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Politics
6:39 am
Fri October 28, 2011

How state lawmakers are making sure you can’t repeal their laws

Michigan lawmakers are using a political maneuver to ensure that it's more difficult for Michigan voters to repeal unpopular, controversial bills.
Matthileo Flickr

In Michigan, voters are allowed to overturn laws they don't like. This is how it works: you try and get enough signatures to get a referendum to repeal the law on a ballot. If a majority of voters vote against the law... it's repealed. But there's a catch: laws that have appropriations attached to them cannot be repealed by voters.

Just this week, Michigan Radio reported on a proposal that would drastically alter the state’s no-fault auto insurance law. The House proposal includes a $50,000 appropriation that protects the measure from a voter-led ballot initiative.

This is the fourth time this year Republican lawmakers at the state Capitol have added appropriations to a controversial bill to keep it referendum-proof.

I spoke with Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, about this cunning, political maneuver. He’s been keeping an eye on this story for months.

Why We Should Care

For some, the words, “referendum,” “appropriation,” and “voter-led ballot” aren’t that important; in fact, maybe they just sound like more of the same insider politics. But, Pluta explains it this way:

If you’re a voter who does not think that anything the legislature does should ever be challenged, I guess you would consider [this] not too terribly important. But, if you do think that [the right to vote against a law in a referendum] should be preserved… then you might find the whole thing to be a little devious.

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Sports Commentary
6:00 am
Fri October 28, 2011

"Three and Out": Rich Rodriguez's tenure at the University of Michigan

Rich Rodriguez

In the summer of 2008, Rich Rodriguez granted me unfettered access to the Michigan football program so I could write a book.

Three years later the book is finished, and not with a happy ending.

Similar to just about everybody else connected to Michigan football these past three years, I had no idea what I was getting into. 

During my three years following the Michigan football team, the working title of the book changed from “All or Nothing,” to “All In,” to “Third and Long,” before Rodriguez’s last season, and after he was fired, to “Three and Out.”

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Occupy Movement
4:43 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Protesters briefly shut down Ambassador Bridge

Traffic on the Ambassador Bridge was backed up briefly coming into Detroit Thursday evening. That’s because protesters targeting bridge owner Matty Moroun blocked traffic.

The demonstrators included a State Representative, members of the ongoing Occupy Detroit movement, union members and southwest Detroit residents. They’re all angry at Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun—who they say has illegally seized land, ignored court orders, and bought political influence in Lansing and elsewhere.

Detroit resident Maya Williamson said the neighborhood is noisy and polluted because bridge traffic is forced onto residential streets—and she’s tired of it.

“The noise, and the traffic through the school area and through the neighborhoods…it’s horrendous. There’s gotta be a stop put to it, you know. You can’t just trample over citizens for money,"said Williamson.

No protesters were arrested. They left after about an hour, chanting “We’ll be back.”

Politics
1:01 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Flint mayoral race may turn on who voters believe can deal with the city's crime problem

Downtown Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Flint voters will elect a mayor November 8th. In a city beset by high unemployment and questions about how city hall’s being run, crime is a central issue.   

At a recent meeting at the Flint YWCA, about two dozen people met to discuss crime prevention. Dave Beardslee was one of the people at the meeting. He said, right now, leadership is Flint’s main problem.   

“I think they could do something…they could pull the jacket off…roll up their sleeves and get out there with the rest of us. Be a leader. That’s what we need is true leadership," Beardslee said.

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Environment
8:37 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Muskegon County moves on plans to build large-scale wind farm

Part of Muskegon County's Wastewater Treatment System where the wind farm is proposed.
co.Muskegon .mi.us

Muskegon County has reached an agreement with developers to build a large-scale wind farm at its waste water treatment plant. The 11,000 acre site sits less than 15 miles away from the Lake Michigan shoreline. The county also rotates growing corn, soybeans and alfalfa on the land. This week the county board agreed to lease the plot to add wind farming to the mix.

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Politics
8:19 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Metro Airport CEO returns controversial "severance" pay

The CEO of Metro Airport has returned some of the money she was paid to move from one Wayne County job to another.

Turkia Mullin got $200,000 to leave her post as Wayne County economic development director and take over the airport earlier this year.

She returned $135,900 this week, saying the rest went to taxes. Her secretary, who also received a severance payment, has also returned the money.

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Chrysler posts profit
6:09 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Chrysler makes $212 million profit

Chrysler made a profit in the third quarter of this year.

The news comes a day after Chrysler workers narrowly approved a new four-year contract.

The $212 million profit is small compared to Detroit rival Ford, which made $1.6 billion in the same period.

But it’s the second quarterly profit this year for Chrysler, and a sign that its recovery from the 2009 bankruptcy is gathering some steam.

In fact, Chrysler would have made a profit last quarter too, were it not for one-time costs associated with paying off its federal loans.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the just-ratified contract with the UAW will support the company in its growth plans.

The contract includes a much smaller signing bonus than the one Ford union members will get.

That was likely one of the main reasons the contract was so narrowly approved.

Ford problems easy fix
6:04 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Ford quality issues easy to fix, says CEO Mulally

The CEO of Ford Motor Company says the company is well on the way to fixing quality problems in new Ford cars.

The problems resulted in a big drop in the rankings for Ford in Consumer Reports' 2011 reliability survey.

Customers are having problems with the company’s My Ford in-car communication system. 

Users found the touch screens hard to activate or they had to be rebooted frequently.  

Consumer Reports' David Champion said that’s a safety issue, if people are so distracted by the problems that they take their eyes off the road.  

The new transmission in the Focus and Fusion has glitches, too. 

CEO Alan Mulally said both problems are software related.  

"So it’s relatively easy and fast, to be able to make those improvements," Mulally told Michigan Radio.  "So we’ve already started to incorporate that in the products that are in the field but also in the new products coming out."

Mulally said Ford began working on the issue a year ago, right after customers started complaining. 

Ford fell from 10th to 20th place this year in the Consumer Reports reliability survey.

Environment
4:35 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

States seek action on Asian carp from U.S. Supreme Court

Some states want the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the Asian carp fight.
US Supreme Court

Five Great Lakes states are waiting to find out if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their case calling for more decisive measures to keep Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes.

Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania filed the request this week.

The states want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to quickly wrap up its study of how to keep Asian carp from escaping the Mississippi River system through Chicago-area shipping canals. The corps is one of the main agencies responsible for the locks.

John Sellek is the spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

“What we really want is to have the Army Corps of Engineers speed up their study,” said Sellek.

“They are taking up to five years or longer to look at this and every minute that goes by could be another fish that’s getting through those canals in Chicago, so what we’re requesting is they speed that up to 18 months at the longest.”

The Great Lakes states also want the high court to order the corps to string nets across smaller waterways that could be escape points for the carp.

At the same time, Michigan and 17 states along the Great Lakes or the Mississippi want a total physical separation of the water systems.

Education
3:57 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

More online public schools coming to Michigan?

More K-12 schools may be opening virtual doors in Michigan.

The state Senate has approved a measure that would eliminate the cap that allows only two cyber schools to operate in the state.

State Senator Patrick Colbeck says kids are learning more online than ever before.

“There’s kids who can fix computers in third and fourth grade [sic]. They’re the instructors for their parents and their grandparents already, so a lot of them are already learning that stuff online and they’re more in tune with it than [we are]… It’ll help channel kids into more productive pursuits, frankly,” says Colbeck.

Colbeck says thousands of kids are on waiting lists to get into the two cyber schools already in Michigan.

Those who oppose the cyber schools say online teaching should be blended with traditional classroom teaching in brick-and-mortar schools.

State Senator Phil Pavlov says it’s time to allow more cyber schools.

“I think that this idea of trying to limit the cyber opportunities is the wrong direction. I think we open it up, we let the parents and students decide, and the track record that we do have on cybers in terms of course catch-up work is phenomenal, in terms of addressing kids that may have dropped out already or are on a path to drop out,” says Pavlov.

The proposal now heads to the state House.

Politics
2:07 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Increased spending in state high court races, Michigan tops the list

A report by the Brennan Center for Justice, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and the Justice at State Campaign says the outside money being spent in state high court races amounts to a "hostile takeover of judicial elections."

The authors of the report, the New Politics of Judicial Elections 2009-2010, wrote that $16.8 million was spent on television advertising for state high court elections in the 2009-10 election cycle — "making 2009-10 the costliest non-presidential election cycle for TV spending in judicial elections."

According to the report, more television campaign ads for state high court elections ran in Michigan than in any other state during the 2010 election cycle.

10,781 ads ran in Michigan. That total accounts for 29 percent of the total state high court campaign ads to run across the country.

And for total money spent on these campaigns, Michigan is at the top.

From the report:

Michigan, ranked sixth in candidate fundraising, surges to No. 1 when all sources of money, including independent TV ads, are considered.

The Top Ten states by total spending on state high court elections, 2009-2010:

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Environment
1:19 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Advanced battery show comes to Michigan

David Salguero from Mission Motors with the Mission electric superbike.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

A lot of people are looking at advanced batteries as the next big industry for the state of Michigan. Especially things like lithium ion batteries that are in your cell phone and laptop... and power most electric cars. Right now there are 17 Michigan companies either producing – or planning to produce – advanced batteries.

And so – with all the buzz about batteries – the Battery Show came to Novi this week.

It’s an international trade show... and the industry’s so new, this is only the second time the show has been held.

“We have critical mass here in Michigan around the battery industry. We are globally significant now.”

That’s Nick Cucinelli. He helps researchers at the University of Michigan build start-up companies around technologies they invent. He’s really into advanced batteries... and the promise they hold for the way we’ll use energy in the future.

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Politics
1:15 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Wayne County's ex-economic development director repays severance

 DETROIT (AP) - Wayne County's former economic development director has returned money she received as part of a controversial severance deal that has led to an FBI probe.

County Executive Robert Ficano announced Thursday that the repayment has been made by Turkia Mullin.

The severance deal was for $200,000. Mullin received $135,900 after taxes last month after she left her old job to run Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus.

Ficano has fired a part-time employee and placed the county's corporation counsel and a deputy executive on 30-day suspension after an internal investigation into the severance deal. He earlier
defended Mullin's severance deal, but later said protocol was not followed.

Federal agents have since gotten involved, serving subpoenas this month seeking records.

County commissioners are meeting Thursday and looking into the payout to Mullin.

History
11:59 am
Thu October 27, 2011

Michigan's first governor is the youngest state governor in American history

Stevens T. Mason - Michigan's 1st Governor. He served from 1835 to 1840. He was 23 when he was first elected and is the youngest Governor in American history.
wikimedia commons

They called him the "boy Governor" because he was elected to be Michigan's first Governor at age 23.

Today is Stevens T. Mason's 200th Birthday.

At noon today, a statement from Michigan's 48th Governor, Rick Snyder, will be read about the state's first Governor. The governor's offices says the statement will be read "during a ceremony honoring Mason hosted by the Michigan Historical Commission." 

The ceremony is at noon today at Detroit’s Capitol Park, "the location of Michigan’s first Capitol and Mason’s burial site."

Here's Governor Snyder's statement:

“The story of Michigan’s first governor is the story of Michigan’s birth.  Although his actions often made him unpopular in his time, today we owe Stevens T. Mason thanks for his relentless pursuit of statehood.

“When Congress refused to act on a petition to grant statehood, Mason initiated a territorial census to prove the territory qualified under the Ordinance of 1787.  When Congress refused to seat Michigan’s delegates, Mason reached a resolution that ended the dispute over the Toledo Territory and gave Michigan the western reaches of the Upper Peninsula.  And when Michigan’s own people refused to accept the terms of this agreement, Mason forged ahead and led a new convention that resulted in Michigan joining the Union.  All by the age of 25. 

“Michigan has a rich, fascinating history of innovators, builders and leaders like Stevens T. Mason who helped turn Michigan’s unsettled wilderness into a state that eventually became an industrial powerhouse.  When we remember them, we remember and are inspired by the qualities of the people who made our state great.” 

Commentary
11:49 am
Thu October 27, 2011

Remembering Howard Wolpe

Howard Wolpe died Tuesday night, and even though he wasn’t terribly old, chances are you don’t remember him. That is, unless you follow politics closely, or grew up in Kalamazoo.

He was a good and decent man who ran one of the worst campaigns for governor I can ever remember, and who, oddly enough, was the only man ever to beat Debbie Stabenow.

And his doing so was the best thing possible for her career, which proves how crazy politics can be.

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Auto/Economy
11:27 am
Thu October 27, 2011

Chrysler reports profits for second consecutive quarter

Ricardo Giaviti Flickr

On the heels of the approval of a four-year contract with the United Auto Workers comes news of a 3rd quarter profit from Chrysler.

The company reported a profit of $212 million for the 3rd quarter (July, August, and September). The company had reported a second quarter profit earlier this year ($181 million for the months of April, May, June).

From Chrysler's press release:

Chrysler Group LLC today reported preliminary net income of $212 million for the third quarter, compared with a net loss of $84 million a year ago, as the Company continues to increase sales and benefit from its alliance with Fiat S.p.A.

In the third quarter of 2011, net revenue was $13.1 billion, a 19 percent increase from the third quarter of 2010, driven by increased demand for Chrysler Group’s 16 all-new or significantly refreshed cars and trucks.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said these profits show the company is back on track:

"In the third quarter, Chrysler Group achieved increased sales and positive financial results, totally in line with the plan we laid out in November 2009. And in October, together with the United Auto Workers, we crafted a solid four-year contract that will support us in our growth plans and significantly reward our employees for their contribution to the revival of Chrysler," said Marchionne.

The Detroit Free Press reports the company "predicted it would make between $200 million and $500 million this year."

Health
10:02 am
Thu October 27, 2011

Maple Rapids children sickened by E.coli bacteria

MAPLE RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Two children and one adult have been sickened by E. coli bacteria in the state. The Mid-Michigan District Health Department says both children from the Maple Rapids area have been hospitalized, while the adult is recovering. The source of the bacteria is under investigation.

Politics
11:21 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

3 reasons things are looking up for the City of Benton Harbor

Joe Harris was appointed by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm in April of 2010. He expects the city's financial 'emergency' will be over in less than 8 months.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

In April 2010 the State of Michigan appointed an emergency financial manager for Benton Harbor to prevent the city from going bankrupt.

The mood has changed and it is not as adversarial as it was a year ago,” Benton Harbor City Commissioner Bryan Joseph said after a town hall meeting Wednesday night.

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Education
10:48 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

Islamic school may sue over zoning change denial

Michigan Islamic Academy

An Islamic school may sue a Washtenaw County township over a zoning decision. The Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees last night turned down the Michigan Islamic Academy’s request for a zoning change that would have allowed the academy to build a new school in the township, just south of Ann Arbor.   

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Politics
6:39 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

Former congressman Howard Wolpe dead at age 71

Former Michigan congressman Howard Wolpe
From his Linkedin.com page

Former Michigan Congressman and Democratic candidate for Governor Howard Wolpe died Tuesday night at the age of 71.

“Congressman Howard Wolpe was a champion for Michigan and one of the strongest Democrats I've ever known," said current Michigan Congressman Gary Peters (D-09) . "Howard was a true representative of the people and his legacy will never be forgotten. I'm deeply saddened to learn of his passing and my condolences go out to his family, friends and loved ones.”

Wolpe served in the Michigan Legislature before being elected to the U.S. House in 1978. For seven terms he represented Michigan’s Third District. Redrawn district boundaries prompted him to retire in 1992.

Wolpe also served as a diplomat in  the Clinton and Obama administrations.

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