News Roundup
8:39 am
Wed January 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

New Faces in D.C.

All of Michigan's 15 U.S. Congressional Representatives will take the oath of office today in Washington, D.C. Five of the members are new to Congress: Republicans Dan Benishek, Bill Huizenga, Justin Amash, and Tim Walberg, and Democrat Hansen Clarke. Representative Tim Walberg, though, could be considered a 'second year freshman' as he won a seat in Congress in 2006 but lost it in 2008.  He won back the seat in this past November's election.

Splitsville for the DNRE

Governor Rick Snyder issued the first executive order of his administration yesterday.  The order splits up the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment into two departments: the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality.  The split will take effect on March 13th. In a statement released yesterday, Snyder said:

Michigan is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and we need to be a leader and innovator in protecting these resources. Recreational fishing, hunting and boating activities alone contribute more than $3 billion annually to our economy.  Separating the DEQ and DNR means we can better address these key priorities.

RichRod Rumors

Whether or not you care about the story, it's no doubt that you, at the very least, heard rumblings about the possible firing of the University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez... that is, unless, you were ONLY listening to Michigan Radio.  The station decided not to report yesterday's swirling rumors about Rodriguez's job.  You can read more about the station's decision to wait to cover the story here.

U.S. Congress
8:19 am
Wed January 5, 2011

Get to know your Representative in D.C.

Three of the five new Michigan Congressmen (l-r, Dan Benishek, Bill Huizenga and Justin Amash)
Photo courtesy of huizengaforcongress.com

Michigan's congressional delegation is getting a makeover. One-third of its 15 members will be new when they're sworn in later this afternoon at the Capitol.  Here's a rundown of who is in... and who is out:

1st District

Republican Dan Benishek won the race to succeed veteran Democrat Bart Stupak in Michigan’s 1st District which covers all of the Upper Peninsula and parts of the northern Lower Peninsula. Stupak announced last April that he would not seek a 10th term in Washington. Benishek was a Tea-Party favorite and was endorsed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

2nd District

Republican Bill Huizenga beat Democrat Fred Johnson in Michigan’s 3rd District in western Michigan.  Huizenga takes the seat left open by Republican Pete Hoekstra who was a GOP candidate for governor in the state’s 2010 primary.

3rd District

West Michigan freshman state lawmaker Justin Amash beat his Democratic challenger Pat Miles in Michigan’s 3rd District which covers parts of west Michigan. At 30 years old, Amash will become one of the nation’s youngest U.S. Congressmen.  He had Tea-Party backing.

4th District

Republican Dave Camp won an 11th term as Representative of Michigan’s 4th District.  Camp beat his democrat challenger Jerry Campbell.  The 4th District includes parts of Saginaw County, as well as northern and central Michigan.

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U.S. Congress
8:02 am
Wed January 5, 2011

Michigan's Congressional delegation to be sworn in today

Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Flickr

Members of Michigan's Congressional delegation will take the oath of office today at the nation's Capitol. As we've reported, the state's delegation is full of new faces. The Associated Press reports:

Longtime congressmen and first-termers alike are scheduled to be sworn in en masse at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, and incoming House Speaker John Boehner is to hold individual ceremonies for some lawmakers later in the day. One of those getting an individual swearing-in ceremony is Justin Amash, a Republican from the Grand Rapids area. New Michigan Republican congressman Tim Walberg of Tipton also will be sworn in individually by Boehner around the same time.

There are 15 members of the state's Congressional delegation, five of them are new.  Although, GOP Representative Tim Walberg could be considered a 'second year freshman' as he won a seat in Congress in 2006 but lost it in 2008.  He won back the seat in this past November's election.

North American International Auto Show
7:47 am
Wed January 5, 2011

Pelosi to visit Detroit auto show

Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Public Citizen Flickr

Representative Nancy Pelosi, outgoing Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, will visit the North American International Auto Show next week in Detroit.

The Democratic Representative from California says she will visit the show on Monday, which is the first day of previews for the media.  The show opens to the public on January 15th and runs through January 23rd at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit.

As the Associated Press reports:

Pelosi says a string manufacturing base is vital to the nation's security and competitiveness. She says Detroit's automakers are central to efforts to grow a "clean, green economy."

The Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan Democratic Representative John Dingell invited Pelosi to the show.

Governor Snyder
7:12 am
Wed January 5, 2011

In first executive order, Snyder splits up the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder issued the first executive order of his administration yesterday. The order splits up oversight of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment into two state departments: the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality.

The executive order takes effect March 13th. As The Associated Press reports:

Gov. John Engler separated the natural resources and environmental quality functions into different agencies in 1995, but Gov. Jennifer Granholm rejoined them in 2009 in a cost-saving move. Snyder now says the job would best be handled by two agencies.

Rodney Stokes will head the Department of Natural Resources and Dan Wyant will head the Department of Environment Quality.

In a statement released yesterday, the Governor said:

“Michigan is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and we need to be a leader and innovator in protecting these resources. Recreational fishing, hunting and boating activities alone contribute more than $3 billion annually to our economy.  Separating the DEQ and DNR means we can better address these key priorities.”

Politics
6:49 am
Wed January 5, 2011

'Pure MI' campaign to be used to market state as business destination

The state’s new economic development chief says the “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign should also be used as a tool to grow and attract businesses. Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing Bureau Chief sent us this report from the Capitol:

Michael Finney was confirmed as the new CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation by its board of directors. Finney was Governor Rick Snyder’s choice to lead the agency.

Finney says the “Pure Michigan” campaign is already a success story in selling the state as a tourist destination:

So we want to find ways to use that as a brand that will represent both tourism and business in our state. We think it’s a great brand and we intend on exploring that further as we go about our business of effectively marketing Michigan as a desired place to grow a business.

Finney says that can be done using free media and without increasing the Pure Michigan ad budget. He also says there will be a shift in the focus of the state’s economic development efforts toward helping entrepreneurs who are already in Michigan grow their businesses and hire more workers.

News Director Off-Mic
10:47 pm
Tue January 4, 2011

Rich Rodriguez Rumors: Why it’s more important to be certain than to be first

Rich Rodriguez in 2007 accepting the coaching position at UM
Detroit News Creative Commons

Lots of media outlets in Southeast Michigan reported yesterday that University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez had been fired. It wasn’t a surprise and everyone has been waiting for it to happen, and some listeners thought it was odd they didn’t hear about it on Michigan Radio. 


Want to know why? Well, couldn’t nail the rumors down as true, so we didn’t report it. Turns out that was the right decision.

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Education
6:04 pm
Tue January 4, 2011

Detroit Public Schools gets "technology infusion"

Detroit Public Schools' Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb

Detroit Public Schools classrooms will be getting almost $50 million worth of technological upgrades through federal stimulus funds.

 

The district’s Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb, calls the effort an “unprecedented” technological “infusion.”

 

Every Detroit middle and high school-student will get netbooks to use in the classroom.

 

District spokeswoman Kisha Verdusco says teachers will also get netbooks, and an array of other technologies to facilitate learning.

 

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Auto/Economy
4:38 pm
Tue January 4, 2011

Troy police enforce "distracted driving" law, issue tickets

It's illegal to text or talk on the phone while driving in Troy, MI
C. Todd Lopez Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

The city of Troy, Michigan has taken the state’s “no texting while driving” law a bit further, making it illegal to talk on the phone while driving, among other things.

The city's distracted driving ordinance went into effect last July, but the city didn’t officially start to enforce it until the first week of January, 2011. According to the city's website, the following actions can cause "distracted driving":

"Such action can include but is not limited to: eating, reading, writing, performing personal hygiene/grooming, physical interaction with pets, passengers, or unsecured cargo, any of which is

done in a manner tat prohibits the driver from maintaining direct physical control of the motor vehicle steering mechanism with at least one hand that is free of all other objects and used entirely to form a controlled grip on the steering mechanism."

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Sports
2:41 pm
Tue January 4, 2011

Reports: Rodriguez fired, may get $2.5 million in buyout

Rich Rodriguez was let go today as UofM's football coach
user NHN_2009 creative commons

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m.:

The University of Michigan is calling the reports that head football coach Rich Rodriguez has been fired "speculation." TheWolverine.com reports that the University released this statement:

"Everything that is being reported is media speculation at this point," Dave Ablauf, U-M associate athletic director said in a statement. "The definitive voice on this matter is Dave Brandon and he has not and will not speak publicly until a final decision has been made. I will let you know when Dave is prepared to comment."

The website reports that the players meeting that had been scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight was moved to 4 p.m. tomorrow.

UPDATE: 4:24 p.m.: ESPN analysts talk about the Rich Rodriguez firing. Say it was a "marriage [that] never started out on the right foot." Analyst Craig James says Rodriguez told him that people were not on the same page when he came to Ann Arbor.

2:41 p.m.:

Fox News in Detroit and the Detroit Free Press are reporting that the University of Michigan's head football coach, Rich Rodriguez, has been fired.

According to the Fox report:

Sources tell Fox 2 that Rich Rodriguez was fired as head coach of the University of Michigan football team Tuesday.

The University of Michigan might have to pay Rodriguez $2.5 million to buy out the final three years of his contract.

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balancing budgets
1:40 pm
Tue January 4, 2011

Kalamazoo balances city budget with ease, for now…

Kalamazoo City Commission discusses the city's finances Monday night.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Kalamazoo has a new balanced budget in place…with no layoffs, tax increases or cuts to city services. City commissioners unanimously approved the 2011 budget plan Monday night.

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Culture
1:33 pm
Tue January 4, 2011

Taking a slim shot at $330 million

Mark Newransky, Michigan Lottery winner. The "Mega Millions" jackpot is up to $330 million
Michigan Lottery

10-12-13-35-56 (Power Ball 9)... don't pick those numbers. They didn't win last week, and they're not likely to win in the next one hundred million years.

The "Mega Millions" jackpot has reached $330 million today causing a buying frenzy of tickets. Another set of numbers will be drawn tonight (drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday night at 11 p.m. eastern).

According to Durango Bill (and who doesn't trust Durango Bill?), your chances of winning are around one in 175,711,536.

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Sports
12:27 pm
Tue January 4, 2011

Rich Rodriguez likely to learn about his future this afternoon

Univ. of Michigan's Athletic Director David Brandon (left) and Head Football Coach Rich Rodriguez at a press conference late last year.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The head coach of the University of Michigan's football team might learn about his future today.

AnnArbor.com is reporting that University of Michigan Athletic Director, David Brandon, will meet with the university's head football coach, Rich Rodriguez, this afternoon:

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon will meet with embattled coach Rich Rodriguez early this afternoon to discuss his future with the Wolverines football program, according to two people with knowledge of the meetings.

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Environment
12:04 pm
Tue January 4, 2011

Recycling your Christmas tree

Christmas tree drop-off sites are becoming more common.
(Photo by mmhaffie, Flickr)

So you’ve put away all the ornaments and the lights and the tinsel... and you have that bare tree in your living room... what now?  It’s not illegal in Michigan to throw your Christmas tree away... but a lot of cities and counties do recycle them... and chip them up into mulch.  The recycling website Earth 911 lets you type in your zip code to find tree drop-off sites near you.

I talked with Marsha Gray - she's the executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association. She says the first thing you should do if you want to recycle your tree is call the people who pick up your trash.

“You want to ask them if they do a separate collection for the trees. If they’re collecting them separately from your regular trash, that means they’re most likely recycling, probably chipping those trees into mulch. If they’re collecting at the same time and they’re going right into the bin that means they will go to the landfill."

Marsha's tips for recycling - or reusing your tree:

  • If your waste hauler won't recycle your tree... call your city or county park department.  There's a good chance they offer a drop-off site for the first few weeks of January.
  • Stand your tree up next to the birdfeeder for a little perching spot for birds while they wait their turn at the feeder.
  • Use the branches as plant stakes
  • If you're really ambitious, break out the chainsaw and remove the branches (you don't want to burn these in a fire - they can spark!), cut the trunk into logs, and add them to your log pile to season for a year.  Free firewood for next Christmas!
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Opinion
11:25 am
Tue January 4, 2011

Commentary: Between the Cracks

A former student sent me an e-mail a couple days ago that made me both happy for her and concerned about our state. She had been a “ninety-niner,” Beth confided, and her prospects looked bleak.

She worried about having to move back in with mom and dad. But then, on Christmas Eve, she got a job. “Not a glamorous job, but a necessary one,” she said.

That made me happy for Beth, but also reminded me that there are at least 162,000 other ninety-niners in this state who aren’t as lucky. Ninety-niners, by the way, are people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

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Environment
11:11 am
Tue January 4, 2011

Supreme Court Gives You the Right to Sue the State

The Michigan Supreme Court
Photo by larrysphatpage, Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court says anyone can sue the state if they believe it's acting in a way that harms the environment. 

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra talked with Nick Schroeck with the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center to find out what this decision means. He says if a company wants to do something like discharge treated wastewater into a creek or a river, for example, it needs a permit from the state to do so:

“The way our environmental law works, you have to have a permit to pollute, as it were. That means that the state regulates the amount of pollution that’s allowed into the waters of the state.”

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Health
10:53 am
Tue January 4, 2011

Update: An estimated 700 Michigan bars took part in NYE smoking ban protest

A spokesman says 700 bars protested the state's smoking ban on New Year's Eve
user capl@washjeff.edu creative commons

We reported last week that some 400 Michigan bar owners planned to ignore the state's smoking ban and allow patrons to light up on New Year's Eve.

Steve Mace is with the Protect Private Property Rights Movement in Michigan, the group that organized the protest. He issued a press release today with an update on how the protest went:

"There were an estimated 700 bars that took back their property right on New Years Eve. Exceeding all expectations. While confirmations continue to come in, we are confident this number will grow significantly. Several bar owners have reported already receiving calls from county health departments. Bar owners remain hopeful that the pro-ban lobby and the minority that support them, did in fact flood the county and district health departments with complaints. This will assist to provide conclusive evidence that this ban is in fact enforced 45 separate ways statewide. "

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Economy
8:52 am
Tue January 4, 2011

Food for Thought - Food Safety vs Michigan Farmers

Farm fresh vegetables at Witherbees Market in Flint, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

President Obama is expected today to sign legislation to improve the nation’s food safety.  The new law will put more regulations on Michigan farmers. 


2010 ended with national recalls of parsley, alfalfa sprouts and cilantro because of possible salmonella contamination.  The recalls were just the latest problems that prompted Congress to revamp the nation’s food safety system. The changes include better tracking of all kinds of food, from the farmer’s field to the consumer’s plate.  

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News Roundup
7:45 am
Tue January 4, 2011

In this morning's news...

Governor Snyder Gets to Work

Governor Rick Snyder met yesterday with his budget chief, John Nixon, and other members of his senior staff. Snyder is working on a six month plan for the state and wants to re-organize government, reform business taxes, and have a two-year budget completed by July 1st, Rick Pluta reports. Snyder is also expected to name more members of his cabinet this week, including state Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan as head of the state Department of Human Services.

Auto Sales Numbers Released Today

December auto sales numbers are due out later today and it’s expected to be another good month for Detroit’s automakers, Steve Carmody reports. It’s predicted that December will be the third straight month of strong domestic auto sales. Carmody spoke with one analyst who expects the new numbers will show vehicle sales topped 12 million last year and predicts an improving economy could push sales to 13 million vehicles this year.

Report: Homicides Dropped in Detroit in 2010

Detroit police are reporting that homicides and non-fatal shootings decreased in Detroit in 2010. Unofficial numbers show there were 308 homicides last year. That’s a 15.4 percent drop from 2009, the Associated Press reports. Non-fatal shootings dropped 10.5 percent. Reuters reports that Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee said:

…a focus on deploying officers to higher crime areas based on daily trends contributed to the murder decline. To build on those gains, Detroit must "continue to address systemic issues that contribute to violent criminal acts," Godbee said in a statement.

AUTO
6:43 am
Tue January 4, 2011

GM CEO to meet with Michigan lawmakers

General Motors' Headquarters, Detroit, MI
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Dan Akerson, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, is planning to meet Friday with members of Michigan's congressional delegation.  That's according to an official familiar with the meeting.  The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that, "it will give Akerson a chance to meet some Michigan lawmakers for the first time".

Akerson was named GM's CEO in September, 2010. GM has not yet commented on the meeting.

As the AP notes:

Michigan's 15 House members and two senators were key allies for GM as it underwent a government-led bankruptcy in 2009. The Detroit company had its initial public offering last November, reducing the government's ownership share to 33.3 percent.

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