Auto/Economy
7:03 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Federal government to release Toyota unintended acceleration results

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will reveal the results Tuesday afternoon of a year-long NASA investigation into claims of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Toyota recalled millions of vehicles last year – many because of the potential for loose floor mats to entrap the gas pedal.  In other cases, the gas pedal wouldn’t fully release.

But hundreds of lawsuits allege that Toyota vehicles can also speed out of control because something is wrong with the electronic throttle control system, perhaps due to electromagnetic interference – a problem NASA knows a lot about.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a preliminary report last year suggesting that in some cases, the sudden acceleration was the fault of drivers, because they hit the gas pedal instead of the brake.

Toyota says it has failed to find any problems with its electronic throttle control systems.  The company did pay record fines last year for delaying recalls.

Politics
4:55 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Bing unveils incentives to make more Detroit police officers residents

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has rolled out a new incentives program for Detroit police officers.

“Project 14” aims to pull some officers living in the suburbs into city neighborhoods. The phrase refers to a Detroit police code that means things are “back to normal.”

Bing hopes to restore something like normality to Detroit neighborhoods by making more Detroit cops city residents. Fewer than half are right now.

The project’s pilot phase will give officers chance to get a tax-foreclosed home for up to a thousand dollars. They’ll also be eligible for federal funds to fix them up.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee calls moving to the city a “highly personal decision” for officers. But he thinks many will consider it.

“I’ve fielded a number of calls to my office wondering what the incentives were. So now that they’ve been laid out I think we’re going to see a lot of officers take advantage of it.”

Project 14 will initially offer 200 homes in two relatively stable Detroit neighborhoods.

Bing says the program also complements his Detroit Works Project, which aims to strengthen the city’s more viable communities.

What's Working
2:41 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Connecting Detroit's homeless with supportive services and housing

James Marvin Phelps Flickr

Each Monday, our Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley speaks with a Michigan resident about a project or program that is working to improve life in Michigan. The interviews are part of our year-long series, What’s Working.

Today, Christina sits down with Beverley Ebersold, the Senior Program Manager at the Michigan Office for the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

Read more
Auto/Economy
2:09 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Impressions of the Chrysler Super Bowl ad

The "Imported from Detroit" commercial stirred a lot of pride around these parts, and on Michigan Radio's Facebook page.

We posted it last night and the "likes" and comments about pride started flowing:

  • "Gave me chills and made me proud to be a born in Detroiter."
  • "This is the kind of thing we need for our area. This commercial gave me goose bumps."
  • "Great commercial! I'm proud to be from Michigan!"
  • "Chills...I almost started crying! But, I have had almost 14 beers."

Just up I-96, the profs at MSU's Department of Advertising, Public Relations, and Retailing, who release an annual ranking of Super Bowl commercials, put the Chrysler ad in third place – tied with the ads from Audi, PepsiMax, Hyundai, and Bud-Light.

First and second place went to German car-maker Volkswagen (first went to the Darth Vader ad, and second went to the VW Beetle ad).

When I asked them, "why third?"  MSU instructor and the organizer behind the MSU rankings, Bob Kolt, said the margin between 1st and 3rd was quite small, "If a few professors had changed their ranking of the commercial slightly, it could have easily been put in the top spot."

Read more
Auto/Economy
11:57 am
Mon February 7, 2011

Stabenow: rebates for electric vehicles

The Chevy Volt's charging port.
Michigan Radio

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow plans to introduce legislation that would change government incentives for buying electric cars.

Right now, the incentive for the purchase of an electric car comes when you file your taxes in the form of a tax credit.

Stabenow's legislation, the Charging America Forward Act, would give consumers a rebate of up to $7,500 at the time of purchase.

The Senator says a rebate would do more to spur consumers to adopt electric vehicles. From Stabenow's statement:

"Michigan is already a leader in emerging hi-tech battery and electric car production. Other countries are acting to develop their own advanced vehicle markets because they realize the tremendous economic potential this new technology represents.  These initiatives will allow Michigan innovators to continue to out-compete the world and create new jobs here"

Naturally, GM spokesman Greg Martin says the company likes the rebate idea, saying "we are pleased to see Senator Stabenow's legislation that integrates all of the components necessary for successful acceleration of electric vehicles in the marketplace.  We look forward to working with Congress on legislation that leads to widespread adoption of electric vehicles."

The Associated Press says Stabenow also wants the incentives to go beyond just consumers:

Stabenow also wants tax credits for investments into electric vehicle recharging stations and for businesses that buy hybrid trucks. It also seeks more funding to develop the nation's advanced battery industry.

And the Detroit Free Press says this bill supports the Obama Administration's plan to get 1 million "plug-in or advanced-technology" cars on the road by 2015. The Freep says it's a goal that "can be reached only if it is supported by aggressive government incentives that also spur the development of infrastructure."

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

Developing
11:55 am
Mon February 7, 2011

Flint making the case for a $20 million bond

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

UPDATE 3:30pm


 


The Finance and Claims Committe of the State Administrative Board unanimously passed the city of Flint's resolution requesting a $20 million fiscal stabilization bond.   The resolution now goes to the full board February 15th. 


 


11:55am 2/0711  


 


Flint city officials will be in Lansing Tuesday. The city has applied for state permission to get a $20 million  ‘fiscal stabilization bond.' 


Flint is facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit this year and other long-term debts. Flint mayor Dayne Walling says the city needs the money to help keep the city afloat financially. 



“There is nothing more important for our city right now than the bond.   We’ve been carrying a crushing load of past deficits on our shoulders.  And we’ve come to the point where the pooled cash is not there to make payroll throughout the entire month of March without an infusion of cash.”  


Walling is optimistic state officials will approve their bond request.  



“If this, for some reason, were not approved by the State Administrative Board, then we’ll get right back to the table with Treasury and we’ll talk about what our options are."


   If the city of Flint can’t get the money it needs, the state may eventually takeover Flint’s finances.

Economy
11:07 am
Mon February 7, 2011

Borders Books "One foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel"

A big week for Borders
Ruthanne Reid Flickr

This could be a pivotal week for the future of Borders Books with some sources saying the company could seek bankruptcy protection.    

The Ann Arbor-based bookseller delayed payments to publishers and others the past two months.   The company has been trying to negotiate with its vendors and come up with a plan to move forward.    Borders has a half billion dollar financing deal in place, if it can come to terms with its vendors. 

Jeff Manning is a managing director with BDO Capitol Advisors.   Manning’s company closely follows the retail market. 

"The challenge,  if you look at the statistics,  majority of companies that enter bankruptcy do not emerge.  If you look at recent statistics with retailers, an awful lot of retailers have gone straight into liquidation." 

Manning expects Borders’ vendors will decide it’s more in their interest to keep Borders viable. He says, if Borders does file for bankruptcy, the company will probably exit bankruptcy before Christmas.   But Manning says Borders execs must be careful, since the bookseller is in a precarious position:

"One foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel," says Manning.

 

The Rise and Fall (and Re-Rise?) of Borders Group.

News Roundup
10:29 am
Mon February 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

Police in Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is expected to reveal his plan for getting police officials to live in Detroit this morning. As Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports:

Detroit had a residency requirement until 1999, when the state Legislature outlawed it. Now more than half the officers on the police force live outside the city limits. Mayor Bing has said he believes neighborhoods are safer when the cops who patrol them live there too.

Not all police officials agree with Mayor Bing and say they can live outside city limits and still be effective for the residents of Detroit.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will have more Mayor Bing's proposal later today.

A replacement for the Michigan State Fair?

The Michigan State Fair was canceled in 2009 after budget cuts and declining attendance. Now the Associated Press is reporting that another cast aside in Michigan might fill the gap.

The AP reports that the "Great Lakes Agricultural Fair" would be held in and around the Pontiac Silverdome and would be run without any state funding. From the AP:

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters are expected to be among those on hand Monday to unveil plans for the Great Lakes Agricultural Fair…The annual festival would feature a farm market, live animals and musical performances.

Ford to increase production

If the amount of Super Bowl ads from car makers didn't clue you in, here's another sign that automakers are expecting much better sales this year. The Detroit Free Press reports that Ford Motor Company plans to boost factory production in the U.S.:

Ford Motor Co. says it will increase U.S. factory production by 13% in the first quarter due to higher sales. Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. sales, says Ford is studying additional shifts at plants that are now running on overtime. The Dearborn-based automaker said retail sales to individual buyers rose 27% in January. Global marketing chief Jim Farley said to expect further increases through the year.

State of the city
3:34 pm
Sat February 5, 2011

Heartwell: Grand Rapids ‘destination city’

Grand Rapids’ Mayor George Heartwell painted his city as a destination for medical researchers, entrepreneurs, artists and young people in his State of the City address Saturday.

Read more
Arts/Culture
12:13 pm
Sat February 5, 2011

3 Michigan cities in tight race for magazine prize

Albion, MI is among the top vote-getters in a magazine competition aimed at boosting community spirit. If it wins, the prize money could be used to renovate the city's downtown theater.
agilitynut.com

Three Michigan cities are finalists for top prizes in a national contest aimed at boosting community spirit. The competition is fierce as the contest draws to a close on Monday.

Readers Digest is asking people to cheer online for their favorite cities in its “We Hear You America” contest.

At last count, Grand  Marais, St. Johns and Albion, Michigan, were in the top five.

Read more
Taxes
8:13 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Workshops for property tax assessment appeals

Homeowners are starting to get their property tax assessments in the mail. A few organizations are hosting workshops for people who think their home’s value might be over-assessed.

Rose Bogaert is chair of the Wayne County Taxpayers Association:

"Going to the Board of Review and saying 'my taxes are too high' will get you nothing. You have to have information that justifies your contention that your house is over-assessed."

Bogaert says her organization’s workshops educate homeowners about things like how to analyze sales in their neighborhoods. Information about the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A – which govern property tax assessments in Michigan – is also part of the workshops.

Oakland County officials are also hosting a series of sessions about tax assessments through early March.

Read more
Detroit
4:45 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Detroit mayor to announce residency incentive program

Patricia Drury Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is expected to announce a program Monday to encourage more police officers to live in the city.

Detroit had a residency requirement until 1999, when the state Legislature outlawed it. Now more than half the officers on the police force live outside the city limits.

Mayor Bing has said he believes neighborhoods are safer when the cops who patrol them live there too. But Detroit Police Officer Carol Harris says she doesn’t agree.

"When I did live in that community that I did patrol, the people that I arrested also know who I was, where I lived and were to come after me, so… it’s just not a safe place."

Harris now lives in Wyandotte, and has an eight-year-old son. She says there’s “no way” she’d consider moving back to Detroit.

She says younger officers without families might be willing to entertain the idea. But Harris says cops who live elsewhere still have a vested interest the city, and care about its future.

On the Radio
4:30 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

In case you missed it...

user cpstorm Flickr

Here are a few stories that either I heard, my colleagues and friends heard, or pieces that our online friends found interesting on Michigan Radio this week.

(We want to hear about your favorites! Please add them to the comments section below)

Read more
Arts/Culture
4:24 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Baby, it's cold outside...

Jeremy Hiebert Flickr

Members of the Cleveland Orchestra (TCO), trapped in Ann Arbor because of the recent snowfall, ended up putting on an impromptu performance on Wednesday with members of Classical Revolution Ann Arbor (CRAA), a local chamber music collective.

Because of the snowstorm, TCO was unable to leave Ann Arbor in time for a concert Wednesday at Chicago's Orchestra Hall. The musicians chose to pass the time playing with University of Michigan students and amateur musicians at Sylvio's Organic Pizza in Ann Arbor, where CRAA meets every Wednesday for jam sessions.

The first quartet of the evening consisted of Bill Preucil, TCO's concertmaster, TCO violist Joanna Patterson, cellist Ed Baskerville, and University of Michigan student violinist Dan Winnick. Other TCO musicians showed up to play throughout the evening, including principal oboe Frank Rosenwein and principal flutist Joshua Smith.

Read and watch more over at University Musical Society's page.

Brian Short - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
4:24 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Invasive brown marmorated stink bugs found in Michigan

The Brown marmorated stink bug. Spook it and it might put its stink on you, but the real worry is what it could do to crops in the state.
David Lance USDA APHIS

The Michigan Department of Agriculture has confirmed the presence of invasive brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) in two Michigan counties. The bugs were discovered by students from Michigan State University.

Jennifer Holton is with the Michigan Department of Agriculture. She says the bugs can do damage to the types of fruits and vegetables grown in Michigan. The damage makes them difficult to sell. 

And what is does is... a little bit of character distortion on the fruit, what they refer to as cat facing, and that makes the fruit, or the vegetable, if there may be one, unmarketable for the fresh market.

You can find more information about identifying BMSB at the Michigan Department of Agriculture website.

Holton also suggested never moving firewood and to contact your local Michigan State University extension office if you think you found a brown marmorated stink bug.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Education
4:02 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Lansing Community College offers LGBT scholarship

LGBT rainbow flag flapping in the sun
user Marlith Flickr

Scholarships for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are popping up all over the country and Lansing Community College has just created its own version of an LGBT scholarship.

The LCC scholarship is for gay students, under age 25, who have done advocacy work within the community. There are approximately fifty national scholarships for LGBT students, straight students who have supported the community, and children of gay parents.  There are more than a dozen similar scholarships for students who want to attend Michigan’s four year universities.

Candace Gingrich-Jones is with the Human Rights Campaign.  She says they’re seeing a lot of gay alumni who decide to donate money and create scholarships for LGBT students.

“It’s like if you’re a member of a fraternity or sorority, or if you’re a member of the theater club. You want to pass something on to the next group of people.”

The LCC scholarship was funded and named in honor of Betsy Lou Robson, a woman from Lansing. 

Human Rights Campaign maintains a database of LGBT scholarships, broken down by state.

Winter Storm
3:42 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Tens of thousands in West Michigan home from school for 3rd day

Sidewalks in front of many vacant homes in the city remain un-shoveled.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Holland and Grand Rapids’ Public Schools are both closed because the sidewalks aren’t shoveled enough yet to send kids to school safely.

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Science/Medicine
2:59 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

New obstacles for medical marijuana plant-growers

Joe Gratz Flickr

Michigan Radio's Laura Weber reports that the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled against growing medical marijuana plants in partially-exposed outdoor enclosures, setting a new precedent in Michigan’s medical marijuana debate. From the news spot:

A lower court had dismissed charges against an Owasso resident and medical marijuana card holder. But the Court of Appeals overturned that dismissal, and two of the three judges say the enclosure did not meet the standards set in the new law.

The medical marijuana law was approved by voters in 2008. Many lawmakers have said the law is too unrestricted and needs further clarification.

Clarification--and clarity--is an ongoing problem for medical marijuana advocates and critics in Michigan. John McKenna Rosevear wrote an article in November for arborweb.com which looks at some of the uncertainties surrounding medical marijuana. He describes Ann Arbor as a "Wild West" of in-plain-sight dispencaries and access:

The new frontier opened when voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008 (earlier laws enshrined the alternative spelling). The act protects people with "debilitating medical conditions" from prosecution for possessing or using marijuana, and sets what looked like tight controls on its production and distribution: "patients" can raise up to twelve hemp plants for their own use, or delegate the growing to a designated "caregiver."

The law says nothing about buying or selling. Yet by the time the Ann Arbor City Council hastily enacted a moratorium in August, eight businesses dispensing marijuana had already opened in the city. Anyone with a physician's recommendation can now walk in, join a "club," and walk out with up to 2.5 ounces of Blueberry Haze or White Widow--or "medibles" like marijuana brownies and rainbow-colored lollipops dosed with marijuana extract.

Roseyear's article goes on to describe how medical marijuana works--what the rules are, what kind of people are buying and who (he gets pretty specific) is selling--in Ann Arbor.

How is it affecting the rest of Michigan? What do these issues look like where you live?

-Brian Short

Auto/Economy
2:47 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Casino development in nearby Ohio

User Zoomar Flickr

After years of watching its residents travel to Michigan, Indiana, or Pittsburgh for gaming, Ohio is getting in on the action. Cleveland kicked off its first casino development yesterday.

Developers say they’ll spend $350 million to convert a former department store in the center of the city into a place for slot machines and poker.

Behind all this is Dan Gilbert, the Cavaliers owner and founder of Michigan’s Quicken Loans. He sees this casino as the first phase of gaming in Cleveland. He’ll be building a casino from scratch a few blocks away.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says the project should create hundreds of local jobs.

They’re actually talking about how can we hire people? How can we hire local contractors, local vendors and make this investment a stimulus for this economy and the people of this city and region.

Dan Gilbert says the Cleveland casino will be integrated into the city, helping local businesses. 

Auto/Economy
1:57 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Jobless rate falling in Flint

Kettering University junior Steve Needham at the Innovation Center.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

From General Motors adding another shift at the Flint Assembly plant to expansion in the city's medical and echnology centers, Flint's job picture is brightening.

Flint city leaders say their community posted one of the ten biggest drops in unemployment in the U.S. over the last 12 months.

Between December 2009 and December 2010, Flint's jobless rate fell from 16 percent to just under 12 percent.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling says the city helped create or keep mare than a thousand jobs by encouraging entrepreneurial businesses.

For everybody who's left, there's a project out there that kept a job here too. That?s the other part of the story. It may not be a new job. It's not someone who's newly employed. But there are another 500 or 1000 people who would have left here if these projects wouldn't have been successful.

This all builds on what our president said in his State of the Union, that we need to create jobs and industries of the future by doing what America does best.  Investing in the creativity and innovation of our people.

Walling concedes people leaving Flint also helped improve the city's unemployment rate.

Flint's unemployment rate is still above state and national levels.

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