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Auto/Economy
4:00 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

GM, other companies get Michigan state tax credits

The GM Headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit
Brandon C Flickr

A state board has approved tax incentives for projects connected to General Motors and other companies in Michigan.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority on Tuesday approved an amended brownfield tax credit valued at $10 million for GM's Van Slyke complex in Flint. The new project is expected to retain up to 185 jobs.

HP Enterprise Services is a subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard and was awarded a tax credit valued at $3.5 million over the next seven years. The credit will support a project in Pontiac expected to create up to 250 jobs.

Magna Exteriors and Interiors USA will receive a $1.5 million tax credit over the next three years connected to facilities in Howell, Benzonia and St. Clair County's China Township. More than 300 new jobs are connected to the projects.

GM War Room
1:30 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Saving GM - inside the company's "War Room."

When a massive quake struck Japan on Friday, March 11th, Bill Hurles was up north with his sons on a snowmobiling trip.  Hurles is head of supply chain for General Motors. 

After he saw the first footage of the tsunami slamming into the northern coast, Hurles cut his trip short and returned to Warren.   By early Sunday morning, he and his team were in the War Room, desperately trying to get information.

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What's Working
1:29 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Michigan Innocence Clinic works to free those wrongfully convicted

David Moran is the co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.
screen grab from YouTube video

Imagine being picked up by police for a crime you did not commit. You plead your innocence, but no one believes you.

Now imagine you're convicted and sentenced to prison for that crime.

For our What's Working series, Michigan Radio host Christina Shockley spoke with David Moran, the co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

The Clinic, at the University of Michigan Law School, aims to overturn the convictions of people who were wrongfully convicted.

It's estimated that 1,500 people currently in Michigan prisons were wrongfully convicted.

You can hear the interview with David Moran above.

And here's a video from the Michigan Innocence Clinic on the case of Dwayne Provience who spent ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

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Economy
1:29 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Michigan ranks thirteenth in the nation for teen unemployment

The Employment Policies Institute issued a report that shows Michigan’s teen unemployment rate is around 28 percent, compared to around 24 percent nationally.

Michael Saltsman is with the Employment Policies Institute. He says the rise in teen unemployment over the past two years is a result of employers moving toward automation and self service.

I think you see other businesses sort of moving in that direction where maybe they have waiters and waitresses bus their own tables instead of having a bus boy do it.

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Commentary
12:51 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Keeping Them Honest

Maurice Kelman ought to be feeling proud today, For years, the retired Wayne State law professor has been waging a lonely battle to get Michigan to enforce what weak campaign finance laws we have.

Specifically, he’s been focusing on the case of one Kwame Kilpatrick, who needs no introduction. Kelman discovered two years ago that the felonious ex-mayor used nearly a million dollars from his campaign fund to pay the lawyers who were trying to keep him out of prison during the text messaging scandal.

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Environment
11:29 am
Tue June 14, 2011

Lake trout on life support in Lake Michigan

Lake trout were once the big game fish in all of the Great Lakes. Some people still love catching and eating them.
Photo courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant

For twenty years now the federal government has been trying to restore wild lake trout in Lake Michigan. Lake trout are native to the Great Lakes and were once the big game fish in all the lakes. The species is doing well in Lakes Superior and Huron these days. But recovery efforts in Lake Michigan have been almost a total failure.

Lake trout don’t have a big fan club. Anglers would prefer to land a salmon. And retail markets for lake trout are weak.

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Environment
11:00 am
Tue June 14, 2011

Fish-killing virus rears its head again in mid-Michigan lake

VHS has been found in a mid-Michigan lake. The virus kills fish, and sport fisherman worry it will decrease the stocks of big fish like muskie. (Fishing guide Rich Clarke of Clayton, NY).
Rich Clarke

The fish-killing virus is known as viral hemorrhagic septicemia and it has been found in this region since 2003, according to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University. Massive fish die-offs were first recorded in the 2005.

Now, another die-off has been found. From the Associated Press:

HARRISON, Mich. (AP) - A fish-killing virus has been detected again in a lake near the mid-Michigan community of Harrison.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday announced that viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, has been confirmed in Budd Lake.

The 175-acre lake in Clare County experienced a die-off of largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegills, and pumpkinseed sunfish in April and May. Test results indicate that largemouth and smallmouth bass were positive for VHS. Other results were pending.

A similar die-off involving bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass and muskellunge occurred in the spring of 2007, and VHS was identified in the lake after those deaths. The state says VHS was undetected through 2010 in testing that took place each year.

Budd Lake is one two Michigan inland lakes where VHS has been confirmed.

The virus is troubling, especially when it attacks 60 pound sport fish like the muskellunge. The Environment Report captured what the virus means to sport fisherman in a piece by David Sommerstein.

Sommerstein reports that fish exposed to the virus can develop immunity, but biologists worry that new generations of fish won't carry that immunity with them, so they're vulnerable when the virus comes around.

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Politics
10:37 am
Tue June 14, 2011

Michigan Secretary of State wants $976,000 from ex-mayor

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan's secretary of state is seeking $976,000 from imprisoned ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for using re-election campaign funds to pay legal fees associated with a criminal case that saw him jailed in 2008.

A spokesman for Ruth Johnson says a civil complaint has been filed with her department. An administrative hearing is expected.

Kilpatrick was jailed after pleading guilty to misconduct and no contest to assault. The charges stemmed from a text-messaging sex scandal involving a former top aide.

The Bureau of Elections writes in the complaint that the charges arose from personal misconduct and that campaign funds shouldn't have been used for legal fees.

The Associated Press left messages Monday afternoon seeking comment from Kilpatrick lawyer James Thomas.

Auto/Economy
10:28 am
Tue June 14, 2011

Honda profits plunge as it seeks to recover from earthquake

The remodeled Honda Civic was supposed to be a big sales driver, but Honda has had to scale back its release. Reuters says the company won't go back to "full production of the best-selling model until after summer."
Honda

The Japanese automaker saw profits fall sharply as it struggled to reorganize in the wake of the earthquake and tsunamis that struck the island nation last March.

From the Associated Press:

TOKYO (AP) - Honda says profit for the fiscal year through March 2012 is expected to plunge 63.5 percent as vehicles sales slipped amid a parts shortage caused by the quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

Honda Motor Co. gave the forecast Tuesday, more than a month later than usual. Like other Japanese automakers, the maker of the Odyssey minivan and the Fit compact needed more time to assess the
aftermath of the March 11 disaster.

Honda is projecting a profit of $2.4 billion for the fiscal year ending March 2012, down sharply from the previous fiscal year.

Reuters reports that Honda released the numbers later than usual:

Honda, like other Japanese automakers, had delayed providing financial forecasts because of uncertainty over when parts supplies would recover after the magnitude 9.0 quake in Japan's northeast. In late April, it announced a 52 percent drop in January-March operating profit after production came to a virtual halt in the second half of March.

"These figures are pretty bad," said Koichi Ogawa, chief portfolio manager at Daiwa SB Investments in Tokyo, adding they could temporarily push Honda's stock lower.

Fumihiko Ike, Honda's chief financial officer, said the company plans to ramp up production in the second half of the year to make up for losses - that includes boosting production at its U.S. facilities in Indiana and Alabama "to achieve a more than 20 percent output rise beyond autumn."

Transportation
9:57 am
Tue June 14, 2011

A slow train to Chicago, Amtrak ordered to cut speeds

Amtrak traveling between Chicago and Detroit.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

On the heels of the federal government's announcement that it plans to increase the speed of Amtrak trains traveling between Detroit and Chicago, comes a slow-down order from the freight company that owns much of the track.

Norfolk Southern railroad says Amtrak trains will have to travel at speeds of 25 m.p.h. on some parts of the line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

More from Annarbor.com's Nathan Bomey:

The decision means that travelers on Amtrak's Wolverine line may experience 90-minute delays on the trip from Kalamazoo to Dearborn, Amtrak said. Passengers need to check with Amtrak before heading to the station for their trips.

A 90-minute delay is a big deal for trains working to improve their on-time performance, which has been notoriously bad in Michigan.

Amtrak Train number 351, for instance, travels between Chicago and Grand Rapids/Port Huron/Detroit - Pontiac. In the last twelve months, it's been on-time only 17.1% of the time.

Last month, officials from the federal government announced plans to invest $196.5 million to improve the 135 miles of rail line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. The improvement, officials from the government say, will allow trains to reach speeds of 110 m.p.h., cutting 30 minutes off the time it will take to travel between Detroit and Chicago.

The freight company who owns the line, says they won't be responsible for maintenance on the improved track. Rudy Husband, a Norfolk Southern spokesman, was quoted in Annarbor.com:

"If they want to make the Michigan line a passenger route with higher speeds than what freight trains run, then someone other than Norfolk Southern is going to have to pay for the increased maintenance costs," Husband said. "We have been trying to work out a solution to this for a very long time now. But in the meantime we're doing what needs to be done to be responsible to our customers and our shareholders."

So before the trains speed up, they'll have to slow down.

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Education
9:25 am
Tue June 14, 2011

Grand Rapids school board meets for more than 8 hours to discuss superintendent’s future

Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor addresses the community during his annual 'State of our Schools' adress earlier this year.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Members of the Grand Rapids School board discussed their superintendent’s future with the district for more than 8 hours Monday night. The discussions were not open to the public.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor was a recent finalist for two open positions at other school districts. He says he wants to lead a school district that’s more prepared for aggressive reform to improve student achievement.

Grand Rapids resident Fred Dryg says he’d like Taylor to stay, despite the tension.

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News Roundup
7:26 am
Tue June 14, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Michigan House to release its redistricting plan

The political boundaries in Michigan are being redrawn by the party in power, and Republicans in the State House plan to release their proposed redistricting maps this Friday.

Redrawing political boundaries is required every ten years after the U.S. Census numbers are released.

It's the first time the public will see how some Republicans plan to redraw Michigan's political maps.

Republicans in the State Senate will release their plans later.

Michigan is the only state in the nation to have lost population, so the state will lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. From the Detroit News:

Congressional districts represented by Democratic U.S. Reps. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township and Sander Levin of Royal Oak would be merged under a plan Republicans reviewed in late May that was obtained by The Detroit News.

If both wanted to keep their seat, they'd have to run against each other in a Democratic primary. The draft plan would boost GOP majorities in a number of districts, making it easier for Republicans to hold on to their seats.

After the maps are released, the House Redistricting Committee will have hearings, according to a press release by Lund.

The latest U.S. Census numbers show that populations declined in southeast Michigan and grew in the west and other parts of the state.

State Representative Pete Lund (R - Shelby Township) chairman of the House Redistricting Committee was quoted in the News article, "the maps are going to reflect where people have moved. Whatever areas lost population will lose representation, and whatever areas gained population will gain representation."

Ford shares fall after $2 billion judgment in dealer suit An Ohio judge ruled that Ford Motor Company had to pay more than $2 billion in damages to thousands of dealerships. In the class action suit, the dealers contend they were overcharged for trucks they paid for over an 11 year period. From the Associated Press

Ford Motor Co. shares sank early Monday after an Ohio judge said the automaker had to pay nearly $2 billion in damages to thousands of dealerships who participated in a 2002 class-action lawsuit. But the shares pared their losses as several analysts downplayed the news and said Ford can absorb the damages even if loses a planned appeal.

ACLU goes after Livonia's medical marijuana ban

The ACLU will challenge Livonia's medical marijuana ban in court today.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The American Civil Liberties Union will try to convince a Wayne County judge today to strike down a Livonia ordinance that bans medical marijuana in any way, shape or form.

The ACLU of Michigan, arguing on behalf of a medical marijuana patient with multiple sclerosis, claims that the Livonia measure violates the 2008 Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which legalized medical marijuana. ACLU Attorney Andy Nickelhoff will present oral arguments at 11 a.m. before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy M. Baxter.

The ACLU is representing Linda and Robert Lott of Birmingham.

Crime
5:51 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Feds take drug case week after big bust in Lenawee

The marijuana plants were grown in Lenawee County.
USFWS

ROME TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Federal authorities have filed charges and taken over the case of thousands of marijuana plants discovered in Lenawee County.

The government says more than 8,000 plants worth millions were found last week in Rome Township, 65 miles southwest of Detroit. Edwin and Linda Schmieding were charged in federal court Monday with conspiracy and growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants.

Agent Lloyd Hopkins says Linda Schmieding told police they were paid $500 a week for marijuana, and some pot was sold as medical marijuana.

The Schmiedings likely will appear this week in federal court in Detroit. They've been in the Lenawee County jail since June 6.

Economy
5:28 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Snyder meets with Wall Street to reduce cost of borrowing

Governor Rick Snyder and members of his budget team visited New York to meet with the agencies that set the state’s credit rating.

The state’s rating suffered due to the effects of the decade-long recession.

It's bond ratings are not that bad, but they could be better.

Governor Snyder traveled to Wall Street with state Treasurer Andy Dillon and Budget Director John Nixon. They made the case that Michigan deserves an upgrade because it’s overhauled its business tax and wrapped up its budget months ahead of schedule without resorting to accounting gimmicks and one-time fixes.

Sara Wurfel, the governor’s press secretary, said “one change in a state’s bond rating can actually mean millions of dollars in lower payments.”

The governor’s itinerary included meetings with Moody's, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's. The meetings only opened the discussions with Wall Street, and Wurfel says there will be further negotiations as the governor tries to reduce the cost to taxpayers when Michigan borrows money.

Politics
4:52 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Bing ups the ante in Detroit budget battle

Dave Bing
Kate Davidson Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has raised the stakes in his ongoing budget battle with the Detroit City Council.

Bing and the City Council have been sparring over how much to shave off the city’s budget. The Council wants to cut $50 million more than Bing.

Last week, the Council overrode Bing’s veto, meaning its budget is set to go into effect July 1.

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Politics
4:46 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Report: $23 million spent anonymously on Michigan political ads last year

A new report says anonymous donors have a growing influence in Michigan election campaigns.

The study by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network says independent groups that don’t have to reveal their donors spent $23 million on political ads last year.

The report shows both Governor Rick Snyder and his Democratic opponent, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, were among the candidates for statewide office who were aided by ads paid for by unknown donors to independent political committees.

The use of independent and untraceable ads is especially prevalent in state Supreme Court races, says Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Robinson says the donors may be invisible to the public, but they still want something for the money they are spending to support or oppose politicians:

"Whether it's a workplace regulation, an environmental deregulation, a budget earmark, a public works project, a tax not levied, whatever it is, and I don’t think we’re seeing half the story on the money that’s moving public policy."

Robinson says, in some cases, ads paid for by anonymous donors made up half the spending in a race, and that $70 million was spent on untraceable and independent election ads over the past decade.

"In all of these campaigns, voters have an interest in knowing who the real supporters of the candidates are," said Robinson. "It’s a mechanism for controlling quid pro quo corruption in politics."

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is calling for a law to require independent groups that buy campaign or issue advocacy ads to identify their donors.

Politics
3:48 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Detroit Mayor Bing says council's cuts could lead more people to leave city

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing delivering his budget address last April.
City of Detroit

The city of Detroit faces a projected $155 million budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year, so cuts are needed.

Mayor Bing's budget original budget proposal had $200 million in cuts.

Detroit city council presented a budget that went further, adding $50 million more in cuts.

Bing vetoed the council's budget, saying their cuts go too far. Here's a video of Bing, with a dramatic pause, signing the veto order:

The city council then voted 8-1 to override Bing's veto.

So that's where the city stands now.

Mayor Bing hopes council will reduce the amount of cuts by June 30th (the city's next fiscal year starts July 1).

If council doesn't compromise, Bing says drastic cuts will have to be made.

From the Associated Press:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says $50 million in city council-approved cuts to his $3.1 billion budget proposal will force him to close two recreation centers, two swimming pools, restrooms at city parks and the beach at Belle Isle... [and] some fire stations also could close and events at downtown's Hart Plaza could be shut down.

An article in the Detroit Free Press added some more cuts to this list:

If council doesn't withdrawal the reductions by the June 30 deadline, Bing said, he'd have no choice but to shut down the People Mover, eliminate 24-hour bus services, end sponsored events at Hart Plaza, close Belle Isle beach, shutter two recreation centers and cut police who patrol the streets, among other things, on July 1.

The cuts also would dampen chances of light rail along Woodward and hamper the police department's compliance with federal requirements to end brutality and civil rights violations.

Council Pro Tem Gary Brown is quoted as saying he won't entertain any last minute deals:

"Where is the sense of urgency?" Brown said, pointing to an accumulated deficit that he says could exceed $200 million this year. "We are in a crisis. All I hear is whining and crying about what the City Council is doing, instead of working to fix the problem."a

Mayor Bing said the "unprecedented" cuts and could lead to more people leaving the city of Detroit.

*correction - an earlier post incorrectly stated the override vote as 8-9. The vote was 8-1.

Economy
3:14 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Snyder trying to improve Michigan's bond rating

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is meeting with bond rating companies in an attempt to improve Michigan's rating.

A higher or improved rating would save Michigan money because it would be cheaper for the state to borrow for new construction projects.

Snyder is expected to promote the state's improved economic outlook and fiscal restraints imposed in the recently approved state budget during Monday's meetings in New York City.

The state lost its top AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor's in 2003. Years of bad economic news  as limited Michigan's ability to improve its ranking with any of the three major agencies that rate state debt.

Michigan still has investment-grade bond ratings from the three agencies.

Environment
1:53 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Report calls for fracking ban

An environmental group is calling on Michigan lawmakers and President Obama to ban the natural gas extraction process known as “fracking.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations to release natural gas.

Food and Water Watch says fracking poses an “unacceptable risk” to water supplies and human health. Several recent investigations have shown that fracking contaminated groundwater in several states.

Lynna Kaucheck is with Food and Water Watch in Detroit. She says northern Michigan is a current hotspot for fracking exploration.

“The northern part of the lower Peninsula sits on the Collingwood-Utica shale which is very deep deposits of shale gas. And so right now a lot of out of-state-companies are purchasing mineral rights so they can begin horizontal fracking for natural gas.”

Kauchek says that could to lead to chemically-contaminated groundwater, and pose a risk to the state’s agricultural and tourism industries.

“We don’t believe that fracking can be done safely. Especially not the way that they’re doing it right now.”

State environmental regulators say the gas is so deep in the ground that fracking shouldn’t affect water supplies. They acknowledge some concerns, but say the practice is generally safe.

Commentary
12:59 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Saving Animals

There’s been a big controversy lately involving the Michigan Humane Society -- and by extension, every animal shelter in the state. It has to do with how many animals they have to kill.

This started a week ago, when two members of the society’s board of directors resigned because they thought the non-profit agency was euthanizing far too many animals.

“Our donors are giving us money to save lives,” one of them said, adding that she thought what was happening was an outrage.

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