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News Roundup
8:51 am
Mon October 10, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, October 10th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Chrysler/UAW Talks Continue

Talks continue between negotiators for the UAW and Chrysler but no deal on a new contract has been announced. From the Associated Press:

Union leaders from all of Chrysler's factories are headed to the Detroit suburb of Warren for a meeting on the talks. Normally they don't meet until an agreement is ready. Both sides talked into the night Sunday. The union says in Internet postings that bargaining resumed around 4:30 a.m. Work has continued at Chrysler under a contract extension that expires Oct. 19. Chrysler's 23,000 workers cannot strike over wages under terms of the company's government bailout. Disagreements can be taken to binding arbitration.

Michigan Radio reporters are in Detroit monitoring the situation.

Bridge Vote

The state Senate is scheduled to vote on bills having to do with a new bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor this week. A state Senate committee will hold hearings tomorrow and Wednesday and vote on the legislation after  the hearings conclude, the Detroit News reports. Governor Snyder’s administration has been pushing for a new span across the Detroit River since January, when the Governor signaled his support for the new bridge during his first State of the State address.

Challenge to Redistricting Maps

A coalition of African-American and civil rights groups is expected to challenge Michigan’s new congressional and legislative district maps approved earlier this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

State Representative Fred Durhal chairs the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. He says the new maps violate voting rights laws. He says that’s because they diminish the voting power of urban minority voters – and the evidence of that is how many Democratic incumbents from minority districts will be forced next year to run against each other. Republican leaders say a court challenge to any redistricting plan is normal, and was entirely expected. GOP leaders say the maps reflect population shifts, and that they were very careful to comply with the law.

Politics
8:31 am
Mon October 10, 2011

Michigan Senate scheduled to vote on new bridge bills this week

The state Senate is planning a vote on Wednesday on a new bridge from Detroit to Windsor, the Detroit News reports. From the News:

The Senate Economic Development Committee, which is considering legislation to create a public authority to take bids on the bridge, will hold hearings Tuesday and Wednesday and vote on the two bridge bills at the end of Wednesday's session, according to a schedule released Friday.

Governor Snyder’s administration has been pushing for a new span across the Detroit River since January, when the Governor signaled his support for the new bridge during his first State of the State address.

But, as the Detroit News notes, it’s unclear whether the Legislature will pass the bills, “in fact, it wasn't clear Friday if there were enough votes to get the bills out of committee, which has five Republicans and two Democrats… Republicans have generally opposed the public bridge, while Democrats have supported it.”

The News explains:

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun is opposed to the project, which he sees as unfair government encroachment on his private business. He has spent millions on TV ads and lobbying against the public bridge.  The Michigan Chamber of Commerce recently joined most other business and labor groups in supporting the project.

Snyder has said the bridge will be publicly owned, but privately financed, built and managed. The legislation says the bridge is to be built at no cost and no risk to taxpayers. Opponents say they are skeptical of that promise.

Canada has offered to front $550 million to pay Michigan's share of the project costs and would recover the money from bridge tolls. The bridge is estimated to cost just less than $1 billion. The total project — including plazas and connecting roadways on both sides of the river — is estimated to cost about $3.6 billion.

Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry has been writing extensively over the years about the bridge controversy:

What's Working
6:41 am
Mon October 10, 2011

Creating opportunities for girls to attend college

Every Monday in our What’s Working series, we talk to people and organizations across the state that are changing lives for the better. This week, we speak with Sue Schooner.

Schooner never liked kids, but she started volunteering with a girls group in Ann Arbor a few years back, and the young women found a way into her life... and they never left. 

So, Schooner quit her job as an auto executive, and is now the executive director for “Girls Group,” a program that mentors and supports high school girls, giving them the opportunities they need to attend college.

“I think part of why the program is so successful is that we provide wraparound programming. So we have discussion groups every single Friday about parent communication, anger management, we have a very intensive college prep program which is basically available seven days a week,” Schooner says.

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Arts/Culture
6:30 am
Mon October 10, 2011

A visit to today's Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor (with slideshow)

Mercedes Mejia

The City of Benton Harbor says the beach season at Jean Klock Park was a success this year.

But some residents are upset that 22 acres of park land is now used by Harbor Shores Golf Course (see slideshow above to get a sense of how it looks).

The City of Benton Harbor says the golf course has created jobs and provides revenue for the city, but some people argue it’s not enough.

Julie Wiess is with Protect Jean Klock Park.

 “It’s gone through with very little scrutiny actually, of the numbers that have been presented as far as job creation, as far as the amount of development or revenue that will be generated from this development and it’s all pie in the sky and no one has really taken a sharp pencil and figured whether this is realistic," said Wiess.

Tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., a group of Benton Harbor residents will argue in federal appeals court that the golf course developers should not have been given permits they received to build on park land.

Harbor Shores Development is already operating the championship golf course; the opponents say the environmental permits allowing the development were not fair.

Politics
6:28 am
Mon October 10, 2011

Black lawmakers in Michigan to ask federal court to throw out new district maps

A coalition of African-American and civil rights groups is expected to challenge Michigan’s new congressional and legislative district maps approved earlier this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The leader of a group of African-American lawmakers say he expects the lawsuit to be filed in federal court by the end of the month.

State Representative Fred Durhal chairs the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. He says the new maps violate voting rights laws. He says that’s because they diminish the voting power of urban minority voters – and the evidence of that is how many Democratic incumbents from minority districts will be forced next year to run against each other.

“We want to see new lines drawn that are more fair than the lines that we have and that recognize and allow  all African-American and minority citizens in this state to be able to participate in the franchise.”

Republican leaders say a court challenge to any redistricting plan is normal, and was entirely expected. GOP leaders say the maps reflect population shifts, and that they were very careful to comply with the law.

A lawsuit is the only way to challenge the new political map. A technicality in the law makes it immune to a voter referendum.

Science/Medicine
5:00 am
Mon October 10, 2011

Creative problem solving: Henry Ford Health System looks to students for innovation

henryford.com

The next great medical invention might not come from a scientist or a doctor, but from a design student.

The Henry Ford Health System Innovation Institute is working with students from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies and with Wayne State University engineering students.

Dr. Scott Dulchavsky, Henry Ford’s chairman of surgery, says students often see things in ways people who work in the medical profession don’t.

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courts
5:00 am
Mon October 10, 2011

Federal terrorism trial set to start in Detroit

A high-profile federal terrorism trial starts in Detroit tomorrow. A jury will decide whether a 24-year-old Nigerian man tried to detonate a bomb on a Detroit-bound flight two years ago.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab will not deliver the opening statement. He’s decided to leave that to the stand-by counsel appointed to him by the court.

That same attorney has handled most of the court proceedings so far. Anthony Chambers questioned all but one juror for the defense during jury selection.

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Politics
3:20 pm
Sun October 9, 2011

Kalamazoo voting on relaxed marijuana enforcement

user paigefiller / Flickr

Kalamazoo voters will decide next month whether to write a relaxed attitude toward marijuana use into the City Charter of the western Michigan community. The ballot proposal would direct police to make enforcement of
laws against possession of small amounts of marijuana a low priority. Supporters gathered about 2,600 signatures in order to win a spot for the charter amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot.
    

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has come out against the proposal, as have several Kalamazoo City Commission candidates.
    

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Transportation
2:50 pm
Sun October 9, 2011

16-mile bike lane project connects neighborhoods

A bike lane in the "Big Apple."
user K_Gradinger Flickr

A series of bicycle lanes stretching 16 miles and connecting three neighborhoods in southwest Detroit has been completed. The Greenlink is part of the city's urban master plan for non-motorized transportation and allows bike riders safe access to the three historic neighborhoods.
    

A $500,000 Michigan Department of Transportation grant funded 80 percent of the project. Other grants and fundraisers paid for the other 20 percent.
    

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Technology
1:17 pm
Sun October 9, 2011

Smart phone app helps kids with autism

Sosh focuses on what its creators call "the five R's."
Mark Bowers

Two Michigan psychologists have created a smart phone app to help kids with autism develop better social skills. Kelly Bowers and her husband Mark are both psychologists who work with kids. They watched their patients learn social skills in workshop settings, but noticed the kids had a harder time applying those skills to real-life situations.

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Economy
1:00 am
Sun October 9, 2011

Wayne County set to start second round of tax auction

Detroit1701 flickr

People interested in purchasing tax-foreclosed properties in Wayne County have until Friday to submit deposits.

The second round of this year’s auction starts the following week. The minimum bid for all properties is $500.

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Environment
1:16 pm
Sat October 8, 2011

Leaked oil still sits on river bottom & banks

Last summer an oil sheen could be seen along the Kalamazoo River.
State of MI

The Environmental Protection Agency says most of the oil still remaining from a July 2010 pipeline leak in
West Michigan sits on the floor of the Kalamazoo River and along about 200 riverbank sites.
    

EPA on-scene coordinator Ralph Dollhopf tells the Battle Creek Enquirer that cleanup work has yet to be done on those riverbanks near Marshall, about 60 miles southeast of Grand Rapids.
    

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Politics
12:23 pm
Sat October 8, 2011

Justice will not remove himself from emergency manager challenge

Justice Stephen Markman
(official court portrait)

A state Supreme Court justice is refusing to remove himself from hearing a challenge to the Michigan’s tough new local emergency manager law. Supreme Court Justice Steve Markman says he has no conflict of interest even though his wife worked on a challenge to the law in federal court.

Kathleen Markman is an assistant state attorney general who did what was described as procedural work to defend the law against the federal court challenge. She has since been removed from the case.

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Arts/Culture
10:01 am
Sat October 8, 2011

History of Amtrak rolling into Jackson this weekend

A view of Jackson's train depot
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Jackson will be the place to be this weekend for Amtrak aficionados. 

The national passenger rail service is marking its 40th anniversary this year.  This weekend, Amtrak is bringing a rolling museum of its four decade history to Jackson’s rail road station. 

Christina Leeds is an Amtrak spokeswoman.  She says passionate lovers of all things Amtrak have been flocking to the rolling exhibit’s previous stops around the country. 

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Politics
8:14 pm
Fri October 7, 2011

Dearborn Yemeni community rallies around protester, Nobel winner

A Dearborn soccer field was the site of a traditional Muslim prayer service Friday.

But it was more than that—an effort to show visible solidarity with protesters in Yemen, who have spent nine months in mass demonstrations against the 34-year regime of President President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Like the recent pro-democracy movements in other Arab countries, the protests in Yemen have been fueled by youth frustrations.

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Environment
5:26 pm
Fri October 7, 2011

Research buoy testing winds in the middle of Lake Michigan

The eight-ton research platform was lowered into Muskegon Lake Friday afternoon. It'll head out into Lake Michigan next week.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

An eight ton research buoy is out gathering wind data in Lake Michigan. The $1.3 million buoy launched in Muskegon Friday will collect detailed wind data over the next ten years.

Chris Hart is an Offshore Wind Manager at the U.S. Department of Energy.  He says there’s only three of these high tech bouys in the world. This was the first one launched in the United States. He says the data will be more detailed than anything they have now.

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Environment
3:35 pm
Fri October 7, 2011

Green building conference: standing out from the crowd

The U.S. Green Building Council’s annual conference was held in Toronto this week.  “Greenbuild 2011” was four days of seminars, classes, and discussions about how to construct buildings and homes, using more environmentally friendly methods. 

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Commentary
12:09 pm
Fri October 7, 2011

Shared Sacrifice? Not So Much

When your local state legislator campaigns for reelection next time, or runs for some other office, they may remind you of how they helped save the state by gallantly giving up their retirement health care benefits.

When and if they do, you might want to remember that this is mostly a form of horse exhaust. With a very few exceptions, they didn’t vote to give up their benefits at all.

They voted to deny benefits to other people who haven’t been elected yet, and who could theoretically change the law back.

As for our current band of elected leaders - they are mostly keeping their benefits, thank you very much.

Here’s what’s really going on. Retired Michigan legislators have, in fact, been getting taxpayer-subsidized health care benefits since the nineteen-fifties. By the way, it was a solidly Republican legislature that first voted to do this. Contrary to some propaganda you may have been hearing, the benefits aren’t completely free, and they don‘t kick in till the ex-lawmakers reach age fifty-five.

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Arts/Culture
12:04 pm
Fri October 7, 2011

Fall season ticket sales show promise for Michigan's arts organizations

The Marriage of Figaro is part of the Michigan Opera Theatre's 2011-12 season. This photo is from a 2007 production of the opera.
Photo courtesy of the Michigan Opera Theatre

Michigan’s ballet companies, theatres and opera houses are kicking off their 2011-12 season this fall, and it appears box office sales might be trending up.

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Politics
11:08 am
Fri October 7, 2011

Gov. Snyder challenged to live on food stamps for a week

Gov. Rick Snyder
michiganradio.org

A Michigan lawmaker is challenging Gov. Snyder to experience firsthand how poor people live.

Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Detroit, says the governor should try living on food stamps for one week.

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm did it in 2008, and lived on $5.87 worth of food per day, per person.

Tlaib  hasn't heard from Gov. Snyder, but she thinks he'll respond.

"I actually think Gov. Snyder might take on the challenge," Tlaib says.

Tlaib’s challenge comes after the state put a 48-month lifetime limit on cash assistance benefits.

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