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Sports
3:25 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

U of M sports venues' scoreboards will get a makeover

Michigan Stadium (aka The Big House)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Scoreboards at the University of Michigan’s premier sports venues are getting a major upgrade. The U of M Athletic Department announced today that it has signed a deal to replace the aging scoreboards at Michigan Stadium, Crisler Arena and Yost Ice Arena with state of the art LED displays.  

In a written statement, UM Athletic Director David Brandon says the department is excited.

“Our goal is to set a new, higher standard for our fan’s viewing experience and the game day atmosphere we create in our venues. These boards will be an important first step in achieving that goal.” 

Demolition of the old video boards at the Big House began in March.   New, larger LED video screens will be installed in both end zones by this August.

The total cost of the project is expected to be less than $20 million dollars.

Crime
2:29 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Fiction as evidence? Michigan Supreme Court weighs in on words as evidence

The seal of the Michigan Supreme Court
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Supreme Court is faced with the question of whether a work of fiction can be used against the author if they are charged with a crime.  

A Bay County man was convicted of molesting his young granddaughter. Used against him during the trial was a fictionalized “sex manual” he wrote about incestuous sex between siblings and their father. 

Chief Justice Robert Young summed up the question before the court during today's hearing.  

“We’re now trying to determine the extent to which this incest fantasy is admissible, and why if it is.”   

Sylvia Linton is the prosecuting attorney. She says  the trial-court judge made a valid point about fictional works:

“Just because Sophocles wrote about incest doesn’t mean he would do that. Well that’s true, but if Sophocles was on trial for having incest with his mother, then I think it becomes extremely relative.”

To which Justice Stephen Markham asked:

 “So if Agatha Christie is charged with murder, the fact that she wrote several first-person stories about murder would be relevant as evidence?”   

The prosecutor says in some cases, yes, Agatha Christie’s stories could have been used against her.

The defense attorney says allowing works of fiction to be admitted as evidence would open the door for what could be used against a person, and prevent people from receiving fair trials.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case later this year.

Politics
1:50 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Empty holsters on campus in protest of gun laws

A student group is protesting concealed weapons not being allowed on Michigan's college campuses being
photo by Sarah Alvarez/Michigan Radio

Some college students are protesting the state’s gun laws by carrying empty holsters on campus this week. “Students for Concealed Carry” is a national group behind the annual protest. There are protests this week at Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University and Central Michigan University.

The groups say people with valid concealed weapons permits should be able to carry concealed guns on campuses around the state. Colleges and Universities ** are on the list of nine “pistol free zones”.

Reid Smith is the Michigan State Director of Students for Concealed Carry

"You’re only taking about allowing lawful gun owners to carry their firearms on college campuses and you’re not talking about the criminals. The criminals aren’t going to obey the gun free zone laws anyway."

Michigan’s house and senate are considering bills this year on whether or not to do away with the pistol free zones.

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Politics
11:31 am
Tue April 5, 2011

Mackinac Center explains FOIA requests

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy says their Freedom of Information Act requests for information regarding labor studies at Wayne State University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan is part of its “regular” activity.

Ken Braun is the man behind the FOIA requests and the Senior Managing Editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, the Mackinac Center’s newsletter. In a posting on the Center’s website, Braun said the requests were made because:

"We were interested in determining whether the LSC and the labor faculty at Michigan’s other two large public universities had actively employed university resources to enter the political debates. At a minimum, we thought a FOIA investigating professors’ emails on these subjects might demonstrate whether state officials should ask questions about this use of tax dollars for public universities. In the worst-case scenario, we knew these emails might suggest that the faculty had acted illegally, because certain political uses of university resources are prohibited by Michigan law. ”

Kate Davidson, of Michigan Radio’s Changing Gears project, has been taking a look at the controversy and, in a story posted today, explains:

“Michigan academics aren’t the only ones under scrutiny.  Last month, the Republican Party of Wisconsin requested emails from William Cronon, a historian critical of Governor Scott Walker’s push to weaken public sector unions. 

In both states, the lines got drawn fast.  On one side: an apparent concern about the use of public resources for political advocacy.  On the other: fear of academic intimidation and reprisal in a politically charged climate.”

You can read Davidson’s full story on the state and national implications of various FOIA requests, and hear directly from the Mackinac Center's Ken Braun, on the Changing Gears’ website.

Commentary
10:34 am
Tue April 5, 2011

The History Behind the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

While historians debate just when and why Detroit began to decline, it’s much easier to say what its high point was: July 28, 1951. That was the official 250th anniversary of Detroit’s founding, and the city was at its peak.

Detroit had nearly two million people. It was rich, vibrant and strong. President Harry Truman came all the way from Washington to speak - a rare occurrence then - and the city then celebrated with a five-hour long parade. And there was other good news, too.

"The Detroit Symphony Orchestra was being revived. Founded when the city had less than two hundred thousand people, it had been disbanded during the Great Depression. But now it was back, and on October 18th, it thrilled fans with its first concert."

Everybody knew then that to be a truly world-class city, you had to have a world-class symphony orchestra.

Back in the jazz age, Detroit had one of the nation’s best orchestras. They had been the first orchestra to have a concert broadcast on the radio. They were regulars at Carnegie Hall. And for eight years, they were broadcast regularly to a nationwide audience.

Then hard times came, and people forgot how important a symphony is for a while. Some people evidently lost sight of that again last year, when the symphony’s season was destroyed by a six-month long strike caused by money problems.

The symphony has huge debts, big deficits, and a shrinking donor base. Everyone agreed the musicians had to take a massive pay cut, but the question was, how massive?

While I am not an expert on cultural economics, it is clear that neither side did much to help their public image during the work stoppage, and management’s handling of public relations was especially bad, as one board member admitted to me.

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Environment
10:28 am
Tue April 5, 2011

Landowners sue gas companies over leases

Natural gas drilling rig in Wyoming
Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

Last May, oil and gas companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying up rights to drill in Michigan. By summer, private landowners in northern Michigan had signed leases promising record payments to drill on their land. But by the end of the year, the frenzy over the new gas play had fizzled. And, as Bob Allen found out, hundreds of people were claiming they’d been cheated.

The first person to file suit against the gas companies in Emmet County is Mildred Lutz.

A sturdy 92 years old, she still keeps a garden and cans her own vegetables.

Last summer, a man knocked on her door and offered to pay her almost a hundred thousand dollars for the oil and gas deep underground beneath her farm.

Mildred had just lost her husband of sixty-nine years, Carl. And she thought the money would come in handy for a whole list of expenses, including funeral costs. So after talking it over with her five children, she signed a lease and took the document to the bank in Alanson to be notarized.

She never heard another word from the oil and gas developers and she never got paid.

And how does she feel about that?

“Well, not very good. I don’t know, I’ve always kind of had the feeling of trusting a lot of people, I guess. I hate to see people being dishonest. When you do that, you’re just really hurting a lot of people that were depending on this.”

Attorney Bill Rolinski says he’s heard from a lot of people who ended up in the same boat as Mildred Lutz.

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Arts/Culture
10:04 am
Tue April 5, 2011

400 to attend Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference in Detroit

The 3rd annual Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference is April 6-7 in Detroit
Dani Davis

Hundreds of artists will be in Detroit this week for the third annual Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference.

The goal is to get artists, educators and creative entrepreneurs together to brainstorm how they can help revitalize post-industrial cities like Detroit, Flint, and Cleveland.

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News Roundup
7:55 am
Tue April 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, April 5th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Rallies Across the State

Hundreds of union members and their supporters rallied in various cities across the state yesterday. The rallies were organized to both protest what unions call attacks on the middle class and to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. The Associated Press reports:

Roughly 200 people gathered at the Capitol on Monday evening…

Several hundred people each turned out at rallies in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Muskegon. Rallies also took place in Escanaba, Saginaw and elsewhere around Michigan.

Michigan unions say they're upset about a new Republican-backed law that lets emergency managers appointed to assist financially struggling communities and schools rescind labor contracts.

The rallies were held Monday to link the fight for collective bargaining to the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn.

Economic Outlook in MI Improving

Michigan’s jobs picture is looking a little better, according to a new report out of the University of Michigan. University of Michigan economists say the state is starting 2011 with “robust job growth,” Steve Carmody reports. The Detroit Free Press quotes University of Michigan economist George Fulton as saying, “There appears to be pretty good evidence now that we are back to creating more jobs than we are losing. But, the Free Press notes Fulton also, "cautioned that the state's 10.4% unemployment rate is still high, so many residents won't feel as if a recovery is under way. Fulton expects Michigan's unemployment rate to drop to 9.9% by the last quarter of this year and to reach 9.5% by the end of 2012.”

DSO Musicians to Return to Work

Musicians with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra say they will return to work on Thursday. A tentative agreement between the striking musicians and the Orchestra’s management was announced this week. An official ratification vote will come later this week. Musicians had been on strike since October.

Education
6:42 am
Tue April 5, 2011

Meetings in Detroit to detail school closings

The first of several workshops to educate Detroit parents on the schools district’s future plans is scheduled for this afternoon, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Detroit Public Schools' Parents Speakers Bureau will hold the meetings starting Tuesday afternoon at Priest Elementary and Central High. Six other meetings are scheduled through April 14.

Thirty schools are slated to be closed this year and two more in 2012 as part of the district's plan to help eliminate a $327 million budget deficit.

District officials say they hope to turn over 18 of the buildings to charter operators as neighborhood schools. Schools not selected as charters will close. An additional 27 schools also have been identified as possible candidates for charters.

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Arts/Culture
11:09 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Detroit Symphony musicians return to work Thursday

Elaine Roach via Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians say they’ll return to the stage for rehearsal on Thursday.

DSO officials have announced a tentative agreement that would end a bitter six-months-long players’ strike.

Detroit Symphony officials canceled the whole concert season in February, when it seemed like feuding Orchestra players and management just couldn’t agree on a new contract. The two sides had deadlocked for months over issues ranging from pay to musicians’ outside teaching obligations.

But under mounting political pressure and after a marathon weekend bargaining session, the two sides hammered out a tentative work agreement.

Musicians’ union President Gordon Stump wouldn’t talk specifics. An official ratification vote will wrap up on Friday.

Stump says musicians are happy the strike will end even though they’re “not crazy” about parts of the agreement.

“I’m sure the management wasn’t crazy about it either. But most of the things that we had a problem with are gone. In that sense, I think it was a resolution we could all live with.”

Stump says the strike was “a long, protracted struggle, and it’s going to take a long time to heal.”

The strike cost the Orchestra some musicians, including its whole percussion section.

Politics
11:03 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Unions invoke MLK legacy in Detroit rally

Labor supporters rally in Detroit's Hart Plaza
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Hundreds of labor union supporters rallied against attacks on collective bargaining rights in Detroit Monday.

The rally was one of dozens nationwide commemorating Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.

King was killed during a 1968 trip to Memphis to support that city’s striking black sanitation workers. National labor leaders are highlighting this lesser-known part of King’s legacy as they fight new state laws that restrict unions’ collective bargaining rights.

Canton resident Natalie Mosher came to the downtown Detroit rally. She says Governor Snyder and state Republicans have gone too far.

"I’m here to support all working people. I was a former teacher and I think what is happening in Michigan today is just not acceptable.”

The Governor recently signed a bill granting Emergency Financial Managers broad powers, including the right to throw out union contracts.

Former Delphi worker Stacey Kemp drove from near Saginaw to attend the rally. Kemp says everyone should be concerned about the many new state laws that restrict workers’ right to collective bargaining.

“Whether they’re union or non-union, this is going to directly affect all middle and working-class people. If they’re allowed to get away with this, we might as well just kiss our grandchildren goodbye, and they’re going to live in a third-world country.”

The AFL-CIO and other organizers say the King-inspired rallies are part of a continued campaign to fight that law and similar measures in other states.

Arts/Culture
10:03 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Network of former Detroiters look to assist their hometown

Bernt Rostad Creative Commons

Former metro Detroiters in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have formed a network that hopes to lend talent and assistance to the Motor City.

Bryan Fenster co-founded the Detroit Nation chapter in Chicago. He says there are scores of people with Detroit roots who want to help their hometown:

"People have law backgrounds, marketing, advertising, non-profit sector grant writing. It’s kind of all across the board. So when we partner up with more organizations in Detroit, I think we’ll have a better idea of who we can place where and how we can implement that."

Fenster says the first Detroit Nation event in Chicago in December drew about 60 people, and he expects its second event this week will draw twice that many.

Chapters in Seattle and Washington D.C. are expected to be established soon.

Arts/Culture
5:36 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Detroit Symphony musicians agree to go back to work before voting on new contract

The Detroit Symphony announced late this afternoon that orchestra musicians have agreed to return to work before voting on a new contract. The DSO and its musicians' union reached a tentative contract deal over the weekend.

The musicians' union met this afternoon. After the meeting, the DSO announced the musicians will return to work on Thursday to begin rehearsing for upcoming concerts. The union plans a vote on the union contract later this week.

In a written statement, music director Leonard Slatkin expressed the hope that the DSO will emerge strong from the strike that has silenced it for the past six months:

“As we return to our home, I’m confident that the artistic product will continue at the highest possible level.  There is much to be done but the DSO will emerge a healthier and stronger institution.”

Economy
5:16 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

U of M economists say state is posting 'robust' job growth

Students walk on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s jobs picture is getting brighter, according to a new report out of the University of Michigan. University of Michigan economists say the state is starting 2011 with “robust job growth."  

Michigan spent much of the past decade watching its job numbers decline. But after some gains in 2010, U of M economists credit a bounce in manufacturing with getting the state off to a great start this year. The job growth rate is on pace to increase by 3.8% this year.     

The economists say Michigan has posted a stronger recovery rate than the rest of the nation during the past year and a half. However, that may not last. 

The U of M economists predict Michigan’s job growth will cool off, but still the economists predict the state could add 64,000 jobs this year.

Politics
4:15 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Governor Snyder about his first 90 days

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

It’s been a little over three months since Governor Rick Snyder came into office.

He’s had a few successes, including passing the controversial Emergency Financial Manager Bill. He’s also running into some opposition, even within his own party, especially around issues within his budget proposal.

Jennifer White asked Governor Rick Snyder to talk about the past 90 days and discuss where things go from here.

Read more
Politics
4:06 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Governor Snyder confident his budget & tax plans will get legislative approval

Governor Rick Snyder, (R) Michigan

A state House committee is debating a tax-reform package that includes eliminating the state’s business tax and replacing its revenues with a corporate income tax and taxing pensions. Governor Snyder says he wants a state budget in place by the end of May.

However, fierce divisions over how and where to reform taxes – especially over whether to tax pensions – are slowing negotiations.

Snyder’s pleased with the progress on the budget so far:

“Things are going reasonably well in terms of that process.   And we’re working on a very fast time frame.  We’re well ahead of the way things traditional done in past years.  And we’ll still on a path to get fundamental reform done."  

Snyder says he's not put off by the harsh criticism that his budget and tax plans have generated: 

“That’s part of the legislative process.  That’s part of democracy.   But as a whole, I believe the framework we put out there will go ahead and if anything I hope it could be an improved product with the good dialogue we’re having today.”  

Some Senate Republicans have said they will not vote for any pension tax. And many Democrats are upset, claiming they have been locked out of negotiations altogether.

Read more
Offbeat
3:03 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Update: Charlie Sheen receives standing ovation in Chicago

The Charlie Sheen show comes to Detroit
user justaufo Flickr

Update:

Charlie Sheen might be #winning after all.

After a universally panned show at the Detroit Fox Theatre on Saturday, Sheen has apparently retooled his "Violent Torpedo of Truth" tour, earning him a standing ovation from a Chicago audience.

From the Huffington Post:

After being heckled and booed in Detroit, Charlie Sheen made some changes to his road show Sunday night – and this time, it ended with a standing ovation.

Sheen used a talk show-style format at his Chicago show, with a master of ceremonies asking the actor questions. The interviewer, who didn't identify himself, kept Sheen on track and gave the actor a chance to make some snarky comments.

Some audience members said the second performance on Sheen's "My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option" tour wasn't outstanding, but at least it had amusing moments. And Sheen drew cheers throughout the show, which began and ended with a standing ovation.

Mackenzie Barth, 19, said it was a "weird" show. "At least no one was booing," she added.

One commenter on Huffpost said, "I can only conclude that the people of Detroit have better taste than those in Chicago."

What do you think?

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Economy
2:56 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Many Michiganders miss date to pay the tax man

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

County treasurer offices across Michigan this week are processing thousands of homes that have fallen into tax foreclosure. Michigan property owners has until last week to pay up their 2008 property taxes or face losing the property to tax foreclosure. Many counties were expecting about a 10% increase in homes falling into tax foreclosure. 

In Genesee County, the owners of 2,999 properties missed the deadline. About 600 more than last year. Deb Cherry is the Genesee County Treasurer. She was not surprised by the jump in tax foreclosures. 

 “A lot of it has to do with the fact that 2008 was one of the worst years in the housing market.”

Cherry does not expect there will be many buyers when these homes go up for sale later this year.

Many of the properties will find their way to the Genesee County Land Bank, which is already taking care of more than 6,000 properties. Douglas Weiland is the land bank authority executive director.

"Its not a question of whether we can absorb more properties, we will absorb more properties and we expect we'll see that trend continueing for some time yet."

Economy
2:05 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Michigan gas prices getting closer to $4

Gas prices in Michigan are now averaging $3.75 a gallon. AAA Michigan reports gas prices are up $0.91 from this time last year.

This is affecting Michiganders in different ways, some in their jobs, and some in how they volunteer.

Tasha Stetler is the Meals On Wheels Supervisor for Ingam County. She says many volunteers continued to drive for Meals on Wheels when gas prices rose to over $3 a gallon.  

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Offbeat
2:03 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Aborted takeoff attributed to wind-shear fears

User dsleeter_2000 Flickr

And you thought flying with a hole punched in the roof of your plane was scary.

Earlier today, a plane had to abort its takeoff due to fears of wind-shear.

Wind-shear refers to a drastic change in wind direction over a relatively short distance, and can cause serious problems for airplanes taking of or landing.

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