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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.

Changing Gears
7:00 am
Wed October 19, 2011

Can health care be a magic bullet for the Midwest? (Part 3)

The Cleveland Clinic helps set Cleveland apart as a medical city.
Cleveland Clinic

Detroit is the latest metro area vying to become a medical destination. The hope is that its hospital systems can draw patients from outside its region, helping the local economy.

In short, Detroit wants to be more like Cleveland.

But Cleveland could be tough to copy.

Cosgrove comes to Cleveland

In 1975, a young cardiologist arrived in Cleveland.

“I came here in a rented truck with a Vega on the back end because it was too sick to pull,” Toby Cosgrove says.

Jump ahead 36 years and that newbie with a beater of a car is now CEO of the Cleveland Clinic.

Cosgrove presides over a medical empire vastly larger than when he came to town hoping to get better at heart surgery.

“We were about 140-150 doctors. We’ve grown a bit since that time. We’re now about 3,000,” he says.

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News Roundup
6:57 am
Wed October 19, 2011

In this morning's news ...

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

Snyder in no hurry to spend projected surplus

Governor Rick Snyder says he would prefer to wait and see what direction the economy takes before making decisions on how to use a projected budget surplus. Snyder says he is no rush to restore funding to schools or other programs. Budget watchdogs predict the state is in line for a windfall of around $430 million once the books are closed on the fiscal year that ended last month.

FBI gets involved in Wayne County severance probe

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Economy
6:41 am
Wed October 19, 2011

Survey: Local governments get brief revenue breather, but struggles continue

jdurham Morguefile

Tough times are likely to continue for most of the state’s local governments.

The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan asked about the financial condition of the state’s cities, townships,  villages and counties.

“For most jurisdictions in the state of Michigan, things are bad and continuing to get worse," says Tom Ivacko, a Ford School spokesman.

Ivacko says some places are doing better because of a slowdown in property tax declines. He says that could be attributed to fewer foreclosures in the wake of widespread processing fraud.

He says communities are still struggling with state-aid cuts and increasing infrastructure needs.

The Michigan Public Policy Survey also finds local governments are trying to cope with the loss of revenue by collaborating with other governments.

Some tap into their general fund and "rainy-day" balances to offset the drop in revenue.

The survey found many employees are paying more for their health care coverage, that local governments are decreasing staffing, and in some cases the number of services they provide.

Some local governments are charging more for fees, licenses and permits.

Flint
9:36 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Crime is Flint's biggest problem, mayoral candidates agree

Challenger Darryle Buchanan (left) takes notes as incumbent Dayne walling talks during a mayoral debate Tuesday night in Flint
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The two men running for Flint mayor agree on one thing: Crime is the city’s biggest problem.  

Incumbent Mayor Dayne Walling debated challenger Darryl Buchanan last night.

Flint recently topped the FBI’s violent crime rankings.   Flint has also been called one of the 'Dangerous' cities in America.

Walling says he’s tried to combat Flint’s growing murder and violent crime rates  with federal grants and community involvement.  

“We continue to put officers where they’re most needed.  We’re using new technologies to better respond to the calls that are coming in," says Walling.  

But Buchanan says budget cuts Walling has made to Flint’s police department are to  blame for the rise in violent crime.

"It is statistically significant….that when you reduce the number of police on the streets…that violent crime goes up," says Buchanan. 

During the debate, Buchanan repeatedly referenced comments by Vice President Joe Biden during a visit last week to a Flint fire station.  The vice president talked about how Flint's layoffs of police officers resulted in a rise in violent crime.  

Walling blames the need for deep cuts in flint's budget on poor choices made by previous Flint city leaders, including Darryl Buchanan. 

Last night's debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Urban League.

Politics
8:10 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

State initiates review of Inkster's books

The city of Inkster is the subject of a financial review by the state that could ultimately lead to the appointment of an emergency manager.

State Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says the review was ordered after city officials informed the department about its financial difficulties. He says that’s the goal of the state’s revamped emergency manager law: to get information sooner, and work with municipalities to fix their problems:

“And therefore perhaps have an opportunity to work collaboratively with a local unit to address any issues that are there.”

The preliminary review will last up to 30 days. Michigan’s new emergency manager law has spurred much controversy, a lawsuit, and an effort to repeal it at the ballot box. Critics of the law say it violates home rule.

Politics
7:36 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Governor Snyder says it's too early to think about spending Michigan's potential surplus

The state of Michigan has a projected budget surplus of around $430 million. Governor Snyder wants to wait before deciding what to do with the extra money.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

Governor Rick Snyder says he would prefer to wait and see what direction the economy takes before making decisions on how to use a projected budget surplus.

Snyder says he is no rush to restore funding to schools or other programs.

Budget watchdogs predict the state is in line for a windfall of around $430 million once the books are closed on the fiscal year that ended last month.

Tax revenues appear to have picked up despite the lackluster recovery in jobs and spending.

Democrats have called for restoring cuts to K-12 education, but Governor Snyder said it’s too soon to make that call.

“It’s good to see positive results coming in in terms of revenues, but one of the things is the economy in the macro sense at the national and international level is pretty tenuous,” said Snyder.

Other Republican leaders have said any surplus should be put into the state’s “rainy day” savings or toward paying down long-term debt.

The governor says those options might be prudent if the state winds up with excess cash.

Auto/Economy
6:02 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Europe’s largest online hotel reservation company expanding in West Michigan

Booking.com is a subsidiary of Priceline.com. The company put its first North American call center in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming because there are a lot of tech-savvy young people who are fluent in many European languages.

“It’s important because at different times of the day and on weekends or holidays in other countries, they’re switching those calls here,” said Sue Jackson, Vice President of Business Development at The Right Place. The economic-development group helped attract the company in 2008 and secured the latest expansion.

“We’re thrilled, obviously,” Jackson said about the 562 fulltime jobs the company is expected to create over the next 3 years. “That’s a lot of jobs for us.”

There are already more than 400 workers at the Wyoming facility. They provide technical support solving problems for travelers trying to book hotels online overseas.

“It is a credit to the multi-lingual skills and work ethic of West Michigan’s workforce that priceline is increasing its investment in our region,” said Jackson.

Arts/Culture
5:49 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

After 40 years, Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids coming to an end

Grand Rapids' Festival of The Arts was put on by The Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids until 2002, when Festival was spun off. Festival will continue.
John Eisenschenk Creative Commons

The Arts Council was founded in 1967 to help support arts organizations in West Michigan.

“We’re recognizing the changes,” Exectutive Director Caroline Older said about financial problems facing arts organizations, “We’re making a positive change for the Arts Council, even if it does mean that it comes to a close.”

Older says the recession compounded with state cuts to arts programs forced the non-profit to consider all of its options. She says the council realized it couldn’t be sustainable anymore.

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Politics
3:59 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

FBI to probe Wayne County severance deal

Turkia Awada Mullin

The FBI is investigating a $200,000 severance deal given to former Wayne County development director Turkia Mullin.

Michigan Attorney General spokesman John Sellek confirmed Tuesday that the FBI is looking into the deal.

Sellek said Attorney General Bill Schuette "has full faith in the FBI to conduct a thorough investigation."

Mullin received the payout after leaving her old job to take over as chief executive of Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The county owns the airport in Romulus, 10 miles west of Detroit.

Her new job pays $250,000.

Wayne County faces a $160 million accumulated budget deficit.

Mullin originally said she would not return the money, but changed her mind following a call with County Executive Robert Ficano.

Ficano said last week that protocol was not followed in approving Mullin's severance.

Politics
3:22 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Governor Snyder and Michigan Senate leader to decide next bridge move

The Ambassador Bridge is currently the only bridge between Canada and Detroit.
user Gradys Kitchen flickr

Governor Rick Snyder and state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) will meet this afternoon to discuss what should happen next with a stalled international bridge project proposal.

Richardville says he could potentially move the proposal to build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada out of the committee where it has failed thus far to gain enough support to move to the Senate floor.

Richardville has suggested moving the proposal to his own Government Operations Committee.

State Senator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) chairs the committee currently handling the proposal. 

“I don’t want it to go to Government Ops. I started it, I want to finish it. I want to see it through to the end. Ultimately I don’t have a lot of authority to tell the majority leader what to do,” he said.

Kowall said he thinks the bridge proposal would face just as many hurdles on the Senate floor as it is in his committee to gain approval:

“Oh that’s just a microcosm of what’s going on, there’s a lot of discussion here, in caucus, outside, all over. So there’s a lot of discussion.” 

He continued:

“You ever go to the dentist and have a root canal done? Well it’s always a good thing when it’s over with, so I liken this to a root canal. No, I’d like it to be over one way or the other.” 

Kowall said one of the issues creating some division is whether a bridge proposal should include a measure to help members of the community that would be displaced at the new bridge location in Detroit.   

Governor Sndyer says he wants the issue approved by the end of the year.

Transportation
1:22 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Details of the $46.7 million in federal transit money coming to Michigan

Detroit's Department of Transportation will get $6 million to replace buses.
Matt Picio Flickr

We reported last week about the federal money coming to the state, and Sarah Hulett reported on more details released yesterday.

In case you missed it, here's how the $46.7 million from Federal Transit Administration’s Alternatives Analysis, Bus Livability, and State of Good Repair grant program is broken up in Michigan:

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Politics
12:36 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Romney trumps all in Michigan fund-raising so far

wikipedia.org

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is outpacing all other candidates in fund-raising  Michigan – including President Obama.

Mitt Romney’s roots go deep in Michigan. He was born and raised here. His father was governor from 1963 to 1969.

Inside Michigan Politics editor Bill Ballenger says Romney’s got a widespread net of supporters.

"Mitt Romney is so far ahead, it’s not even a contest," Ballenger says. "And no other presidential candidate even has a presence in Michigan.”

Politics
11:29 am
Tue October 18, 2011

Individuals involved in "Occupy Grand Rapids" on "Here and Now"

At least 50 protest Vice President Joe Biden's campaign fundraiser in downtown Grand Rapids last week.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

39-year-old Richard Ertle and 23-year-old Ryan Gillikin share their thoughts today on WBUR's nationally syndicated "Here and Now" program.

Gillikin graduated recently for Grand Valley State University. He's been protesting with the Grand Rapids group since it began earlier this month. He waits tables in between protests.

Ertle is a student at Grand Rapids Community College studying network administration. I've seen him at the occupy protests downtown every time I've visited or biked by. He freelances for small and medium sized businesses providing networking services.

Ertle and Gillikin both told host Robin Young they don't speak for everyone at the protests, and they don't all agree on why they're protesting. "But we listen to one another," Ertle said, "which is more than what our elected representatives are willing to do."

Here and Now airs on Michigan Radio at 1p.m. weekdays.

Changing Gears
11:28 am
Tue October 18, 2011

Magic bullets in the form of advanced battery manufacturing (Part 2)

General Motors Battery Lab in Warren, Michigan.
John F. Martin General Motors

Three years ago, the advanced battery industry in the United States existed only in the imagination.

Plenty of people believed electric cars would be the next big thing, and they would be powered by lithium ion batteries; the same kind of batteries that are in cell phones and laptops.

But in 2008, almost all of the lithium ion batteries in the world were made in Asia.

Randy Thelan heard that might be about to change.

Batteries come to Michigan

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Commentary
10:53 am
Tue October 18, 2011

Former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley: Speaking Frankly

Former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley issued more formal opinions about the constitutionality of various Michigan laws than any attorney general in history.

Of course, that’s partly because he served longer in the office than any attorney general in the history of this or any other state-- thirty-seven years. He was elected ten times, and retired before he had to. Now nearly eighty-seven, he is mostly cheerful, healthy, and enjoying life from his home on Lake Lansing.

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Lansing
10:52 am
Tue October 18, 2011

Lansing city council moves 'killer' tax deal forward

The Lansing city council has moved a step closer to approving a tax deal that could lead to an expansion of  Capital Region International Airport.   A final vote is scheduled for next week.   

Businesses at the airport oppose the tax deal.     George Carr owns a hanger at the airport.  He says the tax deal is a 'killer'.

“This…pits the existing tenants and businesses against future tenants and businesses.   It does it by raising taxes…on existing businesses…so they can abate taxes on future businesses that may or may not locate there," says Carr.   

A city economic development official says  the proposal will help improve business at Lansing’s airport.  Bob Trezise with the Lansing Economic Development Corporation says the tax increase is a question of ‘fairness’.  

"We just merely are saying  ‘We wish you to pay a small amount to participate in supporting the airport, like all the businesses and residents of Ingham County do.  And you’re at the airport'," says Trezise.  

The tax deal must be in place by the end of the month so the airport can apply for a state development grant.

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