO said Monday it opposes more than 30 bills pending in the Legislature including those that would give emergency financial managers of cities and schools the power to terminate labor union contracts. Unions representing public employees also are opposing bills that would change how binding arbitration works for police and fire departments.

Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said some of the measures are an "assault" on the collective bargaining process that calls for unions and employers to negotiate contracts.

Union leaders also said they are concerned about some budget proposals from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, including measures they say hurt schools, the middle class and low-income residents.

Arts/Culture
11:44 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Comic improv, on paper (slideshow)

Patron at the Green Brain Comic store browsing through comics. Green Brain Comics is open to the public while the comic jams are going on.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

When you think about improvisation you might think of comedy or jazz. The idea of cartooning or drawing comics is probably not what comes to mind. But a little comic book shop in Dearborn is giving artists a space to try out new ideas, together, on paper.

Green Brain Comics hosts a monthly  comic jam.  It’s similar to the writing exercise known as an exquisite corpse. In this case, an artist draws one panel, then passes it to someone who draws another panel, and so forth.  The end result is an entire comic strip, created by eight artists.

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Auto/Economy
11:32 am
Mon February 21, 2011

A small car gets big results for global safety

Ford's global small car, the Ford Fiesta, has received the equivalent of a five-star safety rating in virtually all the regions of the world in which it is sold - China, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and the United States.   The subcompact car also received a "Top Safety Pick" award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which nonetheless warns drivers that in general, larger vehicles are safer vehicles.   

Commentary
10:35 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Budget Alternatives

Well, it’s been four days since Gov. Rick Snyder presented his so-called “atomic bomb” budget, and opposition has started to harden. There are those who are concerned about the poor, largely because of the repeal of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

For example, Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson said yesterday that this amounts to a “government-sponsored shift of capital away from the most needy citizens to those who are already more comfortable.”

Senior citizens’ groups are upset because the governor wants their constituents to have to begin paying Michigan income tax on their income, just like everybody else does on theirs.

The film industry is screaming about the potential loss of the film credits. The education community isn’t happy with the cuts they’d have to take, though they seem to be bearing them with more grace.

But the interesting thing to me is that none of these groups seems to be offering any kind of alternative plan. They want what they want, but don’t have any kind of broader vision.

Yet something radical does have to be done. The state is running an enormous deficit that has to be gotten rid of, and our old automotive-based economy doesn’t work anymore, not the way it did.

So the question for the critics is, if you don’t like the governor’s plan, what are you going to offer instead?

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Governor Snyder
8:56 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today

Governor Rick Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today where he will speak to the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Kalamazoo. He's set to speak at 12:30 p.m. and a question-and-answer session is also scheduled. As the Associated Press reports, it's expected the Governor will spend his time defending the budget proposal he released last Thursday:

Last week, Snyder proposed a $45.9 billion budget that includes spending cuts for schools and getting rid of many personal tax breaks. His plan includes a corporate tax change that would save businesses $1.8 billion a year.

Snyder has been working to defend the plan. Critics say it means that the poor and the elderly, public education and local governments would be the ones picking up the tab for businesses.

What's Working
7:20 am
Mon February 21, 2011

A Chocolate Lab who does his part to help Michigan's children

Amos, a Chocolate Labrador, provides support to child victims of abuse and neglect when they have to testify or be present in a courtroom
Photo courtesy of Dan Cojanu

For this week’s edition of our series “What’s Working,” Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley welcomes Dan Cojanu. He’s the Vice President and Program Director of the Canine Advocacy Program (CAP), based in Oakland County. Through the use of a Chocolate Labrador named Amos, the CAP provides support to child victims of abuse and neglect when they are required to testify or be present in court.

Cojanu begins by explaining how he began organizing the CAP. As he was preparing to retire from his job as the Supervisor for Victim’s Services in Oakland County in 2008, Cojanu decided that he wasn’t done with victim advocacy. Not only did he want to continue work with victims of crime, Cojanu says he also had a desire to work with dogs.

“I did a little research, and I wound up out in Seattle at the Courthouse Dogs Program. And once I was able to observe what these dogs bring to the court setting, to forensic interviews, I just got so excited that I had to bring this back to Michigan.”

When a child has to go before a court as a victim, Cojanu says the experience can be overwhelmingly stressful for his or her emotions.

“These children, when they come to court, the anxiety level, I don’t think it can be measured. They’re going to have to be in front of a bunch of adults who they don’t know, all strangers, and tell the most intimate details of a sexual assault or neglect or abuse or whatever. And it’s so frightening to these kids.”

When a trained service dog like Amos is introduced to the situation, though, Cojanu says the effects are phenomenal.

“You bring a dog into the picture and they have a whole new focus. They have a big cuddly Lab that they can do tricks with, take for walks. A lot of the kids will draw pictures of Amos, and it just brings that anxiety level so far down, that by the time they’re ready to go to court, they’re at least a little better prepared, certainly more relaxed. And it’s just phenomenal. And when they’re done, you know, Amos is there for a big hug.”

Occasionally, Amos has been allowed to sit beside children as they testify on the witness stand. That makes Amos the first dog ever permitted to sit beside someone as they testified in a Michigan courtroom.

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Winter Weather
6:52 am
Mon February 21, 2011

"Presidents' Day Storm" brings up to 10 inches of snow to parts of Michigan

A winter storm brought up to 10 inches of snow to some parts of the state
Sami Flickr

Say 'goodbye' to Spring. For now, at least. After unseasonably warm temperatures last week, winter weather has returned. As the Associated Press reports:

A winter storm that blew through the upper Midwest over the long Presidents Day weekend has dumped a hand bag of snow, sleet and ice on Michigan, canceling flights, closing schools and making driving treacherous for early morning commuters.

The National Weather service in White Lake Township says by Monday morning six to 10 inches of snow fell on southern Michigan since the storm began Sunday afternoon.

Officials were urging people to stay off the roads if possible, rather than risk driving on icy roads or through wind-driven snow.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. AAA Michigan spokeswoman Nancy Cain tells The Detroit News that by early Sunday evening, about 1,900 requests for assistance in spinouts and minor accidents had been taken.

Kalamazoo Public Schools and Flint Public Schools are closed today. The U-M Dearborn campus is closed as well.

State Budget
6:39 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Lt. Gov: Sndyer administration does not expect Wisconsin-like budget protests

Lt. Governor Brian Calley
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Senior aides to Governor Rick Snyder say they don’t expect the massive budget protests in Wisconsin will spread to Michigan. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says Governor Snyder’s style is less combative than that of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Calley also says he expects most critics of the Snyder budget will be persuaded to change their minds. He says that’s because tough choices this year will avert the need for more cuts in the future.

“Number one, we’re not going to kick the can down the road. Number two, we’re not going to employ one-time gimmicks and quick fixes and those sorts of things. We’re actually going to fix it so that, take a look at Year Two – this actually does solve the problem so going forth, we can actually spend more time on, where do we go from here? How do we work and grow together?"

Nevertheless, some public employee and retiree groups are trying to organize a protest march on Lansing this week. They oppose a demand for public employees to pay more of their health care costs, and a proposed end to the tax exemption on pension income. Governor Snyder presented his budget proposal to state lawmakers last Thursday.

Arts/Culture
4:28 pm
Sat February 19, 2011

DSO musicians reject management's "final" offer

The DSO performas at a 2008 holiday performance.
User sheri&brian Flickr

Musicians of the Detroit Symphony orchestra have rejected management’s latest contract offer.  

The musicians' union says while salary cuts had been agreed upon, other issues, including employee health care deductibles were unacceptable.

Spokesman Greg Bowens says management's offer called for an 800 percent increase in their deductible.

DSO president and CEO Ann Parsons says most people have been affected by changes in health care costs.

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Arts/Culture
3:38 pm
Sat February 19, 2011

Musicians Reject Detroit Symphony's Contract Offer, Season suspended

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
www.DSO.org

Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians have voted to reject what management has called its final labor contract offer.

The announcement Saturday by the musicians dashes hope for a quicker end to the more than four-month, contentious walkout.

The symphony has responded by saying it has released artists and conductors from their contracts and suspended all remaining orchestral concerts through the end of the season in June.

Auto/Economy
5:20 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Wayne State to offer energy storage courses this fall

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Wayne State University will offer certificate programs in advanced energy storage. Courses will focus on things like electric vehicle batteries, and updating the electric grid to handle electric vehicle charging.

Jay Baron is the president of the Center for Automotive Research. He says the car industry is clamoring for engineers with those skills:

"When you speak to any of the auto companies, they will tell you: if you’ve got a field of study that has the term 'battery' or 'energy storage' in it, you’ve piqued the interest. My daughter is looking for a job, and I’ve told her if there’s any way she can get 'battery' into the title of her degree, she’d do much better."

Baron says several universities are retooling their engineering programs to incorporate more battery-related course offerings.

But he says there are lingering questions about the long-term viability of the electric vehicle market.

Business
5:15 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Businesses form Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce

User zizzybaloobah Flickr

Michigan now has its first-ever statewide advocacy group devoted to black-owned businesses.

The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce will introduce its leaders and goals at a press conference in Detroit Monday.

Ken Harris is the group’s president and CEO. He says the number of black-owned businesses in Michigan is growing at three times the national rate:

"We want to identify emerging markets that we’re successful in currently, and then more importantly we want to move into areas where we’re not participating."

Harris says the organization will also lobby in Lansing and Washington DC, and there are plans for local branches in several Michigan cities. The group plans a convention in Detroit in June.

Politics
5:08 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Lansing libraries: No guns wanted here

The Lansing library system says Michigan's open-carry of weapons law does not apply to its facilities.
flickr

The Lansing library system has been granted a temporary restraining order to keep people from bringing weapons into its facilities.

The Capital Area District Library says about two months ago, people began coming into the library openly carrying guns. They claimed to have the right to do that under Michigan’s Firearms and Ammunitions Act.

Gary Bender is the library’s attorney.

He says the library is exempt from that law because it is not a local unit of government and is allowed to ban weapons at its locations.

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Politics
4:58 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Walberg breaks from party on military jet engine vote

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, voted to retain funding for the F-35 alternate engine, despite opposition by the Pentagon and the Republican party.
Wikipedia

A Michigan lawmaker broke away from his party this week when he voted against an amendment to eliminate a military jet engine program.

A different version of the engine for the F-35 stealth fighter would have assured a backup in case of a breakdown of the original engine,or for different kinds of missions.

But Pentagon officials, the Obama administration and the Tea Party said they didn’t want the program.

Cutting it would save about three billion dollars.

U.S. Rep.  Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, says he voted to keep it for other reasons.

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Economy
4:52 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Borders Books liquidation sale begins Saturday at closing stores

A look inside a Borders Bookstore
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The company handling the liquidation sales at some 200 Borders Books stores announced today the sales will begin Saturday.   Hilco Merchant Resources of Chicago issued a press release saying the liquidation will begin with 20 to 40% on all merchandize with some exceptions. Over $350 million of inventory including books, magazines, music and movie media, calendars, posters and more will be liquidated.  

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Politics
4:23 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Snyder administration wants legislature to undo 'live-in partner' benefits

Governor Rick Snyder has asked the Legislature to reverse an employment panel’s decision to allow un-married state workers to claim their live-in partners on their benefits.  

The governor’s letter gives the Legislature 60 days to overturn the state Civil Service Commission’s decision. Reversing the independent Civil Service Commission will require two-thirds majorities in the House and the Senate. Both are controlled by Republicans, but getting to the necessary super-majorities is not guaranteed.  

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Economy
4:14 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

State Senate approves bill giving control over Sunday AM liquor sales to local governments

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state Senate approved a measure this week that would allow local governments to once again prohibit Sunday morning liquor sales. 

The measure would allow local governments to opt out of the Sunday morning liquor law approved by the Legislature late last year. Lawmakers who sponsored the new measure say the opt-out was always supposed to be included in the original package, but was accidentally left out because it was slapped together and approved during hasty lame-duck negotiations. 

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Education
3:48 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Snyder's proposed education cuts are 'problematic' for school districts

Governor Snyder wants to cut K-12 school funding by $470 per student
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder wants to cut state funding for K-12 schools by about four percent, or roughly $470 per student.

School districts across the state are now combing through their budgets to see where those cuts could be made.

Tom Goulding is deputy superintendent for West Bloomfield public schools. He says the proposed cuts, which amount to $3.2 million for Goulding's district, don't come as a complete surprise, but they're still "problematic" just the same:

"For example, that type of a cut, if you looked at certain departments or services, could wipe out our K-12 transportation system; not that it would, but the dollars are equivalent to that. Or, based on our total payroll to make up the $3.2 million, it would mean approximately an 8.5% pay cut for each employee working for our school district."

Goulding says neither of those options would go over well in his district.

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