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Arts/Culture
5:56 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Artpod: A conversation with GRAM's new art director

Dana Friis-Hansen is the GRAM's new art director.
Steve Hall Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Art Museum

Dana Friis-Hansen will take the lead at the Grand Rapids Art Museum next month. On this week's Artpod, we talk with Friis-Hansen about his museum philosophy, the state's art ecosystem, and what he means by "negative space."

Bump it up!

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Politics
5:55 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Political Roundup: Impact of recall efforts on elected officials (audio)

A rash of recall petitions for Republican lawmakers in Michigan have recently emerged.

At last count, 16 lawmakers are being targeted for recalls including Governor Rick Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, and House Speaker Jase Boldger.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Republican state Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants to examine these efforts.

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Politics
5:39 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Matt Moroun testifies against new bridge crossing

The Maroun family owns the Ambassador Bridge and have been vigorously fighting the construction of a second bridge over the Detroit River. Matthew Maroun testified against a new bridge today.
Mike Russell creative commons

A member of the family that owns the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Canada testified before a state Senate committee in Lansing today.

He spoke with a handful of lawmakers who appear annoyed by conflicting information.

Matt Moroun told lawmakers that a proposal to build a publically owned bridge between Detroit and Canada is unnecessary because traffic is down, and tolls would not cover the construction costs.

But he also says the company is prepared to build a second bridge.

That prompted this question from Republican state Senator Geoff Hansen:

“If you receive a permit, will you build a second span?”

Moroun answered:

“The next day we’ll start. Promise.”

Republican state Senator Mike Nofs asked why the Ambassador Bridge owners would want to build a second bridge.

“Why would you build a second bridge the next day if you can’t make the money? The tolls aren’t going to be there. The traffic isn’t going to be there," Nofs said. "It’s going to cost you a lot more money, and you have to expand the roadways on both sides, and you have a government against you apparently right now - Canada - why would you build a second span?”

Moroun says his family’s company needs to build another bridge because the Ambassador Bridge is about 80 years old, and costs a lot of money to maintain.

Democratic state Senator Virgil Smith from Detroit says the Ambassador Bridge owners are controversial figures in the city.

“If you want to proceed with this – with the new project, with the new bridge – I think you’re going to have to clean up a number of your actions in southeast Michigan to do so, or I don’t see it happening no time soon," Smith said.

Many state senators expressed frustration with what they view as a slew of contradictory studies about whether a publically owned bridge would be profitable to taxpayers, or a burden.

Hearings on the bridge issue will continue next week.

Education
5:32 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

School for teen moms saved from closure

Science teacher Paul Weertz, left, with Jasmine Burton and Matthew Taylor.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

School is out for the summer in Detroit. And for several schools in the cash-strapped district, classes are done forever.

Until today, that was the story at Catherine Ferguson Academy – an award-winning school for pregnant teens and young moms.

Changing the storyline

Preparations were under way at Catherine Ferguson Academy in the morning for a big rally to protest the school’s closure. Students were milling around in the hallways. Some were making signs. Across town, protestors were getting on a bus to join the demonstration.

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Politics
5:28 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Kalamazoo Public Safety Lt. alleges chief discriminated in promoting staff

Lieutenant Stacey Randolph alleges the chief discriminated against her in 2009 and 2010 when he promoted white male officers instead of her. The chief denied the allegations in a court filing this week.

Lieutenant Stacey Randolph is the first and only African-American female supervisor at the Kalamazoo Public Safety Department. She applied for a promotion on two separate occasions in the past two years. Both times a white male got the job. Randolph scored equal to or better than other candidates.

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Politics
5:19 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Democrats and some advocacy groups say Republicans rushing redistricting

Republicans hope to have their redistricting plans finished by July 1st, according to the Associated Press.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio
  • An error occurred ingesting this audio file to NPR

Redistricting is taking place this year because of the changes in population found by the 2010 U.S. Census.

Republicans are in control in Michigan, and they get to draw the new political maps which will delineate new political districts for the Michigan Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives for the next ten years.

Democrats and other advocacy groups are complaining about the process.

From the Associated Press:

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Historical
4:51 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

The Ambassador Bridge: Looking back, looking forward

Patricia Drury / Flickr

In his state of the state address, Governor Rick Snyder urged the legislature to approve the construction of a new bridge span between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

Michigan Radio’s Political analyst Jack Lessenberry sat down with Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White to talk about the role the Ambassador Bridge has played in its 82 year history, and the reasons why a new bridge may be necessary. 

Billions of dollars a week move across the Ambassador Bridge. “It’s the most important trade crossing between the United States and Canada, and perhaps in the world,” says Jack.

The Ambassador Bridge was built largely as a beacon of prestige for Detroit in the roaring twenties, and would eventual grow to be a massive economic asset.

Jack would remind us though that “nothing lasts forever.” While the Ambassador Bridge was state of the art in 1929, it’s no longer adequate for the amount of traffic or the size of today’s tractor trailers.

--Cade Sperlich, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Changing Gears
4:39 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

The Verlander Effect: What do you spend at the stadium?

Outside Comerica Park in Detroit. How much do you spend when you go to the ballpark?
user Urban Adventures Flickr

Inside today’s New York Times, you’ll find my story on Detroit Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander.

I was on hand Tuesday night when Verlander nearly pitched the third no-hitter of his career.

He wound up with a two-hit game against the Cleveland Indians, in a performance that baseball scribes say was one of the best of the year.

And we discovered, there is an economic impact for Detroit every time he walks on the mound.

Call it the Verlander Effect.

Verlander attracted 28,128 fans to Tuesday night’s game — the latest proof that attendance when Verlander pitches goes up by more than 5,000 (5,137 to be precise). The fan count at a Verlander appearance averages 26,981; the Tigers are averaging 21,844 on nights when he doesn’t.

That extra 5,137 people adds up to a lot of revenue for the Tigers and by extension, the businesses around Comerica Park and in Detroit.

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Changing Gears
4:11 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Nonprofits: Tackling illiteracy in Chicago

The shelves at Open Books. The Chicago nonprofit is working to improve literacy rates in the city.
Open Books

In Chicago, literacy rates are pretty grim. More than one in three adults cannot read well enough to fill out a job application. Many are working toward improving literacy rates in Chicago, among them, the nonprofit Open Books. In the second story in our series on nonprofits, I took at look at Open Books, mostly because of the organization’s funding structure.

At Chicago International Charter School’s Bucktown campus, second grader Jayla Mercado is reading a book about dinosaurs. They’re her favorite topic, but she’s having a hard time sounding out some of the bigger words.

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Environment
3:07 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

State asks federal officials to assess storm damage in Calhoun County

Rhondda Flickr

The Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) hasve requested support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct joint Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA) in the City of Battle Creek and Calhoun County.

Beginning Friday, teams made up of local, state and federal officials will conduct joint PDAs in areas most severely impacted by the storms on May 29. The teams will review and verify damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure. This information will assist state officials in determining whether a federal declaration should be requested.

“We look forward to FEMA’s assistance in reviewing the impacted areas,” said Capt. W. Thomas Sands, commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “Their support greatly enhances the state’s capabilities to obtain a clear and accurate assessment, and determine the potential need for requesting federal assistance.”

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Politics
3:02 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Ethanol subsidies put to test again in Senate

Nathan Laurell Flickr

Subsidies for ethanol are being put to the test again in the Senate as budget cutters try to demonstrate a growing appetite in Congress to end special interest tax breaks to help reduce government borrowing.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on two measures that would end subsidies for producing ethanol, a renewable, liquid fuel additive that comes mainly from corn in the U.S.

One measure would repeal a tax credit that provides 45 cents a gallon to oil refiners who mix ethanol with gasoline. The Senate rejected an identical measure Tuesday, 40-59. The other would eliminate federal funding for building ethanol blender pumps or storage facilities.

Critics say the subsidies are no longer needed. Supporters say ethanol helps reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Social Issues
1:49 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Teen pregnancy cost to state taxpayers: $7.6 billion

Teen childbearing cost Michigan taxpayers about $308 million in 2008.
mich.gov Michigan Government

An organization that works to prevent teen pregnancy says steady progress has been made over the past couple of decades. But also it says the cost of teen pregnancy remains high, socially and fiscally. 

More than 260,000 teenage girls gave birth in Michigan between 1991 and 2008.

The cost to state taxpayers was about $7.6 billion, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

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Arts/Culture
1:40 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

The Peninsula Personality: An interview with Steve Amick

The cover of "The Lake, the River & the Other Lake"
Steve Amick

Steve Amick knows Michigan.

His first novel, The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, takes place in Weneshkeen, a fictional boat town on the western coast of Michigan. The novel is filled with scenes familiar to many Michiganders—the conflict between townies and summer people, between farmers and daytripping Fudgies.

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Commentary
1:08 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

A Bridge Too Far

Once upon a time, two businessmen wanted to build a bridge across the Detroit River, using their own money to do it. 

The politicians were skeptical. It won’t make money, some said. They’ll sell bonds to finance construction, and people will lose their shirts. Detroit’s mayor had a different objection. He said that if the bridge was successful, the owners would get rich off the public. Funny, but I thought that’s how private enterprise was supposed to work. Eventually, a city-wide referendum was held, and people overwhelmingly voted for the bridge.

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Environment
1:00 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Officials expand testing of cancer-causing chemical in Lake St. Clair

Carp in Lake St. Clair have the highest levels of PCB. Carp have levels that are 10 times what is considered safe.
User: Lebatihem Flickr

State health and environmental officials are expanding the scope of their testing for PCB in fish in Lake St. Clair.

PCB is a toxic compound that was used in electrical and industrial equipment. The chemical was banned in the 70s for its toxicity.  

Joe Bohr is with the Department for Environmental Quality. He says while the PCB found in the fish is 10 times what is considered safe, the amount of PCB in Michigan’s waters is decreasing.  

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Auto/Economy
1:00 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Chrysler to reopen part of plant in Trenton, Michigan

Increased demand for Chrysler's Pentastar V6 engine helped to reopen part of the Trenton North engine plant.
Greg Mason Flickr

Chrysler says it will invest $114 million in the Trenton North engine plant and save about 268 jobs.

From Reuters:

Chrysler will repurpose about one-fifth, or 400,000-square feet, of the Trenton North engine plant to make parts for the Pentastar engine made at the Trenton South plant.

The plant was closed last month, but the need for these parts has increased as Chrysler replaces seven V-6 engines with the new Pentastar V-6 engine, Brian Harlow, head of powertrain manufacturing said in a statement.

"This investment has also given Trenton North, which has been building engines for nearly 60 years, a new lease on life," Harlow said.

The city of Trenton gave Chrysler some tax breaks in exchange for investing in and reopening part of the Trenton North engine plant.

Crain's Detroit Business reports the tax break as a "50 percent tax abatement for Chrysler for 12 years."

Trenton Mayor, Gerald Brown, said he's happy Chrysler has given the plant a new lease on life. From the Detroit News:

Trenton Mayor Gerald Brown said the city is thrilled Chrysler is reopening the plant...

On Monday, the Trenton City Council approved a tax break for the $114 million project.

"My administration worked very hard to come to an agreement that will provide the city with long-term stability at the site, additional jobs and tax base improvements while further enhancing the relationship that Trenton and Chrysler have enjoyed since the 1950s. Trenton truly is Chrysler Town and we are proud of it," Brown said.

Politics
1:00 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Michigan gets $3.3 million for fighting food assistance fraud

user redjar

Michigan is getting 3.3 million dollars from the federal government to continue efforts to stop errors in the Food Assistance Program. Senator Debbie Stabenow said the state is improving on ways to stop errors, but there is a lot more work to be done.

"It is really an outrage when people are cheating and defrauding the system particularly when it’s something as basic as food for families. We have people in Michigan all across Michigan who have paid taxes all of their lives who never thought in their wildest dreams that they would be in a position where they needed to get some temporary help," said Stabenow. 

The senator said Michigan is keeping better electronic records on who is using the bridge card and how often it is being used. The USDA said Michigan was the most improved state last year in fighting food assistance fraud.

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Environment
12:18 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Power plants killing millions of Great Lakes fish every year

The Bay Shore Power Plant on Maumee Bay in Lake Erie. Lake Erie Waterkeeper Sandy Binh says this power plant is "probably the largest fish-killing plant in the Great Lakes."
screen grab from YouTube video sWestern Lake Erie Waterkeepers and Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund

Power plants around the region are responsible for killing hundreds of millions of fish each year, according to an investigative report from the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune's environmental reporter, Michael Hawthorne, looked at thousands of pages of industry reports documenting fish kills obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Hawthorne reports that the reports "highlight a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem that has largely gone unaddressed for years."

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Environment
10:55 am
Thu June 16, 2011

Lawmakers wrestling with wild hogs

Wild hogs in a breeding facility.
Photo by Peter Payette

Wild hogs have been the talk of the state legislature this week. Hunting ranches call the hogs Russian boars. They’re brown and hairy and the males have little tusks. The hogs are bred and raised to be hunted. Wild hog hunts typically go for around 500 or 600 bucks.

The Department of Natural Resources says wild hogs have gotten out of hand. The DNR says the hogs have gotten loose and are running around... doing things like tearing up the soil, destroying crops and competing with other animals for food.

The agency points out that wild hog breeding and hunting within these fenced facilities is currently unregulated. Last year, the DNR director signed an order. It will make it illegal to possess a wild hog in Michigan. The order goes into effect July 8th... unless a law is passed to regulate wild hogs on hunting ranches.

Ted Nugent is possibly the most outspoken critic of a ban on wild hogs. He owns a hunting ranch near Jackson.

“There’s this voodoo subculture out there that is misrepresenting that there are pigs loose and there are pigs out there destroying the environment and destroying family farms, when none of that is true.”

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Environment
10:42 am
Thu June 16, 2011

Climate change & Great Lakes restoration

Photo by Rebecca Williams

There’s an enormous project underway to clean up and protect the Great Lakes. It’s called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. People are doing things like cleaning up toxic hot spots... restoring wetlands... and trying to keep Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan.

Melinda Koslow is with the National Wildlife Federation. She’s an author of a new report on how climate change might affect these projects. She says scientists are finding the climate in the Great Lakes region is already changing.

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