News

Pages

Politics
5:40 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Social issues and Michigan politics (audio)

United States Social Forum 2007
National Organizers Alliance

It's been a very busy legislative year in Michigan. There’s a new tax code, teacher tenure reform, and a new state budget. But across the country, social issues have been major legislative topics, but not so much in this state.

In our weekly political discussion Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

The primary focus, so far, has been on jobs and the budget according to Demas who says social issues have snuck into legislative talks.

"With the budget, the gay partner benefit issue held up the process for several days with House Republicans trying to get some provisions in that would penalize universities that offer domestic partner benefits. And committees have been doing work on abortion issues, particularly the so-called partial birth abortion issue."

Read more
Arts/Culture
5:06 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Ford Auditorium to come down this Friday

The Ford Auditorium will come down this Friday.
user benlmoyer wikimedia commons

10,000 buildings by the end of his first term in 2013

That's how many buildings Detroit Mayor Bing wants to bring down.

This Friday, the city says one of the 10,000 will be a big one - Ford Auditorium, former home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

From MLive:

Ford Auditorium's date with the wrecking ball has been set for Friday afternoon, according to a release from the city of Detroit.

Earlier this week, workers removed the pipe organ from the 55-year-old structure with a then-undetermined demolition date. Mayor Dave Bing will make some brief remarks at 11 a.m. before demolition begins.

Here's a look inside the Auditorium from WXYZ:

War
4:41 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Army sergeant from Michigan killed in Afghanistan

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. military says a 28-year-old Army sergeant from Battle Creek has been killed in an enemy attack in Afghanistan.

The Defense Department said Thursday that Staff Sgt. Joshua Throckmorton died Tuesday in Afghanistan's Paktia province. The military says Throckmorton died of injuries suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

Also killed in the attack were 24-year-old Spc. Jordan Schumann of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and 22-year-old Spc. Preston Suter of Sandy, Utah.

They were part of the 709th Military Police Battalion in Hohenfels, Germany.

Politics
4:32 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Recall campaigns and how Republican politicians might react

Bill Ballenger of Inside Michigan Politics says Republican politicians aren't concerned by the number of recall campaigns, but they might become concerned if one is successful.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

There's a growing list of Republicans battling recall campaigns – Governor Rick Snyder, the leaders of the House and Senate, lawmakers who supported controversial measures, and lawmakers who approved changes to the tax structure.

In all, thirteen Republicans must stave off petition drives. But that growing number may not be what sends shock waves through the Capitol, according to the editor of Inside Michigan Politics, Bill Ballenger:

"I don't think it's even a question so much of how many recalls there are, the question is just scaring the living bejesus out of all incumbents thinking no one is safe, they're coming after us, and it only takes one recall successfully completed," said Ballenger.

Ballenger says successful recalls are rare and difficult, and the question of whether politicians should be recalled for the policy they support is open and ongoing.

"Many people have said the only basis on which there should be a recall is gross criminal neglect, misfeasance, malfeasance, whatever," said Ballenger. "Not for differences in policy. However, as long as the law is written the way it is, there can be a difference on policy decisions."

A recall campaign against Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville was given the green light this week.

Other top Republican officials facing recall campaigns include Governor Rick Snyder and House Speaker Jase Bolger.

All three say they are focused on their work and not on combating recall petitioners.

Environment
3:16 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Thieves are stealing material from abandoned Flint houses

Abandoned home in North Flint
(Photo by Traci Currie/Michigan Radio)

Thieves in Flint are stealing copper pipes, aluminum sidings, indoor fixtures, and appliances from vacant houses. They are taking the material to scrap dealers for quick cash.

Doug Weiland is with the Genesee County Land Bank. He says Flint lost over 70,000 jobs due to the downsizing of the auto industry.

"So the city of Flint’s population is literally about half of what it was at its peak, and we have roughly half of the property that had been used in the past sitting vacant."

Politics
2:57 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

GOP, Dem. ads target other side's record on jobs

The RNC's image of the country with President Obama at the wheel.
screen grab from YouTube video Republican National Committee

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - In a sign that the 2012 election season is under way in Michigan, the Republican National Committee is running ads criticizing Democratic President Barack Obama's record on job creation.

The 30-second ad began running on cable stations nationwide Wednesday. Starting next week, it will air for three more weeks in Michigan and a dozen other battleground states that could prove crucial to winning the White House next year.

The ad's announcer lists the nation's economic ills and says it's time to "change direction."

Michigan Democrats have taken a similar tack in criticizing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, the target of a recall drive.

They've released a web video chastising the governor for reducing film credits and forcing layoffs through cuts to school districts and local governments.

Snyder calls the cutbacks necessary.

Environment
12:18 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

The sugar beet comeback

Sugar beets competing at a state fair
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user kregarious)

Sugar beets are large white beets that grow well in Michigan’s cooler climate. In fact, farmers have grown sugar beets in the Bay area for more than 100 years. The beets are planted at the end of April and harvested at the beginning of September. From then until March, the beets are processed into sugar.

Refineries run 24 hours a day and seven days a week with no breaks for holidays. If machines were to stop in the middle of the process, sticky molasses would harden inside the equipment. In the end, the sugar beets become white granular sugar, powdered sugar, or brown sugar. If you’ve bought a bag of sugar at a Michigan grocery store, chances are it’s sugar beet sugar from the Michigan Sugar Company.

Things are going pretty well for the Michigan sugar industry now. But twenty years ago, the industry nearly dissolved. Steve Poindexter is a sugar beet specialist with Michigan State University:

“The sugar industry, back in the ‘90s, was struggling, trying to get production up. The yields were down and not going up, and profitability was very low.”

That was the result of a push toward raising beets with higher sugar content. The experiment was a failure. The low yields caused many farmers to stop growing beets. Things got so bad, Michigan sugar beet farmers were granted almost 20 million dollars in disaster funds.

Read more
Commentary
11:34 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Shenanigans in Michigan's 7th District

Most congressmen face a big struggle to first get elected, and then stay in their jobs for a considerable period of time. John Dingell, for example, holds the all-time record. He’ll have served fifty-six years before this year is over.

John Conyers has been there forty-six years.

Dale Kildee and Carl Levin have been in Washington more than thirty years. But on the other hand, the seventh district, which spans southeast Michigan’s border with Ohio, has been about the most volatile congressional district in the nation over the last decade.

Starting in two thousand and two, the seventh district has elected a different congressman in every election. Tim Walberg, who holds the job now, won in two thousand six; lost in two thousand eight, and won his old seat back in two thousand and ten.

Odds were that he would have faced another stiff challenge next year, possibly from one, or both, his two main rivals in the recent past. Fellow Republican Joe Schwarz beat Walberg in a primary in two thousand four, and then lost to him two years later.

Democrat Mark Schauer ousted Walberg from Congress in two thousand eight, and was ousted by him last year.

But this year is a redistricting year. Republicans control every branch of government, and one of their top priorities was to draw the lines so as to make re-election safer for their side’s incumbents.

In the case of the Seventh, they replaced Calhoun County, at the west end of the district, with Monroe County, at the eastern end. The counties are almost the same size, and both usually, but not always, vote slightly more Democratic than Republican.

Read more
Science/Medicine
11:27 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Washtenaw County preparing for a jump in health care demand with new federal law

Is a health care emergency coming in 2014?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The federal health care law is scheduled to take effect in 2014.  Health care leaders in Washtenaw County say they are not ready. 

Read more
Economy
11:15 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Pfizer may sell animal health, nutrition units

NEW YORK (AP) Pfizer says it may sell its animal health and nutrition business in the next two years so it can focus on expanding its low-cost pharmaceuticals unit.

Pfizer says it will also consider transactions including spinoffs and may pursue different strategies for each business. It said any transactions could take one to two years to complete.

The businesses brought Pfizer Inc. $5.5 billion in revenue in 2010, about 8 percent of its total. The Animal Health unit makes vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and other items to prevent and treat diseases in livestock and pets, and the nutrition unit makes infant and pediatric products.

The New York drugmaker say it will focus on its established products business, which makes drugs that are off-patent or are losing patent protection.

Changing Gears
10:57 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Canadian oil is boosting midwest economy, but at what cost?

Marathon is upgrading its Detroit refinery to process more heavy crude from the Canadian oil sands.
Adee Braun Changing Gears

Green energy is often said to be the future of the Midwest economy. But old fashioned fossil fuels could be having a bigger effect on the region’s jobs and corporate bottom lines.

This is not conventional oil, though.

It’s a thick, tar-like crude from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada.

It’s sent here by pipelines, many which cross our rivers and the Great Lakes, and that has some worrying about a bigger risk to the region.

Read more
Politics
10:57 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Former Detroit mayor could be released in August

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will probably have to wait until the first week of August to be released from prison.

Kilpatrick’s release date was set to be no earlier than July 24th, but he wants to transfer his parole to Texas to be with his wife and children. This will require additional paperwork.  Russ Marlan is spokesperson for Michigan Department of Corrections.  

Read more
News Roundup
9:31 am
Thu July 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Thursday, July 7th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

‘Kids-Count’ Report

Two-thirds of all babies born to Michigan women in their early twenties are born out of wedlock, according to a new report from the Michigan League for Human Services. “The reports shows a significant uptick over the past decade in the number of babies born out of wedlock to women in their twenties. The report also indicates Michigan is doing better than many other states in the number of mothers who receive prenatal care and the number of women without a high school education who have children,” Laura Weber reports.

‘Underwear Bomber’ Back in Court

The Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner with 290 people aboard using a bomb hidden in his underwear is due in federal court for a hearing on postponing his trial, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Detroit U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds Is to preside at Thursday's hearing for Umar Abdulmutallab. His trial is scheduled Oct. 4, but a lawyer helping him wants more time after getting more evidence from the government… Prosecutors have urged Edmunds to stick to the October trial date, saying any delays are "needless."Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Amsterdam on Christmas Day 2009.

Brooks’ Budget

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson presented his budget recommendations for the next three years to Oakland County Commissioners last night. Oakland County is the richest county in the state. “Patterson says that long-term planning has been key to maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating, even as property tax revenues plummet. Patterson says the county has also managed to avoid cutting employee salaries and mass layoffs… The Oakland County Commission won’t formally take up the budget until next month, and are slated to vote on in September,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

Politics
8:07 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Lt. Gov Calley to meet with Detroit City Council to discuss proposed new bridge

Joggers run under the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. Governor Snyder is pushing for another bridge across the Detroit River to be built.
J.Stephen Conn Flickr

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is scheduled to meet with the Detroit City Council this afternoon to discuss a proposed new bridge that would span the Detroit River. Governor Snyder is pushing for the new bridge which would connect Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. Many state Republican lawmakers oppose the plan, known as the New International Trade Crossing. The owner of the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Ontario, and is the busiest international trade crossing in North America, opposes the plan as well. He wants to build a new span of his own.

As the Detroit Free Press explains this morning, “…just about everyone involved in Michigan's great bridge debate supports building some new bridge to replace or supplement the Ambassador. The question boils down to who would build it and own it -- Ambassador owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun as a private businessman or the citizens of Michigan and Canada through public authorities.”

As the Associated Press notes:

Gov. Rick Snyder and many businesses want to build a new Detroit-Windsor bridge to aid passenger and commercial traffic. It would be backed by private investors, and Michigan would rely on $550 million from Canada for related improvements.

It's likely Calley will use the meeting to try to gain support from the City Council for the New International Trade Crossing.

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

Arts/Culture
7:30 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Your Story: An easy retirement of teaching meditation...in prison

Robert Brown is a ex-marine and a Soto Zen Buddhist priest.
submitted by Robert Brown

Robert Brown is like a lot of retired people:  He volunteers. Unlike a lot of retired people, however, his volunteer work is teaching Buddhist meditation to prisoners.

Brown is 70 and an Marine veteran. He retired from his job making signs for local businesses about four years ago. But he’s been a Soto Zen Buddhist for 40 years. In the late nineties, somebody in his temple asked if he’d like to come along to a meditation session in a prison.

Read more
Election 2012
6:51 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Michigan GOP: Primary or caucus?

Michigan Republicans are weighing whether to hold a primary or a caucus.
Cle0patra Flickr

Republicans in the state are debating whether they'll use a primary or caucus system to choose their GOP candidate for  the 2012 presidential election, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The state GOP's Policy Committee plans to recommend its choice next week. The full GOP state committee is scheduled to make a final decision in mid-August.

Republican National Committee member Saul Anuzis says he thinks a primary would encourage the largest voter turnout and most visits by the candidates.

Others want a caucus, saying it will keep Democrats from interfering and give grass-roots activists more clout.

The primary is scheduled by law for next Feb. 28, but lawmakers could change the date. Michigan held its 2008 presidential primary in mid-January.

Michigan Democrats plan to choose their favorite at a May 5 caucus since President Barack Obama is the near-certain nominee.

Offbeat
6:00 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Mystery person sends $100 in cash to Grand Rapids for vandalism

The letter and copies of the five $20 bills mailed to the City of Grand Rapids this week.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

“It is a first for me with this amount of money,” Grand Rapids Treasurer Al Mooney said (he's been treasurer for more than 20 years).

The anonymous donor sent the cash to make amends for “minor vandalism” he or she took part in years ago.

The short, typed letter reads,

“Minor group vandalism many years ago. Cannot remember specifics or even if I did any damage, but I think one of the street signs was taken.”

Inside the envelope, with no signature or return address, were five $20 bills.

Read more
Auto/Economy
11:43 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Oakland County Exec lays out three-year budget

Brooks Patterson
Oakland County

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says the county’s budget is balanced for the next three years.

 Patterson laid out his recommendations for a triennial budget to Oakland County Commissioners Wednesday night.

 Patterson says that long-term planning has been key to maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating, even as property tax revenues plummet.

 Patterson says the county has also managed to avoid cutting employee salaries and mass layoffs.

Read more
Labor
5:35 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Farmers Insurance employees in Grand Rapids to receive back wages after investigation

The U.S. Labor Department found "significant and systemic violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime and record-keeping provisions" at Farmers Insurance offices around the country - including offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Officials at the U.S. Labor Department say "Farmers Insurance Inc. has agreed to pay $1,520,705 in overtime back wages to 3,459 employees."

From the Department of Labor press release:

Through interviews with employees and a review of the company's timekeeping and payroll systems, investigators found that the company did not account for time employees spent performing pre-shift work activities. Employees routinely performed an average of 30 minutes of unrecorded and uncompensated work — such as turning on work stations, logging into the company phone system and initiating certain software applications necessary to begin their call center duties — per week.

Because employees' pre-shift work times were excluded from official time and payroll records, they were not paid for all hours and are owed compensation at time and one-half their regular rates for hours that exceeded 40 per week.

The agreement affects call center employees who worked between Jan. 1, 2009, and May 10, 2010, at Farmers' "HelpPoint" facility in Grand Rapids.

It also affects employees who worked between Jan. 1, 2009, and Feb. 1, 2010, at a Farmers' "ServicePoint" facility in Grand Rapids.

Economy
5:25 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Budget negotiations and the nation's debt ceiling (audio)

Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.
whitehouse.gov

The debate over the federal budget and the debt ceiling is heated, and there are very dire predictions from both Republican and Democratic leaders about what will happen if these issues aren’t resolved soon. But for Americans who are dealing with every day, immediate issues, this debate can seem distant.

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers represents Michigan's 8th Congressional District. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jenn White about why people should care about this debate.

Congressman Rogers says these issues "impact the ability for our economy to grow and for people to get back to work."

Pages