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News Roundup
9:17 am
Wed March 23, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detailed Census Data released

The U.S. Census Bureau released detailed population numbers for the state yesterday. The numbers spurred a number of stories across the state as cities and counties reflected on what the numbers mean:

Census: Detroit Shrank while the suburbs changed

Census: Lansing population falls 4 percent

New 2010 Census data shows Flint population at 102,434

Ottawa County shines as West Michigan shows relative strength in latest U.S. Census figures

Census 2010: Bay County's population decrease could have been worse

U.S. Census data shows slight growth in Muskegon County during decade of Great Recession

2010 Census data shows Michigan shifting rural

Granholm enjoying post-Governor life

In one of the first interviews since leaving the Governor's office in Michigan, Jennifer Granholm says she's enjoying life as a private citizen.

From the Detroit News:

Granholm — after getting to avoid the airport security line as governor — now faces the same indignities as all frequent travelers do.

"I got the whole pat-down today, but it is what it is," she said with a laugh.

Granholm relishes her new quieter life. "I kind of like being low-key. I kind of like being able to wear sunglasses again," she said.

She ate lunch on Cosi and was glued to her BlackBerry — and no one bothered her. "It's a beautiful thing," she said. "I am enjoying life."

Granholm and her husband, Daniel Mulhern, are moving to California, temporarily they say, before moving back to Michigan. Both will be teaching at U.C. Berkeley  and they're working on a book together.

Granholm says she won't engage in criticizing her successor, Governor Rick Snyder.

Republicans will start to redraw political districts in Michigan

The U.S. Census numbers are in hand, now its time for politicians to re-draw some fancy lines for new political districts. MLive's Peter Luke says Republicans are wasting no time in redrawing political boundaries for Congressional and State legislative seats.

From M-Live:

Republicans, who have a 9-6 edge in congressional seats, likely will seek to put two or more Democratic incumbents — say U.S. Reps. Dale Kildee, Sander Levin and Gary Peters — in the same district.

The process could give some Republicans heartburn as well. The 1st Congressional District currently represented by U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, extends from Ironwood to Bay City and will require about 55,000 more residents in the northern Lower Peninsula from districts held by fellow Republicans.

Giving Benishek Grand Traverse County, for example, shifts the 4th Congressional District of U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, somewhere else.

Politics
8:33 am
Wed March 23, 2011

Detailed Census data is bad news for Detroit

The U.S. Census Bureau has to deliver detailed data to all states by April 1st.
U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau released detailed data on the state's population. Earlier this year, we heard that Michigan was the only state in the country to lose population. Now we can take a more detailed look.

You can explore the data below, or by going to the Census Bureau page.

The big news to come out of the data was the number 713,777.

That's the population in Detroit. According to the Detroit Free Press, Detroit's population hasn't been this low since 1910:

four years before Henry Ford offered $5 a day to autoworkers, sparking a boom that quadrupled Detroit’s size in the first half of the 20th Century.

Detroiters reacted to the news in this video, saying crime, a lack of employment, and poor schools are reasons people have left the city:

MPRN's Rick Pluta had reaction from Governor Snyder:

Governor Rick Snyder says the U.S. Census Bureau information shows Michigan cannot continue down the path it has been on for many years:

"It’s time to step up. It’s time for bold action, and thoughtful action, and that’s the message we’re on, and the path we’re on, and I just hope people join us in that effort," said Snyder.

"I think this decline in population for the state really just reemphasizes the issue we’ve been facing; we are in a crisis in the state, and we need to take an approach and an attitude to say we need to reinvent Michigan."

Detroit’s population presents a problem as the Legislature deals with the state budget, which operates on the assumption that Detroit is the only city with more than 750,000 people.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has said the city will challenge the Census numbers. Bing was quoted in the Detroit Free Press:

"We are in a fiscal crisis, and we have to fight for every dollar," Bing said in announcing that the city will seek a recount. "We can't afford to let these results stand."

The city stands to lose investment from the state and federal government if they can't get the numbers to add up to 750,000.

Weather
7:42 am
Wed March 23, 2011

"Wintry Mix" Storm continues today

The spring storm brought rain, snow, ice... no cats and dogs yet.
National Weather Service

It started last night and is expected to continue through tonight.

Winter storm warnings will remain in effect until 8 p.m. tonight for many communities north of I-94.

Areas east of Kalamazoo along the I-94 corridor to Detroit are under the less menacing "winter weather advisories" until 2 p.m. today.

From the National Weather Service:

Moderate to heavy snow is expected around Midland, Bay City and Bad Axe.  Freezing Rain, Sleet and Snow is expected from a Howell to Pontiac to Mount Clemes line north to a Saginaw to Sandusky line - including the cities of Flint, Lapeer, and Port Huron.  Light Freezing Rain is expected across the Detroit Metropolitan region.

You can follow the National Weather Service's updated forecasts using the following links:

Politics
7:22 am
Wed March 23, 2011

Audit uncovers costly mistakes and fraud at unemployment office

The Michigan Office of the Auditor General reports says mistakes and fraud at the unemployment office cost the state $260 million.
Daniel Johnson creative commons

A legislative watchdog says Michigan’s unemployment office failed to catch overpayments and cases of fraud as the agency was hammered with jobless claims during the Great Recession.

The Michigan Auditor General says the mistakes cost taxpayers an estimated $260 million.

Like many states, Michigan’s been forced to borrow money from the federal government – almost $4 billion - to cover its jobless claims as unemployment reached peaks not seen in three decades (higher than 14%).

The Auditor General report found the agency ran into trouble handling all those claims.

The auditor’s sample found thousands of cases where the state accidentally overpaid benefits that were never recovered.

The audit also found instances where the state failed to detect cases of fraud that would have also been punished with big fines.

The unemployment agency is disputing some of the findings where the auditor determined there was fraud. The agency says in the other cases, it’s taking steps to fix the problems uncovered by the Auditor General.

Politics
6:58 am
Wed March 23, 2011

State House fails to reject domestic partner benefits

Domestic partner benefits include benefits to gay and non-gay couples.
user dbking Flickr

The State House failed to reject the Michigan Civil Service Commission's decision to allow state employees to enjoy domestic partner benefits.

The benefits, originally negotiated between the Granholm administration and about 70% of the public employee unions, are scheduled to go into effect October 1st. The benefits are extended to unmarried partners (gay or heterosexual) and their dependents who have lived together for more than one year.

Michigan Public Radio's Laura Weber reported on yesterday's vote in the State House:

Read more
Politics
7:52 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Bing plans to challenge Detroit census numbers

Hanneorla Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he wants a recount of Detroit’s 2010 census numbers. That data shows the city with its smallest population since 1910.

Bing says he thinks census numbers that fix Detroit’s population at just under 714,000 are wrong.

 Bing says a recount could turn up as many as 40,000 more residents. That would put the city above a key 750,000 person threshold.

Read more
Politics
3:56 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Ambassador Bridge owners settle lawsuit with lonely bait shop

Lafayette Bait and Tackle
Sarah Cwiek/Michigan Radio

The Detroit International Bridge Company, owners of the Ambassador Bridge, has settled a lawsuit with the owners of a bait shop.

Lafayette Bait and Tackle sits near where the Detroit International Bridge Company hopes to build a second span. The company purchased the land to remove what it saw as a final obstacle to their plans.

Both sides in the case agree fault lay primarily with the bait shop’s former landlord, a group called Commodities Export.

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Commentary
3:03 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Mergers and Acquisitions

There’s been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth statewide over the new proposals the governor outlined in Grand Rapids yesterday, the ones especially that will affect local governments.

He proposes to hold back one-third of the revenue sharing money communities get from the state, and release it only if cities, villages and townships adopt certain reforms. Those would include putting all new hires on a pension plan based on what they and their employer put in, a so-called “defined contribution plan.”

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Politics
1:03 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Forcing government workers to pay more for health care

The State Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing committee tomorrow will discuss a bill forcing government workers to pay between 20% to 25% of their health care costs.

Read more
Environment
12:38 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Household trash burning measure on hold

Burning materials like plastics, foam and furniture can release toxins into the air, soil and water.
flickr.com

A bill that would ban trash burning in rural communities has been snuffed out for the time being.

A newspaper story last weekend incorrectly reported  the ban would take effect April 1.

That drew complaints from rural residents, and sponsors of a House measure to stop the ban said they would push it through.

Brad Wurfel is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

He says the agency will regroup and once again take public comments.

But Wurfel says restrictions on outdoor burning are necessary to protect public health.

Economy
12:31 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Michigan loses $300 million in sales tax annually to online shopping

Businesses without physical stores in Michigan can't be required to collect sales tax from customers.
ehow.com

Michigan’s budget problems could be helped if the state were able to collect taxes on things people buy online. But federal rules limit the state’s powers.

The U.S. Supreme Court says states can’t force a business to collect sales taxes unless it has a physical store in the state.

Terry Stanton is with the Michigan Department of Treasury.

He  says that’s costing Michigan big money.

"We estimate that's more than $300 million a year that the state will miss out on because there's no requirement for sellers to collect the sales taxes," Stanton says.

Auto/Economy
12:01 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Wyoming approves plans to demolish huge former GM Stamping Plant

Former GM Stamping Plant in Wyoming, MI.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A 2-million-square-foot former General Motors stamping plant in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming will be demolished this year. Monday night Wyoming’s city council approved plans to destroy the 75-year-old building and redevelop the site.

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Politics
10:42 am
Tue March 22, 2011

State House might vote on domestic partner benefits today

Your state reps may vote on domestic partner benefits today.
Danny Hammontree Flickr

Last January, the Michigan Civil Service Commission approved domestic partner benefits for state employees. The benefits were scheduled to go into effect on October 1st.

The ruling went against the Snyder administration's wishes, and the state legislature has been working to overturn the ruling. The State Senate passed a resolution against the domestic partner benefit ruling earlier this month.

Today, the State House is expected to vote on a resolution which would overrule the MCSC's January decision.

Todd Heywood wrote about the resolution in today's Michigan Messenger:

If the House approves the measure, it will be the first time in the history of the MCSC that a decision by the body was overturned by the legislature. Republicans are also seeking a ballot initiative to remove the MCSC from the state constitution, and in the meantime has been working to strip the body of much of its power.

Heywood reports "the House currently has a 63 member GOP majority. But approving this resolution requires a two-thirds super majority, which means 74 votes, so 11 Democrats need to cross party lines in order for the bill to pass."

As MPRN's Rick Pluta reported, the Snyder administration said it objected to MCSC's decision because of the cost - estimated at around $6 million.

The rules were expected to cover 70% of all state employees. Their unmarried partners and dependents who have lived with them for a year or more would be eligible for the benefits. The eligibility is the equal for gay and heterosexual couples.

The benefits had to be equally available to gay and heterosexual couples because 59% of Michigan voters passed a ban on same-sex marriage in 2004. The "defense of marriage amendment" is now part of the Michigan Constitution.

Afghanistan
9:47 am
Tue March 22, 2011

Marine from Midland survives sniper's shot in Afghanistan

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit of the 6th Marines in Afghanistan in 2004.
USMC Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks U.S. Navy

We're coming up on the tenth anniversary of the U.S. led war in Afghanistan.

So far, there have been 1,429 U.S. deaths from Operation Enduring Freedom, according to icasualties.org.

Marine Sgt. Paul Boothroyd III of Midland is lucky not to be one of those.

Andrew Dodson of Booth Mid-Michigan has a piece on Boothroyd's remarkable story.

A sniper's bullet hit Boothroyd's Kevlar helmet while on patrol in southern Afghanistan.

Boothroyd thought the helmet stopped the bullet, but the bullet was later found lodged behind his right ear - millimeters away from a main artery and his spinal cord.

From the article:

Boothroyd III travels back to Midland this week with his wife Ashley Boothroyd from Maryland. Their 2-year-old son, Paul Boothroyd IV, is with his grandparents waiting for his parent’s return to Michigan.

He enlisted in the Marines following high school. After acing a linguistics test, the Marines sent him to school, where he learned to speak modern and traditional dialects of Arabic, including Iraqi.

After his time off in Midland, Boothroyd III plans to return to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina awaiting his next tour of duty. He says he appreciates his time off, but wants to return to the Middle East.

Boothroyd says he looks forward to "get back to the fight."

News Roundup
9:00 am
Tue March 22, 2011

In this morning's news...

Winter's not over yet

Much of Michigan is under a winter storm warning as cold air and moisture head our way. The storm, which will bring snow, sleet, ice, and rain, is expected to start tonight around 7 or 8pm. The National Weather Service (NWS) says the winter storm warnings and watches are in effect until Wednesday night:

Significant icing of power lines and tree limbs is possible tonight and Wednesday. Roads will likely become ice covered...making travel dangerous by the Wednesday morning commute.

City leaders react to Governor Snyder's revenue sharing plan

Governor Rick Snyder unveiled his ideas for sharing state revenue with local governments yesterday. As Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta reported, Snyder's plan would "withhold some state aid to local governments unless they make plans to consolidate services and make their finances more open."

Snyder also called for labor negotiation and pension reforms at the local level.

The Detroit Free Press has reaction from some local leaders:

Robert Cannon, supervisor of Clinton Township, said his community has made some of the changes Snyder recommends. But he doesn't like linking revenue sharing to the outcome of bargaining with employee unions...

Royal Oak City Manager Don Johnson said his city has accomplished some of what Gov. Rick Snyder wants to see in trimming the cost of government...

"Some of our groups have been very cooperative, others not so much, but more and more they're coming to terms with economic realities," Johnson said.

Although he agrees with most of Snyder's plan, he said it may be difficult for some to achieve the results the governor wants.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said the reduction would be "a serious impediment to our progress," noting that the city has whittled down an accumulated deficit of $330 million to $150 million.

"I recognize the need for shared sacrifice. However the state must step up to provide local governments like Detroit the tools we need to make the fundamental changes necessary," Bing said in a statement.

Automakers feeling ripple effect from Japan disaster

A new report from IHS Global Insight says every major automaker will be affected by the disaster in Japan in the coming month.

From the Detroit News:

"It is not a matter of if, but when," said Michael Robinet, IHS's Director of Automotive Forecast, in an analysis of the impact of the disaster that halted domestic vehicle production and affected the parts supply chain.

The ripple effect is already being felt at plants around the world but Robinet expects the impact to grow in the coming weeks and months because many automakers rely on Japanese-sourced components such as semi-conductors, integrated circuits, sensors and LCD displays.

Many of those parts were in short supply before the disaster.

Politics
8:16 am
Tue March 22, 2011

Bing to discuss progress on Detroit's downtown

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

The Downtown Detroit Partnership is holding its annual meeting and luncheon today from noon to 1:30 p.m..

Mayor Dave Bing and others are expected to highlight progress made in developing Detroit's downtown.

From the Associated Press:

Mayor Dave Bing and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano are scheduled to discuss the progress made over the past year in improving Detroit's downtown.

Read more
Auto/Economy
7:59 am
Tue March 22, 2011

Michigan auto insurance rates among the nation's highest

Opps. A fender bender in Ann Arbor. Michiganders spend a lot for auto insurance.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

In one study, Michigan had the highest auto insurance rates in the nation. In another, Michigan ranked 11th in the nation.

That's according to a piece from Dawson Bell at the Detroit Free Press. Bell writes both studies cited "the state's unique mandate for unlimited coverage for personal injuries as a primary cause for high rates."

From the article:

Michigan auto insurance rates led the country -- $2,541 a year for a hypothetical 40-year-old man with a clean driving record -- in an annual survey released last week by the consumer insurance information site insure.com.

The Michigan rate jumped more than 21% from the same survey a year earlier, overtaking Louisiana, which topped the list last year.

Vermont, at $995 a year, was the cheapest place to buy auto insurance, the survey found.

Weather
7:11 am
Tue March 22, 2011

March going out with a "Wintry Mix" storm

The spring warm up is on hold as cold weather and moisture head our way.
National Weather Service

We got a taste of it, so no worries, spring will be here soon enough. Winter just isn't ready to say goodbye yet.

The region will see colder than normal temperatures for the next week, and rain, snow, ice - you name it - is coming with those cold temperatures.

Here are the forecasts from the National Weather Service:

Read more
Politics
5:03 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Detroit officials talk Project 14

Detroit officials say a plan to lure police officers back to the city is being implemented and will likely expand.

The city rolled out what it calls Project 14last month, and briefed the Detroit City Council about it Monday.

The goal is to lure Detroit cops living in the suburbs back to the city with housing incentives in two neighborhoods.

Read more
Politics
4:48 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Michigan will get detailed census data tomorrow

Census data is in the mail
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state of Michigan will formally recieve its 2010 U.S. Census data tomorrow .   We already know that the data will show Michigan was the only state in the union to lose population between the 2000 and 2010 census.  We should also learn where that population loss will be felt the most. 

The Associated Press reports that the census data will get very specific.  Among the data will be population summaries by race, Hispanic origin and voting age for jurisdictions such as counties, cities and school districts.

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