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10:28 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Needed: Protection for The Great Lakes

In Lansing last week, the legislature put the finishing touches on a bill to prevent the various departments of our state government from issuing regulations stronger than federal ones.

That may sound a little odd, so let me explain. Let’s say we wanted to have clean water standards higher than those Washington requires. That ought to make sense. We are surrounded by the Great Lakes, which account for most of the fresh water in the entire Western Hemisphere. Preserving them is essential to our survival.

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Politics
8:00 am
Wed November 16, 2011

The Week in State Politics

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
aflyingpsychofly Flickr

Every Wednesday we take a look at what's happening this week in state politics with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry. On tap for today: Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is scheduled to address the financial crisis in his city this evening, the state House punts on creating a state-run health care exchange, and Democrats in Lansing release a jobs plan.

Culture of Class
7:00 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Military service and the upwardly mobile

A family tradition of military service. Trevor Schewe (left) served in the Coast Guard. His brother Ryan (center) served in the Air Force. And his Dad Steve (right) served in the Army.
courtesy of Trevor Schewe

The country has been at war for the last decade, but less than one percent of the U.S. population has been on active military duty in that time.

That’s a stark difference from World War II, when just about everyone had a relative serving overseas.

As part of our series on socioeconomic class, we wanted to find out who joins the military these days and why. And we wanted to know whether their service to our country can help them get ahead in life.

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Culture of Class
6:30 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Thoughts on 'class'

All this week, we're looking at how social class plays out in our everyday lives. Most folks agree that you can't talk about class purely in terms of income bracket - to do so would be one-dimensional. So, for our series, The Culture of Class, we asked a number of Michigan residents for their take on the word "class" and how it applies to them.

You can take a listen here.

Environment
6:15 am
Wed November 16, 2011

House OKs bill setting national ballast standard

The U.S. House has approved a bill that would set a national policy for cleansing ship ballast water to kill invasive species while prohibiting states from imposing tougher requirements.

The measure that passed the Republican-controlled chamber Tuesday would adopt an international standard limiting the number of live organisms in ballast water. Vessel operators would have to install technology to comply.

The shipping industry says an existing patchwork of more than two dozen state and tribal policies is unworkable because vessels move constantly from one jurisdiction to another. New York rules scheduled to take effect in 2013 would be 100 times tougher than the House standards.

Environmentalists say the House measure isn't strong enough to prevent more invasive species from reaching the Great Lakes. They say they hope to derail it in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Environment
5:06 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Deer season kicks off with no reported safety incidents

This year's firearm deer hunting season is off to a safe start. That's according to state officials who said no incidents related to injury or safety have been reported so far.

MLive.com reports:

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Politics
4:57 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

A conversation with Flint Mayor Dayne Walling

Facebook

Dayne Walling was elected to a second term as Flint’s mayor last week, and since then was told his city is facing a financial emergency.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Walling about the situation.

Walling said he has a lot of questions about how things will unfold, and added, "the Governor and Treasurer have pledged for this to be a collaborative process, but I know that can mean a lot of different things to different individuals."

“I’m prepared to play any positive role that I can in this position," said Walling.

Mayor Walling also gave suggestions on how to work with city leaders and residents.

Politics
4:25 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Michigan AG files corruption charges against former Pontiac fire chief

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette
Michigan Attorney General's official website

The Michigan Attorney General’s office has filed more than 100 charges related to corruption of state and city officials since January.

Adding to that list is a former fire chief from Pontiac who was charged today by Attorney General Bill Schuette with racketeering and bribery.

John Sellek is a spokesman for the attorney general. He said the fire chief solicited bribes from the owner of a bar.

“Walked into a bar and said ‘I will look the other way on fire code violations if you pay me $1000.’ It’s been going on for a long time in the world, it’s nothing new, but it’s something we’re going to do our best to put a stop to,” Sellek said.

Sellek said Schuette formed a public corruption unit at the beginning of the year to tackle corruption cases.

“We want to put a focus on the entire state, all 83 counties,” said Sellek. “We want people who hold positions of public trust to be very clear what they’re job is, what their ethics are, and what their moral responsibilities are, before they make a decision like this.”

Sellek said the Attorney General’s office hopes focusing on corruption will act as a deterrent for public officials.

Environment
3:45 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

As seasons change, so do cleanup efforts in Kalamazoo River

Recovery of submerged oil on Morrow Lake in June of 2011.
EPA Region 5

Enbridge Energy says it’s done cleaning up oil that sank to the bottom of the Kalamazoo River until next spring.

“That doesn’t mean cleanup is done for the year it’s just going from one phase into another,” company spokemans Jason Manshum said.

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Politics
3:01 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Detroit City Council gives Occupy protestors week-long extension

Occupy Detroit protestors have been given a one-week permit extension.
user k1ds3ns4t10n Flickr

The permit allowing Occupy Detroit protestors to camp in Grand Circus Park expired Monday but city officials granted a one-week extension, allowing protestors more time to clean up and relocate to another venue.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Some council members likened the peaceful Occupy Detroit to the civil rights movement aimed at extending rights to disenfranchised black people.

"All of us sit here because some people fought, because some people occupied, because some people demonstrated," Councilman Kwame Kenyatta said. "They did it because it was the right thing to do."

Saying the Occupy Detroit protesters have been peaceful and cooperative, Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said he was not opposed to the one-week extension.

Yesterday, Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported that there seemed to be little animosity amongst protestors regarding an eventual move:

Occupy Detroit participants says an extension will benefit everyone.

“[It’s] so we can maintain our peaceful protest within Grand Circus Park, and leave within a reasonable amount of time," says activist Zachary Steve. "We'll be able to clean up the park, and make sure to maintain a good relationship with the community."

Occupy Detroit says it plans to move its encampment to another, privately-owned location in the city for the winter months.

- John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Sports
2:14 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Auburn Hills hurting financially by idled Detroit Pistons

The Palace in Auburn Hills
Kevin Ward Flickr

Many fans of professional basketball are disappointed that the ongoing contract dispute between players and owners may end up canceling this year’s NBA season. But in Auburn Hills, the home of the Detroit Pistons, disappointment is turning into desperation.  

Many businesses in Auburn Hills rely on the 41 games the Pistons play at the Palace each season. Pete Auger is the Auburn Hills city manager. He says the local economy supported by the games is more than just the thousand people who work at the Palace. 

“You also have restaurants and bars that thrive off of those dates that you get 20-22,000 people coming to one location. All those locations are reporting to us their business is down 40 to 60 percent," says Auger.  

Auger says the city is also missing the exposure that comes from having a pro-sports team identified with the community. That lack of exposure may continue for a while. NBA players this week rejected the owners’ latest offer and that may result in the entire season being canceled.

Offbeat
1:59 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

I94 in Detroit is one of the most congested roads in America

A four-mile section of I-94 in Detroit is among the most congested highways in the nation. That’s according to a new report from Texas A & M University.   

Bill Eisele is a research engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute. He says the organization identified 328 choke points in the nation’s urban roadway system. Eisele says the stretch of I-94 in Detroit is a good example of where heavy commuting use often collides with special events downtown.   

“So if Justin Verlander’s on the mound…we’re probably picking that up…that extra traffic downtown…we’re picking up any construction…work zones…all of those things…that occur throughout the year," says Eisele.  

Eisele says encouraging downtown workers to telecommute or shift their schedules is one way to reduce traffic congestion along I-94 in Detroit.  

Michigan had only one roadway on the list.

89 of the 328 congested roadways are in California.

Auto/Economy
1:30 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

4 projects awarded state tax incentives

Two of the projects, Meijer in Detroit and Grand Rapids Urban Market, will bring more fresh produce into Michigan's two largest cities.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation approved tax breaks Tuesday in exchange for new investment and jobs.

MEDC spokesman Joseph Serwach says one of the four projects receiving tax breaks includes a much-needed grocery store in the City of Detroit.

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Politics
1:11 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Flint, Michigan gets ready for a state takevoer

Elected leaders in Flint will lose their power once a state-appointed emergency manager takes over.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is getting ready for a state takeover. The city's re-elected mayor, Dayne Walling and Flint City Council may have no power once a state-appointed emergency manager is in place.

From the Flint Journal:

Today is the deadline for Flint Mayor Dayne Walling to request a hearing on the state's recommendation that an emergency manager take over the city's finances.

And all signs point to an impending state takeover.

Walling said today that he will not request a hearing, and city council members say they're bracing for a takeover.

The Journal reports that the Flint City Council voted against appealing an impending appointment of an emergency manager takeover to the Ingham County Circuit Court.

Mayor Walling told reporters after he was sworn in that he plans on sticking around.

From Steve Carmody's report:

Walling insists Flint city government can move forward with his agenda, despite the looming reality that the governor will soon choose an emergency manager to take over running city government. 

“If this emergency manager is here for a few months…if they are here for a year or two…I look forward to serving my full four year term that I was sworn into today," Walling told reporters after the ceremony.

Walling will be interviewed by Michigan Radio's Jennifer White today. We'll post that interview later.

Sports
11:09 am
Tue November 15, 2011

Deer baiting is once again legal in Michigan's Lower Peninsula

The crackle of gunfire can be heard today across Michigan as the state’s firearm deer season opens.   

For the first time in three years, hunters in the Lower Peninsula are legally using piles of food to lure deer. Deer baiting was temporarily banned after a Kent County deer tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in 2008. The ban was lifted earlier this year after no more deer tested positive for the disease.   

Dean Molnar is with the Department of Natural Resources law enforcement division.  He says baiting can be effective if done properly.   

“I think in some particular areas it will be beneficial for folks to be able to see deer and harvest them…especially in areas where (the deer) have minimal habitat," says Molnar.   

Something else new this year, hunters are getting younger. The state is permitting ten and eleven year olds to hunt deer, as long as they are accompanied by an adult. The previous age limit was twelve.

Commentary
11:08 am
Tue November 15, 2011

A Question of Guns

Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of what was once a nationally famous tragedy; the post office shootings in Royal Oak, Michigan, in which five people died. This was one in a series of similar shootings, which left our language with the memorable term, “going postal.” The Detroit Free Press had an anniversary story about the event, together with the latest installment in their series “Living With Murder.” Well over 3,000 people have been murdered in Detroit in the last decade, almost all of them shot to death.

The newspaper looked at these killings and explored ways to try to stop them.  They wrote about neighborhood groups and citizens who go patrolling with the police.

Mayor Dave Bing said it was a problem of our young people getting “caught up in this violent culture,” and said we needed to stop showing disrespect for each other. I guess he thinks if we all do that and take a few moments to read the gospels, or maybe Martin Niemoller, we’ll be less likely to shoot strangers in the head.

Which may be true, but isn’t really very much of a practical solution. What was almost unbelievable to me, however, was that  there was no mention of doing something about the real problem: Guns. Disrespect doesn‘t kill people. Guns kill people.

Not every murder is committed with a gun. There will always be murders, at least until humans become extinct. But it would be hard to kill 21 people in a restaurant with an axe, and impossible to kill someone with a butcher knife who is three hundred yards away.

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Politics
10:57 am
Tue November 15, 2011

FBI investigating Wayne County government

DETROIT (AP) - The head of the FBI office in Detroit says agents are busy investigating corruption in Wayne County government. Andrew Arena says agents were looking at the county before an economic development official was given a $200,000 severance for resigning to take a more lucrative job at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. After much criticism, she lost the airport post and agreed to repay the severance.

News Roundup
9:06 am
Tue November 15, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Detroit Finances

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will give a speech tomorrow night regarding his city’s troubled finances, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

City council member Gary Brown says Detroit is "broke." The Detroit Free Press is reporting Tuesday that the city will run out of cash by April unless immediate cuts are made.The newspaper says it obtained a report by Ernst & Young that the city won't release. The mayor plans to speak Wednesday at 6 p.m. It's possible that Detroit's poor health could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager with sweeping authority to make changes.

Dems Release Jobs Plan

Democratic lawmakers in Lansing have outlined a plan that they say would help small businesses grow and hire unemployed people. Rick Pluta explains:

The plan includes taking a portion of the money that’s in a state trust fund and investing it in local banks and credit unions to make small business loans. The Democratic package would allow small banks and credit unions to pool their finances to invest in larger projects…The plan also calls for a tax credit for small businesses that hire long-term unemployed people and veterans. Republicans shy away from job creation credits. They say the state should not single out specific businesses for tax breaks.

Deer Seasons Begins

Today is the first day of the state’s firearm deer season. “Some  675,000 hunters are expected to scour woods and rural areas across the state,” over the next 16 days, the Associated Press reports. There are more than 600,000 licensed deer hunters in the state. Rodney Stokes, Director of the state Department of Natural Resources,  says the firearm deer season generates about a half billion dollars for Michigan's economy.

Detroit
7:58 am
Tue November 15, 2011

Report: Detroit to run out of money by April

Detroit city skyline
Ifmuth Flickr

Detroit will run out of money in the first half of next year unless the city cuts its budget, the Detroit Free Press is reporting. From the Freep:

A closely guarded report on Detroit's finances paints an alarming picture of a city that will run out of cash by April unless officials make immediate, painful reductions that will cut deeply in to public services. The report, obtained by the Free Press, outlines some drastic scenarios that illustrate how steep those cuts must be for the city to stay afloat…

The problems are so severe and immediate, restructuring experts said, that the state may have no choice but to appoint an emergency manager with the authority to gut union contracts, sell assets, restructure the government and end nonessential services.

“The mayor plans to speak Wednesday at 6 p.m.,” about the city’s financial situation, the Associated Press reports. As the AP notes, “It's possible that Detroit's poor health could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager with sweeping authority to make changes.”

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Culture of Class
7:00 am
Tue November 15, 2011

Mixing it up on the dance floor

DJ Urbn (pronounced "urban") says the club attracts a mix of people
DJ Urbn

On the dance floor at Stiletto’s nightclub in Inkster you will find nurses, hair stylists, factory workers, fast food employees, students, professors, and business people. They come from tight-knit neighborhoods in Detroit, ritzy enclaves in Royal Oak, and from university campuses.

People in their twenties dance next to senior citizens, and there is every shade of skin tone in this place.

The club’s personnel manager Carolyn Sopko calls the crowd diverse and inclusive.

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