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The Next Idea

Reducing dependence on fossil fuels through alternative energy may seem like an expensive goal, especially in an era when even traditional utilities need major investments to keep running. Add to this Michigan’s cloudy, snowy environment, and using solar energy might seem impractical, if not impossible.

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(This story was updated at 9:55am on February 2, 2016) 

Michigan's open primary is on March 8th. 

Michigan Radio's senior political analyst Jack Lessenberry stops by Stateside to explore the nuances of  Michigan's 2016 primary with host Cynthia Canty.

Lessenberry thinks Michigan could play a major role in choosing the presidential nominees of one, or both parties this year. Others agree, including the Hillary Clinton campaign, which this weekend called for adding a Democratic debate with Senator Bernie Sanders in Flint just ahead of the primary. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Since October, plumbers with United Association Local 370 in Flint have been volunteering to install filters and faucets to get lead out of people's tap water.

On Saturday, the local guys got some help – from a small army of more than 300 plumbers driving in from Lansing, Detroit, Saginaw, and other cities across Michigan.  

They get a rousing, union-pride welcome from Local 370 official Harold Harrington.

"We did not cause this American tragedy in Flint," Harrington tells the group, "but we certainly can help correct the damage that has been done!"

Photo courtesy of Inforummichigan.org and Peplin Photographic (larrypeplin.com)

The Flint Receivership Transition Advisory Board has been overseeing Flint since Jerry Ambrose, the city’s last emergency manager, left last April.

The state says the goal of the RTAB is to put the city on a path toward good financial health and return full control back to the city government.

So where does the process of returning power to the city’s elected leadership stand?

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers start hearings this week on Gov. Snyder’s plan to prevent the collapse of the Detroit Public Schools.

Lansing’s discussions start as the city of Detroit released another round of safety and health inspections of some of the district’s crumbling school buildings this past weekend.

If anyone doubts the danger of not appropriately considering environmental hazards, they need only to consider Flint.

To try to save a little money, the state allowed thousands of people to be poisoned, with consequences that will cost us far more in money, let alone human tragedy, than continuing to spend a little more for clean water would have.

The ballot campaign to add LGBT and women’s rights to the state constitution is kaput, at least for this year.

Suspending the campaign

The Fair Michigan campaign succumbed to the reality this past week that it was not going to get the establishment support and financial backing it needed to put the question of adding gender equality and LGBT rights to the state constitution’s equal protection clause.

photo by Anna Strumillo Phuket - Thailand / www.fotopedia.com

Michigan’s cities and counties have made a lot of promises to their workers about retirement.

But when it comes to healthcare, local governments owe more than $7 billion dollars to retirees – money they just don’t have right now.

Michigan State University’s Eric Scorsone has been crunching the numbers.

Water faucet
user william_warby / Flickr

Detroit's city council will consider a plan to lower the cost of water for the city's poorest residents. The plan is part of a report prepared by the council's Blue Ribbon Panel on Affordability. The panel will present its report Monday. Among the solutions it offers is a tiered rate system that would charge customers lower rates for lower consumption, and higher rates for higher amounts of consumption.

Few words carry the cultural weight of a decade like the 1960s mantra, groovy. It can seem hard to separate the word from the period, but, according to University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, the ‘60s were not the birthplace of the groove. Nor has the word always meant what we use it to mean today.


Flickr user Pictures of Money / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A non-profit watchdog group says the person who signed a new law doubling campaign contributions was the one who ended up benefiting the most.

In December, 2013, Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that doubles the amount an individual can donate to a statewide election from $3,400 to $6,800.  The law also doubles the amount a political action committee can donate from $34,000 to $68,000.

Dr. Nicole Lurie makes an announcement about lead testing results in Flint. She is leading the federal response in Flint for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State and federal officials say water tests at some homes in Flint are coming in at 150 parts per billion or more for lead. That’s ten times the federal action level of 15 parts per billion.

They say they're still testing homes, and of the 4,000 samples collected since December, 26 had levels at 150 parts per billion or higher. In at least one case, the home’s drinking water tested at 4,000 parts per billion. 

Dr. Nicole Lurie is leading the federal response to the water crisis for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Former Flint mayor Dayne Walling joined us in-studio to discuss the Flint water crisis
Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

The Flint water crisis is complicated, and more details are being revealed nearly every day.

Dayne Walling has lived it from the beginning. Walling was the mayor of Flint from 2009 to 2015, the period of time when crucial decisions were made regarding Flint’s water supply.

On Thursday, Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith took to Twitter with Reveal to answer your questions about the Flint water crisis. 

If you missed the Q&A with Smith, who produced the documentary Not Safe to Drink, catch up here: 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

We've finally got the witness list for who's going to be called to testify before Congress next week at a hearing on the EPA's role in the Flint water crisis.

Gov. Snyder signs a bill that secures $28 million in aid to Flint on January 29, 2016 in Grand Rapids.
Gov. Snyder's office

Governor Rick Snyder signed a law today that’ll allocate $28 million in emergency funding to address short-term needs stemming from Flint's water crisis.

It'll pay for bottled water, faucet filters, testing kits, additional school nurses, medical treatment, and help with the city's unpaid water bills. There are also funds to hire outside experts to figure out whether Flint's water infrastructure needs to be completely replaced.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In Flint today, top scientists from all three University of Michigan campuses met to discuss future research into the city’s drinking water crisis.

U of M is putting up $100,000 in seed money to help get the research started. University President Mark Schlissel is encouraging scientists from Dearborn and Ann Arbor, as well as Flint, to see what kinds of research opportunities might be worth pursuing in the wake of the crisis. 

U of M-Flint Chancellor Sue Borrego says now’s the time to coordinate work being conducted on Flint’s lead-tainted tap water.

UAW sign.
UAW

Michigan union membership and representation rebounded significantly in 2015 after a sharp decline in 2014, according to federal statistics released this week.

The percentage of all employees with union memberships rose from 14.5 to 15.2 percent.

Ron Bieber is the president of the Michigan chapter of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest federation of unions.

Fred Korematsu, seated center, at a 1983 press conference announcing the reopening of his Supreme Court case
flickr user keithpr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

We’ve all been hearing a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric recently. Everything from banning all Muslims from the country to halting the flow of Syrian refugees.

This week, Karen Korematsu has been in Michigan sharing her father’s story from a similar time of fear and confusion.

The Wolverines taking the field in 2009. They enter this season with 90-to-1 odds at the championship, but fans hope Harbaugh can turn them around.
flickr use Anthony Gattine / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

  ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The University of Michigan hired UConn's Warde Manuel as its new athletic director on Friday, bringing back a well-regarded alumnus who once played football for the Wolverines — just like its coach, Jim Harbaugh.

The 47-year-old Manuel, who had been Connecticut's athletic director since 2012, was given a five-year deal by Michigan. The salary was not immediately disclosed.

By now, everyone in the nation knows about Flint, the aging industrial city that was switched to water that turned out to be toxic, by an emergency manager whose main priority was to balance the books and save money.

But while this wasn’t technically a failure of infrastructure, there is no doubt that in many cities, especially older industrial towns like Flint, things like ancient water and sewer pipes, not to mention roads and bridges, are wearing out.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Now that Stateside is on Fridays, we thought we’d offer a toast to the weekend. Every once in a while Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings will tell us about a Michigan related drink.

The first is a classic cocktail called The Last Word. It was created at the Detroit Athletic Club during Prohibition.

Marc Edwards alerts the people of Flint that they should take precautions when dealing with drinking water in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech University was one of the first the raise the alarm about staggeringly high levels of lead in Flint water.

For that, he was ignored by staff at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

That was last summer. Now, Edwards is returning to Flint, bringing his expertise on water treatment and corrosion to the new Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Council.

Jim Harbaugh pleads his case. Michigan's head coach first arrived in Ann Arbor as a kid in 1973.
MGoBlog / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady’s team, the New England Patriots, were knocked out of the playoffs last week. But his unlikely friendship with a 43-year old Ann Arbor dishwasher is still going strong. Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon heard this story a year ago, and it’s only gotten better since.

user braun / Flickr

Political leaders are lining up to blast a Detroit oil refinery’s plan.

Mayor Mike Duggan was just one of the officials speaking out at a public hearing Thursday night.

Duggan threatened to sue the state if the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approves the Marathon refinery’s plan.

Darwin Bell / Creative Commons

In January 2015, at the same time state officials were downplaying risks to Flint residents over their water, state employees in offices in downtown Flint were supplied with water coolers.

Progress Michigan released emails showing the state began providing state employees in Flint with alternative drinking water in January 2015.

Progress Michigan’s Hugh Madden says it shows a double standard.

Forty-odd years ago, when I was in college, I worked in factories and warehouses, and there was a sign I saw posted in at least one of them:

“Fix the problem, not the blame.”

That was a good idea then, and still is now. Unfortunately, the Flint water crisis seems to have entered a new unhealthy phase that involves the exact opposite.


Office of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor

More than 1,800 untested sexual assault kits from before Oct. 1, 2014,  have been found at law enforcement agencies outside Wayne County, according to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

That number comes from a survey sent by Schuette in September to prosecutors in all Michigan counties except Wayne. 

"Experience shows that testing every kit helps law enforcement solve crimes and stop serial rapists," Schuette said in a prepared statement.

CDC / CDC

Non-medical vaccination waiver rates for school kids are down significantly since this time last year.

Following a new state law starting in January 2015, the number of families obtaining vaccination waivers for their child is down 39% compared to a year ago – that’s roughly 8,000 fewer waivers this year, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The new law requires parents seeking a waiver to first meet with a health department official for a consultation.

Flint residents continue to receive bills for contaminated, unsafe water.
flickr user Bart / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state Senate today unanimously approved $28 million to help Flint with its water crisis. Three million of that has been set aside to “aid with utility/unpaid bills issues.”

Whether or not to pay for water they’re unable to use has been a big question for Flint residents, whose water rates are among the highest in Michigan. Just today residents and activists protested at Flint City Hall, calling for a moratorium on water bills.

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