News

A farm in Michigan
Maureen Reilly - flickr user

Update 2:38 p.m.:

There are more declarations of natural disaster areas in the state of Michigan. The 21 counties I wrote about below were for "excessive heat" disasters. The USDA has also issued natural disaster declarations for frost (the excessive cold occurred from March 1st through May 16th), AND for storms and rain.

The 32 counties that received the frost declarations can be found this FEMA page.

We‘re in the middle of the holiday season, and in many ways, these aren’t terribly festive or inspiring times. We haven’t shaken off the effects of the Great Recession. Most of us know people who are out of work, in a time when there are too few jobs to be had.

We haven’t seen a lot of cooperation or willingness to work together from either our state or national governments. However, I was inspired by something this week. The American Civil Liberties Union of  Michigan ran a high school essay contest.

Jennifer Granholm
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

In less than a month, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm will step down from office.    She met with reporters today to reflect on her 8 years in Office.

From the Associated Press:

Gov. Jennifer Granholm says her biggest accomplishment during the past eight years was changing a culture attuned more to factory jobs rather than college degrees and diversifying the state's economy.

The Democratic governor told reporters in a year-end interview Friday that her effort to restructure the economy to rely less on building automobiles "is the thing I'm most proud of."

Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra
hoekstra.house.gov

Representative Pete Hoekstra came into office in the 103rd Congress in 1993. He's going out in the 111th Congress at the end of this year.

Hoekstra announced his retirement in December 2008 when he decided to run for Governor of Michigan.

He lost that bid to Rick Snyder and will soon be out of a political office after 17 years.

Today, the Grand Rapids Press ran an editorial praising Hoekstra's tenure, saying,

The Big Chill logo from the University of Michigan
University of Michigan

More than 109,000 hockey fans are expected to be on hand for Saturday afternoon’s outdoor game at Michigan Stadium.  Its being called the Big Chill for a reason.

The Michigan Wolverines will skate against the Michigan State Spartans in a game that will likely break the all-time attendance record for a hockey game.

rickforMI

Business groups say Michigan’s regulations and the state’s regulators make it more difficult to do business in the state than it needs to be.  During his campaign for governor, businessman Rick Snyder made it clear he agreed with that.

“Our regulatory system is backwards in this state.  Not only the amount of regulation, but how people are being treated.  Lansing is treating us as if we’re bad and should be controlled.  The average person is a good, honest person.  The average organization is trying to succeed.  We should be focused in on the exceptions.”

Rural Michigan is fighting a war with feral swine and wild boars.   The problem is getting worse.   Now, the state is about to take a major step up declaring them an "invasive species"

The Associated Press reports:

Michigan's fight against feral swine and wild boar is escalating.  Department of Natural Resources and Environment Director Rebecca Humphries announced Friday she signed an order declaring the swine an invasive species in Michigan.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Dan Akerson, General Motors' CEO, told the Economic Club of Washington D.C. this morning that his company was humbled by its "near-death experience" during its 2009 bankruptcy.

In this morning's news

Dec 10, 2010

Governor-Elect Snyder Talks Up Economic Goals

Governor-elect Rick Snyder spoke to university students yesterday in Detroit about reinventing Michigan’s economy. Snyder told the crowd of accounting students at Wayne State University that Michigan will beat analysts’ negative economic growth expectations for the state in the coming years, Sarah Hulett reports. Snyder is the state’s first certified public accountant to be elected Governor of the state. But, as The Detroit News reports, Snyder urged the students to have a career plan that focuses on more than just money.

A Switch in Congressional Roles

Two Michigan Congressmen are switching roles on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.  Republican Congressman Dave Camp of Midland will become Chairman of the Committee in the new legislative session because Republicans took control of the House in the November election. Democratic Congressman  Sander Levin of Royal Oak currently is the Committee's chair. Levin will take over as the Committee’s ranking member, the job Rep. Camp currently holds, in the next Congress.

Oakland County Won’t Take Over Pontiac Police Patrols

The Oakland County Commission voted down a plan yesterday that would have had that county’s sheriff’s department take over police patrolling in Pontiac. Pontiac’s state-appointed financial manager had pushed for Oakland County to take over the patrols to save Pontiac money. The city faces a projected $9 million budget deficit. The city is expected to bring the issue back to the Oakland County Commission next month, Steve Carmody reports.

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.

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