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Lansing
1:11 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Layoffs looming in Lansing

Downtown Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing police officers are waiting to see if they will receive layoffs notices.  The city council next week is expected to approve a city budget that will include deep budget cuts in public safety.   The city is facing a 20 million dollar budget deficit.

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Commentary
1:00 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Fast train to somewhere

We’ve had so much bad news for so long it’s sometimes hard to absorb when something goes right. But it did this week, when the federal government awarded Michigan $200 million dollars to improve railroad service between Detroit and Chicago.

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Traffic
1:00 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Traffic deaths rise in Michigan. Is the economy to blame?

An accident scene on I-94
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan saw an increase in the number of traffic deaths in 2010.  It was the first increase in 7 years. 

According to a new report, 936 people died on Michigan roads last year.   That’s an 8% increase over 2009.

Traffic fatalities have been declining in Michigan since the early 2000’s when more than a thousand people were dying each year in car crashes. 

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Changing Gears
12:52 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Across the region, shutting the local library

Zachariah, left, and Craig Boyd, Saturday morning regulars at Gary Public Libary's main branch.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

What happens when your local library shuts its doors? That’s a question Midwestern towns from Evanston, Ill., to Troy, Mich., are asking as local libraries are targeted in budget cuts.

I went to Northwest Indiana, where the Gary Library Board has just decided to close its main branch, to find out the impact on a local community.

Gary has five library branches. The other four have names, like Kennedy, or Du Bois. This one is simply called the "main library."

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Science/Medicine
11:30 am
Wed May 11, 2011

Mobile field hospital drill to be held May 18

For the first time, Michigan will hold a disaster drill involving the state's complete mobile field hospital.

The drill will take place May 18 at The Summit at Capitol Centre in Dimondale, just southwest of Lansing.

It will be the first time that both a 100-bed mobile field hospital housed in southeast Michigan and a 40-bed mobile field hospital housed in southwest Michigan will be brought together in the same disaster drill.

The drill is intended to let emergency volunteer health professionals practice deploying the mobile field hospital, which can be set up virtually anywhere to treat patients.

The mobile hospital would be deployed if a disaster overwhelmed medical resources such as traditional hospitals and health clinics.

News Roundup
8:45 am
Wed May 11, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Thursday, May 11th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Other

GM Announces New Investments

General Motors announced yesterday it will invest a total of $2 billion in 17 of its U.S. plants. The investment means the automaker will re-hire its 1,357 laid-off workers, and possibly hire hundreds of new workers, especially if demand for GM cars continues to improve. The announcement was made at GM’s Toledo Transmission plant.

Unhappy With Snyder

A new EPIC/MRA poll is out and it shows Michigan voters are unhappy with Governor Rick Snyder. Snyder’s disapproval rating is at 60%, that’s compared with a disapproval rate of 36% percent just two months ago. And, disapproval of his job performance seems to have influenced how votes view Snyder personally. "More voters have an ‘unfavorable’ opinion of Governor Snyder today than they did back in February. In February, the poll showed 44% ‘favorable’ and 27% ‘unfavorable.’ Today, the poll shows 41% ‘favorable’ and 43% ‘unfavorable,'" Mark Brush reports.

EITC (Partially) Restored

Governor Snyder's administration has agreed to restore a reduced version of the state income tax credit for working poor families, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The reduced tax break will allow families that qualify to claim 6% of the federal earned income credit on their state taxes. In the past families could claim 20%. Snyder's original proposal called for elimination of the credit... Families eligible for the state credit in 2009 claimed an average of $432 per household. The Michigan League for Human Services says the reduced credit will still allow eligible families to take $140 off their 2011 tax bill, or add part of it to their return.

Politics
6:49 am
Wed May 11, 2011

Group begins effort to recall state Speaker of the House

Republican Jase Bolger, State Speaker of the House
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

A group trying to recall Governor Rick Snyder is now trying to remove Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger. The Associated Press reports:

The group cites Bolger's support for cutting school aid and for legislation making it easier to void public employee contracts during financial emergencies.

The Committee to Recall Rick Snyder says it hopes to collect 8,500 signatures to put Bolger's recall on the November ballot.

Language on a petition to recall the Marshall lawmaker was submitted Tuesday to the Calhoun County clerk.

Bolger says he'll keep focusing on job creation and sound fiscal management and says he's in touch with voters.

Chief Deputy Clerk Teri Loew tells the Battle Creek Enquirer there'll be a hearing this month.

If the language passes muster, backers will have 180 days to collect signatures.

Auto/Economy
9:38 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

GM will (possibly) hire new workers as its invests in U.S. plants

General Motors has announced it will invest a total of $2 billion in 17 of its U.S. plants. 

The investment also means the company will re-hire its 1,357 laid-off workers, and possibly hire hundreds of new workers, especially if demand for GM cars continues to improve.

At GM's Toledo Transmission plant, UAW members gather to hear about what it means for their plant:  a $200 million upgrade and the opportunity to build a new, fuel-efficient 8-speed transmission.

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Education
5:25 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Fire strikes a Detroit K-8 academy

Update 5:25 p.m.

The fire at the Paul Robeson Academy has caused extensive damage. Students from the school are being relocated and will resume classes Friday.

From the Detroit News:

District officials said 16 available classrooms at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School are being readied to accommodate 435 students from Paul Robeson Academy, heavily damaged by the blaze...DPS Emergency Manager Robert Bobb said district employees are locating books, desks and supplies to prepare the classrooms at Marshall — just a few blocks from Robeson — so Robeson's first- through eighth-grade students can resume their studies with minimal disruption. Teachers, support staff and all employees will be sent over to Marshall from Robeson to make the transition work, Bobb said.

8:31 a.m.

There’s a fire this morning at Paul Robeson Academy in Detroit. Some 660 students attend the K-8 school.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. It began around 4 a.m.  and firefighters are on the scene.

The Detroit Public Schools calls Robeson Academy one of its premier learning institutions. Students who enroll at Robeson must carry at least a 2.5 grade point average.

Here's some video from Fox News in Detroit:

Fire Rips through Robeson Academy on Detroit's West Side: MyFoxDETROIT.com

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Politics
4:47 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Calley: A new bridge will create competition with Ambassador Bridge

Governor Rick Snyder stressed his desire to create a second U.S./Canada bridge crossing the Detroit River.
Patricia Drury Flickr

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says the governor’s office will push the Legislature to approve a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada as soon as next month.

Calley says they plan to introduce a bill after budget and tax deals have been ironed out. He says the state needs to create competition with the Ambassador Bridge Company and its monopoly at the crossing.

"The governor started out, right out of the blocks, advocating for a fix to that problem. A fix that doesn't really hold or contain any risk at all for the people of the state of Michigan, but instead put the power of the private sector behind a new project and says that 'we're not for monopolies anymore, we’re for competition.'"

Calley appeared at a speaking engagement with Roy Norton, the Canadian consul general to Detroit. Norton says the Ambassador Bridge is more than 80 years old and carries more than 10,000 trucks a day.

"One, very old bridge, by itself, carries almost 30% of the world’s largest two-way trade relationship, with literally millions of jobs in Canada and the United States depending on everything working right every day."

Norton and Calley reassured Lansing’s business community that the cost of a second, publically owned bridge would fall on the Canadian government, and not Michigan taxpayers.

They say the project would be paid for over time by tolls. And they say tolls for the new bridge would be cheaper than they are now at the Ambassador Bridge.

Meanwhile, the Ambassador Bridge Company appears to be ramping up its campaign against the proposed bridge project. The bridge company wants to build its own second bridge instead.

Politics
4:17 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Governor Snyder making changes to get budget proposal through Senate

Governor Rick Snyder is working to get his budget through the State Senate. He hopes to have an agreement on the next fiscal year's budget by May 31st.
user aunt owwee Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder continues to negotiate with lawmakers to try to get his budget proposal through the Senate.

Parts of his proposal are facing a tough sell, even among his fellow Republicans.

The Snyder administration changed its position on eliminating the earned income credit, and now says families should still be able to claim it, but at a reduced rate.

Families eligible for the state credit in 2009 claimed an average of $432 per household. The Michigan League for Human Services says the reduced credit will still allow eligible families to take $140 off their 2011 tax bill, or add part of it to their return.

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Politics
3:41 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Unfunded state mandates, local governments & the Headlee Amendment

Michigan Hall of Justice, Lansing, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tomorrow, the Michigan Supreme Court will consider a rule change that could put local governments in a stronger position to challenge unfunded state mandates.  

The Headlee Amendment is a state constitutional amendment meant to reduce unfunded state mandates on local governments, like requiring but not necessarily providing extra money for special education programs. 

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Politics
3:41 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Snyder's "disapproval" rating goes up

Governor Rick Snyder's poll numbers are in.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

Michigan voters are not happy with Governor Rick Snyder according to a new EPIC/MRA poll.

Two months ago, Snyder's disapproval rating was at 36%.

Today his disapproval rating sits at 60%.

The disapproval of his performance seems to have influenced how voters view Snyder personally as well.

More voters have an "unfavorable" opinion of Governor Snyder today than they did back in February:

  • In February, the poll showed 44% "favorable" and 27% "unfavorable"
  • Today, the poll shows 41% "favorable" and 43% "unfavorable"

What "high-value target" does Snyder need to find to turn these poll numbers around?

Politics
3:38 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Detroit officials eye immediate, long-term money problems

Charles Pugh
Charles Pugh

The city of Detroit is ramping up efforts to cobble together a budget and a five-year deficit elimination plan.

Detroit City Council members got a copy of Mayor Dave Bing’s deficit elimination plan Tuesday.

The Council wants more cuts than Bing proposed. They say that’s necessary to avoid a possible state takeover of the city’s finances.

Council President Charles Pugh says a Council work group believes the city should cut at least $120 million from the upcoming budget.

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Education
3:07 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Dan Rather's report on Detroit schools airs tonight

Dan Rather's special on Detroit Public Schools airs tonight at 8 p.m. on HDNet, a cable and satellite channel.
screen grab from HDNet clip

Detroit public schools face many challenges, and Dan Rather wants you to know how bad it is.

HDNet, a cable and satellite television channel aimed at "men's interests", will air "Dan Rather Reports: A National Disgrace" tonight at 8 p.m. (and again at 11 p.m.).

Here's a clip from the program:

HDNet says the program is "full of heartbreaking images: children sitting in class for days without a teacher; a principal addressing graduating seniors with stories of the violence they’ve seen; and abandoned schools left to rot in an increasingly empty city."

Dan Rather spoke with Paul W. Smith on WJR this morning. He told Smith that he hopes people learn that the nation's public education system needs to be changed:

"What I hope the takeaway will be is that we all, not just people in Detroit, we all should be ashamed of what's happening to our schools and we can change it. But we can't change it on the present course where all decisions are top down instead of being bottom up."

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Commentary
2:01 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Life after GM

The top brass of General Motors were happily bound for Ohio today, to the newly revived automaker’s transmission plant in Toledo.

They are announcing the creation of four thousand new jobs, there and elsewhere.  What was once the world’s biggest corporation is once again hugely profitable -- less than two years after bankruptcy and near-corporate death.

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Environment
12:49 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Grand Rapids teams up with Red Cross to help flooding, tornado victims in the South

CEO of The American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids Cheryl Bremer joins Mayor George Heartwell in asking residents to support relief efforts.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The city of Grand Rapids is joining efforts to help victims of major flooding and deadly tornados in the Southern United States.

Mayor George Heartwell urged people to give whatever they’re able to afford.

 “I feel so strongly that the suffering of any people anywhere needs to be our suffering. As long as there are people in need and we have the ability and the capacity to help address that need, it’s critical for us to do that.”

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Auto/Economy
12:14 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Car production in Japan could return to normal earlier than expected

Car production in Japan could return to normal earlier than expected.

From the Associated Press:

A report says Toyota's global car production, disrupted by parts shortages after Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, will likely return to normal two to three months earlier
than expected.

Japan's top business daily Nikkei said Tuesday that Toyota's output will normalize earlier than the end of this year as parts shortages are easing. It didn't cite any sources.Toyota said last month its worldwide production will likely return to normal levels by November or December.

Toyota Motor Corp. spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto could not confirm the report.

The disasters destroyed many factories in northeastern Japan, causing severe parts shortages for Toyota and other automakers. The supply crisis has cost the company production of 400,000 vehicles in Japan, and 100,000 overseas.

Science
12:00 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Four planets can be seen as morning breaks

On a clear night, we can catch a glimpse of certain planets with the unaided eye.

The five "naked eye planets" are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

If you're lucky, you could catch four of them at once in the next few days - Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter.

From Star Date Magazine:

On the morning of May 10, Venus and Jupiter will stand side by side, quite low in the east, as dawn brightens. So long as you have a horizon clear of buildings and trees, they will be easy to spot. They are the brightest objects in the night sky after the Moon. Venus is the brighter of the two; Jupiter is to its left.

Mercury is visible to the lower right of Venus, about the same distance as Venus is to Jupiter. It isn't nearly as bright, but its proximity to Venus will help you find it. Finally, Mars is about twice as far to the lower left of Jupiter. It's so low and faint that it will be difficult to see, but binoculars may help.

They say the planets are best viewed in the south, but if you have an unimpeded view of the horizon, you could catch them up here as well.

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Crime
11:58 am
Tue May 10, 2011

Embezzlement stories in Michigan

Two embezzlement stories came the Associated Press wires this morning. One person was sentenced for embezzling money from a bank in Grand Rapids, and another investigation is beginning into possible embezzlement at Munson Healthcare.

From the Associated Press:

BANK EMBEZZLEMENT

Grand Rapids bank embezzler gets 3 years in prison

A woman who admitted embezzling about $600,000 from a Grand Rapids bank has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison.

Joann Wierenga's lawyer says she needs help for a gambling addiction more than a long prison stay. Her sentence Monday was at the low end of the guidelines.

Wierenga pleaded guilty in February to embezzling from Huntington Bank for seven years. Her lawyer says she has repaid at least $132,000 and admitted the thefts when confronted by the bank in 2009.

Federal prosecutors say Wierenga took $1,600 from another employer last November, just three months before her guilty plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Borgula calls her an "irrepressible thief."

MUNSON HEALTH-EMBEZZLEMENT

More than $1 million stolen from Munson Healthcare
     
An accountant working for Munson Healthcare in Traverse City is accused of embezzling more than $1 million.

No charges have been filed, but the disclosure was made Friday in federal court in Grand Rapids. The Internal Revenue Service is asking a judge to order the seizure of personal bank accounts with $34,000 linked to the accountant.

In a court filing, IRS agent Brittany Hofstra says Munson's loss totals $1.1 million, and the accountant has been suspended. The accountant had access to accounts belonging to Munson and the Munson Foundation. The accountant was also responsible for paying payroll taxes and making deposits into employee retirement plans.

Munson is a health care provider serving 24 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula. Its main hospital is in Traverse City.

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