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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.

News Roundup
9:08 am
Tue October 18, 2011

In this morning's news...

Bridge vote could come soon

A vote could come this week on a proposed second bridge connecting Detroit to Canada. Many Republicans remain skeptical that Michigan taxpayers won't assume  any financial risk despite Canada's promise to pay all the construction costs. However, state Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell Township), says campaigns against the bridge have contributed to misformation about the project. Hildenbrand says the bridge should project should be considered.  The owners of the Ambassador bridge oppose the plan. They stand to lose business if a second bridge is built.

Federal money to help pay for state transportation projects

Almost $47 million in funding for transportation projects is coming  Michigan's Way. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced 16 Michigan projects during a visit to Dearborn Monday. The funding includes $2 million for a study of running light rail to Detroit's northern suburbs, and $6 million to replace Detroit buses.

Need for construction, skilled-trade workers growing

Demand for construction and skilled-trade workers is growing in Michigan, and apprentice programs are gearing up to fill the need. The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget says the  number of construction and related jobs in the state is projected to grow nearly 7 percent by the year 2018.

Politics
1:00 am
Tue October 18, 2011

Controversy over Wayne County severance not going away

The controversy over a lucrative payout to one of Wayne County’s top appointees does not look like it will end anytime soon. Wayne County Commissioners plan to question officials about the $200,000 severance this week.

"I’m not going to assume this is a frequent occurrence, but I am going to say that we’re going to ask all the right questions, and find out every single one that’s ever been done," said Commissioner Gary Woronchak.

Turkia Mullin was awarded the “severance” payment when she voluntarily left her county job to head the county airport authority.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced last week that he suspended two aides and fired a contract employee for the payout. He also apologized to county residents.

Yesterday, about two dozen activists reportedly protested outside the Wayne County offices, demanding a state investigation.

Politics
5:06 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Bridge project could move committees this week

The Ambassador Bridge in Detroit
J. Stephen Conn flickr

State Senate Republican leaders hope to have a floor vote as soon as this week on building a new publicly owned bridge between Detroit and Canada. The proposal has struggled for support as many rank-and-file Republicans remain skeptical the bridge is a good deal for taxpayers despite Canada's promise to pay all the construction costs.

Republican state Senator Dave Hildenbrand supports the bridge, but said the campaigns against the bridge muddied the discussion and made the project harder to approve.

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Arts/Culture
4:44 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Detroit Symphony offers $20 tickets to city residents

Detroit residents can now see any DSO classical or jazz concert this season for $20.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Good news for classical music fans who live in Detroit. Detroit residents can now buy tickets to any Detroit Symphony Orchestra classical or jazz concert this season for $20.

Paul Hogle is executive vice president of the DSO. He says the new Detroit Rush Initiative is one way the orchestra can "connect more deeply" to the city. 

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Politics
4:43 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Snyder: Infant mortality rates reflect overall health in state

Governor Rick Snyder says the state should be more concerned with bringing down infant mortality rates in Michigan. Infant mortality rates have gotten worse in Michigan in the past three years. He says infant mortality rates reflect the overall health of a state.

“We’ve got this up on our dashboard. On the state dashboard, not just the health and wellness dashboard, because this is something we really need to do a better job on that is an important indicator of how well our state is. And more important, we’re talking about real lives,” Snyder said, speaking this morning at an infant mortality awareness summit in Ypsilanti.

Michigan has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation (nearly eight deaths per 1000 live births) and ranks 37th among the states. The national rate is nearly seven deaths per 1000 births.

Snyder has had some pushback recently from lawmakers who do not like the governor’s health proposals – which include body-mass-index reporting and banning smoking on state park beaches.

Snyder said he thinks he will be able to sway skeptical lawmakers:

“Well they’re all in the pipeline, they’ll come along in terms of looking at those types of issues, because health and wellness is a big issue.”

Snyder said he does not think there needs to be anything done legislatively to help drive the rate of infant deaths down in the state, but he said state officials and medical science leaders need to get together to come up with a plan to reduce the rate of infant deaths.

Medicare Fraud
2:53 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Medicare yanks licenses in Detroit and other cities, gives them right back

A review conducted by the Associated press found that regulators working to eliminate Medicare fraud (estimated at between $60-90 billion a year) often suspend Medicare provider licenses only to reinstate them in short order following appeals hearings.

More from the Associated Press:

The review also found government officials don't attend the hearings.

Federal prosecutors say the speedy reinstatements are a missed chance to stop taxpayer dollars from going to bogus companies that in many cases wind up under indictment. Prosecutors say some providers have collected tens of thousands of dollars even after conviction.

Officials revoked the licenses of 3,702 medical equipment companies in fraud hot spots in South Florida, Los Angeles, Baton Rouge, La., Houston, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Detroit between 2006 and 2009. About 37 percent were reinstated.

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Economy
2:47 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Boost in September home sales in Metro Detroit

Metro Detroit saw a boost in the number of home sales and home prices last month.

The Detroit Free Press reports the September increase came from an active summer selling season:

Sales rose 8.2% in September from 4,222 to 4,568 in metro Detroit, according to Farmington Hills-based multiple listing service Realcomp. The data includes sales from Livingston, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Median prices rose 10% from $68,000 last month to $74,900.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported earlier this month about positive home sale numbers around the state, but housing analyst Alex Villacorta with Clear Capitol expected a decline this winter.

Politics
2:13 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Michigan to get $46.7 million for transportation projects

Gov. Rick Snyder says he and Detroit's mayor will head a task force to try and get a southeast Michigan transportation authority off the ground.
State of Michigan

Michigan will get close $46.7 million for 16 transportation projects across the state. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Dearborn today, where he announced the funding.

Governor Rick Snyder says he and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will also head up a task force to try and break through a decades-old effort to create a regional transportation authority for southeast Michigan. Snyder says he wants to see quick action, "because we have a legacy here of planning too long and not acting enough.”

Right now, separate bus systems serve Detroit and the suburbs. Both systems face major budget troubles. DDOT, the system that serves Detroit, has cut routes, and riders have complained about hours-long waits. Meanwhile, the suburban system, SMART, just announced massive service cuts.

"I am hopeful in a short period of time we will have a solution or more than one option in terms of how we're going to deal with that problem," said Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

Part of that solution will come in the form of help from the federal government, which has pledged $6 million for the city to purchase new busses. Bing says he's also hoping for concessions from the union that represents the city's bus drivers.

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Changing Gears
12:49 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Obama, werewolves and silver…er…magic bullets

Curtis Sullivan says silver bullets are for killing werewolves.
Kate Davidson

While we’re on the subject of magic bullets, please indulge this brief sidebar.

Schisms happen.  There was once a tremendous split between the (now) Roman Catholic Church and the (now) Eastern Orthodox Church.  Today there’s also a Great Schism in the bullet world.

Namely, between those who say magic bullet and those who say silver bullet — both parties referring to an economic quick fix.

On one side, you have President Obama, who may be the highest profile proponent of the term silver bullet. While pitching his jobs plan to a recent joint session of Congress he said, “It should not be nor will it be the last plan of action we propose. What’s guided us from the start of this crisis hasn’t been the search for a silver bullet. It’s been a commitment to stay at it, to be persistent, to keep trying every new idea that works.”

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Changing Gears
12:11 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

A very brief history of the Midwest magic bullet (Part 1)

Memorabilia from the now defunct AutoWorld in Flint.

History is full of the search for magic bullets, those quick tickets to jobs and economic prosperity. Cities across our region have put great hopes and resources into magic bullets.

Some have soared; many have backfired.

This week, we’re bringing you stories of magic bullets past and present. We start with this look back.

Magic bullets are kind of like imaginary friends. We all have them in our past, but most people deny they exist.

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Commentary
11:08 am
Mon October 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Where does it go from here?

I drove into downtown Traverse City on Saturday afternoon, and to my surprise, found an Occupy Wall Street demonstration occupying both sides of Front Street, the town’s main drag.

Well, it was actually called an “Occupy Traverse City,” demonstration. The protestors, who numbered perhaps fifty or sixty, seemed more cheerful than angry. The weather was brisk but pleasant; it was a nice day to be outside.

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Economy
10:25 am
Mon October 17, 2011

Consumers Energy natural gas users will spend less this winter

Blue Flame Gas inc.

Consumers Energy says its natural gas customers will be paying less this winter to heat their homes.  

Dan Bishop is a Consumers spokesman.   He says more plentiful supplies are leading to a 3 percent cut in natural gas prices.   

“In recent years there’s been a large amount of new natural gas discoveries in the United States and in Canada.  And that extra increase of supply has really put downward pressure on prices," says Bishop.  

What's Working
7:00 am
Mon October 17, 2011

Job training in the kitchen for at-risk youth

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.

Food Gatherers, a Southeast Michigan food bank, offers a job training program for youth ages 17 to 24.

Some participants are currently managing a mental illness, others have children or are primary caregivers for younger siblings—all are at risk for homelessness.

Christina Shockley, host of Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition, speaks with Mary Schlitt, director of development for Food Gatherers.

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Auto/Economy
6:10 pm
Sun October 16, 2011

Ford's largest local union approves contract

Workers at Ford's largest local union have approved a new labor contract with the company.

Ford and the UAW reached a tentative agreement on the contract earlier this month but it must be ratified by Ford's 41,000 UAW workers.

The union says 62 percent of the more than 5,000 workers at Local 600 in Dearborn favored the agreement.

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