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Asian Carp
6:29 am
Wed August 31, 2011

Attorneys General urge Great Lakes, Mississippi split

Attorneys general in some Great Lakes states want to cut an artificial link between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds that provides a pathway for invasive species, including Asian carp.
Kate.Gardner Flickr

Attorneys general in the Great Lakes region want a multi-state campaign to cut an artificial link between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds that provides a pathway for invasive species.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the attorneys general invite their counterparts in 27 other states to pressure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for quicker action.

The Corps is studying whether to separate the drainage basins in the Chicago area, where they were joined more than a century ago by construction of a canal. Zebra and quagga mussels have used the waterway to invade states farther south, and the Asian carp is threatening to migrate into the Great Lakes.

The Corps report is due in 2015. The letter demands a faster timetable.

Offbeat
6:00 am
Wed August 31, 2011

GOLD! Pursuing the precious metal in southern Michigan

Barry Anderson points to a speck of gold he's found in a southern Michigan creek
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

With the price of gold soaring to near $1,900 an ounce this summer, you may have fantasized about striking it rich prospecting for gold.

Some people are doing more than fantasizing.  They are looking for gold in southern Michigan.  

You wouldn’t think to look at it, but this nondescript campground about 15 miles due south of Battle Creek is one of the centers for gold prospecting in southern Michigan.

Most gold prospectors here are using decidedly low-tech methods.

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CRIME
9:18 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Oakland County looks to expand crime lab to analyze DNA

Oakland County could soon help ease a statewide backlog of DNA evidence that in some cases has delayed the prosecution of criminal cases.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard says years of work to upgrade his crime lab have paid off. The lab has been certified by a national group to handle DNA evidence. And Bouchard says that will allow the county to apply for federal grants to make final preparations and hire staff to do the work.

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Politics
5:16 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

A conversation with Republican State House Speaker Jase Bolger

Michigan State House Speaker Jase Bolger.
Michigan Municipal League / flickr

The state legislature is getting back to work after a two month summer recess.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with State House Speaker Jase Bolger to find out what lawmakers will be up to this fall.

Politics
5:04 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Appeals Court: Kilpatrick book sale proceeds must go to Detroit first

The Michigan Court of Appeals says former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick does not get to keep the money from sales of his new book until he has paid his restitution to the city.

Kilpatrick argued, through his attorney, that the government could not take the profits from his book without violating his First Amendment rights. He said that would keep him from earning a living by telling his story.

A lower court judge ordered profits from the book put into an escrow account under a Michigan law. It does not allow felons to profit from talking or writing about their crimes if they still owe restitution. The state is also trying to collect $15,000 from Kilpatrick to reimburse taxpayers for his 14-month prison stay.

Kilpatrick was recently released from prison. A judge in Detrot found he'd hidden assets that could have gone toward paying his $860,000 debt to the city.

Kilpatrick has been living with his family in a Dallas suburb since his release from prison. He is also traveling the country promoting his book. He could appeal the court decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Education
4:46 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Report: Michigan students pay about half the "sticker price" of tuition

Northern Michigan University, one of Michigan's 15 public universities.
The Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan

A coalition of Michigan’s public university officials says college is still affordable, despite tuition hikes.

A report from the Presidents Council says need-based financial aid is on the rise, and universities are covering more student costs.         

Michael Boulous is executive director of the Presidents Council.

"The bottom line is aid is available if you have need. College still is affordable, and we don’t want that to be a discouraging piece in attending any post-secondary institution."

Boulous says a college education is more important than ever for workers in Michigan.

"The number of jobs for workers with high school diplomas is shrinking rapidly," says Boulous. "In many cases, entire industries that employed these workers are vanishing. Unemployment for people who have gone to college is half the rate it is for those who have only a high school diploma."

        The report says merit-based scholarships have decreased slightly over the past few years. But the report says need-based financial aid has nearly doubled in that time.

The Presidents Council says the average student pays about $4,800 in tuition at a public university. Housing and books can add about $9,000 to that price tag.

School officials say about two-thirds of students qualify for financial aid.

Politics
4:43 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Protesting pie throwers heading to jail

Michigan U.S. Senator Carl Levin recounts the apple pie throwing incident in a YouTube video.
screen grab of YouTube video

Two people will spend the next month in federal custody for throwing a pie in the face of U.S. Senator Carl Levin.  

The incident happened a year ago as Michigan Senator Carl Levin met with constituents at a restaurant in Big Rapids. Levin was unhurt.  The pie was supposed to be a protest of the senator’s foreign policy positions. 

23 year old Ahlen Mohsen threw the apple pie. 24 year old Max Kantar bought the pie. The two plead  guilty to federal charges.  

A federal judge in Grand Rapids sentenced the pair to 30 days in federal custody.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that during the sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell said he needed to show that attacks on elected officials meeting with constituents cannot be tolerated.

Here's how Levin remembered the incident:

Education
4:31 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Highland Park schools closer to emergency manager

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The school system in Highland Park is getting closer to the possible appointment of an emergency manager because of its troubled finances.

Michigan schools Superintendent Mike Flanagan sent a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder this month saying "probable financial stress exists" in the Detroit-area school district. The letter says a recently revised state law requires that the governor appoint a review team to dig deeper into the district's finances.

The letter summarizing a preliminary financial review of the 1,300-student district was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The letter cites "unsatisfactory progress" in eliminating budget deficits and audit problems.

A message was left Tuesday seeking comment from School District of the City of Highland Park officials.

The district still could avoid the appointment of an emergency manager.

Auto/Economy
3:03 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Preserving auto workers' stories

Ora Calhoun started in the painting booth when she hired in at the Fisher Body plant in 1978, according to her oral history. Her story has been cataloged by MSU.
MSU

The United Auto Workers and Michigan State University collected oral histories from about 125 workers, managers, and others connected to the Fisher Body plant in Lansing.

The plant closed in 2005 after more than 70 years of production. Fisher Body in Lansing was one of the longest operating auto factories in the U.S., according to a Lansing Car Assembly Facebook page.

An MSU labor relations professor, John Beck, headed up the project.

Beck said the oral history recordings "gave a lot of people a voice that they would not have had otherwise."

From an MSU press release:

The plant’s closing in 2005 threatened to effectively bury the workers’ experiences. But through the MSU/UAW partnership, these stories – which run the gamut from first and last days on the job, to tales of racism and sexism, to statements of pride and teamwork – are now part of a digital catalogue at MSU’s G. Robert Vincent Voice Library. The catalogue is called the Lansing Auto Town Gallery.

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Politics
1:48 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Democrat leaves Lansing to lobby for school reforms

State Representative Tim Melton (D-Pontiac) is leaving the Michigan legislature.
screenshot from HTV

The former state House Education Committee chairman is resigning his office to become a national school reform lobbyist.

Democratic state Representative Tim Melton (D-Pontiac) will work for the Students First organization in California starting in early September.

Students First is an organization headed up by a nationally polarizing figure in education reform, Michelle Rhee.

"I’ll be helping other state’s throughout the country pass reforms similar to the ones we did in Michigan," said Melton. "The Students First organization is a national grassroots advocacy for school reform. We’re going to really try to move the United States and this country forward as far as what the rest of the world’s doing on education reform."

Melton says the job will allow him to build on the work he did with the controversial "Race To The Top" legislation he spearheaded in Michigan.  

He is the third state lawmaker in the past couple years to leave office early for a different job. Melton says term limits could make leaving early a trend for politicians.

"I’ve got two young kids and I guess not knowing what’s going to happen after your term is up, and if an opportunity arises that allows you to do the thing that you’re really passionate about—you know, school reform to me is something that is a major issue," said Melton.

Melton’s departure will leave the House with 46 Democrats, to the majority of 63 Republicans. He was known for frequently working with and voting with Republicans.

He had contemplated a run at a House seat in Congress, but says he has reached the end of his career as an elected official.

Politics
1:32 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Court refuses to hear Kilpatrick's book case

We hear this from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

The Michigan Court of Appeals has refused to hear the case of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is trying to shield book sale earnings from being seized as part of his restitution to the city.

Wayne County Judge David Groner established an escrow account to capture any profits from Kilpatrick's memoir, "Surrendered! The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick."

The set-aside money will go toward paying the city of Detroit's $860,000 restitution tab. And as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported, the money will also go toward a bill of a little more than $15,000 from the state of Michigan to pay for Kilpatrick's prison time.

Education
1:08 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Grand Rapids trying to get high school dropouts back in the classroom

Officials in Grand Rapids are trying to change some high school dropouts into high school graduates.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new program launching this fall in Grand Rapids will try to help high school dropouts earn both their high school diplomas and some college credit.  The program is a joint effort of Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Rapids Community College. 

College president Steven Ender says they’re reaching out to 16 to 19 year olds who otherwise would have a hard time finding a future in Michigan’s economy.  

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Housing
1:00 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Home prices up slightly nationally, but still down in Detroit

A graph showing the annual percent change in home prices from 1998 through the middle of 2011. See the bubble bursting?
S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices

Data released today by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices show that through June, home prices nationally were back to their early 2003 levels.

But home prices in Detroit were at pre-2000 levels. The Detroit market was down 6.6 percent when compared to the previous year.

That put's Detroit in a bad category along with some "sunbelt" cities, according to S&P/Case-Shiller:

At the other extreme, those which set new lows in 2011 include the four Sunbelt cities – Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix and Tampa – as well as the weakest of all, Detroit. These shifts suggest that we are back to regional housing markets, rather than a national housing market where everything rose and fell together.

The Detroit Free Press quoted a statement from Patrick Newport, a U.S. economist with IHS Global Insight:

"Detroit, where prices have dropped nearly 50% since peaking in late 2005, remains, by far, the weakest market,” he said. “Detroit avoided a big run-up in housing prices during the boom years, but was hit hard by the recession."

Environment
11:38 am
Tue August 30, 2011

Simple business model connects chefs to locally grown food

At the meet-up, Barbara Jenness shares some new cheese from her Dancing Goat Creamery.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan farmers grow the most diverse crops of any state besides California. Agriculture is Michigan’s 2nd largest industry and it’s growing. But many Michigan farms aren’t big enough to distribute through grocery stores.

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Commentary
11:19 am
Tue August 30, 2011

Proposal A Revisited

These are tough times for Michigan’s Public Schools, which by and large, have done a superb job educating our citizens since we became a state nearly two hundred years ago.

Statewide, the schools are suffering from a series of crippling funding cuts enacted at the same time we are demanding they do more with less. Teachers feel that their hard-won health care, pension, salaries and benefits are under siege.

And some districts are suffering further because an explosion of charter schools are taking students and money away from them. This is most acute in Detroit. There, a revolving door of expensive financial managers and high-paid consultants have proven unable to fix the schools or halt the stampede away from them.

Naturally, this has led to a crisis atmosphere. I spent yesterday afternoon with the leadership of the various school districts in one of Michigan’s major counties. They believe there is an actual conspiracy against them. They think there are those who want to essentially destroy public education and turn it into a system of charter schools and vouchers, for one big reason: To get private hands on some of the thirteen billion a year Michigan spends on public education.

Whether that’s true or not, that there is a major crisis - and coincidentally, a major new report finally gets to the bottom of just why this is. There are few institutions more respected than the non-partisan, non-profit Citizens Research Council of Michigan, whose motto is this: The right to criticize government is also an obligation to know what you are talking about.

Released yesterday, the CRC’s study is called “Distribution of State Aid to Michigan Schools.” That may not sound like a sexy page-turner, but for those of us interested in saving our state, it is.

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Arts/Culture
11:05 am
Tue August 30, 2011

Books-a-Million to expand to Traverse City and 13 other locations

Books-a-Million looks to expand to Michigan and other states.
Photo courtesy of Books-a-Million

Update 9:30 a.m

Books-a-Million received the green light from a judge to take over 14 former Borders stores, including one in Traverse City. Publishers Weekly has the details on the deal:

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News Roundup
8:50 am
Tue August 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Welfare Assistance

Letters have started going out to the 11,000 families in Michigan who are expected to have their welfare benefits cut off on October 1st, Sarah Hulett reports. Sheryl Thompson, deputy director of field operations for the state Department of Human Services, told Hulett that state caseworkers are scheduling one-on-one appointments with people affected by the new law. Thompson says people need to know they will still be eligible for food stamps, childcare assistance, and Medicaid. Governor Snyder has not yet signed the bill which calls for a strict enforcement of a 48-month lifetime limit on case assistance benefits.

McCotter Talks Election 2012

Southeast Michigan Congressman, and Republican presidential hopeful, Thaddeus McCotter will discuss his campaign today in Lansing. “Earlier this month, the Livonia Republican opened his national campaign headquarters in Plymouth. McCotter continues to forge ahead despite finishing last in the Iowa straw poll earlier this month… He spent Saturday campaigning at the Polk County GOP picnic in Iowa and recently spoke to Republicans in New Hampshire and Illinois,” the Associated Press reports.

Lansing Property Tax Increase?

For a second time this year, Lansing voters will be asked to decide if they want to increase their property taxes, Steve Carmody reports. From Carmody:

There are fears of deep cuts in police and fire protection if the millage is rejected again. In May, Lansing voters rejected a millage increase. After that, the city laid off 47 police officers and firefighters to close a multi-million dollar budget gap. Now the city’s finance director is predicting another $12 to $15 million gap next year. Last night, the Lansing City Council voted to put a millage increase on the November ballot, with most of the money earmarked for police and fire.

Education
6:56 am
Tue August 30, 2011

Enrollment a factor in public school finances

Woodley Wonder Works Flickr

 A new report, released by the Citizen's Research Council, says declining enrollment is one reason many Michigan public schools are facing financial struggles. From the Associated Press:

About 61 percent of Michigan's 551 traditional public school districts faced some degree of declining enrollment between the state's 1995 and 2009 fiscal years...

It's an important factor because much of the state aid that goes to school districts is granted on a per-student basis. The report says about half of Michigan's school districts saw a decline in their total state aid foundation revenue between the 1995 and 2009 fiscal years once it's adjusted for inflation.

The report says the per-student gap between the state's highest and lowest funded districts has shrunk but still exists.

The 87 page report, titled Distribution of State Aid to Michigan Schools, can be found here.

Politics
10:45 pm
Mon August 29, 2011

Lansing voters asked to increase property taxes (again)

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

For a second time this year, Lansing voters will be asked to decide if they want to increase their property taxes. There are fears of deep cuts in police and fire protection if the millage is rejected again. 

 In May, Lansing voters rejected a millage increase. After that, the city laid off 47 police officers and firefighters to close a multi-million dollar budget gap. 

Now the city’s finance director is predicting another $12 to $15 million gap next year.

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Politics
6:47 pm
Mon August 29, 2011

Charges dismissed against Detroit mother involved in police standoff over daughter

Maryanne Godboldo
Justice for Maryanne Godboldo website www.justice4maryanne.com

A Judge has dismissed all criminal charges against a Detroit mother accused of firing at police when they came to remove her 13-year-old daughter.

District Court Judge Ronald Giles ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude Godboldo fired at police…during a ten-hour standoff in March.

Giles also ruled the order to remove the child was invalid.

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