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Economy
12:24 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

1 in 3 Michiganders are seriously underwater on their homes

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

At first it doesn't sound that great: 1 in 3 people who have mortgages still owe at least 25% more on their house than it's actually worth.

But a year ago, it was even worse. At that time, more than half of all Michiganders with mortgages were in that position.

So it looks like things are going in the right direction, according to Daren Bloomquist of Realty Trac. 

"The more people who are not underwater, they might decide that, 'o.k., now I actually can sell my property and make money off of it,'" he says.  

"So more people listing their homes for sale...will help stimulate the housing market in Michigan."

This is all because the housing market keeps warming up, and people's homes are worth more money.

So even if you were never underwater on your home, you might feel richer, says Bloomquist. 

"If you have a home that's worth now $100,000, and last year it was worth $70,000, that gives you a lot of confidence. And maybe you decide, now I can do some remodeling on my home, maybe I'll do a $5,000 project to fix up my kitchen," he says.

Still, Michigan is one of states with the highest rate of people seriously underwater on their homes: 29% of residential properties. 

That puts us behind only Nevada, Florida, and Illinois. Ohio is in 5th place.

The Environment Report
12:19 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Restaurants and markets running low on a popular Great Lakes fish

Bernie Fritzsch gets ready for the lunch rush at Monahan's Seafood Market.
Credit Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

Monahan’s Seafood Market in Ann Arbor carries soft-shell crabs from Maryland, Alaskan salmon, and Florida red snapper.

But at the moment, they’re fresh out of Great Lakes whitefish.

Bernie Fritzsch manages the fish market.

“We’re hoping to see it today, but we haven’t seen it for the last week,” he says.

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Politics & Government
10:58 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Detroit bankruptcy judge revives talks on regional water agency

A Detroit Water and Sewerage manhole cover.
Credit user rob zand / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has ordered the city of Detroit and the suburbs to further explore the creation of a regional water department.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes granted Wayne County's request Thursday to have the parties sit down with a mediator.

Detroit's water department provides water to Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has expressed interest in spinning off the department as a regional agency.

But some suburban leaders are concerned about future financial burdens on their residents.

The judge says the bankruptcy case is a "unique opportunity" to keep negotiating. Otherwise, Rhodes says the opportunity "will be lost forever."

Opinion
9:53 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Journalists work hard to tell you everything you don't want to hear

To put it mildly, journalists are not the most beloved group in society. They never have been. We show up to tell you all sorts of unpleasant truths about life, society, your leaders and yourselves.

“Good afternoon. The mayor’s a crook, the governor is owned by special interests, your city is broke and your water polluted.”

“The country is involved in a ridiculous war it isn’t winning, your child is getting a lousy education, your roads will cost billions to fix and your representatives sold out to corporate interests. By the way, your kids are binge drinking and you are too fat. Have a nice day.” 

It’s no wonder people aren’t all that happy when they see us coming. Like any other profession or family, we also have our share of black sheep. Journalists who lie or make things up are very rare, but nobody forgets it when they do.

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Now it's up to Lansing to make Detroit's "grand bargain" work

Credit Sam Beebe

Now that Detroit’s bankruptcy is moving along, Gov. Rick Snyder is moving to secure the state’s end of a so-called “grand bargain.”

It would use $816 million to minimize city pension cuts, and protect the Detroit Institute of Arts from potential liquidation to pay off creditors.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Thu April 17, 2014

With major settlements piling up, Detroit bankruptcy moves along at lightning speed

Detroit retirees protesting pension cuts.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This has proven to be a watershed week in Detroit’s bankruptcy case, which is now moving along at lightning speed.

On Tuesday, representatives for Detroit’s two pension funds reached tentative settlements with the city.

The deals would spare Detroit’s retired police officers and firefighters any direct cuts to their pensions, while non-uniform retirees would take 4.5% cuts.

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Politics & Government
6:14 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Mark Schauer calls education his “top priority” in schools plan

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and running mate Lisa Brown announced their education plan Wednesday in Lansing.
Credit Jake Neher / MPRN

The Democrat likely to challenge Gov. Rick Snyder in November says improving public schools would be his top priority in office.

Former Congressman Mark Schauer and his running mate, Lisa Brown, unveiled their education plan Wednesday in Lansing.

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Education
4:31 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

In Gibbons case, University of Michigan won't share internal privacy policies

Federal, student and media investigators want to know why the university didn't expel football player Brendan Gibbons for his 2009 actions until four years later
Credit user Cbl62 / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Michigan is using what it calls its own interpretations of privacy laws to keep student investigators and media from understanding why it took four years to expel Brendan Gibbons for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy. 

The university, however, has not disclosed what those interpretations are, or if they are a written internal policy.

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Environment & Science
4:25 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

An MSU physicist believes he has solved the "black hole information paradox"

A simulated view of a black hole. A real black hole can't be observed.
user Alain r Wikimedia Commons

Ever since Stephen Hawking came out with his theory about how black holes work, physicists – including Hawking himself – have been wrestling with a "hole" in that theory.

Hawking postulated that if you threw something like a chair into a black hole, given enough time that chair would "dematerialize." It would disappear, leaving no trace of its existence.

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Stateside
4:14 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

GM asks bankruptcy judge to look at its liability

GM Renaissance Center in Detroit.
Credit John F. Martin / Creative Commons

General Motors is asking a bankruptcy judge in New York to take a look at its "shield" – the shield that protects it from liability lawsuits that stem from crashes or defects that happened before its bankruptcy.

Veteran auto analyst Michelle Krebs joined us today. She explained what GM is trying to find out. *Listen to the audio above.

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Stateside
3:43 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

With deals made with creditors, what's next in Detroit's bankruptcy?

Detroit's skyline.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It's turning into a momentous week in Detroit's quest to exit bankruptcy.

First came a deal with two global banks: UBS and Bank of America.

Then, an agreement with leaders of Detroit's retired police and firefighters.

That was followed late yesterday by a settlement with the remaining Detroit retirees.

Daniel Howes, a business columnist with The Detroit News, talks with us about the next challenges in the Detroit bankruptcy saga.

Stateside
3:42 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

How thrifting became a $13 billion industry

Turns out "popping some tags" can boost the economy.
A screenshot of Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" YouTube

An interview with Brenda Parker and Chantal McDaniel.

Do you shop resale? Do you have a favorite thrift shop?

The business of selling second-hand goods has become a $13 billion industry in this country annually.

It's grown about 7% over each of the past two years.

Now you'll find resale, thrift and consignment shops in most Michigan cities and towns.

What's behind the growth? And what does this "resale" economy offer us?

We're joined by Brenda Parker. She is a professor of Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She recently coauthored a piece on the restructuring of retail economies in this era of e-commerce.

And we welcome Chantal McDaniel. She is based in Grand Rapids, and she writes a thrift fashion blog called "Thrift Trick: Miles of Fashion on a Shoestring."

Listen to the full interview above.

Failure:Lab
2:30 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Michigan native fails to make it in NYC

Rick Beerhorst tells the story of his failed New York City move.
Credit Failure:Lab / YouTube

It was Bill Gates who declared,"It's fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure."

And it's good to realize that we all fail at times. It's just that most of us try to cover that up, or, at the very least, we don't broadcast our failures.

But that’s not how it works at Failure:Lab.

It’s a program designed to get us thinking about the meaning of failure – to realize that failure happens to everyone and to inspire us to take intelligent risks.

You can see our past Failure:Lab posts here.

Today, we hear about Rick Beerhorst’s failure: his attempt to move his family to New York City.

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Environment & Science
2:05 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Spring from the air in Munising, Michigan

One of the aerial images near Munising, MI capture from the video.
Credit Roam, Inc. / YouTube

Spring in Michigan's Upper Peninsula means watching the layers of snow melt. Thomas Dolaskie of Roam, Inc. in the UP put together this video of a spring weekend in Munising, Michigan. He writes:

Filmed the first weekend of April, 2014 – we got in the last snowshoe and frozen lake roaming of the year, and watched the waterfalls start to flow. Relax, it's spring. 

Here's the video:

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Law
11:48 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Former Detroit Public Library official pleads guilty to bribery charges

The Detroit Public Library.
Credit DPL / Facebook

Forty-seven year old Timothy Cromer was the focus of the FBI’s raid of the Detroit Public Library back in November 2012. Cromer was the library’s chief administrative and technology officer.

Christine MacDonald of the Detroit News has been writing about this case for some time. She reports that Cromer plead guilty to taking $1.4 million in kickbacks from contractors. Two Detroit Public Library contractors were also charged in the FBI’s case.

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Opinion
11:29 am
Wed April 16, 2014

You don’t want to play poker with Kevyn Orr

Here’s the one thing certain about Detroit’s bankruptcy: You don’t want to play poker with Kevyn Orr.

The state-appointed emergency manager had everyone convinced city workers and retirees were facing a steep 26% cut in their pensions – a cut that would jump to 34% if they didn’t quickly approve the smaller amount.

The city was getting ready to mail them all ballots explaining the cuts and asking for their approval.

Then, voilà – yesterday, everything changed. Suddenly, negotiators came up with a deal whereby most pensions would be cut by less than 5%. Police and fire retirees pensions won’t be cut at all.

There seems little doubt that the 32,000 employees and retirees will approve this deal. Yet we need to remember two things. First of all, this is not final yet – not by a long shot.

Something else that’s still very uncertain has to happen first. The Michigan Legislature has to approve contributing $350 million to a fund designed to shore up the pensions and protect any of the work in the city-owned collections in the Detroit Institute of Arts from being possibly sold for the benefit of the creditors.

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Politics & Government
9:41 am
Wed April 16, 2014

The Week in Michigan Politics

Credit JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

Week in Michigan Politics interview for 4/16/14

This  Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss a drop in local revenue sharing, a retiree deal in the Detroit bankruptcy, a new controversy over Belle Isle and management changes in General Motors.

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9:16 am
Wed April 16, 2014

New State of Opportunity series featuring "One Person Who Cared"

Lead in text: 
"Beating the odds doesn't just happen." In the two years since Dustin Dwyer's been reporting for the State of Opportunity project, he's finding breaking the cycle of poverty involves more than luck. We're starting a series on people who've broken the cycle and the person who helped them get ahead. Today, Dustin speaks with Jamie Alexander, a social worker who credits her grandparents with letting her know that "not going to school was not an option."
7 million: the number of grandparents whose grandchildren younger than 18 were living with them in 2010.Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 American Community Survey
Environment & Science
7:06 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Deadly pig virus reported on 93 Michigan farms

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus dehydrates and kills baby pigs.
Credit Steve Sawyer / Flickr

If you eat bacon, prepare for higher prices at the grocery store soon.

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus is deadly to piglets, and it’s shown up on at least 93 Michigan farms. The virus was first seen in the U.S. about a year ago. It causes severe diarrhea in baby pigs that eventually dehydrates and kills them. It is extremely infectious  and so far little is known about how it spreads.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Detroit City Council approves massive property transfer to city land bank

The Detroit Land Bank Authority is a key part of Mayor Mike Duggan's anti-blight efforts.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council has agreed to transfer more than 16,000 city owned properties to Detroit’s land bank authority.

The transfer allows Mayor Mike Duggan’s ambitious blight eradication efforts to move forward.

Duggan wants to use the non-profit land bank as a key tool in the fight against blight.

Read more

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