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bottom of chalkboard, with an eraser and chalk sitting on the ledge
user alkruse24 / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Education released the state’s School Score Cards and the “Top to Bottom” list today. The Top to Bottom list is used by the School Reform Office to identify low-performing schools.

The “Priority List” is made up of the lowest-performing five percent of schools in the state, and schools that were previously in the five percent and haven’t improved enough to get off the list.  Schools on the list for three years could be subject to closure.

Great Lakes Water Authority COO Cheryl Porter explains what cause water to have bad smell and taste.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Metro Detroit's water authority is assuring people the water is safe to drink after some downriver Detroit-area residents noticed their drinking water tasted or smelled bad.

Despite the odd smell, taste, and in some cases discoloration of the water, the Great Lakes Water Authority has not found any troubling contaminants in the water samples it has tested.

Cheryl Porter, GLWA’s Chief Operating Officer, doesn't know exactly what caused the smell and taste, but said the complaints started after a river basin's biannual cleaning began.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts says the leaked tapes are fake, and he won't step down
Jim Fouts Facebook page

Tuesday, members of the Warren city council will meet for the first time since more audio tapes allegedly containing the voice of Mayor Jim Fouts were leaked.  

The tapes purportedly show Fouts making disparaging comments about African-Americans and women.

Fouts says the tapes are fake. The source of the tapes is unknown.

Warren city council secretary Robert Boccomino says council members will discuss the tapes and try to uncover more information about their source and when they were recorded.

The president rightly credited with saving Detroit’s auto industry from itself is gone. Barack Obama’s $80 billion-dollar decision remains controversial but the outcome is much less so.

In the space of eight years, the automakers once teetering on the edge of collapse look nothing like the two creaking hulks that endured bankruptcy. The third, Ford Motor, barely avoided a similar fate.

Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Several students worked diligently on signs and hats to carry and wear in Saturday's Women's March on Lansing. It's a sister march to a larger event happening in Washington, D.C.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Two more deer have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in Michigan.

The two female deer are from a farm in Mecosta County, north of Grand Rapids. The farm has been quarantined and other deer are being tested for CWD. 

State wildlife officials are investigating to see if the source of the infection can be determined.

CWD can be transmitted directly from one animal to another, or indirectly through the environment. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

State officials are looking at ways to improve their response to Flint’s water crisis, almost three years after the disastrous decision to pump water from the Flint River. 

As the city of Flint continues to rip out thousands of old lead and galvanized pipes connecting homes and businesses to city water mains, state officials expect they will see spikes in lead levels in the water.

JOHN AUCHTER / AUCHTOON.COM

One of the big downsides to January in Michigan is the annual State of the State address. We have not been blessed with governors who are accomplished orators, at least not during the time that I've been editorial cartooning.

John Engler was so bad it was actually part of his charm. (That may be the only published instance where you will see "charm" and "John Engler" in the same sentence.)

He was an effective behind-the-scenes guy who was clearly uncomfortable speechifying. You could almost see the thought balloon above his head as he talked

The U.S. Capitol at 6:31 a.m. ET this morning.
Steve Inskeep / NPR

The country inaugurated a new president on Friday, January 20, 2017

Donald J. Trump became the 45th U.S. President after he took the Oath of Office at noon eastern time on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

The Michigan State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

Pay rates for workers on publicly funded construction projects could be an issue this year in the Legislature. Bills to repeal Michigan’s 50-year-old law that requires contractors to pay union-scale wages on public projects were among the first to be introduced this year.

Republican leaders in the Legislature support the repeal. But Governor Rick Snyder does not. He says prevailing wage encourages people to consider careers in the building trades. 

When writing briefs for a Supreme Court case, relying on legal appeals more than emotional ones is best, a new study says.
U.S. Supreme Court

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed a brief against the American Bar Association. A discrimination case was filed last month in the United States Supreme Court.

This is the third brief Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed in the case going back to 2011.

Angelo Binno of Michigan is legally blind. He is suing the American Bar Association for disability discrimination. Binno says he was rejected from every law school he applied to because he couldn’t draw diagrams for the “logic games” portion of the L-SAT and scored too low on the test.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

Mike Duggan

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says he wants to speed up the process of acquiring blighted homes through the Detroit Land Bank Authority, an agency under federal investigation.

The current city treasurer, David Szymanski, will step down from that role and move over to the land bank to lead a “litigation team” that will focus on seizing more blighted properties under nuisance abatement laws, Duggan said Thursday.

Pam Weiss is armed with some good walking shoes for the Women's March on Washington.
Courtesy of Pam Weiss

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to participate in the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, the first full day of Donald Trump's presidency.

Pam Weiss of Ann Arbor plans to hop on a bus tomorrow to join the march in Washington.

For Weiss, it's not just about being anti-Trump.

President Barack Obama in Detroit on Labor Day in 2011.
screen grab from YouTube video

President Barack Obama leaves office tomorrow and he leaves behind a complicated legacy when it comes to the auto industry.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes reviews Obama’s relationship with automakers in his latest column.

Gage Skidmore / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

On Jan. 20, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as our 45th president of the United States.  The election was one of the most contentious in recent memory and has exposed or inflamed serious divisions in American society. All this week on Stateside, we’ll speak with Michiganders who were drawn to the President-elect’s message about their hopes for the new administration.

Jules Pastorino is a 19-year-old woman and a University of Michigan student. If she were to sit down with President-elect Donald Trump, she would urge him to reign in the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency (NSA), tell him that climate change is “not a conspiracy” and ask him to consider the importance of abortion rights.

Those are concerns that Pastorino shares with many Hillary Clinton voters. But in 2016, her first election, Pastorino voted for Donald Trump.

Clinton Steeds / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

It’s said necessity is indeed the mother of invention. Innovation is often born out of crisis or conflict – a war, a pandemic or a financial crash.  Sometimes the conflict can be constructive, like the invention of a new miracle drug. And sometimes the conflict can be destructive, like, for instance, a contentious election.

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint city council members say they need to know more about plans to upgrade the city’s water plant.

Mistakes made treating water drawn from the Flint River resulted in corrosive water damaging the city’s pipes. The damaged pipes leeched lead into Flint’s tap water.  

More than a year after the city’s drinking water source was switched back to treated water from Detroit, tests still show elevated levels of lead in the tap water of many Flint homes. 

Digital_Third_Eye / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Across the country, Democrats are asking how to come back from their 2016 losses. One California party leader has a proposal: move the party’s headquarters to Michigan.

Phil Angelides is a former chairman of both the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and California's Democratic Party. In an article in Politico, he urged the party to “rebuild from the ground up.” Detroit, Angelides believes, is the best place to begin that process.

Newly-arrived Syrian refugees in Oakland County
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

An Arab American foundation has launched a fundraising campaign for new Syrian refugees in Southeast Michigan, raising more than $50,000 for 25 families. 

The Center for American Philanthropy (CAAP) in Dearborn created the Building Blocks for New Americans Fund to provide each family with basic needs like housing, clothing, and transportation. 

The fund is supported by large donors, who match all contributions by smaller community groups. 

In addition to providing hundreds of thousands with health insurance, Healthy Michigan has also helped Michigan hospitals save hundreds of millions of dollars because of a reduction in uncompensated care.
Chealion / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is in Washington today. He’s meeting with members of Congress to talk about Healthy Michigan, the state’s version of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

During his State of the State address this week, Snyder noted Congressional Republicans’ plan to repeal, and likely replace, the ACA with something else. However, it’s uncertain what that replacement plan might be.

Nick Lyon, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, joined Stateside to talk about the current state of Healthy Michigan and what the future might hold for the program that has provided about 640,000 people with health insurance. 

Inhalers
Jack Lawrence / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

More than $1 million in foundation and state grants are going to the Detroit Health Department for five new initiatives aimed at addressing health problems of Detroit children, the Department announced today.

The goal is to reduce health barriers that interfere with school attendance and learning.

"We're focusing on a number of critical outcomes that really affect children's health and keep them out of the classroom and prevent them from being able to learn and, in the future, earn," said Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, executive director of the Detroit Health Department.

Screenshot / C-SPAN

About a week ago, as attorneys and staffers helped Betsy DeVos prepare and file paperwork required as part of her confirmation process to become the next U.S. education secretary, somebody asked her about her ties to her mother’s foundation.

“She said, ‘Well wait a minute. I’ve never been on that board or never been involved with that foundation.’ Nor did she ever give consent for her name to be used,” DeVos family spokesman John Truscott said. “Best we can figure it was an error on behalf of the foundation staff and was never run by her.”

Honey bees face a number of threats.
cygnus921 / Creative Commons

Researchers have found a chemical that’s widely used on crops such as almonds, wine grapes and tree fruits can be bad for bees.

They’ve found it makes honey bee larvae more susceptible to deadly viruses.

Gov. Snyder delivers his 2017 State of the State address.
House TV

The environment came up a handful of times in Governor Snyder’s State of the State address.

The governor was often light on details, and he didn't talk about the Flint water crisis until halfway through the speech.

But Snyder did announce some new initiatives. He called for more investment in our aging infrastructure, announced a work group to study environmental justice issues, reminded the Legislature that he wants tighter standards for lead in drinking water.

Congressman Justin Amash, a Republican from Grand Rapids just starting his fourth term, is never going to be part of the good old boys and girls club that runs Congress.

He doesn’t “go along to get along,” follows his own brand of “libertarian light” conservatism, and if he hasn’t had time to read a bill or grasp its full implications, traditionally just votes “present” no matter what his party’s leadership says.

Detroit's Water Works Plant.
Great Lakes Water Authority / Facebook

Residents of Downriver Detroit communities have reported since last week that their tap water smells and tastes like sulfur.

Great Lakes Water Authority officials said the problem has been traced to a temporary spike in water particulates during a routine cleaning of the settling basins at the GLWA's Southwest Water Treatment plant. 

The audit says the state needs to a better job of inspecting bottled water.
John McDonnell / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Michigan department needs to do more to follow its own regulations on bottled water inspection.

That was the message of an audit released today by the Office of the Auditor General. The report found that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development did not always perform timely inspections of water bottles and places with water dispensing machines.

Western Union sign.
user Metropolico.org / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The American Arab Civil Rights League says it’s resolved a discrimination complaint against Western Union.

The ACRL filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, after the money-transfer service had cut off service to Haidar Abdallah, an Arab-American man from Metro Detroit.

ACRL director Rula Aoun said Western Union refused to continue doing business with Abdallah after asking for information about his employment and financial background. And the company never explained its actions.

Michigan state Capitol
Mattileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder delivered his seventh State of the State address on Tuesday, outlining accomplishments since 2010 and urging investment in infrastructure.

Stateside spoke with two of the Michigan legislative leaders who attended the address at the Michigan Capitol, Republican Senator Patrick Colbeck and Democrat Sam Singh, the party leader in the state House of Representatives.

SCREENSHOT / C-SPAN

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the U.S Department of Education went before the Senate education committee yesterday for her confirmation hearing.

Senators asked many questions of Betsy DeVos – some about her Michigan family’s donations of millions of dollars to Republican candidates, others about whether she would mandate that public schools become charter or private schools.

Yet, it was an exchange between Minnesota Senator Al Franken and DeVos that caught our attention.

Take a listen:

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