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Politics
6:44 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Lawmaker wants to make business tougher for land speculators

State Sen. Tupac Hunter

Legislation introduced at the state Capitol aims to make it more difficult for land speculators to bid on foreclosure properties at tax auctions.

State Senator Tupac Hunter says the glut of foreclosure properties has created an environment ripe for speculators who buy properties to flip them, with no intention of improving them or paying taxes on them.

His legislation would set some restrictions on who can participate in auctions where tax-foreclosed properties are sold:

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Education
6:39 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

DPS taps charter school leader Doug Ross to head charter office

Doug Ross
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

In a move likely to shock many observers, Detroit Public Schools has named Doug Ross to head its charter school office.

Ross is the CEO of New Urban Learning, which manages what’s widely considered Detroit’s most-successful charter school system. He'll help Detroit Public Schools as it expands the number of charters it authorizes from nine to 14. He’ll also oversee the process for selecting operators to convert more of the district’s traditional schools in 2012.

Ross says it’s time for critics stuck in the charter-versus-traditional school debate to move past it:

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Politics
6:01 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Michigan getting ready for federal health care law

The federal health care law is being phased in. States are getting ready to fulfill their obligations under the law.
Andrian Clark Flickr

The state Senate has opened hearings on how Michigan will handle its responsibilities under the new federal health care law. If Michigan does nothing, the state will be placed in the federal system when the law is fully enacted in 2014.

Republican leaders expressed hope that federal courts will ultimately strike down the health care law. But Senate Insurance Committee Chair Joe Hune says Michigan needs to be ready.

"This is all because of Obamacare, which is a downright travesty that that was passed through at the federal level, but we’re in a position if we do nothing that we’ll have the federal government breathing down our neck to put something in place that we definitely do not like," said Hune. 

Senate committees were told by consumer groups, social services advocates and businesses that Michigan would be better off designing its own system than joining the federal plan or a multi-state consortium.

Legislative hearings on the state’s role in federal health care reforms could last a year.

Rememberance
4:51 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Services for Betty Ford to be held tonight and tomorrow

Betty and Gerald Ford
ABC News

The body of former first lady Betty Ford is being moved to Michigan for a service, according to the Associated Press.

From the AP:

The body of Betty Ford was placed on an Air Force jet for a final trip to Michigan, where the beloved
former first lady is to be laid to rest next to her late husband, President Gerald R. Ford.

Ford's mahogany casket, covered in flowers, was placed aboard the jet often used by Vice President Joe Biden shortly after 10a.m.

Wednesday for the four-hour flight to Grand Rapids, Mich.

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Rememberance
4:22 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Locations and times for Betty Ford condolence books

Former first lady Betty Ford (center) and her daughter, Susan Ford Bales (left) upon the arrival of the casket of former President Gerald R. Ford to Andrews Air Force Base in 2006.
Shealah Craighead White House Photo

People who wish to express their sympathy to the Ford family can sign a condolence book at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids:

Tonight (Wednesday) from 7pm-11pm and tomorrow from 7am-10am.

There is also a condolence book at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, on North Campus in Ann Arbor. The lobby will be open for the following hours, for people who wish to sign the book:

Today (Wednesday) 10am-6pm
Thursday and Friday 10am-6pm each day.

Education
3:52 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Universities work toward effective social media strategies

ahans Flickr

Many colleges and universities are still trying to develop their social media strategy. A study by Noel-Levitz Higher Education Consultants shows one in four potential students drops a school from their prospective list after a bad experience on the university’s website.

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Politics
3:16 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Michigan Senate passes welfare limit, raises wage cap

The Capitol Building in Lansing

Here's some additional material on the welfare limit bill passed by the Michigan Senate today from Rick Pluta.

UPDATE:

The Michigan Senate split along party lines to approve a four-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits.

 The House is expected to concur with the Senate version, and Governor Rick Snyder will almost certainly sign it because the budget relies on more than 60 million dollars in savings from the benefits cap.

It also means 12,600 families will lose benefits come October first.

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Offbeat
3:15 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

A little tickle therapy courtesy of the BBC

Tickle therapy.
Anathea Utley Flickr

With the news of the world's first "Tickle Spa" opening in Madrid last week, the BBC's James Coomarasamy spoke with Carrie Graham, a Laughter and Happiness Coach based in London.

Graham conducts laughter workshops in which participants are "pretend tickled" if they're not familiar with each other, and full-on tickled if they are.

Naturally, Graham had to try out a little tickle therapy on her BBC interviewer.

Have a listen:

Feel better? You can listen to the full interview from the BBC Newshour (click on chapter 10).

Arts/Culture
1:42 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Artpod: Two guys, one remote island, and a piano-hauling bicycle

Rabbit Island lies three miles from Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula
Image courtesy of Rob Gorski

On today's Artpod, we'll hear from a New York physician who bought a remote, uninhabited island in Lake Superior. His plan is to turn it into an artist residency next summer.

The land, known as Rabbit Island, is about a half hour boat ride from the Keweenaw Peninsula.

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UAW weighs in on CAFE
1:36 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Closed meeting at Solidarity House could result in new CAFE rules

The United Auto Workers is hosting an important, unpublicized meeting about CAFE standards today at Solidarity House in Detroit.  

CAFE governs car fuel efficiency in the U.S.

The meeting could help the government decide how fuel efficient cars must be by the year 2025. 

The UAW, Detroit car companies, the federal government, and environmental groups will likely try to reach a compromise on future CAFE requirements, somewhere between a 47 and 62 miles per gallon average.    

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Weather
12:51 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Power restoration nearly done after Monday storms

Around 218,000 customers lost power in Monday's storms.
Christoper Sessums Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Utilities say they're working to complete power restoration after severe thunderstorms hit southern Michigan earlier in the week.

About 9,000 homes and businesses were without power around midday Wednesday. Thunderstorms on Monday blacked out about 218,000 customers.

CMS Energy Corp. says about 5,700 of its 136,000 customers affected Monday still were blacked out late Wednesday morning. DTE Energy Co. says that about 3,000 of its 82,000 affected customers remained blacked out around midday Wednesday.

The storms were linked to two deaths in Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports high winds also blew bricks from the David Whitney Building in Detroit onto part of Grand Circus Park, damaging a People Mover station. Service by the elevated train system was limited Monday and Tuesday, and was being shut down Wednesday for repairs.

Economy
12:36 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Russian steelmaker gets US loan for Michigan plant

Making steel at the Severstal North America plant in Dearborn.
Severstal North America

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Energy Department says it has loaned $730 million to the North American arm of one of Russia's largest steel companies to modernize its Detroit-area plant.

The government and Severstal North America on Wednesday officially announced plans to upgrade and expand facilities in Dearborn that make steel for the auto industry. They say the project will employ around 2,500 construction workers and create 260 factory jobs.

The money comes from a $25 billion low-interest loan program created in 2007 to help car companies retool older factories to build green cars.

Severstal bought the Dearborn factory in 2004.

Auto/Economy
11:46 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Developing electric vehicle charging stations (and where you can find them now)

The location of electric charging stations online now in Michigan.
Google Maps and the U.S. Department of Energy

One group in west Michigan wants to encourage more people to buy electric cars by building more charging stations.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

The West Michigan Strategic Alliance is proposing the development of at least 4,000 charging stations across eight counties. Alliance President Greg Northrup is seeking approval from county boards in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon for the project, which would be financed through the sale of bonds and be repaid over a 10-year period.

“We’ve got $3 billion invested in battery projects in West Michigan,” Northrup said. “Why shouldn’t we have the infrastructure to go with it?”

So those are 4,000 proposed electric charging stations.

How can you find charging stations that are online now?

Google and the U.S. Department of Energy to the rescue. You can enter your address on the DOE's website to find alternative fueling stations near you.

Fast Company says "eventually, this Google/DOE partnership will serve as the primary EV charging station data source for GPS and mapping systems (like the one that may be in your car already)."

Commentary
11:30 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Could there be an "Airport City" in Michigan's future?

What do you think of this idea for an economic engine to lead Michigan’s revival? A vast business center and international freight-moving operation springing up between two major airports - Detroit Metropolitan and Willow Run, a few miles to its west.

The idea is to bring together and coordinate air, road, rail and water transportation systems to move goods to and from the rest of the globe to the Midwest. Planners think that within a few years, this new commercial “Airport City” could handle freight faster, cheaper and more efficiently than anywhere else.

I have to confess that when I first heard of this, I thought it was one more pie-in-the sky dream, probably floated by somebody angling for tax credits.  But a lot of sober, sensible business types really believe that this is a dream that could come true.

Phil Power, the usually cautious founder of the non-partisan Center for Michigan, is an enthusiastic backer of this concept, which he believes could generate sixty-five thousand jobs and ten billion dollars in new economic activity over the next twenty years.

That would be huge, especially for a state struggling to reinvent its economy. And Power is not alone. Doug Rothwell, the head of Business Leaders for Michigan is an enthusiastic supporter.

So is Robert Ficano, the Wayne County Executive.  In fact, he has just chartered an incubator of sorts to help make it a reality, the Aerotropolis Development Corporation. There is a slight problem with what to call all this. Aerotropolis seems to be the most common term.

Phil Power calls it the “multi-modal logistical hub,” a name which I strongly predict will never catch on. My choice would have been Airport City, which is easy to pronounce.

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Education
11:20 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Growing concerns with increasing lecturers and decreasing tenured and tenure track faculty

Lorien Foote, associate professor of history at UCA
User: ucentralarkansas Flickr

The University of Michigan-Flint is one of many American campuses that has hired more lecturers than tenure track faculty in the past few years. According to AAUP research, nationally the number of non-tenure track faculty increased by more than 200 percent on college campuses while tenured faculty increased 30 percent and tenure track faculty increased 7 percent.

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Politics
10:58 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Levin: Forget budget deficit, focus on debt ceiling

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, (D) MI
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan Senator Carl Levin wants all sides to give up trying to tie increasing the federal debt ceiling to a major cut in federal spending. The budget talks have stalled as President Obama and Congressional Republicans have been unable to agree on closing tax loopholes.

Levin says tying budget cuts to increasing the debt ceiling has been a bad idea.  

“Frankly never should have been combined.  We have no choice but to raise the debt ceiling.  We ought to reduce the deficit.  And we will.   But, whether we can do that in time to avoid a real calamity here which will occur if out debt ceiling is not raised is just anybody’s guess.”  

Congress has until August 2nd to agree to increase the federal government’s debt ceiling. After that, the government could possibly risk going into default.

Politics
8:45 am
Wed July 13, 2011

The week in state politics

State Capitol, Lansing, Michigan
Ifmuth Flickr

On Wednesday mornings we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going in state politics. Today: the likelihood of a GOP closed-party presidential primary in the state next year and a look at just what lawmakers will be up to during their midsummer session today at the Capitol.

State Law
7:52 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Snyder signs Michigan film incentive measure

Governor Rick Snyder (MI-R)
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation allowing more flexibility for Michigan's movie and film incentive program.

The legislation that Snyder announced signing Tuesday gives the Michigan Film Office the ability to negotiate the size of the credits it offers to movie, television and video game producers.

The incentives offered can be lower than the 42 percent subsidy now provided automatically when a project is approved for credits.

Supporters of the change say the current system may provide more taxpayer support for projects than necessary.

The state's movie and film credit program will be capped at $25 million in the fiscal year that starts in October. The state's current incentive program is not capped and offers some of the most generous credits in the nation.

Election 2012
7:44 am
Wed July 13, 2011

State GOP could host early presidential primary

Michigan Republicans could host an early presidential primary next year.
Cle0patra Flickr

Michigan Republicans may try to boost their clout by holding a closed-party presidential primary a week before the Super Tuesday elections next year. The plan must still be formally approved by GOP leaders in August.

Michigan Republicans plan to hold their presidential primary either February 28th or March 6th of next year. Only people who declare themselves Republicans would be eligible to vote in it.

The state GOP's policy committee unanimously adopted the plan during a conference call.

Michigan Republicans risk losing half their national convention delegates if they hold a primary before Super Tuesday voting on March 6th, but some GOP leaders say the state could reap political rewards by going early.

The proposal must still be approved by the Michigan Republican State Central Committee at its August meeting, and then adopted by the Legislature and approved by Governor Rick Snyder.

Michigan Democrats plan to hold closed-party caucuses in May. President Barack Obama is expected to be the only contender for the Democratic nomination.

State Legislature
7:36 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Midsummer session today at the State Capitol

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Allieosmar Flickr

The state Senate is meeting today to take up a few outstanding issues. The session comes as lawmakers are in the middle of a two-month legislative break. A stricter limit on welfare benefits is one issue that is expected to be brought up during the session. The Associated Press reports:

One of the bills that could come up for a vote Wednesday would put a stricter four-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits into state law. The legislation would reflect welfare limits approve earlier this year as part of the state budget plan. Michigan's current law has a similar time limit but it has more exceptions than the revised plan. The current law is due to expire in late September unless it's renewed or changed by lawmakers. Critics say the limits would boot some needy families off public assistance. The House already has approved the welfare limits legislation.

Meanwhile, State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says lawmakers will also likely continue debate over what to do about wild boar on hunting ranches. Laura Weber reports:

The Department of Natural Resources has pushed back enforcement of a rule that would require hunting ranches to get rid of wild boars. Ranch operators say that would put many of them out of business. Richardville says he’s not deeply moved by the issue, but understands it is an important to the agriculture community.

The Senate is also expected to deal with health insurance benefits for public employees.

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