higher Education
10:41 am
Fri February 25, 2011

WMU approves tuition increases for some students

George Sprau Tower at WMU
Matt Newton Creative Commons

Although Michigan universities face huge funding cuts from the state, this rate hike has been years in the making. The change will affect a few thousand undergraduates studying at Western’s business school and school of fine arts.

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Economy
10:39 am
Fri February 25, 2011

Gas prices & Michigan retailers

Rising gasoline prices threaten to take some of the optimism out of a rosy new forecast for retail sales in Michigan.  A recent survey of Michigan retailers finds 76% expect to see their sales improve this spring. 

  Good holiday sales are lifting many business owners expectations for the year ahead. 

Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retail Association. Scott says the survey was taken before gasoline prices spiked this week.   He says high gas prices could be a problem for retailers.

 “But the bigger concern, more than just their own delivery trucks, is generally the effect on consumers.  And of course, every dollar a consumer puts in his or her gas tank is a dollar that can’t be spent at the store.”

Scott says a few years ago when gas prices reached four dollars a gallon, retail sales dried up.  But he says pent up consumer demand may keep the customers coming, even with high gas prices.

News Roundup
9:34 am
Fri February 25, 2011

In this morning's news...

Snow

More snow on the heels of more snow is bringing up talk of records in Michigan.

For the Detroit area, NOAA lists 1908 as the snowiest February on record when 38.4 inches fell in the area.

The Detroit News says this winter has been the second snowiest on record with a total of 30.3 inches falling in February.

The News spoke with Karen Clark, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service:

Clark said she doesn't think the rest of the month will be snowy enough to break the record. "Let's hope not," she said. "That would be a lot of snow in the next few days."

The Detroit News has some historical photographs of snowstorms past in an article from 2002.

What snow storms do you remember most? The blizzards of 1978 and 1979 come up a lot in our office.

Fighting for Film Incentives

Groups met last night to push the Michigan Governor and Legislature to reconsider cutting the Michigan Film Incentive tax credits.

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports, Michigan has the most generous tax credit in the nation at 42%.

Hulett covered a group meeting last night in metro-Detroit:

The message people need to deliver to Lansing, said Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom, is that the credits have created a rare bright spot in Michigan’s economy:

"This is not about saving Tom Cruise. This is about saving Tom Farmington Hills, and Tom Novi and Tom Detroit."

Hulett reports that "Governor Snyder wants to get rid of the tax credit and replace it with a program worth $25 million a year."

Here's a video of the meeting last night from Fox 2 News in Detroit:

Thousands Gather at Film Industry Town Hall: MyFoxDETROIT.com

Shrinking the City of Flint

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling gave a "State of the City" address last night, and like much of the state -  and the country, for that matter - Walling talked cuts.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody covered Walling's address:

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling spent much of last night address talking about what’s working in his city.  But he also talked about what he thinks would help the city deal with a growing budget deficit,  ‘shrinking the size of city hall.’   Walling wants to drop funding for some city commissions and eliminate some executive positions.

"My proposed changes would save the city of Flint $6 million over 4 years.  Over $15 million dollars over 10 years.   Its not the whole solution.  But its an important part of it.  Its an important part that makes a difference."

The city of Flint wants to cover its $17 million budget deficit by raising funds on the bond market.

It has to get permission from the State Administration Board to do that. So far, the Board has tabled its decision.

If the city can't raise bond money, it might be facing bankruptcy or a state takeover.

Politics
12:58 am
Fri February 25, 2011

Heavyweights, bit players organize in support of film credits

Film producer Eddie Rubin, left, and director Danny Mooney are among those mobilizing support for Michigan's film tax credits.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Over a thousand people packed a metro-Detroit banquet center last night to try and rescue Michigan’s budding film industry.

They’re mounting a campaign to persuade Michigan’s governor and lawmakers to preserve tax incentives for filming in the state. For the past three years Michigan has had the most generous credit in the nation, at 42 percent. Governor Rick Snyder wants to eliminate the tax break.

Read more
Politics
8:01 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Flint mayor proposes to 'shrink' city hall

Flint mayor Dayne Walling delivers his 'State of the City' address
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Flint is facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit.   And in his state of the city address tonight, Mayor Dayne Walling proposed ‘shrinking’ the size of city hall as one partial solution.

 “I’m not giving up on Flint…and I know you’re not either"

Read more
Nutrition
5:33 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

National pilot program targeting child hunger in the summer launches in Grand Rapids

Officials display the healthy food low income parents could buy through the pilot program.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

More than half a million Michigan kids qualified for free and reduced lunches last year. But only about 1 in 6 of them took advantage of the programs offered during the three month summer break.

By the numbers

  • The nation: 18.5 million children are eligible – 3.3 million (18%) participated
  • In Michigan: 546,000 children are eligible – 92,500 (17%) participated
Read more
Sports Commentary
4:31 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Remembering Fred Fragner

Fred Fragner was a parent John U. Bacon met while coaching his son's hockey team.
Dean Michaud Flickr

Whenever I talk to a high school coach who quit, they always say the kids were great, but the parents drove them crazy.

It doesn’t matter what sport.  

But when I coached the Ann Arbor Huron High School hockey team, I was lucky.

Yes, getting to know the players was the best part, and now, seven years after I stepped down, I’m going to their weddings.

What I didn’t expect, though, was becoming lifelong friends with their parents, too.  

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Politics
4:08 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Film industry calls for "action" on tax credits

Filmgoers line up at the State Theatre in Traverse City during that city's film festival.
Andres McFarlane Creative Commons

Movie industry supporters are pulling together a campaign to persuade Governor Rick Snyder to reconsider his plan to slash the state’s film tax incentives. For the past three years Michigan has had the most generous credit in the nation, at 42 percent.

Actor Jeff Daniels and columnist Mitch Albom will headline a meeting tonight in Livonia to talk strategy.

Read more
Education
3:54 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Detroit students post nation's worst science scores

DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb discusses the results of the NAEP science test
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Fourth and eighth graders who took a national science test in 2009 posted the worst results among 17 big-city districts.

The scores are from the 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment in science, part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test – which is often referred to as the “nation’s report card.”

Results for the fourth and eighth graders in Detroit who took the test were worse than 16 other big cities that participated.

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Weather
3:46 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

February's been a tough weather month

Michigan was clobbered by snow and ice storms in January and February.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

It’s not just your imagination.

We haven’t been able to get much of a break from what’s shaping up to be a very tough January and February in Michigan, weatherwise.

"It has been a horrible winter -- lately," says George Wetzel of the National  Weather Service in Grand Rapids. "I'll use Lansing as an example. The snowfall thus far this month has been 24.9 inches. That's only 18 inches less than the entire year."

 And it’s not over. Wetzel says more snow is expected Thursday night– a wet, heavy snow that will be difficult to shovel. 

Economy
3:19 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Consumers Energy asks for energy surcharge reduction

Consumers Energy says it produces about five percent of its power from Michigan-based renewable projects.
newsmagazineblog.com

In 2008, Michigan enacted a new energy law. It requires power companies to produce 10 percent of their power from Michigan-based renewable sources by the year 2015.

Now Consumers Energy is asking state regulators for permission to reduce customers’ bills by about $55 million.

Consumers spokesman Dan Bishop says the company is on track to reach that goal, with about five percent of its power now coming from renewable sources.

And that’s why Consumers says it wants to put a little bit of money back into its customers’ pockets.

Read more
Environment
2:58 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Beekeepers' favorite invasive

Spotted knapweed, or star thistle, is a favorite of bees. Some beekeepers say star thistle honey puts Northern Michigan on the map.
(Photo by Flickr user JanetandPhil)

Researchers from Michigan State University are trying to control an invasive plant called spotted knapweed. They’ve released two foreign beetles that eat the plant on small plots of state land.

Knapweed spreads a carpet of purple flowers over old farm fields and alongside roads in mid-summer.

But as The Environment Report's Bob Allen discovered, beekeepers rely on those flowers for making honey.

Spotted knapweed tends to dominate any landscape where it takes hold. Its roots send out a chemical substance that kills nearby plants.

But researchers in several states think they’ve found a way to keep it in check. They’ve released two species of tiny European weevils.

One attacks knapweed’s roots, the other eats its seeds.

Doug Landis is a bug specialist at Michigan State University. He says in some test plots the bugs have knocked knapweed back as much as 80%.

“These insects don’t eliminate knapweed. But they can reduce its density to the point where it becomes a more manageable part of the plant community.”

Knapweed is found in every county in Michigan but especially in sandy soils. And land managers want to get rid of it because it crowds out native wildflowers and grasses that supply food and shelter to a wide variety of insects, birds and other wildlife.

But beekeepers say the plant has a lot of value for them. They even have a more poetic name for it... star thistle. And they say it produces a light, mild, pleasant tasting honey that puts northern Michigan on the map.

“It’s one of the best honeys in the country.”

Kirk Jones runs Sleeping Bear Apiary in Benzie County.

He says his star thistle honey is in demand in stores and restaurants across the country.
And it’s the only source of surplus nectar available for his bees late in the season.

Read more
Arts/Culture
2:47 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Old shoes wanted for Detroit's Heidelberg Project

Artist Tyree Guyton wants old shoes for a new project in Detroit.
Richard Faulder Flickr

Your junk is definitely another man's treasure.

Artist Tyree Guyton wants your old shoes for a new Heidelberg Project installation.

A message was posted on the project's Facebook page:

The word is out! Seeking shoe donations for April's "Street Folk" installation -- more details on the project coming soon.

The Detroit News reports:

Old shoes may be brought to the Heidelberg Project office at 42 Watson in Detroit, MI 48201. The office is open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. The shoe collection will continue through mid-to-late March.

The Heidelberg Project is two blocks of art installations along Heidelberg Street on Detroit's east side.

Starting in 1986, artist Tyree Guyton converted abandoned houses along his street into pieces of art by painting them and installing various pieces of junk on the houses and up and down the street.

The Heidelberg Project was first maligned by city officials (the city demolished some of the art in 1991), but is now celebrated.

The Detroit News reports that Tyree Guyton will be "honored with a 25-year retrospective of his work at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The display opens March 30."

Here's more about the project and Guyton:

Commentary
1:06 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Emergency Financial Managers

If you had any doubts about how difficult the situation is for local governments these days, consider this. Even before they tackle the budget, our lawmakers in Lansing have been working hard on new emergency financial manager legislation.

Yesterday, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a package of bills designed to make it easier to appoint emergency financial managers to run troubled cities and school districts.  The legislation also gives those managers broad new powers. The Senate is expected to easily approve this as well.

Read more
Weather
1:05 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

Get ready - more snow on the way

It's rain to the south, but forecasters say it will turn to snow in parts of Michigan.
NOAA

The National Weather Service (NWS) says a "quick hitting" storm is on the way for southeast Michigan:

A quick hitting...rapidly deepening low pressure system will track Northeast through the Ohio valley tonight...towards Pittsburgh by Friday morning. This is historically a favorable track for heavy snow in Detroit. Snow is expected to overspread parts of southeast Michigan around midnight and become heavy at times south of the M-59 corridor by the Friday morning rush hour. Snow will taper off during the late morning hours and end around noon on Friday. Northerly winds will also increase late tonight into Friday morning with gusts to 30 mph.

The NWS says "the Interstate 94 corridor is forecasted to see the most snow from this system."

Here's the "hazardous weather outlook" for west Michigan around the Grand Rapids area:

Snow will return tonight especially for southern-lower Michigan. Some of the snow could be heavy with impacts to travel likely. Snow will end Friday morning.  Roads could be snow covered and slick for the morning commute.

Snow is possible  on Saturday...but accumulations are not expected to be heavy. Freezing rain will be possible Sunday night.  A risk for accumulating snow exists on Monday.

For mariners...gales are possible on Monday on Lake Michigan.

Arts/Culture
12:33 pm
Thu February 24, 2011

White House pays musical tribute to Motown

Smokey Robinson, John Legend and others perform at the Motown Sound tribute concert the White House pays tribute to Motown tribute concert at the White House
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The Motown sound will take center stage at the White House tonight.

More than 100 students will be at the special musical event, including several from the record label’s hometown of Detroit.

Detroit-native Augustine Cox loves music. The 17-year old says she's known she wants to go into the music business since she was in second grade; she wants to be a performer or a music producer.

When Cox, who goes to Birch Run High School, found out she was picked to go to Washington, D.C. for a Motown tribute concert at the White House, she was thrilled. She grew up listening to "the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, the Marvelettes, Smokey Robinson." Cox says she listens to today's music, too, "but when I want to hear real music and real passion, I throw on a Motown CD."

Her current fave? The Best of Michael Jackson.

Read more
Economy
11:58 am
Thu February 24, 2011

Pure Michigan funding bill on the way to governor's desk

Thinking of summer days along the Lake Michigan shoreline
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A bill that would fund the Pure Michigan ad campaign for the entire year will soon be on its way to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature. The Legislature has approved the additional dollars to keep the campaign on airwaves through the busy tourism months. 

Republican state Senator Geoff Hansen says the funding had to be approved this week before ad-buy costs go up. 

"It was more important that we got it done right now because every day that we delay this means that we’re going to have that less of a chance to buy the ads that we need. We can buy more now than we can in a week, so it was just so important to get it done.”  

The state will tap a venture capital fund to pay for the ads for the balance of this year. Hansen says lawmakers still need to find a permanent funding source for the Pure Michigan ad campaign. But he does not think they will deal with that issue until next year.

Auto/Economy
11:56 am
Thu February 24, 2011

More big recalls for Toyota

The 2006 Lexus GS 300 is part of the latest Toyota recall
IFCAR wikimedia commons

If you own a Toyota or a Lexus, your floor mat or the floor carpet could inadvertently help you put the pedal to the metal.

Toyota has announced two recalls and has amended it's 2009 "Potential Floor Mat Interference Recall."

Altogether, more than 2 million vehicles are involved.

The company says the recalls are "voluntary," but the federal government says it requested that Toyota recall these additional vehicles after their investigation into Toyota's unintended acceleration problems.

From USA Today:

This should be the end of it, according to NHTSA administrator David Strickland. "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reviewed more than 400,000 pages of Toyota documents to determine whether the scope of its recalls for pedal entrapment was sufficient. As a result of the agency's review, NHTSA asked Toyota to recall these additional vehicles, and now that the company has done so, our investigation is closed."

Here are the cars involved in the recalls and amended recalls:

  • Lexus GS 300 - model year 2006 and early 2007
  • Lexus GS 350 All-Wheel Drive - model year 2006 and early 2007
  • Lexus  RX 330 - model year 2004 through 2006 and early 2007
  • Lexus RX 350 - model year 2004 through 2006 and early 2007
  • Lexus RX 400h - model year 2004 through 2006 and early 2007
  • Highlander - model year 2004 through 2006
  • Highlander HV- model year 2004 through 2006
  • 4Runners - model year 2003 through 2009
  • Lexus LX 570 - model year 2008 through 2011
  • RAV4 - model year 2006 through 2010

You can also check to see whether your car is recalled by entering your Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN on Toyota's website.

The company says Toyota and Lexus dealers will implement the new and amended recalls at no charge to the vehicle owners.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton is following this story and will have an update later today.

Economy
10:46 am
Thu February 24, 2011

Why don't YOU fix the state's budget woes?

The Center for Michigan wants you to play their game.
Image from the Center for Michigan's website

Try your hand at fixing the state's budget problems.

The Center for Michigan has released an interactive state budget calculator - YOU Fix the Budget.

The idea is similar to the New York Times interactive budget calculator for the federal government.

You can start by adding $1.2 billion to the state's budget woes by cutting business taxes, or you can leave business taxes alone and deal with the current budget hole the Center estimates at $1.4 billion.

Once you start, your options are to cut, cut, cut (cuts to education, cuts general government, cuts to prison and police, cuts to the public workforce, and cuts to welfare and health care) - or - you could raise taxes.

So far, of the 300 or so people who have participated - raising the Beer Tax is the most popular option.

Read more
Investigative
10:27 am
Thu February 24, 2011

More cuts to public universities?

Governor Snyder's budget calls for further cuts to public universities.
user dig downtown detroit Flickr

For eight years, year after year, the state of Michigan has been cutting the money it distributes among the 15 public universities.

“We haven’t been chiseling around the edges.  We haven’t been making minor adjustments.  We’ve been really making huge cuts.”

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