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Politics
10:29 am
Thu March 1, 2012

16 percent turnout for Michigan presidential primary

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan election officials say 16 percent of the state's registered voters cast ballots in this week's presidential primary election.

The secretary of state's office said Thursday 1.2 million of the state's nearly 7.3 million registered voters participated.

About 21 percent of the state's registered voters took part in Michigan's 2008 presidential primary, when Republicans had a contested race but Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot.

Luce County had the highest voter turnout on Tuesday with 27.5 percent of registered voters casting ballots. Baraga County was second with 27.25 percent. Ottawa County came in third with 25.5 percent voting.

Mitt Romney won the popular vote in his home state, but will split Michigan's 30 convention delegates with second-place finisher Rick Santorum.

Politics
10:16 am
Thu March 1, 2012

"Kelsey's Law" would ban teen drivers from talking on cell phone

Young drivers in Michigan already have restrictions while they’re behind the wheel. Now there’s a bill that would allow police to stop teen drivers if they see them talking on a cell phone.

State Sen. Howard Walker says the bill is called “Kelsey’s Law." It's named after a teen who died in 2010 while trying to pass another vehicle.  She was talking on her cell phone at the time.

"Her mother has been a crusader to educate young people and legislators about the concerns of being distracted while you're learning how to drive," Walker says.

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Environment
10:05 am
Thu March 1, 2012

Japanese knotweed: a plant with strange super powers

The photo above shows a knotweed stand getting out of control in the Upper Peninsula/Photo by Vern Stephens.

Vern Stephens and Sue Tangora work for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. They happen to be married to each other. And they have a common enemy.

“This is on my radar of being a 10 on a scale of one out of 10.”

That thing they hate? It’s a plant. An invasive plant called Japanese knotweed. It’s sometimes also called Mexican bamboo. I met up with Vern and Sue at a busy intersection in East Lansing... on a corner lot where Japanese knotweed is going hog wild.

“It looks like bamboo. It gets up to 10-12 feet tall. It’s like being in a jungle, the canopy is above your head, generally in a lot of the sites, you can’t touch the canopy it’s that high above you.”

Maybe you’re thinking... so what? It’s a plant. In fact, it’s been a popular landscape plant in Michigan for years. People like it because it grows fast, so you can use it as a privacy screen to keep out nosy neighbors.

But this plant is crafty. It’s native to Japan, where it’s one of the first plants that comes up after a volcanic eruption. So it can actually push through volcanic rock. The problem with that is... it can also break through the foundation of your home.

“We know in England, Japanese knotweed has been known to be a problem there and it’s to the point where people have trouble getting insurance for homes, some of their insurance rates are really inflated. You see pictures of it growing up a wall inside someone’s home.”

(One couple in the UK had to demolish their home after a knotweed invasion - you can read that article here)

And actually – the knotweed on this corner lot is already breaking through the sidewalk.

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News Roundup
8:37 am
Thu March 1, 2012

In this morning's news...

Emergency Manager Law Gets a Challenge

Opponents are a step closer to a public vote on Michigan’s law that gives state-appointed emergency managers authority over local governments. They filed petitions yesterday that would put a referendum on the law on the state’s November ballot. “State elections officials have 60 days to determine if the ballot drive collected enough valid signatures of registered voters. To succeed, they need more than 161,000 signatures. If the petitions are certified, the law will be suspended until after the election in November. There are five Michigan cities or school districts currently under the control of emergency managers,” Rick Pluta reports.

Concerns over Michigan Nuclear Power Plant

Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission answered questions about safety violations at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant last night. Lindsey Smith reports:

Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were trying to ease the community’s concerns after 5 unplanned shutdowns last year (4 we’re reactor shutdowns). During the three hour long meeting regulators detailed safety violations and actions the agency will take this year to further scrutinize the plant. They reassured repeatedly that the plant is operating safely. Entergy officials chose not to attend this meeting hosted voluntarily by the NRC. However, the company must attend a normal, annual meeting with the NRC in South Haven on March 21st.

Winter Weather

A winter storm has left as much as 16 inches of snow in parts of the Upper Peninsula. “The storm that hit Tuesday eased by Wednesday afternoon, but not before leaving more than a foot of snow in parts of northern Michigan. The National Weather Service says 10 to 16 inches fell in the Iron Mountain area, while the Ironwood area got up to 14 inches and the Menominee area up to 13 inches,” the Associated Press reports.

Election 2012
7:10 am
Thu March 1, 2012

Santorum claims partial Michigan victory

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s campaign says it’s wrong to call Mitt Romney’s slim edge in the popular vote in the Michigan primary a victory when they might both wind up with the same number of delegates. The latest count shows Romney and Santorum both winning seven Michigan congressional districts and the delegates that go with them.

“Strategically, we were targeting delegates more than anything else. Based on all those premises, you can only look at Michigan and move it to a tie,” says John Brabender, a senior Santorum campaign official.

The vote tally is still being finalized, but Braybender says Santorum and Romney should both qualify for 15 delegates. Romney has complained that Santorum called on Democrats to vote in the state’s GOP primary.

Politics
6:40 am
Thu March 1, 2012

Inkster might be able to avoid emergency manager

It's looking like the city of Inkster might be able to avoid a state-appointed emergency manager as it works to improve its struggling finances.

A state review team Wednesday voted to accept a consent agreement with the southeastern Michigan city. It should be reflected in a recommendation the review team is expected to soon forward to Governor Rick Snyder regarding the city's financial situation.

A consent agreement would include conditions that city officials must meet, but local officials would remain in charge as long as the conditions are met.

Michigan officials began reviewing Inkster's finances late last year.

Economy
6:10 am
Thu March 1, 2012

Lansing casino opponents make voices heard at community forum

Developers of Lansing’s proposed casino faced a small, but passionate group of opponents last night.

One opponent of a Lansing casino says the state capitol risks becoming known as a center for “pot shops, strips clubs and gambling” if a casino is built downtown.

The pot shops and strip clubs are already there.   But dozens of people at last night’s public forum worry a downtown casino will bring with it increased crime and problem gambling to Lansing.

“Our community should be built on biblical principles.  And I am here to stand on that today that we will reap what we sow if this project goes through…there will be consequences,” casino opponent Laura McMurtry told Lansing city council members during last night’s public forum at the Southside Community Center.

Opponents also fear a casino will siphon money away from other Lansing businesses.

Developers say they understand the opposition’s concern.

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energy
1:23 am
Thu March 1, 2012

Regulators work to reassure people near Palisades nuclear plant

Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission answered questions about safety violations at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant Wednesday night. About 150 people attended the meeting in person, while others listened in over the phone.

Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were trying to ease the community’s concerns after 5 unplanned shutdowns last year (4 we’re reactor shutdowns).

But like many residents who spoke out at the meeting, Maynard Kaufman said he won’t feel better unless the plant is shutdown. Kaufman lives on a farm just ten miles away from Palisades.

“I don’t know why we’d take chances with the wonderful agricultural area downwind from this plant in Van Buren and Kalamazoo Counties. It would be a shame to wreck that. And it could happen,” Kaufman warned.

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu March 1, 2012

More Michigan mortgage lenders turning to 'short sales' to avoid home foreclosures

(file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A surge in so-called ‘short sales’ is helping reduce the number of Michigan home falling into foreclosure.

It’s a trend that may eventually help Michigan’s struggling real estate industry.

Pre-foreclosure sales, also known as ‘short sales’,  are where banks agree to sell a home for less than what’s owed on its mortgage. 

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Crime
9:46 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Feds vow to crack down on Detroit crime

jalopnik.com

Detroit Police and federal law enforcement agencies say they’re strengthening their collaboration to fight violence.

And they’ve set their sights on Detroit’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

Law enforcement brass gathered at the crime wave’s ground zero—the city’s east side—to outline their joint plans Wednesday.

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Politics
5:28 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

One step closer to public vote on Michigan's emergency manager law

A protest against PA 4 at Governor Snyder's residence in January.
Laura Weber MPRN

Opponents are a step closer to a public vote on Michigan’s law that gives state-appointed emergency managers sweeping authority over local governments faced with a financial crisis. They filed petitions today that would put a referendum on the law on the November ballot.

State elections officials have 60 days to determine if the ballot drive collected enough valid signatures of registered voters. To succeed, they need more than 161 thousand names.

Brandon Jessup is a leader of the drive. He said now the group is gearing up for a fall campaign.

“It’s all voter outreach, definitely. We are going to now begin an education phase to reach out to our broader base and make sure everyone knows about the dangers of this unconstitutional dictator bill,” said Jessup.

Jessup says the law robs local voters of the right to choose their leaders. If the petitions are certified, the law will be suspended until after the election in November.

But state Representative Al Psholka says a stop-gap plan may be needed to ensure stability in takeover communities. 

“If we needed to do something on a temporary basis, I think that would be a good idea not to leave these communities without any protection,” said Psholka. “Because what we’ve found is the taxpayers have not been protected for a number of years. PA 4 didn’t cause all of these deficits and didn’t cause them to be in the condition they’re in.”

Psholka is the sponsor of the emergency manager law.

There are five Michigan cities or school districts currently under the control of emergency managers.

Auto/Economy
4:17 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

GM forms alliance with Peugeot to stem Europe losses

GM CEO Dan Akerson and PSA Peugeot Citroen Chairman of the Managing Board Phillipe Varin
GM

General Motors is forming an alliance with French carmaker Peugeot to help the company make progress in getting to a breakeven point in Europe. 

GM made a record profit last year, but it was no thanks to Europe, where the company lost $700 million.  

The limited alliance with Peugeot will involve the joint development of some car platforms and joint parts purchasing. 

The companies estimate it will save a total $2 billion within a few years.

GM CEO Dan Akerson says the two companies will continue to compete in other areas.

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Politics
3:59 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Lawsuit over pay cuts to Detroit school employees settled

Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Unions representing about 10,000 Detroit Public Schools employees and the district's state-appointed emergency manager have reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit over pay
cuts and health insurance contributions.

The school district says the settlement was approved Wednesday.

The unions filed the suit last year after Roy Roberts used new powers given emergency managers by state law to impose a 10 percent pay cut and 20 percent contribution to their health insurance.

State Treasury Andy Dillon approved the cuts and also was named in the suit.

Settlement terms include partial payment of accumulated sick days for employees who submit an irrevocable notice of retirement by March 19, a one-time lump sum payment of 2.5 percent of the
employee's 2011/2012 earnings and limited reinstatement of step increases.

Politics
2:56 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Emergency manager opponents in Michigan aim to suspend law

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A coalition seeking to overturn Michigan's law giving more power to state-appointed emergency managers says it's submitting more than 226,000 voter signatures in hopes of
eventually overturning the law.

The Stand Up for Democracy coalition turned in petitions to state election officials Wednesday.

Roughly 161,300 valid voter signatures are needed to temporarily suspend the law and get it on the November ballot. It could take two months for state officials to verify the signatures.

Critics say the law gives unconstitutional power to state-appointed emergency managers, who have authority to toss out union contracts and strip power from locally elected officials.

Supporters of the law say it's needed to provide the tools to fix financial problems that locally elected leaders have been unable to fix themselves.

Arts/Culture
2:50 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Grand Rapids Art Museum scores 3-year partnership with NY museum

Pamella DeVos and GRAM CEO Dana Friis-Hansen in front of part of the "Robert Rauschenburg: Synapsis Shuffle" exhibit on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. It opens to the public Friday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

This week the Grand Rapids Art Museum opens a new exhibit on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The “Robert Rauschenberg: Synapsis Shuffle” exhibit is part of a new 3-year partnership between the two museums. It opens to the public on Friday.

Pamella DeVos spends a lot of time in New York as a fashion designer. She is a board trustee at the Whitney Museum and helped make the partnership a reality.

“We’re not a huge city but we certainly have such an amazing art museum,” Devos said. DeVos is a GRAM Honorary Life Trustee. She says she’s had a passion for the GRAM since she was 25 years old. DeVos says she’s brought the director of the Whitney Museum to Grand Rapids many times.

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Election 2012
1:09 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Michigan's primary is over, but the delegate count isn't

Did Mitt Romney really "win" Michigan?
Gage Skidmore Flickr

Mitt Romney won the state's popular vote in Michigan's presidential primary last night, which is why many media organizations across the state, and nationally, are reporting a Michigan "win" for Romney.

But the picture on the final delegate count is still not clear.

The unofficial results are not in, but Rick Santorum's campaign held a conference call just a few minutes ago to report that they have unofficial voting data from the state.

A spokesman for Santorum says their numbers show that Santorum and his main rival in yesterday's presidential primary, Romney, will both be awarded one delegate each based on the state's popular vote.

The campaign spokesman went on to say that the latest numbers that they have (again, let's be clear, these have not been certified by the Secretary of State) show that both Santorum and Romney each won 7 congressional districts.

This would mean that each candidate won 14 delegates from those districts (because each congressional district delivers 2 delegates)... plus one delegate each from the popular vote. This, of course, would be a tie: 15 delegates each.

Commentary
11:02 am
Wed February 29, 2012

Romney’s Win

Significantly perhaps, it was Mitt Romney’s old home turf of Oakland County that was most responsible for saving him in the end.

Romney beat Rick Santorum statewide by about 32,000 votes. He won Oakland County, the place where he grew up, by more than 31,000. The other two major metropolitan Detroit counties, Wayne and Macomb, gave him a combined margin of 18,000 more votes.

He lost the rest of the state, but the tri-county area was just more than enough to save him from a defeat that could have destroyed his campaign. Now, Romney is the clear front-runner.

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Changing Gears
10:44 am
Wed February 29, 2012

Student debt: The cost of learning a trade

For $2, this little guy gets a “college boy” cut from barber student Tom Amundson.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

America’s student loan debt is now bigger than its credit card debt. It’s about a trillion dollars. Student loan default rates are rising. While many families struggle to afford traditional colleges, a lot of student debt comes from attending private, for-profit schools that focus on vocational training. These students default on their loans twice as often as students from public colleges.

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Agriculture
10:24 am
Wed February 29, 2012

45 Michigan counties get disaster designation

A farm in Michigan
Maureen Reilly Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 45 counties in Michigan as natural disaster areas for three separate sets of disaster conditions last year.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday announced the designation after periods of weather that occurred starting in February 2011 and May 2011. The designation made earlier this year means qualified farm operators are eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

Twenty-nine counties were designated primary natural disaster areas for weather including rain, wind, snow, flooding and tornadoes that started in February 2011. Ten got the designation for similar weather, drought and excessive heat starting at that point.

Six counties were designated primary natural disaster for drought and excessive heat starting in May 2011.

Lists of the counties are on the USDA's website.

Lansing
9:01 am
Wed February 29, 2012

Lansing residents will hear more tonight about the proposed casino project

Artist's conception of the proposed Kewadin Lansing casino
(courtesy of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians)

A controversial plan to build a casino in downtown Lansing goes before the public tonight.     A large turnout is expected at the first of two community meetings on the casino project.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million casino next to Lansing’s convention center.     The tribe will ask the federal government to approve the project this summer.   

But first, the Lansing city council must vote on the development deal by the end of next month.

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