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State Politics
6:52 am
Tue November 15, 2011

Michigan Democrats release jobs plan

Democratic lawmakers at the state Capitol have released a plan that they say would help small businesses grow and hire the unemployed. “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 package would allow small banks and credit unions to pool their finances to invest in larger projects… and also calls for a tax credit for small businesses that hire long-term unemployed people and veterans,” Rick Pluta reports.

On Monday, “State Rep. Kate Segal of Battle Creek, the House Democratic floor leader, and Rep. Vicki Barnett of Farmington Hills proposed their 'Invest in Michigan: Small Business Jobs’ plan',” the Detroit News reports. “Segal said her bills offering incentives for hiring veterans and the long-term unemployed will be introduced when the Legislature returns from its two-week Thanksgiving break on Nov. 29,” the News explains.

It’s unlikely the measures will find support among Republican lawmakers. “Republicans shy away from job creation credits. They say the state should not single out specific businesses for tax breaks,” Pluta explains. Republicans are in the majority in both the state House and state Senate.

Politics
6:16 am
Tue November 15, 2011

Governor, House leader split on timing of health coverage exchanges

Inside the state Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Cedar Bend Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a challenge to the federal Affordable Care Act has Republicans in Lansing divided on whether to adopt a state mandate in the law. It requires states to create health coverage exchanges for people and business owners to comparison shop online for insurance. It’s become a point of controversy between the governor and the state’s legislative Republicans.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder says the health care exchanges are a good idea that will benefit businesses and consumers regardless of how the Supreme Court rules. The governor says he’s also afraid Michigan would be thrown into a federally designed system if the Legislature does not act quickly. 

“Before the end of the year would be best in terms of being prepared.”

But Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger says he’s in no hurry and would rather wait for the Supreme Court to decide one way or the other.  

“I don’t expect the House to act until or unless we have to act.”

Bolger says he, like many Republicans, believes the federal law is unconstitutional and is likely to be struck down by the nation’s highest court. A decision is not expected before next summer.

Sports
1:01 am
Tue November 15, 2011

Into the woods - Michigan's firearms deer season starts today

Hunter Gabe Van Wormer walks in the woods a few days before the start of firearms deer season.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Today across Michigan many businesses are closed, absenteeism is up and even state legislators are taking the day off. This is Michigan’s unofficial state holiday, the first day of firearm deer season.  

Hunter Gabe Van Wormer and I recently went walking through some woods just north of Lansing. The area is hemmed in with suburban neighborhoods. But there are deer in these woods.  

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Culture of Class
12:18 am
Tue November 15, 2011

Living next to heavy industry, pt. 1

The playground at the Salina Elementary school in Dearborn with the Severstal steel plant in the background.
Rebecca Williams/Michigan Radio

A little more than 50 years ago, Delores Leonard and her husband moved into their red brick ranch in Detroit.

“I selected it because the sun comes up over there in the morning and I was thinking about my flowers.”

They’ve raised their two kids here and now they have four grandchildren and five great-grandkids and they all live nearby.

But she says on any given day... she doesn’t know what she’ll smell when she steps outside.

“Sometimes it’s a kerosene odor. Sometimes it’s a horrible stench, like at a slaughterhouse. Sometimes, you’re out in public and people will say, ‘where do you live?’ And they’ll say,’ oh yes, I know that area, that stench, I don’t see how those people live there.’”

“There” is zip code 48217. It’s a corner of Southwest Detroit packed with heavy industry.

There’s the state’s only oil refinery, owned by Marathon Petroleum. The salt mine. The city’s wastewater treatment plant. DTE’s coal-burning power plant. Severstal Steel. And many more.

Delores Leonard grew up just a few streets over, in River Rouge. She remembers asking her dad why people were covering their cars with tarps.

“And he said it was because of the fallout, the pollution. Well, if they’re covering their cars so the paint pigmentation won’t peel, then what happens to the person who lives and who’s breathing all this stuff?”

Like Delores Leonard, a lot of people have lived here their whole lives.

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Politics
6:44 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

"Occupy Detroit" camp avoids immediate shutdown

It looks like “Occupy Detroit” won’t be forced out of downtown Detroit’s Grand Circus Park immediately.

The group’s permit expires Monday, but Occupy protesters want the city to extend it for another two weeks.

It appears they will do so, though the Detroit City Council won’t finalize the issue until Tuesday. Detroit Police also say they’ll follow the Council’s lead, and won’t evict protesters.

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Politics
6:29 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

UM says domestic partner benefits keep top talent in state

University of Michigan officials have sent a letter to all 38 Michigan state senators, asking them to vote “no” on a bill that would ban domestic partner benefits. 

Before Michigan voters approved a law that banned same-gender marriage, the University of Michigan and several other public universities in the state offered benefits to the same-sex partners of employees and their children. 

The language was later reworked to remove specific references to same-sex partnerships, substituting "other eligible individual,"  but the effect of the policies is the same.   

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Politics
6:26 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

Detroit outlines action to battle bus crisis

Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer says the city will bring in an outside company to oversee bus maintenance.

Chris Brown says that’s part of Mayor Dave Bing’s strategy to address the city’s bus crisis. The situation has many Detroiters waiting as long as three hours for buses.

The city had instituted furlough days and cut overtime pay for bus mechanics, which led to a lack of buses on the streets. Officials have also accused bus mechanics of a deliberate work slowdown.

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Culture of Class
4:36 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

How does an economist define 'class'?

Median household income by county in the United States in 2008.
United States Census Bureau Wikipedia

The issue of class has been in the news a lot lately. From the “Occupy Wall Street Movement” which has snowballed across the country, to “class warfare” accusations coming out of Washington, D.C.

We’ve also heard recent reports that show the nation’s middle class is shrinking while the top earners’ salaries have skyrocketed.

Over the next week and a half, Michigan Radio will explore this idea of “social class” and how it impacts our lives.

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Politics
4:26 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

Dems call for hiring tax break, credit help for small businesses

Democrats in Lansing have outlined a package to help small businesses grow and hire unemployed people.

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.

State Representative Vicki Barnett said that will help small businesses having trouble getting credit from larger banks and investment funds.

“We know that a very teeny investment can have huge dividends in terms of job creation and access to capital,” said Barnett.

“There is no other state that I know of that is taking this approach to aggressive investment – doing things they already do with taxpayer money and targeting it to grow jobs in their own state,”she added. 

The Democratic package would also allow small banks and credit unions to pool their finances to invest in larger projects.

Barnett says that would make larger loans possible while allowing the institutions to share the risk.

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.

Politics
2:33 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

Flint mayor calls for city to 'pull together'

Flint mayor Dayne Walling addresses a city hall audience after being sworn in for his first full four year term
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint mayor Dayne Walling said at his swearing in ceremony that the city should not wait for the appointment of an emergency manager to tackle its crime and economic problems.   

“Now is the time for us to pull forward together," Walling told the city hall audience that had come to see him sworn in for his first full four year term as mayor. Walling has been Flint's mayor for the past two years after winning a special election. 

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Commentary
1:46 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

A Conversation with Geoffrey Fieger: Politics Today

Virtually everyone knows Geoffrey Fieger, the attorney whose first name often seems to be “flamboyant.”

Though he burst into national prominence 20 years ago as the attorney who kept Jack Kevorkian free, these days, he is mostly in the news for winning huge medical malpractice verdicts.

Last month, he racked up a $144 million judgment in a birth trauma case which is believed to be the largest medical malpractice suit in state history.

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Politics
1:34 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

Michigan Democrats promote small business measures

The Michigan House of Representatives.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Democrats in the Michigan House are promoting legislation they say is designed to help small businesses hire more workers.

One measure detailed by Democrats on Monday would provide tax credits of up to $4,000 per person for small businesses that hire unemployed workers. The tax credits would be largest for hiring military veterans who have been jobless for a long time.

Other bills are aimed at developing a pool of money to loan to small businesses. The money would come through investments of a small percentage of state trust funds with Michigan credit unions and community banks, which in turn would make loans available to small businesses.

Democrats are in the minority in the House. The legislation could face an uphill climb to gain traction in the Republican-led chamber.

Detroit
11:51 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Fire at the old Packard Plant in Detroit

Some of the remains of the old Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit. Firefighters say they respond to fires at the plant monthly.
Becky Stern Flickr

A fire has been burning since at least 6:45 a.m. this morning in the old Packard Plant in Detroit.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

The fire was still burning at about 11 a.m., one of numerous blazes that firefighters respond to monthly at the plant, he said.

"When they’re over there with 30 (firefighters), that leaves holes in the city," Varnas said. "That’s why we have to stop these fires."

Arson Capt. Patrick McNulty said firefighters are only allowed to spray the blaze from outside the ruins of the old plant.

"There's standing orders not to go in there," McNulty said. "Too dangerous for the firefighters."

Offbeat
10:45 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Man stumbles upon $1,160, turns it in, now giving to charity

wikimedia commons

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported on the find by an attorney from Howell, Jules Fiani.

They report that Fiani found $1,160 in a white envelope outside of a Dairy Queen last May. He turned the found money into police, but when no one claimed it, the police returned it to him.

From the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus:

Although Fiani could keep the money, he said, "It's all going to charitable organizations."

"It's found money and it's the right thing to do," Fiani said. "I wish I had more to give away."

The first $250 is earmarked for the Sheriff's Department's Shop With a Cop program, which pairs underprivileged children in the community with a police officer to shop for Christmas gifts.

"It's been really exciting dropping money off," Fiani said Thursday, noting that so far he's made donations to Make-A-Wish and Gleaners Community Food Bank.

Tourism
10:32 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Cruise ships to ply waters of the Great Lakes

Two cruise ships are getting ready to travel the Great Lakes starting next year. The Yorktown, a new vessel, is scheduled for 13 stops in Detroit. The Grand Mariner will have one stop.

Officials credit Detroit's new Public Dock and Terminal with generating at least some of the interest. The new terminal opened last July. The 14 planned stops are up from two stops by cruise ships this year.

*Correction - A previous version of this story stated that "roughly two-dozen cruise ships are getting ready to travel the Great Lakes starting next year." An official from the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority says just two ships will be making more than a dozen stops at the Public Dock and Terminal. The copy has been corrected above.

News Roundup
8:31 am
Mon November 14, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, November 14th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Occupy No Longer?

A permit that is allowing Occupy Detroit demonstrators to stay at a Detroit park expires tonight. The Associated Press reports:

About 150 people have holed up at the park since Oct. 14 and have held a number of marches and protests of financial institutions since then. The city's Recreation Department last month denied a request by the group's attorney for a 45-day permit to erect tents in the park but did issue a 30-day permit, retroactive to Oct. 14… Last week, spokesman Evan Rohar said the group assumes police will come to clear out the protesters once the permit expires. She says members are considering whether to stay or go.

Flint Swearing In

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling will take his oath of office later today… but, what happens next is up to Governor Rick Snyder, Steve Carmody reports:

Incumbent Dayne Walling won a four year term as Flint’s mayor last week. He’s already been serving as Flint’s mayor for the past two years, since winning a special election. The challenge then was to reduce Flint’s massive budget deficit. The challenge now will probably be to work under a state appointed emergency manager. On the same day Walling won reelection, Governor Snyder agreed with a state review team that Flint is in a ‘financial emergency’. The governor is expected to name an emergency manager to run the city.

Biden in Detroit

Vice President Joe Biden visited Detroit yesterday. He spoke at a, “fundraiser Sunday night for a Jewish Orthodox day school near Detroit. The vice president says Israel is a key element to the U.S.'s own security and its broader efforts in the Middle East. Biden said President Barack Obama feels the same way. Hundreds of people attended the dinner at a downtown hotel for the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah,” the Associated Press reports.

Culture of Class
7:14 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Why is 'class' so difficult to define?

The "Occupy Wall Street" movement has raised the question: What is class?
getdarwin Flickr

The issue of class has been in the news a lot lately. From the “Occupy Wall Street Movement,” which has snowballed across the country, to accusations of “class warfare” in Washington, D.C.. We’ve also heard recent reports that show the nation’s middle class is shrinking while the top earners’ salaries have skyrocketed.

Today, Michigan Radio begins a new series The Culture of Class. Over the next week and a half, we'll explore the idea of “social class” and how it impacts our lives. But, first, we had to ask: What is class? How do you define it? We put those questions to demographer Kurt Metzger, who runs Data Driven Detroit.

Inform our coverage: What does class mean to you?

Culture of Class
7:00 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Class segregation

Michigan Radio
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is not just a matter of bank accounts. More and more it determines where you live. 

We’ve all heard about racial segregation. Whites live one place. Blacks live in another. There are all kinds of ethnic neighborhoods. But in the last 40 years, racial-ethnic segregation has moderated somewhat--although it is still high. But socioeconomic segregation, segregation by class, is on the rise.

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What's Working
6:46 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Helping the family and friends of cancer patients

Nearly 1.6 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Half-a-million people will die of cancer this year. But millions of others are affected by cancer in some way. 

Wives, husbands, children, and friends of cancer patients can also face a crisis when a loved one is diagnosed and treated for cancer. As part of our weekly What's Working series, we spoke with Barb Hiltz, executive director of the Cancer Support Community of greater Ann Arbor. The organization works to help the family and friends of cancer patients.

Politics
6:36 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Snyder could veto first non-budget bill

Governor Rick Snyder must decide soon whether to sign a bill that would restrict the ability of state regulators to impose stricter standards than those applied by the federal government. The proposal would require the Legislature to approve any stricter regulations. Hugh McDiarmid is with the Michigan Environmental Council. He believes the bill is a bad idea.

“This isn’t solely an issue about regulation or the environment," McDiarmid said. "It’s also a little bit about an issue of a power grab where the Legislature is taking power that now belongs to the governor to act, promulgate rules and various things and taking it for themselves.”

Supporters of the bill say Michigan is less competitive in attracting businesses when it imposes stricter rules. Mike Johnston is with the Michigan Manufacturers Association, which favors the bill. 

“When Michigan imposes regulations in excess of federal standards we by definition make ourselves less competitive than other states that don’t have to operate under those excessive regulations,” said Johnston.

A spokeswoman for Governor Snyder says he is concerned with many aspects of the measure. It could be the first bill sent to Snyder by the Republican Legislature that the governor vetoes. He has vetoed some budget line items.

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