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UAW weighs in on CAFE
1:36 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Closed meeting at Solidarity House could result in new CAFE rules

The United Auto Workers is hosting an important, unpublicized meeting about CAFE standards today at Solidarity House in Detroit.  

CAFE governs car fuel efficiency in the U.S.

The meeting could help the government decide how fuel efficient cars must be by the year 2025. 

The UAW, Detroit car companies, the federal government, and environmental groups will likely try to reach a compromise on future CAFE requirements, somewhere between a 47 and 62 miles per gallon average.    

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Weather
12:51 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Power restoration nearly done after Monday storms

Around 218,000 customers lost power in Monday's storms.
Christoper Sessums Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Utilities say they're working to complete power restoration after severe thunderstorms hit southern Michigan earlier in the week.

About 9,000 homes and businesses were without power around midday Wednesday. Thunderstorms on Monday blacked out about 218,000 customers.

CMS Energy Corp. says about 5,700 of its 136,000 customers affected Monday still were blacked out late Wednesday morning. DTE Energy Co. says that about 3,000 of its 82,000 affected customers remained blacked out around midday Wednesday.

The storms were linked to two deaths in Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports high winds also blew bricks from the David Whitney Building in Detroit onto part of Grand Circus Park, damaging a People Mover station. Service by the elevated train system was limited Monday and Tuesday, and was being shut down Wednesday for repairs.

Economy
12:36 pm
Wed July 13, 2011

Russian steelmaker gets US loan for Michigan plant

Making steel at the Severstal North America plant in Dearborn.
Severstal North America

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Energy Department says it has loaned $730 million to the North American arm of one of Russia's largest steel companies to modernize its Detroit-area plant.

The government and Severstal North America on Wednesday officially announced plans to upgrade and expand facilities in Dearborn that make steel for the auto industry. They say the project will employ around 2,500 construction workers and create 260 factory jobs.

The money comes from a $25 billion low-interest loan program created in 2007 to help car companies retool older factories to build green cars.

Severstal bought the Dearborn factory in 2004.

Auto/Economy
11:46 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Developing electric vehicle charging stations (and where you can find them now)

The location of electric charging stations online now in Michigan.
Google Maps and the U.S. Department of Energy

One group in west Michigan wants to encourage more people to buy electric cars by building more charging stations.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

The West Michigan Strategic Alliance is proposing the development of at least 4,000 charging stations across eight counties. Alliance President Greg Northrup is seeking approval from county boards in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon for the project, which would be financed through the sale of bonds and be repaid over a 10-year period.

“We’ve got $3 billion invested in battery projects in West Michigan,” Northrup said. “Why shouldn’t we have the infrastructure to go with it?”

So those are 4,000 proposed electric charging stations.

How can you find charging stations that are online now?

Google and the U.S. Department of Energy to the rescue. You can enter your address on the DOE's website to find alternative fueling stations near you.

Fast Company says "eventually, this Google/DOE partnership will serve as the primary EV charging station data source for GPS and mapping systems (like the one that may be in your car already)."

Commentary
11:30 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Could there be an "Airport City" in Michigan's future?

What do you think of this idea for an economic engine to lead Michigan’s revival? A vast business center and international freight-moving operation springing up between two major airports - Detroit Metropolitan and Willow Run, a few miles to its west.

The idea is to bring together and coordinate air, road, rail and water transportation systems to move goods to and from the rest of the globe to the Midwest. Planners think that within a few years, this new commercial “Airport City” could handle freight faster, cheaper and more efficiently than anywhere else.

I have to confess that when I first heard of this, I thought it was one more pie-in-the sky dream, probably floated by somebody angling for tax credits.  But a lot of sober, sensible business types really believe that this is a dream that could come true.

Phil Power, the usually cautious founder of the non-partisan Center for Michigan, is an enthusiastic backer of this concept, which he believes could generate sixty-five thousand jobs and ten billion dollars in new economic activity over the next twenty years.

That would be huge, especially for a state struggling to reinvent its economy. And Power is not alone. Doug Rothwell, the head of Business Leaders for Michigan is an enthusiastic supporter.

So is Robert Ficano, the Wayne County Executive.  In fact, he has just chartered an incubator of sorts to help make it a reality, the Aerotropolis Development Corporation. There is a slight problem with what to call all this. Aerotropolis seems to be the most common term.

Phil Power calls it the “multi-modal logistical hub,” a name which I strongly predict will never catch on. My choice would have been Airport City, which is easy to pronounce.

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Education
11:20 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Growing concerns with increasing lecturers and decreasing tenured and tenure track faculty

Lorien Foote, associate professor of history at UCA
User: ucentralarkansas Flickr

The University of Michigan-Flint is one of many American campuses that has hired more lecturers than tenure track faculty in the past few years. According to AAUP research, nationally the number of non-tenure track faculty increased by more than 200 percent on college campuses while tenured faculty increased 30 percent and tenure track faculty increased 7 percent.

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Politics
10:58 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Levin: Forget budget deficit, focus on debt ceiling

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, (D) MI
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan Senator Carl Levin wants all sides to give up trying to tie increasing the federal debt ceiling to a major cut in federal spending. The budget talks have stalled as President Obama and Congressional Republicans have been unable to agree on closing tax loopholes.

Levin says tying budget cuts to increasing the debt ceiling has been a bad idea.  

“Frankly never should have been combined.  We have no choice but to raise the debt ceiling.  We ought to reduce the deficit.  And we will.   But, whether we can do that in time to avoid a real calamity here which will occur if out debt ceiling is not raised is just anybody’s guess.”  

Congress has until August 2nd to agree to increase the federal government’s debt ceiling. After that, the government could possibly risk going into default.

Politics
8:45 am
Wed July 13, 2011

The week in state politics

State Capitol, Lansing, Michigan
Ifmuth Flickr

On Wednesday mornings we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going in state politics. Today: the likelihood of a GOP closed-party presidential primary in the state next year and a look at just what lawmakers will be up to during their midsummer session today at the Capitol.

State Law
7:52 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Snyder signs Michigan film incentive measure

Governor Rick Snyder (MI-R)
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation allowing more flexibility for Michigan's movie and film incentive program.

The legislation that Snyder announced signing Tuesday gives the Michigan Film Office the ability to negotiate the size of the credits it offers to movie, television and video game producers.

The incentives offered can be lower than the 42 percent subsidy now provided automatically when a project is approved for credits.

Supporters of the change say the current system may provide more taxpayer support for projects than necessary.

The state's movie and film credit program will be capped at $25 million in the fiscal year that starts in October. The state's current incentive program is not capped and offers some of the most generous credits in the nation.

Election 2012
7:44 am
Wed July 13, 2011

State GOP could host early presidential primary

Michigan Republicans could host an early presidential primary next year.
Cle0patra Flickr

Michigan Republicans may try to boost their clout by holding a closed-party presidential primary a week before the Super Tuesday elections next year. The plan must still be formally approved by GOP leaders in August.

Michigan Republicans plan to hold their presidential primary either February 28th or March 6th of next year. Only people who declare themselves Republicans would be eligible to vote in it.

The state GOP's policy committee unanimously adopted the plan during a conference call.

Michigan Republicans risk losing half their national convention delegates if they hold a primary before Super Tuesday voting on March 6th, but some GOP leaders say the state could reap political rewards by going early.

The proposal must still be approved by the Michigan Republican State Central Committee at its August meeting, and then adopted by the Legislature and approved by Governor Rick Snyder.

Michigan Democrats plan to hold closed-party caucuses in May. President Barack Obama is expected to be the only contender for the Democratic nomination.

State Legislature
7:36 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Midsummer session today at the State Capitol

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Allieosmar Flickr

The state Senate is meeting today to take up a few outstanding issues. The session comes as lawmakers are in the middle of a two-month legislative break. A stricter limit on welfare benefits is one issue that is expected to be brought up during the session. The Associated Press reports:

One of the bills that could come up for a vote Wednesday would put a stricter four-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits into state law. The legislation would reflect welfare limits approve earlier this year as part of the state budget plan. Michigan's current law has a similar time limit but it has more exceptions than the revised plan. The current law is due to expire in late September unless it's renewed or changed by lawmakers. Critics say the limits would boot some needy families off public assistance. The House already has approved the welfare limits legislation.

Meanwhile, State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says lawmakers will also likely continue debate over what to do about wild boar on hunting ranches. Laura Weber reports:

The Department of Natural Resources has pushed back enforcement of a rule that would require hunting ranches to get rid of wild boars. Ranch operators say that would put many of them out of business. Richardville says he’s not deeply moved by the issue, but understands it is an important to the agriculture community.

The Senate is also expected to deal with health insurance benefits for public employees.

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Election 2012
6:51 am
Wed July 13, 2011

Stabenow has $4M on hand for re-election race

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI-D)
Studio08Denver Flickr

A campaign finance document U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is filing with the Federal Elections Commission shows the Michigan Democrat has $4 million in the bank for next year's re-election race. The Associated Press on Tuesday obtained a copy of Stabenow's July quarterly report. It's due to the FEC by Friday.

The report says Stabenow raised $1.46 million in the period that ran from April 1 to June 30 and has $4.08 million on hand in the run for her third term in the Senate.

Former Kent County Probate Judge Randy Hekman and Roscommon businessman Peter Konetchy are in the race on the GOP side. A number of high-profile Republicans have decided against challenging Stabenow. They include ex-U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

Politics
6:36 am
Wed July 13, 2011

MI Dept. of Education reverses confidentiality rule

The state Department of Education will no longer require people who serve on advisory panels to sign confidentiality agreements. The agreements required committee members to support all of a panel’s policy recommendations – even ones they don’t agree with.

The panels are made up of experts and stakeholders who help develop policy recommendations that go to the department and, sometimes, to the Legislature. People in the education community complained the signed statements seemed designed to stifle views that don’t go along with the group or the department. The department says it will no longer ask advisory panel members to sign the agreements.

Martin Ackley is with the state Department of Education. He says the goal is still to get the vast array of interests in education policy to reach consensus on complex questions.

“But if they don’t agree with the final consensus recommendation of the entire group, they can provide for a minority report that is in dissent.”

A government watchdog says it was a good idea to reverse the policy because it undermined public confidence that government is open to all opinions.

Arts/Culture
10:15 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Mr. B pedals his 'boogie woogie' piano across Michigan

Marc Braun (right), Brian Delaney and Pete Siers pedal the 352-pound piano across Michigan.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

A quintet of musicians has been traveling across the state for the past 10 days. They don’t have a tour van or a u-haul stuffed with instruments. Instead, the guys are pedaling their bikes from Holland to Detroit…with their instruments in tow! They're also raising money for various charities along the way.

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Politics
5:35 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Tea Party Caucus and budget negotiations (audio)

Congressman Tim Walberg represents Michigan's 7th district.
US House of Representative

The divide over budget and debt ceiling talks continues between Congressional Republicans and Democrats. Within the Republican Party, the Tea Party Caucus is a prominent voice against any deal that contains tax increases.

Republican Congressman Tim Walberg represents Michigan’s 7th district and is a member of the Tea Party Caucus. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about what he thinks it might take for both Republicans and Democrats to agree on a budget.

Politics
5:01 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Could Social Security checks be threatened by federal budget talks?

Officials with AARP Michigan are expecting to get a lot of telephone calls from concerned senior citizens, now with the president saying that their August Social Security checks might be delayed by federal budget talks. President Obama says without a budget deal the government may not send out social security, veterans and disability checks early next month.

Mark Hornbeck is the associate state director of AARP Michigan.    He says that could affect nearly 2 million Michiganders.

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Politics
4:56 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Bing says Detroit land use overhaul moving along

Mayor Dave Bing at a recent Detroit Works-related project announcement.
Via detroitworksproject.com

The federal government is throwing its support behind Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s Detroit Works Project.

That’s a controversial effort to focus resources on Detroit’s more vibrant neighborhoods. It appeared to have stalled in recent months.

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Changing Gears
4:35 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Your Story: Highs and lows of working in the family business

Amber Turner and Jordan Ceresnie are engaged and work together
Submitted by Amber Turner

Family bonding can be a reward for working in a family business. But there is also plenty Amber Turner worries about.

The restaurant industry took a beating in the economic downturn. Although some Wall Street analysts expect restaurants to pick up soon, a lagging restaurant industry makes Turner more than a little nervous. In her family, any trouble is multiplied.

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Environment
3:01 pm
Tue July 12, 2011

Coyotes make themselves at home in Michigan cities

Bill Dodge is a PhD student at Wayne State University. He's leading a team of researchers looking into the behavior of urban coyotes in Oakland County.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Coyotes have been moving into a lot of American cities. Here in Michigan, you could potentially see coyotes almost anywhere. But researchers don't know a whole lot about the state’s urban coyotes.

A small research team from Wayne State University hopes to change that. They're trying to figure the animals out. They want to find out how many coyotes are living in cities. And they want to know what they’re eating, and how they survive.

A few weeks ago, one day just after dawn, I met up with the research team at the side of a road in Oakland County. We crossed the road to get to a grassy, undeveloped piece of land. The group fanned out to look for evidence of coyotes... that is: tracks, and scat.

After just a few steps, we found tracks.

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