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Environment
2:43 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Exotic animals killed in Ohio puts spotlight on Michigan bill

The tragedy that unfolded for the exotic animals near Zanesville, Ohio on Tuesday night and Wednesday highlighted the lack of regulation in Ohio for a particular type of animal compound.

Terry Thompson kept bears, tigers, lions, monkeys, and other animals on his property.

He reportedly did not display them to the public for compensation, and was not required to carry a permit from the USDA. And an Ohio state law regulating exotic animals had expired.

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Breaking
12:41 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court: Recall effort against state representative Paul Scott can go forward

Update 12:41 p.m.

Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook issed a statement in response to the Michigan Supreme Court's decision to allow the recall of Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) to go forward.

In the statement, Cook said voters are "fed up with the decisions" made in Lansing this year. He cited cuts to public education, taxes on pensions, and tax breaks for businesses as reasons for the recall.

From Cook's statement:

"Today’s decision allows those constituents to hold their representative accountable for his actions.  That’s what the law allows for and that’s what the courts have upheld today. We need lawmakers to stand up for our kids, not CEOs.  It is our sincere hope that this recall sends that message loud and clear to politicians in Lansing."

11:37 a.m.

More from the Associated Press:

The Genesee County clerk says a recall election targeting Republican Rep. Paul Scott of Grand Blanc is back on the Nov. 8 ballot.

County Clerk Michael Carr says Thursday his office received an order from the Michigan Supreme Court that puts the recall question back on the ballot.

The order reverses an earlier decision from a lower court that would have allowed Scott to avoid a recall election in November.

The effort to recall Scott is financed and backed by the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers union. The MEA is unhappy with Scott, the chairman of the House Education Committee, for his leadership role in new laws that weaken the role of teacher tenure in the state.

A Michigan lawmaker has not faced a recall election since 2008.

11:06 a.m.

This just came in from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta:

Michigan Supreme Court has reversed a lower court and says the recall question targeting state Representative Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) may go forward. If the question is certified, the recall question will go on the November ballot.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported on the recall campaign yesterday.

Paul Scott is among about a dozen Republican lawmakers targeted for recall by the Michigan Education Association. The Scott recall campaign is the only one that collected enough signatures to get the recall on the November ballot.

Environment
11:20 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Green building architect: Insulation is sexy

If you want to build a new home, you want an architect who can take your lifestyle and design a home around it. When it comes to building an environmentally-friendly house, you might even want someone who challenges you a little.

I was at the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual conference earlier this month to moderate a panel on America’s oldest net-zero energy home. That house happens to be here in Michigan and owned by Matt Grocoff. Matt wanted me to meet one of the architects leading the green building movement. His name is Eric Corey Freed.

As we talked to Freed at the conference… I wondered if people knew what they were getting into when they decided to build green…

“I think most people just assume I’m going to slap solar on it and be done.”

Solar. Yeah, it’s the sexy add-on that everyone seems to want. But Freed says solar is way too expensive unless first the house is built to be as energy efficient as possible. That means basic things… like proper insulation… which is not so sexy.

“Well, I think insulation is sexy, frankly. I mean, I think everybody should get naked and roll around in it. Not in the fiberglass! Because that could hurt. Maybe the recycled cotton one, that’d be pretty cozy. But remember, to me insulation is like chocolate: the more you have the better it is. So just bring it on.”

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Environment
11:08 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Macomb County officials avert drinking water monitoring system shutdown – for now

It looks like a system that monitors drinking water for at least three million people in southeast Michigan will stay online for another year.

The monitoring system gives early alerts if chemical spills are detected—so it keeps contaminants out of the drinking water system.

The system was in danger of shutting down when federal and state dollars ran out. But officials from Macomb and St. Clair counties have each come up with enough money to keep the system going for another year.

But policymakers are still searching for a long-term solution.

Macomb County Commission Chair Kathy Vosburg says a long-term fix will likely mean a small consumer fee.

“Consumers are very willing to pay for that, it comes out to be something like 50 cents to a dollar per household per year.”

But implementing that would take cooperation from the many different cities that send out water bills--and the city of Detroit, which owns and operates the whole drinking water system.

Politics
11:03 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Minister arrested in Holland anti-discrimination fight

Reverend Bill Freeman has addressed Holland City Council every week since the vote against the anti-discrimination ordinance. He vowed to occupy city hall last night and was charged with disturbing the peace.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A minister faces charges of disturbing the peace for protesting Holland City Council’s decision 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. City Council voted 5 to 4 in June 2011 against moving to adopt the local ordinance.

“It’s not about me. It’s not about (city council),” Reverend Bill Freeman Said, “It’s about people who are being discriminated against in the City of Holland just because of who they are and I don’t think that’s right.”

Freeman and others have attended every city council meeting since the decision to ask city council to change their minds. Earlier this month some city council members told the group they wouldn’t change their minds, adding that the group should change their tactics.

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Economy
10:56 am
Thu October 20, 2011

More powerful fireworks to be sold in Michigan?

Moving beyond sparklers. Under a bill passed by the Michigan House, consumers could buy more powerful fireworks in the state.
user adam j.w.c. wikimedia commons

Next July 4th, you might find more than just your garden variety sparklers and smoke snakes at Michigan fireworks stands.

The Michigan Fireworks Safety Act passed the Michigan House yesterday and moves onto the Michigan Senate.

The law will allow people to buy fireworks in a category "that includes aerial devices and other more spectacular devices" without a permit, according to a legislative analysis.

More from the Associated Press:

The legislation could change the summer routine for state residents who now drive into border states to buy fireworks that aren't legal in Michigan. Some types of bottle rockets and Roman candles are among the fireworks that would become legal if the measure becomes law.

"We've come up with a reasonable solution to prevent our residents from going to Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and purchasing these consumer-grade fireworks," said Rep. Harold Haugh, a Democrat from Roseville and the bill's sponsor.

The state could bring in around $5.5 million annually in sales taxes and fees, according to the legislative analysis of the bill. The potential revenue numbers were derived from similar legislation passed in Indiana in 2006.

Commentary
10:38 am
Thu October 20, 2011

A New Detroit River Bridge: Bump in the Bridge Bills

So what happened yesterday?

For months, everybody interested in the possibility of a new bridge over the Detroit River had waited for the State Senate Economic Development Committee to take a vote.

Not that this would settle much of anything -- except to decide whether to let the full senate decide whether to vote. Most of the committee members have taken political contributions from the owner of the ancient Ambassador Bridge, Matty Moroun.

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Ford union contract approved, Chrysler next
10:19 am
Thu October 20, 2011

With Ford contract ratified, UAW turns to Chrysler

Staff Chrysler Media

Chrysler union workers vote this week on a tentative new contract. 

Ford workers approved their contract on Wednesday, 63-percent in favor to 37-percent against. 

But the contract was narrowly rejected at the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne.  Bob King is President of the union. 

"I don’t feel bad or in any way negative towards those workers because they voted against it," says King.  "I think they expressed honest, legitimate concerns.   I have the same concerns.   I don’t like a system where people on the same assembly line are making a different rate of pay."

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Changing Gears
8:59 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Small businesses a magic bullet for a down economy? (Part 4)

Dr. Mark Gamalinda owns a dental practice in Andersonville, Chicago.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before...

"We genuinely believe small business is the backbone of America, it’s going to the key for us to be able to put a lot of folks back to work."

That’s President Obama earlier this year.

Warm feelings about small business come at all levels, and on both sides of the aisle.

Here’s Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Synder this summer:

"Talk about the jobs you’re creating, even if it’s one job – that is the backbone of the reinvention of Michigan."

Or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week at the SmallBizExpo:

"Nothing is more important to our econonmic expansion than the small business of Chicago and the small business of tomorrow that will be in Chicago."

It’s more than just political talk.

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Education
8:55 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Detroit Schools exceeds target student enrollment

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Public Schools district has exceeded targeted fall enrollment by 137 students.

The district says in a release that 65,971 Kindergarten through 12th graders have enrolled.

Enrollment figures are based on the number of full-time students in the district at the end of the state's 10-day counting period. They do not include 3,000 students in pre-Kindergarten programs and about 4,000 in district-authorized charter schools.

Detroit officials expect the enrollment number to increase during a remaining 20-day period allowed for counting students absent, but excused on Count Day.

Detroit had been losing students at a rapid pace, plummeting from 104,000 in 2007.

The district ended last school year with about 74,000 students. Officials say the drop over the summer has been the smallest "real-number and percentage" decline since 2006.

Politics
8:25 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Court rejects AG attempt to end partner benefits

A court has thrown out a lawsuit by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. Schuette wanted to block a new policy that allows unmarried state workers to put live-in partners on their insurance plans.

The attorney general went to court after attempts by Governor Rick Snyder and Republicans in the Legislature failed to halt the new benefits for unmarried live-in partners  - which includes people in same-sex relationships.

The independent state Civil Service Commission earlier this year approved contracts with state employees that allow live-in partner benefits. The court said the commission acted within the scope of its authority when it approved the contracts. But it’s not settled that state employees will be able to continue to list domestic partners and their children as dependents on their benefits plan. The attorney general could appeal the court ruling.

A state Senate committee has also approved legislation that would ban public employers - such as the state, school districts and universities - from offering contracts that allow unmarried partner benefits.

Environment
1:01 am
Thu October 20, 2011

New Kalamazoo River oil spill cleanup plan due today

Cleanup crews work to remove oil from the Kalamazoo River near Battle Creek in August of 2010.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Nearly 15 months after an oil spill fouled miles of the Kalamazoo River, the pipeline’s owner is submitting an updated cleanup plan to the federal Environmental Protection Agency today.  

The July 2010 pipeline break spewed more than 840 thousand gallons of Canadian tar sands crude oil into the Kalamazoo River.   Hundreds of workers have spent the past year removing contaminated soil, sucking up submerged oil and rehabbing endangered wildlife. But the work is far from over.  

A company spokesman says senior Enbridge officials spent Thursday reviewing and revising the new cleanup plan, that the EPA demanded after the company missed an August deadline.  

The new plan will detail how Enbridge plans to complete the removal of submerged oil in the Kalamazoo River,  remove oil and contaminated soil beyond the river bank and how they’ll reassess their cleanup plans in 2012.  

Enbridge officials estimate the cleanup will eventually cost the pipeline company $700 million.

Politics
10:03 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

Bing: We'll do "whatever it takes" to fix bus crisis

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’ll do “whatever it takes” to get the city out of its current bus crisis.

Pressure is mounting for Bing to do something about the problem, which has some city residents waiting more than three hours for busses. Bing admits that amounts to a “crisis.”

“As we look at people standing in line for two or three hours waiting for a bus…at children trying to get to school on time in the cold weather, waiting for a bus…if we look at people trying to get to their jobs on a daily basis waiting for a bus…that is unacceptable.”

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Politics
4:38 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

First vote on new international bridge could come Thursday

The Ambassador Bridge
user cseeman flickr

State lawmakers today were supposed to move forward with a proposal to build a new international bridge in Detroit.  Instead, the meeting broke up without a vote.

A meeting of the Senate Economic Development Committee was abruptly adjourned after a new version of the legislation was handed to the committee’s Republican chairman. Senator Mike Kowall said he needed time to review the new legislation, but he expressed annoyance that months of hearings were capped by the last-minute development.

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Environment
3:17 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

Study predicts less Great Lakes water loss

Lake Erie
Kathy Weaver photopedia

Previous research suggested a decline in future Great Lakes water levels, but findings from a recent scientific report may paint a different picture. 

Associated Press environmental writer John Flesher reports:

New research suggests climate change might not cause Great Lakes water levels to drop as much as previous studies have indicated. In fact, it might even cause them to rise.

Scientists at the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor say they've devised a new way to predict future water levels. In a newly published journal article, they say it involves different methods of measuring evaporation of water from the soil and plants within the Great Lakes watershed.

Low water levels can cause heavy losses for shippers and other
Great Lakes businesses. They also affect the environment.

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Veterans
12:12 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

Privatization plan at vets home stopped by judge

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A judge has barred the state of Michigan from giving more work to a private contractor at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

The injunction also prevents the layoff of state employees who are health-care aides. Gov. Rick Snyder wants to privatize certain services to save money, but critics say the plan could harm residents.

Ingham County Judge Paula Manderfield signed the order Friday, saying the injunction is in the "public interest." WOOD-TV reports the attorney general's office plans to appeal.

The home has 758 beds for veterans and many of its workers are represented by a union. A doctor last week testified that an abrupt change in personnel would affect the physical and mental health of residents.

Auto/Economy
11:28 am
Wed October 19, 2011

UAW membership approves 4-year contract with Ford

A majority of the 41,000 UAW workers at Ford have ratified a four-year contract with the company.

From the Detroit Free Press

The UAW said 63% of production workers voted in favor of the agreement and 65% of skilled-trades workers voted in favor of the deal.

“I am pleased with the strong support for this agreement from UAW Ford members,” UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles said in a statement today. “I believe UAW Ford workers understood the importance of each and every vote.”

The contract needed to pass by a simple majority.

Ratification of the agreement leaves Chrysler as the only member of the Detroit Three without a contract. Chrysler workers began voting Tuesday on a tentative agreement while General Motors workers ratified a deal on Sept. 28.

Ford Motor Company officials say the new agreement will add jobs and improve the company's competitiveness in the U.S.

From a Ford press release:

Ford is adding 12,000 hourly jobs in its U.S. manufacturing facilities through the four-year term of the contract, including in-sourcing work from Mexico, China and Japan. The company also is investing $16 billion in its U.S. product development and manufacturing operations – including $6.2 billion in plant-specific investments – by 2015. 

“This agreement is proof that, by working together with our UAW partners and local communities, we can significantly create new jobs, invest in our plants and people, and make a very positive impact on the U.S. economy,” said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company’s president of The Americas. “Our agreement is fair to our employees and it improves our competitiveness in the U.S."

Company officials say new production shifts will be added at Auto Alliance International in Flat Rock, Michigan, and at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

Commentary
10:59 am
Wed October 19, 2011

A New Bridge Across the Detroit River: Conflict of Interest?

Here’s something you may not know about journalists: We have a pretty high standard of integrity, especially when it comes to conflicts of interest. We normally don’t cover any events in which we have any kind of personal interest -- especially economic interest.

Any time we even suspect we may have any conflict, we are obliged to tell our bosses, and our public. There are some gray areas, but I can tell you this. If I did a commentary urging you to support someone who gave me thousands of dollars, I’d be fired.

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Politics
8:59 am
Wed October 19, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court asked to allow recall election to take place

State Rep. Paul Scott see here testifying in March, 2009, in favor of a statewide smoking ban during a House Regulatory Reform Committee hearing in Lansing.
Rep. Paul Scott's official website

The Michigan Supreme Court is being asked to stay a lower court ruling and allow Genesee County voters to decide if they want to recall State Representative Paul Scott.   

Last week, a judge issued a temporary injunction halting next month’s recall vote.    

Bobbie Walton is with the recall campaign.  She’s optimistic that the state supreme court will allow the vote to go forward.   

“We are hoping, through our efforts, we can bring the vote back to the people in District 51," says Walton.  

Station note
7:19 am
Wed October 19, 2011

WFUM 91.1 is off the air

Our Flint area signal, WFUM 91.1, is off the air. A pole fire has interrupted electrical service to the transmitter. Consumers Energy says they expect power will be restored by 10:30a.

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