News

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder's inaugural day activities have been confirmed.  The governor-elect will be sworn in as Michigan's 48th governor on January 1st, 2011.  According to The Detroit Free Press, here's what we know:

  • The inaugural will last just one day.  Previous Michigan Governors' inaugurations have continued over more than one day and in multiple cities.
  • Governor-elect Snyder will take the oath of office at noon outside of the Capitol building in Lansing.  That will be followed by a receiving line that will take place inside.
  • An inaugural celebration will take place at 8 PM in East Lansing at Michigan State University.  Tickets are required for the event at a cost of $125.

Swearing in ceremonies will also take place on January 1st for Lt. Gov.-elect Brian Calley, Secretary of State-elect Ruth Johnson and Attorney General-elect Bill Schuette.

Update 12/10/2010 6:28 a.m.:

A judge has ruled that there is enough evidence against Elias Abuelazam to send his cases to Genesee County Court.  That means Abuelazam now faces one murder trial and five attempted murder trials in connection with a series of stabbings in and around Flint earlier this year.  As the Associated Press reports the number of cases involving Abuelazam could grow:

Abuelazam will return to court Friday for a probable cause hearing in the stabbing death of Arnold Minor in August. Another murder case is scheduled for a similar hearing on Dec. 16.

Abuelazam also faces a charge of attempted murder in Ohio.

___

Update 12/9/2010 6:42 a.m.:

A man accused of a series of stabbings in Genesee County will appear in court today.

Elias Abuelazam will face four hearings, all involving charges of attempted murder in and around the Flint area earlier this year. A judge must determine whether there’s probable cause to send him to trial. Abuelazam has already been ordered to face one murder trial.

Two more probable-cause hearings are scheduled for tomorrow and next Thursday.

Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder
wikimedia commons

Governor-elect Rick Snyder told a crowd in Detroit today that Michigan will beat analysts’ economic growth expectations in the coming years.

Snyder spoke to a group of accounting students at Wayne State University. He recounted an experience at a recent National Governors Association meeting.

Snyder says the investment firm Moody’s ranked each state for projected job growth. He described what he saw when he opened the folder for Michigan.

"The first number from 2009 to 2011 was 47," Snyder said. "The number from 2009 to 2014 was 50."

But the governor-elect called those projections "a piece of fiction."

"We’re going to beat the living daylights out of that number."

Snyder added that he plans to use his background as a CPA to put Michigan’s finances in order.

Tom Watkins of Northville Michigan has been given the Upton Sinclair Award for education from EducationNews.org.

Watkins is the CEO of TDW and Associates, an educational consulting firm, and a former Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Michigan from 2001 to 2005.

In their release, EducationNews.org writes

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The future of Detroit will be the subject of dozens of meetings in the city early next year.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says there are seven to nine sectors that will see investment. But his deputy in charge of the Detroit Works Project, Karla Henderson, says it’s too early to define their boundaries. She says:

"What we do know is that some of our stronger neighborhoods tend to be the boundaries of the city of Detroit, and some of our neighborhoods where we’ve seen an increase in population are immigrant communities," said Henderson. "So we’re taking a look at all that data. "

Henderson says her team is looking at things like household incomes and education levels, as well as “quality of life” indicators like parks and schools, to determine the most viable neighborhoods. She says federal grants will be used to rehab city-owned and foreclosed homes in those areas.

Ford Motor Company says it will add 1,800 workers at its Louisville Assembly Plant, once that plant is renovated. Ford is moving production of the Escape SUV to the plant.

Ford already moved production of the Explorer SUV, the Louisville plant's former product, to Chicago. Now, the Louisville facility will undergo a complete renovation, resulting in what Ford's Jim Tetrault says will be the company's most flexible, high-volume plant in the world.

(courtesy of Borders Group/photo credit: Laszlo Regos)

Borders Books reported the company lost $74 million dollars in the 3rd quarter. That's about twice as much as Borders lost in the 3rd quarter of 2009. The Ann Arbor based book seller continues to struggle in a competitive market.

In a written statement, Borders Group CEO Mike Edwards conceded his company's struggles:

Downsizing Detroit

Dec 9, 2010
City of Detroit
Pablo Costa - picasa user

Detroit is a city built for 2 million people, but now has around 800,000. It's ruins have become famous. And some people, like artist Lowell Boileau, have said the problems Detroit faces are like a "slow moving Katrina."

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is leading a plan, called the Detroit Works Project, to shrink the city down to size. To make the city's 139 square mile footprint more manageable for city services like police, fire, sanitation, and water.

Poniac Polic car door
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATED POST 15:37

 Oakland County commissioners today  overwhelmingly rejected a proposal for the sheriff’s office to takeover policing in Pontiac.

 The city of Pontiac’s state appointed financial manager proposed shutting down the city’s police department and replacing the officers with sheriff’s deputies as a way to save money for the cash strapped city.  The city of Pontiac has a projected budget deficit of 9 million dollars.  

Amtrak train near Chicago
Steven Vance - Flickr

UPDATE 12/9/2010 3:33pm:

Michigan's been left off the list of state getting more federal money for high speed rail projects.  The New York Times reports:

The biggest winners of Ohio and Wisconsin’s money were California, which will receive another $624 million on top of the nearly $3 billion it has received so far toward the construction of a high-speed train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and Florida, which will get another $342 million on top of the roughly $2 billion it has received to build a high-speed train between Orlando and Tampa.

The other states that will get Ohio and Wisconsin’s money will be Washington, which will get up to $161 million; Illinois, which will get $42.3 million; and Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Vermont, which will all get less than $10 million.

Jennifer Granholm
flickr user auberon

3 million jobs in 3 years. That's what soon-to-be-former-Governor Jennifer Granholm called for in her article in the Huffington Post.

Granholm calls for a "Jobs Race to the Top" modelled on the education "Race to the Top" program.

Dangle large sums of money in front of cash strapped states and see if you can get them to change their policies.

Rich Rodriguez coacing UM football players
Rich Dinges - creative commons

It's not just sitting president's who have to worry about their poll numbers, apparently head football coaches do to.

Public Policy Polling gathered information on a subject that really doesn't have much to do with the general public or policy.

Their robot callers ("we can reduce interviewer bias to zero by eliminating the live human interviewer") got responses from 1,224 Michiganders on the subject of Rich Rodriguez.

Who are Michigan’s most powerful people in Washington? For decades, the same names have come to mind. First, Dearborn’s John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in history.

For many years, Dingell was either the chair, or ranking Democrat, of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Then come the Levins. Younger brother Carl is chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Older brother Sandy this year became the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Then there is John Conyers, who has chaired the House Judiciary Committee for the last four years. These men are icons. 

But they are aging icons, and when the Republicans take over  the House next month, Conyers, Dingell and Sandy Levin will lose power and status, because they will be in the minority.

But Michigan will have two newly powerful representatives in key positions, men who are far less well known statewide -- but whom we ought to get to know better.

Detroit City Skyline
JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

It appears that Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will run for office again. As The Associated Press reports:

The former NBA great tells the Detroit Free Press... that he "can't fix the problems that the city has in one term." He says progress is being made in improving the city but there is "so much more work to do."

The next mayoral election in the city is 2013.  Bing became the Mayor of Detroit in May of 2009 and was re-elected to a full term in November 2009.

Detroit's Orchestra Hall
Kellie Petersen, Flickr

The musicians have been on strike since October. The management is standing firm against the demands of the musicians. Holiday concerts have been cancelled, and now the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Executive Board is weighing in.

In a letter to the community released today, DSO executive board members said they were "joined at the hip" with management during this strike. The 24 board members said,

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There appears to be rising opposition to the planned sale of the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint.     Meanwhile, a legislative mistake threatens to delay the sale.    

A private developer wants to buy the 85 acre campus for one point three million dollars.    He’ll then build a new school and lease it back to the state for two million dollars a year.  

Khaled Mattawa
Amanda Abel / Courtesy of U.S. Artists

A Michigan poet is $50,000 richer, thanks to the arts advocacy organization United States Artists.

Libyan-born poet Khaled Mattawa was one of 50 artists around the country to receive a U.S. Artists award this year. More than 300 artists were nominated for the award.

Sooper Yooper

Dec 9, 2010
Billy Cooper, the Sooper Yooper
Painting by Mark Heckman, courtesy of Thunder Bay Press.

With 180 invaders already in the Great Lakes, it might take a superhero to keep them out.  Luckily, we have one: Sooper Yooper!   A new children's book written by Mark Newman and illustrated by the late Mark Heckman, features Billy Cooper, an ex-Navy Seal who lives in the U.P. with his scuba-diving bulldog, Mighty Mac.  I spoke with Mark Heckman's wife, Diane, and author Mark Newman about the book and Mark Heckman's legacy.

Top 3 Things to Know about Sooper Yooper:

  1. A dive in icy Lake Superior to catch a sea lamprey is not for the faint of heart.  Please leave this to the professionals.
  2. Billy Cooper is not a shapeshifter, nor does he have x-ray vision or invisibility.  Instead, he's super smart.
  3. Having trouble getting legislation passed in Congress?  No problem for Sooper Yooper.  He must have some mighty good lobbying skills.

Don’t misunderstand.  Businesses in Michigan often complain about the red tape.  There are plenty of stories about Michigan government bogging down any attempts by business to expand in the state or to build new plants here.  But, it’s hard to determine whether those complaints are business people just griping about any kind of restrictions placed on them… or a real problem within the state’s bureaucracy.

So, let’s look at some of the ways you measure that.

Michigan home prices continue their downward slide and the trend shows little sign of stopping.

Home prices in Michigan declined about 9% in the third quarter, a downward trend that started in April as government buying incentives began to dry up.

Serial Stabbing Suspect in Court Today

Elias Abuelazam, the man accused of a series of stabbings in Genesee County will be in court today. He will face four hearings, all involving charges of attempted murder in and around the Flint area earlier this year. A judge must determine whether there’s probable cause to send him to trial. Abuelazam has already been ordered to face one murder trial.

D’Oh: Glitch in New Liquor Law

There’s a problem in the state’s new Sunday morning liquor sales law.  As Steve Carmody reports, when state lawmakers passed the Sunday morning alcohol sales bill in the final days of the legislative session, they made a small mistake: lawmakers allowed communities to ban liquor sales on Sundays, but they didn’t specify a time. That means communities have to choose between being open all day on Sundays or not allowing sales of alcohol ALL day on Sundays. We’ll have to wait and see how lawmakers plan to fix the problem when the new legislative session begins next year.

Commission Delays Vote on Benefit Extension for Live-in Partners

The state Civil Service Commission has delayed a vote on the extension of health benefits to live-in partners of state employees.  The delay most likely means that a decision won’t be made on the issue until next year when Governor-elect Rick Snyder is in office, Rick Pluta reports.  A spokesman for Snyder says the Governor-elect has not yet taken a position on the issue.

Reports: Aretha Franklin Has Cancer

Several media outlets in the state are reporting that singer Aretha Franklin has pancreatic cancer. Franklin underwent surgery in Detroit last Thursday but neither she nor her publicist would say what kind of surgery Franklin had or the nature of the illness, Jennifer Guerra reports. Franklin has cancelled all her concerts through May 2011 due to doctors’ orders.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will be in Detroit today.  He’s scheduled to give a talk at Wayne State University.

As the Associated Press reports:

Snyder will speak to Detroit college students and business leaders about reinventing Michigan's economy - with an accounting twist. Snyder's talk … is expected to focus on how his accounting skills will be important as he works to improve the state's struggling economy.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

York Salvaton Army Headquarters
Pamela Eisenberg / flickr

A new lawsuit claims the Salvation Army and Wayne State University discriminated against a student because she was pregnant and unmarried.Tina Valresi was a graduate student in Wayne State’s social work program. She had to finish an internship with the Salvation Army to complete her degree. Lawyer Deborah Gordon says as soon as Valresi’s supervisors at the Salvation Army found out she was pregnant, her work atmosphere became “hostile.” She says the Salvation Army then gave her an “unsatisfactory” review, causing her to be dismissed from her graduate program. Gordon says the Salvation Army was “punishing” Valresi for being pregnant.

“They could have just been honest and said at the very beginning this is not acceptable. We want Wayne to put you elsewhere. Instead they kept her on and then failed her as a punishment.”

Gordon says Valresi only filed the lawsuit after trying unsuccessfully to resolve things with Wayne State. Neither the Salvation Army nor Wayne State could be reached for comment.

ARtPrize
Rich Evenhouse

Grand Rapids’ Fire Department is putting out a fire of sorts this week. They’re waiving thousands of dollars in inspection fees related to this year’s ArtPrize event.

Most everyone loved ArtPrize. But not everyone who volunteered a venue for the event loved getting a bill in the mail last week for fire inspections. The city’s fire department charged around $50 for every 5 artists a venue had.

The information was included in a handbook given to each venue. Apparently, not everyone read the fine print and now the city is admitting communication wasn’t very good on their end either. So they’re waiving all of the inspection fees - about $20,000 worth.

Helen Thomas
flickr user rachelvorhees

A prominent coalition of Michigan Arab-American groups is angry that Wayne State University has pulled an award honoring journalist Helen Thomas.

Wayne State ended the “Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award” last week after she made controversial comments at an event in Dearborn.

Thomas asserted that “Zionists” control major U.S. institutions, including the White House.

Wayne State called those remarks “anti-Semitic.” But the Congress of Arab American Organizations disagrees.

Lafayette Bait and Tackle
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The owner of the Ambassador Bridge and the Michigan Department of Transportation are back in court over a disputed construction project. One Detroit business owner says that project is forcing him out. Lafayette Bait and Tackle is literally stranded here in the midst of the Gateway Project, as trucks rumble overhead. That project was a $230 million effort to better connect the Ambassador Bridge to surrounding highways. It’s also the subject of a long-running legal dispute. The Michigan Department of Transportation says the Ambassador Bridge Company violated project plans when it built entrance ramps and a duty-free plaza. The Bridge Company has lost several rounds in court. But the ongoing legal drama has left Lafayette Bait and Tackle cut off from the surrounding neighborhood. Business owner Dean Aytes says his landlord hasn’t paid the taxes on the property. And a lawyer for bridge owner Mattsay Moroun says the landlord has now agreed to sell the property. Aytes says that means the shop will have to close for good. He says “that billionaire, Matty Moroun, put me out of business.”

Congressman Dave Camp with John Boehner.
user republicanconference / Flickr

Michigan Republican Dave Camp is the chairman-elect of the House Committee on Ways and Means. Camp released a statement saying it is a great honor to be selected as chairman:

"Our nation is at a crossroads – facing record debt and an unemployment rate stuck at nearly 10 percent. The decisions we make and the policies we put forward will determine whether or not we get this economy back on track and Americans back to work."

The committee has jurisdiction over revenue for the U.S. government (taxes) and "other related issues" - things like unemployment benefits, tariffs, trade agreements, Social Security, and Medicare.

Camp will take over the committee from another Michigander, Democrat Sander Levin.

Aretha Franklin
KtKatrina / creative commons

Several Detroit media outlets are reporting that soul legend Aretha Franklin has pancreatic cancer. Michigan Radio contacted Franklin's publicist for confirmation, but has yet to hear back.

The National Enquirer was the first to report the Queen of Soul's illness. Fox2 Detroit followed with a similar story:

"A relative of Aretha Franklin tells reporter Al Allen that the icon has cancer.  Another relative says the family is very concerned. At this time Franklin's family says she is doing "OK", but they are asking for the continued prayers and thoughts from the community."

Aretha Franklin underwent surgery in Detroit last Thursday. Neither she nor her publicist would say what kind of surgery Franklin was going in for or the nature of the illness.

(BWL)

The Lansing Board of Water & Light has gotten a key state permit clearing the way for construction of a new $182 million cogeneration power plant

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment granted the permit.   

A Lansing BW&L spokesman says the utility will now move to issuing bonds to pay for the project. The utility hopes to begin operating the new power plant in 2013.

The power plant will rely on natural gas to produce electricity. Lansing utility officials say it will eventually replace an aging coal-fired power plant.

A glitch in the new Sunday morning liquor sales law might be forcing Michigan communities to choose between opening the bars or going dry ALL DAY on Sundays.

When state lawmakers passed the Sunday morning liquor sales bill in the waning days of the legislative session, they made a small mistake. Lawmakers allowed communities to ban the sales, but the bill didn’t specify the time. 

So now,  if a community says it wants to ban liquor sales between 7am and noon on Sundays, the state Liquor Control Commission says the local government is banning all Sunday liquor sales.

Andrea Miller is with the Liquor Control Commission. She says the way the law is written  it gives the commission no choice. 

"Basically if they send in the resolution stating that they are banning the Sunday sales (of alcohol), they are banning Sunday sales completely."

Miller says the commission has heard from more than 30 communities confused about the new law and its implications.

The Liquor Control Commission plans to put a hold license applications by businesses in those communities until the legislature has time to fix the law next year.

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