What's Working
12:05 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Wind energy takes off in Michigan

user eXtension Ag Energy / flickr

Rick Wilson, the project manager for Heritage Sustainable Energy, is our guest this week as our “What’s Working” series continues. Based in Traverse City, Heritage Sustainable Energy is a wind power company that has been managing the installation of wind turbines in both the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. Heritage is in the process of installing and expanding wind farms in the state, and is already producing roughly 40 megawatts of power.

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Politics
11:37 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Governor Snyder rolls out plan to reform local government

Governor Rick Snyder has outlined a plan to withhold some state aid to local governments unless they make plans to consolidate services and make their finances more open. The governor says he wants to create new incentives for communities to save money and become more efficient.

He would revamp how the state shares tax revenues with cities and townships to reward those that come up with cost-savings. 

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Economy
11:05 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Invasive insect still biting local budgets

The invasive Emerald Ash Borer was first found in the U.S. in June of 2002. Since its arrival, the bug has wiped out millions of ash trees in Michigan alone.
USDA Forest Service

The emerald ash borer is native to eastern Russia, northern China, Japan, and Korea. It turned up in Michigan in June of 2002, most likely from wood used in packing materials in international cargo ships.

Since its arrival, the bug has led to the death of tens of millions of ash trees.

Removing these trees can be expensive and while some cities have seen the financial bite come and go, others are still feeling it.

Eric Dresden writes in the Saginaw News that the city is unsure how it will pay for the removal of hundreds of dead ash trees. From the Saginaw News:

Of the 6,000 ash trees lining the city’s streets, Simeon Martin expects thousands could be dead by the end of this year.

The cause: an emerald ash borer infestation brewing for at least nine years.

“When spring comes out, that will be the tell-tale time,” said Martin, chief foreman of the city’s streets division.

Last year, the city found 400 dead trees, and this year could be a lot worse, he said. Those trees were removed, and the city is continuing to take down infested ashes, Martin said. This year, he said, the infestation is expected to grow faster than crews can take down the trees.

Dresden reports the city has no money set aside for the removal of dead and dying trees, and when the trees are removed, no new trees are being planted because the city doesn't have the budget to maintain them.

Politics
9:54 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Anti-abortion agenda moves in Michigan

Bills in the legislature would prohibit insurance companies from covering abortions unless the coverage is added seperately.
Steve Rhodes Flickr

Earlier this month, the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee approved bills that ban the practice of partial-birth abortions, a practice that is already banned by federal law. The federal law was also upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007.

Supporters of SB 160 and SB 161 say a state law is necessary so local officials can assist federal authorities when enforcing the law.

These are some examples of anti-abortion bills moving in the Michigan legislature.

Louise Knott Ahern wrote about other bills being considered in today's Lansing State Journal.

Ahern writes about bills aimed at preventing insurance companies from covering abortions unless the coverage is added as a separate rider on a policy. From the LSJ:

Within two months of being sworn in, GOP legislators introduced 11 bills backed by Right to Life.

The most sweeping change would come from two bills awaiting action in the House committee on health policy.

Introduced by Rep. Jud Gilbert of Algonac, they would prohibit insurance companies from covering abortions unless a woman adds the coverage as a rider on her policy and pays for it separately from her monthly premium...

The bills don't apply to emergency abortions in which the mother's life is at risk, nor do they ban insurance coverage outright. But abortion rights advocates fear they would essentially have that effect.

Sarah Scranton of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan says "we have looked in states that already have this and we have not been able to find one insurance provider that offered a rider for abortion coverage. Women don't plan for unplanned pregnancies. These riders don't exist."

If passed, the law could also apply to insurance plans that will be created under the federal health care law.

In 2014, health care exchanges are expected to be set up under the federal health care law. These group plans will be available to people who can't afford individual private plans. Ahern writes in a "last-minute" compromise, President Obama accepted a "clause that allows states to require the separate abortion riders for insurance plans purchased through the exchanges."

Politics
8:24 am
Mon March 21, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

UAW leaders say battle could lie ahead in contract negotiations

After giving into concessions during the auto industry's restructuring, union leaders are saying they want some things restored. From the Detroit Free Press:

As the UAW prepares to head into labor talks this summer with the newly profitable Detroit automakers, several top union leaders say a showdown is brewing over this year's contract -- especially at Ford, which has made $9.3 billion over the past two years.

"If they don't restore everything (we) gave up, the membership is going to knock it down," said Bill Johnson, plant chairman for UAW Local 900, which represents workers at the Focus plant in Wayne. "The bonuses that were just announced are just ridiculous."

Snyder to go over local government revenue sharing plan this morning

Governor Rick Snyder will go over his plan for revenue sharing with local governments at a 9:30 a.m. press conference in Grand Rapids.

His budget calls for a $100 million cut in revenue sharing with local governments, and, according to the Detroit News "would make local governments compete for the remaining $200 million, based on their adoption of "best practices" Snyder sets out today."

The Governor is expected to go over plans for local school districts as well today. From the Detroit News:

For school districts, Snyder's budget proposed a cut of about $300 per-pupil on top of an already announced $170 per-pupil cut.

Snyder told school districts in his budget message that for fiscal year 2013 he would set aside $300 million and make it "available to eligible school districts whose employees' share of health insurance costs is comparable to that of state employees."

Details on how that works are also to be announced today.

 

Michigan men's teams out of the tournament, women play on

The University of Michigan men's basketball team lost a close one to defending national champion Duke yesterday. Tim Hardaway Jr. pulled the team close when he hit three baskets down the stretch. Michigan was 2 points away from overtime when Darius Morris' floating jump shot in the lane missed, hitting the back of the rim. Morris said he thought the shot was going in - from the Detroit Free Press:

"I thought it was down," Morris said in the locker room, breathing heavy, trying to compose himself after postgame tears. "I thought we were going to overtime."

The University of Michigan was the last Michigan men's basketball team standing in NCAA tournament, Oakland University and Michigan State University lost close games in the opening rounds.

In the women's NCAA tournament, Michigan State University advanced by beating Northern Iowa yesterday, they'll play Green Bay tomorrow night.

Politics
7:31 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Governor Snyder to unveil plan for local government reforms

Local government leaders will be listening to Gov. Snyder's press conference this morning.
Snyder campaing website

Governor Rick Snyder is scheduled to hold a press conference at 9:30 this morning in Grand Rapids where he will go over his plan for local government reforms.

Local government budgets have been squeezed ever since the housing bubble burst and revenues from local taxes have been dwindling. On top of that, revenue sharing from the state has been trimmed and Governor Snyder is proposing more potential cuts.

Crain's Detroit Business reports the Governor will go over his proposed cuts along with a $200 million incentive-based revenue sharing program:

Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday morning is slated to present his outline for local government reforms...The message has been highly anticipated. Snyder has said his goals include encouraging service sharing and best management practices in municipalities, through incentives in state revenue-sharing.

His proposed fiscal 2012 budget calls for eliminating about $300 million in statutory revenue-sharing payments for cities, villages and townships and replacing it with a $200 million incentive-based revenue-sharing program.

Education
7:07 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Detroit schools still face huge deficit after two-years of emergency management

Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, has until June to come up with a plan to wipe out a projected $327 million deficit
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Even though the district has had a state-appointed emergency financial manager for two years, Detroit Public Schools still face a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Robert Bobb, the DPS emergency financial manager, was appointed by Jennifer Granholm in March of 2009.

From the Associated Press:

Robert Bobb has spent the past two years closing dozens of schools and firing principals in an effort to fix the failing Detroit Public Schools. Yet, he still hasn't solved the problem for which he was hired — erasing a legacy budget deficit that now stands at $327 million.

Now, in his final months as the state-appointed emergency financial manager, Bobb is proposing several headline-grabbing ideas — including a radical plan to shut down so many buildings that some high schools could see more than 60 students per class — in an attempt to wipe out the red ink.

The AP reports that it's unclear how Bobb might use new powers granted to emergency financial managers under a new law signed by Governor Rick Snyder last week. They say he "continues to push the charter school plan which is the one receiving the most support in the city at the moment — even from the school board."

Offbeat
5:26 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Detroit cops banned from posting crime photos to Facebook

Detroit police officers are being told to exercise caution when it comes to social media.

Police have to follow the Department's Code of Conduct policy, which forbids officers to share transcripts, records or photos tied to an ongoing investigation, but the current police doesn't explicitly discuss sharing those items on social media.

That will soon change  after a Detroit police officer posted a crime-scene photo to his personal Facebook account last month.

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Offbeat
5:06 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Four Loko for sale again in Michigan

Four Loko makes a return to Michigan

Michigan residents can once again buy flavored malt beverages like Four Loko. The caffeine infused alcoholic drink was banned by many states and by the Food and Drug Administration last year. Caffeine can make it difficult for consumers to realize just how much alcohol they’ve consumed.

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Politics
4:28 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Duo that conspired to strike Senator Levin with a pie enter plea agreement

Senator Carl Levin speaking in Grand Rapids earlier this year.
Derek DeVries Grand Rapids Community College

Defendants Alam Mohsen and Max Kantar explained to a federal judge in Grand Rapids the pie incident was an anti-war statement. They singled out Levin because of his foreign policy stance.

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Politics
4:09 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

High school students march on state capitol

There was another protest today at the state Capitol – the third rally this week.  Hundreds of Lansing high school students walked out of class to march on the Capitol. 

Some of the students sunned themselves on the Capitol steps, took pictures, laughed, and chatted on their phones, while others stood by the road and waved signs. They called out to passing drivers to honk if they opposed budget cuts called for by Governor Rick Snyder.

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Politics
4:02 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

State Budget Director says he hears complaints about pension tax plan

A protester holds a sign outside the state capitol during a March 15th demonstration against the governor's pension tax plan
(photo by Laura Weber/MPRN)

The state’s budget director says Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to tax pensions is necessary to keep young people in the state.   Budget Director John Nixon says the proposed tax will move Michigan into a sustainable future economy. 

“We’re the only state in the country to lose population in the last decade. And when you look at Michigan’s growth projections going forward, by 2030, 20 percent of our population’s going to be retired. And what that means long term for the state is you’re going to be pushing more of the burden on your working segment of the population.”

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Arts/Culture
3:39 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Detroit event celebrates exile of Le Nain Rouge

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Hundreds of Detroiters are expected to get together on Sunday. Their goal? To kick an evil red dwarf out of the city.

Yep, you read that right.

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Politics
3:22 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

President Obama speaks about Libya

President Obama gives a statement on the situation in Libya
C-Span

President Obama gave a statement today regarding the ongoing situation in Libya.

From ABC News:

President Obama today gave an ultimatum to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that he must immediately implement a ceasefire in all parts of Libya and allow international humanitarian assistance or risk military action against his regime.

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Sports
2:54 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Michigan Wolverines crush Tennessee in 1st round NCAA game

The Michigan Wolverines crushed the Tennessee Volunteers in their opening round game in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.   The game was close at halftime.   But U of M cruised in the second half to a 75-45 victory.   

The Wolverines will play Sunday against the winner of the matchup between 16th seeded Hampton and  top seeded Duke.   

U of M is the only team with Michigan ties making to the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.   Michigan State lost it's first round game Thursday night.   Oakland University lost a close game earlier this afternoon.    

Commentary
2:54 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Unpopular Votes

For the last two months, Michigan has been consumed with debate over Governor Snyder’s proposed new budget --  and with a number of his other deal-changing priorities as well, such as the just passed tough new Emergency Financial Manager law.

But there are other issues, and a lobbyist for one showed up in Lansing yesterday to urge the legislature to vote to change the way we elect presidents. Tom Golisano, a millionaire businessman and philanthropist, is the spokesperson for a group called National Popular Vote, which is beginning to have some success.

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Science/Medicine
2:39 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Michigan loses prescription drug lawsuit

The state Court of Appeals today ruled against Michigan in a prescription drug case.  The decision could cost the state millions of dollars. 

In 2004, the pharmaceutical company Merck pulled the arthritis drug, Vioxx, off the market, because it caused serious heart and other health problems.

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Sports
2:27 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Oakland University falls to Texas in the NCAA tournament

Oakland University's Golden Grizzlies kept it close.  But, in the end, the Texas Longhorns prevailed.  The 13th  seeded Golden Grizzlies rallied throughout the first round tournament matchup with the 4th seeded Longhorns.   However, Texas pulled away in the final minute to win 85 to 81. 

 

Politics
2:07 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Judge blocks controversial Wisconsin union bargaining law

Joe Gratz Flickr

A judge has temporarily blocked Wisconsin's controversial new law affecting collective bargaining rights in the state. Here the update from the New York Times:

A judge issued a temporary restraining order on Friday that prevents Wisconsin’s new law cutting collective bargaining rights for public workers from taking effect, at least for now.

The decision, issued by Judge Maryann Sumi of the Dane County Circuit Court, temporarily bars Wisconsin’s secretary of state from publishing the controversial law, one of the procedural requirements for it to come into effect in the state.

Publication had been expected late next week, but Judge Sumi’s ruling delays that until at least March 29, when she plans to hold a full hearing on a lawsuit that questions the validity of the collective bargaining law based on the speedy manner in which it was carried out earlier this month.

An appeal is possible even before then.

Opponents of the measure said they hoped the decision was but the first of many that would ultimately undo legislation that has split the state and drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators to the state capital over a matter of many weeks.

Supporters of the measure, however, said the judge’s decision was merely a blip, certain to be overturned as various legal efforts make their way fully through the court system.

Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker has said that the law will shield taxpayers and improve Wisconsin's business climate.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Offbeat
1:37 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

In case you missed it...

User cccpstorm Flickr

On Wednesday, Fresh Air interviewed Dr. Gregg Bloche about the dangers that rising health care costs pose to patients and to doctor's adherence to the Hippocratic Oath.

From NPR's website:

In most medical schools, students recite the Hippocratic Oath together to mark the start of their professional careers. The soon-to-be physicians swear to uphold the ethical standards of the medical profession and promise to stand for their patients without compromise.

Though the oath has been rewritten over the centuries, the essence of it has remained the same: "In each house I go, I go only for the good of my patients."

But the principles of the oath, says Dr. Gregg Bloche, are under an "unprecedented threat." In The Hippocratic Myth, Bloche details how doctors are under constant pressure to compromise or ration their care in order to please lawmakers, lawyers and insurance companies.

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