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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.

Lansing
1:01 am
Sun October 16, 2011

Tax deal may lead to expansion at Lansing's Capital Region International Airport

Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Plans to turn Lansing’s airport into an ‘aerotropolis’ may soar or fall to earth this week.   

The Lansing City Council on Monday will discuss a deal to split tax revenues at Capital Region International Airport with a local township.   If the tax deal is approved, it could spur business investment at the mid-Michigan airport. 

Robert Selig is the executive director the Capital Region Airport Authority.  He says the airport will use the tax deal as part of its application for state tax credits to create an ‘aerotropolis’.   

“We’re trying to put together a marketing package that we can go nationally with to recruit businesses…that are in logistics, air cargo, distribution…and encourage them to locate in mid-Michigan and expand their businesses here," says Selig.   

Selig says the airport only has a few weeks to get its application submitted for those state tax credits.

Arts/Culture
4:01 pm
Sat October 15, 2011

Michigan's fall foliage season reaches its peak

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Michigan’s fall foliage tourism business has been enjoying an unusually good fall season.    Clear skies and warm temperatures have been keeping the leaves on the trees longer and tourists coming.   

David Lorenz is with Travel Michigan.   He says the state’s travel website has seen an uptick in people visiting in recent weeks.  

"That’s probably also a sign that people are recognizing ….they were hearing good news about fall colors this year  and they wanted to get out and enjoy it," says Lorenz.  

Politics
3:18 pm
Sat October 15, 2011

Debate begins over potential Michigan budget cash

It turns out Michigan's state government might have brought in more money from taxes and fees than previously expected in the fiscal year that ended September 30th. That likely will set up a battle this fall over what to do with
the cash, which could total $285 million or more.

Democrats, outnumbered in the Michigan Legislature, say any extra money should be committed first to public schools and education programs that are dealing with budget cuts in the fiscal year that started this month.

Republicans, including those in Governor Rick Snyder's administration, are hesitant to commit to any spending before they have a clearer picture of state revenues.

Snyder's budget office is expected to close the books on the recently completed 2010-11 fiscal year in December.

Politics
5:57 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

"Occupy" movement comes to Detroit

Protestors in New York City have occupied Zuccotti Park for 28 days.
david_shankbone flickr

Hundreds of people of all ages turned out in downtown Detroit for an event they’re billing “Occupy Detroit.” It’s part of a movement that started on Wall Street and has spread across the country.

"It’s to wake up," said Dobey Gavin of Detroit. "With the trickle-down economics, it just don’t work no more in America."

Richard Black is an Army veteran from Warren. He says he’s never come out to protest, but he’s fed up. Especially with politicians.

"I don’t believe that they work for the people any longer, I think they work for whoever pays them," he said. "And it’s got to stop. It’s got to stop."

Protestors plan to meet at 7 p.m. to talk about goals for the movement in Detroit.

Some of the protestors plan to pitch tents and take up residence in Grand Circus Park, near the stadiums and theater district.

Politics
5:51 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Ficano: 2 suspended over controversial payout

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Two Wayne County appointees have been suspended over the $200,000 payout to a former economic development chief.

County Executive Bob Ficano says proper protocols were not followed when Turkia Mullin was awarded the “severance” payment when she voluntarily left her county job.

"I’m holding those who made errors in judgment accountable for their actions," Ficano said. "Mistakes have consequences."

Deputy Executive Azzam Elder and the county’s head lawyer, Marianne Talon, have been suspended without pay for 30 days. Tim Taylor, the county's former human resources director, was also sanctioned. Taylor is retired, but had a part-time contract with the county. That contract has been terminated.

Ficano says the county should never have paid a severance to an appointee who left voluntarily. That’s despite the fact that he initially defended the payment.

County officials say Turkia Mullin will return the money.

Politics
4:02 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Governor visits U of M, touts pro-immigration stance

Governor Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he considers himself "probably the most aggressive pro-immigration governor in the country." Snyder says Michigan should work to attract immigrants with advanced degrees, especially in biomedical sciences and high-tech industries.

He reminded students, researchers and educators at University of Michigan today that some of the state’s most successful businesses – such as Meijer and Dow – were founded by immigrants.

“We tend to forget they’re Michigan names. Dow was a Canadian emigrant and Meijers was a Dutch emigrant. And now they’re household words that we consider them Michiganders,” said Snyder.

State Demographer Ken Darga says one of the big reasons Michigan was the only state to lose population in the past decade is because of a failure to attract immigrants.

Meanwhile, there are several Republican proposals in the Legislature aimed at enacting regulations to discourage illegal immigration.

Snyder also stated that too many college graduates in Michigan are leaving the state to pursue careers. He says part of that is because there are not enough jobs available for young workers. He says revitalizing urban areas will help reverse the so-called “brain drain.”

“It’s absolutely critical for Detroit to begin on the path to be a great city again because many of our young people are looking for that urban environment. And there are good things going on in Detroit. They’re good enough going on today that I like to ask young people – and you might appreciate this – I say ‘Do you want to be another yuppie in Chicago, or do you want to stay and make a difference in Detroit?’” said Snyder.

*Correction - an earlier version of this story was titled "Governor visits U of M, touts anti-immigration stance." He was highlighting his "pro-immigration" stance. The headline has been changed.

Auto/Economy
3:59 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Obama: Free trade agreements will boost US auto industry

President Barack Obama addresses an audience of auto workers at the GM Orion Assembly Plant, as South Korean president Lee Myung-bak (wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap) looks on.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 In southeast Michigan today, President Obama said free trade agreements passed this week by Congress will lead to more jobs and more economic opportunities.   

Obama and South Korean president Lee Myung-bak toured GM’s Orion assembly plant.   Obama says the new South Korea trade agreement should boost U.S. auto sales in Asia. 

Environment
2:06 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Report says farm runoff declining near Great Lakes

DETROIT (AP) - A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says farmers are cutting back significantly on the amount of soil and nutrients eroding from fields to the Great Lakes and neighboring waterways.    

The study estimates that methods such as no-till cultivation have cut in half the volume of sediments entering rivers and streams in the region, while phosphorus and nitrogen runoff are down by more than one-third.

Nutrients from farms and municipal waste treatment plants are believed to be one cause of rampant algae growth in the Great Lakes in recent years.

The study is based on a survey of farmers between 2003 and 2006.

Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation says the report shows progress is being made, but says more must be done to fix the algae problem.

Commentary
12:01 pm
Fri October 14, 2011

Michigan Student Dropout Rates, Schools as Communities

We’ve been spending a lot of time lately trying to figure out how to fix our schools, which don’t seem to be working. Some people think the best solution is to essentially abandon the public schools, and turn things over to various sets of for-profit charter schools.

Others are dubious about that, even though it is clear that the public schools aren‘t working for a lot of kids.

Well, I was someplace earlier this week where they are trying something different, and it may be worth thinking about here. I was in Toledo, Ohio, just a long fly ball from the Michigan border.

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public transportation
11:44 am
Fri October 14, 2011

Amtrak reports record riders and revenue in Michigan

The Wolverine train pulls into the Ann Arbor station. More than 500,000 passengers rode the 'Wolverine' line between Pontiac/Detroit and Chicago, an increase of nearly percent from the same period a year ago. Wolverine is the most popular in Michigan.
smaedli Creative Commons

Amtrak trains in Michigan had a record number of riders and revenue for the fiscal year that ended last month. Michigan Department of Transportation spokeswoman Janet Foran says Amtrak riders have increased steadily since 2008 when gas prices spiked over $4 per gallon.

Nearly 800,000 people rode one of three passenger train lines in the state bringing in close to $28 million in ticket revenue “It goes to show that people like to have transportation choices,” Foran said.

The record numbers come despite major slow-downs over the summer on the most popular line from Detroit to Chicago.

The biggest ridership increase was on the line that runs from Port Huron through East Lansing to Chicago.

Foran says the summer months and the upcoming holiday season are the busiest times for train riders.

Auto/Economy
10:13 am
Fri October 14, 2011

Lansing's credit rating is downgraded

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Lansing's credit rating. The city's rating has gone from Aa2, Moody's third-highest rating, to A1, its fifth highest. City finance director Jerry Ambrose says the downgrade impacts the interest rate Lansing would pay to borrow money.

News Roundup
7:03 am
Fri October 14, 2011

In this morning's news ...

A pair of presidents to tour Lake Orion GM plant

President Obama will be in southeast Michigan today to promote a new  free trade agreement with South Korea. President Obama is scheduled to tour General Motor’s assembly plant in Lake Orion. South Korea’s president will accompany Obama.  Congress this week approved a new free trade agreement with South Korea.  South Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy.

Governor orders review of indigent legal defense system

Governor Snyder has ordered a review of how Michigan ensures that people charged with crimes are properly represented in court – even when they cannot afford to pay an attorney. The state's criminal justice system is often ranked among the worst in the country because it does not guarantee poor people get a proper defense.

Unlimited injury benefits may end

Michigan's House Insurance Committee Thursday approved a bill that would get rid of unlimited medical coverage to drivers in serious car accidents. The state's insurance commissioner says the move could help make auto insurance more affordable for the 20% of Michigan drivers who carry no coverage. Critics say the limits will leave some people unable to pay for catastrophic care. They also claim coverage wouldn't cost much less than it does now. The proposal now moves to the House floor.

Auto/Economy
1:01 am
Fri October 14, 2011

President Obama visits Michigan today

President Barack Obama
White House

President Obama will be in southeast Michigan today to promote a new  free trade agreement with South Korea.  President Obama is scheduled to tour General Motor’s assembly plant in Lake Orion.   South Korea’s president will accompany Obama. 

Congress this week approved a new free trade agreement with South Korea.  South Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy.  

The free trade pact is the largest such deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in the mid-90’s. 

Ford in China
12:19 am
Fri October 14, 2011

Ford and the case of the Chinese official's hat

Want to know the real reason Ford isn’t one of the biggest car companies in China right now? 

Hats. 

That's right. David McKee says it’s because of hats. Here’s the story. 

In 1992, Ford Motor Company sent McKee to China to head a Ford components company. At the time, very few ordinary Chinese owned cars. Cars were a perk for bureaucrats. 

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courts
5:10 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Snyder orders review of indigent defense

Joe Gratz flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has ordered a review of how Michigan ensures that people charged with crimes are properly represented in court – even when they cannot afford to pay an attorney.

The state's criminal justice system is often ranked among the worst in the country because it does not guarantee poor people get a proper defense. It's long been criticized for a patchwork of standards where every county pays for and handles its own indigent defense system. Too often, court-appointed defense attorneys are poorly trained, inexperienced, and too overworked to do a good job of representing their clients, says Shelli Weisberg of the American Civil Liberties Union:

“It depends on what county you live in as to whether you’re going to get good representation if you’re in the criminal justice system, and that’s just not fair.”

Weisberg says that means there are people in jail and prison who should not be and, in some cases, people who committed crimes remain free.

The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the state four years ago. The ACLU wants a judge to declare Michigan is violating the state and federal constitutions by denying defendants adequate legal counsel.

public transportation
4:57 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

Federal grants fund 11 public transportation projects in Michigan

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority got money to buy clean diesel buses with hybrid-electric components to increase bus service on the busy Washtenaw Ave. corridor.
fabi k Creative Commons

Nine public transportation systems in Michigan have won competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grants announced Thursday total nearly $44 million.

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