News

Pages

Crime
3:05 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

Feds say Highland Park's Davis created fake non-profit for spending sprees

Highland Park School Board member and union activist Robert Davis was indicted last month on charges of theft by federal prosecutors.

They accused Davis of stealing more than $125,000 from the ailing Highland Park school district.

Today, more details emerged from the indictment.

Robert Snell of the Detroit News reports on "newly unsealed federal court records" the paper obtained.

The records allege Davis controlled a bogus nonprofit group, "Citizens United to Save Highland Park Schools." The feds say Davis used the group's bank account for "an $84,000 spending spree at car dealerships, hotels, bars, restaurants and a custom-clothing store."

From The Detroit News:

The financial information was included in an FBI search warrant affidavit requesting permission to raid Davis' home in Highland Park last year.

The affidavit does not specify which car dealerships were patronized. But Davis paid a St. Clair Shores dealership $21,450 for a used silver Mercedes-Benz CLK320 coupe in May 2009, according to the Secretary of State.

That's at the height of the time Davis was stealing money from the school district, according to federal prosecutors.

The sixteen-count indictment says Davis stole the school district's money between 2004 and 2010. If convicted, he faces the possibility of 10 years in prison on each of the counts of the indictment.

Davis made headlines before the indictment was made public by successfully winning a court battle against the state's financial review teams for violating the Open Meetings Act.

Davis has maintained his innocence and his lawyer did not offer a comment on the newly unsealed records, telling the News he had not seen them yet.

Arts & Culture
2:20 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

DIA millage request a step closer in Oakland County

Part of the Diego Rivera mural "Detroit Industry" at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
DIA

The Detroit Institute of Arts is looking for new revenue streams.

The DIA is owned by the struggling city of Detroit and hopes to get a millage proposal in front of voters in Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties this August.

Wayne and Macomb county commissioners voted to create county arts authorities. The county arts authorities would be responsible for drafting the millage request that would go before voters.

Now, Oakland County has taken a step toward creating a county arts authority.

More from the Detroit News:

A committee of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners agreed Monday to send a millage request from the Detroit Institute of Arts to a vote by the full commission.

The general government committee's 6-4 approval means the measure will go before the full 25-member commission at its next meeting May 17. At that point, it will be voting on whether to create a five-member county arts authority responsible for crafting language that would appear on the August ballot.

Macomb and Wayne counties have each approved an arts authority.

If the renowned arts museum cannot raise the revenue, the museum could go into what the executive vice president of the DIA called a "controlled shutdown."

Annmarie Erickson, executive vice president of the DIA, says the  museum is operating at "bare-bone levels." She says if they can’t secure more money, the museum will go into what she calls a “controlled shutdown”:

"We will lose hours, we will probably lose most of our programming, we will certainly lose visitor amenities. Special exhibits like the very popular "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus" - we would no longer be able to afford those."

Erickson said the revenue raised by the millage would be temporary. It would give the museum more time to raise private funds to build its endowment.

Environment & Science
11:55 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Tribe from Michigan's Upper Peninsula say mines violate rights

The Kennecott Eagle Mine in September of 2011.
Kennecott Eagle Minerals

A Central Upper Peninsula Indian tribe is asking the United Nations to help curb sulfide mining in the Upper Great Lakes.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) recently sent the United Nations a document outlining how governments are locating and planning mines on Indian land without getting input from tribes.

Tribal officials say that infringes on their treaty rights. 

KBIC member and document co-author Jessica Koski said the tribe needs to have a seat at the table.

“This is our traditional territory.  This is where we hunt, we fish, we gather, and those are rights that are maintained in treaties,” said Koski.

Koski said the mines create the equivalent of battery acid, which drains into nearby watersheds.

“That is a huge problem. There is no example in the entire world of a sulfide mine that hasn’t polluted water resources. And this is an issue that would last for generations and centuries in the Great Lakes region,” said Koski.

Mining company Kennecott Minerals said its design contains safety components that will keep Lake Superior from being polluted.

Supporters of the mine say the area badly needs the jobs.

But Koski said the mine currently being built in Marquette County is slated to last only five years, and the U.P. needs economic opportunities that are long-term.

“And that could be tourism, recreation, agriculture—local sustainable economies where we can thrive into the future and not have this ‘boom and bust,’ which is a very well-known phenomenon with the mining industry, which is why the U.P. is so desperate for another gasp of another mining boom,” said Koski.

Koski also said a sacred site near the nickel and copper mine has been fenced off and degraded. Mining company Kennecott Minerals says the tribe still has access to Eagle Rock.

Koski said their U.N. document aims to educate the public about state and federal governments approving mines on Native land without consulting tribes.

It comes on the heels of the U.N.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The U.S. approved the multi-nation “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People” two years ago.  But a U.N. human rights official who visited the U.S. last week said more needs to be done to heal historic wounds, including a return of Native American lands to tribes.

Commentary
11:18 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Commentary: Helping children in poverty

Two weekends ago, I went to something called the Bow-Wow brunch, at an upscale hotel in suburban Detroit. The purpose was to raise money to support the Michigan Humane Society.

Read more
Politics
10:48 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Anti-Sharia rally planned at state capital this week

A rally is planned in Lansing this week in support of legislation to ban Sharia law in Michigan.

The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville). It makes no specific mention of Sharia. And Agema says his intent is not to single out the legal code of Islam.

"All this bill does - I don't care if it's coming from the United Nations or where it's coming from," said Agema. "If it's anathema to our state Constitution or our federal U.S. Constitution, I'm just clarifying to the judges: don't use it."

The legislation has languished in committee for months without a hearing. Agema says he hopes the rally will convince Republican leaders in the state Legislature to take up the bill.

Muslim leaders in Michigan say the bill is a distraction from the state's real problems. They say it can only serve to feed anti-Muslim sentiment.

"I think it's unfortunate that instead of dealing with the real issues such as the suffering economy and the crime rate that we have here in Michigan, that Mr. Agema is involved in these hijinks such as protesting this non-existent threat," said Dawud Walid of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan.

Two dozen states have passed similar legislation.

Politics
10:19 am
Mon May 7, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 2nd
Brother O'Mara Flickr

State could be forced to pay new Detroit officials' salaries

Under the consent agreement with the state, the city of Detroit will have to appoint new officials to lead the city out of its financial crisis. Who will pay the salaries for these new officials is a new bone of contention according to Jonathan Oosting at MLive:

The [consent] agreement... requires the formation of a nine-member Financial Advisory Board to oversee city budgets and hiring of a Program Management Director to oversee implementation of key initiatives.

The deal calls for the city and state to split the salaries of advisory board members, who each will make $25,000 a year, while the city is required to cover the full salary of the PMD, expected to earn triple figures.

As MLive.com first reported this weekend, some city leaders believe the state may end up assuming full responsibility for those costs.

Some council members feel the Headlee Act prevents the state from mandating new services without compensating the city for those services.

Oosting reports Detroit City Council is expected to meet in a closed door session with the city's law department this afternoon.

U.S. Attorney General says violence in Detroit is "unacceptable"

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told thousands of people gathered at an NAACP fundraising dinner that violence in Detroit is "unacceptable."

He told the crowd last night in Detroit that his administration is directing "unprecedented" resources nationally in order to reduce young people's exposure to crime.

Holder said an average of two young black men get killed each week in Detroit. He called the statistic "shocking."

Higher train speeds between Detroit and Chicago

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says Michigan, Illinois and Indiana are each contributing $200,000 for a study looking into the creation of a high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and Detroit.

LaHood says the study will seek ways to cut Amtrak passenger train times between the cities and to more efficiently move goods.

The Department of Transportation says the study will build on the progress that Michigan has made in achieving 110 mile per hour service between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana.

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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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. 

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more

Pages