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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.

Natural Disaster
3:05 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Help for Joplin, Michigan judge organizing relief convoy to Missouri

Relief efforts are underway in Joplin, MO.
user meagan Flickr

Jodi Debbrecht, Waterford’s 51st District Court Judge, is organizing a donation drive to help the city of Joplin, Missouri.

On an Oakland County website "Judge Jodi Helps Joplin" Debbrecht writes about her personal connection to the Joplin area:

Like many in southeast Michigan, I was overcome with emotion when I saw the television images of the devastation from the tornado that touched down in Joplin, Missouri. For me, Joplin’s violent weather literally struck close to home. I grew up in Missouri, and would frequently vacation with my family in the Joplin area and many of my relatives still live in Missouri.

Main Street Oakland County’s Manager, Bob Donohue, is helping organize the donation effort. Donohue has been in touch with the Mayor of Joplin, Mike Woolston, who provided a list of things needed. The list includes everything from wheelbarrows, to pet food, to power tools.

They'll collect the items at 11 drop off centers around Oakland County.

Absent these items, Mayor Woolston said money would be the biggest help:

"We’re benefiting from tremendous generosity from people all over the country, but if people can give cash, that’s the best way to help us right now."

The Missouri Department of Public Safety has set up a website directing people to where they can donate.

And if you want to volunteer in the Joplin area, you can find more information from the United Way.

Economy
2:55 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Detroit home prices continue slide

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit’s home prices may soon take another tumble.  Standard & Poor’s Price-Shiller index says home prices in the nation’s 20 largest cities are falling once again.    Home prices in Detroit aren’t falling as fast as other cities in the survey, but then again Detroit’s home prices are already the lowest among the nation’s 20 largest cities.  

  Home prices in Detroit haven’t been this low since 1995.  

Read more
Economy
2:30 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Interview: Do Emergency Managers actually help?

flickr / joshuadavisphotography

Governor Rick Snyder passed new laws expanding the power of Emergency Financial Managers, and there’s been debate over whether or not Emergency Managers are able to turnaround the municipalities and districts they’re assigned to.

Michigan Radio’s Jenn White spoke with Gary Olsen, Former Director of the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants. Here is the interview:

Do Emergency Managers leave their cities or districts in better financial condition?

Read more
Auto/Economy
1:20 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

First quarter late payments on auto loans lowest since 1999

Fewer late payments on auto loans.
Emilio Labrador Flickr

Late payments on auto loans hit their lowest level since 1999 in the first quarter, providing more data that shows consumers have gotten a handle on their debt.

TransUnion said the rate of payments that are 60 days or more past due reached its lowest point since the credit reporting agency began tracking the figure, dropping to 0.49 percent.

The improvement from 0.66 percent a year ago reflects the stronger auto sales market, which is being fed by higher consumer confidence and low interest rates, says Peter Turek of TransUnion. The number of auto loans started during the quarter rose 22 percent from the prior year.

TransUnion expects late payments to continue to drop this year.

Auto/Economy
1:03 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Fiat plans to buy Canada's stake in Chrysler

Working to free itself from government ties.
Ricardo Giaviti Flickr

The majority owner of Chrysler, Fiat, is anxious to rid the company of any government ties.

Last week, the company refinanced it's TARP loans from the U.S. government.

Then they announced plans to buy the U.S. government's remaining 6% stake.

Read more
Environment
10:34 am
Tue May 31, 2011

Bears and people getting too close?

Photo by Alan Vernon

Black bears are doing well across northern Michigan.  In fact, they're doing so well, people are complaining more about bears getting into bird feeders and bee hives and damaging orchards.

It’s still rare to encounter a bear in the woods. But last year a hunter was attacked near Petoskey. And state wildlife officials say bears become aggressive when people forget they are wild animals.

Sometimes bears just out of hibernation wander into town or into someone’s back yard to rummage for food.

Last spring, hundreds of people in Traverse City flocked to a tree with a bear in it near the airport. State wildlife officials captured the young male and moved it to a distant swamp.

But an incident from last fall near the Bear River in Emmet County continues to raise concerns.

On an October evening, three yearling bears and their mother attacked a bow hunter up a tree in his stand.

DNR wildlife chief Russ Mason says the problem likely had been brewing over the summer.

“There were reports of a sow with three cubs showing up in people’s yards and on their porches and people feeding the bears. They liked looking at them and thought they were amusing. People do things like that. They ought not to.”

In this case, the deer hunter says he kicked and hit a couple of the cubs when they climbed up his stand.

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