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immigration
3:41 pm
Thu April 14, 2011

Immigrant advocates ratchet up pressure on ICE to respond to harassment

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Advocates for immigrants are stepping up the pressure on the Detroit office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – or ICE – to respond to allegations of harassment.

Late last month, Ruben Torres was driving home from work when he was stopped by an agent in an unmarked vehicle on the Lodge Freeway. He says he was not shown a warrant or given a reason for the stop. He says he was asked to show a visa and birth certificate.

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Politics
3:33 pm
Thu April 14, 2011

Inkster Judge investigated for spending after audit

Judge Sylvia James is on leave while being investigated by the State Supreme Court

The State Supreme Court began the investigation of Judge James after frequent charges of financial mismanagement by Inkster city officials.

The state supreme court is investigating Inkster’s chief judge. An audit found several unusual expenses were paid for with court money. Judge Sylvia James has been placed on paid administrative leave because she could not explain why court funds were used to pay for travel, clothing, and other expenses.  Retired judge Vladimir Washington will take Judge James’ place.

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Politics
3:29 pm
Thu April 14, 2011

Tea Partiers rally in Lansing

A few hundred Tea Party supporters held a rally at the state Capitol. American flags and bright yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” umbrellas peppered the crowd at the rainy gathering. The group appeared more concerned with actions by the federal government than with the Republican-controlled state government.

Gail Goniwicha is a banker from Royal Oak. She says she likes the job Governor Rick Snyder is doing.

"I was very happy that he’s trying to get the unions to pay and do their fair share. I as a person contribute to my retirement and my medical every month, it comes out of my paycheck. I don’t believe anybody gets a free ride in the United States,” Goniwacha said.

Republican state Attorney General Bill Schuette said he's pleased the group expects their elected officials to be frugal with taxpayers’ money:

"This is an important day because it’s part of the building blocks of a new Michigan. A new Michigan that has less taxes, less spending, less regulation, less government, and more freedom. And everybody here says let’s all work together to build a new Michigan that has more jobs, more paychecks and more freedom.” 

A few signs in the crowd called to stop the proposed bridge project between Detroit and Canada. Governor Snyder hopes to get that plan before lawmakers soon, but a House committee has omitted the proposed funding for the bridge from its version of the state budget.

Commentary
12:46 pm
Thu April 14, 2011

Soaking the Poor

President Obama came under fire yesterday for proposing that the richest Americans pay a higher proportion of the tax burden, especially with deficits soaring out of control.

Republicans, some of whom are running for president, said this would hurt the economy‘s ability to create jobs.

They said this was just one more wrong-headed left-wing proposal to solve economic problems by “soaking the rich.”

Well, that’s a battle that will be fought out on the national stage, likely throughout next year’s presidential campaign and beyond.

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Education
12:12 pm
Thu April 14, 2011

DPS holds bidding conference for charter operators

DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb says the charter school plan will help put the troubled district in the black.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Charter school operators interested in turning around schools in Detroit attended a bidders’ conference to get more information about the application process.

As many as 45 Detroit schools could be taken over by charter operators over the next two years. Ahmed Saber is with Education Management Networks, which operates three charter schools in Detroit:

"There is a lot of uncertainty about the plan, and of course because of the speed that it came about, and trying to get it done soon. But maybe that’s what’s needed in a climate that’s bogged down in a climate with all the politics and all the red tape."

Detroit Public Schools hopes the charter plan will avoid having to shut dozens of schools, and help put the troubled school system in the black.

District officials say they’re looking for high-quality operators that have a proven track record – including 90 percent graduation rates and 75 percent proficiency on state math and reading tests.

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Education
12:10 pm
Thu April 14, 2011

Monroe Public Schools sends layoff notices to entire teaching staff

All 343 Monroe Public Schools teachers received layoff notices this week.
en.wikipedia.org

All 343 teachers and 21 administrators in Monroe Public Schools received layoff notices this week.

The Board of Education took the step as it wrangles with a possible $5.5 million budget shortfall for the coming school year.

“We are a district that over the last five years has cut more than $15 million already," says district spokesman Bob Vergiels.  "We’ve been able to stay out of the classrooms so far, but with this particular budget that’s being proposed and debated now in Lansing, I don’t know if we can stay out of the classrooms.”

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Environment
10:25 am
Thu April 14, 2011

Health concerns after the oil spill (part 2)

The Kalamazoo River a few days after the oil spill last July.
Photo courtesy of the State of Michigan

Until last July, many people in Marshall had no idea an oil pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Partners ran underneath their town.

Then, it broke. More than 840,000 gallons of thick, black oil from the Canadian tar sands poured into the Kalamazoo River.

“I think I can sum it up in one word and that is nightmare."

Deb Miller lives just 50 feet from the Kalamazoo River.

“The smell, I don’t even know how to describe the smell, there are no words. You could not be outside."

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Auto/Economy
10:05 am
Thu April 14, 2011

Ford expands F-150 truck recall

Ford has recalled its 2004-2006 F-150 pickups because of an air-bag problem.
autos.aol.com

 Ford is expanding a recall of its F-150 pickup.

The recall now includes nearly 1.2 million trucks because of an air bag defect and covers trucks from the 2004 through 2006 model years.

The company in February had agreed to recall more than 150,000 of the trucks.

But on Thursday,  U.S. safety regulators said that Ford will add to the recall because the trucks’ air bags can go off  unexpectedly and injure drivers.

Ford had resisted expanding the recall.

The F-series pickup is the top-selling vehicle in America.

Election 2012
9:37 am
Thu April 14, 2011

Fourteen Mich. U.S. House members to run again

U.S. Capitol Building
Crazy George Flickr

All but one of Michigan's 15 representatives in the U.S. House say they'll run for re-election in 2012, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

...according to an Associated Press survey of members this week and despite a coming redistricting process that in some cases could vastly impact the physical makeup of their districts.

The lone holdout in the delegation is Republican Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia, who declined to provide a "yes" or "no" response to whether he would run again next year, saying only that he was focused on serving his constituents.

District boundaries will be redrawn based on U.S. Census counts, and Republicans who lead the state House and Senate control the process.

Michigan was the only state to lose population in the past decade and will drop one of its congressional seats.

Economy
1:01 am
Thu April 14, 2011

Sen. Levin accuses mortgage lenders of "greed and deception"

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, (D) Michigan
Photograph courtesy of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's office

A new report lays the blame for much of Detroit’s foreclosure problems at the feet of one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders. 

In 2003, Washington Mutual Bank’s CEO said he wanted to turn his bank into “the Wal-Mart of Banking."  His plan was to focus on low and moderate income borrowers deemed “too risky” by other lenders. 

By 2008, federal regulators seized Washington Mutual and the company filed for bankruptcy protection. 

What happened? 

Washington Mutual had taken major losses in the subprime loan market.  Its subsidiary, Long Beach Mortgage Corporation was for a time the second biggest subprime mortgage lender in Detroit.  Between 2005 and 2007, more than half of those loans ended in foreclosure.

Michigan U.S. Senator Carl Levin says Washington Mutual’s subprime loan practices “devastated” neighborhoods and families in Detroit.  At the end of a year long investigation, Levin’s released a report blaming reckless lending and lax federal oversight for the near collapse of the nation’s banking system in 2008.

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Economy
1:00 am
Thu April 14, 2011

Home foreclosures inched higher in Michigan last month

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of home foreclosures in Michigan inched higher last month. One in every 311 homes in Michigan received a foreclosure noticed in March. The number of foreclosures was up about 4 percent from February.

Michigan had the nation’s fifth highest home foreclosure rate in March, behind Nevada, Arizona, California and Utah.     

Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says mortgage holders are starting to send more initial foreclosure notices and repossess more homes in Michigan. Bloomquist says an improving economy is the only way to reduce future foreclosure notices in Michigan. 

 “The more the economy improves and jobs improve during the next couple months the less we’ll see that huge spike in foreclosure numbers down the road.”  

While March’s foreclosure numbers rose slightly, overall Michigan’s home foreclosure numbers declined during the first three months of the year.

Environment
3:33 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Michigan ecologists want new strategies to manage zebra mussels in Great Lakes

Zebra mussels continue to cause problems forecosystems in the Great Lakes
United States Geological Survey

Ecologists from the University of Michigan say invasive zebra and quagga mussels are causing dramatic changes to the ecosystems in northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Their report says action must come soon to stop the spread of the mussels in the Great Lakes.

Donald Scavia  is the Director of the University of Michigan Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute. He's one of the authors of a new report that says the changes are happening quickly and require more attention than they are getting now:

“Our management strategies need to be able to be reviewed and modified every couple of years rather than every couple of decades.”

Scavia said the zebra mussels make it difficult to predict the conditions of the Great Lakes from year to year.

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Education
3:33 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Educators developing "next generation" of tests for Michigan students

Michigan's new English and Math tests will be rolled out in 2014
jdurham morgueFILE

Education professionals from around the country met in Louisiana this week to talk about the “next generation” of student assessment tests.

More than 30 states – including Michigan – are part the Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition, which received $176 million from the federal government to develop these new tests.

The online English and Math tests will be rolled out in 2014. The state will still use the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) and Michigan Merit Examination (MME) to test students in science and social studies, as well as students with cognitive disabilities.

Joseph Martineau is with the Michigan Department of Education and was the the National Council on Measurement in Education conference in Louisiana.

He says the new tests will not just be “end-of-year” high stakes tests. He says there will also be "interim assessments throughout the year so that people can track the progress of their students."

Martineau calls the tests "game changers" because of their focus on higher-order thinking skills:

"Things like analyzing data or synthesizing something to create an argument, or doing a project that requires you to do some problem solving while you’re doing the task. Things like that that are typically costly for us to create on a test."

The new tests will be for Michigan students in third through eighth grade, and eleventh grade.

Pilot testing will begin in 2012.

Sports
3:18 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

MSU player receives probation sentence for Aspen brawl

A Spartans footballer has been sentenced to a year on probation and a fine for his role in a bar fight last month.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Michigan State tight end Brian Linthicum was sentenced Tuesday to one year of probation in connection with a March 10 arrest in Aspen, Colo., according to Pitkin County Court records.

Linthicum, who will be a senior and possible starter in the fall, accepted a plea deal without appearing in court, knocking misdemeanor third-degree assault and eluding-police charges down to misdemeanor harassment.

He must take an anger-management class (at least eight hours), perform 40 hours of community service and pay $100, plus court costs. According to a court clerk, other conditions are that he cannot be arrested nor drink excessive amounts of alcohol. A review hearing for which Linthicum must be present is set for Oct. 11.

 Max Bullough, a Michigan State linebacker, was also charged in the incident. His hearing is set for Tuesday.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Economy
2:27 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Michigan's jobless rate held steady in March

Khalilshah Flickr

One in 10 people in Michigan are out of work and looking for a job. The state's March unemployment rate was 10.3 percent. That's almost unchanged from the February rate of 10.4 percent. But it's a full three points below the March 2010 rate of 13.3 percent.

Michigan added 79,000 jobs over the past year, mostly in temporary help, IT, and the auto in industry.

Improvements in the unemployment rate have been modest so far this year, but reflect real job gains and not people leaving the workforce.

Business
1:40 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Sites chosen for new wind farms in Thumb area

Three new wind farms are expected to generate enough power for 100,000 homes in the Thumb region.

Michigan’s thumb region will soon be dotted with new wind farms.  DTE Energy says the project will cost about $225 million.

The 50 wind turbines to be built in Huron and Sanilac counties should generate enough energy to power about 100,000 homes.

DTE's Scott Simons says while two West Michigan lawmakers recently opposed building  wind farms in the Great Lakes, the Thumb plan has Lansing’s stamp of approval.

"I would think the legislature is behind these kinds of projects, and we're going full steam ahead toward meeting the renewable energy goals that have been set by the Legislature," Simons says.

 DTE customers will pay for the wind farms with a small surcharge on their monthly bills.

labor protest
1:37 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Driver sick-out idles dozens of Detroit busses

femaletrumpet02 flickr

Bus service has been disrupted in Detroit today, with dozens of drivers calling in sick to attend a labor rally in Lansing.

Lovevett Williams is with the city of Detroit’s Department of Transportation. She said the sick-out cut bus service by about 20 percent.

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State Legislature
1:03 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

House panel approves cut to Michigan universities

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Matthileo Flickr

A state House panel has voted to cut aid to the state's 15 public universities by about 15 percent. The Associated Press reports:

The Republican-led state House appropriations subcommittee dealing with higher education funding approved the plan by a party-line vote Wednesday. The measure next goes to the House Appropriations Committee.

The funding plan started by the House is similar to one proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder but it has a few differences.

The House plan calls for an across-the-board funding cut of 14 percent to each of the state's 15 public universities in the budget year starting Oct. 1. Another 1 percent would be weighted depending on how much state aid each university gets on a per-student basis.

Funding cuts could be higher if universities don't agree to certain tuition restraints.

It's been a busy couple days at the state Capitol as Governor Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders announced yesterday that they had agreed on a tentative tax deal. And, earlier today, a GOP-led Senate committee approved measures to require public employees in Michigan to pay at least 20 percent of their health insurance costs.

Governor Snyder has said he wants a completed state budget for the new fiscal year by May 31st. The state is currently facing a projected $1.5 billion deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

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Corrections
12:55 pm
Wed April 13, 2011

Michigan sees decline in prisoner return rate

Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for prisoner rehabilitation
Kevin Rosseel morguefile

Michigan is one of the nation’s leaders in prisoner rehabilitation according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. The number of Michigan parolees who return to prison has declined 18 percent since 2000. The Pew Center credits the drop to Michigan’s Prisoner Re-Entry Program (MPRP).

John Cordell is with the Michigan Department of Corrections. He says the MPRP reduces crime rates, "which results in less spending on corrections here in Michigan."

Not all parolees are part of the MPRP. Cordell said the programs are based on need:

“The Michigan’s Prisoner Re-Entry Program, we target parolees that are more likely to fail, in the community, with re-entry services.”

Before the program began in 2005, half of Michigan’s parolees returned to prison. Now, only one in three return.

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