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Lansing
1:01 am
Mon August 22, 2011

Lansing city council may consider sending golf course question to voters tonight

Artist's conception of possible changes to a portion of the Red Cedar golf course.
(courtesy of the Lansing Economic Development Corp.)

The Lansing city council may agree tonight to ask voters to decide if part of a closed city golf course can be sold.   The land is being eyed for future business development. 

The proposal to sell part of the closed Red Cedar golf course has been stuck in a Lansing city council subcommittee since last spring.    Some council members said they wanted more information. 

City Council President A’Lynne Robinson is optimistic the council can get it unstuck this week.  

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Education
9:37 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Central Michigan University faculty strike

Central Michigan University. Faculty voted to strike tonight.
CMU

Faculty reports and the student newspaper say CMU faculty went on strike tonight. The faculty say the administration did not bargain in good faith. The move comes one day before classes are scheduled to start tomorrow.

CMU officials call the faculty strike an illegal work stoppage. They say students should report for the first day of classes tomorrow. The university says it will seek a court injunction tomorrow to stop the strike.

CMU’s 439 fixed term faculty and 591 graduate assistants will still hold classes as scheduled.

Michigan Radio will have more on the story Monday as it develops.

Update 9:40 p.m.

Here's the University's statement:

Central Michigan University is disappointed that members of the CMU Faculty Association have voted to engage in an illegal work stoppage. This action creates an unfair disruption to the start of the academic year for CMU’s students.

CMU students should report for classes Monday and staff should report for work. CMU’s 439 fixed term faculty and 591 graduate assistants will still hold classes as scheduled.

The impact of the FA’s action places an unfair burden on students who want to graduate in a timely fashion, pursue graduate school or launch successful careers. As such, CMU will request a court injunction Monday to get the faculty back in the classroom.

CMU remains committed to working with the FA toward a contract that is fair and equitable to all parties. CMU and the FA have both petitioned for fact finding, which is the appropriate process to follow in coming to terms on a collective bargaining agreement.

 

The Detroit Free Press reports the strike came after a week of concentrated negotiations:

The move tops a weeklong, last-ditch effort to come to some sort of agreement between the more than 600 members of the union and the school.

The union voted on Monday to authorize the bargaining team to take any job related actions, including a strike.

After that vote, the two sides sat down at the bargaining table every day last week, but made little to no progress on the big issues separating them, such as pay and benefits.

Environment
5:17 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Ag secretary hopes Michigan visit will fuel ethanol interest

Sec. Vilsak says tests have shown that fuel that's 15 percent ethanol, which is often made from corn, is safe for use in vehicles from model years 2001 and later. Critics, including the Detroit Three, disagree.
Adventure George flickr

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was in Michigan today to promote the use of biofuels. He appeared at the NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, south of Jackson.

Vilsack says the fact that NASCAR vehicles are now running on fuel that’s 15 percent ethanol shows that other cars should run on it, too. He says biofuels are more environmentally responsible that petroleum-based fuel.

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Culture
5:04 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Students, faculty to fast along with Muslims

University of Michigan

About 100 students and faculty from the University of Michigan Medical School plan to abstain from eating and drinking all day tomorrow. It’s part of “Fast-a-Thon 2011,” when non-Muslims are invited to get a glimpse of the experience of Ramadan.

Shaza al-Holou heads the Muslim Medical Students Association at U of M. She says it gives perspective to physicians and future physicians who might have Muslim patients.

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Arts/Culture
4:00 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Detroit Institute of Arts uses restricted funds to cover operating costs

The famous Rivera Court inside the Detroit Institute of Arts
Photo Courtesy of the D.I.A.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is struggling to raise money in this tough economy. It doesn’t help that Detroit is still reeling from the recession, and a quarter of its tax base, which helps fund the museum, has fled the city over the past decade.

To help relieve a little pressure, DIA director Graham Beal asked permission to take money from funds dedicated solely to acquisitions, and temporarily use it to cover operating costs. In his monthly newsletter, Beal explained it like this:

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Prison
2:50 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Corrections boss: mental health care not core job

About a quarter of Michigan's 43,000 state prisoners are mentally ill, and new Michigan Corrections Director Dan Heyns says he wants to shift responsibility for their treatment from his department to other agencies.
    

Heyns says in an interview with The Detroit News that his department "has had a kind of mission creep over the years." He says the department needs to return to its original mission.
    

Politics
2:00 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Stabenow: President Obama made the 'right' decision on Libya

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D) Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow says the events in Libya this weekend vindicate President Obama’s decision to support NATO’s involvement there.  

“I think it does indicate that the president was correct…well obviously…it was a very very difficult situation…a very difficult decision for him to make…but it was the right one.”

Initially, the U.S. supervised a “No Fly Zone”  which prevented Libyan government troops from attacking disorganized rebel forces.  Eventually, NATO took control of air operations over Libya. 

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Economy
1:52 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Using "Pure Michigan" campaign to rebrand the state's business climate

MEDC President Michael Finney (left) listens as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder talks to reporters at the Michigan International Speedway prior to the start of the Pure Michigan 400
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign targeted a new audience over the weekend….NASCAR fans.   The state tourism marketing campaign sponsored the nationally televised “Pure Michigan 400” race on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.   It's part of the state’s 25 million dollar tourism promotion budget.  

Michael Finney is the President the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.  He says the NASCAR sponsorship is part of an evolution of the marketing campaign.  

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Education
1:13 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

CMU: Some bargaining progress, big gap on pay

Central Michigan University says there’s been some progress involving contract talks with the faculty union this weekend. The progress has been related to non-economic issues, but there’s still a big gap having to do with pay and benefits.

Talks took place Saturday. Classes are scheduled to start Monday on the Mount Pleasant campus.

The faculty union has a meeting planned Sunday afternoon to discuss whether or not to hold a job action. A job action could include a strike over the failure to reach a labor contract. The professors have been without a contract since June.

Real Estate
1:32 pm
Sat August 20, 2011

Ten best places to live cheaply

Sandusky, Ohio is considered the best place to live cheaply
Flickr user pscf11

Forbes has just released a list of the ten best places to live cheaply, and mid-western cities made several appearances on the list.

Sandusky, Ohio took first place while Monroe, Michigan placed second. Bay City, Michigan placed fifth and Springfield, Ohio was eighth. Forbes looked at housing prices, the cost of living, crime rates, unemployment rates and school quality.

Postal Service
12:55 pm
Sat August 20, 2011

More MI post office branches could close

Flickr user uzvards

As many as 17 post office branches in Detroit and other parts of southeast Michigan could be closed by the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service.
    

The Detroit Free Press reports Saturday that the Postal Service released a list of branches that might close before the end of the year.

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No incentives war in 2011
5:55 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Will the U.S. see an incentives war among car companies?

Leading auto consulting firms are lowering their forecasts for U.S. auto sales in 2011. 

But it is unlikely to send automakers into a panic.

Some observers say the lower volume of sales means the U.S. is ripe for an incentives war among car companies.  

But Anthony Pratt with the auto consulting group R. L. Polk doesn’t see it happening.   He says a lot of the triggers that set off incentives wars in the past are missing. 

For one thing, U.S. car companies are making money at the lower volume of sales. 

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Politics
4:41 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Schuette plans review of Blue Cross Medicaid deal

Blue Cross Blue Shield building on Lafayette in Detroit.
Wikipedia

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office is reviewing Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's plans for a joint venture involving a Medicaid coverage company.

The Detroit-based Blue Cross and Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross are purchasing AmeriHealth Mercy, which has Medicaid managed-care contracts in states including Pennsylvania, Indiana, and South Carolina.

Schuette said Friday he wants the Michigan-based Blue Cross to provide his office with documentation related to the transaction.

Blue Cross officials said they welcome the inquiry and will work with him to clarify questions about the transaction.

The joint venture could provide an opportunity for Blues insurers nationwide to expand into Medicaid coverage just as states are seeking ways to save money in the program and the ranks of Medicaid enrollees is poised to grow.

Detroit
3:41 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Detroit Water and Sewerage says customers can ignore erroneous shut-off notices

jordanmrcai Creative Commons

A computer glitch at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department led to some customers receiving shut-off notices.

DWSD officials say customers who received the notices "with an address that isn’t theirs" can disregard them.

In a news release, DWSD Public Affairs Manager Mary Sevakis said “We received numerous customer complaints about the notices, and we determined that they referred to one address and one account that had an overdue balance. Customers who received those notices had no connection to that account, and they don’t have to worry about their water being shut off."

The DWSD says shut-off notices have been stopped until the software problem is fixed.

Transportation
2:47 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Feds to invest more than $28 million in new Dearborn train station

A map showing current High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program investments.
Federal Railroad Administration

The Federal Railroad Administration has obligated $28,204,450 to the Michigan Department of Transportation to build a new Dearborn train station.

U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-Dearborn) made the announcement in a press release today:

This funding will allow the City of Dearborn to consolidate its two passenger rail stations into a intermodal station in the west section of downtown Dearborn... The intermodal facility will be designed for the planned Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail as well as future high-speed intercity passenger rail service.  The station will accommodate city, regional and intercity bus systems; local and tourist shuttles; bicycle and greenway linkages; and, auto, taxi, and limousine connections to Detroit International Airport.

In the release, Dingell said "modernizing rail travel will help attract small business development, increase job growth, and enhance the livelihood of communities and business, by helping to expedite the time and efficiency of people and goods getting from point A to point B."

Last May, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced an investment of $196.5 million to improve track and signal systems between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

The improvements, the federal government said, would reduce trip times between Detroit and Chicago by 30 minutes.

The Federal Railroad Administration selected the Dearborn rail station to be funded under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program.

In total, the government plans to spend $10.1 billion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to improve passenger rail service in the U.S.

The Dearborn Press & Guide reports the announcement puts an end to questions about whether the money would come or not:

[The money] was awarded more than two years ago as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Although the money was awarded, until this week it still had not been obligated and Congressional Republicans are proposing to rescind all non-obligated ARRA funds as part of the upcoming federal budget process.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly was quoted as saying he was relieved by the news, "I was panicked that our shovel-ready project would never come to fruition. This really is key for Dearborn, as we'll now be central to any future transportation planning for the region."

Election 2012
1:31 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Durant says Washington needs "ordinary citizens"

en.wikipedia.org

The latest Republican candidate to challenge U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow says it’s time for regular citizens – like him -- to get into politics.  Clark Durant says he’s running for office because he’s tired of government getting in the way of citizens trying to build their dreams.

"I tremble for my country," Durant says. "Our government is overspending, has grown too fast and taxes too much. Ordinary people are having a hard time putting bread on the table and making ends meet, and our government is extravagant.”

Durant says there’s a danger of inflation unless the U.S. stops expanding its money supply.

The Grosse Pointe charter school executive has the endorsement of several influential Michigan Republican party officials. However, Gov. Snyder has thrown his support to former Cong. Pete Hoekstra.

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Election 2012
1:27 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

McCotter takes campaign to New Hampshire

en.wikipedia.org

U.S. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter from Michigan is in New Hampshire this weekend.

He’s one of several Republican presidential candidates campaigning in the state that traditionally holds one of the nation’s first primaries.

McCotter finished at the bottom of last weekend’s Iowa straw poll, getting just 35 votes out of more than 16,000.

But he says Iowa was just an introduction, and he’s not discouraged.

“We’ve had many people that have been running much longer, some on their second time, and they’ve spent millions of dollars, and they’re actually declining in the polls," McCotter says. "In fact, we’ve already seen one drop out. So after a month of not spending a million dollars, I think there’s room to grow.”

McCotter says he’ll focus on how to restructure the economy, and on China, which he calls a strategic threat to U.S. prosperity.

Politics
1:09 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Detroit Congressman says more resources needed to combat "state of emergency"

Hansen Clarke

Congressman Hansen Clarke says Detroit needs a “SWAT team”-style barrage of emergency aid for the city.

Clarke is a first-term Congressman from Detroit. He says he plans to introduce legislation that will take existing federal taxes Detroiters pay, and make sure they stay in the city.

Clarke says that money should be directed toward keeping schools open longer, encouraging immigrant entrepreneurship, stabilizing the housing market and creating jobs.

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Politics
1:07 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Kwame Kilpatrick is out of prison and talking with the media

Kwame Kilpatrick is talking. Kilpatrick's appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.
screenshot from video on blackamericaweb.com

The New York Times Magazine published a Q & A with former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick online today.

Adam Goldman asked Kilpatrick about his time in jail, his relationship with Christine Beatty, lying under oath, and more.

Kilpatrick told Goldman that lying under other was "the only illegal thing I've ever done in my life" and that the federal government's bribery and racketeering charges are false:

All of it is absolutely untrue. I’ve never accepted a bribe. I’ve never got a kickback. I’ve never steered a contract. It’s all ridiculous. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Goldman asked Kilpatrick about suggestions that he was brought down by a conspiracy. Kilpatrick said he never called it a conspiracy, but that investigations are "always ongoing" in politics to undermine others:

As the leader of the Democrats in the Statehouse, I ran campaigns all over the state, and we did opposition research. We looked into people’s finances. There’s constantly investigations, private eyes. Right now there are people conspiring to make sure that Barack Obama doesn’t win next time.

Kilpatrick told Goldman that he thought he would win if he ran for Mayor again, but said "it wouldn’t be the best thing for the people there."

Goldman said he was "amazed" that Kilpatrick was brought down by text messages from 2002 and 2003 - a time when people weren't texting all that much. Kilpatrick suggested he texted so the FBI couldn't record his phone calls:

The F.B.I. investigated Mayor Coleman Young, and they had all of these tapes of his phone calls. So, my thing was: “Hey, I’m doing this new texting thing. They can’t listen to this.” But now they can print it out and read it for all eternity.

Kilpatrick also appeared on the Tom Joyner Morning Show saying he lost 50 pounds in prison from working out and avoiding the bad food.

On the show, Kilpatrick said that the pending federal corruption case against him grew out of the political climate surrounding him after he lied under oath about the text messaging scandal. After that case, Kilpatrick said "all kinds of rumors" started with many people labeling him as Detroit's "Hip Hop Mayor."

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Environment
11:50 am
Fri August 19, 2011

State's submerged oil report called "premature"

Sediment is collected at a "sediment trap" on Talmadge Creek. (6/18/2011)
EPA Region 5

The Michigan Department of Community Health's report on the submerged oil is being called "premature" by the National Wildlife Federation.

In its report, MDCH officials declared that "contact with sediment containing submerged oil will not result in long-term health effects." Some sediments in the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek became contaminated with heavy tar sands oil after the Enbridge pipeline break.

In the Kalamazoo Gazette, National Wildlife Federation Senior Scientist Doug Inkley said the agency should have done more research before making such a statement:

“It’s a premature conclusion based on incomplete results,” Inkley said. “The jury is still out.”

Inkley said his biggest concern about the study is that eight chemicals found in the submerged oil were not included in the conclusion.

A toxicologist at MDCH told the Gazette that some of the chemicals weren't tested because the submerged oil didn't have enough concentrations of the chemicals to warrant testing, and because "some of the chemicals were actually groups of chemicals, some of which had already been individually tested in the study."

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