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Politics & Government
5:24 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Michigan governor, legislators exempt from FOIA requests

Credit Thetoad / Flickr

Michigan's Freedom of Information Act regulates the disclosure of public records by all public bodies in the state.

But the governor, the lieutenant governor, state legislators and their employees are all exempt from the FOIA law.

The only other state to exempt the governor's office from FOIA requests is Massachusetts. 

Paul Egan is with the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau. He looked at Michigan's public records laws in Sunday's Free Press.

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Politics & Government
5:01 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Lt. Gov. Calley says he’ll push for better employment for disabled people

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley joined advocates at the state Capitol on Monday to unveil a report that shows many Michiganders with disabilities lack decent job opportunities.
Credit Jake Neher / MPRN

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says the state needs to do more to help people with disabilities get good jobs.

A new report released on Monday shows many Michiganders with disabilities are all but forced into menial jobs, some of which pay less than the minimum wage. That is legal if an employer gets a waiver from the federal government, and advocates say only Washington can change that practice.

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Stateside
4:56 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Classic rock born in Michigan almost 30 years ago

Credit mconnors / morgueFile

Is there anyone who hasn't scanned the radio dial on a long road trip and endured noisy static,  angry talk shows, and music that disappoints  in a desperate search for a classic rock station?

But who knew the classic rock concept was born in Michigan almost 30 years ago?

Fred Jacobs, an Oakland County-based radio consultant, was part of that birth in 1985. He said WMMQ in Charlotte, Michigan, was the first classic rock station, and the format quickly spread across the country.

Jacobs said he was inspired by complaints from listeners who couldn't find the music they had grown up with and loved. 

Jacobs said classic rock is not the same as "golden oldies." It is about the golden age of rock – music people will still be listening to in 100 years. 

Jacobs said classic rock started with music from the 60s and 70s and musicians like the Beetles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and Eric Clapton. 

But he said it's all about the music of your youth that you never get tired of hearing.  And as generations move on, classic rock has added 80s and even more recent music to its roster.

Transportation
2:03 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Report calls I-94 expansion plan a "highway boondoggle"

A map of the proposed I-94 expansion project
Credit MDOT

A report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group cites a plan to widen I-94 through the heart of Detroit as one of 11 “highway boondoggles” nationwide.

The planned “mega-project” will add a lane in either direction from midtown Detroit through the city’s east side. It will also connect service drives, widen shoulders and rebuild some bridges along that stretch of the highway.

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Environment & Science
11:44 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Enbridge completes work on final stretch of replacement oil pipeline

Part of the new line 6B pipeline in central Michigan.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy has finished laying its new oil pipeline across Michigan as part of its $1.3 billion pipeline replacement project.

Much of the new pipeline was put in the ground near the old pipeline. That old line broke in 2010, spilling more than 800,000 gallons of heavy tar sands crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. The company is just finishing cleanup work four years after that spill.

The company finished laying the new section of pipeline in St. Clair County and is taking the old Line 6B pipeline offline there.

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Arts & Culture
11:25 am
Mon September 22, 2014

How this Ann Arbor band got $20,000 from Spotify by releasing silent album

Credit Vulfpeck

We’ve heard it before. The music industry is changing.

But the band Vulfpeck is challenging the music industry with silence.

Vulfpeck is a funk band that got its start at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

They are in the middle of a cross-country tour.

They aren’t charging admission, they aren’t paying out of pocket.

Their tour is completely funded from an album they put up on the online music steaming service Spotify – an album that was completely silent.

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Opinion
11:17 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Who is Mark Schauer, really?

We can say two things about the race for governor today: Mark Schauer and Rick Snyder are essentially tied in the polls. And it looks like we may not have a single televised debate.

The last time that happened was 16 years ago, when John Engler refused to debate Geoffrey Fieger. There was a certain logic to that.

Fieger was going around saying that the governor was a “corn-fed bowser,” and declared he would not accept that Engler was the father of his triplets unless they had corkscrew tails.

That was not a normal campaign. But this one is, and the voters have a lot at stake. This time, the challenger wants debates and the incumbent doesn’t.

Conventional wisdom says that’s because the governor doesn’t want to make it seem like his opponent is his equal, or because it is always harder to defend a record than attack one.

That may be. But it is also possible that Republicans are wasting a golden opportunity to put the challenger on the defensive. Here’s why.

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Law
10:17 am
Mon September 22, 2014

One propane company reaches agreement, another sued by Michigan attorney general

Propane tank near Skidway Lake, Michigan.
George Thomas Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette reached a $100,000 agreement with Ferrellgas, and is suing AmeriGas for alleged price gouging last winter.

As temperatures fell in Michigan, many propane customers saw their bills skyrocket. Gov. Snyder declared an "energy emergency" in the state.

Schuette said in a statement today that the lawsuit against AmeriGas and agreement with Ferrellgas follow hundreds of consumer complaints related to propane pricing and delivery.

Affected Ferrellgas customers will receive a credit on their bill.

You can see more details in Schuette's statement:

“I’m pleased that we reached an agreement with Ferrellgas on behalf of Michigan consumers before the upcoming heating season,” said Schuette. “Under this agreement, hundreds of Ferrellgas customers who were harmed by pricing errors and the highest propane prices will receive a share of $100,000 in billing credits by October 15th.”

The lawsuit against AmeriGas in Berrien County Circuit Court alleges violations of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

You can read the complaint here.

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Detroit bankruptcy
9:45 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Arguments surrounding Detroit water shutoff controversy in court today

A Detroit water shutoff notice for Haylard Management.
Ali Elisabeth Michigan Radio

Witness testimony began in federal bankruptcy court this morning, in hearings to determine the fate of Detroit’s water shutoff policy.

A coalition of Detroit residents and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s controversial shutoff policy on constitutional and civil rights grounds.

The Detroit water department has shut off around 19,000 customers this year – the vast majority of them residential accounts – in an effort to collect up to $120 million in delinquent bill payments.

Water department officials say the system simply can’t continue to function when thousands of people aren’t paying their bills.

Critics say the shutoff campaign has been inhumane, and the department is trying to correct decades of mismanagement, corruption, and incompetence on the backs of the poor in just a few months as Detroit speeds through bankruptcy court.

The first witnesses were Detroiters Tracy Peasant and Maurikia Lyda, who experienced the shutoff process.

Peasant became visibly emotional on the stand, as she testified about having to buy bottled water for her family when her water was shut off for 8 months.

From Sandra Svoboda at Next Chapter Detroit, Michigan Radio’s partner in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative:

[Peasant] said a large portion of her outstanding bill was due to a faulty sprinkler system at a home she had rented prior to living at her current place. Her water was turned off a year ago and restored in June.

“Someone came out to my home driving a DWSD truck. I thought that she was coming to turn the water back on. … She said I’m here to make sure your water is still cut off,” Peasant testified.

But when the worker saw Peasant’s family members, “She said I can’t do this with these kids and when she left she said you have water now,” Peasant said.

Peasant said she was denied access to assistance funds because her bill was too high, and the city never told her she could ask for a hearing to contest the bill.

Lyda testified that she tried to talk to someone at the water department about getting on a payment plan for her overdue bill, but was never able to get through. Again from Next Chapter Detroit:

“I called them several times. I could never get through. I was calling and no one would ever pick up the phone. There were days I would call and stay on the phone two and three hours at a time,” Lyda said. “When I finally got to talk to someone about my bill they was telling me there was so much I had to put down. …  I didn’t want to put it in my name because I was a renter. … they was telling me I had to put it in my name.”

Lyda, who lives on the east side, said a DWSD representative told her it would cost $100 to transfer the water service to her name and $500 to have service restored.

But the day the lawsuit was filed, her water was restored.

Plaintiffs want Judge Steven Rhodes to issue a moratorium on the water shutoffs.

The water department stepped up shutoffs in March of accounts 60 days behind or owing more than $150. About 15,000 customers had service shut off in April through June.

The city has faced international criticism for the shutoffs, and several groups appealed to the United Nations for support.

The shutoffs were suspended about a month this summer to give water officials time to inform customers about service stoppages and payment plans.

Transportation
9:19 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Detroit hopes to hire 50 new bus drivers by the end of the year.

Dan Dirks, DDOT Director, says they're "beating bushes down" trying to find new drivers.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Detroit News reports drivers are being heavily recruited by the department for the first time in years.

Officials of the city’s much-maligned bus service — plagued with an image problem for being perpetually late and crime-ridden — believe the current environment is ripe for attracting new drivers. Cameras will be installed on all buses by late fall, and transit police are boarding more routes.

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Education
7:27 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

Seeking mobility through higher graduation rates

The project follows universities' experience with the challenges of getting students who are the first in their families to get a higher education to complete their studies.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - There are many bumps in the road to social and economic mobility in the U.S., and 11 large research universities are taking steps to level one of them.

Michigan State University and 10 other schools have launched a program they say seeks to boost the graduation rates for students from low-income families or from groups that are historically underrepresented among college graduates.

Last week, the University Innovation Alliance announced it's raised $5.7 million from six major funders.

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Arts & Culture
5:36 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

Michael Moore out as Michigan film board member

Filmmaker Michael Moore
Credit Michigan Capitol Confidential

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore no longer will serve on the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council after Republican Gov. Rick Snyder named a suburban-Detroit businessman to replace him.

Moore joined the council as an appointee of then-Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Snyder announced Thursday that he was renominating a second film council member whose term was expiring along with Moore's.

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Transportation
5:24 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

Good news for I-96 drivers

The project even has its own website, www.96fix.com
Credit 96fix/Facebook

I-96 will open tomorrow (Monday, September 22), more than two weeks ahead of schedule.  The stretch was closed between Telegraph and Newburgh Roads in Livonia. The announcement was made today as Governor Rick Snyder and others gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and walk on the freeway. I-96 was closed in April to allow crews to reconstruct the 7-mile stretch. Crews rebuilt 56 miles of freeway, repaired 37 bridges, and reconstructed 26 ramps. The project area runs through Redford Township and Livonia. 

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Politics & Government
3:28 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

U.S. Senate resolution opposes Canadian nuke waste plan

U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Carl Levin has introduced a resolution urging the Obama administration to oppose a Canadian proposal to bury radioactive waste less than a mile from Lake Huron.

A federal panel in Canada is taking testimony on the plan to store low- and intermediate-level waste from nuclear power plants in rock chambers more than 2,000 feet below the earth's surface.

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Politics & Government
1:19 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

Former president visits Grand Rapids this week

Former President Jimmy Carter
Credit Carter Center

Former President Jimmy Carter will be in Grand Rapids on Monday.

President Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter are scheduled to appear at Grand Rapids Community College as part of the school’s diversity lecture series.

“President Carter does not do many of these events, and we are honored that he has accepted our invitation to join us in our centennial year,” said GRCC President Dr. Steven C. Ender.

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Weather
12:50 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

Morning storm damages Rochester Hills homes

ROCHESTER HILLS – The National Weather Service is reporting significant storm damage in one suburban Detroit neighborhood and is checking to see whether a tornado or a straight line wind burst is responsible.

The weather service says the storm hit the Rochester Hills neighborhood about 6 a.m. Sunday. It says the winds tore the roofs off some houses and knocked down mature trees.

The weather service says the damage happened in a six block area of the northern Detroit suburb. No injuries were reported.

That's What They Say
12:16 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

Are you a frequent flier…or a frequent flyer?

    

Even competent spellers can trip over the word flier/flyer.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan says most dictionaries give both options, so the good news is you’re always right.

“What I was struck by, in many of them, was that if you look up flyer with a “y,” it will say it’s a variety of flier, and then when you look up the spelling with an “i,” you get the definitions,” says Curzan.

“I looked on Google Books, and it turns out the spelling with a “y” is much more common over the last 40 years – yet it is still seen as a variant.”

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Auto
9:07 pm
Sat September 20, 2014

GM, Chrysler recalling more than 400,000 vehicles

Jeep Grand Cherokee

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors is recalling 221,558 Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala sedans because the brake pads can stay partially engaged even when they're not needed, increasing the risk of a fire.

The recall involves Cadillacs from the 2013-2015 model years and Impalas from the 2014 and 2015 model years. There are 205,309 vehicles affected in the U.S.; the rest of the vehicles are in Canada and elsewhere.

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Sports
5:57 pm
Sat September 20, 2014

Week-long celebration of Michigan trails begins

Agnes S. Andreae/Banwell Nature Preserves
Credit Pure Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has proclaimed the week beginning Saturday as Trails Week in Michigan to celebrate the state's more than 12,000 miles of trails and waterways.

The state Department of Natural Resources is teaming with local communities and organizations to host related events and volunteer opportunities.

The observance ends Sept. 27, when Recreation Passports and vehicle entry fees will be waived at state parks and recreation areas to honor National Public Lands Day, the nation's largest volunteer cleanup day.

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Arts & Culture
3:49 pm
Sat September 20, 2014

Utility crews mistakenly dig up historic bricks

Bay City city hall
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) - Utility crews mistakenly dug up 100-year-old bricks near Bay City Hall.

The Bay City Times reports Saturday the work was being done on the last street in the city where historic bricks are exposed.

Streets manager Kurt Hausbeck says a Consumers Energy subcontractor was installing a high-pressure gas line when workers decided they needed to dig up more road and sidewalk than originally anticipated, and that included removing some of the bricks.

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