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Economy
2:52 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Michigan farmland values rise despite lagging economy

click Morguefile

Michigan’s farmers have an advantage over many other property owners in the state: Their land is rising in value.  

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago says farmland values in Michigan jumped by 16 percent over the past year.

Jim Hilker is a marketing economist at Michigan State University.

He said corn, wheat and soybean prices are up and that’s boosting farmland prices.

But Hilker also said not a lot of farmland  is trading hands because it stays in families.

"If that land comes up for sale, it may not come up for sale for another 30 years -- another person's career," Hilker said. "So if it's land near you, you overpay for it in one sense. You have other land that can help you pay for it and it's only going to be there one time."

Hilker said farmland with good soil in the Thumb and near Toledo is very marketable right now.

Auto/Economy
12:09 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Detroit carmaker CEOs watch Italy, Greece, and worry

automotiveauto.info

The heads of two of Detroit’s car companies say they’re concerned about the debt crisis in Europe. 

European consumers are pulling back from buying cars because of fears about the Euro and the economy.   

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne on Wednesday said he’s hopeful the new leadership in Italy will help turn things around in that country.  But he says car sales in Europe could worsen through next year.   

At the Detroit Economic Club Thursday, GM CEO Dan Akerson said the crisis could damage more than car sales.  But he’s hopeful the U.S. economy has become more resilient.

"Could the United States withstand a recession in Europe?" he asked rhetorically.  "I think it could. "

Ford CEO Alan Mulally earlier this month took the most optimistic view, saying he expects some global economic growth next year, despite sovereign debt concerns.

Commentary
12:05 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Detroit: The reality

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing made his long-anticipated speech this week addressing the city’s financial crisis. Even before that people were speculating as to whether the city would end up needing an emergency manager.

That speculation has increased ever since the mayor spoke, but the fact is this. There really isn’t any doubt. The city is not going to be able to succeed in righting its own finances, not under the Bing plan, anyway.

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Politics
11:57 am
Fri November 18, 2011

Michigan State House Speaker: No additional money for cash-strapped Detroit

State House Speaker Jase Bolger
user: mimem flickr.com

Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger said Detroit should not anticipate more money from Michigan taxpayers to help fix the city’s financial troubles. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said this week that Lansing should keep a promise made in the 1990s to boost revenue sharing payments if the city cut its income tax.

Bolger said that promise did not come from any Republicans currently serving in Lansing, where lawmakers have made tough choices to balance the state budget.

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Detroit
11:53 am
Fri November 18, 2011

Mayor Bing: 1,000 job cuts amid budget crisis

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says 1,000 job cuts are planned by early next year to help deal with the city's budget crisis.

The mayor's office said in a statement Friday that layoff notices will be delivered the week of Dec. 5. He says the cuts represent 9 percent of the city's about 11,000 employees and will save about $12 million.

On Wednesday, Bing said the city faces a $45 million cash shortfall by the end of its fiscal year in June.

Bing said the positions will be eliminated by Feb. 25. He said additional 2,000 positions have been eliminated since he took office in 2009.

Bing also ordered an immediate hiring freeze for all civil service positions except the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

The law
11:36 am
Fri November 18, 2011

2002 death sentence stands; full federal court to hear appeal

Marvin Gabrion
ccadp.org

Another chapter has been added to a case of a Michigan man fighting the death penalty.

A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected a decision made last August by a three-judge panel to overturn the 2002 death sentence of Marvin Gabrion.

The panel said the jury should have been told about Michigan’s longstanding ban on capital punishment.

According Donald A. Davis, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, the federal court vacated the panel’s opinion and redocketed Gabrion’s case, which means the death penalty stands.

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Arts/Culture
9:56 am
Fri November 18, 2011

Using the arts to level the playing field

After just one year in Mosaic, nearly all of the students say they plan to go to college.
Ian Tadashi Moore Mosaic

Michigan’s economy is steadily becoming more "knowledge-based" than "factory-based." 

That means, in order to land a job and earn a decent salary, a college degree is that much more crucial. But for many lower income kids, higher ed is out of reach. But an arts group in Detroit is helping to level the playing field among teenagers...with very real results.

Using the arts as a "hook"

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Culture of Class
9:03 am
Fri November 18, 2011

Listener Mailbag: What you are saying about our “Culture of Class” series

Word cloud put together with your "Culture of Class" comments.

We’ve been reading all your comments on our Culture of Class series (If we haven’t heard from you tell us your thoughts).

We’ve heard from people who have enjoyed the pieces and those who have offered, well, constructive criticism.

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Politics
7:37 am
Fri November 18, 2011

Scott recall results to be formally certified today

Republican Paul Scott (51st District)
Photo courtesy of Scott's official website

State Representative Paul Scott’s recall is about to become official. The Board of State Canvassers is set to formally certify the November 8th election results that showed a majority of Genesee County voters wanted Republican Scott out of office. Before Scott, the last time a state lawmaker was recalled was in 1983.

“Michigan House Republicans say they aren't going to challenge the election results and will focus on the election to replace Scott, scheduled for Feb. 28. Political parties have about two weeks to nominate candidates. Scott is ineligible to run,” the Associated Press reports.

Interestingly enough, February 28th is the same day that Michigan holds its Republican presidential primary. So, it’s likely there will be heavy GOP turnout to the polls that day.

Recalls Across the State Continue

Paul Scott was not the only state lawmaker to be targeted in a recall campaign. But, backers of other recall efforts were not able to get enough signatures to get their recall language on the November ballot. As the Detroit Free Press reports:

Scott was one of several dozen lawmakers of both parties (in addition to Gov. Snyder) targeted for recall in the aftermath of sweeping changes to Michigan tax law and budget priorities approved by Republican majorities earlier this year. Organizers of the GOP recalls objected to cuts in state aid to schools, the extension of the state income tax to some pension income and a $1.8 billion cut in the state tax on business activity.

Democratic lawmakers were targeted for attempting to block what Republicans describe as a long overdue reform of Michigan governance that was needed to create a climate conducive to job growth.

Unintended Consequences

Backers of the Scott recall, including the Michigan Education Association (MEA), might not have taken into account, however, the unintended consequences of kicking Scott out of office. I spoke earlier with Michigan Public Radio's Lansing Bureau Chief Rick Pluta about whether or not the MEA had fully prepared itself for a Republican retaliation to the recall.

Sports
7:00 am
Fri November 18, 2011

The most powerful people in sports: Joe Paterno and the cult of the college coach

A statue of Joe Paterno stands on the Penn State campus
user audreyjm529 Flickr

College football coaches are far from the richest people in sports, but they could be the most powerful.  That might seem far-fetched, but not to the disciples of Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, and Tom Osborne, among others, who rose to become almost spiritual leaders at their schools.   

At University of Michigan President James Duderstadt’s retirement banquet in 1996, he said being president wasn’t easy, but it came with some nice perks.  He even got to meet the man thousands of people considered God.  “No,” he said, “not Bo Schembechler, but the Dalai Lama.”

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Culture of Class
6:52 am
Fri November 18, 2011

The myth of "Upward Mobility"

It's not that easy to climb the class ladder in the U.S.
plastanka Flickr

Upward mobility: the idea that, if you work hard enough, you can climb the class ladder. It's part of the American Dream, right? That you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, that you can make a better life for yourself, that your children and grandchildren will have a better life than you do.

But, the fact is, upward mobility in the U.S. is just not that easy. And, it doesn't happen nearly as much as many American believe.

As part of our The Culture of Class series, we spoke to Economics Professor Steven Haider, of Michigan State University, about why the myth of upward mobility exists and why Americans, in particular, are so apt to believe in it.

Inform our coverage: Do you believe in upward mobility?

Politics
10:23 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Detroit Mayor's plea for payment gets cool reception in Lansing

Critics and allies alike say Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's proposal to get the state to pay the city more than $200 million faces an uphill battle.

It’s one of the ideas the Mayor has outlined to keep the city from going broke.

In 1998, Detroit lowered its city income tax in exchange for guaranteed levels of state revenue sharing. But city officials say the state reneged, and shorted Detroit about $220 million it was promised.

Bing says that would be enough to erase the city’s structural deficit, and the $45-million shortfall the city expects this year.

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Politics
7:25 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

U.S. Census: Michigan among states receiving most food assistance

Liz West Flickr

Michigan ranks third highest in the nation for the percent of households that receive food stamps. That’s according to U.S. Census data. Oregon and Tennessee top the list.

The data show nearly 17 percent of Michigan households have at least one person who receives food assistance from the federal government.

Karen Holcomb-Merrill, with the Michigan League for Human Services, said about two million people receive aid to buy food.

“That’s a really huge number when you consider that the population of the state is under 10 million,” said Holdcomb-Merrill.

But she said that number has gone down since the beginning of the year.

“One of the reasons for that is that the Department of Human Services changed their rules and their polices with regards to college students receiving food assistance,” said Holcomb-Merrill. “And as a result of that, about 30,000 college students were dropped from food assistance earlier this year.”

Holcomb-Merrill said some college food pantries are now struggling to meet the need of low-income college students.

She expects the number will go down with new eligibility rules for food aid. The rules disqualify people with too many assets from getting assistance.

Holcomb-Merrill says several states have scrapped similar rules because they prevent many people who need help from getting it.

Education
6:57 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

State takes a step in potential takeover of Benton Harbor Schools

The State of Michigan will conduct a preliminary review of the "critical and alarming financial situation" at Benton Harbor Area Schools. This is the first step in a process that would determine if the school district needs a state-appointed emergency manager. It doesn’t mean one would be appointed for certain.

Leonard Seawood has been superintendent of Benton Harbor Area Schools for a little more than a year. “When you are in a deficit like I inherited…there are no easy answers in terms to digging yourself out of this hole as a district,” Seawood said.

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Politics
5:08 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Ann Arbor students petition Michigan legislature for strong anti-bullying bill

A petition calling on state lawmakers to approve a strong anti-bullying bill has received more than 50,000 signatures.

The petition was started by an 11th grader and an 8th grader in Ann Arbor, on the website change.org.

Mark Anthony Dingbaum, with change.org, said the two students – Katy and Carson – want the bill to list characteristics that should be protected from bullying.

He said the students who started the petition have first-hand experience with bullying.

“They identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, across the board,” said Dingbaum. “And I know that they’ve spoken out on this issue before, and I know that they were very interested in having their voice injected into the conversation this time.”

Dingbaum said the current proposal leaves gay students out of the conversation and unprotected.

“In the process I think these students voices are getting lost, and I think what’s been really inspiring for me in hearing Katy and Carson’s story is that those groups, those enumerated groups, those enumerated protections in the bill are essential because they are the groups that are most likely to be bullied in school,” said Dingbaum.

The petition also calls on lawmakers to require schools to report bullying incidents to the state.

Democratic leaders in the state Senate say the anti-bullying measure approved by the state House last week is not perfect, but it’s a good start. They say they hope to approve that bill in a couple weeks, and will continue to push for listing and reporting requirements in the future.

Politics
4:59 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

A look ahead at the state legislative agenda

Michigan State Capitol
user: mattileo/flickr

With the legislature on their "hunting break" right now and the holidays quickly approaching, there’s not much time to get legislative agenda items pushed through before the end of the year.

In this week's political roundup we take a look at what we might expect between now and the end of the year.

Economy
3:31 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

U-M economic forecast: sluggish job growth

The nation's road to economic recovery will be a marathon, not a sprint. That's according to an economic forecast released today from the University of Michigan's Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics.

The economists write the U.S. economy has been battered by an oil price spike this past spring, the Japanese earthquake, and the European debt crisis.

Despite that, they say the chances of a double-dip recession are lessening:

From the report:

Economic news has improved a bit this fall, lessening the chances of a double dip. Output growth rebounded in the third quarter to register a 2.5 percent pace. Job gains have picked up a notch, averaging 117,000 since midyear. Consumer sentiment has reclaimed part of the ground lost since May. The economy remains vulnerable, however, as the main problems that have plagued this recovery persist.

The Detroit Free Press quoted U-M economist Joan Crary about the slow addition of jobs to the U.S. economy:

On the positive side, the U.S. economy added 700,000 jobs last year and 1.5 million this year, and the U-M economists predicted that the nation will add nearly 4 million jobs over the next two years.

But that will be enough to bring the unemployment rate down only moderately, from its current national rate around 9% to 8.8% in late 2012 and 8.5% in late 2013.

"The unemployment rate begins to creep down but remains uncomfortably high even at the end of 2013— 4½ years after the official end of the recession," Crary said.

In their report, the U-M economists noted the potential impact of a political stalemate in Washington D.C.:

In the current political environment, it also seems unlikely that Congress will pass any new stimulus measures. We have assumed the payroll tax holiday and investment tax incentives will be held over for another year, but neither of those extensions is a sure thing. We may well end up with a fiscal policy that doesn’t address either our short- or long-term problems.

The group is expected to put out a report on Michigan's economy tomorrow.

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Culture of Class
2:00 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Essay: Class Warfare, Codified

Michigan Radio

When I was growing up, I knew a lot of kids whose fathers didn't earn a living working in the bowels of a factory like my dad.

Their dads were businessmen, doctors and bankers, but our families lived blocks away, not suburbs apart. So all of us kids attended the same schools. We cheered together at football games, discoed at the same dances and had the same teacher for algebra. Our parents didn't mingle much, but most of them voted for school levies and showed up for the junior class plays.

This is not to suggest I never felt the sting of inferiority. A working-class kid is always aware of other kids' economic advantages, but most of the time they were irrelevant. We were in the thick of it — together. Plodding side by side through life at a young age teaches us that people have more in common than they sometimes want to believe.

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Crime
1:32 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Flint to use high tech tool to target gun crime

SST inc.

The city of Flint is turning to a new high tech tool to crack down on gun crime in the city.    

The "Shot Spotter” system uses more than a dozen sonic sensors to pinpoint the location of where gun shots are fired in a square mile area. The SST system is already being used in more than 60 cities around the country, including Saginaw. 

Company president Ralph Clark said the Shot Spotter system should help Flint police officers respond to reports of gunfire in the city.  

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Politics
1:21 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

Day of Action for Occupy groups

A protester carries two signs during 'Day of Action' protest in Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

In cities across Michigan, Occupy groups are holding protests.

It's part of a national "Day of Action," called following clashes in some cities between Occupy protesters and police ordered to evict them from city parks. Occupy encampments in Michigan have either been allowed to continue or are breaking up for the winter with little or no police intervention.

In Flint, a small group of sign waving protesters stood outside city hall at noon.

A man who identified himself as Shadee said the movement is still coming together. 

"And that’s what we need is for people to come together…from all walks of life…from different factions…and make our voices heard," said Shadee. "Hopefully we can change the system around to one that benefits the people…and not just corporations, you know."  

The Occupy Wall Street movement started two months ago in New York.

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