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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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Detroit
11:11 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Detroit Works Project, Mayor Bing's Plan to improve the city

Nobody can dispute that Detroit doesn’t work very well anymore. There is vast poverty, unemployment, and blight. Plus a litany of other problems, most of which are well-known.

The question is, what do we do about them? What can anyone do about them? Within the last few years, the city has also been forced to face another unpleasant truth. There are too few people.

Too few, that is, for a city of Detroit’s physical size. You could tuck Manhattan and Boston within its borders and still have room left over. Once, Detroit was a bustling city of nearly two million people.

They weren’t packed together like sardines, but were spread out, largely in well-maintained single-family homes. That was sixty years ago, and pretty much everything is different now.

The census showed that there are barely seven hundred thousand people left. In some cases, one of two families remain on blocks otherwise filled with vacant or burned-down homes. There began to be talk about “shrinking” or “consolidating” the city.

People talked about ways to get people to move from the worst areas to more hopeful neighborhoods, to make it easier to provide city services. The mayor announced that his team would identify four to ten stable neighborhoods as part of a project he called “Detroit Works,” and then build up and further strengthen them.

This all made good, sound logical sense.

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Environment
10:20 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Life on the Kalamazoo River: suing & settling with Enbridge (part 3)

Wayne and Sue Groth used to live near Talmadge Creek, where the oil spill occurred last summer. They eventually sold their home to the energy company, Enbridge.
Photo by Steve Carmody

A year ago... a ruptured pipeline spewed more than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River.

The crude oil had a big environmental impact. It also affected the lives of thousands of people living in the spill zone. The pipeline’s owners have spent the past year reimbursing many of them for their losses.

Wayne Groth says the odor of the oil was overpowering the first night. Talmadge Creek runs right past the home he and his wife Sue lived in for 22 years. The oil flowed down Talmadge Creek into the Kalamazoo River.

Groth says it wasn’t long after the spill that clipboard carrying employees of Enbridge started walking through his neighborhood, promising to clean up oil. He says they made another promise too...

“They said if you’re still not happy with the job... you could sell your property to them. They would buy it from us.”

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Changing Gears
10:16 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Road Trip: Norwalk saves its company (Part 4)

Saving Norwalk Furniture means about 150 locals have jobs again.
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

When a company bears the name of its hometown, it can be hard to separate the two. Such is the case with Norwalk Furniture and the town of Norwalk in Northern Ohio. Sue Lesch is the town’s mayor.

“It really is our flagship company,” said Sue Lesch, Norwalk’s mayor. “It’s the company we’re proud of. We’re known for furniture all over the country.”

For more than a hundred years, Norwalk Furniture made custom-order sofas and chairs in its Ohio factory. For a long time, it was the biggest business in town, employing about 700 in this town of 17,000.

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News Roundup
9:03 am
Thu July 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Health care lawsuit to SupCo

The Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review its constitutional challenge to the nation’s healthcare overhaul law. As the Associated Press reports, “the appeal filed Wednesday… said Congress overstepped its authority in requiring Americans to purchase health insurance or pay financial penalties.” The appeal is challenging the first federal appeals court ruling that upheld the legislation.

Ford Investing in India

Bloomberg is reporting that Ford will spend more than $906 million on a second car factory in India. In an email statement today, the company says it will build the plant with an initial capacity to make 240,000 cars and 270,000 engines annually. Ford says the new plant will employee 5000 people. It’s being reported that the factory will start production in 2014.

House Cuts

State House Speaker Jase Bolger is requiring lawmakers and state members of the Michigan House to pay more for their health insurance benefits come October 1st. Laura Weber reports:

Bolger made the decision to require all state House employees to pay as much as 20 percent of their health insurance benefits alongside an 18 percent reduction to the money lawmakers have allotted for their office expenses. The changes ordered by Bolger’s office comes amidst a debate between the House and Senate over how much teachers and local government employees should be required to pay for their health benefits.

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