technology
7:18 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Grand Rapids Police accepting reports for some crimes online

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

People can report vandalism, petty theft, and other crimes that are not emergencies or incidents where the victim doesn’t know who did it to the Grand Rapids Police online.

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Education
5:06 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Detroit schools outsource more than 800 jobs

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools officials have announced their biggest wave of outsourcing yet.

The district will eliminate more than 800 custodial and engineering jobs next month, and contract the work out to the facilities management giant Sodexo. Sodexo, in turn, will subcontract to seven local business.

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Politics
4:43 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Proposal calls for revenue sharing based on population

Proposals for different ways the state delivers payments to local governments for services are bubbling up at the state Capitol.

A bill in the state Senate would distribute revenue sharing payments to cities, townships and villages based on population.

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Detroit
4:30 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

"Detroit Works" begins second round of community meetings

Peter Martorano Flickr

The second round of meetings in a project to re-imagine Detroit starts tonight.

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Auto/Economy
4:28 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Levin calls for more hybrid car tax credits

Congressman Sander Levin
http://www.house.gov/levin/

A Michigan Congressman says U.S. automakers need more help to sell large numbers of electric and hybrid vehicles.

The Obama administration has set a goal of one million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015.

There’s already a federal tax credit of $7,500 to help defray the cost of buying a hybrid or electric car.   But there’s a cap on how many of the credits are available to each automaker. 

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Detroit Politics
4:20 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Oakland Co. asks judge to put Detroit water dept. in hands of regional committee

William Warby Flickr

Update January 27, 4:18 p.m.:


 


Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says it’s “ludicrous” to suggest that the city give up control of its massive water system.


Legislation at the state Capitol, and a motion filed this week in federal court, would do just that.


Mayor Bing says he plans to examine the system’s problems, and he plans to fix them.



"I’m not here to defend past practices. I’m not here to defend the management, on a historical basis. My job here today is to look forward."


Bing says people think Detroit is in a weak position, and they’re trying to take advantage of that.


 


Update January 27th, 8:24 a.m.:


Wayne County Executive Robert A. Ficano has issued the following statement regarding the current situation with the DWSB:

"Today, we met as regional leaders to discuss Mayor Bing's plans for DWSD. It was a very productive meeting, containing very open and pointed discussion of the serious challenges within the department.  I am disappointed in the filing by the Oakland County Drain Commissioner, as this action contradicts the spirit of the discussion earlier today.


I believe in giving the Mayor an opportunity to explore the current operation, correct the mistakes and practices by the previous administration, and allow him to move forward and put in place accountable, transparent operation.


I believe now is not the time to be divisive, but to work cooperatively."


January 26th, 6:10 p.m.:


Oakland County is asking a federal judge to create a regional committee to oversee Detroit’s massive water system. It’s the latest development in a long-running dispute between the city and the suburbs over the scandal-plagued department.


John McCullough is the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner. He says some $200 million are expected to be spent upgrading the system in the coming year.



"And since 60 percent of these corrections are going to be paid for by suburban customers, it really provides an effective way of the entire region to weigh in as to the proposed solutions and how those costs will be addressed."


The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has been under federal oversight since the late 1970s because of Clean Water Act violations.


Late last year,the Justice Department identified 13 scams in which water department contracts worth tens of millions of dollars were allegedly steered to a friend of Detroit’s former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

Politics
4:04 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Repeal of item pricing law introduced in the legislature

Legislation to repeal the Michigan law that requires every item on store shelves to carry a price tag has been introduced in the state House.

Governor Rick Snyder called for an end to the 35-year-old item-pricing law last week in his State of the State address.

He says the law is outdated, and repealing it would send a message that Michigan is a business-friendly state.

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Commentary
3:43 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Guns in Church

Newly elected State Senator Mike Green, who comes from beet-growing country in Michigan’s thumb, seems to be a good and decent man. He was a tool and die maker for General Motors for thirty years, and operated a family farm most of that time.

He’s had the same wife for forty-three years; raised five kids and has more than enough grandchildren for two baseball teams.

The senator also owns a business that would make Abraham Lincoln proud -- Green’s Log Rails and Custom Log Furniture. Like Honest Abe, he is a Republican, and lacks college education. But he is very enthusiastic about guns.

So much so, that he has introduced legislation to allow people with concealed weapons permits to take guns everywhere -- churches, synagogues, bars, Joe Louis Arena. He thinks banning guns anywhere is outrageous. “Why do you need to give your Constitutional right away when you go to some places?“ he asks.

There are a number of ways to answer that, but the easiest and simplest is that there is no Constitutional right to take a weapon anywhere. That’s not a left-wing anti-gun point of view.

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Auto/Economy
2:24 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

General Motors' financial health improves

General Motors is saying thanks but no thanks to more federal loans.  The Detroit automaker is withdrawing its application for more than 14-billion dollars in low-cost loans from the Department of Energy.   

Many car companies including Ford have received DOE loans, which are intended to help auto companies revamp factories to build more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.  GM applied for loans through the program shortly after emerging from bankruptcy.  But the automaker says its financial situation has improved since then. 

Gerry Meyers is a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He's also a former Chairman of American Motors Corporation.  He says taking the loans would have given GM more debt.   And the automaker told prospective IPO investors late last year that it would avoid going deeply into debt.

It’s quite clear that they’re trying to clean up that balance sheet and also get the government out of the business, so it’s just another step in that direction and I think it’s wise.

Meyers says the next step to GM’s recovery is to stop the revolving door at the top executive level.  The company has had four CEOs in two years.   

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Auto/Economy
1:07 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

GM plans to "go green" without government help

GM says it won't apply for low-interest government loans.
user santoshkrishnan wikimedia commons

The new GM has been turning a corner of late. It posted three profitable quarters last year:

  • $865 million in the first quarter
  • $1.6 billion in the second quarter
  • $2.1 billion in the third quarter

(still waiting on fourth quarter numbers)

Now, in another sign of financial health, the auto company says it will no longer seek government loans to help it modernize factories:

From the Associated Press:

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Economy
12:48 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Michigan cities rank low on list of home foreclosure hot spots

No Michigan housing markets rank among the 25 worst for home foreclosures in a new national survey.    But, that may change by the end of this year.  

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Environment
10:18 am
Thu January 27, 2011

Wind turbines close to home

There's a lot of debate about how close wind turbines should be built to homes.
Callum Black Flickr

The North Carolina based giant Duke Energy wants to build more than a hundred 500 foot tall turbines in rural Benzie and Manistee counties.  Bob Allen reports this proposed wind farm is causing divisions in communities up north.

Michigan officials have identified parts of these two counties as having the 2nd highest wind potential in the state. 

Alan O’Shea has been in the renewable energy business for the past thirty years. 

“We don’t have to wait for Michigan to heal. This project can heal northern Michigan. I mean there are people, workers that are here looking for jobs.”

But there also are people in the area opposed to this project.

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Auto/Economy
7:22 am
Thu January 27, 2011

Treasury Department hopes to sell off remaining GM stock within 2 years

U.S. Treasury Department, Washington, D.C.
Wally G Flickr

The head of the government's bailout program says the U.S. Treasury Department hopes to sell its remaining shares of General Motors stock over the next two years.

The Associated Press reports:

Timothy Massad, the senior Treasury official managing the government bailout fund, told a congressional hearing that there is now a path forward for Treasury to sell its remaining shares in GM over the next two years if market conditions permit. The Treasury Department trimmed its stake in GM to 26.5 percent of the company, down from 61 percent, when it sold $23.1 billion of GM stock at an initial public offering in November.

State Legislature
7:12 am
Thu January 27, 2011

A part-time Michigan legislature?

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Republican state Representative Dave Agema introduced a bill yesterday that would amend the state's constitution to create a part-time legislature, rather than the full-time legislature that Michigan currently has.

The Associated Press calls it a, "long-shot" as efforts to make the legislature part-time have failed in the past. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry agrees. He says he doesn't think the bill will go anywhere.

The AP reports:

Advocates say it would save money and force lawmakers to be more efficient when conducting business at the state Capitol.

Peter Luke of Mlive.com explains:

Agema’s amendment would limit the Legislature, which convenes on the second Wednesday of every January, to 150 consecutive days of session. Budget bills would have to be completed by June 15; it’s now Sept. 30. Extra days could be scheduled, but only for extraordinary reasons that aren’t specified.

Great Lakes
6:57 am
Thu January 27, 2011

Federal officials to hold public meetings today on Asian carp threat

Public meetings will be held today in Traverse City about the threat of Asian carp to the Great Lakes
Kate.Gardner Flickr

Want to hear how the federal government plans to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes? Well, now's the time. John Goss, the Obama administration's point man in the fight against Asian carp, will be part of a federal delegation visiting Traverse City today for back-to-back public meetings.

The Associated Press reports:

The officials will outline their strategy and take comments on a long-range study of how to prevent the carp and other invasive species from migrating between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.

Environmentalists, Michigan and four other Great Lakes states want to sever the man-made link between the two aquatic systems. The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting the study and says that's one option.

Activists also say the study's planned completion date of 2015 isn't soon enough.

There's concern that if the Asian carp make their way into the Great Lakes that they could wreak havoc on the lakes' eco-systems.

Arts/Culture
7:01 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

The 1913 Room restaurant to close after 30 years

The 1913 Room is inside the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

One of the state’s most renowned restaurants will close its doors this spring. The 1913 Room in Grand Rapids is Michigan’s only AAA five diamond-rated restaurants.

Doug Small is president of Experience Grand Rapids – the area’s visitors and convention bureau.

“This is not the end of the world for dining in Grand Rapids. It’s actually something to celebrate.”

The French inspired, super fancy 1913 Room will be replaced by a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse this fall. Small says the upscale international chain does their homework before investing in a location.

“They’re seeing something in Grand Rapids that’s alive and well and I believe - the recent numbers that we just published that show that convention business is up. Hotel room revenue is at an all time high during a down economy so it supports their reasoning for coming to this community.”

Small says his group certainly touted having the only 5 diamond restaurant in the state, but says it never closed any deals.

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Politics
5:43 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Canadian environmental group fights new border crossing

The Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor

A Canadian environmental group says studies supporting the proposed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) are flawed.

DRIC supporters on both sides of the border say a new crossing will create jobs and bolster international trade.

The Canadian and Ontario governments strongly support the project, and Governor Snyder recently voiced his approval too.

But a Sierra Club of Ontario report says the traffic projections DRIC supporters cite are flawed. They say cross-border traffic has declined for 12 years, and shows no sign of rebounding anytime soon.
Sierra Club director Dan McDermott says the DRIC would be a costly boondoggle.

“There is simply no demand for DRIC. No cross-border traffic demand that justifies five-plus billions of dollars.”

McDermott says he hopes the report will bolster its cases against the DRIC in Canadian courts. Those lawsuits challenge the project’s environmental permits.

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Politics
5:09 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Michigan Municipal League calls for region-based taxes

Michigan’s local governments say if the state cuts revenue sharing, then they should be allowed to ask voters for new taxes to replace that money.

The Michigan Municipal League met with Governor Rick Snyder last week, and has answered his call for proposals to save money and cut costs for local governments, and to make communities more viable and attractive.

Dan Gilmartin is executive director of the Municipal League. He says it starts by looking at regions:

Economies in Michigan are regional. The dirty little secret is there is no state economy. And there’s certainly no local economy. Economies are regional.

Gilmartin says local governments need the authority to ask voters for region-based taxes to support development, and maintain roads and services.

Auto/Economy
4:41 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Distractions rise - but distracted driving deaths don't

Kordite


U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood met with Ford CEO Alan Mulally on Tuesday to discuss the "epidemic" of distracted driving, as LaHood calls it.


LaHood’s self-described rampage against distracted driving has mostly focused on cell phone use in cars.  But the Secretary has also angered many people in the car business for criticizing profit-driving car technologies like Onstar and Sync. 


Many studies show that using a cell phone in the car is distracting.  And so are a lot of other things, especially if they pile up.  Let’s say you’re driving and there’s a kid in the back seat crying.  That’s distracting.  If you remember the Ed Sullivan show, you can think of that as one plate spinning on top of a pole.

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Politics
4:35 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Commission approves partner benefits over Snyder administration objections

Gregory Roberts

Most state employees will be allowed to carry their live-in partners on their health insurance benefits starting October first.

The state Civil Service Commission has approved domestic partner benefit agreements with two public employee unions and non-unionized state workers.

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration objected to the Civil Service Commission’s adoption of the policy because of the added cost.

The agreements were worked out between state employee unions and Governor Jennifer Granholm’s administration before she left office. The new rules will cover 70% of all state employees, although just a small fraction are expected to file the affidavit for unmarried partner benefits.

Unmarried partners who’ve lived with a state employee for a year or more and their dependents will be eligible.

The rules apply equally to same-sex partners and male-female couples. Courts have ruled that is the only way public employers such as universities, cities or the state can offer benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees without running afoul of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

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