News

House Foreclosure
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The number of U.S. homes lost to foreclosure last year dropped 22.6% from 2014, according to the analytics firm CoreLogic.

Economist Frank Nothaft says there were fewer completed foreclosures nationwide than any year since 2006.

And while the country hasn't yet worked through all of the extra foreclosures to reach "normal" pre-recession levels, "we're getting there," says Nothaft. "I think in the next year or two, nationwide, we'll be coming down to those levels, finally."

But it will take Michigan longer to get through its foreclosure backlog.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit teachers and parents had a “day of action” Tuesday.

It centered around a number of “walk-in” events at neighborhood schools throughout the city.

Those brief rallies were meant to show public support for investing in schools and educators.

They’re designed to complement the recent wave of teacher sickout protests that have drawn attention to deteriorating buildings and other crisis within the Detroit Public Schools.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Detroit parents, teachers, and school officials were in Lansing on Tuesday to speak out on bills meant to rescue Michigan’s largest district.

Demonstrators gathered outside a state Senate committee hearing on Senate bills 710 and 711. Not to oppose the legislation, but to bring attention to the deteriorating state of Detroit Public Schools (DPS).

Courtesy of Bill Schuette

The lawyer in charge of state Attorney General Bill Schuette’s investigation into the Flint water crisis says some people may be charged with serious crimes before it’s all over.

  

Todd Flood says criminal charges could include official misconduct by public officials and involuntary manslaughter, depending on what the investigation uncovers. The inquiry will cover both the lead contamination of the drinking water, and outbreaks of Legionnaire’s disease that caused 10 deaths.

  

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Education Tuesday unveiled its plan to dramatically improve the state's schools in the next ten years. 

Called the "Top 10 in 10 Years," the proposal aims to put Michigan in the top fifth of U.S. school systems. The proposal is the result of a seven-month planning period, with the department taking input from education policy experts and the public. 

Only 17 miles from Lake Michigan's shore, Waukesha, WI, wants to replace its irradiated drinking water with water from the lake
flickr user Rachel Kramer / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Should a Wisconsin city with a contaminated groundwater supply be allowed to siphon drinking water from Lake Michigan?

Waukesha's groundwater supply has a radium problem. Being 17 miles from Lake Michigan, Waukesha's proposed solution is to draw water from the lake. 

But according to the Great Lakes Compact, Waukesha cannot just lay down a pipeline and start drinking Lake Michigan water. It has to ask, and all eight Great Lakes governors have to say "yes."

According to Laura Reese, while Midtown Detroit is seeing some income growth, the rest of the city is only getting worse
wikimedia user Andrew Jameson / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Construction is moving along in Detroit on the new Red Wings arena scheduled to open in 2017.

It’s right across from the Comerica Park, which is across the street from Ford Field.

Do economic development tactics like shiny new stadiums and arenas, casinos, and festival marketplaces really pay off for cities? What really works in urban development?

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s mayor and others want to replace all the lead service lines in the city. Besides the cost, there’s been one huge hurdle: Flint doesn’t know where its lead service lines are.

Until now, those records have lived on 3-by-5 index cards, old maps, and in the minds of Flint water department employees.

Experts at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus spent the past few weeks poring over those records and putting them into a much more useful, digital database. They’ve finished their work and handed the new database to city leaders.

Frances Kellor reading on a dock
Harvard University, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America

As our nation continues to lay entrenched in the immigration debate, it might do us well to remember the life and work of a woman from Coldwater.

Frances Kellor rose from very humble roots in Michigan to become a nationally respected reformer. She worked in prison reform and for women’s issues, championed the cause of immigrants, rural and African American workers, and challenged the country to think about what it really meant to be an American.

Loveland Technologies

What happened to Detroit Public Schools?

How did Michigan's largest school system go from boom in the 1840s – packing students into makeshift classrooms in storefronts, churches, and houses because it couldn’t keep up with demand – to bust? In the last 15 years DPS has closed almost 200 schools, and now teeters on the brink of collapse.

Detroit-based Loveland Technologies set out to answer that question in a report compiled after 18 months of research, using 200 years’ worth of documents and records.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and retired National Guard Brigadier General Michael McDaniel.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says the city plans to team up with technical experts from the Lansing Board of Water and Light to replace all the lead lines in one year.

Officials say the Lansing BWL has removed 13,500 lead pipes over the last 12 years at a cost of $42 million.

The Flint lead pipe removal project is estimated to cost $55 million. That’s money the city doesn’t have, so Weaver is calling on the state and Congress to make the money available.

sign in Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

General Motors and the United Auto Workers have pledged of $3 million over five years to United Way of Genesee County.

On Tuesday, a press release from United Way announced the money will go toward addressing the various concerns of Flint children.

Jamie Gaskin, CEO of United Way of Genesee County, said in an interview that these kids have both long- and short-term needs. 

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

It’s been almost four months since Flint went back to buying water from Detroit’s water system.

Here’s the good news: Since January, more than 90 percent of water tests have come back below the federal action level for lead of 15 parts per billion.

But there are still some insanely high lead levels in some homes. Take a look at a map of where those are, and you'll see there’s no pattern.

It hasn’t been very easy to defend Governor Rick Snyder lately, but I think he did absolutely the right thing in refusing to testify before a committee of congressional Democrats about the scandal involving the lead poisoning of the water in Flint.

In all likelihood, this would have been nothing but a partisan witch hunt. He would have been asked questions along the lines of, “when did you stop poisoning children on purpose?”

Diccionario / Flickr Creative Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit has a new high school for bilingual students who speak Spanish and English.

Academy of the Americas has expanded from its main building in southwest Detroit.

Previously, all students attended classes in the same location. The new site will house students in grades 8-10.

The high school teaches a curriculum with a 50-50 ratio of both languages, which means students need to have a prior background in speaking Spanish.

Gov. Rick Snyder
gophouse.com

A state elections board has approved one petition that seeks to recall Governor Rick Snyder, but rejected several others.

The rejected petitions include efforts to remove the governor for his handling of the Flint water crisis. The rejected petitions were mostly due to spelling and grammar errors that could have made the drives susceptible to a legal challenge. 

Recall leader David Bullock vowed the effort to remove Snyder over what happened in Flint is not over.

Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr

Detroit water department officials have a proposal meant to ensure everyone in the city can afford water.

The Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) would give qualifying low-income customers a fixed monthly payment.

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department director Gary Brown says data show that’s a key part of any utility assistance plan.

“When you’re economically disadvantaged, you need a fixed amount of payment to make any monthly payment,” Brown said. “So we hope to do that with this program.”

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Luke Waid says he was stunned when he got the results from his daughter Sophia's 1-year check-up.

It was August 2014, and a blood test revealed a lead level of 14 micrograms per deciliter. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control considers 5 "high." 

Nike Air Jordan I, 1985
Nike Archives / Courtesy American Federation of Arts

Would you pay $1,000 for a pair of sneakers? How about $1,000 for a pair of sneakers that you would rarely put on your feet? If this sounds outrageous to you, then you might have trouble fitting in the world of “sneaker culture.”

How did the hobby of collecting shoes evolve into a high-demand art form where people are willing to pay as much as four figures – sometimes more – for a pair?

sign in Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

If you were to ask the average Michigander what the origins of Flint’s downfall were, you might get a few different answers. Some of those answers would likely be related to the auto industry – specifically, when General Motors left the city in the 1980s.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says the state is working with two Flint organizations to hire 50 residents who will help test the city's water for lead contamination.

Snyder announced Monday that Orchards Children's Services and the Flint YMCA's Safe Places Program will help hire and train city residents this month.

More residents may be hired as needed.

The Republican governor says in a press release that water testing teams need more people to get the job done, and "no one is better suited to help the city bounce back."

Flickr/Astrid

The Next Idea

In the 122 years that Michigan has been making cars, the automobile industry has taught us that it’s not about having the parts but how you put them together that makes all the difference. A disassembled car is just a pile of 20,000 or more pieces of dull metal, washers, connectors, nuts and ugly wiring piled in your driveway. But put them all together and you get the most transformative technology of the 20th century.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Last week was the beginning of the end for the controversial Education Achievement Authority.

Republican state lawmakers announced the EAA would come to an end, in an effort to win Detroit lawmakers’ votes for bills to resolve the crisis in the Detroit Public Schools.  

Mike Perini / Michigan Radio

As people across the nation celebrate Mardi Gras on Tuesday, many a Michigander will celebrate what some folks endearingly call Pączki (poonch-KEY) Day by eating a mega-calorie packing deep-fried Polish doughnut.

Over the past few decades, Michigan lost more residents than any other state. That means thousands of our kind relocated to a metro-area which may be lacking a Polish-American population, and therefore, lacking places to purchase a precious Pączki.

Doug Coombe

Carey Gustafson spent hours in her bedroom as a kid, sketching images of rock stars and actors and her favorite pop culture characters. She especially loved drawing Pac-Man and The Monkees and E.T. and Rick Springfield.

Gustafson says back then, she did not have a well-developed sense of identity. But she did have a good sense of humor. Plus she loved rock-n-roll and pop culture, and found plenty of inspiration in music and books and art.

Lars Plougmann

If you want your vote to count in Michigan's March 8 presidential primary, you must register to vote today.

Potential voters can pick up registration forms at any Secretary of State branch office or at most local or state government offices. 

Forms can also be accessed at the Secretary of State's website here.

Two young protesters at City Hall last week. The council floated a draft resolution to ask the city to stop charging people for water.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

But here’s the thing: the city council doesn’t really have the power to actually force the city to stop billing people for their water.

That’s because big financial decisions (and this one would be a doozy) still have to be okayed by a state-appointed board, called the Receivership Transition Advisory Board.

They’re the guys the state put in place after the Emergency Manager left in April 2015.

Technically, that’s when Flint “transitioned back to local control,” according to the state, but there’s still a lot of limitations on what local officials can actually do.

Mike Durand / creative commons

U.S. car safety regulators are investigating electronic gear shifters in more than 850,000 newer model Fiat Chrysler vehicles. 

Driver problems with the shifters have caused 121 crashes and 30 injuries. 

The shifters are apparently so confusing that drivers have exited the vehicles while they're in gear. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the shifters' operation is not intuitive and provides poor feedback to the driver. 

A few accidents caused by the rollaway vehicles resulted in hospitalizations. 

A week ago I mentioned that Jordan Development, a major oil and gas exploration company based in Traverse City, wanted to drill a well on a church property in Southfield.

Southfield is a well-settled, bustling middle-class suburb of 75,000, and the idea of an oil well in such a community seemed unbelievable to some.

It seemed unbelievable to me as well, so did the idea that the city couldn’t stop it.

Michigan presidential primary voters will head to the polls a month from tomorrow. But, if you think the action is waiting until then, think again.

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