Politics
5:26 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Benton Harbor called "ground zero" in fight over emergency manager powers

Benton Harbor's state-appointed emergency manager Joe Harris. Harris was the first emergency manager to use broad new powers granted to him by the state legislature and Governor Rick Snyder.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The emergency financial manager of Benton Harbor, Joe Harris, says the city will have a budget surplus in the coming fiscal year.

Harris says that’s because the new powers given to emergency managers allowed him to do his job more effectively.

Harris says that means he could leave Benton Harbor after two years of work, rather than the five years he originally thought it would take to turn the city around.

But not everyone is thrilled with the work Joe Harris has done, or with the new laws that granted him sweeping power over Benton Harbor.

Some big names have focused on Benton Harbor recently.

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Education
4:56 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Governor outlines education reforms plan

Noah Smith Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder was in Detroit today to outline his expansive education reform plans. The governor says Michigan does not have to spend more money to improve the performance of a failing education system.

The governor say it’s largely a matter of reallocating resources to reward success and to craft a system that reflects Michigan’s new economic realities.

Governor Snyder says his education plan would refocus schools on student advancement and performance, empower teachers and hold them responsible, and offer parents more options when schools are failing.

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Politics
4:53 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Rally in Benton Harbor against Emergency Manager's takeover

Benton Harbr Mayor Wilce Cook told the crowd "We the people have a right to determine our own destiny, not have someone else do it."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

About 200 people attended a rally in Benton Harbor against Joe Harris, the city’s emergency financial manager. Joe Harris was appointed to take over the city’s troubled finances last year by Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Harris is the first Emergency Manager in Michigan to exercise broad new powers Governor Rick Snyder signed into law last month. The law gives emergency managers more power to fix financial problems in school districts, cities and villages. Three cities (Benton Harbor Ecorse and Pontiac) and Detroit Public Schools are run by emergency managers.

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Religion
4:36 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Qur'an burning Florida pastor returning to Michigan Thursday

Pastor Terry Jones speaks to reporters outside the Dearborn police station
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones returns to southeast Michigan Thursday.  Jones tried to hold a rally outside a Dearborn mosque last week to protest radical Islam.   But he ended up spending time in the city jail for defying a court order.   

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Investigative
4:20 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Some legislators voting to eliminate their own business taxes

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The Michigan legislature and Governor Rick Snyder are considering a new tax structure for the state.  It would cut the state budget and shift some of the tax burden from businesses to individuals.  The Governor has said up to two-thirds of Michigan’s businesses might not have to file a state tax return at all.  Reporters Lester Graham and Bridget Bodnar with Michigan Watch learned that means some legislators who own businesses could be voting to cut their own taxes.

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Education
4:15 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

State House Education committee passes bill to 'decertify' teachers' unions that authorize strikes

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state House Education committee has approved a bill that would decertify a teachers’ union if the teachers vote to go on strike.  Individual teachers could also be fined or fired under the legislation.  It’s illegal for teachers to strike in Michigan. 

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association.    He says state lawmakers want to silence teachers.

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Politics
3:54 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Moroun family donates $1.5 million to candidates in 2009-2010

Detroit's Ambassador Bridge
Di Bedard Flickr

The powerful Moroun family donated just under $1.5 million to political candidates during the 2009-2010 election cycle.

The Morouns own the Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the Ambassador Bridge. They are also against building a new international bridge, which Governor Snyder is in favor of constructing.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

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Arts/Culture
2:59 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

The fate of ABC's "Detroit 1-8-7"

Detroit 1-8-7: The star's chairs are captured in this photo. The kicker? The photo was taken in Atlanta, GA while the crew was on a shoot there. The magic of Hollywood.
user downeym Flickr

There's been a lot of speculation over whether the television program Detroit 1-8-7 will stick around.

Melissa Burden wrote about the speculation in today's Detroit News:

A local actors union said it has confirmed with producers of "Detroit 1-8-7" that the show is leaving the Motor City for good, even if it's picked up for a second season.

An administrator for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Detroit chapter posted Tuesday on the group's Facebook page that the cop drama is leaving Michigan.

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Arts/Culture
2:36 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

New stage play pays tribute to Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell

The play "Ernie" pays tribute to Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell.
Joel Dinda flickr

Ernie Harwell fans will get to relive some of the famed baseball announcer’s past in a new play called, appropriately enough, “Ernie.”

The play, which opens Thursday, Apr. 28 at the City Theatre in Detroit, was written by Mitch Albom. The story takes place on the night the beloved Tigers announcer gave his farewell speech at Comerica Park. Before his speech, he runs into a young baseball fan, who coaxes Harwell to reflect on his own life.

The play also includes vintage footage of Harwell, including some of his most famous calls.

Veteran Michigan actor Will David Young plays Ernie, which he calls "the biggest rush" he's ever experienced:

"So many people considered Ernie a grandfather figure, uncle figure, father figure. People who knew him well considered him a mentor with his gentleness, humor, humanitiy; it’s daunting playing a figure like that."

As for that famous Harwell cadence? Young says he tried to get into "that touch of Georgia twang."

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Education
2:19 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Detroit schools chief: Snyder offers "bold" education plan

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb watches Denby High School student Erica Green use a new netbook in geometry class.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools praised Governor Snyder’s education agenda.

Robert Bobb says his call to have every child proficient in reading by the end of third grade is important. And Bobb says he likes Snyder’s ideas for allowing more charter schools.

"I just think that he has put a very bold plan in front of every educational institution in Michigan. And it’s now up to all of the professionals in education to stand behind him and to move as aggressively as possible."

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Education
1:49 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

A closer look at Snyder's education reforms

scui3asteveo / flickr

Today, Governor Rick Snyder laid out his plan for education reform in Michigan. All Things Considered Host, Jenn White, sat down with Tom Watkins to discuss the details in Snyder's plan. Watkins is a Former State Superintendent who is currently a business and educational consultant in the United States and China. 

Economy
12:27 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Michigan retailers feeling pain from soaring gasoline prices

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan retailers say 4 dollar a gallon gasoline is taking a bite out of their business.  The latest survey by the Michigan Retailers Association says state businesses saw a marked decline in sales in March, as gasoline prices started to soar.    Michigan retail sales slumped to their lowest level since last July. 

Tom Scott is with the association.  

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Education
12:18 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Governor Snyder: Move education system into one built for technological age

Governor Rick Snyder unveiled his vision for education in Michigan today. He says he wants education in Michigan to embrace a more modern worldview.
michigan/gov

In a speech at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan's office in Detroit this morning, Governor Snyder laid out his plans for reforming Michigan's education system.

It's a system that Snyder said needs to be transformed from one "still rooted in the days of a mostly farm-based society to one that prepares students for the technological age of today and jobs of tomorrow."

Snyder says the need for reform is clear. In a message to the state legislature that outlined his broad plans, he noted the following statistics:

  • A total of 238 Michigan high schools have zero college-ready students based on the spring 2010 ACT test
  • Only 16% of all students statewide are college-ready based on the ACT taken in spring 2010 as a part of the MME
  • Fewer than 50% of students are proficient in writing based on fall 2010 MEAP data in grades 4 and 7 and spring 2010 Michigan Merit Examination (MME) data for grade 11
  • Michigan ranks 21st in the country in total current expenditures per-pupil, yet it ranks 39th in the nation when it comes to fourth grade math proficiency and 34th in reading proficiency

Here's a summary of Snyder's education plan:

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Arts/Culture
9:25 am
Wed April 27, 2011

Aretha Franklin plans hometown concert

Aretha Franklin says she's in better health and will hold a concert in Michigan this August.
Ben Alman Flickr

Last December, there was a lot of speculation about Aretha Franklin's health after she went into a hospital for undisclosed reasons. People held a prayer vigil, and there was speculation the soul singer had cancer.

Now she's back. Last February the AP reported she had "revamped her diet, giving up her beloved chitterlings, pigs' feet and ham hocks in favor of a Whole Foods-type diet."

She's getting ready to release a new album and is planning a hometown concert.

From the Associated Press:

Almost five months after undergoing serious surgery, hall of fame singer Aretha Franklin is coming out with a new album and has scheduled a hometown concert.

The 69-year-old Queen of Soul will play DTE Energy Music Theatre on Aug. 25. It's in Clarkston, north of her native Detroit.

And Franklin's new CD, "Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love," will be released in Wal-Mart stores on Tuesday.

The music legend underwent surgery in early December in Detroit for an undisclosed ailment. Since then, she's lost more than 80 pounds. Franklin says the weight loss was because of a change in diet and exercise.

She canceled several performances last year because of illness, but her show at DTE is one of a handful she has booked for this spring and summer.

Commentary
9:12 am
Wed April 27, 2011

A Royal Family for Michigan?

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Earlier this week, I was talking with a battle-hardened senior TV producer in her fifties who I don‘t think of as a romantic.

“I have to cancel a meeting Thursday night,” she told me. “I have to be up by 4:30 on Friday.”

“Are you catching an early flight?” I asked. “No.” she said. “I have to watch the royal wedding.”

Thanks to the time difference, monarchical devotees who want to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton exchange vows live will have to rise before dawn.

I was impressed by that, and remember thirty years ago, when a similar wave of pan-royal excitement swept our nation when Charles and Diana were married. And then suddenly I realized that we’ve been sitting on a solution to a lot of our problems, both in this state and the nation. We need a royal family, and we’ve got the perfect candidate right here in Michigan.

I’m being perfectly serious.

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Sports
8:56 am
Wed April 27, 2011

Wolverine football great Jim Mandich dies

Jim Mandich
(photo courtesy of the University of Michigan Athletics Dept)

Jim Mandich was the captain of Bo Schembechler's 1969 squad that shocked Ohio State.  He went on to star on the Miami Dolphins 1972 team that went undefeated.   Mandich died last night after a long battle with bile duct cancer.  He was 62.   

U of M Director of Athletics Dave Brandon says Mandich was a Michigan Man "in every way."  

"“Captain Jim Mandich led a team that changed Michigan football for decades to follow...He was a legendary player and an even better person.  He will be missed."    

The following is from U of M's press release announcing Mandich's death.

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News Roundup
8:43 am
Wed April 27, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder to Deliver Education Address

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver an address about education reform this morning in Detroit. It’s being reported that the Governor will propose tougher education requirements for new teachers. Snyder has also said more attention should be given to children from before birth through their graduation from college. Snyder offered some hints as to what he might say today in an address earlier this week to an education conference in East Lansing. On Monday, the governor said student test scores are both “startling and scary.” He says he wants to relax school regulations to give teachers and principals more freedom and responsibility over educational decisions.

Severe Weather

Officials plan to survey parts of northern Allegan County to determine whether a tornado or high winds caused damage in the area, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The National Weather Service says the survey is planned for Wednesday in southwestern Michigan following damage from storms that moved through the state Tuesday evening. Two barns housing 40,000 turkeys at DeBoer Turkey Farm in Allegan County's Salem Township were toppled by the storms.

The Grand Rapids Press reports about a dozen other sites in the county were damaged…

The weather service says the storms also produced heavy rain that flooded some low lying areas. More rain was expected through Thursday, bringing with it the risk of more flooding.

Now Is the Time to Pay-Up

People and businesses that owe back taxes to the state of Michigan have until June 30th to pay up without paying fines and penalties, Rick Pluta reports. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of people and businesses that owe the state unpaid taxes. From Pluta:

The state hopes to net $90 million dollars from the tax amnesty program.  State Treasurer Andy Dillon says if you owe, now is a good time to pay, "It doesn’t matter why you didn't pay your taxes – the penalties can be forgiven. And the penalties can be quite stiff. It depends on the tax that you’re talking about, but it can be as much as 25% of the liability that can be forgiven, and the sooner you pay it off, the sooner you stop paying interest on that obligation."

This is the third time since the 1980s the state’s offered amnesty to people and businesses with unpaid back taxes.

Economy
8:39 am
Wed April 27, 2011

Whirlpool reports higher net income in the 1st quarter

2011 is off to a good start for Whirlpool.  The Benton Harbor appliance maker reported its net earnings rose in the first quarter.   Whirlpool reports its net earnings for the first three months of 2011 clocked in at $169 million, up from $164 million in the first quarter of 2010.  Total sales increased 3% to $4.4 billion.  

First-quarter operating profit totaled $228 million compared with $241 million in the prior year.  On an adjusted basis, first quarter 2011 operating profit(2) totaled $221 million compared to $287 million in 2010.  Results were favorably impacted by cost reduction and productivity initiatives, increased monetization of certain tax credits, and higher unit volume.  These favorable factors were offset by lower product price/mix and higher material and oil-related costs. 

Jeff Fettig is Whirlpool's CEO.  

"Our first quarter results reflect our ongoing cost reduction efforts and continued innovation investments, which helped to mitigate significant material cost inflation....We recently announced a 16% dividend increase, reflective of the success of our brand value creation strategy and our strong financial position.  We remain committed to attracting and retaining consumers to our brands, providing excellent service and value to our trade customers and consumers while driving lower costs and higher quality across our global operations."  

Education
6:51 am
Wed April 27, 2011

Snyder to deliver education address today in Detroit

Michigan Governor (R) Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver an address regarding the state's education system this morning at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan office in Detroit. As the Associated Press reports, an aide to Snyder says the governor will propose tougher education requirements that new Michigan teachers must meet before they can serve in the classroom. From the AP:

Snyder senior adviser Bill Rustem tells The Associated Press the state is producing more teachers than Michigan needs and can afford to raise standards.

Under Snyder's proposal, education majors would have to pass basic skills and subject matter tests before they do their student teaching.

Now, they can take the tests after they student teach.

Rustem says the governor also wants Michigan universities that offer teaching degrees to require more instruction and student teaching time.

Environment
5:01 am
Wed April 27, 2011

Michigan's air is getting cleaner (very slowly)

(Flickr Senor Codo)

Air quality is getting better in Michigan, according to a new report from the American Lung Association.  The association’s annual ‘State of the Air’ report says ozone and particle pollution rates have eased in Michigan during the past decade.    Lansing and Saginaw have some of the cleanest air among U.S. cities.  

Shelly Kiser is with the American Lung Association.     She says the report’s not all good news. 

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