News

Pages

Changing Gears
10:16 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Road Trip: Norwalk saves its company (Part 4)

Saving Norwalk Furniture means about 150 locals have jobs again.
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

When a company bears the name of its hometown, it can be hard to separate the two. Such is the case with Norwalk Furniture and the town of Norwalk in Northern Ohio. Sue Lesch is the town’s mayor.

“It really is our flagship company,” said Sue Lesch, Norwalk’s mayor. “It’s the company we’re proud of. We’re known for furniture all over the country.”

For more than a hundred years, Norwalk Furniture made custom-order sofas and chairs in its Ohio factory. For a long time, it was the biggest business in town, employing about 700 in this town of 17,000.

Read more
News Roundup
9:03 am
Thu July 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Health care lawsuit to SupCo

The Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review its constitutional challenge to the nation’s healthcare overhaul law. As the Associated Press reports, “the appeal filed Wednesday… said Congress overstepped its authority in requiring Americans to purchase health insurance or pay financial penalties.” The appeal is challenging the first federal appeals court ruling that upheld the legislation.

Ford Investing in India

Bloomberg is reporting that Ford will spend more than $906 million on a second car factory in India. In an email statement today, the company says it will build the plant with an initial capacity to make 240,000 cars and 270,000 engines annually. Ford says the new plant will employee 5000 people. It’s being reported that the factory will start production in 2014.

House Cuts

State House Speaker Jase Bolger is requiring lawmakers and state members of the Michigan House to pay more for their health insurance benefits come October 1st. Laura Weber reports:

Bolger made the decision to require all state House employees to pay as much as 20 percent of their health insurance benefits alongside an 18 percent reduction to the money lawmakers have allotted for their office expenses. The changes ordered by Bolger’s office comes amidst a debate between the House and Senate over how much teachers and local government employees should be required to pay for their health benefits.

Economy
6:53 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Rating agency moves state’s economic outlook from ‘stable’ to ‘positive’

In the midst of a heated debate in Washington D.C. over the U.S. debt limit and with the country facing a possible credit downgrade, Michigan’s economy is getting a pat on the back. Fitch Ratings has revised its outlook for Michigan bonds from ‘stable’ to ‘positive,’ the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The New York ratings agency left the state's overall bond rating unchanged Wednesday at AA-, an investment-grade rating that's three steps below the top AAA rating.

Gov. Rick Snyder met with analysts at Fitch, Moody's and Standard and Poor's on June 13 to discuss the state's growing economy and how the 2011-12 budget eliminates ongoing deficits without one-time fixes.

Fitch took note of the budgeting changes. It says its positive outlook also reflects efforts to put away more in the state's rainy day fund and "grow reserve levels."

The state lost its top AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor's in 2003.

As the Detroit News reports, on Tuesday Governor Snyder told reporters that, "Lawmakers in Washington should look to Michigan 'as a good role model for success' as they try to resolve a battle over raising the national debt ceiling that is approaching a crisis."

State Legislature
6:37 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Speaker Bolger cuts House employees' benefits

State House Speaker Jase Bolger (R)
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Lawmakers and staff members of the Michigan House will be required to pay more for their health insurance benefits come October 1st. The change was ordered by House Speaker Jase Bolger.

Bolger made the decision to require all state House employees to pay as much as 20 percent of their health insurance benefits alongside an 18 percent reduction to the money lawmakers have allotted for their office expenses. “And that’s not pleasant for anyone, and we empathize with them,” says Ari Adler, Speaker Bolger’s spokesman. Adler continues, “but we also empathize with the taxpayers who are facing many similar situations in their own households, and we all have to share in the sacrifice.”

The changes ordered by Bolger’s office comes amidst a debate between the House and Senate over how much teachers and local government employees should be required to pay for their health benefits.

Adler says House lawmakers need to lead by example if they plan to cut benefits for other public workers. The House Democratic caucus supports the new policy, but many Democrats oppose passing a law to force public employees to pay more for their benefits.

Weather
6:28 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Storms bring heavy rains, flooding

Thunderstorms packing heavy rains left some roadways under water, prompted flash flood warnings across much of southern Michigan and knocked out power to more than 21,000 homes and businesses.

The National Weather Service on Thursday morning had flash flood warnings, flash flood watches or flood advisories in effect. The weather service says storms brought 2 to 4 inches of rain in places within a few hours, and up to 5 inches was forecast in places.

The Grand Rapids Press reported numerous instances of cars stuck in water on streets throughout Grand Rapids and surrounding Kent County.

WWJ-AM reports officials in Washtenaw County reported heavy rains prompted flooding that blocked a number of roadways.

DTE Energy Co. reports about 15,000 outages. CMS Energy Corp. tells WOOD-TV it has about 6,500 outages.

Economy
1:01 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Michigan cities seeing foreclosure filings decline

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of foreclosure filings dropped significantly in cities across Michigan during the first six months of the year.   Daren Bloomquist, with Realty Trac, says this not necessarily good news.  

 “We’ve probably seen the peak of foreclosure activity in this cycle.  But it may take a while to really to clear the decks and get all the foreclosures that have built up over the last few years sold on to the market.”

Read more
Environment
10:11 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Zoning questions linger in dunes land-use settlement in Saugatuck

The Saugatuck Township Board voted Friday to accept the proposed settlement with Singapore Dunes LLC.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A federal judge still has to approve a settlement between a private developer and Saugatuck Township to resolve a long-standing land-use case. But there is already talk of a new lawsuit at the state level if the federal judge approves the agreement.

Read more
Economy
6:29 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Whole Foods to open in Detroit in 2013

Fresh vegetables and fruit
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Whole Foods is coming to Detroit.

Read more
Michigan History
5:48 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

A look back: UAW, Detroit auto workers and labor relations

UAW History
Screenshot from UAW website www.uaw.org

Once again Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry unleashes his knowledge of Michigan history. This time we get a historical perspective about negotiations between the United Auto Workers and Detroit automakers.

Contract talks have already started between the UAW and General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. But these talks are a little different this time around.

Read more
Politics
3:42 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Bing: "Detroit can truly be a city that works"

Dave Bing
detroitworksproject.com

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has unveiled a big part of his “Detroit Works” Project to strengthen city neighborhoods.

The strategy involves dividing neighborhoods into three categories: Steady, transitional, and distressed.

The city will focus on code enforcement and infrastructure improvement in the more viable areas, and on demolishing dangerous structures in more blighted ones.

Read more
Science/Medicine
2:24 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Judge tosses out lawsuit against federal funding of embryonic stem cell research

A researcher at work in the University of Michigan's Center for Stem Cell Biology.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Embryonic stem cell research at the University of Michigan is an indirect winner in a federal court decision.   A U.S. District judge today tossed out a lawsuit challenging federal funding for the controversial medical research.

Read more
Economy
1:50 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Delta profit falls, 2,000 taking buyouts

Delta Airlines is cutting back.
Andrey Belenko Flickr

Delta Air Lines says some 2,000 workers have taken voluntary buyouts. In a cost-cutting move in response to high fuel prices, it will scale back its flight schedule more than planned this year.

The high cost of jet fuel was the main reason Delta's second-quarter net income fell by 58 percent compared to a year ago. It earned $198 million, or 23 cents per share. Fuel costs were up 36 percent.

At the same time, revenue rose 12 percent as Delta raised fares to try to pay the increased fuel costs.

Delta would have earned 43 cents per share if not for one-time items including severance costs and reducing its facilities. On that basis, profit was below forecasts.

Arts/Culture
12:56 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Artpod: An interview with Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell
Photo courtesy of the author

This week's Artpod features an interview from the "Michigan on the Page." It's a web-only series from Michigan Radio, where authors from around the state are interviewed about their own books, about Michigan books in general, and about what it means to be a Michigan writer.

On today's podcast, we turn the mic over to Brian Short, the series' curator, and author Bonnie Jo Campbell.

Campbell's most recent book is the novel Once Upon a River, which has gotten rave reviews. Her previous book, American Salvage, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Read more
Auto/Economy
12:43 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

GM CEO says European division Opel is not for sale

GM sells the Opel Corsa GSi in Europe. General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson says the company's European car business is not for sale.
GM Europe Flickr

Reports have swirled that GM plans to sell its European division, Opel, for more than a month:

Read more
Crime
11:58 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Police Chief: There is a sexual predator, or predators, preying on women in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor police chief Barnett Jones
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Ann Arbor’s police chief says there is one, possibly more sexual predators attacking women in his city.  Police are investigating a string of 6 sexual assaults that occurred in the past nine days near the University of Michigan campus. 

Police Chief Barnett Jones says young women in Ann Arbor should take precautions and should avoid walking alone at night.  

"It is very upsetting when I have to stand up here in front of you to tell people in my community that we have a predator….or predators out there…preying upon women in our community.”  

Politics
11:54 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Michiganders remain split on debt ceiling debate

The debt ceiling debate is still getting attention in Michigan. Many are voicing their opinions to government officials. One congressman says calls to his office are running about 50-50. Many support raising the debt ceiling and others want to reduce future debt by making cuts.

Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga is a Republican from Zeeland. He says his concern is that the debt ceiling could double in the next ten years.

"All we need to do is have a slight hiccup in our interest rates – something that just even brings us back to historical averages of the last ten years and our spending on interest is going to explode. We’ve got to get this under control," Huizenga said.

The deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling from the current 14-trillion-dollars must be found by next week, or the nation could default on its debt.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Commentary
11:04 am
Wed July 27, 2011

State Employee Unions and Contract Negotiations

There are many fewer state employees now than there were thirty years ago, but the total is still nearly fifty thousand. Most of them are union members, and contract talks are now underway between their unions and the Snyder administration.

Negotiations aren’t likely to be easy. The governor wants a new contract that will save $265 million dollars, or about six thousand dollars per worker. The administration says we can’t afford to maintain the level of benefits they’ve been getting.

The unions sharply disagree. So -- who is right?

For many years, the great bargain has been that public sector workers traded high salaries for secure jobs with good benefits.  A few years ago, a former student of mine talked to me about her husband, who just then was getting an advanced degree in economics. He was a very intelligent and capable man.

Read more
Environment
10:44 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Cougar travels through Michigan and winds up in Connecticut

People have claimed to see cougars in the Midwest, but wildlife officials say there are no breeding populations here. The federal government has declared the cougar extinct in the Eastern United States.
Neil McIntosh Flickr

Wildlife officials believe a cougar that was killed in Connecticut traveled through Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

This from Interlochen Public Radio's Linda Stephan:

Just months after the federal government declared the cougar extinct in the Eastern United States – a wild cat has been identified in Connecticut.

DNA evidence links the cat to a South Dakota species.

And officials believe this same cat was spotted in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Researchers say they’re pretty confident this very cat was also sighted in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Read more
Environment
10:27 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Life on the Kalamazoo River: oil & wildlife (part 2)

A volunteer prepares to clean oil from the feathers of a heavily-oiled Canada goose at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Marshall, Michigan in 2010.
Photo courtesy of the EPA

It was the largest inland oil spill in Midwest history... but we still don’t know exactly what it will mean for life around the river.

One year ago, a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy broke. More than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil polluted Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

People who were there say the river ran black. Turtles, and muskrats and Great Blue Herons were covered in oil. It’s not clear what all this will mean for the river and the wildlife that depends on it.

“It’s really a big unknown. We don’t have much experience with oil spills in freshwater rivers in general.”

Stephen Hamilton is a professor at Michigan State University.

“This new kind of crude, the tar sands crude oil, with its different chemistry, all makes this a learning experience for everybody involved.”

Tar sands oil is very thick, and it has to be diluted in order to move through pipelines. We’ve previously reported that federal officials say the nature of this oil has made the cleanup more difficult. In fact, the cleanup has lasted longer than many people expected. The Environmental Protection Agency says there are still significant amounts of submerged oil along 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River.

Read more
Election 2012
10:26 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Schauer of Michigan says he won't run in '12

Mark Schauer announced he will not run for Congress. U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg will face a new opponent after running against Schauer for several years.
U.S. Congress

DETROIT (AP) - Former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer of Battle Creek says he won't run for Congress next year.

The Democrat made the announcement in an email sent to supporters on Wednesday.

The decision means Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg will get a new Democratic opponent after facing Schauer for the past two elections.

Last year, Walberg beat the then-incumbent Schauer in a contentious rematch of their 2008 race that saw Schauer unseat Walberg, who was then a freshman in Congress.

In the email, Schauer writes that, despite his decision, he still sees south-central Michigan's 7th District as "winnable for a Democratic candidate in 2012."

Schauer currently serves as national co-chair of the BlueGreen Alliance Jobs 21! Campaign.

Pages