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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.

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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

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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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Arts/Culture
1:52 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

What You’re Telling Us About Detroit

Stephen Fisher (right) on Hartwell in Detroit in 1962. He's messing around in his cousin's 1957 Thunderbird with friends from Mumford High School.
Photo submitted by Steven Fisher

Changing Gears is asking you about the best and the worst of Detroit, and the factors that are shaping your views of the Motor City. We’ll keep updating throughout the week. Here’s a sample of the first responses.

Detroit is great city, it’s just that people tend to judge before getting to know it. It’s like an old car, it’s broken down, but you love it to death. -Kira Plotivrnkov, Warren, MI

Art deco grit -Garlin Gilchrist II, Washington, DC

What’s the coolest thing about Detroit?

The coolest thing about Detroit is what it used to represent. Detroit was the American Dream. Millions of people were able to go to college because of the salary and benefits that the big three provided for their parents and grandparents.

When I am away from home and I hear someone ignorantly speaking about Detroit, I feel like someone is disrespecting a family member and I always make sure to chime in and talk about all the great things that this area offers. Joe Egan, Royal Oak, MI

It’s attitude. The city and its people genuinely seem to have a sense of community and pride in rebuilding Detroit. The willingness to learn from mistakes and try new civic ideas is appealing. -Michael McAfee, Austin, TX

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Commentary
1:27 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

All About Jobs

Senator Debbie Stabenow came to Michigan last weekend, to visit some farms and talk with fruit and vegetable growers. She is, after all, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

For some reason, though agriculture has long been the state’s second biggest industry, those of us not involved in it tend to give it short shrift. So, mostly do our politicians.

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Politics
12:51 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Bing Campaigns to Brighten Detroit's Image

People all over the country are submitting thoughts and photos of Detroit's image and challenges.
Submitted by Howard Duffy

About 50 reporters arrived in Detroit on Monday for a three day conference Mayor Dave Bing is calling "Transform Detroit." Bing said this morning, via Twitter, that Transform Detroit "is a media briefing that connects reporters with community leaders and positive happenings throughout the city."

He also tweeted that he hoped he would get some reporters to tell "GOOD stories" after the conference.
The city is trying to put its best foot forward.

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Environment
11:23 am
Tue June 21, 2011

West Michigan residents voice opposition to offshore wind turbines

Business owners and residents in Pentwater, Michigan put up signs expressing opposition to Scandia Wind's offshore turbine proposal.
Photo by Suzy Vuljevic

There’s been a lot of outside interest in Michigan’s coastal wind supply. There have been multiple proposals for land-based wind farms in Michigan. But only a couple of companies have set their sights offshore.

One company in particular has met some tough opposition.

Scandia Wind came to Michigan last year looking to install 50 to 100 wind turbines in Lake Michigan. They had plans to site a wind farm six miles outside of Mason and Oceana counties.

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Education
12:11 am
Tue June 21, 2011

Parents talking about future of Grand Rapids school's leader

GRPS School Board President Senita Lenear and Superintendent Bernard Taylor held a press conference after Cleveland Metropolitian Schools passed Taylor up for a job on June 7th, 2011.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A decision on the future of Grand Rapids Public Schools’ superintendent has been delayed again.

Despite no comments from the school board, several residents and parents talked about Taylor’s future. Tyrone Bynum admits he has not always gotten along with Taylor.

“My focus is what’s good for the kids. And I think we’ve got a winning team. And we can’t afford right now a new superintendent with paying that one and him too…this brother is expensive,” Bynum chuckled.

If they chose the option - it would cost Grand Rapids schools around $1 million dollars to buy out the remaining four year of Taylor’s contract.

The school board met twice Monday, once in a private morning meeting and a public one later in the evening. They did not approve Taylor’s evaluation for last school year or discuss the fact that’s he’s applied for jobs at other school districts.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Mon June 20, 2011

Redistricting fight begins this week

The Michigan House districts as they exist now.

The partisan battle over the state’s new maps of congressional and legislative districts kicks off Tuesday at the state Capitol.

Republicans are likely to get their plans adopted. They control the House, the Senate and the governor’s office. A legal challenge would probably be decided by the GOP controlled state Supreme Court.

Democrats charge Republicans manipulated the lines to put two Democratic incumbents together in one district – and to shore up the GOP base for some vulnerable Republicans.

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