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Education
11:31 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Michigan State University hikes tuition 3.5%

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It’s going to cost the average Michigan State University student $210 more to attend the fall semester.

The MSU Trustees today approved a 3.5 percent tuition increase for next year.  

The increase will be slightly higher for out-of-state students.

Lou Anna Simon is president of MSU. She says no one wants to raise college tuition.

“There are stories about students who are definitely in debt at a higher level than they should be,” Simon told the MSU Board of Trustees before the vote.

Other Michigan public colleges and universities also approved tuition hikes this week, including the University of Michigan and Michigan Tech.

Lansing
11:17 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Lansing to rehire laid off firefighters with money from a federal grant

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Lansing is getting a federal grant that will allow the city to rehire firefighters laid off last year.

The $2.3 million grant will allow the city to rehire eight firefighters laid off last summer, as Lansing dealt with a large budget gap.

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Environment & Science
11:07 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Changing lights to reduce bird-tower collisions

These birds, labeled by species, were found at the base of an 850-foot television tower near Elmira, NY in the wake of Hurricane Floyd. Ornithologists say communications towers pose the greatest hazard to birds during periods of poor visibility.
Cornell University

Communications towers make all kinds of things possible. Emergency responders, TV stations, and wireless networks need them, and of course, when you listen to stories on the radio, they come to you by way of a tower.

These towers have lights on them at night so pilots can see them and avoid running into them.

But it turns out, some kinds of tower lights can be deadly for migratory birds.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other groups recently looked at bird-tower collisions in the U.S. and Canada. The study estimated that close to 7 million birds are killed each year. Neotropical songbirds that migrate at night are the most affected.

Joelle Gehring is a senior conservation scientist at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. It’s part of Michigan State University.

"We don’t understand the exact psyche of what’s going on with birds and why they’re attracted into the lights," she said, "but it is not unlike a moth attracted into a porch light."

She says during the spring and fall migration, birds that fly at night can get confused by the steady-burning lights on towers. She says cloudy or foggy nights make it hard for birds to navigate using stars.

"Some people believe that when the stars are obscured from vision of these migratory birds who are using stars and sunrise and sunset for navigation, that that is when they are drawn into the lights of the communication tower, that is when they start circling and circling and potentially hitting a guy wire or becoming simply exhausted," she said.

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Commentary
10:00 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Commentary: Baseball and Politics

You may not have realized this, but the best thing President Obama may have going for him in November is that the Detroit Tigers are having a pretty disappointing season.

That may sound nuts to you, but there is documented evidence of this:  Throughout history, whenever the Tigers have done spectacularly well in an election year, the Republicans almost always win. When they’ve disappointed fans, the Democrats usually triumph.

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Politics
9:58 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Changing Michigan's indigent defense system

User: holder MorgueFile.com

A state commission is expected to adopt recommendations this morning to help ensure fair trials for people who can't afford to pay for an attorney. Michigan's county-by-county indigent defense system is considered one of the worst in the country. The report calls for an independent agency to be a watchdog on counties' public defender systems - and step in when they fall short. It also calls for better training for public defenders, and limiting caseloads.

Politics & Government
8:41 am
Fri June 22, 2012

State officials close tent city in Ann Arbor

Mercedes Mejia /Michigan Radio

About 70 homeless people stayed at the tent city known as Camp Take Notice. But they were told to pack up and move out.

“You know, right now, this whole situation is very surreal. It feels like we are just going through the motions...I’m really going to miss it, you know, I’m just gonna miss the people," said Mary Contrucci.

Scott Ellinger and his girlfriend lived at the camp for a few months. He said, "It was a tight-knit community here, we were like family. Everybody looked out for each other."

"We really haven’t had any major problems out here. Except for a few minor incidences. We had one fire, which was accidental," said Ellinger.

It’s accidents like the fire that broke out a few months ago that state officials want to avoid. Sally Harrison is director of Rental Assistance and Homeless Solutions for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

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Politics
6:21 am
Fri June 22, 2012

One week later, debate over the use of the word "vagina" on the state House floor continues

Allieosmar Flickr

Every Thursday Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former state Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

It's been a week, now, since Democratic State Representative Lisa Brown was barred from speaking on the state House floor for using the word "vagina" during a debate on anti-abortion legislation. State Representative Barbara Byrum, a Democrat, was also banned from speaking on the floor because she spoke out of turn.

White, Demas and Sikkema explore why this story just won't seem to go away.

Politics & Government
7:13 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Bridge foes say referendum on New International Trade Crossing will be on the November ballot

Jim Wallace flickr.com

A group that opposes efforts to build a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor says it’s well on its way to putting that question on the November ballot.

“The People Should Decide Ballot committee” says it’s collected more than 420,000 petition signatures in favor of a voter referendum.

If passed, the measure would implement a constitutional amendment requiring Michigan voters to approve any new international crossings.

Governor Snyder and Canadian officials signed an agreement to build a new crossing just last week. That's after Snyder's efforts to get the project through the state legislature failed last year.

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Education
6:03 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

DPS budget projects surplus, job cuts, enrollment decline

kconnors morguefile

Detroit Public Schools officials say they expect to end this fiscal year with a $12 million surplus. Meanwhile, the district's proposed budget for next year projects the loss of about 15,000 students, and about 1,900 jobs.

Detroit Public Schools is preparing to shrink next year as 15 schools become part of the Educational Achievement Authority. That's the new statewide system for failing schools.

Steve Wasko is a spokesman for Detroit Public Schools. He says the job cuts are not as alarming as they might sound.

"It's not necessarily a net loss of education jobs, public education jobs, public teacher jobs in the city of Detroit - in public schools in the city of Detroit, but a shift that we knew was coming for some time," said Wasko.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for next Wednesday.

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Health
4:46 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Critics of the Affordable Care Act are winning the "messaging war"

nyaltnews.com

Critics of the Affordable Care Act are winning the media battle.  That's according to research by the Pew Trust.

The study says opponents of the health care overhaul had effective messages about what they call "big government." It says those messages were more effective than supporters' warnings about what they call "greedy insurance companies."  The study also mentions that most of the news coverage focused on politics rather than explaining what the law actually does.

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Arts & Culture
3:23 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Detroit skaters going 'Wild in the Streets'

Participants in today's "Wild in the Streets" skateboarding event.
ACLU of Michigan

In Detroit and four other cities around the world today, thousands have dropped everything, grabbed their skateboards, and taken to the streets.

This year, Detroit was selected as a site for the ninth annual skateboarding event called Wild in the Streets. The event is similar to Critical Mass, but on skateboards instead of bicycles, and it is being held today—international Go Skateboarding Day.

According to the event's website,

"The goal of Wild in the Streets is to build community and raise awareness of skateboarding and the needs of skateboarders, and to unite skateboarders through a central cause."

Participants were told by the organizing skateboard company, Emerica, to meet up today at noon in Hart Plaza to begin a 5-mile mass trip around the city. In a media release, the company wrote that participants could find the secret itinerary and directions for the ride once there.

The event will culminate tonight in a benefit concert at Royal Oak’s Modern Skate Park to raise money for Power House Production's Ride It Sculpture Park. The sculpture park, being constructed at East Davison St. and Klinger, near the east end of Davison Highway in Detroit, will serve as a skate park in which the artworks form obstacles for riders.

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Environment & Science
12:40 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Most of the Kalamazoo River, closed since a 2010 oil spill, is being reopened

Signs like this are coming down along a 34 mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Much of the Kalamazoo River, closed to the public since the 2010 Enbridge oil spill, is now reopened.

It’s been nearly two years since a broken pipeline near Marshall leaked more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil that eventually fouled more than 30 miles of the Kalamazoo River.

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Homelessness
11:37 am
Thu June 21, 2012

State hopes to keep Ann Arbor tent city shut for good

John Wagner (left) is a volunteer and supporter of Camp Take Notice. Alonzo Young is a camper. He's been attending classes at Washtenaw Community College.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

State officials are preparing to cordon off a stretch of highway median near Ann Arbor to keep the homeless out.

As AnnArbor.com's Ryan Stanton reports, the site is home to Camp Take Notice, a homeless community encampment that is scheduled to be shut down tomorrow. To make sure it remains unoccupied, the Michigan Department of Transportation, which owns the land, is erecting an 8-foot fence around the 9-acre site.

MDOT and the state housing authority, Stanton says, are working to provide camp residents with rent assistance and, in some cases, help moving into subsidized housing, but authorities have made it clear that residing at the campsite is no longer an option.

From AnnArbor.com:

"We've been hearing from the community and from Camp Take Notice that the homeless have been using this area for a long time as a makeshift home," [an MDOT regional manager, Mark] Sweeney said, adding there have been complaints from nearby residents that the homeless have left the area a mess.

"We really wanted to resolve the issue once and for all," he said. "So after the camp is closed, we'll be closing off the area."

Sweeney added, "It's not against Camp Take Notice specifically, but more to prevent a homeless encampment of any kind in this location."

Earlier this year, Michigan Radio's Mercedes Mejia visited Camp Take Notice and spoke with residents about life there. You can see a video of those conversations below:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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Politics
11:01 am
Thu June 21, 2012

As states see improving economies, Romney campaign tries to change the message

Mitt Romney
Gage Skidmore Flickr

In a Bloomberg piece this morning, Michael C. Bender is reporting that, “Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to tone down his statements heralding improvements in the state’s economy because they clash with the presumptive Republican nominee’s message that the nation is suffering under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter.”

But Romney doesn’t just have a Florida messaging “problem.” Last month, Rick Pluta, co-host of It’s Just Politics, and I took a look at the same problem that the Romney campaign is having with Republican Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan’s improving economy.

During a visit to Michigan in May, Romney said, “These last few years have been hard on the people in Lansing, and frankly, they've been hard on the people of America.” This message didn’t quite mesh with Governor Snyder’s statement that, “if you look at where we're at, we’re the comeback state in the United States today.”

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Commentary
10:00 am
Thu June 21, 2012

Commentary: Absentees for All

The other day, I told my significant other she should plan to be out of town on election day. “Was it something I said?" she asked. Well, no. It’s the way election law works in Michigan. We may all face a ballot that is as long as the proverbial bed sheet.

Not only are there a vast number of candidates and races, we could be asked to decide on four, eight, possibly 11 different complicated ballot proposals. Do you know what would happen if every voter stayed in the booth till she or he managed to figure all this out? We’d all still be in line in four years.

Naturally, nobody does that. So people either skip the proposals or take uninformed guesses. In the case of judicial candidates, too many of us go for familiar or judicial-sounding names, which is why there are a lot of judges named Kelly.

We also, oddly enough, elect trustees of our three biggest universities, and what’s even more bizarre, elect them on a partisan basis. Since almost nobody has ever heard of any of these folks, the winners tend to be of the party that wins the top of the ticket.

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Politics
8:56 am
Thu June 21, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

EM Repeal

Supporters of a referendum to overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law are continuing to try to make sure that a question whether to repeal the law is on the November ballot. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Supports of the repeal filed an emergency motion with the Michigan Court of Appeals Wednesday to speed the process along.

After a complicated legal process, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled the question should go on the ballot last week, but without specifying it could take “immediate effect.” So the order could sit for as long as 42 days.

Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, a lawyer with the pro-referendum group Stand Up for Democracy, says this asks the court to act within seven days to ensure the ballot question doesn’t get bogged down in the legal system.

But Bob LaBrant, a spokesman for the group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility—which initially managed to keep the measure off the ballot because of a dispute over petition font size, calls the move “meritless.”

LaBrant says the group will file an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, possibly as soon as next week.

Casino Expansion?

A drive to allow eight new privately owned casinos in Michigan says it’s gathered more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Rick Pluta reports:

Michigan already has two dozen tribal casinos and three privately owned casinos in Detroit.

Emily Gerkin Palsrok is with Citizens for Michigan Jobs. She says there’s room for more casinos, which would bring more jobs and tax revenue.

"Our signature collection has gone very well. We’ve had a very positive response. We’re going to have well more than the 322,000 – which is the minimum we need, and we’re going to be wrapping up our process in the next couple of weeks," Palsrok says.

The amendment is opposed by the existing casino operators. A spokesman for the “Vote No” campaign says people should not be allowed to buy a business opportunity by amending the state constitution.

Auto Quality

U.S. automakers have not caught up to their Asian competitors when it comes to quality  -- but American vehicles are still highly rated. 

“A company that measures consumer satisfaction says Lexus drivers reported the fewest problems during the first three months of ownership. Dave Sargent is a vice president at J.D. Power and Associates. He says Jaguar and Porsche tied for second and General Motors' Cadillac came in third in the quality survey. Sargent says Chrysler as a whole improved significantly compared with last year. Ford, however, was flat in the quality rankings. Sargent says Ford wrestled with its My Ford Touch technology, although the company has made improvements,” Rina Miller reports.

Politics & Government
11:25 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Proposal to merge cities of Saugatuck and Douglas inching forward

People in the audience who are against the proposed merger raise their hands at the request of the State Boundary Commission chair.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people showed up for a public hearing in Saugatuck Wednesday night. Most spoke against the proposed plan to merge the cities of Saugatuck and Douglas.

Travis Randolph is with the group that’s behind the idea. He hopes a state commission will decide the proposal is reasonable enough to put before voters.

"The ultimate poll is an election and that’s all we’re trying to get to. So that everybody can have a say. And in the process of getting to the election, you have to go through dealing with those people who have emotional connection to the present, not to the future,” Randolph said.

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Politics & Government
6:10 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Emergency manager law opponents move to put referendum question on the ballot

Supporters of a referendum to overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law want to make sure that question is on the November ballot.

They filed an emergency motion with the Michigan Court of Appeals Wednesday to speed that process along.

After a complicated legal process, the Court of Appeals ruled the question should go on the ballot last week, but without specifying it could take “immediate effect.” So the order could sit for as long as 42 days.

Read more
Auto
5:24 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Domestic automakers trail in consumer quality survey; GM shows big improvements

U.S. automakers have not caught up to their Asian competitors when it comes to quality  -- but American vehicles are still highly rated. 

A company that measures consumer satisfaction says Lexus drivers reported the fewest problems during the first three months of ownership.

Dave Sargent is a vice president at J.D. Power and Associates. He says Jaguar and Porsche tied for second  and General Motors' Cadillac came in third in the quality survey.

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Politics & Government
5:16 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Marijuana legalization initiative lagging in signature collection

jconnors MorgueFile

A campaign to let Michigan voters decide whether to legalize marijuana is not going as well as organizers expected.

It would take more 322,000 petition signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.

So far, the campaign has gathered only about 40,000 signatures, and the deadline is July 9.

Matt Abel is director of the Committee for a Safer Michigan. He says volunteers are still active.
 
"We're still hard at it," Abel says. "It hasn't taken off the way we'd hoped, partly because there are so many ballot proposals going."

Abel says prosecuting marijuana cases is a waste of the state's money.

The ballot initiative would repeal marijuana prohibition for people 21 and older. It would still be against the law to drive under the influence of marijuana.

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