Law Enforcement
4:42 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

Immigration bust in West Michigan

Update 4:41p.m.:

77 people are in custody following a 4-day operation in West Michigan by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.

Federal agents arrested the men and women in 7 counties; from Ludington south to Michigan, Indiana line. 

Khaalid Walls is with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office. He says they were arrested for their illegal immigrant status, but a few, he says face criminal charges.

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Auto/Economy
4:38 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

IRS won't process some returns until Feb. 14

Taxpayers who itemize deductions have to delay filing their returns until February 14 because of changes in the federal tax law.
levistaxes.com

Some Michigan taxpayers getting ready to tackle their returns may have to wait before filing because last-minute federal tax law changes caused a delay in processing.

If you file a simple federal tax return – that is, you don’t itemize your deductions -- you can do that right now.

Otherwise, you’ll need to wait a few weeks.

Luis Garcia is with the Detroit office of the IRS. He says the agency is updating its programs to reflect the tax law changes.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

Court says resident can challenge tribe's casino plans

A federal appeals court has ruled that a Wayland Township resident has the legal standing to sue to stop the development of a casino.

The Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians recently announced their plans to open the casino in Wayland Township south of Grand Rapids:

The Associated Press reports that the federal appeals court will allow David Patchak to "challenge how the federal government placed the land in trust for the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians."

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Investigative
2:35 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

State of Michigan giving more in tax breaks than it collects

I was sifting through the many reports by Gongwer News Service.  Gongwer covers just about everything that happens in and around the Lansing capitol complex.  What caught my eye was an article entitled "State Estimates Tax Expenditures of $33.8 Billion for FY'11." 

I read through the Gongwer story which linked to a 111-page report by the Michigan Department of Treasury.

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Commentary
11:35 am
Fri January 21, 2011

John Dingell, Running Again

He was a young man when he first came to Congress, tall, gangly, and with questionable taste in haircuts and ties.

Owlish old Sam Rayburn swore him in on a chill December day, saying something, no doubt, about his father, who had held the seat before him, and who had died just months before.

That was more than fifty-five years ago. General Motors, the world’s richest corporation was putting ever bigger tail fins on their cars, and consumers were just starting to wonder if they’d ever be able to afford one of those sensational new color TVs.

That was the world when John Dingell Jr. arrived in Washington at the end of 1955, the country‘s newest and youngest congressman. He was twenty-nine then. This summer he will be eighty-five. Everybody else who was in Congress when he arrived is gone.

Most are dead.

When he arrived, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin were years away from being born. He’s stayed in the House longer than anyone in history. Two men have stayed in Congress longer, when you combine time in both chambers.

John Dingell will pass one of them soon. But to beat the other, West Virginia’s Robert Byrd, Dingell has get reelected one more time, next year.

This week, the man they used to call the truck announced that he intended to try to do just that. He’s running again.

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Auto/Economy
10:44 am
Fri January 21, 2011

Will more ethanol in gas lead to more engine damage?

An ethanol plant in Iowa. The EPA is allowing more ethanol to be mixed into gas.
Fred Thompson Flickr

The farm lobby has been pushing hard to increase the amount of ethanol allowed to be mixed into gasoline. And it seems like the Obama Administration is obliging.

The vast majority of today's ethanol comes from corn. The alcohol is mixed in gasoline to make it burn more cleanly.

Right now, the standard is 10% (a 10% ethanol, and 90% gasoline mix is most likely in your gas tank right now).

The EPA increased the allowed amount of ethanol to a 15% mix last fall for cars made after 2007.

Now, the Associated Press reports the EPA is poised to allow the 15% mix for more cars. From the AP:

Two people familiar with the decision said late Thursday the agency is expected to announce on Friday that 15 percent ethanol in gasoline is safe for cars manufactured between 2001 and 2006. Both officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the decision.

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News Roundup
8:58 am
Fri January 21, 2011

In this morning's news...

Legislation Planned for New Detroit-Windsor Bridge

State Senator Hoon Yung Hopgood says he will sponsor a bill that would be connected to the effort to build a new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. The Democratic lawmaker's statement follows Governor Rick Snyder's announcement that he supports the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). Snyder announced his support on Wednesday evening during his first State of the State address. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the project is “absolutely critical” to trade with Canada.

Could Price Tags Become ‘A Thing of the Past’?

Also, during Wednesday night’s State of the State address, Governor Snyder said Michigan lawmakers should get rid of or modify, “antiquated laws.” As Mark Brush reports, one such law is the state’s "Item Pricing Law." Snyder said:

Requiring 'stickers' over other forms of price-marking costs Michigan’s economy over $2 billion dollars a year. Let’s use the technology we have to protect customers.

Not everyone, however, agrees that getting rid of price tags is such a good idea. Chris Michalakis, the Legislative and Political Director with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said the law is necessary so shoppers can compare prices or catch errors at the checkout:

You know, in these hard economic times we need stronger consumer protection laws. There are more people than ever in Michigan on fixed incomes, and we also need to think about the amount of jobs this would cost if passed.

There's also the worry that changing the law could cut the number of stock workers required at stores around the state.

Dingell Will Run Again in 2012

Michigan Democratic Congressman John Dingell said yesterday that he will run for re-election in 2012. Dingell, who won his 28th full term in Congress last November, is The U.S. House of Representative’s longest serving member. The 84-yeard old, who represents Michigan’s 15th District, told the Detroit News, it is. “the greatest job in the world.” Dingell has been in Congress since 1955.

State Legislature
6:44 am
Fri January 21, 2011

Legislation on new Detroit-Windsor bridge to be introduced in state Senate

Runners underneath the Ambassador Bridget, Detroit, MI
J.Stephen Conn Flickr

State Senator Hoon Yung Hopgood said yesterday that he is sponsoring a bill that would be connected to the effort to build a new international bridge from Michigan to Windsor, Ontario. The Democratic lawmaker's statement follows Governor Rick Snyder's announcement that he supports the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). Snyder announced his support on Wednesday evening during his first State of the State address.

As the Associated Press reports:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday the project is "absolutely critical" to trade with Canada. Some Republicans and the owners of the private Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor have opposed the proposal.

A statement released after the State of the State address on Senator Hopgood's website noted:

State Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor) is backing Governor Rick Snyder's measure to support the Detroit River International Crossing, which could create thousands of jobs and boost Michigan's economy. According to state officials, the project could create 10,000 jobs directly and 30,000 additional jobs through related economic activity...

The Canadian government has offered to pay up to $550 million to cover Michigan's cost to build the new bridge between the U.S. and Canada. This agreement mirrors the agreement to build the Blue Water Bridge. The U.S. paid for that bridge and Canada's offer to cover this investment is in the same spirit of cooperation. Canada will be repaid – as Michigan was – through tolls collected from bridge users.

Politics
5:46 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Clarifying what an Emergency Financial Manager can do

Governor Rick Snyder wants the Legislature to clarify the Emergency Financial Manager's Act.

There was a dispute over how much power state-appointed emergency financial managers have when the Detroit School Board sued the state's Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb.

They said he was exercising too much power, and the court agreed.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, filed this report:

Snyder wants the Legislature to rework the Emergency Financial Manager’s Act to provide more clarity on the powers of an emergency manager.

Robert Bobb is the emergency financial manager of the Detroit Public Schools. He says many other school districts and municipal governments are in serious financial trouble.

"There could be more in the future that an emergency financial manager should have complete authority over the operations of a school district and/or a municipality, working with their elected leadership."

Bobb says the emergency financial manager of a school district should be allowed to take over the curriculum as well as finances because, he says, money is involved in all facets of school systems.  A judge denied Bobb that authority.

Bobb says he is encouraged by the governor acknowledging the issue in his State of the State speech, but Bobb says he is not clear what is being proposed, and he is anxious to hear details.

Land use
5:36 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

MI Supreme Court to hear dispute over Benton Harbor golf course

A portion of Jean Klock Park before the golf course was developed
Vincent Duffy Michigan Radio

Attorneys will make their case before Michigan’s Supreme Court Friday over a disputed Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course in Benton Harbor. The course opened last summer.

Nearly a century ago, the Jean Klock Park was donated to the city of Benton Harbor for public recreation. The city leased part of the 90-acre park to non-profit developer Harbor Shores Community Redevelop Corporation, who used land including sand dunes along the Lake Michigan shoreline for 3 holes of an 18 hole golf course.

John Cameron represents the developers.

“We’re not focusing here on three golf holes, we’re focusing here on the entirety of a park and what its being used for, all the different uses; picnicking, hiking, kite-flying, volleyball, concerts, triathlons, and golf.”

Michigan’s Court of Appeals agreed with Cameron that designating part of it as a golf course is not against the restrictions. It also ruled that the city is allowed to lease the land.

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Economy
5:07 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Will price tags be a thing of the past in Michigan?

A law in Michigan requires retailers to label each product in their stores with a price tag.
Christopher Matson Flickr

Price tags? We don't need no stinkin' price tags.

In his State of the State address last night, Governor Rick Snyder said the legislature should get rid of or modify "antiquated laws."

One law he used as an example was the state's "Item Pricing Law." The law, he said, is an undue burden on retailers. From Snyder's State of the State outline:

"Requiring 'stickers' over other forms of price-marking costs Michigan’s economy over $2 billion dollars a year. Let’s use the technology we have to protect customers."

Michigan Radio news intern, Sarah Alvarez, filed a report on the state's Item Pricing Law.

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Arts/Culture
4:31 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

DSO and musicians meet as strike enters 16th week

The Detroit Symphony musicians and the DSO management have agreed to meet
Zuu Mumu Entertainment Flickr

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra agreed to meet with striking musicians on Thursday. Musicians walked out on October 4th. The last time the two sides met to resolve the contract dispute was late November.

Meanwhile, patrons are hoping for a resolution soon. Jean Cranston has attended DSO concerts for the past 15 years.  She says missing out on the concerts is like “losing a friend.”

Cranston lives in the suburbs now – but she was born in Detroit.

"It made me have some connection with the city -- which I feel I don’t have too much of any more," says Cranston.  "And it also gives you hope when you go down there that things can revive in the city."

The DSO lost nearly $9 million last year. Management recently increased its wage offer to musicians. But the DSO also wants work rule changes that musicians oppose.

Transit
4:25 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Feds sink $25 million into Detroit light rail

Artist's rendering of light rail along Woodward Ave. in Detroit
M1 Rail

Plans for a light rail line in Detroit got a boost with a $25 million grant from the federal government.

The money will help with the first phase of the project, which will connect Detroit’s downtown and New Center areas. That 3.5 mile stretch could ultimately extend up Woodward Avenue to the city’s border at Eight Mile Road.

The project is backed by a powerful group of business leaders in the city – including Dan Gilbert, Peter Karmanos, and Roger Penske. They’ve helped pull together about $125 million in private funding. In an unusual arrangement, the federal government agreed to match those private dollars. Normally the city would have to put up the money, but Detroit is broke.

The project is expected to break ground this year.

Politics
3:34 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Dingell plans to run again

John Dingell (D), the dean of Michigan's congressional delegation
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The dean of Michigan's congressional delegation plans to stay in Washington. John Dingell says he plans to run again for the seat he's held since the mid-50's.

Here's the Associated Press story:

Two months after winning a 28th full term in the U.S. House, Michigan's John Dingell says he's going for 29. The 84-year-old Dearborn Democrat tells The Detroit News he'll be a candidate for re-election in 2012. Dingell has been in Congress since 1955. He calls it "the greatest job in the world."

The man known as "Big John" currently represents the 15th District, which could be in jeopardy as redistricting looms. The number of House seats in Michigan will drop one to 14 next year, and majority Republicans could change up Dingell's district.

It now encompasses the far southeastern portion of the state, including Monroe and Ann Arbor. Dingell says he's "had three bad redistrictings" and has "survived every one of them.

Crime
1:56 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Detroiters hopeful serial rapist is in custody

Detroit Chief of Police Ralph Godbee
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroiters are hopeful police have found the person responsible for raping seven women on the city’s east side.

A “person of interest” is in police custody The man has not yet been charged. Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says investigators are being careful not to rush things:

"We have 48 hours to present a warrant to the prosecutor. That is in any case. If it goes outside the scope of 48 hours, as in any case, we would have to have an exception that would allow us to do so."

In most cases, the women were waiting for a bus or walking near a bus stop when they were attacked.

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Education
1:49 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

New digs for Detroit schools police

Officials including Detroit Board of Education President Anthony Adams, holding giant scissors, and Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, to Adams' left, were on hand for the opening of the new DPS police headquarters
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools has a brand-new, state-of-the-art police headquarters.

It’s part of a $42 million initiative to improve security in the school district.

The facility includes a detention center, K-9 kennels, and an alarm system that will alert officers when doors to school buildings are opened when they shouldn’t be, said DPS Police Chief Roderick Grimes:

"We have a command center that will house state-of-the-art camera systems, which will allow us to look at the interior and the exterior of every school, 24 hours a day."

Money to pay for the building’s construction came from $500.5 billion bond initiative voters approved in 2009.

Politics
1:43 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court to consider who should prosecute violations of the state's election laws

The seal of the Michigan Supreme Court
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments tomorrow involving Meijer officials who may have violated state campaign finance law.

The company financed a public relations campaign to kick out village trustees who opposed Meijer’s plans to build a new store in their community.   The move may have violated Michigan’s campaign finance law, which bars corporations and their agents from making campaign contributions. The Grand Traverse Eagle has done a great job covering the case. 

 Alan Schneider is Grand Traverse County Prosecutor.  He’s wanted to pursue an investigation against the Meijer officials.  But attorneys for the Meijer officials involved say only the Secretary of State’s office has the authority to prosecute campaign finance cases.   Alan Schneider says the Michigan Supreme Court must decide who’s right.

“If there’s a crime, that’s a state crime, we are obligated to prosecute.”    

The whole issue could be moot.   Last year, the US Supreme Court struck down federal laws barring corporations from making political contributions. 

Meanwhile, Meijer has paid millions of dollars in settlements to the state and the targeted village trustees.

Legal
12:38 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Is a firefighter's discovery of pot plants an illegal search?

The defendant was charged with possessing marijuana plants after a firefighter discovered them.
USFWS

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case regarding a possible illegal search today.

In the case "The People of the State of Michigan vs. Mark Slaughter" - the defendant, Mark Slaughter, was charged with possessing marijuana plants in his basement after a firefighter found the plants during an emergency call. From the court filing:

On May 6, 2007, firefighters were called to the residence of Kathleen Tunner at 3206 Coolidge, Royal Oak, Michigan. Ms. Tunner testified that she suspected that water was running down the wall of her basement in her unit over her electrical box. Ms. Tunner contacted 911 and the fire department arrived...even though the unit in which called for assistance was Ms. Tunner's unit, Lieutenant Schunck never entered or inspected Ms. Tunner's unit...[Schunck] testified that they entered Defendant's unit, absent any signs of leaking water or hearing water running from outside Defendant's unit...Upon entering Defendants unit, the firefighters observed suspected marijuana plants...and subsequently contacted the police."

The Associated Press reports that lower courts have ruled in Slaughter's favor:

Slaughter's defense lawyer successfully argued that it was an illegal search. Prosecutors say there's an exception when authorities find evidence of a crime during an emergency.

So let's play armchair Supreme Court justice. Do you think this amounted to an illegal search? You can read the complaint to gather more information before you issue your ruling.

Environment
9:58 am
Thu January 20, 2011

Environment in the State of the State

Governor Rick Snyder at last night's State of the State address.
gophouse.com

In his first State of the State address last night, Governor Rick Snyder made it clear that jobs are his first priority.

But he also made several announcements on conservation and park projects and the Pure Michigan tourism campaign. He announced that his budget recommendation will include annual funding of $25 million for the Pure Michigan tourism campaign.

“This program supports one of our strongest assets – our water resources and the treasures of the Great Lakes, and it’s an illustration of value for money. It’s positive for our image, and it’s positive return on our tax dollars.”

And he urged the legislature to quickly pass a bill that would implement the recommendations of the Natural Resources Trust Fund board. The board has recommended that $100 million be used to buy land for conservation and parks.

“These projects will positively impact every corner of our state. From Iron County in the Upper Peninsula to Traverse City, to Luna Pier in Monroe County. Also included is a significant expansion of the William T Milliken Park on the Detroit riverfront.”

In his address, Governor Snyder called the Great Lakes “economic engines.”

 

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Governor Snyder
9:24 am
Thu January 20, 2011

State of the State: What the pundits are saying

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his first State of the State address Wednesday night
Photo courtesy of www.gophouse.com

Governor Rick Snyder delivered his first State of the State address last night to a joint session of the Michigan legislature. Though the speech was highly optimistic, some said they hoped for more details in the address, particularly regarding how the governor plans to balance the state's projected $1.8 billion deficit for the fiscal year that beings October 1st. Snyder said he'll outline his budget plans in February. And, he said, he'll detail plans for government reform and education in March and April respectively. Although some hoped for more specifics, overall, pundits from across the state were pretty upbeat about the address. Here's a look at what they had to say:

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