Politics
2:04 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Is Detroit City Council too costly?

A new study from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that Detroit spends a larger chunk of its budget on the City Council than other major cities.

Detroitspends just over 1% of its current general fund budget on Council expenses. The national median is just under 0.5%.

The study also looked at whether cities have Council term limits, or serve full- or part-time. Detroit has a full-time Council.

Thomas Ginsberg is the Project Manager of Pew’s Philadelphia-based research initiative. He says the research didn’t “find much correlation” between that status and costs.

“Most of the Councils that call themselves part-time…in fact the members work much more than part-time. So we found that’s not a particularly useful term. That’s a commentary more about the term than the numbers.”

But Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh calls portions of the study “totally inaccurate.”

Pugh says Detroit’s Council budget also includes some administrative offices, like the city planning commission. He also points out that Detroit Council members’ have lower salaries than most of their counterparts in other cities.

Politics
1:28 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Carl Levin on Egypt, repealing health care reform, and electric cars

Senator Carl Levin talking to the press
USGov creative commons

Michigan Radio spoke with Democratic U.S. Senator Carl Levin about a wide range of topics on Wednesday - starting with the situation in Egypt.

Levin says Egyptians deserve a democratic government and the U.S. should support their aspirations. Levin is the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee . But he says the violent turn of events in Egypt is a bad sign. Levin thinks it best if current President Hosni Mubarak oversees the transition to a new government.

"The more violent and the more sudden his departure is, seems to me, the more likely it is that what will take his place would not be sustainable," says Levin. "If the army has to move in to restore order, that’s not necessarily the best way to move to a democracy."

Thousands of anti-government  protestors clashed with supporters of President Mubarak today.

Levin also addressed this afternoon's vote in the Senate to repeal the nation's new health reform law.

It's expected the bill will not pass, since the vote will likely be along party lines, and Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate.

Levin says repeal is out of the question. He says the reform will help millions of Americans get health insurance and avoid bankruptcy because of medical bills. And repeal, he says, would cost $500 billion.

But Levin says Democrats in the Senate are willing to consider bills to improve the law.

"We are open to those kind of changes, but it’s gotta be looked at very carefully one by one as to what is being proposed and what the cost of it is," he says.

A bill has also been proposed to allow states to opt out of the new law. A vote on that bill hasn’t been scheduled.

There are also court challenges to the law, in particular, the provision that requires everyone to buy health insurance. 

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Politics
12:52 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Water rate hikes stir more criticism

William Warby Flickr

Proposed new rates for customers of Detroit’s massive water system have done little to tamp down criticism of the department.

Water bills would go up an average of about nine percent in July, and sewer rates would climb a little more than 11 percent.

Water department officials say lower demand is to blame for much of the increase. But critics are not happy about how the rates are calculated. State Representative Kurt Heise represents western Wayne County:

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Winter storm
12:30 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Winter Storm Pictures

The snow begins to come down in Ann Arbor around 7pm.
Tamar Charney Michigan Radio

The blizzard warnings are over and people in Michigan are spending the day digging out.

More than a foot of snow fell in many parts of the state.

The snow fall in Grand Rapids has almost eclipsed a record (16.1 inches in 24 hours). Reporter Lindsey Smith says the count stands at 15.9 inches as of this morning. There's still time to get .2 inches by 2pm, so the record may fall.

Click on the photos above to see a slideshow of the snow arriving around the state.

Commentary
12:12 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day in Lansing

Well, it’s Groundhog Day, there’s a foot of snow, and I’d guess  most of the state’s woodchucks aren’t even thinking about coming out of their burrows, let alone looking for their shadows.

Our lawmakers aren’t anywhere near the Capitol Dome either; they prudently took a couple of days off. But they’ll be back soon, and hopefully at work straightening out the state’s finances.

People may differ on how our lawmakers should balance the books, and put our state on a permanently sounder footing.

But nobody wants any further repeats of Groundhog Day. As in the movie of that name where the main character has to keep repeating the same day over and over. 

He had to do that, as I recall, until he learned a profound lesson about life. Our legislators have been doing a version of that for years.  Papering over serious problems; going for quick fixes, kicking problems down the road for future generations to deal with.

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Arts/Culture
11:56 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Wayne State to launch new 'Artrepreneurship' program this fall

New program will help artists market their entrepenurial ideas
User: Sultry creative commons

Wayne State University is developing a new, free program to help artists market their ideas better. It's called the Artrepreneurship program. That's right: a hybrid of art + entrepreneurship.

Wayne State University got a $25,000 grant from the Coleman foundation to start up the new program, which will mostly consist of a lecture series and the occasional workshop.

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Weather
8:59 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Spring prediction: Michigan's Woody vs. Punxsutawney Phil

Punxsutawney Phil in 2009
Scottobear Flickr

While many in the Midwest chose to stay buried under the covers this morning amidst the snow storm that blanketed the region, Punxsutawney Phil, the famed weather prognosticator, ventured out to let us know whether or not we should expect an early spring. Upon being presented to the crowd at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil failed to see his shadow, thereby predicting an early spring for everyone.

Today marks the 125th annual Groundhog Day ceremony featuring the meteorological predictions of the large marmot. Since Phil’s first prediction in 1887, he has failed to see his shadow only 15 times. Most meteorologists suggest that Phil’s predictions lack scientific justification. But, as many struggle to dig their way out of over a foot of snow in temperatures near zero, it remains unclear whether Phil is an optimist attempting to lift our spirits or just a sarcastic rodent.

Meanwhile, at the Howell Conference and Nature Center in Livingston County, Woody the Woodchuck made her own prognostication regarding the arrival of spring for Michigan. Upon being presented to the crowd in Howell, Woody promptly saw her shadow, predicting another six weeks of winter, and perhaps inadvertently starting a meteorological feud between the two prophetic marmots. Only time will tell who has true powers of prophesy, but, after last night’s winter storm, odds are currently in Woody’s favor.

Weather
8:41 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Winter storm brings more than a foot of snow in parts of Michigan

The big winter storm has brought more than a foot of snow in some parts of the state
Sami Flickr

Update 8:33 a.m.:

The National Weather Service has canceled blizzard warnings for much of the west and middle regions of the state. A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect for West and Mid Michigan until 12p.m. Blizzard warnings remain in effect until 12 p.m. today for cities in the eastern part of the state including Midland, Bay City, Bad Axe, Saginaw, and Caro.

6:35 a.m.:

Most of Lower Michigan is digging out of last night’s winter storm, and it’s not over yet. A blizzard warning remains in effect until 7 P.M. for the western side of the state, as well as areas as far east as Lansing. In areas around Flint, a blizzard warning is scheduled to expire at noon. In the Detroit and Ann Arbor areas, a winter storm warning will last until noon. The counties along the state’s southern border are under a winter weather advisory until 1 P.M., with the exception of Berrien County, whose winter weather advisory is set to expire at 10 A.M. As for the Toledo area, a winter storm warning will remain in effect until 7 o’clock this evening.

Earlier this morning,  the southwestern part of the state reported having 10 to 15 inches of snow already on the ground. Cities in the southeast, including Ann Arbor and Flint, received between four and six inches.

The storm has made roads hazardous, with snow drifts of up to five feet being reported. AAA Michigan reportedly helped more than 3,600 drivers stuck on the roads Tuesday night. Those who can avoid driving are urged to do so.

Today, numerous school districts, as well as many colleges and universities, are closed. School districts closed for Wednesday include Detroit, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Toledo, and Jackson. In addition, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Western Michigan University, and Grand Valley State University have canceled classes for today.

Weather
7:58 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Storm leaves 'relatively few' without power

Energy companies across the state say the winter storm left 'relatively few' powerless
LisaW123 Flickr

While the snow has been heavy across the state over the past 12 hours, the freezing rain that was forecasted missed much of the state.

That’s good news for DTE Energy and Consumer’s Energy, who are reporting relatively few power outages, according to the Associated Press.

Consumer’s Energy reports roughly 3,700 customers without power, with most of the outages occurring in Gratiot County.

Meanwhile, DTE Energy is reporting only 1,000 residential outages, which the company says is in line with the average number of outages during a typical day.

Weather
7:45 am
Wed February 2, 2011

Flights canceled as storm moves across state

Steve McFarland Flickr

Hundreds of flights in and out of Michigan airports have been canceled due to the winter weather, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reports:

Detroit Metropolitan Airport spokesman Mike Conway says... many cancelations were made by airlines in advance of the storm. Conway says runways at the airport in Romulus and nearby Willow Run Airport have been kept open despite the snow, thanks to constant work from plow crews.

The Grand Rapids Press reports most early Wednesday departures were canceled at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in southwestern Michigan. And The Flint Journal reports that some flights at Flint's Bishop International Airport had been canceled.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Out of 600 departures and 622 arrivals scheduled for today at Metro Airport, 254 departures and 263 arrivals have been canceled, airport spokesman Scott Wintner said.

As of 6:30 a.m., Southwest stopped all operations at the airport through noon and United has canceled all flights in and out of Detroit for today, not including United Express flights to Newark and Houston, he said.

Delta Air Lines canceled 800 flight systemwide today. Customers traveling through areas impacted by the storm can change flights without fees, Delta’s Web site says.

Politics
5:27 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Pure Michigan campaign seeking public and private dollars

Screen grab from Pure Michigan ad
Pure Michigan

A measure to fully fund the Pure Michigan advertising campaign for the rest of the year appears poised for a vote next week in a state House committee.

Tourism officials and travel-related business owners showed up at the first hearing to support the legislation.

Dan Musser’s family owns the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. He says the national ad campaign has helped draw a growing number of out-of-state visitors to the island.

"Our potential is even greater than our success at this point, but if the campaign is not fully funded, we’ve wasted the opportunity for the Pure Michigan brand to reach its full potential. That potential brings tax revenues to the state, supports and creates jobs for Michigan residents."

Musser also says Mackinac Island is splitting the cost of a $1 million nationwide Pure Michigan ad purchase with the state’s tourism agency, Travel Michigan.

The ad will use the Pure Michigan brand to specifically promote Mackinac Island to travelers.

The Henry Ford in Dearborn will also share the costs of national campaign promoting the museum and the Pure Michigan brand.

Travel Michigan says about 30 other resorts and regional tourism offices  are also forming Pure Michigan ad partnerships with the state.

Weather
5:18 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Gov. Snyder activates the State Emergency Operations Center

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder
(courtesy of the Michigan governor's office)

Governor Rick Snyder has ordered the State Emergency Operations Center to be activated to track events related to the coming winter storm.

The governor says he's also ordered the Michigan National Guard to be ready to help local governments deal with emergencies that may arise.

The governor says he's also instructed state agencies to make sure hospitals, prisons, and other essential facilities are adequately staffed.

Auto/Economy
5:12 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

January car sales strong...but storm threatens February sales.

David Erickson Flickr

Most car companies had a better January than the same month last year, led by Chrysler and GM, which improved their sales 23%.

Ford sales improved 13%.  The company had a stronger January a year ago than Chrysler and GM, which were both struggling to rebuild inventories, so Ford's percentage improvement is not as great.

Ford also terminated its Mercury brand in December, and officials say the company is deliberately reducing sales to fleets like rental car companies.  A high volume of fleet sales can lower the residual value of a company's vehicles.

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Science/Medicine
5:08 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

New housing complex to serve Detroit's senior citizens

Rendering of the East Jefferson Neighborhood Project
Hooker DeJong Architects and Engineers

Henry Ford Health Systems and two non-profit partners will team up to offer more long-term care options to Detroit’s senior citizens.

 

Henry Ford, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, and United Methodist Retirement Communities are involved in the $35 million project on the city’s east side.

 

The complex will include affordable senior housing, assisted living units, and a Center for Senior Independence.

 

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Politics
5:02 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Pete Hoekstra joins law firm - lobbying group

Pete Hoekstra will join former republican colleagues at the law firm
from Hoekstra's former congressional website

Update 5:02 p.m.:

A representative from Dickstein Shapiro LLP spoke with Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith. The rep. told Smith that Hoekstra plans to continue living in Holland. Hoekstra will apparently split his time (50/50) between home and Washington D.C. for now.

No word yet on whether Hoekstra is looking for a couch to crash on in D.C.

3:39 p.m.:

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra has a new job.

He'll be working as a senior advisor to Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a law firm and lobbying group with offices in Washington D.C., California, Connecticut, and New York.

Going from a member on Capitol Hill to a member of a group that lobbies Capitol Hill is a common path for many former members of Congress.

Hoekstra will join former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and former Senator Tom Hutchinson at the firm.

In the firm's press release, Hoekstra said he looks forward to collaborating with Hutchinson and Hastert on a "daily basis," and using his expertise in "strategic and contingency planning":

"National security—from homegrown terrorism to cyberwarfare —continues, by necessity, to be a governmental imperative at all levels, and lawmakers in Washington make crucial decisions every day that impact corporations across America. As the Republican leadership in the U.S. House seeks to rein in federal spending, and as these important issues continue to loom large, there are few things more important than seasoned strategic counsel who understand the nuanced interworkings of government. Dickstein Shapiro has what it takes."

Before he left, Hoekstra was the ranking Republican and a former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

medical marijuana
4:38 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Decision to release medical marijuana records now in hands of judge

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A federal judge in Grand Rapids heard arguments Tuesday in a case involving who has access to patient information under Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act.

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Weather
4:37 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Winter storm approaching

It's almost here. A NOAA infared image showing water vapor - the brighter the colors, the more dense the water vapor
NOAA

Update - 4:37 p.m.:

Tonight's chance of snow 100%.

Be careful and have fun if you venture outside.

From the NWS for southeast Michigan:

Very strong northeast winds will develop overnight and continue through Wednesday morning. Strong winds in excess of 35 mph will combine with the heavy snow to create blizzard conditions across all of southeastern Michigan. Significant blowing and drifting of snow will occur...helping to create whiteout conditions. Snowfall and wind gusts will decrease in intensity Wednesday afternoon...with snow diminishing by the early evening. Storm total snow accumulations of between 7 and 12 inches will be possible across much of southeastern Michigan...with 10 to 15 inches possible between the I 69 and m 46 corridors.

And for West Michigan:

As of 400 pm heavy snow was crossing the Michigan and Indiana border. Steady snow will continue to develop across the warning area late this afternoon. The heaviest snow will fall between midnight and mid morning on Wednesday. One to two inch per hour snow rates can be expected during this time. Storm total accumulations of 10 to 16 inches can be expected by Wednesday evening. By around 8 pm north to northeast winds will increase to 15 to 30 mph with higher gusts to 40 mph. These winds will continue into Wednesday morning before gradually diminishing. Considerable blowing and drifting snow is expected... Producing blizzard conditions and visibilities down to near zero.

 

Update - 12:00 p.m.:

The latest from the National Weather Service. Much of southern Michigan is under a blizzard warning (red in the map above) and the middle and upper part of the lower peninsula are under a winter storm watch (pink).

Poor folks in the UP. They're going to miss all the fun.

The National Weather Service says the Blizzard Warning will be in effect from 7pm tonight until 7am tomorrow for southeastern Michigan, and for West Michigan the warning will start around 5 p.m.

From the NWS:

This is a dangerous storm. Travel and commerce across the warning area are expected to be severely impacted by heavy snow and significant blowing and drifting snow late this afternoon through Wednesday.

Heavy snow and blowing and drifting snow will make clearing of roads difficult tonight into Wednesday. Conditions will improve late Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening as the snow diminishes and winds die down.

 

Monday, January 31st - 1:02 p.m.:

The winter storm is approaching. Here are some weather links to keep you up to date:

An animated radar from NOAA.gov

Forecasts for your part of the state

Watches, Warnings or Advisories for Michigan

This from NOAA's website:

A major winter storm is expected to impact the central United States over the next several days. Snow possible from the Northern and Central Plains into the Upper Midwest. Ice and snow possible across the Central and Southern Plains, central Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley beginning early Tuesday. Blizzard Warnings are in effect over parts of Illinois and Indiana. Winter Storm Warnings, Winter Storm Watches, and Winter Weather Advisories are in effect from most of the central United States through the Midwest and into the Northeast.

WEATHER
4:10 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Michigan's homeless shelters prepare for overflow

Homeless shelters from Grand Rapids to Detroit are gearing up for a busy couple of days this week.

The major winter storm that's headed our way is expected to dump around a foot of snow across the state, and temperatures will be around 20 degrees for the next several days.

The city of Lansing is coordinating with its homeless shelters to make sure no one is turned away. Joan Jackson Johnson directs the city’s Community Services department: 

"What we’re doing is providing any extra resources the shelters may need -  from food to blankets. We’ve authorized one shelter to go out and purchase some emergency air mattresses for their shelter because this is their first time expanding for the overflow population."

Johnson says they’re prepared to house people in a hotel if they run out of room at the shelters.

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Arts/Culture
3:03 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Artpod: Cost of Creativity, part 1

Michigan spends more on prison in 11 hours than it does on arts & culture in an entire year.
Danis Davis

The Cost of Creativity

We put together our stories about arts and the economy in the state to create an hour-long documentary called The Cost of Creativity. On today's podcast, we'll hear the first installment of the doc.

And because Artpod is about all things Michigan, all the music you'll hear on The Cost of Creativity is by Michigan artists. The musicians featured on today's podcast: Ben Benjamin and Luke Winslow-King.

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Auto/Economy
2:31 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Congressman Upton: power grid not ready for electric vehicles

Is the grid ready for electirc vehicles?
user citizenofthedeep Flickr

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton met with the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce this morning during its "Legislative Connection Series" (tickets for the event went for $25 to $50).

The Kalamazoo Gazette reported that Upton talked about the future of energy in the country.

According to the report, Upton said gas prices might hit $4 a gallon by Memorial Day because of political instability and a moratorium on new off-shore drilling.

Higher gas prices, said Upton, will lead to more people buying up plug-in hybrid electric and fully electric cars. Something Upton feels the power grid is not ready for. From the article:

"We're going to need 30 to 40 percent more electricity by the end of the next decade, and we're not prepared," said Upton, Republican of St. Joseph.

Upton said he favors the development of more nuclear power plants and is going to look into why it takes so long to build a nuclear power plant in this country.

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