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10:40 am
Wed July 16, 2014

A delicate piece of art history in Jackson, Michigan is geting a little help

Glass mural with moving lights from the foyer of the old Consumers Energy building in Jackson, Michigan, shortly before the building was demolished
Credit Chrystal Weesner / Pinterest

A piece of Jackson’s art history, which narrowly avoided the wrecking ball, may soon have new life.

The 28' x 9' glass mural depicting the history of electric power hung in Consumers Energy’s old Jackson headquarters for more than four decades.   

Preservationists were able to save it from the wrecking ball that brought the building down last year. The mural was disassembled and has been in storage ever since.

The plan now is to reconstruct the glass mural, replace its internal lighting system, and build a new outdoor display to house the mural.

The mural would be placed on the grounds of a new city park being built on the site of the old Consumers Energy headquarters.

“We hope to be able to have the new mural in place by….this time next year,” says Grant Bauman, whose part of the team working on the project.

He says the glass mural will add to the mix of public art in downtown Jackson.

This month, the project received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Organizers still need to raise about $200,000 for the glass mural project.

A Consumers Energy spokesman says the company has contributed to the preservation of the mural in the past, but has not committed to donating to the current project.

Education
5:49 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Public can tell state review team what they think about Benton Harbor schools’ finances tonight

Benton Harbor High School
Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A state review team is hosting a public meeting today in Benton Harbor. The six-member team is trying to determine if Benton Harbor Area Schools is in financial stress.

The Benton Harbor school district has been running a deficit since 2006. It's cut costs, but at the same time, it also has low-performing schools that need to improve test scores to meet state and federal standards. Plus, it’s lost students every year.

It’s already closed buildings, privatized support services and gotten concessions in wages and benefits from teachers.

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Politics & Government
5:43 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

State lawmakers to talk cash-strapped schools, marijuana, traffic fines

Credit user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

The state Legislature returns briefly from its summer break Wednesday for its only scheduled session day in July.

No full floor votes are expected in either the House or the Senate. But a number of legislative panels will meet to discuss a wide variety of issues.

The state Senate Government Operations Committee is expected to approve two high-profile medical marijuana bills. House Bill 4271 would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Michigan. House Bill 5104 would allow patients to use edible and other non-smokable forms of marijuana.

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Labor
5:40 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Non-union builders challenge local wage floors

Many Michigan cities have prevailing wage ordinances.
Credit Daniel Parks / Flickr

An association of non-union construction companies has asked the state Supreme Court to strike down local prevailing wage laws. The Associated Builders and Contractors says a state law preempts the ordinances.

Nearly two dozen Michigan communities have their own prevailing wage ordinances. They’re supposed to ensure that workers on city-financed projects are paid something close to union wages.

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Business
5:19 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

DTE, Consumers should spend excess surcharges on solar, say solar proponents

Costs for solar panels are dropping rapidly, according to solar energy proponents
Credit Photo by Haris Alibasic / City of Grand Rapids

Michigan's two largest utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, have about $26 million in renewable energy surcharges in the kitty, after both companies overestimated how much their renewable energy projects would cost.

Now, a solar work group convened by the Michigan Public Service Commission recommends, rather than returning it to taxpayers, the companies should invest the money in new solar projects.

Only about 1/4 of 1% of Michigan's energy comes from solar.

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Stateside
5:14 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Grab your surf board and hit...Lake Michigan?

Surfing on Lake Michigan
Credit Ben Gauger / Flickr

Surfing in Michigan?

It turns out good surfing is not found just on the North Shore of O’ahu or along the California cost. Try freshwater -- Lake Michigan.

Ella Skrocki is a surf instructor at Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak.

“Compared to the ocean, it’s not as consistent, but here on the lakes we get a really, really wonderful swell, through the fall is even greater than right now,” Skrocki said.

Skrocki said the inconsistency is actually what makes it special, because on the rare days when the waves start coming in everyone gets excited.

“We have a teeny, tiny community here and everyone gets to connect with each other,” she said.

Skrocki said the best days for a swell is actually when beach goers are in their homes.

“You get these giant storms that bring in on and off shore winds and that creates the waves," she said.

It’s best to wear a wetsuit when surfing on the lakes to protect from the cold water. The surfing season is mainly in the fall, late September through late November.

Skrocki said her best spot to surf really depends on the wind direction, but she prefers Frankfurt, Leland, and Marquette.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Stateside
5:09 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Congressman Conyers says Detroit's water shut off is a human rights issue

Detroit's vigorous effort to collect some $90 million in unpaid water bills has resulted in water being shut off to thousands.

That's drawn angry attention from the United Nations and Congressman John Conyers. He calls this a human rights issue.

Conyers believes that the causes of this crisis include the economic problems with the country, deindustrialization, higher unemployment rates, population decline, and the number of families who cannot afford water.

“We want assurances that households won’t have their water cut off because they cannot afford to pay it, because water is a human right,” Conyers said.

Conyers said that when he advocates to keep water on in every household, he is not including the people who can afford water and simply are not paying the bill. He said 44% of households in Detroit live below the poverty line. These are the ones who need water.

“This is not an appeal for them to get free water. I think everyone that gets water should get a bill and should be held accountable for it,” Conyers said.

Conyers said the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is thinking of increasing shutoffs to 3,000 a week to help recoup financial losses.

He added that increasing shutoffs as a way to reducing the debt is counter-productive. If a disease breakout occurs because of lack of water, the city will end up with a health bill that will exceed the amount of money that is owed.

He wrote a letter to the president, asking for help from the Hardest Hit Fund.

The fund was set up in 2010 to provide targeted aid to states that were hit the hardest by the recession.

Conyers noted that Michigan has drawn down 41% of its total "Hardest Hit" allocation of more than $498 million.

Conyers said he would like to see the money used to on repairs and upkeep of the water pipes.

Conyers said he received an indirect response from the administration saying the Governor, the state treasury department, and others need to present a united proposal for the funds.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Stateside
5:07 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Sci-Fi and fantasy convention, "DetCon1," is coming to Detroit

Author Jim C Hines will be at the 2014 North American Science Fiction Convention from July 17th to the 20th. He is one of the Masters of Ceremonies.
Credit jimchines.com

This week the science fiction spotlight will shine on Detroit.

The Motor City will host the 2014 North American Science Fiction Convention from July 17 to July 20.

Jim Hines is a fantasy novelist from Michigan who is also serving as one of the three Masters of Ceremonies for the big convention that’s known as "DetCon1."

“You’ve got a convention center full of authors and fans, and basically just a hotel packed full of geeks,” Hines said when describing DetCon1.

Hines said this is different from ComicCon, who focuses more on the media and anime, where DetCon1 focuses on the literary, novels, stories and authors.

Hines won a Hugo Award in 2012. He said what he loves about science fiction and fantasy the most is the possibility.

“Whether it’s reading or creating the story, those moments when you just have to ask, ‘well what if this?’ And run with an idea that creates that sense of wonder. There’s nothing like it,” Hines said.

Hines is currently working on a series based in Michigan about a librarian from the Upper Peninsula who can pull anything from books that can fit through the pages.

The 2014 North American Science Fiction Convention will be at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. You can get details at their website here.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Stateside
4:50 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Lawmakers are back in session for one day, taking up medical marijuana changes

Credit www.misenategop.com

Michigan's Senators are taking a break from their summer break.

They'll be back in Lansing tomorrow.

The day will bring meetings of several committees and the full Senate might take a vote on a pair of bills dealing with medical marijuana and how to get it.

Jake Neher is the Lansing reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

He said the first bill will allow local communities to say whether or not they want medical marijuana dispensaries and how to regulate them.

The second bill will change the state's medical marijuana act to allow patients to use edible and other non-smokeable forms of medical marijuana.

Neher said that the Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville originally was not interest in expanding the medical marijuana act, but after months of speaking with communities, he changed his mind.

The bills will be voted on in committee, but not in the full Senate.

Neher said there won’t be any movement towards fixing roads. They will look at trying to set up an early warning system for deficit school districts. Another bill being looked at tomorrow would ease driver responsibility fees.

*Listen to full show above. 

Stateside
4:50 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

A large natural gas pipeline might be coming to Michigan

Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

"Here we go again."

That's what some in Michigan are undoubtedly thinking as they learn of a proposed natural gas pipeline that could run through Michigan on its way to Ontario, Canada.

The proposed Rover Pipeline would carry natural gas through about 180 miles of Michigan. Some of it would track the very same route as the controversial Enbridge 6B oil pipeline that was recently replaced.

Keith Metheny is a reporter with the Detroit Free Press.

Metheny said the pipes will take natural gas from areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio and ship it westward into Michigan, through the southeast corner, spanning through six counties, and ending up in a hub in Ontario for distribution. The pipeline might follow a portion of the 6B route, around Oakland, Macomb, and St. Clair counties and possibly others.

“It’s going to be the very same people, the very same route, the people who saw their backyards torn up for a year, the people who occasionally had their roads inaccessible,” Metheny said.

Metheny said this pipeline would be large, 42 inches in diameter that will transfer more than 3 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

“In the highest gas demand day ever for Consumers Energy, which was in January 2013, they pushed out less natural gas across the entire state of Michigan than the amount that would pass through this pipeline every day,” Metheny said.

He added that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will determine if the pipes go down, but a decision may not be made until 2015.

Energy Transfer will hold a series of public meetings along the path of the proposed Rover Pipeline.

There will be a meeting this evening in Chelsea at 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the Comfort Inn Village Conference Center on Commerce Park Drive in Chelsea. And there's a meeting tonight in Richmond at the Lois Wagner Memorial Library, again, from 5:30 pm-7:30 pm.

*Listen to full story above. 

Business
4:50 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally appointed to Google Board of Directors

From left, Mark Fields, Alan Mulally, and Bill Ford
Credit Ford Motor Company

Alan Mulally has at least one part-time job now, after leaving Ford Motor Company in late June.

Mulally was the Dearborn automaker's CEO from September, 2006 until June 30, 2014.

Mulally was appointed to serve on Google's Board of Directors on July 9. 

The announcement was made on July 15.

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Stateside
4:45 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Michigan is begging for skilled workers

Credit kandyjaxx/creative commons

If we don’t find new ways to teach the right skills and train more workers, Michigan is going to be badly hurt.

That’s what Bridge Magazine writer Ted Roelofs heard from top business owners as he explored the skilled labor shortage in Michigan.

His piece in Bridge is called “Help Wanted: Yes, there really are 70,000 good jobs open.”

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Climate Change and Farming
4:16 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Farming moving northward due to climate change

Farming is moving northward in Michigan due to climate change
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Michigan and other northern states planted a record amount of corn, wheat, and soybeans this year, and the primary reason is climate change.

"We are clearly seeing more growing degree days and a longer growing season in the state of Michigan," says Jim Byrum, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, "which means some of those crops can be produced further north."

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The Environment Report
2:02 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Researchers predict smaller algae problem in Lake Erie this year

Algae blooms are predicted to be smaller in Lake Erie in 2014. Last year's bloom was large due to a relatively wet spring followed by a wet July.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

 

Listen to today's Environment Report: fracking rules and algae forecast

The forecast is in: the green goo will be back on Lake Erie this year, but it won’t be as bad as last year.

The big, ugly algal blooms happen when excess nutrients — mostly phosphorus — run off into the lake from farms and sewage treatment plants. Some of these kinds of algae produce toxins can harm pets and make the water unsafe to drink.

Rick Stumpf is an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He says they’re predicting this year’s bloom in Lake Erie will be significant, but not as bad as it has been in recent years. The blooms reached a record level in 2011.

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Stateside
11:50 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Can Europe provide the US with a model for how to operate prisons?

Prison cell block
Credit Wikimedia Commons

All across Michigan, serious questions are being raised about the way our state deals with criminals.

The annual price tag for corrections in Michigan is around $2 billion a year. That’s more than is given for higher education. Michigan also keeps prisoners behind bars longer than the national average.

Is that money giving us a safer state? Are there other approaches?

Christopher Moraff, a writer for Next City, wrote an article titled: "Can Europe offer the U.S. a Model for Prison Reform?"

In his piece, Moraff looked mostly at prisons in Germany and the Netherlands.

In contrast to Europe’s rehabilitation mission, U.S. prisons focus much more on punishing convicted criminals through concepts such as minimum sentences and exclusion from communities.

“In neither of those countries, in Germany or the Netherlands, is the sole purpose of incarceration to protect society that’s written in law,” Moraff said.

Moraff said there is an effort to create a normalized set of circumstances to mimic community life as much as possible to re-socialize offenders for when they are released.

Many European prisoners go home on the weekends to visit their families, have the right to vote, wear their own clothes and make their own meals. Prisoners live in cells that resemble a college dorm. They are allowed to decorate their rooms, and guards knock before entering to instill a sense of privacy and humanity.

“If we make the goal re-socialization, dehumanization is not the right way to go about that,” Moraff said.

Moraff said that the guards who work at the correctional facilities have backgrounds in law, mental health, and counseling. They are trained to help provide a therapeutic environment for the people they oversee. They do not simply do head counts and prevent fights.

“There is a level of professionalism and a level of training that goes with this that is unlike anything we have in America,” Moraff said.

Moraff said there have been some efforts made in Pennsylvania and Colorado to retrain their staff in these methods.

*Listen to full story above

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Opinion
10:10 am
Tue July 15, 2014

This ballot proposal is critical to Michigan's economy, but most people won't bother to vote on it

Michigan’s statewide primary is three weeks from today, and the one thing certain is that most people, even most registered voters, won’t even bother to vote.

They never do in primary elections.

Turnout seems likely to be especially dismal this year. While there are a few hot congressional and legislative races, there are no primary contests for governor or U.S. senator in either party.

That means, based on past practice, that at least 3/4 of the voters won’t show up. That’s not only disgraceful -- it also could be dangerous to our state’s economy.

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The Environment Report
8:46 am
Tue July 15, 2014

DEQ holding public hearings on fracking rules tonight and Wednesday

Credit World Resources Institute

State officials want to hear what you think about fracking.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality wants to update the state’s rules on hydraulic fracturing. The DEQ is holding two public hearings this week on the proposed changes.

Hal Fitch is the chief of the DEQ’s Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals.

“Starting about 2008, we started hearing increased public concerns. So we met with the environmental community, we met with the public in over 200 different forums and heard those concerns and formulated these rules based on what we were hearing,” he says.

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Law
8:34 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

The battle continues over bringing undocumented children to Michigan

Dozens of protesters staged a protest outside the Wolverine facility on Monday.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The courts may be the next step for groups fighting plans to bring dozens of undocumented children to a facility in Michigan.

Tens of thousands of undocumented children have flooded across the southern U.S. border since the beginning of the year.  Wolverine Human Services is negotiating a contract to bring up to 120 boys between 12 and 17 years of age to its facility in Vassar, Michigan.  

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Law
7:45 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Some Flint residents want state troopers to leave town

About 40 Michigan State Police troopers assist the Flint police department on a daily basis. They perform mainly patrol and investigation functions.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Frustration of about the presence of Michigan State Police troopers patrolling Flint hit the street today.

Flint city councilman Wantwaz Davis organized a rally that brought out more than 100 people to Flint city hall.  Davis says state troopers are driving on city streets “like renegades and cowboys.”

Read more
Education
5:55 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

State superintendent invites charter authorizers, advocates to meet privately this month

Credit MichigansChildren / YouTube

Michigan’s schools superintendent wants to meet with charter school authorizers and advocacy groups this month as he figures out a way to hold them more accountable.

The vast majority of Michigan’s charter schools are set up by Central Michigan University, Grand Valley State University and Bay Mills Community College.

Earlier this month State Superintendent Mike Flanagan warned these and other entities, known as charter school authorizers, that he was not going to allow them to open new schools if their existing schools “do not measure up.”

Flanagan is concerned some charter authorizers aren’t being held accountable for the schools they run, academically or financially.

A state Department of Education spokesman said charter authorizers and other interested parties were invited to meet privately with Flanagan later this month to discuss his concerns.

Authorizers have come under scrutiny in the wake of a big investigative report the Detroit Free Press published earlier this month.

The report found some charter schools run by for-profit management companies aren’t transparent about how they spend taxpayer money.

Flanagan said the report and a meeting he had with charter advocates earlier this year have prompted him to make charter authorizers more accountable for the schools they set up.

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