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Auto/Economy
2:35 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

The Michigan-China Connection (an audio documentary)

Cars, agriculture, tourism, it’s all fair game for people who want Michigan to tap into the Chinese market.

But what does that really mean and who really stands to benefit?

Governor Rick Snyder recently led a Michigan delegation to China.

He says strong economic ties between Michigan and what is now the world’s fastest growing economy are essential to Michigan’s economic growth.

Part 1

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Environment
1:21 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

New fly ash regulations for Michigan power plants?

A worker cleans fly ash from one of the containers inside the silo at the Eckert power plant.
Photo by Steve Carmody

Coal burning power plants are often scrutinized for what they emit from smokestacks. But now a by-product of burning coal for electricity is getting a closer look. Steve Carmody reports:

For the past few days… Dennis Brabant and his crew have been vacuuming up tons of fly ash trapped in the silo at the Lansing Board of Water and Light ‘s Eckert Power Plant.

“That’s what we’re dealing with right there… it’s part of electricity.”

Brabant lets the fine power pour through his fingers. It spreads like water on the silo floor… and coats everything.

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Environment
1:17 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Oil spill cleanup crews back on Talmadge Creek

There’s new cleanup work underway along Talmadge Creek near Marshall…near the site of 2010’s Enbridge oil spill.

The area was already the site of a massive cleanup effort. But now… work crews are back. The first round was supervised by the Environmental Protection Agency. This time… the state Department of Environmental Quality is overseeing the work.

Mark DuCharme is with the DEQ. He says the initial EPA-supervised cleanup focused on removing visible oil and sheen from Talmadge Creek.

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Politics
12:45 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Low voter turnout in off-year elections

Cle0patra Flickr

Local elections are underway across the state today. Among other votes in Michigan, two mayors of large cities will be elected, Detroiters will vote on changes to their city charter, and a state representative is up for recall. But, despite the fact that there are important issues on today's ballots, very few voters will actually make it to the polls.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst, about why voter turnout is historically low in local elections that are held in so-called "off-years."

Politics
11:07 am
Tue November 8, 2011

Some elections workers don't show in Pontiac, Michigan

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - Some Pontiac elections workers didn't show up to the polls following the recent firing of the city's clerk by a state-appointed emergency financial manager.

The Oakland Press, the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News and WWJ-AM report voting took place as scheduled Tuesday. Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard says other workers have been brought in and precincts consolidated after some workers didn't show up as expected.

Oakland County's elections director and a representative from the secretary of state were on hand to assist. Voters in Pontiac were choosing Democratic and Republican nominees for the state House's 29th District and making school board picks.

Lou Schimmel last month fired Yvette Talley as well as the city's attorney and director of public works in what he called a realignment of City Hall.

Tourism
10:58 am
Tue November 8, 2011

Pure Michigan in China? Not for awhile, say tourism officials

No Great Lakes promotions in China... yet
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Michigan’s agriculture industry is busy expanding in China.  But the same can’t be said for the state’s tourism industry.  At least not yet.  A million Chinese tourists are expected to visit the U.S. this year.  But only a relative handful will come to the Great Lakes State. 

Fran Wiltgen helps her son Joe, run his business, Joe's Bar and Grill, in South Haven, Michigan.

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Politics
10:40 am
Tue November 8, 2011

Minister pleads not guilty to charges for trying to “occupy” Holland City Hall

Rev. Bill Freeman (left) and his attorney Peter Armstrong Sr. (right) take questions from reporters after his brief court appearance Tuesday morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Last month Reverend Bill Freeman was arrested for refusing to leave city hall. He was protesting Holland City Council’s decision in June 2011 against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination laws. The proposed changes would have given homosexual and transgender persons protection from discrimination by employers and landlords.

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Commentary
10:21 am
Tue November 8, 2011

Election Day

My guess is that if you are listening to this on the radio, you haven’t bothered to vote today. That’s a guess, but an educated one. Based on recent history, fewer than one-fifth of those eligible will bother to vote today - and that is too bad for a whole lot of reasons.

Whatever your politics, whether left or right or somewhere in the middle, we ought to be able to agree on this much: Politicians often behave badly when they think voters aren’t paying attention. If you’ve been following Wayne County, you may know what I mean.

How could a county give large “severance payments“ to workers going from one government job to another? Simple. Somebody clearly thought nobody would notice.

Thanks to some diligent reporters, we finally did.

But not very many of us have taken notice of this year’s election - even though polls show that very few of us are satisfied with the way things are going. That’s partly because this is what’s called an off-off year election, one held in an odd-numbered year.

This election isn’t seen as very sexy. There’s no vote for president, or governor, or congress. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. As old Tip O’Neill used to say, “All Politics is Local.”

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Recreation
10:20 am
Tue November 8, 2011

Snowmobile permits rising $10 to $45 in Michigan

A snowmobile trail near Cadillac, Michigan.
user harrisMI Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The state is increasing snowmobile permit fees for the 2011 season.

 The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday that this season the price for a permit is $45, an increase of $10 over last year's price. The fee will be $45 through the 2015 snowmobile season. A state law signed in 2008 provided for the incremental increase in snowmobile trail fees, which support maintenance and grooming of the state's snowmobile trail network.

News Roundup
8:34 am
Tue November 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, November 8th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Election Day

Polls across the state are open today as Michiganders decide on mayoral races, various millages and one closely watched recall. There are mayoral races in Flint and Jackson. In Lansing, voters will decide if they want to increase their property taxes and in Detroit, residents are being asked if they want to change their city charter. And, constituents of Republican state Representative Paul Scott will decide whether he should be recalled. The recall is being spearheaded by the Michigan Education Association due to Scott’s support of cuts in state education funding and efforts to weaken the teachers’ union. You can find out what’s on your ballot here: Publius.

'Fracking' Moratorium

Some Michigan Democratic lawmakers are calling for a two-year moratorium on a procedure that is used to extract hard-to-reach oil and gas deposits. Rick Pluta reports:

Lawmakers are taking aim at a process called hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – where water, sand, and chemicals are sent down a well to loosen stubborn pockets of gas and oil. Critics say it has caused pollution and dried-up water wells in other states. Democratic state Representative Jeff Irwin thinks the procedure needs to be more tightly regulated as it becomes more common in Michigan… Brad Wurfel with the state Department of Environmental Quality said Michigan has some of the strictest fracking regulations in the country, and that the process has been safely used in the state's shallow rock for decades.

Nuclear Power

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there are no environmental reasons to reject DTE Energy’s application to build a new nuclear power plant, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The NRC's staff has released a report for public comment on its analysis of plans for the Fermi 3 plant. The complex is near Monroe and Lake Erie in Monroe County's Frenchtown Township, northwest of Toledo, Ohio. The Monroe Evening News says the proposed cooling tower is larger than the two serving Fermi 2. Opponents say the plant would harm wetlands and feed toxic algae in Lake Erie.

Politics
1:01 am
Tue November 8, 2011

Controversial elections taking place across Michigan today

Steve Carmody Michiganradio

There are several controversial elections taking place in cities and towns around Michigan today.  

A Republican state lawmaker faces a recall vote, spearheaded by the Michigan Education Association. State representative Paul Scott was targeted by the MEA for his support of cuts in state education funding and efforts to weaken the union. Scott tried and failed to get the courts to toss out or delay the recall election.

Voters in Kalamazoo will decide if they want to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a ‘low’ local police priority. Supporters say police should focus on violent crime. The city's Public Safety director says the result of the vote will probably not effect how Kalamazoo police do their job.

In Lansing, voters are deciding if they want to increase their property taxes. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says the millage hike is needed to reduce the chances of future police and fire layoffs.   

“I’m cautiously optimistic.  I’m hopeful.  I’m prayerful….Let’s face it….it’s do or die for us," says Bernero.   

Critics say city leaders are pushing for a millage increase before they truly know if the city will be $12 to $15 million dollars in the hole as predicted. 

Voters in Flint and Jackson are electing mayors today. 

And in Detroit, voters are being asked to approve many changes to their city charter. Supporters say the charter changes would address the city's corruption problems that have lead to numerous investigations, including one which resulted in criminal charges against former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

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Politics
6:32 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Wayne County Airport Authority board chief resigns

Renee Axt
Metro Airport

The severance scandal surrounding the now-fired CEO of Detroit Metro Airport, Turkia Mullin, has apparently claimed a member of the airport board.

Wayne County Airport Authority chair Renee Axt resigned Monday. She issued the following statement:

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Politics
6:24 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

ACLU watches Pontiac election

The Michigan ACLU is expressing concerns about how well the city of Pontiac is prepared to handle Tuesday’s election.

Recently, Pontiac’s emergency manager, Lou Schimmel, fired three top Pontiac officials, including the city clerk. He appointed a new clerk last week.

That concerns the ACLU, which wonders if the new clerk has had enough time to effectively organize the election. The group sent Schimmel a letter expressing its concerns late last week.

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Politics
5:14 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Don't forget, Election Day is tomorrow! (a resource to help)

Update 9:16 a.m.

Our Facebook users are not having much luck with this resource. Some are seeing their ballot, while others are not. This message appears when searching on Publius:

Due to limited resources in 2011, only some jurisdictions have interactive sample ballot information. All polling locations are current. We hope to have everything back where it should be in 2012.

Monday, November 7, 5:14 p.m.

Election Day is tomorrow.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m in Michigan.

It's an easy-to-miss election because there are not a lot of high profile campaigns going on, but there are likely some important local issues in your area.

Here's a resource that might help with your election research:

Publius - find out what's on your ballot

Publius is a great resource.

Enter your name and city and up pops your polling location and it shows you what exactly will be on your ballot.

A good place to start. If the issues don't look familiar, more research is warranted.

Auto/Economy
5:13 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Manufacturing "not dead yet; not at all" in West Michigan

At least 35 companies looking to fill manufacturing positions were at a career fair at Grand Rapids Community College Monday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

At least 35 West Michigan companies are looking to fill manufacturing jobs. The companies were scouting out new workers at a manufacturing job fair in Grand Rapids Monday.

This is the first time Grand Rapids Community College has held a job fair specifically for manufacturers. Michael Kiss has been with the college for 25 years. He’s heads the school’s Department of Manufacturing and Applied Technology. "There's 35 companies here, but probably another 100 that are looking to hire," Kiss said.

He says they decided to host the fair because he’s been flooded with calls from companies this year that are trying to fill jobs in the manufacturing field.

Isn't manufacturing dead?

It’s not dead yet; not at all,” 40-year old Grand Rapids resident Eric Mallett says about manufacturing.

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Politics
4:49 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Michigan State Democrats call for “fracking” moratorium

Democrats at the state capital are calling for a two-year moratorium on a procedure used to extract hard-to-reach oil and gas deposits.

They are taking aim at a process called hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – where water, sand, and chemicals are sent down a well to loosen stubborn pockets of gas and oil.

Here's a demo of how it works from Chesapeake Energy:

Critics say it has caused pollution and dried-up water wells in other states.

State Representative Jeff Irwin thinks the procedure needs to be more tightly regulated as it becomes more common in Michigan.

He said more study is needed on the potential effects of deep-rock fracking on the world’s largest supply of fresh water.

“We have a tremendous amount to protect here in Michigan with our surface waters and our Great Lakes,” Irwin said. “When you think about what makes Michigan a special place to be, it’s really our water. It’s the one thing that we have that makes us unique over and above anyplace in the world. We have the best water resources in the world.”

Irwin said new rules should include limits on groundwater withdrawals and full disclosure of all chemicals used.

Brad Wurfel with the state Department of Environmental Quality said Michigan has some of the strictest fracking regulations in the country, and that the process has been safely used in the state's shallow rock for decades.

“If you look around the state, you’ll see where oil and gas producers over the past 60 years have fracked probably on the order of around 12,000 wells,” said Wurfel.

Wurfel said the state updated its drilling regulations in May to address hydro-fracking deeper into the rock.

Politics
4:26 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Michigan Attorney General sues to shut down 2 abortion clinics

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has filed a lawsuit to close two women's clinics that provide abortions in Saginaw and the Lansing area.

Schuette's office filed a complaint Monday in Eaton County Circuit Court seeking to dissolve Health Care Clinic Inc. in Delta Township and Women's Choice Clinic Inc. in Saginaw. The attorney general's office says an investigation included evidence of improper medical records disposal at the clinics owned by Richard Remund.

The Associated Press left a telephone message Monday for Remund. A person answering the phone at Health Care Clinic declined comment.

Schuette asks state health officials to review evidence suggesting improper records disposal and that at least half of procedures performed at the clinics were abortions. Schuette says the second would put the clinics under more stringent regulations.

Science/Medicine
4:18 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Michigan DHS says parents negligent for refusing more cancer treatment

A family from Michigan's Upper Peninsula is refusing additional chemotherapy and radiation treatments for their 10-year-old son, according to a report from WLUC-TV in Marquette, MI.

Jacob Stieler of Skandia, Michigan was diagnosed with a rare form cancer known as "Ewing Sarcoma." He was treated, an is considered cancer-free, but doctors say he still needs additional treatments.

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Politics
3:54 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

State lawmakers try to reduce driver responsibility fees

The additional annual fees Michigan driver’s pay if they have seven or more points on their license may soon be reduced. The state House is expected to vote this week on proposed changes to the unpopular driver responsibility fee.

The state currently collects about $120 million every year from drivers with at least seven points on their records. State House spokesman Ari Adler said that’s too much money to simply cut from the state budget.

“We looked at doing this in a little bit more of an incremental approach without taking so much money out of the budget all at once,” Adler said. “The long term goal is to try to reduce or eliminate these driver responsibility fees but the reality is that there is a good chunk of the budget that is predicated on these fees and penalties.”

Senator Bruce Caswell agreed the state cannot afford to completely eliminate that amount of money from the budget right now but he said the fee is unfair to drivers who have already paid their fines.   

“These later bills coming, I don’t care what the charge is, are inappropriate I believe and shouldn’t be done. So my hope eventually is to get rid of this thing   entirely,” said Caswell.

Drivers with seven or more points on their license are assessed the annual fee in addition to the cost of their ticket. The proposal would omit or reduce the fee for minor infractions, but major traffic violations, such as driving under the influence of alcohol, would still be assessed the annual fee.

Environment
2:23 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Michigan turtles still feeling effects of oil spill

A rescued oiled turtle ready for cleaning
Herpetological Resource and Management

According to an article in the Battle Creek Enquirer, turtles are still suffering negative effects from last year's oil spill in west Michigan's Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River.

Scientists including Bob Doherty have been working to rehabilitate affected turtles and document the extent of the damage to turtle populations caused by remaining submerged oil.

Doherty is under contract with Enbridge Inc., the company responsible for the spill.

Doherty and his staff will administer care to some 30 rescued turtles in the coming months who are not healthy enough to return to the wild for winter hibernation.

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