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Accolades
10:27 am
Thu June 23, 2011

'Muslims in Michigan' project wins national award

Michigan Radio was very pleased to learn that the station won one of 3 RTDNA/UNITY awards for the Muslims in Michigan project. The award is presented to honor outstanding achievements in the coverage of diversity.

The Muslims in Michigan project was formed out of a partnership between Michigan Radio and the University of Michigan Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies. The five part radio series examined life for Muslim people living in Michigan. Beyond religion, the series also explored the cultural, political, ethnic, and social lives of this diverse group. The project also featured film events, speakers, and a community conversation.

You can find out more about Muslims in Michigan series at the story's website.

News Roundup
10:15 am
Thu June 23, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup
Brother O'Mara Flickr

EM Law Faces  Lawsuit:

A group opposed to the state’s new emergency manager law has filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse it, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The lawsuit says the emergency manager law undermines voters’ rights to choose their elected officials. That’s because the law allows state-appointed emergency managers sweeping powers - including the ability to remove elected officials who don’t cooperate…The lawsuit names Governor Rick Snyder and state Treasurer Andy Dillon as the defendants. The Detroit pension board has also filed a lawsuit challenging the law. Governor Snyder’s office says the law is both constitutional and necessary to help the state’s most financially troubled communities. Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse and the Detroit school district are currently under the control of emergency managers.

Kalamazoo River Cleanup Continues

Cleanup crews are on the Kalamazoo River this week collecting oil that remains at the bottom of the river from last July’s oil spill. Enbridge Energy, the company that owns the pipeline that leaked the oil says more than 90 percent of the 840,000 gallons of heavy crude have already been cleaned up. About 220 people will be along the river for this week’s cleanup and an Enbridge Energy spokesperson says she expects several more hundred will be on hand in the coming weeks.

Changes to Medical Marijuana Law?

Members of the Michigan legislature are considering several bills that would amend the state’s medical marijuana law. “One bill would create a database of marijuana license holders. Another would ban marijuana dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of schools and churches. A third would bar citizens from suing cities that restrict or ban marijuana dispensaries... Michigan passed the Medical Marijuana Act in 2008,” Bridget Bodnar reports.

Environment
10:11 am
Thu June 23, 2011

Swimming Upstream: The shrinking commercial fishing industry (part 1)

Left to right: Walleye, Dustin Dwyer.
Image by Josh Leo/Rick Treur

Today we begin a series called Swimming Upstream. It's about one of Michigan's most valuable natural resources: fish. These slimy, scaly water dwellers contribute to the ecology of the Great Lakes, our economy, and, of course, our dinner plate.

Reporter Dustin Dwyer has traveled all over the lower peninsula to gather these fish stories for us, and he starts with a simple question: why can it sometimes be so difficult to buy fresh fish caught in Michigan? 

Here's Dustin's story:

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Auto/Economy
4:45 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

What’s the worst thing about Detroit? Your answers

Kira Plotivrnkov

All week, we’ve been covering Detroit’s attempts to improve its image. We heard about plenty of things to celebrate, but Detroit also has plenty of real problems, ranging from its struggling education system to a huge loss of residents over the last decade.

Along with the city’s positive aspects, we also asked you to tell us: what’s the worst thing about Detroit? Here is a sample of your answers.

Hate. From racism to road rage, it is not a friendly place.- Carly Van Thomme, Guadalajara, Mexico

The legacy of Kwame Kilpatrick and Henry Ford. Drive, drive, drive everywhere. -Karen Dunnan, Grand Rapids, MI

That we do not promote the diversity of the people in Detroit and surrounding suburbs as we should. It’s the people that make any city. -Gordon Alexander, Detroit, MI

Suffocating overt and covert racism that serves as a shorthand for much more complex and difficult problems. -Brian Bowe, Saugatauk, MI

The lack of public transportation and urban living necessities to keep people in the city. -Dan Baker, Lancaster, PA

Excessively numbered and large freeways that ruin the continuity of neighborhoods and contribute to a sense of isolation in many cases. – Elizabeth Luther, Detroit, MI

Unfortunately, crime. -Joel Arnold, Flint

How empty it feels.  There is nothing worse than coming home to find the lights off and the family dispersed. -Jeffrey Jablansky, New Rochelle, NY

Lack of city-dwelling yuppies, you need them for economic purposes.- Matt B., Boston, MA

People who have never been there trashing the place. -Todd Doros, Durham, NC

You can still answer our questions here.

Tomorrow, check back to read peoples’ vision for the Detroit of 2020.

Politics
4:17 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

Counties sue Fannie, Freddie over real estate taxes

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Oakland and Ingham counties are suing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over millions of dollars in disputed tax revenues.

Michigan has something called the real estate transfer tax, and it’s paid by the seller when a property changes hands.

Fannie and Freddie have been unloading many of the homes that revert to them in foreclosure sales.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner says the companies are trying to have it both ways – getting the benefits of private companies, and the protections of government entities.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

A new challenge to state Emergency Financial Manager law

Gov. Rick Snyder
Gov. Rick Snyder

 A group opposed to the state’s new emergency manager law has filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse it.  The lawsuit says the emergency manager law undermines voters’ rights to choose their elected officials. That’s because the law allows state-appointed emergency managers sweeping powers - including the ability to remove elected officials who don’t cooperate.

 Kym Spring is one of the 28 plaintiffs challenging the law:

Read more
Politics
3:05 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

State lawmakers consider changes to Medical Marijuana Act

Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2008 but is still banned by the federal government.
Kconnors MorgueFile

Members of the Michigan legislature are considering several bills that would amend the state’s medical marijuana law. One bill would create a database of marijuana license holders.

Read more
Environment
1:49 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

Crews ramping up cleanup efforts in Kalamazoo River near Marshall

Last summer an oil sheen could be seen along the Kalamazoo River. Now crews are working to clean up the oil that sunk to the bottom.
State of Michigan

Cleanup crews are collecting oil that remains at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River this week.

It’s been nearly a year since more than 840,000 gallons of heavy crude oil leaked from a broken pipeline near Marshall. More than 90% of the oil has been cleaned up already.

Becky Haase is a spokesperson for Enbridge Energy, the company that owns the pipeline.

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Auto
1:45 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

Smart cars not catching on in Michigan

Smart car sales fell 80 percent since 2008.
Robert W. Howington Flickr

The only Smart car dealership in Michigan will close next week.

Aaron Bragman is senior analyst with IHS automotive. He says Smart cars never caught on in the US.

“In this market if you’re going to offer a small car and have it be successful, it has to be small and something. It has to be small and cute or small and efficient or small and well built. The smart car unfortunately was really just,  small.”

Bragman says the fuel economy wasn’t what people thought it would be.

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Arts/Culture
11:26 am
Wed June 22, 2011

What's the coolest thing about Detroit? Here's what you said

People are submitting their thoughts on whether Detroit's image is getting better.
Photo submitted by Joshua Mango

We're back with more from our survey about Detroit's image. Many people think the city is and always was a great place, with a bad reputation. But others think the problems and challenges the city faces are just too big. Before we get to responses about Detroit's drawbacks, here's what people say is the coolest thing about Detroit.

Cars, and the pride of a town built on the automobile industry.  If you are a car person, it is definitely a pilgrimage of sorts. - Robbert Liddell, Detroit

Read more
State Politics
11:22 am
Wed June 22, 2011

The Week in State Politics

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Allieosmar Flickr

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark speaks with Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's happening this week in state politics. On tap for today: Governor Snyder signs the state's budget into law, Michigan lawmakers continue debating redistricting and a look at the new education reform proposal for Detroit Public Schools.

commentary
10:50 am
Wed June 22, 2011

Reinventing Public Schools

What is perhaps most remarkable about Governor Rick Snyder’s dramatic plan to save the state’s failing schools is that it has sparked essentially no opposition. Though it is being talked about primarily in terms of Detroit, the new Educational Achievement System is eventually meant to be extended statewide.

Here’s how the governor says it will work. Those individual Detroit schools among the lowest-achieving five percent in the state will have the coming year to clean up their act. If they haven’t shown drastic improvement by next June, they will no longer be governed by the Detroit Public School system.

Instead, they will move to a new authority, the Educational Achievement System, which will be run by what sounds like a state school board. It will be chaired, at least for now, by Roy Roberts, the Detroit Public Schools’ Emergency Financial Manager, and consist of eleven members. Seven will be appointed by the governor, two by the Detroit schools and two by Eastern Michigan University.

Eastern, which was originally a teachers’ college, will be heavily involved in both running the new authority, and in helping these failing skills get up to speed. It is suspected that some of them struggled in part because of difficulties dealing with the notorious and often corrupt or incompetent Detroit school bureaucracy.

Supposedly, the new Educational Achievement System won’t just replace one set of officials with another; it should give individual schools and teachers and principals more freedom to figure out and solve their own educational problems, using whatever works.

Within a few years, the plan is to extend the authority’s reach to other failing public schools around the state. Now, there are a lot of questions for which we apparently don’t yet have answers.

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News Roundup
9:55 am
Wed June 22, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning news roundup, Wednesday, June 22nd.
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Budget Complete

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a new state budget into law. The budget is for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. The budget preserves funding for Medicaid health care, but cuts money for schools, universities, and local governments, Rick Pluta reports. “The governor says tough choices were necessary to retire a $1.5 billion deficit. And, he says that was done without accounting tricks and one-time fixes. The governor says the budget will help create a more inviting environment for businesses and young people,” Pluta reports.

Funding Grand Rapids

Elected officials in Grand Rapids adopted a budget for 2012 yesterday. The plan closes a $6 million budget gap in the city’s general fund. Lindsey Smith reports:

Grand Rapids took a couple measures last year to keep their budget out the red. Grand Rapids expects to deal with operating deficits until 2015, when city officials says city government will become financially sustainable again. The long term budget plan eliminates $80 million in operating deficits over the next five years.

Stormy Weather

Authorities say severe thunderstorms yesterday evening produced high winds that damaged two hangars at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, injuring at least three people, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

WOOD-TV reports members of the Civil Air Patrol were preparing for natural disaster training when they took cover in one of the hangars on Tuesday night. Winds ripped a door away, sending some of them into the air inside the hangar… The National Weather Service also reports heavy rains. And officials say lightning started a barn fire in Ottawa County's Georgetown Township. The Jackson County sheriff's department received reports of a possible funnel cloud. No tornadoes had been confirmed by the weather service.

State Budget
9:23 am
Wed June 22, 2011

Snyder signs budget

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

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a budget for the coming fiscal year. He says the spending plan includes some tough-but-necessary choices that were necessary to retire a deficit and to set Michigan on a path to fiscal responsibility.

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Education
10:57 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Detroit is the laboratory for state school reform effort

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio
  • An error occurred ingesting this audio file to NPR

Governor Rick Snyder says the state will take a dramatically new to approach to its worst schools--starting in Detroit.

Years of turmoil and power struggles over the Detroit Public Schools have left a polarizing legacy in the city. That history has left many Detroiters absorbing Snyder’s plan with a cautious sense of déjà vu.

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Politics
5:48 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Ambassador Bridge owners vow to wrap up disputed Gateway Project

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge say a disputed construction project will get done by a court-imposed January 2012 deadline.

The Detroit International Bridge Company and the Michigan Department of Transportation have been in court for two years over the Gateway Project, a disputed construction project meant to better connect the bridge with surrounding highways

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Local Government
5:36 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Transforming city government in Grand Rapids

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Today elected officials in Grand Rapids adopted a budget for 2012. The plan closes a $6 million budget gap in the city’s general fund.

The plan includes money for a new ‘transformation fund’ – which can only be used for one-time investments in long-term structural changes.

Grand Rapids took a couple measure last year to keep their budget out the red…they laid off around 175 employees and voters approved a city income tax hike.

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Education
4:45 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Fixing Michigan's failing schools, what Detroit can learn from New Orleans

flickr/ iboy_daniel

Michigan will try a drastic new approach to fix its failing public schools. The state will put what it designates as “persistently low-performing schools” in a special, statewide school district.

The effort will start in Detroit. The city’s public school system has gained national attention for its rock-bottom test scores and budget deficit. In fact, the school district is currently under an emergency manager.

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Arts/Culture
4:15 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Describe Detroit in One Sentence: Your Answers

People submitted photos with their thoughts on whether Detroit's image is improving.
Brian Stoeckel

When we asked, “Is Detroit cool again?” we wanted to know whether Detroit’s image is changing.

Our inspiration is Mayor Dave Bing’s Transform Detroit, a event that is showing examples of Detroit’s revitalization to about 50 reporters. Despite the positive picture the city is trying to present, we know not everyone believes the city is on its way back.

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Education
3:00 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Eastern Michigan University to oversee lowest performing schools in Michigan

Eastern Michigan University has been picked to oversee the lowest performing schools in the state.

The “Education Achievement System” will assist the lowest 5 percent of performing schools in Michigan. The new statewide school district will start in Detroit and eventually expand across the state. 

Jeoff Larcom is with EMU. He says Governor Snyder chose EMU because of its strong education program and proximity to Detroit.

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