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Politics
2:46 pm
Sat November 19, 2011

Dear whiskey maker, please come visit MI

user cookbookman17 Flickr

A top Michigan Republican would like the makers of Jack Daniel's whiskey to consider moving north if the company decides to leave Tennessee.

House Speaker Jase Bolger has invited distillery managers to visit Michigan. He says the state's business climate is improving, and he noted the state's large supply of fresh water.

A spokesman for Jack Daniel's parent company said Friday there are no plans to visit Michigan or other places that have made similar offers since a dispute about taxes sprouted in Tennessee.

Some Moore County citizens have proposed a "barrel tax" for the Lynchburg, Tenn., distillery that could raise up to $5 million a year. They're asking Tennessee lawmakers to authorize a local referendum.  

The distillery is waiting to see what happens with the tax issue.

Sports
2:28 pm
Sat November 19, 2011

Power outage strikes The Big House at game time

Andrew Horne / wikimedia commons

The lights went out at Michigan Stadium Saturday morning, just an hour before game time with Nebraska.

An isolated power outage at the Big House left the facility without a P.A. system, scoreboard or countdown clocks.

But the game started anyway.

Jeff Arnold is a reporter with CBSsports.com.

He said things got a little complicated.

“It’s wreaked havoc for at least one of the offenses doing down toward the west end of the stadium, where the 25-second play clock is inoperable,” Arnold said.

Power was gradually restored to parts of the stadium, but reporters in the press box had to scramble as laptop batteries ran out of juice.

The national broadcast of the game was uninterrupted because the network had a backup generator.

The cause of the power outage hasn’t been revealed.

The Wolverines beat the Huskers, 45-17.

Politics
9:43 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Detroit to cut 1,000 jobs

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced 1000 layoffs Friday.

Detroit faces a $45 million budget gap this fiscal year—and is poised to run out of cash by April.

Bing says the layoffs represent important savings—but they won’t close Detroit’s budget gap. He says city unions need to take a 10% pay cut.

“We have to talk to the union. If we don’t get concessions from the unions, none of the plans will work,” Bing said bluntly.

Bing gave the unions until Monday to agree, but talks between the two sides have gone nowhere.

Bing also insists he’s determined to go after tens of millions of dollars in revenue sharing the state owes Detroit from more than a decade ago.

“The state owes the city of Detroit $220 million,” Bing said. “I’m not afraid to ask for it, I’ve asked for it, I’m going after it.”

Republican leaders in Lansing have balked at Bing’s request.

Bing also says he won't submit the city's finances for a state review--something that Governor Snyder has said he "expected" Bing would do in light of Detroit's precarious situation.

Politics
5:54 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Confusion reigns over what state should do with health care law

Business owners are trying to figure out how the federal Affordable Care Act might play out in Michigan and how it could affect their bottom line.

Under the law, states are required to create an online exchange where people could compare and buy health care insurance. States need to create the exchange by the end of 2012 or the federal government will do it for them.

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Writers Series
5:35 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Life Before Technology, with essay by Natalie Bakopoulos

Technology surrounds us. It seems we’re always connected to something…the internet, cell phones and social media. It can be difficult to unplug sometimes.

As part of our series Before Tech, Michigan writers share stories about their relationship to technology.

Today, writer Natalie Bakopoulos tells us about her college days, before the phenomena of social media.

She is an English professor at the University of Michigan.

Election 2011
5:34 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Results stand after Benton Harbor recount vote

The results of the November eighth election in Benton Harbor stand.

Incumbent Mayor Wilce Cooke lost the election by eight votes. That’s less than one percentage point.

During a recount this week, both Cooke and Mayor elect James Hightower picked up two votes. So the end result remains the same even though the vote count changed slightly.

“We’re not trying to say there’s any hanky-panky going on – although it could be,” Cooke said.

He’s concerned about the absentee voting process; mainly who processed the votes and who may have had access. “There’s some issues we’re pursuing that I’m not able to divulge to you; but that’ll come out eventually,” Cooke said.

The state appointed an emergency manger to take over Benton Harbor’s finances during Cooke’s second term as mayor. The emergency manager expects to have the city’s finances back on track soon. He expects to turn power back over to the new mayor and city commission within the next eight months.

Politics
4:21 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court approves public pension tax

The Michigan Supreme Court says a new law taxing public pensions does not violate the state Constitution. 

The advisory opinion released today is a major victory for Governor Rick Snyder, who signed the sweeping tax changes earlier this year. Employee unions were opposed to the new law.

State officials expect the law will generate as much as $330 million dollars in revenue in 2013.

The court did say a portion of the law doesn't pass muster. The court ruled the tax could not be administered as a graduated income tax, which is illegal under the state constitution. And that means Governor Rick Snyder will have to go back and find more revenue or more cuts to make sure the state budget remains balanced.

However, the Supreme Court says that does not stop the rest of the tax overhaul from taking effect.

The court divided along party lines, with the four Republican justices making up the majority.  

The decision means the new tax on pensions will take effect January first largely as it was designed by Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature. However, they will have to come up with a plan to make up some of the money they were counting on to balance the budget.

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.

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