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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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Environment
5:01 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Scientists: Enough talk, Great Lakes and Mississippi should be separated

Asian carp DNA detections (red) in the Chicago waterways upstream and downstream of the electric fish barriers in 2009 and 2010, according Jerde et al., 2011.
Jerde et al.

The Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin are connected, but it's an artificial connection.

Around the turn of the last century canals and channels were dug that reversed the flow of water.

Waters that used to flow into Lake Michigan now flow into the Des Plaines River and eventually into the Mississippi.

The reversal was a way of separating Chicago's sewage from its drinking water supply.

And with more than 2 billion gallons of water a day flowing out of Lake Michigan, it's the largest diversion of Great Lakes water.

Undoing what was done around a hundred years ago has been considered crazy talk because of the expense involved, but some scientists are now embracing that idea.

In a new paper released in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, four lead scientists (Jerry Rasmussen, Henry Regier, Richard Sparks, and William Taylor) argue that the costs of permanent separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Basin are worth it.

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Auto/Economy
4:54 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Convention Centers see more traffic

cobo carpet
User: Sorakirei Flickr

Convention Centers in Michigan are starting to emerge from the recession and see more traffic. The Kalamazoo County Expo Center and Detroit’s Cobo Center are also renovating their spaces and improving their services. Thom Connors is General Manager at Cobo Center. He says the convention industry took a hit in 2008, but he sees a new trend.  

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Politics
4:41 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Governor Snyder: Optimism or disconnect (audio)

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder
http://www.michigan.gov/snyder

Governor Rick Snyder has been in office for six months. And according to him, things are getting back on track. But is there disconnect between the Governor’s optimism and how his policies are being received by Michiganders.

Michigan Radio's Jenn 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.

Demas says generally pessimism does not fare well for politicians, and she points to former Governor Jennifer Granholm's optimism about the state of Michigan, no matter how bad things got.  But Demas says it's all about what we want Michigan to be now.

"If we want Michigan to be a state that has lower business taxes and leaner budgets, and forces public employees to make very tough choices, then you're going to be happy with the direction that Governor Snyder is putting the state in.  But if this is not what we want Michigan to be then I think the positive talk is going to be seen as very out of touch. And it's going to be up to voters to decide where they really want things to be."

Sikkema adds that if the economy goes south and unemployment goes up then the debate about competing visions for Michigan could be a challenge for Republicans.  Sikkema says:

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Environment
3:17 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Swimming Upstream: Fishing for Science (Part 6)

A DNR researcher working on the annual fish survey on Lake St. Clair.
Dustin Dwyer Michigan Radio
  • An error occurred ingesting this audio file to NPR

This week, we've been hearing stories about fish, for our series "Swimming Upstream." For today's story, Dustin Dwyer paid a visit to some researchers with the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR tracks fish populations at sites around the state. Dustin went aboard with the team on Lake St. Clair, and sent us this report.

Economy
2:32 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Michigan's Broadband Divide

(courtesy of Connect Michigan)

There’s a bit of a disconnect for many Michiganders when it comes to logging onto  the internet.   A new survey shows 82% of Michiganders have a home computer.   But access to a broadband connection to the internet is another matter.

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Education
2:08 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Grand Rapids schools' superintendent resigns

Board President Senita Lenear takes questions from the media following the vote. Bernard Taylor did not attend. He issued a written statement.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor is resigning. The school board accepted his resignation this afternoon by a unanimous vote.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor was a recent finalist for two open positions at other school districts. He says he wants to lead a school district that’s more prepared for aggressive reform to improve student achievement.

Taylors resignation is not effective until one year from now.

Taylor was not at the meeting. In a written statement, Taylor says he appreciated the time and 'careful deliberations' of the board of education.

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Economy
1:10 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Report: unemployment down in Michigan, but food assistance up

A chart from the Michigan League for Human Services showing Michigan's unemployment rate over the last four years.
MLHS

The Michigan League for Human Services (MLHS) released its "Economic Security Bulletin" today.

The report showed the unemployment rate dropping in 82 of Michigan's 83 counties when comparing the 1st quarter of 2010 with the 1st quarter of 2011 (Ontonagon was the only county that did not show a drop - going from 16.9% to 18.0%).

But despite the improvement in employment, the need for food assistance is rising.

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Politics
12:52 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Detroit City Council approves budget, Bing says layoffs "a reality"

The Detroit City Council has approved a budget deal that promises to avert drastic cuts to police and fire, recreation and bus service.

The council voted to restore $25 million of the $50 million it cut from Mayor Dave Bing’s budget.

Bing says the vote is good news. But he says tough things are still in the city’s future.

Layoffs will be a reality, there’s no way around that, and with those layoffs there’s obviously going to be some service problems. So we’ve got to get better at servicing the citizens that are here, as well as the businesses that are here.

Two council members voted against the deal. They say they’re not convinced the mayor’s revenue projections will hold. And they say if they don’t, the budget will have to be revisited.

The new fiscal year starts tomorrow.

Politics
12:08 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Forum to discuss harassment and racial profiling by immigration officials

Jose Luis (left) says he sought refuge inside Hope of Detroit Academy after he dropped his kids off because immigration agents were waiting outside the school.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The Associated Press reports that Congressmen Hansen Clarke and John Conyers will hold a public forum in Detroit today on allegations of harassment and racial profiling by Customs Enforcement agents.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported on some of the complaints last month, with some saying immigration officials in unmarked SUVs were monitoring people near a school.

From Hulett's report:

The Detroit office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is under fire for what critics are calling aggressive and overzealous tactics.

ICE officials say they are concerned enough that they're reviewing a recent incident involving immigration agents.

But the union that represents agents is complaining that ICE isn't standing behind its officers.

The Detroit Free Press reported on a small rally organized earlier this month (June 11) by the Alliance for Immigrants Rights & Reform Michigan.

From the Free Press:

About 40 people rallied in southwest Detroit on Saturday to protest what they say is a rise in racial profiling and harassment by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The rally at Clark Park was organized by the Alliance for Immigrants Rights & Reform Michigan. Some participants flashed signs to drivers at the intersection of Vernor and Scotten that said: "Stop Racial Profiling," "Stop the Abuse" and other pleas.

The Clarke and Conyers meeting is scheduled for today at the Hope of Detroit Academy.

State Legislature
11:18 am
Thu June 30, 2011

Tax on health insurance claims approved

This just in from Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber:

The state Senate has approved a tax on health insurance claims. The measure is necessary to ensure Michigan continues to receive about $800 million from the federal government for Medicaid. The federal government is expected to rule later this year on whether the state's system for funding Medicaid is legal.

The Senate had put the issue up for a test-vote yesterday but it didn't pass. As Rick Pluta noted in a story before the second vote took place:

Governor Rick Snyder has been pressuring the Legislature to adopt a one percent tax on all health insurance claims. That would put Michigan in compliance with federal rules. Otherwise, Michigan could lose 10 percent of its funding for the entire Medicaid program. The claims tax would generate $400 million, and qualify the state for twice that much in federal funds.

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Commentary
10:56 am
Thu June 30, 2011

Selling the Bridge

Our lawmakers are preparing to wind up business for the summer, and Governor Rick Snyder has racked up an astonishing record of legislative success. True, his party has heavy majorities in both houses, and there was a broad consensus that Michigan needed change. But he got lawmakers to agree very quickly to major reforms that faced entrenched opposition.

Taxing pensions, for one thing. True, he had to compromise, finally agreeing to exempt most of those already receiving them. But that he got Republicans to agree to a tax increase at all was something like getting a vegan to eat a hamburger.

The changes in the Emergency Financial Manager law and in the rules covering binding arbitration for government employees will have profound effects in years to come.

In six months, this governor has accomplished more than his predecessor did in four years. But he has so far failed at one thing, something that would have seemed an easy sell.

The proposal to build a new bridge across the Detroit River,  the New International Trade Crossing. The facts indicate this should be a no-brainer. The Ambassador Bridge is old. Canada wants and needs a new bridge so much it will cover all Michigan‘s costs.

Not only that. The federal government will allow Michigan to use the $550 million Canada is offering us as matching money to get two billion dollars in badly needed federal highway funds.

Yet the governor had to postpone a vote on the bridge because he’s been unable to win over most in his own party. To understand their thinking, I talked yesterday with one of the rising stars in the Michigan Republican Party, Senator Tonya Schuitmaker.

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Politics
10:40 am
Thu June 30, 2011

Detroit City Council to vote on budget deal today

The Spirit of Detroit sculpture outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.
user farlane Flickr

The Detroit City Council is set to vote this hour on a budget deal that splits the difference between Mayor Dave Bing’s proposal and the council’s steeper cuts.

After breaking off negotiations with the city council earlier this week, Mayor Bing presented a compromise budget today. And it appears the votes are there to pass it.

The two sides have been at odds over how much money to cut from next year’s budget. The city council has been more hawkish – approving $50 million in cuts on top of what Bing proposed.

The newest plan would restore half that. Officials with the Bing administration say that should be enough to avert police and fire layoffs, parks closures, and bus service cuts.

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