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Auto/Economy
7:30 am
Mon September 26, 2011

Ridership on The Rapid bus system surpasses 10 million

The Rapid Central Station is the first LEED certified transit facility in the United States.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The public transportation system in greater Grand Rapids is celebrating a record number of riders this year. The Rapid is operated by an authority made up of Grand Rapids and 5 surrounding suburbs; Wyoming, Walker, Grandville, East Grand Rapids, and Kentwood.  

Barbara Deming waits for a bus at The Rapid Central Station which is packed every morning and afternoon on the weekdays. Deming has ridden the bus nearly every week since moving back home to Grand Rapids from a small town up north 7 years ago.

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housing
6:45 am
Mon September 26, 2011

Housing advocates, landlords argue over housing code changes

There are roughly 4,000 vacant homes in the city of Grand Rapids. In February, Grand Rapids Public Schools had to cancel classes for several days after a major snow storm because of unplowed sidewalks.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Dozens of rental property owners and housing advocates are expected at a meeting in Grand Rapids this week. The rise of foreclosures could prompt the city to change parts of its housing code.

The city inspects rental properties with two or more units. They check for fire alarms, peeling or chipping lead paint, and other safety hazards. But single family homes for rent are exempt from inspections.

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Arts/Culture
6:00 am
Mon September 26, 2011

North Woods: An artist residency on Rabbit Island (with photos)

Rabbit Island lies about three miles east of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Earlier this summer we told you about a remote island in Lake Superior called Rabbit Island:

New Yorker Rob Gorski saw the 91-acre island listed for sale on Craiglist. At first, he was skeptical. But after talking it over with his brother, both of whom are Michigan natives, they bought the island for less than $150,000.

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

Gorski says the plan is to preserve the island as is, and build only a small, green cabin where future artists can stay.

"We’d like to be able to send an artist, maybe two, out to the island to practice their creative process within an entirely isolated environment. We think it’d be a very remote experience, it’d be very difficult in some ways, but I think the end result could be very interesting."

As part of my series, Stories from the North Woods, I took the 3.5-mile boat ride from Rabbit Bay to Rabbit Island to see how the residency is coming along.

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Politics
5:00 am
Mon September 26, 2011

Jennifer Granholm looks back at her years as Michigan's Governor

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm recounts her time in Lansing.

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm’s book, “A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future,” is on bookstore shelves. It offers her perspective on eight years in the job she described as the toughest facing any governor in the U.S.

She battled budget shortfalls, Republicans in the Legislature, and skeptics of federal efforts to bail out the Detroit auto industry.

Granholm and her co-author, former First Gentleman Dan Mulhern, spoke with me about the book and her legacy.

Jennifer Granholm says she wrote “A Governor’s Story” to offer her  prescription for the nation’s economy to lower taxes and smaller government. She says it’s based on her experience, and an often trial-and-error road to an economic strategy that can work for the entire nation.

“We’ve got a story to tell. So for everybody who cares about how to crack the code to create advanced manufacturing jobs in the American economy, we’ve got the story to tell.”

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Lansing
1:01 am
Mon September 26, 2011

Oliver Towers saga moves to Lansing City Council chambers

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero (left) sits with Davenport University president Richard Pappas at a news conference discussing the proposed land swap. The Oliver Towers stands in the background.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tonight, the Lansing City Council will begin weighing in on a  land swap deal that’s pitted two local colleges against each other.    A final council decision may come next month.

 Officials with Lansing Community College have been complaining that they didn’t get a chance to bid on the Old Oliver Towers apartment building before city officials cut a deal with Davenport University. 

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Religion & Sexuality
2:45 pm
Sun September 25, 2011

2 Ohio churches debate gay issue with billboards

A billboard in Florida
Flickr/stovak

The ongoing debate in churches regarding homosexuality is being argued on 10 billboards in northwest Ohio. The Toledo Blade reports that Toledo's Central United Methodist church posted a single roadside billboard in April that said that being gay is a gift from God. That has led the minister at Church on Strayer to offer an opposite view.
    

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Science/Medicine
1:11 pm
Sun September 25, 2011

Library presents medical marijuana Q&A

Experts at the panel discussion will answer questions about medical marijuana
Flickr/lavocado

One Michigan library wants to help clear up the confusion many people have about the legal issues concerning medical marijuana.

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Environment
12:49 pm
Sun September 25, 2011

Michigan Attorney General: More states favor Asian carp barrier

Asian carp leaping out of a river.
glfc.org

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says a coalition that favors physically separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds has grown to 17 states.
Schuette tells The Associated Press that attorneys general from 11 states have joined the campaign, which he and counterparts from five other Great Lakes states began last month.
They're pushing Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to decide quickly on a plan for cutting the man-made connection between the drainage basins near Chicago.

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Auto/Economy
10:54 am
Sun September 25, 2011

Four Midwestern governors in Asia for trade

(Springfield, IL)  Governor Rick Snyder is in Asia on a trade mission to China, Korea and Japan.  He’s not the only Midwestern governor there.  The governors of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana's Lt. Governor are also taking trade delegations to Asia. 

The four Midwestern governors will be meeting  in Japan with Japanese and other Asian political and business leaders.   They’re working to kick start trade with Asian countries.  China is particularly important because it’s one of the few nations where the economy is growing.

Charlie Wheeler was a long time statehouse reporter in Illinois.   He says  the chief executive officer of a state can carry symbolic weight in trade negotiations.

“And I think it makes a lot of sense for the Governor of Illinois, of Michigan and any other Midwestern state, any state in the union for that matter, to try and open up more markets in China, to establish the kind of personal relationships that in the business world often help to carry out these negotiations.”

The governor of North Carolina will be  next in the parade of U.S. governors touring Asia. She leaves for a trade mission there next month.

Politics
10:28 am
Sun September 25, 2011

Romney gets solid win in Michigan straw poll

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney Central

Michigan native Mitt Romney trounced his Republican presidential rivals in a Michigan straw
poll even though he isn't participating in straw polls.

As expected, Romney won the poll of GOP activists Sunday during the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference. He won 51 percent of the 681 votes cast, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry earned 17 percent.

Both candidates spoke at the conference Saturday.

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Politics
4:16 pm
Sat September 24, 2011

Perry woos Michigan GOP at Mackinac Island conference

Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses Michigan Republicans.
Chelsea Hagger MPRN

Texas Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry addressed Michigan Republicans Saturday on Mackinac Island. Perry used the opportunity to try to win over a crowd that has some affection for Michigan native Mitt Romney.

Perry made sure the audience knew right away that he knows his way around Michigan, telling a brief story about his father buying a truck in Fenton. He also told Michigan Republican Party faithful that he is proud of the state’s voters for electing a Republican-led Legislature and a Republican governor.

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Economy
4:01 pm
Sat September 24, 2011

Fruit and vegetable oasis finds it hard to survive in a "food desert"

There are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables at Witherbees Market. What they need are customers.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Fifteen months after it opened, Flint’s first downtown grocery in 30 years is struggling to stay open.    

Witherbees Market was intended to serve the needs of people living in downtown Flint. The downtown zone, like many other urban areas in Michigan, has been described as a "food desert", with little access to fruits, vegetables and other fresh food.   

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Economy
11:15 am
Sat September 24, 2011

Agencies look for new funding to help poor pay for heat

About 95,000 Michigan residents needed help to pay their home heating costs last year.
uppermichigansource.com

LANSING -- Social services groups are scrambling to

prevent thousands of low-income Michigan residents from having

their heat cut off after a program that helped pay overdue utility

bills for the poor lost its funding.

 

A court struck down the financing system used by the program in

July, and lawmakers haven't enacted a new one. With the aid money

running out as winter arrives, officials are temporarily drawing on

other funds to tide over needy families.

 

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Crime
9:12 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Michigan State Police stop criminal plot against state lawmaker

State Rep. Barb Byrum, see here at her swearing in ceremony in 2009, with her son Blake.
(courtesy Barb Byrum's facebook page)

A state prisons spokesman says a potential kidnapping or murder-for-hire threat from an inmate targeting a Michigan state lawmaker has been detected and stopped.

Authorities said Friday that the case remains under investigation and no charges have been filed. They say the plot was being developed by a prisoner in a state correctional facility who has since been isolated from other prisoners. It wasn't immediately known why the prisoner was targeting the lawmaker.

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Offbeat
6:55 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Thousands of bikers poised to "take over" Detroit streets

A scene from a past Tour de Troit
www.tour-de-troit.org

Thousands of bikers are expected on Detroit streets Saturday for the 10th annual “Tour de Troit.”

Most of them will take part in a 22-mile, police-escorted tour that explores a different part of Detroit’s historic landscape every year. This year, it will kick off in the shadow of the Michigan Central Station, the hulking former
train depot that’s sat empty for more than 20 years (there’s also a 62-mile loop for more adventurous bikers).

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Politics
5:32 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Politics of Language (Part 3)

user: Widjaya Ivan / flickr

This week we are talking about the politics of language. In the third part of our series we examine how internet technology is being used to disseminate those political catch phrases and messages we all hear and quickly repeat.

Cliff Lampe is assistant professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He says politicians are using social media to their advantage.

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Politics
5:05 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Opponents of Michigan's emergency manager law hope to collect enough signatures for challenge

The city of Benton Harbor is under the control of an emergency manager.
Flickr

The legislative sponsor of the state’s six-month-old emergency manager law says it has cleared the way for the decisive actions needed to help severely stressed cities.

State Representative Al Psholka’s district includes the city of Benton Harbor.

He says Benton Harbor’s emergency manager did not have the authority he needed to fix the city’s finances before the new law took effect in March.

 “We’ve seen some rapid progress in Benton Harbor. There's challenges there, but if you look at the budget, the budget is balanced. There is a projected surplus next year of $400,000. Yes, they had to make some tough choices, but Benton Harbor is in a much better position: a position to go back to local control with a balanced budget," said Psholka.

Psholka was on the Michigan Public TV show “Off the Record.”

Opponents of the law say it robs citizens in takeover communities of their right to choose their local officials.

Organizers of a petition drive say they are close to collecting enough signatures to put a challenge to the emergency manager law the ballot.

A referendum on the law requires opponents to gather more than 161,000 signatures.

Amy Kerr Hardin is with the “Stand Up for Democracy,” the coalition trying to repeal the law. She says the state-appointed emergency managers are given too much power.

 "It takes away our elected officials. It’s crazy the stuff an emergency manager can do just by fiat," said Hardin. "They don’t have to ask any public opinion, and they don’t have to tell the public until after the fact – when they’ve done whatever it is they’ve done."

 Hardin says the campaign expects to turn in sufficient signatures by the end of October. That would put the question on the February 2012 ballot.

It would also suspend the law until the election.

The cities of Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac and the Detroit school district are being run by emergency managers.

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Election 2012
4:48 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Michigan Republicans on Mackinac Island, visits from Perry and Romney expected

Republican leaders are on Mackinac Island talking shop this weekend.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Republican presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Perry will be on Mackinac Island this weekend for a Republican conference held by the state party every two years. The two prominent presidential candidates will speak with party faithful tomorrow at the Grand Hotel.

Also on the island are many campaign signs, buttons and t-shirts advertising names of Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls. Among them is Gary Glenn, the president of the anti-gay-rights group American Families Association of Michigan. He says coming to Mackinac Island this weekend is important for his campaign.

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Economy
4:29 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Snyder to promote Michigan agricultural products on Asian trip

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder departs Saturday on a week-long Asian trade mission with stops in Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul.

The governor will attend a meeting of the Japan Midwest U-S Association early next week. His itinerary also includes lots of private meetings with business executives in Japan, China, and Korea.

But the governor says he does not anticipate many big announcements. 

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Politics
2:56 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Scott gets support against recall from Michigan Chamber of Commerce

Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc
Michigan Radio

State Representative Paul Scott is getting help in his recall fight from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

Scott is a two-term Grand Blanc Republican who chairs the House Education Committee.

A group backed by the state’s largest teachers’ union wants to remove him from office because he supported cuts to schools and a law that makes it easier to fire teachers.  

Now Scott has a powerful ally.

Jim Holcomb is an attorney with the nearly 8,000-member Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

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