Arts/Culture
11:27 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Fate of Detroit Symphony's 2011-12 season still unknown

The DSO's upcoming season is still up in the air
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians strike is now in its 26th week and the remainder of the season has been canceled.

The New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and many other orchestras around the country have announced their 2011-12 orchestra season, and tickets are already on sale.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has not been able to announce its upcoming season because of the current musicians' strike.

Mark Clague says that’s too bad because season subscriptions are an orchestra’s bread and butter.

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Commentary
11:01 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Why Business Leaders Support the Budget

The changes Governor Rick Snyder wants to make with his proposed budget are hugely controversial. But everyone agrees on this: They are designed to bring new business to Michigan.

The governor believes there is no other way to revitalize our state’s economy. But what does business really think of the governor’s budget? People in business aren’t monolithic. General Motors doesn’t have a lot in common with the mom-and-pop restaurant in my neighborhood with five employees.

So last week, I talked to two business leaders who each represent a broad cross-section of somewhat dissimilar interests. Doug Rothwell is president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, a group of seventy-six of the state’s largest employers.  Rob Fowler has the same title with the Small Business Association of Michigan, sometimes known as SBAM.

SBAM has more than ten thousand members, many of whom have fewer than a hundred employees. Fowler and Rothwell don’t always see eye to eye -- but they do on the governor’s budget.

They support it, right down the line. “I think the governor’s tax plan is the right thing to do, even though some of our members are going to pay more,” said Rothwell, who ran Detroit Renaissance before it evolved into Business Leaders two years ago.

Rob Fowler, who has also had small business leadership positions in Indiana and Ohio, put it this way: “You have to understand the moment in time we are in.”

“Sure, there are things in the governor’s plan I am sure, standing by themselves, our members would not support.”

But both men said it was vitally important to pass the plan as a whole, that if lawmakers started picking off pieces, it would fall apart.

I talked to each man separately, and discovered that what both liked most about the plan was that it offers a coherent, comprehensive strategy for Michigan’s long-term economic recovery. Rothwell noted that this was not a budget of quick fixes and one-time solutions, but one with vision.

Critics have said that the governor is just betting an hunch, gambling that slashing taxes will bring new business into the state.

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Auto
10:48 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Founder of Automobile Magazine Dies

David E. Davis, Jr., founder of Automobile Magazine
Automobile Magazine

The founder and original editor of Automobile Magazine has died. The magazine says the man who was once called "the dean of automotive journalism" died in Ann Arbor, Michigan after complications from bladder cancer surgery.

This from Automobile Magazine Deputy Editor Joe DeMatio:

Davis founded Ann Arbor-based Automobile Magazine with Rupert Murdoch’s backing in 1985 after leaving his second stint in the editor’s chair at Car and Driver, which he moved from New York City to Ann Arbor in 1977.

Davis, who had already refashioned Car and Driver into one of the most literate and entertaining special-interest magazines in America, imagined Automobile Magazine as a celebration of the automotive good life with the rallying cry “No Boring Cars,” but the slogan could just as easily have been applied to everything else in his life:

No boring stories.

No boring meetings.

No boring road trips.

No boring wardrobes.

No boring friends.

No boring employees.

No boring food.

No boring parties.

When he was stuck with boring bosses, he suffered them most reluctantly, and in fact it was his disgust with the management team at CBS, which bought Car and Driver from Ziff-Davis Publishing in the mid-1980s, that propelled him to quit what he had considered the best job in the world, editor-in-chief of Car and Driver.

DeMatio writes that "Davis is survived by his wife, Jeannie, a.k.a. J.L.K., a.k.a. 'the woman who changed my life,' his sons Matthew (himself a well-known automotive journalist) and David III, his daughter, Peg, and his stepdaughter Eleanor, and stepsons Vincent and Tony Kuhn."

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State Law
10:15 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Bill could speed up adoptions in Michigan

A bill pending in the state legislature could speed up adoptions in Michigan. 

State law requires all adoptions be approved by only one person – the superintendent of the Michigan Children’s Institute.

That leads to delays of up to two months in getting an adoption finalized.

Maura Corrigan is Director of the Michigan Department of Human Services.

She says the superintendent should be able to choose people to act in his stead.

"We’ll be able to have the adoptions approved locally by one of his designees, instead of every local case going to Lansing and be looked at there," says Corrigan.

There are more than 4,000 children eligible for adoption in Michigan.

City Budgets
8:41 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Bernero to deliver Lansing budget plan today

Lansing Mayor Virg Benero will deliver his 2012 budget today
Photo courtesy of VoteVirg.com

Lansing Mayor, and former Michigan gubernatorial candidate, Virg Bernero delivers his city's 2012 budget to the Lansing City Council tonight. It's being reported this morning that Bernero will propose a budget that contains $20 million in cuts.

The Lansing State Journal reports:

In the run-up to Monday's formal budget presentation, Bernero's staffers have sent signals about the magnitude of possible cuts. Among the most notable: the potential closure of three fire stations and elimination of 60 positions in the Fire Department.

As the Lansing State Journal explains, Lansing, like many other cities and townships across the state, is, "caught between competing budget pressures. First is the drop off in revenue from local property taxes and from promised aid from the state government. City budgeters also have to cope with rising costs, particularly on pensions and on health care for workers and retirees alike."

Crisis in Libya
7:45 am
Mon March 28, 2011

President Obama to address the nation tonight

President Obama will speak to the nation tonight about the crisis in Libya
The U.S. Army Flickr

President Barack Obama will address the nation tonight about the military role the U.S. is playing in Libya. It's been just a little over a week since the President ordered U.S. forces to protect Libyan rebels from Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

The President will speak from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. at 7:30 p.m. You can hear live coverage of the address on Michigan Radio beginning at 7 p.m.

Here's a roundup of what various media organizations are saying about the upcoming address:

State Budget
7:10 am
Mon March 28, 2011

State official to discuss Snyder budget, answer questions

Mitch Bean, Director of the state's House Fiscal Agency, will outline parts of Governor Snyder's budget this evening
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Mitch Bean, the Director of the state’s nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency will outline parts of Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal later today.

Bean will talk about the Governor’s budget proposal and answer questions this evening at Muskegon Community College.

The state faces an estimated $1.4 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

Auto
7:00 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Plant shutdowns in Japan continue to disrupt U.S. auto industry

Ofunato, Japan: March 15th, 2011
Fox News Insider Flickr

The auto industry disruptions triggered by Japan's earthquake and tsunami are about to get worse, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

In the weeks ahead, car buyers will have difficulty finding the model they want in certain colors, thousands of auto plant workers will likely be told to stay home, and companies such as Toyota, Honda and others will lose billions of dollars in revenue. More than two weeks since the natural disaster, inventories of crucial car supplies - from computer chips to paint pigments – are dwindling fast as Japanese factories that make them struggle to restart.

Because parts and supplies are shipped by slow-moving boats, the real drop-off has yet to be felt by factories in the U.S., Europe and Asia. That will come by the middle of April.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton first reported on how the natural disasters in Japan could disrupt the U.S. auto industry on March 11th.

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State Legislature
6:38 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Lt. Gov says tax plan debate will continue through break

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says negotations over the state budget will continue in Lansing even though lawmakers are on a two-week break
Ifmuth Flickr

State lawmakers have begun their two-week spring break, but many of them say they will still be in Lansing working on budget issues. That includes negotiating with Governor Rick Snyder on tax reforms.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says he expects lawmakers to meet Governor Snyder’s May 31st deadline to complete work on the budget.

“Any time that we waste right now adds time on the back end, and we really owe all the constituencies who depend on state an answer before we get to the same type of timeframe that we’ve dealt with in the past. So, it’s not really fair to put these things off until fall or even late summer.”

Snyder has proposed a tax on pensions, a new corporate income tax to replace the Michigan Business Tax, and scaling back tax credits.

Calley told lawmakers that if they don’t like Snyder’s plan, they need to put something else on the table that will help end the budget deficit.

Republicans in the Senate are expected to unveil a plan that includes an expanded corporate income tax, and to hold off on taxing pensions.

What's Working
6:15 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Michigan wine: Success in a bottle

Vineyard in Leelanau County
user farlane flickr

As we continue our “What’s Working” series this week, Christina Shockley sits down to speak with Linda Jones, the Executive Director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. Over the past decade, the wine industry in Michigan has grown ten to fifteen percent each year, with most of the wine being produced in the southwest and northwest regions of the Lower Peninsula.

With 14,600 acres of vineyards, Michigan ranks fourth amongst all states in grape production. Most of these grapes are used to make juices, but about 2,000 acres of vineyards are devoted solely to wine grape production, making Michigan the eighth largest producer of wine grapes. Ms. Jones says that when we talk about Michigan’s wine industry, we are really talking about the grape industry as well.

“They’re an integrated function. Many of the wineries in Michigan grow their own fruit. And our program is housed in the Michigan Department of Agriculture because wine is really an exemplary industry for value-added agriculture, meaning you take a crop that is grown here in Michigan and you add value to it on the farm property and attract customers to come and visit you, and that translates into a huge economic boom for that area when you can do that.”   

In a state that has seen its industries and population decline in the past decade, Michigan’s wine industry has continued to grow steadily. Jones says this is because wine production incorporates two of Michigan’s strongest assets.

“It combines our second and third largest industries: agriculture and tourism. Michigan is a long-standing fruit-producing state, especially on the west side of the state, but increasingly throughout Michigan we are planting wine grapes with new varieties that are being developed.”

But Michigan isn’t just good at growing fruit because we’ve been doing it for centuries. The climate in Michigan is particularly well-suited for growing grapes, says Jones.

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Education
6:33 pm
Sun March 27, 2011

Teacher wants young people, especially boys, to read

"Knuckleheads" by Jeff Kass

Young people are not reading like they used to, at least that’s what one teacher has recently observed. Jeff Kass teaches creative writing at Pioneer High School and Eastern Michigan University. He also runs the Neutral Zone’s literary arts program in Ann Arbor.

Kass says about half of the kids in his classes are not reading in their free time and he adds it’s noticeably worse with boys. That bothers Kass, who says it’s vital that young people read.

“Reading is incredibly important in terms of developing empathy between people and understanding other cultures and other people’s insights. I mean people have to read. Boys have got to read and we cannot give up on them! I think we have to go after boys where they live, and find out what are their fears, insecurities, hopes, dreams? We’ve got to write the literature that speaks to them and gets to the heart of what’s really on their minds.”

He’s so jazzed up on this notion that he wrote a book of short stories called “Knuckleheads.” The stories take a look at what it means to be a guy growing up in America. Kass had a specific young person in mind while writing the book.

“I hope that kid in the back of my classroom who just wants to put his head down on the desk, who hides in his hooded sweatshirt is going to pick this book up and recognize something about himself in there and maybe that will allow him to reach out to some other stories and think about literature as a place to go to learn and grow. I mean, I just want my boys to be better. I want them to be happier, I want them to understand themselves and forgive themselves for some of the idiotic things we do as boys growing up.”

But Kass says these stories are for everyone. He wants girls and women to read the book, too. In fact he’d love to see this book go to high schools and colleges everywhere, and inspire conversations and of course, more reading. “Knuckleheads” by Jeff Kass will be released Thursday, March 31, 7 p.m. at The Neutral Zone in Ann Arbor.

Education
4:44 pm
Sun March 27, 2011

Wayne State hopes 'Detroit Fellows' program will help revitalize the city

Wayne State's Detroit Fellows program is based on a similar New Orleans program
Bernt Rostad creative commons

Wayne State University hopes its new Detroit Revitalization Fellows Program will help give an economic boost the city of Detroit.

The program is modeled after a similar program in New Orleans, which recruited folks from across the country to help rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina.

Ahmad Ezzeddini from Wayne State University will run the new Detroit fellows program:

"If we look at the New Orleans model: Out of the cohort of 25, 22 of those folks are still in New Orleans, and 18 of them are with the same employer. And that’s four years after the program ran. We hope to duplicate the same thing here."

Ezzeddini says they plan to hire 25-30 people who have "three to five years’ experience, preferably [with] a graduate degree in urban planning, business, law." He says the fellows will be paid to work in Detroit for two years, and the jobs will focus on neighborhood and economic development. They will also get leadership training from Wayne State.

Applications are due April 15.

The program is funded with support from the Kresge Foundation and the Hudson-Webber Foundation.

Politics
8:06 pm
Sat March 26, 2011

Secretary of State wants changes to political party rules

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson
michigan.gov

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has proposed changes to the laws governing how new political parties form in the state.
 
Johnson wants to prevent a repeat of last year’s confusion over an “imposter” tea party group that allegedly sought to siphon votes from Republicans in the 2010 elections.
 
Johnson says she expects legislation to be introduced in a few weeks that would require new parties to file a campaign finance statement, and give public notice for political conventions:

"We need to make sure the people and the political parties we see on the ballot really are who they say they are. And efforts to deceive voters, they really do rob every legitimate voter, and put our liberties and our freedoms at risk."

Last year a group calling itself the Tea Party said it planned to nominate candidates at a convention. Two former officials with the Oakland County Democratic Party are accused of putting candidates forward with forged documents.

Education
1:49 pm
Sat March 26, 2011

State of Grand Rapids Schools strong, but facing challenges

GRPS Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor Jr. apeaks to about 100 people during his 4th annual "State of Our schools" address.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan’s third largest school district estimates it would face a $25 million deficit if lawmakers pass Governor Rick Snyder’s budget. In an annual address to the community Saturday, Superintendent Bernard Taylor outlined how that could impact next school year

Financial challenges

The district has trimmed around to $70 million from its budget in the last decade. Taylor says to cut $25 million in one year would be difficult.

“But we can’t be afraid. We can’t show any trepidation about what our situation is because in the end, whether we have a billion dollars or we have one dollar children have to be educated.”

He proposed a pay freeze for all administrative staff, and that they pay 20% of their health care premiums. But even with those and a number of other cuts, Taylor warned the district still may have to lay off more than 180 employees.

Academic challenges

Next year, the state will raise cut off scores for what’s considered "proficient" on the standardized MEAP test. Taylor says that will have a negative impact their academic achievement. But he stressed raising standards for a high school diploma isn’t a bad thing.

“It is not a precursor of anything if you are not college ready or workforce ready, meaning you have to have pronounced academics skills in the areas of literacy, mathematics, problem solving and being able to work cooperatively with others.”

Taylor wants to do a better job determining if students are really prepared to study beyond high school.

He’s asking the state allow the district to keep those students who aren’t ready in high school longer. Taylor wants to do that in cooperation with Grand Rapids Community College.

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On the Radio
4:47 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

In case you missed it...

user cpstorm wikimedia commons

The Lesson of the Cherry Blossom - NPR's Morning Edition

Cherry blossoms are blooming in Washington D.C. They will be at their peak around the end of this month. The cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. were first planted in 1912 after the people of Japan gave them to the U.S. as a gift of friendship, according to the National Park Service.

The flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant in Japan. It symbolizes the Buddhist notion of impermanence in life.

NPR's Linda Wertheimer visited with James Ulak, senior curator of Japanese art at the Freer Gallery and the Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Ulak visits Japan regularly for his work. He was there just days before the disaster struck.

Ulak spoke with Wertheimer about the symbolism of the cherry tree to the Japanese people and about the artwork at the museum. Artwork that depicts the Matsushima region, a place of great beauty and a place that inspires the Japanese people.

Ulak says the devastation of this area would be comparable to the United States losing the Grand Canyon. From NPR.org:

The bay has been long known as one of the most beautiful places in Japan. Its views of blue water, craggy rocks and twisted pine trees have attracted visitors and artists for centuries.

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Economy
4:26 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

Population expert sees good news in state Census data

The man in charge of charting population trends for Michigan says he would not be surprised to see the out-migration of people from the state reverse course.

The new U.S. Census data says Michigan lost people over the last decade.

State Demographer Ken Darga says Michiganders left the state in droves over the past decade for places like Florida where jobs were more plentiful. Now, Darga says, they may be ready to come back -- Florida’s jobless rate is higher than Michigan’s.

Darga discussed the good news on the Michigan public TV show  “Off The Record.”

“The economy is starting to turn around. There’s a lot of good news about Michigan’s economy in the past year or so.”

“Michigan has lost a lot of young people to Florida – as well as senior citizens – because Florida used to be one of the big states that had low unemployment and it was a place you could go to find a job while Michigan was in a one-state recession. But now, Florida’s unemployment rate is higher than Michigan’s.”

“One of the things I’ll be looking for is to see if some of those Michigan natives who moved to Florida are going to start coming back.”

The U-S Bureau of Labor Statistics says Michigan added 71 thousand more jobs than it lost in the past 12 months and its unemployment rate fell more than any other state’s.

Also, the decline in Michigan’s jobless rate for the first two months of 2011 was due to more people working, and not to discouraged jobseekers checking out of the workforce.

Michigan and Kentucky are tied for the nation’s fifth highest unemployment rate.

State Law
3:43 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

"Romeo & Juliet" bill headed for governor's signature; flashers, peeping Toms also to be removed from sex offender registry

People on Michigan's sex offender registry because they had consensual teenage sex can apply to have their name removed.

The so-called “Romeo and Juliet” bill is on its way to Governor Snyder’s desk for his signature. 

The measure will remove people who are on Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry because they had consensual sex with another teenager.

They’re currently kept on the list for 25 years.

State Sen. Rick Jones sponsored the bill. He says it puts Michigan in compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Act.

"This law will require that you petition the judge, the judge will review the case, and only in cases where it was completely consensual -- boyfriend/girlfriend-type behavior -- will the individual be allowed to be removed from the list," Jones says.

The law also takes most peeping toms and exhibitionists – or flashers – off the list. Instead, they’ll be on a separate list monitored by the Michigan State Police for 15 years.

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Politics
3:20 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

No-confidence vote will send Canadians back to the polls

Jeff Smith Flickr

A no-confidence vote in the Canadian parliament today means Canadian citizens can look forward to another election, their fourth in seven years.

From the BBC:

The vote, engineered by the opposition Liberal Party and backed by two other opposition parties, triggers an election expected in early May.

The move stemmed from a ruling on Monday that the minority government was in contempt of parliament.

But the Conservatives are thought likely to keep power in a May election.

With the House of Commons adjourned, Mr Harper on Saturday will ask Governor General David Johnston to dissolve parliament.

Following that, an election will be held after a minimum 36 days of campaigning. Canadian analysts expect it will be called for the first week in May.

Mr Harper's Conservative Party holds 145 seats in the dissolving parliament, shy of a majority of the 308 seats.

Recent polling suggests the Conservative Party holds a lead at the start of the campaign, with the Liberal Party in second, the New Democratic (NDP) Party third and the Bloc Quebecois, which campaigns only in Quebec, fourth.

The Conservative Party is likely to emerge from the May election in power, with some polls indicating it could even gain seats.

After the vote, Mr Harper said he suspected the forthcoming election, the country's fourth in seven years, would "disappoint" most Canadians.

Analysts say Canadian voters have shown little desire for an election, although Mr Harper's minority government had set a record for its tenure.

Canada is a historically important trading partner with Michigan.

According to the Government of Canada, about "237,100 jobs in the Great Lakes State depend on the Canada–Michigan trade relationship, which is valued at $43.3 billion."

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Politics
3:06 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

Protestors bring giant inhalers to Congressman Fred Upton

Kevin Karlinski, student from Western Michigan University, outside Congressman Upton's district office to deliver oversized asthma inhaler. Behind him, more community members drop off inhalers in Congressman Upton's office.
Nicole Lowen Environment Michigan

Several protestors rallied outside Congressman Fred Upton’s offices in Kalamazoo Friday.

Nicole Lowen is the with Environment Michigan, a state-wide advocacy group that tries to protect clean air, water and open spaces.

“We had gigantic, oversized asthma inhalers that we dropped off at his office just to represent the thousands of his constituents that are likely to suffer more frequent and severe health problems if he’s successful in stripping away these critical clean air protections.”

She says they were protesting a bill (H.R. 910) Upton introduced that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. 

Upton chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House. The republican from St. Joseph says allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will drive up energy costs, destroy jobs and make America less competitive globally.

“Such regulatory authority can only come from elected legislators, not unelected bureaucrats.  We must not allow this administration to regulate what they have been unable to legislate,” Upton said in a press release issued Friday.

Offbeat
2:39 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

FYI... "OMG" is now in the Oxford Dictionary... LOL!

Texting is influencing our language.
user kamshots Flickr

The culture of texting is making its mark on our language. There are some surprising new entries in the latest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

From the Associated Press:

LONDON (AP) - OMG! The exclamatory online abbreviation has won the approval of the Oxford English Dictionary. The term - short for "Oh my God" - is one of dozens of new entries in the authoritative reference book's latest online update.

Other Internet-inspired expressions given the stamp of approval include LOL, "laughing out loud"; IMHO, "in my humble opinion"; and BFF, "best friends forever."

The dictionary says that although the terms are associated with modern electronic communications, some are surprisingly old. The first confirmed use of "OMG" was in 1917.

The new update, released Thursday, includes "flat white" - a type of milky coffee - and "muffin top," defined as "a protuberance of flesh above the waistband of a tight pair of trousers."

Some other gems making it into the dictionary include "FYI, and " WAG," according to CNN.com.

"WAG" is a new one to me, so I definitely fall outside of the Oxford English Dictionary's requirement "that the word is used and understood by a wide audience" requirement.

"WAG" is an abbreviation for "wives and girlfriends" used in reference to partners of soccer players - definitely a British thing.

It's a good thing LOL is now in the dictionary. Now confused parents can look up the meaning of the term before making a few glaring instant message faux pas.

For more on the confusion over "LOL," listen to the hilariously sweet story by Adam Gopnik from the Moth Radio Hour - you need to sign up for a free PRX membership to hear it, it's worth it! - the story comes at 13:08.

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