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Mackinac 2011
5:05 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Snyder opens the Mackinac Policy Conference

The 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference is being held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
SteveBurt1947 Flickr

I’ve just arrived here on Mackinac Island with Tracy Samilton and Lester Graham for the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference. Governor Rick Snyder welcomed guests to the conference earlier this afternoon. Snyder used the address to talk about what he believes is the need to build a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada. Last month, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley said the administration will push the legislature to approve a second bridge as soon as this month. Calley said the state needs to create competition with the Ambassador Bridge Company and its monopoly at the crossing.

“The takeaway of Snyder’s speech is that he is going to use the conference to push his goal of getting the legislature to approve the bridge,” Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta says.

Not all Republicans are on-board with the idea of building a second bridge. As Pluta explains, “this isn’t the first intra-party fight that he [Snyder] has had.”

Pluta is referring to the controversial tax on some retiree pensions that was part of Snyder’s budget proposal. Pluta predicts the battle over a second bridge will be bigger than the fight Snyder had over the pension tax.

Mackinac 2011
5:01 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Snyder argues for a new bridge at Mackinac Conference

A concept drawing of a new bridge known as the Detroit River International Crossing.
partnershipborderstudy.com

Legislation to create an authority to build a new international bridge in Detroit has been introduced in the state Senate.

Governor Rick Snyder is using a conference on Mackinac Island to sell the idea to lawmakers and business people.

He still has to win over skeptical Republicans in the Legislature who are not convinced there is no risk to taxpayers in the deal.

The bridge fight could pose his biggest intra-party squabble yet. It's a debate that’s expected to last through much if June.

The governor says the bridge is necessary to support Michigan’s growing export trade, saying the entire state benefits from the growth in exports:

"We had a big bounce back from 2009," Snyder said. "The jump this year has been very large and Canada is our biggest trading partner. We did over $44 billion in exports last year…and 49% of that was with Canada."

The governor says that includes agriculture products and manufactured goods from every corner of Michigan. Supporters of the bridge say there will be even more benefits if Canada and Mexico approve a free trade deal.

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit are putting up a fierce fight including a statewide ad campaign to stop the bridge project.

They say there won’t be enough traffic to justify a second bridge.

The governor calls those claims "false."

Environment
4:33 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Feral cat population probably not as large as reported

Feral cats are a problem in the Detroit area, but there might not be as many as 657,000
Gracey Morgue File

A Detroit newspaper reported there were 657,000 feral cats in the Detroit area. But that number might not be correct.

Kevin Hatman is with the Michigan Humane Society. He says he’s not sure how accurate that number is. But he says there is a large population of wild cats in the Detroit area:

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Auto/Economy
4:17 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Toyota recalls 52,000 Prius hybrids

Toyota is recalling 106,000 Prius hybrids globally (52,000 in the U.S.) The recall is for 2001-2003 models.
Photo courtesy of Toyota

Toyota has issued another recall, this one due to steering issues in its first generation Prius hybrids.

If the steering wheel is turned as far as it can go repeatedly and rapidly, Toyota says the nuts holding the steering shaft in place might get loose and make it harder to turn left.

The recall is for 2001-2003 Prius models and involves 52,000 hybrids nationwide.

Bill Visnic. an analyst with edmunds.com, says it’s been a rough couple years for Toyota in terms of recalls:

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Economy
4:06 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Judge says bottle return marking on Michigan bottles can stay

Rex Roof Creative Commons

A federal judge says a state law requiring beer and cans sold in Michigan to have specific markings is not against federal laws.

State lawmakers amended Michigan’s bottle-deposit law in 2008. They wanted to prevent people from bringing bottles from out of state to return in Michigan for 10-cents-a-piece. That’s the highest bottle deposit in the country.

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Politics
3:08 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Walberg describes GOP meeting with Pres. Obama as 'congenial'

Rep. Tim Walberg (R) Michigan's 7th congressional district
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan congressman Tim Walberg describes today’s meeting between Republican lawmakers and President Obama as ‘congenial’.   Walberg was among the GOP members of congress who outlined their concerns about the budget during the 90 minute meeting with the president at the White House. 

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Mackinac 2011
3:00 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

LIVE STREAM: Mackinac Policy Conference 2011

The Mackinac Policy Conference is set to kick-off today at 3 p.m.

You can watch a live stream of the events here on our page (the live stream is provided by Detroit Public Television and MiVote.org).

Here's an agenda for the Conference.

Arts/Culture
2:02 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Grand Rapids LipDub video gaining traction

Georgia Taylor spray painted the words "Experience Grand Rapids" in giant letters on a green lawn for the LipDub video.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The "likes" are outweighing the "dislikes" on the Grand Rapids LibDub video on YouTube (17,752 likes to 361 dislikes... and counting).

More than 1.3 million have watched the video so far.

In a press release, Rob Bliss, the director and co-executive producer of the video, called its viral spread an 'epidemic' (somebody should alert the CDC!).

And co-executive producer Scott Erickson said the video resonates with people:

"People who watch the video are very impressed by the enthusiasm and the level of community support we were able to capture. But they’ve also been amazed by the fact that this was done in a single take.  At almost 10 minutes, it’s the longest LipDub on record.  I think that’s captured people’s attention and encouraged them to share it with friends."

Today, Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith's story on the LibDub video will air nationally. It will be featured on National Public Radio All Things Considered.

Linda Holmes wrote about Smith's story and the Grand Rapids LipDub video on NPR's blog "Monkey See":

It's certainly a technical accomplishment, and it's great fun, and it's a project that did many, many things right, down to the choice of the lesser-known live version of "American Pie," which includes an almost ghostly audience singalong at the first chorus that's just right for the moment when it appears.

But as much as it's a pure treat to watch, it's also quite moving, and very effective as a response to a list of cities that are allegedly dying...

It's a little counterintuitive, but a massive crowd ballet that specifically identifies no one turns out to be a surprisingly powerful translation of a impersonal economic projection to a story about individual people.

Here's the record-breaking LipDub video in case you missed it:

Education
1:41 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Lifting lifetime bans on the U of M campus

Students and others walk on the sidewalk next to the Michigan Union
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Hundreds of people banned from the University of Michigan campus may soon be able to walk again freely on the Ann Arbor campus.  More than 2 thousand people landed on U of M’s lifetime campus ban list during the past decade for a variety of offenses.  

In the past, if you landed on the list, you had little chance of ever getting permission to walk again on the Ann Arbor campus. 

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Politics
11:42 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Detroit mayor vetoes council budget

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has vetoed the city council’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Detroit City Council trimmed an additional $50 million from the budget plan submitted by the mayor. Many members said they were not convinced the mayor’s revenue projections would hold.

Mayor Bing says the council’s plan would have resulted in layoffs in public safety, jeopardized Sunday bus service, and forced the city to return millions of dollars to the federal government. He says the council was bent on enacting drastic cuts to send a political message:

"But our fiscal crisis is too important to become just another political battle where no one wins."

The mayor and council members will spend the next few days on Mackinac Island for an annual policy conference hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber. The island has been the site of many political deals in the past. But if a compromise is not struck, the city council could vote to override the veto next week.

Mackinac 2011
11:19 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Michigan Radio's coverage of the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference

The site of the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference
David Ball creative commons

The Mackinac Policy Conference gets started this afternoon and several Michigan Radio reporters will be there to bring you the latest news. The conference will run through Friday.

Michigan Watch's Lester Graham will be keeping an ear to the ground and he'll also moderate two panel discussions for Detroit Public Television and Mi Vote's live coverage of the conference:

  1. Environmental Panel: Reinvention vs. Redevelopment: A panel discussion looking into the current state of brownfield redevelopment in Michigan. In particular, Michigan's brownfield and historic tax credit programs - have they worked? And, what will happen if, as Governor Snyder has proposed, the tax credits are eliminated and replaced with a separate fund.
  2. Education Panel: Cutting the Costs of Educating Kids: A panel discussion looking into the current state of education in Michigan (K-12 and higher education): What needs to be done to improve it, how do we go about funding it, and what would be the implications of Governor Rick Snyder's reform ideas on school districts, teachers and students in the state, and the workforce of tomorrow.

Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio's auto reporter, will cover discussions and talks from the conference related to the auto industry including Bill Ford's address.

Michigan Radio producer Zoe Clark will be blogging about the conference for michiganradio.org

And the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta will be reporting on policy from the Island.

Environment
9:32 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Feral cats seen as problematic in Detroit area

One estimate puts the feral cat population in the Detroit area at 657,000.
user anyjazz65 Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Officials say a large population of feral cats in the Detroit area is straining animal control and animal welfare groups.

The Detroit Free Press reports Wednesday that one estimate cited by the Petsmart Charities says there are about 657,000 feral cats in the area.

Officials say free-roaming cats often harbor illnesses that spread between cats and sometimes to humans.

People are working to address the problem in the Detroit area. Southfield has agreed to be the pilot community for a $100,000 county program to catch, sterilize and release feral cats. And a Warren animal welfare group is teaching people how to round up cats.

Crime
1:01 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Unabomber auction coming to an end

Theodore (Ted) Kaczynski (aka the Unabomber)

An online auction of the personal items of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski wraps up this week.  One of the hottest items in the auction is Kaczynski’s diploma from the University of Michigan.  

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Economy
10:48 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Luxury yachts to wind turbines: one story of diversification in MI

A large display of a renewable energy project is displayed in front of a large photo of a Tiara Yacht hanging on the wall at the company in Holland.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The recession forced many small manufacturers to find new products to make in an attempt to survive.  That was particularly true throughout the industrial Midwest. One Michigan yacht manufacturer is taking risks in new industries to keep its factory open and employees on the job.

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Politics
9:25 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Detroit Chief: No "critical, criminal" evidence left at shuttered crime lab

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee

The Detroit Police Chief admits the department left its former crime lab in deplorable condition. But Ralph Godbee also insists that no evidence that could compromise ongoing criminal cases was left behind there.

The Detroit Police Department shuttered its crime lab in 2008, after investigations revealed numerous problems with testing and handling evidence.

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Politics
9:16 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Showdown looms over Detroit budget

The Detroit City Council has set up a meeting to override Mayor Dave Bing’s likely budget veto.

Bing said last week he’ll veto the Council’s budget proposal. He has until the end of this week to do so.

The two sides are at odds over the Council’s decision to cut an additional $50 million from Bing’s proposed budget.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

A conversation with Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow about new farm bill

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held its first hearing in Lansing today. It’s the first step in the creation of a new farm bill.

Michigan Radio's Jenn White spoke with Senator Debbie Stabenow about the new farm bill. Stabenow chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.  Here is the interview:

Senator Stabenow talks about the importance of the new farm bill.  And says agriculture provides 1 out of 4 jobs in Michigan.

"There is strength and diversity in Michigan agriculture," Stabenow says, and "it's important to have a safety net and help farmers manage their risk on the farm."

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Politics
5:23 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

House prepares to lower population requirements for Detroit's special taxes

A measure that would let Detroit continue to levy taxes on utility bills and income is likely to pass in the state House this week. 

The bill is necessary for Detroit to keep the income and utilities taxes because the law says to keep those taxes a city must have a population of at least 750-thousand. Detroit’s population slumped below that in the past decade. Now lawmakers from Detroit are calling for a change to reduce the population requirement to 600-thousand.

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Politics
5:04 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Bills would address Detroit's dwindling population

user pablocosta creative commons

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The city of Detroit could continue charging a higher income tax rate than other Michigan cities under terms of legislation pending in the state House.

The bills that could come up for votes Wednesday also would affect utility user tax rates in Michigan's largest city.

Detroit likely needs changes in state law to keep some of its current tax rates because it is losing population. Census statistics show that the Motor City's population fell from 951,270 in 2000 to 713,777 last year.

Current state law allows higher personal income tax rates in cities with at least 750,000 people, affecting only Detroit. The law would have to change now that Detroit's population has dipped
below that 750,000 mark.

Detroit now charges an income tax rate of 2.5 percent for residents.

Economy
4:38 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Study: Michigan families need 3 times minimum wage to thrive

user j wynia Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A new study says a single parent in Michigan with a preschooler and a school-age child needs to earn more than three times the state's minimum wage to be economically
secure.

Wider Opportunities for Women and the Michigan League for Human Services released the report Tuesday.

The study says the wage-earner in that family of three needs to earn about $52,000 a year with benefits to cover child care, housing, health care, transportation, savings and retirement.

A state report says nearly six out of 10 jobs expected to be created in Michigan through 2018 won't enable a worker to earn that much.

The league says reducing tax credits for low-income workers and cutting spending on children's clothing allowances also are making it harder for hard-pressed families to reach economic security.

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