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Auto/Economy
6:22 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Struggling Fiat brand in U.S. gets new top executive

The Fiat 500
photozou.jp

Chrysler is shaking up its fledgling Fiat North America division. The brand is replacing Laura Soave with Timothy Kuniskis.

Sales of the brand’s only car, the Fiat 500, have been far below expectations. 

This year, Fiat had hoped to sell 50,000 of its minicars in the U.S., but it has sold only about 16,000. 

The departure of Soave is not a surprise.  Last week during a press conference, Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said Soave was head of the brand “for the time being.”   

Politics
5:43 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Report: Michigan's jobless benefits don't match other states

Unemployed people in Michigan have a harder time getting jobless benefits than in other states in the Midwest. That’s according to a report from the Michigan League for Human Services.

The report also says Michigan pays the lowest maximum unemployment benefits in the region to people out of work.

Peter Raurk wrote the report for the Michigan League for Human Services.

“Giving unemployed families unemployment insurance benefits while they look for work helps to keep the economy going,” said Raurk.

Raurk says making sure unemployed people have access to jobless benefits helps stimulate the economy.   

When people suddenly do not have income, they’re not going to spend that income at local businesses. And places with very high unemployment often have businesses that experience difficulty because of less consumer spending.”

The report also says Michigan provides the fewest weeks of unemployment coverage in the region. Raurk says the Legislature should not approve proposals that would make it even more difficult for workers to get unemployment benefits.

Education
5:14 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Detroit Public Schools cuts deficit

Roy Roberts

Detroit Public Schools’ emergency manager Roy Roberts says the district is making headway on its deficit.

The district ended the 2010 fiscal year more than $327 million in the red. Roberts says the district cut that by more than $40 million the following year.

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Sports
5:00 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers wins AL MVP

Justin Verlander became the first starting pitcher to win the AL MVP in 25 years.
user sd dirk Flickr

The Cy Young award last week. The American League MVP this week.

It was announced today that Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers took home the prestigious baseball award.

It's the first time a starting pitcher has won the award since Roger Clemens won it playing for Boston in 1986, according to ESPN.

More from ESPN.com:

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Politics
4:16 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Detroit city council unveils its cost-saving plans, calls for tax increase

Detroit is running out of money.

Last week, the mayor outlined some of his money saving ideas.

It's a plan that some on Detroit's city council said didn't go far enough.

Now, Detroit City Council is unveiling their plan.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the council's plan is a "is a last-ditch effort to avoid an emergency manager as the city faces the prospect of running out of cash by April..."

The Freep reports the council's plan would increase income taxes on Detroit residents from 2.5 percent to 3 percent, and nonresidents from 1.5 percent to 2 percent:

More from the Detroit Free Press:

As the city nears insolvency, Detroit City Council unveiled a rescue plan today that would increase income taxes by .5% on residents and nonresidents, lay off hundreds of firefighters and police officers and outsource ownership of the ailing busing system.

Other proposals include:

•Sharing health department services with a hospital or Wayne County.

•Cutting up to 2,300 workers.

•Eliminating subsidies to the Detroit Zoo, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Eastern Market, the Detroit Institute of the Arts and Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Museum.

•Demanding the Detroit Public School System pay its $15 million electric bill due to the city.

 

Some Council members have also floated the idea of a possible consent agreement, that would allow them to bypass the Mayor and implement the deeper cuts.

That would essentially give the Council most of the powers of an emergency manager, without stripping power from elected officials. It would require state approval.

Politics
4:15 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Snyder to sign law nudging foster kids to college

Foster kids who used to “age out” of the system at 18 years old will continue to get state financial support under legislation Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign tomorrow.

The measure is designed to help more college bound foster children maintain a support system after they become legal adults.

Jack Kresnak directs the advocacy group Michigan’s Children.

“The state is taking an important step forward to help the young people that we as a society have taken out of their parents’ care and placed in the state’s care succeed – this will help many, many more young people succeed,” Kresnak said.

The new law means young adults who grew up in foster care will continue to qualify for a housing subsidy and Medicaid health coverage. 

Kresnak said he would like to see the law amended in the future to give former foster kids who opt out of going to college a chance to change their minds and reenter the system. He said colleges and universities can also do more to help former foster kids succeed.

Transportation
3:30 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Ann Arbor bridge project near Michigan Stadium set to begin next week

In Ann Arbor, the bridges along East Stadium Boulevard will soon be replaced.
annarborbridges.com

Demolition of two crumbling bridges near Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor will start November 28th, according to the city of Ann Arbor.

The Stadium Boulevard bridges were built in 1928 and they span South State Street and the Ann Arbor Railroad. The bridges have been in need of repair or replacement for some time and are considered "functionally obsolete."

The city of Ann Arbor was hoping federal transportation funds would come through to help rebuild the bridges. After missing out on one round, federal funding eventually did come through.

A $13.9 million grant from U.S. Department of Transportation's "Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery" (TIGER) program will help pay for part of the project. The remainder of the funding will come from the state of Michigan ($300,000), and the city of Ann Arbor ($6,600,000).

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Jobs
1:30 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Part of Obama's jobs bill signed into law today: Help for unemployed veterans

Last week, in my story on veterans and class, I reported on the rate of unemployment for veterans in Michigan. That rate was 13.1 percent last September, and it's likely much higher for Post 9-11 veterans (younger males tend to have higher unemployment rates).

Now, the federal government is stepping in to trying to improve the situation.

Today, President Obama signed into law the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, a law that will give companies thousands of dollars in tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans. It also beefs up employment training for veterans.

The Associated Press reports it passed both houses of Congress without a single "no" vote:

The legislation, which creates tax breaks for companies that hire jobless veterans, marks the first proposal from Obama's $447 billion jobs bill to be signed into law. The rest of the package of new taxes and spending has largely failed to garner support from Republican lawmakers.

"Because Democrats and Republicans came together, I'm proud to sign those proposals into law," Obama said during a signing ceremony Monday.

In a statement, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America released a statement praising the bill:

“With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is a solid victory for the over 2.3 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families facing the toughest economy in decades. As Congress stalls on so many other issues, it’s good to see them come together in realizing that one of the smartest investments they can make is supporting the New Greatest Generation. While IAVA’s work in fighting veteran unemployment is not done, today is a big step in the right direction.”

According to the White House, the new law will give companies the following tax credits:

  • A "Returning Heroes Tax Credit" of up to $5,600 for businesses that hire veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months
  • A "Wounded Warriors Tax Credit" of up to $9,600 for businesses that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months.
Politics
12:01 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department gets director

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is getting a new director.

The city of Detroit announced Monday that Sue McCormick has been approved for the post by the Board of Water Commissioners. She's most recently served as Public Services Administrator for Ann Arbor and previously worked for the Lansing Board of Water and Light.

The job has been vacant since mid-2010. McCormick will start work Jan. 1.

McCormick's appointment by Mayor Dave Bing followed a Nov. 4 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox, who is ensuring the department's compliance with Clean Water Act regulations. The ruling reorganized the department and gave the director's position expanded power.

The department supplies water to about 4 million people southeast Michigan.

Commentary
11:41 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Emergency Manager On Hold?

There’s been a lot of speculation lately about the possibility of Detroit getting an emergency manager, something almost everybody concerned says they are against, but fear is likely to happen anyway.

If it does, the manager will have near-autocratic powers, including the right to suspend, rewrite, or tear up contracts. Some think this is a painful necessity, while others think it will be the death of democracy. There’s a possibility, however, which most people aren’t considering, which is that everything may be put on hold.

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Station News
10:56 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Ed Burrows, former Michigan Radio station manager, dies at 94

Edwin G. Burrows operating a reel to reel machine at Michigan Radio. Burrows was instrumental in securing federal funding for public radio. He helped to make sure radio was included in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.
Bentley Historical Library

Edwin G. Burrows who was Michigan Radio's station manager from 1948-1970 passed away yesterday at the age of 94.

Burrows was one of the leaders involved in securing federal funding for public radio through the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. Current.org has more on the interesting history of how radio was included in that legislation.

Below is the obituary from the family.

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Politics
10:32 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Ohio to Michigan: Please build a new bridge to Canada

michiganjournal.org
Staff

The Ohio state Senate has approved a resolution supporting a new international bridge between Detroit and Windsor.   

The senators say Ohio needs that bridge as much as Michigan does. 

Ohio senators say their state does $31 billion worth of bilateral trade with Canada every year – trade that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in Ohio. 

The bi-partisan resolution says trade and travel between Ohio and Canada will only increase in the future, and a modern border crossing is essential to support it.  The resolution notes the age of the existing Ambassador Bridge, at 83 years. 

Owners of the Ambassador Bridge have lobbied fiercely to block a new bridge, and Republicans in the Michigan legislature recently shelved bills to start a public-private partnership with Canada, despite Governor Snyder’s strong support for the bills.   

Governor Snyder says he still hopes to win the legislature's support for the project, which will cost the state nothing, because Canada and Ontario have offered to pay the state's $550 million share of the cost.

News Roundup
8:47 am
Mon November 21, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, November 21st, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Can You Spare $60 Million?

Lawmakers return to the state Capitol next week and topping their agenda: coming up with $60 million to fill a budget gap created by the state Supreme Court’s decision last Friday on Michigan’s new pension tax. Rick Pluta explains:

The court upheld the tax on pensions, but said denying a tax break to some higher-earners effectively created a graduated income tax, which is not allowed under the state constitution. That part of the decision blew a $60 million hole in the state budget. Sixty million dollars is a small part of a general fund budget that exceeds $8 billion. But it is an amount the governor and the Legislature will need to make up to meet their obligation under the state constitution to have a balanced budget.

Bridge Opposition

A new poll shows that likely voters in the state oppose a plan to build a new international bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. The Associated Press reports:

The poll for the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV showed 59 percent oppose the project, 30 percent support it and 11 percent were undecided… The Republican governor supports the new bridge, saying it is crucial to expanding trade between the U.S. and Canada. But the private owners of the Ambassador Bridge already spanning the Detroit River oppose a second bridge, saying a publicly supported bridge would unfairly compete with their own.

MI: 3rd Most Reliant on Food Stamps

“Michigan households relied on food stamps last year more than all but two other states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” the Lansing State Journal reports. “The states with the highest food stamp participation rates were Oregon (17.9 percent) and Tennessee (17 percent.) States with the lowest participation rates included California (7.4 percent), New Jersey (6.8 percent) and Wyoming (6.2 percent). The national rate was 11.9 percent,” LSJ.com explains.

Culture of Class
7:00 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Class and the courts

There, perhaps, is no moment in life when the difference in class is more apparent than when you are accused of a crime.  The wealthy hire the best lawyer they can.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided.  But, the kind of attorney you get in Michigan all depends on where you live.

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Detroit
6:33 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Detroit schools emergency boss reports on finances

Roy Roberts, Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools
Photo courtesy of Detroit Public Schools

The state-appointed emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools is releasing a half-year financial update on
the district Monday.

Roy Roberts has called a news conference for 11 a.m. to announce a six-month update and revised budget deficit projections.

In September, the district was facing a $327 million budget deficit. Its finances have been under state control since 2009.

Enrollment is about 66,000, down from 104,000 in 2007.

Detroit's schools have lost millions of dollars in state per-pupil funding as thousands of parents fled the district for city charters or suburban schools.

Politics
6:23 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Governor, Legislature need to find $60 million to balance budget

When the Legislature returns to the state Capitol next week, there will be another item added to its to-do list. That is: coming up with millions of dollars to fill a budget gap created by the state Supreme Court decision on Michigan’s new pension tax. The court upheld the tax on pensions, but said denying a tax break to some higher-earners effectively created a graduated income tax.

A graduated income tax is not allowed under the state constitution. That part of the decision also blew a $60 million hole in the state budget. Sixty million dollars is a small part of a general fund budget that exceeds $8 billion.

But it is an amount the governor and the Legislature will need to make up to meet their obligation under the state constitution to have a balanced budget. One possibility would be to use a projected surplus from last year’s budget to fill the gap. That number becomes official in January. But it appears the surplus will be somewhere near $400 million.

Lawmakers are already fighting over what to do with that money. Democrats say it should be used to restore some budget cuts to schools. Republicans say it should go into the state’s “rainy day” savings fund, or to pay down debt.

What's Working
12:06 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Volunteers paint Ann Arbor schools

Paint for Kids founder Gene Firn after a painting project at Lawton elementary in Ann Arbor. The ball of tape measures 3 ft in diameter.

Gene Firn is the founder of Paint for Kids, an Ann Arbor-based organization that mobilizes parents and community volunteers to paint schools.

Firn, who teaches a DIY painting class, was looking for practice walls for his students when he learned that the Ann Arbor school system doesn't have a painting department. He thought he could help, so he submitted a proposal.

The concept is simple: an experienced painter supervises parent volunteers as they transform hallways and classrooms over holiday weekends.

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Firn, who said that Paint for Kids fulfills the needs of local schools, but also attempts to create a culture of volunteering.

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Politics
9:12 pm
Sun November 20, 2011

Congressman Dale Kildee denies sex abuse 50 years ago

Congressman Dale Kildee, official photo

Updated at 10:55 pm: The Flint Journal reports that Congressman Kildee WILL NOT hold a press conference on Monday. According to the newspaper, Kildee has agreed to "an in person interview with the Flint Journal and at least one other media outlet." Michigan Radio will also try to speak with Congressman Kildee on Monday.

Michigan congressman Dale Kildee (D) is denying allegations by distant relatives that he sexually abused a then-12-year-old second cousin several decades ago.

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Auto/Economy
3:20 pm
Sun November 20, 2011

Could the auto industry help revive Toledo?

Three big, new investments by automakers in one Ohio city are raising hopes for a revived economy. Chrysler and General Motors have promised to spend more than $800 million on retooling and expanding their factories in Toledo.

These moves announced in recent months will create at least 1,400 jobs and keep thousands more. Parts suppliers also are expected to add more jobs in and around Toledo.

Chrysler announced plans on Wednesday to build a new Jeep SUV at its Toledo assembly plant while adding 1,100 jobs. It also hinted that more work could be coming.

That's why Toledo Mayor Mike Bell calls the news "the equivalent of a blood transfusion for our city."

Auto/Economy
9:01 pm
Sat November 19, 2011

Former GM CEO John Smale dies at 84

In this May 1993 file photo, General Motors Chairman John G. Smale appears at the automaker's annual meeting in Oklahoma City.
Associated Press Associated Press

Former GM Chairman John Smale led the company from late 1992 until the end of 1995. He died today in Cincinnati at the age of 84. He was a board member of the automaker for more than two decades starting in  1982.

Smale also led Cincinnati based Procter & Gamble from 1981 to 1990.

The Canadian with German ancestry graduated from Miami University (Ohio) in 1949. He joined P&G in 1952, working for what was then called the toilet goods division. He rose through the company, becoming president in charge of all U.S. operations in 1974 and chief executive in 1981. He added the chairmanship in 1986.

During his tenure, Smale moved P&G businesses into new markets in huge developing countries such as China, setting the stage for P&G's rapid growth in Asia in recent years. P&G also acquired Richardson-Vicks, which broadened the P&G portfolio to include Pantene shampoo, Olay skin cream and Vicks cough medicines, which are major brands today. In a smaller acquisition, P&G obtained the CoverGirl makeup brand that also is still growing.

At GM, Smale help change the structure of the automaker's management and put a renewed focus on customers.

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