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Environment
3:18 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

1 in 4 in Michigan buy optional state park pass, $6 million extra raised

The little "P" on your license plate sticker means you paid the extra $10 to get into Michigan's parks. The new system raised extra money for the parks this year.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

The new system to help fund Michigan state parks was a success in its first year.

Before the "Recreation Passport" system was put in place, park visitors had to buy annual or daily window stickers.

Now, people can get access to the parks by paying an extra $10 when registering their motor vehicle at the Michigan Secretary of State (window stickers and daily passes are still an option if you didn't pay extra at the Secretary of State).

The $10 annual fee is a lot less than the $24 people used to pay for an annual window sticker, but because more people participated, more money was raised.

From the MDNR:

In 2011, the program's first year, the DNR set a goal of 24.3 percent participation by Michigan motorists. Final tallies for the first year show that the goal was met and exceeded, with 24.7 percent of Michigan motorists checking "Yes" to support the Recreation Passport when renewing their motor vehicle registration. In total, the revenue generated by the sale of the Recreation Passport was $18,816,500.

Those who paid extra for access to Michigan's state parks have a tiny "P" printed on their license plate renewal sticker (the rectangular sticker on the upper-right part of the Michigan license plate).

Michigan DNR spokesperson Mary Dettloff says park rangers have gotten really good at spotting that tiny "P" from a distance.

For 2011, that little "P" signifies $6 million in extra revenue for the park system.

When lawmakers set up the new program, they anticipated the extra revenue. The $6 million will be be broken up according to a formula in the law:

  • State Parks - Capital Outlay (50 percent): $3,043,250
  • State Parks - Maintenance (30 percent): $1,825,950
  • Local Park Grants (10 percent): $608,650
  • State Forest Recreation (7 percent): $426,055
  • Cultural/Historical Facilities in State Parks (2.75 percent): $167,379
  • Marketing (0.25 percent): $15,216


The MDNR recently announced the recipients for local park grants. The local grants range from a minimum of $7,500 to a maximum of $30,000. MDNR officials say if revenues increase with the new "Recreation Passport" program, the maximum grant amount will increase as well.

24.7 percent participated in the program this year. Next year's goal is 30 percent.

Culture of Class
2:06 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

The Culture of Class (an audio documentary)

If you think about it, class is a tricky word. What does it even mean? How do you define it?

Michigan Radio reporters and producers take a look at how social class impacts our lives - from the way we plan our cities and neighborhoods, to the way we’re treated in a courtroom.

We also hear from folks around the state as they share their thoughts on class.

Part 1

This idea of class – class warfare, class resentment. It’s everywhere. And yet, how are we defining class?

Read more
Environment
1:39 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

Judge approves permit for Kennecott mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Resistance to the Kennecott mine project has been going on since the project was first proposed. n 500) near the area. (Photo by Chris McCarus)
Chris McCarus Environment Report

A judge has allowed a controversial mining project in the Upper Peninsula to go forward.

From the Associated Press:

A judge has upheld state regulators' decision to let Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. build a nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield of Ingham County on Wednesday sided against the National Wildlife Federation and other opponents of the mine being constructed in northwestern Marquette County. She ruled the Department of Environmental Quality acted lawfully when it issued a permit allowing the company to build and operate the mine.

An attorney for the wildlife federation says the group hasn't decided whether to appeal.

Kennecott Eagle is targeting an underground ore deposit that is expected to yield up to 300 million pounds of nickel and about 200 million pounds of copper, plus smaller amounts of other metals.

The company began blasting the mine entrance in September.

The controversy around the mine comes from fears of water pollution in the UP.

Mining operations in the U.S. haven't had the best environmental track record. Some old mining operations have left behind some pretty nasty legacy pollution problems (look up the "Berkeley Pit" in Butte, Montana for an example).

Back in 2005, Chris McCarus looked at the controversy surrounding the then proposed nickel mine in the UP for The Environment Report. McCarus reported:

Michelle Halle is a lawyer for the National Wildlife Federation and a local resident. She's got one question.

"I’m always interested in the answer to the question about whether he believes that a mine can exist with 100% perfect track record."

It’s a rhetorical question. She’s confident that the company won’t be able to meet the newer, stricter standards for getting a permit to mine.

"No human error, no design flaws, no natural disasters that are going to cause an impact... I don’t think that any company can say yes to that honestly."

Halle's 2005 hunch was wrong. Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. did get the permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and now a judge says development of the mine can go forward.

Education
1:25 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

Grand Rapids schools hopes to improve online learning model

The program at GRPS is a "blend" of traditional and online instruction. Right now it is only for freshman and sophomore high school students.
Sarah M. Stewart Creative Commons

A report out this week shows more than half of high school freshmen and sophomores failed the first semester of the new blended-online courses at Grand Rapids Public Schools. GRPS is Michigan's third largest K-12 district.

The program launched in the fall of 2010. At the time it was (and may very well continue to be) incredibly controversial. Like any new program, Grand Rapids schools spokesman John Helmholdt says there was an adjustment period the first semester.

“There was both a district-wide layoff but also a huge early retirement incentive where we had more than 400 teachers, principals, and support staff retire; and so that first semester was a little rocky,” Helmholdt said. The retirement incentive was offered by the State of Michigan to try to save districts and the state money.

Test scores improved in the spring 2011 semester, but the failure rate was still 44-percent.

Read more
Changing Gears
12:20 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

Empty Series: What do you do with an empty corporate campus?

All this month, we’ve been looking at Empty Places across the Midwest; from vacant lots to abandoned factories.

As companies adjust to new economic conditions, many are re-evaluating the basics, including their locations.

City officials often bend over backwards to get businesses to locate in their communities and provide jobs, but they’re left with big challenges when a company decides to leave.

There’s a hot new trend among companies around the Midwest – threatening to leave. Several companies, especially around Chicago, have been asking big picture questions as they take a look at their bottom lines.

Read more
Commentary
11:04 am
Wed November 23, 2011

Changing expectations for students in Detroit

Thirteen years ago, Doug Ross lost Michigan’s Democratic primary for governor -- and that might turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to education in Detroit.

Read more
Offbeat
10:57 am
Wed November 23, 2011

A Thanksgiving Day ringtone, the sound of Narragansett turkeys

John Harnois gobbles to the turkeys and the turkeys respond in unison. We collected the sound for your phone.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Sometimes we collect some great sound for our stories.

Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams caught this sound of Narragansett turkeys gobbling and barking for her microphone.

Their timing is perfect.

As the farmer described them for Rebecca, they speak up at his disconcerting words. Have a listen:

("They're old time turkeys, much closer to wild. They don't have the broad breasts, so proportionally for eating..." *turkeys gobble in unison here* "...they have more dark meat to white meat.")

So, for your Thanksgiving enjoyment, here's a Narragansett turkey ringtone pulled from this Thanksgiving feature story:

To make the ringtone work, right click and download the MP3 file above.

Once you have it, you can send it to your phone. From WikiHow:

Send the file to your phone. Here are three ways:

1. Email the MP3 file to your phone as an attachment. In just a minute or so, your phone should receive your file. Your phone’s email address is your 10-digit number at your carrier’s email URL.

Example: 5555555555@company.net

AT & T: @mms.att.net

Sprint: @messaging.sprintpcs.com

T-Mobile: @tmomail.net

Verizon: @vzwpix.com or @vtext.com

Send a picture message or text message to your email account if your carrier is not listed. This will give you an address to reply to your phone.

2. Use Bluetooth technology to directly send files from your computer (at a short distance). This only works if you have a phone that is BlueTooth enabled and has the OBEX File Transfer Profile and it is also dependent on what kind of computer system you have.

3. Transfer the file by an USB cable (if applicable to your phone model).

Open the email on your phone, save the sound clip under message options, set it as a ringtone, and enjoy!

Culture of Class
8:45 am
Wed November 23, 2011

How the media portrays class

From the Bradys to the Cosbys, most of us can probably name several television families... some middle class, some working class and some decidedly upper class. But, how do media portrayals of these families affect our ideas about class... and ourselves? We asked Susan Douglas, author and professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, just that question.

Politics
7:48 am
Wed November 23, 2011

The Week in State Politics

aflyingpsychofly flickr

Every Wednesday, we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about the state's political happenings during the week. On tap for this morning: Detroit's financial crisis, a $60 million budget hole facing state lawmakers when they return back to the Capitol next week, and the 'failure' of the so-called Congressional super-committee.

culture of class
4:00 am
Wed November 23, 2011

Rethinking what - and where - "the good life" is

Neighbors gather at Curtis Green Park
Ed Morykwas River of Time Photography

For a lot of people, living the good life in America means having money in the bank, and a big house on a suburban cul-de-sac.

But in a little corner of Detroit, there's a group of neighbors who say you don’t need to be middle class to live a good, prosperous, dignified life.

When Riet Schumack moved to Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood, in 2006, she found herself surrounded by blight, drug crime, prostitution, and illegal dumping.

So she signed up for every meeting, every committee there was – to try and make the neighborhood a better place to live.

Read more
Politics
6:34 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Detroit Mayor, City Council issue proposals to keep city solvent

Both Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit City Council have put forth proposals aimed at avoiding a state financial takeover.

A recent cash flow report suggests the city is likely to run out of cash by spring, and be $45 million in the red by the end of June 2012.

Bing, who announced 1000 city layoffs last week, issued more details of his proposal Tuesday. They include, in addition to the layoffs:

Read more
Politics
6:14 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Governor extends benefits to foster kids who "age out"

Governor Rick Snyder signed a law today to extend benefits for children who grew up in foster care after they turn 18 years old. The new law will allow foster kids to continue to receive a housing subsidy and health coverage until the age of 21, and to continue to work with foster care caseworkers.

The extended benefits will be available to young adults who are enrolled in college or job training, or working at least 80 hours a month.

The governor says Michigan owes it to children who would otherwise lose their support system when they become legal adults.

Read more
Politics
6:11 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Pro-teacher Republican chosen to run for 51st District

Republicans in Genessee County have chosen a candidate who says he’s pro-teacher, in the election to replace Representative Paul Scott, who was recalled.

Joe Graves is a Genessee County Commissioner.   He says many members of his family are teachers.

Paul Scott’s 51st District seat is vacant, after the state’s largest teachers’ union led a recall against him. 

Scott was chairman of the House Education Committee.

Recall organizers attacked Scott for voting to cut K-12 education and extending Michigan’s income tax to pensions. 

Read more
Politics
6:02 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Detroit Congressman Clarke continues push for federal relief

Hansen Clarke

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke says “time is of the essence” for his proposed Detroit Jobs Trust Fund Act.

That’s legislation Clarke has proposed that would divert federal taxes collected in Detroit into a trust--about $2 billion annually over five years. That money would then be used to finance jobs and infrastructure projects.

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Environment
5:06 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Trash that closed Michigan beaches in 2008, 2010 from Wisconsin

A toothbrush is one piece of trash that traveled from Wisconsin to a beach in West Michigan.
Alliance for The Great Lakes

A couple of summers ago piles of trash washed up on the beaches of Lake Michigan from Pentwater to Portage. A federal investigation confirms the trash came all the way from Wisconsin.

The trash included medical supplies, small plastic pieces, chunks of wood; even whiskey bottles. Many beaches were closed at the time because of the trash.

Volunteers with the Alliance for The Great Lakes first reported the trash in 2008 and 2010 when they were out doing normal cleanup work.

"We’ve had many people in Michigan contacting us and asking ‘what ever happened about that?’ said Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Manager for the Alliance.

Read more
Politics
4:18 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

A conversation with Pontiac Emergency Manager Lou Schimmel

Several Michigan cities are facing the possible appointment of an emergency manager.

Lou Schimmel has served as an emergency manager in Hamtramck and Ecorse and currently works as the EM in Pontiac.

He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about his job as the city's emergency manager and his plan for the city.

Politics
4:06 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Michigan lawmakers planning changes to Workers Comp, hearings continue

Chris Waits Flickr

More than one hundred workers, union representatives and business lobbyists showed up at the state Capitol today to testify on proposed changes to Michigan’s workers compensation law.

The proposed changes before a state Senate panel would reduce an injured worker’s benefits based on the amount an insurance company believes the worker could be earning at another job.

Chris Luty, with the Michigan State Police Troopers Association, told lawmakers finding a job, especially while injured, is not as easy as some insurance companies would claim.

“What’s available out there – what’s really available out there – and what’s theoretically available out there are often two very different things,” said Luty.

Luty told lawmakers about a state trooper named Drew Spencer, who was hit by a car while on the job. Spencer’s injuries were severe and left him dependent on workers compensation benefits.

“Drew Spencer, like most people within the Department of State Police, has a lot of experience before he came in. He has an education. And when you apply the virtual wage language as I understand it, Drew Spencer would get nothing under this bill, as I understand it,” said Luty.

The proposed changes also includes extending the length of time an injured worker must see a doctor assigned to them by insurance companies rather than their own doctor.

Carl Alden, with the Michigan Association of Chiropractors, says letting injured workers visit their own doctors makes sure workers get the best medical care so they can get back to work more quickly.

“The success of Michigan’s current system shows that making a change is not in the best interest of employers, workers, Michigan, and ultimately the insurers,” said Alden.

Business groups say the proposed changes would help reduce fraudulent claims from workers and provide stability for businesses.

The Senate panel is expected to continue hearings on the workers comp issue when the Legislature returns from a two-week break next week.

Education
3:34 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Secret admirer gives $7 million to MSU geology department

The Natural Science Building at MSU. The Geology Department received $7 million from an anonymous donor.
MSU

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State University says a secret admirer has donated $7 million to expand its geology department.

The East Lansing school announced the gift Tuesday. The university knows the donor, a Michigan State graduate who prefers to remain anonymous.

Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon says the money will pay for endowed professorships and endowed graduate fellowships.

The university says the search for three early career faculty members for the new endowed professorships is expected to start next year. Part of the money will complement funds from an earlier
anonymous donor and will endow graduate fellowships.

Michigan State says another part of the gift completes funding for the Thomas Vogel Endowed Chair in Solid Earth. It was established in 2006 in honor of the retirement of longtime geology professor Thomas Vogel.

Politics
12:34 pm
Tue November 22, 2011

Michigan's "Super Committee" members talk about failure

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or "Super Committee," failed to come up with a compromise to reduce the deficit. Michigan members of the Super Committee spoke about the experience.
U.S. Congress congress.gov

The Michigan contingent of the so-called Congressional "Super Committee" hosted a media call today to discuss the failed deficit reduction talks between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

Dave Camp (R-Midland) and Fred Upton (R-St.Joseph) were part of the twelve-member bipartisan panel officially known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

The Committee's task: Come up with a way to reduce the nation's deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.

Read more
Detroit
11:09 am
Tue November 22, 2011

A historical look at Detroit's financial troubles

Ifmuth Flickr

Detroit’s financial troubles have been in the news quite a bit recently with Mayor Dave Bing announcing a plan to lay off 1000 city workers and the looming possibility of the state assigning an emergency manager to take over the city’s finances. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry took a look back at Detroit's history of financial problems.

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