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Politics
3:04 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

Mayor Dave Bing: Dumas is out

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’s requested and received the resignation of his communications chief, Karen Dumas.

The move comes just two days after a bombshell lawsuit filed by a former Bing aide. The suit claims Dumas created a hostile and unstable environment, and wielded unprecedented authority in the executive office.

Bing says he plans to return his focus to the challenges facing Detroit.

"The controversy of the last few days cannot and will not be a distraction to me or this administration."

Also out is Bing’s chief of staff, Shannon Holmes. Kirk Lewis will return to the administration to replace her. Lewis left the mayor’s office earlier this year, after reportedly seeking the job of emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools without Bing’s knowledge. The lawsuit filed this week, however, claims Bing knew about Lewis’s efforts, and even tried to help make it happen.

Arts/Culture
3:02 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

Weekend comic festival

National artists teach workshops at this weekend festival celebrating all things comic-related.

Michigan boasts plenty of summer festivals celebrating fruit, vegetables, music, and food.  But there’s a relatively new festival that pays homage to the creation of comics.

The third annual “Kids Read Comics” festival happens this weekend in downtown Chelsea, west of Ann Arbor. It features workshops with names like “Make Your Life Into a Comic” and “Nobody Likes a Boring Story.”

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Offbeat
2:48 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

In case you missed it...

User cccpstorm Flickr

Here are some highlights from this week’s programming, in case you missed them. 

“You and me, pal. We’re the loonies.”

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Commentary
12:44 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

Decline of the Middle Class

You might expect that the Legislature, our well-paid, elected representatives, would be most keenly concerned with the economy and trying to figure out how to make things better.

Well, once in a while they do show signs of being interested in that, but yesterday … not so much. The governor was forced to postpone efforts to get approval for a new bridge over the Detroit River, a project that would cost Michigan nothing and create at least 10,000 jobs. He doesn’t yet have the votes.

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Education
10:58 am
Fri June 17, 2011

Many Michigan universities raise tuition for 2011-12 school year

MSU trustees will vote today on 2011-12 tuition rates.
user: jdurham morgueFile

Update 10:58 a.m.

Michigan State University trustees voted this morning to raise tuition by 6.9% for resident undergraduates, which translates to a nearly $800 increase for full time, in-state students.

10:29 a.m.

If you attend one of Michigan's 15 public universities, chances are you'll see your tuition costs go up for the 2011-12 school year.

Several universities have already announced tuition hikes. Here's a roundup of the schools that have voted so far:

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News Roundup
7:51 am
Fri June 17, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Fallout from accusations in Detroit

After a former staffer filed a whistleblower lawsuit accusing Mayor Dave Bing of seeking to dissolve Detroit city council and the Detroit public school board by becoming the emergency manager of both, Mayor Dave Bing's office has been working to control the damage.

He has denied the allegations.

The Detroit News reports Bing might make changes to his staff:

Mayor Dave Bing is moving to fortify his staff and is in serious talks to bring a former lieutenant, a longtime government veteran and ex-television anchor to an administration suddenly rocked by scandal.

Bing is in discussions with former group executive Kirk Lewis to return to a top position, former Coleman A. Young chief of staff Charlie Williams to serve as a high-level executive and former WDIV-TV (Channel 4) anchor Emery King to provide communications consulting, three sources said.

The Mayor's communications chief, Karen Dumas, has told the Detroit Free Press that she'll resign from her post is she's asked to. Dumas was accused in the lawsuit, filed by Rocelle Collins and her husband, of creating a hostile work environment and causing Collins emotional distress. Dumas was quoted in the Detroit Free Press: 

"I understand that I am an at-will employee," Dumas, 48, told the Free Press on Thursday. "If it is determined now or in the immediate future, or whenever, that my presence isn't needed, then I will gracefully go."

The Detroit News reports that Collins says the city of Detroit was involved in writing the controversial emergency manager legislation. The author of the legislation, Representative Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) says he did not have any conversations with Bing or other city officials while writing the bill.

University of Michigan regents adopt budget cuts and tuition increases

The University of Michigan's board of regents voted to increase in-state tuition by 6.7% and out-of-state tuition by 4.9%. U of M, like many schools across the state, is working to deal with a sharp cut in their budgets from the state. In addition to tuition hikes, U of M will cut its budget.

From the Detroit News

The $1.59 billion fiscal year budget was approved by a 6-2 vote. Denise Ilitch also was named chairwoman of the board, replacing Julia Darrow.

The university will absorb a $47.5 million cut in state funding, the largest in its 194-year history.

"A $47.5 million reduction is a big blow," Provost Phil Hanlon said. "It requires a lot of tough choices across campus."

To manage the drop in state aid, all university schools, colleges and administrative units will undergo a 1.5 percent budget cut.

In addition, low-enrollment classes will be eliminated, and some university centers and institutes will be closed or downsized.

Employees will be asked to pay more toward their health care, and operational staff will be reduced through layoffs.

A school for pregnant teens and teen moms stays open After weeks of outcry at the planned closing of the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, students, staff, and supporters celebrated as they learned their school would not close. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported on the announcement: 

Preparations were under way at Catherine Ferguson Academy in the morning for a big rally to protest the school’s closure. Students were milling around in the hallways. Some were making signs. Across town, protestors were getting on a bus to join the demonstration.

But on the 14thfloor of the Fisher building, something else was happening.

"Good morning, everyone," Roy Roberts told reporters at a news conference he called. "I want to change your storyline."

Roberts announced that Catherine Ferguson Academy – along with two other schools – would be taken over by a charter operator, instead of closing.

Back at the school, staff and alumni and students celebrated with hugs and screams.

Sports Commentary
6:30 am
Fri June 17, 2011

The gift of friendship on Father's Day

  • An error occurred ingesting this audio file to NPR

My dad grew up in Scarsdale, New York – but, as he’s quick to point out, that was before it became “Scahsdahle.”  His dad told him always to root for the underdog, and my dad took that seriously.

All his friends were Yankees fans, but Dad loved the Dodgers.  A perfect Friday night for him, when he was a young teen, was to go up to his room with a Faygo Redpop, a Boy’s Life magazine – he was on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout – and listen to Red Barber, who wouldn’t say something so prosaic as, “the bases are loaded,” but “the bases are saturated with humanity.”

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Arts/Culture
5:56 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Artpod: A conversation with GRAM's new art director

Dana Friis-Hansen is the GRAM's new art director.
Steve Hall Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids Art Museum

Dana Friis-Hansen will take the lead at the Grand Rapids Art Museum next month. On this week's Artpod, we talk with Friis-Hansen about his museum philosophy, the state's art ecosystem, and what he means by "negative space."

Bump it up!

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Politics
5:55 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Political Roundup: Impact of recall efforts on elected officials (audio)

A rash of recall petitions for Republican lawmakers in Michigan have recently emerged.

At last count, 16 lawmakers are being targeted for recalls including Governor Rick Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, and House Speaker Jase Boldger.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Republican state Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants to examine these efforts.

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Politics
5:39 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Matt Moroun testifies against new bridge crossing

The Maroun family owns the Ambassador Bridge and have been vigorously fighting the construction of a second bridge over the Detroit River. Matthew Maroun testified against a new bridge today.
Mike Russell creative commons

A member of the family that owns the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Canada testified before a state Senate committee in Lansing today.

He spoke with a handful of lawmakers who appear annoyed by conflicting information.

Matt Moroun told lawmakers that a proposal to build a publically owned bridge between Detroit and Canada is unnecessary because traffic is down, and tolls would not cover the construction costs.

But he also says the company is prepared to build a second bridge.

That prompted this question from Republican state Senator Geoff Hansen:

“If you receive a permit, will you build a second span?”

Moroun answered:

“The next day we’ll start. Promise.”

Republican state Senator Mike Nofs asked why the Ambassador Bridge owners would want to build a second bridge.

“Why would you build a second bridge the next day if you can’t make the money? The tolls aren’t going to be there. The traffic isn’t going to be there," Nofs said. "It’s going to cost you a lot more money, and you have to expand the roadways on both sides, and you have a government against you apparently right now - Canada - why would you build a second span?”

Moroun says his family’s company needs to build another bridge because the Ambassador Bridge is about 80 years old, and costs a lot of money to maintain.

Democratic state Senator Virgil Smith from Detroit says the Ambassador Bridge owners are controversial figures in the city.

“If you want to proceed with this – with the new project, with the new bridge – I think you’re going to have to clean up a number of your actions in southeast Michigan to do so, or I don’t see it happening no time soon," Smith said.

Many state senators expressed frustration with what they view as a slew of contradictory studies about whether a publically owned bridge would be profitable to taxpayers, or a burden.

Hearings on the bridge issue will continue next week.

Education
5:32 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

School for teen moms saved from closure

Science teacher Paul Weertz, left, with Jasmine Burton and Matthew Taylor.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

School is out for the summer in Detroit. And for several schools in the cash-strapped district, classes are done forever.

Until today, that was the story at Catherine Ferguson Academy – an award-winning school for pregnant teens and young moms.

Changing the storyline

Preparations were under way at Catherine Ferguson Academy in the morning for a big rally to protest the school’s closure. Students were milling around in the hallways. Some were making signs. Across town, protestors were getting on a bus to join the demonstration.

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Politics
5:28 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Kalamazoo Public Safety Lt. alleges chief discriminated in promoting staff

Lieutenant Stacey Randolph alleges the chief discriminated against her in 2009 and 2010 when he promoted white male officers instead of her. The chief denied the allegations in a court filing this week.

Lieutenant Stacey Randolph is the first and only African-American female supervisor at the Kalamazoo Public Safety Department. She applied for a promotion on two separate occasions in the past two years. Both times a white male got the job. Randolph scored equal to or better than other candidates.

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Politics
5:19 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Democrats and some advocacy groups say Republicans rushing redistricting

Republicans hope to have their redistricting plans finished by July 1st, according to the Associated Press.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio
  • An error occurred ingesting this audio file to NPR

Redistricting is taking place this year because of the changes in population found by the 2010 U.S. Census.

Republicans are in control in Michigan, and they get to draw the new political maps which will delineate new political districts for the Michigan Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives for the next ten years.

Democrats and other advocacy groups are complaining about the process.

From the Associated Press:

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Historical
4:51 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

The Ambassador Bridge: Looking back, looking forward

Patricia Drury / Flickr

In his state of the state address, Governor Rick Snyder urged the legislature to approve the construction of a new bridge span between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

Michigan Radio’s Political analyst Jack Lessenberry sat down with Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White to talk about the role the Ambassador Bridge has played in its 82 year history, and the reasons why a new bridge may be necessary. 

Billions of dollars a week move across the Ambassador Bridge. “It’s the most important trade crossing between the United States and Canada, and perhaps in the world,” says Jack.

The Ambassador Bridge was built largely as a beacon of prestige for Detroit in the roaring twenties, and would eventual grow to be a massive economic asset.

Jack would remind us though that “nothing lasts forever.” While the Ambassador Bridge was state of the art in 1929, it’s no longer adequate for the amount of traffic or the size of today’s tractor trailers.

--Cade Sperlich, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Changing Gears
4:39 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

The Verlander Effect: What do you spend at the stadium?

Outside Comerica Park in Detroit. How much do you spend when you go to the ballpark?
user Urban Adventures Flickr

Inside today’s New York Times, you’ll find my story on Detroit Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander.

I was on hand Tuesday night when Verlander nearly pitched the third no-hitter of his career.

He wound up with a two-hit game against the Cleveland Indians, in a performance that baseball scribes say was one of the best of the year.

And we discovered, there is an economic impact for Detroit every time he walks on the mound.

Call it the Verlander Effect.

Verlander attracted 28,128 fans to Tuesday night’s game — the latest proof that attendance when Verlander pitches goes up by more than 5,000 (5,137 to be precise). The fan count at a Verlander appearance averages 26,981; the Tigers are averaging 21,844 on nights when he doesn’t.

That extra 5,137 people adds up to a lot of revenue for the Tigers and by extension, the businesses around Comerica Park and in Detroit.

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Changing Gears
4:11 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Nonprofits: Tackling illiteracy in Chicago

The shelves at Open Books. The Chicago nonprofit is working to improve literacy rates in the city.
Open Books

In Chicago, literacy rates are pretty grim. More than one in three adults cannot read well enough to fill out a job application. Many are working toward improving literacy rates in Chicago, among them, the nonprofit Open Books. In the second story in our series on nonprofits, I took at look at Open Books, mostly because of the organization’s funding structure.

At Chicago International Charter School’s Bucktown campus, second grader Jayla Mercado is reading a book about dinosaurs. They’re her favorite topic, but she’s having a hard time sounding out some of the bigger words.

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Environment
3:07 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

State asks federal officials to assess storm damage in Calhoun County

Rhondda Flickr

The Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) hasve requested support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct joint Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA) in the City of Battle Creek and Calhoun County.

Beginning Friday, teams made up of local, state and federal officials will conduct joint PDAs in areas most severely impacted by the storms on May 29. The teams will review and verify damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure. This information will assist state officials in determining whether a federal declaration should be requested.

“We look forward to FEMA’s assistance in reviewing the impacted areas,” said Capt. W. Thomas Sands, commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “Their support greatly enhances the state’s capabilities to obtain a clear and accurate assessment, and determine the potential need for requesting federal assistance.”

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Politics
3:02 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Ethanol subsidies put to test again in Senate

Nathan Laurell Flickr

Subsidies for ethanol are being put to the test again in the Senate as budget cutters try to demonstrate a growing appetite in Congress to end special interest tax breaks to help reduce government borrowing.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on two measures that would end subsidies for producing ethanol, a renewable, liquid fuel additive that comes mainly from corn in the U.S.

One measure would repeal a tax credit that provides 45 cents a gallon to oil refiners who mix ethanol with gasoline. The Senate rejected an identical measure Tuesday, 40-59. The other would eliminate federal funding for building ethanol blender pumps or storage facilities.

Critics say the subsidies are no longer needed. Supporters say ethanol helps reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Social Issues
1:49 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Teen pregnancy cost to state taxpayers: $7.6 billion

Teen childbearing cost Michigan taxpayers about $308 million in 2008.
mich.gov Michigan Government

An organization that works to prevent teen pregnancy says steady progress has been made over the past couple of decades. But also it says the cost of teen pregnancy remains high, socially and fiscally. 

More than 260,000 teenage girls gave birth in Michigan between 1991 and 2008.

The cost to state taxpayers was about $7.6 billion, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

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Arts/Culture
1:40 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

The Peninsula Personality: An interview with Steve Amick

The cover of "The Lake, the River & the Other Lake"
Steve Amick

Steve Amick knows Michigan.

His first novel, The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, takes place in Weneshkeen, a fictional boat town on the western coast of Michigan. The novel is filled with scenes familiar to many Michiganders—the conflict between townies and summer people, between farmers and daytripping Fudgies.

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