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11:24 am
Wed July 23, 2014

President of GVSU looks back on the clean-up of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Credit ARLIS Reference / Flickr

We've just marked the 25th anniversary of one of the most catastrophic man-made environmental disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

It was just after midnight on March 24, 1989 when the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound. 11 million gallons of crude oil gushed into the pristine waters.

The clean-up effort was staggering. Among those called to help was U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Thomas Haas. He was a chemist and an expert in hazmat cleanup. Twenty-five years later, that Lt. Commander is the president of Grand Valley State University.

“We had to figure out what clean meant,” Haas said.

There were efforts to clean the mess, but not all the efforts were good for the environment. Haas said they used some very intrusive means on cleaning up the area, such as sterilizing some of the beach areas with hot water spray.

“The efforts to sterilize the area with steam and high pressure water was really not the best way to go,” Haas said.

Haas said the sight of the animals that were affected by the spill was gruesome.

When cleaning, he said they tried to move all of the oil into one spot and move it to the bottom of the seabed.

He said at that time, there was not a lot of knowledge on the toxicity of oil and the effect it had on the fish. They understood the short-term effects of the oil, but not the long-term effects.  

“I still don’t think we fully understand the total toxicity of some of the residual oils that are there,” Haas said.

*Listen to full story with Thomas Haas at 3:00 pm on Stateside. Audio for this post will be added by 4:30 pm. 

Stateside
11:18 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Demolish or Restore? How should Detroit handle blight?

Abandoned Packard Automobile Factory, Detroit
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Blight is one of the biggest challenges facing Detroit.

Should we tear down and start fresh? Or selectively look at the properties and see what can be preserved?

According to a report from the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, 78,506 building in the city are decayed or at risk of decaying.

That’s 30% of the cities structures.

It will cost $850 million to demolish the blighted homes and commercial buildings. Clearing industrial sites could cost a billion dollars more.

Alan Brake wrote an editorial in Architects Newspaper that questions whether Detroit’s approach to blight is the best approach.  

In his article he stated, “In its panic to save itself, Detroit runs the risk of demolishing its identity and the foundation of its revival (whatever that may be).”

Brake joined us on Stateside today to discuss his point of view. Brian Farkas, with the city of Detroit's building authority, also joined us.

“Blight elimination doesn’t mean demolition,” Farkas said. “Demolition is one of the tools we have and, quite frankly, it’s the last tool that we want to use.”

*Listen to our full interview with Alan Brake and Brian Farkas at 3:00 pm on Stateside. Audio for this clip will be added by 4:30 pm. 

Stateside
11:13 am
Wed July 23, 2014

The fight to increase Michigan's minimum wage is not over

Credit user: Al / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder signed a new minimum wage law in May that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.40 to $9.25 an hour by 2018.

But the fight is not over.

Raise Michigan, a group of unions, nonprofits and liberal advocacy groups, wants to put forth a ballot initiative that will ask voters to amend the law and raise minimum wage eventually to $10.10 an hour.

Chris Gautz is the Capitol Correspondent for Crain’s Detroit Business. He joined Cynthia on Stateside today to talk about the group’s plans to meet at the Capitol this Thursday with the Board of State Canvassers.

Read his article in Crain’s Detroit Business here.

*Listen to the full interview with Chris Gautz on Stateside at 3:00 pm. Audio for this story will be added by 4:30 pm. 

Politics & Government
11:06 am
Wed July 23, 2014

This U.S. District Judge turns 90 today, and he has no plans to stop hearing cases

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This audio is pending

35 years ago this spring, President Jimmy Carter nominated Detroit attorney Avern Cohn to be a federal judge.

High-tech meant IBM selectric typewriters back then.

Detroit had nearly twice its current population. The World Wide Web wouldn’t exist for more than a decade, and President Obama was a teenager still in high school.

Today, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn turns 90. And he’ll spend the day, as usual, in federal court, where he still hears cases, full time.

“I get great satisfaction out of this,” he told me when I talked to him last week. “I’m happy. Every day is different. You are always learning something new. It is a job that keeps you young.”

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Culture
10:49 am
Wed July 23, 2014

For Detroit's 313th Birthday, pictures of revival

Orchestra Hall in Detroit sat vacant for almost 20 years before renovation started in the 1970s. An iconic building saved from ruin.
Credit screen grab / http://detroiturbex.com/

DEE-twah

The French word for "strait" (détroit) was how it all started in 1701.

A French explorer founded Fort Pontchartrain on the "straits" - the water between Lake Huron and Lake Erie - on July 24, 1701.

It didn't become incorporated as a city until 1806, and the city grew from there.

This population graph shows the timing of the rise and decline of the city:

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Education
10:05 am
Wed July 23, 2014

What do you want to see in a standardized state test for Michigan students?

Credit Biologycorner / Creative Commons

Michigan students have been taking the same standardized test for decades. It’s known as the MEAP.

But this year the MEAP test will be completely re-done and students will take it in the spring instead of the fall. After next year, it’s not clear what test students will take.

The state was all set to switch over from the MEAP to a test called “Smarter Balanced.” But state lawmakers balked at the idea, because the test aligned to the controversial common core standards.

Lawmakers wanted the state to stick with the MEAP.

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9:32 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Detroit kids go to camp to do things they can't do in the city

Lead in text: 
I spent this past Monday with about 100 elementary school students at Camp Burt Shurly, a 250-acre campground near Chelsea. The week-long, overnight camp is run by the Detroit Public School district.
This week on State of Opportunity, we're going to summer camp! I spent this past Monday with about 100 elementary school students at Camp Burt Shurly, a 250-acre campground near Chelsea. The week-long, overnight camp is run by the Detroit Public School district. Each Sunday a new set of campers arrives by bus.
Law
6:47 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Detroit retirees said "yes" to the city's bankruptcy restructuring plan. What's next?

Detroit retirees voted overwhelmingly to approve emergency manager Kevyn Orr's plan of adjustment.

That plan includes the unprecedented "grand bargain"--a mixture of public and private funds that will minimize cuts to city pensions, while protecting the Detroit Institute of Arts' assets from other city creditors.

But retirees aren't the only group of creditors who voted on the plan. Other groups did as well--and not all voted "yes."

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Politics & Government
5:41 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Snyder: Pensioner approval of grand bargain sets Detroit up for faster recovery

One of the aims of the "grand bargain" is to protect artwork at the DIA from liquidation.
Credit Maia C/Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder is praising Detroit pensioners for approving the city’s bankruptcy restructuring plan.

The so-called “grand bargain” is designed to prevent deep cuts to retirement benefits and protect city-owned artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Snyder says the vote this week makes it more likely the city will emerge from bankruptcy soon.

“I really appreciate retirees taking that positive vote because it was hard,” he told reporters Tuesday at an appearance in Detroit.

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Environment & Science
4:26 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Scientists find algae bloom near Maumee River

When tiny microscopic plants (top photo) bloom out of control, it's called an 'algal bloom' (bottom photo).
Credit NOAA.gov

Scientists are working to identify an algae bloom near the Maumee River. It's a yearly event that occurs during the warm summer months.

Researchers at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory confirmed that the cyanobacteria bloom has been intensifying over the last week.

Also known as blue-green algae, it can be harmful to the aquatic environment and to people. People shouldn't swim in a bloom- it can cause skin rashes or even severe stomach problems.

Tim Davis is a research biologist with the lab. 

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Stateside
3:56 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Pensioners vote “yes” to cuts, bond holders prepare to fight

Downtown Detroit
Credit Ian Freimuth / Flickr

Detroit pensioners voted to accept the pension cuts and allow the Detroit Institute of Arts to become an independent institution. In response, bond insurers who could lose billions in Detroit’s bankruptcy are preparing to fight.

Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer joined us today on Stateside to talk about what this means for Detroit.

Police and fire pensioners voted 82% in favor. General retirement pensioners voted 73% in favor. 

Two big bond insurers, Syncora and Financial Guaranty Insurance Company are promising to fight this agreement. 

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Law
1:55 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Michiganders could lose federal tax credits for Obamacare

A three-judge panel in Washington ruled 2-1 that the law, as written, only allows insurance subsidies in states that have set up their own exchanges. That invalidated an Internal Revenue Service regulation that allowed subsidies in all 50 states. (Associated Press)
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal court ruling today could affect tens of thousands of Michiganders who got health insurance through Obamacare.

More than 237,000 of the 272,000 Michiganders who signed up for Obamacare selected a plan through the marketplace with federal financial assistance.  The tax credits helped subsidize health insurance payments for low- and moderate-income people.

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Opinion
12:29 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Our future is tied to our kids' future, and a new report shows that doesn't look good

 

You have to give Detroiters a lot of credit.

They voted, by overwhelming margins, to accept major cuts to their pensions. In what was most surprising, nearly 90% of city retirees also voted to give up 90% of their health care benefits. They voted to make sacrifices in their old age to give their city a chance at a future, something that we should find pretty admirable.

Now, granted, they had a gun to their heads. They were told to take this deal, or something worse would be imposed on them, but they could have raged against the machine, and didn’t.

In fact, they weren’t even obligated to approve the health care cuts, though they probably couldn’t have stopped them.

People love to bash Detroiters, but throughout the years, they have stepped up time and again, voting to tax themselves when told they had to do so to save the city; voting now to accept new painful sacrifices.

Meanwhile, four classes of the city’s hugest creditors voted no on settlement offers made to them, and so further court battles lie ahead.

All of this is bound to overshadow another story today that in the long run may be as meaningful for our future.

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Stateside
12:16 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Retired FBI agent appears in PBS' new documentary "Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?"

Credit WEWS-TV / YouTube

Thirty-nine years ago this month, Jimmy Hoffa was last seen having lunch at a restaurant in Bloomfield Township in Oakland County.

Retired FBI agent, Greg Stejskal, will appear in the new PBS documentary “Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?”

He joined us today on Stateside to revisit the mystery of the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance.

Stejskal was a new agent with the FBI in Detroit in the summer of 1975 when Hoffa disappeared. The investigation into his disappearance was declared a Bureau "Special," which meant most of the agents in the Detroit office became involved.

One of Stejskal’s duties was to conduct neighborhood interviews around the Machus Red Fox restaurant, the last place where Hoffa was seen.

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Stateside
12:04 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Michigan artist Liz Larin's new album is about a "hero's journey"

Credit Peter Schorn / Flickr

Oakland County-based singer-songwriter and producer Liz Larin is coming to the Ark in Ann Arbor on August 3. She joins us today on Stateside to talk about her new CD “Hurricane.”

Larin started with a band in the 1980s and evolved from there as an artist. She plays almost all of the instruments and sings all of the vocals on her record. She even creates the visual images seen when she plays on stage. She said since the 80s, she has become more confident in her musical instincts.

“I hone the songs until the idea is as clear as possible and as visual as possible,” Larin said. “I want the listener to be able to listen to it and picture something – to the right of them, to the left of them – and what is actually going on while they are moving through the music.”

She says "Hurricane" has a narrative arc - a hero’s journey.

“It starts with the idea that everything that you thought about yourself and about the world, it just doesn’t fit anymore,” Larin said. “And you realize you have to go and find yourself and you have to find out what reality is for you.”

Larin said the title track “Hurricane” is the feeling of change. The track “Super Hero” is the story of a parent and a parent’s love for a child.

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The Environment Report
11:44 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Carbon tax finds bipartisan support when funds are delegated to a specific cause

Some people think a tax on carbon dioxide is a good market-based approach to tackling climate change because it would require larger companies, such as power plants, to pay for their emissions. But it's a tough sell politically.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Economists often argue that we should use the market to fight climate change. Cap-and-trade legislation died in Congress back in 2010.  Some people think a tax on carbon dioxide is a better solution, but that would require large companies to pay for their carbon emissions.

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Environment & Science
11:22 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Groups sue MDEQ over air permit granted to large steel plant

Citizen groups are suing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over an air permit it granted to a Dearborn steel plant.

Two months ago, the MDEQ issued the permit to the Severstal plant. It allowed the facility to continue polluting at levels that had previously been cited by the state.

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Stateside
11:11 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Cleanup continues four years after the Enbridge Energy oil spill in Michigan

Credit Steve Carmondy / Michigan Radio

This week marks four years since a pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy burst. It was a segment of Line 6B located just downstream from the pump station in Marshall.

The result? More than 1,000,000 gallons of oil have been recovered from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith and The Environment Report’s Rebecca Williams joined Stateside to talk about the effects of the spill four years later.

The spill affected about 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River, from Marshall downstream close to Kalamazoo. The bulk of the oil has been cleaned up. Smith said the river is still useable; you can swim, fish, and do other things that you could do before the spill. 

However, cleanup is still going on. The EPA is dredging Morrow Lake this summer and there are still areas of the river that are closed. Williams said there might always be some oil left in the area.

“What agencies here in Michigan have said is that you often don’t want to take all the oil out of sensitive habitats because you could end up doing more damage,” Williams said.

Smith said the dredging process can be very invasive and hurt a lot of habitats. After the ordered dredging is over, there will be more passive collection, that won’t be as harsh on the environment.

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9:59 am
Tue July 22, 2014

How does Michigan stack up when it comes to child well-being? Are you sure you want to know?

Lead in text: 
If it seems like these reports are always coming out, well, that's partly true. The sheer number of indicators to analyze means that reports trickle out throughout the year.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation looks at statistics that should tell us something about how kids are faring across the country and in Michigan. The foundation looks at things like poverty, teen pregnancy and health insurance coverage to name a few. If it seems like these reports are always coming out, well, that's partly true.
Law
12:37 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Detroit retirees say yes to the "grand bargain" in big victory for Kevyn Orr, DIA

The grand bargain would protect the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection from being sold to pay off the city's debts.
Credit Detroit Institute of Arts

The proposed "grand bargain" that would soften the blow to Detroit pensioners while preserving the city's art collection has cleared a major hurdle.

That's because city retirees have voted for the plan by an overwhelming margin.

As city creditors, pensioners got to cast ballots for or against emergency manager Kevyn Orr's bankruptcy restructuring. The grand bargain is an integral part of that plan of adjustment.

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