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Environment
2:48 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Giving policymakers a bird's eye view

LightHawk volunteer Bob Keller donates his Cessna and flight time for environmental causes.
Photo by David Sommerstein

Environmental issues can be tough to convey to the public – and to policymakers – because they’re landscape-scale. Flying high above, say, a forest, a factory, or a wetlands complex can give better perspective. But few environmental groups can afford to pay for private flights. For 30 years, the not-for-profit group LightHawk has been bringing together volunteer pilots and environmental causes. David Sommerstein took to the skies and sent us this report:

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Politics
2:07 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Polls say voters optimistic about economy, negative about some politicians

The Lansing-based polling firm, EPIC-MRA, released a couple of polls today. 600 "likely Michigan voters" responded for each one (margin of error is +/- 4%)

One poll indicates that more voters are optimistic about the economy. From the Associated Press:

40%...  say the state economy has bottomed out and is starting to improve, while a third say it has
bottomed out but isn't getting any better...

In May 2010, when Michigan's jobless rate was 2.5 percentage points higher than now, only 35% said the economy was starting to improve.

The other polls show Senator Debbie Stabenow's (D-MI) and Governor Rick Snyder's (R-MI) negative job ratings.

57% gave Governor Snyder a negative job rating.

51% gave Senator Stabenow a negative job rating.

From the Associated Press:

The poll released Tuesday says 38 percent gave the Democrat a positive job rating and 11 percent were undecided...

Stabenow's favorability rating was at 47 percent. Her unfavorable rating was 35 percent and 17 percent were undecided.

Senator Stabenow faces re-election in 2012. So far, the candidates who have lined up for the Republican nomination to challenge her are:

  • John McCulloch - Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner
  • Randy Hekman - Former West Michigan judge Randy Hekman
  • Peter Konetchy - northern Michigan businessman
  • Chad Dewey - a businessman who is a "self-described constitutional conservative."

Former Former Republican Congressman and gubernatorial candidate, Pete Hoekstra, is reconsidering his decision not to run against Senator Stabenow.

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Economy
1:28 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Unemployment rate makes Michigan retailers nervous

User: Justin.Beck Flickr

The continued high unemployment rate is making Michigan retailers nervous about sales this summer. Rising commodity prices for things like cotton and petroleum products are costing retailers more. Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retailers Association. He says some retailers are slashing prices for their shoppers, but generally retailers are optimistic despite the uncertainties.

Our unemployment rate seems to be stuck. We’re not seeing much improvement there, so that’s certainly a big concern. One thing that is helping is the recent drop in gas prices.

Scott recognizes gas prices could spike at any time.  He says if shopping continues to move in a positive momentum, retailers should be fine.

-Traci Currie - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
1:25 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

AP: Smoke from Canadian fires seen across parts of UP

Smoke from Canadian fires is covering parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
mainfr4me Flickr

Police say a layer of smoke covering parts of Michigan's central and western Upper Peninsula is from forest fires burning in Ontario, Canada.

Michigan State Police say Tuesday that people in the area have been calling in reports to public safety officials with concerns about the smoke.

Planes flying for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have been checking for smoke, and pilots report it's blowing across Lake Superior.

Police say there are no reports of fires in the Upper Peninsula.

Economy
12:47 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

AP analysis: Economic stress rises in Midwest

WASHINGTON (AP) - Counties in the Midwest and South that have a high number of autoworkers have seen a jump in economic stress levels, according to an Associated Press monthly analysis.

But Midwestern states also have seen the largest decreases in economic stress since the recession ended. That's primarily because of growth in manufacturing. Ohio has added 7,600 factory jobs in the past year.

The AP's Stress index calculates a score from 1 to 100 based on unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates. A higher score signifies more economic stress.

Under a rough rule of thumb, a county is considered stressed when its score exceeds 11. By that standard, about a quarter of the nation's 3,141 counties were stressed in May, roughly the same as in April.

Weather
11:05 am
Tue July 19, 2011

What do all the heat warnings, advisories, and watches mean?

The calculation of the heat index triggers all the warnings, watches and advisories. It's a measure of air temperature and relative humidity.
NOAA

Media outlets around the state want you to know... IT'S HOT!!

They have several different ways of telling you it's hot.

There are heat advisories, warnings and watches, heat indices, and ozone action days.

But what do all these terms really mean?

Here's a breakdown of the terms you might be reading or hearing about.

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Commentary
10:58 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Ohio bill poses threat to Lake Erie

We’ve had more than enough to worry about in Michigan this year -- and more than enough game-changing legislation to follow.

But perhaps as a result, most of us missed something that happened in Ohio that could have had a tremendous negative impact on us, and on everyone in the Great Lakes states.

And the threat isn’t over yet. Earlier this month the Ohio Assembly, which is their legislature, passed a bill that would have allowed businesses to withdraw as much as five million gallons of water a day from Lake Erie -- without even getting a state permit.

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Economy
10:53 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Borders closes: 10,700 workers to lose jobs

Borders will begin to close some of its stores as early as this week.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

After 40 years in the business, the national bookstore chain Borders has officially called it quits.

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News Roundup
7:59 am
Tue July 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, July 19th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Borders to Close

Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc. announced yesterday that it plans to close down after it failed to receive any bids that would keep it in business. It’s being reported that the 40-year old company could start liquidating its remaining 399 nationwide stores as early as Friday. Borders employs 10,700 people, 400 of which are located in Ann Arbor.

Snyder Talks Immigration

Governor Snyder and other leaders talked about immigration and Michigan’s economic future at a conference yesterday in Detroit . Sarah Cwiek reports:

Organizers say they want to change the conversation about immigrants and the economy. They maintain immigration is a key driver of economic growth… Governor Snyder says the state needs to do more to attract immigrants, and get them to stay once they’re here. Snyder says Michigan needs to get over what he calls its “shrinking pie” mindset about immigrants, the economy and jobs… Snyder gave a broad outline of what he’s calling the state’s “Global Michigan Initiative” to do just that.

Hoekstra Changes His Mind?

Former West Michigan Congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t run against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow for her Senate seat in 2012… but, reports say Hoekstra may be reconsidering a bid. “The spokesman for Hoekstra’s previous campaigns says the former congressman is not rushed to make a decision on whether he will run for the Republican nomination to face Senator Stabenow. But he says Hoekstra was persuaded by political insiders and influential Republicans not to give up on the idea. The spokesman says Hoekstra most likely will not decide until late in the summer,” Laura Weber reports.

Economy
7:03 am
Tue July 19, 2011

News roundup: Borders to go out of business

The closure of Borders is making headlines across the country this morning
Lornais Flickr

Borders Group Inc., the Ann Arbor-based bookstore chain, announced yesterday that it is closing after failing to find a buyer. Some stores will close as early as Friday. The liquidation of Borders is making headlines across the state and around the country:

Meanwhile, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's office says the closing of Borders is more a reflection of publishing industry problems than a statement about Michigan's business climate, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

His office says the fall of Borders marks the end of an important piece of Michigan history. Snyder is a former Ann Arbor businessman who was elected as a Republican in November.

Spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher says the Snyder administration will "want to look closely from the jobs perspective of people in the state."

Education
6:44 am
Tue July 19, 2011

Snyder to sign teacher tenure bill

Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) is set to sign new teacher tenure rules into law this afternoon
Woodley Wonder Works Flickr

Governor Snyder is set to sign new teacher tenure rules into law today. Changing the state’s tenure laws has been a priority of Governor Snyder and the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. The Associated Press reports:

Gov. Rick Snyder is preparing to sign into law changes to the state's teacher tenure system that supporters say will make it easier to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.

Supporters say the legislation… makes teacher performance rather than seniority the key factor in awarding tenure and deciding layoffs within a district.

Democrats say the proposals are part of a continued legislative attack on teachers and union rights and won't improve the state's schools.

Teachers already are reeling from state budget cuts to education that could force layoffs in many districts headed into the next academic year.

GOP lawmakers also are working on legislation that would require many teachers and other public employees to pay a larger share of their own health insurance costs.

Environment
11:15 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Man arrested, police shut down public hearing in Saugatuck

Police arrest 70-year-old Garrit Sturrus after he tries to hold open the doors to the meeting so the crowd in the hall could hear. Police asked him to leave but he refused.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The township is seeking public input on a proposed legal settlement with a billionaire looking to develop property along the Lake Michigan shore.

The public hearing will have to be rescheduled since police shut it down before anyone got a chance to speak. More than 400 people tried to fit into a space that holds half that.

“This was not a good venue to do this,” Saugatuck-Douglas Police Chief Ken Giles said.

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Politics
5:24 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Snyder, other leaders want a more immigrant-friendly Michigan

Staff Michigan Municipal League

Governor Snyder and other leaders talked immigration and Michigan’s economic future at a conference in Detroit.

Organizers say they want to change the conversation about immigrants and the economy. They maintain immigration is a key driver of economic growth.

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Politics
4:53 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

ACLU sues Genesee County Parks

Steven Depolo Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Genesee County Parks over petitioning restrictions. A woman was kicked out of Linden County Park last month while gathering signatures for the Committee to Recall Governor Snyder. When she asked why, the parks said their new policy does not allow petitioning in the park without a permit. Petitioners with permits were given an isolated 9-square-foot spot in the 135-acre park.

Michael Steinberg is with the ACLU in Michigan. He says barring petitioning except for a tiny spot in a park is especially shocking under the First Amendment.

"This problem of restricting petitioners is not isolated to Genesee County. We’ve been getting calls from people all across the state," Steinberg said.

Steinberg says he hopes the lawsuit will be an example for all Michigan officials.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Economy
4:35 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Borders Books is going out of business

The liquidation process for Borders stores could start as early as Friday, July 22.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Borders Books is officially going out of business.

The Ann Arbor bookstore chain issued a statement this afternoon saying the company Hilco and Gordon Brothers will "purchase the store assets and start the liquidation process." 

Borders Group President Mike Edwards:

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Politics
4:27 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

New agreement gives Michigan a fresh start to fix foster care

A federal judge in Detroit gave a go-ahead to a new agreement regarding the state foster care system.
User Sagitariuss Flickr

Children’s advocates and a federal judge have given Michigan another shot at fixing its foster care system. The plan was given the go-ahead today by a federal judge in Detroit.

The new agreement gives the state more time to hire and train caseworkers and  to get more children in foster care placed with permanent families.

The state also promised to pay more attention to older children in the system – especially those about to “age out” as they reach adulthood.

The state was out of compliance with an earlier agreement and this new decree represents a fresh start in an effort to resolve the five-year-old lawsuit. 

The consent agreement with the New York-based organization Children’s Rights was signed by Governor Rick Snyder and Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan – putting their credibility with the court on the line if the state fails to comply.

The first real test will come at the end of the year, when a court-appointed monitor files a report on the state’s progress in fixing its system for children in foster care.

Election 2012
4:20 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Hoekstra reconsidering U.S. Senate bid

Former GOP Congressman Pete Hoekstra
Republican Conference Flickr

Former Congressman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra said last April he would not try to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. But Hoekstra is reconsidering a bid for the Senate.

The spokesman for Hoekstra’s previous campaigns says the former congressman is not rushed to make a decision on whether he will run for the Republican nomination to face Senator Stabenow.

But he says Hoekstra was persuaded by political insiders and influential Republicans not to give up on the idea.

The spokesman says Hoekstra most likely will not decide until late in the summer.

Hoekstra could face anti-gay activist Gary Glenn, former juvenile judge Randy Hekman, and John McCulloch, the Oakland County water resources commissioner in a Republican primary.

Auto/Economy
2:47 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

GM to invest $328 Million in Flint Assembly Plant

media.gm.com staff

General Motors will invest $328 million in its Flint Assembly Plant, to prepare the facility to build the next generation of Chevy and GMC full-size pickup trucks.

The plant just added a third shift earlier this year.

Joe Ashton is the UAW's GM Vice President.

He says the profitable trucks made at the Flint Assembly Plant are an important source of revenue for GM.

The UAW heads into contract negotiations next week with Ford, Chrysler and GM. 

Ashton says workers want a lot of different things from their new contract. 

Your Story
12:55 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Your Story: Highlighting the Midwest so people will stay

Andy Case, founder of the blog "Midwestern Gentlemen."
submitted by Andy Case

Andy Case thinks the Midwest has an image problem. Even worse, he says, is that Midwesterners buy into the characterization of the Midwest as “flyover country,” or not as interesting as the East or West coasts.

Case, a native of Plymouth, Mich., says this mentality causes people to leave the region in search of economic opportunity. He decided to do something to try to change that way of thinking -- and that led to his blog, Midwestern Gentleman.

“I didn’t see anything that said ‘I’m proud to be from the Midwest and here’s why,’ And, I think my blog is highlighting things that make the Midwest great, and why it’s great,” said Case.

“Hopefully, (people) identify with that and choose to stay in the region, and follow their professional careers here instead of somewhere else.”

Case started  Midwestern Gentleman while a student at Michigan State University. When he graduated, in May of 2009 it took him months to find a job .He eventually landed one in advertising and works in Detroit.

Despite the long search, Case was a little frustrated with those in his graduating class who left the state.

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Weather
12:40 pm
Mon July 18, 2011

Heat wave may cause power outages

Marlana Shipley Flickr

The extremely hot weather has caused some electrical outages in metro Detroit. High temperatures and storms last month contributed to power outages across the state. The National Weather Service expects southern Michigan’s heat wave to continue through the weekend.

Scott Simon is with Detroit Edison. He says the electric grid is in good shape and should be able to handle the increased need for power.

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