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Auto/Economy
4:30 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

New microlending website helps Detroit's small biz owners

Kiva Detroit helps connect small business owners in the city with potential lenders
user penywise morgueFile

Several Detroit non-profits want to help potential small business owners get some much needed capital.

They’ve launched a microlending website called Kiva Detroit, an extension of the California-based Kiva.org. Small business owners post their idea online and anyone can give a loan for as little as $25. The site went live this Wednesday.

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Auto/Economy
4:12 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

GM and Ford sales rise in June as gas prices sink

GM says its Chevrolet Cruze compact led its sales gain for the month of June.
wikimedia commons

UPDATE:

General Motors and Ford both saw U-S sales rise more than 10 percent in June as lower gas prices brought more customers into its showrooms.

The fuel efficient Fiesta and Focus drove sales for Ford.

The new Chevrolet Cruze compact led GM's sales gain. Cruze sales were more than double those of the old Chevrolet Cobalt.

Don Johnson is the Vice President of U-S sales operations for General Motors. He says sales were led by smaller, more fuel-efficient models.

Original story:

General Motors says its U.S. sales rose 10 percent in June as lower gas prices brought more customers into its showrooms.

The Detroit car company says it sold 215,000 cars and trucks last month.

Don Johnson, the Vice President of U.S. sales operations for General Motors, says sales were led by smaller, more fuel-efficient models:

"What drove our success this month, as well as the last couple of months, is our ability to meet the needs of the consumers as they go looking for more fuel efficient vehicles," said Johnson.

The new Chevrolet Cruze compact led GM's sales gain. Cruze sales were more than double those of the old Chevrolet Cobalt.

GM's small-car sales were helped by earthquake-related shortages of Japanese cars.

Politics
3:32 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

Right-to-work campaign gets under way

The logo for the Michigan Freedom to Work coalition
Michigan Freedom to Work

A coalition that includes some current and former union members wants Michigan to become a so-called “right-to-work” state.

Right-to-work laws prohibit union membership or dues as a condition of employment.

Jack Hoogendyk is a former state lawmaker and a member of Michigan Freedom to Work. He says Michigan would attract more businesses if it weren’t saddled with the reputation as a union stronghold:

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Politics
3:30 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

Coalition calls for community benefits in bridge project

Gov. Rick Snyder supports a publicly owned bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor
Snyder administration

A coalition of labor and business groups wants to guarantee certain benefits for the community near a planned bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

They’re called community benefits agreements, and they’re intended to make sure the neighborhoods that host major construction projects see things like jobs and parks – and not just pollution and traffic.

State Representative Rashida Tlaib’s district includes the site of a proposed new publicly owned bridge. She’s introduced legislation that would require the project to include a community benefits agreement:

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Politics
3:29 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

A McCotter candidacy: Your thoughts

Michigan Representative Thaddeus McCotter

As diverse as the media's response has been to the potential candidacy of Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, your responses on Twitter and Facebook were even more varied.

Many didn't know McCotter very well or found him to be an unappetizing candidate, and wrote responses like, "Who?" or "yawn." or "Is this a joke?"

Mary Himmelspach Bennett said, "He's an out of touch knucklehead and he's also very hard to look at!"

A number of you thought that this might be a setup maneuver, and that McCotter might not be famous enough yet to secure the nomination for 2012 but that his chances in the future might be better if he ran this time.

Weston Lindberg said: "Seems like he's probably setting himself up for 2016. McCotter doesn't yet have the name recognition to win."

Some people mentioned why they liked McCotter, either for specific policy stances, speeches, or the fact that he represented their district.

Karen Richards said, "gave the best speech in support of the auto loans, even gave a shout out to Dingell."

Josh Amato said, "It's kinda cool having my rep. run. He's a nice enough guy who knows what he's talking about, even if I don't agree with him on a lot of issues. I don't think he'll get very far at all, though."

McCotter is expected to announce his candidacy in the Republican presidential primary this Saturday.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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Affirmative Action
3:00 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

Court strikes down Michigan's ban on using race or gender in college admissions

A 2006 BAMN rally in Lansing against Proposal 2. The proposal was passed by Michigan voters that November.
BAMN

Update 3:00 p.m.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights released a statement supporting the opinion of the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court struck down the Michigan constitutional ban using race or gender in university admissions decisions.

From their statement:

We believe the question of who comprises a student body is best made at the academic rather than the political level. A university’s primary responsibility is the academic interests of those students who are admitted and preparing those students for the future. This decision removes the handcuffs that prevented Michigan’s public universities from making decisions based upon those factors they believed to be in the best interests of the entire student body and the institutions as a whole.

The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, an advocacy group that worked to preserve affirmative action in Michigan, also praised today's court ruling.

From their statement:

The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion today applauded the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down Michigan's anti-affirmative action constitutional amendment, with CEO and President Thomas Costello calling the decision "a clear win for access, opportunity and equity for all."

The court noted that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, known as the "equal protection" clause, is more than just words. "It is also an assurance that the majority may not manipulate the channels of change in a manner that places unique burdens on issues of importance to racial minorities."

2:30 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody interviewed Jennifer Gratz, the director of state initiatives for the American Civil Rights Coalition.

In 2006, Gratz was the executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative which became known as "Proposal 2" once it was put on the ballot. Proposal 2 passed and it amended the Michigan Constitution by banning the practice of using race or gender in college admissions.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ban unconstitutional today.

Gratz was also a lead plaintiff in a case against the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy in admissions - a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2003 (Gratz v. Bollinger).

Here's the interview:

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Politics
2:53 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

Could large, consumer-grade fireworks land in Michigan?

Michiganders have to cross state lines to find fireworks like "America's Best" (warning: shoots flaming balls).
user m-gem Flickr

Large fireworks might be sold in Michigan before Independence Day next year.

That’s if  Democratic state Representative Harold Haugh has his way.

Haugh has been working on legislation for a couple years that would allow the sale of large, consumer-grade fireworks that are already sold in surrounding states.

Consumer-grade fireworks are more powerful than the low-grade fireworks currently available in Michigan, but are less explosive than large pyrotechnic displays.

Haugh says selling large fireworks in the state would fit Governor Rick Snyder’s call to make Michigan more friendly to small businesses.

He says the potential increased revenue comes from both stores and roadside tents.

"The speculation was there could be as many as 200 buildings statewide go up that are going to sell consumer-grade fireworks," said Haugh. "Now with the tent issue, it could be as many as another 400 tents that sell consumer-grade fireworks."

Haugh says the additional sales of fireworks could bring in as much as $12 million to the state, and he says the decision to sell large fireworks would be up to local governments.

"I mean they own it. It’s not the people of the state of Michigan. It’s not the people up here," said Haugh. "It's the local community that will own the issue of selling consumer-grade fireworks."

Opponents say the larger fireworks are not safe and are too noisy. But Haugh says he thinks his proposal is gaining support in the Legislature.

He hopes to get the measure approved before the end of the year.

Politics
2:29 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

Thaddeus McCotter to announce candidacy Saturday

The Associated Press is reporting that Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter will announce his candidacy in the Republican presidential primary on Saturday.

From the article:

The congressman from the Detroit suburb of Livonia confirmed Friday on WJR-AM he'll make a formal announcement about his candidacy on Saturday.

The 45-year-old McCotter is a lawyer and served as a state senator, Wayne County commissioner and Schoolcraft Community College trustee before entering the U.S. House in 2003.

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Education
11:58 am
Fri July 1, 2011

Grand Rapids Schools' superintendent - to stay, or go?

'What a difference a day makes,' Taylor said repeatedly, when asked if he would like to stay in Grand Rapids afterall.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Superintendent resigned yesterday, but today he hinted that he may not want to leave.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor has been lobbying state lawmakers to pass teacher tenure reform. Yesterday, lawmakers did that. 

Taylor says the reform means everyone’s focus has to be on student achievement.

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Environment
10:56 am
Fri July 1, 2011

Swimming Upstream: Toxins in Great Lakes fish (part 7)

Advice on cleaning fish to cut away fat and remove certain contaminants.
Image courtesy of Wisconsin Sea Grant

Today, we wrap up our series, Swimming Upstream. Dustin Dwyer traveled all around the Lower Peninsula to gather stories for this series. And today we have a story we wish we didn't have to do. It's the story of toxins in our fish. 

Here's Dustin's story:

A few weeks ago, Joe Bohr got a surprise. He's a researcher for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He was looking at some numbers for PCB contamination in carp caught in canals in St. Clair Shores.

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Commentary
10:13 am
Fri July 1, 2011

Lansing Takes a Breather

Happy new fiscal year, everyone. Everyone, that is, except for employees of the State of Michigan, whose fiscal year begins October first. The state used to have a normal fiscal year, but switched in the seventies as part of budget-balancing maneuver.

Anyway, even though their budget year isn’t over, our allegedly full-time lawmakers are honoring the conventional year by knocking off for the summer, pretty much. They are scheduled to be in session for only two days in the next two months.

Nice work if you can get it.

To be sure, whether you liked it or not, the lawmakers did accomplish a lot in the last six months. Repealing the Michigan Business Tax. Inaugurating a pensions tax. Balancing the budget earlier than anyone except Bill Milliken can remember.

They finished the session yesterday by dramatically changing the way public school teacher tenure works in Michigan.

Not that our lawmakers didn’t do some silly stuff too. You’ll be pleased to know that our lawmakers made it possible for five-year- olds to hunt bear. That’s right. They repealed that pesky socialist law that said you had to be at least ten years old to shoot living creatures with a gun Now, kids of any age will be able to blast away, provided they are accompanied by an adult who has a hunting license.

One more reason to stay out of the woods.

Turning serious, I was struck by something about the teacher tenure battle. The legislation will make it easier to fire bad teachers, all agree. It was bitterly opposed by the teachers‘ unions, who always seem to oppose any kind of education reform.

Interestingly, however, even the unions admitted at the last moment that it was too hard to fire really bad teachers, and that changes needed to be made. They decided to back a less drastic bill introduced in the senate that would have streamlined the process. But it was too late. The problem was that a year ago, the unions would have opposed any changes whatsoever. By not being willing to address the issue earlier, in a sense, they did it to themselves.

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News Roundup
9:19 am
Fri July 1, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, July 1, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Reports: McCotter Ready to Enter 2012 Presidential Race

There are reports out this morning, quoting many unnamed sources, that Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan is planning on jumping into the 2012 presidential race.  From the Associated Press:

A person familiar with the plans of Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter says the Republican will make a "major announcement" Saturday about whether he will run for president in 2012. A person in contact with the Livonia congressman told The Associated Press yesterday that McCotter will address whether he'll seek the Republican presidential nomination.

Lawmakers Finish Work For the Summer

State lawmakers worked into the evening yesterday, finishing up their work before a two month summer break begins. Lawmakers worked on teacher tenure rules, the House passed another version of a bill that would require many public employees to pay more of their health insurance costs, and the House also approved a measure to regulate hunting ranches as an alternative to new regulations that would outlaw wild boar.

For Sale: Borders

Borders has agreed to sell itself to private investment firm Najafi Cos. for $215 million, according to the Associated Press. “Najafi, which owns the Book-of-the-Month Club, will also assume $220 million in debt. The agreement is tentative and what is known as a ‘stalking horse’ bid for a company under bankruptcy protection. The bid will open an auction for the bookseller and its assets, so a higher bid is possible. A bankruptcy court hearing on the deal is set for July 21,” the Associated Press reports.

Politics
7:47 am
Fri July 1, 2011

Governor Snyder marks six months in office

Governor Rick Snyder (R) on inauguration day, January 1st, 2011. The Governor has been in office, now, for six months.
Corvair Owner Flickr
  • An error occurred ingesting this audio file to NPR

Governor Snyder has been in office now for six months. He spoke with Michigan Radio this morning about his achievements and what he considers are his failures.

Election 2012
7:06 am
Fri July 1, 2011

Reports: McCotter ready to launch presidential campaign

Reports say Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (far right) will announce a presidential bid later today.
Republican Conference Flickr

Reports are swirling this morning that Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan will make a bid for the GOP nomination for president.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Livonia congressman and rock 'n' roll guitarist Thaddeus McCotter is taking his act to a bigger stage today: He's filing paperwork to run for the presidency.

The 45-year-old McCotter, now in his fifth term representing northwestern Wayne and southeastern Oakland counties in Congress, will talk up his bid for the Republican nomination Saturday night at Freedom Fest at Whitmore Lake after appearing today on Sean Hannity's radio show.

"He's in it to win it," said a senior campaign adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement hadn't been made public.

From the Detroit News:

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter will officially kick off his bid for the White House on Saturday, three people briefed on the matter said late Thursday…

McCotter plans to file paperwork today with the Federal Election Commission, and his website, www.mccottter2012.com, is planned to be up and running today.

He has secured office space in western Wayne County for his campaign and has hired a former speaker of the Iowa House, Chris Rants, as a campaign adviser and is working to hire advisers in New Hampshire.

He becomes the third conservative member of the U.S. House to throw his hat into the 2012 GOP ring: Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas also are running.

A McCotter run is making headlines across the U.S. this morning:

Michigan Supreme Court
6:43 am
Fri July 1, 2011

GOP majority reverses court on union donations

Joe Gratz Flickr

In a blow to unions’ political fundraising, the Republican-led state Supreme Court has ruled automatic deductions from the paychecks of public employees for political donations is illegal. The GOP majority reversed a decision made by the court last December, when Democrats controlled the court.

The Michigan Education Association’s political action committee is fueled by contributions from teachers and school employees who agree to have their donations deducted automatically by the school district from their paychecks.

The Republican justices ruled that’s a violation of Michigan’s campaign finance law because public resources are used to support a political activity. They said it’s not enough for the union to reimburse school districts for the costs of administering the check-off system.

Democrats say the school districts did not spend any money on politics, and complained it appears the only reason the court reconsidered the decision is because the partisan majority changed as a result of last year’s elections.

State Legislature
6:39 am
Fri July 1, 2011

Lawmakers wrap up work before summer break

State Capitol, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

State lawmakers wrapped up their work late last night before they take a two-month summer break. As Michigan Public Radio’s Laura Weber reports, one of the issues that pushed debates into the night was big changes to teacher tenure rules:

The tenure bills would make it easier for school districts to get rid of teachers in underperforming classrooms. But many Democrats say teachers should not be held responsible for the shortcomings of school districts and for deep cuts to education funding.

Democratic state Senator Coleman Young says the proposed changes to teacher tenure won’t help students.

“Paris Hilton has a better chance of winning an Oscar than this bill does of doing anything positive or for reforming the public education system.”

Those cheers came from teachers’ union members and supporters filling the Senate gallery. But the bills did pass the Senate, moved to the House for final approval, and are now on their way to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

Lawmakers target public worker health costs

The Republican-led state House passed another version of a bill that would require many public  employees to pay more of their own health insurance costs, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

A bill approved by a 56-52, mostly party-line vote Thursday would cap the dollar amount a public employer can pay toward health insurance for a public employee. An example would be $15,000 a year for family coverage.

Local governments and school boards could vote to change that requirement so that public employees must cover at least 20 percent of their health coverage costs.

It's possible the proposal will be a compromise between versions previously passed by the House and Senate. It was not immediately clear if Senate leaders would be on board with the House plan.

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Economy
6:21 am
Fri July 1, 2011

Borders agrees to sell itself for $215 million

Lornais Flickr

Borders has agreed to sell itself to private investment firm Najafi Cos. for $215 million, reports the Associated Press. The agreement, however, is tentative. From the AP:

Najafi, which owns the Book-of-the-Month Club, will also assume $220 million in debt.

The agreement is tentative and what is known as a "stalking horse" bid for a company under bankruptcy protection. The bid will open an auction for the bookseller and its assets, so a higher bid is possible.

A bankruptcy court hearing on the deal is set for July 21. If the court does not approve an auction process, Borders filed a separate motion to liquidate.

Najafi has been a speculative suitor for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company, although Borders has not previously confirmed any specific bidders.

Borders Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection in February.

Politics
8:58 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Immigration enforcement subject of Detroit forum

U.S. Representative John Conyers, second from right, rallies community members ahead of an immigration forum.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Activists and families packed a school lunchroom in southwest Detroit to vent their frustrations with immigration and border enforcement in that part of the city.

U.S. Representatives John Conyers and Hansen Clarke convened the forum in the wake of complaints about immigration enforcement near schools.

That’s prohibited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy. And Conyers says the head of ICE, John Morton, has expressed his commitment to making sure it’s enforced:

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Arts/Culture
7:06 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Line of people volunteer to move UICA block by block

6-year-old French Bulldog Jasper keeps out of the way, minds spare boxes, and provides 'comedic relief' for the people in between box-passing.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts is moving into a new location. Its new home is only 2 blocks away from where it is now, so today volunteers lined up to help them move. More than 60 people created a human chain, passing one box along from one person to the next.

“You know we depend on volunteers,” UICA Executive Director Jeff Meeuwsen said, “We’re very community-oriented and we said right away, how can we involve people in our move?”

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Food
5:20 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Recall of La Providencia salsa, cilantro and other products

This press release is from the Michigan Department of Agriculture:

La Providencia of Holland is recalling raw cilantro and other food products prepared or packed in the store because they could be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

All of the following products sold on or before June 29, 2011 are under recall:  Raw Cilantro, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Red Salsa, Green Salsa, Grated Cotija Cheese, or Sour Cream sold in unlabeled clear plastic containers, and Oaxaca Cheese or Fresco Cheese sold in unlabeled clear plastic containers or on Styrofoam trays covered in plastic wrap. 

The recalled products were sold at La Providencia, located at 372 W. 16th Street, Holland and Santa Fe Supermarket #3, located at 981 Butternut Drive, in Holland, MI. 

Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially fatal disease. Listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, and nausea. It can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths. The very young, the pregnant, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to infection. People experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

The contamination was noted after testing by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in ready to eat products collected at Santa Fe Supermarket #2 and La Providencia on June 21, 2011.

To date, no illnesses have been reported in connection with this problem.

Production of the product has been suspended at this location while La Providencia and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development continue their investigation as to the source of the contamination.

Consumers who have purchased raw cilantro or various other products sold in these stores are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact LA PROVIDENCIA at (616) 546-8857.

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