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Education
11:59 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Emergency manager imposing 10% wage cut on Detroit teachers

Roy S. Roberts, Emergency Manager, Detroit Public Schools
(courtesy of the Detroit Public School District)

Public school teachers in Detroit are getting a wage and benefit cut.  The state appointed emergency manager informed Detroit Public School unions this morning that he is imposing a 10 percent wage cut this year.   Emergency Manager Roy S. Roberts is also imposing an 80/20 split on health care benefits.    

The move is expected to save the district nearly 82 million dollars this year.  

Roberts issued a written statement explaining the need for imposing the concessions. 

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Changing Gears
11:26 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Road Trip: Orrville, more than a company town (Part 5)

John Schmid vice president of Smith Dairy in Orrville, OH. The family adopted the business name Smith before World War I—a time when the German-sounding Schmid was not an asset.
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

Our Changing Gears team has been on the road this week traveling to some of our company towns in the Midwest.

Changing Gears is a Michigan Radio project looking at the economic transformation of the industrial Midwest.

Our final stop is Orrville, Ohio: A place that seems like a company town, but there’s long been a whole lot more going on in Orrville.

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Legal
10:57 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court rules on sexual assault case

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on a sexual assault case today.
Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who was raped by a jail guard while she was being detained is not entitled to file a civil rights and sexual harassment lawsuit against the county. The court said the local government is not responsible for the behavior of a public worker who acted outside the scope of his employment. The court's Republican majority split with Democratic justices, who say the decision undermines previous rulings that protect victims of discrimination.

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Auto/Economy
10:54 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Luxury cars may not be as enjoyable as people think

Black Bentley
UggBoy UggGirl PHOTO//WORLD//TRAVEL Flickr

University of Michigan researchers suggest owning a luxury car, like a BMW or Lexus, is not as enjoyable as people think. Norbert Schwarz is with Michigan’s Ross School of Business.  Schwarz says most people appreciate a luxury car when they are driving for pleasure.

"A luxury car is indeed more pleasant than an economy car, but most of the time it really makes no difference whatsoever except for these very very rare episodes when you take your car for a fun drive and you really attend to your car, which is less than 2% of your driving."

Schwarz says consumers who are test driving a car should consider how often they will drive the car only for pleasure.  

-Traci Currie - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Investigative
10:26 am
Fri July 29, 2011

CeaseFire offers Flint criminal suspects a chance to change

Genesee County Courthouse
User: sarrazak6881 Flickr

Flint officials have offered seven nonviolent criminal suspects the chance to enter a program that could change their lives for the better. Five suspects accepted the offer to join CeaseFire, an initiative to end violence in U.S. cities. One of the suspects is already seeking help in another program.

Jackie Poplar is president of the Flint City Council.  She says the suspects will be working with prosecutors and social workers.

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Commentary
10:12 am
Fri July 29, 2011

What Are Michigan's Education Priorities?

These are tough times for teachers.

Actually, this is an even tougher time for education. Yet the  way in which all sides have been approaching this major and growing statewide crisis is, at the very least bizarre.

Take the Michigan Education Association, for example. It is by far the state’s largest teacher’s union, and has been around since before the Civil War. It proudly proclaims “the mission of the MEA is to ensure that the education of our students and the working environments of our members are of the highest quality.”

That sounds good. But if you watch what they do, rather than what they say, you might conclude their charter statement really says: “The MEA’s mission is to prevent our members’ salaries and benefits from being cut by any means necessary.”

That’s really what the union is about. I was reminded of this yesterday by the revelation that the MEA spent $25,000  dollars to try and get Paul Scott, a state representative from Grand Blanc, recalled. Why the union is doing this isn’t clear.

Except out of sheer vindictiveness. Scott, who chairs the House Education Committee, voted this year to slash elementary and high school funding by twice as much as was actually cut.

I wouldn’t expect the union to support him for reelection. But recalling him would in no way change the balance of power in Lansing. If you are a teacher in Holly, say, you might wonder,“Is that what I pay several hundred dollars in dues for?"

That doesn’t mean the education community should be pleased with government. Most members of the Republican majority in Lansing would enthusiastically agree  that this state needs a much better educated workforce. However, most are entirely capable of uttering in the next breath that we need to cut teacher salaries and, especially, benefits and pensions.

What is especially puzzling is that so few people see this as a contradiction. These days, Republicans control every branch of state government, and have been energetically cutting  spending on education, to give business large tax breaks instead.

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Debt Ceiling Debate
7:09 am
Fri July 29, 2011

State budget director cautious as debt deadline nears

Congressional Republicans and Democrats still have not come up with a way to stop a possible August 2nd national debt default

State Budget Director John Nixon says he’s unsure how Michigan will make payments to food stamp and welfare recipients and Medicaid providers if the federal government defaults, the Associated Press reports.

“Michigan draws about $400 million a week from federal funds that could suddenly dry up next week if the nation hits its debt limit and cannot pay its bills… Forty-four percent of Michigan's $45 billion budget is supported by federal funds, as are 25 percent of state workers.” the AP notes.

In an interview with the AP, Nixon says the state will do what it can to, “keep things moving.”

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder said yesterday that a possible default has him concerned:

“One of the challenges is (the federal government) haven’t told us exactly what it’ll mean. So we’re prepared for a number of scenarios.”

Lindsey Smith reports, "Snyder says Michigan could move money around to cover things like Medicaid payments until the federal government reimburses the state." Snyder said:

“I think we’re going to be in reasonably good shape, as long as it doesn’t go for an extended period of time.”

Weather
6:49 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Storms bring threat of more flooding to Michigan

Another round of thunderstorms packing heavy rains has prompted flash flood warnings in Michigan's Lower
Peninsula.

The National Weather Service on Friday morning had flash flood warnings in effect in Barry, Eaton, Ingham and Allegan counties. Flood watches or advisories were in effect in other parts of southern Michigan.

The latest rains followed storms that moved through the state Thursday, bringing several inches of rain in places. Those storms left roadways under water and forced families from their homes.

The Lansing area was among those hard hit by Thursday's storms, with flooding prompting rescues and damaging homes.

Politics
6:30 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Despite protests, MI governor won't back away from “ugly issues”

About 20 people wait for Governor Snyder to arrive in St. Joseph Thursday morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says the state government is “evolving very quickly” because it needs to. Snyder highlighted his administration’s accomplishments and his remaining goals during a visit to St. Joseph today.

Protestors once again greeted Snyder in St. Joseph, this time outside the heritage museum. They pass around petitions to recall the Governor. About 20 people chant “Recall Rick!” as he enters the building.

Inside, Snyder told a friendlier crowd he’s aware he’s taking on “ugly” issues like education reform, pension and business taxes.

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Politics
6:10 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

The politics behind state employee concessions

Michigan State Capitol
commons.wikimedia.org

As the state’s largest public employee union begins new contract talks with the Snyder administration, public employees are saying they’ve sacrificed enough. But, Governor Rick Snyder's administration is looking for more concessions.

In our weekly political roundup we talk with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

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Economy
4:46 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Cities, townships, counties brace for rough couple years

Members of the Michigan Municipal League gather for a Q & A session with Governor Rick Snyder on Thursday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The next two or three years “are going to be rough” for local governments in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder told a group of city managers and county executives he’s sensitive to that.

The main cause of budget problems for local governments is a declining tax base. Home values are down and there are fewer businesses since the recession. Townships, cities, and counties get most of their money from property taxes. 

Governor Snyder says he knows the tough times are not over for municipalities.

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Politics
4:17 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Clinic offers pot to customers who register to vote

A medical marijuana clinic owner offered pot to customers who also registered to vote
User Eljoja Flickr

Authorities are looking into whether a Lansing medical marijuana clinic broke the law by offering free pot to customers who stop by and register to vote.

The owner of the clinic opposes Lansing’s new restrictive medical marijuana ordinance and has called for the ouster of city council members who supported the ordinance.

The Your Healthy Choices Clinic advertised on its web site that customers who stop in and register would get a half-gram of pot or a marijuana-laced snack item. 

It also encouraged people to vote against city council members who supported Lansing’s medical marijuana ordinance. Authorities say that may have put the clinic afoul of state election laws.

John Sellek is the spokesman for Attorney General Bill Schuette. He says clinics have mushroomed far beyond what Michigan voters intended when they approved the medical marijuana law in 2008.

“And they certainly didn’t plan for those pot shops to be handing out marijuana as party favors essentially for their own political, personal agenda.”

“Certainly in Michigan, it is illegal to pass out some kind of gift or a party favor to encourage someone to vote a certain way or to vote at all, and that is concerning to the attorney general.”

Schuette is looking into filing criminal charges. The clinic owner told a Lansing TV station there was no attempt to buy votes – only to get people to register.

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Politics
4:09 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

MI Attorney General seeks to overturn affirmative action ruling

A 2006 BAMN rally in Lansing against Proposal 2. The proposal was passed by Michigan voters that November.
BAMN

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has requested a panel of 16 judges review and overturn a U-S Court of Appeals decision that said a ban on affirmative action is unconstitutional.

The decision came earlier this month and focused on the use of affirmative action in public university admissions.

Schuette says universities should accept students based on achievement, and the state must work harder to make sure all kids are getting a good education.

“And that’s where we need to tear down and rebuild our K-12 system so that kids in urban areas have opportunity and a chance to get up the latter. Right now that’s not occurring. The status quo is not acceptable.”

“America is about a single premise, and that is it’s about opportunity for anybody and everyone. And we need to make sure when you’re on the educational doorstep, entering one of our marvelous universities, that decision of admission needs to be done by merit, talent and ability.”

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union say they hope the panel denies Schuette’s request. Schuette says he expects to have a ruling in the fall.

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Science/Medicine
2:17 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Anti-malaria drug may help battle autoimmune diseases.

An anti-malaria drug may provide better treatment to those with autoimmune diseases like arthritis and multiple sclerosis, according to a study by the Van Andel Institute.

The anti-malaria drug, chloroquine can be used to replace anti-inflammatory medications like steroids.

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Economy
2:16 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Snyder says Michigan “reasonably prepared” in case of U.S. default

Governor Rick Snyder spoke to the Michigan Municipal League at The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph Thursday morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Congress has until Tuesday to reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling to avoid default on some federal loans and other obligations.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says a possible default has him concerned.

“One of the challenges is (the federal government) haven’t told us exactly what it’ll mean. So we’re prepared for a number of scenarios.”

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Education
2:14 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

State Budget Director says MSU and WSU did not violate tuition cap

State Budget Director John Nixon says Michigan State University and Wayne State University did not violate the state's tuition cap of 7 percent when setting fall tuition rates and they will receive their full state aid payments. Nixon still needs to make a decision on whether Northern Michigan University exceeded the cap. 

Auto/Economy
2:00 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

AP: Parts problem hurts Ford Focus sales

Ford Focus being assembled at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. The Associated Press reports that a shortage of dashboards is slowing production.
Sam VarnHagen Ford Motor Co.

DETROIT (AP) - Two people familiar with the matter say Ford Motor Co. can't build as many hot-selling Focus cars as it wants because of equipment problems at a parts factory.

The people say machinery that makes a key dashboard part doesn't work all the time and has slowed production at the Focus factory near Detroit. The company has taken the unusual step of flying in
parts from Europe. But the people say Ford is still running short on dashboards.

The problem has forced dealers to put customers on waiting lists. The redesigned Focus was Ford's top-selling U.S. passenger car last month.

The people didn't want to be identified because they aren't authorized to speak about the matter. A Ford spokesman would not comment.

Crime
1:44 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

FBI helping Ann Arbor Police in string of attacks

So far, there have been six recent attacks on women in Ann Arbor. The attacks caused Ann Arbor's Police Chief to declare that young women in the community should be cautious.

The police aren't sure if the attacks are being committed by one person.

Now, the FBI is assisting the Ann Arbor Police. From AnnArbor.com:

The FBI is assisting the Ann Arbor Police Department in the investigation into six recent attacks on women in Ann Arbor, including two rapes, FBI officials confirmed today.

FBI Special Agent Sandra Berchtold, a bureau spokeswoman in Detroit, said AAPD contacted the FBI for assistance, but she could not discuss specifics.

Debt ceiling Debate
12:22 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Snyder says he's trying to get information on possible national debt default

Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress remain at an impasse as the August 2nd deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling gets closer

Governor Snyder says the federal government hasn't yet explained to his administration how they will handle a possible national debt default. Snyder spoke Wednesday to WLNS-TV at the Ionia Free Fair.

"So we're on deck trying to get information from Washington as to what the order of cutbacks might be or payment-stream changes might be," Snyder said.

Mlive.com reports:

Snyder did not point fingers at either Democrats or Republicans in Washington, instead calling for compromise. "There's a lot of people that are in that process and they all need to come together," he said. "This clearly does not help matters".

Earlier today, on Morning Edition, NPR's Brian Naylor took a look at what the debt-ceiling debate would mean for communities across the U.S.:

Although almost every state must balance their budgets, they also rely on borrowing — selling bonds to investors for everything from meeting day-to-day cash-flow needs to funding major capital improvements.

"They borrow to finance long-term projects like infrastructure, road and bridge construction, as well as an upgrade of the telecommunications systems," said Kil Huh, who is with the Pew Center on the States. "These are activities that create jobs — in the long run have multiplier effects. And, essentially, If states need to postpone these in order to get more favorable terms, that's going to have an impact on those communities as well in terms of jobs and recovery."

Arts/Culture
12:12 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Upscale Somerset CityLoft, indie 71 Pop set up shop in Detroit

Inside the Somerset CityLoft in midtown Detroit
Photo courtesy of the Somerset Collection

Retail stores are literally popping up around Detroit this weekend.

You use to have to drive about 30 minutes outside of Detroit if you wanted to shop at the tony, upscale Somerset Collection in Troy. But now you can browse the shelves of Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in midtown Detroit. It’s part of a new pop up mall of sorts called “Somerset CityLoft."

The retail space will be open for one weekend a month, starting today through Saturday, July 30. (Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.).

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