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Investigative
7:47 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Cutting business equipment tax will mean cuts to local governments and higher real estate taxes

The Michigan legislature will soon vote on whether to shift more of the state’s tax burden from business to households.  Last year the legislature and the governor shifted about one-and-a-half billion dollars in tax payments from small and medium sized businesses to retirees and the working poor. This year there’s a proposal to cut another business tax. That proposed tax cut could mean higher real estate taxes for homeowners and revenue cuts to local governments.

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Politics
7:01 am
Mon May 7, 2012

GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney coming to Lansing this week

MItt Romney
(courtesy of MittRomneyCentral.com)

Mitt Romney will make his first visit to Michigan this week since the state’s February presidential primary. The apparent Republican presidential nominee will deliver a speech in Lansing.

Mitt Romney won a narrow victory over Rick Santorum in the Michigan Republican primary.

Romney will speak at Lansing Community College tomorrow afternoon. His speech is expected to focus on the economy, and he will say President Obama’s policies have failed to sufficiently lift middle class families.

The visit is a hint that Republicans may consider Michigan a battleground state.

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Flint
1:01 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Coming up with a master plan for Flint's future

An abandoned home on Flint's northside sits in a blighted neighborhood near a paved over site of a former factory
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Flint is developing its first master plan in a half century.

The challenge is charting a future course for a city that some critics have said doesn’t have a future.

First things first.   Cities don’t just change.

They follow a plan.  The master plan outlines where to build homes.  Where to encourage retail stores to open.  Where to let businesses build factories. 

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Politics
12:11 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Detroit NAACP celebrates 100 years, talks future of civil rights at annual dinner

The Detroit branch of the NAACP held its annual “Fight for Freedom fund” dinner last night.

There was celebration of the branch’s centennial anniversary this year. But there was also grave concern over continuing civil rights struggles.

The dinner is traditionally one of the Detroit NAACP’s largest—and most lucrative—events.

This year, it drew thousands of people, including much of Michigan’s political and business elite.

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elections
10:11 pm
Sun May 6, 2012

Kent County voters to decide on millage for community college

Organizers worked to get extra "yes" signs like this one out this weekend.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Volunteers in Kent County are making a last minute push to get out the vote Tuesday. They’ll be knocking on doors and making phone calls running up to Tuesday’s election.

Voters will decide on a county-wide millage increase to renovate outdated buildings at Grand Rapids Community College.

The millage would pay for basic improvements to almost every building on campus.

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History
8:19 pm
Sun May 6, 2012

Detroit Drunken Historical Society

DDHS website

A new group of history lovers has been meeting to talk about Detroit’s history. The Detroit Drunken Historical Society started three months ago and the group meets at a different Detroit bar each month.

At the group's meetings, a speaker usually gives an informal presentation. Recent topics included Native American Chief Pontiac and Detroit Catholic priest and politician Gabriel Richard

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Politics
4:01 pm
Sun May 6, 2012

Michigan voters to decide many issues on Tuesday's ballot

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

Voters across Michigan go to the polls on Tuesday.

More than 200 communities are holding elections.   

Most of the questions involve school bond issues.

Bloomfield Hills schools are asking voters to approve a $58 million bond issue to pay for renovations to a high school. This proposal is a scaled back version of similar proposals that have failed in the past. 

Some school districts are asking voters to approve bonds to pay for technology upgrades.  For example the Allegan public school district is asking voters to approve an 18 million dollar bond issue.   Part of that would be spent on computers.

Not everything on the ballots involves schools.

The issue in Delhi Township, near Lansing, is sludge.    Or more accurately,  what to do with it.

The township is asking voters to approve a surcharge on their water bills to pay for a sludge dryer.   Supporters say the dryer would turn human waste into bio-fuel. Opponents say it’s just a waste of money.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Bloomfield Hills school bond issue had failed twice before. The current proposal, however, is not that same as previous bond issues. The copy has been corrected above.

Business
4:01 pm
Sat May 5, 2012

Crop insurance now a top priority for many hard hit Michigan farmers

Many Michigan farmers are spending this May focusing on their insurance needs.

The sporadic spring freezes and frosts that followed the unusually mild winter devastated Michigan’s apple, cherry and peach crops.     Most farmers have access to some form of crop insurance.   But according to the Michigan Farm Bureau, the insurance only covers about 60 to 70 percent of the loss.

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Flint
2:16 pm
Sat May 5, 2012

What's in a name? What if that name is Flint?

(Courtesy of MINBCNEWS.com)

FLINT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A committee is studying whether Flint Township should change its name to drop the reference to Flint.

Some residents believe the community's reputation suffers when people don't make a distinction between the township and the city of Flint. The city is known for a high crime rate and chronically poor finances. A state-appointed emergency manager runs Flint.

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Transportation
10:07 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Detroit Bus Company revs up for cinco de mayo "test run"

Detroit Bus Company via facebook

Starting this weekend, there’s a new transit option for people looking to get around downtown Detroit.

A new, private bus company is looking to fill in some of the gaps in Detroit’s battered transit system.

The Detroit Bus Company will run a route linking the city’s central neighborhoods and Southwest Detroit on Saturday. Historically, that relatively small area hasn’t been linked very well by traditional public transit.

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Politics
9:54 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Detroit City Clerk: Budget cuts "don't make sense," would compromise elections

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Detroit’s City Clerk says budget cuts would compromise her ability to run elections.

Janice Winfrey took her case to the Detroit City Council Friday.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing wants to cut the election department's budget by 25%, from $7.4 million to $5 million.

Bing says that’s part of across-the-board cuts that need to happen as the city grapples with state mandates to reduce its deficit--outlined in the consent agreement between the city and state.

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It's Just Politics
5:48 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Dingell goes for 30; Snyder for Veep; U.P. secession; and an intra-party GOP fight

Flickr
Contemplative Imaging

Too busy to check in on all of the political news happening this week in Michigan? Or, maybe you just weren't able to fill your political appetite this week. Well, don't fret! Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta and I spent some time this afternoon taking a look at the week-that-was in Michigan politics in an extended edition of It's Just Politics.

On tap for this Friday:

  • A Florida political analyst sparks speculation about a possible Mitt Romney/Rick Snyder GOP presidential ticket
  • A group of unhappy Yoopers talks U.P. secession
  • Southeast Michigan Rep. John Dingell announces he'll run for a record 30th term in the U.S. House of Representatives
  • After a lot of "will he or won't he" talk, former Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz says he will not run as a Democrat in November against incumbent Rep. Tim Walberg
  • State Democrats caucus tomorrow to pick their presidential nominee and we ask: will it be President Barack Obama or President Barack Obama? (Our money is on President Barack Obama)
History
5:25 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Past and present Democratic caucuses

In Michigan, President Obama is expected to be confirmed as the democratic candidate.
YouTube

Michigan Democrats hold their caucuses on Saturday May 5th. President Obama is expected to be confirmed as the democratic candidate.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry talks with Jennifer White about past and present Democratic caucuses.

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Environment
5:12 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

As fracking debate continues in Michigan, Obama weighs in

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has created no shortage of controversy recently. And as Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported last week, debate over this controversial method of extracting oil and gas from deep inside shale deposits has made its way to the Michigan statehouse.

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It's Just Politics
3:25 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Up in smoke: The hazy politics of pot in Michigan

It's Just Politics: May 4th, 2012
Eggrole Flickr

In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and I take on the politics of pot. It's a hazy situation and an issue that's getting chronic attention in the state (okay, okay, enough with the drug innuendo).

Where things stand

In 2008 voters – by a pretty large margin - voted to make medical marijuana legal in the state. But, the law is confusing. Not only is there the fact that it’s still illegal under federal law, there are also questions about if and how dispensaries should be regulated; the medical conditions for which  medical marijuana should be prescribed; the size and location of marijuana plants that one is allowed to grow... I could go on and on.

Pluta: Exactly… there are more questions than answers when it comes to this law because it is so vague. So, this week, we’ve seen some measures to add clarity to the law. But, because this law was a voter-initiated and approved law, to  change it, any measure has to have a three fourths majority in both the state House and Senate. Something that’s not in this package is dispensaries – that’s in court right now, but some lawmakers don’t want to wait for a state Supreme Court ruling. They say dispensaries could cure some problems – especially what to do when someone who is legally growing marijuana has more weed than they can use. 

Clark: So, just this week state Representative Mike Callton introduced a measure to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries. But, Callton says he was against the medical marijuana law that passed in 2008.

Collton: “…I think what voters passed is nuts, just crazy insane.”

Pluta: So, why is he introducing this then?

Clark: That is, indeed the question.

Pluta: Callton and some others say it would be better for dispensaries to buy up, or otherwise take possession of, surplus pot instead of having it sold illegally on the street. There’s a division, though. Some Republicans basically consider dispensaries legalized dope dens.

Clark: So, that’s a debate that will take place probably this summer on dispensaries. What’s moving right now would require in-person doctor’s visits to get a medical marijuana card, a picture I.D., and police access to medical marijuana records.

Pluta: Medical marijuana advocates say some of this goes too far. In a couple of instances, it reverses what voters approved in the medical marijuana law and, so, they’re trying again. There is a petition drive in the field to put a question on the ballot to make Michigan a legalized marijuana state.  We’ll see if they can get enough signatures.

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Politics
3:08 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Unnamed air carrier shows interest in Detroit's City Airport

A runway map of Detroit's City Airport
faa.gov

Detroit's Coleman A. Young International Airport, also called City Airport, might soon be seeing passengers for the first time since 2000.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Jason Watt, general manager of the Coleman A. Young International Airport, told the City Council on Thursday that the city has a letter of intent from a carrier interested in re-establishing scheduled passenger travel. He would not publicly identify the company.

The facility is still open for private pilots and cargo carriers, the Free Press reports, but prior to Thursday's anonymous show if interest, the airport's future wasn't looking particularly bright as city officials work to scale down Detroit's budget.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Sports
2:51 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Kentucky Derby betting giving a boost to Michigan's ailing horse racing tracks

Bodemeister is the early line favorite for this Saturday's Kentucky Derby
(courtesy of Churchill Downs)

Saturday is expected to be the busiest day of the year at Michigan’s four horse racing tracks.

The tracks usually see a big boost in simulcast betting from the Kentucky Derby.

Brett Boyd is president of the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association.    He says Michigan’s ailing horse racing industry relies more and more on the money wagered on the three races.

“This weekend we really hoping the folks come out to one of those four facilities…wager on the Derby…have some fun and make some money,” says Boyd.

Michigan’s horse race tracks have dwindled from 8 to 4 in recent years.   Industry officials blame competition from casinos and other types of gambling, including online gaming.

Brett Boyd hopes the state legislature will change state law to make the tracks more competitive.  Otherwise, he expects two more Michigan horse race tracks may soon close.

 

Flint
2:36 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Flint EM lays out public safety plan, city police and fire unions want more

Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown outlines his public safety plan for the city, while behind him represents from the Michigan State Police and other agencies look on.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint Emergency Manager Mike Brown says the city plans to work more with the state police, as well as local and federal prosecutors, to fight the city’s crime problem.

The plan calls for establishing Flint not only as a ‘safe city’ in reality, but also in people’s perception.

Using outside law enforcement help is a short term part of the plan.   Long term, Brown says the city needs to raise millions of dollars in new revenue to hire more police officers and firefighters.

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Weather
2:00 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Drain Commissioner: Overnight rains led to 100 year-flood event around Flint

WDIV interviewed a trucker stranded by the flooding near Flint.
screenshot from WDIV video

The National Weather Service said a minimum of 5.25 inches of rain fell in parts of Genesee County overnight. We're following how the floods are impacting the area.

Update 2:00 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody was in Flint today. He reports the overnight storms "also knocked out power to thousands of Flint residents... and most of the city’s downtown traffic signals."

The power outage led to the closure of Flint City Hall.

Consumers Energy says thousands are without power in the area. From the Flint Journal:

3,600 customers are without power in the county today -- more than 2,100 in Swartz Creek and more than 1,400 in Flint.

Consumers spokeswoman Debra Dodd said it could be as late as 10 p.m. before service is fully restored.

"We has really bad thunderstorms that did quite a bit of damage," Dodd said.

12:30 p.m.

We got ahold of Genessee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright.

"The Swartz Creek is well out of its banks, near record levels, and it itself is flooding I-75 and I-69. So there's no traffic on I-75 and I-69 near their junction. So as you can imagine that's created a very bad traffic jam on top of the flooding situation," said Wright.

Wright said the Thread Creek, another tributary in the Grand Blanc area, was hit just about as bad.

He says the Flint River will hit flood stage of 13.3 feet at about 1:30 p.m. and they don't expect much relief until that flood stage is reached and waters recede.

Wright said they have crews out looking to see where they can relieve any plugged drain openings.

In the Flint area, the rains exceeded the capacity of the drainage systems and the rivers themselves.

Here's the raw interview:

11:54 a.m.

WDIV interviewed this trucker by phone as a helicopter flew overhead filming him.

The trucker was moving a load of potatoes southbound on I-75 near Flint and was stopped by rising flood waters.

He said he was initially 300 to 400 feet away from the water as safety officials began moving traffic off the highway. As this trucker was backing up, his truck quit, and there he sat.

Here's a link to WDIV's raw interview.

11:44 a.m.

"100-year floods," as they're known, mark a water level that expected to be seen once, or less than once, every 100 years on average.

It's a level that Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said happened today.

Ron Fonger of the Flint Journal quoted Wright:

"When you get water rising over roads, you've exceeded a 100-year rain event," county Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said this morning.

The National Weather Service said today that 5.4 inches of rain fell overnight, almost twice as much as the area usually gets in the entire month of May.

The Journal has photos of the flooding.

Fonger reports that "I-69 from Bristol Road to Hammerberg Road and I-75 from Bristol to M-21" are closed.

Fonger spoke with residents in Grand Blanc Township where floodwaters "were so high that boats were brought in to help evacuate people."

Sarah Kleparek, 31, came home from work around 2:30 a.m. and everything thing seemed OK. But an hour an half later she said she heard car alarms start going off and when she looked outside the water was already up to her windows on her car.

Around 7 a.m. this morning, she was able to quickly pull a bag together and evacuated her apartment after firefighters came with a boat.

"It was just so fast," Kleparek said.

We're working to reach Drain Commissioner Wright for comment. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody will have more on this story later today.

Arts/Culture
10:59 am
Fri May 4, 2012

Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island celebrates 125 years

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, before and after.
Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, where Mark Twain once lectured, five U.S. presidents have stayed, and a place that has been named a National Historic Landmark, is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

The hotel opened for the first time in 1887, and it starts this year's season today with a series of special events marking the milestone.

In July, the AP reports there will be a party with a 125-foot birthday cake for guests to enjoy (I'm guessing that's not 125 feet tall).

Here's a grand ole' 1944 Metro Goldwyn Mayer video on Mackinac Island in which narrator James Fitzpatrick calls the Grand Hotel "that romantic institution justifiably called the grandest of grand hotels."

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