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Changing Gears
10:17 am
Wed November 30, 2011

Empty Series: New life for historic GM complex in Flint

The Fisher Body Plant No. 1 in Flint. Crowds gather in support of the sit-down strikers.
Courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library Wayne State University

There may be no better example of how the industrial Midwest is changing than the site of the old Fisher Body Plant No. 1 in Flint, Michigan. It’s one of the factories sit-down strikers occupied in the 1930s. The plant made tanks during World War II. It was later closed, gutted and reborn as a GM design center. But GM abandoned the site after bankruptcy and the new occupants don’t make cars. They sell very expensive prescription drugs.

There’s one group of experts who can always tell you the history and significance of an old factory. They’re the guys at the bar across the street.

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Politics
9:18 am
Wed November 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit Mayor Bing says city can avert financial crisis on its own

Layoffs are coming in Detroit after an audit revealed the city could run out of money by April. Mayor Bing says he believes the city can make cuts and avoid a potential takeover from a state-appointed emergency manager.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing held fast Tuesday to his assertion that his administration can manage the city through its fiscal crisis for the next 18 months with a plan that calls for union concessions and at least 1,000 employee layoffs.

In a wide-ranging interview, the mayor said he received a list of layoff recommendations from his department heads Tuesday and expects to identify workers who will be laid off by Dec. 5. Layoff notices would follow immediately and job eliminations would be effective 90 to 120 days after notices are sent.

Herman Cain speaks at Hillsdale College

After yesterday's revelation that Republican presidential candidate hopeful Herman Cain was "reassessing" his campaign, the candidate did not mention his problems during last night's speech at Hillsdale College. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported:

Cain did not talk about the allegations of sexual harassment made by numerous women against him nor the allegation made this week that he’s been involved in a 13 year affair with a Georgia woman.    

The allegations anger supporters like Gary Shilling.  But Shilling says his anger is not directed at Cain.   

"He’s being crucified…by the press," said Shilling after listening to Cain's speech.  

Republicans unveil plan to keep heat on

With dramatic cuts in federal funding for home heating assistance coming, Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives say they want to keep the heat on this winter for low-income residents.

From the Associated Press:

Lawmakers said they want to put $62 million into the state's emergency relief fund to help keep the heat on. The money would come from federal funds that Republicans say could be used for the heating program.

"It's a budgetary and statutory fix that protects families, prioritizes spending and keeps costs down for Michigan's ratepayers," said House Speaker James Bolger of Marshall.

The plan also would formalize the end of a utility charge. An appeals court in July struck down the financing system used by Michigan's Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund.

Weather
7:45 am
Wed November 30, 2011

Snow totals reach up to 9.5 inches around parts of Michigan

Much of Michigan was painted white overnight.

The National Weather Service was predicting totals of an inch yesterday afternoon, and up to six inches overnight in parts of southern Michigan. It appears a bit more snow fell than predicted.

From the Associated Press:

Storms brought heavy snow to parts of southern Michigan, with up to 9.5 inches reported in the Lansing area.

The National Weather Service says 7 to 9.5 inches of snow fell by Wednesday morning around Lansing. That came after heavy rains flooded some areas Tuesday.

Winter storm watches were issued. The storms left thousands without power.

The Saginaw area had reports of about 6 inches of snow. In southeast Michigan, the weather service says the Detroit area got anywhere from a dusting to about 3 inches.

The weather service says snow totals in the Jackson and Battle Creek areas were up to 5 inches, while Kalamazoo had 3 to 4 inches. Grand Rapids, however, avoided the snow.

Tuesday's rains closed several roadways, including part of the Southfield Freeway near Detroit.

Politics
10:50 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain addresses issues, not allegations, last night in Hillsdale

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain
(courtesy of the Herman Cain campaign)

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain says America is failing to lead the world: militarily, economically and morally.  But at a speech last night in Hillsdale, Cain did not mention the scandal dogging his campaign.     

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Environment
7:20 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

MSU Study: Minorities pay more for water in Michigan

Mark Brush Michigan Radio

A new study indicates racial minorities pay more for water and sewer service than whites in Michigan.

Michigan State University researchers looked at what people across the state paid for water and sewer service in 2000. Basic economic theory predicts that rural residents would pay the most for such services.

But the researchers found precisely the opposite to be true. Their results show that people in urban centers—with large minority populations—paid the most.

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Arts/Culture
5:44 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Meijer remembered as a “great boss” and an “inspirational leader”

People slowly pass Meijer's casket Tuesday to pay respects.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Hundreds of people have been lining up this evening to pay their final respects to Frederik Meijer. Meijer operated nearly 200 stores throughout the Midwest. He died Friday after suffering a stroke.

A public visitation service is going on at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park through 10 o’clock tonight.

A line stretched all the way outside the park. People slowly made their way past mostly black and white photographs and some color videos of Fred and his wife Lena; eventually passing by Meijer’s open casket.

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Science
5:18 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Could bugs with tiny backpacks be the future of search and rescue?

You've heard of canaries in coal mines. Or search and rescue dogs. But how about sending a team of beetles into a disaster zone? Marketplace's Tech Report Blog wrote about the idea today:

Researchers at the University of Michigan have figured out how to use the vibrations of beetles to harness energy that powers “tiny backpacks” that said beetles would carry to help with disaster area search and rescue. The idea would be to release the insects, equipped with microphones and other sensors, into disaster zones. Kinda creepy, but I’ll take a beetle crawling over my face any day, if it means I can get a collapsed roof off me. 

From a U of M press release on the research:

"Through energy scavenging, we could potentially power cameras, microphones and other sensors and communications equipment that an insect could carry aboard a tiny backpack," Najafi said. 

Researchers at the university hope to patent the idea, and they're looking for business partners to bring the technology to market.

An academic paper on the work is published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.

Politics
4:35 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Michigan State Senator Gretchen Whitmer on the anti-bullying bill

Michigan State Senator Gretchen Whitmer

The Michigan Senate today passed the House version of an anti-bullying bill.

It’s headed to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

The bill as passed did not include the controversial exception in an earlier Senate bill that protected statements that came from moral or religious convictions.

The Michigan Senate received national attention for that bill - some calling it a template for how to get away with bullying. 

Senator Whitmer spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White earlier today about her opposition for the bill approved by the Senate, and about the reaction to the YouTube video of her reacting to the bill.

Here she is telling her colleagues in the Michigan Senate "you may be able to pat yourself on the backs today and say that you did something today, but in actuality you're explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying... This is worse that doing nothing. It's a Republican license to bully."

Politics
4:00 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Michigan Dems introduce ban on for-profit schools

Students heading to class in Lansing
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Democrats at the state Capitol are calling for an amendment to the Michigan constitution that would outlaw for-profit schools. Four out of five charter schools in Michigan currently operate as for-profit schools.

Democratic state Senator Rebekah Warren said only 17 percent of charter schools out-perform traditional public schools. She said school aid money should not go toward profits for businesses.

Warren said her amendment would not ban charter schools, but it would reform how they operate.

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Politics
3:24 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Anti-bullying bill heads to Michigan Governor Snyder

A proposal to require all Michigan school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.  

The state Legislature gave final approval to a House Republican anti-bullying proposal following a month of heated debate.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said he is happy with the final product.

“At this point and time, yeah. It went through both chambers, got a fair amount of public scrutiny and feedback, and I’m proud of the work the House Republicans did,” said Richardville.

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Politics
2:55 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Former acting mayor tapped to serve as Flint emergency manager

Michael Brown was appointed as Flint's emergency manager

According to a report from the Flint Journal, the governor has given the nod to Michael Brown, a former acting mayor of Flint, to act as that city's new emergency manager.

From the Journal:

The appointment was announced this afternoon and is effective Thursday, according to Gov. Rick Snyder's office.

As emergency manager, Brown will have wide-ranging authority to make cuts, impose fees or make other changes to overhaul city government after a state review panel found the city in a financial emergency.

Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody adds more, reporting:

Michael Brown served as Flint’s acting mayor for six months in 2009, between the abrupt resignation of former mayor Don Williamson and the election of his successorDayne Walling.

In naming Brown as Flint’s emergency manager, Governor Snyder praised his “strong track record of serving the Flint-area community” and expressed confidence in Brown’s public, private, and non-profit experience.

In a written statement, Brown said he plans to work “collaboratively” with Flint’s elected officials and community leaders. Flint mayor Dayne Walling issued a statement saying that he looks “forward to working with Mr. Brown to address the community’s priorities and to secure the City’s financial stability."

Flint is facing a multi-million dollar debt. There are now emergency managers calling the shots in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse and the Detroit Public Schools.  

The state is also looking into a possible “fiscal” problem in Inkster.

Politics
2:32 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain brings troubled campaign to Michigan tonight

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain
(courtesy of the Herman Cain campaign)

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain will speak to an audience tonight at Hillsdale College.  

But while Cain's speech will focus on his foreign policy positions, questions are being raised about his personal domestic relations.    

A Georgia businesswoman claimed this week that she and Cain have had a 13 year affair.  Cain denies the allegation. His campaign describes the allegation as 'dirty politics' and a 'smear'.   

The allegation follows reports that Cain has allegedly sexually harassed women in the past. Cain denies those allegations as well.  

There are multiple news media reports that Herman Cain is 'reassessing' his campaign. Herman Cain has dropped in Republican presidential polls since the allegations arose earlier this fall.

It is not known if Cain will address the latest allegation against him or the future of his presidential aspirations at tonight's event on the Hillsdale College campus.

Environment
2:32 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Marquette selling forestland for sand mining

Forestland in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
user {inercia} Flickr

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - The city of Marquette is selling 100 acres of forestland for use in sand mining.

The Mining Journal and television station WLUC report the City Commission voted Monday to approve the sale of part of the former Heartwood Forestland property to the Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority for $180,000.

The city bought the 2,400-acre property in 2005. The authority plans to use the sand at a landfill that serves the city in an effort to cut costs.

Environment
1:41 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Mining in the UP, what does the state get in return?

Drilling began at the Eagle Mine this past September. This aerial photo was taken in September of 2011. The mine is 25 miles northwest of Marquette, Michigan.
Kennecott Eagle Minerals

Drilling continues in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for potentially valuable ore deposits after a judge turned down a request from environmental groups to stop the mine's development.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals is drilling 25 miles northwest of Marquette primarily for nickel and copper, but palladium, gold, and silver could also turn up in the deposit.

Kennecott, a subsidiary of the London-based Rio Tinto Group, began drilling in September.

The ore deposit the company is after is about a mile away from the mine's opening (and about 1,000 to 1,500 feet underground). They're not expected to reach the deposit until sometime in 2013.

Around 50 percent of the deposit is under state-owned land, so it belongs to the collective "we" - the citizens of Michigan.

So what are we getting in return?

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Politics
11:52 am
Tue November 29, 2011

Michigan legislature passes anti-bullying bill

Update 11:52 a.m.

Equality Michigan, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, released a statement in response to the passage of the anti-bullying bill:

We’re thrilled that we were able to eliminate the destructive ‘license to bully’ that the Senate first approved in October. National outrage provoked by the last-minute substitution to allow bullying based on religious beliefs is a clear indicator that our Senate majority is out of touch with the voters.

That being said, we’re disappointed by the weak version of the bill passed today. Directed by the biases of a few, our Senate missed another opportunity to do right by our kids. Today’s bill will do little to stem the tide of bullying because it doesn’t enumerate commonly targeted characteristics. Case studies have found that school employees are unlikely to recognize and report incidents when bias bullying is not placed deliberately on their radar. Both Oregon and Washington passed weak bills like this one and had to go back and revise them years later when data showed the initial bills had failed. This kind of delay is not an acceptable response to Michigan's bullying crisis.

11:19 a.m.

An anti-bullying bill has cleared the Michigan legislature after the Senate passed the House sponsored bill this morning.

The bill, HB 4163, steers clear of controversial language included in an earlier Senate version of the bill (SB 137). That bill protected statements based on moral or religious beliefs.

From SB 137:

This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian.

The bill as passed by the Legislature would require all school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies.

Some Democrats say the bill does not go far enough to protect kids from cyber bullying or to protect gay and lesbian students.

The anti-bullying legislation now goes to the desk of Governor Rick Snyder.

Offbeat
11:48 am
Tue November 29, 2011

Yes, that snow plow is moving slower

MDOT South Haven Garage Plow truck with right hand wing
(photo by Jason Roland) fleetgod-snowice.blogspot.com

Michigan is getting its first significant snowfall of the year this evening. If you live in southwest Michigan, you may notice the snowplow in front of you is moving slower than you’re used to.  

When a snow plow is dumping salt on icy roads, state Transportation officials refer to it as "Bounce & Scatter".   

As the salt hits the road, faster truck speeds mean more salt tends to bounce and scatter, much of it landing off the road. 

MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa says to reduce the scatter salt trucks in nine southwest counties will slow from 35 to 25 miles per hour this winter. The hope is slower speed will save money by using less salt.  

But Schirripa admits the slower speeds could put the trucks at greater risk of being rear-ended by inattentive motorists.   

“If we find out after a season, or a few weeks of it, the crash rate is simply too high, that safety is too much of a factor, the (pilot) program may in fact be dropped," says Schirripa.  

If the slower salt truck pilot program is successful, it may eventually expand to the rest of the state.

Arts/Culture
10:44 am
Tue November 29, 2011

U of M art museum receives $650K grant from Mellon Foundation

UMMA's director wants art to be a part of U of M students' everyday culture.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) is $650,000 richer, thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Joseph Rosa, director of UMMA, calls the grant a "dream come true" because it allows the museum to shift from an "oh, if we could" mentality to one of "now we can."

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Politics
10:40 am
Tue November 29, 2011

State Senator Glenn Anderson takes on Congressman John Conyers for Congress next year

State Senator Glenn Anderson of Westland likes to think of himself as a workhorse, not a show horse. In other words, as a guy more interested in getting it done than getting press attention.

That’s a little difficult to do these days in the Michigan Senate, where Democrats have less than a third of the seats and can’t accomplish anything, at least not on their own.

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Environment
10:17 am
Tue November 29, 2011

Upper Peninsula nickel-copper mine moves ahead

The Eagle Mine (aerial photo from October 2010).
Photo courtesy of Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co.

For ten years, Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company has been pushing to mine nickel and copper near Marquette. The company started underground blasting of the mine in September.

The Department of Environmental Quality issued permits for the mine in 2007. But several of those permits have been challenged in court.

A circuit court judge in Ingham County recently upheld the mining permit.

Michelle Halley is an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation. It’s one of the groups that challenged that permit. She says they’re concerned about the type of mining that will happen in the Eagle Mine. It’s sometimes called sulfide mining.

“The rock at Eagle is extremely acid producing, very high in sulfides and so once that rock is exposed to air and water, there’s really no debate it will begin producing acid.”

That acid is sulfuric acid. According to the Environmental Protection Agency... that acid can cause heavy metals to leach from rocks. The resulting fluid can be highly toxic to people and wildlife.

This is called acid mine drainage. On its website, Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company says there is a risk that it can happen. But the company says it’s taking a number of steps to reduce that risk.

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News Roundup
9:07 am
Tue November 29, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

More for-profit schools coming to Michigan?

The Republican-led legislature is planning to resume its push to allow more charter schools in the state. The Associated Press reports the discussions will start in the House Education Committee this week:

The education committee has scheduled hearings for Tuesday and Wednesday on the legislation that would end some numerical and geographical limits on charter schools. It narrowly passed the Republican-led Senate in October.

The state has roughly 250 charter schools. Supporters say more should be allowed to boost educational options in public schools.

Democrats say it appears to be an effort to help charter schools that are sometimes run by for-profit companies at the expense of other schools.

Democratic Sen. Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor on Tuesday plans to propose a constitutional amendment to ban for-profit schools. It's unlikely that proposal would advance in the Republican-led Legislature.

Remembering Frederik Meijer

The man who started "Meijer Thrifty Acres" with his father in 1962 died last Friday at the age of 91 after suffering a stroke. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported on today's public visitation:

Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi says they’re expecting at least 10,000 people to travel to Grand Rapids Tuesday for the public visitation.

“The Meijer family wanted to give the community an opportunity to pay their respects to Fred because he meant so much to so many people, not just in Grand Rapids but really in the state of Michigan,” Guglielmi said.

The public visitation will take place at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids from from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will be a private funeral tomorrow at a Grand Rapids church.

Wet weather, rain turning to snow

The rain is falling, and the National Weather Service says snow is on the way.

Counties in the south and southeast part of the state have a mix of winter storm watches, flood watches, and flood warnings.

Rain will fall until late afternoon. That could turn to snow later with accumulations of around an inch.  Later tonight the winds will pick up and snow accumulations could be around 2 to 6 inches for much of the south and southeast part of the state.

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