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News Roundup
8:43 am
Wed October 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Judge Stops Cut to Cash Assistance

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman issued a restraining order yesterday that stops a round of cuts in cash benefits for Michigan welfare recipients. Rick Pluta explains:

Cash assistance welfare payments will go out today to thousands of families that were about to lose them as the state prepared to enforce state and federal time limits on the program. A federal judge ruled the state Department of Human Services failed to properly notify the families why their benefits were about to be cut off. DHS says new notices will be sent this week that comply with the ruling. And they say the state’s four-year time limit on cash assistance will officially begin in mid-October instead of at the beginning of the month.   

Count Day

Today is ‘Count Day’ at all of Michigan’s public schools. “The tally of students who show up at each school district is a major factor in how much money a district gets from the state. There are two count days each year; one in the spring and one in the fall. The Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency estimates changing the count day formula will save the state $15 million this year. That also means districts with declining student enrollment will get less money,” Lindsey Smith reports.

Money Talks (and Wins Elections)

U.S. Senate candidate and former Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra says he raised $1 million in the third quarter in his campaign to become the Republican nominee to challenge Democrat Debbie Stabenow in the 2012 election. The Associated Press reports:

Hoekstra's campaign said in a statement Wednesday that the former congressman's contributions came from more than 3,500 donors. The campaign for the Holland Republican has said he didn't loan it any money. On Tuesday, Clark Durant said he's raised more than $750,000. Durant's campaign says the charter schools executive didn't loan it any money. Also running are former Kent County Judge Randy Hekman, Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy, former Libertarian Scotty Boman of Detroit and Gary Glenn of Midland, president of the American Family Association of Michigan.

Politics
8:02 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Do we really learn anything from political memoirs?

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and her husband, Dan Mulhern, have a new book out titled, "A Governor's Story: A Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future." Christina Shockley spoke with Granholm and Mulhern about their book last week and it got us thinking:

What can you really learn from a political memoir? Are they filled with honest introspection or just self-congratulatory drivel? To help us answer these questions, we called up Craig Ruff, Senior Policy Analyst with Public Sector Consultants.

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Election 2012
7:48 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Snyder signs Feb. 28th GOP primary date

Cle0patra Flickr

It’s official: Michigan’s 2012 Republican presidential primary will be held February 28th. After both the state House and Senate passed legislation designating the date, Governor Snyder signed it into law yesterday. The date means Michigan will be one of the earliest states in the nation to hold a primary, but it also means it could lose half of its nominating delegates according to Republican National Committee rules. So, why all the fuss about the presidential primary date? Political explains:

Both national parties are struggling to keep the national nominating schedule from imploding as state after state tries to move earlier than the next to have more say in picking the presidential nominee. Typically, the later the primary the less influence a state has in the nomination.

Under rules set by both national parties, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are the only states allowed to hold primaries or caucuses in February and no other state can hold a nominating election prior to March 6, which is likely to be a "Super Tuesday" with multiple contests.

As Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry explains, “Michigan, of course, wants to make a bigger splash, wants more attention, [but] it’s blunted because Mitt Romney is seen as Michigan’s favorite son and the Michigan primary is only important if Mitt Romney doesn’t win [the primary].”

Meanwhile, Michigan Democrats aren't planning a presidential primary in 2012 as President Obama is believed to be the only Democratic candidate who would be on the ballot. Instead, they'll pick their 2012 presidential delegates at state meetings.

Education
6:00 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Today is “count day” for students at all public schools in Michigan

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

The tally of students who show up at each school district is a major factor in how much money a district gets from the state.

There are two count days each year; one in the spring and one in the fall. This year state lawmakers changed the formula so that the fall count day is even more important. The number of students a district has is determined by a blend of the two count days. The fall day makes up 90-percent of that blend, the spring only 10-percent.

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Politics
5:25 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Judge blocks Michigan welfare cut-offs

A federal judge has stopped a major round of cuts in cash benefits for Michigan welfare recipients, saying the notices were deficient.

It's a significant decision. Republicans who control the Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder had approved a stricter four-year cap on cash payments, effective Oct. 1.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman issued a restraining order today that prevents people from being cut from the program. He says the Michigan Department of Human Services did not meet the requirements under law when it sent notices to thousands of people.

The judge ordered new notices, which would give people the right to a hearing to determine if they would lose cash assistance from the state.

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Abdulmutallab trial
5:21 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Jury selection in "underwear bomber" case begins

U.S. Marshals

Update 5:15 pm:

Judge Nancy Edmunds has recessed today's proceedings. The count so far: 20 jurors made it into the pool of potential jurors and will proceed to the final round of jury selection - 16 women, and four men. Seven were excused - three of them for bias. Two were excused for job-related reasons, one for mental health. The final juror who was excused has a wife with medical needs and expressed some frustration with his previous experiences with the courts.

The 13 jurors who were not questioned today will be questioned tomorrow, and 27 more jurors will also be called. Judge Edmunds is looking to have about three dozen prospective jurors in the pool for the second, final phase of jury selection - tentatively set for Thursday afternoon.

1:12 pm:

The first phase of jury selection is under way for the man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009.

So far five of the 17 jurors questioned have been excused.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab shouted, "Sheik Anwar is alive!" upon entering the courtroom. He also said "I will defend Muhammad," and likened the U.S. to a "cancer."

Judge Nancy Edmunds urged Abdulmutallab to change out of his prison clothes to make a better impression on potential jurors. After a brief back-and-forth, the defendant was escorted downstairs and returned wearing a dark blazer over a tan robe with white gym socks and wing tips.

Three of the jurors who were excused said they would have trouble putting aside their belief that Abdulmutallab is guilty.

"I shouldn't be this way, but this one just bothers me," said one. "I just have this guilty verdict in me."

Politics
5:15 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Michigan Budget Director, John Nixon on state finances

Michigan State Budget Director, John Nixon.

We are now just a few days into the state’s new fiscal year. State Budget Director, John Nixon gives us an update on the state of Michigan’s finances.

Nixon says many states relied on federal stimulus money, and now it's time to look at other options.

“We had a huge infusion of stimulus money and then there was a big cliff because once that stimulus money went away all the states are scrambling saying, “oh my gosh how do we keep our programs whole?” Well that’s what we’ve done. We cut a billion and a half dollars of spending out the budget and we balanced the budget.”

Detroit
4:30 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

New attack on proposed new Detroit-Windsor bridge

A view of downtown Detroit and the Ambassador Bridge from about a mile downstream, near the proposed site of the new international bridge.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are once again attacking Governor Snyder’s  push to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.  

The company says experts it hired say the proposed bridge would not attract the billions in federal money promised by the governor and would end up costing Michigan taxpayers money.  

Matt Moroun is the vice chair of the Ambassador Bridge company.   He says "building a new bridge to Canada will not garner any more federal funds for highways in Michigan…then what Michigan gets ordinarily from the feds every year.”  

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Environment
4:18 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Dow's solar shingles to hit U.S. to markets

Dow's solar shingles will be released in limited markets starting this month.
Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical first unveiled its solar shingle two years ago, with plans for a limited release in mid-2010.

Now the company announced that the shingles will be available to some customers starting this month. The company says they're starting in the strongest markets for solar this month. The shingles will first be available in Colorado, and a "rolling launch" will occur in markets from California to the "East Coast."

In a press release, Dow said the shingle "protects the home like a standard roofing shingle while providing energy that saves the homeowner money":

Dow can now serve the need of homeowners who want to go solar, but aren’t willing to accept the complexity and sub-optimal aesthetics currently offered by bulky, rack-mounted systems.

Booth Mid-Michigan reports that Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris called Dow's solar shingle "a game changer that will address an estimated $5 billion market by 2015."

From Booth Mid-Michigan:

Dow hasn't reported a price for the shingles, but said the cost to homeowners will be set by the channel to market, and will depend on the size and configuration of the home and desired power generation. Dow officials said the cost of solar shingles can be thousands of dollars less than solar panels installed on top of a roof.

Education
3:50 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

White House report: Obama's jobs bill would support 11,900 teaching jobs in Michigan

Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

A new White House report claims President Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act will save or create 11,900 teaching jobs in Michigan.

According to the "Teachers Jobs At Risk" report, about 300,000 education jobs across the country have been cut since 2008, and another 280,000 teaching jobs are in jeopardy.

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Travel
3:19 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

New airport screening measures start today at some airports

No need to de-shoe for some.
user redjar Flickr

Keep your shoes on.

No need to take off that belt or jacket.

And keep that laptop and your toiletries in your bag.

That's the new reality for some passengers going through security today at Detroit Metro Airport.

Detroit Metro is one of four airports where new screening measures are being tested by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (Atlanta, Dallas, and Miami are the other airports).

The new system pre-screens passengers who volunteered for the program. Information on these passengers is cross-checked with other databases by the TSA to determine their risk level.

From the TSA's press release:

“As TSA moves further away from a one-size-fits-all approach, our ultimate goal is to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way possible,” said TSA Administrator John S. Pistole. “By learning more about travelers through information they voluntarily provide, and combining that information with our other layers of security, we can focus more resources on higher-risk and unknown passengers. This new screening system holds great potential to strengthen security while significantly enhancing the travel experience whenever possible for passengers.”

The Detroit Free Press reports that passengers have already seen the benefits, some passing through security in less than one minute.

Some frequent fliers with Delta and American Airlines were contacted and asked to sign up for the pilot program. Members of the "Trusted Traveler Program" with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection can also participate.

TSA officials say the program might be expanded in the future.

If you would like to participate in the pilot, you can contact Delta or American Airlines (if you participate in their frequent flier programs) and try to opt-in , or you can try signing up for the "Trusted Traveler" program online.

Environment
2:31 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

More ups and downs for salmon in the Great Lakes

Dale Wilkinson with his salmon.
Photo by Lester Graham

By Tom Kramer for The Environment Report

Charter fishing in Michigan represents a $20 million a year industry. But the number of charter trips on Lake Huron declined by almost 50 percent in the last decade – as the salmon fishery on the lake took a dive. And now the state has decided to end Chinook salmon stocking in most rivers along Lake Huron. Starting next spring, Chinook, or king salmon, will be stocked in just a few places in the northern part of the lake.

Salmon are not native to the Great Lakes.

They were introduced from the Pacific Ocean in the late '60s and quickly became the most popular sport fish in the region.

Dramatic changes in the food web in Lake Huron caused by too many salmon and other exotic species like invasive mussels brought about the demise of the fishery around 2003.

That has been a huge economic blow to tourist towns along the coast but state officials say there's nothing they can do to bring it back at this point.

One place the state hopes to keep a decent sport fishery for kings is in the Cheboygan River.

Todd Grischke manages Lake Huron for the Department of Natural Resources.

He says there might be more food for salmon out in the Straits of Mackinac.

“So there is a possibility that those fish that are planted there are finding forage that is not available to other parts of the lake to the south.”

But while Lake Huron is seeing the continuing collapse of its salmon fishery, it’s shaping up to be a banner year for salmon fishing in Lake Michigan.

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Politics
2:19 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Michigan no-fault insurance testimony before large crowd

An overflow crowd at the House hearing.
Chelsea Hagger Michigan Public Radio Network

Advocates hoping to keep the Michigan No Fault Personal Injury Protection auto insurance told members of the Michigan House of Representatives Insurance Committee that it would be a mistake to change the law. 

The hearing was packed with an overflow crowd spilling into other rooms to watch the proceedings on TVs. 

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Politics
2:03 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Michigan Senate approves stun gun legislation

Under legislation being considered in the Michigan legislature, individuals licensed to carry handguns could also carry a stun gun.
user jennuine captures Flickr

In this state, the use of stun guns by citizens is prohibited.

Michigan law states that you cannot possess "a portable device or weapon from which an electrical current, impulse, wave, or beam may be directed, which current, impulse, wave, or beam is designed to incapacitate temporarily, injure, or kill."

Now Some legislators want to change that. From the Associated Press:

Michigan residents with permits to carry concealed pistols also would be able to carry stun guns or Tasers under a measure approved by the state Senate.

A key bill in a legislative package that would allow the devices to be carried by properly licensed residents passed the Senate by a 35-3 vote Tuesday. The measure advances to the House.

Michigan would join 43 other states that allow residents to carry stun guns under certain circumstances. Michigan law has banned the use of stun guns since 1976, with exceptions for police
and some other personnel.

Laws that cover the use and licensing of concealed handguns in Michigan also would apply to stun guns or Tasers under the Senate legislation. That includes certain "no carry" zones such as schools and stadiums.

Stun guns advocates say they're effective tools for self-defense.

Or they could be used to subdue someone with an exceptionally long question at a political forum (the genesis of "don't tase me, bro!" phrase) .

Auto/Economy
1:03 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Ford-UAW deal includes more jobs and U.S. investment

John Fleming, Ford executive vice president of Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs discusses the UAW agreement with reporters this morning.
screen grab fordahead.com

Update 1:03 p.m.

More details of the UAW-Ford agreement emerged after the UAW's press conference. UAW vice president Jimmy Settles reports winning a "a $6,000 settlement bonus for workers and $7,000 in inflation protection and competitive lump-sum payments over the term of the agreement."

Settles said workers will receive a payment averaging $3,700 this year.

Entry-level wages for new Ford workers are similar to the GM agreement. Their hourly pay was raised to $19.28 over the term of the agreement.

The union details where the investments in jobs and upgraded auto plants will occur in the U.S. saying that "jobs, investment and product guarantees in the tentative agreement include":

  • Flat Rock, Mich., second source for the next generation Fusion and next-generation Mustang.
  • Kansas City, Mo., in-source Transit Commercial Van from Europe.
  • Louisville, Ky., new unnamed vehicle in addition to 2012 Escape.
  • Wayne, Mich., in-source C-Max from Europe in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.
  • Avon Lake, Ohio, in-source medium truck and frame assembly from Mexico, along with in-source Motorhome Chassis.

The agreement with Ford was recommenced to the union's larger membership. Now all UAW members will vote for or against ratification this week.

10:27 a.m.

The agreement reached between Ford Motor Company and United Auto Worker representatives will lead to more jobs and investment in the U.S., according to the Detroit News.

Alisa Priddle of the Detroit News reports that many of those jobs will be in Michigan:

The figure includes 7,000 jobs previously announced as well as 5,000 additional jobs - the majority of them new and paying the lower, entry-level wage. Ford officials declined to break down the exact split between new and saved jobs. Some the jobs are from in-sourcing of work that has been previously done in other countries, including Mexico, Japan and China.

The UAW says that "proposed agreement also includes $16 billion of investment to produce new models and upgraded vehicles and components by 2015, of which, $6.3 billion will be invested directly into retooling and upgrading plants."

Ford's union workers are demanding more from Ford compared to the workers at GM and Chrysler.

Part of it has to do with bargaining from a position of power. Ford's union workers could strike should an agreement not be reached. Chrysler and GM workers do not have that option. Both Chrysler and GM took loans from the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). A condition of those loans stipulated that its workers could not strike.

Brent Snavely reports in USA Today on the other reasons workers at Ford hope to achieve more in their negotiations with the company.

Entering contract talks, the UAW and Ford had an unresolved grievance, signed by 35,000 of the automaker's 40,600 workers, alleging that Ford had violated equity of sacrifice promise by restoring merit pay to white-collar workers but not to hourly workers.

But Ford workers say they have more reasons to expect more than UAW members at GM. Ford has made $14.2 billion in profits since the end of 2008. Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford each made $26.5 million in 2010, an amount that many workers find excessive since production workers have gone eight years without a base wage increase. That high executive pay has become a rallying point for discontents in Ford's factories.

Comparing previous contracts, Snavely reports that "Ford pays $58 an hour for wages and benefits, which is about $2 more per hour than GM and $9 an hour more than Chrysler were paying..."

More details of the tentative 4-year agreement between Ford and the UAW will be revealed at an 11:30 press conference. The contract will not be ratified until the UAW membership votes on it.

Politics
12:38 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Wayne County says Mullin's secretary received more than $15K severance

And the controversial Wayne County severance story continues... Now there's news that Turkia Mullin's secretary, Sheri Galofaro-Mendez, also received a severance when following her boss to her new post.

From the Detroit News:

While apologizing for a controversy over a $200,000 severance to the county's former economic development czar, county officials admitted Tuesday that her executive assistant, Sheri Galofaro-Mendez, got a $15,600 severance from the Wayne County Economic Development Growth Engine, or EDGE, when she left in September.

Galofaro-Mendez followed Mullin when she became director of the Detroit Metropolitan Airport and is now her executive assistant. Galofaro-Mendez also has agreed to follow Mullin's lead and return the money, said Alan Helmkamp, a county assistant executive.

Politics
12:23 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Wayne County's Ficano says no more severance payments, promises investigation

"There were mistakes in process. "There were mistakes in paperwork. … And at the end of the day, there were mistakes in judgment."

So says the assistant executive for Wayne County Alan Helmkamp in the Detroit News.

Helmkamp was talking about the decision to award Turkia Mullin a $200,000 severance payment when she transferred to a new job in the county.

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported, Mullin received the severance payment last August when she transferred from her job as Wayne County’s economic developer (salary $200,000) to become the CEO of Wayne County's Detroit Metropolitan Airport (salary $250,000).

Mullin and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced last Friday that Mullin would return the money, but questions from Wayne County commissioners remained.

Ficano promised the commissioners that there would be no such payments in the future.

From the Detroit News:

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano promised county commissioners that he won't allow another severance like the $200,000 paid to the former economic development czar Turkia Mullin.

Ficano said he accepts responsibility for the controversial payout and said he is "launching an internal review."

"You have my full commitment that the review will be expeditious, and that I will put protections in place so that this situation isn't repeated," Ficano said.

Commentary
10:51 am
Tue October 4, 2011

Detroit sports teams doing well, what about Michigan politics?

If I were a politician and had something embarrassing I knew I would have to reveal, I know exactly when I would do it.

I’d wait to see if the Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees tonight, and if they do, I’d immediately make my confession.

Why is that? Because almost no one would notice. Everything in life is a matter of timing, and we can handle only so much news at once. Here’s something baffling about that.

Read more
Politics
10:29 am
Tue October 4, 2011

Overflow crowd for hearings on no-fault auto insurance changes

Reports from Lansing:  Three overflow rooms have been opened in the House office building to fit the huge crowd there to hear testimony about proposed changes to the no-fault Personal Injury Protection auto insurance.

News Roundup
9:03 am
Tue October 4, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Ford and the UAW reach a tentative 4-year deal

Details will be discussed later this morning. Ford will hold a live stream of their press conference at 9 a.m. and the UAW will talk to reporters at 11:30 a.m.

The Associated Press reports that "the deal is expected to swap annual pay raises for profit sharing checks and will include commitments from Ford for thousands of new union jobs." Union leaders will meet later today to decide whether to recommend the agreement to 41,000 Ford union members.

Trial for "underwear bomber" starts today

The trial for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called "underwear bomber" begins today in Detroit with jury selection. The Associated Press reports on the stakes in the case:

The case seems matter-of-fact but carries high stakes. The failed attack was the first act of terrorism in the U.S. during the Obama administration, and it could have implications in the debate over whether terrorism suspects should be tried in civilian or military courts.

Tigers Win!

The Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees last night in game three of their American League playoff. Detroit has taken a 2-1 lead in the best of 5 series.

From ESPN:

Delmon Young hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh off Rafael Soriano and the Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, pushing the Yankees to the brink of elimination.Their hopes ride Tuesday night on A.J. Burnett, the $82.5 million pitcher who was so unreliable this season that he wasn't supposed to get a start in this series. A rainstorm changed all that when Game 1 was suspended Friday, forcing both teams to alter their pitching plans.

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